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The Evolution Debate

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A federal judge in Georgia has declared that a district's practice of labeling evolution "a theory, not a fact" on stickers placed on science textbooks amounts to an unconstitutional endorsement of religion, Education Week reports. Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, one district has decided to allow teachers—but not students—to opt out of introducing an alternative theory called 'intelligent design.'

Should the teaching of evolution come with a disclaimer? Should alternative theories on the origins of life be taught in public classrooms? Why does the debate over evolution persist?

63 Comments

The very first thing I learned in college biology classes was about a thing called Evolutionary Theory. Evolution was always presented as a theory not an immutable fact. The fact is that evolutionary biology is in flux today. There are many, many non-religious scientists calling into questions the basic assumptions of current evolutionary theory. The idea of the "selfish gene" as the intelligent designer of terrestrial life was presented decades ago by Dawkins, not a religious person either.

Beyond this, I find the idea of a judge being the arbiter of what is allowable in scientific thinking to be repugnant to science and the intellectual honesty and freedom that its practitioners have stood for since Gallileo and DaVinci. It is tragic that the scientific community is abandoning these ideals out of fear; fear of returning to a pre-Scopes Trial era where scientific thought was subject to the religious censors.

Analysis and critical thinking are positive things to encourage. It is embodied in the statement, "This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.”

Judge Cooper seems to have been overly creative when he says that suggesting that students be open-minded and investigative is the same as state approval of religion (aside from wondering how he thinks religion from that sentence, one wonders which "religion" he has in mind..) He reminds me of an emotionally unstable or immature person who thinks its all about himself and that everyone is looking at him and judging what he does. Its not about you, Judge Cooper, nor is it about your belief system.

Parents, please continue to speak up and work to preserve your first amendment right of freedom of speech; protect it "religiously" so it is not taken away from you by the courts.

Yes, compare evolution to Genesis. That's our heritage. If we don't, that's censorship and it's like half an education.

When I returned to college in my 30's, I discovered my learning style. I always asked my teachers, "compared to what?" I wasn't so bold in high school.

I was in high school during the Johnson Administration. My history teacher taught us about Communism and its restrictions on free speech, free assembly and the arts. Yet, we were never taught the core ideology which the United States vehemently objected to: freedom of religion.

It is my core belief that children's well-being must rank highest on the priority lists of school teachers and administrators. Without well-being there is truancy, poor grades, violence, sexual assault, and sexual harassment.

Many, many scientific research studies have concluded that prayer lowers stress; people who regularly attend church / place of worship are happier and live longer. These are positive things.

Compared to what, teacher? I just don't understand anything unfamiliar without a comparison.

I'm about to enter the Cobb County school system as a teacher. I applaud the decision by the Courts for three reasons. Most importantly, the word 'theory' is being misapplied. In science, a theory is not an educatied guess, it is a idea that has been backed up by scientific fact. We as educators cannot speak of evolution as just someone's opinion. Secondly, the place for teaching creationism is not the arena of the science room. If you want to teach this, keep it in a comparative religion class. I have no problem with a survey of religion, just not in a science room. The third reason has been spoken about here in Atlanta by many. The theory of evolution was singled out among all scientific theories. Yes analysis and critical thinking are important but we should encourage it in every subject and every aspect of the child's education.

The "heritage" metioned above is not necessarily mine, nor is it that of many of our students. If it is, it is the responsibility of their parents and clergy, not mine. Character I can help with, religious philosophy I will not.

To Paul Dunkleberger, I would like to clarify that theory by definition is “a supposition or an assumption based on certain evidence or observation but lacking scientific proof” (Taber’s medical dictionary). We as educators CAN speak of evolution as someone’s opinion-Darwin’s. It is NOT scientific fact nor should it be taught as such. But in the classroom today educators who share your opinion usually introduce it as fact.

I would like to try to clear up the issue regarding evolution and creation science. Many religions and cultures have creation stories about the Earth or, more commonly, the creation of their specific culture. I respect these stories as an attempt to explain why we are where we are. There is no evidence for the stories and typically the initial concept behind the story must be taken on faith to accept the rest of it.

When scientists study evolution, they look at all the evidence that is presented to them, not just the evidence that supports their belief. Evolution is testable, creation "science" is not. What is the test for a supreme being? Does the test result in evidence that supports your hypothesis, or does your belief support your findings?

There is a difference. Whenever an idea relies on information that must be taken on faith (as a belief in a supreme being) that idea falls outside the realm of science, no matter how much "evidence" you collect. If you feel that evolution is based on faith, as religion is, I strongly recommend taking a few biology courses, and then some evolution-specific courses. Maybe then you will have a better understanding of the theory of evolution and the scientific method.

C.C.
Allegan

I think that it is high time science educators (particularly those in biology) stopped using the single word "evolution". "Evolution" means something different to everyone. You can discover this for yourself by simply searching for a common definition that all scientists agree with.

Some self-proclaimed science experts scream that "evolution is a fact" and expect us all to agree with them. The only "fact" they have in mind, however, is that 'things change over time'. If you really press a scientist for a strict definition of "evolution", this is the definition you'll eventually get. Things change. Big deal.

The fact that 'things change' is NOT what the Cobb County sticker is all about, however. What is really at issue here is what has come to be known as "macro-evolution" - the theory about how life originated and how plants and animals came to be in the first place.

I don't believe there is a scientist on the planet that can quote facts and statistics about HOW life originated. It was a singular event that occurred at a unique point in history. Some folks think it happened millions of years ago, and some think it was maybe only thousands of years ago. Neither group can prove its case beyond the shadow of a doubt with the tools of "science", because "science" can't recreate a singular event from the distant past.

If you are an un-biased, true "scientist" (are you really?) you will find that there are a myriad of "facts" available. The theory of the origin of life is all about how you choose to fit these raw facts into your mental picture of what took place a long, long time ago.

It is like trying to decide what happened at a murder scene where there were no witnesses. Forensic scientists examine the evidence (the "facts") and try to deduce what happened. Often there is sufficient evidence that all points to one likely murderer. But what if the facts point in more than one direction? Can you then say that your particular theory about the murder is correct? What if 98% of forensic scientists agree with you? Can you convict someone based on that? Consider for a moment: are there unsolved murders in the world? If there are unsolved murders that happened just this past year, then I hope you agree that it is ludicrous to presume that we can know enough about the long-ago origin of life to proclaim any theory as a fact.

If you are a science educator you SHOULD teach about macro-evolutionary theory. That's fine. But have the decency to call it "macro-evolution" and have the decency to admit up front that we can't possibly claim to teach it as a fact. If you are truly unbiased, you will teach both the facts that support macro-evolutionary theory as well as the facts that contradict it. This would be the most scientifically honest thing to do as an educator. Test your students on whether they understand the theory - not on whether they accept it.

The vast majority of science textbooks present only one side of the story. The sticker (or something like it) is necessary to let the students know that there is more to the story. If science textbooks (and science educators) were more concerned about presenting facts and less about shoving a particular interpretation of facts down the students' throats, such stickers would be unnecessary.

You'll notice that to this point I haven't even mentioned 'religion'. That's because this isn't about religion, no matter what Judge Cooper might think. Nope; it's about scientific and intellectual honesty.

This is an old debate. When Galileo offered his telescope to the Pope of his day, thus was the collision of dogma and science made clear. In the fullness of time, dogma collapses under the weight of evidence. In the meantime we should resist the efforts of those who seek to institute religious dogma. It's dangerous to science and even more dangerous to religion.

Mr. Dunkleberger's analysis of the debate over "Creation Science" (mutually exclusive terms)is accurate. There is no debate in the minds of most serious evolutionary biologists, paleobiologists, anthropologists, et al, that evolutions happens. They may disagree on the fine points of punctuated equilibrium, or the eosteric particulars of shell shapes, but the "theory" of evolution, a term which has been pejoratively misapplied since before the Scopes trial, is not in question. The heart of this controversy, if fundamentally aligned Christians will deign to admit it, is the suppposed loss of moral strength and other "family values" that go with not taking Genesis and the rest of the bible at face value, and removing the bible and prayer from schools. (Neither of which has happened, by the way. Anyone can pray anywhere he wants to as long as it's not sponsored by the school, or involves the not so subtle coercion that goes with being the one kid who doesn't. By the same token, carry a bible anywhere you want. Just don't thump it uninvited.)

The bible, specifically the contradictory book of Genesis, can't, plainly and simply, be compared to a scientific explanation of how we got here, and what happened to us over the millions of years that we've been changing, whether it's been in fits and starts or in a steadily applied set of externally operated guidelines. (Read Intelligent Design)

The bible, for those who choose to hold their faith in concert with this book, reveals who created the world and its creatures. If believing this elementally developed story gives one comfort, so be it. Just don't call it science, or intelligent design, or a scientific alternative to evolution. The bible doesn't correct itself when opposing views or even facts contradict its sometimes beautifully written, but woefully misunderstood, and more woefully applied text. Science, by its very definition, develops, tests, and adjusts its knowledge base when confronted with legitimately constructed contrary information.

Faith is belief in things unseen... it may even be described as magical thinking. Nice, maybe, but not science. The twain shouldn't meet in a classroom unless the context is legitimate debate, which would soon reveal evolution as not in conflict with anything except the most rigidly applied adherence to the "truth" of scripture.

Our public schools are for leading students to think for themselves. Along the way, there is a chance they will run into flawed theories, flawed teachers, and flawed school boards who want to go back to the way things never really were.

Religious zealots have made it difficult to hold conversations that even resemble reasoned discourse. By the same token, scientists and other writers who want to demonize well-meaning, if poorly informed parents, do a disservice to the service of science: To find the truth, dispassionately, without malice, and for the pure joy of knowing. If we can apply the info to our lives by living longer, better, more efficiently, safer, great. The church, whatever church, doesn't have to live in conflict with scientific truth if they'll just admit they don't have all the answers. Science doesn't claim to have them either. It just does a better job of looking for them.

There are some interesting points here about teachers' responsibility toward students, particularly in representing scientific theory. While there's little doubt in my mind that this is about religion, I believe the real debate is over how we communicate with students. Are stickers the right way? That seems like a cheap, passive-aggressive approach (surely the students see through it, are confused by it, or wonder about our priorities). While the entire textbook development process is heavily influenced by more than just good scholarship, the teacher is the most important interface between students and source materials. Its been a long time since I was in the classroom but I remember a dialogue in which students asked about everything from who wrote the textbook to why we had to learn about the subject. A responsible teacher will synthesize all the available information for students, then tell them how they can pursue inquiry on their own. Science is an exploration, not a final answer (as is religion for me, but that's another story). In short it should be up to the teacher to present material, distinguish between fact and theory for students, and answer questions they may have about alternate views. Sometimes a teacher may have to refer a student elsewhere: "while evolution is the primary scientific view, and we're studying it because this is a science class, there are many other views about the origin of life and the earth we don't cover here. You can read about them in the library, on the internet/ask parents or clergy" etc. Or has education turned into "don't ask, don't tell"?

