The Absurdity of Evolution

A commenter on this blog claimed that his objection to evolution is not motivated by theology, but the simple fact that evolution is patently absurd.

From the perspective of everyday experience, he is surely right. We do not see the kinds of changes that evolution talks about happening before our eyes. Doctors may tell us that viruses and bacteria mutate, but although we may become ill again, evolution as part of that is not something that our eyes can see. The world seems to be still and stable, not in constant flux.

Much the same point makes the Copernican view of the Earth absurd, too. If the Earth is spinning at breakneck pace, hurtling around the sun at the same time, why do we not feel it? Here the absurdity is greater, since it is not a claim about slow change occurring under our noses, but fast movement occurring that includes us and yet we do not sense it. Merely positing that gravity (itself quite a mystery) makes it all make sense is something that does not suddenly make the Earth appear to be moving. Accepting the mainstream scientific account of our world's movements involves allowing scientific evidence and explanations to trump sense experience. It means accepting that the seemingly absurd nevertheless makes best sense of the evidence, and thus that our sense perception gives us the wrong impression.

Evolution is the same – and so too are atomic theory and quantum physics. That reality at its most fundamental level is so odd, and that all the solid objects we experience are mostly empty space with the rest energy, all of that seems absurd.

But that is the nature of science. It helps us to understand beyond the limits of our sensory perception. It can help us to understand that merely saying that we will trust our eyes and common sense will not give us an accurate picture of the world.

And so that is why pointing to the absurdity of evolution is irrelevant to whether it is true. The world has turned out time and time again to actually have characteristics that seem absurd to the senses. And so if anything, that experience of past scientific discoveries compelling us to conclude that the world is not as our senses and common senses persuaded us it is, makes it seem all the more plausible that evolution is just another instance of what happens when we investigate the world scientifically.

 

  • http://www.facebook.com/bbibb Bryan Bibb

    I know what you mean, but I would not say that science “helps us to understand beyond the limits of our sensory perception.” I would say that science sharpens and augments our sensory perceptions, since it is nothing more (or less!) than reasoned observation of the world around us. Our senses (God-given, I would say) are the key to that. To echo your point, I link to these two videos of optical illusions based on “frame rate.” The first is determined by the frame rate of the camera being in sync with the sound wave, and the second accomplishes the same thing with a strobe light. I saw these on Boing Boing.

    Water frozen in sine wave: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uENITui5_jU

    Motor oil drips upward into a can: http://vimeo.com/52888178

  • http://www.facebook.com/dan.ortiz.54 Dan Ortiz

    “A commenter on this blog claimed that his objection to evolution is not motivated by theology, but the simple fact that evolution is patently absurd.”
    A theist logical positivist? now that is absurd.

    • Mary

      After reading a bunch of her posts I sincerely doubt that she is objective and is not motivated by religious concerns. Although theology never comes up since she ignores any and all evidence that science has to offer then i must conclude that she has the same motives as the rest of the creationists, which is to hold to an unsubstantiated point of view confirming the biblical creation.

  • plectrophenax

    This is really the argument from incredulity, isn’t it? As James says, a lot of scientific findings fall into this category. The idea that the table in front of me is full of empty space is pretty amazing – should I therefore call it nonsense?

    That’s one reason that science proceeds by means of observations, and hypothesis construction, and not by our individual feelings as to the oddity of something.

    A famous example is the first accounts of quasars, which seemed highly anomalous, having large red shifts, high luminosity, and so on. Unbelievable!

    • Kaz

      As the commentator in question, I pointed out previously that I respond to the chiding charge that I offer an argument from incredulity by merely pointing out that those who accept Darwinism demonstrate an ability to believe virtually anything, so long as the right people are saying it. As for evolution and Copernican theory, no comparison except at the most superficial level.

      • Mary

        So you say. Most creationists are simply interested in validating their religious beliefs rather than actually looking for the truth. They will believe anything that they want to hear. Logic doesn’t matter to them one bit. And if science does prove something beyond a shadow of a doubt, such as disproving the flat-earth creation story and cosmology then they say. “Oh no, the bible never said that!” Or they will cling to it pathetically and attack others who point out their fallacies. Evolution is the same, despite the MOUNTAINS of evidence for it some people will not accept it and will deliberately misrepresent the main-stream scientific position. This is what I find most disturbing. Creationists do not base their arguments on what the science says, but on what THEY THINK THE SCIENCE SAYS. They put words in the mouths of the scientists and then mock them for having an opinion that they NEVER SAID. For instance, the old question of “If we evolved from monkeys, then why are there still monkeys?” It is a stupid question based on what people THINK evolutionary theory says.
        Hopefully you are smarter than that, but I am simply pointing out that a lot of times creationists make no sense at all because they don’t ask the right questions. When people point that out then and explain to them what evolution actually says, they will stubbornly cling to their original argument without taking into account that they misunderstood the science in the first place!
        At any rate, just because evolution does not make sense TO YOU, that does not make it untrue. There are many, many people who accept it as true, not because they will believe any fantastic theory that comes from an immiment scientist, but because they have STUDIED IT. THEY HAVE LOOKED AT THE EVIDENCE. Most creationists will not do that so that automatically eliminates them from any serious discussion.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Pieret/100000023960330 John Pieret

        “… those who accept Darwinism demonstrate an ability to believe virtually anything, so long as the right people are saying it.”

        … says the person who (no doubt) can believe the most incredible things as long as a long dead person written something that has been included in what we now call “the Bible.”

        The difference is I can go to the source material of what scientists say and judge if they are are right about the data and their interpretation of it. That is, the data is independant of the scientist. Not only that, but I can count on other scientists to vett the data and the interpretation of it. To paraphrase (a little) philosopher of science David Hull, ‘Scientists rarely
        refute their own pet theories. But that’s all right. Their fellow scientists
        will be happy to oblige.’

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Pieret/100000023960330 John Pieret

        P.S.:

        “As for evolution and Copernican theory, no comparison except at the most superficial level.”

        So what is the “non-superficial” difference between them?

      • arcseconds

        But your argument is the argument from incredulity, isn’t it?

        And you still haven’t told me how it is you maintain any faith in science at all, when you think practically all scientists are capable of believing arrant and obvious nonsense so long as the right person tells them so.

        If scientists are incredulous fools who tailor the evidence to support obviously nonsensical theories created out of thin air by some authority figure they like for some reason, why on earth would you put any truck in any of the absurd theories that McGrath mentions?

        Quantum physics is a lot more absurd than evolution. At least fossils still have well-defined properties we can easily understand, like location.

        • Kaz

          Actually, I pointed out to you that you have a naive view of science, and that true science doesn’t progress by lulling itself into a complacent consensus, by denying tenure to those who have the courage to question some theory, or by refusing to publish academic papers that address a subject from a standpoint that has been arbitrarily dubbed a taboo.

          If every scientist with a new theory approached knowledge the way that you do, science would never progress, because individual scientists would think, “Hmm, I have reason to believe that X is mistaken, but I’m not going to pursue that line of questioning because doing so would suggest that all scientists are capable of believing arrant and obvious nonsense, and that wouldn’t be very nice.”

