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Evolution quiz usa map with Kansas highlighted


Darwin threw a
spanner into the
works when he
published his theory
of evolutionin 1859.
Here's how
the magazine Punch
saw the evolution

Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution

Darwin fish

Can science conquer Kansas?
UPDATED 21 FEB 2001: Evolution is back in Kansas, where the state board of education reversed a 1999 decision that made teaching evolution by natural selection optional. Charles Darwin may sleep better -- or evolve into a frog for all we know -- to hear that the board, by a 7-3 vote, essentially required the teaching of evolution, much to the despair of creationists but the delight of scientists. The vote reflected electoral repudiation of board members who opposed teaching of the theory, a bedrock of biology. Two other fundamental scientific theories, cosmology (the origin and fate of the universe), and plate tectonics (the movement of vast chunks of the Earth), were also restored to the classroom.

POSTED 27 SEP 1999 On Aug. 11, the Kansas State Board of Education fired another salvo in the long battle between religion and science by removing evolution from the high school curriculum.
an ape with Darwin's head While it did not ban teaching of the controversial theory, it also deleted evolution, which biologists call the fundamental principle of biology, from state assessments of student performance.

By endorsing the theory that evolution through natural selection is an unproven theory, the elected board defied 150 years of science. It also raised doubts about a foundation of biology that has been resolved by the mounting evidence that all forms of life are interrelated.

Although biologists have been most alarmed by the decision, physicists take note: The Board simultaneously deep sixed the study of cosmology, which examines the origin of the universe.

On Sept. 15, a group from Lawrence, Kan. picketed the Board's offices to argue that, having jettisoned evolution and cosmology, it should also promote the idea that the Earth is flat. Said Tim Miller, chair of religious studies at the University of Kansas, and a leader of FLAT (Families for Learning Accurate Theories), "The Bible says the Earth has four corners." square worldA literal reading, he said, meant that the planet must be a rectangle or a tetrahedron (a solid with four sides). (Information from the Sept. 15, 1999 Lawrence [Kan.] Journal-World).

Evolution, the scientific study of the origins and development of life, has roots in geology, paleontology and field biology. It explains, for example, why so many insects but so few dinosaurs are alive today, or why certain flowers can only be pollinated by certain birds. It explains why microbes can become resistant to antibiotics, why cancers become resistant to anti-cancer drugs, and why the bones in a bat wing resemble the bones in your hand.

Jesus fish Creationism is a faith-based belief that the genesis of life is due to a divine creator. In its most ardent form, creationism insists that the universe is about 6,000 years old (not more than 10 billion, as scientists say), that every species was formed by the creator in its present form, and that Noah's flood caused most of the havoc in the geological record. Many major religions have been able to reconcile Biblical teachings with the scientific view of evolution.

Creation? Science?
Whether called creationism, "scientific creationism" or by various other labels, creationism is a fundamentalist Christian belief. The Institute for Creation Research, a primary node of creationism, says it "was originally formed as the research division of Christian Heritage College." Although the institute became autonomous in 1981, it still bills itself as a "Christ Focused Creation Ministry."

The teaching of creationism in public schools has been outlawed by the U.S. Supreme Court as tantamount to the unconstitutional establishment of a religion. But creationists have changed strategy over the years, insisting, for example, that evolution through natural selection be taught as one possible "theory" of life's origin. Unable to compel the teaching of creationism, Kansas and various other jurisdictions have "solved" the problem by rendering evolution optional, or compelling teachers to describe it as one of several theories of the origin of biological diversity.

The result, often, is that science teachers are being hounded by students and parents, and are reluctant to arouse controversy by teaching evolution.

Ape knocks at schoolhouse door.

While creationists swear at evolution, biologist swear by it. Robert Palazzo, an associate professor of molecular bioscience at the University of Kansas, signed a protest letter from the American Society for Cell Biology to the Governor of Kansas that maintained that "the concept of evolution is inextricable from the language of all life sciences and is a cornerstone for learning by all those who seek an education in basic science, medicine, and ecology."

"Evolution is the integrating theme of biology," says Ursula Goodenough, a professor of biology at Washington University in St. Louis. Without the insights from evolution, she says, "You can learn a lot of facts... but evolution has enormous explanatory power for putting these facts together."

Biologists are aghast at the notion that students are being deprived of the core of biology -- that organisms are all related, that they are tested by their environment, and that they change over time in response to that testing.

"Just a theory?"
Is evolution just a theory? Yes, theoretically evolution could be disproven , but there are no signs of that happening any time soon. The evidence is, as we'll see shortly, just too overwhelming.

"Theory" has a special meaning, notes molecular biologist Maxine Singer, president of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, in an Aug. 16 column in the Washington Post. "A theory in science is not a hunch or 'just a theory' as some say. It is an explanation built on multitudinous confirmed facts and the absence of incompatible facts." Omitting evolution from biology, Singer pointed out, "is comparable to leaving the U.S. Constitution out of civics lessons. Evolution is the framework that makes sense of the whole natural world..."

Shortly after Earth Day in 1970, Russian-American biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky put it slightly more succinctly: "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution."

Can The Why Files make sense of proofs for evolution?

The Why Files

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