Ann Coulter: No evidence for evolution?

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I've now read all of the science-related (that's applying the term "related" very generously) stuff in Ann Coulter's awful, ghastly, ignorant book, Godless, and it's a bit overwhelming. This far right-wing political pundit with no knowledge of science at all has written a lengthy tract that is wall-to-wall error: To cover it all would require a sentence-by-sentence dissection that would generate another book, ten times longer than Coulter's, all merely to point out that her book is pure garbage. So I'm stumped. I'm not interested in writing such a lengthy rebuttal, and I'm sure this is exactly what Coulter is counting on—tell enough lazy lies, and no one in the world will have time enough to correct them conscientiously. She's a shameless fraud.

What to do? Well, we can't take apart the whole thing, but what we can do is focus on individual claims and show that Coulter is outrageously wrong—that she has written things that indicate an utter lack of knowledge of the subject. Some of us at the Panda's Thumb are going to be doing just that—look there later for more—and what I'm going to do here is address one very broad claim that Coulter has made repeatedly, and that is also common to many creationists.

That claim is that there is no evidence for evolution. I know, to anybody who has even a passing acquaintance with biology, that sounds like a ridiculous statement, like declaring that people can live on nothing but air and sunlight, or that yeti are transdimensional UFO pilots. Yet Coulter baldly makes the absurd claim that "There's no physical evidence for [evolution]", and insists in chapter 8 of her new book that there is "no proof in the scientist's laboratory or the fossil record." This is like standing outside in a drenching rainstorm and declaring that there is no evidence that you are getting wet.

Continue reading "Ann Coulter: No evidence for evolution?" (on Pharyngula))

57 Comments

You could save some effort by using extensive links to the Talk.Origins Index of Creationists Claims. It’s not like any of Coulter’s claims are new or deep.

how about we set up a “Coulter is scientifically ignorant” wiki? contributors could merely take a sentence or two and post the relevant links to index-cc or other pages to show where they’re wrong (and the relevant links to UD or other ID sites where it came from and the links to PT or other science-bloggers who took that argument down in the first place).

Click through and read the rest of the post: that’s what I do, more or less. I’m listing huge numbers of sources that contradict her claim that there is no evidence for evolution.

PZ

My point here is that there is an incredible amount of evidence for evolution, far more than any one person can digest, and that it is a vital field, still growing and still producing new results. All those papers don’t get published unless they contain some new observation, a new experiment, a new test of the idea…

Remember what the creationist propagandist Michael Behe did when he was presented with a stack of such papers at the Dover trial?

He waved them away.

Indeed, one of the most effective ways to reveal the intellectual dishonesty of a creationist is to ask them what their explanation is for the incontrovertible fact that 99.9% of professional biologists accept common descent as fact. Are all these highly educated people deluded fools? Or is it one of the world’s most successful conspiracies: to foist “materialistic dogma” on God fearing people?

My experience is that when asked to account for the unpleasant fact that only a microfraction of self-identifying “scientists” are motivated to peddle “intelligent design” and that virtually every one of these peddlers is a conservative Christian whose “contributions” to science are universally derided or non-existent, the typical creationist will respond with a tired script about “paradigm shifts.”

Like the rest of the creationists’ scripts, the “paradigm shift” script has also been debunked a thousand times. William Dembski, Michael Behe, Paul Nelson and their fellow professional liars are not “mavericks.” Pseudoscientists, hucksters, and charlatans are ancient occupations.

So too, corrosive attention-seeking clowns like Ann Coulter who appeal to the most base, paranoid and ignorant segments of society are as ancient as the human race (and probably older). They are not going to go away. And destroying the appeal of a freak show like Ann requires more than destroying her credibility.

And this is key: it requires destroying the credibility of those who provide her with a stage from which to present to her views.

This is a much more difficult task. Essentially what needs to be done is to harness the existing (and entirely justified) scorn and ridicule towards Ms. Coulter and her warped claims to the media outlets which treat her views as a worthwhile contribution to our country’s discourse in 2006 – many years after the depth and depravity of Coulter’s lies have been documented and made easily available for even the most lazy “journalist” to discover.

