Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Do you really "get" evolution?

Stephanie Keep is the new editor of Reports of the National Center for Science Education at NCSE (National Center for Science Education).

She tells an interesting story in her first post on the Science Laegue of Amercia blog [A New Finger in the Pie].
An editor friend of mine asked me the other day to read an activity she’s developing for middle school, one of the soon-to-be plethora of activities aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards. This particular one was about evolution, and asked kids to look for variation in a number of human traits and then infer adaptive explanations. For example, they could measure finger lengths and then come up with a reason that longer fingers are more adaptive than shorter ones. What followed was a half-hour conversation in which I tried my best to explain why that was a terrible idea for an activity. And here’s the thing—this friend of mine, she’s super-smart and has an advanced degree in biology from Harvard University. Now, she completely understood, once we discussed it, why that kind of activity will reinforce misconceptions about evolution (that every feature is adaptive, that you can infer a structure’s adaptive value from its current function, etc.), but we still had to have the discussion.

I have worked for the past decade-plus with scientists, science writers, and science educators, all of whom have the best intentions in the world, all of whom would have no problem declaring their allegiance to the cause of an authentic science education grounded in evolution. But—and I don’t want to point fingers at anybody here—many of them would have not batted an eye if that activity had come across their desks. And this, I believe, is one of the most important truths we have to face: many of us don’t really get evolution. It’s such a beautiful, simple, and powerful idea, but it’s also finicky, demanding vigilant attention to detail to be properly explained and explored.
Most of you will be familiar with this idea since I've been complaining about adaptationism for decades. In order to "get" evolution, you need to know about Neutral Theory and random genetic drift—and that's just for starters. We need to work much harder to dispel misconceptions about evolution.

Lot's of people don't really "get" evolution but, in fairness, they don't study it either. But if you are going to write about evolution—or teach it—then you'd better make sure you understand it. Unfortunately, there are far too many people like Stephanie Keep's friend. We have to fix that.

There's one group that spends an extraordinary amount of time "studying" evolution without ever "getting" it. I'm referring to creationists, especially the Intelligent Design Creationists, otherwise known as IDiots. They've been told time and time again that there's much more to evolution than just adaptation. Recently, some of them actually seemed to "get" the ideas of Neutral Theory and random genetic drift although that turned out to be an illusion. They still don't get evolution.

In any case, one of the creationists (Donald McLaughlin1) has blogged about Stephanie Keep's story [see A New Hire at the National Center for Science Education Admits "Many of Us Don't Really Get Evolution"]. Here's part of what McLaughlin says,
Bear in mind, too, that the very educators who don't get evolution are also the ones who fuss and complain whenever a state legislator or science standards committee member proposes language about "teaching the strengths and weaknesses" of evolution. From the way they kvetch, you would think there are no weaknesses in evolutionary theory. But if many of them don't get evolution in the first place, how would they know?

Keep says that evolution is a "beautiful, simple, and powerful idea, but it's also finicky, demanding vigilant attention to detail to be properly explained and explored." Perhaps Keep could provide a helpful list of exactly what those details are so educators like her Harvard-trained friend can stay on the straight and narrow Darwinian path, lest they join the chorus calling for a new theory of evolution.
This is ironic and confused on so many levels that I'm not even going to try and point them out. I just post it here for your amusement.


1. Here's his profile on the Discovery Institute website.
Donald McLaughlin joined Discovery Institute in August 2013, as a Development Officer and Regional Representative in the upper Midwest and Northeast regions. His areas of responsibility include cultivating and stewarding major gifts, and planned giving. Donald has had a successful career in development, including 8 years as a Regional Director of Advancement for Prison Fellowship Ministries, 2 years as National Director of Major Gifts for Teen Mania Ministries and 5 years as Regional Director of Advancement for Taylor University.

Donald is a 1975 graduate of Taylor University where he earned his BA in Speech and Drama. In 1977, he earned an MA in Clinical Audiology from Ball State University in Muncie, IN. While at Prison Fellowship, Donald also participated in the Centurions Program. Prior to his work in Development, Donald spent more than twenty years in financial services with both AG Edwards and Merrill Lynch. Donald lives in Granger Indiana, near South Bend, with his wife of 35 years, Elizabeth, who is Chair of the Communications Department at Bethel College in Mishawaka, IN. Donald enjoys reading, traveling, and music.
He also has a religious profile at: Donald McLaughlin.

246 comments :

  1. Reading his DI profile I couldn't figure out why he would be qualified to talk about evolution, but then I realized he has a religious profile, too. [/sarcasm]

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  2. Lets say someone wants to "get" evolution completely, as best as he can. How would one do that? What resources would he use?

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    1. Oh, I dunno ... :-)

      Maybe a textbook?

      I recommend "Evolution" by Douglas Futuyma.

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    2. Futuyma's book is to complicated, esp. for people who don't have an undergrad degree. OK, maybe it's all right for brighter undergrads.

      But such a detailed understanding is not necessary for non-specialists. For a start, I recommend Doug Theobald's online 29+ Evidences for Macroevolution.

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    3. Is it better than Evolution by Barton et al.? I haven't looked at the 3rd Edition, yet, but I preferred it over the 2nd Ed. The things noted as having received major updates in 3rd seem to be topics covered by excellent literature - Wägeles Phylogenetic Systematics and the 3rd Ed. of Principles of Paleontology by Foote and Miller.

      And just so Joe doesn't have to mention it: http://evolution.gs.washington.edu/pgbook/pgbook.html

      I think a decent suggestion might also be to start out with a solid footing in probability theory. Not only is it tremendously helpful when trying to understand evolution (and absolutely necessary at some point), it also helps you understand a lot of other things (like what the problem with quantum gravity is).

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    4. I'm several chapters into Futuyma's Evolution 3rd edition and I think it's a fantastic text. I'm not a biology major by any stretch (I'm going to major in cosmology) but I was interested in having a more solid foundation of evolution because I found it absolutely fascinating (especially cetacean evolution!)

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  3. I think the "this could be a reason for that" type of adaptationist thought can be a nice start for doing some research, but it requires a lot of immediate and self-critical examination, even before it gets to the stage where you could start to think about how you'd test it to see if it was so. (Most of the time I'd expect the results of a good test to be either negative or inconclusive; a "postive" result would be more likely accurately stated as "strongly suggestive".) Mostly people -- including too many pros -- treat it as the end product instead of the barest of beginnings. All that is far beyond high school and middle school students. Like I said, it's beyond advanced amateurs and too many professionals.

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  4. Larry, that's an obvious problem with the exercise, but your response to it could be considered expert kibitzing. In high school and even college civics courses, we still learn the Schoolhouse Rock version of legislation, even though it doesn't really happen that way. But understanding that pathway is an important cognitive step to understanding more deeply the actual process, and if you don't get deeper and understand the actual process, you have a superficial cognitive model of a simpler process, on which you can base your understanding of current events, and which you can use as a cognitive model for other things, such as, for example, organizing your home or your club.

    You've got do have a deep, intuitive understanding of what adaptation is before you can step back and then show where it happens and where it doesn't. There are likely some good, concrete ways to teach adaptation that won't confuse biology, such as, for a crazy example off the top of my head, card playing strategies. But no, that's too complex, offhand I think the (wrong) biological examples might be the best, most concrete, leveraging off of experience, way to teach adaptation.

    Or how would you recommend teaching THAT concept? A simple preface of "this is not a good or complete description of what's really happening" should be enough.

    As a side note, I haven't looked at numbers in many years, do you have any ballpark for, in complex organisms, how often a trait is fixed in a large, general population, that is not an adaptive trait?

    And would you really recommend Futuyma to a middle school student?

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    1. The curriculum in Ontario high schools includes random genetic drift and an understanding of population genetics. I don't think these are difficult concepts.

      As a side note, I haven't looked at numbers in many years, do you have any ballpark for, in complex organisms, how often a trait is fixed in a large, general population, that is not an adaptive trait?

      To a first approximation, about 99% of all alleles that have been fixed in the human lineage are nearly neutral alleles fixed by random genetic drift [see Why are the human and chimpanzee/bonobo genomes so similar? ]. I don't know about you but I think it's important for students to understand the major mechanism of evolution. I also think it's really important for them to understand variation and why different humans don't look the same.

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    2. Here's a change to the original exercise that might work for Larry's goals. Instead of having the kids determine the adaptive benefit to any variation, have them simply decide whether the variation IS adaptive or not (answers in the back of the book: 'highly unlikely'). Instead of locking them into adaptationist thinking - the bane of poorly-taught high school biology - they could be looking at the world thinking "is this particular variation adaptive or not" instead of "how does this variation provide adaptive benefit" from the get-go. Less unscientific thinking to undo later in college.

      My high school biology was a joke, I had to take an AP level course just to get any serious intro to evolution and even then drift and neutral theory were just taught as "background noise" whose only value was in detecting selection acting upon alleles.

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    3. @Sean Boyle
      Or better still...teach the fact that if you observe variation it is unikely that selection is acting on a trait, because that tends to deplete variation. Only then we can proceed to more complex cases like balancing selection.

      I always hate it when people immediately associate variation with natural selection: that is the wrong way around.

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    4. Do the renowned evolutionists Motoo Kimura, Jack King and Masatoshi Nei “get” evolution (see the excerpt below from Nei’s 2013 book “Mutation-Driven Evolution”)? Apparently not, according to this post by Lawrence Moran.

      “…many evolutionists including Motoo Kimura and Jack King believed that phenotypic evolution is caused primarily by natural selection. By contrast, Nei (1975, 1987, 2007) proposed that since phenotypic evolution is ultimately controlled by DNA and RNA molecules, both molecular and phenotypic evolution must be primarily caused by mutation. Nei’s view has been based on the new findings in the study of molecular evolution and developmental biology. He considered all kinds of DNA changes (nucleotide substitution, gene duplication, polyploidization, epigenetics, etc.) as mutations and tried to explain all phenotypic evolution by mutation. Previously I called this view neomutationism (Nei 1983, 1984), neoclassic theory (Nei 1987), and the new mutation theory (Nei 2007), but in this book I have decided to call it the theory of mutation-driven evolution or neomutationism depending on convenience”

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    5. Declaring everybody else to adhere to the Modern Synthesis, which you also declare to be dead, has the great advantage of placing your own work at the core of evolutionary biology.

      I'll make an exception for Larry, who is neither claiming to have killed the Modern Synthesis himself, not claiming to have invented the theory that replaced it. But Larry is wrong in many of his claims about the weakness of natural selection. To the list of people who don't "get" evolution I should also be added, because for most phenotypic change I don't think the selection on it is sufficiently weak to be overridden by neutral changes. For example I keep pointing out that in a population whose effective size is N, selection coefficients as small as 1/(4N) will be effective. And that's very small: for N = 1,000,000 the selection coefficients have to be less than about 0.00000025 to be ineffective in the face of genetic drift. There is a similar problem with respect to mutation rates: they will overwhelm selection, but only when the selection coefficient is less than the mutation rate. That'\ requires an even smaller selection coefficient.

      So add me to the list of those who don't "get" evolution.

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    6. @Joe

      On paper, it will be possible for natural selection to fix an allele with a very small selection coefficient.

      Let's take your example of an allele with s=0.00000025 in an effective population size of one million ( N=1,000,000). The time to fixation will be about 70,000,000 (70 million) generations and that's a very long time to maintain a population of one million interbreeding individuals. The probability of fixation is about 2s, or, in this case, about 0.0000005. The allele will be lost before fixation in 99.999% of all cases. Those aren't very good odds.

      I really don't think that's going to be a significant factor in evolution because most effective population sizes are way smaller than one million and very few alleles will manifest such tiny beneficial effects in the real world.

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    7. I think Larry just added himself to the circle of people who don't get evolution. The classical approximation of fixation probabilities of 2s for s=1/4N? Seriously? To state the obvious, this approximation yields a probability of 1/2N and thus the value for strict neutrality. Which means that it's not an approximation you want to use if you want to check whether selection coefficient of that magnitude differ significantly from neutrality - that's begging the question isn't it?

      Using Kimuras formula and assuming allelic selection, I get a probability of fixation of 7.9*10^-7, which would imply a rate of fixation of 1.58µ, which does differ from the neutral rate.

      Now, IIRC correctly to have a significant effect you need 2Ns>1, so that example would be in the near neutral range. But you can of course detect selection at that OOM if you are looking at multiple loci.

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    8. Updated list of people who don’t “get” evolution:

      Motoo Kimura
      Jack King
      Masatoshi Nei
      Joe Felsenstein
      Lawrence A. Moran

      Anybody else? Quest?

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    9. @Claudiu Bandea,

      I think you are the person who says that some species have evolved large genomes full of excess noninformational DNA in order to protect their genes from insertional mutagenesis by viruses and transposons. Is that correct?

      Is that how you "get" evolution?

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    10. @Simon Gunkel

      Your poiint is well taken. I could have used a much more accurate formula to determine the probability of fixation. But it doesn't change the big picture. I want readers to understand that tiny selection coefficients are not going to lead to automatic fixation. In fact, evev if you had an idealized population that was isolated for several million years, you would be hard pressed to distnguish between alleles on their way to fixation by natural selection and alleles that had no effect whatsoever on survivability or reproductive succes.

      Furthermore, it's difficult to imagine alleles whose selection coefficients are so tiny as the ones you and Joe propose. Unfortunately, we don't have any real-world examples but that's not my point. My point is that I can't even IMAGINE what one would look like. Can you?

      To get back to the original experiment, do you think it's a good idea to tell the students that all the variation they see around them is actually natural selection in action? Should you tell them that all those traits like the shape of their ear lobes and whether they can roll their tongue have very small benefiicial properties and natural selection will eventually lead to their fixation?

      Or, is it better to teach them that natural selection isn't as powerful as they might think and assign them the Gould & Lewontin "Spandrels" paper?

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    11. I want readers to understand that tiny selection coefficients are not going to lead to automatic fixation.

      No finite selection coefficient leads to automatic fixation. Depending on how you make your idealizations, you don't get there in infinite populations either, the 2s approximation is one of these (and obviously doesn't yield automatic fixation), the logistic growth model only gets to fixation after an infinite number of generations...

      In fact, evev if you had an idealized population that was isolated for several million years, you would be hard pressed to distnguish between alleles on their way to fixation by natural selection and alleles that had no effect whatsoever on survivability or reproductive succes.

      Some caveats are needed here I think. We can distinguish between a case where there are only neutral alleles and a case where there are very small values for s, if we look at a lot of sites. So even if we can not reject the null hypothesis of neutrality for an individual allele, we can reject the null of "all alleles are neutral".

      Secondly selection coefficients do not record effects of alleles on individual fitness - they record the effects of individual fitness on changes in allele frequency. These are equivalent in ideal populations, they are not in real populations, where you inadvertently end up with deviations from linkage equilibrium. The key here is that s records correlations between fitness and the presence or absence of alleles, but not always causal connections.

      Furthermore, it's difficult to imagine alleles whose selection coefficients are so tiny as the ones you and Joe propose.

      I don't see that as a troubling issue. It's easy to get a synonymous substitution with s in that range through linkage disequilibrium for instance. But what is relevant here is that if we look at genomic data, it allows us to reconstruct distributions of selection coefficients and this in turn tells us what percentage of novel mutations falls into a particular range and then we can also figure out what percentage of fixed mutations has particular ranges of values for s.

      To get back to the original experiment, do you think it's a good idea to tell the students that all the variation they see around them is actually natural selection in action?

      Depends on what is meant by selection... In an earlier thread I made the point that Darwins concept of selection is equivalent to selection and drift in their modern use. I'm not a fan of thinking of selection and drift as different processes. I prefer to think of population resampling, with parameters s, Ne and in the case of diploids h. In general it's not a meaningful question to ask how much of the change in allele frequency for some allele is due to drift and how much is due to selection.

      Or, is it better to teach them that natural selection isn't as powerful as they might think and assign them the Gould & Lewontin "Spandrels" paper?

