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They are the grandest beasts we know of to ever roam our planet. They come in a wondrous variety of shapes and sizes, some larger than a double decker bus, others smaller than humans. Endowed with two forms of vision, one a sonar enhanced acoustical over lay of optical images giving them the ability to take an ulrasound image or deliver a stunning taser like blow of focused sound, and the largest brains in the animal kingdom, they communicate across hundreds of kilometers of ocean with eerie, soulful music. And for many years these magnificent creatures served as the unwilling prey of both hunters wielding harpoons, and Creationists wielding confabulations. They are the Whales, the cetaceans, our fellow mammals. And they are magnificent illustrations of megafauna and evolutionary biology alike. If you'd like a short break from the intensity of politics, let us talk of the Whale's Evolutionary Tale and Creationist lies ...

Warning: Lot of Largish Graphics Below

From playful Porpoises to the majestic great Blue, they all arose from humble beginnings in a brilliant burst of Punctuated Equilibrium over a few scant million years from an animal the size of a Great Dane. Since that time these giants have served as one of the most sobering, astonishing, examples of megafauna sown from the fertile fields of evolutionary biology, growing to a state of resplendent majesty unparalleled on our ocean world. They have no formal language, as far as we can ascertain, although they may have the intelligence to rival a chimpanzee, but we can speak for them, and we must.

For years Creationists have attacked evolution. It continues to this day, sometimes with breathtaking ignorance and outright dishonesty as in Creationism for Dummies. And one of their many lines of assault has been the incessantly repeated claim that "There are no transitional fossils!" For years in the 1970s and 1980s Young Earth Creationists used whales as an angle with which to pursue their agenda. 'Where are the transitional whales' they would ask in mock surprise, and then go on to conclude that because there were none, yet, we never would have any, and therefore, somehow, Young Earth Creationism "wins". They don't say that any longer ...

A word on what a transitional fossil specimen really is: A transitional is not necessarily directly ancestral to the later organism. It might be, but we really can't know for certain if a given transitional is the direct forebear of a later species or not. Consider the paleontologist who finds the partial skeleton of a Dachshund, a red fox, and a wolf. Is one ancestral to the other? Which way does the lineage flow; from big to little or vice-versa? What if you have only a few leg bones and some pelvis for the red fox, a partial skull of the Dachshund, and the lower jaw and a scrap of spine for the wolf? And what if you'd never seen a living canid of any kind! That's the dilemma paleontologists are in when they try to assign ancestry. It's pretty amazing, a testament to the dedication and expertise of paleobiologists, that they've been as successful as they have.

A transitional fossil only means that the intermediate exemplar possesses morphological characteristics (Physical features) which are also present in both modified and/or unmodified versions in a later, likely descendent, species. In a very broad sense, every fish is a transitional tetrapod, because every fish has a spinal column and fins which are present in later modified (Fins to limbs) and relatively unmodified (Spinal column) versions in all in land vertebrates such as amphibians or mammals. This means that a transitional population can over lap descendent populations in time: wolves are transitional to Dachshunds and directly ancestral to them, but wolf populations didn't magically disappear when Dachshunds came to be!
Likewise, in another broad sense, every reptile is a transitional bird, because birds have modified arms they use as wings and relatively unmodified spines both of which are present in reptiles. That doesn't mean every fish is directly ancestral to every species of reptiles or rodent or that every reptile is ancestral to every species of bird; all fish and all reptiles are obviously not directly ancestral to those respective clades!

Whales are closely related to Mesonychids but not directly derived from them. Mesonychids are a diverse group of proto-hoofed predators which first arose in the late Paleocene Epoch, beginning about 65 million years ago, in the ashes of a world still reeling from the K-T Impact which may have escorted the dinosaurs off the evolutionary stage. They diversified into a number of species. Some of them, especially early on, were the size of a collie, others rank as the largest mammalian land predator to ever tip the scales, such as Andrewsarchus above.
Because of this semi-hoofed ancestry, DNA comparisons, and recent fossil evidence, Whales are now technically classified in the order of Artiodactyls, meaning 'even toed'. This order includes hippos, giraffes, and pigs.