          Further, I quoted Lowenton, who himself acknowledged that science sticks to “natural” answers despite the seeming absurdities, because they have a commitment to materialism that is absolute, and so the supernatural is ruled out as a governing precondition. Those who have studied the writings of folks like Cornelius Van Til or Greg Bahnsen (his student) will know what I meant when I pointed out that:

          “The presupposition of naturalism is to the Neo Darwinist what the
          transcendental argument for God is to the theist, except that the
          Darwinist doesn’t prove his case by the impossibility of the contrary, but by simply excluding the contrary as a matter of ‘principle’.”

          • arcseconds

            You did do all of that, that’s true.

            I didn’t realise that was supposed to be an answer to my question.

            And I still don’t see how it is supposed to be an answer. It leaves the question quite untouched. The vast majority of scientists accept the consensus and oppose creationism, so on your view, there are very few ‘true scientists’ around.

            You’re just fleshing out your charge sheet a little more. I know you disdain anyone who fancifully supposes they’re intellectually capable yet believes in evolution.

            So I’m still wondering how you can have any faith in science. Not in some ideal science conducted by people who meet your standards of ‘true science’ (which seems to mean ‘agree with your intuitions’), but in science as it is practised today: by complacent, ideological, arbitrary, intellectual slobs.

            You’ve found someone whom you apparently believe takes the lid off the conspiracy. You’ve found your one honest Darwinian. I can see you’re really excited by this, because you quote him continually, but I can’t see why that gives you any reason to trust scientists. He’s still sticking to the consensus, and everyone else is too, they’re just denying they’re doing so for ideological reasons.

            • Kaz

              “And you still haven’t told me how it is you maintain any faith in
              science at all, when you think practically all scientists are capable of believing arrant and obvious nonsense so long as the right person tells them so….And I still don’t see how it is supposed to be an answer. It leaves the question quite untouched. The vast majority of scientists accept the consensus and oppose creationism, so on your view, there are very few ‘true scientists’ around”

              To repeat what I pointed out in the course of the other blog discussion, this line of questioning emerges via the conflation of two separate issues: (i) a healthy respect for science, which I do have, and (ii) the view that one must embrace every theory that the majority of scientists embraced, which I don’t even consider to be a particularly scientific approach.

              That’s why I am able to maintain a healthy respect for science, i.e. unlike you, I don’t believe that there is a logical necessity for anyone to accept any theory based purely on a consensus. Moreover, the consensus about which you speak is maintained by a worldview that holds that God’s hand must be ruled out as a cause for the emergence of life as a governing precondition. If you rule out God as a precondition for doing science, then the only conclusions you can possible reach as a scientist are natural ones. That is what prompted me to offer these words:

              “The presupposition of naturalism is to the Neo Darwinist what the
              transcendental argument for God is to the theist, except that the
              Darwinist doesn’t prove his case by the impossibility of the contrary, but by simply excluding the contrary as a matter of ‘principle’.”

              I understand that you disagree with me, and that’s fine. You are a creature of your time, the product of a culture that has raised science to a place where only the gods were once permitted to tread, and so my view is simply incomprehensible to you. I’m afraid that I can’t change that, and I don’t even care to try. The reality that Neo Darwinism is absurd is as bright as the sun to me, and perhaps the reason so many are blind to this is because they’ve been looking at it for too long.

              • plectrophenax

                It’s not correct that science is a world-view. It is a method. You are confusing science with philosophy, which many people do today. Thus a naturalistic method does not lead to a naturalistic philosophy at all; that is why religious people can be scientists, with no conflict.

                In relation to ‘God’s hand’, science studies nature. It separated itself off from philosophical questions several centuries ago, and this was a brilliant step, as it freed it from endless questions about truth and reality.

                Thus, it studies nature, but does not claim that there is only nature.

                • Kaz

                  Actually, the very question of what should and should not be considered science as method is answered by philosophy.

                  • rmwilliamsjr

                    re:

                    Actually, the very question of what should and should not be considered science as method is answered by philosophy.

                    -=-=-=-=-=-

                    why?
                    the philosophy of science describes science, it does not prescribe science. the active scientists themselves set their policies and procedures. science is what scientists do, not what philosophers might think they should do. there are historians of science, there are philosophers of science, seldom are these guys actually scientists, the few like m.polanyi are to be treasured, having mastered two huge domains. what should or should not be science or better said what is or is not science (since should is a relative moral term. while is is descriptive) is set by standards of practicing scientists in each of their fields.

                    but i’m open to you showing me where philosophers create standards in say, evolutionary bio.

                    • arcseconds

                      I think it would be more productive to see philosophy of science and science as being in a kind of dialogue with one another.

                      It’s true that since philosophy of science has been around as a separate discipline the dialogue has been a bit lacking, with philosophers of science not paying enough careful attention to what scientists actually do, and scientists largely ignoring philosophers.

                      I think that’s cultural, though, not what the fields conceptually must be like. And I think it might be changing: the better philosophers of science often have strong science backgrounds these days, and there are scientists who think talking to them is worthwhile.

                      Also, there are notable exceptions to this. Karl Popper has been very influential on many scientists, for example, and you can still very much detect his influence today (not that I’m all that pleased about it, particularly, as I’m not a fan. Yes, I don’t like it when scientists ignore philosophers of science, and I don’t like it when they pay attention to them. I’m difficult to please). As a slightly anachronistic example, Francis Bacon was extremely influential in his day, too (particularly on the Royal Society). It’s anachronistic because it was all natural philosophy back then, but according to our divisions Bacon was doing philosophy of science.

                      Also, also, I would say that if a scientist is considering what relationship theory should have to evidence, or what kind of experiments would show the existence of a fresh phenomenon they suspect exists, they are actually doing philosophy of science.

                  • plectrophenax

                    But science is not a world-view. It can be practised by atheists or Christians or practitioners of voodoo. It can lead to a world-view – scientific realism – but that is a philosophical position, and not a scientific claim. The same is true of scientism – this would not be a scientific claim, so it contradicts itself.

                    • Kaz

                      You’ve misunderstood me. I didn’t mean that science is a worldview, but that the overall perspective from which scientists see and interpret the world includes the presupposition that it is only permissible to infer natural causation to explain natural phenomena.

                    • plectrophenax

                      Yes, that is methodological naturalism. However, this is not a world-view of course, as it is not the same as philosophical (or metaphysical) naturalism.

                      Well, that is what science does – it investigates nature. If you want to discuss stuff that is not part of nature, such as God, you can do that in other disciplines, such as philosophy.

                      But to confuse science with philosophy would be to undo that separation between them, made several centuries ago, and which has made science the brilliant practical tool that it is today.

              • arcseconds

                I don’t think you understand my point.

                My point isn’t “you must follow along with the scientific consensus”. I’ve never said that. Perhaps I haven’t been clear enough on this point, but hopefully it is now (so stop responding as though that is what I’m arguing).

                What I’m trying to do is to get you to realise the consequence of believing Darwinian evolution is obviously and completely wrong.

                Let’s go over this again.

                You believe the following:

                1) Darwinian evolution is obviously absurd. You’ve been completely clear about this, and you state it at every opportunity. You described its proponents recently as ‘intellectually weakened’ and the position as ‘mind-numbingly nonsensical’.

                You also insist that this is blind ideology and following authority.

                2) The vast majority of scientists believe in Darwinian evolution. (You’ve never exactly admitted this, but you’ve never rejected it, and it’s obvious looking at any poll that’s ever been done recently on it anywhere that this is the case.

                3) With the exception of biology, science is in good shape, and scientists are generally worthy of respect.

                What I cannot fathom is how you can believe all three of these things as stated.

