The last shore-dwelling ancestor of modern whales was Sinonyx, top left, a hyena-like animal. Over 60 million years, several transitional forms evolved: from top to bottom, Indohyus, Ambulocetus, Rodhocetus, Basilosaurus, Dorudon, and finally, the modern humpback whale.
The theory of evolution by natural selection, first formulated in Darwin's book "On the Origin of Species" in 1859, is the process by which organisms change over time as a result of changes in heritable physical or behavioral traits. Changes that allow an organism to better adapt to its environment will help it survive and have more offspring.
Evolution by natural selection is one of the best substantiated theories in the history of science, supported by evidence from a wide variety of scientific disciplines, including paleontology, geology, genetics and developmental biology.
The theory has two main points, said Brian Richmond, curator of human origins at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. "All life on Earth is connected and related to each other," and this diversity of life is a product of "modifications of populations by natural selection, where some traits were favored in and environment over others," he said.
More simply put, the theory can be described as "descent with modification," said Briana Pobiner, an anthropologist and educator at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. who specializes in the study of human origins.
The theory is sometimes described as "survival of the fittest," but that can be misleading, Pobiner said. Here, "fitness" refers not to an organism's strength or athletic ability, but rather the ability to survive and reproduce.Origin of whales
In the first edition of "The Origin of Species" in 1859, Charles Darwin speculated about how natural selection could cause a land mammal to turn into a whale. As a hypothetical example, Darwin used North American black bears, which were known to catch insects by swimming in the water with their mouths open:
"I can see no difficulty in a race of bears being rendered, by natural selection, more aquatic in their structure and habits, with larger and larger mouths, till a creature was produced as monstrous as a whale," he speculated.
The idea didn't go over very well with the public. Darwin was so embarrassed by the ridicule he received that the swimming-bear passage was removed from later editions of the book.
Scientists now know that Darwin had the right idea but the wrong animal: Instead of looking at bears, he should have instead been looking at cows and hippopotamuses.
The story of the origin of whales is one of evolution's most fascinating tales and one of the best examples scientists have of natural selection.Natural selection
To understand the origin of whales, it's necessary to have a basic understanding of how natural selection works. Natural selection can change a species in small ways, causing a population to change color or size over the course of several generations. This is called "microevolution."
But natural selection is also capable of much more. Given enough time and enough accumulated changes, natural selection can create entirely new species, known as "macroevolution." It can turn dinosaurs into birds, amphibious mammals into whales and the ancestors of apes into humans.
Take the example of whales — using evolution as their guide and knowing how natural selection works, biologists knew that the transition of early whales from land to water occurred in a series of predictable steps. The evolution of the blowhole, for example, might have happened in the following way:
Random genetic changes resulted in at least one whale having its nostrils placed farther back on its head. Those animals with this adaptation would have been better suited to a marine lifestyle, since they would not have had to completely surface to breathe. Such animals would have been more successful and had more offspring. In later generations, more genetic changes occurred, moving the nose farther back on the head.
Other body parts of early whales also changed. Front legs became flippers. Back legs disappeared. Their bodies became more streamlined and they developed tail flukes to better propel themselves through water.
Darwin also described a form of natural selection that depends on an organism's success at attracting a mate, a process known as sexual selection. The colorful plumage of peacocks and the antlers of male deer are both examples of traits that evolved under this type of selection.
But Darwin wasn't the first or only scientist to develop a theory of evolution. The French biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck came up with the idea that an organism could pass on traits to its offspring, though he was wrong about some of the details. And around the same time as Darwin, British biologist Alfred Russel Wallace independently came up with the theory of evolution by natural selection.Modern understanding
Darwin didn't know anything about genetics, Pobiner said. "He observed the pattern of evolution, but he didn’t really know about the mechanism." That came later, with the discovery of how genes encode different biological or behavioral traits, and how genes are passed down from parents to offspring. The incorporation of genetics and Darwin's theory is known as "modern evolutionary synthesis."
The physical and behavioral changes that make natural selection possible happen at the level of DNA and genes. Such changes are called mutations. "Mutations are basically the raw material on which evolution acts," Pobiner said.
Mutations can be caused by random errors in DNA replication or repair, or by chemical or radiation damage. Most times, mutations are either harmful or neutral, but in rare instances, a mutation might prove beneficial to the organism. If so, it will become more prevalent in the next generation and spread throughout the population.
In this way, natural selection guides the evolutionary process, preserving and adding up the beneficial mutations and rejecting the bad ones. "Mutations are random, but selection for them is not random," Pobiner said.
But natural selection isn't the only mechanism by which organisms evolve, she said. For example, genes can be transferred from one population to another when organisms migrate or immigrate, a process known as gene flow. And the frequency of certain genes can also change at random, which is called genetic drift.A wealth of evidence
Even though scientists could predict what early whales should look like, they lacked the fossil evidence to back up their claim. Creationists took this absence as proof that evolution didn't occur. They mocked the idea that there could have ever been such a thing as a walking whale. But since the early 1990s, that's exactly what scientists have been finding.
