Ben Stein and Darwin: Truth is what matters.

Apr 14 2008 Published by under Chatter

Like the rest of the skeptical blogosphere, I've been watching the
uproar around Ben Stein's new movie with a lot of amusement, but also with
a lot of disgust. There's one thing that I feel compelled to comment on that
I think has, for some reason, not been addressed nearly enough.

As I've mentioned before, I'm Jewish. My father knew relatives who died
at the hands of the Nazis. The events of the holocaust are, thus, deeply personal to me. I've grown up with an awareness of it.

So I find Stein's attempt to link evolution to the holocaust particularly odious. The mass extermination of millions of people shouldn't be a rhetorical bargaining chip, for anyone. It should be something that we never forget, and that we use to motivate us to make sure nothing like it ever happens again. (And I'll note here that while Ben runs around cashing the checks that he receives for talking about how Darwin caused hitler, there
is genocide going on, today, in several places, and Stein doesn't seem to care.)

For the most part, people have responded to Stein's argument linking Darwin with Hitler by refuting it. And that's certainly a good thing to do,
because what caused the Holocaust wasn't the writings of a British naturalist,
but by xenophobia and scapegoating. Darwinism was used as an excuse at various times - as were christianity, paganism, economics, and a variety of other
things.

But what strikes me is that we haven't paid enough attention to something even more important than whether or not there's a link between Darwin's theory of evolution and the nazis.

Suppose that it was true that Darwin's writings about evolution
were the primary thing that motivated the Nazi's genocide against
the Jews, the Romany, and all the other "undesirables" that they killed. Forget, for a moment, that the linkage is a crock. Pretend that it's the truth.

What difference does it make?

Does the truth become less true because some idiot used it to
justify something awful?

Science isn't morality. Science describes what is. Morality
defines our understanding of right and wrong. Science doesn't tell us what's
morally right and wrong. It tells us what is. It can allows us to reason from what we know, to determine the effect of an action, which can allow us to decide whether that action is morally right or wrong. But the science doesn't tell us what's moral.

What Stein and friends are doing is trying to say that it's appropriate
to judge science based on what kinds of moral judgements a lunatic can
derive from it - and further, they're basically trying to argue for
suppressing the truth when they don't like the results of
trying to infer morality from that truth.

I've heard thermodynamics summarized in an informal way as "Reality is, at best, a zero-sum game." It's not an entirely incorrect summarization: thermodynamics does, in a way, tell us that we can only build something up by tearing something else down. If you want to use science to draw moral
judgements, just think of the kind of morality you can get from that!

But no one would use that to argue against the reality of thermodynamics as a correct way of describing the world. Thermodynamics is an accurate
description. It lets us understand how things work, and make realistic
predictions about how things work. It's not a statement of morality; it's
a statement of the behavior of physical entities.

People will always find ways to justify horrible things. Just look
at the headlines here in the US over the last week about torture. We'll find
ways of justifying the things we want to justify. But justifications
don't change facts. Evolution is a theory that does an amazing job of describing a piece of the world. Whether it's used to justify something
evil doesn't change that. If it's true, it's true. And no amount of
ranting about the horrible things that it supposedly motivated can change that. In the end, the truth is the truth. Evolution is true - whether
Hitler, or the Janjaweed in Sudan, or eugenicists in America choose
to use it to justify their actions doesn't change that. It's still true.

The whole Darwin-to-Hitler link in Stein's wretched little movie
is a totally meaningless exercise. It's a line of pure and utter bullshit,
and even if we were to accept it as absolute truth, it would be irrelevant. Truth and morality are two different things.

No responses yet

  • James says:

    To put it another way: the fact that blowing people up is a bad thing doesn't make TNT any less explosive.

  • sirhcton says:

    . . . there is genocide going on, today, in several places, and Stein doesn't seem to care.)

    Yes, but in most of those places the instigators are either ignorant of or just do not care about Darwin. Now, if they got up and said "the theory of evolution demands we kill off these people," I am sure Mr. Stein would be there in a flash.

  • Matthew L. says:

    I'm not sure that a lot of the people who will be swayed by "Expelled!" and the like actually understand that truth and morality are different things. I suspect many of them haven't bothered to make the distinction.
    So for them, "Darwinism means Nazism. Nazism is wrong. Therefore, Darwinism is wrong" might sound just as valid as the classic proof by contradiction scheme: "A implies B. Not B. Therefore, not A."
    What's really distressing about that possibility is that it implies that the converse holds true too---if you could convince them that Darwinism really is true, and really does imply Nazism, they'd feel obligated to consider it morally acceptable. Sadly, considering how many persecutions base their justifications in similar claims about humanity (be they purportedly scientific or religious in nature), I'm not really convinced that they wouldn't.

  • Stinky Wizzleteats says:

    Excellent points about the importance of truth and the deliberate conflation of description and prescription. Of course, Stein has a history of not caring about genocide except as a rhetorical club against his opponents and the truth (e.g., blaming the Khmer Rouge on Mark Felt).
    "Reality is, at best, a zero-sum game."
    My preferred formulation of the 1st-3rd laws of thermo:
    1. You can't win (conservation of energy)
    2. You can't break even (2nd law)
    3. You can't get out of the game (Nernst heat theorem)
    Must not be true, though, 'cause I can use that to justify cheating people at cards.

  • Ben B says:

    might as well say that teaching a child German is wrong. Hitler learned German, then used the language to get into power and start the Holocaust. German language -> holocaust.

  • Yeah... it's starting the argument at Godwin's law.
    It's definitely a tactic that appears to gain some sympathy -- at least among those who were already on that side of the argument in the first place. I've seen Nazism used to attack environmentalism, vegetarianism, anti-smoking campaigns.
    If you're going to go _there_, you might as ban timely trains.

  • Sarah says:

    I disagree - I think the point is being made, at least in blog posts discussing the movie (those who think it's rubbish, at least). Do the horrors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima make one decide that physics is a load of nonsense? If someone discovered evidence tomorrow that Newton and Einstein were secretly serial murderers, do you stop believing in gravity?
    I've also seen the point made that Hitler's killing of people he considered undesirable was the antithesis of natural selection - if they were inferior, the environment would have killed them off without his intervention. As someone pointed out, what he was doing was much more similar to intelligent design than to natural selection.

  • Jolly Bloger says:

    Loathe as I am to play advocate to such a horrific devil...
    Linking Darwinism to Nazism isn't necessarily an argument for the untruth of Darwinism. On the other extreme of the debate, Dawkins and Hitchens discuss at length the evils that religion has caused - the abuse of children, xenophobia, homophobia, and yes, Nazism. Richard Dawkins is not confusing morality with truth, he certainly knows better. They're saying that not only is religion false, but it is also dangerous, so lets not live and let live, lets work to minimize the damage.
    I don't know exactly how Stein presents his ridiculous link, but if it is in the form of "we all know evolution is false, but more than that, it actually causes harm and should be actively opposed" then a genocide link is valid. WRONG, but valid.

  • Ben B says:

    I dunno if I agree Jolly Blogger...if I understand your argument correctly, I do not think it is valid... it seems to me that no matter what is discovered, someone, somewhere is gonna use it for evil. All the way back to the discovery of stone tools, someone used them to bash their neighbors head in.

  • What I find objectionable about Stein's tactic of linking evolution to genocide is what happens when people realize that evolution really IS true? Even the Creation Museum has an exhibit showing the rise of multiple species from individual pairs of common ancestors (from on board the Ark). Evolution IS a fact, so when Stein says that evolution justifies the Holocaust, what he's really claiming is that the Holocaust had a legitimate scientific justification. It's a classic case of the mud-slinger ending up dirtier than his intended target.

  • Jolly Bloger says:

    Perhaps I can clarify. In the post Mark says that IF Darwinism could be shown to directly cause genocide, that wouldn't make it any less true. Fair enough, but let's also assume that evolution isn't necessarily true, as the ID crowd does. Normally, if other people believe wrong things, then no harm no foul, let them believe what they like. If you can show that their incorrect belief actually causes harm, then you have justification for actively opposing them.
    It's true that most scientific ideas can be misinterpreted in a way that causes harm, but that's all the more reason for us to actively oppose the harmful actions, and the misunderstandings that lead to them.

  • Ramy Eid says:

    I can understand how many false arguments put to make excuses for holocaust , Holocaust by all means is a crime.
    But I'm wondering why Zionism does not make any effort to explain their daily holocaust toward Palestinians !!! They are just killing unarmed people while world is watching them :(.
    God bless the souls of Palestinian children...

  • Stinky Wizzleteats says:

    Deacon,
    Stein has apparently thought this through and has said if evolution is correct, Hitler was right. See here, around 20:30-21:15 for the most explicit statement (the rambling train of "thought" starts around 18:00).

  • Jonathan says:

    I think, unfortunately for all of us, that you're giving the creationists too much credit here. You assume that they're simply missing the point by pointing out the negative implications of a thing without bothering to consider the truth of it. But I've come at this discussion with some creationists before and those who can make their way through the philosophy realize your point and aren't convinced. I've been asked to prove why knowing the truth is more important than acting morally and I haven't been able to come up with a good answer.
    To put it another way, if you could prove that accepting evolution and only accepting in evolution invariably leads to genocide and only to genocide, then would it still be a boon to accept evolution? It gives a whole new meaning to the phrases "lying for Jesus," and "Santa Claus for adults."

  • Eamon Knight says:

    Whaddya mean thermodynamics has no moral consequences? The laws of thermodynamics are what prevents us from building perpetual motion machines and having all the free energy we want! Instead we're dependent on foreign oil! Why do you hate America?

  • Ben B says:

    Oh my gosh Eamon, you've opened my eyes to the truth! Clearly the energy isn't lost in the form of heat, but it is stolen by the DEVIL in order to confuse us into believing the 2nd law! Place your faith in god and nothing shall rust!

  • Charlie B. says:

    "I've been asked to prove why knowing the truth is more important than acting morally and I haven't been able to come up with a good answer."
    That's because it's a false dichotomy. They're both as important as each other, and one only gets in the way of the other if one is unable to act morally without the fear of damnation.
    Plenty of us act morally because it's the right thing to do and for no other reason, and plenty of us want to know things that are true, not just things that make us feel good, and we're quite capable of doing both.

  • Michael says:

    Very true -- my most virulent reaction (as a Jew) when I saw that Stein had the %%%ing audacity to go to Poland and visit the camps was to think "I know fundamentalists can go low but this is a low even I didn't think they'd sink to".
    *Shudder*

  • Wry Mouth says:

    Jewish? I thought you were atheistic... ;o/ I suppose being an atheistic Jew means you specifically get to not believe in the God of Isaac, Jacob, et. al.?
    That said -- for I am a poor governor of my own acerbic thinking -- you've quite nicely and accurately put your thumb right *there* on an important point.
    And those of us who value right-thinking discussion and dialogue thank you for doing so. Cheers!

  • TruePath says:

    Sorry to nit pick a bit but I don't quite see what you mean when you say that the murder of millions of people should never be a thetorical bargaining chip. If you are saying that your judgement is that Stein knows there is no link and is delibrately misleading us about the matter then I see your criticism but it wasn't clear that's what you meant.
    I mean presumably if you had valid grounds to believe that X tends to cause mass genocide it would not only be justifiable but likely morally required to use this fact to argue against X. After all surely the most important reason to remember the holocaust is to use that lesson to ensure it never happens again. So unless you are calling Stein insencere I'm unclear what you are saying here.
    This is just a small nitpick but I agree with the main thrust of your post and attitude but if we are going to be logically precisce here I figured we should go all the way.

