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Bungling the Facts Behind Evolution

The last presidential election is, thankfully, long behind us, but do you remember Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry? He got flak for saying, “In Texas, we teach both creationism and evolution. I figure you’re smart enough to figure out which one is right.”

There’s plenty of anti-science nuttiness in this country to go around, but Texas has another prominent politician who’s doing more than his share. Congressman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), who is, bizarrely, the chair of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, recently circulated a draft of his “High Quality Research Act,” which would politicize the work of the National Science Foundation by having it answer to politicians.

Can we question evolution?

In the wake of the response to Perry’s comments, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach asked, “Does Questioning Evolution Make You Anti-Science?

Yeah, pretty much. Let’s take a look at his apologetic.

Denial of both climate change and evolution is popular among conservatives. The author said, “While I cannot comment on climate-change science, I do have a great deal to say about evolution.” He lists his credentials as organizing the annual science vs. religion debates at Oxford University, which were typically about evolution, and giving Richard Dawkins a good thrashing at another debate for good measure.

But for someone who’s well versed in these matters, his understanding of science seems stunted.

What I learned from these debates, as well as reading extensively on evolution, is that evolutionists have a tough time defending the theory when challenged in open dialogue.

I doubt that, but let’s assume it’s the case. Who cares? Science, not debate, is where our confidence in evolution comes from.

Theory vs. law

[Attacks on evolution do not] mean that evolution is not true or that theory is without merit or evidence. It does, however, corroborate what Governor Perry said. Evolution is a theory. Unlike, say, the laws of thermodynamics, it has never been proven beyond the shadow of a doubt to be true.

Wow—where do you start?

Evolution is an explanation. It claims to give us the mechanism explaining how life got to be the way it is. The best evolution can hope for is to become a theory, and it has done so. The same is true for germ theory, another explanation, which has also reached that pinnacle and can’t become anything better.

By contrast, a scientific law is a description—how motion works (F = ma) or how gravity works (F = Gm1m2/r2) or how gasses work (PV = nRT), for example.

In Newton’s Second Law of Motion, why is force proportional to the acceleration and not to, say, the acceleration squared? The law doesn’t help you out there; it only describes the relationship. For the mechanism, you turn to a theory.

A theory doesn’t graduate to become a law. They’re two different things. And as for the “beyond the shadow of a doubt” thing, science is always provisional. Nothing is ever certain. A sliver of that shadow of doubt hangs over our most established scientific conclusions, including the laws of thermodynamics.

Richard Dawkins and the late and celebrated Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould fiercely debated basic presumptions about evolution. Gould … argued that the large gaps in the fossil record make a mockery of a theory of gradual evolution, which is why Gould advocated ‘punctuated equilibrium,’ a variation on Darwinism in which evolution takes place in dramatic periods of change followed by long eons of stasis.

You’ve got two scientists arguing about details within evolution. That’s how science works.

The author seems to imagine some great schism within biology, but both scientists accepted evolution. What’s the point?

Evidence of evolution

No scientist has ever witnessed evolution directly and science itself says that this is impossible given the vast amount of time needed for species to evolve.

Witnessing something directly is nice, but science is long past the day when Galileo dropped different-sized cannonballs from the Tower of Pisa to see if the bigger one fell faster. (He probably didn’t, but it’s a nice story.) Science is often indirect now. When we look at a photo from the Hubble satellite or an electron microscope, there’s a long chain of technology massaging bits before the data is in a form that we can understand.

Nevertheless, we have seen speciation happen. My favorite examples are the evolution of a bacterium’s ability to eat nylon (nylon didn’t exist until it was invented in the 1930s) and Richard Lenski’s 20-year experiment in which bacteria evolved the ability to eat citrate.

Evolution is the overwhelming scientific consensus. Deal with it.

Before [we attack] Republican politicians for simply questioning evolution, it would behoove [us] to recall that the very essence of science is to question and that stifling doubt is a sin that religion was quite guilty of in the past and that science should refrain from repeating it in the present.

Yes, science needs to question. The politicians mentioned here, however, are neither Science nor scientists. A non-scientist politician critiquing science is like a non-pilot politician giving pointers to the pilot flying my plane.

Take your seat, pal, and leave the expert fields to the experts.

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child,
but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
— 1 Cor. 13:11.

(This is a modified version of a post originally published 10/7/11.)

Photo credit: Wikimedia

About Bob Seidensticker
  • Y. A. Warren

    Yes! Too bad so many folks want to believe there are no things on heaven or on earth that we will never fully understand, and aren’t meant to fully understand, like what “God” “looks” or “sounds” like.

