Only Turks Doubt Evolution More Than Americans

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LiveScience is reporting a new study in Science today which shows:

A comparison of peoples' views in 34 countries finds that the United States ranks near the bottom when it comes to public acceptance of evolution. Only Turkey ranked lower.

Even more disturbingly the study finds that acceptance among Americans of natural selection as the explanation for how the diversity of life on earth arose is falling:

The study found that over the past 20 years:

The percentage of U.S. adults who accept evolution declined from 45 to 40 percent.
The percentage overtly rejecting evolution declined from 48 to 39 percent, however.
And the percentage of adults who were unsure increased, from 7 to 21 percent.

The whole disheartening article here.

NEXT: They All Look Alike Anyway

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  1. It’s especially sad that these same results come just as a major advance has been made in the study of applied evolution. Scientists identified some of the proteins that bacteria use to pick up foreign DNA from their environment when their survival is threatened. This foreign DNA is incorporated into their genome as part of a dice rolling strategy for evolving resistance. When circumstances are dire, bacteria roll the dice as much as possible to try to beat the odds. A winning dice roll confers an advantage, and the winner proliferates.

    This has major implications for antibiotic resistance in bacteria. If somebody can devise a drug that thwarts this mechanism, it could be bundled with antibiotics (mixed into the same tablet, syrup, or injection) to prevent the bacteria from evolving resistance to the drug. There’s an obvious incentive here for pharmaceutical companies: Their new magic bullet drugs will be more valuable if packaged with something that prevents bacteria from evolving resistance and rendering the drug obsolete.

    EVOLUTION IS AN APPLIED SCIENCE!!!

  2. Oops, sorry for the mistake with the tags. The article is here.

  3. Actually T,

    I like what you have done with the html tags. That is big news.

  4. A decades old study found that the mutation rate of bacteria increases when they are under stress. Glad to finally know the mechanism.

    I believe in evolution, but you have to pick your battles. People disbelieving in current evolution can cause seriously harmful choices, like accidentally making the next superbug from the misuse of antibiotics or pesticides. Instead of arguing about the past, I prefer to emphasize current evolution. After all, when was the last time you made a decision based on the existence or nonexistence of the T rex?

  5. It’s not that most of these people don’t believe in evolution – they don’t really even know what it’s about. For them, it’s just a phrase that triggers the “I didn’t come from no monkey!” response or something more pointedly biblical.

    The problem for them is that they can’t believe in evolution. While nothing in evolutionary theory explicitly says anything about the origin of human beings (to paraphrase Daniel Dennett: Evolution is not a creation story, it’s a jumping into the middle story) if you extend the idea back far enough, you are faced with the possibility that Adam and Eve weren’t the first humans in direct contradiction to the Book of Genesis. Unfortunately, these devout followers simply cannot accept that because it would cast doubt on the truth and validity of other events from the Bible. For them, evolution is not merely a way of viewing the behavior of nature but, instead, a device that threatens to destroy their whole world-view as well as their sense of grand purpose.

  6. Only Turkey ranked lower.

    Turkey?! Oh, they pretty much only included European countries. The article could have made that clearer.

    Among the factors contributing to America’s low score are poor understanding of biology, especially genetics, the politicization of science and the literal interpretation of the Bible by a small but vocal group of American Christians, the researchers say.

    I’m going to go out on a limb and speculate that the effect of a poor grasp on science is miniscule compared to the effect of religious indoctrination. I wonder how many times a fundamentalist child has already been told that evolution is bunk before he reaches an age where he’s capable of understanding the science?

  7. What is the theory of Evolution?
    1. A theory of how species, already in existence, evolve over time.
    2. A theory of how species “evolve” into another species.
    3. Evolution explains the origin of life.
    4. All of the above.

    Answer:
    Evolution is provably true to in regard to #1. Both from the fossil record, from general observation, and from laboratory experiment.

    Evolution is not proven at all in regard to #2

    Evolution is even less provable in regard to #3

    So when I hear that some group doubts “evolution”, it really depends on the definition of evolution.

