Boston’s Hayden Planetarium carries standard of scientific study – Editorial The Standard Times – Aug 17, 2011

[click on title to be redirected to The Standard Times]

Dr. Guillermo Paz-y-Miño C. — © 2011

Department of Biology, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

Science is just a refined device for resolving ordinary curiosity and a powerful liberator of superstition. It is the subsistence kit to defeat re-emerging fundamentalism. And by recalling Giordano Bruno’s and Galileo’s past, as Santayana reasoned over the value of remembering history, we restate our right to learn the truth. This is why Boston’s Charles Hayden Planetarium is more than a “light show,” but a salutation to the triumph of scientific inquiry over blind belief…

Giordano Bruno was not as fortunate as Galileo to opt for the imprisonment of his body in trade for thinking and writing about cosmology under house arrest. The Roman Inquisition orchestrated Bruno’s “civil” burning in 1600, at age 52, for blasphemy and heresy, and for conjecturing that the sun was a star and that God and the universe were one and the same.

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Statue of Giordano Bruno by Ettore Ferrari (1845-1929), Campo de’ Fiori, Rome, Italy

Galileo’s fate, as philosopher, physicist and astronomer, was more honorable than Friar Bruno’s. Although the Catholic church did find Galileo “vehemently suspect of heresy” in 1633, for defending Copernicus’ proposal that the sun, not the Earth, was at the center of planetary orbiting, his precious mind could not be smoked by the clergy, nor smoldered by the populous, but rather retreated to concealed productivity. And so the church chaperoned Galileo’s brainpower until age 77.

Galileo Galilei Evolution Literacy

Galileo Galilei (as depicted by Justus Sustermans in 1636) and his “Faces of the Moon”

George Santayana Evolution Literacy“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” proclaimed the Spanish-American logician George Santayana (image left) [or “The One Who Does Not Remember History Is Bound To Live Through It Again“]. Indeed, recalling Bruno’s or Galileo’s tale is not pointless. It reminds us that exploring the cosmos can be obstructed by irrationalism, and that our worshipping for free science must continue to safeguard humanity’s scientific legacies. It alerts us that the word “obscurants” was coined to denounce those who veil facts from the public.

And this brings me to the cosmic celebration role played by the renovated Charles Hayden Planetarium in Boston, but not before urging an equal revamp of its host, the Museum of Science itself.

Nitpicking aside, each “Undiscovered Worlds,” “Explore the Universe,” “Cosmic Collisions” or “The Sky Tonight” show is a tribute to centuries of space explorations, and a joyful remembrance that, despite Bruno’s sadistic silencing and Galileo’s confinement, the empirical truth prevailed over institutionalized ignorance.

Zeiss Starmaster Projector Evolution LiteracyThe audience’s amazement while watching the planetarium animations is contagious. A Zeiss Starmaster projector (image left) creates the illusion of space travel and it is fun to go along. Visual and sound effects impress human senses and the virtual take-off in a helicopter, from the museum’s roof, while flying over Boston and metamorphosing into a spaceship that leaves Earth to immerse itself into galactic infinitude is magnificent.

Not surprisingly for an institution accountable for promoting science literacy, the planetarium has adopted clever marketing slogans: “Discover the beauty and wonder of the night sky that has fascinated humanity for millennia,” or “We have learned that our solar system is not alone in the universe, and we have had to redefine our understanding of planets and solar systems,” and my favorite “Explore cosmic collisions, the hypersonic impacts that drive the dynamic and continuing evolution of the universe.”

And pro evolution aphorisms are vital for the 40 percent of New Englanders who still do not accept the reality of evolution and seek —together with 70 percent of their equally incredulous American counterparts— air-conditioned recreation at summer museums.

And in a free-market society where the Book of Genesis sells more than the Book of Reason, the Boston Museum of Science and its planetarium must compete not only with reputable national co-exemplars of proper public outreach, but with impostor “sister institutions,” like the “creation museums” and “Genesis parks” emerging in the United States, where pseudoscience and intelligent design are smuggled in planetaria and aquaria format to depict foolishness, and so lure thousands of ticket buyers to harass plastic dinosaurs and inhale Eden.

