Teaching Evolution in America

An abstract letter to the masses I wrote in 2009.  Originally written as a satire, I can see some truths in it amid the hyperbole that are perhaps important to express.

“To the Beings-in-the-World,

My spirit and mind are uplifted.

I feel as if what I am researching matters and will be very useful. The evolution of language (“Quantifying the evolutionary dynamics of language”, Nature (2007) 449, 713) and social structures (“Strategy selection in structured populations”, J Theor. Biol. (2009), 259, 570) are two areas that people can easily relate to. Not only that, teaching evolution to people in light of social situations and language will help people better understand the fundamental principles of the theory. I would like to teach everyone about evolution (“The Origin of Species”, C. Darwin).

These actions will help humanity.

We will make better choices for our environment and common global society in
light of evolutionary knowledge. A striking statistic is that approximately 50% of Americans do not believe in evolution. As a professional scientist and future educator, this is very depressing. Here are the figures. My perception is different from many modern scientists and science writers. I feel the ignorance quantified above is the failure of scientists, the scientific enterprise, and educational institutions and not the general public. With relevance to the affluent American educated elite, the vast majority of the popular science literature supporting evolution is adverse to religion as exemplified by “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins. As long as this stance is maintained the figures above will not change. The structure of language employed in such works is barren and lifeless, better silence.

The prospects for lower [sic] social classes (“Das Kapital”, K. Marx) are bleaker, and therefore will remain unmentioned.

However, there is Hope.

Teaching people the theory of Evolution in new, gentle ways may help.

Linguist Noam Chomsky made the argument that the human brain contains a limited set of rules for organizing language. In turn, there is an assumption that all languages have a common structural basis. This set of rules is known as universal grammar (“Aspects of the Theory of Syntax”, N. Chomsky). More recently, most linguists claim that the acquisition of language is done by specific neuronal circuitry within the brain and not by the general purpose problem-solving ability of the Mind (“The Language Instinct”, S. Pinker).

Perhaps the structure of language itself may contribute to whether a scientific idea is widely accepted or rejected by the lay person?

How does a teacher instruct students in evolutionary theory without violently undermining previously held belief structures?

In future dialog I will argue that teaching Hegel’s method of sublation is key (“Hegel”, Charles Taylor), but first some preliminaries.

Scientists must embrace, or at the very least respect, the language of all religious systems. Conversely, religious systems must adapt to the modern scientific worldview. Religious language is the result of evolutionary dynamics (“Evolutionary Dynamics: Exploring the Equations of Life”, M.A. Nowak) within human verbal behavior (“Verbal Behavior”, B.F. Skinner). On a more positive note, some of the leading minds in evolutionary science today possess both scientific and religious states of Mind (Geist). For example, Martin Nowak of Harvard. He is leading the development of a new school of evolutionary science that seeks to make evolution look less like a phenomenological theory (“Logical Investigations”, E. Husserl) and more like a mathematically rigorous set of laws (“Principia”, I. Newton). The new framework will not replace phenomenology, it will complement it. The deep beauty in the equations is that anyone can “play” with the results visually (“Laws of Seeing”, W. Metzger). For example, here. I hope this website gives you some more insight into the ideas of evolution. It is the tip of the iceberg of the positive changes that are to come.

The Human Mind is the brain. The brain is the product of Evolution (“What is Life? with Mind and Matter”, E. Schrodinger). The most recent major transition in evolution was the emergence of language in all species (“The Major Transitions in Evolution”, J. Maynard-Smith). As stated by Baum in his book entitled “What is Thought?” semantics is thought: “Semantics is equivalent to capturing and exploiting the compact structure of the world, and thought is all about semantics.” A mathematical Law of Evolution may prove predictive.

As beings-with-Free-Will and Care (Sorge) (“Being and Time”, M. Heidegger), I hope we learn more.

“The chess-board is the world;
the pieces are the phenomena of the universe;
the rules of the game are what we call the laws of Nature.
The player on the other side is hidden from us.
We know that his play is always fair, just, and patient.
But also we know, to our cost, that he never overlooks a mistake,
or makes the smallest allowance for ignorance.”

T. H. Huxley 1825–1895,
Lay Sermons: A Liberal Education.”

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About kayaerbil

I am a Berkeley educated chemistry Ph.D. who is moving into the area of working on developing appropriate technology for communities that are subjected to socio-economic oppression. The goal is to use simple and effective designs to empower people to live better lives. Currently, I am working with Native Americans on Pine Ridge, the Lakota reservation in South Dakota. I am working with a Native owned and run solar energy company. We are currently working on building a compressed earth block (CEB) house that showcases many of the technologies that the company has developed. The CEB house is made of locally derived resources, earth from the reservation. The blocks are naturally thermally insulating, keeping the house cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Eventually, a solar air heater and photovoltaic panels will be installed into the house to power the home and keep it warm, while preserving the house off the grid. A side project while in Pine Ridge is a solar computer. I hope to learn about blockchain encryption software for building microgrids. In addition, it is an immediate interest of mine to involve local youth in technology education.
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