Wiki on evolution
quote index
National Academy of Sciences on evolution

modified Feb 2012 wrench
The Kitzmiller/Dover decision, 2005
Council of Europe - dangers of creationist "education", 2007
my copy, Council of Europe declaration

Assuming it all did happen by Random Mutation and Natural Selection, where did the laws of gravity come from? - Ben Stein, 2008

11 Feb 2008
These are the only responses I've had to this page, in the several years it's been posted:
Messages from Bruce (real name and background unknown) in italics, with my responses.

  I saw your page on evolution and was wondering what testable evidence you know about that evolution was not designed?

"Poof" by the invisible sky daddy is not a testable theory, and ID has even less going for it.
Please see http://nationalacademies.org/evolution/
 What testable evidence do you know of that the process of evolution was not designed? I can't find anything testable on the links you suggested or elsewhere. I'm not questioning the validity of evolution, just the apparently unfounded belief that there was no creator. Why do you believe without any testable evidence?
 Regarding ID, it seems that useful predictions can be made with the common sense idea that processes and machines and laws DO indeed have designers. You can test this also. Let's use humans. You probably believe that humans are no more than biological machines, like mere cogs in the natural machinery of evolution. Human designers are not intrinsically detectable when observing their design or process. This is exactly what we could predict when it comes to the process of evolution. And indeed we don't detect any designer of evolution, just as expected. Why wouldn't it make more sense that the process of evolution had a designer when this idea is testable and can be used to make useful predictions? Do you see what I mean?

  Really, I don't have the time or inclination to debate the matter much with someone who isn't convinced by, or more likely hasn't read any of, the biological literature of the past 150 years. The experts  you are ignoring have already done a much better job than I can.
"Human designers are not intrinsically detectable when observing their design or process." ? That's odd - exactly the opposite analogy is usually the one made in _favor_ of design.
  I have been following the issue - there is no "design theory", so there are no testable hypotheses. "Design" is just a theist's shrug, repackaged creationism, to say "natural selection can't be true" because they can't understand it. "Poof" isn't a scientific theory.
  Mechanical universe? No, it was my Calvinist ancestors who subscribed to predestination.
  'say "natural selection can't be true",'; "someone who ... likely hasn't read any of, the biological literature of the past 150 years."
  This does not relate to me. Again, I'm not questioning the validity of evolution, just the apparently unfounded belief that there was no creator. What testable evidence do you know of that the process of evolution was not created? Aren't you blindly believing considering that you have not even provided one reference or example of testable evidence that the process of evolution was not designed?
  In contrast, anyone can test naturally occurring, human biological machines and see that there is a design theory that is useful for making predictions: Intelligent designers design processes, machines, and laws, etc. Can you contradict this with any testable evidence?

  The libraries are full of support for the Modern Synthesis, and largely ignore theology, as far as I've seen. The evidence is there, and you won't or can't accept the god-irrelevant model, so there would be no point in my finding examples, even if I had the time and expertise. Theists other than creationists have been happy enough with various versions of a god setting everything in motion, since at least the 1700s. I think that's silly, but relatively harmless. If you think there's any evidence for your position, tell the world your vision and publish or blog away. So far, no IDists have published anything on the topic that the scientific world takes seriously. Given the crew of clowns supposedly working on it, it seems unlikely they will, so the field is clear for you.
  “Reality has a well-known liberal bias.” - Stephen Colbert
12 Feb 2008
Thanks David,
 Why would you assume I can't accept the god-irrelevant model? I have looked extensively. I can't find one shred of testable evidence that the process of evolution was not designed. You don't seem to know of anything either.
 I agree that there are a lot of "clowns" out there. I never said anything about theology. However, I am surprised that you don't have any examples of testable evidence, that the process of evolution was not designed, in your mind... You seem to need to go find examples. Please don't take this wrong, but doesn't this mean you have been operating blindly? Don't you need testable evidence in order to believe something is true? Seriously, why wouldn't one think that you are just blindly following other people?
 But I think you can understand that it would be easy to test that processes DO indeed have designers, and that designers are not intrinsically detectable when observing their processes. This is testable evidence that contradicts atheism. Thus, the fact that we don't directly detect a Designer of the universe should be expected. Do you agree? An argument from ignorance, at best, should not be a reason for people to exclude a cosmic Designer. What do you think?

