Those bogus textbook sticker arguments…

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The usual creationist suspects are babbling in the comments to my article on textbook stickers, and throwing aside the usual empty apologetics and assertions that they are promoting secular atheism and weird claims about Jefferson and bizarre ideas that Einstein 'proved' Newton wrong, the only interesting argument is that scientists ought not to be distressed at a declaration that our knowledge is provisional and subject to revision, and that students should keep an open mind. The answer is that we aren't distressed at all by that; in fact, our textbooks already say it over and over, and typically have long chapters that introduce the scientific method and describe how it works and what its limitations are.

For instance, Campbell's Biology, fourth edition, has an extensive section on the hypothetico-deductive method, and comes right out and says it explicitly:

Even the most thoroughly tested hypotheses are accepted only conditionally, pending further investigation.

Scott Freeman's Biological Science, second edition, also describes several key theories in some depth, and explains what makes them useful:

This chapter has introduced some of the great ideas in biology. The development of the cell theory and the theory of evolution by natural selection provided cornerstones when the science was young; the tree of life is a relatively recent insight that has revolutionized the way researchers understand the diversity of life on Earth.

These theories are considered great because they explain fundamental aspects of nature, and because they have consistently been shown to be correct. They are considered correct because they have withstood extensive testing. How do biologists test ideas about the way the natural world work? The answer is that they test the predictions made by alternative hypotheses, often by setting up carefully designed experiments.

Then follows several examples of hypothesis testing, one a test of why giraffes have long necks (no, not the Lamarckian idea…but whether it is a result of food competition or sexual competition) and another about the adaptive value of capsaicin in chili peppers. The examples are accompanied by discussion of key concepts like controls, the null hypothesis, repetition, etc.

Life, seventh edition, by Purves et al. also has a general section that discusses the hypothesis-prediction approach to doing science, illustrated with the examples of two hypotheses to explain frog extinctions, the role of UV-B and airborne pesticides. They make this summary statement:

Scientific methods are the most powerful tools that humans have developed to understand how the world works. Their strength is founded on the development of hypotheses that can be tested. The process is self-correcting because if the evidence fails to support a hypothesis, it is either abandoned or modified and subjected to further tests. In addition, because scientists publish detailed descriptions of the methods they use to test hypotheses, other scientists can—and often do—repeat those experiments. Therefore, any error or dishonesty usually is discovered. That is why, in contrast to politicians, scientists around the world usually trust one another's results.

If you understand the methods of science, you can distinguish science from non-science. Art, music, literature, activities that contribute massively to the quality of human life, are not science. They help us understand what it means to live in a complex world. Religion is not science, either. Religious beliefs give us meaning and spiritual guidance, and they form the basis for establishing values. Scientific information helps create the context in which values are discussed and established, but cannot tell us what those values should be.

That's far too charitable to religion for my taste, but it does illustrate a general attitude you'll find in the books: they tend to distance themselves from religious issues (quite appropriately, I think), do not promote any kind of atheism, do not proclaim science infallible, and quite the contrary to what creationists like to imply, are damned quick to explain that science is not above criticism and in fact thrives on testing alternative explanations.

The objections to the textbook sticker approach is that 1) at best, they are redundant, echoing what the book already says, 2) they are narrow, selectively targeting evolution while ignoring all other theories, and thereby giving the false impression that evolution is particularly weak, and 3) they tend to promote weak hypotheses, like Intelligent Design or vague "religious theories", as equivalent to strongly supported theories like evolution. If you actually read the introductory chapters to these textbooks, you'll discover that Intelligent Design creationism fails to meet the criteria for a legitimate scientific hypothesis, lacking observations in support and failing to make any predictions that can be tested.

That says that school boards must be in a sorry state, when it's obvious from their scribblings that the people who write these textbook stickers haven't even bothered to read the first chapter of the books they want to label.

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Links for You from tongue, but no door on February 22, 2005 5:25 PM

This Blog of the Year thing is making Powerline the talk of the town. A blog called "Minnesota Politics" has a post which includes a private email between the host of that site and Hindraker from Powerline.Go crawl back into... Read More

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Somewhat OT:

In case you haven’t seen this, apparently there’s an explanation for these people: Title: Handedness and Religious Beliefs Authors: Douglas Degelman, Denee Heinrichs, and Hisashi Ishitobi       Affiliation: Vanguard University of Southern California Introduction: Niebauer, Christman, Reid, & Garvey (in press) have found that strongly-handed individuals, whose two cerebral hemispheres may interact less than mixed-handed individuals, were more likely than mixed-handed individuals to believe in Biblical creationist accounts of human origins. Niebauer et al. argue that the two hemispheres are involved differently in how individuals maintain and update their beliefs, with the left hemisphere more involved in maintaining consistency of beliefs and the right hemisphere more involved in monitoring beliefs and registering inconsistencies. If interhemispheric communication underlies the updating of beliefs, and if strongly-handed individuals evidence less interhemispheric interaction than mixed-handed individuals, then strongly-handed individuals may be more likely than mixed-handed individuals to maintain religious beliefs that have been uncritically held. Hypothesis: The extent to which individuals believe in divine intervention will be associated with degree of handedness, with more strongly-handed individuals believing in divine intervention to a greater extent than mixed-handed individuals.