First of all, I consider myself to be a fairly religious person. But really, that is not what this is all about. One of the biggest problems in this ongoing debate is the meaning of words as people use them. As educators, we should be aware of how we use definitions with our students.

The National Academy of Science has given us some definitions to use to help clarify what we mean:

Fact - In science, an observation that has been repeatedly confirmed.

Law - A descriptive generalization about how some aspect of the natural world behaves under stated circumstances.

Hypothesis - A testable statement about the natural world that can be used to build more complex inferences and explanations.

Theory - In science, a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses.

With these definitions in mind, is evolution a "fact"? That is debateable. Is it a "theory"? Yes, and a very strong one. But not "just" a theory. We need to teach the students to know the difference and help them to understand the difference between what is science and what is not. It is very important that we teach our students to think scientifically, for the future of our country.

I believe the central issue is the difference between religion and science. Both of these seek to explain the world and both deserve our respect. However, they sometimes seem to conflict, leading some to believe that one or the other must be rejected. However, this is not a necessary conclusion if we understand the difference between religion and science and how theories function in science.

Science seeks to understand the world through observation and experimentation designed to uncover causes and underlying principles that govern natural phenomena. This enterprise is thus limited to that which can be observed; that's why the microscope, for example, led to great breakthroughs in biology of disease transmission. Thus science can help us alot and has improved our lives in many respects.

That said, however, there is even more that science can't do. It cannot provide insight into that which cannot be observed. As noted above, the "origin" of nature or species is an event (or events) hidden by time that predates our abilities to provide direct evidence. Similarly, science cannot explain God or faith, or tell us why we are here on Earth to begin with. This is where religion and culture comes in. We have other texts and traditions to help us confront eternal questions of purpose and faith.

Evolution is a longstanding scientific theory that seeks to explain and connect the various facts and evidence concerning the origin and differentiation of species observed in our world. Darwin's basic proposal of 1859 outlines a natural mechanism of generational variation and natural selection over long periods of time. His ideas were based on what he saw in the isolated ecosystem of the Gallopagos Islands and his study of breeding and heredity. This theory provided a framework for understanding ecosystems and how they change over time which is essential to our modern understanding of biology, agriculture, resource management, microbiology, ecology, and genetics. In this sense, the theory is not "proven" per se, but has proven useful and formative to the advancement of scientific understanding.

Like many other key theories in science, proof is not the touchstone of scientific relevance; rather "the proof is in the pudding."

Consider Copernicus' theory that planets move around the sun. At first this was rejected by the Church as heresy, and later embraced as a metaphor of God's power over things worldly. This change did not occur because Copernicus "proved" his theory -- in fact, relative motion can still be looked at either way legitimately. But a sun-centered theory of planetary motion was a framework that led to the advancement of science, enabling Kepler and Newton to formulate the inverse square laws of planetary motion.

The point is we do not need to "prove" a scientific theory in order for it to advance our scientific understanding. And I would agree that a good science textbook (if there is such a thing) should encourage critical interpretation of observable evidence and avoid portraying theories and frameworks as if they were immutable laws or truths. However, this does not mean books should be labelled one way or the other. We could just as usefully stamp "unproven theory" on Genesis or the Bill of Rights -- but clearly, this would insult many people and serve only to disrespect the value and meaning of these texts.

Really, I believe there is room in the curriculum for both science and culture. Genesis is not science and therefore does not belong in our science classrooms any more than any other culture's stories. While evolution and Genesis share the fact of being unproven, evolution has furthered scientific understanding whereas Genesis has not. However, as a seminal text of our society that has influenced our nation's culture and laws, Genesis is worthy of inclusion in a secular curriculum of social studies, history, or literature.

Finally, it is worthy to note that for many great scientists, a greater understanding of the intricacy of nature has been upheld as testimony to the brilliance of creation, a great mystery into which science may yet grant us a small glimpse.

-S. Bradford,
Missoula, MT

The clear fact of the matter is this, God made us, and no matter how many times scientists try to explain this away, God still made us. Why do you think that every single thing they have used to prove evolution has fallen through. There is no concrete evidence for evolution but there is for creation. Why do you think this is?

S.Brown/Student....What theory of evolution are you referring to that has not withstood scientific scrutiny?

I am saddened to see that there is no room in our society for equality. Personally the Evolution Theory leaves much to be desired. Yes, science answers many of our question about how the world works and helps us to understand some of the basic components of life. Yet, there are so many answers to be discovered and there will be many scientific theories that will be disproved in the future. Too many people rely on science as gospel and limit themselves and their understanding.

There are many pitfalls in modern religion that individuals can fall into and be mislead. Nevertheless, there is much that cannot be discounted. There are many witnesses that can testify to the reality of a Higher being. Too often the scientific community rejects the testimony of these people as falsehoods or fanaticism because it is different from their understanding. I have found many of these people to be closeminded and oppressive. Being learned does not always mean wise.

It always amazes me how little people know about the actual theory of evolution. The term theory is misapplied and even the understanding of scientific proof is muddy by most standards. If you say there are problems with the theory of evolution, then be specific. What specific part of it do you have a problem with? If you say many scientists disagree, then who is it you're referring to? If you talk about many studies that disagree, then name them. Otherwise you are doing nothing more than taking cheap shots from the cheap seats

B.J. has a good comment. Why not teach creationism and evolution? What's the REAL argument against it? You teach that ALONG with Big Bang theory and all other theories of how Earth began and humans evolved. No one is truly educated until they learn all possible sides and make educated decisions for themselves. We are doing an injustice to the true meaning of education if we only tell parts of the story that we agree with. This whole argument is just ONE example of how biased and ignorant our country is becoming. America was built on religious freedom, not persecution. It was founded so that all people had/have the right to believe in what they want. Why now must everyone be an devout evangelical religious fanatic? The word religion alone is getting a bad reputation. What is wrong with giving every human an opportunity for an equal life including a balanced education and allow students to grow up to be informed adults that make educational and WISE decisions? When did our country forget it's foundation? And who has nothing better to do than make it their life's goal to tell other people what to believe in, what to learn about, who to pray to (or even to pray at all), who to marry, etc . . . And who told these people that their way was right, without a doubt? Those that live this close-minded, biased life better hope they're right.

I find it rather odd that the only scientific theory the enlightend folks in Cobb county instruct students to think critically about is evolution. I wonder why they ignore quantum mechanics, or string theory, or plate tectonics, or...is it because evolution conflicts with religous teachings on the origins of human beings? I think so.

What disturbs me about the people who engage in such activity is their lack of understanding of science and how it works, and their fundamental misunderstanding of evolution and what it means. Evolutionary theory has been rigorously tested by countless biologists for the past 100 years, and has proven to be a powerful tool for explaining the dynamics of living systems. No credible biologist questions its explanatory power, nor its fundamental tenets.

One of the specious criticisms offered by the religous right is that scientists somehow believe in evolution and exclude plausable alternative explanations. Believe me, if some researcher was able to come up with scientifically credible evidence that refuted part or all of the theory, he would publish it and enjoy the fame that would come his way. Overturning widely accepted theories is a sure way to achieve everlasting recoginition in the scientific community.

How sad it is that so much time and effort is wasted on dealing with the efforts of a few religious ignoramuses to degrade the quality of science education in our schools. We really do have more pressing issues to deal with.

Some levity: As everyone should know, we are here.
Everybody who fears God does not want to offend It by denying the It's right to pro-choice. On the other hand if you don't believe, is it matter? Most of the believing earthlings I know pray to God and they kill for God. My God is no wimp and can do all the killing It needs to do if It so feels. It doesn't care about who gets credit for starting the crude lot on this planet anyway, and speaking of planets....

"I'm no kin to the monkey; the monkey's no kin to me. I don't know much about your ancestors, but mine didn't swing from a tree." I like this song sung by Hal Webb & Theron Babcock!

Oh, I know, it wasn't a monkey; it started out as slime, then worked its way up to man. But now the famous scientist, atheist, Flew, believes that a "higher intelligence" designed us. It is rather difficult for even a hard core atheist to deny the evidence seen the complexities of DNA.

The Laws of Thermodynamics state that things do not tend to get better with time, rather they get worse. Yet, the Theory of Evolution teaches that somehow that bit of slime sparked into life and eventually became the wonderfully intelligent beings that we are today. It reminds me of the idea that Webster's Dictionary came from an explosion in a print shop!

To say that the Theory of Evolution is proveable is quite a stretch. No one has yet found the "missing link". No one can explain why the intermediary forms have not been located. No one can explain why evolution is not being observed today.

Why is it that at this latter stage of evolution, the human body does not get better with age? Why is it that every living being degenerates until death overcomes it? "And it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment:" Hebrews 9:11

I remember reading in biology texts about the bone fragments said to be the cranium of an early species of man/woman. It was later proven to be the knee cap of a large mammal. ..There are other such "finds" that turned out to be frauds. So much for scientific or intellectual honesty. Yet, much of the Theory of Evolution was based on evidence such as this!

Archealogical evidence seems to show that there was once much knowledge that was somehow lost to mankind. It took centuries for this knowledge to be re-acquired. For example, there was the ancient Greek physician who performed sophisticated surgeries using instruments very similar to ones used today. Ancient Hebrews knew "For the life of the flesh is in the blood:" as stated in the Bible in the Book of Leviticus 17:11. Yet it took until the 1600s for Harvey to "discover" this.

There are many scientists who believe the Biblical account of creation. Unfortunately, in most universities academic freedom does not extend to these highly educated people.

It is true that the Bible is not a science text. However, as a wise man said: "The Bible was not written to teach science; but the Bible is scientifically correct."

And thanks, Bob, for the compliment you gave us "religious ignoramusus"! I do have a BA, Teaching Certificate, MAT, and work towards another graduate degree. My husband has a BS,Teaching Certificate, MS, MA, and work towards EdD. Oh, and he is a biology teacher.

We have friends who earned PhD in the sciences and are professors in universities. Some of these friends have debated other professors about "origins". Their evidence against evolution is more credible than the so-called proofs.

In the end, it all comes down to faith. It takes faith to belive in evolution, and it takes faith to believe in creation.

However, it does not take as much faith to believe in creation, since my God is the Creator! "In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth...So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." Genesis 1:1, 1:27

Response to Martha P. Regarding your statement "The Laws of Thermodynamics state that things do not tend to get better with time, rather they get worse." I believe you are vaguely referring to the second law of thermodynamics which is more appropriately stated "in all energy exchanges, if no energy enters or leaves the system, the potential energy of the state will always be less than that of the initial state." (aka entropy)
There is energy coming into the system, from the Sun, lots of it, so this law cannot even remotely be used to refute the theory of evolution. FYI, the first law of thermodynamics, "Energy can be changed from one form to another, but it cannot be created or destroyed," can't be used in this manner either. I hope you are not a science teacher.