                The obvious consequence of 1 and 2 is that the vast majority of scientists are intellectually feeble, ideological, and inclined to follow authority.

                Do you believe this? Apparently not, because you believe 3.

                So why don’t 1 and 2 destroy your faith in science?

                All you have given in response is the idea that scientists outside biology simply don’t know anything about biology and never bother finding out.

                To this, I reply:

                1) you think that the problems with Darwinian evolution are obvious. No-one needs to spend a lot of time thinking about it to realise this (if they do, it’s not obvious). A good scientist, one who can think independently and isn’t ideologically blinded and can assess the evidence, should be able to make this judgement at least as quickly as anyone else.

                2) It’s completely absurd to suppose that there aren’t significant numbers of scientists working in fields other than biology who have had at least this exposure. We’re talking about reading a website about it, or at most taking a single evolutionary biology course, reading a book about it, or reading a few evolutionary biology papers in Nature. There must be many hundreds of thousands of non-biologist scientists around the world who have done at least this much.

                3) even if you were right, and there’s no outcry because no-one’s noticed, this still means there’s huge problems with the scientific community. They’re all monomaniacal and uninterested in anything outside their immediate area. They don’t do any cross-disciplinary research, and they only subscribe to Nature because of the pretty pictures.

                Now, the obvious ways out for you, while maintaining your belief that evolution is absurd are, or so it seems to me, are:

                a) bite the bullet, and suppose that scientists really are the sorts of people you say they are. You therefore ought to lose significant respect for the entire area.

                b) come to realise that the problems with evolution aren’t as obvious to everyone as they are to you. It may require significant thought to think your way out of the box, so to speak.

                Neither of those routes requires you to believe what the scientific consensus believes. Both allow you to continue believing that evolutionary biology is dominated by an ideology.

                (but they both do rather imply that you’re smarter than most scientists, (a) because you think more independently and less ideologically than they do, and (b) because you can intuitively see problems that are obvious to you but not to anyone else. )

                If you can see any other way out for you, please do tell me.

          • arcseconds

            The only thing that was at all relevant to my question is suggesting that I have a naive view of science, and that actually scientists are all completely uninterested in anything that’s outside of their

          • Derrik Pates

            No, the reason scientists stick to the natural world is that the natural world is the only one which we can observe, and which we can thus make any reasonable supposition as to its existence. How would you propose measuring the supernatural, considering we have no objective examples of anything supernatural, nor any way to measure or compare it if we did?

            • Kaz

              You began with “No”, but not sure how what you’ve said is in disagreement with what I’ve said. Can you clarify what you were intending to correct?

          • Nick Gotts

            Who is this “Lowenton” of whom you speak? Any relation to Richard Lewontin? Who I consider was completely wrong on methodological naturalism. If good evidence for a deity is presented, scientists should accept it as such if it survives rigorous investigation; but none has been. Historically, there has been significant research guided by supernaturalist hypotheses, so Lewontin is wrong in fact as well as in principle: scientists have investigated the power of prayer, and a range of supposed “paranormal” abilities, with negative, inconclusive or non-reproducible results. In the early 19th century, many geologists tried to use a religious text to guide scientific research, expecting to find the universal Noachian flood described in Genesis confirmed. But as it turned out, there was no evidence for any such universal flood. The geologists reaching this conclusion were all, as far as I know, Christians. Several of them were Anglican clergymen, such as Adam Sedgwick and William Buckland, both of whom began their geological work as believers in the Noachian flood, but unlike modern creationists, were honest enough to admit that they had been wrong.

            Contrary to your picture of science, it is largely cumulative; innovative scientists usually build on the basic consensus of their discipline, asking new questions raised by their immediate predecessors’ findings; they do not show or try to show that the past century and a half’s work has been a waste of time. There is no more chance that future science will overturn the basics of evolutionary theory, than that it will decide that the earth is after all flat. The scientific consensus could only be wrong in either of these areas if some superhuman intelligence is systematically manipulating our perceptions and reasoning. Really, if you want to be an intellectually rigorous creationist these days, you just have to go with either “God is testing us by making it look as if evolution happened”, or “Satan put the fossils in the rocks to deceive us”.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Evans/100000619020207 David Evans

        You do realize that all our domestic dogs, from chihuahua to Great Dane, are descended from wolves, and that this was done in a few thousand years by selecting for the desired changes? How hard is it to believe that natural selection over millions of years could achieve greater changes?

        • Kaz

          Canis gave rise to various dogs so there’s no reason to doubt that a cow or deer-like creature could become a whale?

          • arcseconds

            Basically, yes.

            Given that species can change, it’s correct to infer that this change has no particular limit.

            What would stop it?

            I mean, there might be something stopping it, but I’d like to see some reasoning for it.

            (an intuition that it simply must stop somewhere isn’t a reason)

            • Kaz

              As I said, if it is true that I have demonstrated an inability to believe, you’ve demonstrated the ability to believe anything.

              • Mary

                Funny Kaz, that is not what I get from arcseconds at all. It isn’t a matter of believing anything. It is a matter of reasoning things out. Genetically there is no reason why microevolution would be true but macroevolution would not. They are the same process.

                • Kaz

                  No, the process of canis giving rise to canis is qualitatively different from deer-like creatures giving rise to whales.

                  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                    What makes it qualitatively different, apart from your saying that it is? The differences in both instances are rooted in the same DNA that also indicates the relatedness of organisms. The assertion without evidence that the difference is qualitative seems to me to be just another way of saying “I can’t imagine that this could have happened.”

                    • plectrophenax

                      I suspect that creationists will now invoke their category of ‘kinds’, and they will say that canis are all of the same kind, whereas whales are of a different kind from ‘deer-like creatures’, One involves micro-evolution, the other macro.

                      This is in fact meaningless, especially, as ‘kind’ is defined in many different ways, as species, genus, and so on. It’s a kind of elastic, one size fits all, category, which is effectively without any empirical content.

                    • Kaz

                      I believe that the fellow you like to quote (Dobzhanski) himself once pointed out that micro and macro evolution should not be conflated and treated as though one substantiates the other. I’ll have to do some rummaging through my papers to confirm this (it may have been another biologist). In any case, I’m sure that there are plenty of people who recognize this. I think that your comment is based more on apologetic concerns than anything else.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      I would like to see where you think that distinction was made, and by whom.

                      I think that your denial of the continuity between what you call “micro” and “macro” evolution is based more on apologetic concerns than anything else.

                    • Kaz

                      I’m still looking for the specific reference I mentioned, but for now I can point you to this article:

                      http://www.sciencemag.org/content/210/4472/883.extract

                      Which includes this quote:

                      “The central question at the Chicago conference was whether the mechanisms underlying microevolution can be extrapolated to explain the phenomena of macroevolution. At the risk of doing violence to the positions of some of the people at the meeting, the answer can be given as a clear, No. What is not clear, however, is whether microevolution is totally decoupled from macroevolution: the two can more probably been seen as a coninuuum with a notable overlap.”

                      Notice that the quote contains a clear conclusion followed by speculation. The clear conclusion was that the mechanisms underlying microevolution cannot be extrapolated to explain macroevolution.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      I don’t think you understood the article -’either that, or you stopped reading when you found a quote which, taken out of its context, might seem to lend credence to your stance. Did you read the part where it says “No one questions that, overall, the record reflects a steady increase in the diversity and complexity of species, with the origin of new species and the extinction of established ones punctuating the passage of time”?

