You can read about my first entry on creationism here.
“If evolution makes us better and better, why do we get cancer?”
Fuck. I mean…just…fuck! As usual, the fundies just can’t come up with anything that makes any sense. I’ve had so many creationists ask me this, believing they’d leave me standing there with my mouth hanging open, stumped by their argument. Well, they didn’t stump me, but they did leave me standing there with my mouth hanging open. Oh, the sheer and utter dismay I experience while watching someone show such arrogance and triumph while spewing such ignorant bullshit.
These morons truly believe that evolutionary theory states that as generations change over time, they will inevitably get both smarter and stronger. Obviously, it cannot be true that evolution always leads to more intelligent individuals or these fucking idiots that ask these kinds of questions wouldn’t exist. So, in a way, I wish they were right.
Once again, my dear fundies, I will take the time to explain to you the astonishingly high levels of your god damn stupidity.
Let’s address the cancer portion of your question first. Most people don’t get cancer until they have reached an age at which they have already had children. Getting cancer earlier than that happens, but it is extremely rare. Cancer, most of the time, shows up when it will no longer affect an individual’s ability to pass on their traits to the next generation. Once you’ve passed the age of child bearing and child raising, natural selection breaks up with you and moves on, and selection pressures no longer apply to you.
The term selection pressures simply means features of an environment that cause individuals with certain traits to survive and reproduce more frequently than individuals without those traits. For example, in my post here, the fictional island of Boogerloo created a situation in which having a black exterior and a tendency to stay high in trees increased the chance an individual would survive and reproduce due to the island’s selection pressures (black trees and ground dwelling predators) on that species. Those that had these traits survived and reproduced more often than those that did not, and as a result, these traits showed up more and more frequently in that population as generations passed. But, in a different environment, with different selection pressures, different traits would show up as the generations pass.
But, think about it. Once you’ve successfully reproduced and your offspring no longer require your care to survive, what happens to you next has nothing to do with whether you will successfully pass on your traits to the next generation because you’ve already succeeded in doing so. You could stroke out and drop dead the day after your offspring becomes independent and this would have no impact on your evolutionary success.
Here is what this has to do with cancer. There are selection pressures for traits that decrease the likelihood that you will get cancer before and during the age of reproduction. But, there are no selection pressures for these traits once that time has passed because getting cancer or not getting cancer after that time period has no effect on whether your traits made it to the next generation.
We do have mechanisms in our body that watch for mutated cells and eradicate them. If we didn’t, we’d all have cancer at a very young age and humans would cease to exist because no one would survive long enough to reproduce. Thus, through the process of natural selection, we developed mechanisms that make it much less likely that we will get cancer before our child bearing and child raising years end. Not impossible, mind you…because variability exists in any species. But, there are no selection pressures for old people. So, if these mechanisms start to fail us after our child bearing and child raising years have ended, sadly, natural selection will never change that. And these mechanisms do indeed tend to begin to fail us as we get older because selection pressures have never required them to do otherwise.
Evolutionary theory does not predict that evolution will produce a perfect, immortal species. It simply states that organisms will become more adapted to their environment over generations and these adaptions will increase the likelihood (not guarantee) each individual will survive and reproduce. So, the fact that we can get cancer actually fits very nicely with evolutionary theory. The chance that you will get cancer exists from conception and forward, but that chance rises very significantly right around the age that people have typically passed the age that they would bear and raise children. And that is no coincidence.
Now, for the second aspect of your thoughtless, uninformed, dumbass question. The root implication of the creationists’ question is that evolution will always produce smarter and stronger individuals as time goes by. Many people foolishly believe that natural selection values the same traits that we do. And they could not be more fucking wrong.
Let me explain how it actually works. Natural selection doesn’t give a shit about the things you and I value. In our society, we value people based on all kinds of things such as intelligence, kindness, work ethic, etc. But natural selection only values one thing: reproducing viable offspring. Concerning evolution, absolutely nothing else matters.
I know a wonderful, kind, loving couple. The wife has passionately taught children to love education for the past 40 years in both private and public schools. She has kept in touch with a lot of her students over the years and made herself available for support and advice as they navigate through life. She does volunteer work to raise money for breast cancer research. She exudes kindness and generosity and brings so much joy to others. Most people would love for their community to have more people like her.
Sadly, this woman had to face a very difficult struggle during her life: infertility. And despite very intense fertility treatments and years of heart break and grief, she never successfully conceived. She and her husband adopted 2 children and provided them with a wonderful, loving home. Today, she expresses only happiness with the way things turned out and the family she ended up having. She is, most certainly, a valuable person.
Yet, in evolutionary terms, she is a worthless, abysmal failure. In regards to evolution, none of those wonderful traits she has matter at all because they did not make her any more likely to reproduce viable offspring. We could find the most intelligent person on earth, and natural selection wouldn’t give a rat’s ass about it unless that intelligence made him/her more likely to reproduce viable offspring. Natural selection centers around who survives and produces the most viable offspring and nothing else.
I know another woman I met by nature of my career, which involves helping orphans and foster children. I loathe this woman. She has 12 children, almost all with different fathers. And the count continues to climb every year. All 12 of her children live in foster care. She expresses no alarm in response to this fact. She has done nothing to even try to get her children back home. These days, when she gives birth, DCFS takes the baby right from the hospital before even giving her a chance to provide care for the baby due to her consistently negligent history. She is horribly neglectful. One of her youngest children suffered extremely severe injuries after she left him for an evening without any proper supervision to get high with her boyfriend. DCFS has spread her 12 children throughout various foster homes and institutions. She rarely visits them. Most of the time, I watch her children get excited about their scheduled visit with their mother, and she ends up being a no call, no show. This woman is an absolute fucking bitch.
And yet, in evolutionary terms, she is a raving success worthy of a 5-star review. She has successfully reproduced 12 viable offspring. Natural selection doesn’t care about anything else. In strict, evolutionary terms, the bitch woman reached far more levels of success than my infertile friend. Welcome to nature. Mother Nature, for all her beauty, can be a real bitch.
The traits that we tend to value do not necessarily match the selection pressures on a species. Being smarter and stronger will not always help a species survive. Animals that have adapted most effectively to their particular environment will survive and reproduce more frequently. And those adaptations do not necessarily need to be things like intelligence, strength, or anything else we humans deem important. Selection pressures, in some instances, may involve the opposite of what we value. Getting smaller will provide the best advantage in certain circumstances, such as when an individual can find tiny places to hide and avoid being eaten by predators. In that case, being weaker (in comparison to larger animals) proves more advantageous because the smaller size allows them to fit into the tiny hiding spaces.
As evolution progresses, it does not necessarily produce smarter and smarter and stronger and stronger species or individuals. Some branches of evolution went that direction, but many of them did not. It all depends on the unique selection pressures a particular environment offers. Thus, as evolution pushes species to become better and better, it only pushes them to become better and better adapted to their particular environment. It does not push them to develop specific traits that humans value.
So, if evolution is true, why do we still get cancer? That’s why, assholes. If you understood even the most basic principles of evolutionary theory, you would know not to ask such a stupid question. Don’t challenge an idea if you don’t even give enough of a shit about it to learn the most basic tenets of that idea. Our public education put all kinds of money and effort into teaching you how to fucking read. So, READ, damn it.