Letters to the Editor

‘Darwin or Design’ left much to be desired

Re: “Design Dilemma,” by Jacob Tillman, Oct. 2.

Most science-fiction movies are all fiction and no real science; just a lot of technical-sounding mumbo-jumbo that functions like a used-car sales pitch to sell the story to laypeople. For those familiar with real science, the better sci-fi stories can still be entertaining and the bad ones at least good for a cheap laugh. This last category is where last Friday’s event at the Sun Dome fits in.

“Darwin or Design: Resolving the Conflict” resolved and accomplished nothing more than to sell religious intelligent design stories – and don’t forget books and DVDs – to those already inclined to believe them. (The front-page story in Friday’s Oracle was much the same).

The first of the two main speakers, Dr. Jonathan Wells, indeed holds a doctoral degree in biology. Too bad his entire education and career have been funded by Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church (better known as “The Moonie Cult”) for the sole purpose of denying evolution. Proudly boastful of his mission when confronted, Wells conveniently fails to mention it in his books and speeches. He gives many examples, each based on real evidence actually supporting evolution. But he shrewdly presents them grossly out of context and/or twisted through some very warped reasoning as he attempts – and fails – to make them say the opposite.

Case in point: Like many creationists, he (grudgingly) accepts the numerous clear cases of microevolution – small changes within an existing species over time. Yet, he obdurately denies that when enough microevolution adds up, the result will be macroevolution, the origin of new species. Using the example of beak size in Darwin’s finches on the Galápagos Islands, he claims that because the direction of change fluctuates (in response to changes in weather and the types of seeds available) and because no new species have arisen (within the few years of the study), macroevolution is therefore bunk. In reality, Darwin’s finches diversified into many species over a long period of time and long ago in response to the prevailing conditions on their different islands due to consistent selection pressure. Fluctuations in form due to fluctuating pressures are exactly what evolutionary theory predicts. The same is true of bacteria that lose resistance to antibiotics when no longer routinely exposed to them.

As for Wells’ gloating over no new species appearing overnight, it’s like saying that because I’ve never won the lottery, there’s no point in putting money in the bank. His other “examples” are likewise mere cynical, slight-of-hand.

The other main speaker, Michael Behe, merely dresses up the tired old line that says many biological structures are “irreducibly complex,” and couldn’t possibly work in simpler forms – a claim that ignores basic comparative anatomy. The history of vertebrate, jaws and ears, for example, shows the gradual emergence of magnificent complexity and diversity through elaboration and rearrangement of parts that originally served other functions.

“Irreducible complexity” also ignores medical common sense. My vision is terrible, but it’s still a whole lot better than no eyes at all. It’s like the joke about the two guys being chased by a lion. One guy says to the other, “This is crazy! We can’t outrun this lion!” The other replies, “I don’t have to outrun the lion. I just have to outrun you.”

In effect, Behe is saying that because people don’t know how certain features evolved and may never know with some of them, they should just give up looking and decide it was magic. God did it. Good enough. For Behe, ignorance is both bliss and strength.

A great many things that used to be chalked up to supernatural mischief, from hurricanes to diseases to the motions of the planets, have since turned out to be understandable physical processes. Every bit of credible evidence, when viewed without the funhouse mirror of sci-fi theology, shows that life is no different.

Life unwittingly designs itself through its own triumphs and failures. Complexity is not preconceived in ethereal blueprints, but it’s built at the level where it counts, within living flesh and blood and bone, its beauty and nobility therefore all the deeper.

Roy Vaughn is a doctoral student in biology.

Band should get new uniforms on its own

Re: “Stale uniforms leave bad taste,” by Victoria Bekiempis, Oct. 3.

I have spent eight years of my life in marching bands, four of those with the Herd of Thunder wearing outdated uniforms. Yes, it was embarrassing to wear the old USF logo on your chest and the new one on your cap. In the past few years, the band always said, “Next year we’ll have the new uniforms.” But when next year rolled around, something always happened.

Trust me, I know that new uniforms cost thousands of dollars. Instead of constantly waiting for a handout that never comes, perhaps the band could look into raising some of the money. While whining about the situation makes others aware, it doesn’t get the uniforms. If the members are so excited about getting new uniforms, maybe they could have fundraisers and events to raise money for the cause. I’m sure a little bit of effort on the part of the members would be well worth the payoff of new uniforms.

Just think of those super cool, up-to-date uniforms and get motivated!

Rebecca Meyer is a graduate student in library information sciences