Jerry Coyne talks about the evidence that exists to support the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection. He also explores the reasons why so many people are opposed to it.
The Theory of Evolution By Natural Selection has been one of the most disruptive yet powerful ideas humanity has ever come up with. The controversy surrounds the question of design; the design of life to be specific. This theory provides explanations that many people thought were not possible without invoking gods, and this is what makes it so perverse to the faithful.
Living organisms are so unbelievably complex, that it is understandable why we would have thought for millenia that we were the result of a design. For the vast majority of that time, we did not have the tools to be able to inspect living things closely, and therefore had to interpret our origins on the basis of extremely limited evidence.
These days we do have that capability, and while we see design, that design does not appear as the work of a designer. It is instead sloppy, and a mish-mash of many of the same properties that we seem to share with other forms of life.
In 1859, Charles Darwin published the scientific theory of Evolution By Natural Selection in his work: On The Origin Of Species. His insight was that the illusion of design can be created when organisms compete and cooperate for survival in order to reproduce into the next generation.
The idea of "evolution" supposes that there are random chance mutations as life forms reproduce. The idea of "natural selection" is that the envoirnment will put pressure on an organism that will determine whether or not it will survive long enough to reproduce. When you combine these two elements, an algorithm for design emerges.
Evolutionary Theory has been expanded and developed immensely since Darwin's time. It has also stood strong even with the evidence rolling in over the last 150 years. The connotations of the idea been so profound that it has contributed to many other fields of science.
The theory still faces a massive counter loby even in what we would consider to be scientific world leading nations like the United States. This is totally due to religious vested interest.