That’s a neat sounding study, but the results were this:

Conclusions: No evidence was found of a significant association between degree of handedness and belief in divine intervention in this online study of 588 respondents. These results may call into question the assumption of interhemispheric communication underlying the updating of beliefs or the finding that strongly-handed individuals evidence less interhemispheric interaction than mixed-handed individuals.

Hmmm. But it does lend a twist to the etymology of the phrase “even-handed,” doesn’t it?

PZ Myers, who helps to run this website, refers to:

bizarre ideas that Einstein ‘proved’ Newton wrong

I encourage readers to follow this link to the Economist website and to read an article entitled “Turn, turn, turn” that appeared in April, 2003. Here is a relevant excerpt:

IT WAS the moment that catapulted Albert Einstein to world fame. In 1919, two teams of British astronomers led by Sir Arthur Eddington journeyed to the southern hemisphere to observe a solar eclipse. Einstein’s general theory of relativity, an explanation of how gravity works, predicts that the sun bends light that passes close to its surface a few degrees off-course. That will cause stars in the same part of the sky as the sun to look out of place. Because of the sun’s overpowering brightness, such a deviation cannot normally be observed. But with the sun’s disc obliterated by the eclipsing moon, Eddington’s colleagues were able to confirm the deviation was as Einstein said it should be, and that Newton’s model of gravity, then two centuries old, was wrong.

In essence, the article states that experimental observation showed that Einstein was correct and that Newton was wrong. I would like to understand PZ Meyers position. Does he or she believe that the Economist is purveying “bizarre” ideas?

Yes, the Economist was purveying bizarre ideas, and they’ve been further bizarrified as they pass through the minds of creationists.

Newton was not “wrong”. His theories were reasonable and correct in quantifying the phenomena he observed, and are still useful. They were incomplete in that they did not encompass all phenomena and circumstances. Einstein’s theories built on them, and extend and refine Newton.

Basically, you have a very naive and primitive view of how science works. As, apparently, does the author of the Economist article.

Similarly, I expect evolutionary theory will be refined and extended in the future, without invalidating our current approximations to how the process works. That’s the fatal flaw in the Intelligent Design creationism movement: they think they can prove evolution “wrong”, when what scientists anticipate is that replacement theories will more accurately account for the very same stuff biology currently describes.

Similarly, I expect evolutionary theory will be refined and extended in the future, without invalidating our current approximations to how the process works. That’s the fatal flaw in the Intelligent Design creationism movement: they think they can prove evolution “wrong”, when what scientists anticipate is that replacement theories will more accurately account for the very same stuff biology currently describes.

You see, empiricist, it’s a lot like that “Central Dogma” story.

Everybody expects that continued research on evolutionary biology will result in new findings, and it would hardly be surprizing if some of the results turn out to be, well, surprizing. What the Creationists and ID folks don’t seem to recognize is that the novelties that emerge are quite likely to be even less favorable to a theological view of the world than the current consensus view because only a very narrow and hence very unlikely outcome would match their prejudices.

Defenders of religious traditions are like gamblers who bet on the numbers in roulette, except that there are vastly more possible numbers in the game of science than on a Vegas roulette wheel. It would be a chump’s bet in a fair game.

Empiricist, with the support of a stringer from the Economist, stated …

In essence, the article states that experimental observation showed that Einstein was correct and that Newton was wrong.

Not so fast. Eddington and company validated Einstein’s theories. True enough. But Eddington did not prove “ … Newton was wrong.” Newton’s Laws of motion and gravitation simply became special cases that work well within the framework for which Newton had data. They are still widely used in practical applications and taught in basic physics. And I suspect they will be for centuries to come.

And to bring this into the context of evolution, one needs to understand that the frames of reference in which Newton’s Laws don’t apply are those found at extraordinarily small or large scales relative to what are accessible to unaided human senses. Until instruments and mathematics evolved sufficiently to extend our senses beyond those that evolution gave us (to cope with life in the grasslands of East Africa and time spans no longer than a human life), recognizing the limits of Newton’s Laws was nigh impossible, although to be fair, Einstein developed his ideas before we had the instruments to confirm his conclusions, so he’s properly recognized for his insight and genius.