I believe that the NSTA quote earlier from Ralph P, is where scientists and non-scientists begin to misunderstand one another. First, for scientists, a theory is well substantiated with many observations. A scientific theory has much more validity than a person's mere opinion.

Furthermore, the idea that life has evolved is supported not only with a vast amount of research in the Biological Sciences but in the Physical Sciences, as well. Geology, Chemistry, and even Astrophysics have made significant contributions in helping us to understand not only how life has changed on Earth, but how the entire Universe has changed as well. Debate is a vital component in scientific study, but our conclusions should be based on the findings of reputable scientists. The research that is published from Peer Reviewed Journals that are credible should be our source of information. We should avoid any organization that runs its own printing press with the idea of promoting its own agenda.

Should evolution be given a disclaimer? My answer is an emphatic YES! It should be taught as only a theory and nothing more. We want to espouse politic correctness and all, right? But how can we as educators do that when we are forced to teach a theory as if it were fact, saying to those who don't believe in this theory that we're right and they're wrong? In my opinion, the world's origins should be taught from different points of view, not so much saying that one is better than the other, but saying that certain people believe that the world was made in different ways. This way, people can hear different points of view, and (I guess) choose the one they feel is most plausible based on objective, imperical evidence.

Should evolution be given a disclaimer? My answer is an emphatic YES! It should be taught as only a theory and nothing more. We want to espouse political correctness and all, right? But how can we as educators do that when we are forced to teach a theory as if it were fact, saying to those who don't believe in this theory that we're right and they're wrong? In my opinion, the world's origins should be taught from different points of view, not so much saying that one is better than the other, but saying that certain people believe that the world was made in different ways. This way, people can hear different points of view, and (I guess) choose the one they feel is most plausible based on objective, imperical evidence.

I find it terrific that sp many people can articulate so many alternative views on a complex topic such as this evolution debate.

Having spent over 40 years in front of classes I fell Education Week is to be commended for providing this medium.

"And thanks, Bob, for the compliment you gave us "religious ignoramusus"! I do have a BA, Teaching Certificate, MAT, and work towards another graduate degree. My husband has a BS,Teaching Certificate, MS, MA, and work towards EdD. Oh, and he is a biology teacher."

Martha P./ educator

The quote above from Martha illustrates the true lack of understanding, even among degreed educators, of the nature of science. A dispassionate examination of evidence, carefully designed and peer reviewed studies, and an application of "how does this fit into what we already know?" is what's required. Martha's faith is one thing, science is another. Whether she wants to believe that an intelligent designer is or was at work is irrelevant to the original reason this particular forum was established.

Evolution happens. There is no argument about that among serious scientists. There is argument about the particulars, but those particulars do not work to discount the theory, anymore than conflicting creation stories in Genesis discount people's faith in biblical principles overall.

I have difficulty understanding why the analysis of evolution, what we know and what is still to be learned, cannot be taught without bringing the GDI (god did it) argument into the science classroom. Leave the "who and why for philosophy, mythology, or comparative religion.

I don't think calling people nasty names serves a purpose in this context, but neither does shouting strident "Look around you, doesn't that prove god exists?" diatribes. Frankly, no. Looking around at the world proves nothing about supreme intelligence. Neither do the arguments citing supposed irreducible complexity.

The reason people have faith in the Bible or the Koran or the teachings of Buddha or the Torah, is because they want to. It helps them put a face on creation and a place where they fit into it. It just isn't proof of anything in a science classroom. Let the two remain separate in public schools. If you want to confuse science and faith, do it on your own time, in your own schools.

Kurt missed the point. There are a number of bonafide scientists who realize that there are many holes in the Theory of Evolution. There are people who hold PhDs in the sciences who can have debated other PhDs and pointed out these holes. Yes, there is argument among serious scientists!

Does evolution happen because Kurt says it happens? Or because Darwin said it happens? Or beause anyone else says it happens? No.

If the Theory of Evolution could be proven, it would be called the Law of Evolution. Since it cannot be observed, nor reproduced in a controlled scientific environment, it is only a theory.

Randi proved one of my previous points by quoting the second Law of Thermodynamics, when I noted in my "down home" style, that things do not get better, rather they get worse. "...will always be less than the original state".

Her quoting of the first Law of Thermodynamics-- "Energy... cannot be created or destroyed."-- proves another eternal truth. "Like it or not, you will have to live somewhere forever; so you had better learn how to live".

The reason this is the only scientific theory that the enlightened folks in Cobb County want to disclaim is that the Theory of Evolution is taught as fact. Other theories are taught as theories.

As to the reason for the establishment of this forum: The disclaimer should remain in the science texts in Georgia, and should be placed in every science text that touches on the Theory of Evolution.

"When I consider thy heavens, the work of they fingers, the moon, the stars, which thou hast ordained;
What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?" Psalm 8:3,4

Once again, you exhibit a fundamental misunderstanding or perhaps unwillingness to learn, how "theory" functions in science.

Read the best of the best in the field and you will see no disagreement that evolution happens. It isn't a thoroughly tested theory simply because I or anyone else says so anymore than quoting scripture makes the bible true. One can't simply color everything through the veil of the "GDI theory" and refuse to see what's been tested, and found to be the best available, most currently reliable information.

Read the late Stephen J. Gould, or any number of scientists who know their stuff, and you'll discover, if you're willing to admit it, that their contributions to evolutionary knowledge and your wish to believe that "God did it" are not mutally exclusive, unless you're the strictest of fundamentalists, and adhere to the six days and a young earth sort of implausible deniability.

As a scientific theory, evolution has the same standing and authority that atomic theory, the theory of relativity and the theory of quantum physics possess. It has been tested and re-tested, and has withstood more scutiny than most science.

Again - and how many ways can this be said?- You can believe what you want to from a religious perspective. You cannot use your religion to disprove a thoroughly tested scientific theory. Neither can science be used to prove nor disprove thet existence of an intelligent designer. You believe because you choose to believe.

Science operates on the framework of testing and re-testing, correcting, updating, honing, and getting as close to observable truth as one can. Notice the distinction? Not all encompassing truth with the big "T". Rather closer to the truth in a testable reality. No self-respecting scientist says that his or her experimental results are "truth." No scientific model can be viewed as an absolute proof. What science can do is correct itself, refine itself, and take us a step closer to understanding the whole of a given area of study.

You wrote in your first missive, "In the end, it all comes down to faith. It takes faith to belive in evolution, and it takes faith to believe in creation." I would submit that you're half right. I sincerely hope you're not teaching science, because you possess a fundamentally flawed understanding of what science is supposed to be.

If you truly want to educate yourself, and at the same time keep your faith intact, try this site. http://www.ncseweb. Read what these scientists are saying. You refer to "friends who earned PhD in the sciences and are professors in universities. Some of these friends have debated other professors about "origins". Their evidence against evolution is more credible than the so-called proofs." These friends of yours, as well meaning as they might be, are wrong. Their pedagogy is flawed. Their knowledge base is suspect. They do not agree with the vast majority of evolutionary biologists. You can quote scripture all you want. Wrap yourself in your beliefs and hold them close. I envy your assuredness. The truth is, you don't know if god did it. You believe it because you want to. No amount of scripture will ever change that, and no amount of scripture should be used to teach science.

When evolution is mandated in state content standards, it is often not properly identified as one of several evoultionary theories. At the very least, this should be diclosed to students to place the presentation in context.

I have been dismayed that university biology departments maitain that they must continue to teach neo-darwinian evolution "until we have something to replace it". When it was proposed, there was ample agreement that the fossil record would supply evidence to fill in the gaps. This evidence did not materialize, so scientific philosophy and integrity should demand that we scrap the unsupported parts of the explanation.

Please name the scientific (plausible) alternatives to current evolutionary thinking that should be presented to students.

By the way, there is ample fossil record to support evolutionary biologists, paleobiologists, anthropologists, etc. The problem is that everyone has an expectation that some missing homo like creature will be excavated to "prove" that Darwin was right. Highly unlikely, and unnecessary to continue refining the knowledge base.

Believing in evolution doesn't require you to be an agnostic or atheist. The current critique of evolution is based on it being called a theory. A theory is science is far more solid than one's theory and who's going to win the Super Bowl.
Why don't we talk about the support for evolution through radioactive dating, transitional species in the fossil record, etc? Unfortunately, we have a mindless harping on the word, "theory."
Many Christian religions believe that evolution is part of natural law and doesn't conflict with the law of God. Yet they seem to be the quiet denominations. To me, the Big Bang Theory sounds like God started it. Go check www.religiousnaturalism.org and see how one can love God and the process of evolution at the same time.

I believe some of the posts here have strayed from the original theme of this Talkback Forum. Please see the 2 paragraphs at the very top.

The reason this thread was started was to discuss the ruling about the Cobb County GA sticker:
“This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered.”

With this sticker in mind, we are supposed to be considering:
(1) Should the teaching of evolution come with a disclaimer?
(2) Should alternative theories on the origins of life be taught in public classrooms?
(3) Why does the debate over evolution persist?

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but the topic I believe we are supposed to be discussing is "the origin of living things".

***********
Re: post of 01/21/2005 10:47AM
"It always amazes me how little people know about the actual theory of evolution."

Re: post of 01/21/2005 7:05PM
"What disturbs me about the people who engage in such activity is their...fundamental misunderstanding of evolution..."

Re: post of 01/26/2005 12:08PM
"Evolution happens. There is no argument about that among serious scientists."

Re: post of 01/27/2005 4:06PM
"Read the best of the best in the field and you will see no disagreement that evolution happens."

*********
Will the writers of these posts please give us your definition of "evolution", and "the actual theory of evolution"? (Your definitions must speak to the issue of "the origin of living things", since that is the subject of this discussion.)

Please don't waste our collective time by defining micro-evolution for us. No serious scientist doubts that micro-evolution happens (small observable changes in a population over time). That's not what we're supposed to be discussing here, and that is not where the controversy lies (and you know it).

And I wonder if the three of you would be so kind as to read my post above (01/20/2005 11:17AM) and offer your constructive criticism of my comments there.
*********

Once these folks have posted their own definitions of "evolution" and "the actual theory of evolution" (definitions that have something to do with "the origin of living things") I would be very interested to see if other scientists will be so good as to chime in and either confirm, reject or modify their definitions.

My own hypothesis about question number (3) at top: Much of the reason the debate persists is that when one person starts talking about "evolution", five different listeners have five different mental pictures about what he/she has in mind.
Many adherents of macro-evolution engage in the "bait and switch" tactic of saying,
"See - we've proved that 'evolution' is a fact with these peppered moths (or finch beaks or any number of other micro-evolutionary examples), so now you have to also believe us when we say that (1) the universe began billions and billions of years ago in a cosmic Big Bang and evolved from there, and (2) life began all by itself billions of years after that and evolved all by itself from there."

