The importance of education

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Every now and then, I find myself so frustrated with the whole anti-evolution situation that I am tempted to simply wash my hands of the whole affair and walk away. After all, in the grand scheme of things, why does it really matter what kids get taught about biology. Most of them are never going to use the information when they grow up, and any creationism-induced knowledge deficits can be rectified later on in the education of those who are going to go on in fields related to the biological sciences. OK, so it’s nice to teach things that aren’t massively wrong, and all that, but is it really so important as to justify all this fuss?

Last week, I got a lesson on just exactly why all this really is so important.

Early last week, my advisor and I took some coral skeletons, a projector, a couple of PowerPoint presentations, and a couple of minutes of some cool video, and went to visit my daughter’s second grade class. After all of the time that we have spent exposed to students at the university level, what we found there came as a complete shock. These elementary school kids were actually enthusiastic and eager to learn. They were attentive, and they even asked creative, thoughtful questions.

Over the course of what was scheduled as a 30 minute presentation, and which actually lasted more like an hour, we were asked things that most of the undergrads taking intro classes don’t think to. For example, after we discussed the symbiosis between coral and the photosynthetic algae known as zooxanthellae, we were asked, “what happens if the little plants don’t want to live in the coral?” When we used the sea anemones from Finding Nemo as a basis for our description of a coral polyp, we were asked if they are so similar because they are related. Then we were asked if related meant “like family, or just kinda like each other?” The curiosity that these kids displayed was nothing short of amazing, and it reminded me of just how much of an intellectual crime we are committing if we do not reward curiosity with honest answers.

If we evade children’s questions because the answers aren’t easy to give, or because we are worried about how other adults might react to our answers, we are sending the wrong message. We are saying that our comfort level is more important than their need for an honest answer. If we avoid answering them because we are afraid of how the answer will affect their beliefs about other things, we are telling them that reality is relative. If we fail to answer their questions because we are afraid of how it will impact their understanding of other things, then we say, as Jack Nicholson so memorably put it, “You can’t handle the truth!”

None of those things is a good message to give to our children, and all of them are messages that are contained in the efforts of anti-evolutionists to dilute and distort the way we teach children about the world that they live in. But that isn’t the only reason that I drew from the second-graders. This week, we got thank you notes, and I got another reminder. Actually, I got several dozen more.

J.K Wrote:

I learned that the fire coral has something inside and when you touch it it sting. [u]Question:[/u] Where does the fire coral live and does it stay in the sunlight zone or twylight zone or darkness zone.

That note concluded with a request that we answer the question on the back and return it. (We did answer, but by email. For the record, although the fire corals are more closely related to jellyfish than to stony corals, they do normally contain zooxanthellae. This restricts them to the “sunlight zone”.) A couple of other students also thought of questions that they had forgotten to ask earlier, and it wouldn’t surprise me if we get another round of questions by email. Curiosity doesn’t always stop when the presentation does.

N.P. Wrote:

When I grow up, I want to have a job just like you.

I.B. Wrote:

I would like to know all about coral reefs and all the coral names. Maby I will do what you do at the place you work at.

Those two quotes give another reason that this is important. Children start to think about what they want to be when they grow up, and sometimes those early ideas actually result in later careers. (Of course, sometimes they don’t. I wanted to be a farmer when I was in second grade.) Interests are developed during childhood that can last a lifetime. When we show children just how awesome the world around them really is, and how much fun it can be to try and learn more about it, we might just be helping to develop the next generation of great scientists.

I guess that’s really the biggest reminder that I got from the second graders: Children matter. The students that we educate today are going to be the teachers and scientists of the future. They deserve nothing less from us than the best education that we can give them - and that means that we should encourage their curiosity, and provide honest answers to their questions. What they do not deserve is to have their education used as some sort of tool to gain leverage in a perceived “culture war”.

2 TrackBacks

The Panda's Thumb had an excellent call to arms on why accurate science teaching matters:If we evade children’s questions because the answers aren’t easy to give, or because we are worried about how other adults might react to our answers, Read More

Another web site I've been following for the last few months is The Panda's Thumb. It's a good way to keep on top of the antievolution "intelligent design" movement: what they're doing, the arguments they raise, and how those arguments trounced by good... Read More

205 Comments

Mike, You said, “What they do not deserve is to have their education used as some sort of tool to gain leverage in a perceived “culture war”.” I hope that you truly mean this. Wouldn’t it be great if all educators stopped indoctrinating and began teaching? A true teacher is not afraid to allow a student to explore all ideas and possiblities. A true teacher knows that education is not indoctrination, but rather it is equipping a child with the skills that enable that child to learn about the world around them. Skills, methods, abilities, formulas, and the wonder of learning and growing enable a child to enjoy their childhood and reach their potential. When I hear a small group of evolutionist talk about “our” text books, it frightens me.

Beautiful story, man. Hopefully the creationists and IDists will someday figure out that the reason evolution belongs in the textbooks is precisely because through it, people of all religions and none can come together and agree on the way the natural world works. Will evolution be replaced someday? Certainly. But it will be through extensive experimentation and not appeals to ignorance, and present a marvelous opportunity to explain to our kids exactly how science works.