  I don't see your position as logical at all, besides being contradictory to the standard ID argument (that a designer IS obvious). But why ask me? My degrees are in cell and developmental biology, but I'm not currently working in those fields either.  You imply that you've read the experts and been unconvinced. I couldn't do better than they already have, and will not look for examples because I have better things to do with my time (despite continuing this exchange). If you were genuinely looking for evidence to support the Modern Synthesis, you would be reading the experts, not arguing with someone who has a quotes page. Would I like to convince you? Sure, but you've obviously made up your mind, and you're just some random emailer, so I won't put effort into it.
  Implying my position is the argument from ignorance, when yours is the argument from incredulity?
  It is not conceivably possible to test every thing one accepts as true, but  I do find that all the science I know is compatible with evolution by natural selection, so my situation is not that of following blindly. I am well aware of theist positions as well, and that postulating a "Designer" IS postulating a god, whether or not that god is the Abrahamic one. (Or maybe some super-alien, but that just pushes the problem back to the alien's creator.) If the god/designer's work is undetectable, then the concept is useless.
   So far the Design concept is being ignored by scientists because it's just hot air: Words, words, more words and venom. No detailed hypotheses, no experiments, no serious analyses. Test away and report your results, or find someone who thinks you have a valid point to do the work.

"I do find that all the science I know is compatible with evolution by natural selection,"
 So? Again, I'm not questioning the validity of evolution or natural selection, just the apparently unfounded belief that evolution was not
created. You don't seem to know of any testable evidence either that shows that evolution was not created, yet you have a web page based on this lack of evidence. Thus, you seem to be following blindly with an argument from incredulity. I have not made any claims. But, I have provided examples of evidence that can be tested that contradicts you.
 "Would I like to convince you? Sure, but you've obviously made up your mind,"
 You don't even know of any testable evidence that evolution was not created. What would you convince me with? I am looking for testable evidence. The experts also don't cite any testable evidence that evolution was not created.
"but that just pushes the problem back to the alien's creator."
 How could a God that created time and enforces time on every particle or wave in the universe be subject to the "arrow of time" and it's effects like causation?
"If the god/designer's work is undetectable, then the concept is useless."
  No. I'm saying that a designer's process/work IS detectable but the designer is not intrinsically detectable when observing their work. This is exactly what we should expect when we observe the process of evolution - NO detectable designer. Thus, evolution not having a detected designer was predictable, and it seems ignorant to believe that the lack of detectable designer means that there is no Creator.
 Darwin said: "...we know of the laws impressed on matter by the Creator,"
(Origin of Species, p. 488)

  You did NOT provide any evidence, nor was there any evidence that you've read any real science, never mind practiced it. Your argument is just gibberish - there must be a creator because it is undetectable?  Even the IDiots would gag on that. Just another creationist loon.
  I'm done, but it has led me to update my evolution page.

[Bruce continued, but still didn't say anything honest or sane.]

Alan McHughen on "Intelligent Design" 2006 in Genetic Engineering News
Implications of Faith-Based Science
Intelligent Design Exemplifies the Misguided Hijacking of Science Education

The Onion, Nov 2006
Kansas Outlaws Practice Of Evolution

Robert Sprackland, 19 Jan 2006 in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Darwin's Theory is a Fact

Jacob Weisberg, 10 Aug 2005 in Slate
the big idea
Evolution vs. Religion
Quit pretending they're compatible.

