Saturday, October 29

Use the language of evolution

Describing how the U.S. is uniquely badly positioned to prepare for a global flu pandemic in Silver Flu Bullets, Anne Applebaum writes,
Americans and their leaders will have to get over their love affair with intelligent design. Polls show that most don't believe in evolution. But it is actually impossible to talk logically about bird flu, or any other rapidly evolving and constantly changing virus, without using the language of evolution -- specific words such as "mutant," "recombination," "genome" and "selection." Without that language, a sensible popular or political discussion, let alone a scientific discussion, is impossible: We're stuck talking about the virus "jumping" from birds to humans, as if it were a magic bug with a mind of its own. We're stuck thinking that a virus is a hex that can be lifted with a single lucky charm, not something that will change over time.
So not believing in evolution will not only result in some Darwinian winnowing out, it will also mean many of the fittest will have trouble surviving.

God help us. (That's a joke!)

1 comment:

Mary said...

I agree with your concerns however if you add up the second and third categories in the poll, amost half of Americans (45%) accept evolution as a process that produced humans. The difference is in how they interpret the why or the purpose of this process which is a matter of personal belied, not science. Many scientists are also religious people who see purpose in many parts of nature that they attribute to a creator, but they don't shackle these beliefs to the scientific process that has elucidated the mechanics of evolution because beliefs, especially religious beliefs about a creator, are not testable hypotheses. The attack here (perhaps an unintended consequence like invading iraq and starting a civil war or building a canal and destroying New Orleans) is on the scienctific method and what science should deal with.
here are the breakdowns of that poll:

Poll: Majority Reject Evolution
(Page 1 of 2)

NEW YORK, Oct. 23, 2005


God created humans in present form
Humans evolved, God guided the process
Humans evolved, God did not guide process

Nov. 2004
God created humans in present form
Humans evolved, God guided the process
Humans evolved, God did not guide process
Note also that the number of Americans accepting evolution is actually increasing and that this is loaded content. If you asked the same questions about whether evolution is active in producing Bird Flu you will probably get very different results. This is a matter of how the media are interpreting the data.

From a Science teacher presently working on teaching data analysis.