Field of Science

Evolution bugs me


Cover illustration for the forthcoming textbook
by Carl Zimmer and Douglas Emlen
This is a real photo.  It's the cover for a new biology textbook by Carl Zimmer and Douglas Emlen.  The photo shows three "walking leaves," or leaf insects, which have evolved to look just like the leaves around them.

These little bugs must be one of the best examples of natural selection ever.  The more closely they resemble a leaf, the more difficult it is for predators to find them.  Over the millenia, the bugs who evaded predators survived better, and eventually walking leaves looked like they do today.

In fact, these guys have been around for a long time, at least 47 million years, according to a fossil discovery published in 2006.  That paper described a fossilized leaf insect found in an ancient lake bed in Germany, which looks remarkably similar to its modern descendants.

Yes despite this amazing evidence, only 40% of Americans believe in evolution. State legislatures continue to pass bills attempting to teach children the creation myth that the world was created less than 10,000 years ago.  Just last week, a committee in Alabama's legislature proposed a new law that would give students credit for courses on creationism.  The bill's sponsor, local legislator Blaine Galliher, was very clear about his motivation:
"They teach evolution in the textbooks, but they don't teach a creation theory…. Creation has just as much right to be taught in the school system as evolution does." 
I feel sorry for the students in Alabama whose education might suffer thanks to the ignorance of their lawmakers.  But there is some hope: in the national poll showing that 40% of Americans overall accept evolution, among young adults that percentage was 49%, while among over-55 set it was just 31%, as shown in this graph:

So perhaps in another hundred years or so, Americans will start to "get" evolution.  But it might take longer: apparently 18% of Americans still believe that the sun revolves around the earth.  So it's taken us 500 years to get to 80% for that one.

9 comments:

  1. "What did you see?"
    "I saw a leaf-bug walk past, and then another one just like it walked past."
    "How much like it? Was it the same leaf-bug?"
    "I don't know. It might have been."

    Evolutionists are morons. :chuckle:

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    1. Those who believe fairy tales like creationism are the morons, sir.

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  2. Oops, you got the numbers backwards from the survey. Only 40% DO believe evolution is correct. That's low. On the plus side, only 25% actively disagree.

    That's a great photo.

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    1. Thanks Marmaduke, it's fixed now. 39% believe in evolution, 36% don't know, 25% deny it. I'd prefer it if they'd asked the question differently, because "believe" suggests that this is a matter of opinion rather than fact, but I can't change that.

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  3. I’m glad you seem to take this in stride, but I have to wonder what has gone wrong with education, not only in the schools, but in the wider culture. Even most people who accept evolution couldn’t tell you much about it, so they are as guilty as the creationists for simply “believing”. We seem to have utterly failed at teaching people to THINK.

    It reminds of the “debate” about GMO’s. Very well-educated people will rant and rave about the “dangers” of this technology, but when you ask them for one single source of harm to humans, they only splutter and can’t imagine that you doubt such a “fact”. The best I’ve had from them is some completely woo-laden sites that don’t cite anything. It’s called a “controversy” the same way that evolution vs. creationism is, implying that the arguments for either side are equally valid and one can simply think it over and “choose” one or the other.

    I don’t mean to get off-topic, but this example has been in my face a lot lately and I’m finding it harder to deal with than the creationists, which I can at least write off as religious ideologues.

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  4. I think that evolution is plan to see. It is in everything big and little. As change is the only thing constant. I am not sure how old the idea of evolution is. All I know is that the proof is in the pudding. We would not have the ability to carbon date archeological finds and get a date past 10,000 years ago, if the Earth and Universe had only been around that long. The species trail is so long. If you just use a little common sense, look closely, and question, you will see the path that has led most everything to where it is today.

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    Replies
    1. The parts about common sense and questioning is where a creationist gets stuck. They do not seem to have those abilities. They'd rather do as they're told.

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  5. Its very simple:

    When evolutionists act like arrogant know-it-alls, who insist they must be right, and don't tolerate any dissent or questioning of theoretical axioms
    or evidential support, they teach children and teenagers to act exactly the
    same, because they haven't taught them the one thing they need:
    The scientific methodology. They leave school not only brainwashed with
    evolutionary concepts, but no way to evaluate them or any challenges or
    competing ideas. Result: They retain their snarky know-it-all attitude,
    but are easily swayed into every camp under the sun, from creationism to
    scientology. And now we have both:
    Snarky know-it-all evolutionists and snarky know-it-all everything else,
    but no scientists. Who knew? Thanks teach.

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