  8. What is the theory of Evolution?
    1. A theory of how species, already in existence, evolve over time.
    2. A theory of how species “evolve” into another species.
    3. Evolution explains the origin of life.
    4. All of the above.

    Answer:
    Evolution is provably true to in regard to #1. Both from the fossil record, from general observation, and from laboratory experiment.

    Evolution is not proven at all in regard to #2

    Evolution is even less provable in regard to #3

    So when I hear that some group doubts “evolution”, it really depends on the definition of evolution.

  9. What is the theory of Evolution?
    1. A theory of how species, already in existence, evolve over time.
    2. A theory of how species “evolve” into another species.
    3. Evolution explains the origin of life.
    4. All of the above.

    Answer:
    Evolution is provably true to in regard to #1. Both from the fossil record, from general observation, and from laboratory experiment.

    Evolution is not proven at all in regard to #2

    Evolution is even less provable in regard to #3

    So when I hear that some group doubts “evolution”, it really depends on the definition of evolution.

  10. What is the theory of Evolution?
    1. A theory of how species, already in existence, evolve over time.
    2. A theory of how species “evolve” into another species.
    3. Evolution explains the origin of life.
    4. All of the above.

    Answer:
    Evolution is provably true to in regard to #1. Both from the fossil record, from general observation, and from laboratory experiment.

    Evolution is not proven at all in regard to #2

    Evolution is even less provable in regard to #3

    So when I hear that some group doubts “evolution”, it really depends on the definition of evolution.

  11. What is the theory of Evolution?
    1. A theory of how species, already in existence, evolve over time.
    2. A theory of how species “evolve” into another species.
    3. Evolution explains the origin of life.
    4. All of the above.

    Answer:
    Evolution is provably true to in regard to #1. Both from the fossil record, from general observation, and from laboratory experiment.

    Evolution is not proven at all in regard to #2

    Evolution is even less provable in regard to #3

    So when I hear that some group doubts “evolution”, it really depends on the definition of evolution.

  12. Well put Pi Guy. Can’t believe. We need a new ‘new world’ to send our crazed religious types off to. Note that Europe shipped off all of their religious fundamentalists to the U.S. and now doesn’t have to deal with them, George W. excepted.

  13. Just to be pedantic about it, a creationist, who denies historic evolution that contradicts his favorite holy book, wouldn’t necessarily deny the possibility of applied evolution. Admittedly, it would tend to undermine his position, but the apparent contradiction could be explained away with some fancy theological footwork.

  14. Just this morning a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses approached me as I was peacefully scything my lawn, and even though I did not use the famous F.T.Grampp ploy (“Hi, we’re Jehovah’s Witnesses — Hi, I’m God.”), the conversation was polite but short.

    After they left, I noticed that they left an oil slick on my driveway.

    I hope it is not some passover sign.

    Evolution didn’t come up. It seemed unlikely. These are counterexamples.

  15. Here’s an example of shellfish evolving a fear response to a relatively new predator, one that entered their ecosystem less than 20 years ago:

    Native Mussel Quickly Evolves Fear of Invasive Crab

    The mussels are from a species that can thicken their shells when they sense the presence of a particular species of crab. In 1988, a new type of crab showed up off the Jersey shore. (Insert Jersey joke here.) Mussels collected from the vicinity of the new predator in 2002 have the ability to sense the presence of this new crab and thicken their shells in response. Mussels collected from areas unaffected by the new predator do not recognize the predator and do not respond.

    Cool stuff.

  16. I think that American’s greater reluctance to embrace evolution comes from our cultural abhorrence of elitist decision making. Europeans and the Japanese are much more comfortable with this kind of argument:

    ‘We ought to defer these questions to qualified authorities and we should have committees of scientists and engineers who we will approach for the right answers.”

    Americans are much more likely to respond to such an assertion with a hearty, “screw you” than are other peoples.

    The ugly truth is that most people who “believe” in evolution have no better understanding of its ideas than does some hick bible thumper. They believe in the general idea of evolution purely because it helps prop up their secular world model. If however, evolutionary ideas transgress on their own sacred cows they turn on it instantly. Marxist, for example, eagerly embraced the general idea of evolution in order to provide a materialistic explanation for the origins of life but they violently reject natural selection as a mechanism. For that matter, most professors in the liberal arts will still freak if you say that Darwinism has anything to teach us about human behavior.