  • Wry Mouth says:

    "I've been asked to prove why knowing the truth is more important than acting morally and I haven't been able to come up with a good answer."
    Um; I might agree with Charlie B. here, but I have often asked myself, which is more important -- truth or happiness? In a narrow application, would I rather be happy believing in a nontruth, or would I rather know the truth, no matter how disappointing?
    So far, I have come down on the side of wanting to know the truth -- I suppose that somewhere inside I figure that knowing the truth will make me happy, even if it doesn't go well for me, personally.
    The things I have found in math and stats -- the little formulae and insights into how things like abstract numbers "run" -- always fill me with delight. I suppose, again, that my "pattern recognition" part of my brain must be wired directly into some sort of dopamine producer. ;o/

  • KevinS says:

    "I mean presumably if you had valid grounds to believe that X tends to cause mass genocide it would not only be justifiable but likely morally required to use this fact to argue against X. After all surely the most important reason to remember the holocaust is to use that lesson to ensure it never happens again. So unless you are calling Stein insencere I'm unclear what you are saying here."
    TruePath,
    Mark is, in fact, saying that even if you you prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that some scientific fact/theory/law X leads directly to the mass genocide of millions, you cannot use the moral value of this fact to argue against the reality of X. Boiling it down, he's saying that moral arguments have no bearing on reality. The fact of highly energetic fission of heavy atomic nuclei cannot be disproven by the repugnance of the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent Japanese civilians.
    Given the popularity of various wish your way to happiness philosophies like The Secret, I tend to agree with Mark that this point hasn't been made nearly strongly enough. It's probably a stretch to hope educating people that the moral implications of a scientific theory have no bearing on its reality would carry over to their personal desires not affecting reality... but it couldn't hurt.

  • Stephen Wells says:

    Clearly the defenestrations of Prague are a serious indictment of the terrible moral consequences of gravity.

  • Jud says:

    Great(?!) minds think alike...
    It was only yesterday on another ScienceBlog (Respectful Insolence) that I commented:
    The Nazis used algebra to calculate V2 trajectories. And this has exactly what effect on the validity of algebra as mathematics?
    Misguided people in favor of eugenics have tried to analogize to natural selection and "survival of the fittest." And this has exactly what effect on the validity of natural selection as science?

  • As ridiculous as it is on the face of it, this "evolution leads to Nazism and is therefore wrong" story is a brilliant piece of framing. Namely, it's got two ridiculous premises backing it up, and the way it's been done arguing against one of the ridiculous premises just reinforces the other one. Burying the audience in evidence that the Nazis were not motivated by a belief in evolutionary theory implicitly accepts the argument that leading to morally reprehensible consequences would be a good argument against a scientific theory. Arguing the other direction, as Mark does here, implicitly concedes the point that Nazism may have been inspired by a belief in evolution, and that those evil evolution supporters don't care. Unfortunately, the general public is not used to processing complicated arguments; when they hear: "Assuming arguendo my opponent's point X, his conclusion still doesn't work because of Y and Z", they retain "my opponent's point X", especially when X is emotionally loaded.
    So what's needed is a counter-frame, and I'm not sure how to set one up. (Either that, or a mass revival in critical thinking, but I don't know how to trigger one of those either)

  • Jud says:

    Examining the other side of the coin from my previous comment: The rhetorical tactics of the pro-ID folks aren't drawn from the academic/scientific world. It's all politics as far as they're concerned. (Unfortunately, when one thinks of local school boards and state legislatures, they may have a point.)
    The argumentum ad Nazium, as Orac so nicely puts it, is designed to impugn the motives of scientists in a political discussion, i.e., "These people are on the side of Godless evil. That's why they want to take God's beautiful Creation out of our schools and replace it with random chance and the 'survival of the fittest.' We all know what happens when 'survival of the fittest' becomes the creed of a nation, don't we? That's right - Nazis!" (Strange they never mention Rockefeller and his American Beauty Rose theory of capitalism here.)
    BTW, I too lost family in the Holocaust and grew up knowing people with concentration camp ID numbers tattooed on their arms, and I very much share your disgust at turning such suffering into just so much rhetorical ammunition.

  • Stephen Wells says:

    @25: it's not a brilliant piece of framing, it's wrong twice over. You fight it by saying, right at the outside: this idea is wrong twice over. The Nazis weren't inspired by Darwin, in fact they banned books about Darwinism (http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CA/CA006_1.html). And anyway, you can't say that gravity is evil because people have been killed by hanging; facts about the world don't change because people use or misuse them.

  • Ash says:

    "And I'll note here that while Ben runs around cashing the checks that he receives for talking about how Darwin caused hitler, there is genocide going on, today, in several places, and Stein doesn't seem to care."
    And what, exactly, are you doing about it? Its quite easy to accuse someone of not caring when they're not acting as strongly as you think they should, but unless you have sold everything you own and are living to free these people, you may seem to not care to someone else.

  • Mark C. Chu-Carroll says:

    Ash:
    You're pulling a standard way of excusing rotten behavior. That is, no one is ever allowed to criticize the hypocrisy of an asshole like Stein unless they've sacrificed their entire
    life.
    Stein has a prominent public platform as a result of this movie. And he's using it to talk about a past genocide, and how horrible it was. But he doesn't take a moment, a breath, to say a single word about the genocide that's taking place today. That platform makes a difference. I could give up every cent I have and devote my life to working against, say, the genocide in Darfur. But as a not particularly telegenic geek with no public prominence, no platform, the impact of my actions would be small.
    And that's the real point here. He's getting all of this publicity because of his movie, and he never fails to mention the supposed link between "Darwinism" and the holocaust. But he never spares a word for the people dying today.

  • BAllanJ says:

    Argh....you guys obviously didn't get the post modernist memo that stated that truth is a social construct.
    Do I need to put a smilie on that? I hope not, but just in case...
    🙂

  • Jolly Bloger says:

    I think it's a mistake to underestimate our opponents so strongly. Waving the anti-evolutionists off as complete morons is not going to help. A lot of them are very intelligent, they just start out with a different set of assumptions.
    The argument is not necessarily "belief in evolution -> genocide therefore evolution is false".
    If they are saying "belief in (false) evolution -> genocide therefore we must oppose the teaching of (false) evolution" then that is a valid argument based on two false premises. Namely that evolution is false, and that belief in evolution leads to genocide.
    It is not their logic we should be attacking, but their premises.
    I'll say again, it's dangerous to assume your opponent is simply stupid. You'll be taken by surprise when it turns out they aren't.

  • Freehand says:

    #14 Jonathon: we cannot behave morally until we know the truth about things. That is, we may have moral intent, but ignorance can lead to much misery. If birth control discourages pregnancy and abortions, then abstinence-only programs lead to more dead fetuses. If global warming is happening and is serious, then reassuring the flock that God wouldn't do that to us can lead to disaster for our children. If mainstream science understands evolution to a significant degree, then denying it can lead to plagues, starvation, and ecological disaster by ill-informed action or inaction. And if we ignore history's best understanding of the Third Reich, we risk living thru that over and again.
    We will always fall short of complete knowledge, of course, but those who ignore data to maintain their comfort zone risk making disastrous decisions that could have been avoided. And it is clear what they value most.

  • BradC says:

    The whole "Stein is a hypocrite because he condemns the holocaust but doesn't mention or condemn any modern-day genocides" argument is pretty weak. He doesn't mention it because its not relevant to the discussion at hand.
    So anyone with a "prominent public platform" is now obligated to throw in a reference to Darfur and Rwanda whenever they are talking about something even tangentially related?
    And to the main point: the argument is not so much "belief in evolution caused the holocaust, so evolution is false." It's more like "the discussion about evolution is more than just an academic one--a world view that says people are the result of random chance can have a real impact on how we value human life."
    That said, I agree with the point in your original post, that if anything, Darwinism was just being used as an excuse. Just as Christianity was being used as an excuse in the Crusades.

  • chris p says:

    a world view that says people are the result of random chance can have a real impact on how we value human life.

    To me that view seems to mean humanity is rare occurance in the big biological picture, and therefore quite valuable.

  • Wry Mouth says:

    "...humanity is rare occurance in the big biological picture, and therefore quite valuable..."
    chris p
    chris -- I am not saying you subscribe to that statement as yours, but here is what a dark little part of me thinks when he hears statements like that:
    "I don't know about that. I am *unique* in the big biological picture, and therefore invaluable, especially in my own personal world-view. Compared to me, the rest of you so-called "people" (who may or may not actually be "people" in the same sense I am) pale in value comparison. And the Rule of Law? Meh. I have far too much Russian in me to value that over my own needs and wants."
    This being exists, in me. He is real. And I would have no trouble giving him full and free reign if I were truly atheistic. I am NOT saying all atheists believe this way, or even most.
    I AM saying that there my be a few out there who believe this way, and -- for me -- the whole "value human life because it's rare in the cosmos" thing is hogwash, based as it is on a subjective assessment of value through rarity that carries no reproductive advantage.
    Why flinch?, he asks.
    Luckily -- I think -- for me, there are other, less "materialistic" parts of me to resist that line of living. "Luckily for me," I think, but that part feels completely the opposite about that.
    ;o/ what a wretched man I am.

  • Jon says:

    I certainly agree. But I don't think the prominent ID creationists really understand reductio ad absurdum (in the non-mathematical sense--though they no doubt don't understand it in the mathematical sense either, but that's neither here nor there). That's why they don't get (or pretend not to get) what scientific theories are. Scientific theories are essentially open-ended reductio ad absurdum arguments.
    "What would happen if there did exist a particle like the Higgs-Boson?"
    Well, this and this and this would happen. Can we find any contradictions there? Not yet, at least. Until such a time (hopefully with the Large Hadron Collider), we'll consider Higgs-Bosons to be real things that the theory predicts which we just haven't found any observational evidence for yet.
    Your line of reasoning, Mark, would work equally well for evolution too. Even if it were true that there was no empirical evidence for evolution (or very little), would that make evolutionary theory false? Of course not. The scientific community largely accepted evolution well before anything was really known about genetics, before the mechanism was understood. The power of the theory is both how simplistic it is, and how beautifully and obviously it solves the problem. No such simplicity or beauty or obviousness exists for the Intelligent Design theory. It's something, as Richard Dawkins and others have said, which is infinitely more complex than the thing trying to be explained. It's this basic method of argument that the ID people reject.

  • Daithi says:

    After reading through these posts, I have to agree with Jolly Bloger. The anti-evolutionist arguement is a valid arguement (see Jolly Bloger posts #8 and #11), but it is based on invalid premises (see post #31).
    Nice example of Critical Thinking, Jolly.