Illustration courtesy UTI commentator, contributor, and renowned wildlife artist, O'George

The first notable transition in our tale of the whale is a kind of cute looking critter called Pakicetus, from over fifty-million years ago early in the Eocene Epoch. This fellow was a lot like a big, bad, wolf in both size and habits, and probably occupied a similar eco-niche as an ambush predator does today.


The next stop in our whale's tale is what looks for all the world like the mammalian version of a crocodile: Ambulocetus meaning "walking whale", at about 49 million years ago. This is a bad boy, a mean looking customer, long, powerful, low slung, partially aquatic, and the jaws are outfitted to clamp down, hold on to, and crush prey. It probably made it's living a lot like crocs do; snapping up fish from the water and unwary mammals from the beckoning shores of lakes and bays.

Speaking of intermediates, how does Rodhocetus above look for a transitional whale candidate in both skeleton and artist's rendition? This fellow was roaming the south Asian seas at 45-50 million years ago.

Then we get into Dalanistes at circa 45 MYA. Followed by Protcetidae some of which were the first fully aquatic whale ancestors, and then on into full blown early whales such as archaic Odontocetids (Early toothed whales), like Dorudons and Basilisaurids by about 40 million years ago-the latter incidentally still trailing tiny, but fully formed, rear legs

Basilosaurid skeleton. Note the vestigial rear leg bones. It possible Baslisaurus may have used these small limbs to lock together during mating

How do we know that these fossils, in some case just partial skulls, are really whales ancestors or early whales? Well, it happens that the Whale Ear, from the Pakicetus to modern whales, is highly distinctive and easily recognized if you know what to look for. The ear slowly turned into the receiver for cetacean sonar, preserving and modifying those distinguishable features during that transition. Since the ear cavity and inner structure is part of the skull and the crania in general is one of the most likely portions of the skeleton to be preserved as a fossil, the morphology of that ear cavity is a fantastically useful diagnostic trait for determining if you're dealing with a whale and for discerning the particular stage of evolution of that specimen. Evolutionary biologist PZ Myers provides an outline:

Start with the top left diagram. This is the ear of a typical modern land mammal. The horn shaped structure angling down towards 8 o'clock is the external auditory meatus (EAM), your ear hole, which leads to the dark gray oval, the tympanic membrane (TyMe), better known as the ear drum. Sound in air travels down the EAM to the TyMe, which vibrates. The vibrations are amplified the the chain of inner ear bones, the malleus (Mal), incus (Inc), and stapes (Sta), or hammer, anvil, and stirrup (I know--the terminology gets a little dense). Finally, the amplified vibrations are transmitted to the cochlea, where they are transduced into localized deflections of hair cells that trigger pitch-specific nerve impulses.
That's the path that works well in the air, but it doesn't work so well in water. Try immersing your head in the bathtub or swimming pool, though, and sounds are immediately dampened; the EAM fills with water that puts pressure on the eardrum, reducing the amplitude. Instead, the vibrations are transmitted through the bones and tissues of the head, vibrating the tympanic bone (TyBo) and by that path the inner ear bones.

The next three diagrams show the progression of changes in the whale lineage. The top right picture (b) is a pakicetid from about 50 million years ago. It's not much different from the generic land mammal, with an EAM, eardrum, etc., but note the one special feature: the tympanic bone isn't connected to the periotic bone (Per), and it's actually thickened into a structure called the involucrum. Basically, the bony structure of the ear is less tightly attached to the skull, and is more free to vibrate in response to sound transmitted through the tissue of the head.

The next step is seen in a group of whales called the remingtonocetid/protocetids, from 43-46 million years ago (c). The ear capsule is even less strongly attached to the skull, and the involucrum is more robust and even more remote from the skull--the whole thing is better at moving freely. The ear drum is reduced and conical in shape, and the malleus is fused to the bone, so although the pieces are all there, it's not going to be particularly effective at capturing sound waves in air. Another feature is a deep groove in the mandible that indicates that these animals had a fat pad (FaPa) in the jaw that would better transmit vibrations from the jaw bone to the ear capsule.

