41 research outputs found

    Introduction: Protistan Biology, Horizontal Gene Transfer, and Common Descent Uncover Faulty Logic in Intelligent Design

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    THE International Society of Protistologists (ISOP) organized a pre-meeting workshop entitled ‘‘Horizontal Gene Transfer and Phylogenetic Evolution Debunk Intelligent Design,’’ as part of the 1st North American Section meeting held June 11–13, 2009, at Roger Williams University, Bristol, RI, USA. This workshop focused on the acceptance of Darwinian evolution in the United States and the role of intelligent design (ID) in the ongoing controversy between scientific knowledge and popular belief. Intelligent design, a doctrine born in the 1980s, proposes that a ‘‘Designer’’ is responsible for the complexity in biological systems and that Darwinism cannot explain holistically the origin and evolution of the natural world, nor the intricate chemical assemblage of most organic structures (Forrest and Gross 2007; Padian and Matzke 2009). The workshop emphasized how to communicate evolutionary principles to student and public audiences by using examples of protistan evolution

    Acceptance of Evolution Increases with Student Academic Level: A Comparison Between a Secular and a Religious College

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    Acceptance of evolution among the general public, high schools, teachers, and scientists has been documented in the USA; little is known about college students’ views on evolution; this population is relevant since it transits from a high-school/parent-protective environment to an independent role in societal decisions. Here we compare perspectives about evolution, creationism, and intelligent design (ID) between a secular (S) and a religious (R) college in the Northeastern USA. Interinstitutional comparisons showed that 64% (mean S + R) biology majors vs. 42/62% (S/R) nonmajors supported the exclusive teaching of evolution in science classes; 24/29% (S/R) biology majors vs. 26/38% (S/R) nonmajors perceived ID as both alternative to evolution and/or scientific theory about the origin of life; 76% (mean S + R) biology majors and nonmajors accepted evolutionary explanations about the origin of life; 86% (mean S + R) biology majors vs. 79% (mean S + R) nonmajors preferred science courses where human evolution is discussed; 76% (mean S+R) biology majors vs. 79% (mean S + R) nonmajors welcomed questions about evolution in exams and/or thought that such questions should always be in exams; and 66% (mean S + R) biology majors vs. 46% (mean S + R) nonmajors admitted they accept evolution openly and/or privately. Intrainstitutional comparisons showed that overall acceptance of evolution among biologists (S or R) increased gradually from the freshman to the senior year, due to exposure to upper-division courses with evolutionary content. College curricular/pedagogical reform should fortify evolution literacy at all education levels, particularly among nonbiologists

    Assessment of Biology Majors’ Versus Nonmajors’ Views on Evolution, Creationism, and Intelligent Design

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    The controversy around evolution, creationism, and intelligent design resides in a historical struggle between scientific knowledge and popular belief. Four hundred seventy-six students (biology majors n=237, nonmajors n=239) at a secular liberal arts private university in Northeastern United States responded to a five-question survey to assess their views about: (1) evolution, creationism, and intelligent design in the science class; (2) students’ attitudes toward evolution; (3) students’ position about the teaching of human evolution; (4) evolution in science exams; and (5) students’ willingness to discuss evolution openly. There were 60.6% of biology majors and 42% of nonmajors supported the exclusive teaching of evolution in the science class, while 45.3% of nonmajors and 32% of majors were willing to learn equally about evolution, creationism, and intelligent design (question 1); 70.5% of biology majors and 55.6% of nonmajors valued the factual explanations evolution provides about the origin of life and its place in the universe (question 2); 78% of the combined responders (majors plus nonmajors) preferred science courses where evolution is discussed comprehensively and humans are part of it (question 3); 69% of the combined responders (majors plus nonmajors) had no problem answering questions concerning evolution in science exams (question 4); 48.1% of biology majors and 26.8% of nonmajors accepted evolution and expressed it openly, but 18.2% of the former and 14.2% of the latter accepted evolution privately; 46% of nonmajors and 29.1% of biology majors were reluctant to comment on this topic (question 5). Combined open plus private acceptance of evolution within biology majors increased with seniority, from freshman (60.7%) to seniors (81%), presumably due to gradual exposure to upper-division biology courses with evolutionary content. College curricular/pedagogical reform should fortify evolution literacy at all education levels, particularly among nonbiologists

    Attitudes toward Evolution at New England Colleges and Universities, United States