                      The article is about the explanatory mechanisms, which are of course open to challenge and improvement and always have been. But what you dispute is the fact of evolution having occurred, and not the specific mechanisms which account for what we know has occurred.

                    • Kaz

                      So if you were to argue that John 5, 8, and 10 are about Jesus as God’s agent, not as God himself, and that we cannot deduce from John 5, 8, and 10 that Jesus was God, yet you then later said that you think the church was correct to infer that he was God the Son, second person of the Trinity, based on other data, I would be misquoting you if I did so to show that John 5, 8, and 10 are not evidence for the Trinity? What a bizarre view.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      You didn’t get my stance right, but that is neither here nor there. You quoted an article from 1980 about the conference where Gould et. al. preesented the idea of punctuated equilibrium for the first time, and you offered it as though (1) it were challenging the fact of evolution rather than discussing which factors are most important in driving it at the macro level, and (2) there had been no further discussion and evaluation of these ideas in the intervening decades.

                    • Kaz

                      You must be having some difficulty following the chain of thought that led me to post the quote. I’ll break it down for you.

                      Mary said: “…there is no reason why microevolution would be true but macroevolution would not. They are the same process.”

                      So the claim was that we are justified to extrapolate macroevolution from microevolution because “They are the same process.”

                      I replied: “No, the process of canis giving rise to canis is qualitatively different from deer-like creatures giving rise to whales.”

                      So I rejected the notion that we can extrapolate macroevolution from microevolution.

                      You then offered: “What makes it qualitatively different, apart from your saying that it is? The differences in both instances are rooted in the same DNA that also indicates the relatedness of organisms. The assertion without evidence that the difference is qualitative seems to me to be just another way of saying ‘I can’t imagine that this could have happened.’”

                      In offering this statement you were apparently siding with Mary.

                      So, I rejoined: “I believe that the fellow you like to quote (Dobzhanski) himself once
                      pointed out that micro and macro evolution should not be conflated and
                      treated as though one substantiates the other. I’ll have to do some
                      rummaging through my papers to confirm this (it may have been another
                      biologist). In any case, I’m sure that there are plenty of people who
                      recognize this. I think that your comment is based more on apologetic
                      concerns than anything else.”

                      Upon reflection, I’m sure that it was another biologist, not Dobzhanski, but I did read a paper in which it was argued that one should give up the notion that we can extrapolate macroevolution from microevolution. I haven’t had time yet to locate that paper, but I did find the this quote, which is directly related to the specific arguments being made, if one follows the chain of thought:

                      “The central question at the Chicago conference was whether the
                      mechanisms underlying microevolution can be extrapolated to explain the
                      phenomena of macroevolution. At the risk of doing violence to the
                      positions of some of the people at the meeting, the answer can be given
                      as a clear, No. What is not clear, however, is whether microevolution
                      is totally decoupled from macroevolution: the two can more probably been
                      seen as a coninuuum with a notable overlap.”

                      Notice that the question of whether we can extrapolate macroevolution from microevolution under discussion here was “The central question at the Chicago conference….” and that the answer clear answer is “No”.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Again, I don’t think you have understood the article. It is about whether additional factors, such as sudden climate changes or significant geographic migrations, need to be present in order to account for the fact that, in the fossil record, there seem to be periods of stasis and change rather than a purely gradual one. Are you familiar with “punctuated equilibrium”? I would strongly recommend reading something by Stephen Jay Gould before discussing this further. I realize that promoters of pseudoscience have trouble grasping what is wrong with prooftexting, but it simply doesn’t work because the words you quoted, in the context of the article, simply do not imply what you seem to think they do. They are about whether additional factors are crucial in the more significant changes witnessed in evolutionary history, not about whether macroevolution occurs, nor about whether the same genetic processes are involved, but about what else is involved, and whether the fits and starts in the paleontological record are not merely a result of the fact that fossils occur rarely, but actually indicate something about the course and pace of evolution.

                      If you do not accept the genetic and paleontological evidence that the conference was about, and which demonstrates evolution, then attempting to use a stray quote as though it somehow supported your case is dishonest.

                    • Kaz

                      You really are a living, breathing example of how Darwinism weakens ones intellectual capacities! Nothing you’ve said even touches the point being made.

                      Yes, it just so happens that I am familiar with Gould’s writings, and “punctuated equilibrium”. Creationists love the guy;-)

                      I’m taking my leave now. I’ve bent over backwards to have meaningful dialogue with you, and this is obviously of no interest to you. It’s a shame, because without me to hold your feet to the fire I’m afraid that no one will ever know whether you have a positive case to make for Christianity, what it looks like, etc. Oh, well…

                      Take care

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      You have done nothing of the sort. Creationists love select quotes from Gould but do not understand his work, or if they do they choose to misrepresent it. It disappoints me that you seem content to do the same. Indeed, I have to wonder whether anyone in their right mind would have cited the article that you did in the context of an attempt to argue against evolution, if they had read the entire article and understood it.

                      Meaningful dialogue about evolution involves understanding the evidence. Your dismissals suggest that you still di not understand the evidence. I plead with you once again, inform yourself to the point where you can understand why the overwhelming majority of scientists find it persuasive. I remember a religion professor I spoke with once who said that if students do not understand why other people find a religion worth embracing, then they have not understood that religion. I understand all too well why you embrace the denialism you do, having been there myself. The question is whether you can get beyond insulting all the world’s biogists to comprehending the weight of the evidence and the impressive explanatory power of mainstream evolutionary theory. Until you do, you will find yourself frustrated, perhaps not realizing the extent to which you are the cause of your own frustration as well as causing others to be frustrated as well.

                    • Mary

                      Yes, when you can’t answer the question then hurl insults at the one asking them, stomp your feet and walk away…

                    • plectrophenax

                      All you have to do is point out the barrier(s) which stop micro-evolution becoming macro. What are they?

                    • rmwilliamsjr

                      barriers, gradations, fuzzy boundaries

                      i think this is a fruitful way to discuss the topic. coupled with the fact that we really don’t even have a decent working definition for “species”, the crucial element in the distinction between micro & macro, should give us pause before rigorously asserting they label real things.

                      evolution seems best described simply as a change in alleles’ frequencies in a population and not attempt more. the problem of ring species seems to imply that there really isn’t a strict barrier between species but rather a quantitative spectrum(fuzzy boundaries). if that is the case, the label species is just something we think we see as an organizing principle(linnaeus) but isn’t real and doesn’t describe anything essential. if this is the case, there isn’t any species for macro v micro distinction to distinguish.

                  • Mary

                    What you are saying is that genetics is a lie. It really baffles me that the creationists keep saying “Give me proof!” and then when we do they ignore it. It seems quite reasonable to me that when Darwin first proposed his theories that people would say that. At that time there wasn’t alot of proof. But what about now? It isn’t just a matter of faith as you keep saying. We don’t have to go just by fossils because we have genetics confirming the relateness of all things.
                    There is no mechanism that I know of that would limit evolution to “kinds”. It is funny because it used to be argued that evolutionary changes were denied period. Then when we demonstrated how mutations happen then all the sudden it changed to the argument that only microevolution occurs.
                    Evolution is evolution. There is no “micro” or “macro”.

                    • plectrophenax

                      There is genetic analysis, the study of fossils, the comparison of anatomy between different groups, and various types of geographical evidence, e.g. unique life forms on islands. There are now massive amounts of evidence for evolution.

