Saturday, March 17, 2007

Evolution in print, under fire and misunderstood

Newsweek has a cover story on evolution this week.

I get a little leery when the media goes into evolution. It always feels like they miss the point. Though some studies have shown that the media is overwhelmingly positive about evolution, treating it as accepted fact.

Rosenhouse, at EvolutionBlog, has some good things to say about the article. So I do feel more optimistic and will have to pick it up tomorrow.

He does have some concerns though.

The science of human evolution is undergoing its own revolution. Although we tend to see the march of species down through time as a single-file parade, with descendant succeeding ancestor in a neat line, the emerging science shows that the story of our species is far more complicated than Biblical literalists would have it--but also more complex than secular science suspected. Eh?

Sadly, one of the tropes of science coverage in mainstream media outlets is that everything has to be presented as a revolution.

This is a pain. When you treat the advancing of science as revolution, it is a short step to the science deniers tools. Science is so unstable. It is getting radically rewritten constantly. It is all guess work. And so on, and so forth.

One prime example of this, Scott Adams.

For him, Fossils are Bullshit.

PZ Meyer looks at the Newsweek article and Adams thoughts, and gives analysis. He explains all that Adams seems to not understand of science and the progress in evolutionary research.

It's clear what Adams' problems are. The bullshit detector he takes such pride in could function as a random number generator; he's got this weird idea that revising interpretations on the basis of better evidence implies that entire disciplines of science are false; he imagines that his knowledge of biology is state-of-the-art; and at the same time, he's abysmally ignorant. It's a good thing that his profession requires him to act like a buffoon, because that combination of flaws guarantees that he's very, very good at it.

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