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How 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.

Dave Person
Ketchikan, AK - USA



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