                      Yes, good point about demonstrating evolution in the lab – the creationists can’t deny that, so they have to wall it off as ‘micro’ evolution. These are non-arguments.

                    • Mary

                      Since you seem to know a great deal more than I do I would like to ask you something. I know that by comparing the anatomy of the whale with land mammals that it has been determined that they used to have legs. It seems to me that I have heard that they have occasionally found specimens with fully formed leg and foot bones (I may be confusing that with dolphins). This would be very strong evidence that these were originally land-mammals.
                      One of the best arguments for evolution is that there is DNA that codes for characteristics that disappeared a long time ago. There are humans that are born sometimes with tails. That is because an ancient gene switched on. I think the fact that we have massive amounts of genes that are non-functional (switched off) and then can be triggered at some point back into the “on” position as probably the best proof of evolution so far.

                    • plectrophenax

                      I’m not a biologist! I’ve heard these stories about whales born with legs, I don’t know if they are kosher or not. But whale evolution is fascinating, and the study of it was invigorated by the discovery of various proto-whales in fossil form. I think arcsecond has already demonstrated how, given enough time, you can indeed derive a whale from a land animal. Another way you can do it is via mathematical modelling, which demonstrates that there is no obstacle to macro-evolution; I think mathematical genetics is particularly fruitful. Hold on, I can hear creationists wailing now that there are no transitional forms between the transitional forms!

                      By the way, the anatomical comparisons are very interesting:

                      http://tinyurl.com/a4e6ayq

                    • Mary

                      Thanks for the link. I’ll check it out!

                    • plectrophenax

                      I just noticed that modern horses are supposed to still have the genes for side-toes. Normally, these appear as vestigial remnants, but it is claimed that sometimes horses are born with small side-toes intact, which is very like your point.

                      Incidentally, I would love to see a creationist account of the family tree of ancient horses, now found in fossil form, and very complex. I suppose God created one species, killed it off, then created another, and so on. Wow.

              • arcseconds

                I take it that not only is natural selection ruled out because it’s inconceivable, but macroevolution is also ruled out?

                OK, so when does it become inconceivable?

                I mean, there’s already a lot of variation in dogs from their ancestral stock. If anyone told the person who first domesticated wolves that a descendent of their pet would be about the size of a large rat, have no hair on its body, but hair on its head like a human and hair around their feet, they’d probably also say “that’s inconceivable!”

                Let’s imagine subsequent descendents of dogs turning into something like a whale, and you tell me at what stage it stops being possible.

                OK, could their tail become a lot bigger, long and flat, and much more useful for swimming with? There’s considerable variation in dog tails already. Some have completely lost them, of course. But we want a large, muscular, flat tail. Maybe a combination of a portuguese water dog‘s tail, for the length, and an an akita for breadth would start to get close. Could it get as far as an otter’s tail, do you think?

                There are already dogs with no hair, so losing hair is not a problem.

                Could they lose their hind legs? Well, we know there are genetic conditions where humans are born missing limbs. So yes.

                Webbed front feet? Some dogs already have full webs.

                How big could they get? Well, Zorba was 2.5m long and weighed 140kg. That’s as big as a small bottle-nosed dolphin.

                Let’s also imagine the front legs are as short as a dachund’s feet, and the paws as proportionally as large as a cockerspaniel’s. And let’s imagine it coated with a nice coating of fat to keep it warm. Some dogs get plenty fat, so there should be no issue here.

                Put that into a single creature, and we’ve got a beast with two big, webbed front paws on hardly any legs, no hind legs, a big broad tail, no hair, that’s as big as a dolphin.

                We’ve already got a creature that would not strike many as being a dog at all. We’re not at a whale yet, but we must be at least halfway to a manitee, no?

                And this is only depending on variation that we see in dogs already.

                Did we encounter an inconceivability barrier anywhere along the way?

                • Mary

                  Very well put.

                • Ian

                  Very nice.

      • GalapagosPete

        “As for evolution and Copernican theory, no comparison except at the most superficial level.”

        Really? Why?

  • plectrophenax

    A famous example of incredulity occurred when Hugh Montefiore (Bishop of Birmingham), argued that polar bears being white was very odd, under a Darwinian thesis, since why would they need camouflage? I suppose he meant because they have no predator, but as Dawkins pointed out, they are predators, and camouflage is useful for them also.
    I suppose life is just very very odd!

  • smijer

    The world has turned out time and time again to actually have characteristics that seem absurd to the senses.

    Which is to be expected from a brain evolved under the constraints of our immediate environment – not a brain engineered to comprehend reality on a fundamental level.

  • http://www.facebook.com/eva.leppard.9 Eva Leppard

    I think that evolution displays a beautiful logic. Quantum physics = patently absurd, but evolution seems to flow as a theory. In my opinion, anyway!

    • Mary

      I agree. Once you get past all the misunderstandings of what people think evolution says it makes perfect sense.

  • arcseconds

    He (Ludwig Wittgenstein) once asked me: ‘Why do people say it is
    more logical to think that the sun turns around the Earth than Earth
    rotating around its own axis?’ I answered: ‘I think because it seems as
    if the sun turns around the Earth.’ ‘Good,’ he said, ‘but how would it
    have been if it had seemed as if the Earth rotates around its own axis?’

    –Thomas Metzinger

    • Ian

      We’d feel the movement. I think the lack of sensation of motion is the main reason that people assumed stasis. Which in turn is a kind of subtle empirical error because it is very difficult to achieve movement without acceleration in the real world, so the basic assumption is that we are static unless we feel we are moving. So it took a long time until we got Newton’s theory of relativity.

      Which I think is a good illustration of the depth of ignorance at work in some of these issues. Evolution seems absurd to a creationist, because their view of it is piled high atop a huge column of ignorance, misunderstanding and misinformation.

      • plectrophenax

        Creationists are also operating deductively. That is, they begin with a certain set of ideas, and then reality must conform to them. If reality appears to not conform, then reality must be wrong. If there is no evidence for a global flood, then you have to pretend that there is.

        The other thing you can do is to distort scientific findings. Thus you get creationists making absurd claims about crocoducks, why don’t cats give birth to dogs, and other nonsense.

        • Ian

          Thanks, that was what I was saying. There’s a whole pile of ignorance on which the absurdity of evolution is based.

        • http://www.facebook.com/bbibb Bryan Bibb

          Exactly so. If the Bible didn’t say (in some people’s reading of it, not mine) that the earth is 6000 years old, that idea would never have occurred to anyone, at least not in the modern age. The whole universe shouts age, complexity, and vastness. And from a theological perspective, recognizing and valuing the age and complexity of the universe can be an offering of praise to God.

          When I say complexity, I take that to include what one commenter here has called “materialism” vs. supernaturalism. Natural explanations are complex, intricate, and much more beautiful (in my view) than short-cut supernatural explanations.

          • plectrophenax

            Yes, the interesting thing is, that if one is a theist, as I am, it is creationism which offers a parochial view of the universe, whereas science offers a magnificent view. But then why should the world-view of ancient Jews be correct, unless, that is, one has already determined that some of their literature is ‘inerrant’? How about a 3-tiered universe – any takers for that?

            • http://www.facebook.com/bbibb Bryan Bibb

              The universe is clearly turtles all the way down.

