A friend writes to inform me that his son’s high school biology teacher is busily indoctrinating him into Darwinism by writing test questions that force the student to spew back Darwinist party-line answers in order to receive credit. Here are the questions:
1. One argument made against evolution is: evolution is random, so it cannot generate complex, orderly organisms. Explain why this statement is false.
2. Some people argue that evolution cannot be observed today. Explain how natural selection is observable in each of the following professionals (and makes their work more difficult): medical professionals, exterminators, and farmers.
If the student were in college, I would advise him to simply spew back the party line as the teacher expects. At that level the stakes are higher, and the professors are more ideologically driven. We all know that ideologues are reflexively intolerant of the slightest dissent and will abuse their power by punishing the slightest deviation from the officially-approved doctrine. Best to keep your knowledge of the truth well hidden from such as these.
On the other hand, it seems to me that the average high school biology teacher is often not heavily invested in materialist ideology. In my experience they dutifully present the Darwinist agitprop in the officially-sanctioned textbooks even though very often they do not believe it themselves. Therefore, while there is still some risk (who knows whether this one is a true believer), as a general matter they are much more tolerant of diverging viewpoints so long as the student demonstrates mastery of the subject matter.
With that in mind, I am going to throw the questions out for answers from the UD community. I will get us started. How would you answer?
1. Neo-Darwinian theory posits that natural selection acts on random changes such as mutations by preserving those changes that create a survival advantage and deleting those changes that do not. As advantageous changes accumulate over countless generations, simple organisms gradually morph into more complex organisms. While it is true that the theory posits that the changes are random, it is not true that the theory posits that the overall process is random, because natural selection is not random. As the law of gravity “directs” a stone to fall to the earth, the law of “natural selection” directs the evolutionary process in a way that is analogous to a dog breeder developing a new dog breed. Therefore, it is false to say that Neo-Darwinian theory posits a purely random process. That said, natural selection has never been observed to actually direct the creation of large scale evolutionary changes such as new body types, and there are good reasons to believe it cannot do so.
2. It is simply false to say that evolution has never been observed. It most certainly has. Scientists have actually observed microbes develop antibiotic resistance through a strictly Darwinian process. Obviously, the work of medical professionals becomes more difficult when the microbes they are trying to eradicate evolve resistance to antibiotics. Similarly, the work of famers and exterminators becomes harder when bugs evolve resistance to pesticides. Thus, Darwinian evolution at this scale has been observed many times, and it is therefore false to say evolution cannot be observed. That said, it is also true that in contrast to small scale changes within a type (such as the development of antibiotic resistance), large scale evolutionary change that result in complex new organs or new body types has not been directly observed. Rather, since Charles Darwin and his finch beaks, theorists have assumed that the same process that results in small changes can be extrapolated to account for large changes. There are, however, very good reasons to believe that assumption is unwarranted.