February 14, 2015

Seriously, what science questions should we want our political candidates to answer?

Last night, we were talking about David Harsanyi's interesting push back to those who performed a freakout on the occasion of Scott Walker's "punting" when he was asked if he feels "comfortable" with evolution. Harsanyi's angle was the familiar conservative rhetoric of flipping: What if the media went after liberals in the same way they go after conservatives? The idea is that the reporter who queried Walker was looking to expose some ignorance, stupidity, or rigidity that could be used against him, and the media is loaded with reporters who are itching to be to him what Katie Couric was to Sarah Palin.

Everybody's trying to be his Katie, everybody's trying to be his Katie, everybody's trying to be his Katie, now.

Harsanyi's questions include ones about abortion, like: "Is a 20-week-old unborn child a human being?" To my mind, that isn't even a science question, it's a moral question, and it's a moral question that you can't get started on withou defining the term "human being." It's also, obviously, a stand-in for another question that isn't at all hidden: Is the killing of a 20-week-old fetus permissible? I say, if we want to claim to be asking science questions, frame the questions in science terms: Is a 20-week-old fetus capable of any conscious perception?

By the way, the evolution question asked of Scott Walker was not put in scientific terms. It was: "Are you comfortable with the idea of evolution? Do you believe in it? Do you accept it?" Walker's comfort with an idea is a separate matter from his understanding of the subject at the scientific level? Are you comfortable with the idea that cancerous tumors grow in the bodies of children? And, please, click on that link and watch the video of the British journalist asking that question. What a supercilious, obnoxious twit! Walker keeps his cool as the guy is trying to aggravate him. Walker said it was an inappropriate question: "That’s a question that a politician shouldn’t be involved in one way or another."

Clearly, there are some evolution-related questions that a political candidate should be expected to answer. I'd ask: Do you think that public school science classes should teach the theory of evolution without also covering other theories of the origin of species such as creationism and intelligent design? What, if anything, would you do to support religious parents who believe that to teach evolution to their children is to teach that their religion is not true? Does your answer reflect your understanding of the meaning of the Establishment Clause, or would you say the same thing even if there were no Establishment Clause? To what extent would you support a school voucher system to enable religious parents to send their children to a parochial school where they could be taught that their parents' religion is true? Would you require private religious schools to teach evolution in science classes and not to present the alternative, religious theories in that class?

But I don't consider those questions to be science questions! Those are legal questions combined with educational policy questions. I think my questions would show us a lot about how intelligent and thoughtful the candidate is, how much grounding he has in American constitutional values, and which way he leans on policy questions.

What are the science questions here? Would you ask the candidate to explain the theory of evolution? Harsanyi suggests "What is evolution?" as an alternative to the "inane" question "do you believe in evolution"? I think any decent candidate would and should punt on an invitation to launch into an impromptu science-teacher mini-lecture. That's not going to come out right. Here's my evolution-specific science question: Have you studied the theory of evolution at the college level?

I like that question in part because some Walker antagonists are linking his failure to talk about evolution to his lack of a college degree. For example, Howard Dean said:
"I think there are going to be a lot of people who worry about [Scott Walker's lack of a college degree].... I worry about people being President of the United States not knowing much about the world and not knowing much about science... [E]volution is a widely accepted scientific construct and people who don't believe in evolution either do it for hard-right religious reasons or because they don't know anything."
Scott Walker had 3 years of college. Hillary Clinton had 4 (plus law school). Both Walker and Clinton majored in political science. Did they take any non-social-science science courses? Walker has had plenty of political science life experience to compensate for the lack of that final year. Hillary did her senior year, closing out the requirements for her degree from Wellesley by completing her senior honors thesis in political science: "'There Is Only the Fight...': An Analysis of the Alinsky Model." Did that bring her any deeper understanding of scientific topics like evolution and fetal development and climate change?

Here's a special science question for Hillary: When you did your "Analysis of the Alinsky Model," were you engaged in a scientific study? And I have some non-scientific follow-ups: Would Alinsky have considered your study of him scientific? How would a follower of the Alinsky Model frame questions about science to be asked of politicians? Is your answer to this question the answer of someone following the Alinsky Model? If it were, would it even be possible to answer "yes"?

That last question is a science question if logic is science.

153 comments:

Larry J said...

Expecting the Press to treat Democrats the same as they treat Republicans? That's just crazy talk. It'll never happen. As the InstaPundit puts it, the Press are just Democrat operatives with bylines.

surfed said...

A little deep for me Professor but then salt water kills brain cells. I will say that gotcha journalism where the obvious intent of the journo is to trip up rather than elucidate garners from me sympathy for the politician. And especially for an everyman like Gov. Walker.

Big Mike said...

And how many liberal journalists are aware that classical Darwinian evolutionary theory has been utterly refuted by the fossil record? Hence the punctuated equilibrium theory of evolution proposed by Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould?

Beorn said...

We don't have a press, only rank partisans (mostly leftwing) who are trying to craft narratives sympathetic to their worldview. They promote stories that comfirm that worldview, and ignore (or spin) the stories that don't.

Anonymous said...

I eagerly await the day a "journalist" asks a prog candidate, "Do you believe in acupuncture, aromatherapy, feng shui, astrology, chiropractic, homeopathy, auras, rolfing, astral projection,....."

You know ---all that "sciency" stuff libs believe in while at the same time jeering at conservatives for being anti-science and irrational beings.

rhhardin said...

Science is based on curiosity, not consensus.

rhhardin said...

The major science institution is soap opera woman science.

Ask about what's important to soap opera women.

JHapp said...

I would like them to be given test in chemistry, physics and mathematics on TV.

EDH said...

I believe in a higher power.

I have faith in a beneficent, Christian God.

I think there is compelling scientific evidence that supports the theory that an evolutionary process has in part guided the course of life on Earth following creation.

Michael K said...

I have gotten into unpleasant discussions here and at another site that I subsequently stopped reading because of evolution. I made the statement that I would not write a letter of recommendation to medical school for an applicant who did not "believe" in evolution.

Darwin did not know about chromosomes or about any aspect of genetics so his theory of evolution was absent any knowledge of how it worked.

Steven Jay Gould was an advocate of "the blank slate" theory of human development beloved by the left. I don't care about his "punctuated equilibrium" theories as they do not matter.

Teaching small children Creationism is not a problem for me as I think reading and arithmetic are more crucial at that stage.

I know that lawyers, like Hugh Hewitt, are creationists for religious reasons and that doesn't bother me. I have known some doctors who rejected evolution for religious reasons and they were pretty good GPs.

The future of Medicine is going to be increasingly based on genetics and that is why I think it important for medical students to know and accept the role of evolution in biology.

The discussion over at Ricochet got pretty nasty so I decided that was one site I could do without.

For a politician, I think recognizing global warming for the hoax that it is is more important than evolution.

dmoelling said...

As a father of a paleontologist, we have long lived with deep time and evolution. But it is a very difficult concept (read Darwin's Origin of Species and see how difficult it is) especially without a good understanding of biology. Darwin did it before there was any good understanding of genetics so it was doubly hard. Most laymen really don't understand it and really believe in some sort of directed evolution. The left uses it as a signal "I'm not a hillbilly" without understanding it either. At least the religious dissenters are trying to ask some serious questions about the meaning of life that science cannot answer.

This all comes up because of the poor state of science education in our K-12 programs. Just like darwin you need a sound understanding of species and biology to even start with evolution. High school science does not even start to do this anymore. And of course, the Scopes trial involved the use of a textbook called "Social Biology" that was tied to the progressive eugenics movement of the 1920's so no side in the discussion has much high moral standing.

surfed said...

@dmoelling - wonderful that. Good on ya' mate.

Laslo Spatula said...

Advice for candidates in this situation:

Nod, then ask the journalist to explain THEIR understanding of the subject at hand, under the guise of wanting to provide a better answer to a complex question.

Watch the journalist stammer and return to talking points. Let them twist in the wind.

Apply a little self-deprecation, then respond to their most foolish statement.


I am Laslo.

Troubled Voter said...

Walker had a bad answer for a Republican Primary 101 question. Just accept it.

Hagar said...

Punctuated equilibrium is an addition to Darwin's evolution; not a refutation of it.

I started reading history books when I was 9 years old. When something I took exception to came up in high school and my arm shot up, our teacher (MS going for his PhD in history) would look over to me and say, "I know Hagar, but for the purposes of this class, we will go by the textbook."

So, no. I do not think that creationism, etc. should be taught in the public schools. For the purposes of public education, class instruction and textbooks should go by that for which we have evidence here on earth. "
By all means, feel free to believe whatever your faith teaches, but for the limited purposes of this class, we will go by the textbook."

traditionalguy said...

Why was the Cambrian Explosion of new life forms on earth preceded by a near total extinction of all existing life on earth in the Cryrogenian Era (a/k/a Snowball earth?)

That is a serious question in Evolution Science/Theory.

It is the end of life which happens in cold weather Ice Ages and new life that happens when Global Warming occurs.

Incidentally we live in an interglacial period of an Ice Age Glaciation that is 1000 years over due for a cyclical refreezing. There have been an estimated 17 glaciation times in the last 200 million years

Glaciation starts fast (estmated 60 years) and begins as soon as a summer is not warm long enough to melt the previous winter's snow cover, no matter how thin that snow cover ended.

Freder Frederson said...

And how many liberal journalists are aware that classical Darwinian evolutionary theory has been utterly refuted by the fossil record?

Hopefully none. Since this statement is untrue.

Sebastian said...

"Seriously, what science questions should we want our political candidates to answer?"

Any questions that can be used to trip up GOP candidates, none that would embarrass a Dem.

