Where history repeats itself: Tobacco, Global Warming and now Evolution

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History has a tendency to repeat itself. In an effort to control the language of the debate, communications consultant Frank Luntz wrote a memo in 2001 advising Republicans how to control the language of climate change:

“The scientific debate remains open,” he wrote , “Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community. Should the public come to believe the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate, and defer to scientists and other experts in the field”

We observe a same lack of appreciation of science by voters on the topic of evolution. Let’s explore some of these similarities and see what we can learn from them.

As the Greenpeace FAQ explains

Those scientists and experts recommended by Luntz have been provided by the Washington think tanks funded by ExxonMobil along with other oil, coal, electric utilities and car companies.

This is a similar campaign strategy to that adopted by the Tobacco industry decades earlier. “Doubt is our product” was the famous comment of one tobacco lobbyist to a US Senator. Indeed, you’ll find that some of the key deniers and organizations named on ExxonSecrets were also paid by Big Tobacco to generate doubt about the hazards of smoking.

But Exxon says it’s just funding the groups to debate policy issues because it doesn’t like the Kyoto Protocol.

In the evolution debate we see a very similar pattern. Based on the public’s misunderstanding of evolutionary theory, creationists reinforce the flawed belief that evolutionary theory is the same as Darwinism and that Darwinism excludes the supernatural and is a materialistic explanation.

On Uncommon Descent Denyse O’Leary confuses the issue as follows

Denyse O'Leary Wrote:

Miller was upset because he knows as well as anyone that this and other instances of Cardinalspeak and Popespeak are a polite way of saying that the Catholic Church does not support materialist theories of evolution like Darwinism, a point made in 1996 by John Paul II, but widely misrepresented ever since.

Not only does this misrepresent the scientific position but it also seems to spin the catholic position on evolutionary theory. Of course, the catholic church believes that there is something more than science, however the catholic church also seems to have accepted that from a scientific perspective, evolutionary theory is the best explanation.

In The Testimony of Reason (1903), Samuel Louis Phillips writes:

It may be admitted that it is probable species originated from a common ancestor by virtue of a law of the survival of the fittest to live, and the inheritance by its progeny of desirable acquired characteristics. But this law is one of God’s laws, and while the aforegoing analogy in pointing to the present mechanism of the eye, or ear, or heart as proof of the direct and immediate handiwork of an intelligent Creator, in the sense of a watch being the work of an intelligent man, is probably not perfect, yet if it was said the laws of evolution which have wrought these changes and improvements were the work of an intelligent Creator, the conclusion would be irrefutable. Granting the assertions of the most extreme evolutionists, it is no impeachment of the power and intelligence of God to admit all vertebrates had a common ancestor in the very remote past, rather it is an evidence of His power to be able to impress on all vegetable and animal life this ability to develop into differences and higher beings and evolve the harmonious and beautiful world we see before us.

There is nothing, therefore, in evolution antagonistic to the creation of nature by the all- wise and powerful God in whom we believe. The workman who produces screws by means of machinery he has constructed and put in operation is as much a maker of such screws as he who fashions them severally with his own hands.

So if Darwinism and (evolutionary) science in general presents no scientific threat to religion then why the objections? Historically, the objections involved the concept that humans evolved just like other animals, and the concept that science, by not requiring a supernatural influence, has made such an influence superfluous and worse denies the plausibility of such an influence.

In fact, this brings us to the ‘teach the controversy’ argument which appeals to fairness and yet ignores that there is no controversy. As the school boards in Florida are coming to realize, there are no alternative theories of evolution.

Even ID proponents like Phulip ‘Father of Intelligent Design’ Johnson laments that

I also don’t think that there is really a theory of intelligent design at the present time to propose as a comparable alternative to the Darwinian theory, which is, whatever errors it might contain, a fully worked out scheme. There is no intelligent design theory that’s comparable. Working out a positive theory is the job of the scientific people that we have affiliated with the movement. Some of them are quite convinced that it’s doable, but that’s for them to prove…No product is ready for competition in the educational world.

Source: Michelangelo D’Agostino, In the matter of Berkeley v. Berkeley Berkeley Science Review, 10, Spring 2006.