8/12/2005 (revised Feb 2008)
    The evolution controversy has heated up this month as Bush showed yet again what it means to be an ignorant wanker.
    To the Biblical literalists, all the evidence is a supernatural fake to test their faith. That is, they have a non-scientific theory to explain the evidence, but there hasn't been any evolution. These are Creationists, and they are impervious to reason.
    The ID proponents are lying about their motives and connections to creationism, and their gulled followers clog the system with drivel. Yet they aren't quite the same as Creationists, since they seem to accept that evolution is a fact. Some seem to accept that evolution occurs, but needs a supernatural agency to direct it, while others see ID as a wedge to completely overturn science.
    An important semantic issue is the confusion between evolution as a fact and evolution as a name for the theories that explain it. Despite the many well written (and many poorly written) explanations of what a scientific theory is and isn't, the ID theists continue to misrepresent or misunderstand the concept. Darwinism is the generally accepted scientific theory of evolution. Darwin published his theory of Natural Selection in 1859, which was modified with the 20th century findings in genetics to become the Modern Synthesis (Any short explanation would be shot down by the pedants. Not being either an expert writer or evolutionary biologist, I'll forgo a definition.) The theories of Lamarck and Lysenko are scientific, too, but the evidence shows them to be wrong. ID is a non-scientific theory, devoted only to finding gaps in the evidence chain and saying "ID did it." Finding something in the middle of a gap doesn't plug the gap for them, it makes a pair! As William Saletan put it,

"Intelligent Design" is a big nothing. It's non-living, non-breathing proof that religion has surrendered its war against science. ID offers no predictions, scope modifiers, or experimental methods of its own. It's a default answer, a shrug, consisting entirely of problems in Darwinism. Those problems should be taught in school, but there's no reason to call them intelligent design. Intelligent design, as defined by its advocates, means nothing. This is the way creationism ends. - William Saletan, Frame Game, Slate Feb 13, 2002
    Except I'd disagree about the school part. Just as we learn Newtonian mechanics instead of Special Relativity in high school, teaching the general approximations first, and getting into the fine points at more advanced levels, Darwinian evolution is what should be presented as accepted fact. Questions about exact mechanisms are important, and should be studied, but ID theory can't help.

Krugman 8-5-2005 NYT
Even when reporters do know the difference, the conventions of he-said-she-said journalism get in the way of conveying that knowledge to readers. I once joked that if President Bush said that the Earth was flat, the headlines of news articles would read, "Opinions Differ on Shape of the Earth." The headlines on many articles about the intelligent design controversy come pretty close.

Finally, the self-policing nature of science - scientific truth is determined by peer review, not public opinion - can be exploited by skilled purveyors of cultural resentment. Do virtually all biologists agree that Darwin was right? Well, that just shows that they're elitists who think they're smarter than the rest of us.

Which brings us, finally, to intelligent design. Some of America's most powerful politicians have a deep hatred for Darwinism. Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, blamed the theory of evolution for the Columbine school shootings. But sheer political power hasn't been enough to get creationism into the school curriculum. The theory of evolution has overwhelming scientific support, and the country isn't ready - yet - to teach religious doctrine in public schools.

But what if creationists do to evolutionary theory what corporate interests did to global warming: create a widespread impression that the scientific consensus has shaky foundations?

Creationists failed when they pretended to be engaged in science, not religious indoctrination: "creation science" was too crude to fool anyone. But intelligent design, which spreads doubt about evolution without being too overtly religious, may succeed where creation science failed.

The important thing to remember is that like supply-side economics or global-warming skepticism, intelligent design doesn't have to attract significant support from actual researchers to be effective. All it has to do is create confusion, to make it seem as if there really is a controversy about the validity of evolutionary theory. That, together with the political muscle of the religious right, may be enough to start a process that ends with banishing Darwin from the classroom.

Daniel Dennett NYT
29 Aug 2005
To date, the proponents of intelligent design have not produced anything like that. No experiments with results that challenge any mainstream biological understanding. No observations from the fossil record or genomics or biogeography or comparative anatomy that undermine standard evolutionary thinking.

Instead, the proponents of intelligent design use a ploy that works something like this. First you misuse or misdescribe some scientist's work. Then you get an angry rebuttal. Then, instead of dealing forthrightly with the charges leveled, you cite the rebuttal as evidence that there is a "controversy" to teach.