The critical piece of evidence came in 1994, when paleontologists found the fossilized remains of Ambulocetus natans. an animal whose name literally means "swimming-walking whale." Its forelimbs had fingers and small hooves but its hind feet were enormous given its size. It was clearly adapted for swimming, but it was also capable of moving clumsily on land, much like a seal.
When it swam, the ancient creature moved like an otter, pushing back with its hind feet and undulating its spine and tail.
Modern whales propel themselves through the water with powerful beats of their horizontal tail flukes, but Ambulocetus still had a whip-like tail and had to use its legs to provide most of the propulsive force needed to move through water.
In recent years, more and more of these transitional species, or "missing links," have been discovered, lending further support to Darwin's theory, Richmond said.Controversy
Despite the wealth of evidence from the fossil record, genetics and other fields of science, some people still question its validity. Some politicians and religious leaders denounce the theory, invoking a higher being as a designer to explain the complex world of living things, especially humans.
School boards debate whether the theory of evolution should be taught alongside other ideas, such as intelligent design or creationism.
Mainstream scientists see no controversy. "A lot of people have deep religious beliefs and also accept evolution," Pobiner said, adding, "there can be real reconciliation."
Evolution is well supported by many examples of changes in various species leading to the diversity of life seen today. "If someone could really demonstrate a better explanation than evolution and natural selection, [that person] would be the new Darwin," Richmond said.
Additional reporting by Staff Writer Tanya Lewis, Follow Tanya on Twitter. Follow us @livescience. Facebook & Google+ .Additional resources
l"Educational theorists" are infamous amongst actual teachers, for the bizarre courses of action they advocate - like this one. It's often because they have not actually taught much, and have sailed through the educational system from K12 through college to graduate degree without experiencing much of the real world.
I recall particularly the "expert" who said that deadlines should be abolished in school, that it didn't matter when the students did the work as long as they did it. Not only does this fly in the face of the real world, where you have to meet deadlines, it ignored the impossible situation this would put teachers in, of grading an enormous quantity of stuff at the end of the class (when there really was a deadline). Yet this idiot charged $8,000 a day as a consultant, according to the newspaper report.
Homework for homework's sake should not exist. Homework to help a student learn about the topic, and to learn discipline, is vital.
In one sense, if you ask why students do homework, you may as well ask why students do any work at all? What is the difference between doing something in class, and doing something at home?
The trend has been that students spend much less time on a class, outside of class. A problem with homework is that you don't know who actually does the work; in K12 so many parents get involved now, and group activity is common (when it isn't supposed to be), so it becomes difficult to know whether the student is learning anything him or her self, and even more difficult to make a formal assessment. Formal assessment is crowding out actual learning as it is, thanks in part to government regulation, in part to people who think teaching is only conveying information (which is a minor part of good teaching).
A major purpose of homework in the past was to have students read something that would convey information, so that the class could concentrate on other things requiring more thought during class time. But many university classes, with hundreds of students in the class, now amount to oral books where the instructor does not know the students and is very limited in interaction with them. Further, the habit of reading to learn is going away ("tl;dr"), people want to hear-see-etc. So even if reading is assigned as homework, a great many students will not bother (some, in college, won't even obtain a copy of a class book, whether legally or not).
Further, all disciplines require practice. Virtually no one does something non-trivial once, and then does it well. A reason for homework is to give students additional practice time. Some subjects are not as amenable to practice as others; some require practice in groups; some can be practiced individually.
The question is, can the student learn whatever it is they're supposed to learn, using only class time? This varies a great deal with expectations. In the USA, expectations have been drastically reduced in K12, where students memorize answers and regurgitate them on a standardized test at the end of a class or year. Where higher standards are maintained, where students are expected to understand, not merely to memorize, to be able to think, not merely to regurgitate, more time is needed.
So the amount of homework that is reasonable depends on expectations and on willingness and capability of students to learn - learning is not passive, and some students are going to learn quicker, some slower. It is likely, given the recruiting process, that students at (say) Duke are going to put more effort into a class than students at a community college, not only because of their backgrounds but because of their financial and family situations. The ultimate question is, is there time to do all that needs to be done, during class time. The answer is, it depends.
No offence, but Banned. Hahaha. but I will take it that homework as in worksheets, essay-types. I do approve of projects though, but not the group-work worksheets disguised as projects kind, but the kind that really requires research, developing your own opinions, presenting etc. Kind. I think typical homework should be made optional. Most of the time, the excessive homework pile would reduce the kids to copying or handing in sloppy work just for the sake of handing it in, and with this, there's not much point to it as they wouldn't learn much from it since they are not putting in effort.
By making it optional, it would be more of encouraging them to do it with the aim of improving. For the kids who are too lazy/wouldn't do them if its optional, it would just mean that if its compulsory they would be the ones to copy or do it sloppily, so there's no gain from there.
Also, homework tend to be repetitive and doesn't really encourage much acquiring of knowledge beyond the syllabus, ending up with kids getting good grades only knowing the narrow scope of the syllabus and not getting schooled in life lessons etc.(or maybe that's just 'cause of the country where i live, placing emphasis on "memorization and regurgitation" as the way to go, which is just a really stupid form of education if you ask me)
with no homework, kids would be free to pursue interests which, if burdened with overflowing homework, they may never get the chance to.
