Rebuttal to Columbus Dispatch article titled “Looking to create new high-tech jobs? Teach evolution.”

by Patrick H. Young, Ph.D.

The article appearing in the Columbus Dispatch on September 9th, 2012 titled "Looking to create new high-tech jobs? Teach evolution”  attempts to incorrectly state that teaching high school students about common ancestry would somehow attract bio-tech firms to Ohio resulting in new high-tech jobs.1

The foundational problem with this article is it consistently commits the fallacy of equivocation to argue for the teaching of evolution. Secondly, a  more covert argument is made that fundamental religion is the blame for cutting edge evolutionary biology not being taught in high school science classes. Realistically, this is only a half truth.  The teaching of adaptation and variation within and at the species level (micro-evolution) is a scientifically valid theory where there is no debate. The true argument is about teaching common ancestry (macro-evolution) as fact when it has never been proven.   

The Dispatch article states:  

“Most high-school students learn about Copernicus and his realization that the sun, not Earth, forms the center of our solar system. Copernicus was no fool; he waited until he was on his deathbed to publish his insights.  

He knew that doing so earlier might mean dying earlier, too. Copernicus' revolutionary insights rattled his world.”

The statements made here are overblown.  While it is accurate to say that Copernicus did not publish his Heliocentric theory until he was on his deathbed, his view on the subject was well known by both the scientific community and the Catholic Church.  However, since his theory was only justified through mathematical computation and not direct observation, the overall impact was not taken seriously by much of anyone.2

The Dispatch article also states:

“Organized religion didn't accept them for 150 years. Martin Luther and John Calvin protested that they contradicted the Bible. Galileo spent his last years under house arrest for briefly embracing them.”  

I have published previously on this subject and the statements above reflect the author’s biased and myopic view of the facts.3  The scientific community firmly embraced the Geocentric theory in the 1500’s. The church also erroneously embraced Geocentrism because the scientific community told them it was fact.  The scientific community was also applauding the church for wrongly chastising Galileo because their very careers were based on the Geocentric view.  

The Dispatch article then states:

He (Copernicus) improved sailors' ability to navigate. Now they could sail straight across the Mediterranean Sea and not hug its coastline. Transit times and shipping costs decreased; profits and jobs increased. When their ships didn't fall off the edge of the Earth, they provided support for Copernicus' new idea.”  

Certainly a Heliocentric view improved a sailors’ ability to navigate.  However, this has nothing to do with falling off the edge of the earth.  A round Earth was known and talked about by Pythagoras around 600 BC.4

The article further states:  

“In the case of evolution, history repeats itself. Darwin and Wallace realized 150 years ago that natural selection explains evolution. Some segments of society persist in describing this insight as tentative, if not flat-out wrong. And, to them, at least controversial.”

These statements are flat-out wrong.  Natural selection does NOT explain evolution because natural selection does not create.  Natural selection acts as a pruning mechanism on traits that already exist in the organism.  Natural selection does not explain how the trait got there in the first place.  In the case of macro-evolution, nothing explains how the trait got there in the first place!  This is the problem with teaching common ancestry (macro-evolution) as fact.  It does not pass minimal scientific rigor..  

The only “history repeating itself” is the scientific community demanding the Church to blindly follow their macro-evolutionary dogma.  It was this type of Orwellian thinking which put Galileo on house arrest in the first place.  

The article goes on to say:  

“Agricultural research corporations insert genes into crops such as corn and soybeans to help bacteria kill insects. Last year, more than 70 percent of the corn and 90 percent of the soybeans grown in Ohio were genetically modified in similar fashion.”  

These efforts also support the notion of an ancient common ancestor of bacteria and plants. Basic genetic pathways of bacteria and plants, derived from this common ancestor, remain sufficiently similar to permit gene transfer.

These statements suggest that gene transfer cannot occur unless it is derived from a common ancestor.  New data on gene transfer and perceived common ancestry concludes that horizontal gene transfer does not require any kind of common ancestry to occur.5 Hence, any knowledge of perceived common ancestry is not required for gene transfer to happen in agriculture.  

Later in the article it is stated:

“Medical researchers and pharmaceutical companies test potential new drugs on laboratory rats and mice because of the common genetic and metabolic heritage we share with them.

The genetic code, used by every living cell to translate genetic information into physiological and behavioral traits, reveals a universality of life shaped by natural selection and other forces of evolution.”

This argument is circular in nature. Because there is a similarity in the translation of genetic information in every living thing it is evidence of the universality of life?  A similar statement would be that since men’s brains are larger, they are smarter than women.  The similarity of genetic code can easily be attributed to an intelligent designer of all living things.  

Lastly, the article states:

“The entire biotechnology enterprise - its jobs, profits, promise of longer and healthier lives - rests on a foundation of biological insights best understood and applied through evolution.”  

Again, the author commits the fallacy of equivocation.  The biased hyperbole presented in this article is a weak attempt to say that teaching common ancestry is the only way to attract biotech industries. The biological insights that are used by the biotechnology enterprise are rooted in adaptation and variation within and at the species level…….not common ancestry.

The best preparation students can have for the high tech world would be for schools to concentrate on critical thinking skills, the scientific method and learning about experimentally reproducible theories. Allowing highly speculative and poorly reproducible subject matter such as common ancestry to penetrate scientific curriculum does nothing but promote a particular worldview and minimize the importance of science as a whole.

 

References

1. http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/science/2011/02/06/looking-to-create-new-high-tech-jobs-teach-evolution.html
2. http://www.astronomy.ohio-state.edu/~pogge/Ast161/Unit3/response.html
3. http://creationists.org/patrickyoung/dispatch04.html
4. Ref. 2.
5. Cheryl P. Andam, David Williams, and J. Peter Gogarten, “Biased Gene Transfer Mimics Patterns Created through Shared Ancestry,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 107, no. 23 (June 8, 2010): 10679–84.

Patrick H. Young was formerly a resident of Central Ohio. He now lives in Virginia. He has a Ph.D. in Chemistry and has been employed in industry as a research chemist and materials scientist for over 18 years. He has a website at creationists.org/patrickyoung.html and his email address is patrickyoung@creationists.org.


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