This view of life

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Over my “vacation” (which unfortunately ended up being more work than play), I was at a dinner with two of my best friends from the past 15-odd years. For whatever reason, the topic turned to evolution–and we quickly realized that we had, erm, differing opinions on whether evolution actually occurred or not. Now, this was pretty depressing to me, as both of them are very intelligent women, and one happens to work in a scientific field. So, we retreated to a coffee shop for some animated conversation on science, religion, and politics. I don’t know if I changed any minds or not, but that wasn’t really my goal anyway–rather, just to talk about the evidence that supported evolution, and to discuss their own reservations and objections. Obviously there were only so many things we could cover, but it was an interesting chat (and I hope I wasn’t too harsh. It’s a topic that makes me a bit…excitable.)

Anyhoo, I wish I’d had this op-ed on me. Written by evolutionary biolgist Olivia Judson, it highlights just a few things that make evolution so amazing:

Organisms like the sea slug Elysia chlorotica. This animal not only looks like a leaf, but it also acts like one, making energy from the sun. Its secret? When it eats algae, it extracts the chloroplasts, the tiny entities that plants and algae use to manufacture energy from sunlight, and shunts them into special cells beneath its skin. The chloroplasts continue to function; the slug thus becomes able to live on a diet composed only of sunbeams.

Still more fabulous is the bacterium Brocadia anammoxidans. It blithely makes a substance that to most organisms is a lethal poison - namely, hydrazine. That’s rocket fuel.

And then there’s the wasp Cotesia congregata. She injects her eggs into the bodies of caterpillars. As she does so, she also injects a virus that disables the caterpillar’s immune system and prevents it from attacking the eggs. When the eggs hatch, the larvae eat the caterpillar alive.

It’s hard not to have an insatiable interest in organisms like these, to be enthralled by the strangeness, the complexity, the breathtaking variety of nature.

(Continue reading at at Aetiology)

66 Comments

Yes, I have many intelligent friends with masters or PhD’s in economics or business that are just as ignorant of evolutionary theory as your friends apparently were.

ignorant does not always equal stupid, by any means. Most folks that don’t take biology at the college level have an extremely poor grasp of evolutionary theory and the evidence for it.

This reflects the poor state of education of this subject at the secondary level. I think most likely because of the inevitable controversy it creates among those who have fundamentally opposed religious beliefs - for whatever reason - results in fewer teachers willing to do a good job teaching the subject.

However, even past secondary education, there is no incentive for someone who is in business management to keep themselves current in the slightest bit with important scientific theories that have no relevance in their daily lives.

while as a scientist, i too tend to lament this attitude, it is understandable.

the only folks i end up criticizing directly and profusely any more are those that prefer to maintain their denial when they actually ARE presented with the evidence and theory, and/or attempt to get their opinions publically reviewed without bothering to even check the evidence first.

Folks like that are quite common enough to keep my ire up indefinetly :)

cheers

However, even past secondary education, there is no incentive for someone who is in business management to keep themselves current in the slightest bit with important scientific theories that have no relevance in their daily lives.

i should rephrase that to “…important scientific theories that they THINK have no relevance in their daily lives.”

As has been pointed out many times here on PT, and is a fact readily discernible by anyone who takes a quick gander at the literature, ET is a theory that is damn critical to the quality of every day life we have become accustomed to.

I am no scientist (just a Systems Analyst) but I make sure I still read up on biology, physics, quantum mechanics, chemistry, astronomy etc. It allows me to see a “bigger” picture. That’s why I love this blog.

Tara Smith Wrote:

I think I’ve mentioned before that this my high school bio class was like this as well–lots of memorization, a good dose of anatomy, but no emphasis on evolution to tie it all together. In fact, I thought biology was boring before I took an intro course in college.

All college intro courses are not created equal. Could you say a little about the good features of yours?

While we may be alarmed that PhD economists are ignorant of even the basic principles of evolutionary theory, I must confess that my grasp of economics is pretty thin as well.

I wonder if some scholars of the “dismal science” feel equally alarmed by the nation’s ignorance of economics. Government economic policies have a huge influence over our daily life, and yet they are set by idealogues who promote voodoo “trickle-down” economics.

