Quote of the Day (Kim Fabricius)

“Should it be of concern to Christians that Darwin was never more than a nominal believer? Only if, rejecting universalism, you are concerned about the destiny of his immortal soul. Otherwise – well, are you concerned whether your surgeon, mechanic, or hair stylist goes to church? Of course not. Your only concern is that she wields a scalpel, wrench, or scissors with know-how and dexterity. So too with a scientist: one’s only concern should be that he is an honest and skilled practitioner of his craft. And Darwin wasn’t just an able and meticulous biologist, he was a bloody genius. If his theory of evolution by natural selection is the best theory in town that explains the evidence (palaeontological, morphological/taxonomical, molecular/genetic) – and it is – deal with it. Of course refute it on empirical grounds if you can, but don’t rubbish it because you don’t like its theological or moral implications, or because you have a political agenda. Fight science with science – not with the pseudo-science of creationism or the bad science of ID (not to mention the bad theology of both). “

– Kim Fabricius, “Ten propositions on Darwin and the deity

  • http://www.abandonallfear.org.uk Lex Fear

    It’s a good quote. But why does everything with evolutionists (I use evolutionists specifically – not scientists) have to be all or nothing.Can you not hold reservations, can you not question – question even if you are not a scientist.I can question if the mechanic fixed my car right, even if I don’t quite know what he did. I can have reservations about going to a mechanic.. or reservations about going to a doctor even if I am feeling ill.If we’re allowed to get a second opinion from another medical professional about a diagnosis, or to have our car looked at and checked by another mechanic to see that it’s good – why are we not allowed to question evolutionary theories?It is a war – but it’s not one the creationists are conducting if you ask me – it’s certain evolutionists such as Dawkins who see religion as evil, a mind-virus that needs to be stopped completely.I don’t think a real scientist would have a problem with someone questioning his work – I certainly don’t think a real scientist would feel the need to attack anyone who didn’t agree, and definitely would not need to attempt to ridicule and rubbish someone else’s beliefs as some of these people do.I question certain evolutionary theories because certain elements don’t make logical sense when I read into them. I most definitely question any doctrine, science or testimony when one tries to angrily and forceably make me agree with it through ridicule and vilification.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04262012749524758120 Eamon Knight

    Unfortunately, more than a few folks are concerned that their surgeon, mechanic, hairdresser, etc. go to church. Why else do so many businesses in certain parts of the country display the fish symbol on their marquee? It says: I’m one of you! Do business with me, not the heathen across the street! For some people, it seems that ideological commitments and tribal loyalty are more important determinants of TRVTH than the merits of the question itself.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Thanks for the comment. I think you’re on to something: I don’t think there is an all-or-nothing approach among scientists, who clearly are open to challenges, questions and reconfigurations. But there are certainly laypeople who view evolution as an “alternative” to religion, and because it serves this purpose for them, they react to questions the way one might expect a religious believer to respond when his or her beliefs are challenged. Scientists, on the other hand, are more likely to react with exasperation and annoyance that people who have no expertise in their field are offering “criticisms” that they think show problems with modern biology when in fact they illustrate the critic’s lack of understanding of that field.I’m not sure that one can or should evaluate evolutionary theory based on popularized attempts to explain it to a general audience. Such attempts, like attempts at explaining physics to a general audience, not only inevitably involve some oversimplification, but also don’t speak the natural language of the sciences.I also wonder about your analogy. The only reason I’d be likely to question a doctor or a mechanic (and clearly offering diagnoses is not always an exact science) is if they propose a solution and yet the symptoms (whether in my body or my car) do not seem to be alleviated. I’m not sure what the equivalent is in terms of biological evolution. Perhaps you’d care to mention a specific aspect of the theory, as you understand it, that doesn’t seem to make logical sense to you. It might lead to some interesting and hopefully helpful discussion!

  • http://www.abandonallfear.org.uk Lex Fear

    Certainly James. Giraffes.

  • http://www.abandonallfear.org.uk Lex Fear

    Just to add, you’re right about explaining scientific theories to a generalised audience, but then even if someone cannot understand the workings or science behind an internal combustion engine, they can trust the science because they see the car work.Just as you don’t need to understand Newtonian physics to be able to see the theory of gravity working.People don’t need to understand the underlying science of things to see that the science is good and that it works.Are there any working visible examples of macro-evolution that the casual observer can see?Doubtless you will provide an example of natural selection, or you will offer an example of lab tests done on micro-organisms – and this is the problem – evolution is not so much a theory as a collection of theories – some easy to see, others based more on hypothesis than scientific theory.And the theory of evolution itself evolves over time to so that it never seems to have a straight one of a kind definition – of all the websites I’ve visited atheist/scientific, no-one seems to have the same definition and sometimes they are in contradiction.Just want to be clear here before we continue… do you subscribe to the idea that macro-evolution – mutational – is random, or that it is purposed (ie. survival of a species)?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Evolution as currently understood is change in morphology (i.e. full-fledged organisms) over time, resulting from changes in the DNA blueprint. That’s why the work of biologists like Sean Carroll on evolutionary-developmental biology is so helpful. It is focusing investigation on the genetic and embryological aspects that give rise to the varied organisms in question.Your objection seems to me to be a strange one – rather like complaining that detective work is somehow flawed because it involves multiple types of investigation. On the contrary, just as ballistics, fingerprinting and interviewing witnesses can make a strong collective case, it is the convergence of evidence from paleontology, morphology, and genetics that makes evolutionary theory so powerful. It makes sense of large amounts of data in an array of fields.Perhaps you could be more specific than “giraffes”…it isn’t exactly a question, or even a sentence, is it? :)