The early 21st century ‘arguments’ against evolutionary theory repeat the history of the 20th century. In the early 20th century, opposition to Darwinism focused on the argument that Darwinism relied on variation but Darwinian theory could not explain the arrival of said variation. Ever since then creationists have continued to repeat this flawed argument. It is true that Darwin did not have a theory of inheritance and genetics. In fact he proposed a flawed concept of Pangenesis of the gemules. However, by the early 20th century, people had rediscovered the work by Mendel.

To see how history repeats itself, and worse, how few have learned from history’s earlier failures, let’s have a look at some of the literature of those days. As early as 1907, Vernon Lyman Kellogg, an American zoologist, wrote in his book “Darwinism Today: a discussion of present-day scientific criticism of the Darwinian selection theories, together with a brief account of the principal other proposed auxiliary and alternative theories of species forming”:

Darwinism, then, is not synonymous with organic evolution, nor with the theory of descent (which two phases are used by the biologist practically synonymously). Therefore when one reads of the “death-bed of Darwinism,” it is not of the death-bed of organic evolution or of the theory of descent that one is reading. While many reputable biologists to-day strongly doubt the commonly reputed effectiveness of the Darwinian selection factors to explain descent—some, indeed, holding them to be of absolutely no species-forming value—practically no naturalists of position and recognised attainment doubt the theory of descent.’ Organic evolution, that is, the descent of species, is looked on by biologists to be as proved a part of their science as gravitation is in the science of physics or chemical affinity in that of chemistry. Doubts of Darwinism are not, then, doubts, of organic evolution. Darwinism might indeed be on its death-bed without shaking in any considerable degree the confidence of biologists and natural philosophers in the theory of descent.

In other words, while (aspects of) Darwinian theory may (have) be(en) in doubt, the fact of evolution remains unassailed.

And yet, even though Darwinian theory was meeting with some strong criticism (much of it was later found to be wrong), Kellogg observes that

The fair truth is that the Darwinian selection theories, considered with regard to their claimed capacity to be an independently sufficient mechanical explanation of descent, stand to-day seriously discredited in the biological world. On the other hand, it is also fair truth to say that no replacing hypothesis or theory of species-forming has been offered by the opponents of selection which has met with any general or even considerable acceptance by naturalists. Mutations seem to be too few and far between; for orthogenesis we can discover no satisfactory mechanism; and the same is true for the Lamarckian theories of modification by the cumulation, through inheritance, of acquired or ontogenic characters.

History repeating itself: While many doubt Darwinian theory, there are no scientifically viable alternatives.

Kellogg realizes the scientific and theologically impacts of the position of some of these critics in a section titled “intemperate anti-Darwinism”:

Says one of them:” “Darwinism now belongs to history, like that other curiosity of our century, the Hegelian philosophy; both are variations on the theme: how one manages to lead a whole generation by the nose.” The same writer also speaks of “the softening of the brain of the Darwinians.” Another one,” in similarly relegating Darwinism to the past, takes much pleasure in explaining that “we [anti-Darwinians] are now standing by the death-bed of Darwinism, and making ready to send the friends of the patient a little money to insure a decent burial of the remains.” No less intemperate and indecent is Wolff’s T reference to the “episode of Darwinism” and his suggestion that our attitude toward Darwin should be “as if he had never existed.” Such absurdity of expression might pass unnoticed in the mouth of a violent non-scientific debater—let us say an indignant theologian of Darwin’s own days—but in the mouth of a biologist of recognised achievement, of thorough scientific training and unusually keen mind—for this expression came from just such a man—it can only be referred to as a deplorable example of those things that make the judicious to grieve.

Kellogg continues to point out that science had already accepted the fact of common descent (fact of evolution) but that it was Darwin who provided a scientific explanation for the observed data.

Darwinism may be defined, then, as a certain rational, causo-mechanical (hence, non-teleologic) explanation of the origin of new species. The Darwinian explanation rests on certain observed facts, and certain inductions from these facts. The observed facts are: (i) the increase by multiplication in geometrical ratio of the individuals in every species, whatever the kind of reproduction which may be peculiar to each species, whether this be simple division, sporulation, budding, parthenogenesis, conjugation and subsequent division, or amphimixis (sexual reproduction) ; (2) the always apparent slight (to greater) variation in form and function existing among all individuals even though of the same generation or brood; and (3) the transmission, with these inevitable slight variations, by the parent to its offspring of a form and physiology essentially like the parental.

