The science of evolution

The science of evolution

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Faculty members respond to recent Campus Voices article
stylized DNA strand©istockphoto.com/teekid

Campus Voices is a place for faculty, staff, and students to share ideas, views, and information about issues that matter to them personally and professionally. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the University of Iowa. View more Campus Voices here.

Iowa Now, "the central voice of the university" that aims to “enhance the university’s reputation,” has published an opinion piece—initially not labeled as opinion—asserting, among other things, that there are “holes in the theory of evolution that are big enough to drive a semi-truck through.”

We acknowledge the right of any member of the university community to voice their opinions, no matter how ill-informed. But as scientists and members of the UI community we feel a deep obligation to respond. Today the overwhelming majority of scientists in Iowa, the United States, and across the world agree that biological evolution explains the diversity of life on our planet.

Scientists use the term “theory” in a profoundly different way than lay people, who often use it synonymously with “dubious.” For us, theories are not hunches or wild guesses, but collections of statements about the world that make sense of natural observations and experimental findings.

In that regard, it's important to remember that the fact that germs cause disease is still called the germ theory, and the fact that the Earth revolves around the Sun is still called the heliocentric theory. No reasonable person today disputes the underlying facts in those two theories.

Such has been the process with evolutionary theory, too, as new observations and experiments accumulate to provide consistent and overwhelming support for the fact that life on Earth has evolved. Evolutionary scientists certainly continue to refine our understanding of evolutionary processes, but we no longer debate the central principles of evolutionary theory as a scientific framework for understanding Earth's diversity.

Iowa Now, by publishing a piece that suggests otherwise, has done a disservice to the university.

Mark Blumberg (Psychology, Biology)
Russell Ciochon (Anthropology)
Josep Comeron (Biology)
Robert Cornell (Anatomy & Cell Biology)
David Depew (Communication Studies, Emeritus)
Albert Erives (Biology)
John Fingert (Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences, Anatomy & Cell Biology)
Robert Franciscus (Anthropology)
Bernd Fritzsch (Biology)
Steven Green (Biology)
Gary Gussin (Biology, Emeritus)
Stephen Hendrix (Biology)
Philip Kaaret (Physics & Astronomy)
Alan Kay (Biology)
Andrew Kitchen (Anthropology)
Cornelia Lang (Physics & Astronomy)
Ana Llopart (Biology)
John Logsdon (Biology)
Robert Malone (Biology)
John Manak (Biology, Pediatrics)
Linda Maxson (Biology)
Bryant McAllister (Biology)
Maurine Neiman (Biology)
Veena Prahlad (Biology)
Vincent Rodgers (Physics & Astronomy)

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