    • Quintin van Zuijlen

      Maybe it’s me, but if there are any things we won’t ever understand, we won’t ever understand them, and if there are things we aren’t meant to understand, we’ll still try, because who’s holding us back?

      • Y. A. Warren

        The attempts at understanding are the adventures that make life most interesting. What makes for war is the insistence that others accept as absolute truth our own understandings, without historical or cultural perspective or acceptance of change as the essence of life.

        • Quintin van Zuijlen

          War? I thought we were talking about things we will never understand and things we are not meant to understand? Are you referring to anything here?

      • RichardSRussell

        “… if there are things we aren’t meant to understand …”

        I’m always puzzled by the lack of a subject to go along with that verb “meant”. Who, exactly, is doing the meaning here?

        • Quintin van Zuijlen

          It is, indeed, puzzling. Or rather, it’s to be expected. You don’t want to lose credibility do you? Be vague, so nobody can catch you on anything.

  • RichardSRussell

    Evolution is one of my favorite topics for pointing out how True Believers have used their centuries of science denial to build up immunities to rationality. Take, for instance, the whole “missing link” thing. Say that it appears that Species Z is descended from Species T, but there’s a gap in the fossil record, which the TBs point to and exclaim “Aha! No evidence of a connection. You don’t have the ‘missing link’ in your evolutionary chain! Evolution is false!”

    Some years later, paleontologists discover the fossil remains of Species V, at about the geological layer where you’d expect an intermediary between T and Z. The “missing link”, discovered at last? No, not to the well-conditioned mind of the TB. Rather than solve the problem, you’ve doubled it. “Sure, but where’s the missing link between T and V? Or the one between V and Z? Just because God created things that look like each other doesn’t mean they evolved that way!”

    Then, a few year later, science (it’s always science, never religion) turns up Species X, right about where you’d expect to find an intermediary between V and Z and looking like about half of each. Now the TBs get really excited and say “See, see, now you’ve got 3 gaps in the fossil record to explain. Your stupid ‘theory’ of evolution just keeps piling up more and more problems to solve. All those missing links definitively prove how wrong you are!”

    As I said, impermeable to logic.

    • Rick

      This is not very helpful. Rather than deal with actual claims, you simply label someone who disagrees with you a derisive name such as your TB above. Others call disagreeing folks some sort of [fill in the blank] denier. Neither approach advances your argument nor does it sound convincing to anyone on either side who actually thinks about what you are offering.

      • RichardSRussell

        It wasn’t the label “TB” that constituted the argument. Did you utterly miss the part about how the TBs keep adding “missing links” every time science actually fills in a gap? I’d appreciate it if you’d actually think about what I’m offering. (Besides, the label “True Believer” has an honored history as being the kind of person Eric Hoffer wrote about in his 1951 book of that name.)

        • Rick

          Caught all of that. Still looking for evidence that shows how this was not a strawman argument. Can you cite someone who actually makes this claim? And if they do, how do you demonstrate through genetics that macro evolution can provide the necessary mechanism to accomplish the change through undirected random mutation leading to new complexity?

          That is the part of the claim they are making that you deny has validity, apparently. You pull out the missing link conclusion and ignore why it is valid. No mechanism to account for it.

        • RichardSRussell

          Can I cite a SPECIFIC source for the claim? Not off the top of my head. Suffice it to say that I’ve seen it dozens of times from creationist apologists.

          “No mechanism”? Evolution IS the mechanism. They aren’t denying the mechanism, they’re denying the EVIDENCE!

          Like them, you are apparently impervious to it as well. No amount of rationality (or even common sense) will suffice to overcome your faith-based clinging to the “God did it” myth, so there’s really not much more point in my continuing to spoon-feed it to you. Go out and look it up for yourself if you really care (which I seriously doubt).

        • Kodie

          I cite you, Rick. You are making the argument.

      • Rain

        Yeah “poof” is a much better explanation than the purportedly “wrong” theory of evolution.

        Scientist A: “Poof!”
        Scientist B: “Okay! We can do lunch already! Good theory!”

      • Dorfl

        Richard began his post with one sentence where he labelled people as ‘TBs’. He then said “Take, for instance…” and spent the rest of his post dealing with actual claims.

        You now claim that “Rather than deal with actual claims, you simply label someone who disagrees with you a derisive name such as your TB above.”

        Did you actually read his post, or did you stop at the first sentence and extrapolated the rest to just be repetitions of the same?

  • Rick

    You’ve only given evidence concerning microevolution, where there is no disagreement. At the end of the picture series above, a horse is still a horse, even though no definitive proof of one actually evolving from another has been demonstrated. But let’s say they did. So what? Microevolution demonstrated, again, about which no one quibbles. With enough breeding, a wolf can become a poodle.