"What a supercilious, obnoxious twit!"

More faux surprise, right?

Not that there's any benefit in it for GOP-ers, but it would be nice to have a few people at the top who could articulately address issues in science (or economics or political theory etc., for that matter). Paul and Cruz seem capable (though non-starteres as presidential candidates).

All those college educations by the non-Walkers should be good for something, shouldn't they?

Anonymous said...

Not to pile on, but Wikipedia actually offers a pretty good review of Punctuated Equilibrium.

The final sentence in the article is:

"Thus punctuated equilibrium contradicts some of Darwin's ideas regarding the specific mechanisms of evolution, but generally accords with Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection."

traditionalguy said...

As to Ann and Meade's location, the Wisconsinan Glacier there was the last one and it left those beautiful lakes and ugly Moraines, but it skipped the Driftless areas. That ice sheet only ended about 12 thousand years ago, but is eoverdue to come back.

At its maximum the Wisconsinan Glacier was estimated to be two miles thick and moved 400 feet per day.

kimsch said...

With the evolution question, it depends on the questioner's definition of evolution doesn't it. Does the questioner believe that man is descended from apes? Does the questioner believe there is some sort of missing link? Or that there is some common ancestor? Some assumptions are incompatible with Judeo/Christian beliefs, some are not. Belief in a Creator or an intelligent design and in evolution aren't mutually exclusive. There are far more examples of adaptation than there are of things actually evolving from one thing to another. One takes place over fairly short periods of time (generations) and the other requires millennia or longer. The issue is really too complicated to be reduced to a soundbite. But of course, that's what they want. A soundbite that can be used to disparage.

Hagar said...

We have a larger pile of pretty stones and curious shells than Newton did, but that is still all we have.
Public school textbooks should reflect the authors' best effort to state the state of knowledge as of the year of publication, but there certainly will be more to come.
And not just in "science;" fashions in "the humanities" change even faster than new scientific data come to light.

traditionalguy said...

What they questioners want from evangelical Christians running for President is submission to the authority of Science.

The only answer acceptable goes something like this: "Man's Reason is the only god and Darwin is his Prophet." That answer should be repeated in five interviews each day while assuming a prostrated attitude.

Bruce Hayden said...

I look at the evolution question maybe a little differently. It is, to me, a stand in for whether or not you are somewhat of a religious fundamentalist. The left is trying to catch those who believe strongly in the Bible with gotcha politics.

The unstated assumption is that if we are the product of evolution, then God did not have a hand in it, and we might as well be irrelegious atheists. But, with much of what we discussed in that previous post, it isn't as simplistic as they make it appear (or probably believe).

The problem is that evolution is driven by random mutations. Most are fatal, or at least harmful, but some are advantageous, and that latter depends on when it happens - butterflies or birds with darker pigment thrived, and the lighter pigment died out, as a result of industrial pollution. But, if the dark pigment gene had occurred earlier, before the industrial pollution. So, we can see how one mutation can result in the propagation of that gene in the right circumstances. And, today, we can often even see what the mutation is.

But, that doesn't end the debate - because if evolution is viable, we are the end of millions upon millions of mutations. Were they all random, or were there celestial pushes or nudges along the way? We really cannot discount either theory. Why? We see the onesies and twosies, but we see no genetic record of a number of dozen or so mutation jumps. Which is not surprising, given that much of this is in the form of fossils and the like. We know the probabilities for the mutations, which means that we know the cumulative probabilities of, say, a dozen mutation jump. And, in some cases, these large genetic jumps are statistically feasible, if just that, within the time gap in the genetic record. So, it is possible that we are purely the result of evolution, with no deity pushing the result. But, since some of these jumps appear to be on the edge of probability, the alternative cannot be discounted either, that they genetic jump involved a little bit of divine intervention.

My personal view here is that I really don't care either way. It doesn't affect my daily life in any way. And, it doesn't affect my faith, having been brought up in a less literal, more allegorical, religious tradition.

steve uhr said...

"Do you believe is evolution" is not an inane question anymore than "Do you believe that humans and chimps share common ancestry."

The following are also fair and reasonable science questions:

"Do you believe that the earth is getting warmer?"

"Do you believe that activities of humans are responsible for the earth getting warmer?"

"Do you believe that vaccines can cause autism?"

"Do you believe that genetically modified food is harmful?"

All are reasonable questions to ask a presidential candidate. Among other things, the answers will impact how billions in government research funds will be distributed, and reflect the degree the politician is willing to ignore accepted science to appeal to the ignorance of some voters.

Hagar said...

"Religion is about who created the universe and why; science is just about trying to find out how it was done."

So far at least, it cannot be proven that God exists, but neither can it be proved that God does not exist.
"The ways of the Lord are not our ways," etc., which I believe is good scripture.
So, in the public schools what should be taught is that which we think we do understand as of now, and can more or less agree on, but acknowledging that there is a lot we do not know yet.

Bruce Hayden said...

Is the killing of a 20-week-old fetus permissible? I say, if we want to claim to be asking science questions, frame the questions in science terms: Is a 20-week-old fetus capable of any conscious perception?

That is an interesting question, but isn't the one that originally came to mind for me. And that was viability. After the point of viability, fetuses are essentially several minutes away, via emergency C-section, from full legal rights as a human. They may spend the next three months in an incubator, but they are considered full citizens, in terms of their rights, as of that point. And, yes, once "born", even at 24 weeks, killing them is considered murder in most jurisdiction (even if killing them a couple minutes earlier is considered an abortion).

The current edge of viability seems to be about 22 weeks, which is only two weeks longer than the 20 weeks used in the question. Apparently, two babies have survived a couple days below that. Not to say that there aren't a lot of problems with such premature babies. Apparently, at 24 weeks, the survival rate is about 50%. But, even though the viability curve has flattened, and not really shifted for the last decade or so, I don't see that as the end game. Rather, I suspect that we may be able to extend this back to conception through the implementation of artificial wombs. We (or, maybe our grandchildren) shall see.

Seeing Red said...

They all want to be his Katie, but where is she now?

Big Mike said...

@Freder, suggest you follow the link. Also you might read the 1972 paper by Eldredge and Gould. It's a good bit above the comic books you normally read, but if you work at it you might get it.

rhhardin said...

Darwin didn't understand how jokes worked.

This is because God created them.

The oldest jokes are 6,000 years old.

Big Mike said...

@Bruce, I fully agree with you. However my wife insists that our sons had distinct personalities prior to 20 weeks. Perhaps other women on the thread who've had kids can weigh in? Althouse?

Seeing Red said...

We thought the science was settled with the Big Bang.....wrong!

Hagar said...

In AA's own field, lower courts are bound by our system to rule by the current dicta from the Supreme Court, but the Supremes have said many foolish things in 227 years and have later come to other conclusions, and they will continue to do so. It did not stop with the year 2014 A.D.

Seeing Red said...

I am the Alpha and the Omega.

Bruce Hayden said...

The following are also fair and reasonable science questions:

"Do you believe that the earth is getting warmer?"

"Do you believe that activities of humans are responsible for the earth getting warmer?"

"Do you believe that vaccines can cause autism?"

"Do you believe that genetically modified food is harmful?"


I would do extremely poorly on these questions, with my legal and scientific training. None of them have clear cut answers, and all ignore important subtleties.

We frankly don't know if the Earth is getting warmer - it turns out that a lot of the temperature data being trumpeted supporting that has been massaged to give that impression. A number of cases have recently surfaced of the actual temperature records showing no change, but the released data used in the models showing increases. This also ignores that the urban heat effect seems to have been underestimated by a lot of the "data". And, yes, we are still coming out of the Little Ice Age, so some warming is probably expected anyway.

As for human activities being responsible, what is glossed over here is the question of how responsible are humans for this warming. If the question implies 100%, I would say no - coming out of the Little Ice Age has some effect there, etc. 1%? Probably somewhere between.

But, ignored, of course, is the question of whether it is good or bad for the human species. And, humans have tended to do better with warmer climates, and worse in cooler ones. So, my vote would be to shift nuclear to carbon based energy, and let the temperature head upwards.

Scott said...

Reminds me of The Voight-Kampf Test.

JAORE said...

"The science is settled" on a complex system, based on a variety of crude models, projecting far into the future, with cobbled together inputs that can not be recreated or reviewed and assuming a tipping point in natural processes never experienced? Questioners will be (rhetorically) stoned.

Yeah, THAT's the scientific party.

JAORE said...

Oh, one more question:

Since the earth's temperature has ranged from steaming tropics to massive layers of ice, what is the ideal temperature we should strive for?

Unknown said...

---reflect the degree the politician is willing to ignore accepted science---

Sure, because you power-coveting leftists claim that science is settled to prime society for your assumption of power.

More important than the number of ayes and nays from scientists is the number of DISPROVEN predictions from global warming models.

Genetically modified foods is similarly a nonsense assault on progress. Do you want all the third world people living as a result of enhanced crops to give up and die?

When you flood government power and especially money into science this is what you get. Second rate (at best) journalism and womyns studies majors asking second rate poli-sci majors gotcha questions about leftist distortions of science.

Biff said...

Well done, Professor. An underappreciated aspect of practicing science well is the ability to articulate questions and concepts clearly, accurately, and unambiguously. If your inclinations had pointed elsewhere, I suspect you would have been a fine scientist.

Unknown said...

--- is going to be increasingly based on genetics and that is why I think it important for medical students to know and accept the role of evolution in biology---

I’m genuinely interested in why a meta belief regarding evolution would disable a bright student from learning about genomes and micro/macro biology.

I don’t have to believe in global warming forming beaches to study a grain of sand.