Sorry, but the initial premise of micro-evolution does not prove either of the two following macro-evolutionary conclusions. Thinking individuals (whether students of science or not) can see through that blatant deception.

When did evolution stop?
I am 72 and have never seen any living creatures
in stages of evolution.
Bob

Evolution should be labeled strongly with THE WORD "THEORY" IN BOLD PRINT ALONG WITH OTHER THEORY'S .
After reading what Miss Lindenfeld the Biology teacher wrote about the subject, it seems to me that she might be afraid that some sort of religion will overthrow science. I can understand this fear Since there are many bad, yes, bad..religions out there. But she also seems to be biased as to the way science has always done things. This would be fine if it were to stay that science should be based on facts and conclusions stemming from facts.But people have been passing theory off as science. Science is to be based on facts. But this has not been the case as we see with the THEORY of Evolution. There is much missing and ascue when it comes to evolution. And it is still being presented as a fact in the way it is presented as if scientist's (mostly those that believe in evolution)are the only ones who would know the truth because they are smarter and more informed than us regular "religious" people. Evolution does not answer many things and only gives lame exuses for things. Pond scum does not develope out of nowhere. Something cannot come from nothing!
It would seem though that the fear many people have keeps THEM from having an open mind to other possiblities. Like a Creator. Attempting to keep God out of Science and out of the Schools and out of the Government is only possible if people reject God.The religious morals people use to make decisions about their children's live with they use to vote with. Our Laws stem today from the Christian, Bible reading, God loving and fearing founders of our country-America. Those who believe find many reasons to believe such as the Grand Canyon being formed from the Global Flood of Noah's day-not billions of years or wearing away with not real proof of evolutionist's theory of how the earth is that old. This is what seems silly to me. People are afraid to let Creationism or Intelligent design into the schools because they are afraid people will believe it. Why?
If people truly have the open mind they say they have why not let another theory be taught as a theory and let the people decide? Try this: www.answersingenesis.org Scientist's that actually believe the Bible is Scientifically and historically acurate and can prove it. There are also links to other websites such as www.reasons.org. Scientist's who are not afraid to look at all the information ...

Evolution - is a system of belief, not a god or person (unless one makes the system their belief and or their god)
Just before coming to this site on Discover Channel Articles yesterday entitled " Prehistoric Knives Suggest Humans Competed " , put out again.....as if it is fact.
Miss Lindenfeld said people were in fear of going back to where "scientific thought was subject to the religious censors". But yet she does not mind that Religious Thought is rejected almost continually by Science minded or should I say Evolutionistic Theory minded people. And that seems to be Ok huh? Ok by those who do not want to face that there just might be a creator and science just might not be the center of the universe.

Kurt, there may be allot of "evidence" as you put it, but there are large gaps and no facts. Evolution cannot be Proved . There is actually other possiblities for what seems like proof. Just because you find bones that seem similar to humans and tools that seem prehistoric (whatever prehistoric really means) does not mean that it makes it fact that cavemen existed in the way we have been influenced into believeing. If you go to the website I listed above in the post you might actually have a new way of seeing history. If for no other reason, look at what they have to say and if after you truly have done the factual check of what they have to say, laugh if you want to. We all came from 2 People. And if you want some outstanding and awestruck thinking, read very slowely and carefully just the first few paragraphs of Genesis. God Separated light from darkness.....? Think on that one a while.

Your remark about the proof . Yet I could say the same about God. Is it possible that most people have the expectation that God does not exist because they have not found the One True God standing in front of them, plain as day -ready to make their life hell right now or make their life Heaven on Earth-in order to prove the Bible and Jesus were right?
Highly unlikely- then there would be no necessity for FAITH in Jesus Christ as Savior, either personally or worldly. The knowledge base is God, who came in human flesh Jesus Christ.

If anyone of you lacks wisdom-let him ask God, who gives generously without finding fault, and it will be given to him. James 1:5

If Science is such a Brilliant light in this world-let it explain to us as fact where light came from to begin with. Anyone ask where the pond scum came from? Or the pond?

The whole argument appears to me to a religious argument. We are looking at the beginning via evidence gathered from events before we people came to be on the earth, or at least we think so. It's the conclusions that we reach from the evidence that we gather that causes the argument. Most frequently we have a reached a conclusion, for or against creation or evolution, and try to use the evidence to support our position. Nothing wrong with that of course, but we are so evangelistic in our efforts to persuade others that they should believe the way we do that we lose objectivity. If we offered the evidence and the different conclusions that are currently prevalent and that the evidence is being used to support without the dogmatic requirement that everyone agree with us wouldn't we make more progress on this divisive issue.
What I see going on is an argument to establish the existence or nonexistence of God. If the statement "If God, then He created . . ." is true, then if we can establish the contrapositive of this statement, "If the world was not created (evolved in some manner), then there is no God" we have established that there is no God.
Whenever I see a legal ruling, then I know which side the judge was on. The science classes should teach only whatever evidence is pertinent to the discipline being taught, and the application should be relegated to the religion and philosopy classes on campuses.
I assume these comments aren't read often, but that this is a great forum to express oneself.

Everyone seems preoccupied with arguing -- where is the wonder in all of it? Does anything in nature still take your breath away -- a deer by a stream, alpine tundra, a desert cactus, or a deadly virus under a microscope? What stirs your soul? Why do you think this happens?

Creation was made for you to enjoy. Did it just appear all by itself? Even Darwin recognized the limitations of evolutionary theory -- why can't scientists? Stop worshipping science as a religion and put it in its proper place. Then maybe your eyes will be opened.

Anyone with successful lesson plans for teaching human evolution in elementary schools? Thanks for any replys.

Replies, that is.

I’m a Blitzarian, and I believe that stickers in textbooks telling students to think critically about evolution are a good idea. So what if tens of thousands of trained and practicing scientists involved with studying living systems find the theory of evolution to be the best explanation for the function, diversity and history (as revealed in the fossil record) of life? So what if all of the recent extensive genome research, all the ongoing studies of geological processes such as plate tectonics, all the details revealed by ever-expanding studies of development, all of the findings related to fossils unearthed on every continent, all the precise radiometric dating of geological formations (and the repeatability of relative systems of geological dating in reference to the radiometric dates), (to name just a few) so what if all this supports the fundamental tenets of evolutionary theory as set down by Darwin (and Wallace) (and elaborated by thousands of scientists since). This isn’t really about science, as anyone who HAS looked critically at the science behind evolution theory knows, its about MORALS. And let’s face it – we Blitzarians know more than anyone else that if you let people think for themselves, if you let them see what all those scientists have learned about how life evolves, if you let them raise questions about any of the doctrines set down in our Blitzarian Tome, then our society will certainly abandon its moral fabric. Just imagine a society where people make decisions based on rationally weighing the evidence, a society where morality does not come from the Blitzarian Oracles, but from respectful interactions of people with each other and with the ecosystem that supports them. Do you honestly think there can be any morality without strict Blitzarianism? Oh by the way, did I mention that I was a Blitzarian, er…fundamentalist Muslim, er … fundamentalist younameit?

More to the current point of the discussion, and in response to Collin Purrington, there are some terrific teaching resources at: http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/Lessons/index.shtml.
The entire site at http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/evohome.html, is an invaluable resource for helping people to understand and to teach evolutionary science.

The federal judge in Georgia that declared “labeling evolution ‘a theory, not a fact’ amounts to an unconstitutional endorsement of religion”, was right on. We don’t teach supernaturalism in science classes. We do not teach “Divine Design”. For thousands of years people have been saying God did it. It’s nothing new, just the name is. We now understand that for all natural processes so far uncovered, no meddling by a magical supernatural being is necessary. We were all conceived as a single cell, but grew into a full human entirely under control of biochemical processes. There was no magical being involved in the billions of chemical reactions that got your body to where it is today. If natural laws can create you from a single cell, why is it so hard to accept that natural processes can take a single-celled life form and create us? This doesn’t necessarily mean that a God does not exist, is simply means that he is not needed to guide natural processes.

In all due respect, I am flabbergasted at how many of the people on this list call themselves “teachers” and seem to have little understanding of our constitution or science. I am also astonished at how many of you have fallen for the deceptive strategy of creationists and fundamentalists who would use your faith to mislead you into supporting their half-baked ideas.

Why pick on evolution? What about the Theory of Relativity, or the Theory of Orbital Mechanics, or Molecular Bonding Theory, or Theory of Gravity, or the Theory of Electromagnetic Force, or Quantum Theory ???? Why do you all believe that atoms exist? You’ve never seen them? Why do any of you believe that the Earth and planets circle the Sun?? Do all of you deny that radio waves exist? The only reason many of you deny the theory that explains evolution is because it conflicts with your religion. In fact, creationists deny a big chunk of the basic sciences, evolutionary biology, physics, paleontology, geology, and astronomy. You have been mislead by a group of religious fundamentalists who are outright anti-science.

That the Earth and the planets circle the Sun is a fact (even though Christians officially denied it for over 400 years), that gravity exists is a fact, that atoms exist is a fact, that electromagnetic waves exist is a fact. We say this because the observational evidence is so overwhelming that in the everyday language they are “facts”. THAT LIFE ON THIS PLANET HAS EVOLVED OVER BILLIONS OF YEARS FROM SIMPLE ORGANISMS TO COMPLEX LIFE IS A FACT. We can see it in the geological record. It’s there and we cannot deny it. That the Earth is over 4 billion years old is also a FACT.

The “theory” that best explains how evolution happens is Darwin’s theory of natural selection (ie, descent with natural modification). This is what we are talking about when we say “the theory of evolution”. Over the past hundred years there have overwhelming observations and evidence that natural selection explains evolution. There have been some modifications to the theory, but it stands stronger than ever. Every day that passes more and more observations confirm the fundamentals of Darwin’s theory. For the past hundred years creationist keep saying that theory will be dead in a few years, it hasn’t and it won’t. The imminent demise of evolution is the longest running falsehood in creationism (see http://home.entouch.net/dmd/moreandmore.htm )

Finally, let me add that the question asked “Should alternative theories on the origins of life be taught in public classrooms?” is faulty in its premise. The theory of evolution is NOT about the origin of life. Darwin’s theory applies to how living organisms have evolved, not how life started.

I want to start out by talking about the concept of ideological diversity. I find it hard to swallow all of the criticism that religious zealots are the only people shoving propaganda down other people's throats. As I have read through other people's comments I have heard some very intolerant statements. I don't agree with evolution. I believe in creationism/intelligent design. I have that right to believe that, just as much as evolutionists have the right to believe in Darwin's Theory. If we are constantly working in our schools to promote diversity, shouldn't the diversity of ideas be the basis?

