The Amazing Meeting 2014

Like it? Share it!

Sign up for news and updates!






Enter word seen below
Visually impaired? Click here to have an audio challenge played.  You will then need to enter the code that is spelled out.
Change image

CAPTCHA image
Please leave this field empty

Login Form



Darwin’s Idea as Dangerous as Ever PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Michael Blanford   

“it eats through just about every traditional concept, and leaves in its wake a revolutionized world-view, with most of the old landmarks still recognizable, but transformed in fundamental ways.”

 ”Daniel Dennett, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea

Four in ten Americans are creationists in the most literal sense, believing that humans were put here in their present form some time in a not-so-distant past. Many of the remaining 60% accept various contrived versions of evolution that have little to do with the one described by the scientific world. This cultural rejection of one of the great “showcases” of the scientific enterprise has severely undermined the intellectual and scientific legitimacy of our educational system. We have reliably out-maneuvered the enemies of education in both the courts and the legislative sessions time after time. Great appreciation is due to organizations like the National Center for Science Education and local Citizens for Science groups for their effective work there

AFDLogojpgUnfortunately, evolution is still not being taught as the unifying principle of biological science that it ii and in many classrooms, It’s not being taught at all. Teachers are under-trained, pressured by outside forces, or allowed to “fly under the radar.”

The job ahead for those defending educational integrity looks as difficult and discouraging as ever

It’s been 152 years since Darwin’s “acidic” idea was introduced to the world and its corrosive effects on some of society's most deeply held and fiercely defended views are as profound as ever. That will be true for a long time. The competing ideas, while not rooted in evidence, are long-cultivated and deeply entangled in our once-perceived place in the universe.

For those us of us who have looked Darwin’s idea squarely in the face and embraced it, there is consolation. We understand that our scientific view of evolution is in a position of great luxury. The intense cultural war being fought around it can’t actually influence in any meaningful way how we ultimately judge its validity. The public’s acceptance of evolution is important, but not to evolution. Its challenge comes from the scientific process and the reliability of its rigorous, progressive, and self-correcting nature. In the end, It only has the evidence to hide behind.

Our modern understanding of evolution is built on the original insights of Darwin but also exposed to a mountain of observation, testing, and significant refinement. Evolutionary biology, in fact, is as vibrant and compelling an area of study as ever. It continues to provide new findings that enrich this massive body of knowledge and allow us to look at its mechanisms with ever-increasing resolution.

While there is plenty to be concerned about, we can find comfort in the fact that popularity can’t decide what’s true. With that, we should take a day or two to forget about the polls and “academic freedom” bills. We should join one of the over 500 Darwin Day events taking place around the world over a two week period. There we can revel with others who recognize what Darwin and ultimately science mean. We can celebrate Wallace, Lyell, and old Erasmus—celebrate Mayr, Smith, Gould, finches and fruit flies. Celebrate science and recognize how it has improved our lives, both in the most tangible ways and through this inspiring exercise in curiosity that it is. The endeavor of evolutionary biology has certainly been both.

We can return to the fight in the morning, reminded why this all matters so much.

To see what others are saying, visit this thread for a discussion about teaching evolution and teachers beliefs http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=200198.

For more dicussions, please visit this link: http://forums.randi.org/tags.php?tag=evolution

Michael Blanford is Director of Educational Programs for the James Randi Educational Foundation


Trackback(0)
Comments (22)Add Comment
...
written by dasmiller, February 12, 2011
It is fundamental to American freedom of speech that any position, no matter how nonsensical or odious, may be put forward and vigorously defended. Thus, people may freely debate whether the U.S. Government had a part in 9/11, whether global warming is real, whether the evidence supports evolution, and myriad other topics.
But we don't "teach the controversy" on every topic.
There are certainly people who defend Adolph Hitler, yet we don't "teach the controversy" about Hitler in public schools.
Many have claimed to have invented perpetual motion machines, yet we don't "teach the controversy" about conservation of energy in public schools.
We "teach the controversy" only when there are two (or more!) supportable viewpoints. If there are not, then we don't.
Would we really want to allow enough academic freedom that teachers could teach that conservation of energy is optional, if that is their belief? Or that the Holocaust didn't happen?
And if (as I hope) the answer is 'no' to those examples, then why should evolution be treated differently?
For my part, I haven't seen any supportable viewpoint opposing evolution. I've seen a lot of strawman arguments, ad-homs, various other fallacies, and even outright lies, but no compelling arguments supporting an opposing viewpoint. And lacking a strong opposing viewpoint, what "controversy" is there to teach?


though I know that others will see it differently . . .
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +59
...
written by FledgelingSkeptic, February 12, 2011
What is truly frightening is that 73% of US science teachers are either teaching creationism outright (13%) or they are accommodating the religious population and teaching a wishy-wasy version of evolution. If you're one of the seven people who haven't seen this dismaying article, here's a link: http://www.livescience.com/116...class.html
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +14
...
written by ElecTech, February 13, 2011
It just boggles my mind, when virtually everything we touch, use, eat, our houses, all transport, entertainment, EVERYTHING, is a product of our science. And STILL, 40% of people think an invisible man living in the sky put us here, basically for his amusement, like pets. I shake my head in dusgust.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +20
..., Lowly rated comment [Show]
...
written by kenhamer, February 13, 2011
"Four in ten Americans are creationists in the most literal sense, believing that humans were put here in their present form some time in a not-so-distant past."