Sorry, Messenger, but I remember all too well what Sunday school classes were like. Pure indoctrination. I’m still proud of having been thrown out of a Lutheran congregation for noticing some of the contradictions in scripture—I was about 12. There are certainly churches that don’t operate in so authoritarian a fashion, but the kind of Christians most upset about evolution are also the most determined to brainwash helpless children.

Sounds like a good time, Mike. I know in my case, my early exposure to scientific explanations immunized me from things like the ID creationism nonsense. When creationist types came along later, I already had an idea of the qualities good explanations had, and easily found creationism deficient.

Messenger,

I agree children should explore all ideas. Religions should be taught in comparative religion class and biology in biology class. Students decide for themselves what makes sense.

Messenger: you sound like a relativist, and an easily frightened one, at that.

Messenger:

I certainly believe that children should be provided with both the skills and the encouragement that is needed if they are going to examine and learn from the world around them. That is precisely why I am so strongly against the educational proposals being advanced by anti-evolutionists.

Messenger said:

When I hear a small group of evolutionist talk about “our” text books, it frightens me.

I’m more concerned – not yet frightened – by religious nuts who disown the textbooks. When I hear the Texas anti-knowledge groups disclaim the textbooks as theirs, I worry. It’s not “my” textbook. It’s ours. We ARE a community. The knowledge we should share is important to many policies. When we disavow responsibility for our own duties as citizens we do damage to the fabric of our society, damage to our duties to the nation and God, and especially if we fail to give our bright, wonderful children the best possible textbooks and the facts about science.

In Judaism, Christianity and Islam, civilization and salvation is marked by our beginning to keep records of laws and happenings. Gutting books for kids is, to me, among the greatest abominations it is possible to commit. Saying they are not “our” books is denying a duty we have to the future (and to God, for the faithful).

I hope Messenger will reconsider.

Its a lot easier to brainwash little kids isn’t it?

Shame on you.…

Shame on you DonkeyKong.

What is brainwashing kids? Telling them that there is a Santa Claus, an Easter Bunny, a tooth fairy, a god.…

Brainwashing is indoctrination into a belief system that is not provable. And there is no more proof about god than there is about the tooth fairy.

But science is provable, and evolution, as a science, is provable, and is what should be taught.

My mother has said to me that the biggest mistake she made when raising my brother and me was telling us about Santa Claus and that he was real, for once we discovered he was a fictional person (I hope I didn’t spoil it for the creationists out there) how could we believe in another person we were told was real, that being God. That makes sense. She said that god is the Santa Claus of adults, and is just as unprovable, but every bit as desirable to adults as the belief of Santa is to children. So how can children later learn to trust, when they are started out on lies, like Santa?

Thus telling children the truth always is better than selling them a fantasy. This is why telling them the truth about science should be done, and not selling them some fiction about creationism, either as YEC or its more modern, and more deceptive counterpart, ID.

Creationism and ID are the Santa Claus of science, let’s tell our children the truth, and that is the facts of evolution. Our children deserve that much.

Jim, Are you confusing public education, government supported schools that children attend on tax payer dollars, with privately funded Sunday Schools where the first amendment allows citizens to freely practice the religion of their choice, by choice? What are you saying?!? The bias and inflammatory language of many of you seems to go right over your own heads. Sometimes we become so against what we think is radical, we fail to see our own reflections in the mirror of our hatred. Children deserve much better than what they are getting. Early elementary school children need to learn to enjoy the wonder of world around them while being taught the skills to master reading and mathematics. Instead, they have become pawns in a political fight by those who want to shape their minds.

Yeah, Messenger, they’re becoming pawns. Why, they’re taught downright revolutioanry ideas like heliocentrism! When you understand why they teach heliocentrism without giving geocentrism equal time, you’ll understand why they teach evolution without giving creationism equal time.

Messenger said: A true teacher is not afraid to allow a student to explore all ideas and possiblities.…

Then I take it that you are opposed to “abstinence-only” sex-ed…

Jeff-perado suggest telling children the truth always is better than selling them a fantasy. My question to Jeff is this. Jeff, how will you recognize truth when you see it? How long did it take “Science” to recognize the truth of the “Piltdown Man”? The Peking man? How long did it take Boule and “Science” to get the teaching of Neandertals right? How long did it take to correct the misleading illustrations allowed in classroom textbooks that depicted apes beginning to walk upright? We need science taught and pure science will enable students to determine factual evidence around them. Students do not need commentators to interpret what they discover or what others have discovered. The Branches of Science The Physical Sciences Physics: The study of matter and energy and the interactions between them. Physicists study such subjects as gravity, light, and time. Chemistry: The science that deals with the composition, properties, reactions, and the structure of matter. Astronomy: The study of the universe beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. The Earth Sciences Geology: The science of the origin, history, and structure of the Earth, and the physical, chemical, and biological changes that it has experienced or is experiencing. Oceanography: The exploration and study of the ocean. Paleontology: The science of the forms of life that existed in prehistoric or geologic periods. Meterology: The science that deals with the atmosphere and its phenomena, such as weather and climate. The Life Sciences (Biology) Botany: The study of plants. Zoology: The science that covers animals and animal life. Genetics: The study of heredity. Medicine: The science of diagnosing, treating, and preventing illness, disease, and injury.

