Letter to the Editor of the Columbus Dispatch
Submitted October 4, 2000
It is amazing to me that a president of a notable university can publish a supposedly original letter on an important topic in education, and fill it with clichés, parroted catch phrases, and unfounded pontifications clearly demonstrating the absence of any serious research on the matter. There's no way I can address this issue and such a large article in few words, but I can't let this go by without saying something to you, even if little or nothing of this sees print.
I am referring to "OHIO CAN'T AFFORD TO TRAIL IN THE TEACHING OF EVOLUTION" by William E. Kirwan, which appeared in The Columbus Dispatch, October 2, 2000, Monday, Pg. 7A, and is also archived on the Dispatch's website.
As I have relatives in Ohio, I'm glad to hear that it received a high grade on a recent assessment of education. Kirwan is responding to the fact that the state received an F in teaching evolution. Rather than be concerned that this is an actual problem, as Kirwan opines, doesn't it make more sense to take this as an indication that the theory of evolution is not important to a good education, and that the Fordham report was biased when it came to this particular subject?
In attempting to awe the citizenry of Ohio into thinking that it is important, Kirwan parrots well-worn phrases rather than making any convincing arguments. He calls evolution "a fundamental concept that stands as the organizing principle of biological sciences," and "the single unifying scientific theory of life and is an essential element of scientific literacy," and to continue his argument by pontification, quotes Dobzhansky: " "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.'' But just repeating this idea doesn't make it true -- biology was founded and got along fine without the theory of evolution. Mendel did his pioneering studies of genetics before Darwin published his theory, Watson and Crick didn't need to believe they were descendants of ape-like creatures to discover the structure of DNA... I could go on and on. No practical advance in biological science has required a scientist to believe that all life developed from a single-celled form.
Here's another one of the rote phrases he used: "This is not a controversial issue among scientists." Well, if you define "scientist" as anyone who doesn't find evolutionary theory inadequate. However, if Kirwan had done a bit of research, he'd know that there are thousands of scientists the world over who either find current evolutionary thought unsatisfactory or even ready for the scrap heap. I could give you a list of a couple dozen or more on request myself.
Kirwan also drags out the old technique of clouding the issue with a discussion of the scientific meaning of "theory." In fact, he goes so far as to say that "As used by scientists, theory does not refer to ... something less than fact." While it is true that "theory" often refers to something regarded as "fact," such as "the theory of heliocentrism," the only real facts in science are the data gathered from careful and repeated observation and testing. Despite Kirwan's claim, the theory that life originated and evolved into its present form by natural, unguided forces (as its proponents would have it taught to school children) is not at all in the same class, and has NOT "been confirmed through observation, critical analysis and the basic methods of science."
Kirwan cites only one example, the development of resistance to pesticides. This phenomenon, and other cases of resistance, clearly does not demonstrate the development of new, complex features required for evolution to work. In every case, either there is simply a reversible shift in existing populations, or a fortuitous degeneration of an existing faculty of the organism.
Kirwan is one of those who would put the blinders of evolutionary theory on our future generation. The same blinders that he wears. He can see "no sense" for a human gene placed in a one-celled organism "to produce human insulin, unless we are descended from a common ancestry?" I'd like to be the one who stops to help him when his car breaks down. "Oh, sure," I'd say, "I've got a spare battery, but it won't work in your car, because they're different makes!" When a college president publishes such an enormous failure in logic, I can only deduce that he's more interested in propping up a dogma than in helping students to think logically.
Kirwan tries to scare your readers into thinking that without this one story about the past (and be sure he's not about to let any other theories be taught), their children will be ill-prepared to understand science, get into college, and deal with science-related issues of the future. There's just no reason to think this, when there are active biologists and other scientists who don't believe in evolution at all.
As usual with such diatribes, Kirwan throws a sop to those who see what the teaching of evolution has done to students when he says "we must respect the religious faith of all students." This is a hollow pronouncement when he has previously claimed that evolutionary theory is a fact and that there's no other sensible view than that we are the descendants of a one-celled microbe.
Kirwan is right to say of our children that we need "to instill in them a method of learning based on close observation, thorough testing and impartial analysis." This is exactly why the overall theory of evolution should NOT be taught to them. Such a method has NOT been applied to this microbe-to-man process. Insects losing the ability to metabolize poison is not going to turn them into something other than insects. What actual observations tell us is that objects of a certain degree of complexity are always produced by sources of equal or higher complexity. Televisions, radios, and cars don't happen by accident -- and even the simplest form of life is far more amazing than any man-made device.
Let's not teach our children that their video games are the result of intelligent design, but they themselves are merely the result of a series of accidents and bloody struggle for survival!
David L. Bump