[Taxacom] evolution education

Richard Jensen rjensen at saintmarys.edu
Mon Feb 7 11:13:20 CST 2011

As with so many things, context is important.  There are variations in 
the meaning of belief.  One of the definitions of belief is "conviction 
of the truth...based on examination of the evidence."  I see nothing 
inherently wrong with saying that I believe in evolution as an 
explanatory theory for natural phenomena.  I like to point out to my 
students that belief in supernatural events is based on personal 
preference whereas belief in scientific outcomes is based on solid 
evidence.  When a chemist says, "When I mix hydrochloric acid with 
sodium hydroxide, I believe an acid-base reaction will occur", that is 
not the same usage as someone saying that "I believe the great flying 
spaghetti monster is responsible for last week's flood".

Admittedly, it might be better if we scientists used a word such as 
"accept" with respect to what happens, e.g.,  "I accept evolution as the 
best explanation," but even that suggests personal preference - I could 
always accept the flying spaghetti monster as my explanation.

Dick J

On 2/7/2011 10:16 AM, fautin at ku.edu wrote:
> I learned from Genie Scott how pernicious it is to speak or write of
> "believing in evolution."  Unlike religion, it is not a matter of belief
> -- it is a matter of persuasion by evidence.
> Daphne G. Fautin
> University of Kansas
> 1200 Sunnyside Avenue
> Lawrence, Kansas 66045-7534  USA
> telephone 1-785-864-3062
> fax 1-785-864-5321
> evo user name fautin
> website http://invertebratezoology.biodiversity.ku.edu/home
>         direct to database of hexacorals, including sea anemones
>                 newest version released 22 December 2010
>           ***http://hercules.kgs.ku.edu/Hexacoral/Anemone2***
> On Mon, 7 Feb 2011, Richard Zander wrote:
>> This exchange is crucial, I think. Particularly " the problem being the
>> absence of evolution being taught as a science rather than a belief
>> system (and a particular evolution belief system at that)."
>> There are three important definitions of science in Websters III. One is
>> any systematized body of knowledge, as in the "science of boxing."
>> Another is systematized and classified knowledge about the natural world
>> obtained and tested through the scientific method. The third is the
>> observation and classification of facts with the establishment of
>> verifiable general laws, chiefly by induction and hypotheses. (Much
>> paraphrased.).
>> The public recognizes the first, of course, and it is trivial or obvious
>> or annoying to most Taxacomers. I think John Grehan recognizes the
>> second, mostly, because it emphasizes method. I like the third because
>> it emphasizes induction. Thus, we talk past each other, in my opinion.
>> * * * * * * * * * * * *
>> Richard H. Zander
>> Missouri Botanical Garden, PO Box 299, St. Louis, MO 63166-0299 USA
>> Web sites: http://www.mobot.org/plantscience/resbot/ and
>> http://www.mobot.org/plantscience/bfna/bfnamenu.htm
>> Modern Evolutionary Systematics Web site:
>> http://www.mobot.org/plantscience/resbot/21EvSy.htm
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
>> [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of John Grehan
>> Sent: Sunday, February 06, 2011 4:43 PM
>> To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
>> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] evolution education
>> Jeff concluded
>> "I would argue that eliminating evolution from high school science
>> education at best maintains our current situation, while continuing our
>> teaching of evolution does no additional harm, but has the potential for
>> good. I think you could possibly make an argument that we never
>> should've taught evolution in high school, but now that you have,
>> removing it would only remove the opportunity to fix the misconceptions
>> that exist in the general population and could possibly increase
>> tensions between the perceived "believers" and "nonbelievers". The
>> solution is in better teachers and better curriculum."
>> Yes one could argue that, just as much as the opposite. As for
>> misconceptions, I would argue that this is not the problem, the problem
>> being the absence of evolution being taught as a science rather than a
>> belief system (and a particular evolution belief system at that).
>> John Grehan
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Richard J. Jensen, Professor
Department of Biology
Saint Mary's College
Notre Dame, IN 46556
Tel: 574-284-4674

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