May I be so bold as to suggest that we educate our students and give them the skills and tools necessary to continue in a lifetime of learning. With these skills and tools, they will be free to determine for themselves how they perceive the origin of matter, life, and the species. Each student should be free to determine truth as he/she perceives and experiences it. The public school teacher does not have the right to indoctrinate students. It is time for parents to wake up and become involved. Children are too precious to be used and they deserve better.

The Messenger Wrote:

We need science taught and pure science will enable students to determine factual evidence around them. Students do not need commentators to interpret what they discover or what others have discovered.

It sounds here like you’re saying that science should be taught as a large lump of completely unrelated facts. This is, of course, a silly way to do things, since the whole point of scientific inquiry is to discover why things work the way they do. In other words, the “why” is important, just like the “what” - and we should give our students exposure to the best explanations for facts that we have, and the ability to see what needs to be done to make our explanations better.

Jeff, how will you recognize truth when you see it?

This is an interestingly subversive question. The answer is, we CAN NOT recognize truth when we see it. The best we can do is develop methods of investigation which, when properly applied, give us an approximate probability that our understandings are accurate. Combine these methods with the recognition that all truths are tentative and subject to modification as new evidence comes in, and we’re on the road to genuine knowledge.

The idea that grade school children can become sufficiently conversant with the literature, history, and tools of every scientific discipline so as to make informed decisions is like expecting these same children to learn to become competitive enough to reach the top professional level in EVERY SPORT AT ONCE. In grade school, remember. It’s a notion that doesn’t survive even cursory examination.

We are in fact attempting exactly what messenger recommends: to provide the tools and methods, the thought processes, required to learn. Messenger demands we do this, then calls it “indoctrination” when it happens. Instead, he wants parents to become involved. What would parents do differently? Presumably, they would fill their children with ‘truth’ enough to resist genuine facts and knowledge. Armed with these received ‘truths’, I guess the children would be proof against the indoctrination that actual learning threatens.

The story reminds me of my nephew, who actually started me on reading on evolution (again). There is nothing so challenging to ones knowledge as a 7-year old asking question after question and you know that he is not going to go away after the first dozen. I was browsing in a Reader’s Digest Book at my sisters’ when he strolled over and asked me about an illustration of evolution (you know, the kind of one-page with Sun/Earth/marine life/dinosaurs/mammals/man) and I had to try to explain. That was really difficult, because I knew little more than what I had been taught in school quite a while ago. I knew the theory to be correct because of its beauty, but at the end, I realized that I did not really, really know what the current state-of-the-art was, so I started reading on the topic. (And I wanted to make sure that I had told my nephew the truth - and not with a capital T). Actually, I was astonished and delighted about the vast amount of data gathered, the great science being done and the refined theories discussed. It is my favourite pasttime now.

BTW: Some years ago, I traveled some 8 hours by car in company of a adept on his way becoming a priest. We discussed creation at length and I still wonder if he stayed on his chosen path, because he changed the topic after I compared the glory of the interlocking puzzle of stars/earth/life spanning over aeons of time, connecting all creatures on earth and in the heavens to, well, POOF.

Flint, Your words indicate that you really do not understand much of what I said at all. Learning is a lifetime process and is by no means something that will enable grade children to become so “sufficiently converstant (did you mean conversant?)” as to be able to reach top professional level in every area at once. It is rather a continuing process that begins with skills taught at each level and the wonder of learning rewarded with interesting materials and ideas presented on the child’s level. Teachers do need to teach. There is a big difference in teaching and indoctrinating and most true teachers know the difference. Your deliberate twisting of my words may keep some people from understanding, but I do hope there are a few people who have enough discernment to realize what I am advocating.

I do believe that parents have a right and a need to be involved in their child’s education.

When you say, “We are in fact attempting exactly what messenger recommends:”, does this mean that you are an educator?

I do believe that parents have a right and a need to be involved in their child’s education.

To what degree do you think this involvement should extend? If parents believe some crank theory, say that the Moon landing was faked, should they have the right to pull their children out of classes that teach the mainstream view, in this example’s case that NASA really did put 12 men on the Moon?

Messenger;

You did not say if you support the teaching of “all ideas and possibilities” in the teaching of sex-ed. What is your position on abstinence-only sex-ed?

Messenger:

OK, you need to be a little bit clearer before I understand your intent. As far as I can tell, both the content and the goal of education currently is as close a match for the ideal you describe as we can approximate. I don’t see any problem with our current intent, although in some places the performance on the ground doesn’t live up to that intent.

But what current education has to do with “indoctrination” I can’t see. Teaching is what takes place in public schools. Indoctrination is what takes place in church and bible schools. The former is attempting to show children how to think and draw informed conclusions. The latter is intended to provide pre-packaged conclusions as ‘Truth’ to be memorized and taken on faith. And you are quite correct in saying that intelligent people have no problem telling the difference.