    But it can’t become an eagle. And a reptile hasn’t been shown to make the leap to bird, nor a fish to a reptile, etc. No genetic mechanism for such leaps has been shown, nor is it reasonable.

    In your links, a nylon eating bacteria is also still a bacteria, though the link didn’t get us to that evidentiary claim. It also doesn’t get to be a poodle, a reptile, or a bird. That is where intelligent design makes a strong case that such complex series of interacting systems requires a plan, a programmer, and a design.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

      Rick:

      You’ve only given evidence concerning microevolution, where there is no disagreement.

      Can a bacterium that metabolizes nylon be the same species as a bacterium that can’t?

      At the end of the picture series above, a horse is still a horse

      At the end, it’s a horse. At the beginning, it’s not.

      even though no definitive proof of one actually evolving from another has been demonstrated.

      I agree. It’d be nice if science proved stuff, but it doesn’t. Still, evolution is the scientific consensus. We laymen are stuck with that.

      Microevolution demonstrated, again, about which no one quibbles.

      You obviously don’t understand the sequence (click on it for the Wikipedia article on it).

      These aren’t the same species. They’re not all even the same genus, and the oldest one (on the bottom) isn’t even in the same family.

      Speciation. (I thought Creationists were supposed to reject speciation. No?)

      But [a wolf] can’t become an eagle.

      Perhaps not. Do you think biologists postulate that it could?

      And a reptile hasn’t been shown to make the leap to bird, nor a fish to a reptile, etc.

      Not to your satisfaction. But certainly to the satisfaction of the people who actually understand the data. That’s all that I care about.

      a nylon eating bacteria is also still a bacteria

      Obviously. Did you think that I argued something different? Do you demand now that I show not just speciation in human time scale, but change from one domain of life to another?!

      That is where intelligent design makes a strong case that such complex series of interacting systems requires a plan, a programmer, and a design.

      Yes, though without evidence. And that’s where the biologists get stuck.

    • Mick

      Just for the sake of argument I will agree with everything you have have to say about evolution. Now let’s see the proof for your alternative theory.

    • Greg G.

      In cladistics, a line remains in the group it came from. All land vertebrates are still fish but are fish that are specialized for living on land. Humans are vertebrates, mammals, primates and apes.

    • Kodie

      You are right! One animal doesn’t startlingly leap into the form of another animal. It may take millions of years of what you refer to as microevolution for one animal to become different enough to be considered another species. You seem to think that evolution entails an animal morphing into another one by birthing a dramatically different species. I’m sure you are, as most people are, keenly aware of the slight differences and similarities between a child and its parents. The way you and most evolution-deniers talk, it sounds like you were expecting, if evolution were true, for a remarkable speciation to occur within your lifetime, like zebras were to appear from a black horse and a white horse mating, and why are black and white spotted horses still a horse? Just like you are certainly aware that chimpanzees resemble humans, but you expect at least some of the time, if evolution is true, that two monkeys would birth a live human child. You just don’t seem to understand millions of years – of course, most creationists will not allow for that length of history. By admitting “microevolution”, you have conceded, given such a length of time, adaptation to the environment (or go extinct) is going to make a lot of different creatures.

      To deny evolution is to, by extension, believe that god created the environments, like, just make a desert for no good reason, for example, and then pick out some animals that looked good in the desert and don’t drink a lot of water, like, designed only certain animals to require very little water? Why are there deserts, humans have no use for that.

    • Compuholic

      Microevolution demonstrated, again, about which no one quibbles. With enough breeding, a wolf can become a poodle.

      But it can’t become an eagle.

      So there somehow is a magical limit to the amount of change an organism can go through? How did you determine that?

    • Sue Blue

      So, by taking tiny little “micro” steps over a vast amount of time, no one could ever walk a mile?

      This whole “micro/macroevolution” argument is specious and ridiculous. Evolution is simply an accumulation of genetic changes (selected for by the environment) over time. Vast amounts of time, which are hard for the human mind to comprehend. We can barely wrap our minds around our own pitifully short lifespans, let alone the billions of years involved in the evolution of life as we know it. Which is more likely – that the tens of millions of species today came about after only a few thousand years from a few “kinds” (wow! Super-evolution!), or that they branched out over hundreds of millions of years in differing environments? If creationists who accept “microevolution” thought their stance through to its logical conclusion, they would see how ridiculous it is. But that’s the problem. There’s no “thinking it through”.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        Sue: Agreed. Creationists accept mutation and natural selection … but only to a point. Most don’t accept speciation. But what is the magical barrier that keeps all the change within a silo so that the dog or zebra or sponge can’t become a new species? They never get around to explaining that.