Note that the trick is content-free. You can use it on any topic. "Smith's work in geology supports my argument that the earth is flat," you say, misrepresenting Smith's work. When Smith responds with a denunciation of your misuse of her work, you respond, saying something like: "See what a controversy we have here? Professor Smith and I are locked in a titanic scientific debate. We should teach the controversy in the classrooms." And here is the delicious part: you can often exploit the very technicality of the issues to your own advantage, counting on most of us to miss the point in all the difficult details.

William Dembski, one of the most vocal supporters of intelligent design, notes that he provoked Thomas Schneider, a biologist, into a response that Dr. Dembski characterizes as "some hair-splitting that could only look ridiculous to outsider observers." What looks to scientists - and is - a knockout objection by Dr. Schneider is portrayed to most everyone else as ridiculous hair-splitting.

In short, no science. Indeed, no intelligent design hypothesis has even been ventured as a rival explanation of any biological phenomenon. This might seem surprising to people who think that intelligent design competes directly with the hypothesis of non-intelligent design by natural selection. But saying, as intelligent design proponents do, "You haven't explained everything yet," is not a competing hypothesis. Evolutionary biology certainly hasn't explained everything that perplexes biologists. But intelligent design hasn't yet tried to explain anything.

Evolution is as much a fact as gravity. There are several scientific theories to explain and predict evolution, as there are for gravity, but all of the theories stipulate that natural selection is a fact. There is some disagreement about mechanisms of speciation, but these mostly reflect the many possibilities among the models being studied, the time frames being considered, and the integrative vs. reductionist mindset of the modelers. Assertions that "evolution is just a theory" are exactly as ridiculous as assertions that "gravity is just a theory".

The fundamentalist claim, that "evolution is just a theory", is a deliberate misinterpretation of the scientists' definition of theory. Theories, in science, are detailed arguments to explain and predict observed or observable phenomena. Theories may or may not be true, but they are developed to account for the facts. Religion based versions of natural history exist, obviously, and some of their proponents claim them to be scientifically based, but those theories violate everything we accept about physics, geology, astronomy, genetics, paleontology and archaeology. Some people still believe the Earth is flat, too.


evolve fish

Fish wars:

http://www.thepass.com/~macleod/darwin.html - dead link




scientific societies' statements on evolution:

 ESA's Resolution on Evolution http://esa.sdsc.edu/resevolution.htm

AAAS http://www.aaas.org/spp/dser/evolution/default.htm

NCSE http://www.natcenscied.org/

American Geological Institute Update on challenges to the teaching of evolution

For a rational look at many issues, I recommend The Skeptics Dictionary.  


The Darwin awards: In the spirit of Charles Darwin, the Darwin Awards commemorate individuals who protect our gene pool by making the ultimate sacrifice of their own lives. Darwin Award winners eliminate themselves in an extraordinarily idiotic manner, thereby improving our species' chances of long-term survival.

 Quotes on evolution:

"Intelligent Design" is a big nothing. It's non-living, non-breathing proof that religion has surrendered its war against science. ID offers no predictions, scope modifiers, or experimental methods of its own. It's a default answer, a shrug, consisting entirely of problems in Darwinism. Those problems should be taught in school, but there's no reason to call them intelligent design. Intelligent design, as defined by its advocates, means nothing. This is the way creationism ends. - William Saletan, Frame Game, Slate Feb 13, 2002

Several thousand years ago, a small tribe of ignorant near-savages wrote various collections of myths, wild tales, lies, and gibberish. Over the centuries, these stories were embroidered, garbled, mutilated, and torn into small pieces that were then repeatedly shuffled. Finally, this material was badly translated into several languages successively. The resultant text, creationists feel, is the best guide to this complex and technical subject. - Tom Weller, From Science Made Stupid ([Biology])

