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A little quiz

The following essay test is suitable for high school seniors in a good school system and college upper classmen in an American college. It may be too difficult for post doctoral candidates in molecular biochemistry.


In AD 1700 there was a consensus in the European intellectual community that (a) Genesis was a literal account of the history of the Earth, (b) that creation took six days, (c) there was a universal Noachian flood, (d) that the Earth is approximately 6000 years old, and (e) that all life on Earth is independently descended from forms independently created.

In AD 1900 there was a consensus in the European scientific community that (a) Genesis is not a literal account of the history of the Earth, (b) that the origin of the various parts of the Universe, e.g. life, Earth, and the stars, occurred over many millions of years as separate events, that there was no Noachian flood, (e) that the Earth is many millions of years old, and that (e) that life of Earth evolved from prior forms and that life is related by common descent.

Part I -- 15 points

Verify the correctness of paragraph one, citing sources on intellectual history. Include, but do not restrict yourself to, The Great Chain Of Being, and the writings of Leibnitz on Natural Philosophy. Discuss exceptions to the general correctness of paragraph one. Include, but do not restrict yourself to, the collected essays of Gould and Mayr's The Growth of Biological Thought.

Part II -- 15 points

Paragraph one refers to the "European intellectual community" and paragraph two refers to the "European scientific community". Explain why this distinction was made and establish whether or not it is valid. Explain whether C.P. Snow's The Two Cultures is relevant in this context. For extra credit discuss non-European conceptions of the history of the Earth; include but do not restrict yourself to the Islamic and Hindu cultures.

Part III -- 10 points

When did the Geologists conclude that there was no Noachian flood? Include but do not restrict yourself to the researches of Buckland. Discuss the theories of the Catastrophist school of the early 1800's. Explain the difference between the Catastrophist theories and the account in Genesis. What was their supporting evidence? What evidence refuted their theories.

Part IV -- 10 points

What evidence persuaded Geologists that the Earth was many millions of years old? Discuss the knowledge of and sophistication of dating methods in AD 1700, AD 1800, AD 1900, and AD 1990.

Part V -- 10 points

List and explain three major distinct theories of pre-Darwinian evolution. Discuss the evidence that led Lamarck to propose a major theory of evolution in 1800 AD. Explain the major differences between Geoffrianism and Darwinism.

Part VI -- 10 points

What biological evidence persuaded Biologists that evolution was correct? Break this question down to the periods, 1700-1800, 1800-1859, and 1859-1900.

Part VII -- 10 points

What major scientific objections were raised to the theory of evolution in the period 1800-1900? Distinguish between objections to evolution in general and objections to Darwin's formulation. Explain how these objections were resolved.

Part VIII -- 10 points

What major issues in the theory of evolution were not resolved in 1900? Discuss mechanisms of inheritance, population genetics, and the "modern synthesis".

Part IX -- 10 points

Contrast what was known in Biology about those aspects of life relevant to evolution in 1900 and 1990. Do not restrict yourself to molecular biology. Likewise discuss the differences between what was known of the fossil record in 1900 and what was known in 1990.

Part X (extra credit)

Discuss the relevance of abiogenesis to evolution.

This page was last revised February 27, 1998