Last (d) is the ear structure of a modern whale. All of the trends of the previous organisms are accentuated: the ear capsule is specialized to receive sounds transmitted through the fat pad, and has completely given up on sounds transmitted through air--the external auditory meatus is closed off and gone, and while the eardrum is present, it's not connected to the external world.

In addition to the unique morphology of the ear canal and bones, whales also have a distinctive spine which was modified over time to provide motive force underwater. Most folks understand that whales move by swinging their large tail flukes up and down, rather than side to side as most fish. The modifications in the spine, especially around the pelvic girdle, is a dead giveaway if you have the requisite vertebrae.

Now that we've met a few of the actors in our Whale's Tale, and armed with new found fossil specimens, ear analysis, and DNA comparisons, we can construct a rough, provisional evolutionary progression, showing a plausible series of whale transitional, starting with a fully terrestrial animal and ending with modern cetaceans. Thanks again to O'George's artistic skills here it is:

It's not meant to be a perfect line of ascending cetaceans and the sporadic nature of the fossil record ensures it never will be. We don't know for a fact who or what is directly ancestral to later specimens or any intermediate, or which ones are ancestral to which whales, or even if any of early lineage's shown survived. Modern whales may be the descendants of a small offshoot of one of the earlier protocetids and never preserved, which we will therefore never know about in detail. But sequentially as a gross series, that's all pretty damn reasonable. Each intermediate is definitely a whale or an indirect/direct precursor to a whale. Each is found in the correct chronological order in the geological record and exhibits the clear signs of a transitional form progressing from a four legged terrestrial mammal to a full blown, aquatic one.

Creationists claim we have No transitional fossils? Bullshit: Utterly fallacious! Here's hundreds of vertebrate intermediates alone, whales are just the tip of the iceberg. For the most part Creationist claims that we have no intermediate candidates for whales have fallen silent. Now when they address the topic of whale evolution, they focus on disinformation regarding the rich series of transitionals whales we do have.

Of course the everyday Creationist victim you're likely to encounter at work, church, or school, will sometimes pipe up with "Why aren't dogs evolving into whales now, right now, before my very eyes?" Well obviously the question is loaded: Dogs did not evolve into whales in the first place and any future evolution is not going to produce a creature exactly like whales. Nor would the scope of human life permit such an observation. But we certainly have all kinds of examples of clearly terrestrial creatures which appear to be caught in mid evolution in various states of marine adaptivity, changing forms from land dwellers to water dwellers. Seals, walruses, sea otters, beavers, and Penguins, just to name a few, come to mind. Given the opportunity and time, any one of those groups could go on to become fully aquatic and get as big as a diesel rig, just like the descendants of ambulocetus did.

Top left: Blue Whale   Top Right: Sperm Whale   Bottom Left: A small pod of Narwhales (Note single tusk in males. It's actually an elongated tooth)   Bottom Right: Bowhead Whale with Beluga Whale escort

A few whales and other creatures by size

Enlarge (Hi-res image warning)

Most nations are curbing whaling as an industry. Even the Blue-whale is making something of a comeback. But pollution and over fishing are just as much of a threat to the delicate balance of the marine ecosystem whales depend on as a Japanese Trawler with an explosive tipped harpoon gun.  

Whales and their four-limbed ancestors were here long before humans or hominids or even the great apes and monkeys. They rose from the tableau of a shattered world, the smoldering remains of the long lost planet of the dinosaurs. In a little ten million years the grew from the size of antelope to the most massive animals known, and now dominate the ocean in both intelligence and size. They have survived ice ages, continental drift, super-volcanic eruptions, and greenhouse gases. Now they face their biggest threat yet: The fleets of whalers both past and present, and pollution led by the United States headed by a cabal of neo-cons ansd their swindled right-wing Christian followrs who enable them in the belief that God put whales and everything else on this planet to be plundered until the apporaching glorious rapture. Regardless of where they came from and how they evolved, looking forward, our world without whales would be a tragedy; a world poorer, a loss of riches, their extinction at our hands unacceptable.