      The spandrels paper isn't about how powerful selection is in the sense discussed before. It's a rejection of panglossian adaptionism based on the notion that traits do not vary independently. The example I tend to use is this: Imagine a rectangle. This has two side lengths a and b, an area A and the length of the diagonal c. So there are 4 traits. But if I know any 2 of these then the other 2 are also know. This means that the assumption that all 4 values are optimal is generally wrong - the world has to conspire to make the optimal values for a and b lead to optimal values for A and c as well. And so what we expect is not 4 optimal values, but at best 2 and even more likely 4 non-optimal values with trade offs between the various ones.
      This is completely independent of how large selection coefficients are in general.

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    12. Larry:

      On paper, it will be possible for natural selection to fix an allele with a very small selection coefficient.

      Let's take your example of an allele with s=0.00000025 in an effective population size of one million ( N=1,000,000). The time to fixation will be about 70,000,000 (70 million) generations and that's a very long time to maintain a population of one million interbreeding individuals. The probability of fixation is about 2s, or, in this case, about 0.0000005. The allele will be lost before fixation in 99.999% of all cases. Those aren't very good odds.


      Compare them the odds of a neutral substitution. It will have probability of fixation 1/(2N) or 0.0000005. I gave the value of the selection coefficient which just barely shows an effect of natural selection, so yes, it is not much bigger than that. When 2s = 1/(2N) as in this case, Kimura's 1962 fixation probability is needed. It gives the probability as 0.00000079, so there is a 50% increase in the fixation probability as a result of having this much selection.

      The point is not that I think this is a typical value for the selection coefficient, it is that anything bigger than that will be effective. How many visible changes in phenotype are going to lead to selection coefficient this small?

      I really don't think that's going to be a significant factor in evolution because most effective population sizes are way smaller than one million and very few alleles will manifest such tiny beneficial effects in the real world.

      Not everything is a large mammal. How many mosquitos are there in Canada? How many white-footed deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus)? Even for populations as small as 100,000 we will have natural selection being effective for selection coefficients greater than 0.0000025.

      The point is that you can't just look at a phenotype, say "I can't see that it would make any difference" and assume that natural selection on it could not be effective. In the lab we have a hard time detecting selection coefficient smaller than 0.01. But Nature can run a much bigger and much longer experiment than we can.

      I also Simon Gunkel's point above. The Spandrels argument is about not being able to tell whether a particular character is selected for, when it is correlated with others that might be the ones selected for.

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    13. Typo: should be "I also agree with Simon Gunkel's point above ..."

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    14. Laurence A. Moran: “Is that how you "get" evolution?”

      I’ll be happy to join the illustrious list of people who don’t “get” evolution if you nominate me (I don’t have Joe Felsenstein’s confidence of self-nominating myself); this is an open list, which I’ll update periodically (BTW, if Simon Gunkel keeps throwing science at us, he has no chance of making the list).

      Laurence A. Moran: ”I think you are the person who says that some species have evolved large genomes full of excess noninformational DNA in order to protect their genes from insertional mutagenesis by viruses and transposons. Is that correct?”

      I’m the person who has been saying for a while now (couple of decades) that the non-informational genomic DNA (niDNA: usually referred to as ‘junk DNA’) provides a protective mechanism (i.e. a biological function) against deleterious insertional mutations (particularly against those leading to neoplastic transformation, or cancer) by transposable and retroviral elements:

      http://biorxiv.org/content/early/2013/11/18/000588

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23479647#cm23479647_1429

      As emphasized in these papers, which you might want to read, unlike other theories about putative biological functions of niDNA (eg. nucleoskeletal and nucleotypic hypotheses), which have been presented in dozens of scientific papers and books, this model on the evolution of genome size explains the C-value enigma and passes the formidable ‘onion test’.

      BTW, I would appreciate if Simon Gunkel would throw some ‘science’ (deepened in Probability and Statistics) at this theory.

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    15. Joe Felsenstein says,

      Not everything is a large mammal. How many mosquitos are there in Canada? How many white-footed deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus)?

      I'm well aware of that. I'm also aware of the fact that not all the mosquitos in Canada nor all the white-footed deer mice constitute single panmictic effective population size. I suspect they are much like the species Homo sapiens that's subdivided into many smaller evolving populations, each with their own gene pools and their own distinctive characteristics. (Yes, there's some gene flow between these demes.)

      The same arguments apply to bacteria, algae, and maple trees. Even though there are millions of maple trees in Canada it's wrong to think that the ones in Newfoundland exchange alleles with those in British Columbia at any measurable frequency. The effective population size as far as evolution is concerned, is a lot smaller than one million.

      It's like some of my ancestors in north Perthshire in Scotland. I don't think they married outside of their local parishes for about 500 years. That probably eliminated a lot of alleles with small "s:" values!

      It would explain a great deal about my ancestors. :-)

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    16. Simon Gunkel says,

      In general it's not a meaningful question to ask how much of the change in allele frequency for some allele is due to drift and how much is due to selection.

      Really? I ask my students to to try and explain why there's so much variation in populations and I expect them to eventually reach the same conclusions as King & Jukes, and Kimura; namely, that most of the variation has to be effectively neutral. What question do you ask your students and what answer do you expect?

      I also ask students to think about molecular evolution and why there's an approximate molecular clock and why most amino acid substitutions occur in nonconserved parts of the gene. I expect them to reach the conclusion that most amino acid (and nucleotide) substitutions are nearly neutral and fixation occurred by random genetic drift. I certainly expect them to reach that conclusion when we talk about differences in junk DNA sequences.

      This leads to the obvious conclusion that most evolutionary change is not due to natural selection. It's due to random genetic drift. Do you think this is wrong?

      I don't. I think it's very "meaningful" to understand that the changes in frequencies of most alleles are most often due to drift and not selection.

      The spandrels paper isn't about how powerful selection is in the sense discussed before. It's a rejection of panglossian adaptionism based on the notion that traits do not vary independently.

      That's not the main point of the paper. The main point is in the second half of the abstract ....

      We fault the adaptationist programme for its failure to distinguish current utility from reasons for origin (male tyrannosaurs may have used their diminutive front legs to titillate female partners, but this will not explain why they got so small); for its unwillingness to consider alternatives to adaptive stories; for its reliance upon plausibility alone as a criterion for accepting speculative tales; and for its failure to consider adequately such competing themes as random fixation of alleles, production of non-adaptive structures by developmental correlation with selected features (allometry, pleiotropy, material compensation, mechanically forced correlation), the separability of adaptation and selection, multiple adaptive peaks, and current utility as an epiphenomenon of non-adaptive structures.

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    17. What question do you ask your students and what answer do you expect?

      I don't have students (and it doesn't look as if I'm getting to teach population genetics any time soon). But I did suggest a better question in a previous post:

      Instead of asking: "Is selection more important than drift here?", I can ask "How large are my selection coefficients? Can I distinguish them from the null model of neutrality?" Not only have I avoided treating drift and selection as different processes, I`ve gone from a yes/no question, to a quantitative one. If I answer the second question, I can give you a value for s, with error bars.

      I think this also answers your question: This leads to the obvious conclusion that most evolutionary change is not due to natural selection. It's due to random genetic drift. Do you think this is wrong?

      I think this not even wrong. It's meaningless. The statement "most substitutions are nearly neutral" is meaningful (and correct), because it is a statement about the distribution of selection coefficients. The statement you give here treats drift and selection as different processes and - unstated but relevant - that they can be superimposed. That's not the case at all...

      The main point is in the second half of the abstract

      Indeed. And while it mentions random fixation of alleles, it seems as if what I covered - production of non-adaptive structures by developmental correlation with selected features (allometry, pleiotropy, material compensation, mechanically forced correlation), the separability of adaptation and selection, multiple adaptive peaks, and current utility as an epiphenomenon of non-adaptive structures. takes far more room in the abstract (not to mention the paper itself).

      That being said: Let's add DP Barash to the people who don't get evolution. Not for the paper criticized in the Spandrels, but for his review of Goulds structure, in which - eminent evolutionary psychologist that he is - accuses Gould of making up words nobody in evolution knows without giving a definition. In particular he's stumped by "autapomorphy".

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    18. Thanks for the nomination Simon; I’m adding David P Barash to the list of people who don’t "get" evolution. And, according to Barash’s endorsement(“Grappling with the Ghost of Gould”), few people can occupy this list in a more meaningful way than Stephen Jay Gould: http://human-nature.com/nibbs/02/gould.html

      Motoo Kimura
      Jack King
      Masatoshi Nei
      Joe Felsenstein
      Lawrence A. Moran
      David P Barash
      Stephen Jay Gould

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  5. Aside from the technical problem with adaptationism, asking school kids to measure variations in human traits and speculate about selection is asking for political trouble. Just ask yourself what human traits come to mind when we think about differential success. Gasoline and matches.

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  6. McLaughlin is typical of the Discovery Tute's style: non sequitur, contemptuous attitude, non sequitur, contemptuous attitude.

    Do we need to break down his logic? Ugh. Once more into the breach.

    "Bear in mind, too, that the very educators who don't get evolution are also the ones who fuss and complain whenever a state legislator or science standards committee member proposes language about "teaching the strengths and weaknesses" of evolution. From the way they kvetch, you would think there are no weaknesses in evolutionary theory."

    There are no arguments against evolutionary theory not are not based on factual falsehoods (no transitional fossils! Peppered moths don't rest on trees!) or redefinitions of the scientific method (God of the Gaps!) All anti-evolution arguments are one or the other.

    Diogenes' Law: If an anti-evolutionist is not redefining the scientific method, his argument depends on factual falsehoods. Go find them.

    "But if many of them don't get evolution in the first place, how would they know?

    DUH. Non %$#!ing sequitur. Here Keep is saying some other people don't get evolution. This does not logically entail that: Keep herself does not understand evolution; nor that no one understands evolution; nor that creationists do understand evolution.

    We can flip McLaughlin's argument.

    Anti-evolutionists and the Discovery Institute and the right-wing politicians on their leash are always going on about how evolutionary theory has "weaknesses." If they don't understand it, how would they know?

    Further, Keep's argument does not entail that arguments against evolution are factually accurate (IDiots lie constantly), nor does it entail that someone who doesn't understand evolution fully cannot prove the IDiots wrong. For some things, a high school degree is enough.

    Keep says:

    "Some people who believe in evolution don't understand it."

    McLaughlin says that Keep says:

    1. If some people don't understand evolution, then I don't understand evolution.

    2. Some people don't understand evolution.

    3. Therefore, I don't understand evolution.


    Brilliant that. And then it gets better.

    4. If I don't understand evolution, I can't possibly prove with facts that IDcreationist claims are factually false or outright lying.

    5. I don't understand evolution [from 2 above].

    6. Therefore, I can't possibly prove with facts that IDcreationist claims are factually false or outright lying.


    Gotcha! ID IS THE FUTURE!!

    By the way, what was McLaughlin's major in college again? I forget. Can anyone remind me?

    If you IDiots say, "There are no transitional fossils" or "peppered moths don't rest on trees", it is not actually necessary for us to understand neutral theory to use facts to prove you're lying. You lied about the fossil record, you lied about peppered moths not resting on trees, you lied about chromosome 2 fusion, etc. We caught you. A high schooler could do it.

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  7. Larry, you must be mistaken about this. I have it on good authority that the DI is purely a scientific organization with no religious ties, so they would never employ a fundraiser whose previous jobs were all for evangelical Christian groups, and certainly wouldn't let that person pose as an authority on their science.

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    1. Harshman: "they would never employ a fundraiser whose previous jobs were all for evangelical Christian groups"

      Oh nooo. McLaughlin worked as a fundraiser for the Prison Fellowship run by Charles Colson, ID proponent, convicted felon, Nixon's thug, White House plumber, founder of CREEP, architect of Nixon's racist Southern Strategy, and wannabe terrorist who wanted to firebomb a think tank. For Nixon.

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    2. Is this the appropriate time to lobby for the development of a sarcasm font?

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    3. With me I use two kinds of sarcasm font: serif, and sans serif.

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  8. Larry, you might want to blog on this one.

    For this week's prime examples that ID is religion:

    1. Denyse O'Leary at UD admits that Intelligent Design is Creationism, and tells us "Creationism is Common Sense!" Why, you ask? Why, because "all the approved [scientific] explanations are stupid." Nope, no God of the Gaps thinking there!

    And those dummy scientists always saying that diseases aren't caused by witchcraft! Witchcraft is just common sense. The proof? Why, germ theory is just stupid! Therefore, witches.

    2. A conservative Christian website lists the top 20 Christian apologists of all time, and the Discovery Institute is #11 top Christian apologist.

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  9. Mclaughlin said:

    "Bear in mind, too, that the very educators who don't get evolution are also the ones who fuss and complain whenever a state legislator or science standards committee member proposes language about "teaching the strengths and weaknesses" of evolution. From the way they kvetch, you would think there are no weaknesses in evolutionary theory. But if many of them don't get evolution in the first place, how would they know?"

    It seems to me that McLaughlin is ignorantly mixing together evolution, the processes, evolution, the theory, and what some educators understand about the processes and/or theory. If an "educator" (or anyone else) doesn't understand that there's more to evolutionary processes and theory than adaptation/adaptationism that doesn't mean that additional processes (e.g. genetic drift) don't occur and it doesn't mean that the theory of evolution is bogus and therefor yhwh-jesus-holy-ghost did it. It just means that the "weaknesses" are in some educators (and others) for not being up to date on evolutionary processes and theory.

    "Keep says that evolution is a "beautiful, simple, and powerful idea, but it's also finicky, demanding vigilant attention to detail to be properly explained and explored." Perhaps Keep could provide a helpful list of exactly what those details are so educators like her Harvard-trained friend can stay on the straight and narrow Darwinian path, lest they join the chorus calling for a new theory of evolution."

    Man oh man, have the IDiots got an obsessive, irrational hatred of Darwin or what? Apparently, the IDiots are determined to NOT recognize and accept such things as neutral theory and random genetic drift and they don't want evolutionists to deviate from the "Darwinian" path because then the IDiots would have to take their obsessive, hateful focus off of Darwin. Well, if they had any scruples they would have to do that and they don't have any scruples. Processes other than "Darwinian" ones have been known of for a long time yet the IDiots just keep on demonizing Darwin anyway. They see Darwin as the evolutionists' god and any god other than their god (yhwh-jesus-holy-ghost) MUST be totally destroyed.

    Hey IDiots, the theory of evolution is "new" in some very important ways, since Darwin. In fact, it's "new" on a regular basis. New discoveries about evolution make evolutionary theory "new" in some ways by adding/subtracting/refining data. Unlike your antiquated, stagnant religious beliefs scientific theories and the hypotheses/inferences/etc. within them are updated to incorporate, investigate, understand, and explain "new" data. Evolutionary science (like all science) is an on going endeavor. Some people (including some "educators") take awhile to catch up to what's current but it's obvious that you god pushers will never catch up.

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    1. The whole truth: Man oh man, have the IDiots got an obsessive, irrational hatred of Darwin or what?

      It does seem so. I have just spent about a fortnight at UD. I was of course branded as a "Darwinist" from the very start. I gave up trying to dicuss things with those people after a few exchanges like this one (trouble starts after comment #4).

      A poster called Axel (#17) explains why ad hominem is not really ad hominem when its target is a "Darwinist". Darwinists are fair game all year round.

      When the palpable nihilistic vacuity of someone’s position is absolute, it is virtually impossible to couch one’s admonitions in normally-agreeable terms, as if there were a moral equivalence between truth and falsehood, each being quite unexceptionable.

      and

      This forum is necessarily a political one at bottom, since almost all of the atheists are incorrigible (not a value judgment, but a matter of observed fact), so the effectiveness of the truth is limited.

      and finally:

      Nobody in the history of secular or religious literature ever delivered more virulent, indeed, incandescent diatribes against the purveyors of falsehoods with dire and baneful influences, than Jesus, our ultimate model.

      Delete
    2. I believe I passed a road sign just the other day with "God is Love" crossed out, and "God is Incandescent Diatribes" written in.

      Delete
    3. I believe I passed a road sign just the other day with "God is Love" crossed out, and "God is Incandescent Diatribes" written in.

      I hope not, slogans like that could rejunvenate a flagging interest in that fine old time religion. Hell, if I were only slightly differently constituted, I would join a cult that sported such excellent slogans.

      Delete
    4. I have just spent about a fortnight at UD.

      A season in Hell.

      The lowest circle, where each inhabitant is frozen in ice, and bites the skull of the one nearest him.

