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The End Of The Debate Over Evolution?

Renowned anthropologist Richard Leakey, who has spent much of his life in West  East Africa uncovering the clues to the origins and history of humanity, thinks that we’re close to the end of the debate over the idea that humanity has evolved over time from less complex forms of life:

NEW YORK — Richard Leakey predicts skepticism over evolution will soon be history.

Not that the avowed atheist has any doubts himself.

Sometime in the next 15 to 30 years, the Kenyan-born paleoanthropologist expects scientific discoveries will have accelerated to the point that “even the skeptics can accept it.”

“If you get to the stage where you can persuade people on the evidence, that it’s solid, that we are all African, that color is superficial, that stages of development of culture are all interactive,” Leakey says, “then I think we have a chance of a world that will respond better to global challenges.”

(…)

Any hope for mankind’s future, he insists, rests on accepting existing scientific evidence of its past.

“If we’re spreading out across the world from centers like Europe and America that evolution is nonsense and science is nonsense, how do you combat new pathogens, how do you combat new strains of disease that are evolving in the environment?” he asked.

“If you don’t like the word evolution, I don’t care what you call it, but life has changed. You can lay out all the fossils that have been collected and establish lineages that even a fool could work up. So the question is why, how does this happen? It’s not covered by Genesis. There’s no explanation for this change going back 500 million years in any book I’ve read from the lips of any God.”

Leakey is largely correct in the second part of his comments, of course. If we don’t accept the truth about what science tells us about the origin of our species, then we’re not just rejecting a single fact, we’re rejecting an entire area of science. Evolution stands as the basis for modern biology, anthropology, and palenotology. We see it happening in the world around us on a micro and macro level all the time. The fact that we need to get a new flu shot every year is due in no small part to the fact that the Influenza Virus, a living organism, evolves at such a rapid pace that we don’t have the technology right now to keep up with it more than a year at a time. There’s also more than enough demonstrable evidence of evolution of humans and animals in the fossil record to remove pretty much any doubt about what the story of man actually is, even though we have not been able to fill in all the pieces of the puzzle yet.

Like Jonathan Alter, though, I think that Leakey misses the boat in his prediction that we’re anywhere near an end to the controversy over evolutionary theory that began when Charles Darwin first wrote The Origin Of Species in 1859. From the beginning, the cultural opposition to evolution, and especially to teaching it in public school or not giving “equal time” to so-called “creation science” has not been based on in any kind of skepticism based in science, an argument that there is something faulty about the premises upon which the argument is based, or upon a demand for evidence to support the theory. Instead, it has always been based in the belief by opponents of evolution that the theory represents a threat to religion, tradition, and culture mores. The reaction is based not in the reason of science, but in the faith of religious belief, and it seems rather naive to suggest that more evidence and more science is going to change the mind of person who basis their opinion upon a standard that rejects the very idea of science and evidence.

The odd thing about all of this, of course, is that the United States seems to be the only country in the Western world where this is even an issue. You don’t see people in Europe, Japan, or Australia having these fights about whether or not evolution should be taught in schools. Indeed, it’s quite likely that the very idea of questioning the appropriateness of teaching science in science class would be seen as absurd. Outside of the United States, the only part of the world I’m aware of where this is even an issue is the Muslim world. As much as I’d like to be optimistic as Leakey seems to be about the ultimate triumph of what should, in the end, not even be an issue of serious debate, it’s going to take a lot more than a more detailed fossil record to end this debate.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Ron Beasley says:

    The United States will be the last place in the developed world for it to occur.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 30 Thumb down 3

  2. al-Ameda says:

    The odd thing about all of this, of course, is that the United States seems to be the only country in the Western world where this is even an issue. You don’t see people in Europe, Japan, or Australia having these fights about whether or not evolution should be taught in schools.

    I’m sure that Leakey’s opinion will come to be accepted by most educated people outside the United States of America.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 3

  3. Moosebreath says:

    “The odd thing about all of this, of course, is that the United States seems to be the only country in the Western world where this is even an issue.”

    Umm, why? There are lots of people in the United States who don’t believe evidence from the real world when it produces results which go against their beliefs, whether it’s on global warming or that tax cuts pay for themselves or that Obama was born in the US. Why should they have different views on evolution?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 25 Thumb down 5

  4. Franklin says:

    As Einstein once said, “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.”

    I agree with Doug that this debate will rage for a longer than 30 years, simply because you can’t “prove” that God didn’t create the Earth 6,000 years ago to look like it was much older. I have more hope that climate change will be proven or disproven in 30 years (since its effects or lack thereof should be a lot more obvious by then).

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 2

  5. Hey Norm says:

    “…The odd thing about all of this, of course, is that the United States seems to be the only country in the Western world where this is even an issue. You don’t see people in Europe, Japan, or Australia having these fights about whether or not evolution should be taught in schools…”

    You could write the same sentence about climate change.
    Or for that matter universal access to health care, with just a few minor changes.
    And it’s really one group of people that are mostly responsible.
    Not all Republicans reject modernity. But if you reject modernity you are most likely a Republican.
    Or a radical islamicist…coincedence???

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 26 Thumb down 4

  6. @Hey Norm:

    Or for that matter universal access to health care

    So if you accept evolution, you have to be in favor of national health care? What?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

  7. Gustopher says:

    I’m sure the debate over evolution will last longer than the debate over where Obama was born.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  8. Rob in CT says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    No, that’s not what he was saying.

    He’s saying there are other subjects on which the USA is the outlier in the developed world – it’s not just evolution.

    That’s the first thought that I had in response to this post as well.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  9. DRS says:

    God working his Divine Plan through evolution is a much more magnificent and awe-inspiring deity than one who is confined to the limits of the fundamentalist imagnination. That’s what we learned in Catholic grade school, all those many years ago. The Vatican does get a few things right.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 3

  10. Hey Norm says:

    @ Stormy…
    Sorry I wasn’t clear.
    Thx Rob.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  11. Drew says:

    The evidence has been incontrovertible for a long while now, and it hasn’t helped. Most critics don’t seem to understand that it’s not simply any one line of reasoning or evidence that makes common descent so certain, it’s the convergence of so MANY independently derived pieces of evidence, all of which tell the same _historical_ story that matches up logically.

    You can be skeptical of isotope dating and plate tectonics and genetic “clocks” based on mutation rates. But you’re not just dealing with them separately, in isolation. You’re also dealing with the fact that they all match up and inform each other with fine detail: telling a coherent story, with all sorts of matching individual historical events, when all the different puzzle pieces are fit together. That’s incredibly compelling as evidence: in fact, perhaps no other SORT of evidence can be quite as compelling as one based on so many incredibly different domains of science and chains of evidence all matching up.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 2

  12. DRS says:

    A wonderful book I highly recommend is paleontologist Neil Shubin’s Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body. It’s a look at our bodies and a detailed description of how many of our particular features (inner ear, bone structure of the hands, etc.) evolved from earlier life forms. He writes very well and it’s a great read.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  13. Argon says:

    Doug: “The odd thing about all of this, of course, is that the United States seems to be the only country in the Western world where this is even an issue.”

