Happy Birthday, Chuck

Today marks the 208th birthday of Charles Darwin, the English naturalist and geologist whose book On the Origin of Species ignited controversy over the theory of evolution that persists to this day. In celebration of one of the most embattled scientific figures of all time, check out these five facts on evolution:

  1. Biology defines evolution as “the change in genetic composition of a population over successive generations, which may be caused by natural selection, inbreeding, hybridization, or mutation.” Far from jumping from one species to a more developed one, “evolution” more accurately describes why we see a lesser proportion of redheads today than we did in previous centuries.
  2. According to a recent Pew Research Center report, 98 percent of professional scientists believe that living things have evolved over time. (The other two percent probably hang out with Dr. Oz.)
  3. Pew has also discovered that 73 percent of (adult) American millennials hold some degree of belief in evolution. That almost doubles the number of all adult Americans who ascribe to a purely creationist worldview.
  4. Misuse of antibiotics can be thought of as a (really dangerous) experiment in evolution. Bacteria reproduce quickly – E. coli can produce a new generation every 17 minutes! With the misuse of antibiotics, the proportion of easily susceptible bacteria decrease, while the proportion of bacteria which are more resistant to antibiotics increase. Finish those prescriptions, kids!
  5. Early methods of genetic engineering, called selective breeding, speed up the evolutionary process by increasing the likelihood that certain favorable traits will be more proliferative in future generations. Selective breeding is what gave us corgis and great danes, and broccoli and kale.