Monologues vs. Arguments

Monologues are generally boring. This is true both in teaching and in
writing. In the classroom, student questions and comments add life. Most
of us HAPSters find discussions, and maybe even arguments, an enjoyable
classroom experience. The same is frequently true for writing. As a
professor, I'm supposed to digest 50-page research papers that shed light
on new ideas and programs, but after about ten pages I usually want to ask a
few questions or hear what others think. The Internet has now provided a
means to do just that - send comments and ask questions while reading.
On-line newspapers now provide space for readers to publish their comments
after reading an article. Granted, the comments are frequently just noise,
but sometimes there are gems that transform your thinking.

Over the next year I hope to write a few articles for the HAPS EDucator that
will prompt readers to write comments, i.e., articles that promote
conversation. We'll first publish the articles in both the HAPS Educator and
also on the HAPS List-serve (where they can be read or quickly deleted).
Readers will then be invited to go to a web site where they can post and
read comments. At first, the site will be hosted by the University of
Minnesota, but eventually we hope to move it to the HAPS Web site.

So please read the following piece (evolution! - that frequently brings
controversy) and then go to the web site to post and read comments.


Murray, this blog is a great idea! I can't wait for your article on evolution.
In the mean time, you may want to check out my recent blog article Science Controversies in the News, which mentions an experience I had with a debate in an online student forum in my course not long ago. There was a stem-cell research ban on the ballot here in Missouri. The debate was quite a learning experience for everyone involved . . . including me!
One issue that came up was "should we be debating this in a science class? . . . after all, it involves politics and religion—and it's not on the syllabus!" An interesting question. Most students in the forum answered with a resounding "YES."

RE: HAPS_EDucator, Spring 2009:16-17.

The claim by medical professionals that they ply their craft without any reference to evolution is a staple of antievolutionism. It is appealing on a superficial level, of course; after all, anyone can operate a computer without understanding information or electromagnetic theory or can use (even repair) a refrigerator without a deep understanding of the ideal gas laws or the underlying theories that support them. This line of reasoning is both deceptive and wrong, however. In the medical sciences there is practically no procedure, medicine, or treatment of any kind that does not have deep roots in the study of other organisms and our phylogenetic relationship to those organisms is essential to our ability to apply the knowledge that these studies produce.

Our understanding of the biology and treatment of diabetes, for example, is based on studies of glucose metabolism in dogs (and now monkfish). Much of what we know of cardiovascular surgery also came from research with dogs, and later baboons. The same is true of vision research, virology, endocrinology, reproductive biology, pharmacology,neurobiology, addiction studies … the list goes on. Dogs, cats, rats, mice, monkeys, birds, fishes, reptiles, amphibians --- even some plants, fungi, and protists --- have provided insight into various aspects of biology that are the foundation for restoring and sustaining human health.

The underlying connection between these organisms and us, of course, is evolutionary, and the principles on which the knowledge from animal models is understood and applied to human health derive directly from phylogeny. The pattern of similarities and differences between humans and other living organisms is predictable on evolutionary principles, and thus the general usefulness and applicability for human health of studies in these other organisms is also discernible on evolutionary grounds.

To deny this connection is to choose ignorance; to celebrate this denial is to take pride in ignorance. For this reason, I stand with Murray Jensen in basing my human anatomy courses on evolutionary science. In practical terms, this means that I inform textbook publishers who would like to supply the 1300 students who learn anatomy annually at our institution that we will not adopt a textbook that does not put contemporary human anatomy and physiology in an evolutionary context. Our future nurses and physicians may not need to refer directly to the 150 years of scientific research that confirmed and extended the work of Charles Darwin in order to know what dosage of antihistamine to give a child with an allergy. Yet, like the computer that tells me that it works the way it does because it has “Intel inside”, we humans work (or don't work) the way we do because we have “evolution inside”.

Senior Lecturer in Anatomy and Physiology, UW Milwaukee

Sorry buddy, I am a member of HAPS and have taught BIOLOGY college level. I am finishing a PhD. I cannot bring myself to believe the evolutionary way of arriving at their conclusions. This is independent from me being a christian too. Evolution to me is a construct....very interesting one, whose plausibility is very shaky. Maybe I am too skeptical.


I am not sure what you mean by "being a Christian." As it turns out, there are many people whose denominations officially have declared that evolution is not at odds with theology or doctrine --- and they would also be able to write, in good conscience of "being a Christian" --- else I would not also be able to write back to you, "So, what? I am also a Christian." Therefore, our differences about evolution appear NOT to be scientific, but doctrinal. You reveal this in your statement "I cannot bring myself to *believe* the evolutionary way". If you think that evolution is fundamental to biology because biologists "believe in" it, then I am afraid that you have had a poor introduction to evolution.
So, let's get to the scientific. Can you give me one example to start with of where the plausibility of evolution is shaky? Can you give me one example from anatomy that falsifies common descent? If we start there, then maybe we can have a conversation about the science and not about our personal beliefs.