Evolution


"Hoyle famously described the standard evolutionary explanation involving primordial soup and a warm little pond 3bn years ago as being as improbable as the assembly of a jet airliner during a hurricane in a junkyard" (Tim Radford. "Right questions, wrong answers." Guardian Weekly, June 24, 2005: 21).


"As teachers, both of us have found that asking our students to analyze controversies is of enormous value to their education. What is wrong, then, with teaching both sides of the alleged controversy between evolution and creationism or "intelligent design" (ID)? Why would we join with essentially all biologists in making an exception of the alleged controversy between creation and evolution. What is wrong with the apparently sweet reasonableness of "it is only fair to teach both sides"?

"The answer is simple. This is not a scientific controversy at all...

"It might be worth discussing in a class on the history of ideas, in a philosophy class on popular logical fallacies, or in a comparative religion class on origin myths from around the world. But it no more belongs in a biology class than alchemy belongs in a chemistry class, Phlogiston in a physics class or the stork theory in a sex education class.

"So, why are we so sure that intelligent design is not a real scientific theory... Here's why.

"If ID really were a scientific theory, positive evidence for it, gathered through research, would fill peer-reviewed scientific journals. This doesn't happen. It isn't that editors refuse to publish ID research. There simply isn't any ID research to publish.

"The argument the ID advocates put, such as it is, is always of the same character. Never do they offer positive evidence in favour of intelligent design. All we ever get is a list of alleged deficiencies in evolution. We are told of "gaps" in the fossil record...

"The equivalent evidential demand of creationism would be a complete cinematic record of God's behaviour on the day that he went to work on, say, the mammalian ear bones or the bacterial flagellum... Not even the most ardent advocate of intelligent design claims that any such divine videotape will ever become available.

"Biologists, on the other hand, can confidently claim the equivalent "cinematic" sequence of fossils for a very large number of evolutionary transitions. Not all, but very many, including our own descent from the bipedal ape Australopithecus. And--far more telling--not a single authentic fossil has ever been found in the "wrong" place in the evolutionary sequence. Such a fossil, if one were ever unearthed, would blow evolution out of the water.

"As the great biologist J B S Haldane growled, when asked what might disprove evolution: "Fossil rabbits in the pre-Cambrian." Evolution, like all good theories, makes itself vulnerable to disproof. Needless to say, it has always come through with flying colours...

"Either ID belongs in the science classroom, in which case it must submit to the discipline required of a scientific hypothesis. Or it does not, in which case get it out of the science classroom and send it back into the church, where it belongs" (Richard Dawkins. "One side can be wrong." Guardian Weekly, Sep. 9, 2005: 19).


"A courtroom battle seen as a test case for the teaching of science in the US ended in a decisive victory for evolution... a federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled that it was unconstitutional to teach "intelligent design" in biology classes...

"The verdict concludes a trial that was seen as the most important legal review of science and religion since the 1920s...

"The judge wrote that "intelligent design" was a religious notion that advances Christianity, and so was in violation of constitutional provisions against the establishment of religion" (Suzanne Goldenberg. "Judge rules out 'intelligent design' in science lessons." Guardian Weekly, Dec. 23, 2005: 7).


Missing Link Discovered

"Scientists have made one of the most important fossil finds in history: a missing link between fish and land animals, showing how creatures first walked out of the water and on to dry land more than 375m years ago.

Paleontologists have said that the find, a crocodile-like animal called Tiktaalik roseae and described last week in the journal Nature, could become an icon of evolution in action -- like Archaeopteryx, the famous fossil that bridged the gap between reptiles and birds...

"Tiktaalik--the name means "a large, shallow-water fish" in the Inuit language--shows that the evolution of animals from living in water to living on land happened gradually, with fish first living in shallow water.

"The animal lived in the Devonian era lasting from 417m to 354m years ago, and had a skull, neck, and ribs similar to early limbed animals (known as tetrapods), as well as a more primitive jaw, fins and scales akin to fish...

"The near-pristine fossil was found on Ellesmere Island, Canada, which is 960km from the North Pole...

"Tiktaalik also gives biologists an understanding of how fins turned into limbs. Its fin contains bones that compare to the upper arm, forearm and primitive parts of the hand of land-living animals" (Alok Jha. "Moving on to the land." Guardian Weekly, April 14, 2006: 21).


Scientists attack teaching of creatinism in schools

"The Royal Society last week issued a stronly worded attack on the teaching of creationism, as a scientist compared it to the theory of babies are brought by storks.

"The warning from Britain's leading scientific academy comes amid increasing concern over the attempts by religious fundamentalists to challenge the theory of evolution in schools and colleges by teaching the idea that a god created the world, as if that were a scientific theory...

Prof Jones said that a Gallup poll of teenagers in the US last year indicated that 38% believed that God created humans within the past 10,000 years. In a BBC poll 48% opted for evolution and 39% for creationism...

"The Royal Society issued a statement aimed at "opposing the misrepresentation of evolution in schools to promote particular religious belief." It said that "young people are poorly served by deliberate attempts to withhold, distort or misrepresent scientific knowledge... to promote particular religious beliefs"" (Duncan Campbell and Rebecca Smithers. "Scientists attack teaching of creationism in schools." Guardian Weekly, April 21, 2006: 13).


“If today you can take a thing like evolution and make it a crime to teach it in the public school, tomorrow you can make it a crime to teach it in the private schools, and the next year you can make it a crime to teach it to the hustings or in the church. At the next session you may ban books and the newspapers. Soon you may set Catholic against Protestant and Protestant against Protestant, and try to foist your own religion upon the minds of men. If you can do one you can do the other. Ignorance and fanaticism is ever busy and needs feeding. Always it is feeding and gloating for more. Today it is the public school teachers, tomorrow the private. The next day the preachers and the lectures, the magazines, the books, the newspapers. After a while, your honor, it is the setting of man against man and creed against creed until with flying banners and beating drums we are marching backward to the glorious ages of the sixteenth century when bigots lighted fagots to burn the men who dared to bring any intelligence and enlightenment and culture to the human mind. ”
-- Clarence Darrow, "Scopes Trial" courtroom speech, July 13, 1925


Colby Glass, MLIS