Last week I made a case that origins-of-life research doesn’t usually fall under the evolution umbrella. I offered my analogy that the first spark of life was a bit like a baton hand-off from chemical evolution to biological evolution. Today, I’ll get into some aspects of the topic that tend to evoke the most, well, heated and let’s say spirited discussion.

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I want to start this week’s entry by saying that I really hadn’t intended this topic to take up three posts! It’s just that I kept adding and adding to make it all make more sense and before I knew it, I had 3000 words on dating fossils! Words fly when you’re geeking out…

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As I have mentioned in previous posts, I used to work for a textbook company. When I first started, there was a wonderful woman who was the departmental expert on anything related to the nature and process of science. She was the go-to person for all our introductory “this is science, kids!” chapters. When she retired, everyone panicked because we knew that she left behind a tremendous void that, frankly, no one was interested in touching since introductory chapters tend to be both pretty dry and full of pitfalls.

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I did a fair amount of photo research when
Photo by newlow via Wikimedia Commons I worked for an educational publishing company. On one occasion, I needed a nice photograph of a scientist “at work” to decorate our introductory chapter on science methods. You know what I found? Photo after photo of people in lab coats looking at or holding flasks or test tubes of colored liquids. It was almost comical, but not unexpected. I have a friend who works for a pharmaceutical company, and he once told me that when the board of directors came in for a visit, the staff members were told to fill up some containers with colored water so they’d look busy—apparently, their incredibly scientific jobs weren’t showy and sciency-looking enough! This stereotypical idea of what science looks like embodies this week’s misconception:

All science is done via experimentation.

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