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Re: [SACC-L] kinda neat

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  • Melvin Johnson
    Fantastic--kudos to Ann for forwarding this to us. I only wish I could read this to my Physical Geography Class--oh well the conservative mindset. Mel
    Message 1 of 2 , Jan 3, 2006
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      Fantastic--kudos to Ann for forwarding this to us. I only wish I could
      read this to my Physical Geography Class--oh well the conservative
      mindset. Mel Johnson

      Popplestone, Ann wrote:

      >
      > Science News Online
      >
      > Week of Dec. 24, 2005; Vol. 168, No. 26/27
      >
      >
      > Irreplaceable Perplexity 101
      >
      >
      > Ms. Cleary has designs on teaching evolution
      >
      >
      > Bruce Bower
      >
      > Hello class. Settle down please, it's time for today's lesson. Put that
      > iPod away, Wesley, or Ms. Cleary will take it home with her and you
      > won't hear Green Day for a blue moon. Melinda, that chirpy ring tone
      > from your cell phone must stop, or Ms. Cleary will use the infernal
      > device to call her cousin Bernie in Barcelona. Your father will emit his
      > own ring tone when he receives your next phone bill.
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
      > Now that your attention is riveted on Ms. Cleary, let's focus on today's
      > special topic. It has come to Ms. Cleary's attention that evolution is
      > in the news. Evolution is really happening, as you kids say.
      >
      > People with inquiring minds in Kansas and Pennsylvania and, well, all
      > sorts of places now question whether life really evolved on this planet
      > as proposed by Charles Darwin and his scientific followers. They want
      > children like you to learn about intelligent design, an all-purpose
      > evolution substitute.
      >
      > Ms. Cleary suspects that those few of you who still read newspapers or
      > at least glance at Headline News while channel surfing over to the
      > latest WB teen soap opera have heard about this biological brouhaha.
      > Today, Ms. Cleary will answer your questions about the great evolution
      > debate in her capacity as a humble servant of youth.
      >
      > You may begin.
      >
      > What's evolution?
      >
      > Bless you, you've actually been listening, Wesley. Miracles do occur.
      > Class, be warned that you may hear Hollywood actors say of a director,
      > "Oh, he's so evolved" or speak of an award-winning colleague as "having
      > evolved to a new level." These people don't know evolution from an
      > audition for Scream: Part 8.
      >
      > Over long periods of time and many generations, animals change their
      > forms. Form changes that serendipitously help animals survive tend to
      > last. However, environments change, too, and by so doing, sometimes wipe
      > out groups of animals that busted their tails to evolve in a previous
      > setting. That's cold. That's evolution.
      >
      > All the animals now living on this planet trace their ancestries back
      > billions of years through a variety of creatures that no longer exist,
      > including-at the very beginning-one-celled organisms unlike any that you
      > may happen to run across today. This biological unity and diversity go
      > together like The Captain and Tennille, like marble-fudge ice cream and
      > cellulite, like a Quentin Tarantino movie and the sensation of popcorn
      > chunks rising in your throat. That's cool. That's evolution.
      >
      > Old-school evolution often occurs too slowly for an observer to see.
      > That's inconvenient for those who limit reality to anything that can be
      > captured on their digital video cameras. For those interested in seeing
      > for themselves, ponder artificial evolution. Consider, for example, dog
      > breeding over the past century or Michael Jackson's face over the past
      > 25 years.
      >
      > What's a missing link?
      >
      > A missing link, Viola, makes Ms. Cleary's charm bracelet pinch her
      > wrist. Although the intelligent-design people put a lot of stock in
      > missing links, those wacky creatures tell you squat about evolution. So
      > what if we never stumble over the remains of, say, the last common
      > ancestor of apes and people?
      >
      > Let's consider primates, class. The worldwide collection of fossil
      > skulls from ape and human ancestors shows shape changes that occurred
      > over vast stretches of time among related creatures. Was there ever a
      > half-person, half-chimp? That brings a repulsive and unsanitary image to
      > mind.
      >
      > Since nobody knows what the common ancestor looked like, scientists in
      > their prickly way may never agree that they've found it. Many questions
      > remain about the ways in which fundamental shape changes arise and
      > foster the evolution of new types of animals. These aren't signs that
      > evolution never happened. They're signs that fascinating turns in
      > evolutionary biology lie ahead for the intellectually curious. By that
      > turn of phrase I mean anyone willing to put down People magazine long
      > enough to read a few books-even paperbacks.
