January 3, 2011

Top 10 Myths About Evolution - And A Comment On US Science Education

Understanding Evolution:  17 Misconceptions and Their Responses, Science-Based Life, September 4, 2011

  1. “Evolution is a theory about the origin of life.”
  2. “Evolution is like a climb up a ladder of progress; organisms are always getting better.”
  3. “Evolution means that life changed ‘by chance.’”
  4. “Natural selection involves organisms ‘trying’ to adapt.”
  5. “Natural selection gives organisms what they ‘need.’”
  6. “Evolution is ‘just’ a theory.”
  7. “Evolution is a theory in crisis and is collapsing as scientists lose confidence in it.”
  8. “Gaps in the fossil record disprove evolution.”
  9. “Evolutionary theory is incomplete and is currently unable to give a total explanation of life.”
  10. “The theory of evolution is flawed, but scientists won’t admit it.”
  11. “Evolution is not science because it is not observable or testable.”
  12. “Most biologists have rejected ‘Darwinism’ (i.e., no longer really agree with the ideas put forth by Darwin and Wallace).”
  13. “Evolution leads to immoral behavior. If children are taught that they are animals, they will behave like animals.”
  14. “Evolution supports the idea that ‘might makes right’ and rationalizes the oppression of some people by others.”
  15. “Evolution and religion are incompatible.”
  16. “Teachers should teach ‘both sides’ and let students decide for themselves.”
  17. “Evolution is itself ‘religious,’ so requiring teachers to teach evolution violates the First Amendment.”
See also:
Severing the Link Between Darwin and Nazism by Faye Flam, Philly.com, October 24, 2011

UPDATE 3:  New Approach Proposed for Science Curriculums, The New York Times, Science, July 19, 2011.  "Now that the council (the National Research Council, the operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering) has finished a (new science education) framework, a nonprofit education group, Achieve Inc., will expand it into a set of standards. Similar efforts produced standards for math and language arts that have been adopted by 44 states.  ...  While Achieve is working with states to come up with standards, the core science — including evolution — is not up for debate.  'What we’re not going to do is compromise the science just to get states comfortable,' said Michael Cohen, the president of Achieve. States will have the final say on whether to adopt the new approach."

UPDATE 2:  March 25, 2011 A Voice For Evolution From Indiana

Here's some good news.  The state of Florida has decided to update it's secondary school science curriculum to include higher science standards and the teaching of evolution.  The Florida Citizens for Science (FCFS) co-founder who was a central figure in getting this done, Jonathan Smith of Lithia, FL, had this to say:

"Everyone from pastors to politicians argued against the new standards, which replaced a 12-year-old curriculum ranked last in the United States.  ...  It's frustrating to have to debate something when there is really not a question," he said. "There are not two sides. Science is science. Evolution is fact.  ...  It was extremely frustrating. The science classroom is for science. Teaching creationism in science is like teaching alchemy in chemistry class, or astrology in an astronomy class.  ...  In the Florida Citizens for Science, we have atheists, agnostics and some members who are religious. You can have the two, there's no doubt about it. Religion and science just aren't the same thing.  ...  I am an atheist. I haven't seen enough evidence to believe in the supernatural. To me, the difference between a believer and a nonbeliever is, if you showed a nonbeliever evidence that there is a God, we would believe. If you showed a believer evidence there is not a God, they would still believe.  ...  I want to see a set of national science standards put in place for all the schools to use. The problem now is schools don't teach children enough about science, then those children grow up and don't encourage their children to study science. It's a cycle.  ...  When I go speak to adults, some of them don't know the answers to basic questions, like how many days does it take for the Earth to revolve around the sun. The United States has become sort of a laughingstock.  ...  Americans don't put enough emphasis on education. We're running around taking our kids to football and cheerleading practice, but if you ask parents when the last time is they had a conference about their child's education, they'll shake their head."