    There are similar creationists throughout the world but they’re far more ‘fringy’ and less numerous. Unfortunately in the US, it’s the norm, particularly within one of our major political parties. Remember the ‘do you believe in evolution?’ question posed to GOP candidates in the early stage of the primaries, and how many of them wouldn’t answer the question affirmatively? I think Turkey comes the closest to the US among ‘western’ countries where creationism has a strong foothold among elected officials.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  14. Gromitt Gunn says:

    I really don’t understand why it is so hard for many Christians to believe that a) God created the world and b) part of the mechanism He used to do so is the evolution of species. If you spend any time studying actual Judeo-Christian theology, it is very obvious that Genesis had multiple authors and that good portions of it are not intended to be literal history.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 3

  15. Mikey says:

    If you spend any time studying actual Judeo-Christian theology, it is very obvious that Genesis had multiple authors and that good portions of it are not intended to be literal history.

    It may be obvious to you, but to very many fundamentalist Christians, the Bible is the Inspired Word Of God, literal and incontrovertible, and if it says “six days” that means six literal 24-hour days. And there is no evidence in heaven, earth, or ocean that will change their minds.

    Which is why Dr. Leakey is as wrong as basketball cleats, unfortunately.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  16. John Peabody says:

    Good one, Gromitt Gunn.

    Also- what harm is there in teaching evolution, even if your church doesn’t believe? If you think God is threatened by 7th-grade biology, maybe you ought to trust God more.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  17. KariQ says:

    @DRS:

    God working his Divine Plan through evolution is a much more magnificent and awe-inspiring deity than one who is confined to the limits of the fundamentalist imagnination.

    I’ve long thought this. The fundamentalist God just seems so small compared to a God capable of creating a world billions of years old and creating man from a handful of clay is so petty compared to a 3.5 billion year long process of evolution. I know that this will seem blasphemous to those who take the Bible literally, but I could never believe in their God because he is so trivial compared to a God that could create what science has revealed to us.

    And when I read Leakey’s comments, all I could think is “It’s so cute that he thinks that. Really, it’s just adorable!”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

  18. Jib says:

    A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it. — Max Planck

    Very few people change core beliefs based on evidence. It appears to be something only the young can do. Once set, they are set for life. Change will only occur if you can convince the young you are correct and then you have to wait for the old to die out. The only way this debate end will be when the over whelming number of young no longer doubt evolution. I am not sure we have any evidence of that.

    FWIW, we are seeing evidence of this kind of change in econ. There is a fundamental difference in the way people under the age of 30 view the economy than do people over 30. The old economic narrative, originally set between 1975 – 1985 was that govt regulation was the source of the econ problems of the time. The new narrative is that unregulated finance is the source of our problems. As always, it will take time for the change to occur, all those crusty old libertarians will have to die off, they are NOT changing their minds on govt regulation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 4

  19. Ron Beasley says:

    @Gromitt Gunn:

    it is very obvious that Genesis had multiple authors and that good portions of it are not intended to be literal history

    Yes, and if you have studied comparative religion it becomes fairly obvious that the primary author was Zoroaster.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  20. Steve Hynd says:

    @John Peabody:

    Trust? And yet every Church I’ve ever seen is fitted with a lightning conductor.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  21. G.A says:

    Very few people change core beliefs based on evidence. It appears to be something only the young can do. Once set, they are set for life. Change will only occur if you can convince the young you are correct and then you have to wait for the old to die out.

    As opposed to those brainwashed with the complete fabrications of evolution?I once also believed in evolution, as I am sure most of you always have.

    I’ve long thought this. The fundamentalist God just seems so small compared to a God capable of creating a world billions of years old and creating man from a handful of clay is so petty compared to a 3.5 billion year long process of evolution.

    A God that can speak this unknowable complex universe into existence at will seems small compared to one that needs a laboratory, craps loads of time and help from accidents? lol….

    Also- what harm is there in teaching evolution, even if your church doesn’t believe?

    lol….

    It may be obvious to you, but to very many fundamentalist Christians, the Bible is the Inspired Word Of God, literal and incontrovertible, and if it says “six days” that means six literal 24-hour days. And there is no evidence in heaven, earth, or ocean that will change their minds.

    Do you mean the fundamentalist Christians that used to be atheists/evolutionists and hold multiple PHD”S ?

    The evidence has been incontrovertible for a long while now

    lol…

    God working his Divine Plan through evolution is a much more magnificent and awe-inspiring deity than one who is confined to the limits of the fundamentalist imagination.

    Sigh, THE EFECTS OF A PERFICT AND HOLY GOD’S CURSE ON HIS PERFICT CREATION AND WHAT IT HAS DONE TO THIS PLANET AND THIS UNIVERSE DOES NOT INSPIRE MORE AWE THEN THE CALUCULATIONS DREAMS AND EXPLANATIONS OF THE SINFULL AND FEBELE MINDS OF MEN?

    Umm, why? There are lots of people in the United States who don’t believe evidence from the real world when it produces results which go against their beliefs

    Amen brother…

    As Einstein once said, “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.”

    One we have concrete evidence for one, we don’t know jack about..

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 41

  22. DRS says:

    Steve wins the thread. Good job!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  23. Hey Norm says:

    Can anyone translate the G.A. gibberish???

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  24. Rob in CT says:

    Norm,

    GA is simply doing his level best to undermine the theory of Evolution. ;)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  25. JohnMcC says:

    Historically, the objection to “Darwinism” by religious fundamentalists is because there are so many apparently “failed” experiments. A real omniscient creator would not likely create an age of dinosaurs with the foreknowledge that they would become extinct. Nor would mass extinctions be part of his plan. One doesn’t hear too much of this today but in the decades following the publication of ‘Origin of Species’ it was the principle reason for rejecting evolution.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  26. @Hey Norm:

    Can anyone translate the G.A. gibberish???

    I think it’s his way of saying that he thinks typing in all caps makes his points more convincing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  27. Ben Wolf says:

    You have to reject physics, biology, geology, astronomy, paleontology and archaeology in order to also reject evolution. This is exactly why it’s fair to say that such people are anti-science.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 2

  28. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Good blog post.

    Not to stir up that whole ID vs. evolution hornet’s nest, but I think it’s important at least to acknowledge there are trained scientists out there who not only are proponents of ID but who’ve gone so far as to testify under oath in a federal courtroom in favor of that theory. It’s not as if that Kitzmiller vs. Dover School District case from several years ago was uncontested and decided via default. Granted, my personal, subjective belief is the judge there made the correct decision, but by the same token I don’t think we blithely can assert that all people who are skeptical of evolution theory “reject[] the very idea of science and evidence.” You’ve always got to be careful about saying things like always and never and of thinking there are no other possible solutions or causes. Otherwise you’re falling into a similar trap as that within which theists are caught.

