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  1. #1
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    US rejecting science?

    Being a graduate student studying molecular biology and computer science, it came a shock to me to find out 40 percent of adult Americans outright reject the idea of evolution. In fact, in first world countries, only the citizens of Turkey have a more skeptical view.
    National Geographic world-wide poll on evolution

    My shock was fueled by the fact that the entire study of molecular biology is really dependent on thinking of things in terms of evolution. Not to say there isn't a constant debate about the exact nature of evolution, but its usefulness as an explanation of life and a predictor of observation has been shown time and again.

    When people were cracking the genetic code (that is the code that translates DNA to protein), the key assumption that was made was that because all life has a shared origin, the code for a man would be the same as the code for a bacteria. Any change in this basic code would be absolutely devastating to some form of life. That is why, when scientists finally cracked the code in a bacteria, they claimed to have cracked the code of life, which of course we now know is true, but at the time the prediction was based on our understanding of evolution.

    New discoveries in the function of molecules are driven by our understanding that all life is related. If we find a gene that codes for a protein in a fly, we can use comparative genetics to find the similar gene in man, and often the function will have been preserved. We group proteins with similar functions that are encoded by similar genes into families, and we can create a phylogeny and study how the protein has changed through time. This can be used to predict how a drug might affect the body.

    For that matter, all modern medicine and pharmacy has been driven by the idea that we can test drugs meant for humans in animals first, because many of the essential functions have been preserved between a mouse and a man or an ape and a man. Before the idea of evolution, man was considered separate from the beast, and justification for such experiments would be hard to come by. However evolution predicts that such tests would be useful for screening, and this prediction has been shown valid.

    Evolution has made other predictions that have been shown to be valid. For example, humans have 23 chromosome pairs, while apes have 24. Because it is unlikely that an organism can just give up a chromosome and keep function, evolution predicts that one pair of human chromosomes must be made up of two pairs of ape chromosomes. This has been shown to be the case. More over, the center and ends of all chromosomes have shared distinct patterns. In the human chromosome that is the fusion of the ape chromosomes, the center of the chromosome has typical patterns that are seen on the ends of chromosomes, while it has two regions exhibiting center of chromosome patterns. Thus all signs point to this chromosome being a fusion of two chromosomes, has predicted by evolution.

    Evolution predicts that organisms can be consistently clustered in a hierarchical manner. What this means, is that it doesn't matter which sets of features you look at, organism will be clustered into a tree that looks approximately the same each time. For example, the tree of life generated by looking at different sets of genes remains very similar. (Many man made things, such as cars, cannot be clustered in this manner.) It predicts what sorts of transitionary forms of life will be found as fossils. Not predicts what sorts of transitionary forms of life should not be found. Both the positive examples found and the lack of negative examples bolster the theory.

    Finally, I'd like to comment on the main premise behind Intelligent Design, and why it is flawed. Now, I'm not saying that there isn't a place for believing in God, however as a logical explanation of the natural world it is very lacking. The idea is "irreducible complexity". Something is irreducibly complex is something that has many parts, and if you take out one of the parts, it ceases to function. Intelligent Design proponents claim that evolution cannot explain irreducibly complex things, which is certainly not true.

    Here are the main very simple ideas needed to realize that it is easy to imagine how an irreducibly complex system might arise. The first is that of multiple functions. In molecular biology, many genes code for multiple functions. The second is redundancy. It is often the case that multiple genes code for the same function.

    First a single cog A handles a function A. Second a new cog B appears that handles function B. Finally, a new cog C allows B to continue performing B, however B and C working together perform function A better than A ever did. Eventually cog A is dropped and B and C now form an irreducibly complex system.

    This is just one example. There are many other things to consider. A function that is now essential might not always have been so. A cog that is now essential might not always have been so.

    This type of redundancy is seen all the time on the molecular level in the cells most essential functions. The ribosome can function with just the RNA stripped of all of its protein factors, the proteins merely helping out. If you knock out a single protein, things keep chugging along. In fact, almost all basic cell functions are *not* irreducibly complex, probably because for such universal and essential functions, it is not a good idea to get rid of the redundancy.