    Political elitism has some advantages, for example the metric system, but I don’t think real scientific understanding is one of them.

  17. In 1988, a new type of crab showed up off the Jersey shore.

    It could only have come from the labratory of Dr. Weird.

    Gentlemen, behold!

  18. “The ugly truth is that most people who “believe” in evolution have no better understanding of its ideas than does some hick bible thumper.”

    When it comes to science, I am nothing more than a layman with a layman’s interest in the changes in science and technology.

    Is my understanding of evolution as nuanced as a biology grad student?

    Nay.

    But looking around me, I can see all of the wonderful advances that are a direct result of science.

    If I get sick, I can go to the doctor and get a prescription of antibiotics.

    According to the people who have developed these things, it would not have been possible to invent such medicines without an understanding of the underlying biological functions.

    So, yes, I am taking these authorities at their word that they know what they’re talking about. And why shouldn’t I? After all, they’re the ones who developed the medicine in the first place.

    On the other hand, I have yet to see even one minor scientific advancement made by advocates of Intelligent Design, Creationism, or whatever it is they’re calling it this week.

    The results speak for themselves, and I can no more give credence to Creationism than I can to those who advocate over unity drives and free energy.

    Of creationism, I have but one question:
    Where’s the beef?

  19. Shannon-

    I see your point, except that the creationists don’t seem to be so much anti-authority as anti-science. Leave aside any other political stances that may or may not be common among creationists, and we’re left with the fact that they base their opinion on the assertions of an authority. If you confront them with contradictions between their beliefs and observed facts they’ll defer to authority.

    I’m not saying that your average person who accepts evolution is necessarily a free-spirited independent thinker. I’m just saying that there’s nothing particularly anti-authoritarian about creationism. It’s more about opposition to a particular authority.

    On the other hand, I guess you could argue that Biblical literalism is in a way a rejection of human authorities. You don’t need doctrines or philosophies or historical context or good translations or any other body of knowledge, you just need to read what it says and that’s that. If some smarmy professorial type shows up and says “Well, in the original language of the Bible it actually meant something closer to such-and-such, and what you’re reading is actually a bad translation”, the literalist can just say “Should I trust the word of God or should I trust your dictionary?” If the smarmy professor says “Look, this is all allegorical,” or metaphorical, or some other literary device, the literalist can say “Why should I jump through the mental gymnastics that you want me to jump through when I can just read the word of God?”

    So I guess you could say that Biblical literalists are rejecting a particular type of earthly authority.

  20. Hmm, as I think about it, some of the more fundamentalist protestants have little in the way of organized clergy, and require little formal training for the leaders in their churches. Now, we can say what we want about how they exhibit authoritarian behaviors in other aspects of their lives, but the fact remains that at least in religion they eschew human authorities and hierarchies.

    I could note that most Muslims have little in the way of formal clergy with hierarchies and formal educational credentials (Shias being a significant exception).

    And mediageek makes a good point: The layman doesn’t understand evolution on a very deep level, and he certainly knows next to nothing about organic chemistry, thermodynamics, quantum physics, and lots of other scientific topics. Nonetheless, the layman is assured that these subjects are correct by people who deliver the goods. Semiconductor and laser engineers know all about quantum mechanics, and they can assure that it works and then prove it with DVD players and cell phones and computers. (OK, there are some open questions about the quantum measurement problem, but the basic predictions work so well that engineers can use them to deliver the goods.) Chemical engineers deliver countless products in your daily life, and they can assure you that organic chemistry and thermodynamics are valid. You don’t have to know anything about the subject, you just have to note that there’s a host of people who have both attained educational credentials and also delivered successful products in the marketplace, and they all seem to agree that the scientific theories are correct.

    When engineers and scientists keep delivering the goods in a competitive market, they earn a certain amount of credibility.

