Special Magazine Issues on Darwin, Evolution, ID Creationism

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The most recent issues of Natural History and Skeptical Inquirer magazines feature articles on Darwin, evolution, and, as SI puts it, the ID wars.

Skeptical Inquirer. As of this writing, the November-December 2005 issue of SI has not been posted on their Website. It is called “Evolution and the ID Wars.” Here is a partial list of contents. (http://www.csicop.org/si/)

“Does Irreducible Complexity Imply Intelligent Design?” by PT regular Mark Perakh. Professor Perakh here outlines his contention that, in disagreement with William Dembski and Michael Behe, good design is simple, not complex, and redundant, not irreducible.

“Only a Theory? Framing the Evolution/Creation Issue,” by David Morrison. We need better slogans.

“Endless Forms Most Beautiful,” by Sean Carroll. Embryology and evolutionary developmental biology, and how they have “reshaped our picture of how evolution works.”

“Harris Poll Explores Beliefs about Evolution, Creationism, and Intelligent Design,” by anonymous. Scary. Also, at least one of the questions is wrong in its implications; “Darwin’s theory of evolution” is not proved by “fossil discoveries,” and people are justified in disagreeing with the statement that it is so proved.

Natural History. You may get the complete contents of the November issue of NH and some of the articles here: http://www.naturalhistorymag.com/

“The Perimeter of Ignorance,” by Neil deGrasse Tyson. How the argument from ignorance actively impedes scientific progress.

“Evolution in Action,” by Jonathan Weiner. Mr. Weiner has fallen victim to a bit of creationist disinformation: His otherwise excellent article is marred by his statement that the story of the peppered moth has fallen. See “Why the Peppered Moth Remains an Icon of Evolution,” by Matt Young, and references therein ( http://www.pandasthumb.org/pt-archi[…]/000886.html ).

See also the box, “Evolution That’s Fast Enough to Watch,” associated with Mr. Weiner’s article.

“The Fossils Say Yes,” by Donald Prothero. How transitional forms have filled in the gaps in the fossil record.

“The Origins of Form,” by Sean Carroll. Another article on evolutionary developmental biology but worth reading even if you have read Professor Carroll’s article in SI.

“The Galaxies, They Are A-Changin’,” by Charles Liu. An interesting article, but I wish he hadn’t used the term “evolution” for the gradual development of the universe – as Professor Liu himself says, it is nothing like biological evolution.

There are many more articles than I have mentioned here, and I found virtually all interesting. If you are in New York or get there, don’t miss the exhibit, “Darwin,” November 19 through May 29, at the American Museum of Natural History, the publishers of NH.

Finally, one criticism. SI articles are well documented, but I found neither reference nor bibliography in the special section of NH.

25 Comments

”..but I wish he hadn’t used the term “evolution” for the gradual development of the universe…”

I recall a Gould article on the subject that the term evolution originally meant something like ‘the expected and predictable process of change.’ Once astronomers see ‘X’ happening, they know ‘Y’ will occur next. Darwin actually changed the meaning of the word.

Don’t naval personnel ‘evolve’ from one ship to the next - that is, move or go to a new ship?

I’m not planning a Hovindesque rant here, but ‘evolution’ does have a few meanings, most of them correct.

“The Galaxies, They Are A-Changin’,” by Charles Liu. An interesting article, but I wish he hadn’t used the term “evolution” for the gradual development of the universe — as Professor Liu himself says, it is nothing like biological evolution.

It’s very standard terminology. In astronomy, we talk about galaxy evolution (and stellar evolution) all the time.

Evolution just means “change over time,” so of course we ought to be able to use the term where it fits.

-Rob

Quite right. Rob said

Evolution just means “change over time,”

The creanderthals have emotified the meaning of language, remystifing the non-understanding of everyday terminatorology.

Mangling the message to suit their political purposes.

Interestingly the carved stone seats in the Colosseum in Rome were made for humans with smaller butts so humans are quietly evolving whether we like it or not.

“Stellar evolution” is the standard astronomical term to describe the change in stars over time. This has nothing at all to do with Darwinian evolution, of course. I don’t know whether the editors of Natural History printed the Liu story as part of an evolutionary theme, in which case it was a poor choice, or whether it was simply an unrelated article about astronomy that happened to discuss stellar evolution, in which case the confusion was unintentional.

