Responses To The St. Louis Post Dispatch Editorial on Evolution

Since the AAAS meetings were held in St. Louis, the St. Louis Post Dispatch covered some of it. In particular they did this story on Intelligent Design. The story has provoked some letters here several are in support of evolution – but most are pro-ID and spew the both are theories and evolution is unprovable line:

Knowledge is human awareness gained by experience, facts or intelligence about something, the sum of what is known at the time. From what did dinosaurs evolve? We don’t know and probably never will. So why all the fuss over one theory?

or this:

Instead, let’s compare scientific facts and admit that evolution and creationism are theories. Both are unproven and (currently) unprovable.

or this rather confused letter:

Scientists have yet to find absolute links between man and animal and can’t explain miracles or give a source for the material or energy in the Big Bang.
Teaching evolution and intelligent creation can and should co-exist; they are not mutually exclusive except in the eyes of fanatics. We should not confuse evolution with the origin of a species or deny subsequent evolution.
We shouldn’t let atheists deny to us our right to believe in and teach about God.


On the other hand there were a few good letters:

I would like the intelligent design people to come up with a testable theory — something we can look at and physically prove or disprove. But that is where the problem is: None of the ideas behind intelligent design is testable. There is no way to prove the theory valid unless you believe in God. That implies faith, which has no place in science. You cannot test faith. You either believe or you don’t. That’s not science.

Then there is the flat out weird:

When I was growing up, the theory of evolution was taught without incident. Knowledge of the theory was good to know but really not essential to learning science. I took college biology, botany, anatomy, microbiology, physiology, pharmacology, etc., and was rarely questioned about Darwinism and evolution. The higher you go, the less important it is.

What interested me was how little science the people advocating ID knew. The statements above about not knowing how dinosaurs evolved or not finding a “links” between man and animal or the one about not confusing evolution with the origin of species and denying subsequent evolution…I’ve always thought that opponents of evolution base their views on a kind of “Pop evolution” formed of equal parts of ignorance and imaginative recreation of what they think evolution means, rather than any first hand knowledge. I have also had a divided opionion of the whole idea of popularizing science (said the ScienceBlogger) because it seems, to me, to feed into that kind of thing – especially when done wrong.
On the other hand if I didn’t “popularize” science I wouldn’t have anything to write about…

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5 Responses

  1. I don’t understand what the problem is with “popularizing” science … if it is done well, of course. Why shouldn’t it be popular? Why shouldn’t it be accessible to the general population? Isn’t the problem that many people avoid science because they think it’s too hard, or boring, or [insert negative attribute here]?
    I’m not suggesting that anyone walking down the street can suddenly become an expert in cell biology, but maybe they can get beyond “I don’t know what I don’t know, and I don’t care.” Maybe they can become interested enough to ask questions … instead of falling for snake oil salesmen.
    I hope to get our local zoo to do a program next year on evolution … something like “everything you should know about evolution but didn’t know to ask.” The goal would not be to equip people with all the answers but to get them to ask the right questions when the state science education standards come up for review in a few years and the IDers start their misinformation campaign.

  2. Nothing really. I think it gives some people a false sense of knowledge, but I also think it does a lot of good, hopefully people who are genuinely committed to learning get something from it – including the knowledge that it’s not as intimidating as it is often made out. Good luck on the Zoo thing!

  3. Much of my understanding of evolution came from my education as a zoo docent. I’m one of those people who avoided science in school. Now look at me … haunting scienceblogs. (I also like to read up on paleoantrhopology.)

  4. I’m curious, have you listened to “Quirks and Quarks” on the CBC Radio? They have a podcast of the weekly program at http://www.cbc.ca/quirks and it seems a really good way of popularizing science.
    I wonder, perhaps the problem is not so much popularizing science as it is popularizing science-fiction. A lot of entertainment uses frontier science as a way of getting people interested in fictional situations, without paying much attention to the real science behind them. The knowledge of the actual terms is about as deep as a story on the evening news, and is intended to be a plot point, or a cool way of showing the moster of the week, rather than a teaching device.
    Monster movies might talk about “evolution” but the actual science behind it is on the same level as “Pokemon”: misinterpretations, fabrications and outright falsehoods under the name of “science”.

  5. Yeah, I avoided math (well, after trig anyway – I’m currently working my way through a calculus textbook). If you scroll down almost to the bottom I have some links to the web pages of some anthropologists – where you will find a bunch of dowloadable .PDF’s. Should keep you busy reading on Paleoanthro for quite a while…

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