Kellogg then points out that the objections from theology are not with Darwinian theory per se but with the fact of evolution

But on the whole the Darwinian selection theories could be utterly done away with without making any appreciable change in the existing relation between theology and biology. Huxley said this to the theologian Darwinophobes many years ago.

In other words, there is the fact of evolution (common descent) and the theory of descent (Darwinism)

Biological science contains much that is proved and certain; but also much that is nothing more than working hypothesis, provisional theory, and anticipatory generalisation. As the proved part is largely of the nature of facts of observation, isolated and unrelated, and the unproved part is composed of the large and sweeping generalisations, the plausible, provisional explanations, such as the various theories of heredity, of the results of struggle, of the development of mutual aid, etc.,

concluding that

Biology is not yet come to that stage in its development where it can offer many solidly founded generalisations on which other sciences can build. The theory of descent is one such safe great generalisation; but perhaps Darwinism is not another. At least many scholars do not believe that it is.

Kellogg continues to provide a ‘fair and balanced’ overview of the criticisms as well as the Darwinian response to said criticisms and sets out to define Darwinian theory and Evolution.

Now all these millions of kinds of animals and plants can have had an origin in some one of but three ways; they have come into existence spontaneously, they have been specially created by some supernatural power, or they have descended one from the other in many-branching series by gradual transformation. There is absolutely no scientific evidence for either of the first two ways; there is much scientific evidence for the last way. There is left for the scientific man, then, solely the last; that is, the method of descent. The theory of descent (with which phrase organic evolution may be practically held as a synonym) is, then, simply the declaration that the various living as well as the now extinct species of— organisms are descended from one another and from common, ancestors. It is the explanation of the origin of species accepted in the science of biology. (The natural question about the first species or the first several, if they appeared simultaneously, will receive attention later; the theory of descent explains the origin of kinds of life, not the origin of life) If such a summary disposal of the theories of spontaneous generation and divine creation is too repugnant to my readers to meet with their toleration, then, as Delage has pertinently said in connection with a similar statement in his great tome on “Heredity,” my book and such readers had better immediately part company; we do not speak the same language.

Kellogg points out that the later theory of Pangenesis of gemules had been falsified and that the theory of sexual selection has received little support.

Kellogg reiterates his position

I hope now to have pointed out clearly in the preceding paragraphs the real distinction between the theory of descent and the theory of natural selection (Darwinism). The bases, consisting of observed facts and logical reasons, of the selection theory, have been given; perhaps it were well to state briefly the bases, or sources of the scientific evidence for the theory of descent. This evidence is derived from three chief sources; the study of the comparative anatomy and structural homologies of organisms, the study of the prehistoric animals and plants, that is, palaeontology or historical geology, and the study of ontogeny, or embryology, that is, the development of individual animals and plants. The homologies or structural correspondence, in gross and in detail, which the study of animal and plant comparative anatomy reveals to exist in varying degrees among living and extinct kinds of organisms have but one possible scientific explanation: an explanation which serves at once to account for the existence of this correspondence and for its varying degrees. Evidences for This explanation is community of ancestry, the blood-relationship of organisms, the theory of descent. Similarly the facts revealed by the study of palaeontology are explicable wholly satisfactorily by the theory of descent and in no single definitive instance do they contradict it. Finally, the facts and conditions relating to the embryology or ontogeny of animals and plants are similarly wholly in consonance with the theory of descent, although the brilliant positive evidence for the theory which the first revealing of the phenomena of ontogeny led biologists to expect and even to anticipate has confessedly not been forthcoming in that overwhelming measure hoped for. The evidence is excellent and positive and there is much of it, but the proof that man is descended from a fish because he has gill-slits at one period in his individual development is not of the sort to rely on too confidently. The recapitulation theory of Fritz Muller and Haeckel is chiefly conspicuous now as a skeleton on which to hang innumerable exceptions. But the scientific evidence for descent which embryology offers is neither weak nor slight; it is only less overwhelming and all-sufficient than its too sanguine early friends and sponsors attributed to it.

Kellogg presents the reader with an excellent overview of the Darwinian theory of evolution and the fact of common descent, and also shows that much skepticism existed on the arguments based on the recapitulation theory by Muller and Haeckel.