      • arcseconds

        You should try watching what we call a sunrise and see it as a horizondip. :]

        It is possible to see it like this.

        I once spent a couple of weeks walking around trying to experience the world as though I was stationary, but pushing the Earth backwards with my feet. And that everything got larger, rather than came towards me, and changed in shape, rather than my perspective changing. And nothing was really much larger than my head.

        • Ian

          I’m confused what you’re trying to say.

          Walking around, you feel your motion (or rather you feel the accelerations of your motion), so that doesn’t contradict my point, does it? Or were you making a different point. Sorry it is hard to judge tone in text.

          • arcseconds

            What I’m trying to say, and what I believe Wittgenstein was trying to say, is that looking at the sun rising above the horizon is the same thing as looking at the horizon dipping below the sun. Or rather, it’s not the same thing at all, but it’s difficult to explain what the difference consists in. It ‘looks’ the same. The difference is one of interpretation, we might say.

            Your point about the sensation of motion is an interesting one, but I think it results in much the same thing. You can experience yourself as stationary and the landscape moving under your as you walk (the forces you experience — well, you don’t expect to move an entire planet with your feet without experiencing a sensation of force, do you?) Or, at least, I’ve got close to this experience, so I think it is possible, and I’ve certainly had the distinct impression of motion when watching the moon move relative to the horizon and the fixed stars.

            • Ian

              No, I get Wittgenstein’s point, I just think he’s wrong. Or probably not, actually, but the cleverism, at least, is wrong. The scales on which the truth operates are so far beyond those of our every day experiences, that our experiences cannot be generalized to intuiting the truth. We don’t assume the earth is spinning, because we know what spinning feels like, and we don’t feel that all the time.

              So I just think this cleverism (which wasn’t new to me, btw) has an obvious answer. ‘but how would it have been if it had seemed as if the Earth rotates around its own axis?’… “we’d feel like we’re always in motion.”

              No culture has, to my knowledge, intuited that the earth is spinning and the heavens static. I just don’t buy that we ended up getting it wrong because of a change of perspective.

              “You can experience yourself as stationary and the landscape moving under your as you walk (the forces you experience” Yeah, you can experience a lot if you force yourself to think a particular way. I forced myself to astrally project when I was a teenager. But the fact that we don’t experience that unless we really try hard is not just because of cultural conditioning.

              • arcseconds

                I’m not sure how ‘cleverism’ can be wrong. Does it have propositional content?

                I guess one person’s ‘cleverism’ is another person’s ‘insight’. I’m sitting at the front of the class going ‘wow!’ and rushing out to amaze my friends, you’re sitting at the back with your arms crossed going ‘yeah, whatever, genius. What if I feel movement?! gotcha!’ :]

                (I get the impression that you’ve had this torpedo ready to launch next time someone mentions this ancedote. very sly of you, but you probably shouldn’t tell me this, it’s just going to ruin the effect)

                I think it’s actually quite a profound thing to realise that there’s actually very little about your experience that informs you as to what is moving. It’s actually very difficult to work out, from what you take to be your immediate experience of the world, what is actually ‘out there’ in the world, or an identifiable part of your experience, and what is your assumption about what must be the case.

                By ‘out there’ I don’t mean ‘true’. People don’t look out into the night sky and perceive General Relativity or the true distance to the stars. It’s a bit difficult to explain, but in one sense you experience the sun rise, but in another what you experience is a growing distance between the horizon and the sun, and the rising is something you bring to it. It’s that difference that I’m interested in.

                Of course, we’ve got a bias towards doing this. That’s obvious. And it’s widespread, perhaps universal, but I’m not sure why you think that’s important.

                (That it’s universal is likely to have as much to do with the fact that everyone lives on the surface of a large (relative to us) planet as anything else. Human beings who grew up on rocket ships in deep space might have very different intuitions about what is in motion — it may be that they’d take the stars to be still, so they’d immediately interpret a planetside night sky as informing them of the motion of the Earth. )

                And we can imagine people not having this bias, but rather the opposite: presupposing that they are in motion. That may or may not involve a sensation similar to our ‘in motion’ sensations — it doesn’t need to.

                But all that does is replace one bias for another. It so happens that such a person will naturally have a sensation of watching the horizon dip below the sun, which is closer to ‘reality’. But if they’re put in a dome like in the Truman show with a fake sun, they’ll experience things wrongly (and maybe some smartarse will point out ‘well, what would it look like if it looked like the fake sun rose up the dome’? )

                I’m not at all sure that a widespread sensation like those we associate with motion would actually result in what you say, though, if you think it through. It seems to me that we’d simply wouldn’t use that sensation to tell the difference between motion and not in motion. In fact, we might not notice it very much at all, as we’d be experiencing it constantly.

                I’m wondering whether we’re talking past each other, though. You seem to be thinking of this in terms of ‘getting it wrong’. I’m not sure I’m interested in the wrongness per se, only that the fact that we ‘got it wrong’ can draw our attention to the fact that there was nothing really dictating that interpretation in the first place.

                in fact, I’d even go as far to say it would be boring to always have the correct interpretation, because then you might never notice this sort of thing!

                • Ian

                  You’re saying the same things in lots of different ways, but still not addressing my point (which was hardly earth-shaking, or particularly important, even so – but seems to have been pressed into fueling more words than it deserved).

                  “I’m wondering whether we’re talking past each other, though.”

                  I’m 100% convinced of it.

                  “You seem to be thinking of this in terms of ‘getting it wrong’”…”the fact that there was nothing really dictating that interpretation in the first place.”

                  How would you explain the preponderance of particular interpretations among independent cultures then? If there is nothing to suggest that one interpretation is better than another, why are heliocentric cultures at least very rare, if not non-existent?

          • arcseconds

            Also, you don’t really experience acceleration, or at least, not directly. A state of constant, uniform acceleration is the same as constant, uniform motion is the same as being completely still and unaffected by any force.

            What you experience is really differential force.

            Assuming you are sitting at a chair at the moment, if you draw your attention to it, you can feel your weight in your chair.

            If the chair wasn’t there (and neither was the floor, or the ground), you’d be in free fall, which feels the same as being completely unaffected by gravity.

            Plus, the experience of your weight in the chair is exactly the same experience as you’d have if there was no earth, but your chair was accelerating upwards at 10ms^-1

            So, again, while you can have an experience of being accelerated, this is just as much a matter of interpretation as any other motion. What you ‘really’ experience is a force acting on your rear (or your foot, or your back, or wherever) and the scenery starting to rush past you, say.

            • Ian

              I don’t buy this (by which I mean it’s a combination of obvious Newtonianism and dubious conjecture). But even if I did, its irrelevant to my point.

              • arcseconds

                If I was in error, you had better tell me.

                As far as I’m aware, what I have just described is the equivalence principle, albeit couched in Newtonian terms. I’m afraid I did expect that when you said ‘acceleration’, you meant Newtonian acceleration. Normally expecting people not to be discussing things in terms of General Relativity is a safe bet!

                • Ian

                  “A state of constant, uniform acceleration is the same as constant, uniform motion is the same as being completely still and unaffected by any force.” Is incorrect.

                  “If the chair wasn’t there (and neither was the floor, or the ground), you’d be in free fall, which feels the same as being completely unaffected by gravity. Plus, the experience of your weight in the chair is exactly the same experience as you’d have if there was no earth, but your chair was accelerating upwards at 10ms^-1″ Is the equivalence principle, and correct.

