Biological evolution - what a beginner needs to know

Biological evolution - what a beginner needs to know
What we need is not the will to believe but the will to find out.
Bertrand Russell

Doubt everything or believe everything: these are two equally convenient strategies. With either we dispense with the need for reflection.
Henri Poincare
Common sense is essential to science, but without scientific knowledge common sense can mislead.

Distinguish between science and apologetics. Without a good science background it's easy to confuse the two. Scientific evidence relies on experiment, not simply logic and rhetoric. Science restricts itself to natural explanations (don't infer that the material world is all there is). Incompleteness is a strength of science, not a weakness.

Choose sources for scientific excellence. Selecting sources which support predilections is antiscientific.

Some sources claim that evolution is a "theory in crisis" or that it is "controversial". Evolution has been accepted by the scientific community since the 1870's. Surveys of professional literature show evolutionary research to be thriving.

So-called "intelligent design" is not a scientific theory, but a promotion of the Discovery Institute.

Definitions of evolution

Recommended reading list (secondary sources).

Recommended web sources: Evolution 101 @ KCFS - AAAS teachers guide to evolution (pdf)

BBC learning - science - cell and molecular biology basics

Understanding evolution (Berkeley) - a good place to start, easy to navigate

Evolution at wikipedia

Evolution for beginners, Talkorigins - excellent, but a little harder to navigate

Darwiniana and Evolution - introductions to a wide range of topics

Genomes - online book
Understanding of biological evolution correlates less with religious beliefs than with having a scientific worldview.