So what is your problem? We’re doing what you wish, as well as we can.

I do hope there are a few people who have enough discernment to realize what I am advocating.

No, I’m honestly not at all clear on what you’re advocating. It seems as if you’re writing in code. Let’s try to pin things down a little. (And, just for the record, I’m not trying to be hostile or contentious. I’m honestly curious. I like The Messenger. I think he(?) is at least a couple of standard deviations more honest than the average IDer)

A true teacher is not afraid to allow a student to explore all ideas and possiblities.

First, how would a teacher disallow a student to explore all possibilities? Are you suggesting the teacher should actually teach everything and anything that anyone considers science?

educate our students and give them the skills and tools necessary to continue in a lifetime of learning. With these skills and tools, they will be free to determine for themselves how they perceive the origin of matter, life, and the species.

Or are you suggesting we should teach no theories at all, just facts and formulas? Or that we should specifically not teach the theory of evolution?

A true teacher knows that education is not indoctrination… The public school teacher does not have the right to indoctrinate students.

This sounds like code. Should we consider standard biology (which is inextricable from evolution) “indoctrination”? Should we consider inclusion of religious ideas not indoctrination?

May I be so bold as to suggest that we educate our students and give them the skills and tools necessary to continue in a lifetime of learning. With these skills and tools, they will be free to determine for themselves how they perceive the origin of matter, life, and the species. Each student should be free to determine truth as he/she perceives and experiences it. The public school teacher does not have the right to indoctrinate students. It is time for parents to wake up and become involved. Children are too precious to be used and they deserve better.

Nothing is taught this way in schools. You don’t just teach the principles of a subject then let the children figure out the applications for themselves. One generation builds upon the knowledge and experience of those that have gone before, otherwise our society goes absolutely nowhere.

Imagine a children’s basketball team that is taught the principles of the game - the rules, the shots, the moves - and then are left to figure out for themselves the best way to play. Without a coach to pass on and apply his knowledge and experience of the game to the players, they’d be killed every time.

Imagine that we teach only the principles of history - the methods, the sources, etc. Every generation would be left to figure out our history from scratch. OK, so you might want to give them a set of history books with competing historical viewpoints and then tell them, “you decide”. But as soon as you distill that list of history books down to a manageable number, you are guilty of influencing the children towards a limited set of theories while “censoring” others. After all, who are we to say that the KKK’s version of American history is wrong?

As Jim Harrison pointed out, churches don’t teach Christianity to our children this way either. Imagine a Sunday School teacher inviting a Buddhist, a Muslim, a Wiccan, and an stheist to speak to their class as part of teaching comparative religion. Then the teacher could tell the kids - “well, now you have the basic facts about religion, you decide which is true.” The teacher’s feet wouldn’t touch the floor as he/she was thrown off the church premises.

So why are we expected to single out evolution to be taught in this manner when nothing else is?

The truth of the matter is that as soon we try and avoid teaching anything more than just the “skills and tools necessary” education becomes a huge free-for-all of competing theories and ideas. Children will be bombarded from all sides with the various interest groups selling their latest crackpot ideas all hoping that the kids will, using their “skills and tools”, decide their version of reality is true. Progress will grind to a screeching halt.

The scary thing about Mike Dunford’s original artcle is that I can imagine someone like Ken Ham writing the exact same piece apart from changing the creationism reference to evolution. That doesn’t mean I think the article is bad in any way, it’s just shows how important it is for our children to be taught the truth at that age, and how easy it is to manipulate kids into believing fiction.

(OK, so I can also imagine Messenger writing the same comment about Ken Ham’s version of the article :-)

Messenger.….answer the question on sex-ed please.

Its a lot easier to brainwash little kids isn’t it?

Shame on you . …

“Won’t somebody please think of the children?!”

Crawl back into your hole, and peddle your shameless, anti-intellectual pandering to the like-minded.

Its a lot easier to brainwash little kids isn’t it?

Shame on you . …

“Won’t somebody please think of the children?!”

Crawl back into your hole, and peddle your shameless, anti-intellectual pandering to the like-minded.

Flint: The answer is, we CAN NOT recognize truth when we see it.

That must be really sad walking around in the dark. Without any truth how can you trust anything? If you want to pass on how to be blind I think you need to stay away from any form of teaching.

Denis Diderot said,

Wandering in a vast forest at night, I have only a faint light to guide me. A stranger appears and says to me: “My friend, you should blow out your candle in order to find your way more clearly.” This stranger is a theologian.

The darkness of ignorance surrounds us all, Christian; pretending otherwise, like you seem to do, only leads to falling flat on our faces. Stop blowing on our candles, please.

The most valuable thing we could do in education would be to start right off by telling our children what we do NOT know anything about. For the biological sciences I would recommend the following be included in the list about which we know absolutely nothing for certain.

1. How the universe was created. 2. How life was created 3. How many times life was created. 4. How life evolved.

Concerning matters about which there is considerable doubt I would add the following.

