Tag Archives: biology

What is evolution?

Evolution is a phenomenon.

A phenomenon is an occurrence, a circumstance, or a fact that is perceptible by the senses (Source: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/phenomenon, accessed Sept. 17, 2012).

What humans perceive is that populations of living organisms have changed and are changing over time.

“The theory of evolution” is shorthand for the set of explanations that seek to explain the phenomenon of evolution. Sometimes “the theory of evolution” is also called “evolution,” and this can be confusing.

Really, the theory is “the theory of evolution BY natural selection, genetic drift, gene flow and mutation.” In science, a theory is a set of well-tested hypotheses and repeatable experiments that together provide an explanation for a phenomenon.

Again, evolution is the phenomenon.

Scientists have demonstrated that the processes, or mechanisms, of natural selection, genetic drift, gene flow and mutation, together explain WHY and HOW the phenomenon of evolution occurs.

If you want to be clear, you should use “evolution” to refer to the perceivable fact and “the theory of evolution” to refer to the scientific explanation for why and how evolution occurs.

To be even clearer, you should say, “TTOEBNSGDGFAM” for “the theory of evolution by natural selection, genetic drift, gene flow and mutation.” Pronounce that any way you like, I suppose.

There are not currently any scientific alternatives to TTOEBNSGDGFAM.

So, any legislation that states that public school teachers should be able to teach alternatives to TTOEBNSGDGFAM in their science classrooms is bad legislation that is not based on valid science.

Public school science teachers who state in their classroom that evolution is not a real phenomenon and/or promote (or denigrate) non-scientific views regarding the origins and diversity of life on Earth are at risk of violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution (i.e., breaking the law).

p.s. The theory of gravity seeks to explain the phenomenon of gravitation.

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Why Intro Bio Should Blow Your Mind…and Why It Probably Doesn’t.

Hey, Mom and Dad,

Classes are going ok, I guess. I dunno. I thought I liked biology, but I really don’t. Now I’m not sure what I’m going to major in. Sigh. It’s not that it’s hard, really, I just don’t get all these stupid experiments we’re doing because we go so fast and just follow all the stupid steps in the lab manual and I don’t even learn anything. And the professor goes so fast and the lectures and the labs don’t match up with each other. I feel like I’m in high school biology again, but there’s just 100x more stuff to know. Whatever. I like that art class I’m taking. Maybe I’ll major in that. Maybe if the other kids in my bio class actually cared about what we’re learning, it would help, but they don’t. And the teacher is always so grouchy. She’s a grad student or something (you went to grad school, right, Mom?) and always seems tired. I thought I wanted to do the cancer research thing, but it just seems so unrealistic now. Grr…can’t wait to come home for my birthday.

Love,

me

vs.

Hey, Mom and Dad,

Classes are going really well. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I actually think biology is my favorite class. Who knows, maybe I can be a doctor or something one day! I have a pretty good teacher and the lab is really fun. You’re not gonna believe this. Last week we learned how to extract DNA from our own cheek cells!! It was awesome. My group made a few mistakes, but by the third try we got it and we were even able to compare our DNA on this thing called a gel that used electricity to move the DNA. It was really cool. This week we learned how to put DNA from one organism into the cells of another organism! It’s like I’m a bioengineer! Next week, we’re going to take the DNA from jellyfish that glow green under a black light and put their DNA into bacteria cells (the bacteria are E. coli, but don’t worry, I won’t get sick from it!) and then the bacteria will glow green, too, if we do it right! (Remember the green glowing bunny on that episode of Sherlock on PBS!? It’s just like that!) But first we have to figure out how to do it. That’s the best part — figuring it out. My group is pretty good and messes up a lot, but we usually get it right before the other kids in the class, which appeals to my competitive side! I can’t believe how much better this class is than I thought it would be. It helps that the lab instructor is really enthusiastic and takes her time to explain stuff to us. Some of my other teachers aren’t like that. And the best part is, she explains why this is important. We’re not just doing stuff for the sake of doing it. She’s a grad student and she actually uses this stuff in her Ph.D. research. I mean, she said one day I could probably work in a lab doing cancer research or something! Wouldn’t that be awesome? I could cure cancer! Woo! Gotta run. Lots of laundry to do.

Love ya!

me