Next, I've heard that there is no scientific evidence for the existence of God, therefore creationism has no basis. Science is the measure of the physical world. God is eternal and can't be measured by mortal human means. Yet through the measure of the physical world there is evidence for a creator.

Looking at physics and thermodynamics, we know that something can't appear out of nothing. SO is the universe eternal? No. William Craig has done loads of research on this topic. Look at the math of it. An infinite universe would require an infinite number of events. Infinity is conceptual and not actual because you run into some interesting paradoxes.

So we have a beginning and I would not hesitate to call it the Big Bang. A beginning therefore necessitates a cause. I won't go into the specifics of God being eternal, but God has been, is, and will be. He exists outside of our human concept of time and therefore is the uncaused cause that allowed for the beginning.

There is more information reguarding cosmology, thermodynamics, physics that deal with fine tuning, and biology when it comes to the adaptation of organisms availible. Look for Lee Stroble's book on creation that has good, solid scientific information.

There is evidence to dispute evolutionary theory. I'd like to hear what people who believe in evolution would say about the Stanley Miller Experiment or Ernest Haeckel's work. The work of both of those men have been disproved convincingly by other scientists. Which means that there is evidence contrary to evolutionary theory, therefore disallowing evolution to be even considered as an actual law of science.

To Scott R on Feb 3: I'm with you... part of the way. The debate does become exhausting after a while doesn't it? What about the wonder of it all, you ask. What about the sheer beauty of nature? Questions that go to core of the debate. Well, for many people you should realize that the beauty is actually amplified at every moment by the struggle to comprehend the almost impossibly complicated mechanisms of biology. There's so much we don't understand about life, not just the details of how living things work or change but also how it all began. But for many people like myself the mystery just deepens 1000-fold the sense of wonder. Yes, I plead guilty, my 4th edition of Alberts (Molecular Biology of the Cell) is like my Bible. Biology has become a kind of religion and comfort for me. But hey, I'm open to all evidence and even willing to listen to good stories able to fill gaps in the evidence. A good story can help the dark night pass. I'm not too concerned about the current debate over evolution in the schools. Let's have the debates within the classroom! That'd be more exciting than any high school biology classes I remember. Common sense will prevail eventually. Smart kids have a way of figuring things out. If not, I suppose there's always Canada or New Zealand.

I must say that I do have trouble believing that nature was put here for me and other humans to enjoy. (The societal outcomes from that line of reasoning... e.g., that the "resources" of forests etc are "ours" to take at will.. are somewhat frightening.).. but that's a point for a different email.

Anyway, Scott R., I'm glad someone stepped out from behind the walls of evidence to flash a little personal bias. Now you know mine. No need to pray for me at the moment. We are all blind men looking at and admiring the deer. The deer will be there long after you and I are gone. And I think that's incredibly beautiful and mysterious and sad and above all believable.

May I begin by recommending to anyone taking part in this debate the excellent essay "Evolution as Fact and Theory" by the late Stephen J. Gould, collected in his book *The Panda's Thumb*? In the essay, Gould makes several crucial points, a number of which have also been made by posters here. His argument forms the basis for the first part of mine, though in my conclusions I move in another direction.

WHAT IS A SCIENTIFIC THEORY?
Whatever this or that dictionary definition of the word "theory" may say, a scientific theory is fundamentally an *explanation* of a set of facts, derived from and tested by repeated observation and experiment. To be a valid scientific theory, it must be potentially falsifiable by an accumulation of new evidence, equally well tested. The more facts a theory explains, the more potential points of falsifiability it also contains. However, just as one warm day in January does not mean that summer has arrived early, even a significant number of anomalies or gaps in the theory do not themselves falsify it. Rather, they show where further research is needed and new hypotheses should be formulated. For the theory to be abandoned, the new evidence must show conclusively that key points of the theory are false. To do otherwise is to throw out the baby (the still generally applicable overall explanation) with the bathwater (aspects of the data explained by the theory and sub-explanations that need refinement).

THE CASE OF PHYSICS
Let me give use as an example the history of physics. In the seventeenth century, building on the work of Galileo and Kepler among others, Isaac Newton formulated the first comprehensive scientific theory of the workings of matter, expressed as a supremely elegant set of equations and laws. His work triggered an explosion of scientific discovery over the succeeding 150 years, including the foundations of modern physical chemistry, astronomy, optics, electromagnetism, thermodynamics, and so forth. Immensely useful as Newtonian mechanics were (and continue to be), there was always, ironically enough, one major gap in it: the nature of gravitation. According to Newton's theory, the "force of gravity" somehow propagated, by what he called "action at a distance," through the homogeneous "flat" and perfectly empty space otherwise crucial to his theory. His equations, based on the inverse square law, described the action of this "force" with such accuracy that astronomers were able to use it to successfully predict the existence of an eighth planet, Neptune, by virtue of the gravitational "pertubation" it caused in the orbit of the seventh, Uranus. In short, despite this flaw, Newton's theory was a very good one.

Despite this, problematic evidence slowly accumulated. In the 1820s, the physicist Young showed that light behaves like a wave, and not much later, Maxwell and Lorentz showed that electricity and magnetism were aspectsof the same force, which also behaves like a wave. Newton's particle theory of light fell out of favor. To explain the wave "nature" of light and electromagetism within the Newtonian paradigm, physicists postulated the "ether," an otherwise undetectable medium through which these waves propagate just as pressure waves propagate through air or water. Then, in the 1880s. two other physicists, Michelson and Morley, showed that the velocity of light (which had already been measured before Newton) was constant regardless of the velocity of the light source. And finally, it had been shown that bombarding metal with light generated an electric current.

These three results allowed Einstein to falsify the Newtonian theory and to replace it with a new one. First, his analysis of the photoelectric effect showed that light and electromagnetism, despite their wavelike behavior under some conditions, must also behave as particles under others. Second, and even more important, the constancy of the velocity of light proved that all other velocity is relative and that space and time are not constant, uniform, and distinct but form aspects of a four-dimensional manifold, whose components vary according to velocity and "locality" (relative position). This is the basis of the Theory of Special Relativity. Third, and as important, Einstein was able to incorporate gravity into this model by showing that space curves around mass and energy, producing the effect Newton called gravity--and that therefore there was no need to postulate a "force" or "action at a distance." This is the core of the Theory of General Relativity. Einstein's theory, based on his own famous "thought experiments" as much as on the anomalous evidence I have cited, has been tested again and again by observation and experiment and shown to hold true in the macroscopic (large-scale) world.

In the same kind of irony, the very result that began Einstein's revolution--the photoelectric effect--was part of the starting point of a second revolution, quantum mechanics. The photoelectric effect, Einstein argued, proved that light energy was striking the atoms in the metal in separate units ("photons") and causing them to emit energy in a different kind of unit ("electrons"), whose existence had already been theorized by physicists over the preceding decades. Einstein's theory had in common with Newton's that it postulated a unified cosmos in which later states of any physical system could be precisely predicted if its initial state were known. Quantum physics, much to Einstein's chagrin, proved that this is not true at the level of atoms and the particles that compose them, where only probabilities about the future state of a system (say, the position or charge of an electron) can be calculated before a measurement is taken. Not only that, but Einstein's cherished principle of locality, whereby no information can travel faster than light, has now been violated by quantum effects.

So, does this history mean that Newton's theory, and Einstein's, are now useless? Far from it. Newton's theory is still used every day in engineering, space exploration, and so forth; Einstein's theory (which also predicted the expansion of the universe, though he at first rejected this result as absurd) still accurately explains the larger structure of the cosmos. Physicists live every day with the contradictions between relativity and quantum mechanics, and many are working from a variety of different angles, of which string theory is the most well known, to reconcile the two in a higher and more complete theory. And just as relativity and quantum mechanics retain from Newton's and Maxwell's physics certain key concepts such as mass, energy, motion, extension, force, velocity, and so forth in a partly transformed way, so this new theory will retain many of the understandings developed within the theories it supersedes.
This is how science actually works.

EVOLUTION: THE OVERALL THEORY
Now consider the theory of biological evolution. The overall theory says simply this: that by some mechanism or combination of mechanisms, terrestrial life has evolved from primitive single-celled organisms resembling bacteria, by way of nucleated cells organized in colonies, to larger and more complex kinds of organism consisting of highly specialized cells organized in tissues, organs, and systems (animals and plants). Along the way, many types and entire classes of organisms have ceased to exist and new ones have taken their place. This process has taken place over several billion years.

The evidence for this overall theory is overwhelming, and becomes more so with each passing day. Here's a quick summary.

--First in the evidentiary chain is the fossil record, which goes back hundreds of millions of years. The initial evidence--the vertical layering of strata containing different types of fossil remains--has since been reinforced by many kinds of chemical analysis, including paleoclimatology, and by quantum physics, specifically the measurement of the decay of radioactive isotopes such as carbon-14, which allow us to date rocks many millions of years old to within a few millennia. These results are backed by others having to do with the age of the earth, the solar system, and the universe as a whole.
--Second is the evidence of morphology derived from this record and from modern organisms, which (contrary to claims made in posts on this site) shows the evolution of new families and species out of prior ones. One example is the adaptation of the four-boned reptilian jaw via a transitional group, the therapsids, into the mammalian jaw and the bones that form the structure of the inner ear, not present in reptiles.
--Third and most recent is the evidence of DNA. As I write this, geneticists are decoding the genomes of countless species, from bacteria to baboons. All this evidence points toward a common ancient ancestor, just as all the morphological evidence gathered at Olduvai Gorge points to a common anthropoid ancestor for homo sapiens and the earlier hominids whose remains have been dug up there (which themselves show a clear line of descent to our own species) and the great apes. True, we are being forced by this new genetic evidence to revise some of the specific sub-theories about descent and other relationships (for example, the hippo's closest genetic relative is neither the pig nor the elephant, but the dolphin, which makes perfect sense if you remember that dolphins also inhabit rivers). But this, like other gaps or revisions, in no way invalidates the overall theory, *because the vast and ever-growing bulk of the evidence confirms it.*

Evolution *as such* is thus a theory in the same sense as is the theory that the sun is one star in a vast spiral structure of billions of other stars, our galaxy. We have not been able to travel far enough into space to verify this theory by direct observation, but the observations and measurements we can make from earth (and from nearby space) provide similarly overwhelming and ever-growing evidence that the theory is true. Note that until the middle of the last century, when the first cameras (and then human observers) were launched into space, the heliocentric theory of Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler was of the same kind, just as the theory that the earth is a spheroid and not a plane was of the same kind until the circumnavigation of the globe in the fourteenth. Again, this is how science works.

