Misconceptions about evolution: why natural selection is not random

Part 4 in a series. Click here for part 3: why transitional fossils exist.

There are some mysteries I will never understand, such as why Pikachus can’t exist in real life or how anybody could like cilantro (Trust me. It’s horrible). One such conundrum is the vehement denial of evolution that has dogged science for centuries. According to Bill Nye, this organized opposition appears only in the United States, where far-right religious groups hold political sway in the South and Midwest. I hope he is correct, though I can’t know for sure. In my time abroad I have encountered extremists of different kinds but none of this kind. Then again, these are not the types of people I tend to associate with. Before I digress further, let’s take a look at another of our misconceptions. Continue reading

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Is it okay to question science?

Scientific Skepticism Crazy Idiot Lunatic Climate CO2 Obama Protesters Denier Weekly Show

In the early nineteenth century, phrenology was the talk of every town. The up and coming discipline examined the shape and contours of the skull to deduce a person’s psychological traits. By simply running his fingers across a skull, an expert could uncover amazing details about the person’s life, including spirituality and submissiveness. Except phrenology was nonsense, a pseudoscience used by many to justify American slavery.

Of course, many were critical of phrenology’s claims. Skeptics pointed to the questionable methodologies and lack of scientific guidelines. Others simply did not believe its outlandish claims. History would prove these skeptics correct, dismissing the faux discipline and shoving its findings off the table.

PHrenology Django Racist Slavery Bullshit Fake Faux False not True Brain Skull Head Weekly Show Skepticism

If nothing else, phrenology serves of an example of the scientific community’s fallibility.

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Misconceptions about evolution: why transitional fossils exist

Archaeopteryx Bird Dinosaur Transitional Fossil Exist Real Darwin Evolution Artists Impression Artist's

Part 3 in a series. Click here for part 2: why humans did not evolve from monkeys.

I can remember the morning I learned one of the most valuable lessons in arguing. My friend and I had been debating for days, and in the minutes before class I thought I had him beaten. As I prepared my final statements, I realized with horror that I had forgotten to define our terms. While my mind had focused on developing the final blows, I had allowed him to tweak our definitions and surreptitiously bring my argument crashing down.

Whale Vestigal Leg Bones Evolution Transitional Fossil True Exist Darwin

The vestigal leg bones in whale and their recent ancestors are prime examples of transitional species and fossils.

This lesson applies to science as well. While doing research or presenting results, a team must carefully define all terms as a foundation for its work. This is also important when addressing critics and naysayers. A prime example of this is the “debate” over transitional fossils. While some claim they do not exist, this argument can often be boiled down to people redefining scientific terms.

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