Category Archives: Documentaries

Retro Report’s Evolution under Creationism Attack

The New York Times’ Retro Report released a mini documentary concerning the growing skepticism of evolution in the science classroom, chiefly stemming from creationist organizations.

The viewer is exposed to first-hand accounts through two former high schoolers, particularly Zack Kopplin, who garnered  the support of 78 Nobel laureate scientists in his campaign against the Louisiana Science Education Act. 

Retro Report’s doc briefly notes that skepticism against evolution has been a problem throughout early American history. At one point, it was even “illegal” to teach evolution in many state schools. The mini-doc highlights the infamous Scopes Trial, in which it took less than ten minutes for a Tennessee jury to convict a teacher for teaching evolution. In 1968, the Supreme Court knocked down these laws, arguing it violated the separation of church and state.

We often hear something like, “96% of the world’s scientists believe in evolution,” but we’re rarely exposed to the inner thoughts of the 4% creationists-scientists. What is interesting about this mini-doc is that we come face-to-face with a creation-scientist who shares their thoughts about evolution.

Dr. Georgia Purdom Ph.D, is a molecular biologist and biblical creationist.  Purdom seems to be brilliant; her work include understanding bone remodeling, and cell/molecular biology.  She also works at the controversial Creation Museum, where she often host talks on The Genetics of Adam and Eve.

Purdom notes:

I am a scientist and I have looked at the science and I see that it confirms god’s words. But I would also then like to teach evolution, what the evolutionists believe, and then the problems with that. Because there can only be one truth, they both cannot be true.

Purdom follows with the perceived problems of evolution:

I mean, if we are teaching our kids they’re nothing more than the result of undirected random processes over time, that they evolved from some sort of ape-like creature, that they are an animal, how do you expect them to act?”

I nearly fell out of my chair when I heard these anti-evolution rationale.

Dr. Purdom is but one among many authoritative creationists who influence local teaching policies. Some creationists are becoming creative in their agenda. One such creation-based organization is the Discovery Institute. They are using carefully crafted language to circumvent the Constitution’s separation of church and state.

But Dr. Kenneth Miller, who is also a molecular biologist but anti-creationism, opposes such language. Miller, author of Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul,  argues that this sly language used in state legislatures are designed to sneak anti-scientific ideas into classroom, which becomes “weapons of disbelief” that eventually disseminate into other areas like climate science, fertility, and stem cell research – ultimately harming us all.

My thought is that science concerns itself with the observable. Creationism and science are two very different components. Creationism has no place in public classrooms disguised under sciency language. Given that there are more churches than public schools in America, churches are the optimal places for teaching creationism, not public schools. I often wonder, how would churches feel if science fights for legislation to force science teaching in churches?

Evolution of the Eyes

Millions of years ago, the first eyes calmly yawned at the sun’s light that massaged the earth. These primitive eyes did very little but detect light that helped organisms to establish day/night cycles and allowed them to coordinate behavior. Throughout time, eyes became more complex as organisms evolved more complex bodies and behaviors. This led to a gradual series of fine-tuned focusing muscles, better optics, and morphological changes that provide a survival advantage to animals in detecting prey – or predator.

Below are some resources and videos regarding the evolution of the eyes.

This video, “Eyes,” is part of the “Evolve” History Channel 11-part series that looks at the evolutionary origins of a particular trait. “Eyes” is the evolutionary story of how the eye was molded into the exquisite complicated organ we see today.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wXMxWX6sTo

 

Here’s a TED-Ed animated story on “The Evolution of the Human Eye” by Joshua Harvey.

 

“To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I confess, absurd in the highest degree…The difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection , though insuperable by our imagination, should not be considered subversive of the theory.” –Charles Darwin

 

This is a one hour academic lecture “The Evolution of Vision” lectured by Dr. William Ayliffe at Gresham College in 2012.  Although not cinematically crafted as other videos, this dense in-depth lecture has interesting bits ranging from Darwin’s personal diary notes to modern genetic research on eyes. Powerpoints, transcripts, and links to other videos in Dr. Ayliffe’s series (Vision and the Artist, The Aging Eye, The Window on the Soul, Animal Eyes, etc.) can be found here.

 

A young Richard Dawkins brilliantly demonstrates the evolution of the eye in this 14 min video. This was part of the 1991 Christmas Lectures.

 

Fast forward in time, a late Richard Dawkins explains the evolution of the eye in this 2010 video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mb9_x1wgm7E

 

This is a video excerpt from a 2002 series “Evolution” concerning the evolution of the eye. It is narrated by Liam Neeson. Yes, he will find you and he will eye you.

 

A Ted-X talk by the author of “Evolution’s Witness: How Eyes Evolved.”

 

This is a short video from BBC’s Course Clips.

 

Evolution of the Eye, an infographic created by Voltier Creative via Zmescience.

Further reading:

  • http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/selection/eye/
  • http://www.nyas.org/publications/detail.aspx?cid=93b487b2-153a-4630-9fb2-5679a061fff7
  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3143066/
  • http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/eyes_01
  • http://www.scientificamerican.com/slideshow/lamb-evolutions-eyes-slide-show/
  • http://physics.okstate.edu/axie/courses/4313/2012fall/C7_B2_reading-evolution-of-eye-2011.pdf
  • http://www.d.umn.edu/~olse0176/Evolution/mammals.html
  • http://www.nick-lane.net/Darwin%20and%20the%20Eye.pdf
  • http://www.evodevojournal.com/content/4/1/26
  • http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/364/1531/2833