  • Rain

    Wow it sounds like the Rabbi has been reading some of the more illiterate variety of creationist material. He must be a young-earther. Folks like him always have trouble googling things for some reason. (Presumably because they don’t want to look.)

    • Rain

      Or he could be a con artist. I keep forgetting my own adage of never ruling out con artists.

  • Norm Donnan

    “Witnessing evolution is impossible given the vast amount of time necessary.”Thats where amber comes into its own,it traps a living creature and preserves it as it is,not a squashed fossilized form.So what do 65 million year old moths and mosquito’s look like ?surprise surprise,exactly the same as they do today.You would think after that long they should be astro travelling around the cosmos.The only difference between evolution and creation is they both look at the same evidence and come to a different conclusion ,there is no science involved in either conclusion,only wishful thinking,(on your part)

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

      Norm: The turd on the table in your view is the fact that evolution is the scientific consensus. The people who actually understand this stuff (not laymen like you or me) say that evolution explains this quite nicely.

      That’s a fact that makes your dogmatic view pretty smelly.

      • Norm Donnan

        There are no facts to be seen in evolution Bob,just people repeating as fact what they have been told.There are hundreds of people with all the doctorates and phd’s who totally disagree with the weak theory of evolution.

        • Greg G.

          But those PhDs you mention reject evolution for religious reasons, not on a scientific basis. The list of educated people who reject evolution has many names of people who have asked to be removed because they’ve changed their minds. Then there’s the list of scientists named Steve that accept evolution and it makes the creationist list look paltry.

        • Kodie

          Really. So if a billion people believe that Jesus has risen from the dead and is their lord and savior because they personally felt their emotions manipulated by bad logic, that’s a point in your favor, but if you can find one person who calls himself a scientist to deny evolution is true, that’s enough to go on, because science is a conspiracy!

          Here’s what it is. Science is not fucking around. The only way you can put it down is by grossly misunderstanding it and labeling it a conspiracy. You don’t have a valid conflicting theory to evolution. Your “doctors” got their degrees by inventing something without using any science, that adheres to their presupposed beliefs. They are upheld by other believers who don’t think, don’t contradict them, and don’t look for and correct the flaws in their hypotheses. They are and you are not doing any science.

          “Here is a plausible scenario, given a divine creator, and that’s what’s true” is a huge leap and not at the least scientific. Why are so many creationists bent on calling actual science a conspiracy and people who understand (not “believe,” understand) evolution as simple? Because you don’t have anywhere else to go. You have a failing example of science to look up to, and you just believe it. They spend their time trying to make science look bad to fool you, and because they have stunted your curiosity with fairy stories about creation, you don’t go look at it yourself – you are already sure science is crap!

          If they weren’t already threatened by science, they wouldn’t even bother to come up with a delusional version of science to look scientific enough to compete with actual science. If the theistic truth were obvious, it would not be worth pursuing modern scientific legitimacy of their fraud.

          But go on, be proud to be such a moron.

        • Sven2547

          Are any of those PHDs in biology or genetics, I wonder?

        • Jim

          Are you saying that the alleles in a population don’t change over time?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Norm:

          There are hundreds of people with all the doctorates and phd’s who totally disagree with the weak theory of evolution.

          Who cares? All I care about are what the people who can actually evaluate the evidence (y’know—the biologists) say.

          And guess what: evolution is the overwhelming consensus. Let’s accept it and move on.

        • Norm Donnan

          I totally agree Bob,this is interesting stuff,thats all,to you. But to Christianity its foundational. Either the bible is true or its not.Evolutionist say things with authority about things they carnt possibly know,yet people like you consciously or sub consciously come to the conclusion ,”if this is true then the bible is not”.Because you wont be actually comparing what biologist from both sides say and just accept what fits your world view and eternal perspective,you can move on.To creationists it has lead to the slippery slope of “if the bible is only mans advice on how to live life, then its only relative to them,no absolutes”.Thats why l believe abortion is generally ok,despite science proving beyond any doubt that it is people being killed,or the acceptance of homosexuality as a normal relationship. So no l for one will never accept it and move on,but hey if l did what would we have to talk about…..the economy.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Norm:

          this is interesting stuff,thats all,to you. But to Christianity its foundational.

          You’re saying that you’re not comfortable following the facts where they lead? That you’re obliged to take some conclusions on faith, not on evidence?

          Evolutionist say things with authority about things they carnt possibly know

          Learn about biology. Then come back to talk to us. This is gibberish.

          “if this is true then the bible is not”.