    Anyway, I'm digressing. My point is that at least from from what I have seen, there is no evolution controversy among biologists; it is essential to our understanding of the natural world. It is just as shocking to me to see that such a large number of adults don't believe evolution as it would be to discover that they thought the sun moved around the earth.



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    Re: US rejecting science?

    I didn't read this but I know this has been rehashed 100 times. Thanks for the thesis though.



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    Re: US rejecting science?

    2 months and 1 day till kickoff!


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    Re: US rejecting science?

    Is that you, Michael Shermer? I'm with you, photomuse; I saw this article a while ago and it shocked me that we lag behind the likes of Turkey in this fundamental (to me at least) truth. I am not a molecular biologist, but have been reading a lot lately on the topic of evolution and the pseudoscience (again, my opinion) of intelligent design. Your analysis is spot on.


    Forever trying to find a cure for the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

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    Re: US rejecting science?

    Please, no more debates on Religion vs. Science.

    Yeah, I know: I just could not read it. And I won't any further than this.


    ISU Grad 1997.
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    Not in CO anymore but I'm not changing my name :)

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    Re: US rejecting science?

    Are you saying that the dinosaurs were not on the Ark?



    What ever happened to truth, justice and the American Way?

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    Re: US rejecting science?



    That was the longest post I've ever seen!!!


    Some people wear Superman pajamas. Superman wears Chuck Norris pajamas.

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    Re: US rejecting science?

    I believe in evolution in many cases and not all; but evolution still doesn't explain creation.

    *Runs away*

    -keep.


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    May you only need 39 acres to turn your rig around. - keep

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    Re: US rejecting science?

    Quote Originally Posted by psycln11 View Post
    That was the longest post I've ever seen!!!
    I type fast. See the many typos for evidence.



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    Re: US rejecting science?

    On a lighter note, here is proof that there is a God...

    'Woman sees Virgin Mary in watermelon'


    Forever trying to find a cure for the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

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    Re: US rejecting science?

    Quote Originally Posted by keepngoal View Post
    I believe in evolution in many cases and not all; but evolution still doesn't explain creation.

    *Runs away*

    -keep.
    I agree, there is no adequate scientific explanation for the origins of life from organic compounds. There are speculations, but these speculations are just that. I think it makes perfect sense to attribute whatever has happened to God. However, I don't think thats a reason not to keep thinking and experimenting and trying to figure out what did happen. So no need to run away.



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    Re: US rejecting science?

    It is hubris to think that because you are getting a masters degree in something that you have the answers to the universe. The most biased opinions are from science classes because theories are based on support and cannot be proven; although some professors swear otherwise. NOTE: Only a few 100 years ago scientists said the earth was flat. Most science is junk and creates as many questions as it answers.

    I would take more time in figuring out what you believe, rather than beliving in everything you learned in class from a professor. Life is much different than a textbook tells you.


    Last edited by notoriouslfb; 06-27-2007 at 11:37 AM.

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    Re: US rejecting science?

    Quote Originally Posted by notoriouslfb View Post
    Most science is junk and creates as many questions as it answers.
    I take it you will never visit a doctor then.


    Forever trying to find a cure for the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

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    Re: US rejecting science?

    Quote Originally Posted by notoriouslfb View Post
    It is hubris to think that because you are getting a masters degree in something that you have the answers to the universe. The most biased opinions are from science classes because theories are based on support and cannot be proven; although some professors swear otherwise. NOTE: Only a few 100 years ago scientists said the earth was flat. Most science is junk and creates as many questions as it answers.

    I would take more time in figuring out what you believe, rather than beliving in everything you learned in class from a professor. Life is much different than a textbook tells you.
    In addition, spend zero time with the Bible if you want to spend time figuring out what you believe. The book was edited so many times as to be nothing but early church spin.



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    Re: US rejecting science?

    I love lamp.



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