  21. Given all the new-age, magic-bullet alternative medicine, and screwball health stuff Americans swallow(literally), it’s not surprising that they buy into creationism. On the other hand, maybe widespread gullibility it what gives the American market its dynamism.

  22. Turkey also ranks lowest in flossing?
    If the country would floss their mountains, Noah’s Ark would finally be dislodged.

    Where the Ark is, evolution is not.

  23. Quoth “Skeptic”:
    3. Evolution explains the origin of life. […] Evolution is even less provable in regard to #3

    Hardly surprising, as evolutionary theory does not, in fact, address the origins of life. As Pi Guy rightly points out, it’s “a jumping into the middle story.”

    2. A theory of how species “evolve” into another species. […] Evolution is not proven at all in regard to #2 That’s just plain wrong. Speciation does occur, and in accordance with predictions made in line with evolutionary theory. I suggest you go over the TalkOrigins list of Creationist claims.

  24. “If the country would floss their mountains, Noah’s Ark would finally be dislodged.”

    I see we’re fans of Cristo.

  25. mediageek,
    Why have we not already asked Cristo to explain evolution to us?
    He and Mrs. Cristo know…
    Sad that they are only visual and not verbal.

  26. thoreau,

    If you study evangelical christianity in detail you will find that anti-authoritiarism plays a very significant role in both the theological and practical organization of the various sects. They don’t follow religious authorities and they won’t follow scientific ones either. In this they earn my begrudging respect even though I strongly disagree with their conclusions.

    One reason that they distrust evolutionary theory is that they view it as arising from theological, sociological and political motives divorced from real science. They are not completely wrong in that suspicion. A desire to undermine theological authority drove many proponents of the idea of evolution well into the 20th century and as I noted above many people secularist embrace evolution (and other sciences) very selectively. Moreover, the evangelicals have valid reasons to be concerned about the political uses of evolutionary theory. Both communism and fascism based much of their rationale on evolutionary ideas that while now discredited, were in the scientific mainstream circa 1900.

    The history of evolutionary theory is filled with detours and dead ends. Natural selection was rejected by most scientist as a significant driver of evolution from roughly 1870-1940. Most of the mainstream thought on the subject during that time is now regarded as rubbish. Yet the same arrogance and elitism we see today was directed against those who questioned the idea back then.

    The story isn’t as simple as ignorant hicks versus educated sophisticates.

  27. Practical biology is in no way derived from evolution theory. We could all have been created 10 mins. ago with all our memories, and it would make no difference in terms of predictive value in biology or medicine. Evolution theory addresses the question, “What did happen?” while most of science, and all of applied science, asks, “What would happen if…?”

    So it’s not true that successes in applied biology say anything about the reliability of evolutionary biology. By contrast, theory of gravitation is verified by applications every time something is weighed.

  28. So who do we blame? The feminazis for decrying science as a form of rape, or the fundies for preaching idiocy?

  29. Shannon-

    I grant that the DIY aspect of Biblical literalism, where in many sects just about anybody can become a preacher, has a certain grassroots, anti-authoritarian, free-wheeling aspect to it. People can read the Bible for themselves rather than rely on received wisdom from authorities.

    OTOH, the rejection of evolution is still based on a preference for an absolute authority over a process of inquiry and testing. It is a worldview that leaves no room for an individual with a new idea to come along and change things. Certain areas of knowledge are fixed in stone rather than subject to constant testing and revision in response to new ideas that pass tests.

    In that sense, science is an individualistic enterprise: Anybody with a good enough idea can turn the world upside down if he works hard. (I know, it isn’t quite that simple, but there’s still a lot of truth to it.)

    I give them full credit for stubbornness and rejection of certain authorities, but they are still rejecting a very open process in favor of absolute authority.

    Robert-

    Practical biology can, in principle, be done without evolution, but knowledge of evolution makes many inquiries much easier. Antibiotic resistance is one obvious area. Also, I’ve been to talks on cancer research where people will discuss the roles of different genes. When a gene has been conserved across many species they take that as evidence that the gene confers a vital survival advantage. When a gene is relatively new, or when a change in the gene happened relatively recently, then they are more open to the possibility that it is pathological. (I’m simplifying considerably, but the point remains that when a gene has been conserved across many different species that usually indicates something significant, and researchers take note of that when trying to make decisions about how to proceed with their inquiry.)