Bricap said...

Ask candidates if they are perfectly fine with tax dollars going to schools that teach young earth creationism in a science class, and if that is a perfectly acceptable part of a science curriculum. Asking about evolution in general kind of dances around the issue at hand, and is a bit lazy if nothing else. Nobody should care how people believe and worship on their own time, but it's a different story when there is an underlying desire for it to be a basis for public policy.

n.n said...

Is a 20-week-old fetus capable of any conscious perception?

This is not a question that can be answered in the scientific domain without assumptions and presumptions. Modern science often operates through correlation or weak relations, which was left to philosophers in the interim between the dark ages and the modern age.

A human life evolves from conception to a natural, accidental, or premeditated death. The moral question is: when is it permissible to terminate (i.e. murder) a human life. Today, the State sponsors and the established religion rationalizes premeditated murder for causes of wealth, pleasure, and leisure, and its own compelling interests.

I would teach evolutionary theory as either a topic in philosophy or as science but with a clear disclaimer that is derived with as assumption of uniformity, ignores discontinuities, and forms conclusions using inference or created knowledge.

Steve Uhr said...

Bruce - The candidate should answer the questions and not "punt." If he doesn't know he should say so. I don't know is an answer.

He could also say what the scientists that he selected as his advisers think.

Punting is a cop out.

Anonymous said...

If you want to see heads explode, ask a question like this: "Do you believe in the evolution of the human body? If so, do you think human brains evolved in lockstep across all genetic groups over the last 100,000 or so years, or do differences exist today between various genetic groups?"

bbkingfish said...

David Harsanyi and Anne Althouse want you to think that Scott Walker invoked his Fifth Amendment rights only in response to a question about evolution in London this week.

Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth. In fact, Walker pleaded the Fifth to questions on a wide range of subjects, most pertaining to foreign policy.

Harsanyi, of course, is a distinguished Glenn Beck alumnus, so it's easy to think that misleading his audience might have something in it for him.

Althouse is a more interesting case. Why does a disinterested academic want you to believe things about Scott Walker that aren't true? Hmmm...

D. said...

> "Are you comfortable with the idea of evolution? Do you believe in it? Do you accept it?" <

i only acknowledge a theory

Paco Wové said...

"Do you believe is evolution" is not an inane question

Maybe not an inane question, but certainly not a good question. First off, because it re-frames the topic as one of faith and belief. Secondly, because it is hopelessly vague. Does the questioner mean to ask:
· Do you believe in divine creation?
· Do you believe that any species has ever evolved into another recognizable species?
· Do you believe that humans evolved from other animal species?
...or one of thousands of other questions that can be subsumed under the "believe in evolution" label.

Generally, I've found that with some probing, the only thing that people care about when asking the "believe in evolution" question is really the "descent of humans" one.

n.n said...

Unknown:

The value is in evolutionary principles, which are observable, reproducible, and discernible through deduction; not evolutionary creation. The chemical and structural correlation between animals and humans can be understood without discussing diverse beliefs in origin.

GMOs, like everything else, should be open to scrutiny. This does not preclude their general use and distribution; but, it does require regulation and oversight to monitor their effects on a wide and narrow scale. If they cause more harm than benefit, then they should be restricted or discontinued. This trial will be continuous to observe consequences in both intra- and inter-generational populations.

Paco Wové said...

...It's analogous with "do you believe in global warming, err, climate change" when what the questioner really means is "do you believe that the earth will get catastrophically warmer because of past human actions and we must currently take drastic political/economic steps to maybe avert some of the damage".

geokstr said...

"...other theories of the origin of species such as creationism and intelligent design"

These are not two separate "theories". It was revealed years ago that the Discovery Institute, the main force trying to get creationism taught as science in public schools, had written a White Paper on how to accomplish this in the 1990s. However, after a series of humiliating court defeats had tarnished the creationism brand, they used the "Search/Replace" function to substitute "Intelligent Design" for "Creationism" in the White Paper and moved ahead.

ID "theory" isn't even a theory, it's merely a religious narrative that dishonestly distorts the real and perceived gaps in scientific knowledge as the "proof" that goddidit with miracles. One of their own spokesmen, Michael Behe, admitted, under oath, that despite generous grants available to do ID "science", none had been applied for, and there was no science backing ID.

Here is a huge site that debunks every one of the creationist claims about their "science" and falsehoods about the real scientific evidence:
Talk.Origins

If you want a good laugh, and have a lot of time to waste, take a look at random at the ridiculous, outlandish, moronic, bizarre and hilarious excuses for reasoned discourse by creationists/IDers. My favorite section has always been Noah's Flood, but every scientific topic is thoroughly covered, from the Big Bang forward..

Ann Althouse said...

"I look at the evolution question maybe a little differently. It is, to me, a stand in for whether or not you are somewhat of a religious fundamentalist. The left is trying to catch those who believe strongly in the Bible with gotcha politics."

So it's like serving pork to find out who's Jewish/Muslim.

James Pawlak said...

QUESTIONS
1. Due UNBORN CHILDREN feel pain at 20-weeks after conception?
2. Is there any scientific(Reliable, valid and confirmed by qualified persons "with no axe to grind") that Humans have any appreciable role in "Global Warming"?
3. What caused the end of the last Ice Age when there were only a very few humans on this World?
4. What is the relationship between an armed citizenry and: The general reduction of violent crime in the USA; And, the rates of such citizens being murdered or maimed by criminal attacks Vs. unarmed targets of violent criminal attacks?

Bricap said...

Althouse, it would be more effective for finding out who is vegetarian.

Michael K said...

"Althouse is a more interesting case. Why does a disinterested academic want you to believe things about Scott Walker that aren't true? Hmmm..."

No doubt you have excellent examples. Regale the crowd with them. I'm sure you have no hesitation about displaying your evidence. Right ?

Right ?

Birches said...

Hit it out of the park with this one.

And Michael K, I was one of the ones pushing back at you on the previous thread on evolution. I think you'd probably be surprised on how much we agree on regarding evolution. I believe the disconnect comes as kimsch said, because "evolution" can be a stand in for a lot of different things:

With the evolution question, it depends on the questioner's definition of evolution doesn't it. Does the questioner believe that man is descended from apes? Does the questioner believe there is some sort of missing link? Or that there is some common ancestor? Some assumptions are incompatible with Judeo/Christian beliefs, some are not. Belief in a Creator or an intelligent design and in evolution aren't mutually exclusive.

Fernandinande said...

Harsanyi's questions include ones about abortion, like: "Is a 20-week-old unborn child a human being?" To my mind, that isn't even a science question, it's a moral question, and it's a moral question that you can't get started on withou[t] defining the term "human being."

That's funny. It's only a "moral question" due to liberals/feminists muddying clear waters.

If someone wants to determine whether blood or some animal remains are human, they'll run an RSID test or look at the DNA, but all of a sudden that doesn't work if the subject isn't the right age? Sure.

Is the killing of a 20-week-old fetus permissible?

Is killing a 20-year-old permissible? Sometimes.

Is a 20-week-old fetus capable of any conscious perception?

It might be sciency, but it's irrelevant. Is an anesthetized 20-year-old capable of any conscious perception? No. So then what?

And how many liberal journalists are aware that classical Darwinian evolutionary theory has been utterly refuted by the fossil record?

Cite?

Hence the punctuated equilibrium theory of evolution proposed by Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould?

Gould was a dishonest scientist, a Marxist and almost a charlatan.

http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2011/06/high-v-low-m.html
John Maynard Smith: "Gould occupies a rather curious position, particularly on his side of the Atlantic. Because of the excellence of his essays, he has come to be seen by non-biologists as the preeminent evolutionary theorist. In contrast, the evolutionary biologists with whom I have discussed his work tend to see him as a man whose ideas are so confused as to be hardly worth bothering with, but as one who should not be publicly criticized because he is at least on our side against the creationists. All this would not matter, were it not that he is giving non-biologists a largely false picture of the state of evolutionary theory."

John Tooby: "Although Gould characterizes his critics as "anonymous" and "a tiny coterie," nearly every major evolutionary biologist of our era has weighed in in a vain attempt to correct the tangle of confusions that the higher profile Gould has inundated the intellectual world with. The point is not that Gould is the object of some criticism -- so properly are we all -- it is that his reputation as a credible and balanced authority about evolutionary biology is non-existent among those who are in a professional position to know...

These [major evolutionary biologists] include Ernst Mayr, John Maynard Smith, George Williams, Bill Hamilton, Richard Dawkins, E.O. Wilson, Tim Clutton-Brock, Paul Harvey, Brian Charlesworth, Jerry Coyne, Robert Trivers, John Alcock, Randy Thornhill, and many others."

CStanley said...

I think the point of the question on whether or not a fetus is a human being is on point because so many abortion rights advocates do deny the science of the matter. Their rhetoric obfuscates it by referring to clumps if cells or other phrases which would be more consistent with the fetus being a part of the woman's own body. So before we can even get to the discussion of legal personhood and potential protection of life, they have tried to end the discussion by denying the scientific facts defining a human fetus.

So yes, ask the question and let them go on record either as biological illiterates or defenders of killing preborn human beings.

bbkingfish said...

For the curious...

Here is one report on Walker's use of the Fifth Amendment at Chatham House...

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/gov-scott-walker-punts-foreign-policy-evolution-questions/story?id=28899257

And here is that noted meanie, Karl Rove, patiently explaining to the Fox News audience why the spin coming from the Walker camp is bullshit...

http://crooksandliars.com/2015/02/karl-rove-bashes-scott-walkers-refusal

BTW, don't bother looking for the clip on the Fox website; they already have destroyed the evidence.