  • Michael says:

    I'd also have to +1 Jolly Bloger.
    They're not *just* saying that the supposed link between evolution and genocide is reason enough to dismiss it, but they're *also* saying that, or supposing, that evolution is fundamentally flawed, and as such, it's taken as implicit that your truth argument doesn't hold water.
    Take suicide cults as an example. They're not only based on falsehoods, but they're fundamentally destructive. Would you argue against suicide cults? Would you cite the link between their beliefs and death? Would you allow yourself this because of the fundamental lack of rigor and truth composing their underlying beliefs?
    If yes to these, is there any difference from the point of view of a creationist who believes that evolution is a cult mentality founded on falsehood and leads to destructive mindsets?
    Now, having said that, I'll cite some major differences.
    First, the link to genocide, whether evolution is true or not, is a difficult one to establish to the degree required to use it as a reason to dismiss evolutionary thinking.
    But second, and much more importantly, the key difference between evolutionist premises and creationist premises is that the former has scientific rigor. In order to assert that evolution lays a false foundation, you must argue against a well established framework of theoretical and experimental validation. In order to assert that creationism is false, one has only heresay and prose to deconstruct, which, scientifically, is already done by nature of never having had rigorous validity to begin with.
    So you may argue that they're simply starting from different premises, but I'd argue that a) they've not taken the care to deconstruct our premise of evolution, and b) they've not taken the care to their premise of construct creationism. I believe that puts them in the red right from the start.

  • NP says:

    You're absolutely spot on, Mark. Stein ignores the fact that genocide has occured prior to Darwin's time. It's an outrage that the producers use the tragedy of the Holocaust to score points for their side.

  • Nullifidian says:

    #6
    If you're going to go _there_, you might as ban timely trains.
    When I was in studying in Britain, I went to a sketch comedy/improv troupe's show where they imagined a thirty-second spot for UK Railways that used that exact Godwinned argument. 😀

  • J.D. says:

    For Stein's attack on evolution to be justified, it must be the case that belief in evolution leads to genocidal behavior. If this were true then one would have a pragmatic justification to oppose the teaching of evolution (regardless of whether it were true or false).
    And it can't be any old kind of "leads to"... which is to say, it cannot matter if people misinterpret evolution as supporting genocide, or irrationally infer genocidal principles from evolution. Evolution is not to blame if some nutter thinks (incorrectly) that the truth of evolution requires that he kill people; no more than Christianity is to blame when some nutter thinks that the truth of Christianity requires that he kill people he believes to be witches.
    No, for Stein's attack to be justified it must be rational to conduct genocide were evolution true. In other words, the premise "evolution is true" must lead by valid inference to the principle "I ought to kill (or sterilize) people who I think are inferior".
    Yet there is no such valid inference.
    People who try to 'help along' evolution through genocide and forced sterilization are exactly as rational and justified in doing so as are those who try to 'help along' gravity by flinging people out of tall buildings. In short, not at all.
    Hence Stein's attack on evolution is not justified.

  • bh says:

    Haven't been around this blog since the Granville Sewell thought experiment. However, I went to see Expelled last night and I spent some time reading reviews from both sides. I come down on the Creationist side of the argument, but I also enjoy reading opposing points of view.
    JD #41 repeats a common theme I have seen.
    "For Stein's attack on evolution to be justified, it must be the case that belief in evolution leads to genocidal behavior."
    This is not what I came away with. At several point in the movie, it was made clear that it was not the intent to associate Darwinism with Naziism as a "cause and effect."
    There was however a blurring of Communism and Naziism as there were scenes from the Holocaust and from the Berlin wall. These visual associations I think were made to set up the final scene where the Berlin wall started to come down. You could almost hear the echoes of Ronald Reagan saying "Tear down this wall." The images were intended to show intolerance for opposite viewoints and dramatize the reaction from an all powerful evolution side against any questioning of Darwinian orthodoxy.
    If it resonates with a certain segment, it will be because voices were unfairly silenced by harsh techniques (denial of tenure and ostracizing), by ad hominem attacks against opposing points of view, by rants by admitted aetheists like Dawkins against anyone who believes there is more than pure materialism to this world, and by theories explicitly excluding a Creator as part of the definition.
    I don't think the vast majority of those who saw the movie want to see evolution banned because it causes genocide. I think all that's being asked is that the primary spokespeople for evolution show some respect for alternative theories. Dawkins himself at the end of the movie was forced by Stein to admit that he could not rule out intelligent design as a cause (going so far as to speculate on panspermia).
    I saw the movie as an attempt to take people like Dawkins down a peg or two, get them off their high horses, and knock off the idiotic rhetoric about materialistic origins for life, and natural selection defended completely, totally, and unaissably as a cause for life evolving from one celled organisms to what we see today, when there is ample doubt about the evidence to support such claims.

  • J.D. says:

    bh said:
    "I think all that's being asked is that the primary spokespeople for evolution show some respect for alternative theories."
    So should astronomers show more respect for geocentricism? In medical school should they give equal time to the demon-infestation 'theory' of disease as they do to the germ theory of disease? Should the proponents of the 'sexual reproduction' school show more respect to the Storkist school and other alternative theories for where babies come from?
    Respect in science is something that needs to be earned -- you actually have to do the work, come up with the evidence and the compelling arguments, and actually persuade the scientific community you are right before they will accept your claims and recommend that they be taught in science classes. I guess scientists are funny that way.
    Creationists (in their recent reincarnation as 'Intelligent Design proponents') haven't done the work. Hence, no matter how much they whine about the unfairness of it all, they are not entitled to the respect that only comes from actually doing the work.
    The scientific establishment laughed at Wegener, the guy who came up with the idea of continental drift, and they kept laughing until he and others did the work, fleshed out the theory and came up with compelling evidence for it. If the IDists were serious about getting the scientific establishment to accept their idea then they would follow in Wegener's footsteps, buckle down, and actually do the work of science.
    Of course they are not interested in actually doing the work of science, because they are not a scientific movement at all -- they are a social/political movement attempting to wrap themselves in the mantle of science in order to sneak under the radar of Supreme Court precedent.
    You know how to tell that they are a social/political movement rather than a scientific movement? You can tell by where they fight their battles: Scientific movements fight their battles in the peer reviewed journals and at scientific conferences and in the daily conversations between scientists; whereas social/political movements fight their battles in the pubic arena, usually with propaganda and slogans, and often involving the legislatures and the courts and other organs of public governance (e.g. school boards).
    Sound familiar?
    You are not likely to see Loop Quantum Gravity proponents spending less time and money on research than on making a documentary directed at the general public about how it's so unfair that String Theory gets all the money and attention and graduate students.

  • J.D. says:

    Oh, and bh, you might not have "come away" with the notion that Stein was attempting to say that evolution leads to genocide, but that is apparently what he was trying to say:
    'He (Stein) said he also believed the theory of evolution leads to racism and ultimately genocide, an idea common among creationist thinkers. If it were up to him, he said, the film would be called "From Darwin to Hitler."'
    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/27/science/27expelled.html?_r=3&pagewanted=all&oref=slogin

  • Skemono says:

    He (Stein) said he also believed the theory of evolution leads to racism and ultimately genocide, an idea common among creationist thinkers.

    Indeed? Then the title of this post is more fitting than I thought when I wrote it.

  • bh says:

    "So should astronomers show more respect for geocentricism? In medical school should they give equal time to the demon-infestation 'theory' of disease as they do to the germ theory of disease? Should the proponents of the 'sexual reproduction' school show more respect to the Storkist school and other alternative theories for where babies come from?"
    You insult my intelligence. You are equating two things that are not related. Highly intelligent and credible scientists have put their neck on the line for ID, and have been willing to sacrifice their careers to make the point. They are not crackpots.
    Let me give you a better analogy. Where is the evidence for panspermia? For multiple universes? For life being born on the back of crystals? For RNA being the progenitor of life. Yet when you press "peer reviewed" scientists on the question of the origin of life, this is what they propose. And there are peer reviewed articles to support these theses. With no evidence to support them.
    Dawkins himself at the end of the movie was forced by Stein to admit that he could not rule out intelligent design as a cause (going so far as to speculate that life was seeded on earth by aliens).
    Finally, I love the circular reasoning. ID does not appear in peer reviewed journals because it is unfairly kept out. When it doesn't appear in peer reviewed journals it becomes evidence that ID is not serious science.
    This is all a transparent, albeit futile, attempt to deny the existence of God. Folks, God will not be mocked.
    The box office numbers are pretty encouraging so far. It looks like Expelled is #8 on the all time list after just one weekend, #2 in gross on opening day, and #1 in total theaters. Not bad.

  • J.D. says:

    They are dogmatic ideologues, which is worse than being a crackpot (because at least crackpots can sometimes be charmingly funny). They are so desperate to silence something that seems (to them) to challenge and undermine their faith and its dogmas that they are willing to lie, cheat and use propaganda like 'Expelled'. You yourself are the perfect expression of the motivating force behind the ID movement when you say things like "This is all a transparent, albeit futile, attempt to deny the existence of God. Folks, God will not be mocked."
    It is crystal clear that doing science is not what motivates the ID movement -- that their goal is to minimize and keep at bay scientific theories that they believe are incompatible with the existence of God.
    As for your ridiculous claim that ID is kept out of peer reviewed journals (while the RNA world hypothesis etc gets in) because the scientific community wants to 'deny God'...
    Ugh.
    ...ID is kept out of journals because the Creationists haven't even come up with a testable, falsifiable hypothesis yet. No, it's worse than that -- they haven't even come up with a conjecture that one could see as possibly being falsifiable and testable in the future, after a little fleshing out. The RNA world hypothesis, on the other hand, does meet this minimum criteria to qualify as science worthy of appearing in peer-reviewed journals.
    This is because, once again, the IDists are not at all interested in actually doing science; their goal is purely social/political...theirs is an attempt to stop what they see as all the "God-mocking" and "God-denying" (to use your terms).
    If you believe differently, then you are certainly welcome to state the falsifiable ID hypothesis for how life came to be right here. Go on. I am all ears.

  • Skemono says:

    Finally, I love the circular reasoning. ID does not appear in peer reviewed journals because it is unfairly kept out. When it doesn't appear in peer reviewed journals it becomes evidence that ID is not serious science.
    This is all a transparent, albeit futile, attempt to deny the existence of God. Folks, God will not be mocked.

    I'm confused now. Is ID supposed to be "serious science", or is it supposed to be about god?

  • bh says:

    Not sure I understand your logic. We seem to be talking past each other. God is not incompatible with science, and science is not incompatible with God. God is the author of creation and put in place the laws of the Universe. Science is simply the process of discovering these laws and putting them to good use as we take dominion of the world we have been entrusted with. Science means "knowledge", and the end result of science is an increase in our knowledge of how the Universe actually works.
    I'm not a true IDist, actually. I'm rather biased in that I have a presuppositional belief in the existence of God, and therefore I filter what I see and read in these terms. If I read that so and so has disproven the existence of God, or that a theory purports to do so, I immediately disbelieve the author or the theory. I suspect that most atheists also approach issues with the same mindset. That is, they presuppose there is no God, and therefore any scientists who put forth evidence of intelligent design are immediately dismissed as liars and cheats.
    True IDists on the other hand come from all spheres. Some are ex-atheists, some agnostics, some old earth, some new earth, some believe in common descent, some believe that the Cambrian explosion leaves a lot to be explained.
    They all share a common belief that certain patterns in nature can be explained by natural causes, and some can't. If the best minds of the past century have been utterly unable to explain how the simple cell came into being, without resorting to something along the lines of "and then a miracle happened...", and if the best minds of the past century have been utterly unable to create life from inorganic material using their best hypothesis and theories, well perhaps the answer really lies in the "a miracle happened." And if a miracle happened, who might the author of that miracle be? Aliens, or perhaps God?
    Science is the search for truth and knowledge, and if this leads to God as the author, so be it.
    So far no-one on this blog has dared to touch my comments about Dawkins and his apparent embrace of intelligent design during the film. I think I hear crickets chirping.