EVOLUTION: THE MECHANISMS
Now to the specific mechanism of evolution. Charles Darwin (and independently and almost simultaneously, Alfred Russell Wallace) developed the theory of natural selection as a further explanation of the process of evolution for which there was already so much evidence. They based this theory on the fossil evidence I have already cited, together with countless other observations of their own and by other naturalists showing the adaptation of species (such as the famous Galapagos finches) to their environment, and on the fact that in all species there are random variants from the characteristics of any member of the parent species, then known to farmers and animal breeders as "sports" and now usually called "mutations." Simply stated, the theory of natural selection argues that, while most such variants do not live to reproduce at all, let alone reproduce successfully and grow in numbers, a few do; and because of changes in climate and in other aspects of their environment (including other new or invasive species) usually over very long periods are able to compete with or even replace their ancestor species, because they are better adapted to the changed environment. Darwin and Wallace were able to make this case plausibly only because the sheer age of the earth as geology was already revealing it provided a time-scale in which such processes actually could take place. Darwin did not claim that natural selection as such was the sole mechanism of evolution. He merely claimed, good scientist and modest man that he was, that the theory was the best explanation so far for the observed facts.

Two major developments in biology have since reinforced the theory of natural selection. One is the study of ecology, that is, of communities of species and their interactions with their nonbiological environment and with each other. These communities and environments are now called ecosystems, and it is they that provide the ever-changing context to which individual species and organisms must adapt. The other development, already mentioned, is molecular genetics. Darwin, of course, did not know of the role played by chromosomes in inheritance, let alone of the DNA they contain or of how it stores and transmits genetic information (genes). Thus he did not know that mutations are produced by "errors" (small random changes) in the "transcription" of the genetic information contained in DNA or RNA molecules when they divide as part of an organism's reproduction. Biologists now believe that one of the levels of natural selection is the gene itself, which according to the changing environment faced by a species that contains it can help (or not) that species to reproduce in greater numbers, and thus to make more copies of the gene.

Some, known as neo-Darwinists, claim that this genetic level of natural selection (together with other nongenetic factors such as climate change and so forth) is itself a sufficient mechanism to explain evolution. Others, like Gould, argue that selection also takes place also not only at the level of individual organisms but of species and groups of species; point out that catastrophic mass extinctions, such the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs, are at least as important; that nonadaptive changes occur as a side result of adaptive ones and then become the basis of further adaptation; and that variation is not universally random but is channeled by such factors as maternal hormones during gestation. Still other biologists have shown that there is long-term random variation in the structure of proteins not driven by genetic change, which would also contribute to evolution; and so forth. There is also disagreement about the timescales and processes by which one species replaces another. However, contrary to the claims of anti-evolutionists, none of these debates invalidates the theory of natural selection (combined with other purely physical and biological causes) as the central explanation for evolution, let alone invalidates evolution itself. The debates are of much the same order as current arguments among physicists over relativity and quantum mechanics in relation to, say, the physics of black holes. Nothing in these debates, in short, gives the slightest credence to Biblical creationism or to its stealth commando force, so-called Intelligent Design.

CREATIONISM AND THE REASONS FOR (AND AGAINST) IT
In fact, the evidence against Biblical creationism is as overwhelming as the evidence for evolution. Biology aside, if you reject the current theories of the age and origin of the universe and of our planet, as a creationist must, you are also rejecting (among other branches of science): quantum mechanics, geology, molecular and atomic chemistry, molecular genetics, and climatology. Yet much of the technology you use every day is impossible without these bodies of knowledge and explanation, from your TV remote (photoelectric effect) and your computer (quantum mechanics, atomic chemistry) to the genetically engineered corn and soybeans you eat (molecular genetics) and the weather forecast (climatology). And you are also rejecting relativity theory, astronomy since Edwin Hubble, particle physics since Rutherford and Bohr, and all the evidence accrued for the Big Bang. That is, unless you argue that God intervened, by processes quite foreign to any we have been able to observe actually operating in the universe, to change the rules and consequent course of events He Himself (please pardon the masculine pronouns here) originally set up.

From what I can understand, this is the contention of some proponents of Intelligent Design (ID) with respect to ourselves, the human species. We are very proud of ourselves, to be sure. "What a piece of work is Man!" cries Hamlet, and many have echoed him. But consider: if we were "intelligently" (that is deliberately) designed, why are our feet, knees, spines, and pelvic structures not better adapted to walking erect? Why are our teeth typically so crowded in our jaws that when the last mature ones come in, the so-called "wisdom teeth," we often have to have them removed, and that without orthodontic work the teeth also often grow in crooked and deform the jaw? Why do men have nipples when they have no working mammary glands? Why do women often have so much trouble giving birth, compared to other wild (not human-bred) species of mammal? All these facts evolutionary theory can explain easily, but creationism and ID cannot.

The question remains: why do some people, especially American Protestant Christians, have so much trouble with evolution and specifically with natural selection and its allied contributory explanations? Why do such people tie themselves in logical knots, practice intellectual dishonesty and manipulation utterly at variance with their own professed moral code, or just put on blinders and earplugs when someone tries to explain the multiple and well-founded arguments for the theory?

From what I can tell, it boils down to two main and closely related reasons. One is the notion that without the observable presence of God and His Will in the material world--meaning that the world is deliberately designed and maintained in every detail by Him--human beings lack any fundamental motivation for moral behavior. This is easily disposed of by pointing out that followers of an essentially godless world religion, Buddhism, have a far better record of moral behavior than do Christians. (The Crusades, the centuries-long exploitation and slaughter of colonial peoples by devout British Protestants, and the complicity of Southern Baptists in the crimes of slavery and segregation are but three examples.)

The other and more interesting notion is that in an essentially random universe, of which the apparent randomness of evolution is just one aspect, human life has no meaning. When I hear this, I am reminded of a probably apocryphal exchange between Einstein, who hated the inherent randomness and indeterminacy of quantum physics, and one of its main proponents, Niels Bohr. Einstein was fond of saying to the quantum physicists that "God does not play dice." Bohr, irritated by this insistence, is said to have replied "Albert, stop telling God what to do." If Christians insist that human suffering, including the suffering of the innocent, is willed by God for His own mysterious purposes, why are they not content to accept that the meaning of life may also be beyond our comprehension--that God may in fact be playing dice? I suppose the answer is that they wish to believe that God is Love. But I ask them: how do you square a God that is the deliberate (or dice-playing) architect of so much suffering and cruelty with the God that is Love, without that essentially agnostic shrug of the shoulders that is the doctrine of Mystery?

CONCLUSIONS
These questions are beyond the scope of science. They may well be beyond the scope of any possible human understanding. Nevertheless, disliking the resort to Mystery (which is usually the cover for obfuscation and/or manipulation by ecclesiastical or political power) I note the curious scientific fact that all this randomness has produced, over some billions of years, a universe of immense, ever more astounding complexity and richness, including, on at least one little planet, beings that can consciously ask these questions. In our universe, as Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart put it in their book *The Collapse of Chaos*, "complexity is downhill"--simple sets of combinatorial arithmetical rules and algorithms made to iterate over time quickly produce evolving, complex systems. I further note the curious and related fact that mathematics actually works to describe the operations of the material world, that discoveries in mathematics long thought to be "pure" and unrelated to that world suddenly turn out to fit some aspect of it perfectly. Both the creationist and the atheist would do well to ponder these astonishing realities and move beyond mechanistic ways of thinking about the universe and narrow notions of the Divine.

When ever people talk about evolution they talk about it as if it is versus religion or the belief in a supreme being but actually the theory of Macroevolution which says a monkey can become a man can not and have not been proven scientically. Now there have been evolution observed within a species but not where one completely different species has become another species. This is the kind of evolution we are speaking against.

Mr. Walsh, you demonstrate what my Catholic divinity teachers used to call invincible ignorance. First, "people" do not always argue that evolution is "versus religion or belief in a supreme being." Actually the majority of religious people--nonfundamentalist Christians, Moslems, Jews, Buddhists, and Hindus among others--who know anything about modern science have *no problem whatever* with the theory of evolution. This theory does not say that "a monkey can become a man." It does say that monkeys have a common ancestor--something like a modern lemur--with the great (anthropoid) apes, and that those apes have a common ancestor with the hominids, the line from which our own species, homo sapiens, descends. All these changes. like all evolutionary changes, took place over millions of years. They happened by a process of gradual development of very small populations of genetic variants that gradually evolved into new species, and which then quite suddenly were able to "be fruitful and multiply" because of changes in their environment that favored them and not their predecessors. That we have not observed the appearance of new species in our own time is therefore not surprising, any more than that we have not observed a full rotation of our galaxy, and for the same reason: it takes too long, far longer than our species has even been around. But we can infer it just as we infer the rotation of the galaxy, from a huge accumulation of circumstantial evidence. Please read my earlier post, and then read actual evolutionary biology, from Darwin and Huxley through Mayr, Dawkins, and Gould, and not just creationist critiques of it. While you're at it, try some modern physics too. Real science is far more astonishing and beautiful than the casuistic fundamentalist nonsense you have been indoctrinated with, it in no wise denies the existence of God, and it has the additional merit of explaining the facts.

Response To Melissa Cran - undergraduate student:
I don’t understand why so many people refuse to read what has already been written, and continue on, ignoring the points already made. Find a good book on evolutionary biology and read it. Try “Finding Darwin’s God” by Kenneth Miller (a Christian).

Yes Melissa, you have the right to BELIEVE whatever you want. Everyone has that right. The question is, is everyone also entitled to their own facts?

Contrary to what you have been told, evolution is NOT a belief. There is a difference, and I would hope a college student could tell the difference. Evolution, like many others, is a well established scientific theory, supported by evidence. We do not “believe” in Darwin’s theory of how evolution happened, we have accepted it because of the overwhelming evidence and how well that theory explains everything about biology on this planet. Yes, we all should have an open mind, but not so open that our brains fall out. There are many ideas out there, BUT they are NOT all equal.

As for creationism, it has no basis, not because there may be no God, but because there is NO evidence to support it. Finding a few problems with evolution does not make creationism right. Some theists say that God created the universe such that evolution would eventually lead to creature in which God could place a soul. So natural evolution and God are not exclusive. Only a particular fundamentalist interpretation of certain religious beliefs are at odds.
On the other hand, after 60+ years I have never seen any evidence for the existence of a supernatural being living in a supernatural domain and effecting anything in the physical world. Intelligent (Divine) Design is simply saying “ I don’t understand it, so God did it”. The complexity of life on this planet is fully explain by natural selection. The Divine Design people have yet to provide any evidence to support their speculations.

You say that “something can't appear out of nothing”, but then you go on to claim that exact property for the supernatural being you believe in. You can’t have it both ways. If the universe is so complex that it requires a divine designer, then the universe + the designer are even more complex and require another designer. If God does not require a cause, there is nothing to prevent us from stating the same for the universe. Do you see, why not just stop at the natural universes and say that it/they always existed and always will. Currently it appears that the big bang may only be one of many bangs.
God explains nothing. He requires more explanation than He provides.