Night Sky Image by Babak TafreshiThe night sky image by Babak Tafreshi, Lennart Nilsson scientific photography prize, 2009

But the Boston Museum of Science has just deployed an antidote to such pseudo-dinosauria frenzy: the exhibit “Dinosaurs: Ancient Fossils, New Discoveries,” open until Aug. 21 (2011), is another tribute to genuine science, and a co-effort with accredited institutions, including the American Museum of Natural History, Houston Museum of Natural Science, California Academy of Sciences, The Field Museum, and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

Science is just a refined device for resolving ordinary curiosity and a powerful liberator of superstition. It is the subsistence kit to defeat re-emerging fundamentalism. And by recalling Giordano Bruno’s and Galileo’s past, as Santayana reasoned over the value of remembering history, we restate our right to learn the truth. This is why Boston’s Charles Hayden Planetarium is more than a “light show,” but a salutation to the triumph of scientific inquiry over blind belief. — © 2011 by Guillermo Paz-y-Miño-C. all rights reserved

Galileo Explains Astronomy to Pope Evolution Literacy

Fluffy the Galileo of the lemmings Evolution Literacy

Fluffy, the “Galileo of the Lemmings,” with his stopwatch

Wrong at Forecasting Armageddon – Editorial The Standard Times – June 3, 2011

Harold Camping wrong at forecasting “Biblical End”

[click on title to be redirected to The Standard Times]

Dr. Guillermo Paz-y-Miño C. — © 2011

Department of Biology, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth 

Scripture is a silly source of insight to forecast the end of the world. But science helps us hypothesize more fascinating phenomena than the delusional Rapture…

If human extinction comes abruptly, it shall be from the darkness of our galaxy or from within the Earth. In fact, cosmic collisions and mega eruptions have decimated life more than once during Earth’s 4.6 billion-year existence. Ubiquitous nuclear explosions and the effects of radiation could also wipe out people and most organisms, but I will not elaborate here on such threats, since they have been examined by scholars and speculated in the media.

We can predict the probability of occurrence of some events based on prior empirical observations. I am certain that, for example, all readers of this article will not be around in the year 2100. I can forecast with less confidence that 20 percent of my college students’ grandparents, ages 60-70, will pass away within this decade, and that one in every five students’ excuses for missing an exam — due to a “death in the family” — will be legitimate. And I can infer from survivorship tables compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that Judgment-Day spiritualist Harold Camping, age 89 — who just postponed his “The End” of the world from May 21 to Oct. 21 of this year — is reaching his own finale.

Harold Camping Armageddon Evolution Literacy Image

Judgment-Day spiritualist Harold Camping forecasting The End… of the world for either May 21 or October 21, 2011

Redundant natural phenomena have led human intellect to discover predictable patterns of reality and, in consequence, reject superstition. And this is true about the cycles of the moon, the emergence and diversification of life from simple to more complex forms, the continental migrations of birds, the blooms of magicicadas every 13-17 years, or the seasonal intensification of tornadoes and hurricanes. Science has awarded us the luxury of anticipating the maladies of the blood (hemophilia) or the mind (porphyria) among the inbred Royal Houses of Europe, as much as foreseeing the geographic journey of the next influenza outbreak.

Magicicada Image Evolution Literacy

Magicicada illustration by R. E. Snodgrass (click on image for full resolution)

The self-correcting character of science guided astronomers to debunk Ptolemy’s geocentric model of the years 100 — when the Earth was worshipped as “the heart” of the universe — and replaced such optical illusion with Copernican heliocentrism — 16th century — an obvious deduction for those who refused to imagine heavens and constellations in the sky and rather saw planets and their moons revolving around our closest star, the sun.

