Science & Education

, Volume 12, Issue 8, pp 729–760 | Cite as

The Fact of Evolution: Implications for Science Education

  • James R. Hofmann
  • Bruce H. Weber
Article

Abstract

Creationists who object to evolution in the science curriculum of public schoolsoften cite Jonathan Well's book Icons of Evolution in their support (Wells2000). In the third chapter of his book Wells claims that neither paleontologicalnor molecular evidence supports the thesis that the history of life is an evolutionaryprocess of descent from preexisting ancestors. We argue that Wells inappropriatelyrelies upon ambiguities inherent in the term `Darwinian' and the phrase `Darwin'stheory'. Furthermore, he does not accurately distinguish between the overwhelmingevidence that supports the thesis of common descent and controversies that pertainto causal mechanisms such as natural selection. We also argue that Wells' attemptsto undermine the evidence in support of common descent are flawed and hischaracterization of the relevant data is misleading. In particular, his assessment ofthe `Cambrian explosion' does not do justice to the fossil record. Nor do his selectivereferences to debate about molecular and paleontological phylogenies constitute a caseagainst common descent. We conclude that the fossil and molecular evidence is morethan sufficient to warrant science educators to present common descent as a well-established scientific fact. We also argue that diagrams depicting the `tree of life' can be pedagogically useful as simplified representations of the history of life.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Aguinaldo, A.M.A. & Lake, J.A.: 1998, 'Evolution of the Multicellular Animals', American Zoologist 38, 878-887.Google Scholar
  2. Alters, B.J. & Nelson, C.E.: 2002, 'Teaching Evolution in Higher Education', Evolution 56(10), 1891-1901.Google Scholar
  3. Anderson, J.O., Doolittle, W.F. & Nesbe, C.L.: 2001, 'Are There Bugs in Our Genome?', Science 292, 1848-1850.Google Scholar
  4. Avise, J.C.: 1994, Molecular Markers, Natural History and Evolution, Chapman & Hall, New York.Google Scholar
  5. Baldauf, S.L., Roger, A.J., Wenk-Siefert, I. & Doolittle, W.F.: 2000, 'A Kingdom-Level Phylogeny of Eukaryotes Based on Combined Protein Data', Science 290, 972-977.Google Scholar
  6. Behe, M.J.: 1996, Darwin's Black Box. The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Simon & Schuster, New York.Google Scholar
  7. Bogen, J. & Woodward, J.: 1988, 'Saving the Phenomena', The Philosophical Review 97(3), 303-352.Google Scholar
  8. Bromham, L., Rambaut, A., Fortey, R., Cooper, A. & Penny, D.: 1998, 'Testing the Cambrian Explosion Hypothesis by Using a Molecular Dating Technique', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 95, 12386-12389.Google Scholar
  9. Cao, Y., Janke, A., Waddell, P.J., Westerman, M., Takenaka, O., Murata, S., Okada, N., Paabo, S. & Hasegawa, M.: 1998, 'Conflict Among Individual Mitochondrial Proteins in Resolving the Phylogeny of Eutherian Orders', Journal of Molecular Evolution 47, 307-322.Google Scholar
  10. Carroll, S.B., Grenier, J.K. & Weatherbee, S.C.: 2001, From DNA to Diversity: Molecular Genetics and the Evolution of Animal Design, Blackwell Scientific, Malden, MA.Google Scholar
  11. Conway Morris, S.: 1998, The Crucible of Creation: The Burgess Shale and the Rise of Animals, Oxford University Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  12. Conway Morris, S.: 2000, 'Evolution: Bringing Molecules into the Fold', Cell 100, 1-11.Google Scholar
  13. Coyne, J.; 2001, 'Creationism by Stealth', Nature 410, 745-746.Google Scholar
  14. Darwin, C.: 1859, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, John Murray, London.Google Scholar
  15. Dayhoff, M.O.: 1972, Atlas of Protein Sequence and Structure, Vol. 5, National Biomedical Research Foundation, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  16. Denton, M.J.: 1986, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, Adler & Adler, Chevy Chase, MD.Google Scholar