1. Is evolution in progress today? 2. Can sexual forms evolve? 3. Is natural selection a creative force? 4. Did Mendelian allelic mutations ever have a role in creative evolution?

By presenting these questions right up front would greatly ameliorate the conflicts that we now see afflicting the teaching of evolution in public schools.

John A. Davison

Ron Zeno I can understand why you might think I am “trolling” but I am not. Admitedly my education on Evolution would classify me as ignorant. However I am trying to learn both sides of the argument. I have already admitted my knowledge of Evolution is negligble. But I ended up here from a desire to learn not “Troll” I have already ordered the book Biology by Campbell as recomended.

As a casual (ignorant) person I am tryig to look into a subject I know little about. If that offends you, then I am sorry but where does somebody start?

Most of my education (formal) has been in the realms of physics, specifically electronics, more specific Telecomms RF.

Outside this discipline I confess to only having read pop science “Hawkins..Brief History of Time” and “Bryson..short History of nearly everything”

Oh well, just trying to learn. If that offends you there is nothing I can do about it.

Ron Zeno, How am I “trolling?” I will admit to ignorance, Biology was not a subject that I took. I admit that I am undecided, doubt I will ever be decided. But an ID advocate anti-evolutionist I also am not.

I have already ordered the book by Campbell called Biology and intend to read it. Why do you automatically asume I am trolling? This whole thread started as a glory to curiosity and questions. Are you saying only questions that you like should be alowed?

I have probably spent more time TRYING to learn about evolution in the last few days than the rest of my life combined. Do you want to discourage that?

Stephen: No offense meant. Please read my comment again. I didn’t accuse you of trolling, only that I’m not sure.

As for “facts” and “prove”: These are commonly used words that are easily misapplied to similar concepts of science. The intelligent design creations are counting on your not understanding the difference. Ironically, these differences should (and usually are) taught in good science curricula.

I, and many others here at PT, are happy to help you learn. The link I gave should help. This is another: http://wilstar.com/theories.htm I can’t think of one off the top of my head that explains the difference between a proof and a scientific conclusion or theory. Anyone?

Re “I see how this suppressing of the gene that produced legs would produce a deformed fly, but I do not see how it changes a lizard to a bird.” I expect that evolution of a feathered bipedal dinosaur species into an earlier relative of archaeopteryx (which was just barely bird-like enough to call it a bird) would be rather more complicated than losing limbs from some tail segments.

Henry

Comment # 19992

Stephen Elliott Wrote:

Comment #19992 Posted by Stephen Elliott on March 14, 2005 06:36 AM Grey Wolf. As far as I know, Lions and Tigers can still cross breed. Read an article recently saying Male lion female Tiger breed Ligras. Aparently a Ligra is larger than Lions and Tigers.

This is about 95% correct. Most big cat hybrids are infertile if male, tho this is not 100%, and females are usually fertile. Name is formed by pulling the beginning of the father common name with the end of the mothers common name. I.e Liger and Tigons

Ligers are larger then the partents and Tigons are smaller. This is do to the mating stratergies of parents in normal situations First thing to understand is ovulation in big cats is not like primates. The actual act of intercoarse stimulates ovulation. Thus eggs drop not on a cycle but on the actual act. Lions are competative breeders. When a female is in heat multiple males will mate with the females. The male lions has genes to promote growth of their offspring. The female lion has genes to surpress the growth of the offspring balancing it out. Tigers are not competative breeders. A female tiger will mate with only one male. Neither the male of female have the genes to promote or surpress growth. When a male lion breeds with a female tiger the gene to promote growth is not counteracted by a gene to surpress growth. Thus the offspring, liger, grow much larger then both the parents. When a male tiger breeds with a female lion the mothers gene to surpresses the growth of the offspring and left unchecked. Thus the offspring, tigon, is much smaller then both the parents.

Look here for a pictures of a Liger

Ligers are very cool. Kind of like battlecat from heman :)

Dan S

Two things.

1) I admit that evolution/ID is the most plausible of the current theories up to a point. The fossil evidence is a believable although not certain record of previous ancestors. Your admission of this deserves my admission of this. But being the best in a field of 1 is far less a claim than evolution is proven, evolution has never been wrong etc etc. ID is basically evolutoin with a different religious conclusion and that is what upsets many evolutionists.

2) When faced with a computer scientist who disagrees with a million billion scientists all of whom have won nobel prizes I will always DECIDE for MYSELF. Science isn’t about democracy. The web site I linked to does a good job of showing the massive uphill battle that evolutoin has regarding the perplexing issue of how can so many mutations exist and yet we don’t see enough in real time. The specifics of his arguments may be flawed or they may be perfect but the big picture he points to is accepted by the mainstream. There really is an issue and evolution doesn’t have a ready answer.

There are several anti-Natural Selection mechanisms.

1) It is much much more likely that it is survival of the least fit that leads to strong evolution potential. Specifically being low on the food chain is a stronger position to survive global extinctions than being higher on the food chain. Since evolutoin is comming to the conclusion that extinctions may dominate this is important.

