My colleague at the Twin Cities branch campus of the University of Minnesota, Randy Moore, has won an award from the Discovery Institute: The Award for Most Dogmatic Indoctrinator in an Evolutionary Biology Course. Congratulations to Randy! He won it for this paragraph:
The evidence supporting evolution is overwhelming and comes from diverse disciplines, such as molecular biology, paleontology, comparative anatomy, ethology, and biochemistry. There is no controversy among biologists about whether evolution occurs, nor are there science-based alternative theories. Evolution is a unifying theme in biology; teaching it as such is the best way to show students what biology is about and how they can use evolution as a tool to understand our world. [Evolution] is as important an idea as there is in science – it is a great gift to give to students.
The Discovery Institute claims there are at least four mistakes in that paragraph. Their summary of the “errors” is hilarious, and shows how delusional those guys are.
The evidence isn’t overwhelming, because their books, Icons of Evolution and Explore Evolution, say so. Those two books are propaganda pieces put out by the Discovery Institute itself, and they are awful: poor scholarship, sloppy reasoning, and and an abysmal ignorance of the science characterize both. If you want some good popular books on the subject, try The Making of the Fittest(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll), Your Inner Fish(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll), Why Evolution is True(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll), and The Ancestor’s Tale(amzn/b&n/abe/pwll), all much better and more informative, and actually representing the evidence accurately.
There is too controversy because they have a list of
crackpotsdissenters from evolution. Any field will have kooks and crackpots on the fringe; compiling a short list of loons is a relatively trivial and entirely meaningless exercise. Even at that, the DI’s list is very short on people who are actually biologists…and the whole petition is misleadingly worded.
Evolution is a theory in trouble because some scientists discussed alternative modes of evolution at the Altenberg conference this summer. Science is not fixed, but adapts to the evidence, so it is perfectly normal to have conferences that discuss new ideas. The Altenberg meeting did not challenge the fact of evolution or try to displace known evolutionary mechanisms; it discussed some new findings that might add to the theory. It’s absurd that people are still going on and on about how a small meeting of scientists working on extending some parts evolutionary theory is a strike against evolution. To the contrary, it’s what we expect of good science.
There are too science-based alternative theories: Intelligent Design, endosymbiosis, and self-organization. Margulis’s endosymbiotic theory was a natural explanation for eukaryote evolution — it is not an alternative, but a part of evolutionary theory. Similarly, self-organization (as, for example, described by Kauffman) does not oppose evolution at all, but suggests that physical and chemical properties of the universe could facilitate evolution. Like I said above, these are part of the normal process of science, that people propose new explanations and try to back them up with evidence, and they become incorporated into our body of knowledge. Intelligent Design creationism does not qualify. IDists don’t do science, don’t propose testable theories, and don’t have any evidence to back up their claims.
So I hope Randy Moore doesn’t get too cocky here — the award was given by a gang of incompetent judges who don’t know what they are talking about.