      Delete
    5. P.S. I was banned from my UD, the brave defenders of free speech and opponents of censorship.

      But yes, I encountered many times the claim, "It's not ad hominem fallacy when we do it, because you Darwinist assholes deserve it!"

      That's UD's official slogan and policy. It's not implicit, they say it directly and explicitly, over and over and over. Without ad hominems and quote mines, ID proponents got nothin'.

      Delete
    6. I was quite enjoying a discussion with "Gpuccio", an Italian poster who at least is genuinely interested in molecular biology and accepts common descent. To be sure, he believes that genomes, proteomes and interactomes are full of "digital functionally specified complex information", which is such an incredibly rare thing in any biochemical search space that it can never arise without the help of a conscious intelligent designer. Therefore, every time a new function emerges, we must assume that the Designer has intervened by injecting controlled mutations in the right places (presumably by means of some unspecified quantum-mechanical psychokinetic manipulations). So the result may look for all the world like evolution, except that no key mutation ever happens of itself -- they are all carefully planned. Still, Gpuccio represents their intellectual elite. I think Larry can confirm that he sounds really intelligent until he mounts his hobby horse:

      http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2007/12/what-is-intelligent-design-creationism.html

      Most UD posters (with the exception of a few "visiting evolutionists") are just plain pigheaded religious activists. There are also some philosophers/computer engineers with a mission from God (you know: biology had better be left to philosophers/computer engineers, because professional biologists are too ignorant about free will, consciousness, metaphysics, intelligence, and of course complex design). And there are kibitzers in the peanut gallery. They contribute mostly battle cries and do their best to derail any discussion by distracting the participants. I'm glad I'm back among sane people. Halle-bloody-lujah!

      Delete
    7. Ah, I forgot "bornagain77", a specimen so unique that I have coined a name for the genre he cultivates:

      #21, 22, 23

      To distinguish it from the Gish Gallop, I call it the Bornagain Broadside.

      Delete
    8. Re bornagain77: Oh dear.

      Did you let him know quantum entanglement is entirely unnecessary to explain cellular biochemical interactions, or were you banned or tired by that time?

      Delete
    9. I wasn't banned. I was only getting slightly sick of that bedlam tour, so I decided to walk out.

      Delete
    10. BA77 - "it might interest you to know that if you threw out everything that did not match, as atheists do in their biased comparisons of chimps and humans (even neglecting ORFans in many studies), you would approach 100% similarity for kangaroos and humans as atheists did. But if you compare genomes as you say ‘normally’ then you will get a gene count number that is rather stable across genomes:"

      He never stops delivering.

      Delete
    11. According to what they consider bias-free comparison, the similarity between the sequences

      ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
      and
      ABCDEFGHIJKLMNPQRSTUVWXYZ

      is about 54%.

      Delete
    12. Bornagain77 simply tries to overwhelm through the use of multiple references and links, mostly from other creationist "research". Barb can also be a little over the top but at least she has a sense of humour.

      Delete
    13. The comment policy at UD is also worth a read, especially the "put a sock in it" section (http://www.uncommondescent.com/comment-policy/put-a-sock-in-it/).

      The following is a small part of the list of ID criticisms that they have declared is not open for discussion:

      -Who Designed the Designer
      -Intelligent Design is Creationism in a Cheap Tuxedo
      -Since Intelligent Design Proponents Believe in a “Designer” or “Creator” They Can Be Called “Creationists”
      -Intelligent Design is an Attempt by the Religious Right to Establish a Theocracy
      -Bad Design Means No Design
      -No Real Scientists Take Intelligent Design Seriously
      -“Evolution” Proves that Intelligent Design is Wrong
      -Real Scientists Do Not Use Terms Like Microevolution or Macroevolution
      -Intelligent Design Tries To Claim That Everything is Designed Where We Obviously See Necessity and Chance
      -The Explanatory Filter Implies that a Snowflake is Designed by an Intelligent Agent. This Proves that the Design Inference is Not Reliable!
      -What About the spreading of antibiotic resistance?
      -What Do You Mean by “Constructive” Beneficial Mutations Exactly?
      -Intelligent Design proponents deny, without having a reason, that randomness can produce an effect, and then go make something up to fill the void.
      -Intelligent Design is Not a Valid Theory Since it Does Not Make Predictions
      -The Evidence for Common Descent is Incompatible with Intelligent Design
      -It is certainly true that evolution predicts only minor changes from generation to generation – but when you look at the cumulative effect of hundreds of millions or billions of replications then those many, many changes can incrementally lead to large changes.
      -Macro-evolution *is* nothing but lots and lots of microevolution!
      -Nothing is Wrong with the Modern Synthesis!
      And many, many, many more.

      Well, you get the drift (no pun intended). They list about every criticism that has ever been made about ID, claim that they have all been addressed so they will not allow them to be brought up again.

      Delete
    14. Gąsiorowski,
      Morons like you should have been banned.... They didn't do it because they wanted to expose your inadequacy, which they did...
      There are many people on this blog that should have been banned after they exposed their "intelligence" on the origins of life...
      My grand, grand mother used to teach me Polish/Jewish sayings I could not understand them until I moved to Europe.... and Poland. Now I do....
      "...Uderz w stół, a nożyczki się same odezwą..." I still don't get this saying 100% but I have a feeling it is going right on....

      Delete
    15. "Hit the table and the scissors will clatter."
      With your predictable reactions, Quest, you are the scissors.

      Delete
    16. Piotr, being called a moron by Quest is actually a complement.

      Delete
    17. There are many people on this blog that should have been banned after they exposed their "intelligence" on the origins of life...

      I'm not sure I catch what is ban-worthy or moronic about "We don't know for sure yet, but folks are researching it. Meanwhile, we have some interesting, if necessarily speculative, papers."

      Delete
    18. Morons like you should have been banned....

      I wish we could take Quest seriously. Robert Byers, he is someone to be taken seriously as he is sincere. As for Quest, he never has anything sincere to say. I think he is just bored and hasn't yet found a productive hobby in his life.

      Delete
    19. @Srm: "As for Quest, he never has anything sincere to say. I think he is just bored and hasn't yet found a productive hobby in his life."

      SRM, I think that you speak more truth than you realize. I have not seen Quest comment on UD for quite some time. Is it possible that he is too rabid even for UD?

      Delete
    20. Hi Piotr, I read the comments at UD that you linked to. I haven't been to UD for a long time and nothing has changed there. The IDiots are as crazy, sanctimonious, hypocritical, and narcissistic as ever. It's pretty funny that "Jesus", "God", bible verses, "Darwinists", etc., were brought up by IDiots in that thread even though the original topic was something about gravitational waves. The IDiots regularly reveal their religious motives/agenda even though they claim to be doing and discussing science.

      In addition to the comments by Axel that you quoted, these are pretty funny:

      From Axel (referring to evolutionists/Darwinists): "No infant would be foolish enough to imagine or believe that nothing could produce anything, never mind everything. In fact, we call it, ‘magic’, don’t we? The conjuring profession depends on the young child being baffled how something could happen, when, to his eyes, it clearly did – but couldn’t have.

      So basically, we are dealing with inadvertent, wannabe conjurors, who don’t even realise what a fatuous area they have strayed into."

      So then, where did 'God' come from? And which 'God' of the thousands that people have conjured up?

      From Mapou (referring to gravitational waves): "It’s all a bunch of baseless speculations and biased interpretations. IOW, voodoo science."

      That's a good description of ID.

      From Mapou: "Speaking of religion, pseudoscience and superstition, you have to admit that, given a choice between “God did it” and “Dirt did it”, most sensible folks will choose the former."

      Doesn't the bible say that Adam was created by 'God' from dirt? And doesn't the bible say that 'God' created everything, including dirt? I would think that IDiot-creationists should think very highly of dirt. LOL

      From Axel: "If an atheist saw a fakir performing the Indian rope trick, he wouldn’t wonder how the trick was performed, he’d say to himself: ‘One day scientists will understand how those guys are able to actually climb up a rope and vanish.’"

      So, Axel apparently believes that "those guys are able to actually climb up a rope and vanish", that scientific methods can't provide the realistic explanation for the "Indian rope trick", that science has nothing to do with wondering about how things occur, and that atheists never wonder about how things occur. What a maroon.

      Delete
    21. Diogenes linked to a post on UD that was apparently written by O'leary. In the comments, ppolish said:

      "...Man rises above all others through his Designs. A Rolex Watch shows design. Man has risen above Nature. Man alone in this special man place. Intelligent Design is Man above Nature."

      Those remarks are a profound example of the delusions of godhood that religious people have about their allegedly "special" selves. At some point in the not too distant future "Man" will be extinct, likely because "Man" will destroy the "Nature" of this planet to the extent that "Man" will no longer be able to survive. Nature will still exist. Even if ppolish thinks that "Nature" is limited to living things, some living things will survive Man's destruction and will continue to evolve for a very long time. "Man" needs nature but nature does not need "Man". "Man" is not "above" nature.

      Delete
    22. I think your scenario is unlikely. We may destroy our civilization but we are very likely to become extinct in the process. Generalist, behaviorally flexible species actually do comparatively well in mass extinctions.

      Delete
    23. John, did you mean to say that we are 'not' very likely to become extinct in the process?

      Delete
    24. No, I meant to say we are very 'unlikely". Oops.

      Delete
  10. When the message is so simple and clear (evolution is not knee-jerk adaptationism), and the response is so intent on painting it as the complete opposite (a call for academics to fall into line behind knee-jerk adaptationism), one must wonder whether the "misunderstanding" is deliberate.

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  11. As an overwhelmed, new, high school science teacher, I needed help getting materials for my classes. I saw a lot of materials (lecture notes, activities, etc.) out there that reinforce or might even add misconceptions as students learn about evolution.

    One teacher gave me a cute but terrible activity (she called it a biogeography activity) in which students would design lizard adaptations so that the lizards could live on certain islands. The students would then draw the lizards with their adaptations.
    I decided to rework the activity emphasizing that changes in the lizard population could allow them to live in different environments, but not vice versa (which was the implication in the original activity).

    I found this change a fine line and the other teacher didn't understand what I was getting at when I told her I'd have to change the activity before I could use it.
    This is not my favorite activity, but the drawing portion made it attractive for the group of students I had. I was able to go from this into a bit on population genetics, but even a little Hardy-Weinberg would have blown their minds.

    I tried to reinforce that it was the populations that would/could change over time, not the individuals and that those changes could allow individuals greater fitness in a certain environment. I think most of the students got it, but whether or not they will really retain it, I'm not confident.

    So Larry, do you think I improved the activity enough, or should I throw it out completely? I know it is still adaptationism-centered, but I'm working on it for next year. I'd really like to make something like this relevant.

    And, since we are discussing misconceptions. Some teachers are still using Haeckel-type drawings when discussing evidence for evolution. I implored the other teachers at my school to use more correct information from embryology and development instead, but they didn't seem to make any changes. I even pointed them to Ken Miller's reasoning for removing them from the textbook he wrote with Levine.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. lynnwilhelm said: "As an overwhelmed, new, high school science teacher, I needed help getting materials for my classes. I saw a lot of materials (lecture notes, activities, etc.) out there that reinforce or might even add misconceptions as students learn about evolution."

      Don't miss the discussion in the "A New Finger in the Pie" article:

      http://ncse.com/blog/2014/05/new-finger-pie-0015628#comment-1409140054

      And now the "“Intelligent Design in Public Schools,” Part 1" article:

      http://ncse.com/blog/2014/06/intelligent-design-public-schools-part-1-0015659#comment-1420610825

      Delete
    2. Sorry Gary, you lose. Your only recourse is to resort to dissembling, violating the Constitution (if you are in the U.S.), and lying for Jesus. Chin up - this still works for a lot of people.

      Delete
  12. Quest said There are many people on this blog that should have been banned after they exposed their "intelligence" on the origins of life..

    He must know something we don't and I am still waiting for Quest to expose his "intelligence" on the origins of life.

    ReplyDelete
  13. A little Googling indicates that Taylor, Un., which I never heard of until 10 minutes ago, is a reputable institution. I was not able to get much information about what they teach in their biology department. However, it appears that Donald McLaughlin is about as knowledgeable about evolutionary biology as he probably is about the strings hypothesis. Whatever biology they teach at Taylor passed him by.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I just came across this interesting article:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140605082954.htm

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    1. Translation: If you do a big proteomics study you will almost certainly discover some correlations as long as you include lots of variables.

      Delete
  15. Evolution's achilles heal: Its too complicated to market effectively. For starters:

    1. It take a college degree to understand it. 2. It takes a doctorate to teach it. 3. It takes arguments from labour and authority as well as reliance on genetic fallacy to deflect criticism.

    This is why ID is still in the game and will continue to make inroads on the ....Darwinism... er...Modern Synthesis...er...No teleology needed to explain biology...er....Neutral theory + Random genetic drift explain evolution oligopoly (still can't figure out the rotation schedule).

    So the reports of IDs imminent demise are overly optimistic.

    Moveover, techonolgy has been berry, berry, good to ID. More resolution, more detection capability, more ID.

    Larry should count his lucky random drifting mutations that his version of evolution has lasted this long.

    The pressure must be excruciating.

    Mr. Darwin/Modern Synthesis/ No teleology needed to explain biology/ Neutral theory + Random genetic drift did it, break down this wall!!!





    ReplyDelete
  16. Steve, I hate to say it but I agree with some of what you said, although not for the reasons that you likely think. Evolution, at a detailed level, would be hard for most people to understand and most people don't even try. That evolution does occur should be obvious to pretty much everyone though.

    ID and other versions of religion/creationism will be around for as long as there are humans because some people just will not accept that humans (and/or everything else) are not specially created by some so-called god, and because religions/creationism will continue to be pounded into young children by their parents and clergy goons.

    However, that doesn't make ID or any other version of religion/creationism correct. Lots of people believe that ghosts, Bigfoot, little green men from Mars, fairies, spirits, leprechauns, Nessie, and lots of other goofy things exist but that doesn't make them correct either. Many humans have a tendency to believe and promote crazy stuff instead of reality.

    Like so many other evolution deniers, you are impatient. Science takes time, and figuring out most or all of the particulars of evolution takes a lot of time and may never be complete. Billions of years of history can't be discovered, understood, and explained overnight, and ignorantly and arrogantly shoving a so-called god into the gaps, whether they're real or imagined gaps, won't ever discover, understand, or explain anything.

    And here's something that neither you nor any other god pusher ever understands and accepts: Even IF some sort of intelligent entity was/is involved in origins, creation, evolution, or whatever, that does not mean it was/is the so-called god that you or anyone else believes in.

    I have a question for you: IF it were discovered and verified with abundant, irrefutable evidence that a 'creator' exists and that it is absolutely nothing like the so-called god that you imagine and believe in, would you discard your religious beliefs?

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    1. Like so many design deniers, you are constantly trying to do an end-run around the obvious.

      You hold on to your position precisely because you know pinning down design mathematically, empirically is a harder task than the esoteric, blow-up doll of a theory you 'evolution pushers' are so fond of. You don't expect ID to outflank you any time soon, which of course is good for ID. Let the hare run, the turtle plod on.

      As to answering your question, well f88k yeah I would have to change my religious beliefs. In fact, I am ready everyday to change those beliefs. Why am I ready for it? Because I don't pigeon-hole God into some sky-daddy caricature. He's probably more like the thousand faces of Shiva, haha. But visualizing God is more of a past time than some sort of prerequisite to understanding.

      Guess we are all guilty of needing audio-visual sensory pacfiers to clothe our naked thoughts.

      Anyway, God is actually the most rational, logical conclusion we can make in spite of the silence; an awesome frontier we can trek from many angles, scientifically included.

      That you don't get it speaks volumes to your evolution pushin' ways.

      ....ah, ah, ah ....the pusher man....gonna sell ya lots of sweet dreams.

      Delete
    2. God is actually the most rational, logical conclusion we can make in spite of the silence

      While I have no doubt it is the most rational, logical conclusion you might be able to think of, for many of us that stopped being the most logical conclusion for which we had good factual premises more than 150 years ago. And the table was really set for it back several centuries ago with Galileo.

      Delete
    3. Steve, can you provide a single line of evidence, reasoning, for ID that isn't simply an attempt to point out the things that science hasn't explained yet?