The same is true of the loony tunes at the Discovery Institute. When their “press releases” are recited and the work of Behe, Nelson, Dembksi or lesser losers like Wells or Luskin are quoted, the question must be asked: how can such behavior be justified in 2006? Imagine an article about AIDS running today which includes a discussion of the “theories” of Peter Duesberg. Or about the anniversary of the World War II which gives the stage to an “expert” in Holocause denial.

The bottom line is that such behavior is disgusting and harmful. It’s disgusting because it spits in the face of those who spent their lives working diligently to present the truth in the absence of confounding rhetoric. And it’s harmful because it represents a step in the direction of a future where “facts” are nothing more than stories manufactured by interest groups who can afford to widely disseminate them.

Infamously, countries around the world have experimented with such a future. The results in each case were ugly.

Well done! I would have preferred your using “infamous names” rather than “big names”…

Thanks PZ! This is indeed a valuable, resource rich post and a good link for future reference, and for referring media folks.

Someone suggested a Wiki on Coulter’s claims. For a start perhaps just linking each to a claim in the Index http://talkorigins.org/indexcc/ could be begun at After The Bar Closes.

If indeed a Wiki takes off it could include claims from Disco videos like Unlocking the Mysteries of Life, Icons of Evolution etc. This could become a very handy Wiki :)

Off-topic, but today is the 191st anniversary of a famous military battle in an otherwise obscure town in Belgium!!

Off-topic, but today is the 191st anniversary of a famous military battle in an otherwise obscure town in Belgium!!

…and it’s Father’s day!

Of course, we all understand that Coulter never intended to write a book about science, or even a coherent argument. Her goal is to polarize people, and to galvanize those on her side (for whom evidence does not matter) to provide political support for positions that mock the evidence.

But I really have to wonder what sort of government Coulter thinks would result from combining ignorance with insanity. And why would she wish to live under it? Sure, in the religious world you can make things come true just by wanting them to be true. But in the political world, another step is required: You had damn well better belong to the core power structure – otherwise, you will have less firepower than those who want things to be true that you don’t.

I think Coulter sincerely expects to become part of that power structure. She WANTS it to be true; isn’t that good enough?

today is the 191st anniversary of a famous military battle in an otherwise obscure town in Belgium

I always wanted to shout this before the “reverent doctor” did: Waterloo! Waterloo! (shrug)

According to wikipedia, today also: US and UK officially started a war in 1812 (a war I had not heard of before today) A Susan B. Anthony was fined $100 for trying to vote

and, to bring the topic back to evolution: Darwin received from Wallace the manuscript that pushed him to publish the Origin of Species.

Hope that helps,

Grey Wolf

Regarding what Ms. Coulter hopes to accomplish, I sincerely doubt it’s anything other than notoriety and income.

But how much evidence is needed?

I think it is a good thing to provide voluminous references, but this is not the tactic to be used generally with creos (not that PZ suggested it was, of course). People who can’t see the most obvious family resemblances for what they are will not likely be persuaded by more and more of them, in DNA, in organization, and in gross morphology.

Darwin persuaded open minds with far less evidence than we are able to collectively provide.

On the whole, we really should stick with the basics, phylogenetic patterns, resemblances that cannot be “accidental”, the lack of any convincing rational design existing in organisms, and the quantitatively-convincing DNA evidence (in a sense, DNA evidence is just more family resemblance, of course, but without the ambiguities that analogous organs produce in the minds of the naive). If Coulter can’t understand normal evidence admitted in the courts, she is obviously either dimwitted (unlikely) or intellectually dishonest–and of questionable competence as a lawyer (isn’t that what she was at one time?).

The multiplication of evidence is important, so that no one gets stuck with a single example of evolutionary evidence which might be thought by the creo to be a one-off item. But we cannot afford to jump around in the evidence, as if we might be abandoning superb intermediates like archaeopteryx, and crucial evidence like phylogenetic data, in the face of “withering IDist fire”. I think that Coulter would like us to get lost in presenting evidence that creos don’t understand, and that they wouldn’t accept if they did understand, instead of sticking to solid evidence that has existed for over a century, plus the even more precisely-evidenced corroborating evolutionary data discovered in the past couple of decades or so, notably re DNA.

I think that the DNA forensics successes could and should be tied more closely to the evolutionary successes of reading entire genomes. We have to pick and choose from the evidence if we are going to paint a convincing picture, since the entirety of evidence is very tempting to dismiss, a la Behe.