"Creation science" has not entered the curriculum for a reason so simple and so basic that we often forget to mention it: because it is false, and because good teachers understand exactly why it is false. What could be more destructive of that most fragile yet most precious commodity in our entire intellectual heritage -- good teaching -- than a bill forcing honorable teachers to sully their sacred trust by granting equal treatment to a doctrine not only known to be false, but calculated to undermine any general understanding of science as an enterprise? - Stephen Jay Gould, "The Skeptical Inquirer"

Let me try to make crystal clear what is established beyond reasonable doubt, and what needs further study, about evolution. Evolution as a process that has always gone on in the history of the earth can be doubted only by those who are ignorant of the evidence or are resistant to evidence, owing to emotional blocks or to plain bigotry. By contrast, the mechanisms that bring evolution about certainly need study and clarification. There are no alternatives to evolution as history that can withstand critical examination. Yet we are constantly learning new and important facts about evolutionary mechanisms. - Theodosius Dobzhansky, Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution

Geology shows that fossils are of different ages. Paleontology shows a fossil sequence, the list of species represented changes through time. Taxonomy shows biological relationships among species. Evolution is the explanation that threads it all together. Creationism is the practice of squeezing one's eyes shut and wailing "does not!". - Dr.Pepper@f241.n103.z1.fidonet.org

Those who would legislate against the teaching of evolution should also legislate against gravity, electricity and the unreasonable velocity of light, and also should introduce a clause to prevent the use of the telescope, the microscope and the spectroscope or any other instrument [...] used for the discovery of truth. - Luther Burbank

The affinities of all the beings of the same class have sometimes been represented by a great tree. I believe this simile largely speaks the truth. The green and budding twigs may represent existing species; and those produced during each former year may represent the long succession of extinct species... The limbs divided into great branches, and these into lesser and lesser branches, were themselves once, when the tree was small, budding twigs; and this connection of the former and present buds by ramifying branches may well represent the classification of all extinct and living species in groups subordinate to groups... From the first growth of the tree, many a limb and branch has decayed and dropped off, and these lost branches of various sizes may represent those whole orders, families, and genera which have now no living representatives, and which are known to us only from having been found in a fossil state... As buds give rise by growth to fresh buds, and these, if vigorous, branch out and overtop on all a feebler branch, so by generation I believe it has been with the great Tree of Life, which fills with its dead and broken branches the crust of the earth, and covers the surface with its ever branching and beautiful ramifications. - Charles Darwin, 1859

If you're looking for a little background reading on scientific creationism, it's best not to take the word scientific too seriously. A three-year database search of 4,000 scientific publications -- focusing on the names of people associated with the Institute for Creation Research and on phrases and keywords such as 'creationism' -- didn't turn up a single paper. A follow-up study of 68 journals found that only 18 of 135,000 total manuscript submissions concerned scientific creationism, and all 18 were rejected. Reasons cited included 'flawed arguments,' 'ramblings,' and 'a high-school theme quality'. - Science 85 6(7):11, September 1985

A few words need to be said about the "theory of evolution," which most people take to mean the proposition that organisms have evolved from common ancestors. In everyday speech, "theory" often means a hypothesis or even a mere speculation. But in science, "theory" means "a statement of what are held to be the general laws, principles, or causes of something known or observed", as the Oxford English Dictionary defines it. The theory of evolution is a body of interconnected statements about natural selection and the other processes that are thought to cause evolution, just as the atomic theory of chemistry and the Newtonian theory of mechanics are bodies of statements that describe causes of chemical and physical phenomena. In contrast, the statement that organisms have descended with modifications from common ancestors - the historical reality of evolution - is not a theory. It is a fact, as fully as the fact of the earth's revolution about the sun. Like the heliocentric solar system, evolution began as a hypothesis, and achieved "facthood" as the evidence in its favor became so strong that no knowledgeable and unbiased person could deny its reality. No biologist today would think of submitting a paper entitled "New evidence for evolution"; it simply has not been an issue for a century. - Douglas J. Futuyma