I remember in college a professor deriving Newton’s Law of Gravity from Einstein’s Law of Gravity by manipulating Einstein’s equation and dropping off the least significant portion (the part of the equation that only added a small amount to the total). So you can legitimately view Einstein’s Law of Gravity as being a slight modification of Newton’s law, applicable only in the most precise measurements.

This is why the word “wrong” is too strong in this case. Einstein’s Law of Gravity did not invalidate Newton’s law. It’s more like Einstein’s law was closer to the target that Newton’s.

A part of the quote from Life, 7th Ed. by Purves et al. posted by PZ Myers is poignant:

In addition, because scientists publish detailed descriptions of the methods they use to test hypotheses, other scientists can—and often do—repeat those experiments. Therefore, any error or dishonesty usually is discovered.

I believe power will ususally be abused by those who possess it. I favor limited government. I distrust politicians, especially those of a liberal/leftist bent who claim to want to make the world better. Therefore, even though I have limited religious inclinations, I like the idea of most other people being religious because I have no fear they will take over the government and, unless they can do that, they have no power to infringe my freedom.

But I also know, as made clear by the above quote from Life, that religion, unlike science, often lacks the ability to expose error and dishonesty. In fact, religion too often serves as a refuge for liars, scoundrels and crooks. Those who are religiously devote must rely on their own wisdom and values to recognize such people and purge them from their midst.

It is a great failure of many religious people in American, in my view, to have failed to recognize the outright fraud and false promise of “Intelligent Design.” I think many are otherwise very good and well meaning people who have been seduced by a false god.

Empiricist’s observation proves that people can be overly literal when it suits their purpose. Scientists are in the habit of interpreting statements at multiple levels of literalness. The “literally handicapped” will find this confusing.

Thanks for all your input. This provides a fascinating perspective on the philosophy of science and on evaluating the truth of scientific theories. Here is a link to a web page at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory that discusses gravitational wave computer models and says the following:

Tony Mezzacappa, task leader for astrophysics theory in ORNL’s Physics Division, and his team are helping to prove that Newton was incorrect about gravity. The team uses computer modeling to study gravitational waves, predicted by Einstein’s theory of gravity. A gravitational wave has never been directly detected, only inferred from observations of pulsing spinning neutron stars, also known as pulsars.

Now, as I understand the philosophy of science espoused by PZ Meyers, the author of the passage above should be berated and told that he is purveying “bizarre ideas”. Newtonian mechanics yields accurate answers in a subset of situations and the theory is still very valuable, hence, one must state with great forcefulness that it is “bizarre” to say that “Newton was incorrect”?

Ken Willis’ comment reminds me of Samuel Johnson’s old aphorism “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” I’ve often thought the observation applies eqally well to religion.

Ken Willis’ comment reminds me of Samuel Johnson’s old aphorism “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” I’ve often thought the observation applies eqally well to religion.

I believe colleges should require a “History of Science” course for all science majors.

Appreciating science in all of its fits and starts, successes and failures, breakthroughs and setbacks, can do wonders in creating a well-balanced view of the process called the scientific method.

Science is by no means a perfect system of inquiry. It’s a human institution, after all. And while science does not pretend to have all the answers, it does try to offer the best explanations for a given phenomenon within the constraints of the knowledge and tools available at the time.

Are such explanations set in stone? No. Could they be wrong or inaccurate? Sure. But, until a better explanation comes along that makes better sense of the data, why should science distract itself with ideas which are at best inferior and at worst un-verifiable?

Posted by Empiricist on February 21, 2005 11:00 AM

…with the sun’s disc obliterated by the eclipsing moon, Eddington’s colleagues were able to confirm the deviation was as Einstein said it should be, and that Newton’s model of gravity, then two centuries old, was wrong.

Newton’s “model of gravity” was INCOMPLETE, not WRONG. The above assertion make it sounds like Newton’s theory is useless post-Einstein. It is not. It merely becomes less useful when dealing with objects moving near the speed of light.

I think Tony Mezzacappa would feel as uncomfortable with that press release as I do, or as PZ Meyers does. Of course Newton was “wrong” about gravity in a literal sense. But in the same way that Einstein is certainly “wrong”. In fact, I’d be willing to bet my house that all of physics is “wrong”.

However, it’s more or less right as well. Einstein was more right than Newton. A complete quantum theory of gravity will be more right than Einstein’s theory of General Relativity. I’d hesitate to guess where the process will end. In any case, applied appropriately, Newton’s theory is right, and is used today. General Relativity teaches us where its limits lie and how to do better when we exceed them. It also has its limits.

