WARM UP #1: Scientific Method and Evolution
With selected student responses

QUESTION 1: What is the difference between a theory and a belief? You may want to look these terms up before answering. Be as specific as you can, and give an example of each.

From "H": A theory is an explanation of something well supported by tests and evidences.(ie. the Cell Theory) A belief does not necessarily have to be supported by anything other than one's faith in it. (ie. reincarnation or religious belief)

From "B"= A theory is a broad explaination that synthesizes many different once-unrelated facts and findings to explain natural processes or phenomena. Beliefs are a personally accepted truth even in the abscence of evidence and fact. These might be religious beliefs or beliefs about people.

QUESTION 2: What characteristic determines whether organisms belong to the same species? Why are, for instance, are Rottweilers, bulldogs, and poodles - phenotypically (ie physical appearance) very different - considered to be members of the same species - dogs? Why are all humans, despite our numerous phenotypic differences, considered to be one species?

From Debi = I think the characteristic is their proteins. Each species has different proteins and can distinguish them from other similiar species. The closer the relation between the two species, the more the proteins resemble each other. That is why all dogs and all humans, despite physical differences, are considered to be a part of their same species.

From Erika = A has to do with the common characteristics carried by each. Each Rottweiler, Bulldog, and Poodle have four legs, tail, covered in hair, they bark, and even have wet noses. These are some of the similar features looked for by species.

From Altman: Interbreeding is the main characteristic that determines species. If their offspring also interbreed then they are considered the same species. If their offspring does not breed, than it is a different species, as in the case of horses and donkeys. The general rule applies that if two organisms interbreed and have fertile offspring, than the two organisms are of the same species.

From Walker = To be considered a seperate species, the the organisms cannot interbreeed and produce offspring that can reproduce. Rottweilers, bulldogs, and poodles are considered the same species becasue they can interbreed, alibet producing a mutt, and the offspring can also reproduce. Humans, despite all differences can reproduce, reproduce, reproduce etc.

QUESTION 3: What does the term Survival of the Fittest mean? How does the environment influence the survival of an organism?

From Elizabeth = Survival of the Fittest means that only the strong survive. The weak will die out because they will not be tough enough to handle all obstacles that the environment can throw at them. When bad times occur such as a drought the stronger animals will be able to stay alive, and the weak will only get weaker and eventually die. An organism has to learn to adapt to the changing conditions in the environment or they will never survive.

From Sammy = "Survival of the Fittest" suggests that the best adapted living organism will survive the test of time. The environment is ever changing, resulting in constant readaption of organisms in order to survive.

From Charles = Survival of the fittest refers to the process in which individuals who are better adapted to live in a particular environment are more likely to pass on their genetics that those individuals who are less well adapted. Over a period of time the environment that an organism lives in may change and if it does to a great extent an organism may have to adapt to the new conditions or perhaps die. It is also possible for organisims to change habitats in response to a changing environment. Environmental changes may influence evolution.

From TJ = Survival of the fittest was a concept that was first documented by Charles Darwin. The basic idea behind the concept is that the organism that is most suited to a particular environment will have a better chance of survival in that environment, especially over a period of time. If an organism has traits or qualities which give it an advantage in its environment, there is a better chance that this organism will live to produce offspring which in turn will possess these same characteristics. Over thousands of years these traits become highly specialized to the organism's environment because time has declared them the "fittest" for living in that environment.

QUESTION 4: Totally Optional: (ie none of my business): but if you would like to answer this, I would like to hear your thoughts. I will not share these answers with the class. Do you feel that there is an 'either / or' choice between your religious beliefs and evolutionary theory - ie. that you must reject the idea of evolution because of your religious beliefs, or that you can't believe in God if you accept the evidence for evolution? Is it possible to have both a belief in God and an acceptance of the evidence supporting evolution?

We won't discuss these answers in class, but thank you all for your thoughtful comments and ideas. Thanks also for all the great book and movie recommendations!!!! A few comments:

Darwin was a religious man: Darwin (as well as many scientists) never doubted the existence of a divine Being responsible for things - he simply believed that God expressed himself through the operation of natural laws that could be studied and observed.

It has been said that Darwin renounced evolution and converted to Christianity on his deathbed. Shortly after his death, a Lady Hope claimed she visited Darwin on his deathbed, and witnessed the renunciation. Her story was printed in a Boston newspaper and subsequently spread. Lady Hope's story was refuted by Darwin's daughter Henrietta who stated, "I was present at his deathbed ... He never recanted any of his scientific views, either then or earlier."

Pope John Paul II declared in November 1996, "The evidence gathered in the past fifty years makes a significant argument in favor of this theory. The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument of this theory. The Church's Magisterium is directly concerned with the question of evolution, for it involves the conception of man: Revelation teaches us that he was created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gn. 1:27-29). With man, then, we find ourselves in the presence of an ontological difference, an ontological leap, one could say. The sciences of observation describe and measure the multiple manifestations of life with increasing precision and correlate them with the time line. The moment of transition to the spiritual cannot be the object of this kind of observation but falls within the competence of philosophical analysis and reflection, while theology brings out its ultimate meaning according to the Creator's plans."