I'll now say a few unresearched things about eyes. A common creationist claim about eyes follows the Feather Attack Mode (tm): "All those parts are useless without the others! See? They were created simultaneously!" Again, nothing could be further from the truth. Ask a Chlamydomonas algal cell, or a Euglena. They won't answer, but you can observe a very primitive eyespot on these cells. All it does is sense light. These algae have flagellae, so they can swim toward light if they get swept under a rock or water lily, e.g. This eye is intracellular, and basically spherical. A planarian (flatworm) has a cup-shaped depression lined with pigmented cells. This is equivalent to our retina. A nautilus is much the same, with its eye being likened to a pinhole camera (no lens or cornea, but almost spherical). Squids have an eye that adds a cornea and a spherical, rigid lens, much like fishes, and extrinsic eye muscles. Mammals have a soft, pliable lens for focusing. Birds have this and also double foveae, giving birds TWO "centers of concentration", i.e., they can "look right at" two things at once! - Paul Keck, http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/feathers.html

For my own part I would as soon be descended from that heroic little monkey, who braved his dreaded enemy in order to save the life of his keeper; or from that old baboon, who, descending from the mountains, carried away in triumph his young comrade from a crowd of astonished dogs -- as from a savage who delights to torture his enemies, offers up bloody sacrifices, practices infanticide without remorse, treats his wives like slaves, knows no decency, and is haunted by the grossest superstitions. - Charles Darwin (1809-1882), The Descent of Man, 1871, chapter 21.

The truth is that Christian theology, like every other theology, is not only opposed to the scientific spirit; it is also opposed to all other attempts at rational thinking. Not by accident does Genesis 3 make the father of knowledge a serpent -- slimy, sneaking and abominable. Since the earliest days the church as an organization has thrown itself violently against every effort to liberate the body and mind of man. It has been, at all times and everywhere, the habitual and incorrigible defender of bad governments, bad laws, bad social theories, bad institutions. It was, for centuries, an apologist for slavery, as it was the apologist for the divine right of kings. - H. L. Mencken

Although the ICR often emphasizes that it is the scientific nature of creationist theory which brings scientists to a belief in a supreme being, it is curious that they include a requirement for membership (the inerrancy of the Christian Bible) which effectively excludes Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and the majority of Christian sects (who do not accept a literal reading of all parts of the Bible) from membership. It is clear that the ICR, which is the most respected of creationist groups in its attempts to appear scientifically legitimate, is essentially an organization composed solely of Christian Fundamentalists. - Kenneth R. Miller, "Scientific Creationism versus Evolution" Science and Creationism, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984), p. 22.

DawkinsIt is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked). - Richard Dawkins, 1989

The creationists’ fondness for 'gaps' in the fossil record is a metaphor for their love of gaps in knowledge generally. Gaps, by default, are filled by God. - Richard Dawkins, 2005  CCH copy

May 21, 2005
Creationism: God's gift to the ignorant
As the Religious Right tries to ban the teaching of evolution in Kansas, Richard Dawkins speaks up for scientific logic
Science feeds on mystery. As my colleague Matt Ridley has put it: “Most scientists are bored by what they have already discovered. It is ignorance that drives them on.” Science mines ignorance. Mystery — that which we don’t yet know; that which we don’t yet understand — is the mother lode that scientists seek out. Mystics exult in mystery and want it to stay mysterious. Scientists exult in mystery for a very different reason: it gives them something to do.

Admissions of ignorance and mystification are vital to good science. It is therefore galling, to say the least, when enemies of science turn those constructive admissions around and abuse them for political advantage. Worse, it threatens the enterprise of science itself. This is exactly the effect that creationism or “intelligent design theory” (ID) is having, especially because its propagandists are slick, superficially plausible and, above all, well financed. ID, by the way, is not a new form of creationism. It simply is creationism disguised, for political reasons, under a new name.

It isn’t even safe for a scientist to express temporary doubt as a rhetorical device before going on to dispel it.

“To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.” You will find this sentence of Charles Darwin quoted again and again by creationists. They never quote what follows. Darwin immediately went on to confound his initial incredulity. Others have built on his foundation, and the eye is today a showpiece of the gradual, cumulative evolution of an almost perfect illusion of design. The relevant chapter of my Climbing Mount Improbable is called “The fortyfold Path to Enlightenment” in honour of the fact that, far from being difficult to evolve, the eye has evolved at least 40 times independently around the animal kingdom.

