Perhaps it was only a matter of time before one of the biggest distractions in American politics and education, evolution, arrived in Maine.

A member of a Somerset County school district last month urged his fellow members to drop evolution from the high school science curriculum.

“You can’t show, observe or prove (evolution), said Matthew Linkletter of Athens, a member of SAD 59. His minister, Roy Blevins of Church of the Open Bible in Athens, backs him up: “The evolution concept is a theory and not provable.”

On the contrary. Biological evolution is a proven, observable fact. It is also a “theory,” but in a different way than you may think.

Let us explain.

First, the fact part. Recall the “super bugs,” the drug-resistant bacteria which pop up in the news from time to time?

They are simply harmful organisms that have adapted to commonly used antibiotics.

Similarly, farmers know that crop pests are constantly evolving, and that pesticide formulas that once worked so well eventually do not.

The most common life form on this planet is microscope bacteria. Because of their short life cycles, scientists can watch them develop and evolve from one generation to the next. The same goes for fruit flies.

How does this happen?

Organisms, from human beings to plankton, unless they are clones, are not exact genetic replicas of one another. The millions of pieces of data contained in our genetic codes develop aberrations. Some of these may hurt an organism, like a birth defect. Others have no impact on the individual. But, sometimes, they are beneficial and help that organism or species survive.

For years, a pesticide may work. Then, one moth or grub develops a genetic “flaw” that makes it resistant to that pesticide. It passes that genetic change on to its offspring. They do the same. Soon, doctors, pharmacists and farmers are scratching their heads because the antibiotics or pesticides they once used no longer work.

All organism change, therefore they all “evolve.” When you stretch this out over hundreds of thousands of years big changes are possible. The first hominids (human-like primates) did not appear until 3.6 million years ago. We’ve had a long, long time to become the people we are today.

Unfortunately, evolution is also called a “theory.” In scientific circles, that has a different meaning than it does to the rest of us.

A fact, evolution, can be observed, tested and proven.

Theories, to science, are frameworks that attempt to explain all the facts. Gravity is a fact – things fall. The explanation of how gravity works, the physics of it all, is theory.

In science, a theory is the best explanation that has not been proven false.

Perhaps paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould said it best: “Facts are the world’s data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts.”

There is an incredibly high degree of confidence among biologists and scientists in the “theory of evolution.” The acceptance of the basic outline is, at least in scientific circles, as close to universal as an idea can be.

It is the keystone to understanding biological science. Removing it from a high school biology class would be folly.

Apparently, that’s not going to happen anytime soon in SAD 59. District Superintendent Michael Gallagher said Tuesday that the evolution discussion has been tabled for now.

Good idea, particularly if it gives board members time to think this one through.


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