Astronomy and modern cosmology have made sense of the chaotic night sky and allowed us to broadcast the passage of comets, alignment of planets, meteorite falls and polar auroras triggered by the collision of solar-wind particles against the atmosphere.

But why should we care about predicting cosmic events? Because by witnessing their majestic beauty and immensity we can also study and assess their destructive potential; and an educated public in matters of real global survival is more precious and needed than a vociferous street crowd surrendering at the brainless certitude of Camping’s prediction of Armageddon.

NASA eclipse website Evolution LiteracyThe NASA Eclipse Website offers an impressive education playground for those curious about previous eclipses of our sun and moon, plus accurate schedules of upcoming eclipses up to 2015 [updates reach year 3000]. And NASA’s Asteroid and Comet Impact Hazards Program informs online surfers about the predictability and reasonable uncertainty concerning future collisions between Earth and cosmic debris.

Watching the sky for possible encounters with large asteroids is a priority considering our planet’s heritage: A 6-mile asteroid cremated the “ruling class” Reptilia 65 million years ago when blasting a 110-mile-wide crater in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Few reptile lineages survived and repopulated.

Don Davis image Dinosaurs Extinction Evolution Literacy

Illustration by Don Davis (for additional images visit Don Davis asteroid impact

The end of the dinosaurs dragged tiny mammals out of their burrows, and they revisited old reptilian professions with limited originality: they became arboreal climbers, terrestrial herbivores and hunters, cave flyers, aquatic divers, and killers of killers. Their major evolutionary innovations were sweat glands turned into milk-producing udders and breasts, internal eggs that matured within a womb, and large skulls encasing clever minds. And it was the primate mind, shaped even further by natural selection in ape descendants, us, the thinking apes, that evolved scientific reasoning and consciousness.

Chicxulub crater image Evolution Literacy

The Chicxulub crater in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico (for additional information visit “Revisiting Chicxulub” by the National Science Foundation)

It is the human mind through which the universe understands and predicts itself. And it is the scientific method, which civilizations have discovered and perfected over millennia, the most reliable approach to understanding the past and present, and hypothesizing about the future. There will never be Judgment Day or Rapture or Armageddon. Our planet shall remain cosmically unsafe with fluctuating danger until our sun, the cause of our existence, runs out of fuel within the next 5 billion years. — © 2011 by Guillermo Paz-y-Miño-C. all rights reserved

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Humor: Judgment Day… did not happen

Harold Camping cartoon Evolution Literacy

A Stationary Ark on Isle of Jersey – Editorial The Providence Journal – March 25, 2011

A Stationary Ark on Isle of Jersey

[click on title to be redirected to The Providence Journal]

Dr. Guillermo Paz-y-Miño C. — © 2011

NoahsArk_as_by_TheProvidenceJournalIf the biblical story about the Ark were true, Noah’s attempt to save animals from the Flood would have driven them into inbreeding depression.

Sentenced to incest, the descendants from the surviving sexual pairs — which themselves were allegedly confined to uncertainty in a drifting vessel — would have accumulated lethal combinations of genes and followed an inescapable vortex toward extinction.

Indeed, critically small populations of organisms store much less genetic wealth than the progenitors from whom they usually originate. Deprived from a healthy shuffling of paternal and maternal traits — a phenomenon known as recombination and that enriches the genome of creatures that mate — the offspring of repetitive kin procreations soon become unfit, fail to reproduce and gradually vanish.

The cosmos appears indifferent to this pain and suffering. Yet the laws of nature have steered the emergence of empathy and consciousness in the universe via Darwinian selection. Self-aware apes, such as humans, understand tragedy or joy when afflicted or delighted by them; empathic people can also infer when other animals experience distress or appeasement. But this assertion is incomplete, since the cognitive Homo sapiens is surrounded by a diverse mosaic of mental power in his close and distant phylogenetic relatives.