Two responses: 1) You are making a very strange claim - the original claim was that “Einstein proved Newton wrong”, which is not, in fact, what Einstein did. If a later group of investigators looks at Newton’s and Einstein’s work, examines a key difference, and studies it to see which (or neither) is correct, that has no bearing. 2) The article, written clearly by a non-scientist, vastly oversimplifies Newton’s work and Einstein’s work. You would have to ask Mr. Mezzacappa and his group what they think, but I would suspect they might take a different view of what they were doing. In the part above what you link, there is a summation of the “Newtonian” gravity (action at a distance) and “Einsteinian” gravity (the curvature of space time). General Relativity supplanted Newtonian mechanics, but Newtonian mechanics is still useful, valuable, and accurate under conditions where the relativistic contribution is vanishingly small. Anyone (including, I’m sure, the physicists at ORNL) with training in science understands what this means. If you want to calculate, for example, the escape velocity of a rocket leaving Earth, or the period and velocity of an orbiting satellite, Newton is your guy.

I think you (and other critics) are confused very deeply about the nature of science (and your pseudonym just has to be ironic). “This provides a fascinating perspective on the philosophy of science and on evaluating the truth of scientific theories.” The end of that sentence gives the game away.

Therefore, even though I have limited religious inclinations, I like the idea of most other people being religious because I have no fear they will take over the government and, unless they can do that, they have no power to infringe my freedom.

I think they already have.

Posted by Jim Harrison on February 21, 2005 11:51 AM: What the Creationists and ID folks don’t seem to recognize is that the novelties that emerge are quite likely to be even less favorable to a theological view of the world than the current consensus view because only a very narrow and hence very unlikely outcome would match their prejudices.

I’m currently reading Dr. Ken Miller’s book, “Finding Darwin’s God.” Dr. Miller, who is quite cogent in his defense of evolution against IDists, has decided to view Heisenberg’s uncertainty and indeterminism as an opening for God’s role in nature. When you really want to believe something, you will find a “gap” somewhere, even if it is a “gap” that science itself has discovered.

From link provided by Empiricist http://www.ornl.gov/info/reporter/no39/july02.htm:

Newton summed up gravity as “action at a distance,” assuming that space itself is a void or “nothingness.”

Newton correctly described the manifestation of gravity, right down to the mass-distance-inverse-square law. However, he was unable to come up with an explanation for gravity itself – i.e. why are masses attracted to one another?

In Principia, Newton left gravity as an exercise for future scientists to explore, which is precisely what Einstein did. Darwin continued in the tradition of passing the torch, by finishing Origins with a list of tasks that future scientists should engage in to verify or falsify his theories. We should be so lucky to get anything remotely resembling that from the world of ID/creationism.

I’m beginning to wonder why Empiricist has this bug up his @ss about Newton. Is Newton up for Sainthood? The integrity of scientific inquiry does not rest upon Newton (or any other scientist) being inerrant. Science doesn’t expect perfection from those who go about doing the best they can with the information and talents they have. It merely expects humanity.

“I’m currently reading Dr. Ken Miller’s book, “Finding Darwin’s God.” Dr. Miller, who is quite cogent in his defense of evolution against IDists, has decided to view Heisenberg’s uncertainty and indeterminism as an opening for God’s role in nature. When you really want to believe something, you will find a “gap” somewhere, even if it is a “gap” that science itself has discovered.”

Hey, that’s fine with me. Why should non-believers care if people want to further theologize about God as long as their science is good. I enjoyed both the anti-ID part of the Millers book and his quite reasonable argument that atheists have wrongly co-opted evolution to present it as disproving god altogether, which goes beyond humble and reasonable science, not to mention pointlessly making the layman view science with deep hostility.

Dr. Miller, who is quite cogent in his defense of evolution against IDists, has decided to view Heisenberg’s uncertainty and indeterminism as an opening for God’s role in nature. When you really want to believe something, you will find a “gap” somewhere, even if it is a “gap” that science itself has discovered

I talked with him at length about that, the discussion was good, but really amounted to him saying ‘I was raised this way and I believe this way’. He is however a very liberal catholic and doesn’t seem to endorse many of their doctrines.

Which you would expect. I also suspect he is troubled internally to some degree but only he could say.

atheists have wrongly co-opted evolution to present it as disproving god altogether

actually I don’t think atheists have done that, I think theists of all walks of life are afraid that is what evolution leads to, evolution is just evolution.

You don’t need to disprove God, you need to prove the case.

I don’t think that religious belief declined because of advancements in biology—other factors had more to do with the advance of secularism. But I expect it would have made a difference if 19th Century biology had discovered genuine evidence for design. Remember, most of the scientists of that period were believers. Most of them, at least the geologists, were aware that the chronology of Genesis had to be interpreted very broadly to make any sense at all; but they probably thought that the facts would turn out to justify some reasonable allegorical interpretation of scripture and thus vindicate theism if not Christianity.

