Evolution is Fundamental to Science

Posted on January 5, 2008  Comments (12)

Evolution is absolutely fundamental to scientific thinking. Any country, or part of a country (or those wishing to lead a country) that teaches evolution as though it is some alternative way of looking at the facts (that can be compared to creationism/intelligent design, as science, for example) is an embarrassment. Unfortunately the United States is home to far too much of this thinking – which explains why scientific literacy is so low. Luckily there are also plenty in the USA that understand science. The National Academy of Science has published, Science, Evolution, and Creationism, in which a

group of experts assembled by the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine explain the fundamental methods of science, document the overwhelming evidence in support of biological evolution, and evaluate the alternative perspectives offered by advocates of various kinds of creationism, including “intelligent design.” The book explores the many fascinating inquiries being pursued that put the science of evolution to work in preventing and treating human disease, developing new agricultural products, and fostering industrial innovations. The book also presents the scientific and legal reasons for not teaching creationist ideas in public school science classes.

The scientific theory of evolution still has details that can be debated – which is what the scientists should and will do (seeking out evidence to support such details). The idea that people today can question evolution is beyond amazing to me. It is much easier to understand some people thinking you would sail off the edge of the earth 500 years ago than anyone in the USA thinking there is any serious debate about evolution (there are parts of the world where the educational system does not give everyone a chance to see the available evidence, so I can forgive some in the world for being ignorant – not having been exposed to the evidence). And I guess there are parts of the USA educational system that are nearly so poor also where a gullible student could not see the truth. But in the USA the evidence is easily at hand – you have to intentionally remain ignorant to somehow not understand the truth of evolution.

What Everyone Should Learn

Dr. Vincent Cerf: “I would want people to really understand the theory of evolution and the origin of species. The power of cumulative, adaptive change in the genome, over the course of billions of years and changing conditions, is hard for many people to fully appreciate.”

Related: Understanding Evolution (from Berkeley)Teaching Evolution and the Nature of ScienceEvolutionary DesignReal-Time EvolutionEvolution at Work with the Blue Moon Butterfly200 Million Americans Are Scientifically IlliterateEvolution In ActionRetrovirusesEvolution in Darwin’s FinchesTwo Butterfly Species Evolved Into ThirdEvolution of Antibiotic Resistance

12 Responses to “Evolution is Fundamental to Science”

  1. curiouscat
    January 5th, 2008 @ 5:31 pm

    Like evolution the explanation of gravity is still in need of some further elaboration and study. What causes gravity exactly? Gravitons? Or what? I can understand if someone wants to claim certain details in explaining exactly how gravity works are debatable. Saying the very concept of gravity is debatable, however, is not within the realm of sensible discourse, in my opinion. Others are welcome to their opinions.

    Luckily we don’t yet have any significant movement to repress or confuse learning about math or gravity or chemistry or inertia… Learning about evolution should be as fundamental to education as those areas of study (of course we will have some who dispute anything…). If then, people decide they choose not to believe in gravity or chemistry or evolution or whatever else that is their choice.

  2. Gary Petersen
    January 5th, 2008 @ 5:00 pm

    I had a lengthy comment written to this post, then lost it due to the challenge system. I’ll try to recreate it and hope that 10 + 3 x 2 actually equals 16. 🙂

    You state in your writing, John, one of the significant problems that many, including me, have with evolutionary science. You said this in your article:

    “The scientific theory of evolution still has details that can be debated – which is what the scientists should and will do (seeking out evidence to support such details).”

    That’s a huge problem, but one I think is all to common. Many scientists do indeed get an idea then go seeking evidence to support it. That’s just an incredibly backwards way of working. Scientists ought to be about the business of developing theories based on the evidence they see in the world, then testing to prove or disprove their theories. But far too many get a thought then go about looking for evidence, or interpreting evidence wrapped around assumptions, to prove their theory. And often times to the neglect of evidence that would disprove their theory.

    You also say that “the evidence is easily at hand” and you’re right. But the foundation from which people interpret that evidence are different. I, and others, look at what I see based on my education, knowledge, experience, and (yes) belief of the Bible, which was written at the direction of the God who was there when the world was created. You, and still others, look at the same evidence based on your education, knowledge, experience, and (yes, it is a big part of evolutionary thinking as well) belief in evolution. The evidence is interpreted differently based on the foundation.