  30. I had a cool theory last night that I tried to post about 100 times.

    An answer to Skeptic

    Something about how evolution allows a thread to have sixtuplet or seventuplet postings, and then a new thread many threads later, on the same topic, said to be born of the original thread, only has double or triple posts.

    So far though it is only a theory

  31. The percentage of people “accepting evolution?” What a weird way to put it. It’s not like someone “accepting Jesus,” you know.

    Here’s a theory: Evolution is the creation of God. Yeah, I know, don’t stir the shit and it won’t stink.

  32. “Practical biology can, in principle, be done without evolution, but knowledge of evolution makes many inquiries much easier. Antibiotic resistance is one obvious area.”

    Nah. Nobody discovers anything useful about antibiotic resistance as a byproduct to answering the questions addressed by evolution theory. Apparently you and some others in this thread are confusing “selection” of alleles, which nobody denies occurs, with evolution. In this case as in others, it would not matter one bit to applied biology if we all came into existence 10 mins. ago with all our memories, G.B. Shaw style.

    “Also, I’ve been to talks on cancer research where people will discuss the roles of different genes. When a gene has been conserved across many species they take that as evidence that the gene confers a vital survival advantage. When a gene is relatively new, or when a change in the gene happened relatively recently, then they are more open to the possibility that it is pathological. (I’m simplifying considerably, but the point remains that when a gene has been conserved across many different species that usually indicates something significant, and researchers take note of that when trying to make decisions about how to proceed with their inquiry.)”

    The same conclusion can be drawn by designers. You can look at the common, “conserved” elements of bldgs. and infer from them which are the important parts to hold them up, and which are merely decorative. A biologist could be an evolutionist or a designer, and it’d make no difference in terms of the predictive results of that person’s cancer research.

  33. Robert-

    I actually agree to some extent. A notion of common design could probably inform inquiries like the one that I described. Somebody could say “Well, the designer used this same form over and over again because it’s very useful.” It probably wouldn’t work as well, but you could get by in making some ad hoc explanations.

    The thing is, if you are looking for an intellectual framework to guide a scientific inquiry, you want to pick the one that is not only useful, but also informed by empirical evidence. It’s much safer that way. And, to be honest, I think that interpreting data in light of design would still require more mental gymnastics than interpreting data in light of evolution. More mental gymnastics means more chances to fuck up.

    Evolution might not be an absolutely crucial piece of the biologist’s day to day toolbox, but it is still a tremendously fruitful and informative idea that people use to help understand very real and significant problems. Scientists prefer to use tools that are based on, you know, real data.

  34. Evolution and Creationism are not mutually exlusive dipshits.

  35. Apparently you and some others in this thread are confusing “selection” of alleles, which nobody denies occurs, with evolution.

    The confusion lies on someone else, Robert . . . Evolution WORKS by natural selection – that is what evolution is really. Saying “alleles” selection is another way of saying Natural Selection.

  36. But nobody doubts “natural selection” (I put quotes around it when I teach my Evolution courses, because there’s nobody actually doing any selecting in it, it’s a metaphor) occurs. What some people doubt is that it explains the main question evolution theory addresses: “How did the variety of living things come about?”

  37. Hmm, Zach, what is a “mutually exclusive dipshit?”

  38. Ruthless & Ruthlessita

    I?m glad we agree on both #1 and #3, but it seems we disagree on #2, Speciation.

    I challenge you to cite a single provable instance of Speciation. Just one. Your only response was to refer to a website that makes my point better than yours. It says ?Darwin explained at length how a species can change its form gradually but, over long periods of time, drastically. Even if new species did not branch off from such a lineage, many people would still consider that process an origin of new species.?

    True, Darwin tried to explain it, but it has never come close to being proven even after thousands of scientists have spent over 50 years of trying (I will cite examples below). Plus, even the quotation you refer to states that a new species does not branch off from gradual change over time: ?Even if new species did not branch off from such a lineage, many people would still consider that process an origin of new species.? Thus your reference makes my point better than yours.

