Monday, August 11, 2014

Keith Blanchard and Belief

Interesting article "Why You Should Stop Believing in Evolution".  It's by Keith Blanchard who is identified as  the chief digital officer of World Science Festival.  I'm not sure what the World Science Festival is or what a Chief Digital Officer does, but I am pretty sure Keith Blanchard is not a biologist.  Even my high school and college biology wouldn't have characterized a few of the things about evolution as he did.  But to his credit, I think his heart is in the right place and his basic message is sound.  Yes, I said his basic message is sound.

Should we stop 'believing' in evolution?  I would put to you that the answer is yes, we should.  Primarily because evolution is real and it is happening all around us whether we believe in it or not.  Our 'belief' plays little in the value and validity of evolution as a fact.  What I think the term does is open the door for misinterpretations of the term 'Belief'.  I've said this before . . . but it does bear re-consideration.

Since I said belief in evolution in no way impacts it's validity, let's look at that for a moment.  Let's look at any other scientific theory, say one of my personal favorites, Gravity.  If I did not 'believe' in Gravity, would I suddenly go flying off of the planet Earth?  Of course not.  By the same token, If I believed the Earth was the center of the Solar System, would that automatically position the Earth so that everything, including the Sun, would start revolving around it?  Do you see what I mean?  Belief does not impact the fact of gravity, nor does it have much impact in the explanation of how gravity works.

One of my issues with the term 'Belief' is that many Creationists try and equate Belief in things like the Bible, Creationism, and Intelligent Design as the same thing as Belief in Evolution.  I disagree with that completely.  Belief in a theistic concept is also known as faith, and it's a belief without any form of actual support.  Belief in a scientific theory is an acceptance of the theory based on evidential support.  There is a world of difference between no evidence and evidence!  That is why, in my opinion, we should stop using the phrase of 'belief in evolution' and start more saying 'acceptance of the theory of evolution'.  I think it's more accurate and less likely to be abused in word games with Creationists.

My main issue about using the term 'Belief' revolves around those word games and I think continuing to use it might not impact scientists, but it can impact the people who are working with and within the education system concerning science education.  How many school board meetings does this subject come up and one of the standard lines you hear is "I don't believe in Evolution!"  Imagine if you refuse to play that game and agree, "I don't believe in it either, I accept it as the only explanation we have that actually works!"  Not sure if that would help, but the double-take look you would get might make it worth doing.

Like I said I don't think Keith Blanchard is a biologist and while I didn't want to get into all the reasons why I think that.  I will leave you with one thing to consider.  Blanchard makes a comment about common ancestry, claiming that if you go back far enough you can find a direct common ancestor between people, trees, and insects.  I think the weakness of his argument is that he seems to see reproduction as the only method of gene transfer.  He's missing many others, like gene drift and Horizontal Gene Transfer (HGT).  All I am saying is that natural selection is one of the methods of gene transfer, but not the only one.  Therefore, finding a common ancestor to incredibly diverse species might be a bit more challenging that Mr. Blanchard seems to think.  But I do think it's time we stopped 'believing' in a scientific theory because of how easy it is to confuse belief based on nothing and belief based on actual evidence.

Didn't the comic Lewis Black stated that whenever someone tells him they don't believe in evolution, he throws a fossil at them! 

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