Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Three Tips for Students Going Back to School to Study Evolution

For students heading back to the class room and need some help in thinking through evolution, the following article is helpful. Also, check out Sean McDowell and William Dembski's book Understanding Intelligent Design.



Three Tips for Students Going Back to School to Study Evolution (HT / Evolution News)

After attending public schools from kindergarten through my masters degree, I learned a few lessons about staying informed while studying a biased and one-sided origins curriculum. My large, inner-city public high school was rich in diversity, and I learned to appreciate a multiplicity of viewpoints and backgrounds. Unfortunately, this diversity did not extend into the biology classroom. There I was told there was one, and only one, acceptable perspective regarding origins: neo-Darwinian theory. As students head back to school this year, I want to share some tips I’ve learned to help students stay informed on this topic:

Tip #1: Never opt out of learning evolution. In fact, learn about evolution every chance you get.

Evolutionary biologist Patrick J. Keeling claims in a recent letter to the editor in the journal Science that, after “a creationist visited my biology class,” his class was promised a lecture in evolution, which “never materialized.” He writes, “I wanted to know what we were missing, and why.”

I can empathize with Keeling. I had an analogous but opposite experience studying evolution in high school. At the end of our stridenly pro-Darwin unit on evolution, my public high school biology teacher promised us a debate, which like Keeling’s evolution lecture, never materialized. Then in college, I took many courses covering evolution at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. But just like my experience in high school, there was virtually no meaningful debate or dialogue over the fundamental questions. Neo-Darwinian evolution was always taken as a given. Exactly like Keeling, I wanted to know what I was missing.

Despite the one-sided nature of my education, I’m glad I studied evolution. In fact, the more evolutionary biology I took, the more I became convinced that the theory was based upon unproven assumptions, contradictory methodologies, and supported weakly by the data.

So my first tip is to never be afraid to study evolution. But when you do study evolution, always think critically and keep yourself proactively informed about a diversity of viewpoints (see tips 2 and 3 below).

Tip #2: Think for yourself, think critically, and question assumptions.

Though my professors rarely (if ever) would acknowledge it, I quickly discovered in college that nearly all evolutionary claims are based mostly upon assumptions. Modern evolutionary theory is assumed to be true, and then the data is interpreted based upon Darwinian assumptions. The challenge for you, the truth-seeking student, is to always try to separate out the raw data from the assumptions that guide interpretation of the data.

Keep your eyes out for circular reasoning. You’ll see that very quickly, evolutionary assumptions become “facts,” and future data must be assembled in order to be consistent with those “facts.”

Realize that evolutionary thinking often employs contradictory logic and inconsistent methodologies. The logic employed to infer evolution in situation A may be precisely the exact opposite of the logic used to infer evolution in situation B. Here are a couple examples:

• Biological similarity between two species implies inheritance from a common ancestor (i.e. vertical common descent) except for when it doesn’t (and then they appeal to processes like "convergent evolution" or "horizontal gene transfer").
• Neo-Darwinism predicts transitional forms may be found, but when they’re not found, that just shows that the transitions took place too rapidly and in populations too small to (statistically speaking) become fossilized.
• Evolutionary genetics predicts the genome will be full of useless junk DNA, except for when we discover function for such “junk” DNA. Then evolution predicts that cells would never retain useless junk DNA in the first place.

When both A and (not) A imply evolution, you know a theory is based upon an inconsistent scientific methodology. Keep an eye out for assumptions and contradictory methodologies, for they abound in evolutionary reasoning.

Finally, you must be careful to always think....(more)

1 comment:

Jason said...

hi, cs lewis blog followers.

just want to make a few things clear here. and torch a few of those straw-mans in your post.
"Biological similarity between two species implies inheritance from a common ancestor (i.e. vertical common descent) except for when it doesn’t"

since when does imply mean necessitate? imply simply means that may be (or its probable that is) what happens, and the other two could happen to cause it as well. In species of similar taxa(or grouping) common ancestor is usually the case, but the other two do happen, and scientists are careful to not make those claims until the other two have been sufficiently rejected. Evolution does not claim inheritance from a common ancestor is the only cause of a similar trait, which is what you infer, and then say were are two faced about it like some errant school child. please correct me if I am wrong in my interpretation.

"Neo-Darwinism predicts transitional forms may be found, but when they’re not found, that just shows that the transitions took place too rapidly"

no, we do not say that. we say we don't have the fossil record to show that specific transition. That does not always imply that it happened "to fast".

"Evolutionary genetics predicts the genome will be full of useless junk DNA, except for when we discover function for such “junk” DNA. Then evolution predicts that cells would never retain useless junk DNA in the first place."

huh? this makes no sense. Is there DNA that we do not know the purpose for, absolutely, and those are gaps we are filling as fast as we can find the funding for, so we can treat genetic disorders, in both believers and non believers, which I at the very least hope you find good, YAY medicine(which is biology, something far to often overlooked by believers, especially when they use it so often). But when did biology say cells would never retain junk DNA?