      Although UD lists the following as a violation of their commenting policy, ID is just creationism dressed up in a tuxedo.

      Delete
    4. Re Acartia Tonsa

      Make that a cheap tuxedo.

      Delete
    5. I think that esoteric blow-up dolls would make a good name for a rock band.

      Delete
  17. "getting" evolution? has been a theme recently at Sandwalk. Lately the Sandwalk blog posts and resulting responses have focused on Stephanie Keep. Before that it was James Tour. Sandwalk fans seem flummoxed by the assertion that evolution is not understandable, much less explainable. Sandwalk fans insist that either IDiocy or ignorance by everyone but themselves is responsible for such an assertion. They point to neutral theory (THEORY!) and random genetic drift as support for a process that is absolutely undirected, yet always has the overriding tendency to direct things for the better. They ignore the fact that the always undirected and ever improving process of random selection operates within a greater cosmic process that is, quoting Neil deGrasse Tyson (with notable evolutionists like Dawkins and Kraaus agreeing) – “All evidence points to we’re in a one-way trip to oblivion.” If Tyson is right (and he certainly is) what’s the point to evolution or neutral theory or random genetic drift or whatever. There is no point. That’s the whole point about being an atheist. There is no point. That’s why they can’t explain evolution, because there is no point. And it’s why there are so darned many IDiots or ignoramuses, who refuse to base their worldview and personal belief system on something that has no point.

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    1. Denny, you clearly don't get evolution. This isn't an black-and-white thing; some people get it better than others. You seem to be far toward the lower end of the spectrum. In fact, you show several signs of being a creationist:

      1. Attacking the word "theory".
      2. Equating undirected processes with randomness.
      3. Possible allusion (it's too unclear to be sure) to the supposed impossibility of evolution for thermodynamic reasons.
      4. Sudden switch from attacking evolution to attacking atheism.

      Delete
    2. John, I am a creationist of the progressive/old-earth variety. There are some black and white things in life and the universe: gravity, gamma rays, light, dark, death, taxes, truth, falsehood, atheism and theism, etc.
      1. I didn’t attack the word “theory.” Theories are good. But, theories are not evidence, and evidence, and a biased (‘a priory’ – referring back to an old Sandwalk blog and quote by Richard Lewontin) interpretation of data, isn’t evidence, whether the bias is theistic or atheistic (as in the case of Lewontin).
      2. You may go ahead and use terms like “undirected processes with randomness,” if you like. I’ll bet you could actually count the people who understand what it means. But, what difference does it make, if you expect the countless others who cannot understand it to simply take it on faith? (hence the blog posts referring to a lack of understanding of evolution by people who have the capacity to understand)
      3. “supposed impossibility of evolution for thermodynamic reasons” is simply more jargon for the scientific select few who ‘understand,’ but cannot explain, without suggesting a lifetime of reading, with a big dash of faith. If it doesn’t satisfy the human need for purpose and meaning, what does evolution offer and why do you defend it?
      4. Evolution deserves to be attacked, 1) for lack of evidence, and 2) because, quoting Lewontin:
      “We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the ‘uninitiated.’ Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”
      (BTW, Larry checked me out on this quote.)
      5. Yes, I suppose you could say I am attacking atheism, because atheists (especially at Sandwalk) use the idea of evolution to buttress their godless worldview. But, more accurately, beliefs have consequences, just like actions do. I believe atheism will have negative unintended consequences for its adherents, and that grieves me.

      It has been my observation that most Sandwalk fans demean theists. It also seems to me that many Sandwalk fans have not examined the Bible (putting aside Young Earth claims) to the degree that they have examined material reality, and they have not objectively and open-mindedly examined the meaning of the Bible’s message to the same extent that they expect Bible-believers to examine things like the “supposed impossibility of evolution for thermodynamic reasons.” All this kind of leaves theists and atheists at odds. Only an atheist could think, ‘no matter!’ because “All evidence points to we’re in a one-way trip to oblivion.” For theists, especially Bible-believing theists, Tyson’s “oblivion” is limited to the material world. What if life is not limited to the material world? To theists/Bible-believers, that matters - hence, the attack against the idea of atheism.

      Delete
    3. Yes, I suppose you could say I am attacking atheism, because atheists (especially at Sandwalk) use the idea of evolution to buttress their godless worldview.

      Young Earth Creationists have said the same about Intelligent Design adherents like yourself. It doesn't make any more sense when they say it. :)

      I understood the factual nature of evolution long before I bothered to examine my beliefs enough to determine that theism didn't make sense to me. If you look at polls, you'll find most folks who understand that evolution is factual declare themselves to be religious adherents. Research indicates reality is approximately the reverse of your statement: There is a particular subgroup of religious adherents (US Protestants) for whom religious belief precludes allowing for the factuality of evolution.

      Delete
    4. Denny,

      What sort of progressive creationist are you? Was every species created separately, ex nihilo, or was it an ancestral species of some higher group that was created, and if so what sort of higher groups?

      1. Bias is of course bad, but you haven't shown there to be any. Theories are explanations of data. Some theories are very well supported. And well supported theories can themselves be support for other theories. Anyway, it isn't neutral theory that supports undirected evolution, it's the evidence of neutrally evolving sites.

      2. I didn't use the term "undirected process with randomness". That's two terms: "undirected process" and "randomness", and I'm saying that you confuse one with the other. Any lack of understanding here is not a problem with jargon but with your inability to read carefully. I expect no-one to take anything on faith, but I do expect you to expend a little effort. Here's a short explanation: drift is random; natural selection is not random. Therefore evolution is partly random and partly non-random. If by "directed" you mean "nudged by some deity", then we have good evidence that all this is undirected. But it isn't random.

      3. If you don't understand the jargon, say so, but don't project that onto others. The jargon was my attempt at summarizing what you were claiming. If that isn't what you meant, what did you mean by “All evidence points to we’re in a one-way trip to oblivion” ? There of course doesn't need to be a point to anything in order for it to exist. And the desire for there to be a point is not evidence.

      4. Quote-mining? So early in our relationship? That's disappointing. It isn't clear to me what Lewontin was on about there, but why should I care what Lewontin said? However eminent a biologist he is, he isn't any sort of pope of evolution. Nor does the quote say anything about there being no evidence for evolution. There is, of course abundant evidence (cough*nested hierarchy*cough).

      5. What are these negative consequences?

      What is there in the bible that you think I haven't read or don't understand? Please be specific. If life is not limited to the material world, I would expect there to be some evidence of that; what do you have? Note: "I would really, really like it to be true" does not count as evidence.

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    5. They point to neutral theory (THEORY!) and random genetic drift as support for a process that is absolutely undirected, yet always has the overriding tendency to direct things for the better.

      Wow, that's a fairly large misunderstanding of neutral theory and of genetic drift. Where did you see any assertion that neutral theory and genetic drift "always has the overriding tendency to direct things for the better"? I've never seen anyone say that before.

      Oh, and I do know what I'm talking about. I'm typing this at a major evolution meeting (SMBE). I spend part of the afternoon chatting with Masatoshi Nei, and as I was typing this he just walked by. I doubt he'd agree with you.

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    6. @Denny: "what’s the point to evolution or neutral theory or random genetic drift or whatever. There is no point. That’s the whole point about being an atheist. There is no point."

      You are correct. There is no point, or purpose, to evolution. But that doesn't make it false, in spite of your emotional disagreement with it.

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    7. There is no point. That’s why they can’t explain evolution, because there is no point. And it’s why there are so darned many IDiots or ignoramuses, who refuse to base their worldview and personal belief system on something that has no point.

      Meanwhile, in all likelihood as it expands into a red giant, the sun will bake all earthly life into oblivion about 1 billion years from now before destroying the solar system entirely over the next few billion years.

      Hmmm, let us spend our lives parsing ancient human writings to identify “the point” of it all.

      Denny, you are welcome to believe whatever you wish if it helps you sleep at night, but what bemuses most of us is why you insist it is likely to have anything to do with truth and reality.

      That’s the whole point about being an atheist. There is no point.

      No, that is not the point of being an atheist. We do not know exactly what this universe is or how it arose nor the details of how life arose, but surely no human over the age of 10 should suffer a certain belief in the ridiculous and obviously human-made tenets of religious belief systems where it concerns these matters. Wouldn't you agree?

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    8. There is no point. That’s why they can’t explain evolution, because there is no point.

      In other news, two people were killed instantly by a segment of concrete falling from a highway overpass as they were driving along the interstate. All of the engineers, the police, the first responders, the bridge inspectors, and the family members of the deceased could not explain why these people died…as there seemed to be no point to it.

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    9. Yeah, but it's all part of god's mysterious plan.

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    10. For those of you who replied to my comments, I’m not the issue. The issue that has been raised at Sandwalk is, “Do you really "get" evolution?” Richard Lowentin was honest enough to state (in so many words) No, but it’s preferable to “Letting a Divine foot in the door.” In his statement, which he confirmed to me personally, Lowentin does what Christians do; they make a choice between belief systems. Lowentin seems to have made his choice. Skeptics claim that it’s the evolution non-believers that are IDiots or ignoramuses. Of course, evolution non-believers (Christians) accuse skeptics of pretty much the same. The data and verifiable information that supports a Christian/biblical worldview (when considered from a forensics point of view) far outweighs data and verifiable information purported to support a skeptic/evolutionary view. There’s really no comparison. Is it not possible to sum up evolution in a rational clear manner in less than a one hundred words so that anyone can understand it, especially the pillars of the science? One can do that with the Bible. ‘Human behavior reveals the fact that people need a Savior, and Christ is that Savior.’ If you want the long version, read the Bible as open-mindedly as you would ask someone to read science.

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    11. @Denny Cochrane

      Denny, you've been reading Sandwalk long enough to know that there are very few atheist scientists who agree with Lewontin's statement. It's a bit disingenuous of you to suggest otherwise.

      http://sandwalk.blogspot.ca/2014/04/why-creationists-think-they-are-more.html
      Why creationists think they are more open-minded than scientists

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    12. Unfortunately for ole Denny, his proposed messiah, Yeshua ben Yusef of Nazareth is complete and total fiction. There is no credible evidence outside what's in the Christian bible that any such person ever existed. By the way, speaking of the execution and Resurrection of this fictitious person, the Muslim position is that the fellow who was executed on Calvary was Judas Iscariot, not Yeshua. Their position is that Pontius Pilate, found Judas to be a liar and had him executed, telling Yeshua to get out of Dodge and stay out.

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    13. Human behavior reveals the fact that people need a Savior, and Christ is that Savior

      Well, at least Denny admits that an affinity toward ID has everything to do with religious faith rather than science. Honesty is rare and refreshing when it comes to ID.

      (Although I admit to being completely baffled by the need for a saviour part - saved from what I cannot imagine).

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    14. Saved from death. Christians are saved by Jesus from death. That's why no Christian in the last 2000 years has died.

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    15. @Zarquon

      Those xtians that do die are obviously not true xtians and not saved.

      Denny, take heed !



      Matthew 16:28

      Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.

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    16. Seems to me that christians need a savior to save them from the so-called "Savior".

      Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. - Jesus in Matthew 10:34

      But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me. -Jesus in Luke 19:27

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    17. Actually Denny, you and people like you are mainly "the issue". Not all evolutionists understand or agree on all of the details of evolution or evolutionary theory but you and other religious zealots deny evolution and evolutionary theory altogether, which is especially interesting since, if the bible is true, a massive amount of ultra-fast evolution (including MANY extinctions) would have to have occurred during the alleged 4,000 or so years since the so-called 'kinds' of animals and eight people walked, flew, crawled, slithered, swam, or otherwise got off the so-called ark.

      And since all life on the Earth was allegedly destroyed except for the eight people and the 'kinds' of animals on the ark, maybe you can explain (scientifically) where the plants, fungi, lichens, and other non-animal organisms and symbiotic animal/non-animal organisms came from after the flud and how they multiplied, diversified, and expanded their ranges so quickly (on/in land or in water) in replacing all of the totally destroyed, non-animal and symbiotic animal/non-animal parts of ecosystems around the world so that the eight people and the animals that got off the ark had ecosystems in which they could immediately survive and thrive, including having food, air to breathe, and fresh water to drink?

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    18. While we are at it, there is an early Neolithic settlement at La Marmotta on Lake Bracciano, Italy. The people who built it lived in stilt houses raised on oak piles driven into the bottom of the lake. The piles can be dated dendrochronologically.

      Dendrochronology gives us absolute dates that don't depend of rates of radioactive decay, calibration procedures or any sophisticated assumptions. Even a child can understand how it works. For some parts of the world we have continuous dendrochronological sequences spanning more than 10,000 years.

      At La Marmotta, the oldest piles were made of oak trees cut down in 5690 BC. What are the biblical literalists' thoughts about such dates? How can a person without some sort of cognitive defect accept chronologies based on adding up generations of patriarchs in the Bible it they conflict with tangible evidence?

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    19. Denny said: "The data and verifiable information that supports a Christian/biblical worldview (when considered from a forensics point of view) far outweighs data and verifiable information purported to support a skeptic/evolutionary view. There’s really no comparison."

      Oh come on, Denny, a forensic point of view clearly supports a Pastafarian worldview. (That's the type of mocking response that your ridiculous assertions deserve.)

      "Is it not possible to sum up evolution in a rational clear manner in less than a one hundred words so that anyone can understand it, especially the pillars of the science? One can do that with the Bible. ‘Human behavior reveals the fact that people need a Savior, and Christ is that Savior.’ If you want the long version, read the Bible as open-mindedly as you would ask someone to read science."

      So, your contention that people need a savior and that that savior is "Christ" is the pillars of the bible, eh? And you also contend that that's enough of an explanation for anyone to understand the bible?

      It's not impossible to "sum up" evolution in a rational, clear manner in less than a hundred words. Here are general definitions of evolution and evolutionary theory at far less than a hundred words combined:

      Evolution: The various natural processes/events by which populations of organisms reproduce, interact, diversify, and survive or go extinct.

      Evolutionary theory: The scientific interpretations, inferences, hypotheses, questions, and explanations regarding the evidence of evolution.


      Longer versions/definitions/explanations are widely available, and other evolutionists may propose differently worded short versions. Whether anyone understands the short or long versions is dependent on various factors, and in the cases of religious people it depends largely (if not completely) on whether they rid themselves of their religious programming and open their minds to reality.

      And let's not forget the very legitimate question that John Harshman asked:

      "And how exactly does the ability to sum up a theory in 100 words bear on its truth or falsity?"

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  18. I find it difficult to believe that Lewontin confirmed anything to you personally, since you can't even spell his name. And how exactly does the ability to sum up a theory in 100 words bear on its truth or falsity?

    Now, if you would like to discuss any of the evidence, I'm sure Larry wouldn't mind. What do you have? For starters, you might want to come up with some support for your claims that "Human behavior reveals the fact that people need a Savior, and Christ is that Savior".

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  19. If you want the long version, read the Bible as open-mindedly as you would ask someone to read science.

    That's certainly fair, and I have - or actually, I have read the Bible considerably more open-mindedly than I would a science book or science paper. There are all sorts of inconsistencies and self-contradictions in the Bible that I wouldn't put up with for a second in a science book. I remember the first sort of whoa! moment when I was very young, thinking about the mark of Cain, and the mark being so that other people would know he wasn't to be harmed. What other people?

    I never really pushed the subject of the illogic of it all with myself, because I belonged to a minority religion and on an emotional level I do hate to see minorities dying out, particularly one that was so much a part of my cultural upbringing. But gradually the utter nonsense of it (an all-powerful deity who made the entire Universe being incredibly concerned with which particular intelligent beings on one tiny planet orbiting a smallish star in a not terribly notable galaxy are f--king each other? C'mon...) made it inevitable that I would stop thinking of myself as having any religion.

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    1. I remember the first sort of whoa! moment when I was very young, thinking about the mark of Cain, and the mark being so that other people would know he wasn't to be harmed. What other people?

      His numerous brothers and sisters (read Ken Ham on the perennial question of who the hell Cain's wife was). You know, Adam lived 930 years, and according to Josephus (quoting an old Jewish tradition) he begat no fewer than 33 sons and 23 daughters. Such precise figures just gotta be real ;-).

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    2. "You know, Adam lived 930 years, and according to Josephus (quoting an old Jewish tradition) he begat no fewer than 33 sons and 23 daughters.