    In any event, regarding the U.S. at large, as already suggested here, Leakey simply is being naive. The chances of this debate not being a debate nearly are the same as the chances of the Pope being named King of England. There are far too many sectarian members of the voting body politic.

    Lastly, Mataconis certainly does not fall into this category, but it always makes me laugh when Internet topics beget dire laments from the loopy left about public schools. I’m not sure they even grasp the irony. Yeah, of course, there are all sorts of problems with the public schools, of which science curricula, evolution vs. creationism, and related items, are part and parcel. Then in the next breath, however, the space cadet left reflexively rejects the concept of school vouchers. Brilliant.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 16

  29. michael reynolds says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    Um, logic fail:

    Then in the next breath, however, the space cadet left reflexively rejects the concept of school vouchers. Brilliant.

    The vouchers go to religious schools. That’s the whole point of vouchers, to allow religious nuts to afford schools that will brainwash their children.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 4

  30. gVOR08 says:

    There are a couple of things I’d like to say. First is that any time I’ve seen evolution come up on a blog the comment thread quickly devolved into a flame war. This thread has stayed on topic and constructive. Very good, people.

    Second, Doug, thanks for pointing out that this is largely a U. S. thing. This is so often incorrectly framed as evolution v/ religion, when only a very narrow strain of US evangelicals has a problem with evolution. However, it’s not just religion, I have Republican friends who aren’t evangelical, aren’t particularly religious at all, but disbelieve evolution because they seem to feel it’s required by their membership in the Republican club.

    Finally, I’m about half way through Chris Mooney’s “The Republican Brain”. Mooney gives voluminous examples of conservatives rejecting science and explains a lot of the Psych research that demonstrates and explains this. Basically “motivated reasoning” and a lack of “Openness to Experience”; aided and abetted by an echo chamber to provide the information they want. I’m part way through; Mooney may get to why so much worse here and now. My feeling is that it has to do with the vicious cycle of the GOP elite pandering to their lowest common denominator voter, and by doing so creating a larger and even less sophisticated wing, which they pander to. Are European conservative elites willing to Astroturf something like the Tea Party and then pander to them by pretending to believe nonsense like creationism?

    The real problem with conservatives is that they believe their own BS. Laffer comes up with, ‘Tax cuts pay for themselves, yeah, that’s the ticket. We’ll tell the rubes tax cuts pay for themselves.’ Then thirty years later every Rephttp://www.outsidethebeltway.com/wp-content/plugins/comment-rating/images/1_14_up.pngublican believes it. After lying about evolution for decades, probably most Republican politicians now either believe it, or care not one whit whether anything they say is true. Leakey will be wrong as long as we have a Republican elite that want to use evolution as an issue.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 3

  31. gVOR08 says:

    Sorry about the link in the middle of my last paragraph above. Don’t know how I fat fingered that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  32. DRS says:

    @Rob in CT:

    GA is simply doing his level best to undermine the theory of Evolution. ;)

    GA’s mere existence is the best refutation of evolution…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  33. Argon says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: With all due respect, one can also find Ph.D. scientists who would also be willing to take the stand for reincarnation, homeopathy & ‘water memory effect’, parapsychology and Scientology. There’s nothing to suggest that scientists can’t be proportionately any less wacky than the population at large. Heck, there are biologists who don’t think HIV has ever been identified let alone been determined to be a causative factor in AIDS.

    What’s significant isn’t that a few evolution doubting scientists can be pulled out of thousands of scientists, it’s that the doubters don’t have convincing arguments to persuade anyone else.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  34. James H says:

    The “teach it in schools” contretemps should have ended with Kitzmiller, but it keeps on going.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  35. Franklin says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: “I don’t think we blithely can assert that all people who are skeptical of evolution theory ‘reject the very idea of science and evidence.’”

    Perhaps, but they seem to be unconsciously rejecting the scientific method. I read some pro-ID book years ago that interviewed a bunch of these “skeptics”. 90% of the arguments were either “we can’t figure out how X happened, so it couldn’t have” or “we haven’t found missing link X yet, so it must have never existed”, with the rest being things like “carbon dating is unreliable”.

    At the time, I was willing to go either way, but the arguments were so pathetic that it pushed me to agree with evolution. I see that G.A. has fallen for them, though.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  36. Jim Henley says:

    @Argon:

    What’s significant isn’t that a few evolution doubting scientists can be pulled out of thousands of scientists, it’s that the doubters don’t have convincing arguments to persuade anyone else.

    Most of the time, the evolution-doubting “scientists” turn out to be, more or less in order of frequency:

    * philosophers of “science” at religious institutions
    * engineers, not scientists at all
    * scientists in an unrelated field
    * scientists in a related field in their dotage
    * extreme outliers

    Actual working biologists who doubt evolution: vanishingly few.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 2

  37. MHC says:

    How do you or Leakey for that matter explain the complete lack of fossil evidence one species mutating into another and all of the failed mutations out there in the process of evolution. Darwin considered evolution a theory not established science. By the end of his life Darwin believed in intelligent design.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 4 Thumb down 17

  38. KariQ says:

    *Sigh* typed out a long response just to get it caught in the spam filter; I have no idea why.

    Shorter response: @MHC:

    Whether or not Darwin recanted is not relevant to the acceptance of evolution today. Scientists are guided by the evidence, which completely supports evolution, not an authority figure who died over 100 years ago.

    But, for the record, Darwin never did recant. He died an agnostic, never embraced Christianity, and at the end of his life still believed in evolution and was revising his opinion of how, not if, it happened.

    If you’re truly interested in the answers to the questions you raised about the fossil record, you can find information here: http://www.talkorigins.org/

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  39. Mikey says:

    @MHC: Rarely does one see so much bullshit stuffed into but a single paragraph. You have a true talent, there.

    Really, the list of transitional fossils is so large it would likely exceed the capacity of a single comment on this blog, and more are discovered every year.

    Of course, the fossil record is only one small part of the overwhelmingly voluminous body of evidence that confirms the fact of evolution.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2

  40. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @MHC: Argh! In science a theory is something that has been demonstrated to work. As soon as someone pulls out “It’s just a theory!” I know that they are completely scientifically ignorant.

    Such a pet peeve!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  41. grumpy realist says:

    @MHC: You don’t know that much, do you?

    You might want to go and study about all the transitional fossils (of which we’re discovering more day by day) before you comment.

    Or are you one of those mouth-breathers who thinks that unless you find a fossil where the upper half is of one species and the lower half is of another species you haven’t found a “transitional fossil”?