But we must bear in mind these are wild creatures, born free in an alien three-dimensional realm of deep ocean; they are neither the Demons which tomented Captain Ahab or the tame, gentle giants of Seaworld. They can and have attacked humans, at times for no apparent reason, albeit rarely. And they have saved drowning people, again we have no idea why. They do not exist for crass amusement, but they surely provide us with wonder if observed with respect.

They are mysterious, mostly just curious, and generally harmless. But after their recent experiences with the walking ape, I'd guess what they would really like, if they could speak for themselves, is simply to be left alone.

The ocean is vast, surely big enough for both whales, and ourselves, to co-exist. Maybe that's what this guy is trying to tell us ... If only we could decipher his song.

Originally posted to DarkSyde on Thu Jun 09, 2005 at 02:16 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  EXcellent post!!!!!!!! (none)
    but....too bad the intended audience is allergic to facts & prefers to fabricate "God is just testing our faith --- he put the fossils there"

    thank you for this!

    •  That God fella (none)
      The creationists sure have funny ideas about their God - he must be one hell of a practical joker.  Imagine, if you would, the creationist deity yukking it up over those poor fools burning in hell because they actually fell for the pre-aged fossil gag.

      The sleep of reason produces monsters. Francisco Goya

      by Dire Radiant on Sat Jun 11, 2005 at 05:42:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Natural streamlining (none)
      It's interesting that the exceptionally long snout and jaw which is typical of all cetaceans has been present since the time of the land-dwelling ancestor.  I wonder if that fortuitous inherited characteristic gave the cetaceans an advantage over other aquatic animals, since it so easily adapted itself to the long, pointed streamlined shape (which we see for instance on dolphins); compare the less efficient shapes of seals, sea lions, and sea otters, who have much shorter, rounded "faces", and have never exploited as many aquatic niches as the cetaceans.  If so, it's an instance of a group of animals taking advantage of an inherited trait which  had been used for some entirely different purpose (as streamlining isn't much use for quadrupeds); it is not part of any "design".
    •  Unless, of course... (none)
      ...the design included the land-dwellers "becoming" sea-dwellers. A problem with ID, of course, is that "design" by a deity doesn't have any implications for mechanism by which that design is realized. You can believe God designed every living thing and still believe evolution was the mechanism he chose -- designed, even -- to realize those designs.
      •  A useful pointer (4.00)
        in dealing with ID advocates is to point out that when humans design organisms, we use selection. Using selection we've turned snarling wolves into poodles and wild grain into everything from rice to yellow corn number two. Selection, i.e. artificial evolution, is our preffered and by far most productve design method. If we can make these design changes in a few thousand years using guided evolutionary processes in plants, animals, and microbes, there is every reason to accept a deity could do the same over billions using the same methods. Not to mention that's what the massive body of evidence is consistent with.
        •  I tried this yesterday. (none)
          It didn't work.

          I was talking to a guy at a coffee house in Hollywood. He was 25 and he goes to Los Angeles City College. He studies quantum mathematics! Has a strong science background. He believes the Earth is millions or billions of years old, and he knows enough astro-physics to accept the Big bang unreservedly and he believes the universe is evolving.

          But he is also a Christian. He told me he hadn't made up his mind about evolution vs creationism. There are just too many questions about evolution, he said. Then he trotted out one after the other of the creationism talking points.

          When he brought up the old thing about transitional fossils, I said there are plenty of transitional forms, and I mentioned (briefly) an article on transitional whale forms written by, I think Stephen Jay Gould. I talked about the well-known fossil evidence of horse development. Do you know what he said? This guy who said his mind was still open? He said that just because transitional forms existed for a few animals, that there were still gaps in the fossil record between the different forms of whales and the different forms of horses, so he couldn't really commit to evolution.

