How Not to Teach Evolution

first_imgCurrent Biology usually interviews a scientist for each issue.  In the October 14 issue,1 the subject was Dyche Mullins, a molecular biologist at UC San Francisco.  His story of how evolution was taught in high school should make teachers and parents take notice.    After the usual anecdotal fluff about what kind of cookies he likes and what bicycles he prefers, Mullins was asked what turned him on to biology after so many years (he did not become interested till graduate school).Good question. In part, it was the way I was taught biology in high school.  My teachers refused to teach anything about evolution.  In fact, the only time I remember hearing the ‘E’ word in high school was when we dissected frogs.  After explaining to a room full of queasy kids how understanding the anatomy of a frog could help us understand the basics of human anatomy, the teacher paused thoughtfully and said, “Now I’m not talking about evolution here, so don’t go home and tell your parents that I’m teaching evolution”.  And that was it.  The rest of high school biology was just a collection of evidence supporting Dobzhansky’s claim that “Nothing in biology makes sense except in light of evolution”.  We collected insects and looked at pine cones, and we had a hamster that we taught to go to the bathroom through a hole in the side of its cage.  That was pretty much it.  Biology seemed more like an eccentric hobby than a coherent body of knowledge.  Mercifully, we were spared any discussion of ‘Intelligent Design’….    I started reading more deeply in biology and realized just how flawed my early education had been.  I read Darwin and I discovered T.H. Morgan and Max Delbr�ck and the Phage Group.  The only advantage of coming to biology so late was that I found almost everything that I learned new and exciting.  Reading about solving the genetic code, thirty years after the fact, made me as excited as if it was happening at that moment, in a lab down the hall.  I was astounded by the calcium ATPase: a single molecule that can discriminate, with remarkable specificity, between similar divalent cations and use chemical energy to pump calcium against a 10,000-fold concentration gradient.In the ellipsis, Mullins had described his educational diversion into physics and mathematics.  Apparently his teachers on those subjects did a better job, because he dove into them headlong with gusto.  What made him turn back to biology was seeing living systems for the first time as computer-controlled machinery:To my engineer’s mind, a living cell was now just a complex, feedback-controlled system.  I could imagine writing equations to describe biochemical pathways, cellular functions, and, eventually, entire living cells.  Nowadays this kind of thinking would be called ‘systems biology’.  And while it is not exactly the way I approach biological problems in my lab now, it was the kind of thinking that made biology intelligible to me.When outside the lab, Dyche takes off the white coat.  You can watch him ham it up with comedy country blues boys on YouTube, singing, “Man of Constant Sorrow.”1.  Q&A, “Dyche Mullins,” Current Biology, Volume 18, Issue 19, 14 October 2008, pages R895-R896, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2008.07.056.Biology teachers should have constant sorrow, too after reading this story.  This is how to turn a bright young inquiring mind into a self-contradicting smart aleck.  Can’t this blues boy realize that complex, feedback-controlled systems don’t just happen?  This man of constant sorrow can stare at intelligent design right in front of his face, like that biological machine that “can discriminate, with remarkable specificity, between similar divalent cations and use chemical energy to pump calcium against a 10,000-fold concentration gradient,” and turn right around and praise Darwin and Dobzhansky.  Step back a second and realize how insane this is.  This same dude would never step into a computer room and insult the designers, but can stare at even more complex systems and call them cobbled jumbles of time and chance.  It’s enough to make you want to yank his beard and knock on his skull and ask, “Anybody home?” (Caution: Do NOT do that to anybody except yourself, women and obsessive shavers excepted.)  The interviewer, as usual for Current Bilge, just slurps it all up like fine whine.    Teachers: pay attention.  You cannot solve the creation-evolution controversy by ignoring it.  This does more harm than good.  Students want answers.  They are curious about evolution.  Those from religious homes may be worried about it, while those from secular humanist homes may have moms and dads ready to sue.  You cannot push this subject off.  One cannot understand modern history or science without understanding Darwin.  The next Dyche Mullins in your classroom will remember how you sloughed off the subject as if it were taboo, then a Darwin dogmatist in college will sweep him off his feet with visions of the alluring explanatory power of evolution.    In private or home schools, the solution is simple: teach all about Darwinism – all its strengths and weaknesses, the stuff the textbooks leave out.  In public schools, the courts and the school boards have often become so paranoid they will try to persecute or dismiss any teacher who teaches scientific facts about Darwin, like they did to Roger DeHart.  Sometimes the thought police go after not what you say, but what they think your motivation is.  You have to know your principal, your state, and your school board.  Thankfully some states are passing academic freedom laws.  Many teachers have found the right way to present Darwinism honestly without dogmatism.  Who could fault that?  Science is supposed to be the opposite of dogmatism!  Don’t expect all parents and school boards to be rational, though, on this hot topic; the Discovery Institute can provide valuable help for negotiating the fine legal lines involved.  