Monday, September 8, 2008

Defend and extend the theory of evolution!

I have finally finished the book! Over the weekend I spent an exhausting 16 hours or so compiling the index (a very tedious but important task), which marks the final act of creation of The Rough Guide to Evolution. And so, my thirteen months and ten days hard labour which began in August 2007 are now over!

What was going to be the finale was cut by the editor on the grounds that it was too polemical and assumed that the reader wanted to be an evolution activist rather than simply learn more about the subject. In my defence, I should state that the section was modelled on a similar much longer section at the end of The Rough Guide to Climate Change!

In fact, it is interesting to compare and contrast evolution and climate change as hot topics. In both cases, a scientific consensus is challenged by people who find the truth inconvenient to their political, economic or religious outlook and in both cases critics attempt to use a lawyerly argument of establishing what the non-expert might see as reasonable doubt without providing any well-argued, well-informed alternative. And curiously, in both cases, the USA stands alone among the industrialised countries in the degree to which this has become a politically charged topic. I wonder if anyone has performed a scholarly analysis of the parallels between the two issues?

Anyhow, here is the "getting involved" section, with links added. What do you think of my suggestions? 

As for getting involved, there is lots you can do: 
Join academic societies with an evolutionary theme—for example, the Linnean Society (, which hosted the first announcement of the Darwin-Wallace papers. Join the campaign to have Darwin’s birthplace placed in public hands ( 
If you are applying to university, find out how much evolution is taught on each course and chose the university that does it best. If you do research in biology, start asking, not just how the system you are studying works, but how it evolved?

Join and support the National Centre for Science Education (NCSE: or its equivalent in your own country (and if there is no equivalent, set one up!) 
Monitor criticism of evolution in the media—challenge it and/or report it to the NCSE. Ensure your local schools, libraries and bookshops are well supplied with educational material on evolution (donate some yourself if necessary). If you want to be more subversive, go to your local bookstore and move any books on creationism or intelligent design from the shelves for science books to the religion or science fiction sections (see this post and blog). 
Educators, make sure that evolution is an integral part of your school and university courses. 
Parents, ask your children what they have been taught on the subject. 
Stimulate interest in your local community by organising Darwin Day or Darwin Weekend events. 
When interviewing candidates for teaching jobs, ask them about evolution. Personnel departments and educationalists, formulate a policy on what to do with the creationist candidate for a student place or staff position in life or earth sciences—should creationism be taken as a sign of a lack of critical thinking skills or is discrimination against creationists disallowed under freedom of religion laws, e.g. the UK’s Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003? If need be, think about provoking a test case. 
Write to your elected representatives at all levels of government (particularly school board members in the US). Challenge them to justify their views on evolution and the teaching thereof in publicly funded schools and vote against any creationists. 
Defend, and extend, the theory of evolution!


Adrian Thysse, FCD. said...

Congratulations on the completion of your book, I will be looking out for it.

Good suggestions! I would also include - Start an Evolution blog.The more searches that end up at pro-evolution sites the better.

Karen James said...

Congratulations, Mark. Can't wait to see the finished product.

A bit of shameless self promotion: why not include a note about supporting The HMS Beagle Project which promises not only to make arguments for evolution but to "bring the adventure of science to life" by building a sailing replica of the Beagle for science, education and outreach.