2) Mating acts against evolution because mates chose the strongest coice using very traditional criteria. Many species have a single breeding male in a pack which serves to eliminate diversity as the most traditionally equiped is the winner unless the mutation already has survival benifits or mating benifits. Now if you could prove that in nature the freaks breed with the freaks that would be different.

3) It is likely survial of the least fit in that the weakest are more likely to deviate from the central genetic position and thus are closer to the next species. Natural selection has a hard time justifying how the weakest are the strongest. The history of humans is the history of many million years of being the weakest and several almost extinctions. The problem is having the least able survivor survive to mate is unlikely in its own right and may even make gradual evolution less likley than spontenous evolution.

Thus the probability delima is very hard to escape in any scientific manner…

As for the origin of the universe, there are theories that it came from some process, cetatinly. But there are also theories that it literally didn’t have a cause. I’ll give you an example - think vacuum. In a complete vacuum, a particle of matter sometimes appears, together with its antiparticle, lives for a while, then quickly annihilates. Why did it appear? No reason, apart from the fact that the laws of nature allow for that. But we know that this effect is real because it has consequences we can measure.

Maybe you think that it’s really not possible to compare low-energy event like that with a creation of the high-energy universe - but it turns out that the energy of the universe is really not high at all - because the potential energy of gravity fields is negative, and it counterbalances the positive energy contained in matter and energy we came to think of as “the universe”.

Even with the processes that propose a creation of universe from something pre-existing, none of them requires guiding intelligence. My favorite idea is that the universes undergo a kind of natural selection for their ability to create black holes (which would be the means of their procreation) - an idea taken to extreme in Stephen Baxter’s sci-fi book “Time”.

And the simple truth is that I am not fond of the guiding intelligence. Why? Because if it exists, I won’t get an answer to a question I am interested in, which is - How did intelligence arise? If eternal, pre-existing intelligence is required for our small, inferior one, then intelligence too has no cause. (Except if there would be a God who is not intelligent - which is a funny possibility, because what use would intelligence be to someone who already knows the answer to every problem he might encounter?)

DonkeyKong Wrote:

1) It is much much more likely that it is survival of the least fit that leads to strong evolution potential. Specifically being low on the food chain is a stronger position to survive global extinctions than being higher on the food chain. Since evolutoin is comming to the conclusion that extinctions may dominate this is important.

I am not an expert, and I am not here to argue. I just have one question for you:

Do you, or do you not believe that evolutionary phrase “survival of the fittest” implies that the predator is “fitter” than its prey?

DonkeyKong Wrote:

1) It is much much more likely that it is survival of the least fit that leads to strong evolution potential. Specifically being low on the food chain is a stronger position to survive global extinctions than being higher on the food chain. Since evolutoin is comming to the conclusion that extinctions may dominate this is important.

I am not an expert, and I am not here to argue. I just have one question for you:

Do you, or do you not believe that evolution claims that the predator is “fitter” than its prey, or in general, that organisms higher on food chain are “fitter” than the organisms lower on food chain?

DonkeyKong persistently continues to lie when he says:

It is much much more likely that it is survival of the least fit that leads to strong evolution potential. Specifically being low on the food chain is a stronger position to survive global extinctions than being higher on the food chain. Since evolutoin is comming to the conclusion that extinctions may dominate this is important.

The very first time you posted in this website, that I know of, you used this very flawed argument. At that time, I showed you how it was wrong. You refused to even answer my criticism, much less try to explain your position. This marks you as a troll, and my opinion of you hasn’t improved.

But since I’m an optimist, I’ll tell you again: “evolution of the fittest” can only be applied to members of a same generation in a same species. It does not apply between species, particularly not between species at different height in the food chain. An argument could be made about competition between species competing for the same resources (food, for example), but certianly not between prey and hunter species.

If you continue to state things that have been debunked over and over long before I was even wrong, how can anything you say be believed? You wouldn’t be less wrong if you tried to tell us that evolution is wrong because the world is flat.

By the way, your writting is still a mess that takes me about twice as long to read as anyone else’s. I don’t buy your excuse of dyslexia - the errors you make are not classical of that of dyslexia. But even if it is, there are free spell checkers that you should use.

Hope that helps,

Grey Wolf, who *is* better at English than DK, which speaks louder than words about DK’s ability on his own language

“There is evidence that new “species” do arise if you qualify the term species. There are new species of fruit flies, rodents, and even birds. But when the original species is a fruit fly, the new species is still a fruit fly.”

Ephermera

“I don’t deny the light is fading,” said the mayfly presently, “But this talk of days and nights and days again cannot be right, I - “

Posted by Wayne Francis on March 15, 2005 12:14 AM

wooops http://www.users.bigpond.net.au/way[…]is/liger.jpghttp://www.users.bigpond.net.au/way[…]ligerkrf.JPGhttp://www.users.bigpond.net.au/way[…]gerstand.JPG

Nice pics Wayne. Can hardly believe the size of that cat.

