Tuesday, February 07, 2006


The Times ran a good story about proposed legislation in Utah that would require the reading of a disclaimer about evolutionary theory, probably pointing the students to ID's infamous text book "On Pandas and People" or some such thing. About the same thing that was passed in PA until it was taken to court last year.

There was a lot of complaining about how the NY Times (and other media) handle the ID debate, and rightfully so. It seems journalists were convinced by the Discovery Institute et al. that there was really a plausible case for doubting "Darwinism"...so the media tended to present "both sides of the story".

Well, with this whatnot in Utah, at least the Times has changed it's tune a bit. In the above article, obviously false claims about evolutionary biology made by ID enthusiasts (and/or religious wing nuts) were corrected in the article:

"Evolutionary theory does not say that humans evolved from chimpanzees or from any existing species, but rather that common ancestors gave rise to multiple species and that natural selection — in which the creatures best adapted to an environment pass their genes to the next generation — was the means by which divergence occurred over time. All modern biology is based on the theory, and within the scientific community, at least, there is no controversy about it."

This quote is funny though because it seems to be endorsing a particularly controversial position about speciation (how one species becomes two or more species). Here they claim that natural selection caused the divergence of humans and chimps (and presumably bonobos) from our common ancestor.

It is a bit vague (or ambiguous [for the logicians] depending on your interepretation of "evolutionary forces") to say that natural selection caused the divergence, i.e. it's not clear if they mean to endorse reinforcement or a "traditional" Darwinian mechanism or the power of selection to produce reproductive barriers by chance in allopatry or sympatric speciation or simply to demonstrate their general dislike of drift-centered models.

I think it's great because I'm a big fan of disruptive selection as an important process in many speciation events and probably most biologists disagree. But I've got the NY Times on my side!

The upshot: this is the kind of thing that I think is funny.

Mine is a sad, strange world on Tuesdays.

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