From: Jim Armstrong (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Thu Feb 06 2003 - 23:50:22 EST
Bill -- They say the first guy in the water gets the wettest, so
I'll take my chances.
The first time I saw this news item I shrugged it off a little. But upon
further consideration (and with some discussion with my peers) I changed
my mind. It's a bit in-your-face (no, a lot!), but if a person is going
into a biology-related field, this is not an unreasonable expectation of
him. The screener has the reputation and credentials for his school and
for his other graduates to consider. As my mathematician friend says,
it's a bit like having a math student affirm his acceptance and
understanding of group theory if she's going into mathematics as a
career. It is pretty baseline concept in that working environment.
As has already been said, the whole of "evolution" is greater than just
the man's-origin part of it. But even at that, the genome work is
bringing greater clarity to our connectedness in the physical
inheritance chain with each new discovery.
"But any scientific theory of the origins of the species is necessarily
not based on repeated and repeatable experiments." ...but most of the
evolution mechanisms are quite repeatable.
"At best it is based on inferences from existing experimental data. As
impressive as the evidence for evolution as the origin of the human
species may thus be, it will always remain in part akin to social
science: the scientific effort to explain what cannot be directly
proven. Lots of scientific theories (such as the big bang) are in this
category. And theories of this kind tend to evolve over time as new
evidence emerges. " ...but let's understand that any time we write down
an expression for any physical law, we are stating an inference. We are
saying that we have observed this behavior in the past, and we are
confident enough of it to project further into the future, ... or the
past. We do not have this discussion about the law of gravitational
attraction (at least not much anymore), and indeed we have found it
reliable enough to predict orbital trajectories that span interplanetary
distances and flights into the future that have now spanned years and
behaved as predicted.
The evidence is piling up heavily in confirmation of virtually every
aspect of a connected physical evolution of living kind on this planet.
There are some nuances, but it is not going backward. That is a familiar
pattern of science. If a theory or hypothesis basically has the right
idea, it will hold in its essentials, and the "evolution" of the ideas
comprise refinements -- hardly ever refutations. - especially with high
acceptance and validation of the essentials in both academia and the
On the one hand, I don't take very kindly to the loyalty oath concept,
but this seems to me to be a somewhat different matter. It seems more
akin to requiring an acceptance of quantum mechanics to be affirmed for
anyone going into a graduate physics program. If a student were to
somehow emerge from my university with an advanced degree in physics and
be in denial about the essentials of QM, his stand would likely affect
his opportunities for work (especially in the university!), peoples
perceptions of the school, and perhaps even the futures of other
graduate students. One might even reasonably assert that such a
university was tacitly endorsing the student's views by granting him an
Would this be the same issue if no written confirmation were required,
but the student were still required to explain and affirm the mechanisms
of evolution in his orals? I think the answer is "yes", but the oral
question is not as confrontational to as many people as this very public
and broadly publicized written confirmation story.
What if Mr. Spradling changes his mind after entering school and finds
virology more captivating than treating people with injured limbs?
I hope I don't get too wet!
Regards - Jim Armstrong
William T. Yates wrote:
> Any thoughts?
> --Bill Yates
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