  17. Denton, M.J.: 1999, 'Comments on Special Creationism', in P.E Johnson and D.O. Lamoureux (eds.), Darwinism Defeated? The Johnson-Lamoureux Debate on Biological Origins, Regent College Publishing, Vancouver, pp. 141-154.Google Scholar
  18. Depew, D.J. & Weber, B.H.: 1995, Darwinism Evolving: Systems Dynamics and the Genealogy of Natural Selection, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  19. Dickerson, R.E.: 1971, 'Sequence and Structure Homologies in Bacterial and Mammalian-type Cytochromes', Journal of Molecular Biology 57, 1-15.Google Scholar
  20. Dickerson, R.E.: 1980, 'The Cytochromes c: An Exercise in Scientific Serendipity', in D.S. Sigman and M.A.B. Bazier (eds.), The Evolution of Protein Structure and Function, Academic Press, New York, pp. 173-202.Google Scholar
  21. Dickerson, R.E., Timkovich, R. & Almassy, R.J.: 1976, 'The Cytochrome Fold and the Evolution of Bacterial Energy Metabolism', Journal of Molecular Biology 100, 473-491.Google Scholar
  22. Doolittle, R.F.: 1987, 'The Evolution of the Vertebrate Plasma Proteins', Biological Bulletin 172, 269-283.Google Scholar
  23. Doolittle, R.F. & Blomback, B.: 1964, 'Amino-Acid Sequence Investigations of Fibrinopeptides from Various Mammals: Evolutionary Implications', Nature 202, 147-152.Google Scholar
  24. Doolittle, W.F.: 1999, 'Phylogenetic Classification and the Universal Tree', Science 284, 2124-2128.Google Scholar
  25. Doolittle, W.F.: 2000, 'Uprooting the Tree of Life', Scientific American 282(2), 90-95.Google Scholar
  26. Fitch, W.M. & Margoliash, E.: 1969, 'The Construction of Phylogenetic Trees', Brookhaven Symposia in Biology 21, 217-242.Google Scholar
  27. Futuyma, D.J.: 1998, Evolutionary Biology, 3rd edn, Sinauer, Sunderland, MA.Google Scholar
  28. Gee, H.: 1999, In Search of Deep Time. Beyond the Fossil Record to a New History of Life, Free Press, New York.Google Scholar
  29. Gehring, W.J.: 1998, Master Control Genes in Development and Evolution: The Homeobox Story, Yale University Press, New Haven.Google Scholar
  30. Gilbert, S.F.: 1997, Developmental Biology, 5th edn, Sinauer, Sunderland, MA.Google Scholar
  31. Gould, S.J.: 1983, 'Evolution as Fact and Theory', in S.J. Gould, Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes, W. W. Norton, New York, pp. 253-262.Google Scholar
  32. Gould, S.J.: 1989, Wonderful Life. The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History, W.W. Norton, New York.Google Scholar
  33. Graur, D., Duret, L. & Gouy, M.: 1996, 'Phylogenetic Position of the Order Lagomorpha (Rabbits, Hares and Allies)', Nature 379, 333-335.Google Scholar
  34. Halanych, K.M.: 1998, 'Considerations for Reconstructing Metazoan History: Signal, Resolution, and Hypothesis Testing', American Zoologist 38, 929-941.Google Scholar
  35. Heckman, D.S., Geiser, D.M., Eidell, B.R., Stauffer, R.L., Kardos, N.L. & Blair Hedges, S.: 2001, 'Molecular Evidence for the Early Colonization of Land by Fungi and Plants', Science 293, 1129-1133.Google Scholar
  36. Hofmann, J.R.: 1990, 'How The Models of Chemistry Vie', in A. Fine, M. Forbes and L. Wessels (eds.), PSA 1990: Proceedings of the 1990 Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association, Philosophy of Science Association, East Lansing, vol. 1, 405-419.Google Scholar
  37. Hofmann, J.R.: 1996, 'Data, Theory, and Evolutionary Phenomena', Origins & Design 17(2) 6-9.Google Scholar
  38. Hofmann, J.R. & Hofmann, P.A.: 1992, 'Darcy's Law and Structural Explanation in Hydrology', in D. Hull, M. Forbes & K. Okruhlik (eds.), PSA 1992: Proceedings of the 1992 Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association, Philosophy of Science Association, East Lansing, vol. 1, 23-35.Google Scholar
  39. International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium: 2001, 'Initial Sequencing and Analysis of the Human Genome', Nature 409, 860-921.Google Scholar
  40. Johnson, P.E.: 1993, Darwin on Trial, (2nd edn), InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove.Google Scholar
  41. Johnson, W.E. & Coffin, J.M.: 1999, 'Constructing Primate Phylogenies from Ancient Retrovirus Sequences', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 96, 10254-10260.Google Scholar