Planet_Earth_NASAIntelligence has evolved gradually and in a continuum. And just like the fossil record, the pattern of human’s “brained companions” is scattered after historical and always ongoing natural extinctions. Chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, orangutans, capuchin monkeys and feathered creatures such as ravens, jays and parrots possess and seek empathy. They are proof that the mind is another byproduct — not a goal — of favorable conditions for the assemblage of organic matter in a Goldilocks-zone planet, hospitable like ours [click on image to be redirected to NASA: Earth], which has incubated life and later harvested intellect.

Empathy for each one of us and for other animals sometimes requires inspiration from the Ark’s metaphor, but not from Noah’s clumsy urgency to save provisions and secure self-subsistence in a landscape prone to fast inundation, but rather a well conceived and elegantly designed — under the scope of science — strategy for captive breeding and repatriation of endangered species.

I have a copy of “The Stationary Ark” (1976), with a handwritten note, “For Guillermo, with best wishes, Gerald Durrell.” But the first of Durrell’s books, in which he referred to the concept of the Ark in the context of preservation and propagation of threatened animal populations, was “The Overloaded Ark” (1953), which was followed by “My Family and Other Animals” (1956). Both gave this Anglo-Irish animal fanatic, born in India in 1925, fame and the income to fund the Jersey Zoological Park (1958) and house his personal collection of exotic animals.

TheStationaryArkBook

The Jersey Zoo became a world exemplar of how cutting-edge research, conducted at a tiny 30-acre patch of land in the English Channel Islands, off the French coast of Normandy, could lead to an international effort and successful captive breeding and reintroduction of the Mauritius kestrel and the Mongolian Przewalski’s horse — evidence that zoos can reverse the course of some human assaults on nature.

The_DodoDurrell adopted the flightless Dodo — a 3-foot-tall and 40-pound archaic pigeon endemic to Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean, which became extinct in the 17th Century — as symbol of the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust, JWPT (nowadays Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, DWCT), founded in 1963. The trust sponsors conservation of rare and endangered mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles. The Wildlife Preservation Trust International (WPTI) was later established in the United States, in 1971, as counterpart benefactor of JWPT, and evolved into EcoHealth Alliance.

Today, the Stationary Ark not only oversees conservation research of 200 species of animals in peril, but inspires empathy for wildlife among “educated Noahs” at a mini-university established at Les Noyers, and adjacent to the zoo. It was there where, in 1987, Durrell autographed the book I have, while I was student at the International Training Centre for captive breeding of endangered species; 2,700 graduates from 128 countries have been educated at the center since 1978, when it opened. — Durrell died at age 70.

Zoo_Trainees_JWPT_with_Gerald_and_Lee_Durrell_1987

Zoo keepers and trainees at Gerald Durrell’s home in Jersey (1987). Gerald Durrell, Lee Durrell and Jeremy Mallinson (Zoo Director at that time) appear in the back row, right.  Guillermo Paz-y-Miño C. is in the front row, second from the right. 

Perhaps the ark metaphor can still be used, or resuscitated, as by Gerald Durrell, to inspire curiosity for investigating the frontiers of nature and to propose scientific solutions to the genetic erosion of increasingly small animal populations worldwide. Then there’s the “full-scale” depiction of Noah’s Ark at a 160-acre Genesis theme park to open in Kentucky in 2014, a $150 million investment that will intoxicate the minds of visitors with the idea that incest mating between two of a kind — just like Adam and Eve — can populate the Earth. — © 2011 by Guillermo Paz-y-Miño-C. all rights reserved

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New England Professors Accept Evolution, But They Are Religious – Editorial The Standard Times – Jan 15, 2011

Why Accepting Evolution Matters

…New England professors accept evolution, but they are religious…

[click on title to be redirected to The Standard Times]

Dr. Guillermo Paz-y-Miño C. — © 2011

Department of Biology, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth 

People do not “believe” in evolution; we either accept it, or doubt about it, or reject it. But the reality of the evolutionary process continues regardless of our cognitive awareness or position about it. Evolution is true.