Even in its early days Darwinism was attacked

Attacks on Darwinism have been made, of course, ever since there was any Darwinism to attack. In those first days (and months and years) after the “Origin of on Darwinism. ‘ Early attacks species” was published there were the liveliest of times for Darwin and his supporters; or rather chiefly for the supporters. Darwin wisely kept aloof from the debates. But for the first band of followers with the indefatigable, the brilliant, and wholly competent Huxley at its head, there was no lack of opportunities for jousting. The issue was never doubtful; Huxley and his informed and equipped scientific companions against the scientifically ignorant, angry, incautious, and dogmatic Bishop Wilberforces had unfair odds. The victory came swiftly and brilliantly to the Darwinians. At this time there was little distinction made between Darwinism and Evolution. It was really a battle by the theologians against the theory of descent. And the theory of descent was, and is, invulnerable.

Kellogg points out that the increasing objections come from well established researchers in relevant sciences (compare this to the list of 700+ ‘Doubters of Darwinism’)

In the last few years, it has, as already mentioned in the preface and introductory chapter of this book, reached such proportions, such strength and extent, as to begin to make itself apparent outside of strictly biological and naturo-philosophical circles. Such older biologists and natural philosophers as von Baer, von Kolliker, Virchow, Nageli, Wigand, and Hartmann, and such others writing in the nineties and in the present century as - von Sachs, Eimer, Delage, Haacke, Kassowitz, Cope, Haberlandt, Henslow, Goette, Wolff, Driesch, Packard, Morgan, Jaeckel, Steinmann, Korschinsky, and de Vries, are examples which show the distinctly ponderable character of the anti-Darwinian ranks. Perhaps these names mean little to the general reader; let me translate them into the professors of zoology, of botany, of palaeontology, and of pathology, in the universities of Berlin, Paris, Vienna, Strassburg, Tubingen, Amsterdam, Columbia University, etc. Now without knowing the man personally, or even through his particular work, the general reader can safely attribute to men of such position a certain amount of scientific training, of proved capacity, and of special acquaintanceship with the subject of their discussion. One does not come to be a professor of biology in Berlin or Paris or Columbia solely by caprice of ministers of education or boards of trustees; one has proved one’s competency for the place. To working biologists the names—I have given, of course, only a selection, and one particularly made to show variety of interest (botany, zoology, palaeontology, pathology)—mean even more than the positions. They are mostly associated with recognised scientific attainment and general intellectual capacity.

These critics generally fall into two categories, a smaller category denies that selection can play any role in speciation while the larger, second category, argues that while Darwinian theory can explain what happens to variation, it cannot explain the origin of such variation. Or alternatively, there are two groups of critics, one group which is mostly interested in undermining Darwinian theory and another group interested in providing alternative explanations. The former group, also known as destructive criticism, is the larger of the two groups as there is a paucity of competing explanations.

Kellogg mentions a few competing explanations and how they have to compete against Darwinian theory which was used to explain the large amounts of known facts of its time

The situation illustrates admirably the varying worth of a few facts. A few stubborn facts of the wrong- complexion are fatal things for a theory; they are immensely effective offensive weapons. But these same few facts make a pitiable showing when they are called on to support a theory of their own. It was exactly the greatest part of Darwin’s greatness, it seems to me, that he launched his theory only after making the most remarkable collection of facts yet gathered together in biological science by any one man. Testing his theory by applying to it successively fact after fact, group after group and category after category of facts, he convinced himself of the theory’s consonance with all this vast array of observed biological actuality. Compare the grounding of any of the now offered replacing- theories with the preparation and founding of Darwinism. In 1864 von Kolliker, a great biologist, convinced of the incapacity of natural selection to do the work assigned it by its founders and friends, suggested a theory of the origin of species by considerable leaps; in 1899, Korschinsky,’ on the basis of some few personal observations and the compiling” of some others, definitely formulated a theory of species-forming by sudden considerable variations, namely, mutations;

in 1901 and 1903 appeared the two volumes of de Vries’s “Die Mutationstheorie,” in which are revealed the results of long years of careful personal observation, in truly Darwinian manner, directed toward the testing and better grounding of this mutations theorie of species-origin.