    (I actually ran into someone who claimed that. Not the sharpest crayon in the box.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

  42. G.A says:

    GA is simply doing his level best to undermine the theory of Evolution. ;)

    GA is laughing at you that’s what he is doing.

    Can anyone translate the G.A. gibberish???

    lol wow….

    GA’s mere existence is the best refutation of evolution…

    Damn you guys are witty….

    Really, the list of transitional fossils is so large it would likely exceed the capacity of a single comment on this blog, and more are discovered every year.

    lol….

    Brain washed simple religious zealots…

    But then I have started tongue training again so peace out Nazi youth….

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 20

  43. G.A says:

    http://www.creationtoday.org/category/type/video/creation-seminars/

    I truly beg you to open your minds and view this if you are capable of doing so..

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 19

  44. DRS says:

    MHC, Neil Shubin’s book Your Inner Fish does a great job of explaining the human body and how it evolved from earlier life forms – some of them VERY early! – and does so in less than 300 words with good illustrations, fossil examples and very good writing. I highly recommend it to answer your question.

    If I could do links on this thing, I’d link to Amazon but you might check and see if your library has copies.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  45. Argon says:

    @MHC:
    Want examples of clear fossil progression? Consider the foraminifera: an exquisitely preserved record of evolution traced over millions of years.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

  46. Mikey says:

    @G.A:

    Brain washed simple religious zealots…

    I see you at least know how to use a mirror.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  47. Hey Norm says:

    hehe
    The site GA links to sez:

    “…No apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and science, can be valid if it contradicts Scripture…”

    But the real world, the percievable world, contradicts Scripture. Indeed, even Scripture contradicts Scripture. The entire basis for Scholasticism…which was the very beginning of modern thought…is reconciling such contradictions.
    I have to say the arrogance that the statement above embodies is frightening, and everything that is wrong about religion.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  48. Rob in CT says:

    @Mikey:

    With the contemporary American far-right, it’s *always* projection.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  49. george says:

    In terms of outliers, there are Phd’s in physics who think the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics is incorrect. There are quite a few who think Einstein’s relativity (both special and general) are incorrect. And more that think quantum mechanics is fatally flawed (Einstein numbered among those). Does this suggest that we should cease teaching modern physics in our schools and universities until there is 100% consensus?

    Science is never proven – proof belongs to the world of formal systems such as logic and math. Science is inductive reasoning, and no theory is proven. The theory of evolution might be wrong, just as quantum mechanics, Maxwell’s equations, special and general relativity, conservation of momentum, conservation of energy, all the laws of thermodynamics, and every other scientific theory might be wrong.

    And there are alternative theories for each of those (seriously). Most aren’t considered viable alternatives, but they’re out there (the internet is a wonderful place). If the requirement is (as suggested by many ID’ers and creationists) that we only teach proven science, then we will teach no science at all (that will do wonders for American technology – how long before the Chinese surpass us with that plan?). If its that we teach all alternatives, then current physics theory will get about 10% of the physics time, the rest will go to alternatives (starting with Aristotle’s physics and going on from their).

    Its really not in our national interest to dilute our science education with either loads of alternative theories, or to cut out unproven (ie all) science. I sometimes wonder if the creationist movement is funded by foreign governments who want to stall American research.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  50. Drew says:

    “I really don’t understand why it is so hard for many Christians to believe that a) God created the world and b) part of the mechanism He used to do so is the evolution of species.”

    It’s hard to believe because it’s not really something that makes a lot of sense for an all-knowing, all-powerful Creator to do. There are all sorts of limitations in biological evolution that prevent “good ideas” from being implemented that any even HUMAN engineer would find utterly absurd, and correct very quickly. But we don’t see those sorts of things in biology (major redesigns to compensate for kruft, taking good ideas developed in one branch of life and importing them wholesale into another). And it is INCREDIBLY wasteful and wandering: pretty much the opposite of what you’d expect from anything that was intelligently directed or intended (it IS possible to use evolutionary principles to engineer things. But even that has tell-tale signs that we don’t see in nature).

    So, yes, I think it is reasonably hard to believe. “God uses evolution” is one of those ideas that seems to neatly wrap everything up nicely, but then falls apart when you examine it more closely.

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  51. Barry says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: “ut I think it’s important at least to acknowledge there are trained scientists out there who not only are proponents of ID but who’ve gone so far as to testify under oath in a federal courtroom in favor of that theory.”

    ‘Under oath’ doesn’t mean much, unless they actually risked charges of perjury.

    And the fact that are some trained scientists doesn’t mean squat; there will *always* be a few people advocating anything.

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  52. george says:

    @Drew:

    I’m not sure that reasoning holds, because if there is an infinite intelligence, it’s goals and methods are going to be as far beyond our understanding as say the design of a modern computer would be beyond an ant – and that ant’s assessment of the computer (big, ugly, useless rock) isn’t going to be particularly valid.

    We don’t even understand the basics – what time and space are for instance (yes, we have equations roughly describing their properties, but talk to any physicist who’s tried to really study what they are), what matter is (using a point particle is convenient in the sense of modeling, as are strings, but infinitesmial dimensions actually run into huge problems with fields, which is one of the things string theory hopes to clarify, though in a few centuries that too will run into limitations).

    Time becomes pretty iffy in this – is time in effect just another dimension (so something outside of time can “see it” all laid out), or is it really something that flows (so present has a meaning – currently general relativity suggests the concept of present, past and future is iffy, but I don’t know of any physicist who thinks we really understand it).

    We’re probably not in a good position to comment about the universes “design”, both because design suggests goal (and our goal of what humans or life should be like might not be relevant), and because we really don’t even understand the basics yet.

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  53. Mikey says:

    The theory of evolution might be wrong, just as quantum mechanics, Maxwell’s equations, special and general relativity, conservation of momentum, conservation of energy, all the laws of thermodynamics, and every other scientific theory might be wrong.

    It’s true, they “might be.” But of course (unlike the so-called alternatives) they’re all supported by ever-increasing bodies of evidence and have been tested literally millions of times, the results conforming to the predictions of the theories. So, while they “might be wrong,” the possibility is so vanishingly small that it can be quite safely ignored.

    To paraphrase Gould, evolution is a fact AND a theory. The fact is it happened. The theory explains how..

    I sometimes wonder if the creationist movement is funded by foreign governments who want to stall American research.

    That would be a logical explanation, if the creationists were vulnerable to such things as logic…

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  54. DRE says:

    Renowned anthropologist Richard Leakey, who has spent much of his life in West Africa uncovering the clues to the origins and history of humanity

    East Africa. Leakey is from Kenya, and most of his work has been in the Rift Valley.

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  55. I should’ve know better on that one DRE. Fixing.