      When did incest become a sin? Obviously not until later.

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    3. Indeed. To quote Ken Ham:

      Many people immediately reject the conclusion that Adam and Eve’s sons and daughters married each other by appealing to the law against brother-sister marriage. Some say that you can’t marry your relation. Actually, if you don’t marry your relation, you don’t marry a human! A wife is related to her husband before they are married because all people are descendants of Adam and Eve—all are of one blood. This law forbidding close relatives marrying was not given until the time of Moses (Leviticus 18–20). Provided marriage was one man for one woman for life (based on Genesis 1–2), there was no disobedience to God’s law originally (before the time of Moses) when close relatives (even brothers and sisters) married each other.

      ...

      However, this fact of present-day life did not apply to Adam and Eve. When the first two people were created, they were perfect. Everything God made was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). That means their genes were perfect—no mistakes. But when sin entered the world because of Adam (Genesis 3:6), God cursed the world so that the perfect creation then began to degenerate, that is, suffer death and decay (Romans 8:22). Over a long period of time, this degeneration would have resulted in all sorts of mistakes occurring in the genetic material of living things.

      But Cain was in the first generation of children ever born. He, as well as his brothers and sisters, would have received virtually no imperfect genes from Adam or Eve, since the effects of sin and the Curse would have been minimal to start with. In that situation, brother and sister could have married (provided it was one man for one woman, which is what marriage is all about, Matthew 19:4–6) without any potential to produce deformed offspring.

      By the time of Moses (about 2,500 years later), degenerative mistakes would have accumulated to such an extent in the human race that it would have been necessary for God to bring in the laws forbidding brother-sister (and close relative) marriage (Leviticus 18–20).


      You see? It's elementary. You should throw your genetics handbooks out of the window. All you will ever need is the Bible and Ham's commentary thereupon.

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  20. Some Biblical literalism:

    We start out with Cain: "Since you have now banished me from the soil, and I must avoid your presence and become a restless wanderer on the earth, anyone may kill me at sight."

    "Not so!" the LORD said to him. "If anyone kills Cain, Cain shall be avenged sevenfold." So the LORD put a mark on Cain, lest anyone should kill him at sight.

    Cain then left the LORD'S presence and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

    Cain had relations with his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch.


    At this point the Bible has only told us about Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel. So when Cain says "Anyone may kill me at sight," my initial reaction as a kid was "Anyone who?" And then where does this wife come from? If you saw something like this on a TV show, with characters parachuting in right and left, I think you might get fed up and stop paying attention very quickly.

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    1. I also wonder how the LORD proposed to avenge Cain sevenfold, should anyone have killed him at sight. With Abel dead and Seth not yet in the works, the total human population consisted of three people, and Cain was one of them.

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  21. Larry. I did not know that Lowentin was one of a very few who share the likes of his statement. My communication with him stopped, when we last emailed in 2011. I do know something of the remarks made by James Tour, including those scientists to whom he claims to have spoken. I do know of Richard Smalley (a graduate of two universities near me), a Nobel Prize winner, who rejected evolution and embraced creationism, plus others, some personally, who have extemporary scientific credentials (but who remain below the radar screen to avoid controversy). I do actually know of a local college professor who has a public record of demeaning Biology 101 students who he asks to publicly acknowledge themselves as Christians (if they are or have the courage or stupidity to admit it) and promises to destroy their faith (QUESTION: why is this necessary if evolution is separate from religion? – Lowentin implies they are connected. That’s why I quoted him.). I also know first-hand that that local Biology professor publicly lies and is about to be ‘called’ on one of his lies by a TOP nationally acknowledged academic professional in his own field (a name you would recognize from a blog post at Sandwalk). I do know of many other evoutionists who - when one asks them to explain how evolution works, they can’t, and instead refer to much reading, including a biology professor I have met who is responsible for teaching evolution to public and private school science teachers. This person accused me of being like a holocaust-denier – by being an evolution-denier. Parenthetically, my Dad served in WWII, like your Dad (Thank you for your post about your Dad. I’m old enough to appreciate him and what he did.). Therefore, you can imagine how I objected to being called a holocost-denier, especially by a tax-per supported professor, as a way to frame people with whom he disagrees on matters of science and evolution. I know I have listened to many national radio conversations with students calling in and telling the moderators of the intimidation and threats they receive, in the name of promoting and supporting evolution (maybe this is more true in the USA where there are more people who self-identify as Christians). Even you have suggested that a creationist should not be given certain degrees, even if they pass all the required tests. In short, science is a wonderful field, and those who pursue it, as you do, should be thanked for all your hard work, and all the many benefits that result. At the same time, it is very difficult for me to reconcile the angst from the general scientific community (mostly skeptics) who claim they are the sole arbiters of a gigantic field of study (and its metaphysical implications), and demean others with equally respectable credentials (putting aside for a moment, young-earth'ers) who look at the very same raw, well-researched, scientific data and interpret it outside a naturalistic atheistic lens. Natural science is broader than words can describe and is often pursued to either support a godless worldview or a God-view (the Judeo-Christian God). I am not in a position to apologize for all the bad manners shown to scientists, including evolutionary scientists, by creationists and Christians. I can speak only for myself. I wish someday some evolutionist would stand up and acknowledge the unavoidable link between an atheistic worldview and how it is intertwined with evolution and methodological naturalism. I will stand up and say that there is unavoidable link between a theistic worldview and how it is intertwined with creationism (putting aside young-earth’ers and ID proponents, for the moment). I will further say that the growing evidence for design vs. chance in nature is so strong that it should cause skeptics to be more skeptical. My recommended reading would be, “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist” by Geisler and Turik.

    Pardon the rant. I respect you, and all the others at Sandwalk who think they know more than me. :-)

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    1. Thanks for the rant. I new it would be one when I saw a solid block of text with no paragraph breaks. The breakneck pace and incoherence also provide clues. However, you really should try more ALL CAPS and eccentric punctuation. Still, a good first effort.

      Since you make so few testable claims of fact in that screed, it's hard to argue with you. But you manage to encapsulate at least one major misconception about evolution: that it can be summarized as "chance". Nobody thinks that is true. The choice isn't between design and chance. While there is indeed a lot of chance, or randomness, in evolution, there is also a lot of non-chance, e.g. natural selection. And that should be a good enough reason not to respect your opinions on science. Other creationists provide similar reasons, and this, not bias, is why scientists don't respect them.

      Smalley is of course further evidence that a great scientist in one field can be a crank in another. We should not be surprised.

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    2. I do know of Richard Smalley (a graduate of two universities near me), a Nobel Prize winner, who rejected evolution and embraced creationism, plus others, some personally, who have extemporary scientific credentials (but who remain below the radar screen to avoid controversy).

      Count me as totally underwhelmed by this. Just for your information, Smalley would not be the first prominent scientist who turned into a nutcase. For example, we have Nobel Prize winning physicist Bryan Josephson who believes in PK, ESP, and cold fusion. We have Nobel Prize winning chemist Linus Pauling who believed that vitamin C could cure cancer. We have Nobel Prize winning physicist William Shockley who believe that Afro-Americans were genetically inferior to Caucasian Americans. Even the greatest scientists can go off the rails.

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    3. I do actually know of a local college professor who has a public record of demeaning Biology 101 students who he asks to publicly acknowledge themselves as Christians (if they are or have the courage or stupidity to admit it) and promises to destroy their faith

      I can't comment on the laws in Canada but if someone in an American public university made such a statement in a class, he/she would be subject to dismissal.

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    4. This person accused me of being like a holocaust-denier – by being an evolution-denier.

      The fact is that Holocaust denialism has this in common with evolution denialism (and global warming denialism for that matter) in that it requires beliefs that are in contradiction to the evidence.

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    5. I do actually know of a local college professor who has a public record of demeaning Biology 101 students who he asks to publicly acknowledge themselves as Christians (if they are or have the courage or stupidity to admit it) and promises to destroy their faith.

      Well, since this is a matter of "public record", you should be able to provide his name and the details necessary to demonstrate this is actually true, and not just a creationist lie. Right?

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    6. Denny Cochran says (my emphasis):

      At the same time, it is very difficult for me to reconcile the angst from the general scientific community (mostly skeptics) who claim they are the sole arbiters of a gigantic field of study (and its metaphysical implications), and demean others with equally respectable credentials (putting aside for a moment, young-earth'ers) who look at the very same raw, well-researched, scientific data and interpret it outside a naturalistic atheistic lens.

      What do you have against the young earthers? Just because they "look at the very same raw, well-researched, scientific data" and come to a different conclusion than you, you feel free to demean them? How close minded and dogmatic of you! For shame! Don't you know of all the Young Earth Creationists who have been threatened and intimidated by Progressive Creationists? It's true! I heard on the radio, I'm sure. I think. Next thing you'll be calling them "Holocaust Deniers"!

      Honestly, the nerve of some people.

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    7. For that matter, why are you so disparaging of Holocaust deniers, Denny? Huh? They've just "looked at the very same raw, well-researched" historical data, and come to their own conclusion. Do you think that historical evidence is less open to interpretation than scientific evidence?

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    8. Even the greatest scientists can go off the rails.

      One of my favourites is Kary Mullis (the 1993 NP in Chemistry for developing the PCR technique): an AIDS denialist, climate change denialist, ozone depletion denialist, believer in astrology, and LSD enthusiast. He also held, on one occasion, a conversation with an English-speaking glowing green raccoon, which, according to him, was either an alien visiting the Earth or a holographic projection sent from outer space.

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    9. Re Piotr

      I generally don't include Mullis in my list of great scientists who have gone off the rails. He was a nutcase long before he accidentally discovered PCR, which for him was a one off. People like Josephson, Pauling, and Shockley had sterling scientific reputations and contributions before and after the contributions for which they were rewarded the Nobel Prize.

      Another example of a reputable scientist, although not a Nobel Prize winner, was J. Allen Hynek, who I once met as a graduate student. Hynek was a professor of astronomy at Northwestern, Un. and at one time was president of the American Astronomical Society. In the 1950s, he was tasked by the Air Force to investigate UFOs. At the time I met him, he was extremely skeptical that they were from other worlds, although he admitted that there were 2 or 3 instances where he thought there might be further investigation warranted. However, he eventually went far off the rails, coming to believe that not only was the earth being visited by alien spaceships but that alien abductions were real phenomena. Quite round the bend at that point.

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    10. Another Nobel prize-winner for you: Roger Sperry, whom I once met when I was a Caltech freshman. He had a religion (literally, self-proclaimed) of biology and believed that life violated the 2nd law of thermodynamics.

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  22. I do know of many other evoutionists who - when one asks them to explain how evolution works, they can’t, and instead refer to much reading

    From the Talmud:

    On another occasion it happened that a certain heathen came before Shammai and said to him, 'Make me a proselyte, on condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot.' Thereupon [Shammai] repulsed him with the builder's cubit which was in his hand. When [the heathen] went before Hillel, [Hillel] said to him, 'What is hateful to you, do not to your neighbor: that is the whole Torah, while the rest is the commentary thereof; go and learn it.'

    That is what people are telling you when you ask them to "explain how evolution works." To give anything other than an extremely summary answer, the equivalent of Hillel's "What is hateful to you, do not to your neighbor" (perhaps the nearest equivalent for evolution would be the title of Monod's Chance and Necessity - as John Harshman points out, both are required), what these people are telling you is what Hillel said: "Go and learn it." This requires at a minimum exactly what you quote them as saying, "much reading." Take it as an opportunity for self-education.

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  23. Do I really get evolution...?

    Well, lets see what can help me to really get it...

    1. The mechanism of evolution is unknown; some claim natural selection is the main and sufficient mechanism some claim there has to be more... I'm not going to get to the details because everyone here knows what I'm talking about...
    2. There is no lab evidence for any evolution... boys are still debating about Lenski e-coli experiments.... Evolutionists have ONE, I REPEAT, ONE, UNO,1 example of possible evolution, and they think they have proof... Well, the way I look at this shitty evolution, they are going to need much more than 14 billion years to evolve something...
    3. My favorite...; if life can't originate by itself, why are we talking about evolution...? I don't get it... Shouldn't the evolutionists at least recreate life they believe self-originated to have some hope... What are they...? Lunatics...?

    Well... it seem all is well in the camp of people who would have to look for new jobs if they even questioned something... well... what can I say..?

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    1. Quest said:

      "...if life can't originate by itself, why are we talking about evolution...?"

      So, you believe that a so-called 'God" not only created life but also constantly intervenes and makes adjustments in and to life, eh?

      "Shouldn't the evolutionists at least recreate life they believe self-originated to have some hope..."

      If or when scientists do "recreate life", what will you say then? You seem to think that scientists must prove EVERYTHING about EVERYTHING RIGHT NOW, otherwise they have not and will not ever be able to figure out anything about anything.

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  24. I'm not going to get to the details because everyone here knows what I'm talking about...

    Which is more than you know.

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  25. John - Here are the synonyms of “chance”: casual, chance, fluky (also flukey), fortuitous, inadvertent, incidental, unintended, unintentional, unplanned, unpremeditated, unwitting. Which one better applies to evolution – especially in a way that can be understood by the public who are taught and pay for the propagation of evolution?

    John, if you want a relatively brief well articulated description of something that approaches “fact”, concerning the big question – ‘How did the organic originate from the inorganic,’ or “How Did God Create the First Life on Earth?”, something that plagues evolutionists and deprives them of a plausible scientific foundation for their theory, and has made Richard Dawkins imagine little green men, take a look at this link: http://www.reasons.org/articles/how-did-god-create-the-first-life-on-earth . A slightly more detailed description is at: http://www.reasons.org/articles/hypernaturalism-and-the-origin-of-life in “Hypernaturalism and the Origin of Life.”

    Quoting The whole truth - "...if life can't originate by itself, why are we talking about evolution...?" Seems like a good question to me. It coincides to my previous point and question, Evolutionists “ignore the fact that the always undirected and ever improving process of evolution and random selection operate within a greater cosmic process that is, quoting Neil deGrasse Tyson, ‘All evidence points to we’re in a one-way trip to oblivion.’ If Tyson is right, what’s the point to evolution? Evolutionists always claim the high ground of logic and reason. Please explain how that works within the context of the reality of the universe.

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    1. Denny,

      Certainly, as with many words, "chance" has a meaning that varies with context. Argument from thesaurus fails on that count. The normal meaning of "chance" does not include the processes that produce, for example, the symmetry of a snowflake or the clearly non-random flow of a river.

      I looked at your link. It doesn't seem to answer any questions at all, except in the most literal sense that it asks itself a question and responds "yes". But it presents a plausible explanation for nothing, which is what science needs. Even if we postulate the unevidenced "divine chemist", your link provides no explanation of how he did anything. And it certainly provides nothing resembling "fact".

      Why does there have to be a point to evolution? Please explain why the lack of a point invalidates the existence of any phenomenon.

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    2. Denny said:

      "Quoting The whole truth - "...if life can't originate by itself, why are we talking about evolution...?" Seems like a good question to me."

      The question implies a faulty assumption.

      Evolution, and the origin of life, are not the same thing, and no matter how life originated evolution obviously does occur. Even if it's possible that some sort of intelligent entity created the universe and life that does not automatically mean that evolution, as described (at least generally) by evolutionary theory, does not occur.

      Think about this: A group of 'designers' that work for Ford design a car but they don't manufacture and assemble the cars or test drive them or deliver the cars to dealers or sell the cars, or choose the buyers or repair the cars after they're sold, or choose where, when, and how the buyers drive and maintain the cars, or choose when and why the buyers resell or junk the cars, or choose whether a thief will steal some of the cars or whether a buyer will modify a car, or choose whether some owners (or others) will have sex or spill coffee in the cars, etc., etc., etc. In other words, there's no automatic connection between the designers and what happens to the cars that they designed.

      One of the blunders that IDiots make is using the word 'designer' to describe the so-called 'God' that they actually believe is the complete package of designer, creator, manufacturer, assembler, test driver, adjuster, modifier, deliverer, and selective destroyer/repairman of anything and everything, with a permanent, ultimately good, 'divine' purpose, especially for mankind. They use 'designer' because they hope (and deviously conspire) to fool people into believing that 'designer' isn't a synonym of 'yhwh-jesus-holy-ghost' or some other so-called 'God'.