Again, not that PZ was saying otherwise, but I thought that it might be well to point out that our focus must be much narrower than the whole of the evolutionary evidence.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

But I really have to wonder what sort of government Coulter thinks would result from combining ignorance with insanity. And why would she wish to live under it?

Even in Stalinist Russia’s absolute worst days, the people at the top of the pyramid there lived very well indeed. In fact, their living well was an essential part of why so many people worked so hard to perpetuate the system. I’m sure Ann is confident that in the totalitarian America she dreams of she certainly would not be the one suffering in any way. And she’s probably right.

I thought that it might be well to point out that our focus must be much narrower than the whole of the evolutionary evidence.

It should be pointed out once again that people are not won TO creationism/ID because of “scientific evidence”, and they won’t be won AWAY from it by “scientific evidence”, either.

This is a *political* fight. It simply isn’t about “science”.

But I really have to wonder what sort of government Coulter thinks would result from combining ignorance with insanity.

I can’t speak for Coulter’s perspective, but it seems to me that such a government would indulge in unjustified invasions and occupations based on nothing but lies, would blow its own budget to extreme degrees, would deny & suppress scientific evidence that the planetary climate is being violently upset, would appoint incompetent cronies to vital positions where their incompetence & corruption would cost thousands of lives, would run a string of outrageous scandals such that neither media nor citizens could even keep count, would antagonize the world by appointing & supporting crude & belligerent representatives, would erode its own constitutional structures, would attempt to spy on all of its own citizens, would mobilize the most ignorant of its supporters by concocting fake social crises of emotional provocation but no real consequence, would allow at least one major city to be devastated by infrastructural neglect, would wantonly invoke national security to cover up its own malfeasances, would sabotage its own intelligence establishment to score petty political points, would distort its entire educational system around a contrived and meaningless testing program, would shovel its public treasury at corporations which paid a fraction of said monies to its own party, would do all sorts of things the mere suggestion of which illustrates what a fecund but warped imagination I have.

LOL! I’m glad that Ann has evolutionists in a tizzy. You could start by acknowledging the things you think she has right. Absolutely none? Then you have already lost your entire audience except the choir worshipping Darwin.

Lenny

It should be pointed out once again that people are not won TO creationism/ID because of “scientific evidence”, and they won’t be won AWAY from it by “scientific evidence”, either. This is a *political* fight. It simply isn’t about “science”.

Indeed. People choose to believe in creationist garbage because they have a “gut feeling” that “God did it” and, hey, all those happy Big Mac-eatin’ church-attendin’ NASCAR lovin’ fans can’t ALL be stone ignorant when it comes to biology. Besides, if believing that God poofed every life form on earth into existence is so moronic, then why don’t we see those Big Time Pundits on TV mocking and scorning people for holding such beliefs like they mock and scorn people who are outspoken avowed racists??? Hmmmmm??????

That’s about the depth of the thought processes of the typical creationist and ID peddler.

If you’ve any doubt about this whatsoever, hop on over the Cornell Creationists website (aka “The Design Paradigm”) and see how much progress Professor McNeill and PT’s PvM have made “educating” the believers.

That said, it is not impossible to convince people that Ann Coulter is vile. As I recall, even Joe Carter at the Evangelical Outpost is willing to admit that she is a creepazoid-shaped stain on America’s underpants.

Seeker: Click through and read the rest of the post. There’s a challenge there at the end: give me one paragraph from chapters 8-11 that you think are supportable and reasonable. Can you do it?

Which tired argument does she use to discuss Kitzmiller? Or does she not even bother?

You’re going to fall down laughing at this one.

Ann Coulter Wrote:

After Dover, no school district will dare breathe a word about “intelligent design,” unless they want to risk being bankrupted by ACLU lawsuits. The Darwinists have saved the secular sanctity of their temples: the public schools. They didn’t win on science, persuasion, or the evidence. They won the way liberals always win: by finding a court to hand them everything they want on a silver platter.

Indeed, one of the most effective ways to reveal the intellectual dishonesty of a creationist is to ask them what their explanation is for the incontrovertible fact that 99.9% of professional biologists accept common descent as fact. Are all these highly educated people deluded fools?

