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Scientific ignorance and the theory of evolution in Malaysia

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youngyew Male
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  #21 Old 14-06-2012 Default Re: Scientific ignorance and the theory of evolution in Malaysia

I am pretty sure that in the whole chapter about natural selection and phylogenetic trees they would have treated the chapter as if Homo sapiens is not actually part of it?
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  #22 Old 14-06-2012 Default Re: Scientific ignorance and the theory of evolution in Malaysia

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I am pretty sure that in the whole chapter about natural selection and phylogenetic trees they would have treated the chapter as if Homo sapiens is not actually part of it?
You are right. They never talked about humans! One more source of scientific ignorance.

Oh yea in one of my tutorials my teacher asked us "do you all think that humans originate from animals?" and one of my classmates yelled "manusia bukan haiwanlah". I let out a giggle.
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  #23 Old 14-06-2012 Default Re: Scientific ignorance and the theory of evolution in Malaysia

To actually be studying biology and making the distinction between human and animals is quite a sad state of affair.

I hope your teacher actually corrected him / her?
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  #24 Old 14-06-2012 Default Re: Scientific ignorance and the theory of evolution in Malaysia

Nah it was a rhetorical question sadly.
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  #25 Old 14-06-2012 Default Re: Scientific ignorance and the theory of evolution in Malaysia

What we are seeing is the lack of "separation of state and religion", religion and politics gets in the way of education and science instruction. It happens in the USA as well, but at least we have the separation of state and religion (eventhough not perfect), the scientific community could stand up against the religious rights in pushing their religious agenda into science instruction.

The sad part is even MUSTIC is being politically correct, supporting politically correct answer insteads of answer based on science. They are NOT representing science and proper science instruction for the betterment of the future generation, they are just another political organization.

On ther part about Korea, it is not a surprise at all, you will see a lot of Asian Christians much more religious than their western counterparts. Western societies have gone through big debates between science and religion and saw first hand how wrong some of the beliefs held by religious institution could be. Note that Korea and Japan are advanced technologically, but as far as science is concerned I don't think they are that far ahead overall. There are few exceptions, but in general, can you name a few technology that origin from Korea and Japan, not an improvement of someone else's idea from other places?

Every group and society have to choose what core values and competencies they want to develop, the individual can self select whether he/she want to be part of that. If they want to live in the past, they have the right to their choice, but the sad part is that some of them want to force their choice onto someone else. If these group end up being weeded out by the process of evolution, it may be the best indication of whether evolutions works in human society.

Believing in the scientific theory of evolution does not prevent one to be spiritual. A theory in science has to be supported by data, if the data shows otherwise we just seek new explanations or modification to the theory. It does not answers question where no data or experiment evidence can be collected, there is plenty of room for a scientist to be spiritual. It is just not in the same way many people see it.

The co-developer of the theory of evolution, Alfred Wallace did most of his work in SEA, the Sarawak Museum in Kuching was built under his supervision. If you have a chance, visit the museum and see some of the collections on natural history.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Russel_Wallace

and for those who are from Sarawak, what is the "Sarawak Law" in evolution?

Last edited by youngyew; 14-06-2012 at 04:11 AM.
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  #26 Old 14-06-2012 Default Re: Scientific ignorance and the theory of evolution in Malaysia

Disturbing indeed.

It should be understood that teaching a controversial theory is not an endorsement of it. I guess it's too sensitive in Msia for any balanced consideration to be given. The ministry or powers that be should neither approve or disprove a concept or theory, that's not their job.

For many people, the Theory of Evolution is perceived to be a threat to their beliefs system. That shouldn't be the case. All theories are models and in Science, nothing is absolute, even established laws like the Laws of Motion. As our collective body of knowledge evolves, the models will change in time. How will physics or any branch of Science look like 1000 years from now? No one knows. So the Theory of Evolution no matter how controversial has to be embraced because of its scientific validity. The acceptance of that theory is not a recognition of its absolute truthfulness. This distinction has to be made known.

Scientific education in Msia is one of the things that a future competent government has to fix.

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  #27 Old 14-06-2012 Default Re: Scientific ignorance and the theory of evolution in Malaysia

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The co-developer of the theory of evolution, Alfred Wallace did most of his work in SEA, the Sarawak Museum in Kuching was built under his supervision. If you have a chance, visit the museum and see some of the collections on natural history.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Russel_Wallace

and for those who are from Sarawak, what is the "Sarawak Law" in evolution?
Thanks for sharing this, didn't know about the Sarawak Law before! I visited the museum in Kuching, while they had a pretty good section on biodiversity and stuff (in fact it's very impressive for a small museum), I don't remember reading about Wallace in there. But then again I only spent quite little time in there.

