Is evolution being taught incorrectly?

Going back to the OP’s final question:

(And BTW I can’t find “Evolution: Fact or Fiction” by a “biologist at Berkeley” either.)

The fossil record supports evolution stupendously. It clearly shows that life on Earth has undergone dramatic change as we move along the time axis; including the rise and fall of entire types or classes of living thing as dominant components of the ecosystem and indeed of whole ecosystems (e.g. flowering-plant forests). It has evolved. The real scientific debate is over what causes these changes and how the changes happen. (The philosophical debate is whether there is any purpose, design, or lesson to be drawn behind that what-and-how.)
I would agree that at the elementary and High School level, when they even try to teach about it, too many students end up receiving an irregular mix of good, bad, and ugly information, and taking tests where the “right” answers are obsolete, distorted or only half-right. But I must point out this also applies to the teaching of a lot of other subjects, schools do the same disservice to History all the time.


Acco40 writes:

> In the OP I said that the name of the book was Evolution:
> Fact or Fiction? I also remember that the book was
> written by a evolutionary scientist at U of Cal at
> Berkley (I forgot his name though!) and it was published
> in 2000. That’s all I know for sure.

. . .

> Now, I only read the juicy parts of the book because I
> was in the bookstore. I’ll head back tonite probably and
> get the author’s name.

O.K., let’s start with some basic requirements for citations of sources. First, you apparently haven’t got the name of the book correct, since we have tried various sources and can’t find any book with this name. You also don’t supply the name of the author. You aren’t even consistent in your posts about whether this book was a collection of articles or was written by one person, since at some points you say that it’s a multi-author work and at other points you talk as though the book had a single author. You claim that this book was written by a biologist at Berkeley (or several biologists?), but since you don’t give his or their names, this claim is impossible to check. Furthermore, you haven’t even read the entire book. You’ve just flipped through it in the bookstore. You’re trying to summarize the main arguments of a book that you’ve only glanced at.

If you want us to reply to the arguments in this book, you’re going to have to buy it, read it completely, and then tell us the points in the book that you want us to reply to.

Fuck. Yeah that’s it. I should’ve gotten better info before posting. I thought many of you would be able to address the issues without a concrete source.

And contrary to what many of you believe, as I stated in the OP I personally believe in evolution! But I’m always questioning my beliefs; IMHO everyone should.

I mentioned that this book shook up some of my beliefs, and brought up some issues about evolution I had never heard of before.
So, I aired them here, and have received good sources to go to for differing opinions.

But I gotta say that I’ve been put over the torch the past two days for bringing up these issues to my Darwin fish friends who never question evolutionary theory. Sometimes the blind zeal with which they preach for evolution is just as bad as the holy-roller I ran into last week arguing pro-creation.

All I’m saying is look for the truth; have an open mind.

It helps to be able to respond to the specific issues raised by a given book. There were replies here that did justice to what you presented, but they could’ve given more detail (not that they weren’t adequate) if they had known what book they were dealing with.

Good for you.

You’d be in the right to give these people holy hell. IMHO, Darwin-fish-thumpers are worse than creationists, simply because they could so easily be doing so much better. And if you approached them in the spirit of honest enquiry and they shot you down for expressing some doubt, then you should probably never talk to them about this sort of thing again.

Just don’t keep it so open that your brain falls out. :wink:

Other people have alredy responded to this point, but I thought I’d add my two cents as well. One way to think about the problem of how life began is to consider that the world is like a large-scale parallel multicomputer. You don’t just have a few molecules lying around in a test tube trying to become an amino acid, you have billions of billions of molecules, in billions of places, in millions of different conditions, for billions of years.

Acco40, I suspected you may have been exposed to Dr. Wells’ book which is why I asked the question. In this case it has some bearing, because although he holds a doctorate in Biology from the University of California at Berkeley, he had a stated mission of doing so in order to tear down the theory of evolution. You may want to start here to see reasons why the ideas from his book have been discredited (IMO).

You might wish to move this thread to GD or start another one there, since this topic can become rather heated as shown by this recent GD thread where many of the topics in Dr. Wells’ book were addressed.

By the way, I don’t see that anyone has questioned the authenticity of your personal beliefs with respect to evolution. Personally, I just want to address your questions as best I can.

Now we’re getting somewhere…

Icons of Evolution’s Dr. Wells, after becoming involved in the Evolution debate, obtained a second doctorate, in Biology, I believe that’s the one from Berkeley. (His first was in Religion from one of the Ivies)

Dr. Wells is “a Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Renewal of Science and Culture,” which has as its agenda “to challenge materialism on specifically scientific grounds.” Wells has openly and honestly stated that it was with that mission in mind that he went for his Biology degree; he is a committed advocate of the “Intelligent Design” theory of the development of life. sub[/sub] Hence his emphasis on how statistically unlikely X, Y or Z event may have been – which has been addressed already as not constituting “proof” of anything after-the-fact.