Finally, there is NO evidence that I know of that “voids” Darwin’s theory of how evolution occurs. That evolution has occurred is a fact. Darwin’s theory of how evolution works is still the best explanation we have and is supported by more and more evidence every day that it is right.

Melissa, please take me seriously and think about it when I tell you that your last paragraph makes no sense. First, Miller’s experiment has NOTHING to do with evolution. It simply showed that, simple organics could be converted to more complex ones under conditions that may have existed on Earth 4 billion years ago. Second, its been know for a long time that some of Haeckel's drawings may have exaggerated his observations. But what he was trying to show has been shown to be valid.

Finally, even if several pieces of research that have been done over the past hundred years were faulty, that does NOT make the theory wrong. Why? Because there have been hundreds thousands of researchers from all over the world who have provided overwhelming evidence that Darwin’s theory is basically right. So much evidence, that the theory of evolution, as it stands today, is as much fact as any other theory in science, as I already explain just before your post.

i've been reading all of the comments here.
if evolution is fact,then why did it need modification. I understand that you accepted a theory based on evidence,but if the evidence keeps changing why keep calling the theory fact.
The most widespread and influential argument against the veracity of the Bible is the all-too-common belief that modern science has proven evolution,thereby discrediting the scriptural account of creation. The fatal flaw in this argument,however, is the fact that it is impossible to prove scientifically any theory of orgins. This is because the very essence of the scientic method is based on observation and experimentation, and it is impossible to make observations or conduct experiments on the orgin of the universe let alone life.
John Grebe,director of basic and nuclear research for Dow Chemical Company, is offering $1,000 to anyone who can produce just one clear proof of evolution. No one has done it yet. If you can please claim your prize."
one thing is for sure and is absolute and more and more evidence is being found,not changed,is that the bible is absolute truth. it has not changed and it will not nor does it need fine tuning like the evolution theory. darwin said 'for i am well aware that scarcely a single point is discussed in this volume on which facts cannot be adduced,often apparently leading to conclusions directly opposite to those at which i have arrived. a fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question; and this is here impossible.' charles darwin, 1859,introduction to the origin of species,p. 2.
what would be the harm in teach THE alternative and the theory, since according to the scientific method neither can be proven.teach it if you want to but not as fact.

Of course we should present ALL ideas of the origin of who we are - including Native American, Buddhist, Taoist, Hindu, Baha'i, Christian, etc., etc., etc.
And they ALL are only theories.

Hey, cv--

Why don't you start by reading what the scientifically literate people (including me) have written here? You still don't know what a scientific theory is, or why, in science, anything beyond what is directly observable by the human senses is called a "fact." The director of whatever at Dow Chemical (those wonderful folks who brought you napalm and Agent Orange, by the way) is (to put it politely) grandstanding, because evolution is not the sort of fact you can "prove" in the way he evidently means it. I could, of course, drive up in a semi loaded with about 3 tons of evidence, from morphological studies of fossils to population distribution maps to radiological analyses of the age of rocks to genome comparisons, and then just bury him under it all. Maybe then he'd get it. Because that's how much evidence *for* evolution has accumulated since Charles Darwin wrote those humble and noble words you are so pleased to take out of context, a favorite rhetorical device of creationists.

As to the origin of life, when will you all get it through your heads that the theory of evolution is not a theory of the origin of life but of its development? Nobody knows how life originated on earth, or even if it did--there are perfectly reputable scientists who think it drifted here from outer space. For all we know, it started from some garbage left here by alien astronauts 1.5 billion years ago--because, cv, that's how long those tons of evidence say it's been here. But life had to start somewhere. And since science is about trying to find physical explanations for things, there are various scientific theories--far, far less well grounded than the theory of evolution--about how it might have happened.

See, cv, back in the early seventeenth century your sort of people, only they were Catholics then, tried to silence Galileo for saying the planets were not perfect spheres being pushed in circles around the earth by angels working directly for God, and that the earth was just another planet spinning around the sun with the rest of them, and that the sun was just one star among countless millions of them in a great big, BIG universe. They threatened to burn him alive if he didn't recant his ideas and stop publishing, so he did. But other people, like Isaac Newton, got hold of his ideas, and proved them right, and improved on his work, and now everyone believes what Galileo said--probably even you. So science has a habit of removing God as the direct cause of particular operations in the physical universe. Over the last couple of centuries, it has shown too that humans aren't so special either, but are cousins to every living being on earth, living, dead, and extinct. That's why the Church shut Galileo up, and that's why people like you are so scared of science. If the Bible is "absolute truth," how come you fundamentalists have to keep reinterpreting it over and over? Read any competent history of American Protestantism, cv, and you will discover that your immutable "absolute truth" (that is, your particular literalist reading of the Bible) hasn't even been around for a century. Not only that--and I don't know why you folk don't pay more attention to this--but archeology has disproved much of the narrative of the Old Testamant, including chronology, geography, and so forth. The truth is, cv, that, as other spiritual traditions keep reminding us, we are fallible and imperfect beings, and absolute truth of the kind you mean is beyond us. All our certainties are relative. But I like science because its certainties *know* they're relative, and are built so that it's possible to both improve and disprove them. Science is humbler than religion, which might even make it more godly...

It's time to climb out of your little doctrinal box, cv, and take a look around. It can be scary out here, true--but it's vast, and wild, and beautiful as well as terrible, and full of immense possibility. There can be so much joy when we stop pretending that any human-made thing like the Bible, or any other book, has all the answers, cv. The universe is open, and growing, and stranger and more wonderful than anyone could have imagined even a century ago, let alone three thousand years ago. Come on out! Look around!

And I have some good news along with the bad news. The bad news is that on the evidence, your God is mostly a projection of human notions of power and morality and causality into the heavens. The good news is that the Divine is way bigger and more magnificent than that paltry puppet of your fears and fantasies you call God, and, while beyond rational human understanding--duh, what did you expect?--can be experienced *directly*. Start with the mystics of Christianity and Sufism and go from there.

Note to Janice Troyer: While there are many pathways to the Garden, as the Sufis say, and while I have the greatest respect for the spiritual wisdom of the traditions you mention, religious or mythological stories of "the origin of who we are" are not the same as scientific theories, because scientific theories are testable, repeatable, falsifiable explanations built on evidence from observation and experiment. For that very reason, science won't tell us anything *positive* about the Divine--but can help get rid of a lot of wrong ideas about the Divine, like the ones Galileo helped get rid of. The knowledge of how to experience the Divine, however, has been around probably since humans started using language, or even before. A remark attributed to Jesus says it well enough: "The kingdom of heaven is within you."

PS to cv:

I probably come off sounding impatient and even aggressive at the start of my recent post. That's because I get so fed up with what feels like willful misreading. Let me try to run it by you one more time.

1. A "fact" in science beyond specific sensory perception is always based on inference--but so is our sensory perception. Your brain fills in gaps in the information your optic nerves send it from your retinas, and does the same thing with what it gets from your ears. What you think you see and hear is thus only really a "theory," a construct in your brain. *Scientific* theories just involve some conscious as well as unconscious inference. We infer gravitation, the existence of electrons or quarks, the rotation of our galaxy, the nuclear reactions inside the sun, and lots and lots of other phenomena we can't observe directly, by coming up with testable theories that explain the evidence. Evolution is one of the best-proved theories in science today, by this criterion.

2. Evolution is not about the origin of life but about how it has developed: it is a history, not a metaphysics, as is cosmology, which at present has no evidence for what happened "before" the Big Bang--always assuming, as many scientists don't, that there was a "before."

3. If there is one thing that science has shown over the last four centuries, it's that theories that require God to intervene in the operations of the physical universe have again and again turned out to be wrong. That doesn't mean that God doesn't exist, or that God isn't manifest in every aspect of the universe, or that God didn't originate the universe--just that we have found no direct evidence of the scientific, that is, *explanatory* kind for God's presence. Isn't it time we humans gave up trying to use God to explain whatever we don't understand?

While we're putting stickers on science books, why don't we also place the same warning on history texts that are written from only one perspective? The bottom line is, at some point there is a theory that emerges that generally represents the most logical way we think things happened long ago. Science is all about a logical mindset of openly questioning everything, with the quest to form hypotheses and then theories based on the knowledge found. Until we can prove otherwise, the theory of evolution stands.

If we want to point out what is "fact" versus "theory" then we need to start at the begining. What is Fact? Is science Fact? is the Bible Fact? Which can be proved? The biggest problem I see in education and religion is the lack of conviction in a view point. If christians, or any religous member, truly belive in what they claim too, then nothing I or anyone else says, should shake that belief. As for science, everyday we are finding out information that disproves something long believed to be fact. A group at the university I attended for my undergrad started the debate about whether hydrogen could evolve. The debate raged for weeks, it's still brough up by several teachers in classes. Two points developed out of it. The first, if we say something is or is not..does that make it right? The second, is symantics, what does "evolve" mean. I don't mean the dictionary definition, what does it mean to each person? It changes. While we are talking about "evolving", I would like someone to present to the world, the first, the one, the only true written bible. Not the greek, latin, german, english...or even Hebrew. Has the bible not evolved just as science?

If you believe in evolution, then survival of the fittest is your primary belief. So...why have a health care system? Why try to save endangered species? Why try to educate special education children? They're all going to die as the weaker link, anyway. Why try to save animals and people from the inevitable?
I hope this is not your belief; if it is, then God help us.

Throughout the many, many cultures studied over time, one question has persisted: Why do we exist? And this debate over evolution (scientific method) and creationism (belief in a god)exemplifies the struggle for the answer of why we exist.

I agree with the federal judge in Georgia ruling that removing a label re: evolution as theory, not a fact, but NOT because I believe that evolution is factual. If you've read anything about this today, even those theories/facts have been challenged--and that's good science. I don't believe we need stickers on our books held as warning labels. I think our society acts out of fear. I think religious folk act out of fear more than scientific folk, but that's a side issue.

I think a teacher should teach all theories, all suppositions to the answer of WHY WE EXIST. A teacher, whatever they believe in, should be unbiased toward the teachings. I believe that to be a good teacher, one must put things into perspective and look at the larger picture. Why do we even study evolution? Why is there such controversy over evolution and creationism? These questions should be involved in the teaching of it. We are trying to teach our children to think for themselves. We, as teachers, should never teach them what WE THINK. We must allow our students, our children to make those determinations on their own--and give them all the theories, all the controversies, all of our suppositions and let them decide, because, truly: no one knows for certain how or why we are here.

One person posted the notion that human beings were the ones that decided what was fact or not re: evolution and that made it discredible because we are faulty. Human beings make mistakes. Let me remind that person, touche'--God didn't WRITE the bible--humans did. Some form of religion, some answer to the question of WHY WE EXIST has been contrived out of EVERY CULTURE. We must teach our children all religions and let them determine what is right for them. (There is a common thread and one religion is not better than the other) Just as we should teach all GUESSES about why we exist and let student decide. It is every human's basic right.

