Robert Moss Responds

Leung takes issue with my title and a few minor points of my article, which I'd like to address. I have little response to the comment on the title. I guess I hadn't realized that things had deteriorated so far that we'd have to worry about how the creationists use the title of an article without reading the article itself! The article wasn't written with a "creationist" audience in mind, but one of scientists and educators. I suppose I should have titled it "The Problem With Teaching Evolution

Nov 24, 1997
Robert Moss

Leung takes issue with my title and a few minor points of my article, which I'd like to address. I have little response to the comment on the title. I guess I hadn't realized that things had deteriorated so far that we'd have to worry about how the creationists use the title of an article without reading the article itself! The article wasn't written with a "creationist" audience in mind, but one of scientists and educators. I suppose I should have titled it "The Problem With Teaching Evolution." I see I'll have to be more careful with my wording in the future!

As for Darwin, I hadn't meant for my article to be "about" Darwin at all. Granted, he did not originate the concept of "descent with modification"; I do not believe I said otherwise. I believe he "popularized" and validated it by adding a plausible mechanism, that of natural selection.

And as to Leung's comment on Behe accepting descent with modification, I'll simply quote his June 1997 letter in this publication (M.J. Behe, Letters, The Scientist, June 9, 1997, page 10): "Unlike change over time, common descent cannot be conclusively proved. . . . For intellectually honest people with different predispositions, the evidence for common descent may be unpersuasive." He doesn't sound like much of a "believer" to me. Yet Behe's beliefs or disbeliefs are again not a significant point of my article.

I meant my article to convey two points. The first, Leung perhaps accurately summed up as "how shall we deal with the terminology?" There are many definitions of evolution, and these make "evolution" difficult to teach and defend, since we can't agree on its meaning. My suggestion was that we try to limit its use to descent with modification. In this way, "evolution" is closer to an observable fact than a hypothesis or "theory." We can see descent with modification clearly in the protein/DNA sequences between species. But just as Galileo's imperfect moon required a telescope to see, descent with modification requires tools of molecular biology and some understanding of how those tools work.

This leads into the second purpose of the article, which was to give two analogies or exercises that make it easier for those not trained in molecular biology to understand genetic descent with modification, and to understand how powerful the concept of natural selection is as well. I've been pleased at the response to these exercises; they seem to have proved quite useful to many.

I'm sorry Leung took exception to two minor points in my article; I hope that others can find the more major points helpful.

Robert Moss
Wofford College
429 N. Church St.
Spartanburg, S.C. 29307
E-mail: MOSSRE@WOFFORD.EDU