    And who are the ?many people? that would consider that process to be a new species? True there are many definitions of what constitutes a species, but for Darwin?s theory of evolution to be true we need sexual speciation to the extent that all mammals are tied to a shared ancestor. That means humans and dolphins have a distant shared lineage but sexual speciation occurred so that there is no cross breeding between humans and dolphins (let?s hope not), thus sexual speciation requires an ?indefinite departure from the original type.? The problem with Darwin?s theory is that there is no proof of that in spite of decades of trying, and considerable disproof of that. I know this can be hard believe since it seems to run contrary to conventional wisdom, but it is true. For example:

    Experiments began on fruit flies about 100 years ago and have continued ever since. With a 2-week life cycle, fruit flies are an ideal experimental animal for speciation. Since it was discovered that X-rays cause genes to mutate 150 times as frequently as occurs in nature, we have been zapping fruit flies ever since as a way of getting them to evolve into something else, i.e speciation. But whenever some type of incipient speciation was created, the fruit flies didn?t cooperate. Rather than observing speciation we have instead observed ?reversion to the mean?. The closest we?ve come was to create a mutated fruit fly without eyes. But after 10 generations later, its fruit fly descendants were found to have reverted to normal, the eyes were back (!) thus suggesting reversion to mean rather than speciation. This reversion to mean is also supported by breeders and horticulturists.

    p.s. to Thoreau. Sorry about the multiple posts, my browser hung and I clicked the submit times a few times to try and revive it and accidentally caused the triple-post.

  39. Skeptic, I’m afraid these are just not very good arguments. I think a very basic misunderstanding that you have that is pretty important is that you seem to think that evolution predicts that one sort of animal will change into a different sort. But that’s quite the opposite of what evolution suggests or requires. It’s descent with modification, not cats from dogs. No descendant of a fruit fly will ever be anything other than a fruit fly, just like no descendant of mammals will be anything other than a mammal. Human beings, for instance, still belong to every major ancestral taxon: we are still eukaryotes, still chordates, still tetrapods, still amniotes, and so on.

    You obviously do not know much more about fruit flies than creationist websites claim. Fruit fly speciation was observed way back in 1963 where two populations developed hybrid sterility. It’s not commonly expected to see fruit fly speciation since the vast majority of work done on fruit flies isn’t to develop distinct breeding populations, and there is lots of interbreeding. Yet we see speciation happening anyway. You can try to move the goalposts if you like “but they are still fruit flies” but again: if you think that evolution predicts that some descendant of a fruit fly would cease to be a fruit fly, then you are mistaken, and your misunderstanding of evolution seems more to blame than any problem with the theory itself.

    Even if we couldn’t observe speciation directly happening in nature, the evidence for it having happened is overwhelming and omnipresent. You may not like talk-origins, but I doubt you can refute anything they say, and this page pretty much makes the case from every angle that common descent is just a scientific reality:
    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/

    More important than any individual line of evidence, however, is the way in which all these different lines all fit together to outline the same basic patterns of relation, ancestry, and process. Even if you were to convince yourself that each and every element of the evidence is somehow in error, you’d still have the huge problem of explaining why these supposedly errorneous conclusions all reach the SAME conclusions in great detail. Errors generally do not coordinate themselves: only truth provides a common framework off of which evidence can converge.

  40. Plunge,

    Thanks for the reply. While your post is written as though you are correcting me, I think that you and I may agree more than we disagree. I was responding to a reply of my original post where I asked the following question:
    What is evolution?
    1. A theory of how species, already in existence, evolve over time.
    2. A theory of how species “evolve” into another species.
    3. Evolution explains the origin of life.
    4. All of the above.

    I asked that question as a way to draw some distinctions in the debate since it seems to me most people don’t even have a proper definition of Evolution.

