well do you know your dog?
by Dave Person
February 16, 2005
On February 2, I posted a description of the term "evolution".
I did so because evolution has been in the news recently and
it is clear to me that the loudest commentators do not have a
clue what they were talking about. Being a scientist, I simply
defined evolution scientifically in terms that I hoped anyone
could understand. I assumed that if folks needed to know the
meaning of a word in Italian they would seek it from an Italian,
not a Norwegian fisherman. Public discourse about the topic
generally has been shallow, sloppy, and inaccurate. Responses
to my posting over the last week were no exceptions and completely
justified my intent. I received some well intentioned spiritual
advice and a few endorsements of "intelligent design".
None of the letters related to the definition of evolution that
I provided. I think some of these folks brought a lot of baggage
to a debate they created in their own minds. I don't recall
that there was any criticism of religious belief in my posting.
I did not promote evolution as a theory of the origin of life.
Evolution is what happens after life begins. Let me repeat,
evolution is simply the observation that life changes over time.
That is an undeniable truth unless you think Eve's favorite dog
was a dachshund or that Satan corrupted wolves to make border
collies (is your dog the work of the devil???). Those changes
can sometimes lead to the evolution of new species resulting
in a long, linked chain of life throughout the ages. Do those
who believe in intelligent design ever wonder who the genius
was that connected the esophagus to the trachea causing thousands
each year to choke to death on food, or who gave us the appendix.
I guess when you are intelligently designing the universe a
few stupid little details like that aren't important, unless
of course humans are supposed to be your masterpiece. In that
case maybe the designer needed another semester at design school.
Evolution is not simply an
arcane debate because understanding the processes that drive
evolution is critical to fighting disease, improving agriculture,
protecting biodiversity, and developing sustainable strategies
for exploiting natural resources. In fact, if it concerns biology,
evolution is involved. People are motivated by many things to
seek out the comfort of religion. Some seek guidance concerning
good and evil others have had hard times and find comfort in
fellowship with other worshipers. All that is good but none of
those reasons excuse willful ignorance of the basic processes
that affect this world, regardless of whether or not you believe
those processes are the work of God.
Ketchikan, AK - USA
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