The distinguished Harvard geneticist Richard Lewontin is widely quoted as saying that organisms “appear to have been carefully and artfully designed”. Again, this was a rhetorical preliminary to explaining how the powerful illusion of design actually comes about by natural selection. The isolated quotation strips out the implied emphasis on “appear to”, leaving exactly what a simple-mindedly pious audience — in Kansas, for instance — wants to hear.

The deceitful misquoting of scientists to suit an anti-scientific agenda ranks among the many unchristian habits of fundamentalist authors. But such Telling Lies for God (the book title of the splendidly pugnacious Australian geologist Ian Plimer) is not the most serious problem. There is a more important point to be made, and it goes right to the philosophical heart of creationism.

The standard methodology of creationists is to find some phenomenon in nature which Darwinism cannot readily explain. Darwin said: “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.” Creationists mine ignorance and uncertainty in order to abuse his challenge. “Bet you can’t tell me how the elbow joint of the lesser spotted weasel frog evolved by slow gradual degrees?” If the scientist fails to give an immediate and comprehensive answer, a default conclusion is drawn: “Right, then, the alternative theory; ‘intelligent design’ wins by default.”

Notice the biased logic: if theory A fails in some particular, theory B must be right! Notice, too, how the creationist ploy undermines the scientist’s rejoicing in uncertainty. Today’s scientist in America dare not say: “Hm, interesting point. I wonder how the weasel frog’s ancestors did evolve their elbow joint. I’ll have to go to the university library and take a look.” No, the moment a scientist said something like that the default conclusion would become a headline in a creationist pamphlet: “Weasel frog could only have been designed by God.”

I once introduced a chapter on the so-called Cambrian Explosion with the words: “It is as though the fossils were planted there without any evolutionary history.” Again, this was a rhetorical overture, intended to whet the reader’s appetite for the explanation. Inevitably, my remark was gleefully quoted out of context. Creationists adore “gaps” in the fossil record.

Many evolutionary transitions are elegantly documented by more or less continuous series of changing intermediate fossils. Some are not, and these are the famous “gaps”. Michael Shermer has wittily pointed out that if a new fossil discovery neatly bisects a “gap”, the creationist will declare that there are now two gaps! Note yet again the use of a default. If there are no fossils to document a postulated evolutionary transition, the assumption is that there was no evolutionary transition: God must have intervened.

The creationists’ fondness for “gaps” in the fossil record is a metaphor for their love of gaps in knowledge generally. Gaps, by default, are filled by God. You don’t know how the nerve impulse works? Good! You don’t understand how memories are laid down in the brain? Excellent! Is photosynthesis a bafflingly complex process? Wonderful! Please don’t go to work on the problem, just give up, and appeal to God. Dear scientist, don’t work on your mysteries. Bring us your mysteries for we can use them. Don’t squander precious ignorance by researching it away. Ignorance is God’s gift to Kansas.

Richard Dawkins, FRS, is the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science, at Oxford University. His latest book is The Ancestor’s Tale

In its April Fools' Day issue, Scientific American published a spoof editorial in which it apologized for endorsing the theory of evolution just because it's "the unifying concept for all of biology and one of the greatest scientific ideas of all time," saying that "as editors, we had no business being persuaded by mountains of evidence." And it conceded that it had succumbed "to the easy mistake of thinking that scientists understand their fields better than, say, U.S. senators or best-selling novelists do."

Skeptic's Dictionary newsletter # 56
"A new Gallup poll found that in America 25% of us (plus or minus 3%) don't believe in anything paranormal. That means, of course, that about three-fourths of us believe in things like ESP, ghosts, astrology, channeling, and communicating with spirits. Belief in demonic possession hasn't changed much in the past ten years. It's hard to believe that in the 21st century in the most technologically advanced country in the world this belief is still strong. Four out of every ten adults in the US believe in possession by the devil. According to Gallup, "Christians are a little more likely to hold some paranormal beliefs than non-Christians (75% vs. 66%, respectively), but both groups show a sizeable majority with such beliefs." More than half of us believe in psychic healing. About a fourth of us believe "that the position of the stars and planets can affect people's lives" and "that extra-terrestrial beings have visited earth at some time in the past." One-fifth of us still believe in witches.