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    3. Denny, if any evolutionist ever used the phrase "ever improving process of evolution" I would be uncomfortable with it. The word "improving" rubs me wrong. Do you have any examples of evolutionists (especially professional evolutionary scientists) using that word to describe the process of evolution?

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    4. Here are the synonyms of “chance”: casual, chance, fluky (also flukey), fortuitous, inadvertent, incidental, unintended, unintentional, unplanned, unpremeditated, unwitting. Which one better applies to evolution – especially in a way that can be understood by the public who are taught and pay for the propagation of evolution?

      The best one would be "pertaining to mathematical laws of probability." "Unplanned" would also fit.

      The mathematics of evolution have been well understood for nearly a century, Denny. If you want to discuss evolution on a level that isn't essentially a food fight, you ought to learn something about the relevant mathematics.

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    5. @The whole truth: Denny, if any evolutionist ever used the phrase "ever improving process of evolution" I would be uncomfortable with it. The word "improving" rubs me wrong. Do you have any examples of evolutionists (especially professional evolutionary scientists) using that word to describe the process of evolution?

      Similarly, I was alarmed, upthread, when Denny said that neutral theory and genetic drift were used by evolutionary biologists to argue that evolution had an overriding tendency to direct things for the better. I asked who had said things like that.

      We seem not to be able to get him to back up his statements.

      Earlier he quoted Richard Lewontin as saying "(in so many words)" that Lewontin didn't "get" evolution. That part he added to Lewontin's oft-quoted divine-foot-in-the-door statement. Lewontin's statement contained nothing about not "getting" evolution (it was about materialism). Denny also ought to look up the meaning of the phrase "in so many words".

      As Denny's unsupported and unsupportable assertions pile up, we might take a break from questioning each new one, and just ask him to support the first few. But let's not hold our breaths.

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    6. Neil Shubin’s book Your Inner Fish did a great job explaining hiccups, hernias, hemorrhoids and heart disease as evolutionary “defects” (actually not Shubin’s words)as opposed to “improvements” (Denny’s words).

      Frankly, the very notion of “defect” and “improvement” (when discussing adaptations) necessarily invoke teleological presuppositions that are in fact truly beg the question in the undisputed sense of the term.

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    7. Prof. Shubin also did a series of three programs for NPT entitled Your Inner Fish, which one can download from Youtube.

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  26. Denny, It seems to me that your problem with evolution is that it doesn't supply a point, a meaning, a purpose to life. (Your problem certainly isn't the science, which you don't get.) We humans want meaning, we want purpose in our lives. Looking for it in evolution (and rejecting evolution because it doesn't supply meaning) is as foolish as rejecting gravity or the decay of radioactive isotopes because they don't provide meaning.

    We have to supply meaning; the universe certainly doesn't. And we humans find satisfaction and meaning in being part of things bigger than ourselves. We find meaning in caring for other people, acting as stewards of the earth, supporting whatever political goals we believe are important, adding to human knowledge, teaching, building things, etc., etc. These aren't infinite meanings. They won't matter in 3 billion years when the sun sterilizes our planet, but they are meaningful in ways that fill up human life.

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    1. They won't matter in 3 billion years when the sun sterilizes our planet, but they are meaningful in ways that fill up human life.

      If what Denny wants is immanence, here's some: Denny, you (and all of us) are made in part of the insides of exploding stars.

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  27. The whole truth – I made up the expression "ever improving process of evolution" to describe the (evolutionary) unguided non-designed ‘process’ that took us from some cosmic ice/rock to earthly prebiotic goo to the wonderful amazing outcome as described by Sagan and Tyson on the respective Cosmos series’. Sagan and Tyson, plus any other “professional evolutionary scientist” that comments on any pro-evolution science-related documentary are examples of evolutionists using a positive wonderful (‘almost’ miraculous) expression to describe the process and results of evolution?

    Joe Felsenstein, - As in my reply to The whole truth, ‘inference’ is an element of the scientific method (the act or process of deriving logical conclusions from premises known or assumed to be true.), and inference (things always get better or produce higher/improved outcomes – as in the adaptability reflected in speciation) is the intent of folks like Sagan and Tyson and all of you Sandwalk fans.

    Joe Felsenstein, - I didn’t add anything to Lewontin’s remarks. They were a direct quote, which he confirmed in a later email to me directly. Isn’t materialism or methodological naturalism something that goes hand in hand with evolution? Except for evolutionary creationists (formerly called theistic evolutionists), can you have one without the other?

    Barbara, - Yes, ‘one’ of my problems with evolution is indeed related to any meaning and purpose (or absence thereof) of life. The other is that evolution does not provide a satisfactory answer for, 1) how things came to be or 2) why things work the way they do, except in a vacuum of thought (materialism/atheism), and 3) when compared to progressive creationism.

    Unless I’ve missed something, Sandwalk fans are materialists/atheists. If materialism is the only reality, and source of all and all explanations, then what explanation does it provide for, “We humans want meaning, we want purpose in our lives.”? Why would materialism create the need for (your quote), if it does not have an answer/reason that’s based in the reality of materialism? Your quote is real, but it doesn’t seem based on materialism, at least not in a testable way. Doesn’t materialism require testability?

    Barbara, - The organization Reasons To Believe reviews virtually, if not literally, all published scientific research and discoveries (peer reviewed journals). They examine the raw data and match the peer-reviewed conclusions/posits against the ‘predictions’ of: naturalistic evolution, progressive (old earth) creationism, evolutionary creationists, and young-earth creationists. For example:

    - RTB Model/prediction: “Evidence for fine-tuning in the laws and constants of physics and in the gross cosmic features will become stronger and will not be limited to just those cosmic features that are fixed at the cosmic creation event.”
    - Naturalistic evolution/prediction: “Evidence for fine-tuning in the laws and constants of physics and in the gross cosmic features of the universe will become weaker. (Presumably because the idea of an intelligent designer is rejected).”

    As each scientific discovery is made, the empirical evidence does not support evolution, or the predictions of its adherents. Therefore, whether I understand evolution or not (as you suggest), I do understand that the actual scientific data does not support evolution as well as another view – progressive/old-earth creationism. It should be obvious to even evolutionists that ‘design’ becomes more apparent with each scientific discovery. Also, neither does the data support evolutionary creationists, or young-earth creationists.

    Judmarc – I understand the ‘star’ thing. But, again, that’s a materialist’s emphasis. That emphasis merely supports Tyson’s comment about “oblivion.” What immanence comes from cold death or heat death? How does materialism, and how do stars, respond to Barbara’s point, “We humans want meaning, we want purpose in our lives.” Notice, she said, “want.” Where does “want” come from?

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    1. I've asked you before, and since you never answer questions I don't expect anything this time either, but here goes anyway: what sort of progressive creationism are you talking about? Is each species separately created, or is there some evolution and speciation within some created kinds? If the latter, what corresponds to a "kind" and how do you tell? If there is any of this evolution, is it all tweaked by God?

      And how do the data fit your ideas about relationships of species better than mine?

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    2. Since Denny thinks that Harshman's questions are too tough for him, I'll ask a simple question. It is a fact that the gene for producing vitamin C is broken in humans and the great apes, but is active in nearly all other mammals. If humans and the great apes do not have a common ancestor, which is Denny's position, does he believe that god, for some unknown reason created these species separately with a broken gene for vitamin C? Or does he believe that the gene became broken in humans and apes after they were created? The latter explanation is a coincidence of monumental proportions as it only happened to the apes and humans.

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    3. @Denny Cochran:

      Joe Felsenstein, - As in my reply to The whole truth, ‘inference’ is an element of the scientific method (the act or process of deriving logical conclusions from premises known or assumed to be true.),

      I do statistical inference for a living. I don't object to that definition of inference, but ...

      and inference (things always get better or produce higher/improved outcomes – as in the adaptability reflected in speciation) is the intent of folks like Sagan and Tyson and all of you Sandwalk fans.

      You have taken the general concept of inference and twisted it into a statement that evolutionary biologists make some assumption that things "always get better". That is outrageous nonsense. There is simply nothing in evolutionary biology that has that "always" in it. Zip, zero, nada, nothing. I call bullshit on your identifying the use of inference with assuming that there is "always" improvement.

      Joe Felsenstein, - I didn’t add anything to Lewontin’s remarks. They were a direct quote, which he confirmed in a later email to me directly. Isn’t materialism or methodological naturalism something that goes hand in hand with evolution? Except for evolutionary creationists (formerly called theistic evolutionists), can you have one without the other?

      I know Dick better than you do, and for the last 51 years. I was a summer undergraduate programmer in his lab 51 years ago. A paper came out of that work, and he and I were its coauthors. It was one of the first computer simulations of properties of a statistical test. I was then his second Ph.D. student and am the earliest one still doing active research. I was asked to propose the toast to him at the banquet at the 1998 "Dickfest" symposium honoring him. I didn't see you there. You distorted his statement when you said that The issue that has been raised at Sandwalk is, “Do you really "get" evolution?” Richard Lowentin was honest enough to state (in so many words) No, but it’s preferable to “Letting a Divine foot in the door.”

      Lewontin's statement may be found here where people will see that he does not at all say that he, or anyone, does not "get" evolution. I call bullshit on your attempt to make him say that. Whatever he confirmed by email, it was not any statement about our not "getting" evolution.

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    4. Oh, so our new friend "Denny" is not just a moron, but a lying moron besides. Who would have thought that of a creationist?

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  28. John – My simple answer to you is that I believe there is a case to be made in progressive creationism for microevolution (change over time within species), but not for macroevolution (change over time cross-species). I do believe that God created individual species. For example, unless you are talking about Galapagos finches, which would be microevolution, there is no macroevolution. If you want something more specific, please provide a specific species-based question.

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    1. That's not quite clear enough. You say that every species is separately created, but you also say that Galapagos finches are a single creation. But there are a number of species of Galapagos finches, so you seem to have contradicted yourself. Please resolve.

      I would be most interested in two cases: ratites and primates. Do you think ostriches, emus, rheas, kiwis, cassowaries, and tinamous were all separately created (and more than one species each of all but the first two)? Do you think modern humans, neandertals, H. erectus, various other hominids, chimps, gorillas, gibbons, etc. were all separately created?

      Finally, what sort of process are you envisioning? One pair each, appearing as if from a Star Trek transporter?

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    2. Finally, what sort of process are you envisioning? One pair each, appearing as if from a Star Trek transporter?

      Now, now, John, whadaya trying to do, make creationists look ridiculous or something?

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    3. Poor Denny is still getting over the revelation that the Flintstones is not a documentary.

      The Star Trek information may be too much for him to take.

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    4. Well it’s actually a good question. Creationism, as promoted by many and tacitly accepted by billions, is so common that one only rarely ponders what believers consider to be the process. Of course, the problem is that believers are not into thinking mechanism and process; certain knowledge that their beliefs are true is enough of an explanation for creationists. Indeed, this business is of the sort of magic that does not permit any rational consideration of mechanism or process.

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    5. @Denny
      Consider the cats. Wild cat Felis silvestris has number of subspecies; and is related to Felis margarita etc. The genus Felis is related to the genus Prionailurus; etc. Moreover, wild cat and say tiger all belong to the family Felidae.Family, however, is quite an arbitray grouping (and might be traditional here).
      Question: Where does macroevolution start?

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    6. @SRM
      Of course creationists are envisioning one pair of each (kind, whatever that may be) to appear from nothing.

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    7. Denny said:

      "..My simple answer to you is that I believe there is a case to be made in progressive creationism for microevolution (change over time within species), but not for macroevolution (change over time cross-species). I do believe that God created individual species. For example, unless you are talking about Galapagos finches, which would be microevolution, there is no macroevolution. If you want something more specific, please provide a specific species-based question."

      Denny, I would appreciate some clarification too. For example, do you mean 'kinds' instead of species? What do you think of categories such as genus, family, order, phylum, etc.? What do you mean by "cross-species"?

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  29. I hate to be sitting here defending ID and creationism, but Denny has tried to be rational and present his arguments. The least we can do is be as civil as he has and not resort to sarcasm and ridicule.

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    1. Creationist morons like Denny Cochran deserve as much sarcasm and ridicule as can be possibly heaped upon them. If they had even the slightest interest in actually learning about the science of evolution and/or the most minimal ability to understand this information, then there might be some point in engaging in civilized discourse with them. But just ask Larry Moran: He has been trying to teach creationists about evolution for over a decade, and they have yet to betray the slightest comprehension of even the most basic concepts he has patiently and painstakingly explained to them. They cannot learn and will not learn, because their religious beliefs will not allow them to learn.

      So since they are doomed to ignorance, the most we can hope to accomplish is to shame them into silence. That way, they might at least be prevented from continuing their efforts to have their ignorance propagated by having it endorsed by schools and legislatures. This, as everyone who follows the issue knows, is their true goal.

      You almost never hear from Holocaust deniers, and this is not because they do not exist. It's because whenever they attempt to voice their ignorant, hateful, doctrinally motivated falsehoods, they are immediately denounced, insulted, and shamed into silence. They are not given a platform for their views to be attended to with respectful silence, because their views do not deserve this. Creationists, being the moral and intellectual equivalents of Holocaust deniers, deserve no better.

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  30. John – with respect to the finches. I’m sure you know this, but here goes anyway.

    “Biologists Peter and Rosemary Grant report in the July 14, 2006 issue of Science (Evolution of Character Displacement in Darwin's Finches) that survival competition between two species of finches has led to a smaller beak size in one of the birds. Medium ground finches (Geospiza fortis, or GFs) on the tiny island Daphne Major have for ages feasted mainly on small seeds. However, some of the birds belonging to this species were born with larger beaks that allowed them to consume heftier seeds from another plant. In 1982 a group of large ground finches (Geospiza magnirostris, or GMs) decided to join the party. The GMs, with their bigger beaks, immediately competed with the hefty-beaked GFs for those larger seeds. But there was enough food to go around, so both species coexisted peacefully for more than 20 years. In 2003 and 2004, however, a drought depleted the food supply and birds dropped like flies. The GMs hogged the big-seed supply and the larger-beaked GFs couldn't keep up. The result: smaller-beaked GFs gained a survival advantage among their species and passed on their trait to the next generation and the next. This biological feature, called character displacement, has been anticipated by evolutionists but not seen until now, and that's why it makes headlines. (Here's one example. FOX News: "Finches on Galapagos Islands Evolving” - http://www.foxnews.com/printer_friendly_wires/2006Jul13/0,4675,DarwinEvolution,00.html) Undiscerning readers will see "Evolution" and "Darwin's Finches" and chalk up another victory for evolution. Fuz Rana (PhD. biochemistry) says, "Not so fast." Microevolution, yes, but certainly not macroevolution, which is what most people have in mind when they encounter such news. The fact that a preferred beak size emerged rapidly within a species easily fits a creation model. It shows optimal design and ability to adapt, but it says nothing about a jump from one species to another.
    Quoting Joe Aguirre for Fazal Rana of RTB.
    Resource: Jonathan Wells identifies Darwin's finches as one of the icons in “Icons of Evolution: Science or Myth?”

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    1. @Denny
      What do you call a species here?

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    2. Denny,

      I am unable to determine your point. Whether what the Grants saw had anything to do with speciation is irrelevant to the question of whether G. fortis and G. magnirostris are separate species or whether they're separately created. You seem incapable of answering any simple question unambiguously. Why?

      Let's try again: Are Galapagos finches one species or several? Are they one creation event or several? You have claimed both that they are one creation and that each species is separately created, and these two claims are inconsistent with each other.

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  31. Quoting John, “I would be most interested in two cases: … primates. … hominids … were all separately created?” Your question is far from specific. I have shortened it to hominids. I have paraphrased a progressive/old-earth view, and add a link for supporting details, which are essential – taken from Reasons To Believe, authored by Faza Rana, PhD biochemist”. There’s as much detail as you can stomach at ‘reasons.org’. Put your topic in the search box. I mentioned before that RTB reviews virtually or literally all scientific discoveries and peer reviewed journals. That’s what you’ll find at 'reasons.org'. I trust you won’t mind a little competition based on the same raw scientific data to which you may have access.