          Most Christians in the world accept evolution. If your flavor can’t, then I guess it sux to be you.

          you wont be actually comparing what biologist from both sides say

          What?? Tell me then: what do “biologists” from the Creationist side say?

          if the bible is only mans advice on how to live life, then its only relative to them,no absolutes

          Are there absolute moral truths? I’ve not heard of any.

          despite science proving beyond any doubt that it is people being killed

          A fetus is not a person in my book.

          the acceptance of h omosexua lity as a normal relationship.

          I’m confused. Are you in pro-choice, pro-homosexual or the reverse?

          but hey if l did what would we have to talk about…..the economy.

          Nice one!

        • Norm Donnan

          #1 If they WERE facts absolutely. #2Most Christians dont accept it they just dont care either way. #3If you really have been to creation conventions as you claim then you would know. #4No absolutes,this is one of the real motivations behind atheism,”lm free to do what I think(feels good)is right”. truth is there are absolutes,like life after death.Then it will be “sux to be you” #5a fetus is not a person,who are they.Thats what they used to say about black people to justify keeping them in slavery. #6Neither abortion or homosexuality is ok,despite a large percentage of the population thinking it is.Kudo’s Bob

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Norm:

          #1 If they WERE facts absolutely.

          So you don’t care about dogma, just the truth. Great to hear. Read up on evolution and understand why those nutty eggheads say what they say. Then decide what’s a fact or not.

          #2Most Christians dont accept it they just dont care either way.

          I don’t know what this means.

          I’m saying that, as an evolution-denying Christian, you’re in a minority in your own religion.

          #3If you really have been to creation conventions as you claim then you would know.

          Oh, good. Since you apparently don’t know, I’ll tell you: Michael Behe, the darling of the Creationist movement, accepts not just speciation but common descent. Yes, Saint Michael says that we call came from bacteria. Enjoy.

          The Disco. Institute has Jonathan Wells, who has a doctorate in microbiology. He admits that he got that to satisfy his religion-driven agenda to destroy evolution.

          There’s something to get you going.

          this is one of the real motivations behind atheism,”lm free to do what I think(feels good)is right”.

          Dang! You’ve uncovered the Prime Directive: if it feels good, do it. That’s why atheists are having all the sex and making all the babies.

          We will rule the world! Bwahahaha!

          truth is there are absolutes,

          We’re talking about moral absolutes. Defend the idea.

          fetus is not a person,who are they.

          You can’t tell a person from a nonperson? If it’s a single cell that you can’t see without a microscope, that ain’t a person.

    • Greg G.

      So what do 65 million year old moths and mosquito’s look like ?surprise surprise,exactly the same as they do today.

      Can you back that up? I’d like to see one Cretaceous specimen that can identified to be within any extant species or even in the same extant genus.

      • Norm Donnan

        I carnt find that particular artical just yet but l did find a host of examples in a book called living fossils by Dr. Carl Werner,like the 208million yo horseshoe crab,just like the ones that go in the seafood salad,doesnt even have wings after all this time.And here is modern man,only a new born at 2million.

        • Greg G.

          Hi Norm

          There are four species of horseshoe crabs belonging to three genera. They all belong to a family that goes way back. Does Werner point out that the extant species have some fused parts underneath the carapace that are unfused in the fossils? The most recent split between two of the Asian species was about 52.5 million years ago while the American species split off about 135 million years ago. Each of the species have different numbers of chromosomes. So even when natural selection preserves the body plan, there’s a lot of evolution going on.

          Creationists sweep all the inconvenient information under the rug while scientists hide their information in libraries and the internet.

          Don’t worry if all horseshoe crabs look alike to you. Humans look like monkeys to them.

        • Kodie

          He doesn’t know what a horseshoe crab is.

        • Norm Donnan

          Seriously Greg,a different number of chromosomes,thats it. How do you know the one lm looking at now from the jurassic age isnt identical to any of them.There is no inconveniant information to feel embarassed about.

        • Greg G.

          Hi Norm

          The four species were identified 100 years ago so there are distinguishable differences between species. Those classifications were not done based on DNA. I gave you many differences. It would be easier for you to just look up the information yourself. If all you got out of what I wrote was “chromosomes”, then you are trying to ignore the facts.
          When a body plan is suited to an environment that doesn’t change, evolution maintains that body plan. So, yes, they look similar but many people can tell the species apart at a glance.
          Refusing to actually read up on horseshoe crabs before saying they haven’t evolved makes all Christians seem infantilized. Getting your information from creationists means you have nothing but lies and half-truths. If you get things wrong when you speak of things that can actually be seen and tested, how can we believe anything you say about things you can’t possibly know for sure? If your preachers are going to tell you things that can be proven wrong, why would you trust them about things that can’t be proven either way? If creationism were true, why can’t creationists be honest?