                  Neither were relevant.

                  • arcseconds

                    “A state of constant, uniform acceleration is the same as constant,
                    uniform motion is the same as being completely still and unaffected by
                    any force.”

                    As I said, I couched this in newtonian terms. I had specifically in mind acceleration due to gravity

                    • Ian

                      There is no sense, Newtonian or Relativistic in which uniform acceleration is the same as uniform motion is the same as being unaffected by any force. If you meant something other than that, then fine. Your grasp of Newton’s laws is probably fine. It really is not a issue for me, because I wasn’t talking about idealised gedanken but about naive physics.

                    • arcseconds

                      I meant the same locally, which would include your bodily experience of motion.

                    • Ian

                      It still sounds like you’re fundamentally misunderstanding Newton’s laws. By them, one cannot distinguish position or its first derivative, but one can distinguish either from any higher derivative. But maybe I’m just not understanding the particular thought experiment you’re running here. Again, to reinforce, you’ve not got anything to prove to me on this front, so feel free to chalk it up to me misunderstanding you. I’m not in this for an argument about Newton!

                    • arcseconds

                      Just tieing up some loose ends…

                      This isn’t about proving things to you: I wanted to know what your objection was because I don’t want to be misled myself!

                      I’m still quite sure I’m right about this, but I’ll have a look at the equations (it’s been a long time since I’ve done any mathematical physics).

                      why is it more fun to argue about Darwin than Newton?

                    • Ian

                      You can look in the computational physics textbook I wrote, if you like ;) (sorry, that was horribly cheap, I know).

                      x’ (first deriv of position) behaves perfectly relatively. Physics is utterly indistinguishable in any frame of reference with a constant x’, including x’=0. This is Newtonian relativity. This is not the case with x”. Physics in a frame of reference with a constant x”>0 will appear to have a force on all bodies. Now it is true that you can’t distinguish between cases where that force is caused by some field (gravity, electromagnetic, etc) and where it is caused by acceleration. But you can definitely distinguish between x”>0 and x”=0 cases (and, by measurement, you can find the x” value directly). It is also true that you can arrange for a frame of reference to feel zero x” by balancing forces (and accelerations, if required). So a freefalling frame of reference experiences gravitational force, counter-balanced by the virtual force due to its acceleration, so it experiences x” = 0.

                      You said “[1] A state of constant, uniform acceleration is the same as [2] constant, uniform motion is the same as [3] being completely still and unaffected by any force.” (numbers mine), so 1 and 3 are indistinguishable, but 2 is not. 2 will feel different to 1 and 3. 1, 2 and 3 only are indistinguishable in the case where the virtual force in 1 is counterbalanced exactly by another force. Such as when that constant uniform acceleration is due to freefall. Perhaps that’s what you meant, but if so, then that missed my point, which wasn’t talking about freefall, but quotidian experiences of movement.

                      “why is it more fun to argue about Darwin than Newton?” – I was just aware we were getting off the point, and I didn’t want to distract from what I was trying to say by that. Since we’re the only folks left here, by the look of it, that’s probably not an issue any more. So we can definitely talk more

                      I think my mistake was to build the point I wanted to make on the back of your Wittgenstein point, which made my point unnecessarily combative towards you.

  • plectrophenax

    It strikes me that creationism is basically parasitic. It tends to take stuff discovered by actual scientists, and then argues that this argues for a young earth. This can be seen with the discovery of soft tissue in dinosaur bones. Who discovered this? Why, a scientist, not a ‘creation scientist’.

    It also shows a misunderstanding of how science works. If scientists discover an anomaly, like this, they don’t conclude that their overall theory is incorrect – that would be idiotic. They do more research!

    Of course, the creationists are also happy to utilize scientific findings in their own lives, by using computers, for example. Perhaps someone would like to demonstrate a computer built by creation scientists!

    • Mary

      I agree. Creationism can never be called scientific because it starts the assumption that the Bible is true and inerrant. In other words we already know the scientific truth as stated in the Bible. Therefore we have to look for those things that support the Bible and discredit those that don’t. Or we have to rewrite the bible to agree with science.
      Science however starts with the assumption THAT WE DON’T KNOW ANYTHING so lets find out! The two approaches are completly incompatible.
      I have heard creationists say that the technology we use in our daily lives has nothing to do with “origins’ science. What about medicine? We use the information from genetics and biology to create new treatments. That uses evolutionary theory right there.

      • plectrophenax

        And it’s the same scientific method that is used – it’s not as if evolution was just arrived at out of thin air! It took a long time to arrive at a synthesis, since for example, genetics was unknown to Darwin.

        Biologists and palaeontologists don’t dream things up – they make observations, to test various theories and predictions. Thus, if you argue that birds evolved from reptiles, you would expect to find feathered reptiles – hallo, feathered dinosaurs!

        How can one accept scientific method in one area, for example, medicine, and then reject it in another? Oh, I forgot, I have an ancient book which I know is correct. Science is wrong, reality is wrong.

  • Darwin Dissenters

    James – your analogy is poor. We can go from epicycles in geocentricism to heliocentricism and have a simpler theoretical model. But both require theory and sensory experience. But we can test the latter by sending satellites into orbit for instance. Just saying that the narrative of molecule to evolution needs more time and chance is simply to work with the same failed model. It is easier to believe that a rational mind has acted directly in creation through miracles than to believe that time and chance can work magic. And the math still doesn’t work as Demsbki has for instance pointed out if given 15 billion years. Some of us reject the big story of evolution because it is scientifically incoherent.

    • plectrophenax

      Saying that it is ‘easier to believe that a rational mind has acted directly … than to believe that time and chance can work magic’ is still the argument from incredulity. It is true that some things are difficult to believe, for example, some of the stuff in quantum mechanics is very strange. However, scientific method does not operate on the basis of easy beliefs and difficult beliefs. If it did, it would never make progress.

      • Darwin Dissenters

        But why must Darwinists be incosistent in how they apply scepticism and criticism ? I can help thinking theistic evolutionists idolise science to the point of undermining Christian faith. When the Son of Man returns will he find faith on the earth? Luke 18:8

        • Mary

          Science isn’t about the Christian faith to begin with. And the Son of Man said he would return WITHIN the lifetimes of his apostles.

  • arcseconds

    I’ve never been very happy with the description of atoms as ‘mostly empty space’.

    It’s true that the mass is concentrated in a very small region in the centre of the atom. And that’s not perhaps what we’d expect.

    But the rest of the atom is not empty space.

    For a start, the electrons are probably best as being thought of a wave smeared out over the whole region, (or the whole universe! but probably mostly pretty close to the nucleus) not as occupying a point in space at a point in time.

    Then there’s the electromagnetic force that keeps the electrons with the nucleus. That’s mediated by photons constantly given off and absorbed by the electrons and protons, and they actually cover all possible such interactions.

    So there’s a whole bunch of stuff in that so-called ‘empty space’!

    And that’s also why you can’t push your hand through the table like a ghost — the electrons end up repelling one another. So what’s in the ‘empty space’ also accounts for the table’s solidity.

  • plectrophenax

    Of course, science itself is full of discoveries which were resisted at first. Examples include plate tectonics, considered barmy by many scientists at first, and the Big Bang, which some scientists objected to. But this is a normal feature of science, and it is quite different from the creationists’ ideological objections to evolution.