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  56. Ken says:

    “I really don’t understand why it is so hard for many Christians to believe that a) God created the world and b) part of the mechanism He used to do so is the evolution of species.”

    Well, for the fundies it comes down to the argument that “if even a single item in the bible can be shown to be false, then the entire thing is cast into doubt, and since it is the word of god, there can be no doubt, ergo there is not even a single item in it that is wrong.” A rather silly argument, if you ask me, but it’s what pretty much all of them think, in my experience.

    With respect to all the other Christians, some version of your explanation is pretty much exactly what they believe, regardless of how absurd a proposition it is if one actually thinks about it.

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  57. mantis says:

    Not to stir up that whole ID vs. evolution hornet’s nest, but I think it’s important at least to acknowledge there are trained scientists out there who not only are proponents of ID but who’ve gone so far as to testify under oath in a federal courtroom in favor of that theory.

    Two things:

    1. There have only been two scientists who have done so: Michael Behe and Scott A. Minnich. Two important things to know about Behe. First, despite his many books that make him a lot of money, Behe has never published any scholarly research supporting “intelligent design” creationism. In his testimony, he admitted that no such research in support of “intelligent design” creationism has ever been published by anyone: “there are no peer reviewed articles by anyone advocating for intelligent design supported by pertinent experiments or calculations which provide detailed rigorous accounts of how intelligent design of any biological system occurred.” Second, Behe’s own department published a statement distancing themselves from him and his work:

    While we respect Prof. Behe’s right to express his views, they are his alone and are in no way endorsed by the department. It is our collective position that intelligent design has no basis in science, has not been tested experimentally, and should not be regarded as scientific.

    In short, no scientist has ever provided any scientific research supporting “intelligent design” creationism. Ever. And that’s from the sworn testimony of the premier “intelligent design” scientist, and one of only two scientists that I know of who supports ID and works in a field related to evolution (Behe is a biochemist; Minnich is a microbiologist). Which brings me to my second point:

    2. “Intelligent Design” is not a theory; it’s a marketing term to sell books. The proponents have barely tried, and have been quite unsuccessful, at performing any research to support their hypothesis. In science, a great deal of work needs to be performed before a set of explanatory principles can be labelled a theory. The ID folks haven’t even started to try to support their ideas with evidence (because there is none). To call ID a scientific theory degrades all real scientific theories, and for that matter science itself.

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  58. LC says:

    Our problem today is that one of the nation’s two major political parties, the Republican Party, has become America’s Taliban: a fundamentalist Christian Party which asserts that the earth is 6,000 years old and Creationism is the accurate description of how life began (and women should be barefoot and pregnant – but that’s a different matter)..

    This has happened for several reasons:
    1. The mainstream media (which means we exclude Fox) that wouldn’t know a fact if it bit them. Everything is simply somebody’s opinion. One of these days, I expect Blitzer and Cooper to give respectful air time to the flat-earthers, those who insist that the earth is the center of the solar system, and some confused mathophobes who assert that even in a base-10 mathematical system, 2 plus 2 equals 5.

    2. A scientific establishment that has not fought back. Heck, it has barely paid attention, on the grounds that Creationists are nuts who don’t affect their work. Unfortunately, they seem to have forgotten that when those nuts are in power, funding for the research they want to do becomes even harder to get.

    3. A scientifically literate populace, to the extent it exists, that has also stood on the sidelines and let this happen.

    4. And, oh yes, a cowardly Republican/Conservative elite who know evolution is true but have sold their souls to Creationists in order to keep a seat at the table.

    On Soap Box:
    What we need is a massively funded, well-ordered opposition that will

    1. Shame the media into admitting that facts do exist, and just because some people believe X doesn’t mean that X is true. It is time for them to ignore the fringe, not give it a platform.

    2. Create an environment in which Creationists and Creationism are given the same level of credibility as cults. This will require some very smart advertising.

    We can’t change the minds of true believers, but a lot of people, when asked about evolution, respond that they don’t know, they aren’t sure. We need outreach and education programs for these people. We need to come up with a strategy that demeans Creationism without demeaning those who believe in it. (If you tell me I’m an idiot, I’m not likely to listen to anything you say.)

    The attack must be multi-pronged. On the “that’s what the Bible says”, the campaign needs to spell out, repeatedly, what other religious documents assert about the creation of the world. I am particularly fond of Hindu cosmology because it posits a universe that is trillions of years old and repeatedly gets born, grows, dies, gets reborn, etc. But the goal here is to assert and show that there are multiple religious descriptions of how life, the world, and the universe came to be and no way to determine which if any of those views is correct. OTOH, the theory of evolution has been tested and proved and forms the basis of ….

    We need a description of evolution, some story of evolution that can be understood by people with a grade-school education. We can’t counter Creationist arguments with hundreds of pages of arguments and counter-arguments. Not in the public square, not if we want to marginalize Creationism. We need a multi-media approach with a simple but accurate message that, again, does not attack faith.

    There must be at least one scientifically literate billionaire who would be willing to be the sponsor of such an effort. What we need is some organization that is willing to undertake this task. (And if one or more already exists, well, all I can say is that they must not be doing a very good job because I’ve seen no evidence of a counter-Creationism campaign.)
    Off Soap Box.

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  59. Mikey says:

    @LC: “the Republican Party, has become America’s Taliban”

    You know, I agree with pretty much everything you wrote, but the whole “Republican = Taliban” thing just irks me.

    I mean, many on the American right hold some pretty silly ideas about fashion derived from their religion, but the Taliban actually throw acid in women’s faces for daring to go about unveiled. I’ve yet to see a Republican advocate for blowing up ancient artistic treasures because they violate some tenet of the Old Testament, as the Taliban did with the Buddha statues. Even the Westboro Baptist Church scum don’t actually murder homosexuals.

    I dislike this for the same reason I dislike equation of some party or group to the Nazis, or some political figure to Hitler–because doing so diminishes the actual extent of the evil the Nazis perpetrated, and it diminishes the loss and sacrifices of those who fought and died opposing them or were sent to their camps.

    Is this quibbling? Maybe, but at the same time, reducing one’s political opponents to the level of the world’s most evil monsters hinders whatever reasonable discussion that might have been possible otherwise.

    But, I’ll say again, I agree with everything else you wrote, and I think you have some very good ideas contained therein.

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  60. LC says:

    @Mikey:
    Yes, I admit it is an exaggeration and understand your criticism, but it is not that much of an exaggeration. The Taliban did not begin as extremists. They became extreme over time. The restrictions on the freedom of women went from semi-mainstream Islam to burkhas and, essentially, house arrest.

    Similarly, what Andrew Sullivan calls “Christianism” has been slowly invading the Republican Party over decades starting with, in a sense, Nixon’s (I think it was Nixon) decision to end every Presidential speech with the phrase “God Bless America”. At first there was opposition to abortion. Now there is opposition to birth control and Planned Parenthood (supported by the Republican God Reagan). And there has been a subtle but effective campaign to redefine women as mothers first and foremost. Back to the 1950s, please.