As Montaigne says (french philospher), we may never know anything for certain. Ultimately, this is true, but it is important to believe in something. It is important to lead/guide our students to develop sound answers for themselves.

Oh, boy--where to begin? This gets more and more depressing--a "teacher in training" who can't spell or reason, to begin with. Let me try to untangle a few points:

"If christians, or any religous member, truly belive (sic) in what they claim too (sic), then nothing I or anyone else says, should shake that belief."

If a person truly believes as part of their religion that Jews are not really human, are plotting to take over the world, and should all be exterminated, should we not try to "shake" that belief? (The neo-Nazi "Christian Identity" movement). If they truly believe, as part of their religion, that women are inferior vessels of evil and should be banned from paid employment, driving, or higher education and allowed in public only when covered in heavy cloth from head to foot and accompanied by an adult male family member, should we not try to shake that belief? (The Taliban). Beliefs, including and especially religious beliefs, have consequences, and people are oppressed and murdered every day because of them.

"As for science, everyday we are finding out information that disproves something long believed to be fact."

Actually, this rarely happens with large-scale scientific theories, and when it does, the old theory is retained as a useful approximation. See my earlier posts to this list.

"A group at the university I attended for my undergrad started the debate about whether hydrogen could evolve."

In what sense? If you mean, how could hydrogen atoms come into being in the first place, no-one knows exactly as far as I know, but there are decent working hypotheses, based on quantum mechanics, about how the first atoms (which were about 72% hydrogen, 25% helium) would have formed in the first few fractions of a second after the Big Bang, the origin of the universe. If you mean, could it "evolve" now into something else--well, in one sense, it does, in the hearts of stars, where it is transmuted by nuclear fusion into heavier elements, starting with deuterium and then helium, and so on up the periodic table. If you mean, can hydrogen evolve otherwise, into some previously unknown element, the answer is no, unless there is a sudden change in the laws of physics.

"The debate raged for weeks, it's still brough (sic) up by several teachers in classes."

In physics classes? I doubt it.

"Two points developed out of it. The first, if we say something is or is not..does that make it right?"

I hereby claim that you are reading these words by virtue of telepathy carried by laser beams into your skull, and that I am the Jolly Green Giant. How could my asserting obviously counterfactual (in fact ridiculous) things possibly make them "right"? We test the truth of our everyday or commonsense beliefs in lots of ways, most of them not requiring science. Science is useful for forming explanations of phenomena, and in this way getting at deeper truths about them. Once again, there cannot be absolute truths for human beings, because our means of knowing and understanding the world are imperfect. See my earlier posts.

"The second, is symantics (sic), what does "evolve" mean."

The word "evolve" comes from a Latin verb meaning to turn out of or away from. The exact meaning of the word varies between differing branches of science (it is currently in use in biology, anthropology, linguistics, geology, astronomy, and cosmology among other disciplines). But all these scientific senses have in common the root sense of "change through time according to explicable principles and causes". Evolution is one of the most powerful and central notions in science: in fact, modern science, which is still and always a "natural history" tracing the causes of the present back into the past, is inconceivable without it. And this is important as an example of how meaning in language works. Words come into general use as they are needed, and their meaning changes with usage. The word "evolution" already has many more subsidiary senses than it had even 50 years ago. We now speak of, for example, cosmic evolution, galactic and stellar evolution, planetary evolution, language evolution, cultural evolution. Obviously the developmental processes referred to by these words are very different, but they have in common this notion of continual, causally explicable change. If creationists are going to attack "evolution" in the biological (or any other) sense, they have got to start with these meanings, which are shared and understood by hundreds of thousands of scientists around the world. Making up a meaning for the word "evolution" (such as the notion that it signifies an inherently atheistic explanation of the origin of life, when in fact all it says is that new kinds of organisms develop out of old kinds over hundreds of millions of years) and then attacking that is just an exercise in dishonesty and manipulation.

Speaking of which, M. Horn, you don't know the difference between a scientific theory (which is intended to explain observable facts) and a sociopolitical program or ideology. In the decades after Darwin published his books on natural selection, a program of this kind, so-called "Social Darwinism," was developed by intellectuals who wanted to justify (a) racism and colonialism and/or (b) so-called "free market" economic and social policies. (Sound familiar? It should.) Herbert Spencer, originator of the extremely misleading and continually misused catchphrase "survival of the fittest," helped to popularize these odious notions, which still survive on the European far Right.

These ideas are easily refuted. First, evolution is not only about competition between individual members of species, or even between species. Cooperation, again within and between species, is a highly sucessful evolutionary strategy. Humans are a clear example: we are social animals, and our arguably best and most unique adaptation, language, is a means of creating ever larger social units and of sharing new knowledge. As our dominant position in the planetary ecosystem shows, it has proven if anything too successful, since we are now in danger of destroying our own habitat via pollution, deforestation, global warming, and so on. As a species, we have succeeded by cooperation and mutual aid, with large-scale violent competition (through war and so on) usually a drag on our development. (Peaceful cultural competition is another matter.) We have also benefited from taking care of the physically weak, who often turn out (like the deaf Beehoven, the sickly Darwin, or the crippled Stephen Hawking) to make huge contributions to society. What Social Darwinism tries to do is impose a deeply distorted idea of natural selection on a species that has clearly succeeded in quite other ways, in order to justify economic predation and social injustice. Darwin himself, a kind and gentle person, would have been horrified and disgusted at such ideas, as are modern evolutionists like Gould and Dawkins. (Read Gould's essays on this topic.)

Hear ye, hear ye....

Theories are the pinnacle, the zenith, the culmination of the collective thinking and the efforts of scientists around the globe. Scientists eschew the word TRUTH as loaded, in the sense that it has a connotation of something absolute, immutable, and unchanging.
This is why the word is so appealing to non-scientists, because it gives comfort in something permanent that can be trusted with a minimum of intellectual effort.
We scientists chose the word theory. We mean by theory not "fact," nothing as lowly as a fact, but the most internally consistent EXPLANATION of AS MANY FACTS AS ARE AT OUR DISPOSAL. A theory, if it is robust, should be able to explain all the facts known relating to the subject.
What is often lost in the discussion is that a single fact can be reason enough to modify, refine, perfect, or even DISCARD a theory--A SINGLE FACT.
Are you ready for this?
The theory of evolution (the many theories that are collectively known as THE theory of evolution) is so robust that all the facts in biology amassed so far by human minds--before Darwin and in the many decades since--can be comfortably explained in the light of this one set of theories.
SHOW ME ONE FACT that directly contradicts this incredibly robust and useful theory. If you can't think of one fact backed up by experiment or empirical observation that contradicts it (and it would make headlines around the world if you did), then this is the theory that I will confidently teach my students CAN explain everything they will learn about biology.
End of story.
And another thing--I don't see any Buddhists tearing the chapter on evolution out of their children's textbooks. The campaign against evolution is directed and financed by a well defined group of religious zealots who have an agenda that is no different from any other attempt to undemocratically influence the politics and discourse in our society. Their aim is to impose their own world view on the rest of us by obfuscation, intimidation, and if all else fails, violence.
Never mind peer-review of scientific ideas by other scientists, and the democratic discourse that usually permeates the world of science. The arbiters of the validity of these ideas are the ones who have devoted their life's work to deepening them and to refine and to explain them.
We don't stick our nose in theological debates, and don't really care how many angels can fit on the hear of a pin.
Don't preach to us about something you don't care enough about to learn and investigate for yourself, and don't tell us you care so much about the teaching of evolution. Be honest. Come out and say what really bothers you. I think I know what it is:
Science explains more and more, and it's domain is constantly growing.
More and more facts and more and more sound scientific theories are constructing a more and more formidable, internally consistent way to explain the world, the way we learn and think, and even why we have the emotions we do.
This threatens all other domains, especially the domain of religion, with it's ancient, immutable, ever more irrelevant dogma in a world hurtling into an uncertain future where our problems will only be possible to solve with the tools of science and the answers it provides--most of all it's predictive powers.

The debate is NOT SCIENCE VS.SPIRITUALITY BUT IT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SCIENTISTS AND RELIGIONISTS. "Science is a way of thinking," Sagan observed. A spiritual person who sees and examines carefully with the eyes of the heart the great realities of faith, hope and love can do it in a scientific way with rational truth- seeking or an unscientific way with emotional and wishful thinking. All that is called science is not science, but is often colored by prejudice and plain old hard--headedness. Peace between natural scientists and theologians with listening to each other is possible and preferable to rancor. HF

The debates of "God vs. Science" are more about the differences between theologians/philosophers and natural scientists. Theology and philosophy also observe facts like faith, hope and love which are observed in a scientific way. Sagan said, "Science is a way of thinking..." Theological and philosophic disciplines are branches of science like biology and chemistry are natural sciences. Science is from L. "SCIENTIA"--knowledge. Some natural scientists of tody have arrogated the word science to mean only things of natural science. Theological and philosophical facts and knowledge can be appreciated in a scientific way with rational observations as Dr. Francis Collins of the genome project did. Natural scientists, especially in biology, seem to confuse theories with facts. Remember Sir Anthony Flew.

The debates of "God vs. Science" are more about the differences between theologians/philosophers and natural scientists. Theology and philosophy also observe facts like faith, hope and love which are observed in a scientific way. Sagan said, "Science is a way of thinking..." Theological and philosophic disciplines are branches of science like biology and chemistry are natural sciences. Science is from L. "SCIENTIA"--knowledge. Some natural scientists of tody have arrogated the word science to mean only things of natural science. Theological and philosophical facts and knowledge can be appreciated in a scientific way with rational observations as Dr. Francis Collins of the genome project did. Natural scientists, especially in biology, seem to confuse theories with facts. Remember Sir Anthony Flew.

Somewhere in the 140 million lines above (OK, maybe I exaggerated, but some of you should be used to that by now) someone stated that evolution has been tested and re-tested. Yep. Everytime it's retested, they add a few billion years to their timetable. Be honest you fine, highly-educated folks with lots of letters after your last name, Earth was NOT over 4 billion years old when you were in Jr. High. And yet, for those of us that believe that God created the heavens and earth in 6 days, the age of the earth hangs around in the 10,000 years range. Always has been that way. That must frustrate you.

Continue to disregard the fossil record. I'm aware it really makes you uncomfortable. You also know the amount of cosmic dust on the moon does not support evolution, but you don't like to be reminded of that either. Your pattern is that you don't prove yourself right. Don't worry about it. I'm used to it.

Please, I beg of you, explain how the termite evolved. That should be keep you busy for a while.

What is the point in arguing over creation and evolution. When you are not going to change the mind, opinions, or beliefs of a person. Even if you prove the other person is wrong. You are still not going to change that person's belief.

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