Here, I’ll answer for you.

1. How have you measured your 99% value? I doubt your data. But don’t think that providing such data wins your argument ;) I just want to keep you honest. Have you seen the data about how many M.D.s doubt evolution? Do they count as scientists?

2. It is a demonstrable fact that the majority of University professors are liberal. Anti-biblical, evolutionary thinking goes along with a liberal world view. And since most of our scientists have been educated in this system, I bet that they’d share this worldview.

This is a way of saying yes, the majority of scientists have been taken in by a philosophy of science that masquerades as real science, and because it has no real impact on most science (http://www.twoorthree.net/2005/11/e[…]n_contr.html, scientists can go on deluding themselves that their theory is working.

Seeker wrote:

“It is a demonstrable fact that the majority of University professors are liberal. Anti-biblical, evolutionary thinking goes along with a liberal world view.”

Did it ever occur to you that a liberal outlook might result from more education? (not training, but EDUCATION. It is difficult to adhere to a rigid, absolutist viewpoint as one learns more about the world. In addition, viewpoints vary. Are you talking about social liberalism? Fiscal liberalism? I have many friends and relatives who are educated and liberal, but are also religious and find a lot of value in the Bible.

Or, are you saying that being educated is a form of indoctrination? Seems a little silly, as an education helps one learn to THINK and to evaluate information; these are the antithesis to indoctrination.

Please excuse the unclosed parentheses in my post. It’s been a long workday…

Thanks, PZ. That’s a ridiculous statement, but no less than what I expected.

Seeker = Troll.

nothing more.

he’s been here before, says nothing new.

just a bunch of flame bait.

ignore and move on.

STJ: Gotcha; makes sense.

I believe Mann Coulter’s book reached #1 in sales the week it came out. Just let the horror of that fact sink in for a moment. That makes for quite a few people like ‘seeker’ in America today.

Thanks for exposing (and correcting) her dreadful lies. Such vile propaganda must be countered. Those who think it better to ignore Coulter and other popular mouthpieces of her ilk underestimate the damage such propaganda is causing. Just recently I heard on a local radio program a caller say to its conservative host that he had finally realized that liberals were more dangerous than terrorists, and the host congratulated the man on finally seeing the truth.

We’re in the midst of a culture war, folks, and god help us all if the ignorant masses are continued to be fed this diet of hate and lies. It isn’t hyperbole to worry that we might be on the verge of a second dark age.

PZ:

Are you sure that the DI approved of what she wrote, details and all? The excerpts I read are just what the DI doesn’t want its arguments to sound like, i.e. crude, caricatured, and overtly fundamentalism-driven and tied to classic creationism. Or has the DI abandoned the pretense of science after Dover?

I think they’ve abandoned the pretense. We’ve moved from sci-cre to ID to “criticism of evolution” on the legal front, while the poo flinging generally ramped up (see this very book for an example). I think that at this point the idea for creos is to circumvent the Lemon Test by getting society to the point where they won’t want the Lemon Test anymore.

As it is, in a lot of public schools creationism is taught exclusively by consensus of the locals, and kept under the radar. Extend that strategy, and eventually you’ll have to make a pilgrimage to Berkeley to get the straight dope on the age of the Earth… :)

kay Wrote:

I think that at this point the idea for creos is to circumvent the Lemon Test by getting society to the point where they won’t want the Lemon Test anymore.

That adds to my contention that anti-evolution activists are winning the PR game. My fellow critics devote nearly all of their efforts to restricting the “supply” of anti-evolution pseudoscience, while ignoring the “demand,” or even undermining themselves in that respect with “sneaking in God” charges and the basesess assumption that anti-evolution activists just “honestly believe” their snake oil. The public needs to know that ID/creationism is a scam - bad science and bad theology.

Anti-biblical, evolutionary thinking

But ID isn’t about religion. No sirree Bob. It’s just them lying atheist darwinists who say it is.

(snicker) (giggle)

This is why I love fundies so much. They KNOW, absolutely KNOW, that every time they preach, they lose in court. So what do they do … ? Yep, they preach anyway. Can’t NONE of them go ten minutes without preaching to all and sundry about their religious opinions, and thus giving the whole game away. They demonstrate clearly and conclusively that (1) ID is just fundamentalist apologetics, (2) IDers are just lying to us when they claim it isn’t, and (3) Judge Jones was entirely correct when he cobnlcuded that it is.

