Questions scientific reasoning
January 16, 2002
It is appalling to read a letter from a "practicing geological scientist" who denies the fossil evidence of evolution yet claims to have "a strong interest in paleontology." I refer to the letter by Mark Hostetter.
Many times during the years that I taught paleontology and historical geology I heard a number of faculty members and students say that they considered paleontology of no importance. Yet some of these very same individuals came in with fossils for an age call or environmental interpretation for strata they were mapping. I blame most of the problem of the negative views about paleontology on the old-fashioned way of teaching paleontology: memorize names and classifications, draw fossils in the labs, and regurgitate the names and classification on tests. Unfortunately there are some such courses still being taught today. The principles of paleontology should be taught as applied paleontology, emphasizing fundamental principles (including evolution), field recognition of fossils, and practical interpretive uses that most geologists are likely to utilize in their career. It is as fundamental in their training as mineralogy and many other basic geology courses. Drawing of fossils should be left to artists. Leave the descriptions, systematics, and classifications to the specialists.
Unfortunately we have seen a decline in the number of geology departments in the United States offering a course in paleontology and many others that offer paleontology, but do not require it of majors. At the same time public interest in fossils continues at an increasing rate. Also, we are seeing an increasing number of "geologists" who claim there is no evidence for evolution. I question their scientific reasoning abilities.