  42. Kaiser, M.: 1991, 'From Rocks to Graphs', Synthese 89, 111-133.Google Scholar
  43. Kauffman, S.A.: 1993, The Origins of Order: Self-Organization and Selection in Evolution, Oxford University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  44. Kimura, M.: 1968, 'Evolutionary Rate at the Molecular Level', Nature 217, 624-626.Google Scholar
  45. Kimura, M.: 1983, The Neutral Theory of Molecular Evolution, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  46. Kimura, M.: 1987, 'Molecular Evolutionary Clock and the Neutral Theory', Journal of Molecular Evolution 26, 24-33.Google Scholar
  47. King, J.L. & Jukes, T.H.: 1969, 'Non-Darwinian Evolution', Science 164, 788-798.Google Scholar
  48. King, M.-C. & Wilson, A.C.: 1975, 'Evolution at Two Levels: Molecular Similarities and Biological Differences Between Humans and Chimpanzees', Science 188, 107-116.Google Scholar
  49. Lamoureux, D.O.: 1999, 'Evangelicals Inheriting theWind: The Phillip E. Johnson Phenomenon', in P.E. Johnson & D.O. Lamoureux (eds.), Darwinism Defeated? The Johnson-Lamoureux Debate on Biological Origins, Regent College Publishing, Vancouver, pp. 9-46.Google Scholar
  50. Langly, C.H. & Fitch, W.M.: 1974, 'An Examination of the Constancy of the Rate of Molecular Evolution', Journal of Molecular Evolution 3, 161-177.Google Scholar
  51. Lewin, R.: 1999, Patterns in Evolution: The New Molecular View, Scientific American Library, New York.Google Scholar
  52. Li, W.-H.: 1997, Molecular Evolution, Sinauer, Sunderland, MA.Google Scholar
  53. Li, W.-H., Gu, Z., Wang, H. & Nekrutenko, A.: 2001, 'Evolutionary Analysis of the Human Genome', Nature 409, 847-849.Google Scholar
  54. Margoliash, E., Fitch, W.M. & Dickerson, R.E.: 1969: 'Molecular Expression of Evolutionary Phenomena in the Primary and Tertiary Structures of Cytochrome c', Brookhaven Symposia in Biology 21, 259-305.Google Scholar
  55. Medina, M., Collins, A.G., Silberman, J.D. & Sogin, M.L.: 2001, 'Evaluating Hypotheses of Basal Animal Phylogeny Using Complete Sequences of Large and Small Subunit rRNA', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 98, 9707-9712.Google Scholar
  56. Miller, K.B.: 1997, 'The Precambrian to Cambrian Fossil Record and Transitional Forms', Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 49(4), 264-268.Google Scholar
  57. Nikaido, M., Rooney, A.P. & Okada, N.: 1999, 'Phylogenetic Relationships Among Certariodactyls Based upon Insertions of Short and Long Interspersed Elements: Hippopotamuses are the Closest Extant Relatives of Whales', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 96, 10261-10266.Google Scholar
  58. Padian, K. & Gishlick, A.: 2002, 'The Talented Mr. Wells', The Quarterly Review of Biology 77, 33-37.Google Scholar
  59. Page, R.D.M. & Holmes, E.C.: 1998, Molecular Evolution: A Phylogenetic Approach, Blackwell Scientific, Oxford.Google Scholar
  60. Pennock, R.T.: 1999, Tower of Babel: The Evidence Against the New Creationism, The MIT Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  61. Perez-Rueda, E. & Collado-Vides, J.: 2001, 'Common History at the Origin of the Position-Function Correlation in Transcriptional Regulators in Archaea and Bacteria', Journal of Molecular Evolution 53, 172-179.Google Scholar
  62. Pigliucci, M.: 2001, 'Intelligent Design Theory', BioScience 51, 411-414.Google Scholar
  63. Raff, R.A.: 1996, The Shape of Life: Genes, Development, and the Evolution of Animal Form, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
  64. Raff, R.A.: 2001, 'The Creationist Abuse of Evo-Devo', Evolution & Development 3(6), 373-374.Google Scholar
  65. Rudge, D.: 2002, 'Cryptic Designs on the Peppered Moth', International Journal of Tropical Biology and Conservation 50(1), 1-7.Google Scholar
  66. Ruse, M.: 2000, 'Limits to Our Knowledge of Evolution', Evolutionary Biology 32, 3-33.Google Scholar
  67. Salmon, W.C.: 1992, 'Scientific Explanation', in M. Salmon, J. Earman, C. Glymor, J. Lennox, P. Machamer, J.E. McGuire, J. Norton, W. Salmon & K. Schaffner (eds.), Introduction to the Philosophy of Science, Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, pp. 7-41.Google Scholar
