Thursday, January 15, 2009

Great Letter to the Editor


Evolutionary theory does not address ‘life’s origins’


Regarding Mississippi House Bill 25, on placing a message that “evolution is a theory” in school textbooks: We have been through this before (Georgia), and such a measure will eventually be struck down. Please, let us put a stop to this now, and not waste additional taxpayer dollars on a fruitless, and entirely religious-based cause.

Indeed, there is a theory that attempts to explain the facts regarding species evolution. However, evolutionary theory in no way attempts to explain origins of life, as is mentioned in HB 25. That mention is a clear mistake, or misrepresentation. In other words, it is wrong. Evolutionary theory does not address “life’s origins.” Evolutionary theory informs us as to how species change over time, and how new species emerge through that change. The ultimate origin of life is not a part of evolutionary theory.

Did you know … gravity is also a theory, yet we don’t see groups “warning” people about that one (however, for an example of how silly this kind of thinking can be, see “Intelligent Falling”). Also, education makes use of a theory (Instructional Theory). Probability is also a theory. Etcetera. So, to be fair, students must also be “cautioned” about all of these theories that are associated with teaching and with what is being taught. To single out evolution is a clear attempt to insert religious thinking and biases into classrooms, and such an attempt will and should fail.

Religion is a private matter, and is not in any way a part of scientific learning.
Please, let us not waste any more of my and your tax dollars on this issue. Please, let us not make Mississippi look more foolish than it already does.

Clay LaHatte
Vicksburg

11 comments:

  1. Hmm... when I was in high school--and perhaps things have changed since then--the theory of evolution was taught as a (the?) model for the origins of life.

    Perhaps this is the foundation of our discussion: If evolution was taught as a theory "that attempts to explain the facts regarding species evolution" I would have no problems with your disdain for this introduction. But as the HB25 points out: It is addressing something completely different.

    ~Luke

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  2. This is the definition for evolution.
    Biological evolution, simply put, is descent with modification. This definition encompasses small-scale evolution (changes in gene frequency in a population from one generation to the next) and large-scale evolution (the descent of different species from a common ancestor over many generations). Evolution helps us to understand the history of life.

    The central idea of biological evolution is that all life on Earth shares a common ancestor, just as you and your cousins share a common grandmother.

    http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/0_0_0/evo_02

    Evolution does not address how life arose or it's origins.

    This is another good resource for understanding evolution.
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/

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  3. I think people also miss the boat on the scientific definition of theory. I think my General Biology Laboratory Manual by James W. Perry & David Morton does a great job of defining and describing scientific theory. Here it is:
    "When exhaustive experiments and observations consistently support an important hypothesis, it is accepted as theory. A theory that stands the test of time may be elevated to the status of principle. Theories and principles are always considered when new hypotheses are formulated. However, like hypotheses, theories and principles may be modified or even discarded in the light of new knowledge."

    Creationists just can't wrap their head around the fact that evolution has been observed & tested, hence it becoming a theory, much like gravity. As the author of the above letter stated, evolution makes no assertions as to WHO started life on this planet, it only offers an explanation of how diversity has come to be. (Just a side note, if evolution doesn't exist, how does the creationist explain antibiotic resistance in bacteria? That IS evolution in action.)

    As a biochemist and a VERY spiritual person, I feel that evolution cements my belief in God. Evolution asserts, if you will, that we are all one and connected.

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  4. "Hmm... when I was in high school--and perhaps things have changed since then--the theory of evolution was taught as a (the?) model for the origins of life."

    I doubt that. If it was the case it was bad teaching and I'd be interested in knowing how they explained the process of evolution creating life. It's like asserting that the study of rolling car tires tells you how the car was started to begin with.

    Honestly, I've never seen abiogenesis and evolution confused in secular science texts, articles, etc. In creationist and ID material - all the time, but not outside of that.

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  5. "Creationists just can't wrap their head around the fact that evolution has been observed & tested, hence it becoming a theory, much like gravity."

    Actually, not much like gravity. There is a Law of Gravity but really, a law is just an observation. Things fall towards the Earth. The Sun exerts a pull on the planets. Both there is no good Theory of Gravity that explains the observation. The Theory of Evolution is much more solid and widely accepted.

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  6. Actually I should have referred to it as Gravitational Theory.
    http://www.olemiss.edu/depts/physics_and_astronomy/research/gravitation.html

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  7. Momma, thank you so much for your comment.

    It summarized things nicely and explained things much clearer then I can.

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  8. As one of those "Creationist" types, I can wrap my head around "the fact that evolution has been observed & tested" [smile]. Micro evolution is observed and testable. Totally works for me, and everyone who believes the Bible is true must accept it as well (considering after Noah's Ark we've only got two of each species... which requires micro evolution to get to where we are today--just as one example).

    Macro evolution is where, to my knowledge--and, again, I freely admit that I'm rather ignorant in this field--we don't have the data to support the theory. ...or, at the very least, the data is interpreted almost exclusively based on your presuppositions--hence the debate.

    My high school text, and every text I've seen on the subject, included Origins of Life in the same discussion as Evolution (including the introductory text we are discussing here). Had we merely discussed the question of "How did we arrive at variation in this world?" I don't think I'd have had nearly as much of a problem with it.

    ~Luke

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  9. Luke, I am looking at the textbook I used with my sons. The Living Environment Biology by Rick Hallman, published by Amsco.
    http://freebooksource.com/?p=25174

    There is no mention of the Origin of Life anywhere in the textbook (I looked in the table of contents and the index). Chapter 3 deals with The Origin and Extinction of Species (but that is NOT the same thing as the Origin of Life).

    I looked in the glossary - again no Origin of Life and THIS is the definition for The Theory of Evolution - idea that organisms change over time as a result of genetic variations that enable them to adapt to changing environments.

    Here are the definitions for macro evolution and micro evolution from the textbook:
    macro evolution - a change in species over a long time and on a large scale
    (we have observed this in the fossil records -my comment).

    micro evolution - change in species over a short time and on a small scale
    (we have observed this under the microscope in bacteria -my comment)

    I have never seen a Science Textbook that claimed the Theory of Evolution had the answers to the Origin of Life.

    HB25 is a poorly written bill by someone who doesn't understand the Theory of Evolution, and hasn't got a clue what is inside the covers of the Science textbooks, the public schools use.

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  10. Alasandra,

    Thank you so much for having the patience to clear that up for me [smile]. Based on what you've said, I completely agree with you.

    And I feel just a little bit more informed, which is nice [smile].

    Thanks again!

    ~Luke

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  11. You are very welcome Luke. ~Alasandra

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