    To which I answered:
    Evolution is provably true to in regard to #1, both from the fossil record, from general observation, and from laboratory experiment.
    Evolution is not proven in regard to #2
    Evolution is even less provable in regard to #3

    It seems that you have agreed with me in regard to #1, because you say that evolution is “descent with modification, not cats from dogs. No descendant of a fruit fly will ever be anything other than a fruit fly”
    So it appears we agree on #1.

    But illogically you both agree and disagree with me in regard to #2.

    You agree with me when you say that evolution does not predict speciation. You said:
    “I think a very basic misunderstanding that you have that is pretty important is that you seem to think that evolution predicts that one sort of animal will change into a different sort. But that’s quite the opposite of what evolution suggests or requires.”

    Which was the point I was trying to make in #2, that evolution is unproven in regard to speciation. And if you agree with me on points #1 and #2, then you would logically have to agree with me in regard to #3. I’m glad we’re in agreement.

    But unfortunately you then went on to make a confusing point further down in your post.
    You make the following statement:
    “Even if we couldn’t observe speciation directly happening in nature, the evidence for it having happened is overwhelming and omnipresent”….”More important than any individual line of evidence, however, is the way in which all these different lines all fit together to outline the same basic patterns of relation, ancestry, and process.”

    I don’t get it; you spend the first part of your post telling me why speciation isn’t predicted by evolution (which I agree with) but then your reverse yourself and tell me that the evidence for speciation is “overwhelming”.

    So if I understand you correctly you are saying that the evidence for speciation is omnipresent and overwhelming, but that it isn’t the result of the theory of evolution?

    One last point; If you want to challenge someone’s point of view, challenge it with facts rather than dispute it by telling me that I “do not know much more about fruit flies than creationist websites claim.” That’s not an argument.

    I am not a frequenter of creationist websites, although I do enjoy the reading David Berlinksi, who is a Jewish mathematician and polymath. I have an M.S in engineering and am persuaded by scientific facts rather than unsupported assertions. I only started delving into this debate after I read an article by Charles Krauthammer claim that silicon would one day achieve consciousness because it is subject to the same forces of evolution that caused carbon atoms to evolve into life, and then, ultimately, conscious human beings. Krauthammer is a bright guy and a medical doctor to boot (a Psychiatrist unfortunately) so I was stunned to see such an ignorant statement made by such an intelligent and educated man. The more I read about evolution, the more I conclude that most people drastically overstate the theory.

  41. I think you are the one who is confused about what I was saying. I never said that evolution doesn’t cause speciation. What I said is that you have the mistaken idea that speciation involves fruit flies becoming non-fruit flies and that speciation means that some descendant of a fruit fly will cease to be a fruit fly. It doesn’t. Making, for instance, fruit flies speciate is trivial and replicable:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speciation

    Generally, when confronted with this, evolution skeptics retreat to the claim that “well they are still fruit flies!” My post was mostly responding to that idea: that evolution suggests that the descendants of fruit flies would no longer be fruit flies. This claim is exactly as silly as claiming that between the early, very reptillian mammals and an elephant “well, it’s still a mammal!”

    I think I’m presenting evidence where necessary (and if you read the common descent FAQ, I think it explains pretty well why the evidence for common descent is overwhelming), but I think your problems are largely conceptual: you have a number of confusions about how taxonomy works and what that implies about evolution.

    This IS a somewhat confusing issue, I don’t claim it isn’t! The problem with Linnean taxonomy is that it doesn’t expand in a way consistent with how evolution works. As a result, we’ve ended up shoehorning it (creating all manner of absurdly precise sub-categories like subphyla, superphyla, etc.) Cladistics, which is a system more suited to the task, works by constructing branching ancestries and numbering the branches. Unfortunately, it lacks the cool latin names for things and we’re just stuck in the Linnean habit.

    “Which was the point I was trying to make in #2, that evolution is unproven in regard to speciation.”

    But that isn’t what I said at all. What I was pointing out is that your concept of speciation is flawed. Speciation is well established and you’d be hard pressed to find any mainstream biologist who even thinks it’s a debatable issue. Even most of the ID camp conceedes that speciation is real. They would be hard pressed not to: once you accept ANY genetic change that can alter the frequency of alleles in a population, you’ve already conceded speciation, because speciation is nothing more than reproductive incompatibility, and its easy to see that if two once compatible groups are allowed to develop separately, the particular sets of alleles found in the two populations will diverge, ultimately to the point where reproduction between the two will fail due to this incompatibility.