        • Norm Donnan

          How many genus or species is not the point Greg, irrelevant differences is.To say evolution maintains a body plan over 200million years is pure speculation based on nothing.Why has anything evolved.Why has man “evolved” in 1% of that time from Neandethal to corporate ceo ,lm sure the earth and the environment is un recognizable to what it was 1000 years ago never mind 1million.Your the one ignoring the facts here,like evolution is based on imagination and speculation,no facts to be seen,or tested.Preachers dont write books on this stuff,scientists do,if anyone here has ever read one book on creation l would be shocked.

        • Greg G.

          Hi Norm

          Those “irrelevant” differences you know exist show that evolution does happen, even in species you are trying to present as one that hasn’t changed. The basic body plan is similar enough to classify them as horseshoe crabs but it’s based on evidence, not speculation.

          Mutations happen. Some are lethal and natural selection deletes them. Some are slightly bad and natural selection works against them. Some are beneficial and natural selection preserves them. This isn’t magic. A modified gene makes a creature able to survive as little as once or twice in its life and allows it an extra chance to pass on that gene. When that happens many times the original allele doesn’t survive as often and gets fewer chances to be passed on. There is no barrier to prevent this but natural selection itself working in an environment. As environments change the pressures of natural selection change and the lifeforms they act on change to the new environment or go extinct.

          Look how different we are from people a hundred years ago. Superficially we seem different but we’re the same except we have modified our environment to suit us. It’s the same as 1000 years ago. The brain capacity of humans grew about 200cc in a million years. Then 250, 000 years ago, the brain capacity of the Neandertal line and the line that leads to modern humans both grew by 250cc in 200,000 years. Since Neandertals went extinct, brain capacity has declined. The brain capacity of many of our domesticated animals are smaller than their wild ancestors, so maybe we have domesticated ourselves.

          This is based on evidence.

          Are you sitting down? Prepare yourself for a shock. Most of us have read creationist books, websites, and arguments. We have also learned about what scientists actually say instead of what creationists say they say. It’s one of the reasons people calls creationists infantilized.

          Don’t kid yourself about creationists who say they are scientists. They are talking outside their field, if they have field. When they put “Dr” in front of their name, it’s a clue that they are clueless about evolution. They are preachers there to lie to you about evolution. Theologians use their credentials to distinguish their arguments from Crazytown, as there is no other way to do it.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Norm: I’ve read much about Creationism, I’ve attended a number of Creationist conferences, I’ve attended perhaps 10 events at the Discovery Institute, and I’ve been a fairly active participant for the last 5+ years in the local Creationist organization.

          Do I qualify as someone who can comment on Creationism now?

          But here’s a shortcut for those who don’t have the time to spent as much time studying this as I have: follow the scientific consensus. Whether I knew everything or nothing about Creationism, I’d have the same conclusion: whatever the scientific consensus is.

        • Kodie

          horseshoe crab,just like the ones that go in the seafood salad

          I don’t think so! http://www.malaysiabest.net/2009/03/22/have-you-eaten-a-horseshoe-crab-before/

          Actually, the horseshoe crab has no edible parts except the eggs or roe. Though it looks huge, there are no fleshy parts like crabs. What is served is the roes.

          http://articles.philly.com/2011-05-25/news/29582094_1_horseshoe-crabs-vietnamese-restaurant-harvesting

          Search for “horseshoe crab recipes” online and the pickings are mighty slim, with mentions of eating the eggs or roe, especially in Southeast Asian cuisine. Females can lay thousands of eggs, and many can be found inside the shell, or carapace. The eggs in some species found in Thailand, however, can be toxic. The legs have very little meat.

          The haul included both males and females, but, Ang added, “I believe they intended to sort them later.”

          At Le Viet restaurant, a Vietnamese restaurant in South Philadelphia, manager Rick Cao said he never heard of horseshoe crabmeat or eggs being used in cooking.

          “Not even for bait, either, as well,” he said.

          Not crustaceans, like tasty crabs and lobsters, horseshoe crabs are actually closer cousins to scorpions, spiders, and ticks.

        • Kodie

          doesnt even have wings after all this time.

          Why would you assume it would have to have wings after a certain amount of time? Why do you expect nature to plan out the evolution of animals – it just means you don’t know the first thing about evolution, yet you are confident that it’s all wrong.

        • John Evans

          Norm, you seem to be under the mistaken impression that evolution implies some idea of ‘progress’ and that it suggests that large scale changes will happen no matter what. But the underlying force that drives evolution is reproductive selection. If a bodyform or metabolic process is well suited for an environment and the bearing species can reproduce reliably, changing bodyform or metabolic process would make the individual or population less suited to its environment, and less able to reproduce reliably. Evolution very much works on a ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ process.

