This is part three of a series covering the evidence of evolution and why it matters. In this article, we cover the immense importance of evolution. If you like, you might want to read part one and part two discussing the evidence.
We cannot hope to touch on all the reasons why evolution is important. We will cover many of the most interesting or important reasons. Obviously, we cannot do the subject full justice. Nonetheless, this article will amply demonstrate that evolution is of immense importance.
Evolution is undoubtedly true. We saw that in the previous two parts of this series. It answers hugely important scientific mysteries largely unanswered before the advent of The Origin of Species.
It is a theory with almost unparalleled explanative power. Without evolution, much of biology would not make sense or be knowable. And so, it should not be surprising that it has the greatest abundance of evidence one could hope for. Few theories could ever hope to have the abundance of evidence evolution has. The evidence is the natural world outside your window. It is also in your own body.
It is thus a paragon of science with applications that often seem almost as abundant as the evidence for it. Our knowledge of evolution has greatly enriched our lives. It has also saved many lives.
Evolution As a Cure for Religiosity
And on top of all of that, for a time it helped many people overcome or diminish their religious convictions. To this day the facts of evolution help people overcome religion. There are many reasons why religious people overcome their religion. It would be a mistake to say that evolution is the primary reason. But, for many, understanding biodiversity and how biology works serve to weaken the hold religion has on them. As it has since it was first proposed.
It should be noted that all of science is a good candidate to help people shake off the last vestiges of their religious conviction. For those who have embraced faith but are still open to reason, scientific study is very often a cure to religion. Evolution is an area of science with easy to grasp evidence. And that evidence is extremely convincing.
That is why few educated people deny that evolution took place. Only the most ardently religious and ignorant Creationists deny that evolution happened. Only the most evasive and ignorant can allow themselves to embrace the delusion that it did not happen.
The rest of us are free to marvel at the wonder of evolution and its many amazing applications. So, for that reason alone, we can say evolution is important.
Let us look at some more all the same.
We know that a certain degree of biodiversity is important in our crops. In fact, a lack of such biodiversity contributed to the famous Irish Potato Famine.
In the 1800s, the Irish planted a lot of the “lumper” variety of potatoes. But they used a lot of clones, which are genetically identical to one another.
This was not a problem as long as the potatoes grew aplenty and were able to provide plentiful crops for the nation. But it became an issue when the rot caused by Phytophthora infestans started spreading throughout the potato crops.
Because they were clones, there was very little genetic variation among the potatoes. Which rendered them with greater vulnerability to Phytophthora infestans. As Ireland was so dependent on the potato, one in eight Irish people died of starvation within three years.
The famine had many causes, not just the low biodiversity of this kind of potato. But the disaster would not have been so bad had more genetically variable potatoes been planted. Some of these more genetically variable potatoes would have likely borne mutations that allowed them to survive the epidemic. And these more resistant varieties could have been planted.
A greater understanding of the evolution of resistant varieties of crops can help crops endure adverse conditions and thus help us avoid agricultural disasters.
It can also be useful to understand the evolutionary history of various types of crops. This can help us identify valuable genetic varieties which may be more suitable to variable or detrimental environmental conditions.
But we need to understand more than the evolution of plants. We need to understand the evolution of the parasites which feed off our crops.
As most people know, parasites can severely damage crops, drastically reducing their yield. We are constantly trying to find ways to use pesticides and other methods to kill or ward off these parasites.
But the parasites frequently evolve defences against pesticides at a rapid rate. This creates an arms race between pesticide development and parasite evolution. Understanding the evolution of these parasites helps us keep ahead in this arms race.
If we understand this evolution, then we can take steps to prevent it by not overusing pesticides. Or we can use different pesticides instead of over-relying on just the one. Or perhaps we can use an array of pesticides since it is less likely that insects will develop a resistance to multiple pesticides at once.
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