Take That, Charles Garner! Baylor University Teaches Evolution
Steven Schafersman, Ph.D.
Texas Citizens for Science
2009 February 3
As readers recall, well-known Creationist Professor Charles Garner of Baylor University's Chemistry and Biochemistry Department testified on January 21 to the Texas State Board of Education against evolution and in favor of including "weaknesses of evolution" in the science standards. He also was very critical of several standards in Earth and Space Sciences that dealt with the origins and evolution of ancient fossil organisms and the origin of life. I noted in my blogs and reports that the Baylor science faculty do not hold these opinions about evolution, but rather teach the mainstream scientific understanding of evolution. The following statements on the websites of three Baylor University science departments prove this.
The Chemistry and Biochemistry Department's statement is brand new: it was posted on 2009 January 30, no doubt in direct refutation of Dr. Garner's testimony to the Texas State Board of Education on January 21. The department's faculty probably never thought their department would need such a statement, but thanks to Charles Garner they do now, since his testimony no doubt deeply embarrassed them. The new statement is very similar to the statement that Lehigh University's Department of Biological Sciences had to post after one of their tenured professors, Michael Behe, notoriously supported Intelligent Design Creationism (I include this, too, below for reference). The Baylor chemistry statement does not mention "intelligent design" specifically, but does mention "alternative hypotheses or philosophically deduced theories," which of course refers to ID Creationism, which Prof. Garner is widely known to support.
The Biology Department's statement is older: 2008 October 6. The Geology Department's is even older: 2006 February 9. Unlike chemistry, these two sciences have had to deal with Creationism for a long time.
I commend the Baylor Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the other two Baylor science departments for their forthright defense of science and biological evolution. I have always told my colleagues in other states--such as when asked years ago when William Dembski's Intelligent Design Creationist "Polanyi Institute" at Baylor was publicized--that the Baylor science faculty accepted and taught mainstream science in their courses, including evolutionary science, and these statements prove this is the case.
Baylor University Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Statement on Evolution
The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Baylor University is committed to the highest standards of scientific inquiry in the search for objective truth about the natural universe. From the time of Francis Bacon, this search for truth has been through the scientific method, in which the veracity of a hypothesis is tested by experimentation.
Evolution, a foundational principle of modern biological sciences, is supported by overwhelming scientific evidence. It is fundamental to the understanding of modern biochemistry, and our faculty incorporate the principle of evolution throughout the biochemistry curriculum. We are a science department, and we do not teach alternative hypotheses or philosophically deduced theories that cannot be tested rigorously
Baylor University Department of Biology
Statement on Evolution
Evolution, a foundational principle of modern biology, is supported by overwhelming scientific evidence and is accepted by the vast majority of scientists. Because it is fundamental to the understanding of modern biology, the faculty in the Biology Department at Baylor University, Waco, TX, teach evolution throughout the biology curriculum. We are in accordance with the American Association for Advancement of Science's statement on evolution. We are a science department, so we do not teach alternative hypotheses or philosophically deduced theories that cannot be tested rigorously
Baylor University Department of Geology
Does the fossil record support the idea of biological change over time (biological evolution)?
Yes. The fossil record clearly indicates
- a progression in complexity of organisms from very simple fossil forms in the oldest rocks (>3.5 billion years old) to a broad spectrum from simple to complex forms in younger rocks,
- that some organisms that were once common are now extinct, and
- that the living organisms inhabiting our world today are similar (but generally not the same) as organisms represented as fossils in young sedimentary deposits, which in turn have evolutionary ancestors represented as fossils in yet older rocks.
Mammals, for example, are prevalent today and can be traced back in the fossil record for approximately 200 million years, but are not present as mammals in the fossil record before that; however, fossil forms that have reasonably been interpreted to be associated with the evolutionary precursors to mammals are found in older rocks.
Whether biological evolution occurs has not been a matter of scientific debate for more than a century. It is considered a proven fact. The specific mechanisms of biological change over time continue to be a topic of active research, and include mechanisms proposed by Charles Darwin as well as more recently developed ideas based on our growing knowledge of genetics and molecular biology. Using the methods of modern science, our knowledge of the fundamental mechanisms of life has grown enormously since the initial characterization of the role of DNA in reproduction, inheritance and evolution in the mid-1950s.
The American Geological Institute and The Paleontological Society, partnering with the most respected geoscience societies in America including the Geological Society of America, the American Geophysical Union, and the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (among others), have produced a booklet on evolution and the fossil record that can be downloaded as a PDF file. This booklet was written for the general public by people who have worked with the fossil record throughout their careers, and was thoroughly reviewed by other professional geologists and paleontologists.
DOWNLOAD the 1 MB PDF file Evolution and the Fossil Record by Pojeta and Springer. http://www.agiweb.org/news/evolution.pdf
Lehigh University Department of Biological Sciences
Department Position on Evolution and "Intelligent Design"
The faculty in the Department of Biological Sciences is committed to the highest standards of scientific integrity and academic function. This commitment carries with it unwavering support for academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas. It also demands the utmost respect for the scientific method, integrity in the conduct of research, and recognition that the validity of any scientific model comes only as a result of rational hypothesis testing, sound experimentation, and findings that can be replicated by others.
The department faculty, then, are unequivocal in their support of evolutionary theory, which has its roots in the seminal work of Charles Darwin and has been supported by findings accumulated over 140 years. The sole dissenter from this position, Prof. Michael Behe, is a well-known proponent of "intelligent design." While we respect Prof. Behe's right to express his views, they are his alone and are in no way endorsed by the department. It is our collective position that intelligent design has no basis in science, has not been tested experimentally, and should not be regarded as scientific.
Texas Citizens for Science Last updated: 2009 April 2