  68. Salzberg, S.L., White, O., Peterson, J. & Eisen, J.: 2001, 'Microbial Genes in the Human Genome: Lateral Transfer or Gene Loss?', Science 292, 1903-1906.Google Scholar
  69. Schopf, J.W.: 1994, 'The Early Evolution of Life: Solution to Darwin's Dilemma', Trends in Ecology and Evolution 9(10), 375-377.Google Scholar
  70. Schopf, J.W.: 1999, Cradle of Life. The Discovery of the Earth's Earliest Fossils, Princeton University Press, Princeton.Google Scholar
  71. Schwarz, J.H.: 1999, 'Homeobox Genes, Fossils, and the Origin of Species', The Anatomical Record (New Anat.) 257, 15-31.Google Scholar
  72. Scott, E.C.: 2001, 'Fatally Flawed Iconoclasm', Science 292, 2257-2258.Google Scholar
  73. Shubin, N., Tabin, C. & Carroll, S.: 1997, 'Fossils, Genes and the Evolution of Animal Limbs', Nature 388, 639-648.Google Scholar
  74. Ussery, D.: 2001, 'The Stealth Creationists', Skeptic 8(4), 72-74.Google Scholar
  75. Valentine, J.W, Collins, A.G. & Meyer, C.P.: 1994, 'Morphological Complexity Increase in Metazoans', Paleontology 20, 131-142.Google Scholar
  76. Valentine, J.W. & Hamilton, H.: 1998, 'Body Plans, Phyla and Arthropods', in R.A. Fortey & R.H. Thomas (eds.), Arthropod Relationships, Chapman & Hall, London, pp. 1-56.Google Scholar
  77. Valentine, J.W., Jablonski, D. & Erwin, D.H.: 1999, 'Fossils, Molecules and Embryos: New Perspectives on the Cambrian Explosion', Development 126, 851-859.Google Scholar
  78. Van Till, H.J.: 1999, 'The Fully Gifted Creation', in J.P Moreland and J.M. Reynolds (eds.), Three Views on Creation and Evolution, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, pp. 159-218.Google Scholar
  79. Venter, J.C. et al.: 2001, 'The Sequence of the Human Genome', Science 291, 1304-1351.Google Scholar
  80. Wang, D.Y.-C., Kumar, S. & Blair Hedges, S.: 1999, 'Divergence Time Estimates for the Early History of Animal Phyla and the Origin of Plants, Animals and Fungi', Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B 266, 163-171.Google Scholar
  81. Weber, B.H.: 1998, 'Emergence of Life and Biological Selection from the Perspective of Complex Systems Dynamics', in G. Van de Vijver, S.N. Salthe & M. Delpos (eds.), Evolutionary Systems: Biological and Epistemological Perspectives on Selection and Self-Organization, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, pp. 59-66.Google Scholar
  82. Weber, B.H. & Depew, D.J.: 2001, 'Developmental Systems, Darwinian Evolution, and the Unity of Science', in S. Oyama, P.E. Griffiths, and R.D. Gray, Cycles of Contingency: Developmental Systems and Evolution, MIT Press, Cambridge MA, pp. 239-253.Google Scholar
  83. Wells, J.: 2000, Icons of Evolutions, Science or Myth? Why Much of What We Teach About Evolution Is Wrong, Regnery, Washington DC.Google Scholar
  84. Wilson, A.C., Carlson, S.S. & White, T.J.: 1977, 'Biochemical Evolution', Annual Reviews of Biochemistry 46, 573-639.Google Scholar
  85. Woese, C.: 1998, 'The Universal Ancestor', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 95, 6854-6859.Google Scholar
  86. Woese, C.: 2002, 'On the Evolution of Cells', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 99, 8742-8747.Google Scholar
  87. Woodward, J.: 1989, 'Data and Phenomena', Synthese 79, 393-472.Google Scholar
  88. Zimmer, C.: 2001, Evolution. The Triumph of an Idea, HarperCollins, New York.Google Scholar
  89. Zuckerkandl, E.: 1987, 'On the Evolutionary Clock', Journal of Molecular Evolution 26, 34-46.Google Scholar
  90. Zuckerkandl, E. & Pauling, L.: 1965, 'Molecules as Documents of Evolutionary History', Journal of Theoretical Biology 8, 357-366.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • James R. Hofmann
    • 1
  • Bruce H. Weber
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Philosophy DepartmentCalifornia State University FullertonFullertonUSA
  2. 2.Bennington CollegeBenningtonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Chemistry and BiochemistryCalifornia State University FullertonFullertonUSA

Personalised recommendations