Together with my collaborator, Dr. Avelina Espinosa, professor at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island, we have uncovered the patterns of acceptance of evolution among university professors in New England, and the results are both fascinating and startling.

A cultural assumption has been that scholars are supportive of science and remain distant from belief-based perspectives regarding the natural world. Is this factual?

We surveyed 244 faculty — 90 percent Ph.D. holders in 40 disciplines at 35 colleges and universities widely distributed geographically in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. Our study was recently published online in Evolution, Education and Outreach, and the hard-copy report will appear in the March 2011 issue of the journal.

NewEnglandStatesInTheUSA

Why New England? The first shocking fact that triggered our interest in studying the Northeast of the United States was that, back in 2005, the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press had documented that only 59 percent of New Englanders accept evolution, the highest score nationwide, and that the overall regional acceptance of evolution in the United States was even more distressing: 57 percent in the Northwest, 45 percent in the Midwest, and 38 percent in the South.

More alarmingly, in 2006, the United States ranked 33rd among 34 other countries where acceptance of evolution was assessed, in contrast to Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, France, Japan and the United Kingdom, top in the list, where 75 to 85 percent of adults accept evolution (Science, 2006).

Our study revealed that 91 percent of the New England professors were very or somehow concerned about the controversy of evolution versus creationism versus “intelligent design” and its implications for science education. In fact, 96 percent of them supported the exclusive teaching of evolution in science classes and a 4 percent minority favored equal time to evolution and creationism (the latter declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1987). And 92 percent of the faculty perceived intelligent design as not scientific and as proposed to counter evolution, or as doctrine consistent with creationism.

NewEnglandFaculty_IntelligentDesign 

Percentage of New England faculty (Fac) versus college students from public secular (Pub), private secular (Priv), and religious (Rel) institutions who consider one of the following statements to be consistent with intelligent design (ID): (A) ID is not scientific but has been proposed to counter evolution based on false claims; (B) ID is religious doctrine consistent with creationism; (C) no opinion; (D) ID is a scientific alternative to evolution and of equal scientific validity among scientists; (E) ID is a scientific theory about the origin and evolution of life on Earth.

Although 92 percent of the professors thought that evolution relies on common ancestry — or that organisms can be traced back in time to ancestors that reproduced successfully and left descendants — one in every four faculty did not know that humans are apes, or relatives of primates. Worse, 30 percent of the faculty were Lamarckian, or believed in the inheritance of acquired traits during an organism’s lifetime, like longer necks, larger brains, or resistance to parasites, which are passed on to the progeny, a hypothesis rejected a century ago.

NewEnglandFaculty_DefineEvolutionAs

Percentage of New England faculty (Fac) versus college students from public secular (Pub), private secular (Priv), and religious (Rel) institutions who consider the following definitions of evolution to be either true (black bars) or false (color bars): (A) gradual process by which the universe changes, it includes the origin of life, its diversification and the synergistic phenomena resulting from the interaction between life and the environment; (B) directional process by which unicellular organisms, like bacteria, turn into multicellular organisms, like sponges, which later turn into fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals, and ultimately humans, the pinnacle of evolution; (C) gradual process by which monkeys such as chimpanzees, turn into humans; (D) random process by which life originates, changes, and ends accidentally in complex organisms such as humans; and (E) gradual process by which organisms acquire traits during their lifetimes, such as longer necks, larger brains, resistance to parasites, and then pass on these traits to their descendants.

We asked the professors if faith in God is necessary for morality, if religion is important in their lives, and if they pray. Only 5 percent agreed with the need of a God to secure proper social behavior, but 30 percent considered religion to be very important in their daily existence, and 17 percent confessed to pray daily.

The one-third of the faculty who thought that religion is important in their lives was comparable to the 33 percent of American scientists who admit to believe in God (Pew Research Center, 2009), but differed from the 12 percent of “professional evolutionary scientists” — members of the North American, European, United Kingdom, and other countries’ National Academies of Sciences (American Scientist, 2007) — and particularly the 7 percent of members of the United States National Academy of Sciences who believe in a personal God (Nature, 1998).