          We discussed other creationist memes, and I thought I handled it pretty well, but he still rationalized away every argument. He was saying "I don't see how these changes could have happened, even over time. Evolutionists always hide behind the idea that it happened over millions of years. They have certain articles of faith, just like creationists."

          I told him he had set the bar pretty high for evolution. And that he hadn't offered one scintila of evidence for creationism. (He strayed away from the term ID.) He said that the gaps in the fossil record were his proof.

          How do you talk to people like that? I even mentioned that every time I looked up a claim made by a creationist, it usually turned out that the creationist is lying. He said they shouldn't do that, but that both sides do it. (Of course, he didn't have a single example of creationists being misrepresented by evolutionists. He was just sure that it happened.)

          Why do I bother?  

          America: It's a good IDEA for a country ...

          by Tony Seybert on Sat Jun 11, 2005 at 10:27:43 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  you left out the Ark, you bozo (none)
    and also the Jesus saddles for the beasts.

    When the Republicans stop lying about the Democrats, we will stop telling the truth about them. --Adlai Stevenson

    by seesdifferent on Thu Jun 09, 2005 at 02:44:13 PM PDT

  •  I wonder about the term transitional (none)
    ...implying that one form has more significance than another. I also think that the expression "x evolved  into y" is misleading and plays into the empty heads talking points. I think it is much more correct to say that y derived from x. This preserves the concept that y may or may not have survived, and also eliminates the idea that there was anything purposeful about the origin of y.

    Great diary. Thanks.

    When the Republicans stop lying about the Democrats, we will stop telling the truth about them. --Adlai Stevenson

    by seesdifferent on Thu Jun 09, 2005 at 02:51:18 PM PDT

  •  Bravo! (none)
    And thank you for these extraordinary posts.
  •  Ever seen a tasmanian tiger? (not devil) (none)
    You might not have seen one because they became extinct in the 1930's, as far as humans know, but Google a bit. These things look like a cross between a dog and a kangaroo, but with some stripes on their backs that reminded me of tigers. They're placental. Extraordinary.
  •  And the horse they rode in on (none)
    part of the problem, I think, is the almost elephantine ego that the common creationist has.  To accept that humans are just the present result of a long biological series including apes and whales would mean that, no, god did not place his hand upon the earth and bring the rest of the universe to a screeching halt just to lay Adam and Eve unto the Garden of Eden... blah blah blah....

    Basically, it means no longer being able to live in their own carefully constructed fantasy world where the creator of all life favors them and justifies their mongoloid, barbaric behavior.

    Who's for cake?

    "Give the likes of Baldric the vote and we'll be back to cavorting Druids and dung for dinner."

    by Magnus Greel on Thu Jun 09, 2005 at 03:23:05 PM PDT

    •  The real problem: (none)
      "An empty head is not really empty; it is stuffed with rubbish.
      Hence the difficulty of forcing anything in to an empty head."

      - Eric Hoffer

      "An awkward, unscientific lie is often as ineffectual as the truth." -- Mark Twain

      by ColBatGuano on Sat Jun 11, 2005 at 11:58:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank the creator of all (none)
    This diary is a needed tonic at this time, as you allude to in your intro. Great work, as usual.
  •  Great job. (none)
    I love your posts DarkSyde. Keep it up.
  •  I love it when creationists come to the university (none)
    and invite biologists. One time they came to Humboldt State and tried to say there were no transitional fossils between reptiles and mammals. The resident vertebrate paleontologist was there and refuted their claim point by point, mentioning that for a long while there was only a hypothesized intermediate....then Raup and Stanley at the University of Chicago found a skull that fit the hypothesized intermediate. It was fantastic, I tell you. Then he went on to wipe the floor with this guy on giraffe evolution.

    Good stuff, that.

    •  yeah (none)
      but anatomy is complex enough that they can blow some smoke if you give them room and they know their spiel. My best tactic is to ask them ahead of time to give a general outline of what kind of features, broadly, they would expect to see in a transitional.
      •  Talked about the giraffe yesterday (none)
        with my guy at the coffee house.