Posted by Wayne Francis on March 15, 2005 12:14 AM

wooops http://www.users.bigpond.net.au/way[…]is/liger.jpghttp://www.users.bigpond.net.au/way[…]ligerkrf.JPGhttp://www.users.bigpond.net.au/way[…]gerstand.JPG

Wayne those pics are pretty good. That is 1 damn big cat. Do you know if they can breed? Or are they “mules?”

Ron:

In science, “fact” can only mean “confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.” I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms. –Stephen Jay Gould

DonkeyKong,

I’m sure you’re a nice person. But you are not qualified to write on this issue. You don’t understand the basic precepts of biology or evolution, and you don’t understand certain extremely fundamental tenets of scientific thinking and why they’re threatened by the “intelligent design” notion. You have to take some classes with a teacher who can explain these ideas to you before you’ll be able to offer intelligent criticism of them.

On biology: you confuse fitness with position on the food chain, as a number of people have already pointed out. A lion is not in and of itself “fitter” than a gazelle; a sharper-eyed, faster lion may be fitter than a shortsighted, slower lion. Competition, as the term is used in evolutionary theory, occurs not between predator and prey, but between individuals within a given species. A lion is not fit to do what a gazelle does, and a gazelle is not fit to do what a lion does.

There are a number of erroneous presumptions in your claims about genetics and evolution which I won’t go into.

More importantly, your line that “ID is basically evolution with a different conclusion” misses what’s so fundamentally wrong with ID’s pretensions to being a “scientific theory”. A central and fundamental precept of rational scientific thought since the 18th century is the refusal to refer to supernatural powers in the face of phenomena we don’t understand. Supernatural intelligence could have been evoked at any number of points in the history of science over the last 400 years: we might have thrown up our hands in the face of geological formations, of the orbits of the planets, of the failure of Newtonian physics, or of the mechanics of inheritance, and said, “It must be God doing it”. But the essence of scientific thought is to restrict oneself to observable phenomena and to rules which might govern the behavior of those phenomena, and which can be refuted if the evidence fails to uphold them. What is infuriating about ID is its claims to be a “scientific” thesis, when it is in fact no more scientific than Marxism - less so: Marxism at least made refutable predictions about human behavior, which, now that they have been disproven, allow us to discard the theory. What could disprove “intelligent design”? Nothing. Obviously it’s always possible that the universe’s evolution has been guided by a supernatural intelligence; nothing could disprove this. That is why it is not a scientific thesis.

Evolution could be disproven if it were shown that, for example, new species sometimes spring up spontaneously and suddenly, for no reason at all. That would be evidence of an “intelligent designer” interceding in the process. When a horse gives birth to a horse with wings, I’ll believe in ID.

When a horse gives birth to a horse with wings, it’ll probably be the result of genetic engineering. If not by us, then by aliens or maybe Santa Claus ;)

Marek14

Please state how you would disprove Natural Selection in a lab experiment if it were indeed false.

Grey

Please improve your reading comprehension. I stated that survival of the least fit is probably dominant BOTH between species AND ALSO within a single species. In both applications it would be a suprising result for Darwin.

Also please note that I think you are an idiot, only an idiot would imagine another person would be required to change their world view when faced with your infantile tempertantrum of you are wrong you are wrong.….seriously do you even stop to think how your argument is received?

Do you imagine that I have never spoken to a presumed intelligent person in my life and when one presents themselves I will fall in line and drink the kool-aid? I am usually judicial with the word idiot but if you have any graduate education what so ever then I will stand behind it in your case. If you don’t have a grad education don’t take it so bad, but if you do I would advise asking for your money and time back.

brooksfoe

In all likelyhood I have spent more time conversing with phd level people in genetic sciences than have most of the people here barring the professors. I have two phds in genetics related fields in my immediate family and although you are right my personal biology chops are weaker than some , my knowledge is enough to know where they are weaker in theory than I.

Fitness: A successful species encounters a range of issues that unsucessful species do not encounter. Darwin’s guess that the successful species would have more oppertunities to evolve is easy to comprehend but is probably wrong on several levels.

1) A less succesful species is likely to have more oppertunitites to be stranded and evolve in isolation over long periods of time. What are the odds of humans ever evolving into 2 seperate species now that we are the fittest species on the planet?

2) Disease functions as the inverse of success. The more succesful you are the more oppertunities to catch the killer plague that will wipe out your species. This could go either way (evolve faster or no) if it doesn’t wipe out your species but the risk of total extinction would argue that it is better to not get the killer flu.

The successful individual within a species also encounters issues that unsuccesful individuals do not encounter.

1) one of the reasons that dentists kill themselves more than other professions is that they are so succesful. A dentist who is making $200,000 a year yet is unhappy finds herself in a guilded cage in that she cannot change jobs as her $200,000 loans are too much for another job to pay and she cannot find another job that pays as well. The same is true for succesful humans. Brad Pitt and Jennifer Anniston will never have the oppertunity to develop the same critical reasoning skills that you and I have because when Brad Pitt wants to do something interesting he has sex with Angilina Jolie. Honestly, if I had that option do you think I would be here? Because of this Bradd Pitt and most of the beautiful people do not get the oppertunities that we have. Neccessity is the mother of invention and those without it suffer its absence.