Indeed, most international scientists and the elite of the United States researchers are not religious.

NewEnglandFaculty_AcceptEvolutionOpenly

Percentage of New England faculty (Fac) versus college students from public secular (Pub), private secular (Priv), and religious (Rel) institutions who believe one of the following statements describes them best: (A) I accept evolution and express it openly regardless of others’ opinions; (B) no opinion; and (C) I accept evolution but do not discuss it openly to avoid conflicts with friends and family.

Why does acceptance of evolution matter? Because public acceptance of evolution in the United States (about 40 percent) correlates with support to: (1) proper science education in public schools; (2) science and technology as essential components of development and prosperity; and (3) rationalism and freedom of thought, all indisputable ingredients for a thriving society.

And it also matters because only the highly educated university professors of New England — hopefully of the nation — have levels of acceptance of evolution (97 percent according to our study) comparable to or higher than the ordinary public in other industrialized countries of Northern and Western Europe.

Because attitudes toward evolution correlated positively with understanding of science and negatively with religiosity and political ideology, aspects examined in our study, we concluded that science education combined with vigorous public debate should suffice to increase acceptance of naturalistic rationalism and decrease the negative impact of creationism and intelligent design on collective evolution literacy. — © 2011 by Guillermo Paz-y-Miño-C. all rights reserved

For original scientific article (New England Faculty and College Students Differ in Their Views  About Evolution, Creationism, Intelligent Design, and Religiosity), published in Evolution Education & Outreach, click on [PDF]

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Recommended Book: Evolution, Creationism, And The Battle To Control America’s Classrooms, by Michael Berkman & Eric Plutzer click on book for link

EvolutionCreationism_Book_Berkman_Plutzer_2010

Cartoon: Intelligent Design as Science…

IntelligentDesignAsScience

Cartoon: Biology 101… The Lord Censored Textbooks

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TEN TIPS ABOUT: How university professors can contribute to strengthen evolution literacy

By Guillermo Paz-y-Miño C. & Avelina Espinosa — © 2011

Excerpts from “New England Faculty and College Students Differ in Their Views  About Evolution, Creationism, Intelligent Design, and Religiosity” published in Evolution Education and Outreach

(1) By being proactive rather than reactive in confronting the “anti-evolution wars.” It is imperative that the university professors reach out to the public and lead the debate over science education and evolution literacy.

(2) By persuading the education departments at their institutions to fortify science training of future educators: higher education and outreach programs in science, particularly biology, for school teachers are fundamental to integrate evolution into our society’s culture.

TheScientificMethod

(3) By changing the emphasis with which college science is taught and improving the science curriculum: it is easier and faster to change the perspectives with which a course is taught than to modify the university/college curriculum; however, both might be indispensable to improving positive attitudes toward science and evolution.

(4) By creating a new type of professorship position: “professor for the public understanding of science,” whose exclusive role shall be to explain to the public the significance of the research conducted by each discipline, and also by assigning the most reputable professors and best communicators of science to the large-lecture courses, usually attended by nonscience majors.

(5) By constantly surveying variations in attitudes toward science and evolution among faculty, students and staff, and coordinating immediate responses to emerging antievolutionism: contrary to the assumption that skepticism toward creationist views predominates in academia, U.S. university professors, even at prestigious research institutions, increasingly embrace religiosity, a factor negatively correlated with acceptance of evolution; it is conceivable to forecast a decline in acceptance of evolution by university professors.

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(6) By sponsoring in- and off-campus lecture series, workshops and debates, open to the local high school teachers and the public, where university professors of all disciplines examine the anti-evolution phenomena, learn about the limitations established by schools boards on the science school curriculum and orient the audience on how to communicate modern science to all. Workshop discussion modules on “why evolution matters” can be particularly effective when organized for school board members, school district administrators, science teachers and university professors.

