Some more on evolution

Ronald Kephart (rkephart@OSPREY.UNF.EDU)
Sat, 9 Mar 1996 18:29:00 -0500

In message <> Adrian Tanner writes:
> Ronald: I am perhaps more out of my depth than you here (but willing to
> learn). I am using evolution to mean more than just changes in gene
> frequency over time. I mean the observation that such changes are
> non-random, plus some account of what that non-random pattern is, and (most
> importantly) an explanation of that non-random pattern, based on some more
> basic principles, that is, by appealing to explanitory principles which also
> apply outside the narrow field of genetics.

Adrian: The raw material for evolution, which is mutation, is supplied randomly.
The forces which operate on this raw material to produce a change in gene
frequency may be patterned (natural selection, sexual selection, etc.). They
may also be unpatterned (genetic drift, "founder effect"). In either case, as
far as I know, the resulting change in gene frequencies qualifies as evolution.

Someone help out here, please, if you think I need it!!!

And for everyone: our local "news"paper, the Florida Times-Union, endorsed the
Tenn bill on evolution-as-just-a-theory the other day. I sent them this
response; I'll let you know if they print it.


Your March 7 editorial "Evolution: a scientific theory, no more" perpetuates a
popular myth about the nature of scientific facts and theories. Facts of
interest to scientists are events which can be observed independently by more
than one researcher. When scientists observe facts, they construct hypotheses
to account for them. They then go looking for facts to disprove their
hypotheses. Hypotheses which are not disproven eventually come together into a
theory, which is a model that describes and explains the facts.

To set the record straight, evolution, which is no more nor less than the change
in gene frequencies over time, is a fact. Natural selection, originally
proposed by Darwin and Wallace in the last century, is part of the theory which
explains the fact of evolution. Other parts of the theory include sexual
selection, genetic drift, mutation, and so on.

If you are serious about calling evolution as fact "politically correct
doctrine" then you will also have to insist that gravity, the germ theory of
disease, and all other scientific discoveries get treated the same way. And by
the way, you can stop feeding your pet dog or cat; after all, they're just
theoretical products of thousands of years of evolution by human selection.

Ronald Kephart
Department of Language & Literature
University of North Florida
Jacksonville, FL 32224
ph: (w) 904-646-2580 (h) 904-268-4250