  • bh says:

    #45, I admit that I had a hard time getting past the url for your blog entry. However, I did read the gist of what you were saying, and my comment is that you are only looking at one side of the issue. You are ignoring those who used darwinism to explain the differences in the races as a less developed species from an evolutionary standpoint.
    On the other hand, a careful reading of Genesis 1 reveals that in the beginning God created a man and a woman, who begat children, who begat children, up to today. So you see, you and I are blood relatives (well at least through Noah). Pretty scary thought. True nonetheless, we are related, which means that you are a brother or a sister somewhere down the line, no matter what your race.
    What, you say, that means that Adam's sons married his daughters. Well, it's not much different today. If we're all related, we marry a relative. The problem today is that we have lost a lot of the variability that was in the original gene pool and marrying someone too close to you can lead to recessive problems.
    Which only points out that information is lost, not gained as a result of Selection. I'm not sure how evolution progresses when information is continuously being lost. Does that mean we are devolving?
    So where did the skin colors come from? Simple. The original man had genes for all the traits. However, due to geographic speciation, some of the genotype was lost. It's not much different from wolves and poodles actually. They look different, but they're all descended from the original dog type.
    Am I a liar or a cheat or a crackpot for taking this interpretation of the facts from a creationist reading of the Bible?

  • (bh)^2 says:

    Am I a liar or a cheat or a crackpot for taking this interpretation of the facts from a creationist reading of the Bible?
    No, you're comic relief and we are giggling!

  • bh says:

    Well that's a big relief. Whew.
    Too much name calling goes on in these "debates" if you ask me.
    I didn't know that crickets could giggle.

  • Josh says:

    It's funny how you capitalize "Jewish", but not "christianity" (sic!) - why are you so full of hate?!
    Let me remind you that we Christians love the Jewish people, because the Bible tells us to. OUR hands are clean. And yet you keep defending "science", even though science has blood on its hands. Science, with scientists contradicting each other until the Bible is the only source you can believe.
    Why do you reject your friends and embrace your enemies?
    You are in my prayers.
    Your friend,
    Josh

  • Skemono says:

    Let me remind you that we Christians love the Jewish people, because the Bible tells us to. OUR hands are clean.

    *snicker*

  • J.D. says:

    bh said:
    "If I read that so and so has disproven the existence of God, or that a theory purports to do so, I immediately disbelieve the author or the theory"
    Perhaps you should first be skeptical of the claim that the theory 'purports' to disprove God. Evolution is certainly a little hard to square with many conceptions of God, and the facts it is based on (such as Deep Time, etc) are inconsistent with certain so-called 'literal' interpretations of many creation myths. But millions of theists have been able to reconcile evolution with their God, and the theory itself certainly makes no claim to disprove God.
    Only two sorts of people like to think God is incompatible with evolution: i) theists who are so weak in their faith or so dogmatically fixated on one and only one 'literal' interpretation that they cannot abide anything that appears to challenge those beliefs; and ii) atheists who are overjoyed that people think the truth of evolution necessitates the nonexistence of God, because then they only have to argue for the truth of evolution, which is (relatively) easy.
    bh continues:
    "That is, they presuppose there is no God, and therefore any scientists who put forth evidence of intelligent design are immediately dismissed as liars and cheats."
    I dismiss ID proponents as liars and cheats because history has demonstrated that they are exactly that. Just read the Kitzmiller v. Dover case to see some examples of IDists lying -- literally bearing false witness.
    bh continues:
    "So far no-one on this blog has dared to touch my comments about Dawkins and his apparent embrace of intelligent design during the film. I think I hear crickets chirping"
    It appears you have swallowed Stein's misunderstanding of Dawkin's comments hook, line and sinker. Dawkins was not 'embracing' the panspermia concept to explain the beginning of life. He was saying that evolution by natural selection was the only way he knew of to explain complex life (including intelligent beings), and thus that if one could actually prove that complex life on Earth _had_ to have been started off by an intelligent being, then of necessity those intelligent beings themselves would have to ultimately have come about through evolution. This is all part of Dawkin's point about how if complex life is something that needs explaining, then an intelligent, super-powered being cannot be the ultimate explanation, because such a being would itself be just as complex (or more so) than the things it is supposed to explain (complexity which demands an explanation).
    By the way, I am still waiting for you to describe the falsifiable hypothesis of ID.

  • FireWalk says:

    bh said:
    "True IDists on the other hand come from all spheres. Some are ex-atheists, some agnostics, some old earth, some new earth, SOME BELIEVE IN COMMON DESCENT...."
    OK, now, I'm *really* keen to see this incredible ID theory, since it is perfectly compatible with what I had thought was the main point of issue people had with evolution, and perfectly compatible with a totally contradictory biblical creation story.
    Maybe the ID scientists could then use that theory to find whether common descent or biblical literalism are true, and educate ID supporters on the matter?

  • Daithi says:

    "By the way, I am still waiting for you to describe the falsifiable hypothesis of ID."
    I think this is what sets the ID proponents apart from the evolution proponents.
    bh asked "Where is the evidence for panspermia? For multiple universes? For life being born on the back of crystals? For RNA being the progenitor of life." Evolution, like most theories in science, does not always have ALL the answers. In fact, new questions routinely arise as a consequence to theories. The great thing about science is that theories are either confirmed or falsified all the time. We may not have the technology to confirm or falsify a theory today, but the concept that a theory can be confirmed/falsified at some point is vital. Any theory that cannot be confirmed or falsified is simply not a scienitific theory.
    I do not begrudge people who incorporate faith into their lives. However, the ID proponents are trying to masquerade their faith as science and I do have a problem with that, but if the ID proponents can provide a scientific theory then I am more than willing to listen.

  • (bh)^2 says:

    I wonder if bh would care to comment on the genocidal slaughter of Native Americans at the hands of invading Christians commencing in the 1500s?
    And no, with many Christians there is no possibility of debate. Christians often do not want a debate, unfortunately just plain ol' bait will do just fine in most cases in the blogosphere. Plaintively asking if one is a crackpot or a liar, is appealing for sympathy. This is a logical fallacy.
    The debate between science and religion will not end any time soon: each side makes arguments using their own set of rules. Interesting that the Christians make such a showing on a math blog, one wonders how many mathematicians post on Christian blogs.

  • Kailden says:

    It can allows us to reason from what we know, to determine the effect of an action, which can allow us to decide whether that action is morally right or wrong.

    Can this be true? Suppose what you start with 'knowing' isn't enough, and you then use science to reason forwards, even consistently, to see the effect. How can you be sure that you started with enough knowledge to derive the correct moral action?

  • bh says:

    JD,
    You may be right. It probably is impossible to falsify ID. I suppose if you were to attempt to falsify it you would start by showing step by step how life formed from inorganic matter. You could demonstrate how nucleotides were formed and joined together to form DNA/RNA, how amino acids joined together to make proteins, how they formed a cell wall, how the machinery in the cell got there and how the cell figured out how to reproduce itself. It would have to do all this before natural selection could kick in. You could provide step by step instructions for how this happened and demonstrate it in a controlled environment in such a way that others could repeat the experiment. If you did all this it would definitely falsify ID, and you would at the same time prove that evolution and abiogenis are valid theories. Because then you could say, "Here's a reasonable way we can get from A to B, and we can repeat the process." And you can't hide behind the "it took billions of years" curtain. Improbable events can be achieved by intelligent agents (humans) in a minuscule fraction of the time it would take for natural processes to do it. I have read all the comments on Talk Origins: Index to Creationist Claims, and they all are couched in phrases that begin with "it might have", "it may be that", "it is commonly accepted that", "which must have", "Such mechanisms might also have been responsible for ", ad nauseam.
    Everyone I've talked to has unequivocally said they have absolutely no clue how life started, let alone moved from single cells to human beings. Including Dawkins. But he's 99% sure it wasn't God.
    In fact Dawkins is now saying that panspermia can be studied scientifically. Wait a minute. Won't he need to make use of the tools of ID to do that?

  • Wyrd says:

    "Truth and morality are two different things."
    I have a feeling the target audience for Ben Stein's movie will not agree with that statement. For them, morality ***IS*** Truth. Period.
    Except, of course, when they've got a bad desease or something and they turn to Western medicine to fix them (while praying to god constantly).
    --
    Furry cows moo and decompress.

  • FireWalk says:

    bh, it's clear you don't understand what "falsifiable" means. What does the theory of Intelligent Design say *can't* happen?
    That can be practically observed or found through intuition?
    Actually, I'd like to see an ID theory that doesn't define itself in terms of evolution: but still adequately describes the fossil record, genetic inheritance, and the origin of life as we know it.

  • J.D. says:

    That's just beautiful, bh. Thanks for making my day.
    For your amusement I present the following fictional conversation between a scientist and a pseudo-scientist. Try to figure out which one is which...
    A - So how would we know that your theory is correct? How can we test it?
    B - Well, if my theory is true then it will be impossible to prove that an alternate theory is true.
    A - Uh............huh. And how could we tell whether it is impossible to ...uh....'prove' an alternate theory?
    B - Obviously! If no one ever succeeds in doing so.
    A - So I guess that means you should be giving your support and all your funding to the people working on the other theories, right? I mean, you want to know that you are right, right?
    B - Don't be silly, George......I need a new boat.
    *fin*

  • bh says:

    Oh, I get it! Thanks! I didn't realize it was that simple!
    So a theory of evolution would say that it would be impossible for a Cambrian Explosion to occur, but that's not what the fossil record shows.
    Therefore the theory of evolution has been falsified!
    Cool! Thanks JD.

  • J.D. says:

    Looks like another instance of Myers' Law: "every creationist argument will be built on false premises that expose the arguers ignorance".
    Tell me, bh, what makes you think the Cambrian Explosion contradicts the theory of evolution?

  • bh says:

    Just gotta love the way you preface every question with an insult. Typical.
    -- You're ignorant.
    -- Answer this question.
    -- Your answer is ignorant because you're ignorant.
    Sounds like ad hominem.
    As you probably know, there are two theories of evolution: Micro and Macro. No-one disputes microevolution, change within a species, (daschunds, labradors, wolves, and poodles, etc). Where the argument lies is in macroevolution, from goo to you, and everything in between. As you probably know, there are two major models of macroevolution: Gradualism and Punctuated Equilibrium. Gradualism is not supported in the fossil record and most serious scientists have abandoned this idea. The Cambrian Explosion is representative of Punctuated Equilibrium. According to Gould: "We have reason to think that all major anatomical designs may have made their appearance at that time." Gould, S.J. 1995. Of it, not above it. Nature 377: 681-682
    What does punctuated equilibrium require?
    1. Beneficial mutations must accumulate in a number of individuals. Since the beneficial mutation rate is very low, the species' population must be very large.
    2. These mutated critters must then become isolated from the rest of the population so that the mutuations can be accumulated, and they won't be selected against or be bred back into the main population and have the mutation bred out.
    If this doesn't happen, the punctuated appearance of a new species won't happen. This requires multiple beneficial mutations (a very rare event), and the simulaneous genetic isolation of these mutated critters (a very rare event). These events might occur by chance once in a billion years, but not simultaneously to all the critters that show up in the Cambrian.
    It's more likely than gradualism, but still astronomically improbable. The math just doesn't add up. It's Bad Math. You're asking people to have faith in a miracle. Wait a minute. Maybe it was a miracle and there was an Intelligent Designer, or God, who....? Nah, it's not something you can mention to your peers without being called a crackpot, especially to those who have a lot of money invested in the current theory of evolution. After all, it's all about buying that new boat, right? So let's keep trying to manipulate the statistics. Maybe we can fudge the data so it's 1 in 10^50 instead of 10^51. Right.

