The theory of evolution was first proposed 150 years ago by Charles Darwin*. Since that time, the theory has not only withstood the test of time, but it has been greatly strengthened. It is supported by numerous fields including molecular biology, paleontology, geology, anatomy, and developmental biology. It has been shown in laboratory conditions, by the fossil record, DNA sequences, and by observation.
At its core, the theory is so beautifully eloquent that it seems obvious after one learns of it. As Thomas Huxley once said “How stupid of me not to have thought of it.” Survival of the fittest intuitively makes sense. Only when one lets their preconceived notions and biases interfere with reason does it loose its luster.
When evolutionary theory was proposed, the biological sciences were in their infancy. Mendelian inheritance, molecular biology, antibiotics, and even DNA was unknown. Yet, each of these discoveries and fields of study have not only supported and broadened the theory, but they have shown us the underlying mechanisms.
Evolution is an extremely powerful predictor. From when Darwin declared that there would be transitional fossils found in the fossil record to the prediction that a half-fish, half-tetrapod would be found in northern Canada in a specific sedimentary layer.
Evolution’s explanatory power is also striking. As Theodosius Dobzhansky once said “Nothing makes sense in biology except in the light of evolution.” Why do all organisms use an almost identical genetic code? Evolution. Why do whales have a pelvis? Evolution.
The ideas underlying evolution are extremely useful. Want to make better fluorescent proteins? Use evolution to guide the process as Nguyen and Daugherty did. Want to extend the lives of fruit flies in order to study aging? Let natural selection select for the flies with the longest lives as Michael Rose and colleagues did.
Finally, the ability to falsify the theory of evolution makes it a very strong theory. Finding fossils out of order (e.g. a rabbit fossil found in the Precambrian era) is one easy and compelling way to disprove the theory. The discovery of DNA sequences that do not fit into the known phylogenic trees is another.
Now compare evolution to the competing theories. Intelligent Design and Creation have no explanatory power, no usefulness, and are not falsifiable. Why would anyone choose to believe anything other than the elegance that is the theory of evolution is beyond me.
*probably not the first, but he did popularize the idea