    Once upon a time it was not a Party in which every single Presidential candidate asserted that s/he believed in Creationism. Can you honestly imagine Reagan presiding over a government that would turn over transport to the Space Station to the Russians?

    So when I compare the Party to the Taliban, I want to people to think about just how far to the right it has drifted and how much further it could drift if we do not as a society recognize the danger and fight it.

    Unfortunately, the Republican drift right has taken the Democratic Party with it, which makes the situation even more dangerous. Liberals are afraid to defend their own beliefs, let alone shout them to the rooftops for fear of offending Fundamentalist Christians.

    To be fair and truthful, I suppose I should have added Democrats to my list of sources for the problem. For 40 years now, it has let Republicans and Conservatives set the terms of debate. It is a Party without a backbone. (Obama and Clinton are both Rockefeller Republicans.)

    O.T.:
    The one thing I admire about Conservatives is their immunity to facts and reality. They know what they know and what they know is right, and if the voters don’t understand in one election, they will in the next. Democrats get defeated and assume they were wrong and move Right to where they think they need to be to win again. It is more than a little discouraging to have to vote for such a mindless bunch of cowards simply because the other side is so very much worse.

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  61. Mikey says:

    And today, we have this.

    Missing link found? Scientists unveil fossil of 47 million-year-old primate, Darwinius masillae

    A team of researchers Tuesday unveiled an almost perfectly intact fossil of a 47 million-year-old primate they say represents the long-sought missing link between humans and apes.

    I don’t usually go in for the “missing link” stuff–there’s no single link, but rather a continuum of gradually changing forms–but this new discovery is another clear and definitive piece of support for evolution.

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  62. Mikey says:

    @LC: This has been going on for decades, though. Look at when “In God We Trust” was put on our money, and when “Under God” was slapped onto the Pledge of Allegiance. That was well before I was born, and I’m 46.

    Now, I don’t disagree the Republicans have moved harder to the right, and dragged the Democrats with them, more recently. However, I do not think it is possible for any American religious movement that has a reach similar to that of the Taliban in Afghanistan to become as violently extremist as the Taliban.

    Too optimistic? Perhaps, but I think if it were going to happen here it would have happened back when religious belief was far more pervasive than it is today–and the up-and-coming generation is far more tolerant than mine, and mine is far more tolerant than my parents’.

    Far more worrisome to me is the anti-science influence of the religious right. It shames me a bit that so many Americans do not accept even the most basic of scientific principles. One can be religious and still understand science. Why is it so important for some religious people to dismiss out-of-hand things that can be verified through observation and experiment?

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  63. LC says:

    @Mikey:
    I am much less sanguine.

    Would, 20 years ago, you have thought that an American President would implement and champion torture and that the American public would enthusiastically support that decision? Would you expect birth control, birth control! to be an issue in 2012? For multiple states to be implementing laws to restrict voting? (Yes, I know, very different issues but illustrative of how easy it is for a nation to go backwards and worse.)

    As we saw in the Balkans, and in our attacks on Iraq and the demands of Conservatives for an attack on Iran, nothing is easier than stirring up hate and fear in a population. If one thing is true in politics, it is that one rarely loses by appealing to the worst instincts of people. All it takes is a group of people who want to get and retain power no matter what and a complacent opposition which asserts it is nothing to worry about.

    When this began, along with so much else that was truly awful in America in the second half of the 20th century, Nixon, the Religious Right complained that religion had been removed from the public square. It was a complaint without foundation but due to the “special” place we give religion, it was accepted. Now we can see that the Christian Right doesn’t just want a “place” in the Square. It wants to own the Square. (Do you remember Brit Hume advising Tiger Woods to convert as a solution to his marital problems? How incredibly offensive was that?)

    When every candidate and President ends every speech, no matter how trivial, with “God Bless America”, do you think Jews and Muslims believe he is talking about their God? To say nothing of the Buddhists, Hindus, Shintoist, Taoists, animists, atheists, etc. in the population? No.

    I hate to go hyperbolic again but remember this old saying:
    First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
    Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
    Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
    Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.

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  64. Mikey says:

    @LC: I think the things we’re seeing this year are a death spasm, not a precursor to increased influence. But, again, I am by nature optimistic. I see all this as a desperate move by the overtly religious to maintain influence in the face of declining belief, especially among the young, and a move toward acceptance of things traditionally opposed by religion. That’s why birth control suddenly became an issue (thanks, Dick Santorum).

    I have a good friend who is an author, and a bit of a futurist. He and I have discussed this and while he thinks the interim will be much worse than I think it will–he thinks the way we get there is through a kind of religious civil war–he imagines a religion-free America in about 100 years. Now, in that he is more optimistic than I, but I agree that eventually religion will diminish in importance and we will likely be left with a kind of “ceremonial deism.” It’s already happened in places like Sweden and Norway, where the population is overwhelmingly atheist.

    If one thing is true in politics, it is that one rarely loses by appealing to the worst instincts of people.

    Or, as Mencken said, by underestimating their intelligence.

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  65. Drew says:

    george says: “I’m not sure that reasoning holds, because if there is an infinite intelligence, it’s goals and methods are going to be as far beyond our understanding as say the design of a modern computer would be beyond an ant – and that ant’s assessment of the computer (big, ugly, useless rock) isn’t going to be particularly valid.”

    Sure, but if you hold to that line, then you are basically making it utterly impossible and a waste of time to try and reason the existence of an intelligent being out of ANY possible state of the world: ANYTHING could be consistent with it, anything at all.

    People often forget that appealing to things “beyond our understanding” does not make any particular argument stronger, it makes it weaker, by virtue of making it LESS provable, and by multiplying and empowering alternate possibilities (like no creator at all) just as much.

    My point is simply that the biological world is chock full of things that, to the first approximation, make no sense at all if even a mildly intelligent, let alone brilliantly prophetic, being were trying to accomplish something. There are so many obvious improvements that intelligence can make, that are characteristic of intelligent design, that we would see IMMEDIATELY when even clumsy humans get involved that we simply don’t see any trace of in the biological world. Instead we see restrictions on innovation, adaption, and obvious solutions that seem head-slappingly stupid from an engineering perspective, but which make perfect sense from a biological perspective.

    Could you claim that a super-SUPER intelligent being was actually concealing it’s brilliance for a purpose? Sure. But at that point, you’ve already entered a realm where such a being could have just as easily manufactured evidence of there being an existence of last Monday, when in fact all existence started this morning. That’s certainly a valid philosophical idea to float. But it’s not one that has much to do with science.

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  66. george says:

    Sure, but if you hold to that line, then you are basically making it utterly impossible and a waste of time to try and reason the existence of an intelligent being out of ANY possible state of the world: ANYTHING could be consistent with it, anything at all.