In the fire service we have various training “evolutions” – water movement evolutions, ladder evolutions, ventilation evolutions, and so on. So far no creationist has objected to us having practiced water movement evolutions when his house is burning.

RBH

”..but I wish he hadn’t used the term “evolution” for the gradual development of the universe…”

Sounds like linguistic imperialism to me, not only modifying the meaning of a word, but also insisting your usage is the only correct usage.

Has anyone heard that Telic Thoughts is going to host an ANTI intelligent design petition?

The link for:

See “Why the Peppered Moth Remains an Icon of Evolution,” by Matt Young, and references therein (http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2005/03/why_.…

Seems to be giving an error:

Not Found

The requested URL /archives/2005/03/why_the_peppered_moth_remains_an_icon_of_evolution.html) was not found on this server. Apache/2.0.54 (FreeBSD) PHP/5.0.4 mod_ssl/2.0.54 OpenSSL/0.9.7e Server at www.pandasthumb.org Port 80

Interestingly the carved stone seats in the Colosseum in Rome were made for humans with smaller butts so humans are quietly evolving whether we like it or not.

Evolving, or eating more.

Not a good analogy but play it backwards 3,000,000 years

we can linguistically deconstruct “evolve” into “e” (out) and “volve” (roll or turn with a kind of overtone of fold).

Originally the word simply meant “to roll out”.

Word meanings change. Sorry, gotta just live with it.

Maybe we need to coin a new word (from Latin or Greek roots ?) which means “Descent with Modification” and then try to get it taught in Churches!

How about: “scandicumcambiration”?

Scandere (L.) “to climb” cum (L.) “with” Cambire (L.) “change” plus the noun-to-verb changing suffix -ation.

Lay that on them for a laugh!

Interestingly the carved stone seats in the Colosseum in Rome were made for humans with smaller butts so humans are quietly evolving whether we like it or not.

Having been in the Rose Bowl within the last decade, I can say that this particular manifestation of evolution must be quite recent. It is no wonder how they are able to squeeze 100,000 people in there.

The correct URL to the peppered moth paper is http://www.pandasthumb.org/pt-archi[…]/000886.html. I do not know why the link does not work in the article above, but it worked when I previewed this comment. I suspect gremlins.

I did not expect a firestorm of indignation over my “evolution” comment. Of course words evolve. Of course words have more than one meaning. And maybe biologists (I am not one) have coopted the term. But it still seems potentially confusing that NH ran an article on stellar evolution in an issue devoted to biological evolution. Maybe Professor Liu’s disclaimer was indeed the best way to handle the problem.

I did not expect a firestorm of indignation over my “evolution” comment.

Not to fan the flames, but just as a point of lingistic interest:

It’s unfortunate that the word “evolution” came be associated with the biological phenomena that it did. I think the word is actually more appropriate to the stellar phenomena. It implies - at least to me - a kind of “unfolding”; i.e. that events are predetermined at the outset, and just need to play out.

I don’t think Darwin used the word in the original edition of Origin of Species - but I don’t have a copy right here; I could be wrong.

I have fixed the URL in the main entry. That citation is a summary of an SI paper by Ian Musgrave and me. The SI paper itself is not available on the Web, but you may find an earlier version at http://www.talkreason.org/articles/moonshine.cfm .

I did not expect a firestorm of indignation over my “evolution” comment.

I don’t see any “indignation”, let alone a “firestorm”. Is that how you generally perceive any comment that is in any way critical of something you have written?

P.S.

But it still seems potentially confusing that NH ran an article on stellar evolution in an issue devoted to biological evolution.

“still”? This is very different from your original complaint, which was about Dr. Liu’s (entirely appropriate) use of a word in his article, not about the appropriateness of NH including that article. I suggest leaving this sort of moving goalposts to the other side, and simply admit that your comment was ill-considered and ill-informed.

Is that how you generally perceive any comment that is in any way critical of something you have written?

Well, frankly, I thought I detected some indignation. (“Sounds like linguistic imperialism to me, not only modifying the meaning of a word, but also insisting your usage is the only correct usage,” according to “God,” who ought to know.) “Firestorm” was an example of hyperbole. Maybe a half-dozen comments on such a small point deserved hyperbole, maybe not.

I suggest leaving this sort of moving goalposts to the other side, and simply admit that your comment was ill-considered and ill-informed.

Oy. What I meant to say was that the term was potentially confusing inasmuch as the article ran in an issue devoted to biological evolution. See also Comment 54449, which makes my point very well.