Pay attention here, Mr Dembski. It is precisely because of dolts like THIS one that ID will never win in court. No matter how many times you tell everyone to “ixnay on the iblebay”, there will ALWAYS be some dolt who jumps up and shouts “Jesus saves!!!!!!” They can’t shut up about their religious motivations. They don’t WANT to.

It’s why you will never win.

Lenny Wrote:

They can’t shut up about their religious motivations. They don’t WANT to.

It’s why you will never win.

The sad part is, the reason should be that his science is wrong.

Bill Gascoyne Wrote:

The sad part is, the reason should be that his science is wrong.

It would be nice if we could look at things in those terms. But unfortunately before we can reach that step the creationists are going to have to actually start doing some science.

[The sad part is, the reason should be that his science is wrong.]

The thing is, he doesn’t actually do any science.

(shrug)

Duhhh… I just went web trawling on the search term ‘creation science’. Google says 9,320,000 hits. The first site is pro, the second con, etc.

'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank Wrote:

Pay attention here, Mr Dembski. It is precisely because of dolts like THIS one that ID will never win in court.

(same old same old)

~70% of the public, including ~half of those who claim to accept evolution, are OK with teaching “both sides.” Never mind that ~69% have no clue as to what “both sides” means - and I was one of that ~69% a mere 10 years ago.

Even if they keep losing in court, they are shrewd enough to manipulate “demand” when they can’t control the “supply.” If we keep ignoring the “demand”, sooner or later they will win in court. In a way they “won” already, by forcing many teachers to omit or water down evolution for fear of disruption by students or their parents.

Coin Wrote:

It would be nice if we could look at things in those terms. But unfortunately before we can reach that step the creationists are going to have to actually start doing some science.

What I think that Bill means is that, whether the science is wrong or nonexistent, that is not enough legal justification to keep it out of public schools. For that one needs to show “religious intent,” either in terms of promotion or “prevention of the free exercise thereof” (and both apply to anti-evolution scams).

But as you and Bill know, anti-evolution scams have many more problems than just being religious. Exploiting those problems will help reduce the “demand.”

In a way they “won” already, by forcing many teachers to omit or water down evolution for fear of disruption by students or their parents.

No, that is OUR fault for allowing it to happen. It’s illegal to either water down evolution or to not teach it out of deference to parent’s religious opinions.

If they do it anyway, it’s because WE haven’t sued the crap out of them for doing it.

The Rev wrote:

“No, that is OUR fault for allowing it to happen. It’s illegal to either water down evolution or to not teach it out of deference to parent’s religious opinions.

If they do it anyway, it’s because WE haven’t sued the crap out of them for doing it.”

After reading the Deuteronomy passasge on another thread, the one that advocates KILLING anyone who tries to lead good followers astray, no wonder this goes on unimpeded. It would take a brave soul to take this on in some areas where the population expects it and the preachers reinforce it. Especially if you live in a small town , where everyone knows you, your family, where you live, etc. Some of these people will stop at nothing. “Lying for Jesus” is the least of it; I suspect that killing, maiming and burning for Jesus is also possible.

I am indeed quite aware of that — when I was a kid in the 60’s, one of my friend’s older brother was killed in the South during the Freedom Rides.

Freedom comes with a price.

Grey Wolf Wrote:

US and UK officially started a war in 1812 (a war I had not heard of before today)

The War of 1812 is famous. The Brits reached Washington and burned it down. The US Congress were able to save all the laws they had passed by shoving them all into a single briefcase.

David B. Benson Wrote:

Duhhh… I just went web trawling on the search term ‘creation science’. Google says 9,320,000 hits. The first site is pro, the second con, etc.

I just googled “bigfoot” and got 11.5 million hits. I got 2.5 million for “crop circles” (in quotation marks). There are 69.8 million for “astrology.” I’m not sure what your point is. The fact that someone calls “creation science” a science doesn’t make it so.