What we have here is an instance of a dog that didn’t bark. Things would surely look very different today if the science had yielded evidence of a creator. It didn’t, even though many of the scientists at the time surely thought that it would.

Maybe 19th century biology didn’t, but what about 21st century biology? Superior design?

“Which you would expect. I also suspect he is troubled internally to some degree but only he could say.”

See, but this is the sort of sot bigotry of which I think Miller rightly complains. Too many of us atheists seem to have a faith in our heart of hearts that religious believers on our side are jsut faking it, or going with the tide. That’s just as meanspirited as believers who think that atheists are just in denial over a spat with god.

Miller is utterly sincere when he argues that he sees a universe of evolution as far BETTER for Christian theology than one where God micromanages everything. He’s not trying to fool anyone, certianly not himself. And as someone who cares a lot more about good science and good arguments than atheism, that’s the sort of honest thinking I want to endore and celebrate rather than scoff at. Miller has ever right to his beliefs, and every right for people to NOT assume that being a biologist and a Catholic are somehow mutually exclusive, or that his Catholicism has to be “watered down” because of it.

This community is truly intriguing! It seems that some of you think that anyone questioning you must be a “religious fanatic”, and so you adopt rather curious positions about the nature of scientific theories.

In my opinion, “classical physics” yields incorrect predictions that clash with observations. For that reason I would say that it is wrong. But based on the comments here it seems that many of you disagree. I am interested in your positions because they illuminate the philosophy of science. I have been told rather harshly that I have a “very naive and primitive view of how science works.”

I admit that I really did believe while taking physics courses that the theories of classical physics were wrong. In fact, I even thought that this fact was widely known, obvious, and unobjectionable. When I learned the equations for the “Special Theory of Relativity” I thought that the theory of Newtonian mechanics was wrong. I could see that for large velocities the predictions from Newtonian mechanics differed from the prediction generated by “The Special Theory of Relativity.” The equations showed that Newtonian mechanics provides only an approximation, and it becomes increasingly inaccurate as the velocity grows. Now, PZ Myers and others insist that “Newton was not “wrong”.”

So I would like to know what forum members think about the status of classical physics. Here is a link to a course lecture at the University of Texas at Austin that discusses “The breakdown of classical physics.” Here are the topic headers and details:

1) The anomalous stability of atoms and molecules 2) The anomalously low specific heats of atoms and molecules 3) The ultraviolet catastrophe 4) Wave-particle duality:

(1) The anomalous stability of atoms and molecules: According to classical mechanics an electron orbiting a nucleus should lose energy by emission of synchrotron radiation and gradually spiral in towards the nucleus. Experimentally, this is not observed to happen.

(2) The anomalously low specific heats of atoms and molecules: According to the equipartition theorem of classical physics each degree of freedom of an atomic or molecular system should contribute to its specific heat. In fact, only the translational and some rotational degrees of freedom seem to contribute. The vibrational degrees of freedom appear to make no contribution at all (except at high temperatures). Incidentally, this fundamental problem with classical physics was known and appreciated in the middle of the last century. Stories that physicists at the turn of the century thought that classical physics explained everything and that there was nothing left to discover are largely apocryphal (see Feynman, Vol. I, Chap. 40).

(3) The ultraviolet catastrophe: According to classical physics the energy density of an electromagnetic field in vacuum is infinite due to a divergence of energy carried by short wavelength modes. Experimentally, there is no such divergence and the total energy density is quite finite.

(4) Wave-particle duality: Classical physics can deal with waves or particles. However, various experiments (interference, the photo-electric effect, electron diffraction) show quite clearly that waves sometimes act as if they were streams of particles and streams of particles sometimes act as if they were waves. This is completely inexplicable within the framework of classical physics.

One response to information like this is to state that “Classical physics” has broken down. “Classical physics” yields incorrect predictions that clash with observations and it is wrong. The CP theory has been superseded by theories such as Quantum Mechanics and general relativity. Of course, CP is still useful because it provides correct and approximately correct answers in many applications. Also, CP should of course still be taught and used.

When I read the responses on this website it seems that most of you favor another strategy. You wish to redefine the CP theory so that it applies to a restricted subset and then to maintain that CP was really “correct” all along. To assure that CP is “correct” all you have to do is be certain to apply it only in the carefully limited situations where it provides a correct or approximately correct answer. If anyone points out that CP as originally formulated yields incorrect predictions and has been superseded then you apparently would disagree. If someone says that CP is wrong then it appears some of you would sneer. Indeed, some might claim the person has “bizarre ideas” and a “naive and primitive view of how science works.” But, maybe I have misjudged some of you?

Sorry, I meant “soft” not “sot.” Geez!

