Evolution in Cartoons

Sun, 17 Mar 1996 15:09:00 CDT

Well, it looks as though we're all scared by something.

Let's try to set the record stratight. I am "scared" by the obivous
misunderstanding of a "factual" nature -- what it is that we mean by evolution,
how it works, and what sorts of variation it produces among descendants. The
writers clearly didn't understand this. As far as the fantasy aspect of the
program is concerned, you notice that I didn't complain about the flying humans
that turn into torches or can expand infinitely into complex shapes, etc.
If there is one thing you learn from having an 8-year-old, it is that there is
value in a rich fantasy world.

And, the problem is not so much in those who write this stuff (I think) as in
those of us who try to teach the stuff. Something, somewhere is not getting

As far as MOM is concerned, sure, *IF* these guys are sayin , "hey, this is our
fantasy," then I have no complaints. But, they're not, they are arguing that
this is valid, scientific investigation that has been suppressed by the
establishment because it undermines the dominant paradigm and all the power
relationships dependent on it.

So far, everything that I have seen on that program has not passed the first
hurdle -- valid, scientific investigation -- so the second part of the statement
is scientifically irrelevant. This is more than defending an outmoded 19th
Century Victorian paradigm (to the extent that current views of evolution even
fit that description), this has to do with a sort of "literacy" about what
science is, what scientists do, and how they do it.

So, fantasy is fantasy; we all use them and like them. We are able to
distinguish fantastic elements of the things we experience to varying degrees
from those that are grounded in real-life experience;
but let me ask my cultural colleagues out there -- does
fantasy have no effect on how we experience "reality" -- whatever that is?
Does the "world" at Walt Disney World have no reprecussions for the lives for
the millions of people who pass through the gates every month?

AnjAndrew J. Petto, Editor, National Center for Science Ed.
c/o Dept. of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin
1180 Observatory Drive, MADISON WI 53706-1393 ajpetto@macc.wisc.edu
voice: 608/259-2926; fax:608/258-2415
NCSE email: ajp3265@madison.tec.wi.us