I guess i am just against the typical education system which i see in alot of countries, rather than homework per se, since most of those seems to focus more on a good grade than a well-rounded individual, and results rather than character. Well, they cannot really be blamed, due to society's penchant for straight As and such. I seem to be getting off topic, oh well.
So, with respect to this question, i guess my stand is that homework should be banned, or at least severely lessened.
(long reply, but not as long as what i would have wanted to say, heheh!)
ps.I am no longer in my studying days
It should be banned because it places unnecessary stress on students and it takes away precious time for family interaction and physical astivity, it can intefere with our health! Even experats like the Victorian Principlas Association says that although sometimes pressure needs to be place on students, this sort is uncalled for.
20 Jul 2011 02:44
Yep. It's not like they're paying you to do it
It should be banned.
It is studying. Studying and homework will help you get good grades.
It shouldnt be banned if it is banned than we will not study at home.
We will make fun.
I think the correct wording should be, 'To limit homework'. To ban homework is ridiculous.
"Rote learning (memory through sheer repetition)" Should Be Banned.
At first all kids want it to be banned, but thinks about it some teachers DON'T EVEN TEACH and we have to learn through homework sure it can be annoying but thats when you get ones that are hard and too large
I learned more in a calculus class where the teacher was AWFUL and I had to teach myself from the book. Developed some cool shortcuts.
17 May 2011 10:55
I think there should be homework because mostly during class people are daydreaming they aren't paying attention which means they didn't learn anything thats where homework comes in and makes student think about what the teacher was talking about!
Poor little darlings. Wait until you get into college (if you can, depending on whether or not you do your homework) or into real-life work, where they expect results.
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The creation-evolution controversy and U.S. science education. Biblical literalist Ken Ham. Students at Wheaton College struggle with their faith. A school board denies a petition to teach special creation alongside evolution.A. The Creation-Evolution Controversy and U.S. Science Education
"The majesty of our Earth, the beauty of life," the narrator begins. "Are they the result of a natural process called evolution, or the work of a divine creator? This question is at the heart of a struggle that has threatened to tear our nation apart."
High school students file into a science classroom. A newspaper headline--"Collision in the classroom"--fills the screen. Answers in Genesis Executive Director Ken Ham gestures with a Bible. "For fundamentalist Christians like Ken Ham," the narrator continues, "evolution is an evil that must be fought." Ham says: "Oh, I think it's a war. It's a real battle between worldviews." We look in on a crowded school board hearing, and the narrator tells us: "For embattled teachers in Lafayette, Indiana, evolution is a truth that must be defended." One of those teachers says she doesn't think one side or the other will come out a victor. Then we join a round-table discussion among Christian students at Wheaton College in Illinois. According to the narrator, these students find evolution "an idea that is hard to accept." One student asks: "Where is God's place, if everything does have a natural cause?"
"For all of us," the narrator continues, "the future of religion, science, and science education are at stake in the creation-evolution debate. Today, even as science continues to provide evidence supporting the theory of evolution, for millions of Americans the most important question remains, What about God?"
Parents and children fill a church in Canton, Ohio, to hear Ken Ham--but only after a guitar player leads them in song. "I don't believe in evolution, I know creation's true," they sing, clapping their hands. "Today," the narrator says, "biblical literalism has no more forceful an advocate than Ken Ham." Millions of listeners, we are told, heed "his message that we need to look no further than the Bible to find the truth about who we are." Ham tells his audience: "I believe God created in six literal days, and I believe it's important."
This scene makes an interesting contrast with the scene in Episode One showing Kenneth Miller in a Roman Catholic church. Evolution clearly approves of Miller's endorsement of Darwinism, and disapproves of Ham's rejection of it. This also leaves the impression that only fundamentalist Christians reject Darwinism. In fact, some of the strongest critics of Darwin's theory are scientists who happen to be non-fundamentalist Protestants, Catholics, or Jews (as well as agnostics).
We listen to Ham for a few more minutes before the narrator says: "Ken Ham is not the first defender of the faith who is challenging accepted views of science to justify a literal reading of Genesis. Back in 1925, William Jennings Bryan capped his long career as a crusader for Christian values by upholding the State of Tennessee's law banning the teaching of evolution at the famous Scopes monkey trial. Despite a scathing attack on his creationist views, Bryan prevailed."
But this portrayal of William Jennings Bryan is completely false. Bryan did not take biblical chronology literally; instead, he accepted the prevailing scientific view of the age of the Earth. This distortion of history is simply one more attempt to promote the same scientist-vs.-fundamentalist stereotype with which the Evolution series began.
The narrator says that anti-evolution efforts following the Scopes trial "had a chilling effect on the teaching of evolution and the publishers of science textbooks. For decades, Darwin seemed to be locked out of America's public schools. But then evolution received an unexpected boost from a very unlikely source--the Soviet Union." When the Soviets launched the first man-made satellite, Sputnik, in 1957, Americans were goaded into action. The narrator continues: "As long-neglected science programs were revived in America's classrooms, evolution was, too. Biblical literalists have been doing their best to discredit Darwin's theory ever since."