Hey plunge-pull your head out of your behind. I have had a first hand conversation with the man. Your comments are silly.

See, but this is the sort of sot bigotry of which I think Miller rightly complains. Too many of us atheists seem to have a faith in our heart of hearts that religious believers on our side are jsut faking it, or going with the tide. That’s just as meanspirited as believers who think that atheists are just in denial over a spat with god.

First you assume I’m an atheist. I didn’t say he was faking it. In our conversation we covered alot of ground.

Miller is utterly sincere when he argues that he sees a universe of evolution as far BETTER for Christian theology than one where God micromanages everything. He’s not trying to fool anyone, certianly not himself.

nobody is saying he isn’t sincere, just that he is obviously thinking about alot of things and as time goes on may change his mind.

And as someone who cares a lot more about good science and good arguments than atheism, that’s the sort of honest thinking I want to endore and celebrate rather than scoff at.

Nobody is scoffing-you mistook everything. I like the guy, don’t agree with everything he said but our conversations were good.

Miller has ever right to his beliefs, and every right for people to NOT assume that being a biologist and a Catholic are somehow mutually exclusive, or that his Catholicism has to be “watered down” because of it.

See that pisses me off. Of course he does, and I’d defend his right to have them. But if you think he agrees with all of Catholic doctrine you are in fantasy world. But then again few catholics do.

You are attacking the wrong guy for the wrong reasons.

Hmm.

Evolution is.….

We are all descendants from a common ancestor…

Why was there only one?

That is part of evolution theory you know…Look it up.…

I learnt that in fourth grade…

Apparently you did not.

Evolution depends on one and only one common ancestor. As such it depends intimately on the mechanics of that one ancestor. Since the diversity of known life is so large you will need to detail the specifics of how that one ancestor created the first descendant.

You are still probably at the amino acid level. or at least the very very primative single cell level. So the point remains…how did you get from the simpliest to the 2nd simpliest.

Evolution explains how to go from a single self-replicating “thing” (not necessarily a cell) to all the diversity of life on earth. How do we know there was a single common ancestor, rather than a whole bunch? All life that we’ve seen shares certain idiosyncratic traits (such as having exactly 20 amino acids) which indicate a common origin. So we can validly say that all of life has a common origin.

Evolution does not claim to explain how the first replicator came to be. That’s abiogenesis. Evolution’s validity doesn’t depend on the truth of any particular abiogenesis hypothesis; even if it could be shown that God created the first replicator, that still wouldn’t disprove evolution! So evolution does explain how to get from the simplest replicator to all other replicators: mutations and natural selection.

But why do I bother telling you this. In another thread, you claim that the evidence suggests there should only exist one tropic level in any environment, without citing anything resembling evidence. This nice wall over here is more likely to “get it.”

Randal.…

The simplest organisms are very very simple and very very different. You are then either faced with a de-evolution which does not violate the common ancestor but violates the spirit of evolution or you are down in the amino acid level.

“So evolution does explain how to get from the simplest replicator to all other replicators: mutations and natural selection.”

No try again. To explain how you actually have to EXPLAIN HOW. Not just point at similiarities and jump up and down. The model T and current Ford cars which use similiar bolts… yet did not replicate.

You have to chart out in detail WHAT evolutoin is. And THEN you have to show support from the NEW evidence available.

Tropic doesn’t sound like a quote from me BTW.

Your exact quote was:

Evidence clearly shows that being at the bottom of the food chain is the place to be if you want to survive as a species.

I just rephrased it.

Anyway, I’m not sure what you mean by “de-evolution.” Evolution says that organisms adapt to fit their environments. If in that process, they lose features, become simpler, etc., then so be it. Evolution is not teleological; nowhere does it say that things have to get more complicated. And could you cite two “very simple” organisms which are “very different”? I’m quite confident I can find a similarity between them which makes more sense if they have a common ancestor.

Yes, in order to fully explain how life as we know it came to be, we would need to explain how the first replicator was formed. We would also need to explain how the solar system was formed, the galaxy, the universe, etc. The point is, none of these are part of evolution. Evolution only claims to apply once the first replicator existed. You can ask how that first replicator formed, but then you are by defintion not asking about evolution.

“Evolution depends on one and only one common ancestor.”

No, it doesn’t. That just happens to be what we see for all life on THIS planet when we apply the theory of evolution as well as a bit of forensics.

“As such it depends intimately on the mechanics of that one ancestor. Since the diversity of known life is so large you will need to detail the specifics of how that one ancestor created the first descendant.”