I never took a class in economics in high school or college. I am sure that the stupefying ignorance revealed in American polls regarding evolution is more than matched by the belief that tax cuts to the very wealthy will create new jobs on Main Street.

While we may be alarmed that PhD economists are ignorant of even the basic principles of evolutionary theory, I must confess that my grasp of economics is pretty thin as well.

Of course no-one is expert or even particularly well versed on every subject. I’m not well versed on economic theory either, which is exactly why you won’t see me making any particular strong claims about that field, as if I knew what I was talking about.

The problems happen when people with obviously little knowledge nevertheless see fit to make sweeping indictments and authoritative sounding arguments against the position they know so little about. And follow up by refusing to consider that they might lack competance in that area.

I always grin when someone misspells the word ‘competence’.

;-)

I must confess that my grasp of economics is pretty thin as well…I never took a class in economics in high school or college…Government economic policies have a huge influence over our daily life, and yet they are set by idealogues who promote voodoo “trickle-down” economics.

This sort of statement makes me grin as well, since I’ve studied quite a bit of economics. Daniel Kim may have a “pretty thin grasp” of economics, but this doesn’t prevent him from “knowing” that economic policies that offend him (but which he doesn’t understand even slightly) are “voodoo”.

This is very closely analogous to those who don’t know squat about evolution, but know that it’s also “voodoo” and doesn’t happen. And their “knowledge” that evolution doesn’t happen is informed by convictions as unrelated to evolution as Kim’s are to economics.

This isn’t to say that “trickle-down” economics is a good idea (because if you DO know something about economics, you’ll know that ANY economic policy good for someone is either bad or less good for someone else, and that different policies with opposite effects can have the same label in the world of politics), only that Kim has denounced it immediately after admitting he doesn’t understand it. He’s never studied it, he’s never taken a course in it, but he knows that those genuine, practicing, professional economists promoting a policy he dislikes are “stupefyingly ignorant.” Creationists do not exceed this level of arrogance.

Just thought I ought to let you know where the term ‘voodoo economics’ came from before you denounce ‘non-economists’ from using it:

When vying for the Republican party presidential nomination for the 1980 election, George H.W. Bush derided Reagan’s supply-side policies as “voodoo economics”.

from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voodoo_Economics

Come on - ‘All is fair in love or war’ - same applies to politics too - its up to specialists to explain their reasoning in a democracy - not cloak it in obscure language and say that the proles can’t play. Ken Millar made the point in his webcast last night that science needs to celebrate its popularisers, - not get sniffy about the likes of Sagan and Jay Gould.

We all have a duty to expand the boundaries of our understanding, and realise their limits. And if we have a deeper understanding that we feel to be important - then we have a duty to convey that in a meaningful way to a society that is going to make decisions about the matter. I actually studied economics as part of an ecological science course - there are some interesting parallels between human and natural systems. That’s why John Nash’s insights inform study of both. Social organisms all evolve their societies by a form of ‘trade’. Perhaps evolutionary biology and ecology should be taught as an integral part of economics courses?

its up to specialists to explain their reasoning in a democracy - not cloak it in obscure language and say that the proles can’t play.

This idea is both good and necessarily limited. Even the most lucid popularizer cannot communicate the depth of understanding that can be achieved by those who dedicate their lives to some discipline. So the best popularization can only go so far.

What’s annoying is that in some fields (like economics, politics, psychology, etc.) we have the public perception that “opinions are like assholes” and no amount of education or experience can lead to a better understanding of these topics than can be assimilated in kindergarten.

So I’m amused at the irony here. Tara Smith has friends who are intelligent, educated (but not in evolution), and still “know better” than to “believe in evolution.” And here we have a response from someone intelligent, educated (but not in economics) who still “knows better” than to “believe in” trickle-down economics. Without knowing even what it is. Sound familiar?

Flint -

A layman can certainly grasp the major impact of some basic economic policies.

Not only that, but in a democracy, an individual is obliged to to have some concept of what type of economic policy direction he or she supports.

