I’m sick and tired of this debate of “do you believe in evolution?” Who cares? Who freakin’ cares?
You see to me belief is cheap. Any person can claim to believe in any old idea. So what if Obama and Hillary believe in evolution and Huckabee believes in creationism? What I want …what I expect from my elected officials (and from any well educated person) is that they understand evolution. Yes that is what truly matters.
When the debate revolves around belief, it is really about who do you trust … the scientific establishment or the leaders of certain clerical movements. With this context, the evolution/creationism debate has devolved into a proxy war between two figures of authority, the current scientific establishment or the leaders of the religious right. Unfortunately the “clash” between these two “beliefs” has been encouraged by the media, and individuals (like these two nut cases). It shouldn’t be this way. Lets be honest, although we crave respect, we, the members of the scientific community, unlike the leaders of the Christian right, are not interested is spreading dogma. Our job is to figure out how things work and to disseminate and apply this knowledge to ameliorate society. We need to remold this “debate”.
So this is what I ask of all of you, be you a scientist, political pundit, election debate monitor, mom, dad or teacher: do not question whether someone believes in evolution but whether they understand evolution. It is not acceptable for anyone living in 2007 to either believe or disbelieve in evolution without understanding it. To believe evolution without comprehension of what the term means is to replace religion with science … and science is not a religion.
But more then that, evolution once understood does not need defending. A recent study published in The American Biology Teacher demonstrates that the teaching of the logic and empirical evidence that supports evolution leads to wide acceptance of the theory. When asked about their thought students replied along the following lines:
But after learning about [evolution] I feel that it is in fact the way the world works, and I don’t understand why some people feel threatened by it.
I did not realize how precise evolution was.
But the key is to spread understanding. Evolution should not just be some dogmatic principle. It should be thought like algebra. When is the last time you heard someone say that they “didn’t believe in algebra”?
From the same study:
We categorically agree that no student should ever be graded on his or her beliefs–only on his or her understanding, and we feel that no teacher should adopt an evangelical strategy to “convert” students to “believe in” evolution. That would, again, perpetuate the common substitution of science-as-authority for God-as-authority. Rather, a teacher’s goal should be the presentation of the evidence in light of students’ preconceptions as well as natural selection theory. That thorough discussion and evaluation of the evidence is inherently persuasive is merely a bonus for future generations of students, on whom we hope this conflict may weigh less heavily.
So the question becomes how to teach evolution? A word of caution, we can’t just spew out supporting data such as the fossil record and genomic analysis – we also need to explain the logic inherent within evolution, survival of the fittest.
First ask people if they believe in these things:
1) inheritance, as in do you inherit traits from your parents
2) exponential growth, as in if every breading couple within a species has >2 kids then the population of that species should increase exponentially
3) limited resources, as in there is a finite amount of space, food for the individuals within a species
4) the second law of thermodynamics, as in there will always be some amount of error introduced into information when it is duplicated
Then ask people what the logical conclusion will be. You generate variation (point 4) this variation is passed down from generation to generation (point 1) due to the increase in population size (point 2) and the limits of any environment (point 3) there is a competition for resources and the variant that is better at harnessing resources for its offspring will replace other variants found within the population.
The logic is so simple. Once you understand how this works, speciation is a cinch. One species becomes two when individuals from two two non-breading populations pile up enough differences until you reach the point of incompatibility for any number of reasons. They can’t have a shared offspring and presto a species splits into two.
So that’s my 2 cents. Now if only a presidential candidate would exclaim: “I understand how evolution works.”
Jennifer R. Robbins, Pamela Roy
Identifying & Correcting Non-Science Student Preconceptions
The American Biology Teacher (2007) 69:460-466
Through an Inquiry-Based, Critical Approach to Evolution