July 11, 2006

Ann Coulter vs. Evolution Roundup

Ann Coulter seems to be all the buzz this week, unfortunately. I wonder how many people bought the book just to get pissed off.

Ah, well. Such is the nature of American media, I suppose. Politics is a game, and we rush to get in our kicks.

Apparently, Coulter jumped on the band wagon of evolution's detractors, and devoted two (or four, I hear conflicting statements) chapters of Godless to discussing and "disproving" the theory. Of course, the response has been to pick her argument apart, bit by bit.

Here are some good links to those articles:
These are all nicely crafted responses, especially from Media Matters and The Panda's Thumb. But, I do have concerns, as usual.

It seems that evolution needs to be defended and re-explained at every turn. This is unfortunate, because it automatically lumps those who understand and accept the theory (including every scientific academy and institution in the world) in the same boat with the Godless liberalism that Ann Coulter is attacking.

Believe it or not, some of us who accept evolution as fact do not feel compelled to take the philosophical step forward and accept it as a basis for personal philosophy.

Evolution should be viewed as a natural historical mechanism. If historians of human civilization could apply one theory (and maybe they have, I'm no politcal scientist; please let me know if there is one) to the rise and fall of political systems and ideologies, it would be analogous to evolutionary theory.

Evolution is the mechanism of speciation, the diversification, rise and fall of life on earth throughout history.

Ann Coulter obviously does not understand evolution, as my betters have pointed out in the above articles. Furthermore she, and others that share the same opinion, have no concept of geologic time. It sounds ridiculous to say that my father and mother were mosquitoes because it is a ridiculous thing to say. Common ancenstry as dictated by evolution (and our own DNA) stretches back billions of years, not decades.

The saddest part of this vicious, self-propagating issue is that so much attention has to be paid to the ramblings of a sensationalist. How many times must people like Coulter be corrected? How long will the demonizing of evolution continue?

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  1. it's unfortunate when something that is NOT political winds up being nothing but a wedge issue with which to hang around someone's neck, or use as a way to sway voters/the public.

    well said.

  2. Darn! Your Mike the Mad Biologist link is confused.

  3. Ann Coulter is a horrible, horrible woman. I enjoy reading other conservative writers, but she's just downright mean. One of the things about popular writers is how they seem to think they can write about anything, even subjects outside their field of expertise. That's one reason I wanted to go back to school and study biology, it takes more than a few weeks of reading popular articles about genetics and other scientific topics to be able to fully understand the subject matter and write coherently and accurately about the material.

    I found something related to this topic you might find interesting. The sharp guys over at Realclimate.org posted a link to presentations from a conference about communicating science and technology. Here's the link to the videos. Be sure to watch "Science Under Attack":


    The statistics the Science Under Attack guy cites are shocking. The one I remember is that only 50% of Americans know that the earth orbits the sun in one year! Another is something like only 20% of people think only evolution should be taught in schools. The number may actually be lower than that.

  4. I don't think only evolution should be taught in schools, so I'm probably in that 80% -- but it's a poorly focused question.

    Only evolution should be taught in the *science* classroom. Creation myth should be allowed in other areas -- sociology, history, or literature -- where it's appropriate and in the appropriate context.

  5. I found that link there too about a month ago and watched the very same program! Good stuff. We need more people like Krauss communicating science out there, and less like Richard Dawkins (not to say I don't respect the guy, I just don't like his brand of philosophy).

    Studying science at the university level is a perspective shift. You are learning a fundamentally new skill set to use in evaluating natural circumstances.

    Thud, I don't want to speak for Jen, but I believe that is what she meant; ID and creationism is fine for the humanities classroom to be debated, but keep it out of bio.

    Thank you all for your insight; it is always welcome and appreciated.

  6. I'm just saying, if the question really was phrased as "should only evolution be taught in schools," it's a poorly-worded question. I wouldn't necessarily read that as "out of the science classroom," so I would have answered in the negative -- because I do believe it has a place in the humanities. I don't think we can interpret that data to suggest that 80% of the population supports ID in science classrooms, because that's not what the question appears to ask.

    I'm sure I sound pedantic, but it's worth being pedantic about statistics.

  7. Sorry, the question was about ID vs. evolution in *science* classes. The number of people who thought only evolution should be taught in science classes was really small... 20% from what I remember, although it's now been a few weeks since I watched the lecture. About 30% thought that both ID and evolution should be taught in science classes, while the rest thought only ID (or really, creationism) should be taught.