  • http://www.abandonallfear.org.uk Lex Fear

    “Evolution as currently understood is change in morphology (i.e. full-fledged organisms) over time, resulting from changes in the DNA blueprint.”Ok so that’s another definition to add to the list. Funnily that’s one of the definitions I can’t disagree with as it happens in nature.The problem is when we come down to certain hypothesis within the uber-theory as I stated – mutation being one.Let’s take you detective analogy. Suppose the detective had conducted the investigation and was sure that he had the suspect, there’s just one piece from the evidence that is missing, say, a fingerprint hasn’t been found. It means his investigation is incomplete.Nonetheless, the rest of the evidence is good enough that he can go to court. He can present all the results from his investigation but what he can’t say to the judge is:”Therefore since my investigation is concluded that also means I have a fingerprint evidence too.”No he has to say there is no fingerprint evidence to include.Too many evolutionary detectives are trying to say that since the other methods of investigation have worked and evidence has been found, that means the fingerprint evidence can be included too – when it hasn’t.That’s the problem – the mix of hypothesis and theory. It also makes the all or nothing approach seem arrogant and flawed, and makes anyone who objects or disagrees, regardless of education, seem stupid unless they see this problem.Something I notice you doing a lot is arguing from a position of authority and education. On another post of yours I stated that Thomas Huxley would vehemently disagree with you.Frankly it’s one thing for a non-scientist to study science and come to their own conclusions, it’s another for that non-scientist to then start arguing how other non-scientists are ignorant and wrong.If you were to be humble and honest you can only state that you believe in this and that others should read up and work it out for themselves. Just as you might if someone was disagreeing with something else like your choice of transport, or financial investments.Now, after coming to that conclusion, I’m not even sure I should ask you questions about evolutionary theories because you are not a scientist but I may as well elaborate – how do you explain the evolution of them?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    I strongly disagree with the analogy you use. Formulating a theory to explain the relevant data from disciplines in the natural sciences is not comparable to the choice between a Volkswagen and a Nissan. And if we were to compare make a comparison to the financial realm (even though I don’t think that’s helpful, either), then the choice would be between Microsoft and Madoff, between the best understanding of the evolutionary mechanisms and processes the biological sciences can offer, something that however imperfect and in need of further research and improvement actually works, and pseudoscientific brands of creationism that do none of the actual work, research or investing and make claims that, when subjected to scrutiny, appear to be inaccurate and at times dishonest. But, as I said, it isn’t a great analogy – but you brought it up! :)

  • http://www.abandonallfear.org.uk Lex Fear

    James your mixing up my analogies for evolution with how I think you should approach the subject.The world is not going to end if people don’t believe in this evolutionary theories – in fact nothing would actually change.Now the analogies I actually used were the theory of gravity and the theory of combustion. If people did stop believing in these (certainly combustion) the the world would probably grind to a halt.With regards to the detective analogy, that was one you brought up, not me. I simply expanded on it and now you want to throw it away.I’ve already stated there are only certain theories within the evolution uber-theory that I disagree with. Why is it that you seem to defend all or nothing and will not accept any disagreement with it from someone who is a non-scientist (just as you are)?Again, I must state that the reason we employ scientists, doctors, lawyers and other professionals is that no one person in all the world has the time to study all of these disciplines and do the work themselves. I find it arrogant to simply dismiss someone who doesn’t accept all the conclusions of people who are in that authority – and once again Thomas Huxley would agree with me.After all I hear that 500 years ago scientific consensus was that the world was flat.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    I have no objection to anyone who wants to inform themselves about a subject and try to make progress in a given area. But I also find the allusion to “500 years ago people thought…” worrying, since it is often used to suggest that nothing scientists (and others) think now is likely to stand the test of time. I am persuaded that, even though there clearly may be understandings that are downright in error, on the whole our understanding of the natural world is progressive. I certainly think there are loads of things that we’ll understand better 500 years from now; I don’t think that means that all the improvements in our understanding over the past few centuries do not represent genuine progress and improvements. We not only have different views now; we have improved approaches to science and improved ways of finding out about the natural world.But you’ve used a number of analogies, and clearly I haven’t always correctly discerned what you meant by them, so you may or may not disagree with anything I’ve said. And I’m still wondering what’s up with the giraffes…

  • http://cleverbadger.net Jay

    Lex Fear:Are there any working visible examples of macro-evolution that the casual observer can see?Wolves and chihuahuas.Methicillin-resistant S. aureas.Extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis.Chloroquine-resistant P. falciparum.The evolution of nylonase in Flavobacterium.You’ll likely object to these as being examples of microevolution, but the mechanisms in play are identical, and the only discriminator is time. You’ve stated that you have certain objections because some elements don’t make sense to you, and that’s not an unreasonable position. Which elements? If you can point to specific ones, we could have a more productive discussion.

  • http://cleverbadger.net Jay

    By the way, James -The usual giraffe issue goes something like this:1) Giraffes have really long necks.2) Giraffes have really powerful hearts to pump blood up those really long necks.3) Giraffes have really high blood pressure because of 2).4) Said blood pressure should give them aneurysms when they bend over to drink.5) The rete mirabile in the neck of the giraffe regulates the blood pressure and prevents this from happening.The “problem” is that without the rete mirabile, long necked giraffes couldn’t drink, but without the long necks, the rete mirabile isn’t necessary, and consequently evolution is wrong!Nevermind that the two would have evolved incrementally in parallel to each other…


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