This takes the distortion of history one giant step further. It is blatantly false that U.S. science education was "neglected" after the Scopes trial because Darwinism was "locked out of America's public schools." During those supposedly benighted decades, American schools produced more Nobel Prize-winners than the rest of the world put together. And in physiology and medicine--the fields that should have been most stunted by a neglect of Darwinism--the U.S. produced fully twice as many Nobel laureates as all other countries combined.See. For more information about Ken Ham's views, go to:
How about the U.S. space program? Was it harmed by the supposed neglect of Darwinism in public schools? Contrary to what Evolution implies, the U.S. space program in 1957 was in good shape. The Soviet Union won the race to launch the first satellite because it had made that one of its highest national priorities. The U.S. on the other hand, had other priorities--such as caring for its citizens and rebuilding a war-torn world. When Sputnik prodded Americans to put more emphasis on space exploration, the U.S. quickly surpassed the Soviet Union and landed men on the Moon. The necessary resources and personnel were already in place; the U.S. didn't have to wait for a new generation of rocket scientists trained in evolution.
The history of 20th-century American science and technology is one of the greatest success stories of all time. Evolution's claim that American science education was "neglected" because of the Scopes trial is completely unjustified. In fact, the claim is so preposterous that it raises serious questions about the integrity of the entire series.
Re-enter Ken Ham, who tells his audience that the biblical flood really happened, and that the fossils we now see were creatures who drowned in the flood and were then buried in rock layers all over the Earth. The scene ends with another rousing song.B. Controversy at Wheaton College
We drive through a narrow crevice in a mountain as the narrator says: "If you'd been told all your life that the billions of dead things in the Earth got there because of a worldwide flood, the evidence for an ancient Earth comes as a shock."
The driver of a van full of students says: "So we do see evidence of change. But how that change has occurred--whether it has occurred through some sort of a (as Darwin would have said)--some sort of a natural selection, or if it's taken place through some sort of a design--if God has been directly involved in what we see as evolution--that's a bigger question. I think it's a more troubling question for an awful lot of Christians, as well."
The students watch a fossil being excavated as a guide explains that it's about 33 million years old. "At the Wheaton College science station in the Black Hills of South Dakota," the narrator continues, "the shock of the new has started more than one student on his or her way to an understanding of evolutionary history."
Nathan, a geology student, explains how he has struggled to reconcile his belief in the Bible with the scientific evidence: "That's a struggle I've gone through this year. Where is God?" According to the narrator, we are in the eye of a storm: "Wheaton, one of the top fifty schools in America, is committed to exposing its students to the discoveries of science. But as a Christian college, it is also committed to preserving their faith in the God of the Bible."
Nathan describes how as a child he had been indoctrinated in a literal interpretation of Genesis and taught that evolution is evil. We hear from his mother; we attend his local church; and we join his family for a barbecue, where he and his father discuss evolution and the Bible. The son believes Darwinian evolution is true, but his father disagrees.
Back on the Wheaton campus, the narrator continues: "Some of the most troubling questions come, not from science, but from the Bible itself." We meet Emmy, a student of veterinary medicine, who is wrestling with the origin of sin, and the fact that family trees in the Bible all go back to Adam. A group of students sits around a table, trying to reconcile evolution with Christian beliefs about Adam and Eve. The narrator tells us that Wheaton students are free to do this, "but for the professors, open debate on this subject is impossible, thanks to the controversy stirred up by one man's remarks almost forty years ago."
At a Wheaton symposium in 1961, Iowa State University biochemist Walter Hearn said that the same chemical processes that bring each of us into existence today could have produced Adam and Eve. A conservative Christian newspaper spread the word that Wheaton had swallowed evolution wholesale. This was not true, since Hearn had been only one speaker on a diverse panel addressing all aspects of the evolution-creation controversy, but concerned parents and alumni flooded the campus with letters of protest. Wheaton reacted by requiring every faculty member to sign a statement of faith (still in effect today), affirming that all mankind is descended from Adam and Eve, who were created by God.
"Forty years after Walter Hearn shook the campus with his shocking remarks," continues the narrator, "Wheaton is ready to try again." We see Kansas State University geologist Keith B. Miller lecturing to Wheaton students about evolution. Miller explains that he wants to present himself "as a strong advocate for the teaching of evolution and for the centrality of evolution as a unifying scientific theory, and at the same time make very clear my evangelical Christian position."
According to the narrator, "Keith Miller's message to these Christian students is that all the evidence, from the ancient fossil record to the latest DNA analysis, compels us to accept the evolutionary theory in full. But for some Wheaton students, the implications of our descent from a common ancestor are still troubling." A student asks Miller how he reconciles evolution with the biblical teaching that we are made in the image of God. He responds: "I personally do not believe that the image of God is connected to our physical appearance, or our origin, as far as how we were brought into being."
