What has my Bio teacher been smoking?

In my sophomore high school Biology class this past week we started the unit on evolution. I pretty much already knew everything that we covered (natural selection, geological record, etc), but my teacher made an odd statement. He talked about the possible origins of life, in that a meteorite struck the primordial Earth and the mixture of gasses, temperature, etc and caused the first unicellular life.

Nothing weird about that, I know. But then he said, “This is what we call the Big Bang Theory.” Hm? I always thought the Big Bang Theory was something along the lines of "some odd 20 billion years or more ago, everything was just condensed energy.

Then it exploded, so to say, and created the expanse of the universe, and is still expanding today." THAT is the Big Bang Theory more or less, right? Not a theory about a meteorite striking the Earth and forming life. So, the question, is it him or I that’s the mistaken one here? And, a secondary question, how in scientific terminology is the Big Bang Theory told? Also, isn’t there another name besides “Big Bang”? That sounds kinda dull.

Thanks in advance.

Sorry to hear that you have an instructor from the bottom of the curve. Ask him about punctuated equilibrium if you really want to confuse him… hee

Either’s he’s pretty clever or somewhat ignorant. It’s possible your teacher may be making a “whoosh” joke that no one responded to. IIRC some bio-scientists consider this hypothesis akin to an “impregnation” of the the earth by outside life (ie “big bang” har har).

If it’s not a joke you need to be very concerned about anything else he tells you.

more info

Life comes from space because life comes from life

It’s panspermia (uh huhu huhuh i said sperm) not the big bang.

Nope, he definitely was not joking. I think it may even be on a test next week. Thanks for the info so far.

I know but the panspermia joke is - life carrying comet et al = sperm > hits the earth = impregnation/banged
= “big bang” (chortle chortle). I think, however, this is a joke that would be more appropriate for a college lecture and not a high school class because of well… possible mis-understandings.

Both of his statements concern me somewhat. Of course, the Big Bang is the name (actually a misnomer since it was neither big nor a bang) of the theory for the origin of the Universe. Panspermia is a hypothesis, not a theory. The difference is that a hypothesis is an idea with very little supporting evidence (it’s more like a supposition), and a theory in scientific jargon is an idea that has a lot of supporitng evidence and is generally accepted.

Panspermia is nowhere near the point where it is generally accepted, or even supported by evidence. In my opinion, the major proponents of it, Wickramasinghe and (the late) Hoyle, have grasped at one straw after another to try to support it. I won’t go into it here, but suffice to say that this hypothesis should be taught as an interesting idea still in its infancy, and needs major work before it gains any credence.

I hope your teacher talked about it as just another idea, and not given as fact. I note in your OP that it does appear to be that way, but I want to make sure things are clear!

Is panspermia the only name used for the celestial-object-hits-earth-causes-life hypothesis? Perhaps it was nicknamed the Big Bang theory after the original Big Bang, because it would have been, well, a big bang.

Daoloth, a word of caution…(I can just see the wheels turning…) If you are thinking about correcting your teacher, may I suggest that you do so carefully, in the most diplomatic terms, in private, with the “perhaps you were making a clever joke” as an out for him? If he really is this stupid/ill-informed, he won’t take it well.

My husband likes to tell the story of how he was taken to the principals office (and nearly suspended) for the crime of correcting his high school physics teacher. Of course, he was also denied entrance into the National Honor Society for his “suspect moral character”, of which denial he is unusually proud, so he was clearly not into playing the game. But if you are trying to get recommendations and such for a particular school or that sort of thing, I would suggest that you think before you act.

Not big!? It took up the whole universe! :wink:

I concur. I corrected our substitute high school physics teacher (who was actually the field hockey coach), and when she wouldn’t listen to me, I wrote up a little explanation of this particular problem and why my interpretation was correct and hers was not. It didn’t get personal in the paper; I just considered both interpretations and showed that the one which happened to be mine was right.

She started crying in the middle of class.

I wasn’t very well liked in that class after that.

If a teacher cannot tolerate being corrected, even in a polite way, then I suggest that teacher needs to rethink what they are doing. Everyone makes mistakes, even teachers. Their job is to teach, and if they teach something incorrectly then they should be happy to be corrected, at least in principle.

Of course, I don’t like it when I have something wrong on my web page, but I would far rather be corrected by a reader than leave something wrong on my site!

Well…yes in principle but you’re a big cheese and being corrected is something your ego could withstand because you know your stuff and a correction would be an interesting challenge for you. Not everyone is so broad minded and there are many educators out there who are just getting by competency-wise and challenging them publicly could have serious negative ramifications for a student.

Your stand is admirable but may not be practical politically for a student potentially requiring teacher recommendations for college.

I’m sure I could correct him politely, and in person. It would probably be offensive to do it in front of the class. He probably wouldn’t mind being corrected, I’m guessing he’s just confused. Anymore input?

It’s unfortunate, but there are a lot of morons out there spouting off stuff off the top of their headst they shouldn’t be spouting. The ones that are good (that is, the good morons) will admit their mistakes, but there are quite a few bad ones (that is bad morons) out there too. YOu are lucky if this is the first time you’ve ever caught a high school teacher spouting misinformation.

Slight hijack… my biggest problem right now with science standards in schools of today is the overreliance of standardized tests to teach these paradigms to students. Unfortunately, most of these tests are GROSS misrepresentations of what science is really about. Sadly, in the US, most of the best scientists do not end up teaching our children, but rather end up in the private sector businesses, governmental jobs, and university research positions where they are given more money and (frankly) more prestigue.

I would venture to guess this “science” teacher has never taken a course in their life on astronomy and wouldn’t beable to enter into an intelligent debate on the merits/demerits of various cosmological biogenesis theories if their lives depended on it.

Okay, enough ranting, I returnt to brooding.

The science in high schools is overly simplified. We learn that the solar system looking Bohr model is the correct atomic form, I guess so they don’t have to get into quantum stuff.

Indeed, since part of the job of a HS teacher is to maintain discipline, many focus on that part first, and some wouldn’t accept any correction on principle.

So you can phrase your correction as a question, and that might make things easier. “Teacher, I’ve read that the Big Bang Theory is the nickname for the initial moments of the universe–did I hear you wrong the other day? What is the name for the various things? How accepted is the meteor creates life theory?”, etc.

It’s also possible that the teacher just misspoke, unless of course he went on to use the same phrase again and again.

I’ve said some astonishingly stupid things while standing in front of a classroom. A college classroom no less! It was usually just some kind of stupid brain fart that made me say it…and I did appreciate being corrected, and everyone, including me, had a good laugh at my expense. Anyway, my point is that your teacher isn’t necessarily an idiot. Teachers are human, too.

Anyway, there are two possible explanations for why he said it:

  1. Just a slip-of-the-tongue.

  2. He really thinks it.

In either case, you should correct him. If it is case 1, then he sill want to know that he accidentally gave the class wrong information. If it is case 2, then you will be doing a great service to society.

I think emarkp suggests a good approach. Phrase it as a question, and make it appear as if you think that you could be wrong. That will allow him to save face if he’s the sensitive type. He can say “oh, what a silly mistake!” or he can say “I’ll look into it.” If he still insists that he’s right…well, all I can say is :rolleyes:.

I have sometimes told my pupils e.g. the wrong key combination in computing.
I don’t mind a polite correction, since it shows they are listening!

Since I also expect to teach them manners, a hostile correction will be accepted, but there will then be a little homily from me on how to be polite.

I also appreciate a quiet word just after class finishes.

Good luck with the correction!