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Thanks Again, Charles!

A criticism of evolution I often hear from creationists and other deniers is that evolution has no practical uses. Other science is used to create new technology and improve the world, but evolution gives us nothing, or so they claim.

First I would point out that even if that was true it wouldn’t really reflect on whether evolution is true or not, and that is usually what I am debating. The other point is that scientific theories don’t have to directly produce a practical benefit because pure science often leads to new technology and other benefits only indirectly. And the pursuit of truth is a worthwhile thing in itself.

This is all irrelevant though, because evolution does have practical outcomes. Yesterday I listened to a podcast which discussed the work of Luther Burbank, who was a well-known botanist who developed many of the modern food and ornamental plants that we have today.

Not only did he follow Darwinian principles in his plant breeding experiments but he was also directly inspired by Darwin himself. If the development of modern crops doesn’t qualify as a practical benefit of evolution then I don’t know what would.

A fact about modern food crops which a lot of people don’t understand is that they aren’t anything like the original varieties that grew in the wild. Sometimes the development is the result of genetic engineering in the modern sense – that is direct gene manipulation – and other times it is from more traditional selective breeding (an artificial form of natural selection, in fact).

So modern crops which people refer to as “natural” in fact aren’t. They are the result of many years of selective breeding and artificial manipulation.

If most people looked at the original “natural” versions of bananas, citrus fruit, potatoes, or any other crop, they would be very surprised and disappointed. The fact that we have modern crops which give better yields, taste better, are disease resistant, and are more healthy is mostly thanks to Darwin. Thanks again, Charles!

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