  • J.D. says:

    There are not "two theories of evolution", there is just one considered over the Geologic short term and the Geologic long term (well, just one if we lump natural selection, sex selection, genetic drift etc together). Saying that 'microevolution' is fundamentally different from 'macroevolution' is like saying there are two types of addition, one for small numbers like 2+2 and another for very large numbers like a million plus a million.
    You appear to believe that the Cambrian 'explosion' was too quick for gradualistic evolution to have produced all the various forms that the fossil record shows that it did. This is incorrect. The Cambrian 'explosion' took millions of years to occur. Since with 'gradualism' (which you evidently misunderstand) you can get something as complex as the human eye from a patch of light sensitive skin cells in just a few hundred thousand years, your intuitions (i.e. about the possibility that plain old Neo-Darwinian evolution could explain the Cambrian 'explosion') are not well grounded in fact.
    I don't really have time to correct your various misunderstandings about gradualism and punctuated equilibrium. I recommend that you read the following Wikipedia article, specifically the three sections entitled 'Common misconceptions', 'Criticism', and 'Relation to Darwin's Theories':
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punctuated_equilibrium#Common_misconceptions

  • MartinM says:

    It's Bad Math.

    Worse than that, it's no math. You claim that the beneficial mutation rate is 'very low,' and so populations need to be 'very large,' but you don't quantify this. You talk of 'very rare events' which you concede might happen 'once in a billion years,' but you provide no basis for this figure. You insist that evolution is 'astronomically improbable,' even 'a miracle,' but still no calculation. In short, while you appear to be under the impression that you're making an argument, what you're actually doing is making stuff up. And you're asking us to believe your utterly unsubstantiated claims over those of people who have actually spent time studying these matters, using both empirical data and mathematical models.
    In short, if you want to be taken seriously, you're going to have to come up with a real argument. What you've got at the moment is insubstantial rhetoric built upon unsupported claims. That may play well with some less well-informed laymen, but it won't get you very far amongst scientists.

  • bh says:

    "Saying that 'microevolution' is fundamentally different from 'macroevolution' is like saying there are two types of addition, one for small numbers like 2+2 and another for very large numbers like a million plus a million"
    Actually, I think you are more correct than you think. There are at least three types of numbers. Real numbers, infinite numbers, and imaginary numbers. In the case of microevolution, we're talking about real numbers. In the case of macroevolution, we're talking math with infinite numbers. By the way, is infinity times infinity still equal to infinity? (Don't get bent out of shape here, I'm just having some fun with hyperbole. You scientists are such a serious bunch.)
    "you can get something as complex as the human eye from a patch of light sensitive skin cells in just a few hundred thousand years"
    I heard of a PBS documentary on that, some scientist designed a computer model to illustrate how it might have happened. It was sheer speculation. Amazing what an "intelligent" designer can do with software!
    "I recommend that you read the following Wikipedia article"
    Ok. I did. Is this an example of a peer reviewed forum? It sounds like they want to have it both ways. Punctuationism is defined as a form of gradualism. Kind of like saying when you crash you slow down very quickly, I guess.
    I especially enjoyed the corollary they drew at the end to social studies.
    "Punctuated Equilibrium has also played a role in social and political theory, particularly in policy studies, as one of many cross-overs of evolutionary theory into social theory. The punctuated equilibrium model of policy change was first presented by Frank Baumgartner and Bryan Jones in 1993, and has subsequently been examined in many policy contexts and has increasingly received attention in the field. The model states that policy generally changes only incrementally due to several restraints, namely lack of institutional change and bounded rationality of individual decision-making. Policy change will thus be punctuated by changes in these conditions, especially change in party control of government or changes in public opinion. "
    If you can legitimately draw these kinds of inferences from evolutionary theory to business, then may I propose the same inference to religion? Punctuated Equilibrium supports the proposition that God created the heavens and the earth in 6 24-hour days, each day representing a new level of punctuation.

  • Skemono says:

    In the case of microevolution, we're talking about real numbers. In the case of macroevolution, we're talking math with infinite numbers.

    No, that's just nonsense. It may take a large number of steps for speciation to occur, but "large" is certainly not "infinite". J.D.'s point remains: "Saying that 'microevolution' is fundamentally different from 'macroevolution' is like saying there are two types of addition, one for small numbers like 2+2 and another for very large numbers like a million plus a million."
    Or as one commenter at Pharyngula put it, "Believing in microevolution but not macroevolution is like believing in inches but not miles."

  • bh says:

    I'm using hyperbole to make my point. I even said I was using hyperbole, perhaps you missed it. The point is not inches to miles but inches to billions of light years. You can believe in a billion light years, but you can't get from here to there.

  • FireWalk says:

    Except that your hyperbole is nonsense, you equate "very large" with "impossible", without any idea what you're on about. This so-called "Macroevolution" does not need an infinite number of changes. It just needs some, and it's a lot less mindboggling than people try to suggest.
    "I heard of a PBS documentary on that, some scientist designed a computer model to illustrate how it might have happened. It was sheer speculation. Amazing what an "intelligent" designer can do with software!"
    Let me guess: because someone "Designed" a simulation to do *exactly* what evolutionary theory says should happen, it proves that this process is Intelligent Design? you do understand the simulation concept, don't you?
    I'm still waiting for this open, scientific theory people are proposing gets taught in school. Maybe they could share some light on this story:
    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/04/080421-lizard-evolution.html

  • J.D. says:

    ....well yes, of course I believe that light can traverse an inch, or even a few miles. But to say that there is light that is just now reaching us from stars billions of light years away is absurd. Nothing can cross such an incredible gulf of space! Not even if it took billions of years!
    *End sarcasm mode*
    Oh and bh, try to restrain your disappointment in discovering that gradualism (with respect to punctuated equilibrium) is not quite the easy to knock over straw man you thought it was. I know it's hard to accept, but every once in a while the scientific community actually comes up with a theory that cannot be refuted in five minutes by a twelve-year old with a calculator.
    *Ok, NOW end sarcasm mode*
    In the vein of 'fun with math analogies', debating Creationists is like adding with zeros -- you can do it as much as you like, but don't expect to make much progress.

  • Daithi says:

    Let's stipulate for the sake of arguement that bh's assertion about evolution is correct. Let us assume that there are holes in our understanding of evolution and inparticular - "how life is formed from inorganic matter."
    As bh asked, Do we know how nucleotides were formed and joined together to form DNA/RNA? Do we know how amino acids joined together to make proteins? How they formed a cell wall? How the machinery in the cell got there and how the cell figured out how to reproduce itself?
    Let's assume that we don't have a clue. I maintain that this is the whole point of science. We want to find the answers of these questions, and we want to do so without relying on a spirit world or faith.
    When scientist have trouble finding the answers to one of life's mysteries they have a choice. They can keep approaching the problem from a scientific viewpoint, or they can defer to a spirit world. They can just say, "God is responsible for this thing we can't figure out, and the fact that we can't figure it out is evidence that God is responsible."
    I prefer following the scientific viewpoint.

  • bh says:

    Problem with Daithi's viewpoint is it a priori presumes it wasn't God who dunnit.
    The truth, if you believe in God, is as you stated:
    "God is responsible." You don't need the other baggage.
    There's no need to strain at a gnat while trying to explain alternate theories like panspermia, punctuated equilibrium, exobiology, gradualism, big bangs, etc, many of which are in conflict with each other.
    The job of the scientist is not to discover the truth and a priori exclude the possibility that God dunnit. The purpose of science is to add to the knowledge base. Science comes from a Latin word, sciere, which means to know.
    Once science defines itself as excluding a spirit world, it de facto usurps the realm of religion, which by contrast, is what science accuses religion of doing all the time with Intelligent Design.
    If you believe that God did it, then looking for evidence of Intelligent Design allows you to worship the creator as you study His creation. If on the other hand, you are forced to deny a priori that God did anything, you are denied the opportunity to worship as you work.
    Science is controlled by the government through grants, and controls over the education process, who teaches and what they can teach. Much has been made that teaching Creationism in public schools violates the separation of state and church. It seems that a case could be made when a definition of science explicitly denies the existence of God that this is a violation of the First Amendment.
    Government shall not establish a religion.
    Science requires a rejection of God.
    Government funds science education and dictates what its practitioners can and cannot say.
    Government supports the definition of science that requires a rejection of God.
    Government is requiring a rejection of God.
    Therefore, this is a violation of the First Amendment.
    "Mr Darwin, tear down this wall!"

  • Skemono says:

    "God is responsible." You don't need the other baggage.There's no need to strain at a gnat while trying to explain alternate theories like panspermia, punctuated equilibrium, exobiology, gradualism, big bangs, etc, many of which are in conflict with each other.

    Yes, it's true. Once you accept "goddidit" as your rule, you no longer need to actually think or investigate reality. That's but one reason why it's completely anathema to science.

    Once science defines itself as excluding a spirit world, it de facto usurps the realm of religion, which by contrast, is what science accuses religion of doing all the time with Intelligent Design.

    More complete, foaming nonsense. Science cannot accept the idea of the supernatural because it cannot work if it did. If your lab results are open to tampering from gremlins, pixies, gods, or nargles, then you cannot ever arrive at any conclusions. Science can only examine the natural, so the supernatural just doesn't enter into it. It's called methodological materialism--which, by the way, is a different thing from philosophical naturalism, which is a person's belief that only the material exists. Science doesn't force anyone to take up philosophical naturalism.
    And how does science "excluding a spirit world" then "usurp the realm of religion"? That's just insipid. Because science doesn't care about the supernatural, this somehow infringes on religion? Where's the logic in that?

    If you believe that God did it, then looking for evidence of Intelligent Design allows you to worship the creator as you study His creation. If on the other hand, you are forced to deny a priori that God did anything, you are denied the opportunity to worship as you work.

    If you believe that God did it and are looking for evidence of it, then you're not doing science. You're starting with your conclusion and trying to scrap together any facts you can warp to "support" that view. Moreover, you're starting with an unfalsifiable conclusion, which again is not science.
    And no-one is "forcing" scientists to take any view of god at all. They just can't call "god did it" science.

    Science requires a rejection of God.

    All the religious scientists in the world prove you fantastically wrong.

    Therefore, this is a violation of the First Amendment.

    Let's see... science is not a religion, so it doesn't fall short of the Establishment clause. And science doesn't prevent anyone from believing what they want, so it doesn't fall short of the Free Exercise clause. Looks like you make as terrible a constitutional lawyer as you do a scientist.

  • bh says:

    I think you're elevating science to the level of or even as a substitute for God.
    "Once you accept "goddidit" as your rule, you no longer need to actually think or investigate reality."
    Huh? God created the Universe, and it most certainly is real. Just because God created it is no reason for you to quit thinking or give up investigating. All the more reason for you to investigate and meditate on His works. Once your come to the realization that this Universe was created and is governed by an awesome God, it makes you hungry to learn more about it, to think God's thoughts after Him.
    On the other hand, if you say "The Universe sure looks like it was Intelligently Designed and I'd like to explore that Design" to certain people in the scientific community, you can get Expelled from that community, you can be denied tenure, you can have grant money you brought in returned to sender, you can have your website shut down.
    That's what happens when science is elevated above it's position in the natural order. You lose focus on the purpose of science -- to further our knowledge and create useful things. It becomes all about theoretical falsification which is way overblown if you ask me. Take scientific investigation into meteorology for instance. Who can predict the weather tomorrow, let alone in the next 10-20 years. Do theories about the weather fail the falsification test? Yet meteorology is presented as a scientific subject.