An individual does not need a PhD, nor even a bachelor’s degree, in economics, to see the general effects of, say, the tax cuts supported by the Bush administration. And to either support or oppose that particular policy, based on reasonable predictions of the outcome. The terms “trickle down” and “voo-doo” were invented by academic economists and powerful decision makers, and have come to be quite broadly understood. Major figures in academic economics have made statements similar to those made by Daniel Kim.

Unlike evolutionary biology, or purely descriptive economics, public policy decisions do carry a major normative component, and there will always be different opinions even in the face of the same facts, even if all disputants are equally educated.

Having practiced an important yet obscure branch of pathology for many years (note - not any more), and being very aware that it may be close to impossible to explain some things adequately to lay people who lack extensive background studies, I sympathize with the view that expert understanding cannot easily be translated. But I also think that Dean Morrison is right. We should try. We can at least let people know what basic material they need to study, and where it is available.

Might I just say that evolutionary biology is frigging HARD? Nothing could be more obvious than evolution–the evidence for it is truly overwhelming and no other explanation makes a bit of sense. But the MECHANISMS of evolution are frankly a nightmare to grasp. I don’t mean the basic variation-selection riff, but the newer evo-devo stuff, as outlined in “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” by Sean Carroll and “facilitated variation,” as posited in “The Plausibility of Life” by Marc Kirschner and John Gerhart. This stuff might be child’s play to a biologist, but to a layperson who is merely fascinated by biology, it is complex, confusing, difficult material. And these authors are very good science popularizers, using lots of examples and illustrations. Please, pity any non-specialist trying to stay abreast of innovations in evolutionary science. Imagine how in some ways it would just be so much easier, and in some ways more intuitive, to throw up one’s hands and say, “Well, maybe God just did it somehow.”

Harold:

An individual does not need a PhD, nor even a bachelor’s degree, in economics, to see the general effects of, say, the tax cuts supported by the Bush administration.

OK, where do we start trying to popularize and communicate here. For example, if there ARE any effects, how long before they become visible? How large an input (size of tax cut) is required for eventual visibility? What other factors might significantly enter into play here? What are THEIR timelines? Will those factors (list individually) increase or decrease the net effect of the tax cuts? What actually *happens* with the income no longer taxed? Trace the trajectory of that money in some detail. Do Congressional spending programs relate to government income in any way? If so, how? Economically, does it matter WHOSE taxes get cut, or will the effects (if any, see above) be related to the size and not the recipients of the cut?

Now, all of these questions (and quite a few more) are *directly significant* in evaluating the policy. Yet you claim to see the “general effects” already? I’m impressed, if this is true. My knowledge tells me this is not yet possible. My experience tells me there are too many variables to extract exactly what if anything such a small net taxation difference does to a huge national economy. My observation tells me that people react for or against such policies on emotional and (for lack of a better term) moral grounds, and economics per se are irrelevant anyway.

The “trickle-down” philosophy presumes a chain of events and circumstances that would appeal to Rube Goldberg. Nonetheless, these are specific predictions capable of being traced and measured. It really IS possible to follow the money. Doing so takes a lot of time and a lot of good detailed information. After all, new jobs ARE created all the time. Working backwards, where did the investment money come from to create them? Some of it probably came from sales of stock. Some of that stock was purchased by the wealthy. Some of that wealth was available because it wasn’t taxed. Does this mean the tax cut led directly to the job? Of course not. Would the jobs have been created anyway? Can we even collect good enough data to know how many extra jobs were created by the investment of un-taxed money, and how many would have been created without it?

Backing off from the details, is it even generally true that money spent by the government, however beneficial it might be to the beneficiaries, is not *productive* money? Governments are consumers and redistributors, not producers. So can we say in general terms that the less money the government extracts from an economy, the more productive that economy is? What should we use as a basis for comparison? It’s not like economics has a “control nation”.

Even today using supercomputers, our best econometric models are lousy predictors. Indeed, they are good postdictors primarily of the historical cases used to calibrate them! Once calibrated, we plug in every variable we think is significant relative to some OTHER historical economic condition, the model crunches away, and ends up predicting something that did not happen! So we add THAT to our calibration suite, try to postdict something else, it fails, and so on.