Afterwards, Emmy praises Miller for having the courage to discuss his evolutionary beliefs openly. But not everyone on campus is comfortable with Darwin's theory. Peter, an anthropology student, says simply that if he had to choose, he would choose young-earth creationism "just because that's what I grew up with, that's what I'm comfortable with." Beth, a pre-med student, complains of feeling threatened by people who think a "six-day creation is the only way to go." But she still wonders "how God works in us. Where is God's place, if everything does have a natural cause?" Emmy says that she came to Wheaton to "be in a Christian environment where I could think ."
These are poignant scenes. Children raised in homes where they were taught a literal interpretation of Genesis go off to college, where they are confronted with evidence for an old earth and Darwin's theory of evolution. The ensuing conflicts are very real.
Yet again, however, Evolution reinforces the scientist-vs.-fundamentalist stereotype by emphasizing the conflict over biblical literalism, and by leaving us with the impression that once students begin to think they invariably embrace Darwinism. In reality, the conflicts we have witnessed here are only a small part of a much bigger picture. We got a glimpse of the bigger picture from the van driver, who said it has to do with design .
From the time of Darwin, the most significant religious objection to his theory focused not on the age of the earth or a literal reading of the Bible, but on his claim that living things are undesigned results of an undirected natural process. It is Darwin's rejection of design and direction--not his challenge to biblical literalism--which has provoked the most controversy among religious believers. By systematically ignoring the bigger picture, Evolution distorts the issues and misleads its viewers. We will return to this below.C. Controversy in a Public High School
As we leave Wheaton, the narrator notes that the faith of some of its students is no longer defined by biblical literalism. "But for Ken Ham," the narrator says, "the frequently repeated fundamentalist expression still holds true: `God said it; I believe it; that settles it.'" We see Ham conferring in front of a display of toy animals boarding Noah's ark. "Ham and millions of other conservative Christians," the narrator continues, "are convinced that it is the biblical story, not the evolutionary story, that America's children need to hear--not just in Sunday school, but in every school."
According to Ham, "we are concerned about what's happening in high schools. We're concerned about what's happening in the culture. We're concerned that whole generations of children are coming through an educational system basically devoid of the knowledge of God." The scene shifts to a high school corridor crowded with students. Ham continues: "Ultimately, if you're just a mixture of chemicals, what is life all about? Why this sense of hopelessness, this sense of purposelessness? And the reason is because they're given no purpose and meaning in life."
A science teacher gives her students instructions about a computer tutorial. The narrator tells us that this teacher at Jefferson High School in Lafayette, Indiana, is both a scientist and a Christian. She is also "one of thousands of high school science teachers across the country caught in the ongoing struggle between biblical literalism and evolution. The stakes are high--for teachers and students alike." The teacher explains that as a child she accepted the Bible as the word of God, but as a teenager she found that it conflicted with what she was learning about science. She knew that some of her students were now facing the same conflict, but she was taken aback when over half of the school's students--and 35 members of the faculty--signed a petition demanding the inclusion of "special creation" in the science curriculum.
Her fellow science teacher says he thought the students understood the difference between science and non-science, "and it's fairly obvious to me that if they did at one time, they don't right now." A student then says that her teachers claim not to be accepting or rejecting the existence of God, but when they treat evolution as "the only way" they are indirectly denying God's existence.
A group of students discusses the problem, then the teacher says: "I don't know if this is an isolated incidence of kids just becoming passionate about the situation, or if this is actually the new creationist game-plan: If you can't attack evolution in the Supreme Court, then maybe you can go around and pull one evolution weed at a time to get rid of it. That's what I'm afraid of."
We move to the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) in Oakland, California, an organization that describes itself as "working to defend the teaching of evolution against sectarian attack." According to NCSE's Executive Director Eugenie C. Scott: "People actually don't understand the issues. People are being told, first, you have to choose between faith and science, you have to choose between especially Christianity and evolution. They're being told, Well it's only fair to give both points of view. It's only fair to teach evolution and balance it with creation science or intelligent design theory, or something like that."
Intelligent design theory? Although Evolution does its best to portray all critics of Darwin's theory as young-earth biblical literalists--"creation-science" advocates--intelligent design theory is quite different from biblical literalism. Intelligent design theory is based on the hypothesis that some features of living things may be designed. Whether or not a particular feature is designed must be determined on the basis of biological evidence. But the theory says nothing about the Bible. Instead, it includes a critique of the reigning Darwinism--a scientific critique the NCSE does not want students to hear.
Of course, if something is designed it must have a designer. In this sense, intelligent design theory opens the door to the religious realm--a door that Darwinism tries to keep tightly closed. But intelligent design theory by itself makes no claims about the nature of the designer, and scientists currently working within an intelligent design framework include Protestants, Catholics, Jews, agnostics, and others.
