What is Evolution?

what-is-evolutionIt can be confusing for people getting into the creation/evolution debate because many different definitions of “evolution” abound. “Evolution” might mean something totally different to one person than to another. So let’s take a look at the different definitions and find out which one is the correct one for the creation/evolution debate context.


Some say that “evolution” means change. In this case, evolution could describe the change that happens to your appearance when you have a shower in the morning. Clearly this is not the proper definition of “evolution”: it is too trivial to describe anything properly and no one denies it.

Change over Time

Again, this definition could describe someone’s changes as they have a shower. It is also used to describe how stars change over their lifespan. This clearly is not the proper definition.

Change in Allele Frequencies of a Population over Time

Now this definition is a little more complex. During sexual reproduction, the DNA changes (the complex way to say this is the allele frequencies change). That’s why children look different from their parents. So in this case, “evolution” would be proved by having kids. But no creationist denies that. No one denies that DNA changes. This also, is not the proper definition in the context of the creation/evolution controversy.

Descent with Modification

You are different from your parents. That’s because descent with modification is true. As animals have children, modifications take place. Changes happen.

No one would deny this definition either, and it is not the proper definition of “evolution” we are looking for.

Common Descent

All the 19 kids of the Duggar family are descended from the same ancestors: their parents Jim Bob Duggar and Michelle Duggar. This is common descent – where all animals in a given group are descended from the same common ancestor(s). For example, we can assume all dogs are descended from an original two ancestral dogs.

Again, creationists do not deny this at all. It is not the definition of “evolution” we are looking for.

All life Descending from a Common Ancestor

This is the theory that Charles Darwin proposed: that all of life (plants, microbes, animals) is descended from the same original organism. Everything evolved from one common ancestor.

Now there are different variations of this theory; some propose differing mechanism by which it works and some have differing minor details. But the basic is still the same.

Now this is what creationists deny. We do not believe that all of life descended from one common ancestor. And this is what we mean by “evolution” in the context of the creation/evolution debate. This is where the controversy lies.


So if an evolutionist wants to debate with such a creationist, he cannot provide examples of the other definitions of “evolution”. Creationists fully accept the truth of those. Animals change and bacteria acquire new abilities. It’s true.

Rather, he must provide evidence of the historical theory of evolution, the theory that proposes that all life is descended from a common ancestor.

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