Whether public or private or home school teacher, your goal is to help students become familiar with the evolutionary theory in its historical, political and scientific contexts; to understand the arguments Darwin and his critics have made, and while at the same time to develop critical thinking skills to be able to separate dogmatic claims from scientific evidence.    Let’s use this entry also to cogitate on the nature of science.  We tend to pigeonhole subjects into watertight categories: a scientist is someone who does science, and science is what scientists do.  Is that necessarily the case?  When Mullins is clowning around with the country band, is he doing science then, just because he is a scientist by profession?  Obviously not.  All right, then; is he doing science from the moment he steps into the Science Building on campus till the moment he goes home?  Maybe some of the time.  Not on coffee breaks.  But then, maybe some flash of scientific insight will come to him when he gazes at the swirls of cream in his cup.  Is it when he is writing a proposal or scientific paper?  Is it when he is tediously jotting down readings in his lab book while his mind is on the American League championships?  Is it anything he does because he belongs to a professional scientific society, while the bird watcher outside does not?  These questions help to dissolve prejudices about The Scientist.    For Dyche’s view on what makes a person a good scientist, let’s look at his answer to the last question about what advice he would give a student seeking a career in biology.  Get ready for a surprise.Advice is a tricky thing.  When I started my lab I picked out a set of mentors: three successful scientists to whom I ran with all my vexing questions.  I soon found that, no matter what the question, I always got three different (and often contradictory) pieces of advice.  One of those pieces of advice, however, usually resonated more than the others and that’s the one I would follow.  So my advice would be to get as much advice as you can from as many different sources as possible.  And remember that much of it will be bad advice, or at least bad advice for you, even if the source is an eminent and successful scientist.  You need to trust your instincts.    As Andrew Murray once told me, “Think about all the scientists you know.  No two of them approach a problem in the same way.  No two of them run their labs the same way.  And no two successful scientists are successful for the same reason.”Notice something interesting: this is all about intuition.  You thought that science is following the scientific method.  Here, Mullins is saying that science is all about instinct!  Then you and me are scientists whenever we listen to a lot of advice, discard the advice that doesn’t “resonate,” and trust our instincts.  You can imagine a lawyer or hunter or coach giving the same advice to his students.  What scientific method is Mullins following when he gathers as much advice as he can, then trusts his instincts?  Certainly a politician can do that.  Notice he said that no two of them [scientists] approach a problem in the same way, run their labs the same way, or are successful for the same reason.  There is no one way to do science!  A corollary is that anybody who gets good advice and trusts his instincts has just as much right to call himself a scientist as Mullins does, because there is no method, or process, or secret formula that makes what Mullins does more scientific than what any other careful investigator does.    Oh, but you may be thinking, Mullins has a degree in science.  He passed all the educational requirements.  He joined a scientific society.  He is smart, well trained and experienced: this grants him membership in The Science Guild.  That may be all well and good, but we repeat the question: when is he doing science, and when is he not doing science?  We remind our readers that some of the greatest scientists in history never went through those qualifications.  They learned at home or from personal experience.  They were mavericks and outsiders.  Some were scorned by the Science Guild in their day – and not vindicated till after they died.  Should they be classed as non-scientists because they were outside the Guild?  Of course not.  Science only became highly professionalized and institutionalized in relatively recent times.  The word “scientist” did not even exist till William Whewell coined the term in 1832.    Science is one of those vague words that means too little by attempting to stand for too much.  Are we to grant the same prestige to political science and economic science as we do to physics?  How about the far-out theoretical physics that still has no observational evidence?  Is psychology science?  Science of mind?  Scientology?  Clearly some distinctions are in order!    In the original sense of the word, science means knowledge.  The word requires no set method, schooling or membership.  Knowledge welcomes all seekers and rejects some SINOs (scientists in name only).  While we should respect the degree of rigorous education that professional scientists have mastered, and the experience they have gained, and any useful or enduring findings they have made, we should keep these distinctions in mind.  When Dyche Mullins dismissively disparages intelligent design while staring it in the face in a cell, he is not doing science: he is doing ridicule.  When he falls in love with Darwin but never studies the problems and contrary arguments, he is taking things on authority.  He deserves no more respect for uninformed opinions than a cultist or gambler.  Don’t respect a scientist when he acts unscientifically, and don’t ignore a person lacking a PhD in Science when he seeks knowledge in an honest, systematic, informed way.    A lay person with common sense on the right track may achieve more science (knowledge) than a professional pursuing a wrong track.  Being a professional scientist does not grant legitimacy to whatever that person does or says that is not observable, testable, and repeatable.  And knowledge is certainly a goal that any honest observer in search of the truth can hope to attain.(Visited 37 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more