      >
      > What is intelligent design?
      >
      > It's the missing link between creationism and religious instruction
      > masquerading as biology. Yes, class, Ms. Cleary sees a place for missing
      > links after all, and it's not pretty.
      >
      > Creationism takes a literal view of the Bible, so it holds that the
      > Earth and all its creatures were created in one fell, divine swoop 6,000
      > years ago. Fair enough, but that's a hard sell as must-have information
      > in a sophomore biology course.
      >
      > Enter intelligent design (ID), an idea that tries to make creationism
      > palatable to adults on school boards who have no scientific training or
      > interests but have the power to tell adults who do have scientific
      > training and interests how to teach science.
      >
      > Ms. Cleary admits to having a hard time finding anything substantial in
      > the writings of those whom she refers to as IDologues. Much arm waving
      > concerns the concept of "irreducible complexity." Listen closely, class:
      > Biological cells contain protein-making systems for basic functions,
      > such as clotting blood. IDologues assert that such systems are
      > irreducible, consisting of many parts that work together so closely that
      > the whole operation shuts down if a single component goes missing. So,
      > evolution couldn't make adjustments part by part.
      >
      > IDologues also claim that these biological entities are so complex that
      > they must have been designed from the start to work as they do now
      > rather than having evolved from previous forms. Essential biological
      > systems must therefore reflect a designer's dexterous hidden hand, not
      > evolution. And perhaps nonessential biological facts of life, such as
      > irritable bowel syndrome and male-pattern baldness, reflect the cold,
      > hard slap of a designer's hand.
      >
      > Ms. Cleary assigns this argument a grade of F for "forget it." As
      > physicist Mark Perakh of California State University, Fullerton has
      > pointed out, if the loss of a single part destroys a system's function,
      > then that system has been poorly designed. Any well-designed system
      > contains features that not only perform their regular roles but can
      > compensate for losses or malfunctions elsewhere. Indeed, scientists are
      > finding that biological systems exhibit just this kind of resiliency and
      > complexity. Biology is messier and more adaptive than IDologues imagine.
      >
      >
      > Evolution is just a theory, right? Shouldn't we learn about alternatives
      > to it?
      >
      > A scientific theory is a wonderful thing, Melinda. It's not a wild guess
      > or a poor substitute for facts. It's a framework for making sense of a
      > large number of related observations about the world. Scientists use
      > theories to guide them in designing their experiments. Depending on what
      > the scientists find, a theory can crash and burn or take on unexpected
      > powers of explanation. In other words, theories evolve, and evolutionary
      > theory has gotten stronger over the years.
      >
      > Don't misunderstand Ms. Cleary. She has great respect for religion, as
      > you all know. Religions evolve and adapt too. But religions answer big
      > questions that nearly everyone asks about our connection to the universe
      > and the meaning of our lives. Science generates novel questions about us
      > and the world that almost nobody would have thought to ask otherwise.
      > Science sifts nuggets of insight out of humanity's irreplaceable
      > perplexity and then subjects that knowledge to continuing scrutiny. Ms.
      > Cleary would refer to irreplaceable perplexity as IP, but that sounds
      > vaguely repellent to her.
      >
      > By the way, there's plenty of genuine controversy for students of
      > evolution to learn about. Unfortunately, it's not often taught to them,
      > even in the most scientifically tolerant classrooms.
      >
      > The controversy concerns not whether evolution exists but how it works.
      > As anyone who has attended a meeting of anthropologists can tell you,
      > these scientists engage in epic battles about the nature of evolution.
      > They make Tony Soprano look like a flower child. You'll hear these
      > highly educated people trade streetwise yet erudite barbs such as "Hey
      > fossil breath, people today evolved from a direct ancestor in Africa
      > around 200,000 years ago at most," and "So sorry, matrix for brains, but
      > people evolved simultaneously from populations in Africa, Asia, and
      > Europe over at least the past 1 million years."
      >
      > Ms. Cleary has tidied up the scientists' actual insults so that
      > impressionable young minds won't be startled.
      >
      > What is evo devo?
      >
      > To the best of Ms. Cleary's recollection, that's a cover band inspired
      > by a strange 1980s pop group that wore funky flower pots on their heads
      > and danced like geeky robots, singing "Whip it! Whip it good!"
      >
      > Isn't evo devo short for evolutionary developmental biology?
      >
      > Oh yes, thank you, Todd. Ahem. Sometimes Ms. Cleary has flashbacks to
      > her wayward youth.