        • Kodie

          Creationally speaking, humans are the best. All these other animals failed to evolve into humans in the same time we were allotted, or at the very least grow wings. Because that’s apparently a trait of superiority in the animal kingdom, despite the fact that lions don’t have wings, and mosquitoes do, and humans invented airplanes (eventually) instead of waiting, and ecology is a “dirty” human-centered word implying solar power and recycling chores, rather than environments* and relationships between living organisms.

          *another dirty word.

        • Reginald Selkirk

          Dr. Carl Werner is a medical doctor. Jerry Coyne is one of the world’s leading experts on speciation. And Jerry Coyne says:

          Horseshoe crabs aren’t really “living fossils”

          A new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Briggs et al. (reference below, the “Briggs” is Derek Briggs of Burgess Shale fossil fame) casts further doubt on the “living fossil” status of horseshoe crabs, for not even their external morphology has remained reasonably similar. In particular, their legs have changed drastically…
          And what they find is that the limbs, unlike the uniramous limbs of modern horseshoe crabs, are biramous: each limb branches into two parts, with each branch comprising a series of segments attached end to end…

    • Reginald Selkirk

      The old “fossil critters look just like their modern counterparts.”

      1) That is false. Evidence omitted because you could effing Google it.

      2) That argument was used by Muslim creationist Haryun Yahya in his Atlas of Creation. For examples of modern creatures he used pictures of fishing lures stolen from Teh Interwebs.

      The argument was incorrect in the first place, but he made it so badly that he, the argument, and any dweeb on the Internet who uses it (like you) is now considered a laughingstock.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

        Reginald:

        That argument was used by Muslim creationist Haryun Yahya in his Atlas of Creation.

        But isn’t it refreshing when Muslims and Christians can forget their differences and join forces in their common goal to spread disinformation? I feel a lot of love here …

      • Norm Donnan

        So if you can google it its false eh,wow you must have researched all your info yourself Reg,impressive.Now we all consider you a laughing stock.Mind you l did laugh when on youtube two muslim girls made a laughingstock of Richard Dawkins when they asked him how did Mohammad know that fresh water flowing into the sea stays separate to which Dawkins in his usual condescending way laughed and ridiculed them saying “what rubbish” until he was told that it was true.Evolutionists laughing at creationists,well its like water off a ducks back.(which by the way is true,google it.)

        • Reginald Selkirk

          So if you can google it its false eh

          I see you are deficient on the whole ‘if A then B’ thing.

          wow you must have researched all your info yourself Reg,impressive.

          That depends on what you mean by ‘research.’ I did spend 4 years getting a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and several more years getting a Ph.D. in molecular biology. In a formal education situation like that, you don’t repeat every experiment for yourself, but you do read the original research papers and learn a lot about how to tell reliable sources from unreliable.

          Now we all consider you a laughing stock.

          For some definition of ‘all.’

        • Greg G.

          But there is no actual barrier. Waters of different temperatures and densities slow the mixing but they still mix.

        • Compuholic

          how did Mohammad know that fresh water flowing into the sea stays separate

          Oh boy. So where does all the fresh water go after it has flown into the sea?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          It just keeps building up–duh!

          That’s why the ocean is all fresh … oh, wait a minute

    • RichardSRussell

      “The only difference between evolution and creation is they both look at the same evidence and come to a different conclusion.”

      Close. The real difference is that evolution looks at the evidence before coming to the conclusion.

      • Greg G.

        Thanks for highlighting that. I didn’t read that far.

    • Brian

      “You would think after that long they should be astro travelling around the cosmos.”

      Only if you’re the kind of person who thinks evolution has some kind of goal, or is based on ‘advancement’.

  • MNb

    “the laws of thermodynamics, it has never been proven beyond the shadow of a doubt to be true”
    This is my second favourite creacrap argument. It applies to gravity as well. Will our good rabbi as a consequence jump from a skycrapter tomorrow to find out if he will fall upwards?
    Anyhow, this is why my philosophy of science is thoroughly European-continental. It claims that proof is impossible, because of the criticism Descartes and Hume received. The best we can get is agreement of hypothesis and observation. A theory is nothing but a consistent collection of hypotheses. Now guess what? No single scientific theory is as consistent as the evolution theory. No single scientific theory is confirmed as often by empirical data as the evolution theory – and never refuted, like BCS theory was refuted by superconductivity at high temperatures.
    From my point of view the entire statement of proof beyond the shadow of a doubt is meaningless. So here I disagree with you, BobS. Your argument about theory versus law doesn’t make sense to me.