After reading the Deuteronomy passasge on another thread, the one that advocates KILLING anyone who tries to lead good followers astray, no wonder this goes on unimpeded. It would take a brave soul to take this on in some areas where the population expects it and the preachers reinforce it. Especially if you live in a small town , where everyone knows you, your family, where you live, etc. Some of these people will stop at nothing. “Lying for Jesus” is the least of it; I suspect that killing, maiming and burning for Jesus is also possible.

Indeed; you might ask Paul Mirecki if he hasn’t experienced this himself.

http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives[…]beating.html

The War of 1812 is famous. The Brits reached Washington and burned it down. The US Congress were able to save all the laws they had passed by shoving them all into a single briefcase.

Except that Canadians take credit for it. Canadians like to point out that they’re the only foreign power to not only invade the US, but also burn down its capital.

Except that Canadians take credit for it. Canadians like to point out that they’re the only foreign power to not only invade the US, but also burn down its capital.

Now I now the REAL motivation behind the song…

Sheila: Times have changed Our kids are getting worse They won’t obey their parents They just want to fart and curse! Sharon: Should we blame the government? Liane: Or blame society? Dads: Or should we blame the images on TV? Sheila: No, blame Canada Everyone: Blame Canada Sheila: With all their beady little eyes And flapping heads so full of lies Everyone: Blame Canada Blame Canada Sheila: We need to form a full assault Everyone: It’s Canada’s fault! Sharon: Don’t blame me For my son Stan He saw the damn cartoon And now he’s off to join the Klan! Liane: And my boy Eric once Had my picture on his shelf But now when I see him he tells me to fuck myself! Sheila: Well, blame Canada Everyone: Blame Canada Sheila: It seems that everything’s gone wrong Since Canada came along Everyone: Blame Canada Blame Canada Copy Guy: They’re not even a real country anyway Ms. McCormick: My son could’ve been a doctor or a lawyer rich and true, Instead he burned up like a piggy on the barbecue Everyone: Should we blame the matches? Should we blame the fire? Or the doctors who allowed him to expire? Sheila: heck no! Everyone: Blame Canada Blame Canada Sheila: With all their hockey hullabaloo Liane: And that bitch Anne Murray too Everyone: Blame Canada Shame on Canada For… The smut we must stop The trash we must bash The Laughter and fun Must all be undone We must blame them and make a fuss Before someone thinks of blaming uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuus!!!!

To be fair, the Americans also captured Toronto/York during the same war, which was our capital at the time.

Let’s call it a draw.

Hmmm… There’s nothing like standing outside and seeing no evidence of evolution occuring today, either. Why did it stop? And don’t tell me it happens so slowly we can’t see it, either. Eldredge and Gould’s theory of punctuated equilibria was concocted in part to fill that gap (and the ones in the fossil record), so you’ll have to talk to them if you want to go with the “so slow you can’t see it happen” explanation. Just tell me: Why did it stop?

Thanks, finney

Robert Finney Wrote:

Why did it stop?

It didn’t.

Robert Finney Wrote:

And don’t tell me it happens so slowly we can’t see it, either.

This depends on exactly what kind of life you’re talking about and exactly what you’re expecting to “see”. Evolutionary processes work much more slowly on mammals (which are large and have long generation lengths) than on, say, viruses or bacteria.

Robert Finney Wrote:

punctuated equilibria

You use this word as if it has something to do with evolution happening “too fast to see it”. This is a bit of a misunderstanding. It isn’t so much that new species evolve “quicker” under the theory of punctuated equilibrium (though there’s an effect concerning large populations and genetic stability I’m not going to go into); it’s somewhat closer to that species evolve at an unsurprising rate in a small contained area, and then escape the small contained area and *spread* very suddenly and quickly, sometimes presenting the appearance of quick change in the fossil record.

If you want to observe punctuated equlibrium happening, you can actually do this, just go to the South and watch the fire ants spreading north…

There’s nothing like standing outside and seeing no evidence of evolution occurring today, either.

Huh? Been near a hospital lately?

One of the bigger problems this season is the spread of MRSA, methicillin resistant Staph, a critter that didn’t exist just three years ago and now, with one little mutation, is able to re-colonize a niche where it was specifically removed for 30 by environmental change.

It’s the kind of example that textbooks are written about.