Since courts have ruled that creation science cannot be taught in public school science classes, Eugenie Scott and the NCSE lump intelligent design theory with creation science in order to keep it out of science classrooms where it might otherwise be included in discussions of Darwinian evolution. But the differences between intelligent design and creation science are public knowledge; both The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times reported on them in 2001. Although Evolution claims to be committed to "solid science journalism," it completely ignores these reports. When the Evolution series was being made, the producers invited some intelligent design theorists to be interviewed for this last episode. When it became clear that their views would be stereotyped as a form of religious fundamentalism, however, the intelligent design theorists refused to take part.See. For more information about the NCSE, go to:
Scott continues: "Evolution--or science in general--can't say anything about whether God did or did not have anything to do with it. All evolution as a science can tell us is what happens. Can't tell us whodunit. And as [for] what happened, the evidence is extremely strong that the galaxies evolved, the planets evolved, the sun evolved, and living things on Earth shared common ancestors."
But this last statement mixes apples and oranges. To say that galaxies, planets and the sun evolved is merely to say that they changed over time. To say that all living things evolved from common ancestors makes a much more specific claim. The evidence for the former may be "extremely strong," but where is the evidence for the latter? Despite Evolution's promise to show us the "underlying evidence" for evolutionary theory, it has presented almost no evidence for the common ancestry claim. One key piece of evidence--the supposed universality of the genetic code--even turned out to be false.
Furthermore, if this series is any indication, evolution has a lot to say about "whether God did or did not have anything to do with it." In Episode One, Stephen Jay Gould pooh-poohed the idea that "God had several independent lineages and they were all moving in certain pre-ordained directions which pleased His sense of how a uniform and harmonious world ought to be put together." In the same episode, Kenneth Miller argued that the vertebrate eye was not designed by God, but produced by evolution. And in Episode Five, Geoffrey Miller assured us that "it wasn't God, it was our ancestors" that produced the modern human brain by "choosing their sexual partners."
The camera focuses on colored pins stuck into a large wall map of the United States. "Calls come in from across America," says the narrator, "from teachers who continue to be accused of locking God out of their classrooms." Among the teachers who contact the NCSE are the ones in Lafayette, Indiana.D. The Lafayette School Board
Jefferson High School students carry their petition to the Lafayette School Board, which listens politely to their statements. One student emphasizes that "those of us supporting this petition do not advocate the banning of teaching of the theory of evolution; however, we believe that the theory of evolution should be taught alongside the alternative theory of special creation. Let us be taught the facts, so that we can decide on our own."
According to the narrator: "For these students, the argument isn't about science versus the Bible; it's about which views of science will be taught. It is a tactic pioneered in 1961, when a revolutionary book by Henry Morris and John Whitcomb used carefully selected scientific evidence to support the creationist cause." Scott adds: "The Genesis Flood is the foundational document for creation science. Everything else has been built upon this book."
The narrator describes a 1981 Louisiana law requiring that creation science be taught alongside evolution science, and how the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the law in 1987 on the grounds that it "violated the First Amendment separation of church and state"--though the Supreme Court also ruled that "alternatives to evolutionary theory can be taught if they have a scientific basis."
"Of course teachers have a right to teach any and all scientific views about the origin of humans or any other scientific theory," Scott says, emphasizing the word "scientific." But "one reason why the creationists have worked so hard to try to present their ideas as being scientific is so they can duck under the First Amendment."
So Scott is opposed to presenting views in science classrooms that are not scientific. As we saw in Episode Five, however, even many evolutionary biologists consider evolutionary psychology to be unscientific. And as we saw in Episode Six, even many evolutionary biologists consider memetic evolution to be unscientific. Why doesn't Scott oppose the teaching of these views? Why does she support using this series, for example, as a teaching instrument in public schools?
We return to Lafayette, Indiana. The students want to learn the facts so they can decide for themselves. One of the science teachers feels the students don't understand the nature of science, because "creation and any Supreme Being can't be addressed in a science classroom." Another science teacher says: "In science, ideas are supported by evidence, and that evidence has to be peer-reviewed, and it has to be repeatable, and it has to be testable. And creationism is not that." The first teacher lays the blame partly on the students' parents, who (she says) don't want them even to hear about evolution.
The Lafayette School Board hears the students out, but decides to deny their petition on the grounds that biological science is clearly defined, and special creation does not fall within that definition. "The decision preserved the integrity of Jefferson High's science curriculum," the narrator says, "but the teachers know this is not the end of the debate."
The teacher we first met at Jefferson High remarks: "I have yet to hear of a case where they've given equal time in a science classroom; however, I have heard of cases where they've removed evolution from the curriculum. And I don't think the three of us would have continued teaching here had that been the case. I can't speak for them, but I really don't think as an educator I could teach biology and do it well, if I couldn't talk about the natural processes that make it work. To take that element out would be removing one of the--well the major pillar that supports that whole field of science."
But the students petitioned their school board to include "the facts, so that we can decide on our own." They specifically said they did not want evolution taken out. Why, then, does this scene conclude with a teacher expressing concern over the danger of removing evolution from the curriculum? That happened in Tennessee in 1925. The Scopes trial and Walter Hearn's experience show us that Christians have sometimes censored evolution. What just happened in Lafayette, however, was the exact opposite: Darwinian evolution was granted exclusive dominion over the science classroom, and all discussions of special creation--including any facts that might support it--were banned.