Well, here are *five* of them:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34CGPY6QhDE
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
Huh?
written by Donovan from New England, February 13, 2011
It just boggles my mind, when virtually everything we touch, use, eat, our houses, all transport, entertainment, EVERYTHING, is a product of our science.

False dichotomy fallacy.


That's not a false dichotomy. It's not even a dichotomy, though if it were, I don't see how it's false.

And STILL, 40% of people think an invisible man living in the sky put us here, basically for his amusement, like pets.

A combination of a straw man and ad homimen fallacy.


That's not an ad hominem. They do, in fact, say that they think an invisible man who lives in the sky put us here. Just because it's bat s--t insane doesn't mean that we're making personal attacks by stating their beliefs. Nor is it a straw man. It may be a simplification, but it is not a straw man.

Please, please learn what the logical fallacies are before accusing people of using them. You're 0 for 3 here, and that's rather sad.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +38
...
written by Willy K, February 13, 2011
A "Darwin Day" strikes me as too similar to what many woo-sters do, they elevate, or demonize, an individual to "cult of personality" status.

Don't get me wrong, Darwin's publications were essential turning points in the understanding of nature and biology, but putting him on a pedestal simply makes him an easier target for the woo-sters. smilies/cry.gif
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +4
...
written by Mark P, February 13, 2011
They do, in fact, say that they think an invisible man who lives in the sky put us here.


It is a simplification. A ridiculous one that does you little merit.

One logical fallacy is that according to the religious view, God gave us science in the first place. So the fact that we have and use science is not at all a proof of the non-existence of God. The existence of science says little about original origins.

Incidentally, man's greatest inventions are often non-scientific (language, political organisation, music etc). They neither prove nor disprove the existence of God either.

In any case, belief in God is not incompatible with belief in science, except possibly in the US. Where I live religious schools teach evolution happily. I was speaking with Catholic clergy recently who were quite happy to teach evolution, and reserve creation stories only for metaphorical purposes. Although they clearly state that they believe the initial impetus was God, they don't dispute scientific findings about the mechanism.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +5
@ElecTech
written by wallacej14, February 14, 2011
"Virtually...EVERYTHING is a product of our science." Without getting into convoluted logical arguments, that just seems blatantly silly at best, stunningly hubristic at worst. Belief in some sort of divine creator/designer in no way suggests that the believer rejects science wholesale. The list of important scientists and thinkers who believed in some sort of Invisible Man is long indeed and includes Darwin himself.

Of what value is "shaking your head in disgust" at most of the human race (you mention 40%, but the percentage of Invisible-Manites in the world is much, much higher)? So doing only serves to cement your smugness.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -3
...
written by Stanfr, February 14, 2011
According to Gallup, the number of Americans who beleive in naturalistic evolution has gone up over 50% in the last 20 years, and the number who beleive in pure creationism has declined at least 7% in the same two decades. That's major progress--certainly a lot speedier than physical evolution! smilies/wink.gif
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +10
...
written by The Apostate, February 14, 2011
I don't understand the overly-literal reading of the creation myth. Why is there no room for some force to set the stage for the Big Bang and the laws of the universe (including those explained in Darwin's theories)? I'm not religious or even spiritual, but my little brain has trouble with not asking "And where did THAT come from? And that? And that?". I have similar problems with the infinite vs. finite universe.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +5
...
written by lytrigian, February 14, 2011
From this remove, it might seem amusing that Fred Hoyle proposed his Steady State cosmology in part because he was afraid that the Big Bang model implied a creator. It's ironic that, far from embracing the idea that the universe had a definite beginning with potential room for a creator to work, creationists reject both it and evolution for no better reason than that they disagree on the details of mechanism.

Ridiculous. These people are intellectually bankrupt.

