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Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Ignorance on Parade

Sara Kolb Hicks was one of the *ahem* "Parade of Ph.D. Biologists" who testified last week in favor of retaining Texas's policy of teaching the "strengths and weaknesses" of evolution. She has a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Rice University and a B.S. in Biology from Louisiana Lafayette University.

Someone with those impressive credentials surely knows quite a bit about the topic of evolutionary biology, right?

Sadly, no.

After Hicks finished her testimony, Board member Barbara Cargill asked her for examples of "true scientific weaknesses" of evolution. Here is how Hicks responded:

Hicks: Well, what I think should be done, personally, is...they should take the examples that are given in the textbooks that support evolution, and if they are controversial, I think it should be said that they are controversial. To me, that is a weakness. That you're keeping...that's it's not one hundred percent backed by scientists. If its...kind of the peppered moths being dead and pinned on the tree, I think that should be mentioned. Instead know there's some critical pieces that are being left out of the textbooks, and those are weaknesses to me. That's what a weakness is.

Cargill: Could you give a couple more examples?

Hicks: Haeckel's embryos?

Cargill: Okay. We've heard that.

Hicks: Um...

Cargill: What are...what are more?

Hicks: Um...

Cargill: Those are ones that I'm familiar with. Are there any others that stand out?

Hicks: Not off the top of my head...

Cargill: Okay.

Hicks:...but I can get back to you with more.

Cargill: Okay...Okay...Well...those are good examples I was wondering if there...if any more came to mind. I'm not putting you on the spot, like a quiz, but...

Hicks: Right. Those are the classic examples in the textbooks, so if that's the best they have...

Cargill: Right.

Hicks:...that's kind of concerning also because there is a lot of controvery.

[Someone else tells Cargill to ask Hicks about mutations.]

Cargill: What about how mutations are handled

Hicks: That they're usually bad?

Cargill: How mutations are handled in the textbooks do you...[inaudible]

Hicks: They don't usually discuss how lethal they usually are.

Cargill: Uh-huh.

Hicks: I mean they aren't...most mutations are not beneficial and that is one of the key ways they explain...

Cargill: Well I actually reviewed the Biology books five years ago. I was one of the, um, reviewers and that's what I found. I mean things that you're saying, I was like, you know, why are some of these still in here? Why is it not shown that, you know, this is a scientific weakness? I mean we need to get the science instead of this lop-sided version.

Notice how, when put on the spot, an advocate of teaching the "strengths and weaknesses" of evolution did not give a valid example of either.

Not a single valid example.

I mean, come on, seriously?

Peppered moths? Haeckel's embryos? Most mutations are harmful?

Is that really all that someone with a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology could come up with off the top of her head?

And does she really think that those old, dusty textbook staples are "the best [evolutionary biologists] have?"

I have said this before and I will say it again. The next time someone tells you that students should learn about the "strengths and weaknesses" of evolution, catch them off guard and ask them to tell you about the strengths.

Then sit back, relax, and watch the parade go by.

posted by Jeremy Mohn

<< Home | New from the National Academies Press >> | Evolution is REAL Science #4 >> | "Anti-Evolution Bill Still A Fruitless Exercise" >> | Concealing Evidence of Torture >> | Um, no. We don't. >> | Audio of McLeroy's "Impassioned Plea" >> | The Evidence Does Not Care >> | Some Things Never Change >> | Common ancestry returns to Texas >> | Dr. David Hillis - A Stand Up Guy >>

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