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Disturbing indeed.

It should be understood that teaching a controversial theory is not an endorsement of it. I guess it's too sensitive in Msia for any balanced consideration to be given. The ministry or powers that be should neither approve or disprove a concept or theory, that's not their job.

For many people, the Theory of Evolution is perceived to be a threat to their beliefs system. That shouldn't be the case. All theories are models and in Science, nothing is absolute, even established laws like the Laws of Motion. As our collective body of knowledge evolves, the models will change in time. How will physics or any branch of Science look like 1000 years from now? No one knows. So the Theory of Evolution no matter how controversial has to be embraced because of its scientific validity. The acceptance of that theory is not a recognition of its absolute truthfulness. This distinction has to be made known.

Scientific education in Msia is one of the things that a future competent government has to fix.
With the knowledge of your personal faith I know I am risking a digression or an entire debate about evolution, but I disagree that the theory of evolution is controversial in its truthfulness as far as the scientific confidence is concerned.

Evolution happened, is happening, and we are part of the process - and evidence has shown this to be as convincing as the kinetic theory of gases. Note that the latter has never been observed "directly", just like no one has "seen" evolutionary process directly over the last few million years; but the corroborative evidence all point towards these theories being an accurate deduction of what must take place.

At its core, the theory of evolution is at odds with the literal interpretation of the Abrahamic religious creation story, and there's really no way one could subscribe to both at the same time without some compromise. There are some Christians etc who reconcile this by accepting that the Genesis is not a literal account of the creation, and that God probably had some roles in what is described as the evolutionary creation. But if one chooses to interpret the scriptures literally, as a lot of people do, there's no way they would be able to accept evolution, as this would be equivalent to believing in heliocentric and geocentric theories at the same time.

Newton's laws would be a perfect example in this discussion. While Einstein managed to prove that while approaching the speed of light the laws of motion no longer holds accurate, Newton's laws have not really been "proven" wrong; it's just been bettered.
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Last edited by youngyew; 14-06-2012 at 04:41 AM. Reason: Automerged Doublepost
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  #28 Old 14-06-2012 Default Re: Scientific ignorance and the theory of evolution in Malaysia

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Thanks for sharing this, didn't know about the Sarawak Law before! I visited the museum in Kuching, while they had a pretty good section on biodiversity and stuff (in fact it's very impressive for a small museum), I don't remember reading about Wallace in there. But then again I only spent quite little time in there.


With the knowledge of your personal faith I know I am risking a digression or an entire debate about evolution, but I disagree that the theory of evolution is controversial in its truthfulness as far as the scientific confidence is concerned.

Evolution happened, is happening, and we are part of the process - and evidence has shown this to be as convincing as the kinetic theory of gases. Note that the latter has never been observed "directly", just like no one has "seen" evolutionary process directly over the last few million years; but the corroborative evidence all point towards these theories being an accurate deduction of what must take place.

At its core, the theory of evolution is at odds with the literal interpretation of the Abrahamic religious creation story, and there's really no way one could subscribe to both at the same time without some compromise. There are some Christians etc who reconcile this by accepting that the Genesis is not a literal account of the creation, and that God probably had some roles in what is described as the evolutionary creation. But if one chooses to interpret the scriptures literally, as a lot of people do, there's no way they would be able to accept evolution, as this would be equivalent to believing in heliocentric and geocentric theories at the same time.

Newton's laws would be a perfect example in this discussion. While Einstein managed to prove that while approaching the speed of light the laws of motion no longer holds accurate, Newton's laws have not really been "proven" wrong; it's just been bettered.
It is not right to view a theory as an absolute description of nature. As I said, all scientific theories are models. Some are just bloody reliable solid ones. The business of Science is to simulate nature through models, communicated through mathematics. it was never its intention to present itself as the truth. That said, it's unfortunate that many fail to distinguish this subtle nuance in meaning.

The split occurs here because one party considers a reliable model of a physical phenomena as a fundamental truth while conversely, another considers it as representation/mimicry of nature, not truth itself.

It's a matter of ontological and epistemological stances.

I saw science as a representation of absolute truth but during my undergrad I was influenced and challenged to take science as what it is. One of my professors once said that you can never prove that a theory is right, you can only prove that it's wrong. That is certainly true in physics. Relativity did not prove that Newtonian mechanics is wrong, it developed it further like what you said.