So does this mean economics remains beyond human comprehension? Is this why economists are said to be paid twice, once to tell you what will happen and again to tell you why it didn’t? But nonetheless, you tell me that “a layman can grasp the impact of some basic economic policies.” Too bad economists can’t model it, despite decades of tweaking. Maybe they should go out and poll some laymen?

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Flint -

A good reply, and one worthy of far more time than I am able to give today.

Most of your points are indisputably correct. Overall, I’d say I’m a bit more confident that we can predict certain effects of certain types of economic policies. I would say that policies associated with certain polarized ideologies (on both sides of the spectrum) can be reasonably predicted to produce certain outcomes. I’m neither an expert at the PhD level (although I am current working on an MBA :) ), nor a totally uninformed and opinionated ignoramous, on this particular topic.

I’ve copied your post and pasted it into a file, and I’ll try to do it some justice later in the month. Any resemblance of this promise to the words of mealy-mouthed creationists who demand a “different forum” or “private debate” is coincidental; I really will try to do it justice and post any reply I make in an appropriate slot right here on PT. It’s quite literally a matter of time.

I think it’s essential to understand that due to the amount of knowledge that humanity has accumulated, we *must* rely on experts in various fields.

No one has sufficient time to be an expert in every field which will impact their lives and requires expert knowledge (economy, taxes, medicine, science, religion, etc.).

To that extent in the PR war, it is essential for scientists to list their credentials and the commonly accepted views on various subjects when addressing public venues. Note that they do this in trials & even in science with your Vita’s.

I’m not saying that we should rely on arguments from authority, but these credentials are often a quick & easy method of providing relative weight to 2 sides of an argument.

Therefore, these projects (the Clergy Letter & the Steve’s project amongst others) are excellent tools. My position is that we do NOT need to convince people that our side is true. We only need to convince people that if they want to get down to the truth, they’ll have to look into it a bit for themselves.

My gut feeling is that of those motivated to investigate for themselves, we’ll win over a very high percentage.

Evolution is science? It is admittedly unobservable, lacking fossil evidence, dependent upon scientific consensus, and essentially a belief system about past life on Earth. The following 12 quotes are from leading and well known scientists and researchers. A larger work with 130 similar quotes is available: “The Revised Quote Book”, edited by Dr. A. Snelling, PhD, pub. by: Creation Science Foundation, Australia “The absence of fossil evidence for intermediary stages between major transitions in organic design, indeed our inability, even in our imagination, to construct functional intermediates in many cases, has been a persistent and nagging problem for gradualistic accounts of evolution.” Stephen Jay Gould (Professor of Geology and Paleontology, Harvard University), “Is a new and general theory of evolution emerging?” Paleobiology, vol. 6(1), January 1980, p. 127 “Contrary to what most scientists write, the fossil record does not support the Darwinian theory of evolution because it is this theory (there are several) which we use to interpret the fossil record. By doing so we are guilty of circular reasoning if we then say the fossil record supports this theory.” Ronald R. West, PhD (paleoecology and geology) (Assistant Professor of Paleobiology at Kansas State University), “Paleoecology and uniformitarianism”. Compass, vol. 45, May 1968, p. 216 “The chance that higher life forms might have emerged in this way is comparable with the chance that ‘a tornado sweeping through a junk yard might assemble a Boeing 747 from the materials therein’.” Sir Fred Hoyle (English astronomer, Professor of Astronomy at Cambridge University), as quoted in “Hoyle on Evolution”. Nature, vol. 294, 12 Nov. 1981, p. 105 “Echoing the criticism made of his father’s habilis skulls, he added that Lucy’s skull was so incomplete that most of it was ‘imagination made of plaster of Paris’, thus making it impossible to draw any firm conclusion about what species she belonged to.” Referring to comments made by Richard Leakey (Director of National Museums of Kenya) in The Weekend Australian, 7-8 May 1983, Magazine, p. 3 “The entire hominid collection known today would barely cover a billiard table, … the collection is so tantalizingly incomplete, and the specimens themselves often so fragmented and inconclusive, that more can be said about what is missing than about what is present. …but ever since Darwin’s work inspired the notion that fossils linking modern man and extinct ancestor would provide the most convincing proof of human evolution, preconceptions have led evidence by the nose in the study of fossil man.” John Reader (photo-journalist and author of “Missing Links”), “Whatever happened to Zinjanthropus?” New Scientist, 26 March 1981, p. 802 “A five million-year-old piece of bone that was thought to be a collarbone of a humanlike creature is actually part of a dolphin rib, …He [Dr. T. White] puts the incident on par with two other embarrassing [sic] faux pas by fossil hunters: Hesperopithecus, the fossil pig’s tooth that was cited as evidence of very early man in North America, and Eoanthropus or ‘Piltdown Man,’ the jaw of an orangutan and the skull of a modern human that were claimed to be the ‘earliest Englishman’. “The problem with a lot of anthropologists is that they want so much to find a hominid that any scrap of bone becomes a hominid bone.’” Dr. Tim White (anthropologist, University of California, Berkeley). As quoted by Ian Anderson “Hominoid collarbone exposed as dolphin’s rib”, in New Scientist, 28 April 1983, p. 199 “We add that it would be all too easy to object that mutations have no evolutionary effect because they are eliminated by natural selection. Lethal mutations (the worst kind) are effectively eliminated, but others persist as alleles. …Mutants are present within every population, from bacteria to man. There can be no doubt about it. But for the evolutionist, the essential lies elsewhere: in the fact that mutations do not coincide with evolution.” Pierre-Paul Grassé (University of Paris and past-President, French Academie des Sciences) in Evolution of Living Organisms, Academic Press, New York, 1977, p. 88