Whatever one may think of special creation, there is no doubt that Evolution is spinning this story to make the victim look like the bad guy. In Lafayette, special creation was the censored, not the censor. And the censorship continues: On August 14, 2001, the Lafayette Journal and Courier reported that a Jefferson High School science teacher had been officially reprimanded by the district superintendent just for mentioning creation in his classroom.
Darwinian censorship is frequently used not only to ban discussions of creation, but also to block all criticism of Darwin's theory. In 2000 and 2001 Roger DeHart, a high school biology teacher in Burlington, Washington, was prohibited by his superintendent from giving students an article by evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould, which pointed out that some of the evidence for evolution in their textbook had been faked! And when William Dembski, director of a research institute at Baylor University in Texas, organized an international conference in 2000 that brought together critics as well as defenders of Darwin's theory, he encountered a storm of opposition and was eventually removed from his position.
By including the Lafayette School Board story with its misleading spin, Evolution may be trying to influence the political decisions of local school boards. In an internal memo dated June 15, 2001, Evolution's producers announced their plan to "co-opt existing local dialogue about teaching evolution in schools." The "goal of Evolution," they wrote, is to "promote participation," and one way to do that is "getting involved in local school boards." It seems that this story about the Lafayette School Board is part of a strategy to use public television to influence elected officials.See. For more information on the censorship of Roger DeHart, go to:E. This View of Life
We return to Wheaton. A college spokesman says: "Are we placing students' faith at risk by examining these hard questions? Absolutely. But I would add, additionally, that there is no such thing as a safe place from which to hide from these issues. If we engage in the most rigid biblical literalism, the fact that our students live in a real world indicates that their faith is always at risk. Christians believe that our faith is rooted in real happenings in a real world, and so to try and structure a place or a way of conceptualizing our faith that insulates us and isolates us from risk is to rob Christianity of its very essence."
Emmy, the veterinary medicine student, says she doesn't want to come across as a religious fanatic. "I want to be educated, I want to be intelligent, I want to have answers." Beth, the pre-med student, says: "Because we look for natural causes in things doesn't mean we think that that's all there is. It doesn't mean that we're throwing out the meaning of life. We're just studying what God has made, however He made it." And now that Nathan has accepted evolutionary theory, he finds that he has the "freedom to say, `Wow, God is bigger than the box that I may have put Him in.'"
Except for Peter, the anthropology student who remains a biblical literalist mainly because he grew up with it, all the Wheaton students we have met think that biblical literalism is for the ignorant and narrow-minded, while evolution is for the educated and broad-minded. Presumably, we are expected to conclude that skepticism about evolution naturally disappears as people grow up and get educated. One would never guess that a growing number of highly educated scientists--as we saw above--are becoming increasingly skeptical of evolutionary theory. "Keith Miller's message to these Christian students," we are told, "is that all the evidence, from the ancient fossil record to the latest DNA analysis, compels us to accept the evolutionary theory in full." That's a very strong claim--a claim that many scientists would question. Are we supposed to believe that the only people at Wheaton who had a problem with it were the biblical literalists?
Actually, biblical literalists are not the only people who disbelieve in Darwinian evolution. Over the past decades, Gallup polls have consistently shown that roughly 45% of the American people believe that God created the world in its present form only a few thousand years ago. These are the biblical literalists that this series portrays as the only critics of Darwinian evolution. Another 45% or so believe that things have changed over a long period of time, but that God guided the process. This might be called "evolution" in the broad sense of "change over time," but it is certainly not Darwinian evolution. Only about 10% of Americans subscribe to Darwin's theory that all living things--including us--are undesigned results of undirected natural processes. So Darwinian evolution is actually embraced by only a small minority of the American people.
Why didn't Evolution interview Huston Smith, who is probably the most highly regarded living authority on the world's religions? According to Smith, Darwinism has been a major factor in "the modern loss of faith in transcendence, basic to the traditional/religious worldview." Nothing here about biblical literalism--or even Christianity. Smith is talking about all of the world's major religions. Like Daniel Dennett, Huston Smith sees Darwinism as corrosive to the faith in transcendence that lies at the root of all religion. But while Dennett considers Darwinism to be true, Smith is a vocal critic of it. Among other things, Smith maintains that Darwinism is "supported more by atheistic philosophical assumptions than by scientific evidence."See. The quotations from Huston Smith are from "Huston Smith Replies to Barbour, Goodenough, and Peterson," Zygon 36, No. 2 (June, 2001), 223-231. See also Huston Smith, Why Religion Matters: The Fate of the Human Spirit in an Age of Disbelief (New York: Harper Collins, 2001). Huston Smith is the author of The World's Religions (New York: Harper, 1992).
So out of the vast spectrum of the world's religious beliefs, Evolution gives voice only to biblical literalists--whom it dismisses as uneducated and doctrinaire--and to the small minority of Christians who subscribe to Darwin's theory. The series completely ignores the hundreds of millions of other Christians--not to mention Muslims, Hindus, and orthodox Jews--who reject the Darwinian doctrine that all living things--including us--are undesigned results of undirected natural processes. We have seen how shallow and lopsided Evolution can be in its presentation of controversies among evolutionary biologists. But its presentation of the evolution-creation controversy is even worse.