      >
      > Evo devo, the study of how changes in genes and individual development
      > contribute to evolution, has advanced greatly in the past 20 years. It's
      > now known that many different animals-from flies to people to
      > elephants-share a set of genes that governs the formation of their
      > bodies and body parts. As scientists are learning how complex animals
      > are constructed from single cells, they're discovering that subtle
      > tweaks to body-building genes promote the descent and modification of
      > animals, no steroids required. Such findings promise to expose the inner
      > workings of evolutionary processes originally proposed by Darwin.
      >
      > The development of individual organisms out of tiny cells is an amazing
      > thing, class. Physical development is as flexible as one of those
      > charming balloon giraffes that Ms. Cleary buys at the state fair each
      > year. The structures that are built by development may suffer when
      > damaged or when parts of them are removed. But flexible developmental
      > processes, not their end products, may well lie at the heart of
      > evolution.
      >
      > Let's contemplate the human brain for a moment, class. A child who has
      > half of his or her brain surgically removed to treat severe epilepsy
      > will still grow up to display virtually all the mental and physical
      > faculties of a child with a whole brain. Massive cell reorganization
      > that occurs in the developing half-brain picks up the slack. Brain
      > development is irrepressible, not irreducible.
      >
      > Did you hear Ms. Cleary, Wesley? Kids with half a brain can succeed.
      > Keep your chin up.
      >
      > Is it time for lunch yet?
      >
      > Maintain your focus, Melinda. Goodness knows, it must be hard to think
      > without a wafer-size digital-communications system pressed against your
      > ear.
      >
      > Ms. Cleary expects that all of you have listened carefully to her little
      > discourse on the evolution wars, although she will not administer a pop
      > quiz next week.
      >
      > In fact, she will not raise this topic again. After all, this is a
      > Sunday school class. Ms. Cleary simply couldn't resist doing a little
      > evolutionary preaching today. Don't be mad. She's just teaching the
      > controversy.
      >
      > ________________________________
      >
      > If you have a comment on this article that you would like considered for
      > publication in Science News, send it to editors@.... Please
      > include your name and location.
      >
      > ________________________________
      >
      >
      >
      > To subscribe to Science News (print), go to
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      > <https://www.kable.com/pub/scnw/subServices.asp> .
      >
      > To sign up for the free weekly e-LETTER from Science News, go to
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      >
      > References:
      >
      > 2005. AGU: President confuses science and belief, puts schoolchildren at
      > risk. Skeptical Inquirer 29(November/December):45.
      >
      > 2005. Harris poll explores beliefs about evolution, creationism, and
      > intelligent design. Skeptical Inquirer 29(November/December):56.
      >
      > 2005. SI on evolution and ID. Skeptical Inquirer
      > 29(November/December):38.
      >
      > Carroll, S.B. 2005. Endless forms most beautiful. Skeptical Inquirer
      > 29(November/December):48.
      >
      > Krauss, L.M. 2005. The Pope and I. Skeptical Inquirer
      > 29(November/December):46.
      >
      > Lerner, L.S. 2005. What should we think about American's belief
      > regarding evolution? Skeptical Inquirer 29(November/December):59.
      >
      > Morrison, D. 2005. Only a theory? Skeptical Inquirer
      > 29(November/December):37.
      >
      > Perakh, M. 2005. Does irreducible complexity imply intelligent design?
      > Skeptical Inquirer 29(November/December):32.
      >
      > Rosenhouse, J. 2005. Why scientists get so angry when dealing with ID
      > proponents. Skeptical Inquirer 29(November/December):42.
      >
      > Rothchild, I. 2005. The intelligent designer. Skeptical Inquirer
      > 29(November/December):41.
      >
      > Shneour, E.A. 2005. Obfuscating biological evolution. Skeptical Inquirer
      > 29(November/December):54.
      >
      > Sources:
      >
      > Mark Perakh
      > California State University, Fullerton
      > Fullerton, CA 92831
      >
      >
      >
      > http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20051224/bob11.asp
      >
      > >From Science News, Vol. 168, No. 26/27
      > <http://www.sciencenews.org/scripts/toc.asp> , Dec. 24, 2005, p. 414.
      >
      > Copyright (c) 2005 Science Service. All rights reserved.
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
      > Ann Popplestone AAB, BA, MA
      >
      > CCC Metro TLC
      >
      >
      >
      > 216-987-3584
      >
      > FAX:707-924-2471
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
      > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      >
      >
      >
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      > ADDRESS!!) for meeting materials, newsletters, etc.
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