Just a few comments:

Dunk Wrote:

All college intro courses are not created equal. Could you say a little about the good features of yours?

I doubt my course was all that extraordinary. It was a large lecture (200+), but the profs didn’t seem to be reluctant to teach it (which was the impression I got from my intro chem profs, for example). And they were either experts or talented up-and-comers in their fields: Nick Ornston, Peg Riley, heck, Nobelist Sidney Altman even taught 2 intro bio lectures. (Though, admittedly, he wasn’t the best lecturer). They just made it interesting, real, and exciting. It was probably dull to those who already had AP bio, but for someone with my biology background, it was just that “eureka” class where everything came together.

Flint Wrote:

Tara Smith has friends who are intelligent, educated (but not in evolution), and still “know better” than to “believe in evolution.” And here we have a response from someone intelligent, educated (but not in economics) who still “knows better” than to “believe in” trickle-down economics. Without knowing even what it is. Sound familiar?

Just to clarify and to come to their defense–neither claimed to have really studied the issue, and I brought up a lot of issues they hadn’t considered before. (I also, of course, followed up with an email with lots of sources, and some other things I hadn’t had time to discuss that evening). Like I said, I don’t know whether it changed minds, but I hope it at least encouraged them to study the issue further.

Chris Wrote:

Evolution is science? It is admittedly unobservable, lacking fossil evidence, dependent upon scientific consensus, and essentially a belief system about past life on Earth. The following 12 quotes are from leading and well known scientists and researchers. A larger work with 130 similar quotes is available: “The Revised Quote Book”, edited by Dr. A. Snelling, PhD, pub. by: Creation Science Foundation, Australia

Hi Chris–you’ll find that people here generally aren’t impressed by quote-mining, but I hope you stick around, read some other threads and learn more about the evidence for evolution–including ample fossil evidence. In addition to this site, http://www.talkorigins.org (which isn’t loading for me right now) has a searchable index where you can find more information. Understanding evolution is also a good intro site.

I would just like to point out that monkeys do as good of a job picking stocks as professionals ( http://www.xent.com/FoRK-archive/july99/0271.html ) while biologists have a pretty good track record of understanding the ecosystems that influence our chosen field of study - meaning that I can predict a great number of things using the theory of evolution but even Robert J. Aumann can’t predict a market with any kind of accuracy even with 10,000 economic theories.