Response to 107281: So the spread of fire ants is proof of evolution? I see. Could’ve proved evolution with the Gypsy moth, Starlings, or Kudzu then, right? Fire ants spreading north proves that fire ants are spreading north; it certainly doesn’t prove that fire ants come from something other than a fire ant. Fire ants are spreading north due to the same agent that resulted in the spread of the Gypsy moth: Us.

Response to 107420: How do you know it didn’t exist three years ago? Because we weren’t aware of it? Essentially, what you’re saying is that when a new species of spider is discovered in Central America, that species didn’t exist until then.

How do you know it didn’t exist three years ago?

Can I prove that there was no single MRSA cell out there in 1900? No.

But that’s arguing negatives and gets us nowhere.

What we do know is a huge amount about Staphylococcus aureus. As an important human pathogen, it’s been very, very closely studied since the 20’s.

Because they’re economically significant to Big Pharma, we also know a huge amount the actions of narrow spectrum antibiotics. They work by inhibiting cross-linkage between the linear peptidoglycan polymer chains that make up blocks of the cell wall.

We know that in environments heavy in B-lactam antibiotics, especially British hospitals specializing in open wound treatment, a new variant of Staphylococcus, not observed before, started to be noticed.

This new varient was apparently genetically identical to the common local breed of Staph, except for one mutation in the mecA gene. That change in that gene alters the resultant polymer chain just a little bit - but enough that the B-lactam mechanism no longer works.

Subsequently the new mutation spread widely, primarily in a pattern that strongly follows venues venues where antibiotic over-application is common, strongly suggesting, that this new variant is slightly weaker in the clean environment, but much stronger in the B-lam environment.

As predicted by evolution and natural selection we have…

* A well known organism, in the “wild”.

* A well understood environmental change (B-lactam pollution).

* A single genetic mutation, acting in a well understood way.

* Consequent adaptation to the environment

* Though slightly weaker in general, it’s well adapted to B-lam

* Subsequently it spreads through the B-lam environment via natural selection pressure.

But hey - what does that show, it only works exactly as predicted. It doesn’t prove that there wasn’t some sort of dormant, weaker Staph cell hanging around for thousands of years just waiting for the invention of Penicillin,

So I give you the Nylon Bug.

Which, as described by Ohno in ‘84, and widely studied in the 20 years since then, is a type of previously unknown flavobacterium, which, through a single, well documented framing error mutation can now eat nylon.

Nylon didn’t exist before 1950.

Now let’s be honest here. Can I prove that there was no single flavobacterium cell on the Ark that could metabolize a plastic that didn’t yet exist. No.

But if you’re going to use that argument we’re not honestly evaluating the evidence. And since the TOE is now the accepted standard, and Creation is the challenger, I want you to prove that there was no single DNA “founder molecule” 3 billion years ago.

Essentially, what you’re saying is that when a new species of spider is discovered in Central America, that species didn’t exist until then.

So, your contention is that, uh, no new species have ever evolved . … ?

(sigh)

You know, I’m not at all surprised when creationists prove themselves to be crushingly uneducated and ignorant about basic biology and evolution. But I *am* mildly surprised (and a little annoyed) when they turn out to be too stupid and uninformed to even get the basic CREATIONIST arguments straight.

This is from the website of Answers in Genesis, one of the largest creationist organizations in the world:

“Poorly-informed anti-creationist scoffers occasionally think they will ‘floor’ creation apologists with examples of ‘new species forming’ in nature. They are often surprised at the reaction they get from the better-informed creationists, namely that the creation model depends heavily on speciation.”

Let me repeat that, in case you’re not bright enough to get it. Answers in Genesis says that not only does creationism itself “depend heavily on speciation”, but they also say that those who argue that there are NO “new species forming in nature” are “poorly informed”.

Guess that means YOU, huh. By arguing that new species cannot evolve, you are not only demonstrating that you are completely ignorant of basic biology, but you’re also demonstrating that you’re too stupid and uninformed to even understand the most elementary CREATIONIST arguments.

No WONDER nobody takes creationuts seriously. (shrug)

Fire ants are spreading north due to the same agent that resulted in the spread of the Gypsy moth: Us.

Aha! so YOU’RE the one who keeps picking up fire ants and transplanting them to my backyard!

I’ve got a bone to pick with you.