And even though some evidence seems to support the mutationtheorie of De Vries (evidence later found to be flawed), Kellogg observes how unable the alternative explanations are in explaining the known facts

But however effective de Vries’s facts are in proving the possibility of the occurrence of other variations than those fortuitous ones occurring in continuous series from mean to opposite extremes which Darwin recognised as the basis of species-forming, and however effective they are in proving the actual production of three or six or ten species by mutation, and however effective in both these capacities they are as weapons of attack on the dominance of the Darwinian theory of species-making, how really inadequate are they to serve as the basis of a great all-answering theory explaining, in a causo-mechanical way, the facts of descent, or even the primary facts of general species-forming

So if Intelligent Design provides no alternative to evolutionary theory then why the ‘teach the controversy’ and ‘teach alternative theories of evolution’? Simple, Intelligent Design is on the record as stating that ID can fully envelop evolutionary theory and adds a concept of the supernatural intelligence. Although the latter explains nothing and appears to be totally ad hoc and superfluous, it helps understand that ID is not an scientific alternative to evolutionary theory but rather a theological alternative.

The answer seems self evident: By appealing to a sense of fairness, the creationist movement hopes to be able to introduce creationism as a scientific alternative to evolutionary theory without having to say so. And while this may appease the confused public, it fails judicial review as shown in detail in Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U.S. 578 (1987) and more recently in Tammy Kitzmiller, et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al., Case No. 04cv2688.

In true Orwellian fashion, teaching science has become teaching ‘dogma’ and teaching creationism has become ‘academic freedom’.

So what about these ‘controversies’? Surely there are controversies in evolutionary theory?

The answer is straightforward: Yes, there are philosophical and scientific controversies. The former controversy is between those who insist that there exists a supernatural entity who has set in motion, or directed the evolutionary pathways, and those who argue that such a requirement is superfluous. So what about the latter? Are there scientific controversies in evolution and do they provide any credibility to (intelligent design) creationism? The answer again is not surprising: yes there are controversies as to mechanisms and no such controversies do not add credibility to the scientifically vacuous position of intelligent design creationism (IDC).

Even though Global Warming is a scientific fact, there are still many unknowns and uncertainties as to the relative impact of the various mechanisms and feedback mechanisms involved. The same applies to evolutionary theory which is a well established fact as explained in the excellent FAQ 29+ Evidences for Macroevolution The Scientific Case for Common Descent by Douglas Theobald, Ph.D.

As the National Academy of Sciences explains in Science, Evolution, and Creationism (2008)

The evidence for evolution comes not just from the biological sciences but also from both historical and modern research in anthropology, astrophysics, chemistry, geology, physics, mathematics, and other scientific disciplines, including the behavioral and social sciences. Astrophysics and geology have demonstrated that the Earth is old enough for biological evolution to have resulted in the species seen today. Physics and chemistry have led to dating methods that have established the timing of key evolutionary events. Studies of other species have revealed not only the physical but also the behavioral continuities among species. Anthropology has provided new insights into human origins and the interactions between biology and cultural factors in shaping human behaviors and social systems.

As in every active area of science, many questions remain unanswered. Biologists continue to study the evolutionary relationships among organisms, he genetic changes that affect the form and function of organisms, the effects of organisms on Earth’s physical environment, the evolution of intelligence and social behaviors, and many other fascinating subjects. But in each case they are asking specific questions to learn more about how, not whether, evolution has occurred and is continuing to occur. They are investigating and further elucidating the mechanisms that produce evolutionary change and the consequences of that change.

Biological evolution is part of a compelling historical narrative that scientists have constructed over the last few centuries. The narrative begins with the formation of the universe, the solar system, and the Earth, which resulted in the conditions necessary for life to evolve. While many questions remain about the origins of life on this planet, the appearance of life set in motion a process of biological evolution that continues to this day. Today, new chapters in the narrative are being uncovered through the study of the genetic processes responsible for evolutionary change.

Perhaps the best conclusion is that the best and only logical approach is to accept the creationist slogan and “Teach the controversy” and how better to do so by “Teaching evolutionary theory” ? The next time you hear poorly informed people object to evolution being the foundation of biology, explain to them why they have been misinformed.

