Help me stand up for Darwin

Richard Gordon gordonr at cc.UManitoba.CA
Mon Mar 30 11:10:25 EST 1998


Dear Ingvald,
The best antidote to creationism is a field trip or two to good fossil
sights, where the students can find and keep fossils themselves. If you can
bring along a geologist to explain the stratigraphy and age of the sight,
so much the better. There is nothing like having the proof of evolution in
your hands, especially if you dug it up yourself.
Yours, -Dick Gordon

To the moderator: please forward to the whole list as you wish. -Dick
><moderator's note: Readers will please restrict responses to the newgroup
>to issues dealing with molecular evolution.  Of course, readers are free
>to provide resources and other arguments in favor of evolution to Ingvald
>Straume by e-mail.>
>
>Hi!
>
>I'm a Norwegian secondary scool teacher. I'm teaching biology and
>physics at my school.
>
>Now, some of my pupils are being feeded with creationistic ideas by some
>pseudo-scientists who have been visiting their local christian
>community. The problem is that I am not able to defend the
>evolution-theory on scientific basis. My knowledge is to short. And
>these crazy ideas are starting to spread among the pupils, and also it
>seems that some some of my colleagues are getting to rely on some of
>this creationistic propaganda stuff. I fear that I, and also biological
>science itself are being brought to discredit.
>
>The arguments that I am not able to stand up against are as follows:
>
>1) "Even thoug micro-evolution has been proved by Darwin and many times
>since, there is no prove what so ever to the existance of
>macro-evolution. Macro-evolution is an erroneous interference, and there
>is no scientiffic reason to assume a correlation between micro- and
>macro-evolution."

Macroevolution just means the evolution of large differences between groups
of organisms. If you accept that evolution occurred, then you do have the
problem of explaining how big differences arose. The idea that they arose
by many small steps is, indeed, in dispute. But that dispute is only over
the detailed mechanism.

If you don't want to accept that evolution occurred, then you are faced
with explaining the multitudes of similarities, from molecular levels to
overall organization, of disparate organisms.
>
>2) "Evolution contradicts the second law of thermodynamics."

The second law applies to a closed system. Living organisms are open
systems, and the presence of the sun and deep sea vents provide energy
sources that permit them to run far from chemical equilibrium.
>
>3) "It is very unlikely (impossible) that complex stereo-isomeric
>molecules in nature arise from non-organic material by accident."

Have your students do a simple experiment: roll a small ball off the top of
a large one. Now, it is unlikely (impossible) that the ball should roll off
in any particular direction, since all are equally likely. Right? This is a
demonstration of symmetry splitting, which is a plausible mechanism for the
initial origin of stereoisomerism.
>
>4) "According to information-theory, information (as in our genes)
>cannot increase itself or derive itself from nothing."

Much of evolution occurs by gene doubling, or by doubling of whole groups
of genes. Once there are two sets of a gene, each can evolve separately by
small or large steps, in any case increasing the "information" in the
genome. That evolution is not random, but by selection, i.e., in some sense
"information" from the environment gets incorporated into the new genes.
>
>It is asserted that this makes evolution from lower species to higher
>specises impossible.

Big steps are possible with gene doubling, which may sometimes increase the
genome enough to allow for "higher" species. See:

Sparrow, A.H. & A.F. Nauman (1976). Evolution of genome size by DNA
doublings. Science  192, 524-529.

>
>5) "Birds could not have evoluted from reptils. Because their presumed
>ancestor, with wings by wich they yet not could fly, would not be fit in
>the struggle for existance."

I'll leave this one for the adaptionists.
>
>(Some of my pupils have humiliated me with this and many other similar
>examples, and I have not been able to refute them.)
>
>
>
>Please, somone, help me! Give me some good scientiffic arguments that
>will prove to the contrary  these allegations .
>
>Yours
>
>Ingvald Straume
>(modestly desperate secondary school teacher)

--------------------------------------------------------------------
Dr. Richard Gordon, Department of Radiology
University of Manitoba, Health Sciences Centre
820 Sherbrook Street, Winnipeg, MB R3A 1R9 Canada
Phone: (204) 789-3828,  Fax: (204) 787-2080, Home: (204) 589-0411
E-mail: GordonR at cc.UManitoba.ca





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