Freder Frederson said...

We thought the science was settled with the Big Bang.....wrong!

Who is "we"? Nothing about the origin of the universe is settled (unlike evolution).

Bruce Hayden said...

So it's like serving pork to find out who's Jewish/Muslim.

I think so, with the proviso that some less observant Jews have been known to eat a little pork. A friend of mine had to adjust to that when he married a woman from a more observant family.

garage mahal said...

Scott Walker was asked about something he doesn't want to discuss. Whaaa!!!! Ann Althouse to the rescue!

Bruce Hayden said...

Nothing about the origin of the universe is settled (unlike evolution).

Of course - it depends on how you define the limits of evolution. Sure, that it operates has been scientifically proven. We can look at single chromosome mutations, and see how evolutionary pressure could work to give it preference. But, it cannot, as of yet, prove that there was no divine intervention in who we are, and what our species became. That is because we are the result of millions of such mutations over the eons, and the genetic record has big jumps in it, where a number of mutations happened in some of the gaps.

Bruce Hayden said...

ID "theory" isn't even a theory, it's merely a religious narrative that dishonestly distorts the real and perceived gaps in scientific knowledge as the "proof" that god did it with miracles.

But, as I have pointed out above - it cannot currently be disproved by science. At least the version that posits that God has been nudging evolution along here and there.

iowan2 said...

Notice how the MSM radical left agenda is implemented.

By Proxy.

Those in the MSM dont ask if Walker is stupid because he is not credentialed. They invite a proxy, Dean. Dean has no skin in the game and shoulders no risk. So the MSM can talk about what Dean said, without ever dirtying their own hands.

Pay attention. Smear by Proxy.

Anonymous said...

I find the scientific certainty expressed by some in this thread a bit amusing, considering that we can observe only 5% of reality.

chickelit said...

Bruce Hayden said...So, my vote would be to shift nuclear to carbon based energy, and let the temperature head upwards.

I think energy will always be carbon based. Carbon is a unique element which stores chemical energy exceptionally well and there is a limitless supply of it in the form of CO2. So even if we switched to "nuclear" for energy -- chemically reducing CO2 -- we'll still be storing it in carbon frameworks.

n.n said...

icepilot:

5% is probably close to the scope of the scientific domain in time and space. It doesn't cover all of planet Earth, let alone the Solar System, and certainly beyond. It doesn't cover several months, years, or decades without liberal assumptions of uniformity.

The scientific domain is defined by natural and enhanced perception, replication, and deduction. The scientific method attempts to constrain speculation, but people routinely conflate the scientific, philosophical (i.e. probable), and faith (i.e. beyond perception and probable advances of knowledge and skill) domains.

People generally feel uncomfortable with the narrow scope of the scientific domain. They feel it's useful to compete with other faiths and philosophies through exploitation and corruption of science. As well as narcissistic indulge. And, today, to rationalize premeditated murder or termination of a wholly innocent human life (i.e. system and process) with trivial causes (e.g. wealth, pleasure, leisure) and without due process.

The affirmative statements that are all too common in science and society signal the regression to a primitive state after a brief hiatus where people distinguished between faith, philosophy, and science. It's notable that the Judeo-Christian philosophy is one of the first to introduce a hard separation between God, gods, and faith and science.

n.n said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
n.n said...

Intelligent design is a theory in philosophy based on myth or generational stories, which are not a fairy tale (e.g. spontaneous conception), and may or may not recount actual events. It is similar to a principle of uniformity over time and space, independence in a complex system, or rationalization to justify violation of convention. Affirmative statements, whether positive or negative, about phenomenon in the philosophical or faith domains are evidence of personal faith.

Big Mike said...

@Fernandinande, ouch. I wish that there had been more discussion of Gould's ideas by the biologists you cite in the literature that is accessible by non-professionals. I'm a mathematician, not a biologist, and Gould's ideas as laid out in his numerous books (as well as his columns in "Natural History") have a unity that is perceptible to me, at least. This is particularly true of his description of the role of contingency in evolutionary theory, which looks to me much like the role of statistics in quantum theory. And there are echoes of the role of contingency in the end of MacPherson's Battle of Cry of Freedom when he analyzes why the North won the Civil War.

That Gould was a Marxist is a given; he wasn't shy about hiding it. Ditto Roger Ebert. That either of them believed in debunked economic theories doesn't change whether they were right about evolutionary theories or movie reviews, respectively.

But you do place me in a conundrum. To my mind the most elegant refutation of Intelligent Design is in Gould's book The Panda's Thumb. Can you suggest an alternative?

(For those who haven't read it, the point of The Panda's Thumb is that pandas eat bamboo, which requires them to have a thumb like a primate so they can grasp the stalks. Except that their "thumb" isn't a modified finger like a human or some other primate. It's a modified wrist bone. If ID holds, then the panda should have a regular thumb made from finger bones, but if pandas evolved from a more primitive bear ancestor with a taste for bamboo then a modified wrist bone is easier to make from bear wrist bones than to reshape an entire paw.)

Big Mike said...

@Fernandinande, OTOH how stupid could Gould have been when he picked Bahamian snails as his dissertation topic? Imagine being forced to spend your winters in the Bahamas paid for by your research grant!

Anonymous said...

Here are some facts I'd like politicians respond to:
Plants/plankton use photosynthesis to turn CO2 & sunlight into food. Neither animal nor blade of grass would exist absent Carbon Dioxide. Increasing CO2 lengthens growing seasons & encourages plants to move higher in altitude & Latitude; just as it shrinks deserts, plants using water more efficiently. Rising temperatures also lengthen growing seasons, help babies of nearly every species, increase net rainfall and save lives; because cold kills. The Earth is greener, more fertile and life sustaining than it was 30 years ago.

geokstr said...

Bruce Hayden said...
"ID "theory" isn't even a theory, it's merely a religious narrative that dishonestly distorts the real and perceived gaps in scientific knowledge as the "proof" that god did it with miracles."

But, as I have pointed out above - it cannot currently be disproved by science. At least the version that posits that God has been nudging evolution along here and there.


Bruce, I am well aware that scientists do not claim to be able to prove or disprove the existence of "God". They just acknowledge that science is in the realm of the physical only and cannot measure or detect the metaphysical, if it exists. I thought that was common enough knowledge that I didn't have to say it.

I spent a couple wasted years a decade ago researching and debating online the science v bible issues, and when you got right down to it, all they had to support creationism/ID was faith that somehow, "goddidit". (BTW, that is not a typo, it's a sarcastic way to describe their belief in innerancy.)

Which reminds me - do you know what you get when you cross a neurotic with an insomniac who's dyslexic? Someone that's up all night worrying about the existence of doG.

walter said...

"He punted on a wide range of issues"

Which were? According to the press the only trade was this stupid barb.

Isn't anyone going to talk about the actual trade issues?
Can we trade Obama for the returned bust of Churchill for example?

Walker was evasive on that irrelevant question (and perhaps on the previous unexplored "punt")..but these talking heads werer idiotic.

Steve Uhr said...

Walker can do no wrong. Cruel neutrality will be missed this campaign season. Partisanship is predictable and boring.

Nonapod said...

Do you believe that 0.999... (repeating) is equal to 1?

Regarding mathmatical philosophy: Are you a Classical Finitist, a Strict Fininitist, or an Infinist.

Are you a proponent of the "Out of Africa" model of human evolution, or are you a multiregionalist?

Are you a proponent of the Weak or Strong Anthropic principle?

Are you a proponent of Loop Quantum Gravity, String Theory, or another Quantum Gravity or field theory?





Lydia said...

Walker has got to learn how to do the evade-and-dance-around-the-question ploy used by the pros. If he'd had that down pat, he could have answered the evolution question something like this:

"What you're really asking is how do I view the role of science in our world. Well, first off, I'd point to how Wisconsin during my time as governor has worked to grow the skill-set of our workers and students so they can find gainful employment in an economy that is more and more technologically oriented, which means training in science is vital..." Etc.

Smilin' Jack said...

Here's my evolution-specific science question: Have you studied the theory of evolution at the college level?

I like that question in part because some Walker antagonists are linking his failure to talk about evolution to his lack of a college degree.


Evolution was the basis of my freshman high school biology course. Did Walker even manage to graduate from high school? Would you see it as a problem if he didn't?

Funny how he punts on biology, but feels perfectly competent to proclaim on economics, which requires graduate study to even begin to understand.

mtrobertsattorney said...

ID, properly understood, is not a religious theory at all. It merely draws an inference from certain phenomena that they show evidence of intelligent design. The source of that design is left an open question.

This kind of reasoning is not unusual. Without it, you could not distinguish between an ancient cave drawing from an interesting rock formation.

From Inwood said...

Here's a Q for Lib Pols:

Are you comfortable with the idea that tumors grow for 9 months in the bodies of wymyn & that there is no life 'til the cab ride home?

The Godfather said...

Smilin' Jack: "economics . . . requires graduate study to even begin to understand."

Nonsense. It takes graduate study to make it not understandable.

Assuming you mean macro.

hombre said...

'To my mind, that isn't even a science question, it's a moral question, and it's a moral question that you can't get started on without defining the term "human being."'

The only difficulty defining a 20-week-old unborn child as a "human being," Professor, has arisen as a result of pandering to apologists for abortion. Similarly, the obfuscation inherent to characterizing the question as moral, rather than scientific, is a post-Roe phenomenon.

Prior to 1973, the assertion that a 20-week-old unborn child was not a human being would have been acknowledged as the absurdity it is.

jr565 said...

