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Special Reports on  " Biology"

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Special Report

The Debate Over Origins: Creationism or Evolution?

Ever since the publication of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species in 1859, the theory of evolution has provoked widespread and often bitter controversy. Today this controversy continues, breaking into public consciousness especially in local school districts, wehre opposing creationist and evolution partisans square off over what should and should not be taught.
Illustration by Marcia Klioze Hughes/The World & I 

Ever since the publication of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species in 1859, the theory of evolution has provoked widespread and often bitter ...

Evolution: Fact and Theory
Geospiza fortis is one of the fourteen finch species living on the Galapagos Islands. It feeds on the seeds of the plant Tribulus cistoides. G. fortis specializes in the smaller seeds of this plant. Another finch, G. magnirostris, has a larger beak and specializes on the larger seeds. The health of these bird populations depends on seed production in this plant. Seed production depends on arrival of the wet season. In 1977, rainfall was below normal and plants produced fewer seeds. The G. fortis population quickly depleted the supply of small seeds, leaving only larger ones. Most of the finches starved. The number of finches dropped from about twelve hundred to less than two hundred. Peter Grant noted that more larger than smaller birds survived. These birds left offspring with correspondingly large beaks. As a result, the average beak size of G. fortis offspring was 4 percent larger the year after the drought. This type of change in a population is called evolution, or microevolution. ...

Issues in the Creation-Evolution Controversies
Darwin's theory of evolution has produced more widespread and bitter controversy than any other theory in the history of Western science. Except for the infamous condemnation of Galileo by the medieval Catholic Church, there wasn't much fuss over Copernicus' heliocentric theory of the solar system. Relatively little controversy greeted Harvey's theory of the circulation of the blood, Newton's theory of gravitation, Mendel's theory of biological inheritance, or Einstein's theory of relativity. Only Darwin's theory has provoked radical and enduring differences of opinion among large numbers of people. Even now, almost a century and a half after it was proposed, it continues to be the focus of heated scientific disagreements, bitterly contested court cases, and politically charged school board debates. ...

Why Believe in a Creator?: Perspectives on Evolution
Ever since Charles Darwin published Origin of Species, the theory of evolution has been a battleground for competing scientific claims and religious ideologies. Evolution is not the first scientific theory to suffer this fate. Over a century earlier, Isaac Newton's laws of mechanics flowered into a metaphysics of clockwork determinism. Darwin's scientific theory has been coopted to serve a variety of philosophical masters: social Darwinism, eugenics, moral relativism, a metaphysics of chance, and, perhaps most important, the claim that there is no longer any reason to believe in a Creator. ...

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