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    Paz-y-Miño-C G & Espinosa A. 2013. Attitudes toward Evolution at New England Colleges and Universities, United States. New England Science Public: Series Evolution 1(1): 1-32 (ISSN: 2326-0971). We compile the most significant results of our conceptual and quantitative studies on the patterns of acceptance of evolution at New England colleges and universities, conducted between 2009 and 2012. We examine the views of New England Faculty and Educators of Prospective Teachers (higher-education faculty themselves, specialized in training future teachers) from 35 colleges and universities, as well as a representative sample of College Students from a Public, Private and two Religious institutions who were polled in three areas: the controversy over evolution versus creationism versus Intelligent Design; their understanding of how science and the evolutionary process work; and their personal convictions concerning the evolution and/or creation of humans in the context of their religiosity. We conclude that the controversy over science/evolution and creationism is inherent to the incompatibility between scientific rationalism/empiricism and the belief in supernatural causation, and that long-term harmonious coexistence between science/evolution and creationism –and all its forms— is illusory. Societies will struggle indefinitely with this incompatibility, therefore the interaction between science/evolution and religiosity is destined to fluctuate historically between intense and moderate antagonism

    Educators of Prospective Teachers Hesitate to Embrace Evolution due to Deficient Understanding of Science/Evolution and High Religiosity

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    Acceptance of evolution by educators of prospective teachers remains superficially studied despite their role in having mentored schoolteachers whose weak support of evolution is known. Here, we contrast the views of New England educators of prospective teachers (n = 62; 87% Ph.D./doctorate holders in 32 specializations) with those of the general faculty (n = 244; 93% Ph.D./doctorate holders in 40 disciplines), both members of 35 colleges and universities, and with college students (n = 827; subsample of the 35 institutions) who were polled on: (1) the controversy evolution vs. creationism vs. intelligent design (ID), (2) their understanding of how science/evolution works, and (3) their religiosity. The educators held intermediate positions in respect to the general faculty and the students: 94% of the general faculty, 75% of the educators, and 63% of the students said they accepted evolution openly; and 82% of the general faculty, 71% of the educators, and 58% of the students thought that evolution is definitely true. Only 3% of the general faculty in comparison to 19% of the educators and 24% of the students thought that evolution and creationism are in harmony. Although 93% of the general faculty, educators, and students knew that evolution relies on common ancestry, 26% of the general faculty, 45% of the educators, and 35% of the students did not know that humans are apes. Remarkably, 15% of the general faculty, 32% of the educators, and 35% of the students believed, incorrectly, that the origin of the human mind cannot be explained by evolution; and 30% of the general faculty, 59% of the educators, and 75% of the students were Lamarckian (=believed in inheritance of acquired traits). For science education: 96% of the general faculty, 86% of the educators, and 71% of the students supported the exclusive teaching of evolution, while 4% of the general faculty, 14% of the educators, and 29% of the students favored equal time to evolution, creationism and ID; note that 92% of the general faculty, 82% of the educators, and 50% of the students perceived ID as either not scientific and proposed to counter evolution based on false claims or as religious doctrine consistent with creationism. The general faculty was the most knowledgeable about science/evolution and the least religious (science index, SI = 2.49; evolution index, EI = 2.49; and religiosity index, RI = 0.49); the educators reached lower science/evolution but higher religiosity indexes than the general faculty (SI = 1.96, EI = 1.96, and RI = 0.83); and the students were the least knowledgeable about science/evolution and the most religious (SI = 1.80, EI = 1.60, and RI = 0.89). Understanding of science and evolution were inversely correlated with level of religiosity, and understanding of evolution increased with increasing science literacy. Interestingly, ≈36% of the general faculty, educators and students considered religion to be very important in their lives, and 17% of the general faculty, 34% of the educators, and 28% of the students said they prayed daily. Assessing the perception of evolution by educators of prospective teachers vs. the general faculty and the students of New England, one of the historically most progressive regions in the U.S., is crucial for determining the magnitude of the impact of creationism and ID on attitudes toward science, reason, and education in science

    Integrating Horizontal Gene Transfer and Common Descent to Depict Evolution and Contrast It with ‘‘Common Design