The question I would ask is "Back in 2000 the Guardian made a prediction that our kids wouldn't know what snow was. Do you think their arguments were anti science and extremist? Gore also said back in 2008 that there was a 75% chance that the entire polar ice cap would have melted within 5 to 7 years.
Do you think this is, perhaps, a bit daffy in retrospect?"
Considering those things did not in fact happen the way they were predicted, might we not look at your other predictions with some degree of skepticism?

jr565 said...

Big Mike wrote:
"And how many liberal journalists are aware that classical Darwinian evolutionary theory has been utterly refuted by the fossil record? Hence the punctuated equilibrium theory of evolution proposed by Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould?"
Yup, those deniers of evolution have been saying the truth. TheThe fossilized record oesn't show evolution the way Darwin predicted it would.

"Punctuated equilibrium (also called punctuated equilibria) is a theory in evolutionary biology which proposes that most species will exhibit little net evolutionary change for most of their geological history, remaining in an extended state called stasis. When significant evolutionary change occurs, the theory proposes that it is generally restricted to rare and rapid (on a geologic time scale) events of branching speciation called cladogenesis. Cladogenesis is the process by which a species splits into two distinct species, rather than one species gradually transforming into another"

So there is no gradual adaptation over time.

jr565 said...

From Gould:
"Their paper was built upon Ernst Mayr's theory of geographic speciation,[2] I. Michael Lerner's theories of developmental and genetic homeostasis,[3] as well as their own empirical research.[4][5] Eldredge and Gould proposed that the degree of gradualism commonly attributed to Charles Darwin was virtually nonexistent in the fossil record, and that stasis dominates the history of most fossil species."

jr565 said...

"The history of most fossil species include two features particularly inconsistent with gradualism:

1) Stasis - most species exhibit no directional change during their tenure on earth. They appear in the fossil record looking much the same as when they disappear; morphological change is usually limited and directionless;

2) Sudden appearance - in any local area, a species does not arise gradually by the steady transformation of its ancestors; it appears all at once and 'fully formed' (Gould, 1977).

Gould admits that the neo-Darwinian synthesis is not supported by the fossil evidence and
"is effectively dead, despite its persistence as textbook orthodoxy"

This is not an endorsement of Gould's view. Merely pointing out his view that the fossil evidence does not support gradualism

jr565 said...

"evolutionary scientists Niles Eldredge, George Simpson and Stephen J. Gould, of the American Museum of Natural History and Harvard University, respectively, noted that the fossil record does not support the traditional Darwinian idea of slow, gradual changes in organisms through time. As Mr. Eldredge explains, “Most families, orders, classes and phyla appear rather suddenly in the fossil record, often without anatomically intermediate forms smoothly interlinking evolutionarily derived descendant taxa with their presumed ancestors.” Evidence of gradualism between phyla, classes and even orders is generally non-existent and what little evidence does exist is heavily debated. George Simpson acknowledged this decades ago: "This is true of all thirty-two orders of mammals…The earliest and most primitive known members of every order already have the basic ordinal characters, and in no case is an approximately continuous sequence from one order to another known. In most cases the break is so sharp and the gap so large that the origin of the order is speculative and much disputed…” To this Mr. Gould adds, "We may acknowledge a central and surprising fact of life's history – marked decrease in disparity followed by an outstanding increase in diversity within the few surviving designs."
again, not an endorsement of punctured equilibrium. Merely highlighting points that Gould and Eldridge made which they say undermines Gradualism (They are still believers in evolution remember). So then, if they are right, then in fact the fossilized record does not in fact show gradualism.

jr565 said...

hombre wrote:
Prior to 1973, the assertion that a 20-week-old unborn child was not a human being would have been acknowledged as the absurdity it is.

The same thing would be true when discussing sex changes for transsexuals and referring to people like Bradley Manning as "she" He is not a she. It's absurd to claim so. His DNA shows that he can only be a man despite what some doctor does to fashion his penis into a fake vagina.

jr565 said...

"Harsanyi's questions include ones about abortion, like: "Is a 20-week-old unborn child a human being?" To my mind, that isn't even a science question, it's a moral question, and it's a moral question that you can't get started on withou defining the term "human being."It's also, obviously, a stand-in for another question that isn't at all hidden: Is the killing of a 20-week-old fetus permissible? I say, if we want to claim to be asking science questions, frame the questions in science terms: Is a 20-week-old fetus capable of any conscious perception?


Are human beings in 9 month comas with no conscious perception while in those comas not human?

The Godfather said...

@Althouse:

Following up on hombre (4:07 pm): The "moral question" whether you can kill a 20 month fetus can't be decided until you first decide what a 20 month fetus is. If a 20 month fetus is an organ in the mother's body, analogous to an appendix, there's no moral issue involved in its removal. But IF a 20 month fetus is a human being, then it's harder to justify Althouse's preferred answer, that it's entirely up to the mother whether or not to kill it. I don't mean that it's impossible to justify doing so. Perhaps the fetus's degree of cognition, or ability to feel pain, should be considered. Perhaps society as a policy matter ought to give the mother of the fetus absolute control over it's life or death. Perhaps that absolute control should extend beyond 20 months, perhaps beyond birth.

BUT we shouldn't ignore these issues by ignoring the question of WHAT IS IT THAT IS BEING KILLED.

jr565 said...

Also regarding the fossil record:
In The Return of Hopeful Monsters", Gould wrote: "The fossil record with its abrupt transitions offers no support for gradual change....All paleontologists know that the fossil record contains precious little in the way of intermediate forms; transitions between major groups are characteristically abrupt."[14][15]

Dr. Colin Patterson,The senior paleontologist at the British Museum of Natural History, said:
“ Gradualism is a concept I believe in, not just because of Darwin’s authority, but because my understanding of genetics seems to demand it. Yet Gould and the American Museum people are hard to contradict when they say there are no transitional fossils....I will lay it on the line — there is not one such fossil for which one could make a watertight argument.

Those are paleontologists who believe in evolution saying the fossilized records don't point to gradualism. In Pattersons' case he NEEDS to believe it, but at the same time has to acknowledge that the fossil records simply do not show it.

And Mayr wrote:
"Given the fact of evolution, one would expect the fossils to document a gradual steady change from one ancestral form to the descendants. But this is not what the paleontologist finds. Instead, he or she finds gaps in just about every phyletic series. New types often appear quite suddenly, and their immediate ancestors are absent in the geological strata. The discovery of unbroken series of species changing gradually into descending species is very rare. Indeed the fossil record is one of discontinuities, seemingly documenting jumps) from one type of organism to a different type. This raises a puzzling question: Why does the fossil record fail to reflect the gradual change one would expect from evolution?
Because maybe evolution hasn't occurred the way gradualists suggest?

jr565 said...

Godfather wrote:
BUT we shouldn't ignore these issues by ignoring the question of WHAT IS IT THAT IS BEING KILLED.

that's people like Ritmo always refer to fetuses as parasites, or make comparisons between fetuses and sperm or bastocytes. Because he doesn't want to deal with what it is that's being killed.

Ann Althouse said...

"Prior to 1973, the assertion that a 20-week-old unborn child was not a human being would have been acknowledged as the absurdity it is."

What happened was that the Court decided that viability was a line that could be drawn. It isn't really that the fetus becomes a person exactly then, but that conception was too early a point and no other place seemed to work. I don't think that makes much moral sense, but the morality is affected by the idea that the woman is understood to be deciding for herself whether the unborn is a person, so it's the question of who decides, the individual or the state, not when is the fetus a person. At the point of viability, the state is seen as having enough of an interest that it can deprive the woman of the power to make her own decision.

Hagar said...

It is a Supreme Court decision on when murder is permissible.

As I have said before, our "inalienable rights" are only what we decide should be such within the society in which we have the power to set the rules.

jr565 said...

It's a scientific fact that life begins at conception. The fundies are right about that. The debate is when it's ok to kill that growing life. However, too many question that assumption that life even begins when it does.

Unknown said...

----which are observable, reproducible, and discernible through deduction; not evolutionary creation.

So we agree that a scientist could work in a laboratory with genotypes, mutations, genetic regulation and the like and using deduction (like Catholic priest Gregor Mendel) further discover knowledge, without regard to his/her religious beliefs?

It just seems like some who approach Science (like global warming) as more of a substitute religion and want to require that same mind set of all that seek knowledge.

Michael K said...

"Gould was a dishonest scientist, a Marxist and almost a charlatan."

My argument with him is the blank slate argument so ably refuted by Steven Pinker.

Pinker is no friend of fundamentalists as he believes most behavior to be genetic.

Gould's ideas about "punctuated equilibrium" are getting pretty much superseded by genetics and analysis of genes and introns and epigenetics

chickelit said...

Gould's ideas about "punctuated equilibrium" are getting pretty much superseded by genetics and analysis of genes and introns and epigenetics

"Superceded"? How does it explain the missing phenotypes then?

I think what you mean is that molecular biology -- especially since the advent of cheap gene sequencing -- has over shadowed Gould's ideas. The genome furor could lead us back to the same questions.

Phil 3:14 said...

If one answers the question " Do you believe in evolution?"with a "Yes", then the next question ought to be "How do you see evolution at work today in the human species?"

Revenant said...

My attitude towards creationism in its various forms (young earth, ID, etc) is similar to social conservatives' attitude towards homosexuality. I don't mind it, so long as they keep it private and away from impressionable children. :)

Walker's refusal to answer is something I'd like to see more politicians imitate.

n.n said...

further discover knowledge, without regard to his/her religious beliefs

Yes. In fact, the Judeo-Christian faith, for one, establishes a hard partition between God and science. The crux of the philosophy is that God established the unknown, underlying order of our universe, provided a moral philosophy to direct and judge development, then left the "machine" to follow its instructions. The exceptional character of humans, and to a lesser extent other lifeforms, stems from the endowment of a subset of God's spirit or energy that is extra-universal in origin and action, and thus exempt from universal constraints, which enables a freewill that is causal in an otherwise deterministic, albeit complex, environment. So, there is no conflict between Judeo-Christian faith and science practiced in the scientific domain, other than with respect to articles of faith; notably questions of origin.

