Steve Jones: Why creationism is wrong and evolution is right

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Professor Steve Jones presented a lecture at the Royal Society on evolution and creationism. The lecture can be watched at this link

Science is about disbelief. It accepts that all knowledge is provisional and that any theory might in principle be disproved. Some theories are better established than others: the earth is probably not flat, babies are almost certainly not brought by storks, and men and dinosaurs are unlikely to have appeared on earth within the past few thousand years. Even so, nothing is sacred in 1905 classical physics collapsed after a seemingly trivial observation about glowing gases and the same is potentially true for all other scientific theories.

Unlike ID, science is indeed tentative and can accept false positives. In addition, science can in fact accept our ignorance in some matters. This ignorance is often seen as evidence for design. Such gap arguments are what make Intelligent Design scientifically vacuous.

Many biologists are worried by a recent and unexpected return of an argument based on belief by the certainty, untestable and unsupported by evidence, that life did not evolve but appeared by supernatural means. Worldwide, more people believe in creationism than in evolution. Why do no biologists agree? Steve Jones will talk about what evolution is, about new evidence that men and chimps are close relatives and about how we are, nevertheless, unique and why creationism does more harm to religion than it does to science.

I will have to listen to Jones’s talk. I certainly agree with him that intelligent design does a lot of harm to religion. As far as science is concerned, it mostly serves to confuse people with what many have come to accept as a scientifically vacuous approach.

Steve Jones won the Aventis Prize for Science Books (then known as the Rhone-Poulenc Prize) in 1994 for ‘The Language of the Genes’. In 1997 he was awarded the Royal Society’s Michael Faraday Prize - the UK’s foremost award for communicating science to the public.

8 Comments

Thanka for the link, I also signed up for future notifications of web casts. SJ is terrific, maybe the next Sagan.

I just watched it. It was entertaining. I wish they’d been able to capture the slides. Jones is indeed a good speaker. I disagree with him that creationists in the US are a real danger. Salvador, DaveScot, Paul Nelson, Casey Luskin…these guys can’t find their own butts with both hands and a map.

An interesting lecture, even though my knowledge of Biology is limited.

However, expect some sort of creationist response over the next few days. I’m sure the boffins at AIG are working on this right now. Ham will harp back to the BBC’s Newsnight programme were he tackles Steve Jones on Salmon evolution and describes it as “speciation”. “Even though they have changed they are still Salmon”. With regard to HIV they will say that it is still just a virus ! Their response will be very predictable.

I would also say that the rise in creationism in the UK is due in no small part to AIG (UK)’s efforts. He’s right to be worried about it in the US. Creationist ideas may be scientifically redundant but try telling that to the ordinary Joe Public ? When a guy with a PhD and a string of letters after his name challenges evolution it can be very persuasive to lay people with no scientific knowledge.

As for languages, has he not heard of the tower of Babel ? (I’m being sarcastic by the way !)

SJ is terrific, maybe the next Sagan.

Hopefully he can avoid reproducing Cosmic Carl’s The Amniotic Universe.

I watched it a week or two ago. I agree that it was entertaining and informative … but it struck me as a “preaching to the choir” presentation. I did not think that it did a particularly good job of addressing the question and demonstrating the imbalance bewteen the two sides.

I just watched it. It was entertaining. I wish they’d been able to capture the slides.

Apparantly they’re working on an enhanced webcast which will include the slides.

The Royal Society have recently made a strong statement about creationism and evolution:

Royal Society statement on evolution, creationism and intelligent design’

The Royal Society is the oldest and most distinguised academic and scientific society in the world. Membership is considered an honour second only to that of getting a Noble prize - Dembski is still waiting for his invitation, but even his maths ought to tell him this is pretty improbable.

While your on the site you might want to look at the parting address that Lord May made last year - he covers the assault on science in general - including Global Warming Denial and tha Pope’s attitude to condom use - and ends with an attack on creationism in schools:

As a document: http://www.royalsoc.ac.uk/downloaddoc.asp?id=2414

and a video of the speech: Threats to tommorrow’s world

What Use is Half a Wing in Evolution of Birds?

About: What Use Is Half a Wing in the Ecology and Evolution of Birds?

Authors: Dial, Kenneth P.; Randall, Ross J.; Dial, Terry R.

Source: BioScience, Volume 56, Number 5, May 2006, pp. 437-445(9)

Publisher: American Institute of Biological Sciences

Dean Morrison Wrote:

Apparantly they’re working on an enhanced webcast which will include the slides.

Hi, the slides have been shown alongside the Webcast since launch (if you’re not seeing them check the browser compatibility link - basically your choice is IE or Firefox) and they’re also included in the enhanced Podcast that was launched last week.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by PvM published on April 29, 2006 7:20 PM.

Royal Society statement on evolution, creationism and intelligent design was the previous entry in this blog.

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