    “Some people argue in favor of Neanderthals as members of humanity’s kinfolk, particularly within European heritage. [Any Sandwalk fans of European descent? :’) ] Many paleoanthropologists and others who study Neanderthals and early modern humans maintain that evidence points to Neanderthals as an evolutionary dead-end. (See National Geographic a couple years ago where a graphic illustration shows known hominids back 6 million years. Each of the several distinct hominid species is separated by a gap in time) Some secular researchers insist these creatures were part of our ancestry, even though the hominids in question are of different species. On the other hand, certain groups of creationists claim that Neanderthals were actually humans descended from Adam and Eve! RTB (Progressive/old-earth creationists) take a different stance altogether. We view Neanderthals and other hominids strictly as animals created by God, but distinct from humanity in both degree and kind. Despite some biological similarities between hominids and humans, the latter exhibit behavioral characteristics on par with beings made in the image of God, such as language capabilities and, along with that, sustainable and advanced culture.”

    http://www.reasons.org/blogs/take-two/of-hominids-and-humans - is the link that continues the thought above with details, including the importance of the recovery of a portion of FOXP2 from a Neanderthal DNA sample by researchers at the Max Planck Institute.

    John, I am not a scientist. I am a layman who reads the stuff scientists write. I love science and God, and see no contradiction between them. I do see evolution as insufficient for explaining both the physical and metaphysical. That’s why I have juxtaposed Tyson’s “oblivion” with the “beautiful, simple, and powerful idea” (evolution), quoting Stephanie Keep. Will any Sandwalk fan venture a reply to this conundrum?

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    1. Scientific theories do not explain the "metaphysical" by definition, you moron.

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    2. It seems that the link you provided is a bit old. I did not look for newer material at "reasons.org", but let me supply some facts that seem to be of relevance to this discussion. First, despite dr. Rana's reservations, there is now compelling evidence that Neanderthals contributed to the genome of modern humans, and therefore belong with our ancestors (at least to those who are not of African descent, like me).
      Second, although you are correct that some archaeologists have long viewed Neanderthals as inferior, these findings are now being contested. Several archaeologists would now dispute that Neanderthals had inferior language and cognitive capabilities, and I am pretty certain no archaeologist would ever refer to them as "hairy beasts", like the people at "reasons.org" do.
      All in all, it is getting harder to regard those people as anything other as humans, or at the very least very similar to us.

      Could you please answer the missing part of John's question? Do all different species of Darwin finches belong to a single kind, and did they originate through micro-evolution? And why can modern humans and Neanderthals, who are so similar in many aspects, not be lumped into a single kind? I am curious where and how you draw the line between micro-evolution and macro-evolution.

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    3. "I am not a scientist" is usually a preface to "but I can tell that scientists are all wrong". And so it was here. In this post, you have admitted two things: that you know very little about the subject of evolution, and that you believe in creation, not based on any evidence, but because you would like it to be true. Apparently your mother never told you "wishin' don't make it so"; let me do that job for her.

      I can tell you don't know much. Your ability to quote long bits from other people doesn't demonstrate any understanding, especially since the quotes are irrelevant to the questions I asked you.

      I think it's time you were honest with yourself. Ignorance is no sin; why, I myself am ignorant of a great many things. But arrogance is a sin. If you know nothing about a subject, don't presume to argue with those who do. You can still retain your opinions -- that's your right. But you really can't go around telling others they're wrong when you can't support your claims and don't understand the arguments.

      Rana's view is nonsense. You will note that it isn't supported by any evidence. If you were capable of understanding I would explain how the prior discussion completely misrepresents the science. Well, OK, I'll try a little. Rana confuses "kinfolk" with ancestors. Any controversy is about whether neandertals were a separate species or a subspecies of Homo sapiens. I would say the current accepted idea is that they were a separate species but that there was nevertheless some interbreeding between the two species. That explains both why neandertal genomes are considerably different from ours (suggesting a separation around 500,000 years ago) yet a few bits of European and Asian genomes (but not African), as much as 5%, are much more similar to neandertal genomes than that. All the evidence is inconsistent with separate creation.

      Your faith in Reasons to Believe is touching but misplaced.

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    4. "Reasons to Believe" is best appreciated as a comedy website:

      Despite some biological similarities between hominids and humans, the latter exhibit behavioral characteristics on par with beings made in the image of God, such as language capabilities and, along with that, sustainable and advanced culture.

      ROTFLMFAO!

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    5. "Despite some biological similarities between hominids and humans, the latter exhibit behavioral characteristics on par with beings made in the image of God, such as language capabilities and, along with that, sustainable and advanced culture.”

      Denny, I typed a response to you last night but waited to post it until I thought about it more. Some of it touches on other things you have said and some touches on how I feel about statements like the one above. Here it is (part one):

      Denny, after doing a lot of thinking about it I will concede that some evolutionists, including some professional evolutionary scientists, do make statements that imply an "ever improving process" of evolution. I think it's fair to say that most evolutionists don't use words that imply or claim an "ever improving process" of evolution and would cringe when other evolutionists do.

      As with any topic, a lot depends on which words are used and especially how they are interpreted. MANY of the misunderstandings that occur between anti-evolutionists and evolutionists are because anti-evolutionists don't intepret the words and statements of evolutionists correctly, and I am convinced that many anti-evolutionists deliberately misinterpret and distort what evolutionists say. The particular language used, such as English, also creates a lot of problems because of multiple meanings for most or all words, including scientific terminology. It's not necessarily easy but I think that some explanations of evolution and its details could be stated more accurately and understandably. I also think that anti-evolutionists should try a LOT harder to educate themselves about scientific terminology, evolution, and evolutionary theory, and stop portraying evolutionary theory (or science in general) as an immoral, evil agenda.

      I realize that evolution and evolutionary theory are hard for most people to understand at detailed levels, that there is disagreement between some evolutionists about some of the details, and that there is much more to learn, but to substitute an imagined 'God' and associated fairy tales for the substantial evidence of evolutionary processes/events/results and the investigatory and explanatory credibility of evolutionary theory accomplishes nothing worthwhile, and is in many ways detrimental.


      Evolution is what it is, processes/events/results of change, whether it's the astronomical evolution of a galaxy or the biological evolution of slugs, and it's a natural process unless and until someone can show, with positive scientific evidence, that it isn't. Imagining, worshiping, and promoting supernatural gods and associated fairy tales never has and never will produce real answers to legitimate questions about the universe and life. I want to know as many real answers as possible before I die. I want scientists and others to continue to look for real answers. I want a society and an education system that encourages and prepares people to look for real answers. I don't want any religion or other woo forced on me or others in any way. I don't want any religion or other woo to influence, manipulate, or control science or public policies in any way. I know that religions are not going away anytime soon but they should stay out of where they don't belong. There is plenty of room for 'freedom of religion' but when religions butt into places, endeavors, education, and policies where they don't belong there is going to be strong resistance from people who prefer evidence, reality, freedom from religions, and credible scientific inquiry over stifling superstitions, ignorance, arrogance, and oppression.

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    6. Part two:

      Regarding complexity: One of the things that I often see is an evolutionist implying or saying that evolution leads to increasing complexity in living things. I'm not always comfortable with that either, although I accept, for example, that some living things are more complex than whatever was alive in the Pre-Cambrian and I also accept that some living things are more complex in some ways than some other living things. I don't, however, necessarily accept that an extant crinoid is more complex than a Paleozoic crinoid or that an extant conifer is more complex than a Paleozoic conifer. Changed/evolved, yes. More complex, not necessarily. Other evolutionists may disagree with me.

      I also don't necessarily see more complexity as an improvement or as superiority. When it comes to living things there are many ways to measure or opine about complexity or superiority. In some ways 'simple' life forms are superior to 'complex' life forms. Many humans have a tendency to have massive egos (often to bolster insecurities) and think of themselves as 'specially created in the image of God', vastly complex (second only to 'God' or second to no one or no thing), and superior to all so-called 'lower life forms' and to many or all other humans. To me, religions are one of the manifestations of egos and insecurities.

      I have a question for you: If it weren't for the 'humans evolved from an ape-like ancestor and many other ancestors back through time' claim, would you accept or at least be more likely to accept that evolution has and does occur as described (at least generally) by evolutionary theory?

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    7. "Despite some biological similarities between hominids and humans, the latter exhibit behavioral characteristics on par with beings made in the image of God, such as language capabilities and, along with that, sustainable and advanced culture.”

      I can easily understand why lutesuite responded to the above with "ROTFLMFAO!"

      Denny, HOW do you know what "God" is like? HOW do you know whether "God" has "language capabilities and, along with that, sustainable and advanced culture"? What language does "God" speak? What IS the "culture" of "God"? Are dashing babies against rocks, stoning people to death, viciously slaughtering every man, woman, child, and animal in a city, raping women, enslaving people, punishing every human for what two of his 'perfect' creation' did, torturing people (that he allegedly specially created) in hell for eternity, creating horrible diseases, and destroying absolutely everything on Earth except for what fit into a boat parts of 'God's' "sustainable and advanced culture"?

      Do I need to point out the other stuff in the bible that depicts "God" (aka yhwh-jesus-holy-ghost) as one of the most heinous monsters that anyone could ever imagine? Let me guess, you ignore those parts, right? Like ALL other religious people you dissect, interpret, modify, and/or ignore whatever parts of your so-called 'holy book' in whichever way that you like, right?

      Tell me, Denny, WHY don't ALL christians agree on everything about the bible and christianity? Why are there a bunch of versions and endless interpretations of the bible? If it's the 'word of god', shouldn't EVERY christian agree on EVERYTHING? Why are there so many versions of christianity? How can anyone be a christian if they don't follow the bible word for word, literally, in EVERY WAY? How can humans be so arrogant as to think that they can dissect, interpret, modify, and/or ignore parts of the bible (or other so-called 'holy books') to their own liking? WHY is it so hard for you religious people to see that every so-called god that has ever been imagined does NOT exist and that you are actually acting as though YOU are a god?

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    8. We view Neanderthals and other hominids strictly as animals created by God, but distinct from humanity in both degree and kind.

      That view has been demonstrated by recent scientific work to be incorrect. It's been shown that present-day humanity had some genetic input from Neanderthals. So they aren't "distinct from humanity" but part of what made us.

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  32. Acartia – Don’t worry. I won’t take you to be one of those IDiots or pesky creationists. I’ve always seen sarcasm and ridicule as par for the course in these kinds of discussions. Sometimes I think it’s payback for the sarcasm and ridicule heaped on evolutionists by creationists (Specifically, Ken Ham). Other times, I simply think it’s because evolutionists actually think they are superior to anyone that does not agree with their worldview view, based on their reverence for evolution. In either case, it remains a puzzle as to why evolutionists get so agitated about something that ultimately (in their view) has no meaning or purpose (no point). When I get agitated, it’s because there is meaning and purpose to life, and it grieves me to think of those that will miss the point.

    Judmarc said – “The mathematics of evolution have been well understood for nearly a century, Denny. If you want to discuss evolution on a level that isn't essentially a food fight, you ought to learn something about the relevant mathematics. Probabilities.”

    First, the odds (probability) that humans exist at all are nil, considering the known hostile conditions of the universe. The fact that we do exist is therefore evidence of a Creator. Second, the further fact that humans (scientists – naturalistic scientists to boot) have recently discovered the unavoidable ‘design’ complexity of everything in the universe is further evidence for a Creator. The following link takes you to, “Is Probability a Problem for RTB?” http://www.reasons.org/blogs/average-joes-corner/is-probability-a-problem-for-rtb - a link for the issue of probabilities - Where you will find this formula, P(H | X) = P(X | H) P(H) / P(X). Have fun!

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    1. Denny, you're even stupider than I first thought. That article uses that formula to demonstrate that the existence of God is less probable thatn the existence of humans. Is that really what you wanted to argue?

      Anyway, bullshit "probability" calculations are bullshit.

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  33. John - As it concerns your specific interest in 'ratites,' if you go to http://www.reasons.org/explore/type/todays-new-reason , and put "ratites" in the search box, you will find at least three scientific responses that point more to the probability of creationism than evolution.

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    1. No, he won't. He'll find uninformed bullshit from scientifically illiterate religious propagandists

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    2. Think I'm joking? Check this out, from one of what Denny the Creationist Moron describes as a "scientific response":

      Late evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould points out in his book, Wonderful Life, that if someone were to “rewind” life’s history and record over it, the results would be completely different. RTB’s biochemist Fuz Rana puts it this way, “the very essence of the evolutionary process [as a random, unguided force] renders evolutionary outcomes nonrepeatable.”

      Yet throughout nature we do see examples of repetition, known as convergence. Fuz describes convergence as “the widespread pattern in nature in which unrelated organisms possess nearly identical anatomical, physiological, behavioral, and biochemical characteristics.”


      http://www.reasons.org/blogs/take-two/repeat-perfomance

      LOL!

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    3. Hey, Denny. On the topic of ratites, since you brought them up, here's another question (for you to ignore, as you have been ignoring all the other questions people have been raising).

      Why did God design flightless birds with vestigial wings that no longer work? What kind of incompetent designer would do something like that?

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    4. @Denny
      Actually, if you looked at the original literature, that is, the studies of ratites themselves, and not at what Rana makes of them, you would see a marked increase in understandign of those birds. This year two articles on palaeognath phylogeny appeared in May.
      Rana makes much of 'discrepancies' between molecules and morphology. Given that molecules represent ancestry, and morphology ecology as well as ancestry, those argumen are very uninteresting.

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    5. @Denny,
      Did you read what I wrote above, about cats?
      Can you suggest where microevolution stops in cats and where macroevolution starts?

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    6. Denny,

      Do you understand that the study that the "scientific responses" you refer to are discussing is mine? I know you aren't equipped to understand the argument, so all I can tell you is that Rana seriously misinterprets the results.

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    7. Oh, this is just too funny. First, Denny the Moron quotemines Richard Lewontin in the presence of someone who is a close friend and associate of Lewontin's for over 50 years. Then he misrepresents a scientific paper while arguing with the author of that very paper!

      Keep it coming, Denny! You're doing a great job as a representative of creationism!

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    8. Well, I guess that ole Denny just doesn't want to discuss the broken gene for making vitamin C. Probably he can't find a discussion on the Reasons to Believe website so he's helpless.

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    9. @ lutesuite: re: Why did God design flightless birds with vestigial wings that no longer work? What kind of incompetent designer would do something like that?

      mregnorSunday, February 02, 2014 5:57:00 PM already answered that question:

      ID does not posit that all biology manifests intelligent-type design. ID acknowledges imperfections, just as Darwinism does.

      Seriously, why is everybody insisting on wasting so much time and bandwidth on wholly unworthy opponents who can’t even pass the Turing test?!

      We could spend our time better debating the miracles of the Invisible Pink Unicorn, especially the mysterious disappearance of socks in laundromats.

      Can we please move on?

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    10. Don't know about you, but I'm trying to discover if Denny can summon up any sort of coherent hypothesis, regardless of whether he can tie that hypothesis to any sort of argument. So far it appears that he can't manage the first step, but I wouldn't say it's been shown conclusively yet.

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    11. @ John

      I hear ya - and I had to chuckle...

      I still maintain that Denny and his kind are unworthy opponents and do not deserve any attention. Furthermore, slinging mocking insults plays into their hands.

      Allow me to speak as a public teacher considering the thought processes of wavering students in the classroom:

      ...publically demonstrating malicious delight in ridiculing any and all religious points of view will antagonize and alienate those "still sitting on the fence on the "question" of evolution. If our goal is to convince others to embrace evolution as both fact and theory, then we dare not tread on our opponents’ corns and churlishly laugh at their discomfort.

      ITMT - we must not fall into the enemies' trap!

      Under no circumstances dare we permit the FALSE dichotomy that religious and empirical POVs are mutually exclusive. It is possible to simultaneously embrace religion and embrace evolution.

      OK OK… I understand that Larry Moran and others will probably disagree on that last point – but disagreement aside, such contention is cogent in important corners (such as school board meetings)and must be respected as such. Better have school boards maintain the neutrality of religion and science than the alternative of “equal time & consideration” in the classroom to the supernatural.

      By alienating mainstream religion - we are making a tactical error of brobdingnagian proportions!!!! We need to think like chess masters. Do not be lured by the enemy into debating traps that would lose our cause valuable public support.