    You believe I’m ignorant to what you call “the truth of evolution”. Truth is what it is. I believe that a faith in evolution is willful ignorance of what actually is truth.

  3. Gary Petersen
    January 5th, 2008 @ 11:46 pm

    Gravity is a much more testable theory than is evolution, however. In the absence of the ability to test something that is believed to have happened millions or billions of years ago, scientists are forced to make assumptions that cannot be tested.

    And there are many, many steps of “learning” (using the term incredibly loosely) over the years that have been flat-out wrong, yet still get taught as fact. Haeckel’s embryos, Piltdown Man, and the supposedly feathered dinosaur archaeoraptor fossil are but a few examples of “facts” that not only turned out to be not true, but deliberately falsified.

    Certainly, science has its frauds, just as faith does. But a lot of things we call fact turn out to be assumption. And that’s a significant issue with evolutionary thinking. The lack of ability to test hypotheses can lead to assumptions being treated as fact.

    It happens all too often. And it isn’t science. And it isn’t truth. And it isn’t right.

  4. Sam Walker
    January 22nd, 2008 @ 3:25 pm

    I’m not an evolution expert so I’m probably way off base.

    I’d like to know if evolution theory states that every human is equivalent, or are we are all at a different state of evolution.

    To me, it seems the later should be true since most likely a person would manifest some useful biological trait,
    then their descendents would inherit the trait and so on creating another branch in the tree so to speak.

    Given that my above understanding is true and all humans are at different states of evolution. Or perhaps groups of humans are at
    different stages of evolution. There is the likelihood that some groups of humans are superior to others, and the converse that
    some groups of humans are inferior to others. Now that since evolution is a good thing shouldn’t humans seek to eliminate
    inferiority in the genetic pool so that the humans will not regress to an inferior state.

    Does that sounds like racial cleansing?

  5. CuriousCat: Understanding the Evolution of Human Beings by Country
    February 23rd, 2008 @ 8:45 pm

    The United States is is second to last place in this question of scientific literacy with only 40% of the population knowing the truth…

  6. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Your Inner Fish
    February 25th, 2008 @ 11:14 pm

    “The problem is that the brain stem originally controlled breathing in fish; it has been jerry-rigged to work in mammals… This works well in fish, but it is a lousy arrangement for mammals…”

  7. Curious Cat: Mutation Rate and Evolution
    March 26th, 2008 @ 8:52 pm

    “Actually stopping mutations is a physical impossibility – hence the need for a magic wand. But if they were to stop, so would raw invention. But evolution would not…”

  8. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Challenging the Science Status Quo
    May 16th, 2008 @ 12:31 pm

    Colleagues in turn challenge that evidence and reasoning. The rigor of this process is what makes science such a powerful tool…

  9. CuriousCat: Still Just a Lizard
    June 4th, 2008 @ 10:19 am

    Now here’s something really cool, though: these lizards have evolved cecal valves. What those are are muscular ridges in the gut that allow the animal to close off sections of the tube to slow the progress of food through them…

  10. Curious Cat Science Blog » Church of England Sees Wisdom in Understanding Evolution
    September 18th, 2008 @ 5:31 pm

    “Charles Darwin: 200 years from your birth, the Church of England owes you an apology for misunderstanding you and, by getting our first reaction wrong, encouraging others to misunderstand you still…”

  11. Curious Cat Science Blog » Surprising New Diabetes Data
    March 28th, 2009 @ 3:07 pm

    It is not enough to learn facts we need to be able to think scientifically and comprehend the subtleties surrounding the advances in scientific understanding…

  12. Refusal to Follow Scientific Guidance Results in Worms Evolving to Eat Corn Designed to Kill The Worms » Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog
    March 22nd, 2014 @ 11:59 am

    […] An understanding of natural selection and evolution is fundamental to understanding science, biology, human health and life. Scientists create wonderful products to improve our lives: vaccines, antibiotics, etc.. […]

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