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    Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) and common descent interact in space and time. Because events of HGT co-occur with phylogenetic evolution, it is difficult to depict evolutionary patterns graphically. Tree-like representations of life’s diversification are useful, but they ignore the significance of HGT in evolutionary history, particularly of unicellular organisms, ancestors of multicellular life. Here we integrate the reticulated-tree model, ring of life, symbiogenesis whole-organism model, and eliminative pattern pluralism to represent evolution. Using Entamoeba histolytica alcohol dehydrogenase 2 (EhADH2), a bifunctional enzyme in the glycolytic pathway of amoeba, we illustrate how EhADH2 could be the product of both horizontally acquired features from ancestral prokaryotes (i.e. aldehyde dehydrogenase [ALDH] and alcohol dehydrogenase [ADH]), and subsequent functional integration of these enzymes into EhADH2, which is now inherited by amoeba via common descent. Natural selection has driven the evolution of EhADH2 active sites, which require specific amino acids (cysteine 252 in the ALDH domain; histidine 754 in the ADH domain), iron- and NAD1 as cofactors, and the substrates acetyl-CoA for ALDH and acetaldehyde for ADH. Alternative views invoking ‘‘common design’’ (i.e. the non-naturalistic emergence of major taxa independent from ancestry) to explain the interaction between horizontal and vertical evolution are unfounded

    Acceptance of Evolution by America’s Educators of Prospective Teachers

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    Paz-y-Miño-C G & Espinosa A. 2014. Acceptance of Evolution by America’s Educators of Prospective Teachers. New England Science Public: Series Evolution 2(1): 1-92 (ISSN: 2326-0971). In NESP Series Evolution Vol 2 No 1, Paz-y-Miño-C and Espinosa use the conceptual framework of the Incompatibility Hypothesis (i.e. science/evolution and belief in supernatural causation are incompatible) to document the patterns of acceptance of evolution of 495 Educators of Prospective Teachers affiliated with 281 colleges and universities widely distributed in 4 regions, 9 divisions, and 50 states in the United States. These higher-education professionals (65% PhD-, 22% doctorate-holders) were polled in five areas: (i) their views about evolution, creationism and Intelligent Design, (ii) their understanding of how science and the evolutionary process work, (iii) their position about the hypothetical ‘harmony or compatibility’ between science/evolution and supernatural causation, (iv) their awareness of the age of the Earth, its moon, our solar system and the universe, and the application of the concept of evolution to the cosmos, and (v) their personal convictions concerning the evolution and/or creation of humans in the context of the educators’ religiosity. The authors report that acceptance of evolution among these educators was influenced by their level of understanding the foundations of science/evolution and their beliefs in supernatural causation. In comparison to two other populations, whose acceptance of evolution had already been documented in Paz-y-Miño-C’s and Espinosa’s previous research (i.e. New England research faculty, non-educators, and college students; NESP Ser Evol Vol 1 No 1), the educators had an intermediate level of understanding science/evolution, low acceptance of evolution, and high religiosity, as follows: 59% of the educators accepted evolution openly, 51% thought that evolution is definitely true, and 59% admitted to be religious. Among the New England researchers, 94% accepted evolution openly, 82% thought that evolution is definitely true, and 29% admitted to be religious. Among the students, 63% accepted evolution openly, 58% thought that evolution is definitely true, and 37% admitted to be religious. Educators in each of the four regions of the United States (North East, Midwest, South, and West) had science- and evolution-literacy scores below the researchers’ but above the students.’ The educators’ rejection of evolution increased, conspicuously, with increasing level of religiosity. Paz-y-Miño-C and Espinosa indicate that their study is the first to document, comprehensively, the disturbing reality of evolution illiteracy among educators of prospective teachers in the United States. The authors highlight that these professionals are responsible for mentoring the teachers-to-be in the American school system and that their hesitation to embrace evolution resides in a deficient understanding of science/evolution and high religiosity. Paz-y-Miño-C and Espinosa conclude –as in NESP Ser Evol Vol 1 No 1– that harmonious coexistence between science/evolution and religion is illusory. If co-persisting in the future, the relationship between science and religion will fluctuate between moderate and intense antagonism. Note: The complete 92-page study includes 23 figures, statistics, 34 maps, 12 tables, and a companion slide show ‘Image Resources’ for science journalists, researchers and educators (available at Additional Files below). The supplementary materials include 15s figures and 25s tables

    New England Faculty and College Students Differ in Their Views about Evolution, Creationism, Intelligent Design, and Religiosity