2) Lions who are the masters of their pride have an incentive to mate with other lions that are just like them or their mother. It is the least succesful that “settle” for the mutant lioness with the stripes etc etc etc.

There is nothing unscientific about mystisism. It is only when a mystic belief conflicts with a testible thesis and the person choses the mystism over the testible result that the issue occurs. Your present definition of science is ANTI-RELIGION. Can you see why I don’t want your view taugh in school beyond the points that it can predict publically and then confirm publically after than are predicted?

Science generally gives a great deal of leeway to the maker of a successful theory to explain why. But the requirement for that leeway is a theory that is very good at predicting future events. Evolution is rather poor at predicting future events. Poor enough that I am uninterested in what biologists think happened 200 million years ago. I AM interested in the fossil evidence and am willing to go where I believe the data leads. But I am unwilling to have the ANTI-RELIGION tour guides.

I am not a biologist, but possible experiments might be (please, correct me if I’m wrong):

1. Introducing large amount of individuals with the same harmful mutation in the population, and observing whether they will prosper or die out.

2. Applying a strong selection pressure and seeing if the population will respond.

Also, could you please state what “least fit” organisms are? The reason I’m asking is that to me, the “least fit” organisms would be organisms carrying lethal mutations - which CAN’T possibly survive.

I can believe that about 16 Billion years ago. Out of nothing the Big Bag happened. Temperatures where so High that only subatomic particles existed. After a while the temperature cooled down enough so physical forces made Helium and Hydrogen and early stars and galaxies. Stars nuclear fusion created heavier elements then went Nova or Supernova. The Solar system formed with Earth forming about 4 Billion years ago. Early Earth was hit by a Mars sized object forming the moon. 500 million years later the 1st life apeared Roughly 500 Million years ago many new life forms evolved. A few million years ago Humans apeared. We now have a species on Earth that can work these things out. I am made from atoms billions of years old. Yet I am only 43 years old.

All that I consider to be science. Evolution is science and should be taught in science classes.

ID/Creationism belongs in religious classes. But so does saying the whole thing is random/undirected.

BTW I admit I may have oversimplified but I am a tad drunk atm not rats’d but over driving limit

Comment # 20385

Stephen Elliott Wrote:

Comment #20385 Posted by Stephen Elliott on March 15, 2005 07:13 PM Wayne those pics are pretty good. That is 1 damn big cat. Do you know if they can breed? Or are they “mules?”

The females are normally fertile. Yes they can breed, with either parent species or actually most other big cats. They mostly can not breed with each other as the males tend to be infertile. Ligers and Tigon offspring don’t revert back to the parent species but retain a bit of the hybrid. I’ve not heard anything about the size of offspring. I’ve seen no indication of larger 2nd generation Ligers. I.e. if a Female Liger mates with a lion the offspring aren’t then reported to be even larger then the hybrid parent. You would expect that the 2nd generation hybrid, in this scenario, would be bigger then the father.

Size is an issue but I know of a case of a male leopard mating with a female Lion. Very amusing as the leopard is much smaller then the lion and she, the lion, willingly got into a position where the leopard could mount her. A lion mating with a Liger would face a similar problem.

Wayne, When you say male ligras tend to be infertile, do you have a %? Those Ligras are huge. Wonder what they would feed on in the wild. Probably “anything they damn well please.”

Well, ARE there any Ligras in the wild? Lions and tigers live in different environments, and on different continents to boot. I don’t think there are many opportunities for them to meet each other without human help.

Marek 14

Both Lions and Tigers live in India. During Roman empire times I believe Tigers roamed in Africa.

Comment # 20738

Stephen Elliott Wrote:

Comment #20738 Posted by Stephen Elliott on March 17, 2005 08:35 AM Wayne, When you say male ligras tend to be infertile, do you have a %? …

I tried to track down where I read about the male infertility. From memory it was said almost all males where either sterile or only fertile for a short time. Thinking about it I’m not sure what would cause them to be fertile then go infertile.

It seems very common for males fertility to be more effected by chromosome differences then females. We have the same situation in other animals. Male Equus hybrids, not counting Przewalski/Common Horse hybrids which have near normal fertility rates, are, from my understanding, 100% infertile while the females are like 99.9%, infertile.

Humans also have the same situation with infertility. Down Syndrome is causes when an individual has an extra chromosome 21, bit more complicated then that but that’s the basic jist. This extra chromosome makes males with Down Syndrome infertile. Females are fertile. If a Female with Down Syndrome has a baby there is a 50% chance that the child will have the condition.

With big cats the infertility isn’t an extra chromosome like in humans with Down Syndrome and almost all the Equus hybrid. All, bar one, big cats have the same number of Chromosomes. Its worth noting that przewalskis and the common horse have different numbers of chromosomes, 66 and 64 respectively, and their offspring have 65 chromosomes but the offspring are fertile. So its not a hard fast rule when you look at fertility rates.

Sorry not the answer to your question but some info to shed more light on the subject.

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This page contains a single entry by Mike Dunford published on March 10, 2005 7:32 PM.

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