As the sun sets over the Pacific, the narrator brings the eight-hour series to a fitting close, quoting from the conclusion of Darwin's The Origin of Species: "There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one;. from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful. have been, and are being, evolved."
Evolution began with the Bible, and now it ends with the Creator. Despite the producers' assurance that they would avoid "the religious realm," Evolution has had a great deal to say about it. The first episode dealt with religion extensively, Episodes Two and Six touched on it briefly, Episode Five mentioned it repeatedly, and this final episode was devoted to it entirely. Far from avoiding it, Evolution has spoken to the religious realm from start to finish.
And what did it say about religion? The message is unmistakable. As far as Evolution is concerned, it's OK for people to believe in God, as long as their beliefs don't conflict with Darwinian evolution. A religion that fully accepts Darwin's theory is good. All others are bad.Notes
The usual stereotype of the Scopes trial comes, not from the 1925 trial itself, but from the 1960 motion picture, "Inherit the Wind." The differences between the two are described in Edward J. Larson's Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate over Science and Religion (New York: Basic Books, 1997).
The years during which Evolution claims U.S. public science education was "neglected" due to censorship of Darwinian evolution extended from 1925 (the year of the Scopes trial) to 1957 (the year of Sputnik). There would have been a slight delay in the effect of the Scopes trial on high school students--the first graduating class after the trial was Spring 1926, and the claimed effect would presumably have increased thereafter; so the thirty years from 1927 to 1957 are the crucial ones. A sampling of twentieth-century U.S. Nobel science laureates shows ages ranging from 30s to 70s, with an average age in the mid-50s. A 55-year-old would have gone through high school about four decades years earlier; so high school students from the period 1927-1957 would, on average, have won Nobel Prizes from 1967-1997.
Between 1967 and 1997, prizes were awarded as follows:
Note that in physiology and medicine, the fields (according to Evolution) most likely to be adversely affected by neglecting Darwin's theory, U.S. scientists won twice as many Nobel Prizes during this period as all other countries put together.
For stories about the controversy in Lafayette, Indiana, consult the local newspaper, the Journal-Courier (stories are archived for 14 days) at:
Some prominent intelligent design theorists are Baylor University mathematician William A. Dembski, author of The Design Inference (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998) and Intelligent Design (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999); Lehigh University biochemist Michael J. Behe, author of Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution (New York: The Free Press, 1996); and University of Otago molecular biologist Michael Denton, author of Evolution: A Theory in Crisis (Bethesda, MD: Adler & Adler, 1986) and Nature's Destiny: How the Laws of Biology Reveal Purpose in the Universe (New York: The Free Press, 1998). A good recent anthology of writings on intelligent design for lay people is William A. Dembski and James M. Kushiner (editors), Signs of Intelligence: Understanding Intelligent Design (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2001). For more information on intelligent design theory, go to:
Also see the following: Access Research Network, Frequently Asked Questions about Intelligent Design:
Mark Hartwig, "The World of Design," Teachers in Focus (September, 2000):
For a recent journalistic report on intelligent design theory, see Teresa Watanabe, "Enlisting Science to Find the Fingerprints of a Creator," The Los Angeles Times (March 25, 2001), 1. Watanabe wrote: "Unlike biblical literalists who believe God created the world in six days, most theorists of intelligent design are reputable university scholars who accept evolution to a point. But they question whether Darwinist mechanisms of random mutation and natural selection can fully account for life's astonishing complexity. Instead, using arguments ranging from biochemistry to probability theory, they posit that some sort of intelligence prompted the unfolding of life--say, by producing the information code in the DNA."
See also James Glanz, "Darwin vs. Design: Evolutionists' New Battle," The New York Times (April 8, 2001), 1. Glanz wrote: "Evolutionists find themselves arrayed not against traditional creationism, with its roots in biblical literalism, but against a more sophisticated idea: the intelligent design theory. Proponents of this theory, led by a group of academics and intellectuals and including some biblical creationists, accept that the earth is billions of years old, not the thousands of years suggested by a literal reading of the Bible. But they dispute the idea that natural selection, the force Darwin suggested drove evolution, is enough to explain the complexity of the earth's plants and animals. That complexity, they say, must be the work of an intelligent designer."
For more information on the Baylor controversy surrounding William Dembski, go to:
On June 15, 2001, the producers of Evolution distributed an internal memo to PBS affiliates entitled "The Evolution Controversy: Use It Or Lose It." Among other things, the memo listed under "Key Evolution Marketing" several Project Outreach goals, one of which was to "co-opt existing local dialogue about teaching evolution in schools." Under "Project Messaging," the memo listed "the six most important messages we can convey." One of these was: "The goal of Evolution is to create a dialogue and promote participation. Participation can occur in many ways: watching the TV series, logging on the Web site, helping with kids' science homework, getting involved in school board meetings, cleaning up your local environment, and countless other activities that further science literacy and our understanding of the natural world."