So, whether we understand supply and demand, and whether we have read milton friedman ghhaaaa… we can understand that an unregulated marketplace favors those who begin with more capital over those whos ideas are better. Even though the regulations hamper business, they also maintain a level playing field and a healthy environment. Also, we can understand that walmart is a result of supply side economics and we can understand that we are subsidizing them in the most disgusting way possible by allowing them to place the burden of health care and food purchasing ability on the communities it enters. Dispicable.

So, I did take econ 101 and I can have slightly educated opinions about economics. But I would posit that economic desisions that we need to make as a people are largely moral decisions. i.e. How far do you let members of your community fall? How do we justify witholding preventative health care based on income? Are we equating income with quality of being? etc.

Evolution on the other hand, is explained by evidence and has no moral underpinnings other than that science in general has utterly shattered religious beliefs that include magic in their mythologies like rerssurection, hurling thunderbolts, parting red seas, burning bushes talking to people, petty gods killing all the firstborn children of a people and etc. But that isn’t moral, it’s just reality.

Flint - of all subjects - Economics doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s study depends on the concept that people make ‘economic decisions’ - rational or otherwise - all the time. These decisions can be drastically affected by what ‘economists’ say (or keep to themselves). (A bit like Heisenburg’s uncertainty principle - although I know one shouldn’t make inappropriate analogies to quantuum mechanics - it’s the sign of a quack). Perhaps economists have even more responsiblity for intellectual honesty and effective communication, along with a dash of humility, than in most subjects. My understanding of the ‘tax cuts for the rich’ programs of Reagan and Bush2 is may lead to apparrant prosperity -coupled with increasing national debt to quite astonishing levels. Doesn’t the US owe the Chinese a lot of money? Perhaps I am wrong - (and it hardly matters as I am not a US citizen) - but if i’m going to plan my spending and use my vote on that basis unless an economist puts me right. In reality I’d base my decisions on my perceived motivations of the players involved - something I got from John Nash - you see Economics and Evolutionary Biology do have a meeting place..

.. and that Troll ‘Chris’ has just posted his exact same reading list on another thread - sadly I doubt he’s listening Tara.

Posted by BWE on January 4, 2006 12:42 PM (e) (s)

Evolution on the other hand, is explained by evidence and has no moral underpinnings other than that science in general has utterly shattered religious beliefs that include magic in their mythologies like rerssurection, hurling thunderbolts, parting red seas, burning bushes talking to people, petty gods killing all the firstborn children of a people and etc. But that isn’t moral, it’s just reality.

I doubt that. Check out some creationist sites.

Chris Wrote:

pub. by: Creation Science Foundation, Australia

‘Nuff said.

I think expertise is a crisis for the social animal. We seem conditioned for an environment where tasks and tools are basic, and any individual can perform any task using its associated tools. Cultivating expertise allows huge advances, but it throws off that conditioning. So you get people trying to comment on things about which they know little to nothing*, and they get offended when someone frankly tells them they’re not qualified. Some people are just wallowing in egotistical pride, but some seem genuinely disoriented by expertise. I think we can cope with this organizational change in the long run, but two things appear to be vital to our success: experts must always live in glass houses, and non-experts must take the initiative to look at them and refrain from throwing stones. Criticism alone tends to keep honest people honest.

* In fact, I may have just done that very thing in this post!

I find it interesting that Chris’s mined quotes are more than 20 years old.

Yes, those are amazing examples of life’s variety, but how did you convince your skeptical friends that they are the result of known evolutionary mechanisms?

Lets face it, evolutionary science is very immature in 2005 to explain the origin of these sorts of features. If you want to be credible, stick to what can be explained by science, and be honest when you are speculating.

Chris Wrote:

Posted by Chris on January 4, 2006 12:11 PM (e) (s)

Evolution is science? It is admittedly unobservable, lacking fossil evidence, dependent upon scientific consensus, and essentially a belief system about past life on Earth. The following 12 quotes are from leading and well known scientists and researchers. A larger work with 130 similar quotes is available: “The Revised Quote Book”, edited by Dr. A. Snelling, PhD, pub. by: Creation Science Foundation, Australia

.….….….….