The key is to identify and observe the constraints imposed by the scientific method, understand why they exist, and that while it does engender a binary conclusion, it does not engender a binary reality. To establish a partition between the scientific, philosophical, and faith domains. To refrain from offering affirmative statements about phenomenon outside of the scientific domain, which may be real but cannot be investigated using the scientific method, and are therefore outside of the scope of science.

Revenant said...

If one answers the question " Do you believe in evolution?"with a "Yes", then the next question ought to be "How do you see evolution at work today in the human species?"

One easily observed example is that the average melanin content of human skin is increasing.

n.n said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
n.n said...

jr565:

Life is a chaotic process that has a source: conception. Darwin's principles of evolution are an anthropomorphized subset of chaotic parameters. Murder is the introduction of sink that ends the process. Premeditated murder or elective abortion is the willful termination of a human life process and system. The established religion or moral consensus, while notoriously selective, is that a human life can only murdered with cause (e.g. self-defense) and due process.

The firmly held belief that life is a product of spontaneous conception is a fairytale, not a myth, not an article of faith. The elective abortion exemption is based on the firmly held belief that life is a commodity that is arbitrarily assigned a value by its mother. However, during that period of arbitration, it is the mother's choice to liquidate the unwanted or burdensome asset.

The State's compelling interest is to secure taxable assets and reduce the problem set. The Party's compelling interest is to foment class divisions, create democratic leverage, and open space for diverse and disunited replacements, thereby weakening any effective opposition. The mother's compelling interest is to follow the profits of wealth, pleasure, and leisure.

LarsPorsena said...

Does fracking cause earthquatkes?

n.n said...

our "inalienable rights" are only what we ... have the power to set the rules

While that it self-evidently true, it is also true that a statement of "inalienable rights" mentally empowers people to choose their fate. The state can arbitrarily withdraw our "inalienable" rights, including by [mis]interpretation of black-robed priests. The people can also recognize their own dignity and rebel, and likely be killed, imprisoned, and tortured; but, they may also successfully overturn or reform an oppressive orthodoxy. Hence the insight recorded in our national charter, The Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident...".

boinky said...

one of the problems of "evolution" discussion is that people fail to distinguish the differences between evolution as a scientific construct, and evolution/scientism as a philosophical idea.
We Catholics have no problem with the first, but deny the second.

Darwin insisted only "chance" was behind evolution, and we figure God doesn't play dice but sort of directed it.

"Evolution" is, alas, a way to push "scientism/materialism", to get rid of traditional rules so that the big shots can make the rules up.

Whether this is good or bad depends on your point of view, but given the casualties of distorted Darwinian ideas in Marxism and Naziism, at least one should be aware that this debate is both nuanced and important.

boinky said...

one of the problems of "evolution" discussion is that people fail to distinguish the differences between evolution as a scientific construct, and evolution/scientism as a philosophical idea.
We Catholics have no problem with the first, but deny the second.

Darwin insisted only "chance" was behind evolution, and we figure God doesn't play dice but sort of directed it.

"Evolution" is, alas, a way to push "scientism/materialism", to get rid of traditional rules so that the big shots can make the rules up.

Whether this is good or bad depends on your point of view, but given the casualties of distorted Darwinian ideas in Marxism and Naziism, at least one should be aware that this debate is both nuanced and important.

jr565 said...

revenant wrote:
one answers the question " Do you believe in evolution?"with a "Yes", then the next question ought to be "How do you see evolution at work today in the human species?"

One easily observed example is that the average melanin content of human skin is increasing.

But is that simply based on people spreading their genes, as opposed to some evolutionary action?
You can supposedly increase your melanin production by taking vitamins.
DOn't really see how that answers the question on evolution.
Especially the evolution that everyone is debating. i.e. did we evolve from monkees, or chimps.

Scientists found that various humans share DNA with other animals - chimpanzee, baboon, cat, dog, cow, pig, rat, mouse, chicken, zebrafish and two species of pufferfish. But
just as we are all made of water and elements, perhaps the shared DNA is simply how nature constructs beings. There is over lap with all creatures, some more than others since DNA is simple the building blocks of nature. Don't see how that means that we are descended from cats, or they from us any more than it means that we are descended from chimps.
It sounds like an awful lot of reaching and inferring, based on very little actual data.

RecChief said...

The future of Medicine is going to be increasingly based on genetics and that is why I think it important for medical students to know and accept the role of evolution in biology.

As an aside, wasn't Gregor Mendel an Augustinian Monk? I seem to remember that from my Catholic High School biology class. It was a Jesuit School, so, you know, talk my memory for whatit's worth.

RecChief said...

Take not talk.
sorry

RecChief said...

Bricap said...
Ask candidates if they are perfectly fine with tax dollars going to schools that teach young earth creationism in a science class



What is the percentage of Christians do you think believe in young earth creationism?

Zach said...

Here's my problem with the "science" questions people ask of politicians: there's no science in them!

Stephen Jay Gould has come up a couple of times in this conversation. He's an interesting example, because he was a prominent scientist who occasionally shoehorned very conventional liberal politics into his columns.

But Gould is a million times more interesting when he's talking about the nonpolitical things that he's actually a world famous expert in. "Wonderful Life," about the Burgess shales, is passionate, focused, informative, and incredibly well researched. (Gould was personal friends with most of the personalities involved, and had extensive knowledge of the Shales' original discoverer, who was one of the founding personalities of his own department.)

Science isn't supposed to be a bunch of gotcha questions. It's supposed to be like the Burgess shales -- incredibly interesting, worthy of further study, not necessarily immediately useful.

Revenant said...

"One easily observed example is that the average melanin content of human skin is increasing."

But is that simply based on people spreading their genes, as opposed to some evolutionary action?

"People spreading their genes" IS "evolutionary action". If the frequency of a gene changes over time, evolution has taken place. That's what evolution is.

Michael K said...

"How does it explain the missing phenotypes then? "

The human genotype, along with other higher animal genotypes, contain many "introns" that do not code for proteins. Many consider these the missing "links" of evolution.

Mendel recognized genetic variation when breeding sweet peas. He didn't know how it worked. Modern genetics began with him.

Bateson recognized that Mendel's work showed the discontinuous nature of genetics and coined the term "gene."

Miescher recognized chromatin material in nuclei and Richard Altmann used the term nucleic acid. Kossel purified the material and described purines and pyrimidines, for which he got the 1910 Nobel Prize.

Fleming described "Chromosomes" in 1882 and Waldeyer named them because they stained deeply. Levine recognized DNA and RNA by the different sugar molecules they contained.

In 1927, Fred Griffith, showed that virulence was transferred from one form of pneumococcus to another, even though the virulent form was dead. Oswald Avery discovered that the transformation did not require living cells. They eventually realized it was DNA.

Watson and Crick got a Nobel Prize for the double helix in 1953 but did not mention Avery who really made the basic discovery.

Evolution is complex and easily misunderstood. I have spent years studying genetics just to keep up with my students.

chickelit said...

Michael K wrote:

The human genotype, along with other higher animal genotypes, contain many "introns" that do not code for proteins. Many consider these the missing "links" of evolution.

and

I have spent years studying genetics just to keep up with my students.

Who are the "many" in your first quote? Links would help. Thanks.

"Dammit Jim, I'm a chemist, not a geneticist."

Beldar said...

Bravo, Prof. Althouse: This is a superb post.

Four observations:

(1) It's the exceptionally rare journalist who can manage to ask short, clear questions of the caliber that you've composed for this post. They rarely manage either short or clear. And almost always, even the very best of them ask compound questions.

(2) Politicians at public hearings are even worse at asking short, clear questions than journalists. The paradigmatic example of that came during Chief Justice Roberts' confirmation hearings, when their long, multi-part, argumentative questions gave Roberts the opportunity to tapdance on the chests of the likes of Joe Biden and Chuck Schumer.

(3) Politicians almost always ignore the phrasing of questions, and instead they simply spot the buzz-word or phrase they want to use as their excuse to recite the most arguably related of the day's talking points. The benefit of a short, clear, well-composed question is that it puts the politician's nonresponsiveness under a high-contrast spotlight.

(4) The best forum in recent western history to observe genuinely devastating use of short, clear questions is during Question Hour at the House of Commons in the U.K. Our British cousins -- including their politicians, journalists, and lawyers -- still routinely outshine us in their rhetorical skills, in my opinion and (admittedly limited) experience.

Beldar said...

"Question Time," I ought have written.

Beldar said...

I wrote at my usual tedious length, in 2005, about what makes a "killer question" in court, in a political committee hearing, or at a press conference, as part of a critique of Sen. Dick Durban's questioning of then Chief-Justice nominee Roberts: Judge Roberts as Atticus Finch, and the Killer Question that was never pressed: "Would you have taken the Topeka Board of Education as your client?"

Crimso said...

"The human genotype, along with other higher animal genotypes, contain many "introns" that do not code for proteins. Many consider these the missing "links" of evolution."

While introns appear to be an example of the increased complexity in eukaryotes presumably resulting from evolution, there is reason to suspect that lower organisms evolved in such a way that they have lost discontinuous coding (could provide cites, but they're not at hand). Introns may have been a feature of the earliest organisms on the Earth.