I was always under the impression that the first person to use the word “evolution” to describe a biological process was Charles Bonnet a mid 18th century French physician/scientist most famous for his named syndrome of hallucinations in normal elderly patients. Bonnet conceptualized an extremely complex scala naturae whereby periodic catastrophies would come along to change the strata and the organisms would be wiped out or climb the next rung of the ladder. This ladder of progress didn’t have man at the top but layers and layers of angels and archangels and the whole heavenly host all the way up to the intelligent designer himself! This idea of evolution was toally alien to Darwin and he refused to use the term preferring “descent with modification” which implied no direction.

Our current project to update all of our IT systems is called “Managed Evolution” which sounds a little like ID. I believe some of the old mainframe code is IC.

My issue of “Skeptical Inquirer” arrived yesterday. Lots of familiar names from Panda’s Thumb on the cover!

Well, frankly, I thought I detected some indignation. (“Sounds like linguistic imperialism to me, not only modifying the meaning of a word, but also insisting your usage is the only correct usage,” according to “God,” who ought to know.)

So for God to think that you’ve acted badly necessitates that God is angry at you? You seem not to have grasped the point of my statement, that you seem to feel that all criticism is angry (“indignation” implies anger).

“Firestorm” was an example of hyperbole. Maybe a half-dozen comments on such a small point deserved hyperbole, maybe not.

So small a point that you felt it necessary to blow up your response to a level of such an ad hominem as “firestorm of indignation”, especially after people went out of their way to write such things as “I’m not planning a Hovindesque rant here”. A simple neutral reading reflects a handful of informative and corrective comments.

Oy. What I meant to say was that the term was potentially confusing inasmuch as the article ran in an issue devoted to biological evolution. See also Comment 54449, which makes my point very well.

Oy indeed. You have now made three different claims, and I believe that you meant each of them. The civilized thing would be to apologize to Dr. Liu for An interesting article, but I wish he hadn’t used the term “evolution” for the gradual development of the universe, which appears to blame him for using terminology correctly, and to NH for But it still seems potentially confusing that NH ran an article on stellar evolution in an issue devoted to biological evolution, which appears to blame them for poor editorial judgment and sowing confusion. From the table of contents we have

OUT THERE: The Galaxies They Are A-Changin’ The cosmos evolves, just like life on Earth. CHARLES LIU

You might well want to dispute the claim in the second line (but that might involve dealing with facts and argumentation), but given that the intention was clearly stated, the “potentially confusing” claim is off base and, given the stated claim, failing to apply (in standard fashion) the word “evolve” to the cosmos in the body of the article would have been downright bizarre.

Chris Lawson Wrote:

“Stellar evolution” is the standard astronomical term to describe the change in stars over time. This has nothing at all to do with Darwinian evolution, of course. I don’t know whether the editors of Natural History printed the Liu story as part of an evolutionary theme, in which case it was a poor choice, or whether it was simply an unrelated article about astronomy that happened to discuss stellar evolution, in which case the confusion was unintentional.

This is a false dichotomy. In fact, the table of contents of NH explicitly contradicts your second sentence. They intentionally included an article about stellar evolution in an attempt to relate it to biological evolution. One would have to read the article (I haven’t) to know whether there’s any merit to the thesis, but since that is the thesis, it isn’t a poor choice to include the article. It would be poor judgment for editors to refuse to include articles that attempt to argue for something just because it is widely believed that what is being argued for is “of course” false.

I agree that there is some confusion about analogies between stellar and biological evolution. With stellar evolution there is a high degree of predictability about the process of origin to extinction of a star based on initial conditions but with species this predictability isn’t present because of probably many emergent properties including but not limited to changing local environments and the kinds of randomly generated genetic changes. As I mentioned in comment 54534 the term “evolution” historically meant a predictable unfolding of events which is why Darwin wisely avoided it in the mid 1800s. The use of “evolution” to describe a predictable progressive alteration of phenotype usually is classified under the idea of orthogenesis which I think has been discredited.

However, doesn’t stellar evolution usually describe development of a single star through the stages, while biological evolution is concerned with populations? This would seem to me as being the biggest discrepance in the term use.

The article is called “The Galaxies, They Are A-Changin’”; stellar evolution was introduced by commenters here. These discussions tend to resemble the parlor game of “telephone”, where a message gets distorted as passed from one person to another.

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This page contains a single entry by Matt Young published on October 30, 2005 1:38 PM.

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