(1)[sub](This is the latest – and very interesting, may I say – flavor-of-the-month for those who reject that life may have developed entirely through natural, physical processes of the Natural Selection mechanism.) [/sub]

Wells’ analysis also fails in that he tends to extrapolate bad or inappropriate representations of the science into a weakness of the science itself. The “Cambrian Explosion” has already been discussed. Another Example: The March of Progress diagrams in which you see in single file an ever-more-upright ape, australopithecine, h.erectus, neanderthaloid and Cro-Magnon; or ever-bigger and toothier 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1- toed equines from eohippus to the horse; moving in the direction of “progress.” Sure, these ARE oversimplified presentations that will seem to imply to a grade or high school pupil a uni-directional and direct-successional evolution, if it’s not explained properly by the teacher. But in the world of real science it is well understood that these diagrams merely show a temporal distribution of the appearance of each species, that many of them coexisted for millions or hundreds of thousands of years, that which one ended up surviving was a contingent event, that species do not “turn into” others, etc.

So, to touch again on the OP:

Is evolution being taught badly? Knowing our schools, probably.

Is it because of some fundamental fatal discordance between the fossil evidence and Darwinian Theory? No.

Let’s see, let’s remember, that it is not survival of the fittist, but survival of the best adapted. Evolution doesn’t explain religious beliefs, and religious beliefs do not explain evolution. There are many people (including the guy at Berkeley) who are making a buck in the popular press suggesting a theory of “intelligent design” to explain the extraordinary complexity of life. These are not peer reviewed scientific papers as far as I know. Life is indeed very complex.

Darwin was himself a devout Christian and wanted to publish the Origin of Species posthumously. But as he was the world’s leading naturalist, he was asked to review (as in peer review) a paper from a bright young man who had also come up with a theory of evolution similar to Darwin’s. Darwin had been writing drafts of his work for two decades to explain his lifetime of observations and rushed his book to print. The young fellow (whose name I forget, but you don’t need everything handed to you on a silver platter), was surprisingly gracious about it, recognizing that Darwin could not have faked his work from the manuscript under review in such a short amount of time. Darwin’s examples of his theory in action were so numerous and exhaustive as to remove all doubt of plagerism, and to utterly convince nearly all the scientific minds of the day, which the young man’s manuscript would not have done by a long shot. When Darwin published the Origin of Species, he left out the portion he later published as The Descent of Man because he correctly observed that it would have been far too controversial for Victorian England. Darwin acknowledged that the young man had independently arrived at the theory, and the two occasionally gave joint lectures.

As exhaustive as Darwin’s evidence was, he only began to describe the evidence supporting evolution. There is no scientific data that undermines the basic theory, but there do remain questions about the origins of life in single cell organsims that remain, as well as the jump to multi-cell organisms and complex organisms. But for the most part, the evidence supporting evolution is everywhere.

As for the intelligent design version of creationism, it still isn’t science. (I’m a Christian myself, I just know the difference between faith and facts.) What intelligence? Show us, that is what the analytical tool of science is all about.

Some people take comfort in having the world as a simple place that can be explained by one unchanging book as interpreted by a fellow telling them what to do from a pulpit. Do not begrudge them this comfort. Life is difficult and some people would be at a complete loss without simple answers to the most complicated questions.

You know, it might be more accurate to say the survival of the luckiest. I mean if a meteor hits the earth and squishes all of the members of a species that species isn’t badly adapted, it is just plain unlucky. After all, how can you expect them to be adapted to an essentially random meteor strike. Survival of the best adapted is still a factor, it is just one step after survival of the luckiest.

My personal theory on what we call religion is that religion is the part of our mind that covers the things in the universe which we do not understand. This may be why many (or at least some) religious people dislike it when science tries to explain something that had been part of their religion. After all, who wants someone else explaining god to them? (God being a personification of religion.) The thing is, given a finite lifetime and an infinite universe, what we do not understand will always be larger than what we do. So why not keep an open mind and attempt to understand as much as you can, all the while secure in the knowledge that you’ll never understand it all?

Here goes. The “tree” is the classical way of looking at evolution with one species succeding another in a steady progress. The “thicket” means that evolution sets off in many directions at once, so at a given time there are several branches with “cousin” species. Some branches die out and some evolve into a new set of subbraches etc. In other words the total opposite from your guess.