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    Public acceptance of evolution in Northeastern U.S. is the highest nationwide, only 59%. Here, we compare perspectives about evolution, creationism, intelligent design (ID), and religiosity between highly educated New England faculty (n = 244; 90% Ph.D. holders in 40 disciplines at 35 colleges/universities) and college students from public secular (n = 161), private secular (n = 298), and religious (n = 185) institutions: 94/3% of the faculty vs. 64/14% of the students admitted to accepting evolution openly and/or privately, and 82/18% of the faculty vs. 58/42% of the students thought that evolution is definitely true or probably true, respectively. Only 3% of the faculty vs. 23% of the students thought that evolution and creationism are in harmony. Although 92% of faculty and students thought that evolution relies on common ancestry, one in every four faculty and one in every three students did not know that humans are apes; 15% of the faculty vs. 34% of the students believed, incorrectly, that the origin of the human mind cannot be explained by evolution, and 30% of the faculty vs. 72% of the students was Lamarckian (believed in inheritance of acquired traits). Notably, 91% of the faculty was very concerned (64%) or somehow concerned (27%) about the controversy evolution vs creationism vs ID and its implications for science education: 96% of the faculty vs. 72% of the students supported the exclusive teaching of evolution while 4% of the faculty vs. 28% of the students favored equal time to evolution, creationism and ID; 92% of the faculty vs. 52% of the students perceived ID as not scientific and proposed to counter evolution or as doctrine consistent with creationism. Although ≈30% of both faculty and students considered religion to be very important in their lives, and ≈20% admitted to praying daily, the faculty was less religious (Religiosity Index faculty = 0.5 and students = 0.75) and, as expected, more knowledgeable about science (Science Index faculty = 2.27 and students = 1.60) and evolution (Evolution Index faculty = 2.48 and students = 1.65) than the students. Because attitudes toward evolution correlate (1) positively with understanding of science/evolution and (2) negatively with religiosity/political ideology, we conclude that science education combined with vigorous public debate should suffice to increase acceptance of naturalistic rationalism and decrease the negative impact of creationism and ID on society’s evolution literacy

    The Jackprot Simulation Couples Mutation Rate with Natural Selection to Illustrate How Protein Evolution Is Not Random

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    Protein evolution is not a random process. Views which attribute randomness to molecular change, deleterious nature to single-gene mutations, insufficient geological time, or population size for molecular improvements to occur, or invoke “design creationism” to account for complexity in molecular structures and biological processes, are unfounded. Scientific evidence suggests that natural selection tinkers with molecular improvements by retaining adaptive peptide sequence. We used slot-machine probabilities and ion channels to show biological directionality on molecular change. Because ion channels reside in the lipid bilayer of cell membranes, their residue location must be in balance with the membrane’s hydrophobic/philic nature; a selective “pore” for ion passage is located within the hydrophobic region. We contrasted the random generation of DNA sequence for KcsA, a bacterial two-transmembrane-domain (2TM) potassium channel, from Streptomyces lividans, with an under-selection scenario, the “jackprot,” which predicted much faster evolution than by chance. We wrote a computer program in JAVA APPLET version 1.0 and designed an online interface, The Jackprot Simulation http://faculty.rwu.edu/cbai/JackprotSimulation.htm, to model a numerical interaction between mutation rate and natural selection during a scenario of polypeptide evolution. Winning the “jackprot,” or highest-fitness complete-peptide sequence, required cumulative smaller “wins” (rewarded by selection) at the first, second, and third positions in each of the 161 KcsA codons (“jackdons” that led to “jackacids” that led to the “jackprot”). The “jackprot” is a didactic tool to demonstrate how mutation rate coupled with natural selection suffices to explain the evolution of specialized proteins, such as the complex six-transmembrane (6TM) domain potassium, sodium, or calcium channels. Ancestral DNA sequences coding for 2TM-like proteins underwent nucleotide “edition” and gene duplications to generate the 6TMs. Ion channels are essential to the physiology of neurons, ganglia, and brains, and were crucial to the evolutionary advent of consciousness. The Jackprot Simulation illustrates in a computer model that evolution is not and cannot be a random process as conceived by design creationists

    Antiamoebic Properties of the Actinomycete Metabolites Echinomycin A and Tirandamycin A

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    Entamoeba histolytica infects 50 million people per year, causing 100,000 deaths worldwide. The primary treatment for amoebiasis is metronidazole. However, increased pathogen resistance combined with the drug’s toxic side effects encourages a search for alternative therapeutic agents. Secondary metabolites from marine bacteria are a promising resource for antiprotozoan drug discovery. In this study, extracts from a collection of marine-derived actinomycetes were screened for antiamoebic properties, and the activities of antibiotics echinomycin A and tirandamycin A are shown. Both antibiotics inhibited the in vitro growth of a E. histolytica laboratory strain (HM-1:IMSS) and a clinical isolate (Colombia, Col) at 30- to 60-μM concentrations. EIC50 (estimated inhibitory concentration) values were comparable for both antibiotics (44.3–46.3 μM) against the E. histolytica clinical isolate
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