In defense of evolution

From the first college introductory biology class, budding biologists are taught the fundamentals of evolution by natural selection. The field of study is soundly rooted in the concept…so soundly, in fact, that scientists often take for granted its validity, snubbing their noses at and refusing to engage in any debate on the topic.

But the issue has come to the fore in recent years, with proponents for intelligent design and other non-empirical theories of life billing themselves as scientific and unbiased, even arming their youngest proponents with probing questions to ask their biology teachers. (Of course, questioning is fundamental to science, so well they should ask complicated questions.) It’s the duty of biologists to be able to explain their work in a clear, concise manner, with specific examples that can be understood by the general public, especially students. Otherwise, we risk tragedies of education like school board rulings in various states that require religious explanations to be taught in the science classroom–even though the Kansas school board has repealed its famous religion-as-science standards, other states, such as Louisiana, have enacted similar laws as recently as July 2008 .

Now, as part of their celebration of the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth, Nature has published a special resource to concisely illustrate, through examples easy for the public to understand, the overwhelming body of evidence for evolution by natural selection. Their “15 Evolutionary Gems” are taken from scientific papers, and the sources are cited.

It’s a resource every good biologist should have filed away…in their desk and in their brain.