March 24, 2008

Miseducation of America

Wow, I almost threw up watching this. Unfortunate really that a bright group of kids is going to have to deal with some issues about this later in life because their parents want confirmation of their own beliefs.

And I really have no problem with religion, I actually attended Easter Mass yesterday (maybe one of the all-time peruasive arguments by a girl) but I believe an understanding of science and religion is not mutually exclusive. And how do I know that teeth evolved from scales you ask? How do I know? Well...

"It has been contended that Reif's odontode regulation theory is a rival and alternative to Stensio and Orvig's lepidomorial theory as means of explaining the evolution of development of the vertebrate dermal and oral skeleton. The lepidomorial theory is a pattern-based theory that provides a homological framework that goes further than the odontode regulation theory in comparing dental papillae and their products, and it provides an explanatory mechanism for such relationships a posteriori. In contrast, the odontode regulation theory is process-based and observes only developmental similarity providing no means of identifying homologies beyond this. The lepidomorial theory is superior to the odontode regulation theory in its ability to trace homology through the evolution of development of the dermal and oral skeleton. The criteria proposed to identify homology between scales-either within a given individual or taxon, or between different individuals or taxa-are, primarily, vascular architecture and, secondarily, external morphology. External morphology may be excluded on Reif's argument for the overarching principle of differentiation, a hypothesis supported by recent advances in the understanding of dental morphogenesis. Vascular architecture is potentially useful but appears to be determined by tooth/scale morphology rather than reflecting historical (phylogenetic) constraint. Data on the development of epithelial appendages, including teeth, scales, and feathers, indicate that individual primordia develop through progressive differentiation of originally larger, homogenous morphogenetic fields. Thus, there is no mechanism of ontogenetic developmental concrescence, just differentiation." Read the full article here (has some great references).

If that doesn't scream empirical evidence and rational deduction based on a body of data then I don't know what does. And when it comes down to it, that is science, the collection of empirical evidence. A lot of theories get thrown out and many get shot down, but over time the data from experiments doesn't change and eventually a theory encompassing the whole of the body of data will arise to explain the underlying mechanisms.

Pay careful attention to what the curator of the museum says at about the 5:20 mark. "Without evolution the whole of biology does not make sense." That seems like a pretty bold statement, but one that you will find little argument with in any biology professor's office or research lab. Evolution is the framework for every life science there is, it is inescapable regardless of your religious views. Your physician, pharmacist, psychiatrist, hell even your landscaper all rely on evolutionary theory to drive their understanding of their craft. Here's one example for the stupid emails I'm gonna get saying "show me one example." Ok, methyllin resistance Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is about to surpass AIDS as the number one killer around the world because it has EVOLVED the ability to resist almost all antibiotics we use. God did not create this bacteria and it did not exist 100 years ago, and we can show you from where it evolved. And in the future we're going to have to learn a whole hell of a lot more about its evolutionary tacticts to defeat it.

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