  • Skemono says:

    I think you're elevating science to the level of or even as a substitute for God.

    That doesn't even make sense. Science is a method of discovering truths about the natural world. It's nothing at all like a deity.

    God created the Universe, and it most certainly is real. Just because God created it is no reason for you to quit thinking or give up investigating.

    Says the person who insisted that once one has accepted the "goddidit" hypothesis, "There's no need to strain at a gnat while trying to explain alternate theories like panspermia, punctuated equilibrium, exobiology, gradualism, big bangs, etc, many of which are in conflict with each other." In short, accepting the "goddidit" hypothesis would put an end to all these branches of scientific inquiry. If you want people to think and investigate, then stop trying to force people to come to your preconceived conclusion.

    On the other hand, if you say "The Universe sure looks like it was Intelligently Designed and I'd like to explore that Design" to certain people in the scientific community, you can get Expelled from that community, you can be denied tenure, you can have grant money you brought in returned to sender, you can have your website shut down.

    Utter crap. If people actually presented a valid, falsifiable scientific hypothesis, collected data, ran experiments, all of which pointed to "design", they would be heard out. But they don't do that. They don't do research, they don't formulate experiments, they don't present any evidence for design short of "it looks complicated to me"--in short, they're not doing science. So yes, a bunch of creationists who aren't doing science are going to get laughed at by real scientists. But your claims of persecution are fanciful nonsense.

    That's what happens when science is elevated above it's position in the natural order. You lose focus on the purpose of science -- to further our knowledge and create useful things.

    Which is what science is doing by looking into the origins of life, the universe, and species. Intelligent Design, however, does not further our knowledge about anything and creates absolutely nothing except mounds of steaming, worthless books, blog posts, a movie. "goddidit" also does not further our knowledge, nor does it aid us in creating useful things, so why on earth are you so keen on scientists taking it up? It's completely useless and stifles real scientific inquiry.

    It becomes all about theoretical falsification which is way overblown if you ask me.

    How else do you think science should work, then?

    Take scientific investigation into meteorology for instance. Who can predict the weather tomorrow, let alone in the next 10-20 years. Do theories about the weather fail the falsification test? Yet meteorology is presented as a scientific subject.

    Meteorology is a scientific subject. One can form hypotheses about how the weather is affected, test them, and potentially falsify them. The fact that we cannot predict what the weather will be in two decades does not change that, and I am frankly bewildered that you even threw that in there.

  • Anonymous says:

    I guess bullets have killed more people than Nazis did. Now bullets are in a way result of both chemistry and physics. Hence we should all persecute chemists and physicists.

  • bh says:

    How should science work? Glad you asked that question.
    "Meteorology is a scientific subject. One can form hypotheses about how the weather is affected, test them, and potentially falsify them."
    I guess indirectly you have put your finger on one of the problems I have with the scientific community.
    What does Falsify mean? I think at its most elemental definition it simply means that something is capable of being criticized by observational reports. So when the science community refuses to criticize something that deserves to be criticized, and goes 180 degrees in the opposite direction to prop it up despite all the evidence against it, I have a problem with that.
    This is true not just for Evolution, but other topics like Global Warming for instance. It has now been revealed that Al Gore, who got a Nobel Prize, fabricated the images of the ice shelf melting in the Antarctic. He used a computer simulation picture from a movie "The Day After Tomorrow". Guess what? There's no outrage from the scientific community over this hoax.
    Government funded schools are requiring impressionable young minds in science classes to watch An Inconvenient Truth, but there is no effort made in these classes to paint a fair and balanced picture of the evidence against Global Warming. Imagine the outrage if schools required students to watch Expelled!!
    You will hear things like "Global warming is true, in spite of the doctored pictures. After all, Al Gore was probably just trying to dramatize the point. As long as people believe in the truth of Global Warming, where's the harm?"
    Scientists have been expelled for not endorsing Global Warming with the right amount of zeal. Same thing that was portrayed in the movie Expelled.

  • Anonymous says:

    If you believe that God did it and are looking for evidence of it, then you're not doing science. You're starting with your conclusion and trying to scrap together any facts you can warp to "support" that view. Moreover, you're starting with an unfalsifiable conclusion, which again is not science.
    And no-one is "forcing" scientists to take any view of god at all. They just can't call "god did it" science.
    Thats right.

  • Thony C. says:

    bh wrote:

    What does Falsify mean? I think at its most elemental definition it simply means that something is capable of being criticized by observational reports. So when the science community refuses to criticize something that deserves to be criticized, and goes 180 degrees in the opposite direction to prop it up despite all the evidence against it, I have a problem with that.
    This is true not just for Evolution,

    I probably shouldn't bother as I'm probably wasting my time and energy but what you have written bh is total crap. There are whole libraries full of books and articles written by evolutionary biologists who have critical examined, tested, modified, changed and developed the complex of theories that make up their discipline since it first started to emerge in the middle of the 18th Century. The ground why real scientists universally accept the fundamental validity of the theory of evolution is exactly because it has survived this very exacting process of testing and continues to do so.
    Your pretence that the theory of evolution has never been tested is either incredibly ignorant or incredibly stupid. You obviously know nothing about the theory of evolution and its history and your comments are the unqualified babbling of a fool.

  • What do "Intelligent Design" believers think that Biologists do? Not the liars who disseminate the propaganda, but their poor deluded followers? Sit around all day and laugh that they get a paycheck for doing absolutely nothing, because a fraud has been perpetrated, case closed, there is nothing to prove, there is no data to gather, there is no experiment to do? The babbling of ID fools on this and other blogs strongly suggests to me that they are terrified of science, and do not dare go online or to a brick and morter library and actually look at a biology journal and see what is being done.
    Douglas J. Futuyma: "Evolution, a fact rather than mere hypothesis, is the central unifying concept in biology.By extension it affects almost all other fields of knowledge and thought and must be considered one of the most influential concepts in Western thought." [Evolutionary Biology, Ch. 1, p.14]
    They fail even to be funny about their fear of reading books and articles outside their cult. Sir William S. Gilbert, for instance, wrote:
    "... a Darwinian man, though well-behaved,
    At best is only a moneky, shaved."
    [Princess Ida, Act 2]
    "I am, in point of fact, a particularly haughty and exclusive person, of pre-Adamite ancestral descent. You will understand this when I tell you that I can trace my ancestry back to a protoplasmal, primordial, atomic globule."
    [The Mikado, Act I]

  • bh says:

    "There are whole libraries full of books and articles written by evolutionary biologists..."
    So what? There were whole libraries full of books and articles written by Leninists, Marxists, and Stalinists. The fact that there were large numbers of people who copied and repeated bad ideas doesn't make those ideas true.

  • Skemono says:

    The fact that there were large numbers of people who copied and repeated bad ideas doesn't make those ideas true.

    That is true (and that's something you should perhaps apply to your beloved creationists and global warming denialists).
    However, the fact that we have overwhelming evidence supporting those ideas (said evidence being able to be found in whole libraries full of books and articles written by evolutionary biologists) does indicate that they are true.

  • bh says:

    "You obviously know nothing about the theory of evolution and its history and your comments are the unqualified babbling of a fool."
    What was the name of the book Darwin took with him on the Beagle that influenced him so profoundly? I believe it was Principles of Geology by Charles Lyell. Jay Gould had this to say about him:
    "Lyell relied upon true bits of cunning to establish his uniformitarian views as the only true geology....The geologic record does seem to require catastrophes: rocks are fractured and contorted, whole faunas are wiped out. To circumvent this literal appearance, Lyell imposed his imagination upon the evidence. The geologic record, he argued, is extremely imperfect and we must interpolate into it what we can reasonably infer but cannot see. The catastrophists were the hard-nosed empiricists of their day...."
    It's a matter of interpretation. Creationists (catastophists aka the Flood) don't deny legitimate observations made by other scientists, they just always make better sense when interpreted in a biblical framework. eg Big Bang, Global Flood, Punctuated Equilibrium, etc.

  • bh says:

    "Evolution, a fact rather than mere hypothesis..."
    Here are some facts that undermine Darwin's theory. I only say this to point out that I am not manufacturing my criticism of Darwinian evolution. I'm using the words of devout atheistic evolutionists (kind of like what Ben Stein did with Richard Dawkins in the film Expelled, which I doubt you have actually watched. I bet you get your views from ExpelledExposed.)
    I'm not willing to fall on my sword to defend this "Theory" like you seem to be, just because there have been thousands of books printed that assume the theory is a fact.
    "Lyell had an equally profound effect on our understanding of life's history. He influenced Darwin so deeply that Darwin envisioned evolution as a sort of biological uniformitarianism. Evolution took place from one generation to the next before our very eyes, he argued, but it worked too slowly for us to perceive."
    -- http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/_0/history_12
    The following paper discusses some inconsistencies in the fossil record that were known at the time the theories of evolution were being proposed.
    doi:10.1144/GSL.SP.1998.143.01.11
    Geological Society, London, Special Publications 1998; v. 143; p. 133-136
    A. Hallam
    Nevertheless, fish were known from some of the oldest strata, which 'entirely destroys the theory of precedence of the simplest forms of animals' (p. 148). Furthermore, land mammals could not be expected in the marine strata of the Carboniferous and 'Mesozoic' of the well explored rocks of Great Britain. Vertebrates are abundant in the marine Mesozoic but consist almost entirely of fish and reptiles. Lyell noted, however, that mammalian jaws related to opossums (determined by Cuvier as belonging to the genus Didelphis) had been found in the Middle Jurassic Stonesfield Slate of the southern English Midlands. The Tertiary strata of the Paris Basin were partly of nonmarine origin and contained many land mammals, but fossils of this group were extremely rare in marine deposits of the same age. The London Clay, for example, contains only marine fish and reptiles, notably turtles and crocodiles. In contrast, the Jurassic Stonesfield Slate contains mammals, indicating a reversal in the presumed order of progression.

  • bh says:

    "However, the fact that we have overwhelming evidence supporting those ideas (said evidence being able to be found in whole libraries full of books and articles written by evolutionary biologists) does indicate that they are true."
    I fear you are unduly impressed by majority rule. If the majority say it, it must be true. Guess what, that's a direct contradiction to every fiber of scientific inquiry, and if you use that argument, you make a mockery of all scientific advances in the past century.
    Besides, it's circular reasoning. Evolution is true because books say so. And the books say so, because evolution is true.

  • bh says:

    "That is true (and that's something you should perhaps apply to your beloved creationists and global warming denialists)."
    I quote from
    http://ecoworld.com/home/articles2.cfm?tid=411
    "What we get instead is sophistry. In AIT, the only facts and studies considered are those convenient to Gore's scare-them-green agenda - and in many instances, Gore distorts the evidence he presents.
    Nearly every significant statement Gore makes regarding climate science and climate policy is either one sided, misleading, exaggerated, speculative, or just plain wrong. The present OnPoint summarizes my findings. An Inconvenient Truth does the following: "
    This is followed by about 100 very specific examples of each fallacy. Go check out the link. You really should be more open minded. Anyone who starts off an argument with an insult reminds me of Saturday Night's nightly news: Jane you ignorant slut.