And I would argue that Watson and Crick didn't get the Nobel for the structure of DNA so much as they did for their single sentence statement in their letter to Nature regarding how the structure immediately suggested a mechanism for the copying of the genetic material.

For anyone who sees the Big Bang as an open question but evolution as settled (not just Freder; his comment spurred me to watch for the prevalence of this), compare the two. No one raises the question of when and how evolution began. Once you get an acceptable answer from any politician regarding evolution, then demand a position on, say, the GADV protein hypothesis. Forget throwing catalytic RNA at me, I've read peer-reviewed literature way beyond that. It doesn't solve the "Chicken or the Egg" paradox of evolution, it merely makes it a more meaty question.

I'm far more interested on what a politician knows about the ideas of Friedman, Marx, etc.

jr565 said...

"People spreading their genes" IS "evolutionary action". If the frequency of a gene changes over time, evolution has taken place. That's what evolution is."
You could say the same about eye color or hair color. If you want to say that people pass on characteristics, and that is evolution who would disagree with that?
But melanin is a trait that can be passed between human. Where it gets trickier is how we derive from a common anscestor. Such changes that would have us evolve are a lot more than simply passing on character traits that you pass on when you impregnate someone.

jr565 said...

Revenant wrote:
People spreading their genes" IS "evolutionary action". If the frequency of a gene changes over time, evolution has taken place. That's what evolution is.

No one denies that people spread their genes. How are animals evolving over time to different animals? There is a lot of variation within DNA to produce any number of slight variations. But they are slight variations, not massive changes. So, if you could be hairy or bald, over time you might have more people be bald or hairy. That's perfectly reasonable considering human being grow hair. You're not going to get massive evolutionary change based on those variations because humans can encompass those variations and not cease being humans.
If two cats mate they might look like variants of cats, but they will still have the DNA of cats.

jr565 said...

IF we say that apes diverged from a common anscestor 25 million years ago, that requires that somehow DNA itself was changed. That's a lot more profound than saying a species produces more melanin than it did previously ON AVERGAGE. Since it produced melanin. That's not unusual for a the species to produce.

jr565 said...

Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes and the great apes have 24 chromosomes. If we tried to mate with a chimp we wouldn't be able to get an offspring. So how did the divergence from the great anscestor occur?

jr565 said...

THe last common anscestor between chimps and humans lived between 8 and 6 million years ago. Only we don't have the remains. Meaning, we don't know that such a creature existed.
Also, the first primates came into existence about 55 million years ago. Did they come out of thin air? Or did they evolve from non primate life. How did THAT occur?
So evolution is such that a non primate could give birth to a primate? Or is it a primate in stages.
This is why Darwin was talking about how wed' find records of transitional forms in the fossils. And why Gould says it doesn't show up that way.

Fernandinande said...


"jr565 said...
And Mayr wrote: 'Given the fact of evolution, '


Note the word 'fact'.

'Why does the fossil record fail to reflect the gradual change one would expect from evolution?'

More of Mayr's statement is here (with link to full).

jr565: Because maybe evolution hasn't occurred the way gradualists suggest?

No. Because fossils are rare. "Only a fraction of the fossil-bearing strata is presently exposed at the Earth's surface." etc. Using only the part of his article that you selected is dishonest editing (on someone's part).

Big Mike said...
@Fernandinande, ouch.


Mild compared to Gould's falsehoods in "The Mismeasure of Man" (an unwittingly self-referential title).

I'm a mathematician, not a biologist,

I have degrees in math and physics and got interested in biological evolution in grad school; the thing that most interested me was how "simple" animals like ants, wasps, spiders and on up to birds, build such complicated structures - without being taught. (Try making something similar to a spider web, or a mud-dauber's nest, and let me know how it goes!) No mammals except humans do anything like that, despite being "smarter". Anyway I took a couple of grad classes about evolution. (Those biologists sure knew a lot more words - yikes!)

and Gould's ideas as laid out in his numerous books (as well as his columns in "Natural History") have a unity that is perceptible to me, at least.

That's why that blog page was called something like "High V, Low M": Gould's verbal ability masked his otherwise fairly unremarkable intelligence.

BTW, that blog is run by a physicist who's working on increasing IQ by genetic selection (BGI). Here's another to physicist turned genetics/evolution researcher. (And an anthropologist who doesn't post often).

To my mind the most elegant refutation of Intelligent Design is in Gould's book The Panda's Thumb. Can you suggest an alternative?

Nope, sorry. Nor do I have any refs suitable for refuting the Intelligent Multi-Unicorn Theory. (Personally I'm working on refuting the Aztec theory that the universe was created by gods throwing rabbits at each other, which is "Ig Nobel Prize" work, fersure. Next I'll be analyzing the evolution of the Giant Frog, and how he is undercutting prices at Giant Toad Supermarket.)

@Fernandinande, OTOH how stupid could Gould have been when he picked Bahamian snails as his dissertation topic?

Oh, I dunno - Darwin's main interest (at least later in life, IIRC) was earthworms (which apparently have a lot of effect on soils and the terrestrial environment).

Fernandinande said...

Ann Althouse said... What happened was that the Court decided that viability was a line that could be drawn.

It's still absurd. But not surprising.

Chickelit said...I think what you mean is that molecular biology -- especially since the advent of cheap gene sequencing -- has over shadowed Gould's ideas.

As for gaps in the fossil records, though due probably almost entirely to their rareness (how many have you found?), rapid changes in phenotype could be due to small changes in genes, but what's really evolving are the genes, not the structures they create. Selfish Gene: "Look at it from the gene's viewpoint."

Primitive, inapt analogy: when a caterpillar changes into a butterfly, genes stay the same but phenotype varies greatly. The "intermediate form" is goo: "If you were to cut open a cocoon or chrysalis at just the right time, caterpillar soup would ooze out."

jr565 said...

Fernandidante wrote:
No. Because fossils are rare. "Only a fraction of the fossil-bearing strata is presently exposed at the Earth's surface." etc. Using only the part of his article that you selected is dishonest editing (on someone's part).

fair enough, but also too rare then to prove evolution. We have fossils separated by millions of years and separated even from other fossils, and making inferences about their place in our evolving wordl based simply on where they were found and when, and what they look like.

jr565 said...

Do those who believe in evolution think that there was rock? and then it rained, and formed soup? And then animals simply formed out of the soup?

jr565 said...

fernandindante wrote:
but what's really evolving are the genes, not the structures they create. Selfish Gene: "Look at it from the gene's viewpoint."


But if the genes were changed wouldn't the structures change as well?

jr565 said...

Variation would allow that some humans run faster. And if those who ran slower died more (because they were eaten by animals) then those pusing the genes would be those that run faster, thus producing kids that by and large run faster. There are other advantages though that could also work to offset lower speed. Like if you had a carapace with spikes on it, like a porcupine, or if you could shoot venom out of your mouth. Unfortunately for us we don't have those and will never get them. Because our variation is limited by our DNA. Animals who have that have that in their DNA. We can only progress in ways in which our DNA allows.

jr565 said...

and so how are our ancestors producing variations that produce US if it's not in their DNA to produce that. All they can do is vary based on the limits of their own DNA. Which is why if you loo at every chimp baby born its always another chimp. You can't get from chimp to human through minute variations because those are not minute at all.

Bruce Hayden said...

The thing though is that natural selection is multidimensional. Or multifaceted. Or, mutli-something. Different traits are traded off against each other. What is interesting to me there is that some of the fastest long distance runners come from where some think that we somewhat originated. Tall and lean. But, that isn't a body type that probably does well up north - too much surface area radiating heat, which is good for running, but bad for keeping warm in the winter, where you have winter.

One of the strengths, maybe, of our species is its genetic variability, due, possibly, to our wide distribution around the world. Much better than species like the cheetah that have almost none - the less a species has, the more fragile it is, and the more likely it is to go extinct. Of course, we aren't unique - mice may have close to a comparable range. Etc. The problem with this sort of fragility/lack of genetic diversity is that a small change in environment can wipe the species out.

I would think that with global travel, there would be a lot more genetic mixing of our species, ultimately resulting in a more homogenous genetic heritage. Except that at least here, and probably throughout the rest of the first world, and spreading into the second, we may be seeing a split in the species based on brain power. A lot of assortative mating going on these days, with the primary factors being IQ and wealth. Right now, the primary factors that probably limited brain size/IQ, such as calorie consumption and birth canal size, seem to be less pressing right now (though brain functionality may be an issue, as possibly evidenced by assortative mating of engineering types having a higher incidence of ASDs). If the species survives, it would be interesting to come back in the future and see where it went.

Robert Cook said...

"...other theories of the origin of species such as creationism and intelligent design?"

Creationism is intelligent design by another name, and vice versa. Just restating the Biblical version of creation with a patina of equivocating ( and big) words to provide a pretense of being "science-y."

Robert Cook said...

"...how many liberal journalists are aware that classical Darwinian evolutionary theory has been utterly refuted by the fossil record? Hence the punctuated equilibrium theory of evolution proposed by Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould?"

Hardly seems a refutation of Darwinian evolutionary theory, but a refinement of the original theory.

Robert Cook said...

"I eagerly await the day a 'journalist' asks a prog candidate, 'Do you believe in acupuncture, aromatherapy, feng shui, astrology, chiropractic, homeopathy, auras, rolfing, astral projection,.....'

"You know ---all that "sciency" stuff libs believe in...."


!!???

Is this what you think "libs" (sic) believe in?

Bruce Hayden said...

