Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Evidence for Evolution......yet again.

I was in a store yesterday and I spotted Richard Dawkins new book The Greatest Show on Earth. I was tempted to buy it but I have so many books to read now that I decided to wait. The book is subtitled The Evidence for Evolution, and the fact is I don't need to be convinced having taught the subject for many years. I'll get around to buying the book at some point - but the subtitle bothers me now.
The "evidence for evolution" is a commonly used chapter title in high school and university level textbooks throughout North America and probably around the world. The troubling part to me is that the evidence takes up a large amount of space in these books often at the expense of whats new and wonderful in the field at the time the book was published. I'm sure the Dawkins book has a lot of the latest information in it but don't you wonder why the evidence must be rehashed over and over again? Of course that's a rhetorical question, I know why. No other theory as well entrenched as evolution has such organized and vocal opposition. No other theory needs to rehash its origins in such great detail again and again. No other theory needs to rationalize its very existence as Dawkins' new book seems to be doing. Texts on modern atomic theory, the theory of flight, the heliocentric theory, Newton's Theory of Gravity and on and on give short shrift to origins and evidence. Newton's Theory of Gravity is still routinely taught in high school even though its been shown to be wrong, but because the math works at speeds not approaching the speed of light, its still taught. Everyone believes in atoms and molecules but the details of this theory are astoundingly complex and way beyond the comprehension of most people, but not a peep of opposition. The evidence for evolution is "over-freakin-whelming" and the theory is simple enough to be easily grasped by a high school junior student. Maybe that's the problem its too simple. Every week new evidence is reported, check out the new "missing link" flying reptile discovery announced this week.
In a few weeks we will mark the 150th anniversary of the publication of "On the Origin of Species" Darwin's monumental explanation of the myriad varieties of life on Earth. Its time to examine that book's subtitle: by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. That is what needs to be studied - that is one of the mechanisms of evolution, as for the evidence, its all around you, if you don't see it get the Dawkins book.

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