        He said, how come there are no transitional forms with increasingly longer necks? I said that just because he didn't know about them doesn't mean they don't exist. I aksed him if he ever heard of an okapi.

        He said, no.

        I said, I'm not surprised.

        I explained what it was, but he was unconvinced.

        America: It's a good IDEA for a country ...

        by Tony Seybert on Sat Jun 11, 2005 at 10:32:31 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Fantastic diary.... (none)
    Plutonium Page posted a link to it at home, and I'm glad he did - I would never have found this otherwise.

    Creationism is a sore point with me, from the people who claim that the footprints at Glen Rose debunk the theory of evolution, to the people who believe that the essence of evolution is that we're descended from monkeys.  It makes me crazy, it really does.

    I don't give them hell. I just tell the truth and the Republicans think it's hell. - Harry S. Truman

    by Jensequitur on Fri Jun 10, 2005 at 08:43:02 PM PDT

  •  I always thought that ... (none)
    humanity's salvation lies in our differentiation as a species.  We could "arificially" inject human consciousness into other creatures.  Rather, genetically engineer humans with other creature's capabilities.  This would also be done so that the differentiated human would inhabit the best habitat suitable for it, i.e. the sea.  Over centuries and millinia these differentiated humans would evolve whole new cultures, values and dominian of their venue in nature i.e.grasslands, desert and forest.  
    We will survive ourselves and take better care of the earth.
    Why?  We have become a mono-culture upon the face of the earth.  Any agriculturist or biologist will tell you that is not the best stategy for survival.  We all have the same requirements and fall before the same diseases etc.
    No doubt, the first experiments with this will occur for military and commercial uses secretly.
    Ofcourse, the concept of chimeras are abhorrent to the fundamental right.
    I think it would be the next step in our evolution.  Hey if God did not want us to do it, why did God give us the power?  Maybe it is part of the grand plan.
  •  Unfortunately.. (none)
    For really stupid reasons on some other site I engaged a creationist about this very issue. the ID people already have refutation to the whole whale theory, which he happily pointed out to me here:

    It's all psuedo science crap, but it's what they believe.

    Here are some points I made during that exchange about AMerican Fundamentalist Christianity:

    I used to argue with creationists as well. Now I realize he's using scientific terms and conscepts as part of some kind of christian incantation to dispell the truth of those scientific concepts away. These 21st century christian fundies have learned from the mistakes of their past - they don't challenge or try to conquer - they co-opt.

    And be VERY wary when christianity co-opts because that is precisely how it has survived for two thousand years. Especially true of the Catholic Church, bu t nonetheless the co-option strategy remains because it is successful.

    Whereas the Catholic church adapted to native customs and religions and made them their own (Saints, holidays, etc..) and turned heretical movements into church doctrine (the Cult of Mary fetish - which derived from the heresy of the Cathars in 12th century France. The Cathars were the subject of the first inquiistion and wiiped out, but the church found the cult of mary useful so kept it).

    A bit of hope arose with Luther and the early Portestant Reformation which led to the high water mark of the Enlightement..but sadly Christianity is back to it's old tricks -looking to co-opt science into it's spider webs of faith.

    Sad, as it doesn't have to be so. Christianity is too insecure though to live with a rival.

    Science started out as a christian heresy anyway - a methodology to know the mind of god. There's a reason they went after Galileo and his cohorts you know and it had nothing to do with where the sun and earth were. Had everyting to do with someone trying to observe God's handiwork in nature and explain it. Churches don't like that stuff to be explained - they keep it all mysterious. Better that way..

  •  One example of why creationism SHOULD be (none)
    taught in public schools, at least for comparison purposes with evolution.
    Ignorant general public thinks kids are empty vessels, passively accepting all information. Mostly they, at best, passively take notes and try to learn enought to pass the test. But are not engaged, and don't truly learn much.

    Meanwhile, in pro-creationist homes and communities, they are filled with "This is the TRUE story of creation that the secularists don't want you to learn." And in these uncritical environments kids are filled with bogus info that they accept from the "forbidden","persecuted" and therefore fascinating, Christian "underground".