At least some evolution/genetic variation, etc. can be traced to genetic mutations. One example is three color vision. It is something that most old world monkeys (including the apes) have, but not the new world monkeys (or, something like that). What seems to have happened is that one of the color vision genes appears to have been duplicated during cell division. At first, that didn't mean much, since we still only had two colors that we could recognize. But apparently the precise frequencies of the cones can be tuned over time, which is why the vision of aquatic mammals is a bit different from the rest of mammals. Something like that. So, the theory is that the cones resulting from one of the two, previously identical, genes were tuned to a different set of frequencies over time. I think that the theory there is that they allowed us to see red, which was good for monkeys living in the treetops, because redder vegetation was better. Something like that. In any case, they can see how the mutation happened, and where on one specific chromosome. The only real questions are how the tuning happens/happened, and what was driving it.

I do wonder though how we did lose that 24th pair of chromosomes.

Bruce Hayden said...

RC - I think that a lot of people on the right believe that the left believes in science when it advances their cause, and then don't believe in it when they don't. And, believe in what was good science, but has now been debunked long after it has ceased to be good science. And, yes, economics, foreign relations, etc. Which is why you have a lot of them still believing in Keynesian economics many decades after it was shown not to work, and clinging onto CO2 based Anthropogenic Global Cooling/Warming/Climate Change/etc. long past when it was shown to be a combination of a hoax, bad science, and worse statistics.

Robert Cook said...

"Since the earth's temperature has ranged from steaming tropics to massive layers of ice, what is the ideal temperature we should strive for?"

The temperature range within which we can survive.

Char Char Binks said...

What makes a flower so pretty?

geokstr said...

jr565 said...
Do those who believe in evolution think that there was rock? and then it rained, and formed soup? And then animals simply formed out of the soup?


This is typical creationist blather. Why don't you just go to the old YEC standard - "Can a tornado whip through a junkyard and make a fully-functional 747?"

You do know that there's lots of things between "rocks" and "soup", right? As a matter of fact, organic molecules like amino acids, the building blocks of life, are common literally everywhere in the freakin" multiverse, including comets and meteorites, which pummeled Gaia for billions of years, interstellar dust clouds, and the exoplanet forming rings around other stars. That's the "soup mix", not some "evolved" rock.

I'm glad to see you at least admit that fossils are rare, but you have no clue how rare and why, do you? First of all, the life must have something hard enough to form a fossil, so out goes a few million entire species of plants and early marine life. Then, they have to die in a dark, cold environment where they will be sealed off from the elements, and protected from scavengers, say buried in mud, which can't be a common way to go.

Then, what few remain are subjected to the crushing geologic forces of glaciers and plate tectonics (with their attendant earthquakes and volcanoes). In fact, most of the land surface has been recycled over billions of years via subduction - when two plates crash into each, one goes miles back down into the mantle and may never see light again.

It's a miracle (statistically) that any fossils at all are still here after so many epochs. That we don't have a perfect lineage to work from doesn't stop us from seeing characteristics change over time in a logical way.

There is so much wrong with the rest of your comments that I could spend a month typing, but this the genius of the "Gish Gallop" (look it up, it has it's own wiki page) debate tactic used by creationists
- never defend your own ridiculous claims, just use clever one-liners (like the junkyard/jet above) to poke non-existent holes in real science, then after your assertion has been thoroughly debunked, don't rebut, just move on to the next silly one-liner, which is not required to be even remotely related to the last topic. They have thousands to choose from.

I've been through these debates with creationists. They're all the same outlandish junk, recycled over and over, because they literally have nothing else.

It's like debating any given Marxist; it can't be done, because they are not required to have any facts or evidence. They revise not only history to suit their preposterous claims but have changed the very language and meaning of words to suit their fantasies.

Robert Cook said...

"If one answers the question " Do you believe in evolution?"with a 'Yes,' then the next question ought to be 'How do you see evolution at work today in the human species?'"

The correct answer is that evolution works on such a long scale of time that we cannot see it at work in the brief lives of individual humans or in the brief live of modern humans on the earth.

Another thought, one I heard expressed by some scientist on television a few years ago: given that evolution is a means by which life forms and systems adapt to the changing environmental conditions around them, (the ones better able to survive carrying on, the ones less so tending to die off), and given that humans use tools to adapt the environment to us, perhaps there will be no more evolution in humans, as there is no need of it.

I don't know that this scientist necessarily believed this proposition, but perhaps simply offered it as an interesting question to think about. I also think the question itself is rooted in the limited life spans of human beings and in the brief time humans have existed on earth. We can't know how or when conditions may change such that humanity cannot adequately adapt conditions to us, but that we must adapt or die. In short, we may undergo (relatively) abrupt evolutionary changes as conditions require, or...we may simply die off.

geokstr said...

So, Robert Cook, if there was a way to give you upvotes here, I certainly would. At least we can agree on which side to be on in the Bible v. Science case. (Within that arena however, probably not so much - see AGW, peak oil, nuclear v. breezes and sunshine, et al.)

However, now that I, a staunch conservative, have publicly taken a stance agreeing with you on any subject, you have a problem. Your street cred with your leftling buds is now shot all to hell. Good luck getting that back.

:-)

chickelit said...

geokstr lectured...

You do know that there's lots of things between "rocks" and "soup", right? As a matter of fact, organic molecules like amino acids, the building blocks of life, are common literally everywhere in the freakin" multiverse, including comets and meteorites, which pummeled Gaia for billions of years, interstellar dust clouds, and the exoplanet forming rings around other stars. That's the "soup mix", not some "evolved" rock.

And I'm always amused by those who can read the origin of life into the Miller-Urey experiment and yet deny that life begins at conception.

It's an outright fraud -- a failure to recognize molecular architecture.

Fernandinande said...

Robert Cook said...
Another thought, one I heard expressed by some scientist on television a few years ago: ... given that humans use tools to adapt the environment to us, perhaps there will be no more evolution in humans, as there is no need of it.


Human evolution is occurring faster than ever.

Hawks
or here.
or
The 10,000 Year Explosion: How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution; author says "Like I said, every society selects for something. As I understand it, the preferred view among social scientists is that no society selects for anything."

Robert Cook said...

Fernandinande:

Very interesting. But I think it points up that, although evolution in humans is continuing, and, apparently, accelerating, (as measured by the scale of evolutionary time), we do not see it as we live our brief lives.

Bruce Hayden said...

Hawkes is interesting. Thanks. Learned a bit this afternoon. My views were/are somewhat simplistic in comparison - but that is because he is an expert here (and pretty good at describing things). I also found interesting your last link, which led to Class, Caste, and Genes, which somewhat confirmed my hypothesis above about the effects assortative mating (on the basis of IQ), only suggesting that it is potentially much more effective/faster acting than I thought. Oh, and it suggested a reason why myopia seems to be correlated with IQ. I had felt that there was some correlation (ever notice that the further you go in education, the more people are myopic? And you esp. notice this in places with higher concentrations, such as law firms).

Bruce Hayden said...

Very interesting. But I think it points up that, although evolution in humans is continuing, and, apparently, accelerating, (as measured by the scale of evolutionary time), we do not see it as we live our brief lives.

Or, maybe we do, and don't recognize it. I was struck a couple years ago when the IP practice group of our large regional firm went out to dinner, and then partied afterwards. Everyone else, it seemed like, at the club, was a beautiful person, fit, toned, etc. And we were mostly chubby, pale, and often myopic. But, I have little doubt, making a lot more money. Most of us (maybe not me...) had done well at better ranked law schools, probably making it an even more extreme example of what you see with any group of lawyers, as contrasted with the general public.

At least in parts of society, it seems like the constraints of good looks, physical strength, and good vision have been relaxed, allowing a higher IQ to push evolution more than it did in the past.

JamesB.BKK said...

A problem with evolutionary theory is that it observes something that exists and then concludes, "This must be most successful." Result oriented; not predictive. I've never really gotten how a breeding pair of any phylum or especially genus first could come into existence. That doesn't mean that they cannot, but nonetheless, this is not particularly well explained by focusing on the Origin of Species.

Consider also the life cycle of the butterfly. In that connection, Please see this interesting article by Fred Reed:

http://www.lewrockwell.com/2013/11/fred-reed/darwinism-is-nonsensical/

Kirk Parker said...

"That’s a question that a politician shouldn’t be involved in one way or another."


I like the cut of Walker's jib.

"Clearly, there are some evolution-related questions that a political candidate should be expected to answer. I'd ask: Do you think that public school science classes should..."


Now if Walker wants me to really REALLY like the cut of his jib, he'd need to answer:

"Of course I have opinions about some of these things, but I'm [perhaps] running for President of the United States. The federal government has no legitimate role in supervising the details of public eduction--that's something for the states and localities to do--so really any opinions I might have here are quite irrelevant."

JamesB.BKK said...

Would a person vying for the helm of the superstate really question the superstate's control of education? What is state control of education for if not to mould minds to, if not love the state, not question the roles it has already taken for itself? If a politician were to suggest he would work to really curtail state power already taken, we might do well to consider him or her to be just kidding.

Margaret Man said...

I believe that Scott Walker probably remembered the Kansas Education Board controversy. I recall the story of one of the board members Connie Morris from Boyle's book "Superior, Nebraska". From the book, evidently mentioning that that there are other schools of thought other than evolution is too much for some.

I just looked through a Google search. Even after all of these years, the first page of Google searches for her includes a headline about "Crazy Connie". From the treatment of the
Kansas story, I think that Walker was right to believe that his answer would not be given a fair hearing.

Off topic, but in my opinion, when evolution is taught, it should be used as a teaching moment to remind people that the scientific method is the evaluating hypotheses using observation and data. It is NOT a system of morals or a life philosophy. I think that it is best used as a "sixth sense" to better see the world, but the values for living and acting well aren't coming from weighing hypotheses.