    The fact that the history of life on earth can be shown to have all the features of an ancestral descent from early life is likewise indisputable, especially on the grand view. Again, refer to that FAQ, as it really is quite good at laying out the basic idea for laypeople such as we.

    What I really want to get across, however, is the idea that new species are not ever on the same “level” as the old species. That is, we never really see new, for instance, “orders” evolving today. In a certain sense, there was a time when things at the level of _todays_ usage of “order” were evolving, and that time is now past, and all the subsequent evolution happens in categories “below” the level of order. You often hear people exclaim that during the Cambrian explosion we saw all the major phyla evolution that would ever occur. And that’s true, but misleading if you don’t understand how taxonomy works. It can’t HELP but be true because of the way we construct taxonomical categories and the way that evolution works. Because evolution conceptually is a tree/bush/whatever, we have endless branching. But the old branch points are in the PAST, and they always will be what define things like the different between, say, the phyla. All future change happens at the ends of the branches, and thus the old categories will remain untouched by any new developments.

    THIS IS ALSO THE CASE WITH MODERN SPECIES NAMES. That is to say, that the divisions we refer to as species are now in the past. In the future, any new species will descend from those species groups. However, now we are in a connundrum, because while we have new “species,” the old “species” category is still quite meaningful and useful. So we either have to bump up the species name to become, say a “sub-genus” name, or basically crown a “subspecies” name to be the new species and declare the old species name to be the new genus, and so on. Do you see the problem?

    We always see things evolving that are modifications and SUBGROUPS of what came before. This is true all the way from single-celled life to modern-day gerbils. Gerbils, no matter how radically different from an ameoba, are still just a particular subgroup of eukaryotes. No matter how different a gerbil becomes, the remnants of its eukaryote history will be unmistakable in the way that it is allied with them rather than with prokaryotes. In EXACTLY the same way, for EXACTLY the same reasons, as gerbils speciate into the future, all their varied descendants will still be helpfully and meanigfully grouped under the heading “gerbil.” Even if a future gerbil develops wings the ancestral relation will remain clear: those wings will be of a form distinct to gerbils, only modified. They will be far more like, in their genetic and morphological construction, gerbil phsyiology than they will like that of a bird or an insect, or even like of a bat or a flying squirrel.

    btw, #3 isn’t evolution in any strict sense of the word (meaning biological evolution), and only creationists ever argue that it is. We don’t have any good grasp of exactly what the mechanisms for #3 could be. We DO have a lot of interesting possibilities open to future exploration though, and we DO know that most of the common arguments against abiogenesis being plausible are complete bunk: bad math, bad chemistry, bad faith.

    But again, evolution does not and can not explain the origin of life, because life is necessary for biological evolution to work. We could call abiogenesis “evolution” in the sense that the common usage of the word just means “change,” but it’s very important to realize that abiogenesis, whatever it is, is necessarily a different and distinct process from biological evolution, and the two do not really rest on each other.

    “I am not a frequenter of creationist websites, although I do enjoy the reading David Berlinksi, who is a Jewish mathematician and polymath.”

    Well there’s your problem. Berlinski is not going to give anyone an honest or accurate account of anything in biology. If he really is a polymath, then he is a case in point about how being a genius in one subspecialty doesn’t prevent one from making laughably silly mistakes and errors in others. I’ve read plenty of Berlinski, and I’ve read nothing to convince me that he has any clue what he’s talking about. Plenty of other mathematicians have pointed out serious and even damning problems with his arguments, and they have been far more convincing than he has.

    Here’s one such critique:
    http://goodmath.blogspot.com/2006/03/berlinskis-bad-math.html

    But if you think he has some good points, let’s hear them.

    If you tire of posting in a dying thread, my email works as well, or you could suggest another forum.

  42. i prefer to believe the principle of natural selection. only stronger can survive.

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