How dare you defile the good name of Chris by engaging in such a pathetic quote-mining exercise under that moniker!! So please – either dispense with the creationist quote-mining or change your name to something like “Not-Chris”, “Un-Chris”, or “Anti-Chris”.

Puzzled by this request? Well, here’s a bit of background information from the unauthorized and unofficial University of Ediacara FAQ ( http://www.coe.uga.edu/%7Epkeck/edi[…]ra/FAQs.html ): ############################################################### # What’s all this “Chris” nonsense? I know some of those folks, and their names are not Chris! First, lighten up, pal. It’s supposed to be fun . Even before the formalization of the University, it seemed that talk.origins had more than its share of people named Chris, and virtually all were on the “evolutionist” side. In a clever parody of that quality we most despise, i.e. mindless following, many of the t.o. denizens adopted the name Chris in an effort to show the inevitable moral corruption brought on by such sheeplike behavior. It’s also fun. And… ################################################################

So like I said, the name “Chris” belongs to the pro-science, pro-evolution types in this neck of the woods. Please do not defile that good name by using it to promote creationist drivel…

Lets face it, evolutionary science is very immature in 2005

2006 Dave, 2006.….. do try to keep up…

Steve is the new Chris.

Dave Wrote:

Yes, those are amazing examples of life’s variety, but how did you convince your skeptical friends that they are the result of known evolutionary mechanisms?

Hi Dave. As I mentioned in the post, I *didn’t* have that op-ed at the time, so those specific examples weren’t discussed.

Lets face it, evolutionary science is very immature in 2005 to explain the origin of these sorts of features. If you want to be credible, stick to what can be explained by science, and be honest when you are speculating.

Indeed. But from the tone of your post, I suspect we might disagree about “what can be explained by science.”

People are impressed by equations. How else explain the amazing prestige of economics among people who despise sociology? Economics, after all, is a branch of sociology. It isn’t the physics of money. Note that I’m not suggesting that economists don’t know a thing or two, but then I think the other sociologists also have some insight into what’s going on.

BWE:

I would just like to point out that monkeys do as good of a job picking stocks as professionals

Does this mean that professionals are dumber than monkeys? Or does it mean that the stock market is not predictable? As a matter of fact, some models of the market explain exactly WHY it can’t be predicted. The market is largely a reflection of every investor guessing what every OTHER investor is going to do. Game theory is more helpful than economics here.

we can understand that an unregulated marketplace favors those who begin with more capital over those whos ideas are better.

From which I suppose we can deduce that regulation is bad, and “better” ideas are those that match your ideas? But creationism also works by equating “good” with “my preferences”.

Even though the regulations hamper business, they also maintain a level playing field and a healthy environment.

Let’s agree here that competition, if enforced, produces results we find desirable - growth, opportunities, rejection of undesirable practices, etc. The purpose of (some) regulation is to make sure competition stays competitive.

Also, we can understand that walmart is a result of supply side economics

I think you are falling into jargon here. WalMart succeeds because customers prefer to shop there. Customers shop there because they want lower prices for the same products.

we can understand that we are subsidizing them in the most disgusting way possible by allowing them to place the burden of health care and food purchasing ability on the communities it enters. Dispicable.

If by “we” you mean all of the people who choose to shop there, you’re correct. We could, if we wished, shop at (or even start up) stores who pay decent wages and provide decent health care. Of course, we’d have to charge high prices to afford to do so, and we wouldn’t have any customers. What you’re doing is adopting a posture of moral superiority that has nothing to do with economics.

But I would posit that economic desisions that we need to make as a people are largely moral decisions. i.e. How far do you let members of your community fall?

At the microeconomic level, I doubt this. Remember, everything in economics is a tradeoff. So which members of the community have “fallen” (whatever that means), and what did the community get in exchange? Well, the community got low prices. This scenario has played out endlessly: Henry Ford impoverished the families of countless buggy-whip makers. For shame! I DO suppose you are still walking everywhere out of moral principle, yes?

How do we justify witholding preventative health care based on income? Are we equating income with quality of being?

