Sunday, February 15, 2009
You know it's going to be painful when an alleged news story is titled "Liberty University refuting evolution."* The "refuter" is "Neuroscientist" David DeWitt, who claims:
"I show them side-by-side — Here's the human. Here's the chimpanzee," he said. "If I would not present evolution and their best evidence and arguments, then I would not be a scholar and I would not be providing the best service for the students.
"I actually teach more about evolution than I received in my undergraduate (biochemistry) program at Michigan State (University). I also teach a lot more about creationism."
This is an advanced section of the course, and many of the students are biology majors. Neuroscientist David DeWitt, their professor, leads a lecture on natural selection.
He draws on an example from the documentary film "March of the Penguins" that shows female penguins journeying to find food, and then a seal singling out one to attack.
"Which penguin gets eaten?" he asks. "The one that's genetically inferior, or the one that's in the wrong place at the wrong time?"
That element of chance, he argues, begins to unravel the idea of natural selection, or "survival of the fittest," a key mechanism in the theory of evolution.
At the front of the class, a slide on DeWitt's presentation displays a biblical passage from Ecclesiastes 9:11.
"I have seen something else under the sun," it states. "The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong; nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all."
And it isn't as simple as DeWitt paints it, because there could be genetic factors that put that individual penguin in position to be in the path of that seal. Penguins will often gather at the shore, hesitating to enter waters where seals may be lurking. Those with a tendency to enter early may have an advantage in their own hunting but raise their risk of being caught themselves. In any event, as noted before, creationists are constantly assuring us that they accept "microevolution" by selection, so how would chance factors begin to "unravel the idea of natural selection," when they supposedly accept it anyway. After all, if chance negates natural selection it would have to negate its "microevolutionary" effects as well as its "macroevolutionary" ones.
Amazingly, DeWitt claims not to be denigrating science, while apparently supporting Liberty's preference for young-Earth creationism, which denies just about all of science, including astronomy, physics, biology and geology, to name just a few. The truly scary thing is that Liberty is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award degrees in biology, biochemistry, and molecular biology, as well as nursing, psychology, engineering, health sciences and kinesiology. The graduates in the former studies will probably wind up teaching in places like Liberty or "Christian academies" or, worse, public schools, given that they cannot legitimately find employment in the sciences. And, while the latter graduates might not directly need evolutionary biology in their work, it is still worrying that people in health fields, who have a deep distrust in science, will be loosed upon an unsuspecting public.
Lastly, we have this concerning my own field from Matt Staver, the dean of Liberty's law school and someone whose legal expertise is less than overwhelming:
Staver said that the theory of evolution "has impacted everything," including his area of expertise — law.
An evolutionary model for arguing cases, for example, now impacts the creation of law, he said.
Instead of the previously accepted practice of basing arguments on the original source, the U.S. Constitution, Staver said, now lawyers instead use case studies that build upon each other and "evolve" over time.
It's bad enough that Liberty will be turning out lawyers ignorant and dismissive of science, but turning out lawyers ignorant of our system of law is inexcusable and will doubtless have the same sort of effect as Pat Robertson's Regent University Law School has had.
I can't help but feel that Liberty University's motto of "Knowledge Aflame" and its logo including a burning book are no accident.
* Since changed.
Reminds me of a Web site dedicated to George W. Bush (See if you can tell which one is the President).
Perhaps this egnorant neuroscientist has never read S.J. Gould on the subject of contingency in evolution. Or spoken with a plant or animal breeder.
I suppose it's inevitable that most (if not all) objections to evolution are based on ignorance and a failure to think the issues through.
- So are you then saying that they should exercise 'faith' in science? Now wouldn't that be unsettling. The fact remains that evolution is only a theory, that many scientists such as biologists and geologists disagree with it. This immensely large group of scholars are employed across the world and exercise great influence in almost every industry. Bills are even being passed to protect teachers who want to teach about the controversies of evolution they've discovered through research or from lessons taught in public and private universities. No one seems to second guess their (namely non-Christians) ability to convey scientific truths or provide evidence against evolution. What to do......
If you are going to practice scientific medicine, you should trust in the process of science to produce good medicine. If you are going to practice faith healing, then maybe not. These people are supposedly being awarded degrees in scientific medicine and, as a matter of truth in advertizing, they should practice scientific medicine. If they want to practice faith healing, let them get divinity degrees.
The fact remains that evolution is only a theory ...
A "theory" in science is the highest form of scientific knowledge. Evolution is "only" a theory in the same sense as matter is made up of atoms is "only" the atomic theory; that germs cause disease is "only" the germ theory of disease; etc., etc.
... many scientists such as biologists and geologists disagree with it. This immensely large group of scholars are employed across the world and exercise great influence in almost every industry.
Far from being an "immensely large group of scholars," only a tiny fraction of biologists, or others involved in the life sciences, in any way doubt the fact of evolution. For example, most of the people on the Discovery Institute's list of "Dissenters from Darwinism" are not biologists (and, in any event, the statement does not deny evolution and is in accord with current evolutionary theory, showing that the whole thing is a ploy). There are more biologists named "Steve" who affirm evolution as the only scientific explanation of life's diversity than who signed the DI's list.
Bills are even being passed to protect teachers who want to teach about the controversies of evolution they've discovered through research or from lessons taught in public and private universities.
Yes, there is a long history of legislators trying to use the law to force creationism into public schools. There is, however, no scientific controversy about the fact that evolution has occurred.
All you have said merely proves my point.