  • gamgokt

    yes evolution is absurd. evolutionists reject God calling him some invisible sky daddy and complain because they can’t see, touch or hear him YET they go off to follow a theory that contains an invisible process that they cannot see, touch or hear. they can’t even prove it actually exists.

    evolution and evolutionists are absurd.

    • Andrew L

      gamgokt, to assert “a theory that contains an invisible process that they cannot see, touch or hear.” is to play fast and loose with the facts. Irresponsibly so.

      We can know from observation know that life developed and expanded identifiably through the relevant geologic ages.

      we can know from observation know that genetics infers a general inheritability of form from the preceding generation. We can know that mutation is possible and across time mutations can accumulate.

      We can know from observation know that resource limitation and various catastrophes have favored some forms (similar or not) over other forms.

      These are the building blocks of the theory you claim we can’t even prove actually exists. I don’t reject God because I can’t sense Him. I reject God because claims about His nature are inconsistent and His impact not detectable. The Theory of Evolution’s nature is (generally) consistent and its impact is detectable. That is why I and others embrace it.

      (I don’t assume Christian belief and a recognition of evolution are incompatible, I’m merely responding to gamgokt)

      • gamgokt

        Here is the problem with your observation: You do not know what or who produced the result you saw. Observation and prediction do not eliminate God other non-evolutionary sources from producing the same result.
        The weakness of observation is that it needs more than prediction to make the what is seen valid or real. All you are doling is assuming something without the proper evidence to support your observation.
        An example: You observe a man and a woman exiting a motel room and need to determine what you saw. prediction won’t help because you can predict that they would exit after having a tryst but the exit doesn’t prove the tryst. There are too many other reasons for the couple to be in the motel room and none would have to do with having an affair.
        You can ‘observe’ a reaction by mixing species with chemical solutions, or whatever, but that observation and previous prediction are not exclusive. You do not know what produced that result. You can assume evolution did it and attribute the change to evolution but that doesn’t provide any scientific evidence that evolutionw as actually responsible for the change.
        You do not get enough of the correct information needed fromobservation to make your claim that evolution exists. And we all know it doesn’t.

        • plectrophenax

          I think you are muddled up about how science works. It studies nature, and is not concerned with issues like God, because God is not a natural object. In other words, God is not an item in the universe.

          You are also muddling up science and philosophy. Of course, there are religious people who study evolution, but they don’t confuse the empirical study of nature with ideas about God.

          And there are multiple lines of evidence for evolution, for example, anatomical study, which reveals similarities between different groups; the fossil evidence for change over time; geographical evidence, for example, the unique life forms found on islands; and genetic analysis.

          One piece of evidence is currently in the news – the growing resistance of some bacteria to antibiotics. They have evolved.

          • Mary

            But, but that’s only MICROEVOLUTION..It doesn’t count! (Says the all-knowing creationist) LOL.

        • Mary

          “You do not get enough of the correct information needed from observation to make your claim that evolution exists. And we all know it doesn’t”

          That statement would actually make more sense this way:

          You do not get enough of the correct information needed from observation to make your claim that creationism exists. And we all know it doesn’t.

        • Andrew L

          gamgokt, thanks for the reply. I think you should consider your response to see whether you are operating from an unreasonable skepticism.

          Possibly, we will know in 9 months what went on in that hotel room.

          To be clear, while I’m not a theist, if God uses evolution to diversify life, I still consider evolution to be true unless that interference is ongoing and pervasive.

          Further we know quite a bit more about evolution than your hotel couple or your mixing species with chemical example would imply. We’re far down the trail of how evolution operates in current time and how its behavior has shaped developmental history. We know W causes mutation X which results and morphological change Y and conjecture Z reasonably asserts this would provide a competitive advantage.

          You might still assert that God is responsible for W and you might well be right. But given you charge of absurdity by evolutionists, who is being unreasonable now?

          It’s not impossible 9 months on the woman exiting the hotel room is pregnant via immaculate conception, it is; however, exceedingly unlikely.

  • you

    everything you learn is in fact just learn, not necessarily true…

    • Mary

      This webite is getting really wonky. A post with my name (Mary) and my gravatar has magically appeared without my writing it.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

        OK, that is very troubling. Can you show me where that comment is – leave a comment directly replying to that one – so that I can see what it looks like and try to figure out what is going on?

        • Mary

          Strange James, because I see it right above my comment. Here is what it says:

          everything you learn is in fact just learn, not necessarily true…

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

            The funny thing is that I see that user’s name as “you”!

            I think there are two possibilities. The most likely is that there is something corrupted in your browser data and clearing the cache will solve it.

            The other is that someone has made a script which will cause the person they are talking to to see their own information when looking at that profile. The latter seems unlikely, so I would try clearing the browser cache first!

            • Mary

              Thanks!

  • Andrew L

    To the creation defenders here who want to know about how evolution works and the scientific case for evolution, I recommend Jerry Coyne’s “Why Evolution is True” and Richard Dawkins “The Greatest Show on Earth”. While both writers are atheist and do take swipes at Christianity and creationism, they have done a solid job of making their case and keeping their writing understandable.

    There may well be similar books written by theistic creationists, but I am not aware of them.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      The one I usually recommend, written by a top-notch biologist who also happens to be Catholic, is Ken Miller’s Finding Darwin’s God. It not only presents the evidence for evolution, but it also addresses a lot of creationist/ID false claims, as well as mentioning the wacky theological views one has to adopt in order to maintain those stances consistently.

      It is such a shame that evolution has become a topic of distrust between some religious people and those who embrace mainstream science. There is no theistic opposition to chemistry, despite its roots in the godless atomism of Epicurus. :-)

      • plectrophenax

        Although creationism, as far as I can see, ends up opposing some elements of many sciences. Obviously, geology, and its description of an ancient earth; but also, astronomy, and its description of an ancient and vast universe. But then some aspects of chemistry are implicated here, since heavy elements are believed to be created in exploding stars. As it is said colloquially, supernovae create the building blocks of life.

        I don’t actually know if creationists would accept that scenario. I had a quick look, and found ‘exploding stars point to a young universe’. I give up.

  • Gary

    I am not interested in debates. But I saw a strange description of basic Newtonian physics from someone. If you are sitting in a chair you are not undergoing constant acceleration! Your frame of reference is the earth. Acceleration, as Ian indicated, is the 2nd derivative of x with respect to time, i.e. dx^2/dt^2. If delta x (position) is not changing (=0), there is no velocity, therefore no acceleration. I think you are either confusing g (the gravitation constant of acceleration), or the angular acceleration of the rotation of the earth (velocity is a vector, so changing direction is acceleration, even if the magnitude of the velocity is constant (speed). But in either case, there is no delta X with respect to the earth, so you do not feel motion, or acceleration. If your elevator cable broke, then you would feel the acceleration of g, and you would also experience the rate of change of velocity with respect to time (acceleration). And the kinetic energy of 1/2 mv^2 as you hit the ground. But you will feel nothing sitting in a chair. Excuse any typos. I’m using my iPhone.

    • arcseconds

      I think you are misunderstanding what I wrote.

      I didn’t say you were undergoing acceleration. I said that your experience sitting in the chair is the same as if you were undergoing acceleration.

      This is the equivalence principle.

      (It is possible I did say somewhere that you were undergoing acceleration, but if so, it was a misstatement, not a misapprehension. I’ve checked the bit I think you are referring to, and it seems right to me)


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