... we're also grateful for guys like Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne who provide a rich source of unintended comedy. See, for example, our colleague Dr. Michael Egnor's always entertaining mining of Coyne's writings.*Well, I gotta tell you, David, that I'll be eternally grateful to the Discovery Institute for sending us Dr. Michael Egnor. It's the gift that just keeps on giving, and giving, and giving ....
* Admittedly we'd be even more pleased to have a worthy opponent on the Darwin side of the debate who did not run from a fight every time but answered our best arguments and evidence in a lucid, trenchant and informative style.
Klinghoffer was intrigued by a recent question & answer session that Dawkins conducted on Reddit. This got him (Klinghoffer) thinking. (It doesn't take much.)
This got me thinking. If you did have a chance to pose any brief question to Dawkins or Coyne, what would it be? Send me your thoughts at the link at the top of the page. They might be questions, too, that a subversive student could innocently ask in biology class when evolution comes up.I been using Icons of Evolution in my class for seven years. It's a good vehicle for teaching critical thinking because Jonathan Wells uses almost all of the major logical fallacies and show us most of the ways that science and logic can be abused.
In the meantime, to get your creative juices flowing while you're digesting what we hope will be a delicious Thanksgiving meal, here are ten good questions from the website for Jonathan Wells's Icons of Evolutions, intended to be directed at unsuspecting biology teachers ("Ten questions to ask your biology teacher about evolution").
- ORIGIN OF LIFE. Why do textbooks claim that the 1953 Miller-Urey experiment shows how life's building blocks may have formed on the early Earth -- when conditions on the early Earth were probably nothing like those used in the experiment, and the origin of life remains a mystery?
It's a mistake for textbooks to imply that the Miller-Urey experiment reproduced primitive conditions on Earth when life arose. That's why most of them don't do it any more. Most of the top biology textbooks mention other scenarios. Wells was mostly right about this but knowledgeable biologists have known about it for four decades.
- DARWIN'S TREE OF LIFE. Why don't textbooks discuss the "Cambrian explosion," in which all major animal groups appear together in the fossil record fully formed instead of branching from a common ancestor -- thus contradicting the evolutionary tree of life?
Almost all of the major introductory biology textbooks mention the "Cambrian Explosion" and the evolution of animals. More advanced textbooks on evolution will discuss the very solid evidence showing that all life, including Cambrian life, has a common ancestor. They will present, or reference, evidence that animals and other eukaryotes are part of a well-established tree of life. Some of them will discuss problems with some aspects of animal evolution, especially the rapid appearance of diverse (and disparate) forms during the Cambrian.
- HOMOLOGY. Why do textbooks define homology as similarity due to common ancestry, then claim that it is evidence for common ancestry -- a circular argument masquerading as scientific evidence?
The good ones don't do this and they never did. The evidence is similarity. One of the explanation of similarity is descent from a common ancestor, or homology. It's difficult to say whether the IDiots are actually confused about this or whether they are deliberately misleading their flock.
- VERTEBRATE EMBRYOS. Why do textbooks use drawings of similarities in vertebrate embryos as evidence for their common ancestry -- even though biologists have known for over a century that vertebrate embryos are not most similar in their early stages, and the drawings are faked?
Some of the drawings by Haeckel were faked and these have been largely purged from textbooks. Unfortunately it took more time than it should for textbook authors to realize that the drawing were inaccurate. The Haeckel drawings have been replaced by more accurate drawings and photographs that show the similarities among embryos from diverse animal species. The more up-to-date figures provide good solid evidence for evolution from a common ancestor.
- ARCHAEOPTERYX. Why do textbooks portray this fossil as the missing link between dinosaurs and modern birds -- even though modern birds are probably not descended from it, and its supposed ancestors do not appear until millions of years after it?
You would have to look very hard to find a modern textbook that makes such a specific claim. It would be a mistake to say that modern birds descend directly from Archaeopterix and that's why modern biology textbook don't do it.
- PEPPERED MOTHS. Why do textbooks use pictures of peppered moths camouflaged on tree trunks as evidence for natural selection -- when biologists have known since the 1980s that the moths don't normally rest on tree trunks, and all the pictures have been staged?
Only an IDiot would fail to realize that the photographs were staged and only an IDiot would continue to believe that moths never rest on tree trunks and large limbs [Peppered Moths and the Confused IDiots] [Revenge of the Peppered Moth]
- DARWIN'S FINCHES. Why do textbooks claim that beak changes in Galapagos finches during a severe drought can explain the origin of species by natural selection -- even though the changes were reversed after the drought ended, and no net evolution occurred?
I'm not aware of a single textbook that makes such a claim about speciation. The published results on beak size in Darwin's finches are used to illustrate natural selection and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that example. Most of the problems that arise exist only in the minds of creationists who completely misunderstand the meanings of evolution and natural selection.
No respectable textbook makes such a claim. The homeotic mutations are used as examples of how large phenotypic changes can be due to single mutations that affect development. No respectable scientist ever claimed that flies with the bithorax mutations will be viable in the wild. That's just something that the IDiots made up. In this particular case, all the evidence suggests that Wells must be lying because someone with a Ph.D. in molecular and cellualr biology just can't be that stupid.
- HUMAN ORIGINS. Why are artists' drawings of ape-like humans used to justify materialistic claims that we are just animals and our existence is a mere accident -- when fossil experts cannot even agree on who our supposed ancestors were or what they looked like?
The fact that humans are animals is as well-established as any fact in biology and the evidence relies on a lot more than speculative drawings of our recent ancestors. It's true that most of the history of hominid evolution is controversial but there's overwhelming scientific evidence that we share common ancestors with the other apes. Only an IDiot could overlook this mass of evidence and focus on irrelevant items like artist's drawings and the exact relationship between modern humans and each of the species described in the fossil record.
- EVOLUTION A FACT? Why are we told that Darwin's theory of evolution is a scientific fact -- even though many of its claims are based on misrepresentations of the facts?
I don't know of a single textbook that says "Darwin's theory of evolution" is a scientific fact. That would be mixing up "theory" and "facts." Scientists (and textbook authors) aren't stupid. IDiots, on the other hand, are that stupid. Evolution is a fact and natural selection is a fact but evolutionary theory is a scientific theory, not a fact [Evolution Is a Fact and a Theory].
David Klinghoffer, do these answers make me a worthy opponent? I sure hope so.
Do you have one on your side?