A literal interpretation of the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, is far from necessary in traditional Christianity. Augustine of Hippo cautioned against this in the 4th century, and Basil of Caesarea suggested an idea similar to "non-overlapping magisteria" a few decades earlier. Thoughtful Christians have no problem with evolution. It's mainly those relying on blind, uninformed faith who react against it.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +6
@ Lytrigian
written by popsaw, February 15, 2011
Thoughtful Christians have no problem with evolution
That would be thoughtless Christians!
A Christian is a believer and follower of Jesus and his teachings.
In Mark 10:6 talking about divorce Jesus says...
King James Bible
"But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female."
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -8
A little optimism?
written by diohuni, February 16, 2011
Many days I despair at the sheer tsunami of woo.

However, here is a thought that may cheer you up a little and give you hope to fight on, whether over evolution, homeopathy, religion, psychics , or whatever variation of the nonsense theme gets your goat.

Let's say that the Enlightenment was the breakthrough (or maybe you consider it to be Newton a bit earlier. Either way, we have a mere 250 - 400 years approximately of rational thought. Even less, as many of our great thought advancers were stifled by religious power.

Still, I believe we are making headway, if slowly. But set against the thousands of years of superstition and woo that came before, maybe that's to be expected.

Keep on fighting. Don't give up. For if we do we are surely doomed!
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +4
Does anyone read Darwin?
written by danieljref, February 16, 2011
If I undestood correctly, USA schools should promote Darwin's ideas.

Have anyone ever read that Darwin thought black people were midway to monkeys and white people? That some of his followers were deeply racists, mainly after "Origin of Species" which confirmed their "theories"?

Is this what people want to promote? Or are we talking about the oh so many patches that hardly resemble a theory or a science?
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -5
...
written by fergl100, February 17, 2011
Daniel

In Darwin's day, cultural thinking in general about race, would now be thought odious and racist. As a result a lot of intelligent people held racist views. This was a by product of the thinking at that time and should not be held against the individuals. Given that this is so, it is no wonder that some followers of Darwin held racist views. Some followers of religion would be in the same boat.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +2
Darwin Was NOT Racist
written by garman, February 17, 2011
Far from being racist, Charles Darwin was a strong abolitionist. He saw his theory as supporting equality. Find out more at:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/4330132/Charles-Darwins-research-to-prove-evolution-was-motivated-by-his-desire-to-end-slavery.html
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +4
That article in Science...
written by Alencon, February 17, 2011
@ Fledgling Skeptic

Yes, I raised the point about that Science article, "Creationism in the Classroom," the other day. However, out of curiosity I downloaded the raw survey data and the description of the methodology used and I have to disagree with their numbers.

I don't argue with the 13% are teaching Creationism or Intelligent Design as valid Science number, however I do now challenge that only 28% are evolutionary advocates and 60% are neutral. The requirements for being classified an "Advocate of Evolutionary Theory" struck me as extremely high and to the point of being unrealistic.

The fact is that fully 74% of the teachers in the survey stated that they emphasized the scientific consensus that evolution is a fact. I don't see how that translates into being neutral.

Don't get me wrong, there is still room for concern especially given that fully 14% of the science teachers declared that they themselves believed that God created humans as they are today in the last 10,000 years and upwards of 15% - 50%, depending upon the state, teach that Creationism or Intelligent design is valid science or that they are viewed by many reputable scientists as valid science.

Still, I believe the Science article authors skewed the methodology to get the result they wanted rather than let the data due the talking. A more realistic test for "Advocate of Evolutionary theory" would have put the number in the 65% to 70% range rather than 28%.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
@Alencon: Raw Data
written by FledgelingSkeptic, February 17, 2011
I'm sure I'm not the only one interested in seeing the raw data. Would you mind posting a link to that for all of us? I still maintain that Psych Stat was the most valuable class i ever took in college. It taught me 1) how easily numbers can be skewed and 2)how to read the data from a study. Thanks in advance smilies/smiley.gif
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +2
@FledgelingSkeptic- sorry for delay
written by Alencon, February 20, 2011
I haven't been here in a while, so I didn't see your request. Sorry about that. You can find the supplemental material explaining their criteria and the raw survey data here:

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/331/6016/404/suppl/DC1
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
...
written by Spielman, February 21, 2011
@danieljref: "Or are we talking about the oh so many patches that hardly resemble a theory or a science?"

Boy, is that ever a fascinating little statement. So, you think that a theory is only valid if it's whole and complete at its inception, and never has to be altered in any way?
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
...
written by Rogue Medic, February 23, 2011
@danieljref,

Have anyone ever read that Darwin thought black people were midway to monkeys and white people? That some of his followers were deeply racists, mainly after "Origin of Species" which confirmed their "theories"?


Please explain how teaching evolution is teaching racism.

Evolution demonstrates that we are all the same species, regardless of superficial differences.

Evolution is anti-racist.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1

Write comment
This content has been locked. You can no longer post any comment.
You must be logged in to post a comment. Please register if you do not have an account yet.

busy