What do you think the various genome projects are all about? The very fact that we can do them at all bespeaks to the viability of common descent. It ISN’T, as Randall says, enough to simply look and see homologies in all known life. The real clincher is that these homologies show a particular sort of diverging pattern throughout known life: a pattern of similarity and difference that can only be explained by the particular broad outlines of common descent that we have generated from genes, fossils, geographical proximity, and so on. Given that you can triangulate common ancestry from virtually any gene system, there is an unbelievable web of interconnections and cross-confirmin lines of evidence that all validate the overview of common descent.

DK said:

For example, there is no current support for the evolution from amino acids to cells. They want to believe it. They can tell you what it is they want to believe. But they cannot tell you how it happens. They cannot do it in the lab.

Yet they will tell your kids its a fact that it happened.

Which current textbooks do that? Which books “tell your kids it’s a fact that it happened?”

Did you read the post with which PZ started this thread?

After all, gravity could just stop working tomorrow, and then you’d look pretty silly for having called it a fact.

Talk about silly. I don’t feel silly for having said “it’s my birthday!” on my birthday. You need a lesson in grammar as well as epistemology.

Well, the point is that in principle we can’t actually know anything beyond our own existence. We could be brains in vats, etc. There’s really no way to be certain that the rules and patterns that we’ve noticed in the past will actually affect the future; for all we know, we could be part of some superintelligent alien’s doctoral thesis, and as soon as he gets his PhD, we’re all gone. Thus, I tend to dislike the word “fact,” as it implies we know something for certain, and I believe that this just doesn’t make sense.

(Of course, if I’m going to say that the word “certain” is never meaningful, then it might be useful for me to redefine “certain” to include things which other people consider certain for their definitions of certain. After all, I’m not using the word for anything else. That’s the problem with philosophical (not scientific!) skepticism: since by construction words like “fact,” “true,” “knowledge,” and “certainty” loose all meaning, it seems tempting to redefine them as they are normally used, but then this deprives the philosophical skeptic of any words.)

That said, I don’t actually live my life as though I’m a brain in a vat. I tend to follow Occam’s Razor, in that the reality that I think I observe is most likely to be the reality I really live in, and that patterns from the past are most likely to repeat in the future and not change for no good reason. That’s why I used examples from physics: I want to make it clear that I’m fully in support of science, evolution, etc. and fully against teaching ID and other creationist ideas in science classes. My debate with you is purely in the realm of epistomology; I’m almost certain we agree on scientific matters (i.e., those which actually make predictions).

Randal.

Occams razor would put a magical event at the start of evolution causing the first ancestor.

Your whole theory rests on the existance of this first magical ancestor.

As such you either need to acknoledge the magic or accept that the premis of evoultion is unsupported.

The premis being that there existed a single ancestor without verified cause is a lesser magic than there exist many species each with without verified cause.

If you rely on magic to create the first is it really a lesser claim to rely on magic to produce more than one?

DK, the fact that you keep ignoring is that evolution only claims to describe what happened after the first replicator came to exist! Thus, even if abiogenesis happened as a result of magic, evolution would not be disproven! Do you see what I’m saying? For the purposes of arguing about evolution, I really don’t care how the first replicator came to exist. Even if it was magical, it doesn’t say anything at all about evolution! Please, can you at least grant that if I allow that the first replicator came to exist because of magic, the rest of evolution is supported? (Note that my allowance of this should really only be considered in the context of this specific debate between me and DK; it would in general be wrong to assume that other posters on this forum would grant this.)

Oh, and I’ll agree with plunge that evolution doesn’t care how many replicators managed to come into existence on their own. It just so happens that by looking at how the different homologies we see are nested, we see that common descent makes more sense than any alternative.

Once again, we have the theological inability of the creationist to distinguish origin of life from origin of species. To the creationist, these were the same event, and the distinction evolutionists are trying to make is without a difference. God created everything POOF all at once, in the present form. Species originated on the day that life originated.

People like Randall don’t seem to grasp that the creationist CANNOT permit these two origins to be qualitatively different. Even recognizing that they are different denies their faith. The instant origin of life and origin of species become entirely different issues, creationism is no longer possible. Randall is demanding ground rules no creationist can tolerate. He’s demanding that his opponent concede the game as a condition of starting it!

Still waiting for DonkeyKong to specify which textbooks make the statements he (she? it?) claims biology textbooks make.

Not holding breath, of course, having been this route before.

Flint, you’re saying I’m stupid for expecting creationists to abide by any reasonable definitions of evolution and abiogenesis?

I guess I can’t really debate that one.

Randall,

I’m pulling your leg, of course. But it really is the case that to a creationist, evolution and abiogenesis are just meaningless words, since both of them are made up by atheists to describe things that didn’t happen. For a creationist to admit that those words MEAN anything is to concede before he starts.

LOL

You kids are silly.

When faced with a simple concept.

Evolution rests 100% on the existance of a first ancestor which it fails to explain. Simple restatement if there were no first common ancestor evolution would be false.