Video: Mandela Rhodes Place

first_imgPerfectly situated within Cape Town’s cultural quarter, Mandela Rhodes Place is a home away from home. This unique hotel and spa offers everything in one convenient location, offering a cosmopolitan experience of South Africa’s Mother City at its best. General manager Anja Bosken tells us more.Click arrow to play video.Posted on on 4 August 2009.last_img


FOCAC summit begins with Joburg tour

first_imgTo get a feel for the melting pot that is Johannesburg and the ever-vibrant Soweto, journalists from China took a tour of the city and its huge neighbour ahead of the FOCAC summit taking place in the city of gold. It will culminate in a meeting between the South African and Chinese heads of state. Many political prisoners, imprisoned for their anti-apartheid activities were locked up in The Fort, as the complex was known, alongside common criminals. (Images: Media Club Reporter) Ray MaotaAhead of the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation (FOCAC) summit taking place on 4and 5 December in Johannesburg, Brand South Africa took journalists from China, Africa and South Africa on a tour of Johannesburg and Soweto to give them a feel for the city of gold, long held as the economic hub of the sub-continent.Johannesburg is the largest in South Africa, built on the rich seam of gold reaching across the Witwatersrand. While its origins are that of a feisty mining town, today its inner city is undergoing a dramatic transformation to resemble the urban melting pot of its culture.FOCAC, launched in 2000, is an institutional vehicle for political, economic and cultural interaction between China and Africa; the summit is expected to mark a qualitative shift in those relations.With the theme “Africa-China progressive together: win-win co-operation for common development”, the summit will culminate in a meeting between South African President Jacob Zuma and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping.The tour included a visit to Constitution Hill, an open-topped bus ride around the CBD that showed the city’s re-urbanisation, and a trip to Soweto that ended with lunch on the famous Vilakazi Street in Orlando West. It is the only street in the world where two Nobel Peace Prize laureates – Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu – once lived.Constitution HillSituated on a hill overlooking the bustling metropolis on the one side and the forested suburbs on the other, Constitution Hill provides a unique perspective on Johannesburg and its fraught history. The site, once a prison, is home to a number of museums: Women’s Gaol, Number Four, and Old Fort. They each host gripping exhibitions with themes that showcase South Africa’s rich and painful heritage and advocate human rights.The Constitution Hill Precinct in Braamfontein has a complex history going back to 1892, when the Old Fort was built by the Zuid Afrikaanse Republiek, ostensibly to keep the British out.However, it functioned as a prison except for a brief period during the South African War of 1899 to 1902 – also known as the Anglo Boer War – when it was a military defence post. New buildings were added in the late 1800s and early 20th century: the so-called natives’ section and isolation cells, known as Sections Four and Five, where black male prisoners were held; the Women’s Gaol for female prisoners in 1907; and the Awaiting Trial Block in the 1920s.Many political prisoners, imprisoned for their anti-apartheid activities were locked up in The Fort, as the complex was known, alongside common criminals. Activists incarcerated in The Fort included Albertina Sisulu and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, who were among the hundreds of women imprisoned for protesting against the pass laws.Many of the 156 Treason Trialists, including Nelson Mandela, Albert Luthuli, Joe Slovo, ZK Mathews, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Helen Joseph, Moses Kotane, Lillian Ngoyi and Ruth First, were imprisoned in the Old Fort, the Awaiting Trial Block and the Women’s Gaol.The precinct