Hawks is, well, Hawkish

You all (or y'all or yins or whatever) know about the article in Science that says Americans are dumber than everyone on Earth except the Turkish (see the concise version from the NYTimes if you don't have access to Science). It's because we don't know jack shit about evolution. And we don't know jack shit about evolution because we don't know jack shit about genetics. Evolution? Genetics? I ain't interested in those things. Nope.

I'm probably the only ScienceBlogs blogger who didn't offer his 3¢ (inflation, bitches) on this issue. If I had, I would have written what John Hawks wrote, only not as clearly or coherently as Doc Hawks because I can't write for shit. Hawks has some problems with the article. Now, he agrees with the findings of the article, and he has no problem with the analysis of the data. But he hates the questions. It's my understanding that the authors did not conduct any of the polling -- they merely compiled the data from the published polls.

Hawks does some hard core hating on the polls. He hates this question:

"Human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species of animals."

That gets Hawks all riled up:

Human beings have never "developed" from earlier species of animals. We evolved from them. Adult human beings develop from zygotes, embryos, fetuses, infants, children, and adolescents. And of course, some of these latter categories are themselves human beings (teenagers being the main exception!). That's why "evolutionary developmental biology" is called evo-devo instead of devo-devo!

What a hater. Put down the hateraide, John. Who the hell would waste their time bitching about such trivialities? Not me. Hawks also hates the way the polls present genetic similarities between species:

For example, only a third of American adults agree that more than half of human genes are identical to those of mice and only 38% of adults recognize that humans have more than half of their genes in common with chimpanzees. In other studies, fewer than half of American adults can provide a minimal definition of DNA. Thus, it is not surprising that nearly half of the respondents in 2005 were not sure about the proportion of human genes that overlap with mice or chimpanzees.

Here's what the Hawk has to say about this:

A sample of some 13,000 genes in the human and draft chimpanzee genomes shows over 39,000 amino-acid coding differences between the two species. This means that a given human will differ from a chimpanzee by an average three amino-acid coding substitutions per gene. Certainly these are not equally distributed -- some genes are more different than others. But far fewer than half of this sample of genes are identical in their amino acid sequences. Even fewer -- only around one in ten -- are identical in their nucleotide sequences, including synonymous substitutions. If we include intronic sequences as part of each gene, then none of the 13,000 genes have identical sequences in humans and chimpanzees. Mice, of course, are more different from us than chimps.

Of course, Matt Hahn would argue that 17% of genes are different between humans and chimps. But I don't have time get into that here.

I'd quote Hawks's entire post; it's all good. He says if we're so backasswards with our shit, how can we expect the general public to get the facts straight? Those aren't the exact words he uses. These are them:

But when scientists can't seem to get their facts straight, just how exactly are nonscientists supposed to become "literate"?

Go read the entire post (the half of it I have yet to quote will be new to you).

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A problem is that, as noted, the authors didn't write the questions. Mainly these types of polls are done by social scientists, who may not understand evolution on the level a scientist would like.

Or to the level we expect the general public to understand science.


nice, you talk about "social scientists" and then "scientists." bitch-slap :) speaking of which, i'm offended by your use of the term "bitches" RPM.

"Doc Hawks" -- hilarious. Sounds like the leader of the A-Team or something. Also, suspiciously like "Doc Oc" from spiderman.