10 Questions to Ask Your Biology Teacher
“10 Questions to Ask Your Biology Teacher” is the latest gimmick of the anti-evolution crowd. The 10 questions are pretty much the same old crud that one can expect from creationists. This is rather sad considering that the questions are coming from the Discovery Institute, home of Intelligent Design. For example, here is the first question,
The origins of life. Why do textbooks claim that the 1953 Miller-Urey experiment shows how life’s building blocks may have formed on Earth – when conditions on the early Earth were probably nothing like those used in the experiment, and the origin of life remains a mystery?
I can’t tell you how many times I have seen Creationists try to pull this one off. The Miller-Urey experiments deal with the issue of abiogenesis which is basically life from non-life. Abiogenesis is not evolution. Abiogenesis is seperate from evolution. For example we can look at two situations.
- God creates the most basic life form and evolution takes over.
- Life spontaneously arises and from there evolution takes over.
From the perspective of evaluating evolution both of these scenarios are the same. In other words, evolution takes the presence of life as a given and proceeds from there.
The next question is also another attempt by creationists to pull a fast one.
Darwin’s tree of life. Why don’t textbooks discuss the “Cambrian explosion,” in which all major animal groups appear together in the fossil record fully formed instead of branching from a common ancestor – thus contradicting the evolutionary tree of life?
This one also comes from William Dembski’s essay “Five Questions Evolutionists Would Rather Dodge”. The problem is that for Dembski to come up with this view he has to quote mine evolutionist Peter Ward. However, Ward later wrote,
Until almost 1950 the absence of metazoan fossils older than Cambrian age continued to puzzle evolutionists and earth historians alike. Other than the remains of single-celled creatures and the matlike stromatolites, it did indeed look as if larger creatures had arisen with a swiftness that made a mockery of Darwin’s theory of evolution. This notion was finally put to rest, however, by the discovery of the Ediacarian and Vendian fossil faunas of the latest Precambrian age. (Pp 35).
The next question is very curious,
The archaeopteryx. Why do textbooks portray this fossil as the missing link between dinosaurs and modern birds – even though modern birds are probably not descended from it, and its supposed ancestors do not appear until millions of years after it?
This question contains two dubious Creationist tactics. The easiest is the “gaps in the fossil” record. We can’t believe archaeopteryx is a transitional fossil between dinosaurs and birds because of the gaps in the fossil record. The problem is that fossil formation is not something that happens with great regularity. You can’t go out in your backyard and find fossils with every other rock you pick up. Thus, we expect the fossil record to have gaps. The other problem is a bit more subtle. The authors of these questions have basically made a hidden assumption: That archaeopteryx is the precursor to birds. Here is an interesting article at TalkOrigins.org.
Some people like to claim that the finding of a fossil bird from the Triassic of Texas (Protavis) proves that Archae cannot be transitional between dinosaurs and birds because Protoavis predates Archae by 75 million years. This is, of course, errant nonsense, mainly because no one is claiming that Archae is the transitional species between dinosaurs and birds, merely that Archae represents a grade of organisation which the proposed lineage went through to get from dinosaurs to birds. Archae is, I’m sorry to say, out on a limb, evolutionarily speaking. It represents a side branch, useful for comparative purposes, but not in the thick of things. So even if there were birds in the Triassic, that fact would not diminish Archae’s importance as an indicator that “yes, birds could have evolved from dinosaurs.”
Almost all of the questions suffer from well known problems and actually represent not even the slightest challange to the Theory of Evolution. Of course a high school biology teacher probably wont know that. Further, high school biology students wont know it. So to those who are not well versed in biology/evolutionary theory these questions will look “devastating”.