is a reminder of a time in South Africa’s history in which the majority of the population were not seen as equal, but is also a beacon of hope as it houses South Africa’s Constitutional Court, which enshrines the equality of all people.This court, the highest court in South Africa, was born of the country’s Constitution. It came into law following the first democratic elections in 1994. Eleven judges stand guard over the Constitution and protect everyone’s human rights.A tour of the CBDThere is no better way to tour the inner city than in an open-topped bus. From here, the visitor gets a bird’s eye view of the city streets and can hear the sounds of the bustling metropolis and smell its aromas. There is also an informative guide on how the city came to be.The tour starts off at Johannesburg’s Park Station, which is the central railway station in the city of Johannesburg and the largest railway station in Africa. From there, it goes down Eloff Street, once the prime real estate in the city. The bus passes Carlton Centre, an office block and shopping centre. Standing at 223 metres, it has been the tallest building in Africa since 1973.Joburg’s architecture is on display as the bus cruises towards the south of the city, passing places such as the iconic Rand Club, Santarama and Gold Reef City. The Rand Club is the oldest members only club in South Africa founded in October 1887.No place like SowetoAnd then it was on to Soweto. The tour began in Diepkloof, a middle class suburb where Soweto begins. The visitors were taken from there to one of the oldest suburbs, Orlando East, home of South Africa’s oldest football team, Orlando Pirates.From Orlando East, it went to Orlando West, were the 1976 students uprisings began and the Hector Peterson memorial stands.Not far from the memorial is the world famous Vilakazi Street, housing the Mandela Museum, built out the small house he once called home with his family. Today it is a busy street filled with restaurants and artists selling their wares. Hector Peterson Memorial is the commemoration site for the 1976 Students Uprisings.last_img read more


NCP, BJP lock horns in graduate constituency

first_imgThe NCP has geared up to ensure the defeat of BJP candidate Niranjan Davkhare in the Konkan graduate constituency election to be held on June 25.The NCP will be fielding Najib Mulla, Mumbra MLA and close associate of party MLA Jitendra Awhad. Mr. Awhad said, “Najib will be taking on the BJP candidate Davkhare. We are fighting to win this election. Those who wanted to leave have defected from the party. Now those who have faith in the party will be given an opportunity. We will ensure the BJP loses this election.”Sources in the party said that NCP chief Sharad Pawar had held a meeting of senior party leaders last week and instructed the cadre to ensure Mr. Davkhare’s defeat. A senior NCP leader on condition of anonymity said, “First of all, party leaders are hurt over his decision to join the BJP. Secondly, letting him win the seat would send a wrong message among party activists that anyone who joins the BJP gets the position of power. We cannot let that happen and therefore he has to be defeated.”For the Konkan graduate constituency, which is spread across Raigad, Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg, Palghar and Thane, the NCP have tied up with the Peasants and Workers Party. It is also likely to get support of other regional parties such as the Bahujan Vikas Aghadi. A day after Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray announced that his party would be contesting future elections on its own, the party said that Thane’s former mayor Sanjay More would be its candidate.Graduate and teacher constituencies in Mumbai will also go to the polls on June 25. The graduate constituency is currently being held by Health Minister Deepak Sawant of the Sena. The party is yet to announce its candidate. Kapil Patil , belonging to Sharad Yadav’s Loktantrik Janata Dal, currently holds the teacher constituency and will be contesting the June 25 poll.last_img read more