For those interested in a good overview of the ‘controversies’ surrounding Global Warming, see the excellent lecture by Namoi Oreskes titled “The American Denial of Global Warming”

102 Comments

Why does “Darwinism” get capitalized but not “catholic”? Isn’t there a difference between “catholic” and “Catholic”?

ah but best of all Frank Luntz; “My own beliefs have changed from when i was tasked with that project.”

chapter 3 “Hot politics” http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/front[…]litics/view/

and i like (or should i say hate?) how similar conspiracy theory strategy is used. Inhofe stated global warming was a hoax cooked up by the weather channel, quite analogous to “cDesign proponentsits” who think “Darwinists” are some stone-cutter clan with clandestine reach and practices (projection of intention ie: the wedge?)

PvM,

The historical perspective you provided was quite interesting.

There have been objections against common descent of species. It seems that the inability of (random) mutations and natural selection to produce the variety of species we observe now, has been the key point all along, in spite of the findings in paleontology and geology. Molecular biology will add to this lot, nowadays.

I am not a biologist by education, but I have noticed that there are disputes among biologists. There are disputes among scientists in all fields. Biology is no exception. Science is neither a dogma, nor a cult.

It is fair to demand teaching the both sides. The controversies include also the use of drugs. Maybe we should teach the other side of using heroin?

Evolutionary theory in biology has been modified during its 150 years of existence, and it is changing in details even now. Might it be the case that it is always changing to accommodate any new observation? There wouldn’t be any way to discredit it. Gravitational theory has not changed that much in over 300 years, and we have known gravitation “always”.

Sometimes it is not quite clear (to a layman) that the advances in biology (and medicine) improving our standard of living are heavily resting on the theory of evolution, and are not merely due to improved equipment.

Regards

Eric

Great video. Should be made compulsory viewing for all journalists, radio jockeys and politicians.

Eric Finn:

PvM,

The historical perspective you provided was quite interesting.

There have been objections against common descent of species. It seems that the inability of (random) mutations and natural selection to produce the variety of species we observe now, has been the key point all along, in spite of the findings in paleontology and geology. Molecular biology will add to this lot, nowadays.

I am not a biologist by education, but I have noticed that there are disputes among biologists. There are disputes among scientists in all fields. Biology is no exception. Science is neither a dogma, nor a cult.

It is fair to demand teaching the both sides. The controversies include also the use of drugs. Maybe we should teach the other side of using heroin?

Evolutionary theory in biology has been modified during its 150 years of existence, and it is changing in details even now. Might it be the case that it is always changing to accommodate any new observation? There wouldn’t be any way to discredit it. Gravitational theory has not changed that much in over 300 years, and we have known gravitation “always”.

Sometimes it is not quite clear (to a layman) that the advances in biology (and medicine) improving our standard of living are heavily resting on the theory of evolution, and are not merely due to improved equipment.

Regards

Eric

Teaching both sides in a science classroom would only make sense if both models relied on scientific methods, which is not the case with evolution vs creationism. One relies on known physical laws applied to deep time. The other relies on dogma and speculation, but no real evidence.

Modifications of evolutionary theory are intended to make it more accurate. Such modifications happen to ALL scientific theories. By contrast, Creationists almost never modify their theories, only their rhetoric to seduce people like you who are ignorant.

Your objections have no validity.

Both Christians and evolutionists see the same evidence but they interpret it differently. Evolutionists see the universe and think it all came about by random chance, Christians see the it as the work of Jesus; this is not the same as “denying” the existence of the universe!

Likewise, both Christians and evolutionists are aware of global warming, but they attribute it to different causes. While evolutionists might attribute this to excessive carbon pollution, Christians believe it is a sign of divine judgment against our increasingly Sodomite world.

Jesus in his love is using global warming to melt the polar icecaps in order to flood the capital of the EU Sodomite state Brussels out of existence, not to mention the rest of the ganja-infested sodomy rampant cities in the lowlands! This is what it will take for the people of Europe to start loving Jesus in return like they once did.

Eric Finn

Evolutionary theory in biology has been modified during its 150 years of existence, and it is changing in details even now. Might it be the case that it is always changing to accommodate any new observation?

Absolutely. That’s exactly how science works. Theories are modified to match observation, or discarded if they cannot be reconciled with it.