No wonder intelligent design is considered a viable option by many people."

NYT editorial
23 Aug 2005
"Evolution is a robust theory, in the scientific sense, that has been tested and confirmed again and again. Intelligent design is not a theory at all, as scientists understand the word, but a well-financed political and religious campaign to muddy science. Its basic proposition - the intervention of a designer, a k a God - cannot be tested. It has no evidence to offer, and its assumptions that humans were divinely created are the same as its conclusions. Its objections to evolution are based on syllogistic reasoning and a highly selective treatment of the physical evidence.

Accepting the fact of evolution does not necessarily mean discarding a personal faith in God. But accepting intelligent design means discarding science. Much has been made of a 2004 poll showing that some 45 percent of Americans believe that the Earth - and humans with it - was created as described in the book of Genesis, and within the past 10,000 years. This isn't a triumph of faith. It's a failure of education.

The purpose of the campaign for intelligent design is to deepen that failure. To present the arguments of intelligent design as part of a debate over evolution is nonsense. From the scientific perspective, there is no debate. But even the illusion of a debate is a sorry victory for antievolutionists, a public relations victory based, as so many have been in recent years, on ignorance and obfuscation."

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on October 24, 2005 03:43 PM on The Panda's Thumb

OK, how bout Piltdown man.

(sigh) It always makes me smile when the fundies yell about “Piltdown Man”.

Let’s point out a few things about that, shall we?

(1) Piltdown was never accepted by all biologists. Right from the beginning, there were a large proportion of paleo-anthropologists who assumed that the skull and jawbone did not belong together. This is because Piltdown never fit into the evolutionary lineage that was being illustrated by the other hominid fossils that had been found. Oddly enough, it was most of the British scientists who wanted to accept Piltdown, and most of the rest of the world that rejected it. That may or may not have something to do with where it was found.

(2) the Piltdown fraud was discovered and publicized by EVOLUTIOANRY BIOLOGISTS, not by creationists. The creationists just stood around looking stupid, while the EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGISTS did all the lab work and investigations that uncovered the fraud.

(3) The Piltdown fraud was discovered using the sequence of the fossil record and dating techniques, BOTH of which were (and still are) rejected by creationists. As noted, most biologists (while not suspecting a hoax) asserted that the skull and the jaw did not belong together, because they did not fit into the evolutionary sequence that was known from other fossils. Indeed, one of the reasons that Piltdown was flourine-tested in the first place was to see if the skull and jaw were really the same age (if it could be shown that they were different ages, then they did not belong together, as many scientists were assuming). The flourine testing revealed the fraud, and later radiodating confirmed it —— the very same radiodating techniques, take note, that CREATIONISTS keep telling us are so wildly inaccurate and untrustworthy. The odd thing is that if one rejects the dating processes and the fossil sequence (as creationists do), then there is NO REASON to conclude that Piltdown IS a fraud. So not only did creationists NOT discover the fraud, but they COULD NOT have. They “did not believe in” the very methods that were used to uncover the hoax

Science is not done by quoting authorities, however eloquent and eminent, and then evaluating their arguments. Scientists do, however, quite properly persist in holding forth, in popular and not-so-popular books and essays, putting forward their interpretations of the work in the lab and the field, and trying to influence their fellow scientists. When I quote them, rhetoric and all, I am doing what they are doing: engaging in persuasion. There is no such thing as a sound Argument from Authority, but authorities can be persuasive, sometimes rightly and sometimes wrongly. - Daniel C. Dennet, intro to Darwin's Dangerous Idea, 1995

The other side: William A. Williams, 1925
The Evolution of Man, Scientifically Disproved

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