  • bh says:

    "I probably shouldn't bother as I'm probably wasting my time and energy but what you have written bh is total crap. "
    Thony, Sorry. Are you referring to my characterization of Falsification? I took it from the wikipedia entry on Falsification, so if you're saying I have written a load of nonsense, then you're also saying that the Wikipedia entry is nonsense.

  • "bh" utterly misses everything that has been done in Evolutionary Biology since Darwin. Why do you think we speak of the "neodarwinian synthesis" and all of molecular biology? Are Crick & Watson (whose breakthrough paper was 55 years ago this week) and all the biochemistry of Linus Pauling (who was commemorated last month with a postage stamp) mere repetitions of arguments by Lyell or Darwin? Is the Evolutionary Algorithm of John Holland mere duplication, oddly enough of people who didn't have digital computers or a theory of algorithms?
    My more important point is not that bh is stupid, dishonest, and ignorant, as others have adequately shown. My point is that he is not funny, the way that Gilbert & Sullivan were -- and thus were adored by my late friend Isaac Asimov who, as Professor of Biochemistry, was also not engaged in mere duplication of old arguments in his 500+ books.

  • Shepherd Moon says:

    Thanks for the good point regarding the purported Darwin-Hitler connection.
    One might almost say: Darwinian theory doesn't kill people, people kill people.

  • bh says:

    I'm really glad you brought up Crick.
    Crick was so amazed at the complexity of DNA that he conjectured that it was highly improbable that life could have evolved, and speculated that it had to have come from outer space (designed by someone?). His anti-biblical bias forced him to consider eugenics as a possible solution to what he perceived as a side effect of evolution. So much for those who castigate Expelled as being over the top for criticizing evolutionists for pushing this issue. Just read the facts for yourself, and be honest enough to admit that there there could be a problem here. Expelled is doing an outstanding service in exposing the kind of blatant hypocrisy that people like Vos Post spew. You guys are too thin skinned to stand any kind of criticism, which explains your knee jerk ad hominem reaction to the least criticism of your beloved darwin.
    See wikipedia article on Crick.
    Crick occasionally expressed his views on eugenics, usually in private letters. For example, Crick advocated a form of positive eugenics in which wealthy parents would be encouraged to have more children. He once remarked, "In the long run, it is unavoidable that society will begin to worry about the character of the next generation... It is not a subject at the moment which we can tackle easily because people have so many religious beliefs and until we have a more uniform view of ourselves I think it would be risky to try and do anything in the way of eugenics... I would be astonished if, in the next 100 or 200 years, society did not come round to the view that they would have to try to improve the next generation in some extent or one way or another." Some observers have labeled Crick's views on eugenics as "controversial"
    In order to create a "more uniform view" of ourselves, I assume Crick has in mind the abolition of religion. He is in favor of eugenics, but not at the moment because he's afraid of the reaction from the religious crowd. Sounds to me like those scary Christians are the very ones who are standing in the way of Crick's vision being fulfilled. You probably support eugenics though, huh?

  • Skemono says:

    Creationists (catastophists aka the Flood) don't deny legitimate observations made by other scientists, they just always make better sense when interpreted in a biblical framework. eg Big Bang, Global Flood, Punctuated Equilibrium, etc.

    That's two lies in one sentence. Bravo.
    Yes, creationists do deny legitimate observations made by scientists. They deny the science behind all the techniques of dating the earth and fossils. They deny the science of evolution, including common descent. And what on earth do you mean by interpreting things "in a biblical sense"? If you mean trying to come up with any bullshit interpretation of the bible that matches what science has found out about reality, that doesn't really have anything to do with science at all. And if you mean that science should be trying to prove the bible true, or does prove the bible true... you're wrong on both accounts. Evolution does not "make sense" from a biblical account, where all life was poofed into existence in a period of six, wherein birds are created at the same time as fish (as well as whales and dolphins) and before land-dwelling animals. And nothing makes sense if you assume that there was a bigass global flood, since there's no evidence for that at all.

    I fear you are unduly impressed by majority rule. If the majority say it, it must be true. Guess what, that's a direct contradiction to every fiber of scientific inquiry, and if you use that argument, you make a mockery of all scientific advances in the past century.Besides, it's circular reasoning. Evolution is true because books say so. And the books say so, because evolution is true.

    You're just hallucinating what our comments say, aren't you? Although consensus in science is important, no-one ever claimed that because a majority of people say it, it must be true. Nor has anyone ever said that it must be true because books say so. In fact, the only people who use such "logic" are, well, people like you--when you cite an article and say "evolution must not be true because this person says so!" or link to some website and claim "global warming must not be true because this guy says so!" It's pathetic projection on your part.
    I'm going to try this one more time, for your sake, bh. Evolution is not true just because anyone says so. It is almost certainly true because we have a shitload of evidence that it is true. The fossil record, despite your claims to the contrary, shows a clear line of development. I'll quote Ed Brayton, of Dispatches from the Culture Wars:

    To me, the most powerful line of evidence for evolution is what is called biostratigraphy - the order in which life forms appear in the fossil record. As you go up the geologic column, dated both relatively (in relation to younger strata above and older strata below) and absolutely (via hundreds of concordant radiometric dates using a variety of techniques), all over the world, you find the same successional order of appearance. At the lowest levels you find nothing but bacteria. Even among bacteria there is a specific order, divided into prokaryotes and eukaryotes. That is all there was on the earth for about a billion years. Then the first multicellular life appears in the form of stromatolites and, along with bacteria, are all that there was for over 2 billion years. Then the first metazoic life appears around 600 million years ago, all marine invertebrates. These marine invertebrates become more diversified - trilobites, mollusks, brachiopods, echinoderms, etc, and after 150 million years or so we find jawless fishes, the first vertebrates. Vertebrate fishes become more and more diversified, then the first amphibians appear. Amphibians become more diversified for about 70 million years and then the first reptiles appear. Reptiles become more diversified over the course of about 80 million years and then the first mammals appear in very limited niches. Then the first birds begin to appear after another 70 million years or so. Reptiles dominate throughout this period, especially dinosaurs, and then 65 million years ago they become extinct. After that, mammals suddenly begin to diversify and appear in greater numbers and greater variety. 10 million years later, the first primates appear. Then the first marine mammals.This order of appearance is the same all over the world no matter where you look. And within each of these groups, you find an equally interesting order. The first amphibians to appear are nearly identical to the shallow marine fish they are thought to have evolved from and as you move forward in time they become increasingly less fish-like, more diversified and better adapted to terrestrial life. The first mammals to appear are virtually indistinguishable from therapsid reptiles and, again, as you more forward in time they spread out, become increasingly less reptile-like and more diversified and more like modern mammals. The first birds to appear are, quite literally, feathered dinosaurs and, once again, as new species appear they become more diversified, better adapted to avian lifestyles, they gradually lose many of the reptilian traits and look more and more like modern birds.

    This is exactly what is predicted by evolution. Evolution, in fact, was used recently to predict what a certain kind of fish would be like, when it would live, around where it would live, and people went there and looked... and lo and behold, they found it! You may have heard of it at the time--Tiktaalik roseae?
    Evolution is supported by more than just fossils, however. Let me quote PZ, now:

    [I]n fact, fossils are only a tiny part of the evidence for evolution. It's a kind of sexy, tangible, concrete piece that doesn't require a lot of background to appreciate, and historically it is very important, but in modern biology, it's probably the least of the elements that support the theory.First of all, the fossil evidence is flawed and imperfect, which every evolutionary biologist will tell you, and as creationists are fond of quoting. Even Darwin's Origin goes on at length to document the imperfection of the geological record -- all it can do is demonstrate a long pattern of change and diversity over earth's history (which does contradict literalist interpretations of the bible) and hint at transitions and connections between lineages ... and even the fossil lineages are a product of a connect-the-dots sort of exercise. Fossils disprove a literal Genesis, which is probably why the creationists focus on them so much, but they provide only a sketch outline of the history of life on earth and are not the key evidence for the process and mechanisms for evolution.For that, we rely on evidence in living organisms. Read this summary of the evidence for evolution, for instance; a small part of it is a description of transitional fossil forms, but most of it is molecules, comparative phylogenies, development, genetics, biogeography, experiments ... and especially molecules, molecules, molecules. Modern evolutionary biology is dominated by molecular analyses -- everything from traditional ecological field work to embryology has become reliant on looking at genes and proteins.

    So, no--it's not just that we've written the most, therefore we're right. We're right because we've got the evidence. If you don't like it, find the evidence that disproves evolution and supports your theory, publish it in peer-reviewed journals, verify your findings through repeated tests... and then we'll talk.

    This is followed by about 100 very specific examples of each fallacy. Go check out the link. You really should be more open minded. Anyone who starts off an argument with an insult reminds me of Saturday Night's nightly news: Jane you ignorant slut.

    Of course. You condemn me for opening with an insult, right after saying that I'm not "open-minded."
    And your evidence that I'm not open-minded is... what? That I don't give a damn about someone who nit-picks to death a documentary... possible because he doesn't provide any citations for his bald assertions? Honestly, bh, you act as if "An Inconvenient Truth" were the only evidence of global warming out there. Even if it were completely and utterly discredited, that still wouldn't change the science. Go visit Deltoid for more information on the reality of global warming. (While you're there you can find out that most climate scientists find "An Inconvenient Truth" fairly reliable. The objections of one Marlo Lewis--who I feel I should note majored in Political Science--doesn't exactly tip the scales in your favor.)

  • Skemono says:

    You guys are too thin skinned to stand any kind of criticism, which explains your knee jerk ad hominem reaction to the least criticism of your beloved darwin.

    (A) Darwin is not our beloved prophet, whose words are gospel truth, whose life was blessed and whose ideas are infallible. He was a man with a revolutionary idea that became the foundation of later research. He was also wrong on a lot of things, so fair criticism of Darwin doesn't exactly bother us. It also doesn't do anything to refute the truth about evolution and modern science.
    (B) It's funny that you accuse us of knee jerk ad hominem reactions, when your entire comment does nothing to refute the science of evolution--instead you're trying to say that Crick was an evil, evil man because of his views on eugenics, therefore science is wrong. Perhaps you need to refresh yourself on what "ad hominem" means, so you can avoid it in the future.

  • Poor deluded "bh" thinks that he's "exposing the kind of blatant hypocrisy that people like Vos Post spew. You guys are too thin skinned to stand any kind of criticism, which explains your knee jerk ad hominem reaction to the least criticism of your beloved darwin."
    Since I'm a scientist and mathematician, why don't you provide a coherent criticism of, say, one of my papers from the on-line proceedings of The New England Complex Systems Institute, or one of the 4 papers that I coauthored and are available at arxiv.org, or one of the 1894 sequences or comments of mine at the Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences? Or any of my 230 contributions to the Prime Curios web site. Or any of my 19 entries at mathworld.com, as you can easily Google for any of these. That's some 2,100 of my ideas in public. Odds are these contain some mutations -- I mean random errors.
    If you find an error in these (far from a complete set of my publications) then I'll thank you for it.
    Of course, if you can't remove the beam in your own eye while sneering at a mote in mine, then you stand revealed as incapable of rational and quantitative thought.
    Merely throwing mud at Darwin or Crick is as pointless as attacking Moses because you don't like the current political posture of Israel.
    Ball's in your court, "bh." Swing away.

