Well, another Darwin Day has come and gone. Yet again, a proclamation was proposed in congress to commemorate it…and promptly shot down by the GOP. You expect us offend the creationists in our evangelical base by acknowledging basic science?
As we got out of our car, preparing for our hike through the Conejo Valley Botanic Garden, I explained to Keith that Darwin Day would not be an official holiday in the same way as Memorial Day. No one would get the day off. No government government expenditures would be allocated to honoring Darwin’s great scientific paradigm shift.
Instead, Darwin Day would be the equivalent of National Cupcake Day. But even that would be a bridge too far for the anti-Darwinist crowd (and their Republican panderers).
Predictably, my two posts related to Darwin Day — here and here — drew comments from creationists who revealed their ignorance over evolutionary processes and natural selection with every distortion. Armed only with holy writ, they have no choice but to create evolutionary straw men.
Fundamentalist howcanna arguments only work with people who don’t know the first thing about evolution. Unfortunately for creationists, articles about evolution tend to draw readers as fascinated about the subject as I am.
Nature may indeed be red in tooth and claw, but it can’t hold candle to comment threads on evolution.
Personally, I have a low tolerance for bickering. And a subterranean interest in arguing with people who will never be convinced by empirical facts.
Yet, sometimes I simply can’t resist and engage with creationists despite myself. I always regret it. As someone who suffers from chronic, severe migraines, the last thing I need is to beat my head against the wall.
But plenty of my fellow evolution enthusiasts are ready to dive into the fight. It’s a good bet that whenever I write about evolution or natural selection, a cyber fistfight will break out.
Creationists will never present empirical evidence. They can’t because there isn’t any. Instead, the resort to howcanna arguments and basic misunderstanding of the scientific method.
Recorded message: A theory in science isn’t a wildass guess, but a systemic explanation, supported by empirical evidence, which makes testable predictions. If you don’t believe me, test the theory of gravity by jumping off the roof of a tall building.
Furthermore, Ken Ham et al, scientists did not swallow Darwin’s “story” about evolution whole without evidence, like the whale supposedly gulped down Jonah. Or as biblical literalists uncritically accept as fact a book in which God orders the slaughter of unicorns, but spares not a word for dinosaurs.*
(So that’s why they’re no unicorns!)
Creationists live in a world guided (or so they believe) by words handed down orally over the millennia by illiterate shepherds. Later, the contradictory stories were written down with generous helpings of retroactive prophecies “miraculously” discovered.
Christians adopted the Torah and called it the “Old Testament,” while simultaneously tossing out the bits they didn’t want to follow. Yes to the Ten Commandments and homophobia, no to prohibitions against eating yummy pork and shellfish.
As for circumcision…hell no.
Adam and Eve was weaponized as Original Sin. The carrot was Heaven and Hell the stick. Tow our line or else.
To creationists, evolution is just another story like Noah’s flood. Only their story is true. Natch.
Sure, the Tower of Babel really happened. It doesn’t sound like a just-so story to explain the diversity of languages. No siree.
I guess God decided to chill once we started shooting people into space.
You don’t need empirical evidence or peer review for the word of God. (You doubt that the bible is the inspired word of God? Would an editor have left in all those begats?)
Darwin, on the other hand, meticulously gathered — over the course of decades — an overwhelming mass of evidence supporting evolution and natural selection. He did this precisely because he knew the level of blowback he would receive from creationists.
No research has ever overturned the fact of evolution, only refined our understanding of its mechanisms. And nothing has ever been found to contradict the existence or the power of natural selection over differential survival.
Even during the so-called “Eclipse of Darwin” in the early 20th century, no credible scientists doubted the ever-mounting evidence supporting the fact of evolution. Instead, the “rediscovery of Mendel” in 1900 convinced many that Mendelian mutationism precluded the type of blended inheritance required for natural selection. (Otherwise, new traits would be quickly swamped in the population.)
It wasn’t until the neo-Darwinian “Modern Synthesis” emerged that scientist were able to integrate both competing schools of evolution into one. Far from invalidating natural selection, Mendelian inheritance (we would now call it molecular genetics) is in fact the process transmitting those selective traits.
Mendel had discovered the evolutionary Holy Grail for which Darwin had quested for in vain. (Ironically, Mendel had sent Darwin a copy of his published research, though there’s no evidence that he ever read it.)
Widely useful traits, however, are often lost when they are no longer needed. Mutations are frequently deleterious. There are countless things that can go wrong in eye development, as people born blind can attest. In cave-dwellers, mutations that lead to blindness aren’t selected against.
Sightless animals above ground would soon die. In the absence of light the blind thrive.
Still, there are reasons why ditching vision might be an evolutionary net plus. Precious calories are no longer diverted to unneeded senses and can be repurposed for more useful senses in the dark like taste.
However, it’s still an open question whether random genetic drift or active selection is most responsible for the loss of sight in cave animals. It may well be a mix of both.
In eyeless cave fish and salamanders, embryonic eyes develop normally until cell death and other processes go awry, arresting eye development at various stages. Why would God create such klugey sightlessness in cave animals? Wouldn’t God simply zap them into existence with no eyes at all from the get-go?
It’s almost as if these cave animals evolved from sighted ancestors who once dwelled above ground….
Creationists would no doubt come up with some justification to explain away the scientifically explicable. The religiously blinded thrive in the darkness of ignorance, blinded to insight.
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