Are you SURE you studied any economics? Money is nothing more than a symbol of value, an abstraction of the goods and services the economy generates. By economic principle, those who have more money are producing more of value - that is, more stuff that other people are willing to pay for. Those who provide health care are ALSO providing it because others are willing to pay for it. Should they work for nothing, for moral reasons? Or should we subsidize them out of what we make?

The only “morality” in economics is that everything has a cost. Everything has a price. Costs can ONLY be paid by doing without some of X to pay for more of Y. Economics really has no morality at all; it’s just a distribution mechanism in this sense. The morality is projected onto economics by those who don’t like how other people are getting things distributed. So these moralistic do-gooders go around labeling efficient and truly competitive businesses “dispicable” simply for BEING efficient and competitive. We want our cake, and we want to eat it too, and those who eat their cake are dispicable for eating it, and those who don’t are dispicable for hoarding it.

Dean Morrison:

These decisions can be drastically affected by what ‘economists’ say

Now truthfully, just how much (as a percentage) of your total income do you allocate to what any economist recommends? Any at all?

My understanding of the ‘tax cuts for the rich’ programs of Reagan and Bush2 is may lead to apparrant prosperity -coupled with increasing national debt to quite astonishing levels.

No. There is, like it or not, very little relationship between how much a government takes in, and how much it expends. At the end of the Clinton administration, self-serving government economists looked at the 1999 numbers (at the end of the largest economic boom in history), projected those numbers over 10 years (!), and came up with a “projected surplus”. Congress promptly spent the ENTIRE PROJECTED SURPLUS in one 2-month binge. Of course, the surplus never could have materialized; it was simply a pretext to spend (remember 2000 was an election year).

There are certainly people who WANT to connect revenue with expenditure, do no deficit spending, and even reduce BOTH taxes and government, in lockstep. Doesn’t happen. But the central point is, cutting taxes isn’t what causes deficits. Spending is what causes deficits. The failure of “trickle down” policies doesn’t lie in the economic theory, but in the schizophrenic practice. There are three simultaneous goals here: to reduce taxes, to maintain or increase spending levels, and to keep the national debt in check. In economic reality, you can pick any two of these, and suffer the inverse of the third. In political reality, you can’t touch spending, you cut taxes to your voting constituency base, and you let the debt grow freely.

I think that if you have an open mind the evidence for evolution is much easier for a layman to believe than what is the correct economic theory.

I think it was economist Milton Friedman who said, “None of us really knows what all these numbers mean”.

I took a look at the article entitled “Organisms that look designed.” What was interesting to me was the inclusion of Wuchereria Bancrofti. It’s unbelivable to me that somebody thinks any designer would would create his “supposed” greatest masterpiece, the human, and then go on to create a parasite that causes great damage and disfiguration to it’s human hosts. I would expect much more logic and rationality from a great designer. Does this designer just want to punish the poor folks that happen to live in the warm climate preferred by the Wuchereria Bancrofti? No. Just like every other living organism, the Wuchereria Bancrofti was evolved and it will take any host it can use. Humans are nothing special to them.

Just checkin’–you realize that’s a spoof, right?

Organisms that look designed Wrote:

“Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose by God, but we won’t admit that even if he comes down from heaven and slaps us silly.” - Richard Dawkins, Oxford University Professor of Zoology by day, godless communist sympathizer by night

I assume you do, but with many creationist writings, it’s hard to tell sometimes. WinAce was a comedic genius, but definitely no creationist.

Alright, I feel dumb now. Maybe if I had read the whole thing I would have realized that…or maybe not. I’ll go back to lurking mode.

Before I go, I will just say that it’s interesting to me that many organisms that creationists believe are too complex to have evolved, I believe are too complex to have been designed. The Bible talks about how God created Earth and life but there is not a mention about the creation of matter (strings, quarks, protons, neutrons, electrons, etc.) itself which I consider to be as grand a feat if not more so.

The excerpt from Monty Python on that page is apt. It’s more or less the motto of ID:

“All things sick and cancerous, All evil great and small, All things foul and dangerous, The Lord God made them all.”

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This page contains a single entry by Tara Smith published on January 4, 2006 3:10 AM.

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