A major reason there is so much ignorance in America about the natural history of Humankind is that courses on human evolution are not required in our secondary schools.  General science is required and elective courses on physics, chemistry and biology are offered where the nature of the Universe, matter and life are introduced.  In these three natural science electives everything from the largest to the smallest of things material, including living things, and how they work are addressed.  But elective courses that undertake an introduction to the fossil, anatomical, physiological, biochemical, genetic, archaeological and cultural evidence that establish humans as an integral part of this same universe, and as part of the natural history of life on Earth, are scarce to non-existent in our high schools.

Another important reason is that too often, when high school science teachers cover the topic of evolution and place humans in the context of the natural sciences with all other animals, they and their school boards are often pummeled by indignant, outraged creationists.  These defenders of faith-based truth seek the banning of such lessons and demand equal time for their understanding of science, presently in the form of "intelligent design."  That is, if an "understanding of science" is really what their all-knowing and final notions about the Universe, Life, Earth and Humankind can really be called. 

These two reasons are why our children lag behind those in Asia, Europe and elsewhere in the world in math and science.  In America, science education, particularly regarding the teaching of evolution and human evolution, is either blocked, discounted or interfered with by creationists.  The result has and continues to be that many children, and adults, have developed a disdain for and consequent ignorance of science in general, and in particular, its value for understanding the natural history of Humankind.

Outside the US, hundreds of millions of Buddhists, Hindus, Taoists, and Jains in Asia, for example, are not railing about what is being taught in their nations' science classes.  They are not badgering school administrators to have their religious understandings taught as science.  Asian and European children from secondary school onward are taught to highly value science and to see human beings as arising from and therefore part of Nature, not divinely created latecomers who are separate from and above all else on Earth.  Only among the Abrahamic religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam - is there a God, and his word as found in religious texts, that must be defended as the sole source of truth about the Universe, Earth, Life and Humankind.

What can you do?  Get more information, encourage your children and all others to study and read scientific publications.  Here's a good starting point I have developed:  The Case for Evolution - A Reading List.  You can also provide support to the National Center for Science Education, an organization that defends and promotes the teaching of evolution in schools.

Here are the Top 10 Myths.  The above link by the Skeptics Society addresses and debunks them all:

1.  If Humans Came From Apes, Why Aren't Apes Evolving Into Humans?
2.  There Are Too Many Gaps in the Fossil Record for Evolution to Be True
3.  If Evolution Happened Gradually Over Millions of Years Why Doesn' the Fossil Record Show Gradual Change?
4.  No One Has ever Seen Evolution Happen
5.  Science Claims That Evolution Happens by Random Chance
6.  Only an Intelligent Designer Could Have Made Something as Complex as an Eye
7.  Evolution is Only A Theory
8.  Evidence for Human Evolution Has Turned Out to Be Fake, Frauds, or Fanciful
9.  The Second Law of Thermodynamics Proves That Evolution is Impossible
10.  Evolution Can't Account for Morality

1 comment:

Kevin Graham said...

It seems we are fighting the same battle that was fought during the period of enlightenment.
Science and reason verses the church. What has changed is the level of scientific knowledge and
better reasoning as to who and what we are.

What has not changed is the myth of creation.

Though we do not have all the answers as to our origin and our ends, we can reason that we are not going
to be burning in hell or floating on a cloud.
I can respect a persons right to believe as they will, I just don't understand the ignorance in blind faith.

When I was a boy of about 10 years old I questioned the concept of the God I was being taught. I new in my heart ( or third eye or whatever)
that what I was being force fed in parochial school could not possibly be true.

So was the start of my skepticism and sarcasm.

Today I know I don't know what the big picture is and that is all right.
I leave open the unlimited possibilities that quantum physics predicts and I am fine with the unknown.
More will be revealed. Unlike the church of all religions who are not seeking truth any longer.
Any further investigation on their part would lead to the further unraveling of the mythical story.

As long as there are two people left in this world, with facts to ponder, there will be two responses.
One will be the truth. The second will be the myth.

It may be easily understood I suppose.
Some Humans evolve more quickly than others....

Thanks Jim, good article.


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