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Oh my. Must be a trial.

Poor, poor science teacher. He has to work just so hard to get his uneducated, narrow-minded pupils to accept the fact of evolution and its undeniable proofs.

All right, enough with the sarcasm. My issue (today) with the NYT is its perpetuation of evolution-as-biology when it really is basically some sort of hypothetical branch of science based on the theories of some few scientists from the mid-1800s (which even their proponents would now hardly affirm).

This article betrays a couple misunderstandings which I had hoped could not have reached such "educated" folks as those who dwell in the heart of NYC.

Misunderstanding number one is the idea that evolution and natural selection are one and the same. Natural selection, properly understood, is also known as "survival of the fittest": traits that are already present are naturally weeded out according to how well or how badly they help the possessing species live long and propagate (prosper, if you will). Notice that it's a subtraction equation, and you end up with fewer traits than you started with. It can be described as the force behind extinction. But it can only operate within the confines of existing traits; that is the principle behind subtraction. You can't take three from two, and neither can you finish a subtraction equation with more than what you started with. (Using only zero and the positive numbers, that is--for all you incorrigible math perfectionists.) Evolution, though supposed to have operated mainly by natural selection, is much, much bigger than that--the analogy might look like this....
natural selection : evolution :: an engine : a car

Misunderstanding number two is the idea that evolution is really true science. I quote the article itself to describe science:

“Science explores nature by testing and gathering data,” he [Mr. Campbell] said. “It can’t tell you what’s right and wrong. It doesn’t address ethics.... Can anybody think of a question science can’t answer?”

“Is there a God?” shot back a boy near the window.

“Good,” said Mr. Campbell, an Anglican who attends church most Sundays. “Can’t test it. Can’t prove it, can’t disprove it. It’s not a question for science.”

I repeat, "can't test it"... and just what, exactly, is testable about evolution? What part of the hypothesis--that some primordial mix somehow gave rise to life, or that ancient reptiles gained the DNA (from who knows where) to develop previously-lacking feathers--can be repeated, observed, or even simulated within the four walls of a laboratory? It's a story about what might have happened a billion years ago (literally)! Science has nothing to do with the past. It's all in the present; that's probably its main limitation. Try scientifically proving who won Waterloo. No set of chemical equations will ever give you the answer; only a historian can.

And, as if to give me extra fodder for a rant... "To simulate natural selection, they [the students] pretended to be birds picking light-colored moths off tree bark newly darkened by soot." This is an obvious allusion to the peppered-moth study.... but of course peppered moths are nocturnal. Their color doesn't make near as much difference as one is led to think.

And I can't believe this teacher spent "weeks" (yes, weeks) on evolution. It's hardly “the organizing principle of life science," much as the Florida DOE would have you believe. However, since (according to the NYT) evolution is "the only accepted scientific explanation for the great variety of life on Earth...." (You see now why so many complain of media bias?) Whatever happened to learning about the incredible variety itself? Binomial nomenclature, anyone? Surely you can find enough in the five kingdoms to fill a year without resorting to weeks of hotly-proclaimed hypotheses.

Eh, I'll stop now. Someday when I get to be a real reporter..... but I'm working on it!

P.S. I give extra credit for those who can identify one historical allusion and two cultural allusions in my post today! I sincerely doubt that anyone besides my mom will be successful.

Comments

d_b said…
Wait, wait, wait...are you saying that I'm NOT descended from a monkey?! Oh dear...someone needs to learn you yer sciences...otherwise you might pollute the minds of our young children with the truth...I mean, with tales of how there's a God who is obviously shown through nature, but we can't prove is there! And...um...er...uh...yeah...so, uh, stop this nonsense now, before I sic my highly evolved amoebas (otherwise known as ninja monkeys) on you!

Oh, and good post... :P
RS said…
Lol, ninja monkeys!! Thanks. (Back to the ninja monkeys... you know, Paris gangs used attack monkeys a few years back.)

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