    “They’re two different things.”
    No, essentially they aren’t. All the laws of physics are an integral part of some consistent theory. A law is nothing but a hypothesis either. We can measure force, mass and acceleration and thus test Newton’s second law. The same for the laws of thermodynamics. In the same way evolution theory produces hypotheses that can be tested, many even in labs. Also both Newton’s theory of gravity and evolution theory produce predictions. Guess what? Some of the first don’t come true (hence quantummechanics and relativity) while every single prediction made by evolution theory has come true indeed.

    “debated basic presumptions about evolution”
    Actually Dawkins and Gould didn’t debate basic presumptions, but the interpretation of observed data (namely the arrangement of fossils).

    “No scientist has ever witnessed evolution directly”
    This is my third favourite creacrap argument. Know what? No scientist has ever witnessed the birth of all the ancestors of the good rabbi in the 30th grade. According to the logica of our rabbi I may assume that he descends from aliens and thus is not human.
    By the way, the integral part speciation has been observed a zillion times. I think my compatriot Hugo de Vries was the first more than 100 years ago. Evolution theory rests on three very strong fundaments: the fossil record, observed speciation (google it, you silly creacrappers) and mutation.

    “Take your seat, pal, and leave the expert fields to the experts.”
    I can witness that it takes less than two weeks of study to grasp evolution theory. All you need is
    1. Talkorigins
    2. Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution is True
    3. Donald Prothero’s Evolution: What the Fossils Say And Why It Matters

    Add a little googling to confirm a few points and any reasonable person has to conclude that evolution theory is the strongest scientific theory ever devised.
    (For those who are curious: my favourite creacrap argument is that evolution is random).

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

      MNb:

      It claims that proof is impossible

      Agreed. Above, I said, “science is always provisional.”

      A theory is nothing but a consistent collection of hypotheses.

      The distinction that seems most significant to me is that a theory is an explanation, while a law is a description (often as equation).

      Wikipedia says: “A law differs from a scientific theory in that it does not posit a mechanism or explanation of phenomena: it is merely a distillation of the results of repeated observation.”

      Know what? No scientist has ever witnessed the birth of all the ancestors of the good rabbi in the 30th grade. According to the logica of our rabbi I may assume that he descends from aliens and thus is not human.

      Nice!

      any reasonable person has to conclude that evolution theory is the strongest scientific theory ever devised.

      Well, yeah, but what if it steps on my theological toes?

  • John Kesler

    Some creationists assume that since evolution can’t explain everything, then creationism wins by default. Where is the proof that the Hebrew God Yahweh spoke all life into existence, or that the first woman came from a man’s rib? Also, if Noah took only a “kind” of each creature aboard the ark, then where is the creationists’ proof that in the span of just a few thousand years, the various “kinds” of animals evolved into the many species that we see today? The irony is that the creationists’ version requires a faster rate of evolution (“micro,” of course) than that posited by evolutionary-theory proponents.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Potato blight fungus has changed in < 200 years

    Scientists have used plant samples collected in the mid-19th Century to identify the pathogen that caused the Irish potato famine.
    A plant pest that causes potato blight spread to Ireland in 1845 triggering a famine that killed one million people.
    DNA extracted from museum specimens shows the strain that changed history is different from modern day epidemics, and is probably now extinct.

  • Jerry Lynch

    I have read these debates for years and, though I knew it unconsciously, never heard such a direct and simple way to define scientific theory and law: theory is explanation, law is description. Neat. Adding that theory does not graduate to law should be used in all of this debates to drive home to “TBs” (badge of honor, to them) the true nature of scientific theory. I am not a scientist, just classes for HS and college, so I am inadequate in addressing the topic with Creationists. The “theory” word is the hinge of their argument, which I feel confident now in addressing.
    I am also a Christian and I’m forced to quickly add, not mainstream or American-style. Evolution is plain, dinosaur bones are not a trick by God to test our faith in the Genesis account.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Jerry: There’s a lot that thoughtful Christians and atheists have in common. Thanks for highlighting that.

  • bullet

    I blame Pokemon

  • Don Gwinn

    [quote]The politicians mentioned here, however, are neither Science nor scientists. [/quote]
    . . . . and more importantly, they’re not actually questioning. That would imply that they wanted to know the answers to their questions, which they demonstrate that they do not.
    “Why aren’t there any transitional fossils, Evolutionists? Huh? Answer that!”
    “Well, actually, there are a whole bunch of known transitional fossils, and actually it’s a fascinating subject when you get into it. You see–”
    “LA LA LA NOT LISTENING!”

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