Robert Finney Wrote:

So the spread of fire ants is proof of evolution?

It is a demonstration or proof of punctuated equlibrium, which is one mechanism by which evolution is understood to occur under modern biological theory.

Robert Finney Wrote:

I see. Could’ve proved evolution with the Gypsy moth, Starlings, or Kudzu then, right?

I actually did consider mentioning kudzu or the starling, but I considered them to be lacking examples because the introduction of those species to North America were the results of intentional acts by humans, whereas the introduction of fire ants was an accident. I don’t know what a gypsy moth is.

Robert Finney Wrote:

it certainly doesn’t prove that fire ants come from something other than a fire ant.

It is not intended to. It was intended to be an example of punctuated equilibrium, a term which is more accurately described as being about the propigation of genetic material than the creation of genetic material. I felt this important to demonstrate since you seem to be (even still) under the misconception that punctuated equilibrium does or should describe how genetic material is created.

Robert Finney Wrote:

Fire ants are spreading north due to the same agent that resulted in the spread of the Gypsy moth: Us.

Yes, that’s correct. However it’s not very important that humans were the pestilence vector in this case, unless you are somehow under the preconception that humans are in some way supernatural creatures rather than ordianary biological organisms. Do you really think humans are the only species who have ever migrated from one place to another and accidentally brought a pestilent species along with them?

The flu will adapt into a mutant strain that will kill all of human kind. But there is no proof for evolution. Hold on, let me pet my dog. Oh wait, it’s actually still a wolf because there is no proof for evolution. Hmmm, I can’t even actually post this because I’m still using Windows 3.1 because there is no proof for evolution. ActuallyIamNowUnableToUseTheSpaceBarBecauseIHaveNoTHumbBecause ThereIsNoProofForEvolution. (No one should actually take this seriously. I have just read a few pages of Godless that my roomate had purchased, and I have become drunk’n + blog’n mad.)

Reply to Comment #107453 “But if you’re going to use that argument we’re not honestly evaluating the evidence. And since the TOE is now the accepted standard, and Creation is the challenger, I want you to prove that there was no single DNA “founder molecule” 3 billion years ago.”

Prove? Hmmm… No more than you can prove there was. Let’s do this, though. You explain what you mean by “DNA “founder molecule”” and we’ll take a look at the probability of it’s spontaneous generation. Did you want it to just exist in a medium (your choice) of some sort while it waits for the formation (again spontaneously generated by accident) of RNA and tRNA and a cellular nucleus (accidentally forming around it) within an accidentally occurring cellular membrane and all the other goodies that make up a viable cell of some sort, or do you want it full blown and able to replicate itself right off? Pick something; it doesn’t really matter what, just so you have something specific in mind. There isn’t any “general” DNA strand, it’s a specific code DESIGNED to perform a specific function, so looking for a “founder molecule” is like saying your looking for a plant. What kind of plant? A tree? A weed? Plankton? Silver Queen corn? What? Just pick some thing’s DNA at random and we’ll work from there.

Oh, BTW. Accepted standard? You mean accepted as in “The theory of Phlogiston is the accepted standard and the Caloric theory is the challenger.”, or do you mean it some other way?

Thanks, finney

Reply to: #110303

Robert Finney Wrote:

Did you want it to just exist in a medium (your choice) of some sort while it waits for the formation (again spontaneously generated by accident) of RNA and tRNA and a cellular nucleus (accidentally forming around it) within an accidentally occurring cellular membrane and all the other goodies that make up a viable cell of some sort, or do you want it full blown and able to replicate itself right off?

It was an accident no more than 2+2 accidently equals 4, or that hydrogen atoms accidently form helium atoms in atomic reactions, or that the nobel gases are stable because their valance shells are full up.

Self-forming systems are provable, natural, and unavoidable. From the simplist examples of cellular automata (such as Conway’s game of life) to the most complex galaxy cluster, self-forming systems result from the application of simple, consistent rules: simple logic in the case of the game of life, and basic physics in the case of the universe.

The whole “accident” argument is based on a faulty premise. You might as well be asking for proof that energy is happy, or that clowns taste blue.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by PZ Myers published on June 18, 2006 1:33 PM.

Symposium on Teaching Evolution at the University of Colorado was the previous entry in this blog.

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