    Actually I think that’s a true statement, and is more or less my point. Making any comments about super intelligent creators (either pro or con) is basically a waste of time, because any being that could create our universe (which we are much further from understanding than an ant is from understanding say an iPhone) is so far beyond our capabilities that there’s nothing intelligent we could say about it one way or another.

    Which is just another reason to keep things like Intelligent Design out of our schools – maybe in a hundred million or so years, if we keep progressing at our current rate (not likely, but there you go) we might have the beginnings of an inkling of how the universe works. I’d bet against it, but it could happen. Currently, everytime we think we understand something, a closer inspection shows that behind what we “understand” are difficulties we can’t even get started on.

    Its like Lord Kelvin, circa 1900, saying that physics had almost solved all the major problems, with just two small clouds on the horizon – black body radiation and the Michelson-Morely drift. He turned out to have a great instinct for picking likely clouds, but was wildly over optimistic about our understanding.

    With our current knowledge we can’t even design an atom (or a quark, or an electron – well, you get the idea). And based on that, we’re going to discuss, pro or con, something that potentially created the universe? Great fun over beers, but not a serious enterprise.

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  67. mannning says:

    Darwin and ID–A Brief Comment
    There is a lot of noise in the channels of Darwin versus ID

    Most adherents of Intelligent Design have very carefully and firmly differentiated themselves from creationists. This includes Michael Behe, William Dembski, and Stephen Meyer, the latter having perhaps written the most definitive tome on ID—Signature in the Cell. None of these scientists, and that is precisely what they are, ascribe to the 6,000-year creation meme, nor do they ascribe to equating design with a designer, and hence God. They merely observe in nature that there are highly regular structures that appear to have the quality of having been designed. They leave the ancient saw: “Who designed the designer” to philosophy and religion. It was Dembski that devised a logical test for that quality.
    Abiogenesis, or the origin of life, has been excluded from Darwinism, when Thaxton among others have suggested that it is difficult to begin the evolutionary process without accounting for how DNA information was created in the first place and only then passed to succeeding generations of species.

    Further, in considering evolution as descent with modification, they argue that the random selection process is completely inadequate to construct in an unplanned manner either the collection of molecules found in the human cell, or their purposeful functions, or the information transfer processes that these molecules perform, all leading up to Man.

    One critical point they cite is the so-called pre-Cambrian explosion of fully formed body types with no precursor intermediate forms. Not only does this aspect mitigate against Darwinism, but also the fact that from that period till now further limits the time for random modification evolution to about 500 million years, and not the 13.7 billion years since the Big Bang, or even the 4.7 billion years since the formation of Earth.
    Of course, there is the stopgap idea of Punctuated Equilibrium to try to make it all work anyway. There are several mathematical calculations whose results indicate that 500 million years is simply not enough time for the complex structures of primates to be formed by blind chance (Dembski, among others). Then, too, they cite the rather obvious facts that species breed true, and that true examples of species cross-breeding are not found.

    Michael Behe introduced the concept of irreducible complexity, which states that for an animal to be functionally complete there is an irreducible set of organs, limbs, feeds, and controls without which the animal cannot function. This leads to the conundrum of how such animals could be constructed by successive small modifications when the modifications from nature are random and unplanned, but the poor animal needs all of its minimal parts working together simultaneously, and they cannot be acquired instantly, plus, there are no prior versions of the animal or its parts in the pre-Cambrian set of species. It is my understanding that all attempts so far to disprove these allegations have been abject failures, but I am sure that there have been later tries that could possibly have been more successful. In that case, I would want to see the evidence, and never mind the author.

    Yet another hit on ID comes from the circular reasoning used by publishers. Since there have been few peer reviewed publications on the subject, ID isn’t accepted science, so ID is refused publication. The fact is that a number of key books on the subject, including most on the reference list below, have been peer reviewed, as have a number of articles in scientific publications.

    The attitude I abhor is the closed-minded one that says Neo-Darwinism is absolutely right, it is settled science, the ID people are not scientists, and what’s more, we will explain all of these anomalies sooner or later, given time and resources. These are most unscientific attitudes.

    Anomalies indeed! Why such a theory has to be so sacrosanct is beyond my comprehension, and champions of these statements appear to me to violate the dictum of science that you follow the data and the evidence wherever it takes you. Thesis is, or should be, contrasted with antithesis and the synthesis that follows. Darwinism has been a productive concept in many ways and deserves respect, but it isn’t a theory without flaws and knowledge gaps.
    References:
    1. Signature in the Cell, Stephen C. Meyer, HarperCollins, 2009.
    2. Why Us? James Le Fanu, HarperCollins, 2009.
    3. Intelligent Design 101, H. Wayne House Editor, Kregel Publications, 2008.
    4. Intelligent Design, William A. Dembski, InterVarsity Press, 1999.
    5. Darwin’s Black Box, Michael J. Behe, The Free Press, 1996.
    6. The Darwin Myth, Benjamin Wiker, Regnery, 2009.
    7. Doubts about Darwin, Thomas Woodward, Baker Books, 2003.

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  68. george says:

    @mannning:

    Are you aware that quantum mechanics and general relativity are mutually exclusive? That is, they cannot be simultaneously true – one of the hopes of Super String theory is that it will resolve this, but for now that’s a far off hope. And yet I don’t know of a single university that teaches alternative to either quantum mechanics or general relativity in its undergraduate program – they too are sancrosanct, though their difficulties are worse than anomolies (ie they simply cannot be simultaneously true).

    The reason they’re still taught, and that evolution is still taught, despite their flaws, is that they seem to be the best we have. For ID to gain a place, its not enough to show flaws in evolution, it has to come up with an alternative interpretation of the data which solves these flaws and comes up with a whole new set of predictions – as general relativity and quantum mechanics did for classical mechanics. This is actually the same problem that Super String theory faces … it has been unable to make any major testable hypothesis, and so it is taught as applied math rather than science, much as ID is taught as philosophy or religious studies.

    I agree that no science is ever settled. But there are thousands of alternative theories for every scientific theory out there (take a theory, google it on the net, you’ll see lot’s of alternatives), if we gave them all equal time our science would grind to a halt.

    Look, if ID has some new insights into biology, it should be churning out medical and scientific advances, in the same way that quantum mechanics did. A flawed theory (such as some claim evolution is) should be easy to supercede – where are the advances in biochem, genetics, plant biology etc that ID should be generating?

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  69. mannning says:

    @george:

    I certainly agree with your several examples as being “unsettled” yet used, just as Neo-Darwinism is being used, because it has much to offer. I had great hopes for superstring theory at one time!

