What is Evolution?
A clear and present issue, in American society to say the least, is the topic of evolution. There is little contention among secular groups as to what or whether evolution is a valid theory. Misunderstanding it however, causes damaging societal ripples. In every aspect from education to politics it is important to grasp basic scientific theories before making comments concerning them.
So what is evolution? It is easy to write it off with statements like, "Natural selection over time." or "Change within species." but this skirts around the fact that those who need to understand evolution will not understand these terms. So, simply put, evolution is the adaptation of a species through different means over large amounts of time.
Microevolution and Macroevolution
Two terms lesser known yet equally important to full understanding evolution are microevolution and macroevolution. Microevolution is the process of change within a species, through means such as mutation or natural/artificial selection. Macroevolution is change on the species level or above, often considered to be microevolution over multiple periods of time.
"Are you saying we came from monkeys?!?"
No. Perhaps the most misunderstood concept of evolution is the term common ancestor. It is true that at some point in the geological past (approximately twenty-five million years ago) humans had a common ancestor with "monkeys." After this the species split off between monkeys and apes. To fully understand this however, an individual must understand what a common ancestor is. So, a common ancestor is the last species that relates two different species. The species they diverged from, so to say. While it is possible for a common ancestor to continue to exist while other species diverge from it, it is most common for that species to die out as a result of what caused the species to diverge.
Proving it To Yourself
Still in need of concrete proof that evolution can/does happen? Well, let's participate in a bit of artificial selection. Artificial selection is the process of selecting against traits purposely, as opposed to natural selection which happens as a result of the environment. By simply spraying a can of disinfectant on your counter, you are participating in artificial selection. As any can of disinfectant will tell you, they kill "99.99% of germs" now ask yourself, "Why does .01% survive?" This is no accident. The germs that do survive have traits that make them resistant to that disinfectant. Now imagine that this same counter were only sprayed with that disinfectant forever, well, only the species that had held those traits previously would survive to procreate, thus causing microevolution.
This can be seen more practically in the existence of MRSA, a form of Staphylococcus bacteria. This particular form of staph is resistant to the common antibiotic Methicillin, which allows it to survive in situations it's staph brethren can not. Without the existence of Methicillin there would be no MRSA, thus proving humans cause evolution through artificial selection.
The Actual Topic
Now that we are past all of that blasphemy, here is a guide on how to completely misunderstand and misconstrue evolution: