Bu_EnvHome_grewhi229_gretxt x Bu_ShortCut_serve x

Intellectual Tennis (Evolution "serve" preface) x

x This "little" discussion contribution does not pretend to teach you everything about evolution -- but it is intended to force you to think about the subject... x

The cartoon is used for educational purposes by Dr. Nilsson, South Texas College. Downloaded from the WWW by an environmental biology student
(URL unknown). Artist's signature in the lower left corner. For fair use comment see bottom of this page.

x video note: I hope you will watch all x videos. However, because all students do not have access to high-speed internet connection at home, you are not required to view all x videos. If you do not have high-speed internet connection it is recommended that you use an STC computer to view these videos. Hybrid students will watch some of the videos during classroom meetings. Most of the videos have sound. Make sure you have the sound on so that you can enjoy the music, or listen to the speaker!

x Evolution vs. Creationism: Listen to the Scientists

x One of the statements in the video above: "Today roughly half the people think that we lived with dinosaurs. About half the people, roughly, question evolution and think that some other theory, creationism, is just as likely to be true. So science get better and better and better, while the person on the street doesn't seem to accept what scientists conclude, and the gap -- and that is a gap -- and that gap is getting bigger. It is very frightening because I think a society that turns its back on reason, and prefers ideology, is headed towards some kind of theocracy, headed towards Iran, for instance, and I don't want that to happen to my country." -- James L. Powell, Ph.D., Geologist, specialist in Geochronology.

x "Another way to put it: Americans are getting dumber and dumber. I don't want that to happen to my country, either." -- Environmental Biology student, fall 2007.

x But it is happening... x


x According to the creation web site Answer in Genesis, textbooks in elementary school is lying to the students. One example: Dinosaurs didn't go extinct 65 million years ago. Humans and dinosaurs were contemporary. In "faith world" Earth didn't even exist 65 million years ago. "According to the Bible: Dinosaurs first existed around 6,000 years ago. God made the dinosaurs, along with the other land animals, on Day 6 of the Creation Week (Genesis 1:2025, 31). Adam and Eve were also made on Day 6 -- so dinosaurs lived at the same time as people, not separated by eons of time."

x x x

x x Then, of course, the dinosaurs were on the Ark and slowly "faded" away after living as dragons in the middle ages. "Faded" -- meaning people became better educated?

Table of Contents

xSuccess Story

x"The Graph": The State of Science Education in the United States

xIntroduction with challenge apples

xClarification of the grading criteria

xKey terms

x Conclusion

xSuccess Story

Imagine if America ranked next to last amoung countries accepting the existence of atoms!

x (The following is a collection of quotes from the introduction chapter of the book "Why Evolution Is True" (Coyne, J.A. 2009. Viking. 282pp.) merged into a couple of short readable paragraphs. The book can be purchased at Amazon.com. Click here or on the book icon. It is a well written, excellent book explaining evolution. I recommend it.)

Among the wonders science has uncovered about the universe in which we dwell, no subject has caused more fascination and fury than evolution. Evolution gives us the true account of our origins, replacing the myths that satisfied us for thousands of years. Some find this deeply frightening, others ineffably thrilling. Darwin's theory that all of life was a product of evolution, and that the evolutionary process was driven largely by natural selection, has been called the greatest idea that anyone had. But it is more than just a good theory, or even a beautiful one. It happens to be true.

Today scientists have as much confidence in Darwinism as they do in the existence of atoms, or in microorganisms as the cause of infectious disease. Why then do we need a book that gives the evidence for a theory that long ago became part of mainstream science? After all, nobody write books explaining the evidence for atoms, or for germ theory of disease.

Scientists need no more convincing. But things are different outside scientific circles. To many evolution gnaws at their sense of self. We're not only related to other creatures but, like them, are also the product of blind and impersonal evolutionary forces. If humans are just one of many outcomes of natural selection, maybe we aren't so special after all. You can understand why this doesn't sit well with many people who think that we came into being as the special goal of a divine intention. No other scientific theory produces such angst, or such psychological resistance.

Statistics show starkly how resistant we are to accepting the plain scientific fact of evolution. Only 40 percent of Americans accept that we have a common ancestor with the chimpanzees. This becomes even more remarkable when we compare these statistics with other Western countries. Of thirty-one countries surveyed, only Turkey ranked lower. Over 80 percent of French, Scandinavians and Icelanders seeing evolution as true. Imagine if America ranked next to last amoung countries accepting the existence of atoms! People would immediately go to work improving education in the physical sciences.

Aside from its conflict with fundamentalist religion, much confusion and misunderstanding that surrounds evolution is because of lack of information [education]. No wonder then that many people fall prey to the rhetoric of creationists and their deliberate mischaracterization of Darwinism. While recognizing the full import of evolution certainly requires a profound shift in thinking, it does not inevitably lead to the dire consequences that creationists always paints. The truth -- that we like lions, redwoods, and frogs, all resulted from slow replacement of one gene by another, each step conferring a tiny reproductive advantage -- is surely more satisfying than the myth that we were suddenly called into being from nothing.

This message below was posted on Blackboard at the end of the spring 2009 semester by Sanjuanita, a student in one of the online Environmental Biology classes taught by this instructor. x --- I have inserted some comments in red.

After 12 years in the Rio Grande Valley public education system Sanjuanita lacked a science education. After being brought up by uneducated parents and Sunday school, she was blinded by her religion. However, Sanjuanita came to STC in January, 2009, with something much more important than a good education or educated parents -- she came with an OPEN MIND for new knowledge, OPEN MIND for uncovering of facts about the REAL beautiful world we live in. Read Sanjuanita's statement and be happy for her success. This is what college is about -- the uncovering of the truth, to brighten the path of life for a better understanding the REAL world, the world we live in. If we understand the world, rather that thinking it is mysterious and ruled by the supernatural, then -- perhaps -- we have a chance to save it, and humankind with it, from destruction.

As I began with this course, I was not so sure if it was ok for me to be exposed to the theory of evolution.

x --- Not OK? Meaning the church forbids you to go to school and become educated? Hmmm!!!???

Being raised to only believe in the bible was something the caused such fear in me. I feared that I would be sinning if I began to believe in this theory.

x --- Sinning? STC is in the State of Texas Higher Education System. STC is not a Sunday school, but I don't think God thinks taking college classes is sinning. An ignorant priest or minister might (call him/her what you want depending on your religion), but not God.

I was scared that this idea would drive me away from God, yet, now I comprehend that the theory of evolution was not invented so that people could stray away from God's word but only to inform us, educating us about our origins and for a better understanding of our surroundings.

x --- Excellent! The discussion of EVOLUTION has nothing to do with God. It has to do with how the REAL world works, and as Sanjuanita said, our origin, and "a better understanding of our surroundings". Excellent!

Evolution is defined as change over time and that is what it is. There is nothing wicked or evil about it.

x --- Again, STC is in the State of Texas Higher Education System. Evil is not part of the curriculum.

This course has not only helped me accept new ideas but has also educated me on this subject. I now know that there is nothing wrong with accepting the theory of evolution and that fearing this subject seems so ridiculous.

x --- I found this on the Internet:

"Ignorance is bliss". Ever see a person who really is that ignorant be totally OK with it? Not one person I have ever known who really was ignorant about anything, myself included, has ever been really happy with being THAT ignorant.

Yet when you've learned something or discovered something that really causes you an internal conflict, there's always a part of you that perhaps may not want to know what you have just learned.

Yes, the stories you heard in Sunday school as a kid were nice, beautiful stories. Stories often are. But they are just stories, and we don't live in a story. We live in the REAL world, a world we are destroying. Religious faith is not going to save the world we need to understand the science in order to save it!

Thank you Sanjuanita for sharing your success! Keep that mind OPEN for all new knowledge that will come to you in college, and in life after college. If you become a teacher, please share with your students how important it is to have an OPEN MIND!

x We are on the brink of destroying our planet by global climate change caused by greedy, materialistic, self-indulgent, and "anything goes" human behavior, and I claim that the main reason for this behavior is an ever-increasing poorly educated superstitious faith based human mindset -- not understanding how the real world works -- allowed to rule and control interaction with the planet. Dr. Jan A. Nilsson

Did you watch the Susie Smartypants video above? Any of you said no?! Hmmm!!!??? Are you scared of what the little kid will tell you? And you think you are going to be a teacher and teach future Susie Smartypants!? Hmmm!!!??? Maybe you plan to destroy them with ignorance? This is some of what she said:

You, adults, teachers, educators -- beware,
Do not make the mistake to talk nonsense to me,
For I'm not just smart,
I'm super smart,
Maybe even super-duper, king-size smarter than you.

x"The Graph" : The State of Science Education in the United States

x The Gallup Poll Daily Briefing 1: Evolution

x In the words of the person posting the video, the less educated you are, the less you understand evolution or science. In this video the only reason given for not accepting evolution is that it conflicted with religious beliefs.

x Is it poor education or is is quality education?
(You have to answer this question or you are an IRRESPONSIBLE PARENT!!!!!)

You are about to read the instructors contribution to the Evolution Class Discussion. I call my contribution "The Serve" (as in "tennis serve"). This page is the preface page to "The Serve". "The Serve" was written first, the preface came later in response to [religious] students complaining about that they had to learn about evolution, read the instructors opinion about evolution and the controversy with religion (they could give their opinion, but the instructor should apparently be quiet), and that they had to have have a lengthy class discussion about the topic as part of the class requirements.

x We are having this discussion because the U.S. is at the bottom of the "the graph" (below) (right between Cyprus and Turkey). The U.S. is at the bottom of the graph for two reasons: 1. Poor quality education (starting in childhood). 2. Religious indoctrination (starting in childhood).

Adults were asked to respond to the statement: "Human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species of animals." The percentage of respondents who believed this to be true is marked in blue; those who believed it to be false, in red; and those who were not sure, in yellow. The question was just whether humans evolved from earlier animals. It said nothing about evolution being by purely natural means, via natural selection, or without participation by a deity. It's just: "did humans evolve?"


"The graph" is used for educational purposes by Dr. Nilsson, South Texas College. Downloaded from http://www.pastpeak.com/archives/2007/04/unevolved_1.htm#comments. For fair use comment see bottom of this page.

Since so many in the U.S. think that humans did not evolve, are people in the United States better educated about the REAL world than people in other countries?

Or is it the other way around?

The study found that adults with some understanding of genetics are more likely to have a positive attitude toward evolution. However, fewer than half of American adults can provide a minimal definition of DNA. Poor science education, or lack thereof, is clearly at least one reason why the U.S. is at the bottom of the graph.

x Americans who cannot even explain in simple terms what DNA is, think that they are in a position to say that evolution didn't happen, and think that they have the right to impose their uneducated opinions on what our kids should be taught in school! x

The Austin American-Stateman editorial to the left below, was published in the Monitor October 10, 2008. To those of you with strong religious opinion about evolution: This is not published in an evil, blasphemous science publication, this was in the Monitor. For this reason, could it be of serious concern for quality education and the "dumbing-down-of-America"? Non-acceptance of evolution is just one example of a declining educational quality. Should we perhaps do something to stop this dumbing down? Or should we just keep marching into the future, like in the cartoon to the right below, without any concerns? Comments?


The cartoon is used for educational purposes by Dr. Nilsson, South Texas College, downloaded, from http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/dayart/20080520/cartoon20080519.jpg. Artist's signature is on the cartoon.
For fair use comment see bottom of this page.


Based on more than a few reactions from previous semesters I can already hear someone saying that, "your faith and your belief that evolution didn't happen has nothing to do with education." Hmmm!!!??? This was discussed in a blog (Past Peak, scroll down to "Unevolved", April 27, 2007). One of the blog statements informed that when Ronald Reagan was running for President, when he gave speeches in certain religious states where the majority do not accept evolution, he would slip in the sentence, "I have no chimpanzees in my family," poking fun at the idea that apes could be the ancestors of humans. "It would be funny, in a sick sort of way, if it weren't so downright scary, considering the belligerence and military power of the US. People who have flipped the mental switch that lets them ignore the evidence of physical reality so they can be accepted by the herd are people who can be led into all sorts of mischief. And they're armed to the teeth. Superstitious primates with guns."

The graph, and the sad story of poor education in the United States in the year 2006, was further discussed in a National Geographic Magazine article with the title Evolution Less Accepted in U.S. Than Other Western Countries, Study Finds.

A Gallup Poll conducted over a time period of 26 years, further show the sad state of science education explaining why the U.S. is at the bottom of the graph.


The graph is used for educational purposes by Dr. Nilsson, South Texas College. Downloaded from http://www.gallup.com/poll/108226/Republicans-Democrats-Differ-Creationism.aspx. For fair use comment see bottom of this page.

Between 43 and 47 percent of Americans have agreed during a 26-year time period with the creationist view that God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so. Between 35 percent and 40 percent have agreed with the alternative explanation that humans evolved, but with God guiding the process, while 9 percent to 14 percent have chosen a pure secularist evolution perspective that humans evolved with no guidance by God.

The poll also showed that a significantly higher percentage of Republicans select the creationist view, which reflects in part the strong relationship between religion and views on the origin of humans. Republicans are significantly more likely to attend church weekly than are others, and Americans who attend church weekly are highly likely to select the creationist alternative for the origin of humans.

The cartoons are used for educational purposes by Dr. Nilsson, South Texas College. Downloaded from the WWW by an environmental biology student
(URL unknown). Artist's signature is on the cartoon. For fair use comment see bottom of this page.

Because of religious indoctrination, and because uneducated parents and kids barely out of poor quality high schools think they know better than the teachers, "the nation that dramatically and boldly led the world into the age of technology will fail to provide its own children with the intellectual tools needed for the 21st century."


"CAN CHILDREN learn the scientific basics of the world around them without knowing where they as human beings come from? The answer is clearly no, according to most scientists and educators. Yet resistance to the teaching of biological evolution continues to plague many school districts."

"The National Academy of Sciences regards these efforts as a serious threat to science education ... If we want our children to have a good grasp of science, we need to help teachers, parents, school administrators, and policy-makers to understand both evolution and the nature of science."

"Otherwise, in the prophetic words of the 1983 statement of the National Science Board ... the nation that dramatically and boldly led the world into the age of technology [the United States] will fail to provide its own children with the intellectual tools needed for the 21st century."

(Source for the text above: Fisher, A. 1998. Fragile Future: Far from being first among nations in science and math, U.S. students rank near the bottom. Can new teaching approaches make a difference?. Popular Science (Number 6) Volume 253: 92-98.)

x x "The Serve" and this preface page is the instructors attempt to try to move the United States higher up on "the graph". This instructor does not mean to be unfriendly or to hurt anyone's religious feelings. However, you are a STUDENT -- you come here to LEARN something you know little about. (If you are already an expert, you should be doing something else with your time -- like TEACH, otherwise you are wasting your time.)

x This is college biology, not high school nor Sunday school. As indicated in the text block above from Popular Science, evolution is a scientific fact of the real world and is included in the course content of Environmental Biology -- and for that reason included in the Blackboard class discussions. Some semesters ago a group of students who didn't want to hear about evolution, without first talking to this instructor went to the chair of the biology department in an (unsuccessful) attempt to stop the discussion.

x Fortunately, this is not a Taliban country; we have freedom of speech in this country, and academic freedom in our public universities and colleges. STC is not a religious college. Evolution is covered in biology classes as part of a quality education. If you don't wish to obtain a quality education you have the option to go somewhere else, either move to a religious community and hide from the real world, or obtain a job that does not require a college degree at places like Wal-Mart or McDonald's.

x Religious students (or religious parents) do not have the right or the power to stop discussions about evolution. Unfortunately, at the moment, in some parts of the country parents ARE stopping the teaching of evolution in public schools -- or forcing, so called, "equal time" including religion in science classes. That is why the U.S. is at the bottom of "the graph"! Remember [ad infinitum], in this class you are not graded on your opinion -- in this case your religious opinion. However, if you cannot handle a quality education biology discussion about evolution, rather than going to the chair of the biology department and complain -- read the discussion philosophy (which you actually should have read already).

x When this is said, why not take part of the discussion with an open mind and try to defend your opinion (faith?). You need to come to college with an open mind for new knowledge. That is what a quality education is for! Open your mind to alternative viewpoints! If for no other reason, if you are a parent or will become a parent, for the sake of your children -- OPEN YOUR MIND. However, remember that if you decide to participate, you have no right to claim at any time that you have been offended by the discussion. Instead of (i) learning about evolution, (ii) reading the instructors opinions, and (iii) participating in the class discussion -- all three (i, ii, iii) are necessary in order to fullfill the class requirements -- you have the option to write a minimum 10,000 word term paper instead as described in the Grading Criteria.


The cartoon is used for educational purposes by Dr. Nilsson, South Texas College. Downloaded from http://www.cnn.com/POLITICS/analysis/toons/2005/10/13/lang/index.html. For fair use comment see bottom of this page.

x Participating in intellectual discussions like this -- to train your brain to use "critical thinking" -- is an important part of what is called a "quality education" and "college experience". It is one reason why in Taliban countries women are not allowed an education. (If women in Taliban countries were educated they would obviously not accept walking around with a potato sack over their head.)

x x When possible I try to present my opinions in this discussion by using other peoples statements, educational cartoons (it cannot be helped if you don't have the same humor as the instructor), and x videos. The reason for this is because over the years I have noticed that if I -- the instructor -- give my opinion it is often resisted and even hated by some students -- as if coming from a person not qualified to teach this course. The instructor's pH.D. apparently is worth less that a student's high school diploma and Sunday school. That is how close-minded many students are -- because of what has already been stated above as an explanation to "the graph": 1. Poor quality education (starting in childhood). 2. Religious indoctrination (starting in childhood). Remember, (ad infinitum) you are supposed to come to college with an "open mind" for new knowledge. (Did you click on the link? I especially liked number five, "Take unusual classes".)

x Creationism outside the USA

"Unlike every other civilized western country in the world this country is still extremely religious, because we are young and dumb. 60 percent of the American people believe the Noah's Arc story literally. They believe the man lived to 900 years old. He collected two of every animal -- this includes over a million species of insect. So a 900 year old man collected two of every mite and tick and got them to have sex on a boat." Bill Maher (on The View) x

xx There is concern in the European Union countries that attempts to infiltrate creationism into Europe is picking up speed. It is also feared that the movement is stemming from extreme right-wing political organizations. The following information is from Wikipedia -- extract from "History of Creationism". (For additional sources go to Wikipedia.)

"While the controversy has been prominent in the United States, it has also flared up in other countries as well.

Islamic countries
In recent times, the controversy has become more prominent in Islamic countries. Currently, in Egypt evolution is taught in schools but Saudi Arabia and Sudan have both banned the teaching of evolution in schools. Creation science has also been heavily promoted in Turkey and in immigrant communities in Western Europe, primarily by Harun Yahya.

Europeans have often regarded the creation-evolution controversy as an American matter. However, in recent years the conflict has become an issue in a variety of countries including Germany, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Serbia. On 17th September 2007 the Committee on Culture, Science and Education of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe issued a report on the attempt by American inspired creationists to promote creationism in European schools. It concludes 'If we are not careful, creationism could become a threat to human rights which are a key concern of the Council of Europe.... The war on the theory of evolution and on its proponents most often originates in forms of religious extremism which are closely allied to extreme right-wing political movements... some advocates of creationism are out to replace democracy by theocracy.'"
x x

"The Assembly calls on education authorities in member states to promote scientific knowledge and the teaching of evolution and to oppose firmly any attempts at teaching creationism as a scientific discipline." (Doc. 11375 17 September 2007. The dangers of creationism in education. Council of Europe, Parliamentary Assembly.)

The cartoon is used for educational purposes by Dr. Nilsson, South Texas College, downloaded, from http://roadsofstone.files.wordpress.com/2007/04/war-on-evolution.jpg. Artist's signature is on the cartoon, right side.
For fair use comment see bottom of this page.

x Notice that the little girl is holding a sex education book. That could lead into several new controversial discussion areas -- e.g., human population related problems like how to prevent teenage pregnancies with EDUCATION. Also note that the little boy is playing with a microscope -- not a toy gun.

xIntroduction with challenge apples

The reading assignment "the serve" is an attempt to "open the eyes" of students who because they lack an understanding of science, of human history, and of the real world, have problems accepting evolution -- usually for religious reasons. This discussion is NOT about God, but since it is always religious people who cannot accept evolution, religious arguments cannot be avoided. Student who already have accepted evolution are asked to help with the discussion, and by reading "the serve" will hopefully also learn something new. Learning something new is the reason why you are here, taking college courses -- hopefully with an open mind to accept new knowledge.

The purpose of the Blackboard discussions is to "think" -- especially to train the kind of thinking we call "critical thinking". We will only been able to skim the surface of this topic, but hopefully it will be enough to assure that all students have heard of evolution and get some basic understanding of the concept (some students have not even heard the word when coming to this class), and have heard about the "controversy" with religion (oh, scary!). x

The page you are about to read (the link to "the serve" can be found at several places, one is at the bottom of this preface page) is your instructors contribution to the Evolution Blackboard discussion and functions as (i) a mini lecture in the topic of evolution, (ii) a comment about the acceptance of evolution by some religious denominations, and (iii) a reminder about other things related to the subject. I do agree that the page is rather long -- well, not really for a good student. (More than 10,000 words -- reading is part of higher education. This preface has more than 5000 words.)

I challenge you to read the whole page.

To "inspire" you to do just that (read the whole page), and for educational accountability reasons to make sure that students read the assignment -- in the name of learning, you will answer a worksheet quiz for the page. The worksheet has NOTHING to do with your faith or with your opinion.

x 4 Billion years of Human Evolution.....in 8 minutes (From "Cosmos", by Carl Sagan)

x The YouTube video below is a scene from Carl Sagan's miniseries documentary, Cosmos.

This is a biology class. Biology is a natural science. Evolution is an integral part of modern biology. Some religious colleges have restrictions on teaching and discussing evolution -- for religious reasons. STC is not a religious college. You will read and hear about evolution in this class whether you like it or not.

x Remove your head from the sand!

Challenge apple 1: If you don't want to be blown up by terrorist bombs, you better remove your head from the sand or come out of some other protected shelter, and participate in discussions about the world and the direction the world is taking -- without becoming offended by discussion participants who do not have the same opinion as you.

The cartoon is used for educational purposes by Dr. Nilsson, South Texas College, scanned, from The Monitor, McAllen

Have a hot cup of coffee, open your mind, and relax -- it is actually interesting reading.


An [ad infinitum] reminder about the class discussion philosophy on this page. If you have not read the page READ IT!

Some students during previous semesters have remarked that there is a "sarcastic tone" on the page you are about to read -- in both the text and the cartoons displayed. Hmmm!? It is not sarcasm, it is satire -- there is a difference. The intent of satire is to convey a message. The intent of sarcasm is to inflict a wound. If you feel pain (often happens when you get a wound) when reading statements about evolution, or looking at pro-evolution cartoons, feel free to select the options mentioned on the discussion philosophy page.

x Try living in Afghanistan for a while...
Challenge apple 2: For educational reasons I prefer that you participate, because those students who take offense, or think they will take offense, are the one's that need to read this the most. (The instructor's opinion.) Thus, if you take offense because the discussion doesn't "fit" exactly with your religion -- especially if you are a woman, perhaps you should try living in Afghanistan for a while...

By the way -- since we are on the topic, where in the world is Afghanistan? Soon you will have to show the instructor that you know that! Click here and point at Afghanistan.

Intellectual Tennis. What is that? Perhaps this should be on the philosophy page? However, the "faith issue" is not a problem in other types of discussions -- so this interesting concept will be mentioned here.

Educated opinion discussions -- debates -- are often (?) called "intellectual tennis". We are having these discussions in order to share and think about each other's opinions in order to become better educated -- not because it is uncertain if evolution is a fact, as one student erroneously stated. Evolution IS a fact!

You listen to one opinion, and then you counter with another opinion. One person "serve" with one opinion and on the other side of the net another person "return the serve" with an opposing opinion -- a game of "intellectual tennis".

We will play with the net up! As in real tennis (the sport) and in intellectual tennis (the debate) each player has the same net. Sometimes there might be a problem when one player demands that the other player should have a higher net, or that the server should be allowed to serve without a net, but the opponent must return the serve with the net in place. In "intellectual tennis" about evolution this often happens when one player is lacking basic knowledge about science. But we will do our best to keep the net up and at the same height... x

This is an intellectual discussion. Defend your faith if you must, but your opinions must be educated -- this is college. Yes, it is understood that some people have less educational background than others -- which will reflect in the opinions. That is OK! But it is NOT okay to lower the net. Let's play a fair game of "intellectual tennis" and let's hope there are players on both sides of the court. It isn't fun to debate (having an intellectual tennis game) if all participants agree (are on the same side of the net). You give your opinion and there is no more discussion. That is not a debate...

Why do I spend so much time talking about a "net"? As you can read in the statement by Daniel Dennet below the "unequal net" is often how, in his opinion, persons opposing evolution want to "play tennis". They prefer to play without an opponent or to serve without a net.

Religious people (including some students in Environmental Biology) often challenge scientists (or the instructor) to come up with proof of evolution. Hmmm!? There is plenty of evidence collected since Darwin popped the idea 150 years ago, and it can be studied in any college general biology textbook. Pick up that book and read it!

On the other hand, when religious people are asked if they can produce evidence that God exist they often respond with "I want you to respect my faith" or "I don't want you to tell me what to believe" or "no there is no evidence but that doesn't matter because my faith tells me that God exists". The "net of rational judgment" must apparently be up when scientists say something -- the proof must be presented, but when opponents of evolution say something the "net of rational judgment" can apparently be down.

That is why I spend so much time talking about a "net"... x


For educational purposes you should research a topic before you criticize and claim to know something about it -- e.g., by clicking on links or doing your own Google search. You are here at STC for educational reasons. It is not enough to just refer to your faith when you discuss this subject. Faith is a belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence (from the American Heritage dictionary), but you must still be able to back up statements with something substantial -- that is the mark of an educated person.

Here is Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens, U. S. Humorist, Novelist, Writer and Lecturer) quote related to this:

" Get your facts first,
and then you can distort them as much as you please."

x Mark Twain Quotes

You will notice when you read the reading assignment that Mark Twain has been quoted many times. View the Mark Twain tribute x video below.

Most scientist could care less about this discussion -- we prefer to teach or do research about the real world. But we are forced to spend time defending science against superstition, pseudoscience and nonsense. That is why we are having this discussion.

I like these discussions -- albeit I am forced to be here -- but I much rather have a discussion about global warming or animal treatment. However, for purpose of quality education and for the future of the society I wish to live in, that is not possible. After all, I am a science teacher, I must stand on the evolution side of the net and make sure that the anti-evolution side is not permitted to remove the "net of rational judgment" with serves that will poison future generations with superstition, pseudoscience and nonsense. That is why we are having this discussion.

Your instructor participates in the evolution discussion much more than in any other discussion. This discussion is very important and I have no intention to let anyone lower or remove the "net of rational judgment" in classes where I am in charge. That is why we are having this discussion.

xClarification of the grading criteria

As stated in the course Grading Criteria, the Evolution discussion is done on the Town Hall bulletin board, a separate course shell set up by the STC Blackboard people. Your instructor decided to do this discussion in a forum where all Environmental Biology students during a semester can discuss and share information. Because the "open-mindedness" varies between classes, having all students participate in the same discussion usually is helpful to promote learning about this very important concept.

To participate in the Town Hall Meeting -- for a grade -- you must complete the Evolution Learning Module in your regular Blackboard class shell, which requires a 100 on the Evolution Worksheet Quiz. Only students with the required minimum knowledge about evolution -- as indicated by completing the module -- will receive points for participating in the Town Hall Meeting. Students who have not completed the module can still enter the Town Hall and participate, but will not receive any points for participating.

To establish a base-line for the discussion, below are some terms often emerging in Evolution vs. Religion discussions.
Scroll down for the list of terms.

xKey terms

x Don't use words unless you understand their meaning!

Challenge apple 3: Don't use words unless you understand their meaning! Do you have a college dictionary at home? No? Buy one! Every educated home has a dictionary in the bookshelf! Don't have a bookshelf? Hmmm!?

Below you will find a list of terms that often is used in evolution discussions -- often used without understanding their meaning. Take a look at the list before you proceed to the reading assignment page.

I feel obligated to bring up the meaning of three of the terms, often misinterpreted by students in evolution discussions.

x Ignorant (def. Am. Heritage Dictionary) adj. 1. Without education or knowledge. 2. Unaware or uninformed.

x Daniel Dennet (Distinguished Arts and Sciences Professor at Tufts University), have the following to say about ignorance:

"The evidence for evolution pours in, not only from geology, paleontology, biogeography, and anatomy (Darwin's chief sources), but of course from molecular biology and every other branch of the life sciences. To put it bluntly but fairly, anyone today who doubts that the variety of life on this planet was produced by a process of evolution is simply ignorant -- inexcusably ignorant, in a world where three out of four people have learned to read and write."

Here are two Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens, U. S. Humorist, Novelist, Writer and Lecturer) quotes related to the term ignorance:

"It is best to keep your mouth shut and be presumed ignorant
than to open it and remove all doubt."

"It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble.
It's what you know for sure that just ain't so."

Spelling comment: The spelling "ain't" is a nonstandard use of "isn't" -- many computer spell checkers will mark it wrong. We probably owe this famous statement by Mark Twain as to why the term is included in a dictionary today as acceptable, but nonstandard.

Ignorant -- one of those words people often know for sure is used as sarcasm to offend and don't like to be called. It is "acceptable" to be ignorant, as long as one understands that one is in need of an education, and has an open mind for new knowledge. (Your instructor's opinion.)

x Respect (def. Am. Heritage Dictionary) tr. v. Deferential regard (submission or courteous yielding to, and admiration for, the opinion, wishes, or judgment of another).

Respected -- students sometimes are offended because they feel they should not have to discuss evolution. They often request that their belief be respected, and that college instructors should not try to change their belief. You are here to get an education! If beliefs due to ignorance are supposed to take precedence over learning then there is not much of a reason to take college classes to get an education. Anyone with many years of education and experience in the field do not have to "yield to" or show "admiration for" students' ignorant beliefs. (That is what the term "respect" means!) Instead it is the students who must show consideration and ADMIRATION FOR the knowledge and long training of instructors, even though you may disagree with some of the things said in class.

Remember that you are here to learn and that new advances in scientific understanding are often made when new ideas are expressed that go against traditional viewpoints. Don't reject ideas just because they are new and go against tradition; give them careful consideration before drawing a conclusion. (Your instructor's opinion.)

Here are two Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens, U. S. Humorist, Novelist, Writer and Lecturer) quotes related to the term respect:

"When people do not respect us we are sharply offended;
yet in his private heart no man much respects himself."

"When I was younger I could remember anything,
whether it happened or not."

x Oh, do you want the net up for my returns, but not for your serves? Either the net stays up, or it stays down. x

x Daniel Dennet (Distinguished Arts and Sciences Professor at Tufts University), have the following to say about "intellectual tennis", which is related to the "demand for respect":

"The philosopher Ronald de Sousa once memorably described philosophical theology as 'intellectual tennis without a net,' and I readily allow that I have indeed been assuming without comment or question up to now that the net of rational judgment was up.

'Oh, do you want the net up for my returns, but not for your serves?' Either the net stays up, or it stays down. If the net is down, there are no rules and anybody can say anything, a mug's game if there ever was one. I have been giving you the benefit of the assumption that you would not waste your time or mine by playing with the net down.

Now if you want to reason about faith, and offer a reasoned (and reason responsive) defense of faith as an extra category of belief worthy of special consideration, I'm eager to play. . . . what I want to see is a reasoned ground for taking faith seriously as a way of getting to the truth, and not, say, just as a way people comfort themselves and each other . . . . But you must not expect me to go along with your defense of faith as a path to truth if at any point you appeal to the very dispensation you are supposedly trying to justify.

Would you be willing to be operated on by a surgeon who tells you that whenever a little voice in him tells him to disregard his medical training he listens to the little voice? I know it passes in polite company to let people have it both ways. . . . But we're seriously trying to get at the truth here, and if you think that this common but unspoken understanding about faith is anything better than socially useful obfuscation to avoid mutual embarrassment and loss of face, then either you have seen much more deeply into this issue that any philosopher has (for none has come up with a good defense for this) or you are kidding yourself. (The ball is now in your court.)"

x Opinion (def. Am. Heritage Dictionary) n. 1. A belief or conclusion held with confidence, but not substantiated by positive knowledge or proof. 2. An evaluation or judgment based on special knowledge and given by an expert.

There are two kinds of opinion: The educated opinion (number 2 above), and the not so educated opinion (number one above).

Here are two Mark Twain (U. S. Humorist, Novelist, Writer and Lecturer) quotes related to the term opinion:

"The rule is perfect: in all matters of opinion our adversaries are insane."

" Loyalty to petrified opinion
never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul."

List of key terms

Acceptance (def. Am. Heritage Dictionary) n. 1. The act or process of accepting. 2. Belief in something.

Accepting (def. Am. Heritage Dictionary) v. To regard as true; believe in.

Belief (def. Am. Heritage Dictionary) n. 1. Mental acceptance or conviction in the truth or actuality of something. 2. Something believed or accepted as true.

Believe (def. Am. Heritage Dictionary) v. To accept as true or real

Consequence (def. Am. Heritage Dictionary) n. Something that logically and naturally follows from a condition, an action or a lack of action.

Conviction (def. Am. Heritage Dictionary) n. A fixed or strong belief.

Convince (def. Am. Heritage Dictionary) v. To bring to belief by argument and evidence.

Evidence (def. Am. Heritage Dictionary) n. The data (information) on which a judgment or conclusion may be based; something that furnishes proof.

Evolution (def. Am. Heritage Dictionary) n. 1. (Biology) The scientific theory that populations of organisms change with passage of time so that descendants differ morphologically and physiologically from their ancestors.

Fact (def. Am. Heritage Dictionary) n. 1. Something that has been objectively verified. 2. Something having real, demonstrable existence.

Faith (def. Am. Heritage Dictionary) n. Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. 2. Religious conviction.

God (def. Am. Heritage Dictionary) n. A being of supernatural powers or attributes, believed in and worshipped by people.

Ignorant (def. Am. Heritage Dictionary) adj. 1. Without education or knowledge. 2. Unaware or uninformed.

Imaginary (def. Am. Heritage Dictionary) adj. Having existence only in the imagination; unreal.

Irreverence (def. Am. Heritage Dictionary) n. 1. Lacking in reverence; disrespectful.

Knowing (def. Am. Heritage Dictionary) adj. Possessing knowledge, intelligence or understanding.

Knowledge (def. Am. Heritage Dictionary) n. The state or fact of knowing

Learn (def. Am. Heritage Dictionary) v. 1. To gain knowledge, comprehension, or mastery of something through experience or study. 2. To fix in the mind or memory; memorize. 3. To become informed of something.

Learning (def. Am. Heritage Dictionary) n. 1. Education. 2. Acquired wisdom, knowledge, or skills.

Learned (def. Am. Heritage Dictionary) adj. Having or demonstrating profound knowledge or scholarship; scholarly.

Natural (def. Am. Heritage Dictionary) adj. 1. Present in or produced by nature. 2. Of or pertaining to existence in the natural world.

Opinion (def. Am. Heritage Dictionary) n. 1. A belief or conclusion held with confidence, but not substantiated by positive knowledge or proof. 2. An evaluation or judgment based on special knowledge and given by an expert.

Real (def. Am. Heritage Dictionary) adj. Not imaginary, fictional, or pretended.

Respect (def. Am. Heritage Dictionary) tr. v. deferential regard (submission or courteous yielding to, and admiration for, the opinion, wishes, or judgment of another). ("Courteous respect")

Reverence (def. Am. Heritage Dictionary) n. 1. A feeling of profound awe and respect and often love. 2. A title of respect for a clergyman.

Science (def. Am. Heritage Dictionary) n. The observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of natural phenomena.

Scientific Theory (def. Am. Heritage Dictionary) n. Systematically organized knowledge applicable in a relatively wide variety of circumstances, esp. a system of assumptions, accepted principles, and rules of procedure devised to analyze, predict, or otherwise explain the nature or behavior of a specified set of phenomena.
(def. Modified from, Mader, Biology) A by the scientific community rigorously tested idea or explanation of one or several related natural phenomena, supported by many scientific hypotheses accepted by a substantial number of scientists, based on a broad range of observations, experiments and data (often investigated over a long period of time).

Supernatural (def. Am. Heritage Dictionary) adj. 1. Of or pertaining to existence outside the natural world. 2. Attributed to a power that seems to violate or go beyond natural laws; miraculous.

Unreal (def. Am. Heritage Dictionary) adj. Not real, imaginary, fictional, or pretended.

x Open your mind to the real world!

Challenge apple 4: Open your mind to the real world -- accepting evolution does not necessarily mean denying your belief in God. Is your faith so weak that you don't dare to modernize the view of God to 21st century knowledge -- away from the 2000-year-old flat earth Bible -- and accept DNA and evolution as part of God's work? Evolution happened, and is still happening! The educated world knows this! Most of you have a high school education. Nearly 50 percent of high school students in Texas do not graduate from high school. I commend you for being here at STC! However, just "being here" is not enough, and high school is not higher education -- you still have a lot to learn. We all have a lot to learn. Learning is a life-long process. You are here to get a higher education to help you get a better life -- in today's world. Think of it this way: If your faith survives this semester it is safe and strong -- and has, hopefully, allowed you to accept evolution as a fact of the REAL world!


The cartoon is used for educational purposes by Dr. Nilsson, South Texas College. Downloaded from http://unreasonablefaith.files.wordpress.com/2008/06/doonsbury-creationist.jpg
For fair use comment see bottom of this page.

x Conclusion

x We are on the brink of destroying our planet by global climate change caused by greedy, materialistic, self-indulgent, and "anything goes" human behavior, and I claim that the main reason for this behavior is an ever-increasing poorly educated superstitious faith based human mindset -- not understanding how the real world works -- allowed to rule and control interaction with the planet. Dr. Jan A. Nilsson

x Charles Darwin legacy 5

x Humans are overpopulating the earth and disrupting the environment that makes it possible for us to live here. To deal with this it is important that we learn to understand the REAL world, including evolution and our biological history, and not let superstition guide our interaction with the environment. We must either change how we interact with the REAL world or go away before the earth will recover! The second person speaking is E.O. Wilson (you will hear more about him later). The last person to speak is Niles Eldridge, American Museum of Natural History. I don't know the name of the first person speaking. To close this preface, view the x video below.

x Until the video poster and x work out what is wrong with Charles Darwin legacy 5, I will post Charles Darwin legacy 1 below (at least temporarily). Let's hope they will not remove this one also...

The reading assignment you are about to read is my "serve" in a game of "intellectual tennis". It is an earnest, sincere and hopefully thought-provoking contribution, in the name of learning quality biology, helped along with some humor (satire). Satire is a very effective method of communicating a message. That is why there are so many political cartoons. Granted we all do not have the same kind of humor, but if someone takes offence it is self-inflicted, because you have selected a college major where at least some biology knowledge about the REAL world is needed.

x By the way, many religious (parents?) want equal time for "Creationism" and "Intelligent Design" in public schools. Next time I go to church -- it happens -- I look forward to a sermon like the one illustrated in the cartoon below...

The cartoon is used for educational purposes by Dr. Nilsson, South Texas College. Downloaded from http://formsmostbeautiful.blogspot.com/2008/08/its-cartoon-time.html. For fair use comment see bottom of this page.

Now read my "serve". I am waiting for your "return" in the Town Hall Meeting. Perhaps some students like to play on the same side of the net as the instructor? But wait, before you leave this page, watch the evolution video below -- you will be tested on it...

x Guinness "Evolution"

x Cannes Grand Prix TVC winner! View the x video below.

x Remember, we play with the net up ... x x

Here is the password for the Evolution Worksheet Quiz (Town Hall "Key" Quiz): evolution

Dr. Nilsson

You have reached the end of the reading assignment. Please report typos and non-functioning links to the instructor.

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