      Would it not be better to demonstrate dignity and class with soft suasion and gently entice gainsayers into our camp?

      ITMT - I am wondering if the enemy is playing us like fiddles here?

      Please do not allow Denny and his kind to wrap themselves in the cloak of martyrdom. Better accord them the attention they deserve – i.e. none at all!

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    12. Oh, come on. If you ignore them, it's a sort of martyrdom all its own. I don't in fact recall insulting Denny, so if any of that was directed at me, I don't see it. Lutesuite, sure.

      Now, Denny does appear to be one of the unreachable committed, but I'm making the attempt to get him to examine his beliefs anyway. It's been known to work. But trying to respect his opinions while doing it is just dishonesty, and I imagine that would show.

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    13. Hi John

      Re: Oh, come on. If you ignore them, it's a sort of martyrdom all its own.

      At some point we need to invoke the ”margaritas ante porkos clause and cut our losses and move on

      I don't in fact recall insulting Denny, so if any of that was directed at me, I don't see it.

      John, I for one would love to enroll in any of your classes. On more than one occasion (especially with me – (remember outgroups on phylogenetic trees?)) you have demonstrated extraordinary patience. No criticism is directed at you.

      Now, Denny does appear to be one of the unreachable committed,

      Exactly my point

      but I'm making the attempt to get him to examine his beliefs anyway.

      Again, I applaud your patience. But your efforts are clearly wasted. Again I cite the ”margaritas ante porkos clause

      Denny is NO Father George Coyne. Denny’s incoherent ramblings should be identified as such and forthwith ignored. Denny is beyond redemption and in fact represents a “tar-baby” to be avoided at all costs for reasons I explained above.

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  34. Lutesuite – I’m sorry you didn’t like my earlier example of probabilities. If you will give me a second chance, and in case you wonder what the likelihood/probability is of finding other habitable planets in the universe (as affirmation of natural forces ever again making evolution possible), see http://www.reasons.org/articles/probability-for-life-on-earth-apr-2004 . When one considers about 80% of the universe’s galaxies are hostile to life, it’s overwhelming to look at the characteristics required for life in the other 20% of the galaxies. Collectively, these characteristics must be discouraging for evolutionists. They are certainly impressive, when one looks at the array of hundreds of scientists and their work (The majority of which are virtually certain to be skeptics.). It’s enough to make even an evolutionist consider the existence of earth as a miracle. And, if earth is a miracle (which seems ‘probable, according to the data cited at the link), the miracle-maker is indeed greater (More probable) than his creation – humans.

    By the way, isn’t the Principle that the Cause is greater than its Effect at work here? I think it’s obvious, with regard to the Creator and humans. How does that principle work with evolution?

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    1. By the way, isn’t the Principle that the Cause is greater than its Effect at work here?

      Yes, we see this principle in action all around us, so we know immediately that little raindrops could never create rivers, lakes, and oceans, and teensy germs could never make large creatures like humans sick....

      In what science class were you taught this principle, Denny?

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    2. When one considers about 80% of the universe’s galaxies are hostile to life, it’s overwhelming to look at the characteristics required for life in the other 20% of the galaxies.

      Denny, unfortunately you are well into facepalm territory here. Two enormous problems with this statement you toss off so blithely:

      - How do you or anyone know that "about 80% of the universe's galaxies are hostile to life"? A statement that something on the order of an entire galaxy is "hostile to life" is absurdly broad. Galaxies are really, really, really huge places, and those other than the one in which we find ourselves are really, really, really far away. We are just getting started trying to find Earthlike planets in our own little corner of our galaxy.

      - Let's assume, on the basis of no good evidence whatever, that your statement is correct. That leaves at least 20 billion galaxies just in the part of the universe we've been able to observe so far that are not supposedly "hostile to life," with on average approximately 100 billion stars in each. So you've only got 20 sextillion star systems left in which to dismiss the possibility of life, Denny, before you reach the conclusion we're unique and miraculous. Better get started.

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    3. Re Denny

      Poor Denny, what is he going to say if a probe to Europa finds life there? Or Titan or Enceladus?

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    4. Gee, Denny. I don't know why you have to go galavanting across the universe to find probablistic proof of the existence of God. We can find it right here on earth.

      Last March a Missouri coupld won $96.5 million in the Powerball lottery:

      http://www.powerball.com/powerball/winners/2014/032214MO_Brands.shtml

      But the odds of them winning were only 1 in 175,223,510! And then if we calculate the odds of two people with those exact names winning the lottery on that exact date with those exact numbers, the odds get even smaller, verging on the impossible!

      How could this have happened? It could only be a Divine Miracle!

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    5. I also fail to see why you think it should be "discouraging for evolutionists" (which I think you actually mean to say "atheists") to realize that the universe is almost entirely hostile to life (as we know it). If the universe was almost entirely hostile to life, yet life was found almost everywhere within it, then that would be difficult to explain, and would cause one to consider Divine Creation as a possibility. But that's not what is found, is it?

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    6. BTW, I don't know why you say I didn't like your earlier example of probabilities. On the contrary, I absolutely loved the fact that it actually demonstrateed that God probably does not exist.

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    7. Earth-like planets in universe now estimated at 100 billlion.

      And that doesn't even take into account the possibility that some forms of life could arise on non-earth like planets.

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    8. Re judarc

      It has also been discovered that there may be billions of planets unconnected with stars in the Milky Way Galaxy alone. If some of the Jupiter like planets among them have moons, it is possible that a Jupiter/Europa type situation could occur where there could be life. Still another possibility.

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    9. Last March a Missouri coupld won $96.5 million in the Powerball lottery:

      http://www.powerball.com/powerball/winners/2014/032214MO_Brands.shtml

      But the odds of them winning were only 1 in 175,223,510! And then if we calculate the odds of two people with those exact names winning the lottery on that exact date with those exact numbers, the odds get even smaller, verging on the impossible!

      How could this have happened? It could only be a Divine Miracle!


      The lottery example is an especially good one, because (1) lottery math and the math of evolution have a lot of commonalities, and (2) the distinction between the odds of any individual winning the lottery and the chance of someone winning the lottery involves precisely the sort of subtle probability math creationists so often get so wrong (what are the odds of this particular mutation occurring and being fixed, versus what are the chances that some mutations will occur and be fixed).

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  36. @Denny
    The "Principle that the Cause is greater than its Effect" is a mediaeval dogma, and not generally valid.

    Could you perhaps pay attention to the cats, and indicate where with cats macroevolution starts and microevolution ends?

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    1. Macroevolution works on the bigger cats and microevolution the smaller ones.

      Delete

  37. judmarc – You earlier criticized my use of the word “chance.” Now, after citing probability as a better option, you criticize my use of that word. It’s hard to converse with you. Is there a word on whose definition you think we could both agree?

    judmarc said - “How do you or anyone know that "about 80% of the universe's galaxies are hostile to life?” - Only spiral galaxies are “known” have the potential to host life. Non-spiral galaxies do not. Spiral galaxies constitute approximately 80% of the known universe. May I remove my face from my palm now?

    judmarc said – “Let's assume, on the basis of no good evidence whatever, that your statement is correct. That leaves at least 20 billion galaxies …” I’ve already learned that using terms like chance and probability do not work for you. I can’t go anywhere with your second point.

    colnago80 – Look at the link in my reply to lutesuite and tell me what you think the chance probability odds are for life on Europa or Titan or Enceladus. If that’s not good enough or simple enough, think of this: think of earth all the known conditions that make life possible there. ALL that you can find (at least hundreds, if not thousands). Then think of how possible it might be to see those conditions duplicated anywhere else in the universe.

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    1. The article by Hugh Ross, which was not published in a peer reviewed journal and is thus of no consequence, is an example of making up phoney statistics based on large numbers of assumptions, most of which are of no relevance (e.g. what the fu*k does the mass of Neptune have to do with anything?). Ross, of course, is not alone in such activities as physicist Paul Davies is another such deluded individual who likes to make sh*t up. I haven't investigated Ross's background but it would not surprise me if he once argued that no exoplanets exist, which is the case with most of the creationists.

      However, since Denny has seen fit to respond to my comment on Europa and starless Jupiter planets with rocky moons, when is he going to provide an explanation for the broken vitamin C gene in the great apes and humans which does not require common descent for them.

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    2. Denny, I've already provided you a link that demonstrates that there are likely about 100 billion earth-like planets in the universe. You'd like a bigger number than that?

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    3. Re lutesuite

      If you go to Denny's link which is to a post by his hero Hugh Ross, you will see that Ross comes up with preposterous odds against life elsewhere in the universe by invoking large numbers of requirements, most of which are entirely irrelevant. As I pointed out, the mass of Neptune, one of Ross's fairy tales, has nothing to do with anything.

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    4. I don't feel any obligation to go look at all the ignorant propaganda Denny links from that ridiculous website, especially since he doesn't have the simple courtesy to answer the questions people are asking him here. Typical creationist: His stupidity and ignorance are matched only by his arrogance, dishonesty and discourtesy.

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  38. lutesuite said – “I also fail to see why you think it should be "discouraging for evolutionists/atheists" … - Such notable evolutionists/atheists as Tyson and Kraaus have both spoken and written extensively on the universe’s journey to “oblivion” (Tyson’s expression). Why not ask them, since they (presumably) do not have a theistic bias, which infers purpose and meaning?
    lutesuite said – “If the universe was almost entirely hostile to life, yet life was found almost everywhere within it, then that would be difficult to explain, and would cause one to consider Divine Creation as a possibility. But that's not what is found, is it?” – I would compose the question a little differently. ‘If the universe was known to be almost entirely hostile to life, how could life exist in only one location. This is how I answer that question.
    1. I read science and science critiques (of peer reviewed publications). I read as a layman, not as someone who performs science.
    2. I read the Bible, which has many references to natural phenomena (including about 20 minimum chapter-length creation accounts), and I find that when one can match the Bible’s accounts with known scientific data, they are congruent.
    3. I live life and I, like most people, as Barbara (assumed to be an atheist) said, “We humans want meaning, we want purpose in our lives.” I find no meaning in a meaningless process. I find no hope in stars or monkeys, which are simply my created peers. The Bible offered a prediction about creation about 3,500 years before Darwin formulated evolution theory when Moses cited creation (Big Bang) vs. evolution (originally thought to be a universe eternal into the past and future). The Bible’s prediction was found to be accurate by Einstein and Hubble. Naturalism and evolution offer no more than “oblivion). In more ways than can be cited in this tiny blog space, I see meaning, purpose, truth and trustworthiness in God’s natural world/handiwork and in His supernatural Word/Bible.
    Now it’s your turn, lutesuite. What do you see in naturalism/evolution/atheism etc. that meets your deepest needs as a human. Can you answer this in a positive way that is not supported by your opposition to the thought of God, or how God-believers behave.

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    1. OK Denny, do you believe that the Sun stood still in the sky for a day as claimed in the Book of Joshua? That's a yes or a no.

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    2. lutesuite said – “I also fail to see why you think it should be "discouraging for evolutionists/atheists" … - Such notable evolutionists/atheists as Tyson and Kraaus have both spoken and written extensively on the universe’s journey to “oblivion” (Tyson’s expression). Why not ask them, since they (presumably) do not have a theistic bias, which infers purpose and meaning?

      That has nothing to do with what I was asking.

      lutesuite said – “If the universe was almost entirely hostile to life, yet life was found almost everywhere within it, then that would be difficult to explain, and would cause one to consider Divine Creation as a possibility. But that's not what is found, is it?” – I would compose the question a little differently. ‘If the universe was known to be almost entirely hostile to life, how could life exist in only one location..

      As you compose that question, it almost answers itself. If most of the universe is hostile to life, then life's not going to be very common, is it?

      Your question is like asking: "If the the odds of winning the lottery are only 1 in 175,000,000, how come only one person won it? Why didn't everyone who bought a ticket win?" Do you really think that's a reasonable question?

      This is how I answer that question....

      So, in summary, your way of answering a scientific question is to read a book of fables and pretend those fables are true. What a stupid way to answer a question.

      Your equation of "evolution" with an "eternal universe" is idiotic. And the Big Bang may well still mean the universe is fated for oblivion.

      Now it’s your turn, lutesuite. What do you see in naturalism/evolution/atheism etc. that meets your deepest needs as a human. Can you answer this in a positive way that is not supported by your opposition to the thought of God, or how God-believers behave..

      Your question is meaningless. I care about what appears to be true, given the evidence as we know it. Evolution is clearly true. Materialism is a metaphysical concept on which I have no opinion and little interest. Atheism is the most defensible position given the complete lack of credible evidence for the existence of God. As you admit yourself, the only reason to believe in God is wishful thinking. If that were the criteria for existence, Santa Claus would be real.

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    3. Shorter Denny, I'm afraid of the dark and dying, therefore baby jebus.

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  39. Denny,

    We humans want meaning. We want to be a significant part of something bigger than ourselves. (Probably a result of the evolution of our imagination and creativity, so important in our evolution, plus selection pressure for helping our offspring and other kindred.)

    Neither the universe in general nor the process of evolution provide meaning. That's simply true.

    The fact that our evolutionary doesn't provide us meaning doesn't in any way prove that it's untrue. Unsatisfying, perhaps (if you insist on looking to it for meaning), but not untrue.

    (The fact that evolution doesn't provide meaning doesn't mean that we atheists and others live lives devoid of meaning. We see evolution as a wonderful, awesome, terrifying process, as we find our meaning elsewhere.)

    I think you're rejecting evolution simply because it is not fulfilling your human desire for meaning. You'd prefer to have more objective reasons, of course, but as someone who has also read a great deal about evolution (as a professional as well as a layperson), I'm certain you aren't rejecting it on its merits.

    Look again at that evidence for evolution. The earth is very old and life has changed. A lot. Speciation happens. (As a plant taxonomist, I often work at that boundary where populations are different but not that different; one species or two?) The probability of replicating molecules and cells appearing from non-replicating, non-living precoursers is certainly improbable, but there are different levels of improbability, and what Judmarc and others are trying to explain to you is that it looks like the improbability of life arising from non-life is of the order that becomes certain or almost certain to happen in any place that has enough energy and liquid water for long enough.

    Could God be behind all this? I can't reconcile the amazing history and the destruction-filled process of selection with the image of God I learned as a child, but some people can. And some people find other, more abstract ideas of God to work for them. I certainly refuse to reject the wondrous, diverse, amazing I see, with its incredibly ancient history and its non-intuitive evolutionary processes. These things are real and therefore if is a God (which I doubt) must be his/its handiwork.

    To the extent that the Bible explains the real world, its explanations are filtered through the limitations of the people who wrote its parts, selected what texts should be considered authoritative, and transmitted them with varying accuracy in oral or written form. The Bible is selected for its appeal to our human need for meaning, so you may be able to find meaning there (at least if you approach it with the many guides to help you find it), but it was never selected for its accurate depiction the long history of the universe. Long before the idea of God kind of faded away for me, not really useful (appealing but not meaningful), I was certain that if I wanted to know about God I should look at what the universe is really like because it is what he/it did / does / is. I am still certain looking carefully at the universe is the way to go, though what I expect I can learn is a little different. Looking with a mix of skepticism and confidence, following the methods of science, seem to produce a consistent, useful picture of what the world is like and how it works. (Advancing human understanding of this world and how it works is one of the many ways we find meaning in our lives.)

    Sorry to rant on too long. (I'm tired.) Denny, I hope you continue to live a life with satisfying meaning and purpose. If you have to reject evolution to do that, do so, but the problem isn't within evolution theory, it's the disconnect between what we want and what we can get out of this theory (or gravity or relativity or math, etc.).

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  40. Barbara, I had just formed some comments and questions for you, when I logged-in to Sandwalk and saw your wonderful "rant." I too am tired, and live life with all its issues (including the world's cutest great granddaughter), as I'm sure you do, therefore, it may take me a while. If I never reply, it's because I got too engrossed in my Sandwalk related mental conversations with myself while driving and drove off the road and went to Heaven. :-) See Ya there, I hope!!!

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    1. Hey Denny, do all bad drivers go to heaven ?

      So is hell having to share the road with drivers like you ?

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  41. Alright everybody - calm down!

    Let's relax, take a deep breath...

    and watch this

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  43. One last time

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yis7GzlXNM

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