    Since I am not a practicing scientist in the field, I do not feel qualified to suggest any alternative theory to ND. It is also true that, as far as I know, none of the ID scientists have come up with any sweeping alternative yet either. That is a very tall order. Perhaps they should be given the same time that Darwin had, or even much more, as the complexity of the problem and the instrumentation to study it at either the macro or the micro level is enormously expensive and hard to get time to use.

    I have not involved myself in the issue of teaching alternatives to evolution in the schools. All I can say is that students must be taught to think for themselves and not to accept the status quo if their intellect tells them that a problem lies in there somewhere that ought to be addressed. The exceptional students will explore evolution and ID all by themselves and come to some conclusion or another. So be it.

    That said, I do believe that to pursue these threads of ID to their conclusion may, or may not, contribute in some way to such a alternative. Not to pursue them, it is obvious, offers no possibility whatsoever to contrubute to the discovery of new relationships and evidence leading to a new theory. Those relatively few scientists that choose to pursue ID should be allowed to continue without such harrassment as they are experiencing now from overzealous believers in Darwinism and Atheism. But, of course, they won’t be left to their own devices, largely for non-scientific reasons, I believe. It may also be possible that findings of the ID efforts will spark some extensions to Neo-Darwinian theory, granted that this might be a stretch.

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  70. george says:

    @mannning:

    I agree that those pursuing ID should be allowed to continue their research un-impeded. However, I’m not aware of any laws prohibiting their doing so, and I’d be very surprised if there were such anywhere.

    If you mean lack of funding, that shouldn’t be a problem for a major new paradigm (sorry to use this overused term, but in this case its actually what Kuhn had in mind). Quantum mechanics faced as much or greater resistance from established physicists when it was first broached, and relativity almost as much. And Darwin’s theories as well were met with resistance and outright hostitility (and even attempts to construct legal barriers) – they became dominant because they provided a framework which released a body of results and technology which were impossible to ignore. If ID is in fact a better theory than evolution, it will release a flood of new predictions and technologies which will be impossible to ignore.

    Established scientists have always resisted new paradigms (perhaps properly, as the saying says, great claims require great evidence), often more resolutely than they do ID. But results will tell. For instance, if ID leads to medical advances beyond that which have come from the genetics/biochem that resulted from evolution, there will be no shortage of acceptance and funding for it.

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  71. mannning says:

    @george:

    To my knowledge the problem isn’t a legal one but a legitimization one in research funding, university positions, publication houses, peer reviewers, and conferences, to name the most obvious.

    I do agree that useful results from ID research should be forthcoming, and the sooner the better. I have the sense, however, that such ID research that I am aware of is a good distance away from being able to affect medical or other disciplines with new information, but I am not necessarily up to date.

    It seems that quite a few researchers are following lines in microbiology that do directly affect and contribute to ID positions, but they are couched in phrases that disguise their ID contributions, for the obvious reason that to declare their work as ID-related is to bring down the Darwin establishment on their heads, often with negative impacts on funding. Both Stephen Meyer and Michael Behe have written about such efforts, some of which are openly touted as affecting ID positively, and others that wish to remain mainstream in their words, for now at least. Thus, perhaps some contributions by ID are already being made, but just not under the suspect flag of ID. This is one unfortunate penalty resulting from the virulent broadside attacks on ID and its researchers. Some representative examples of this virulence appear above. So I do agree that opposition to new theories will be resisted until they have shown their worth, but to drive such research almost underground is not free inquiry science.

    References (Continued)

    8. Intelligent Design Uncensored, Dembski and Witt, IVP Books, 2010
    9. The Edge of Evolution, Michael J, Behe, Free Press, 2007.

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  72. Funnyman says:

    @gVOR08: @DRS: You would think evolution would have fixed the fat finger problem by now lol

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  73. george says:

    @mannning:

    I can understand researchers wanting to mask unpopular scientific views, though I’m not sure how that actually works when presenting research. For instance, when quantum mechanics was trying to replace classical mechanics (I’m a physicist, so that’s where my experience lies), it did so by solving problems that couldn’t be solved by classical mechanics (the spectrum of the hydrogen atom for instance) – I don’t think there would have been any way to disguise the quantum mechanics in terms of classical mechanics, as quantum mechanics would have sounded like nonsense if given in classical terms (in fact, it still sounds bizaare, and the only reason we use it is because it gives the best answers).

    Similarily, if you need ID theory to solve a microbiology problem, I don’t see how it would be possible to disguise it, as the description would sound like nonsense in the evolution context. A major shift in paradigm (like classical to modern physics, or Lamarckian theory to Darwin’s theory) changes the context to an extent that makes it impossible to describe new research in the old theory (in fact, that’s usually what drives the acceptance of the new paradigm, there’s no way to explain the results in the old). If ID is coming up with new microbiology results, it should be impossible to explain those results in terms of evolution – ie the DNA replication model should fall apart.

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  74. mannning says:

    The best answer I can give you is that it is quite usual to publish articles that refer to the classical names for parts of cells and their functions, parts of DNA and their functions, etc. without necessarily tieing the subject to ID per se. But the clear implications of such articles can be seen from an ID perspective as satisfying some aspect of what ID predicts should be the case. That is the sense of it that I get from both Behe and Meyer, but to pull out the examples would take me some time.

    If my recaller is working, a clear example of this was given in Behe’s reply to a challenge to his contention that the flagellum is irreducible, saying that there exists another set of modules that is close to the flagellum and could be a precursor. It turns out that other microbiologists have proven conclusively that this set of modules cannot be such a precursor to the flagellum, but without any hint that they support ID, and Behe made their work a central part of his reply.

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  75. george says:

    @mannning:

    That’s interesting, but I’m not sure how showing a given set of modules cannot be precursor is evidence for ID, unless the argument flows from ID theory. For example, showing that the hydrogen spectrum was impossible from the viewpoint of classical mechanics didn’t prove quantum mechanics, what was required was development of the quantum theory of the atom (with energy levels, absorption and emittance etc) to explain it where classical couldn’t.

    If the ID researchers can show that the flagellum appeared instantaneously (not sure how they would do that, but before evolutionary theory came up with DNA there was no mechanism for evolution either), then that would do it. Or if it could come up with an alternative to DNA as a means of building life (since DNA seems pretty much tied into evolution at this point, in that changes in DNA combinations lead to changes in traits, as seen in microbiology … another mechanism has to be discovered which doesn’t involve natural selection to replace evolutionary theory – or perhaps evidence showing that DNA combinations aren’t actually the result of molecular mechanics, but are “chosen” somehow).

    Proof that sexual shuffling the DNA sequences doesn’t actually give the resulting sequences (ie the sequences aren’t a combination of the parental ones) would certainly severly weaken evolutionary theory, and if the resulting sequences are highly improbably as a shuffling, would suggest ID – especially if ID theory could predict in advance what sort of improbable shuffling actually occurs. Something on that order would be a huge success for ID.

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