    Far better to arm science teachers with information like dark syde's brilliant posts, and let them face the Creationists toe to toe. See how many comments above talk about what happens when well-prepared evo teachers face creationists in college classrooms? Truth wins. And controversy excites students and gets them to pay attention.

    But science ed establishment prefers to take the "Science knows best. You must not be exposed to these foolish myths" position, and continues to make the enemy stronger.

    "Go in peace, errant sisters." -Horace Greeley, April, 1861

    by faithnomore on Sat Jun 11, 2005 at 03:47:52 AM PDT

    •  That sort of thing was involved (none)
      with my process of choosing science over only "belief".  As a child I would spend many hours each week being indoctrinated in the Pentecostal church.  I was always a questioning child and getting in trouble for it.  Unfortunately most children don't think so deeply and do absorb what they are told all too readily.  I under went this indoctrinization side by side with my brother.  He is at his core a fundie to this day.  We are in our mid-forties.
      Unfortunately this kind of comparative education will work on the minority of intellectually defiant children.  The culture of self-indulgence does not encourage deeper/critical thinking skills.  Remember, this kind of discernment requires courage another trait not encouraged in this culture of vanity and instant gratification.
      •  I'm sure you'd be right in many cases. (none)
        But, as a veteran teacher (history, not science) I will continue to believe that the best way to destroy myths and falsehoods is to directly confront them, not to protect children from them.

        Do you recall how evolution was taught when you and your brother were in school? Just curious. i can't even remember if it was taught at all in my biology classes.  

        I suspect that most public school science teachers are conflict-avoiders, and prefer to either teach evolution as if handed down from on-high and ignore creationism, or ignore the whole evolution thing because it will cause trouble for them.

        I agree that it is tough to get through to get kids, hell, anyone, to think independently and critically. But I disagree that it is virtually impossible.

        Last fall I found that very strong Bush support among my 8th grade students eroded after we had class debates where beliefs had to be supported by facts. The one "Kerry" girl who did her research annihilated the  "Bushie" kids' inarticulate pronouncements (from his website) and became a school hero.

         Kids love a good fight, even a verbal one. And it teaches them to think.

        "Go in peace, errant sisters." -Horace Greeley, April, 1861

        by faithnomore on Sat Jun 11, 2005 at 12:05:37 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  It is the Liberal Ideal (none)
          It is the Liberal Ideal to never restrict knowledge.  This must always be our default.  Truth and knowledge is the greatest weapon of the left.  We must counter Orwellian restriction of thought at every turn.  We must consistently provide the language/words of truth to the people.
          KNOW all that each human being is capable, Art, culture, language, history, biol., physics, chem., math, sociology, current events, medicine.
          It is our job to promote the desire for knowledge.  The price is made worth it in a more fulfilled contemplative life.  In the long run the reward is deep happiness found in righteousness and wisdom.
  •  fantastic (none)

    it's amazing the detail of the steps now available.

  •  Science Rules ... (none)
    over the mythology of creationism, any day, hands down.  Reading this takes me back to my 'first love', which I encountered way back in preschool: DINOSAURS.

    Needless to add, creationism has never made any serious headway with me.  The notion that these things lived and died literally tens of millions of years ago was not only fascinating to me, but inspiring ... and it may even have brought me closer to the Divine.

    This is way cool stuff, especially for a political events blog.  Human politics is, by its very nature, ephemeral -- not even a blink of the cosmic eye.  Evolution, the nature of life's existence ... that is truly the stuff of which we should be writing.

  •  Creationists are proof of evolution (none)
    Aren't creationists some sort of transitional creature themselves?  They sure seem like suitable evidence that mankind is in the process of evolving from lower life forms, some more than others.
  •  thanks (none)
    really enjoy these diaries

    I support Soulforce - seeking Justice for God's GLBT children. Please join us.

    by its simple IF you ignore the complexity on Sat Jun 11, 2005 at 09:10:41 AM PDT

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