Srisaket KOs Gonzalez in fourth to retain WBC title

first_imgNATO’s aging eye in the sky to get a last overhaul Gonzalez, of Nicaragua, stayed on the canvas for a couple of minutes. After rising slowly he had to be helped to his corner stool. The first knockdown came 42 seconds earlier when southpaw Srisaket landed a similar short right hook to the side of the head. Gonzalez was able to get up at the count of seven and continue — but looked out of sorts.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSSEA Games: Biñan football stadium stands out in preparedness, completionSPORTSPrivate companies step in to help SEA Games hostingSPORTSBoxers Pacquiao, Petecio torchbearers for SEA Games openingThe 30-year-old Srisaket went to work quickly in the first round, easily landing combinations and body shots — the fruits of months of intense training in the gym for the most important fight of his career.“I trained really hard for four months because I wanted everyone to know what I came here for,” said Srisaket of the brutal beatdown. “I have shown that I am the best 115 pound fighter in the world.” Trending Articles PLAY LIST 00:50Trending Articles00:50Trending Articles02:18Alvarez ready to take risk vs Folayang, looks to end clash by ‘knockout or submission’02:49Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games01:44Philippines marks anniversary of massacre with calls for justice01:19Fire erupts in Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City01:07Trump talks impeachment while meeting NCAA athletes02:49World-class track facilities installed at NCC for SEA Games Robredo should’ve resigned as drug czar after lack of trust issue – Panelo MOST READ Hotel says PH coach apologized for ‘kikiam for breakfast’ claim Celebrity chef Gary Rhodes dies at 59 with wife by his side The Thai dynamo silenced critics who had claimed his majority decision win in the first fight six months ago in New York was a fluke and the result of accidental head butts.Both fighters came out swinging from the opening bell in Saturday’s 115-pound rematch at the outdoor StubHub Center stadium, as it became apparent in the early rounds that Srisaket was in charge and the fight likely would not go the distance.“For the first fight I only trained two months. This fight I knew I was going to knock him out,” Srisaket said. “I am not scared of anyone.”Srisaket (44-4-1, 40 KOs) said he wanted to make his country proud. “I fought for Thailand, for the pride of Thailand,” he said. ADVERTISEMENT CARSON, CA – SEPTEMBER 09: Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (R) of Thailand celebrates as Roman Gonzalez of Nicaragua lays motionless at StubHub Center on September 9, 2017 in Carson, California. Jeff Gross/Getty Images/AFPSrisaket Sor Rungvisai knocked out Roman Gonzalez in the fourth round Saturday with a devastating right hook to retain his WBC super flyweight world title in his second straight win over the former champ. Thailand’s Srisaket knocked ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez down twice in the final round, finishing the challenger off with a right hook with 1:45 to go in the fourth. ADVERTISEMENT Lacson: SEA Games fund put in foundation like ‘Napoles case’center_img Trump signs bills in support of Hong Kong protesters LATEST STORIES Ethel Booba on hotel’s clarification that ‘kikiam’ is ‘chicken sausage’: ‘Kung di pa pansinin, baka isipin nila ok lang’ Celebrity chef Gary Rhodes dies at 59 with wife by his side Nunes keeps belt, defeats Shevchenko at UFC 215 Gonzalez, who dropped to 46-2 overall, was taken to the hospital immediately after the fight for medical treatment.He was trying to avenge the only loss of his career against Srisaket but he failed to put up any defense against the onslaught of the Thai’s superior punches.The former pound-for-pound division king has had several gruelling fights in recent years, which have taken a heavy toll on his 30-year-old body.On the undercard, Japan’s Naoya Inoue won his US debut by defending his 115 pound WBO title with a sixth round knockout of Antonio Nieves.Sports Related Videospowered by AdSparcRead Next Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. View commentslast_img read more