So yes to be an acceptable model, it has to be consistent, repeatable and yadda yadda, typical scrutiny of Science. Evolution certainly satisfies that as you pointed out correctly but again it's not the absolute truth but a model of what may be the truth.

I hope you see the distinction here.

Last edited by bush; 14-06-2012 at 05:39 AM.
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  #29 Old 14-06-2012 Default Re: Scientific ignorance and the theory of evolution in Malaysia

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It is not right to view a theory as an absolute description of nature. As I said, all scientific theories are models. Some are just bloody reliable solid ones. The business of Science is to simulate nature through models, communicated through mathematics. it was never its intention to present itself as the truth. That said, it's unfortunate that many fail to distinguish this subtle nuance in meaning.

The split occurs here because one party considers a reliable model of a physical phenomena as a fundamental truth while conversely, another considers it as representation/mimicry of nature, not truth itself.

It's a matter of ontological and epistemological stances.

I saw science as a representation of absolute truth but during my undergrad I was influenced and challenged to take science as what it is. One of my professors once said that you can never prove that a theory is right, you can only prove that it's wrong. That is certainly true in physics. Relativity did not prove that Newtonian mechanics is wrong, it developed it further like what you said.

So yes to be an acceptable model, it has to be consistent, repeatable and yadda yadda, typical scrutiny of Science. Evolution certainly satisfies that as you pointed out correctly but again it's not the absolute truth but a model of what may be the truth.

I hope you see the distinction here.
I do agree with everything you said.

Anything we "know" to be true can be wrong. This physical world may not actually exist and we could all just be simulations a la The Matrix. Or, Osama bin Laden might not have been killed. But obviously the chance of our physical existence being unreal is much lower than the chance of Osama being alive - the latest is up for a lot more debate than the fact that we exist.

The problem with people with an agenda, however, is that they are exploiting the epistemological uncertainty of truth, and using this to obfuscate the fact that the evidence of evolution is so damn good that it's probably on par with the evidence that the universe is 13.75 0.11 billion year old. Yes evolution could be "potentially wrong" the same way as all of us might not truly exist as real physical entities; but it's not as potentially wrong as the claim that Osama was in fact killed in the Operation Neptune Spear.

In other words, people are trying to make the theory of evolution look as if it's as controversial as Hang Tuah's origin, when the theory is in fact far more established than that.
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Last edited by youngyew; 14-06-2012 at 07:21 AM.
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  #30 Old 14-06-2012 Default Re: Scientific ignorance and the theory of evolution in Malaysia

Putting philosophy aside, what is true in science/engineering and what people consider as truth in casual discussion are totally different. People often said that Newtonian Mechanics is proven wrong by Einstein, but when we look at Einstein's equations, Einstein's equation converges to Newton's Equations in classical mechanics. There is no inconsistancy and Einstein just extended Newton's mechanics to cover area where classical mechanics is not covering. In designing everyday mechines, Newtonian Mechanics is still used and gives the right results. Newton was not wrong, he had formulated the solution for the boundary conditions he was solving, Einstein just derived a more general solution. There is no incompatibility between the two.

Theory in science are used in engineering to design all kinds of products, structures and machines with predictable results. Putting an opinion on equal footing as these design principles is totally nonsensical. I doubt you would accept a computer from us, if those are designed based on opinions and may not work. Would you fly in a plane design and made using principles that may not be true/not work?

Science not only provides explanations, a lot of people can come up with explainations, the crucial part of science is that it can be used to design and predict outcomes on experiments and designs that have not occurred yet. It is the ability to see ahead and verify the results that makes science different from other opinions.

Evolution is a theory try to get a consistant explaination of disconnected facts in biology, so far it has been successful in doing so, and is also used to formulate strategy in plant/animal breeding, combating viruses ... If we find inconsistancy in the process, we will update the theory, but discounting it without coming up with something better, meanwhile preventing others from learning it is being irresponsible.

To a lot of people, kinetic theory of gases is just a theory, but to people in ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) it is basic working knowledge in reactor design. Newtonian mechanics is just a problem to be solved to some, but to a bridge designer, autoengineer, structural engineer is peopl's life depend on what you do. So, as an engineer/scientist, I take it as total irresponsibility to deliver something to the public , things we do not honestly believe that would work. It would be hard for me to hire engineers/scientists who do not have strong grounding to work on those projects. We need rigorous training and ability to think critically to develop the scientific human resources of the society, let science do its job (do not bring in religion and politics). If you can not do the job yourself, please do not prevent others from doing it, otherwise all of us are going to suffer.

Last edited by youngyew; 14-06-2012 at 02:33 PM.
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