(7) By actively pursuing participation in “town Evo Edu Outreach halls for scientists and public” to discuss issues related to scientific research and the controversy of evolution versus creationism versus ID.

DownWithEducationCartoon

(8) By organizing multidisciplinary teams of professors (anthropology, biology, education, ethics, history, law, philosophy, political science, social psychology, and religious studies) committed to advice community groups on theoretical and practical aspects of civil action to counter anti-evolution campaigns, anti-intellectualism tendencies, and pro creationism and ID agendas.

(9) By never underestimating the influence of the anti-evolution movements that grow strong among misinformed citizens, vary in impact geographically, and benefit from the frequent disconnect between scientists and society. Indeed, the regional differential acceptance of evolution in the U.S. (i.e., Northeast 59%, Northwest 57%, Midwest 45%, South 38%; The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press 2005) suggests that pro-evolution campaigns shall require strategies compatible with local idiosyncrasies.

EqualWeighEvolutionCreation

 (10) By including in the “broad impact” section of research grant applications specific multidisciplinary outreach modules to educate the public in the areas of scientific literacy, “on-the-job-training” workshops for local/ regional high school teachers, online-mini courses, online assessment of local/regional attitudes toward science/evolution, laboratory internships and field work. The National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Education, and private donors encourage and even require grant applicants to reach out to the public in meaningful areas of current interest and societal debate. — © 2011 by Guillermo Paz-y-Miño-C. & Avelina Espinosa all rights reserved

TeachBothSidesCartoon

For original scientific article (New England Faculty and College Students Differ in Their Views  About Evolution, Creationism, Intelligent Design, and Religiosity), published in Evolution Education & Outreach, click on [PDF]

“Theory of Evolution” versus “Concept of Evolution”

By Guillermo Paz-y-Miño C. & Avelina Espinosa — © 2011

Excerpt from “On the Theory of Evolution versus the Concept of Evolution” published in Evolution Education and Outreach

“…It is important to make a distinction between the theory of evolution and the concept of evolution, but without compromising logic…

As scientific theory (Greek theoria), evolution provides naturalistic explanations of empirical observations, it organizes them in a comprehensive system with central and auxiliary hypotheses.

From the epistemological perspective (Greek episteme, epistemology = theoryof knowledge), the theory of evolution encompasses the nature and scope of knowledge about the phenomenon of evolution (=what really happens), including the chronological discoveries by naturalists and scientists during the development of our cumulative understanding of how evolution works.

Scholars call the latter “theory of evolution,” whose epistemological beginning is attributed to the mid and late 1800s, and to Charles Darwin (1809-1882) and Alfred R. Wallace (1823-1913) as main contributors to the conceptualization of evolution at the mechanistic level (=natural selection).

Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace

Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace co-discovered the mechanism of natural selection

But the phenomenon of evolution is ongoing, precedes Darwin and Wallace in billions of years, and it shall continue, with comparable magnitude, in time and space.

The concept of evolution, therefore, is about the occurrence of evolution (i.e., the aggregation of matter, the emergence of organic compounds from simpler molecules, the formation of self-replicating macro-molecules, the encasing of chemical reactions within the boundaries of lipid-layered membranes, the formation of cells and their reproduction and differentiation, and the diversification of uni- and multi-cellular life) and it helps us understand and represent cognitively—via mental symbolism and abstraction— the reality of evolution.

Our understanding of evolution improves with new discoveries, but the reality of evolution continues to exist regardless of our awareness and level of understanding of it…” — © 2011 by Guillermo Paz-y-Miño-C. & Avelina Espinosa all rights reserved

For original scientific article (On the Theory of Evolution versus the Concept of Evolution), published in Evolution Education & Outreach, click on [PDF]

Related article: Why the Notion that “The Theory of Evolution is Not an Explanation for the Origin of Life” is Wrong.

Recommended Book: Why Evolution is True by Jerry A. Coyne click on book for link

BookWhyEvolutionIsTrue