  • bh says:

    So according to Brayton, the fossil record is perfect (this is utter bunk):
    "To me, the most powerful line of evidence for evolution is what is called biostratigraphy - the order in which life forms appear in the fossil record."
    But PZ contradicts him and says it's not so:
    "First of all, the fossil evidence is flawed and imperfect, which every evolutionary biologist will tell you..."
    Which is it? I guess Brayton is not an evolutionary Biologist.
    The truth is that anomalies crop up so frequently in the fossil record that they have a name for them: 'holdover taxa', 'refugia species' or 'Lazarus taxa'.
    Again, from wikipedia:
    "In paleontology, a Lazarus taxon (plural taxa) is a taxon that disappears from one or more periods of the fossil record, only to appear again later. The term refers to the New Testament story of Lazarus, in which Jesus miraculously raises Lazarus from the dead. "
    How much confidence is a person supposed to place in a theory that resorts to these kinds of gyrations? Species that come back from the dead? This really puts Brayton in a very bad light, doesn't it?
    This is why Expelled needs to be heard by as wide an audience as possible. When anyone questions these claims, they get ridiculed, they get shouted down and they're called babbling fools. Very interesting. It's exactly the behavior that Expelled said evolutionists would exhibit toward anyone who dared to challenge their orthodoxy.

  • Anonymous says:

    Jonathan, very impressive!!!! You're a busy guy! I see you also were nominated for geek of the year; you're a part time professor; you created a list of 4468 Mystery/Detective Authors and Fictional Characters inserted in a periodic table and written in pure HTML; you wrote an 84 page book on numbers that can be made with four copies of pi; you program in 30 different programming languages (though your website MagicDragon looks like something a 9 year old put together); your computer business on the side appears to be something to do with Amway; you wrote a timeline of the cosmic future to infinity (that must have taken a while); and finally a handbook: "How to Talk to an Extraterrestrial"
    You want me to take you seriously?

  • bh says:

    That anonymous previous poster was me. Jonathan, you're obviously a very bright guy. I can't believe you swallow this evolution stuff without it raising some serious doubts in your mind.

  • Anonymous says:

    History may once have been the biographies of important men, but the natural world cares not at all for the will of man. Apples will fall whether or not the general theory of relativity accurately predicts the structure of the galaxy. A greater theory may account for why the spiral arms do not blur together, but apples still fall, whether Newton was a womanizing heathen or not.
    Plate tectonics is insufficient to predict earthquakes, but the mountains do not care. We do not observe the continents drift at the speed fingernails grow, but we would be fools not to see the patterns around us and try to decipher meaning from them, and doubt the sufficiency of our understanding so far.
    The fossil record is sporadic, and uncharitable in its book-keeping of the change of species. The patterns are imperfect, tarnished, at times turned on their heads. But the bones do not care. There they are. Structures and forms that changed and adapted to a harsh and uncaring world.
    If you do not believe that only the fittest survive, and that the children of the fittest carry on these selected for traits, then we cannot stop you. But the streptococci that have survived the antibiotics of the 1970s do not care that they have evolved a resistance. It is up to us to care, and although it is true our medicine does not work, it is not wrong that the world undoes the work of our great healers and humanitarians. It is not wrong that the weak die, it is true, and up to us to care.

  • FireWalk says:

    The fossil record is "flawed and imperfect" in that not everything that lived left sufficient fossils behind to document its species. Therefore, there are gaps in the record where species can't be tracked, so lines that *seem* to be lost can be "reborn". This isn't that the species dies off entirely: they just didn't leave any fossils behind for a while.
    As for needing to question the seen flaws: people are allowed. Those who examine and question are welcome to examine the theory and find where it isn't accurate. There are holes in Darwin's early theories, which is why scientists have worked out his errors and improved upon the accuracy of them where it fits the way the world works. And people continue to actively find ways around the gaps in our knowledge, and find more accurately how evolution works.
    If on the other hand, someone proposes a nonsense untheory, that doesn't tell us anything informative, on no greater basis than, their gut reactions, a non-scientific, unaccredited book and populist support, then tries to claim that it is an equally valid scientific paradigm, then no, they are not doing science. They will often be mocked by colleagues, and not taken totally seriously. They will not, however, be forcibly rejected from the scientific community, nor will will they be blindfolded and shot.
    And for someone who complains about ad hominems, post #98 seems to be just one big one.

  • MartinM says:

    So according to Brayton, the fossil record is perfect

    He said no such thing.

    How much confidence is a person supposed to place in a theory that resorts to these kinds of gyrations? Species that come back from the dead?

    Your own source clearly identifies this as an observational artifact. No species coming back from the dead.
    So, either you can't read basic English, or you've decided to resort to blatant, barefaced lying.
    If you have to ditch one of the ten commandments in order to support your position, it might be worth considering the possibility that your position is simply unsupportable.

  • Torbjörn Larsson, OM says:

    @ bh:
    Seeing creationist propaganda pieces paraded around for the n-th time doesn't impress anyone knowledgeable in science. But FWIW in case there are doubts among any visitors here:

    I think all that's being asked is that the primary spokespeople for evolution show some respect for alternative theories.

    Biologists have respected the science in alternative theories for 150 years. The problem is that there is no science in creationism, hailing back 2000 years or more.

    Dawkins himself at the end of the movie was forced by Stein to admit that he could not rule out intelligent design as a cause (going so far as to speculate on panspermia).

    no-one on this blog has dared to touch my comments about Dawkins and his apparent embrace of intelligent design during the film

    Abiogenesis have absolutely nothing to do with evolutionary science, as biologists will tell you.
    Dawkins was asked to give an example of real instead of apparent design in biology, and panspermia is an old, albeit unlikely, hypothesis. Other examples of natural design studies are SETI and forensics.

    there is ample doubt

    Evolution is mainstream science, and as an old validated theory about a more complex process than others the best evidenced science we have. There isn't any scientific doubt.
    Remember, all it takes to falsify evolution is observing populations that doesn't follow the nested order of traits predicted by common descent. Where is the Precambrian rabbits?

  • Torbjörn Larsson, OM says:

    @ bh:

    What does Falsify mean? I think at its most elemental definition it simply means that something is capable of being criticized by observational reports.

    Nope, that is just observation. Falsifiability has a precise definition. It means that a theory can not only predict the observations that forms its basis but also make predictions for new observations. If those observations falsify the theory, it can be rejected.
    This is an essential difference between robust scientific method and speculative philosophy. Philosophy can't kill its darlings, scientists have to kill them to make progress.
    Suffice to say, ID doesn't even measure up as a philosophy on account of its history. It is an invention of creationist scam artists who wanted to circumvent a US constitutional clause. Read up on the Dover case to see the facts behind that history.

  • Torbjörn Larsson, OM says:

    Dawkins was asked to give an example of real instead of apparent design in biology, and panspermia

    Sorry, that should have been "directed panspermia" (as just panspermia isn't an example of design).

  • Adrienne says:

    bh, you have some nerve telling someone this:

    I can't believe you swallow this evolution stuff without it raising some serious doubts in your mind.

    when it is patently obvious that 1) you have swallowed not only your religious faith, which is based upon next-to-no evidence but also 2) you have swallowed all of its accompanying anti-intellectualism and falsehoods about science and 3) you are too damn lazy to look up the truth for yourself, preferring to just regurgitate the same, tired creationist arguments that your ilk has relied upon to mislead the faithful for decades now.

  • So correct me if I'm wrong, But I read the following plausible interpretation of "bh" comments #98 and #99:
    "Jonathan, very impressive!!!!"
    Four exclamation points is, apparently, sarcasm. But it is hard to be sure.
    "You're a busy guy!"
    I am, in fact. But bh is dismissing my scientific and Mathematical productivity in open fora and peer review by conflating it with workaholism.
    "I see you also were nominated for geek of the year"
    Actually, for 'greatest geek of all times.'
    "you're a part time professor"
    I have taught at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, circa 1974 (Ecology); and Cypress College (Astronomy); and Woodbury University (Math). And this is bad -- why?
    "you created a list of 4468 Mystery/Detective Authors and Fictional Characters inserted in a periodic table"
    The Ultimate Mystery/Detective Web Guide, yes, but I also created the Ultimate Science Fiction Web Guide, the Ultimate Romance Web Guide, and the Ultimate Westerns Web Guide. And this is bad -- why?
    "and written in pure HTML"
    And what were you using in the Web when I started my web domain in 1996?
    "You wrote an 84 page book on numbers that can be made with four copies of pi"
    A small slice of my math pages. And, in your Bible, what is the value given for pi? You know, the well 10 cubits in diameter and 30 cubits in circumference? Which you believe -- why?
    "you program in 30 different programming languages (though your website MagicDragon looks like something a 9 year old put together)"
    and have taught a dozen of them at the grad school level, and used and supervised these in programming projects for Boeing, Burroughs, European Space Agency, Federal Aviation Administration, Ford, General Motors, Hughes, JPL, Lear Astronics, NASA, Systems Development Corporation, U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, Venture Technologies, Yamaha, and others -- while you were programming for whom?
    "your computer business on the side appears to be something to do with Amway"
    No, my 6-figure income is from my work as a consultant. Who pays you that much for what?
    "You wrote a timeline of the cosmic future to infinity (that must have taken a while)"
    Not quite right, if you actually go look at "TIMELINE COSMIC FUTURE" -- while you believe in an infinite God (that must have taken a while).
    "and finally a handbook: 'How to Talk to an Extraterrestrial'"
    Actually, I was paid to submit two chapters to the book, which had other professional contributors as well. But an Extraterrestrial Intelligent Designer is okay with you?
    "You want me to take you seriously?"
    I don't frankly care. I gave you a chance to actually critique the CONTENT of my Math or Science, but you seem not to know how.
    "That anonymous previous poster was me."
    So "bh" had second thoughts about vitriol, and wanted to try honey (i.e. flattery).
    "Jonathan, you're obviously a very bright guy."
    My wife is smarter than me. She's a full-time Physics Professor. and our son is smarter than either of us. He started college at age thirteen (13), graduated Dean's List, and entered USC Law School at age eighteen..
    "I can't believe you swallow this evolution stuff"
    Believe what you will.
    "without it raising some serious doubts in your mind."
    I address what doubts I have by constructing solid Mathematical models and falsifiable hypotheses. I try to keep an open mind. So far, my work passes peer review, gets published, and seems consistent with Evolution by Naturswal Selection. And do you have a theory that you have tested, or just blid faithe augmented by stale arguments, which were soundly disproved decades ago?
    Sorry. The readers of this blog can do what, in a court of law, is called "a credibility determination" between you and me. And the verdict is...?

  • AndyD says:

    Well yeah, but all those credentials come from within the flawed scientific "education" establishment. Do you have any serious testimonials from genuine sources of knowledge - like from Tom Cruise, for example?

  • bh says:

    Jonathan, I'm really sorry if I hurt your feelings.

  • Re: #9.
    Thank you, "bh." Apology accepted.
    As a teacher, I am supposed not to take criticism personally, or react emotionally to my students. I know that you are not in my classes, but I should show you the same respect and dignity that I show my students. It is I who shouldf apologize, for my emotionalism.
    Rational debate about systems of belief is difficult, but we should be able to do so if we are all adults.
    I am, in fact, more and more skeptical of ALL the subjects that I've taught in middle schools, high schools, colleges, universities, and in adult education.

  • Anonymous says:

    KevinS (#22),
    I understand his point about truth and agree with it but that was a separate point from what he said about never being used as a rhetorical bargaining chip.