Among the dominant concepts of the modern world in general, and biology in particular, few are as powerful—or as misunderstood—as evolution. Even the name is something of a misnomer, since it almost implies some sort of striving to reach a goal, as though the "purpose" of evolution were to produce the most intelligent species, human beings. In fact, what drives evolution is not a quest for biological greatness but something much more down to earth: the need for organisms to survive in their environments. Closely tied to evolution are two processes, mutation and natural selection. Natural selection is a process whereby survival is related directly to the ability of an organism to fit in with its environment, while mutation involves changes in the genetic instructions encoded in organisms.
Although the English naturalist Charles Darwin (1809-1882) often is regarded as the father of evolutionary theory, he was not the first thinker to suggest the idea of evolution as such; however, by positing natural selection as a mechanism for evolution, he provided by far the most convincing theory of evolutionary biological change up to his time. In the years since Darwin, evolutionary theory has evolved, but the essential idea remains a sound one, and it is a "theory" only in the sense that it is impossible to subject it to all possible tests. The idea that evolution is somehow still open to question is another pervasive misconception, and it often appears hand in hand with the most pervasive misconception of all—that evolution is in some way anti-Christian, anti-religion, or anti-God.