Addressing the evolution debate

Jacqueline Rabe and Jacqueline Rabe

Evolution is a heavily debated issue between science and religion activists, but a speaker at the University last night said there is nothing to debate, evolution happens.

‘Evolution is a hard concept for some people to accept, but so was accepting that the Earth is flat,’ David Mindell said, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Michigan

Evolution is present in both biology and culture. Food, species and diseases are transformed through biological means, whereas, culture has transformed through religion and language.

But even though culture has evolved, biological evolution is much more controversial Mindell said when it comes to studying it in public schools.

‘We tend to get depressed when school boards decide they have a problem with teaching evolution, [but] I believe we will eventually have evolution being taught in the classroom,’ he said.

Critics of evolution argue that it shouldn’t be allowed in schools because it contradicts what many religions teach.

‘When Galileo proved that the Earth moved around the Sun and not the other way around the Catholic Church wasn’t ready to accept anything that contradicted the church’s teachings. But eventually it was proven that Earth had to go around the Sun, and there was no question about it.

‘It took 325 years to accept this notion, maybe it will take this long as well to accept evolution. In the grand scheme of things we are on track with getting people to accept evolution, and it being able to be taught in schools.’

Aritra Bhattacherjee, a first year Ph.D. student in biology, said he doesn’t understand why this would be kept out of the classroom.

‘Science cannot be taught without evolution,’ he said. ‘Evolution has been proven over and over again, why not teach it.’

Mindell said people find conflict in teaching evolution in the classroom because the issue has become political, not fact based.

‘This political conflict is not helping science progress, evolution is not going to replace the social values that religion has placed in individuals,’ he said. ‘Wherever there is evidence you have to go there and explore it. Religion should be based on faith and science should be based on proof, end of discussion.’

Helen Michaels, biology professor, said because evolution has been proven it deserves a place in the classroom.

‘It provides a fundamental understanding of the origins of society. But it’s being taught as an alternate hypothesis to evolution by natural selection,’ she said.

No matter how it’s taught Michaels said someone can be still be religious and believe in evolution.

‘Science is not a religion, it’s a method. There is a lot of info supporting evolution.’

Even with all this proven evidence, many still have a hard time accepting evolution, Mindell said.

‘It may be a bitter pill for people to get use to, but just because it’s unpopular doesn’t mean that it’s not useful,’ he said.