11 janeiro 2008

Espalhando a boa nova*

Evolution is a scientific fact, and every organization whose research depends on it should explain why.

Three cheers for the US National Academy of Sciences for publishing an updated version of its booklet Science, Evolution, and Creationism. The document succinctly summarizes what is and isn’t science, provides an overview of evidence for evolution by natural selection, and highlights how,time and again, leading religious figures have upheld evolution as consistent with their view of the world.

For a more specific and also entertaining account of evolutionary knowledge, see palaeontologist Kevin Padian’s evidence given at the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial. Padian destroys the false assertions by creationists that there are critical gaps in the fossil record. He illustrates the fossil-rich paths from fish to land-based tetrapod, from crocodile to dinosaur to feathered dinosaur to bird, from terrestrial quadruped to the whale, and more besides.

Creationism is strong in the United States and, according to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, worryingly on the rise in Europe. But die-hard creationists aren’t a sensible target for raising awareness. What matters are those citizens who aren’t sure about evolution — as much as 55% of the US population according to some surveys.

As the National Academy of Sciences and Padian have shown, it is possible to summarize the reasons why evolution is in effect as much a scientific fact as the existence of atoms or the orbiting of Earth round the Sun, even though there are plenty of refinements to be explored. Yet some actual and potential heads of state refuse to recognize this fact as such. And creationists have a tendency to play on the uncertainties displayed by some citizens. Evolution is of profound importance to modern biology and medicine. Accordingly, anyone who has the ability to explain the evidence behind this fact to their students, their friends and relatives should be given the ammunition to do so. Between now and the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth on 12 February 2009, every science academy and society with a stake in the credibility of evolution should summarize evidence for it on their website and take every opportunity to promote it.

Editorial da Nature 451, 108 (10 de Janeiro de 2008)

* graças ao Dorean Paxorales.

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