A large part of the practical argument in evolution regarding how and why is that it is more likely that similiar species are descendants of older similiar species because unexplained events are abhorrent to science.

There is not proof that we descended from monkeys, the evidence is that we are similiar to monkeys and that there were life forms that are more similiar to monkeys than we are and yet more similiar to us than monkeys are. This is CONSISTENT with descent but not proof of descent.

You reject magic yet don’t reject it here because you are sophists.

But why do you rely on magic for the first ancestor?

Either magic is not a problem and your monkey to man hypothesis although not impossible has no strong claim to reality over magic due to many many many of evoulutions assesments being based on similiar means descended from because spontenous creation is magic.

Or conversly you reject magic, assign a theory for the first ancestor that is inconsistent with other explainations for monkey to man similiarity such as external intelligent influence. Once you do this you are in a world of hurt as the current science doesn’t support this very well if at all.

Another way of saying this:

If GOD created the first ancestor with magic then it is MORE likely that GOD created every other species with magic than that they evolved.

This is because evolution relies heavily on the lack of alternate explainations for fossils that are similiar to newer fossils and are consistant with descent. Because evolutoin cannot duplicate the effect they rely on saying there is no other explaination that is as well supported as ours.

But they got that well supported by throwing out all the weakest points of evolutions and claiming that they are not part of the theory.

DK, you are long on assertion, short on evidence.

Some time ago you alleged biology books teach something that is untrue. I asked you to name the books. http://www.pandasthumb.org/pt-archi[…].html#c17825

Still waiting.

Or can I just chalk that up as one more creationist fantasy?

And, what are the odds that you have a father and mother? High or low?

Why should you take Darwin to task for assuming living things are descended from other living things? Why do you think that’s bizarre?

Ed

“These theories are considered great because they explain fundamental aspects of nature, and because they have consistently been shown to be correct. They are considered correct because they have withstood extensive testing. How do biologists test ideas about the way the natural world work? The answer is that they test the predictions made by alternative hypotheses, often by setting up carefully designed experiments.”

Scott Freeman’s Biological Science

This is a lie on several levels.

1) Science doesn’t tell us what is correct on any level. Science tells only what has failed to be PROVEN incorrect. To misunderstand this in a textbook is unforgivable.

2) Evolution has consistently had flaws which it has explained after the fact. The fact that Darwins main contribution is not one that all evolutionists are willing to stand behind today is very insightful. Is natural selection the mechanism as you claim it is? Or are you still grasping for a theory of evolution? HINT: geneticists have moved evolution to a competition between genes not species or individuals due to the data not fitting your hypothesis.

3) Key fundemental aspects of nature are not explained by evolution. Evolution ducks the first cause of the first ancestor. If the first ancestor is a result of intelligent interference then the assertion that intelligent interference is not likely in the rest of life is no longer valid. For example, if God magically made the first life then God is a more likely cause of all other life variance than evolution. Failing to nail down the biogenisis question reduces evolution to hand waving and bullying of HS kids who don’t yet know you are full of it.

4) How does science prove theories? By disproving OTHER theories???? Any text book that says you prove God created life by picking holes in evolution’s theory is silly (or you would already think God was a proven scientific fact as I am killing you guys). The reverse is also silly. To put this in a text book is beyond stupid. To call it science is truely a shame.

5) Evolution is not a theory of numbers. Numbers are inheriently scientific because for every number you claim you disclaim 9 numbers. So for one significan figure of claim say 3 you rule out 0-2.5 and 3.5-10. And not only do you rule out these numbers but you publically state that you ruled them out and the significant figures shows how well you understand the relationship. Evolution is not a numeric theory precisely because it rules things in or out primarily AFTER data as opposed to BEFORE data. Using numbers would make this more clear so they are avoided.

Ed you can see the severe errors caused by evolution blinders.

You and I both know that were I to do more research in your fairy tales of Darwinianism I would find more.…

Keys to look for

1) The text book doesn’t mention the evolution movement has changed its theory or restricted its claims greatly over time. Not Darwin, the evolution movement.

2) The textbook doesn’t mention biogenesis and its key relationship with how likely the first ancestor existing without outside interference is.

3) The text book doesn’t mention that evolution cannot predict the HOW or WHY of the similiarities in life. It is only the similiarity that has been confirmed not the cause of that similiarity.

4) The text book resorts to the argument of Authority that evolution is true because a lot of scientists say it is. Or because it is old. Or it is a cornerstone of modern biology.… Science is about evidence and testing not about opinion and degrees.

Please point to a book that doesn’t contain these errors now that I have humored you its your turn to humor me…

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This page contains a single entry by PZ Myers published on February 21, 2005 9:13 AM.

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