Evolutionary theory has certainly evolved (ahem!) over time, but the basic core has withstood huge advances in observational capability. That’s usually a sign of a good theory. The discovery of DNA and modern genetics gave us an entirely new way to examine relationships between organisms, and this didn’t hurt evolutionary theory at all. Instead, it filled in many mechanisms of evolution that were observed but not explained. If evolutionary theory were not correct, there is no reason for this to be true. In many other areas of science, new observational techniques have caused us to completely discard previous theories.

Gravitational theory has not changed that much in over 300 years, and we have known gravitation “always”.

Whaaa ? It most certainly has.

Sometimes it is not quite clear (to a layman) that the advances in biology (and medicine) improving our standard of living are heavily resting on the theory of evolution, and are not merely due to improved equipment.

Epidemiology ? Drug resistance ? Heritable ailments ?

If you keep treating religious folk and other idiots like what they say has value or should be respected, the forces of science/education/reason/basic common sense will constantly be fighting regard actions to prevent and limit the damage their idiocy can do.

Conversational intolerance will not lead to the gulag, many of us practice it daily, with the local crazy, conspiracy theorist, or homeless guy without it leading to a new Holocaust.

So if Darwinism and (evolutionary) science in general presents no scientific threat to religion then why the objections?

Not a threat to religion - but a threat to fundamentalism, and its God. Since no greater evil than the death of God is conceivable - as well as absolutely impossible, a ‘competing theory’ will always have to be false by default.

Dale Husband:

Modifications of evolutionary theory are intended to make it more accurate. Such modifications happen to ALL scientific theories. By contrast, Creationists almost never modify their theories, only their rhetoric to seduce people like you who are ignorant.

You are quite right in your statement that modifications are made and should be made.

However, it should also be made clear that modifications (to the details of the processes) should not be made for the sole purpose of making the theory more accurate, while at the same time compromising the basic tenets of the theory. Of course, I am sure you did not mean that.

It may pose problems to a layman, if a new fossil emerges, and paleontologists state that now two of our ancestral species overlap by 200,000 years, instead of living one after the other.

The problem is that seemingly the theory can adapt to anything (just like the “theory” of psychoanalysis).

Regards

Eric

Reed:

Evolutionary theory has certainly evolved (ahem!) over time, but the basic core has withstood huge advances in observational capability. That’s usually a sign of a good theory. The discovery of DNA and modern genetics gave us an entirely new way to examine relationships between organisms, and this didn’t hurt evolutionary theory at all. Instead, it filled in many mechanisms of evolution that were observed but not explained. If evolutionary theory were not correct, there is no reason for this to be true. In many other areas of science, new observational techniques have caused us to completely discard previous theories.

Yes, I agree.

The question, however, is how to tell apart a theory that has an enormous predictive power from a “theory” that explains everything.

Gravitational theory has not changed that much in over 300 years, and we have known gravitation “always”.

Whaaa ? It most certainly has.

Newtonian mechanics is used during space flights (almost always). Special relativity has been confirmed to great accuracy. General relativity is (at least to some extent) under consideration due to the rotational drag experiment, Pioneer anomaly and possibly changing cosmological constant.

Regards

Eric

Eric Finn: Newtonian mechanics is used during space flights (almost always). Special relativity has been confirmed to great accuracy. General relativity is (at least to some extent) under consideration due to the rotational drag experiment, Pioneer anomaly and possibly changing cosmological constant.

Special relativity isn’t a theory of gravity. GR is essential to modern astronomy and cosmology, and has been very well confirmed. It revolutionized our understanding of gravity. The fact that Newtonian mechanics are good enough for many things we do doesn’t change that. GR is also essential in some of our day to day activities… GPS wouldn’t work without accounting for it, for example.

You couldn’t have picked much worse an example of a “theory has not changed that much in over 300 years”

It may pose problems to a layman, if a new fossil emerges, and paleontologists state that now two of our ancestral species overlap by 200,000 years, instead of living one after the other.

The problem is that seemingly the theory can adapt to anything (just like the “theory” of psychoanalysis).

Wow. I suggest you (or your putative layman) head to http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/ and educate yourself.

What your example should tell you is that fossils are rare, and interpreting them is difficult. One new fossil can re-arrange phylogenetic trees significantly, but that doesn’t say anything about the mechanism of evolution. The theory of evolution doesn’t say anything about whether Neanderthals were our direct ancestors or only cousins. It does predict that we are likely to be related. Unraveling the specific record isn’t a test of evolution, unless it results in conclusions that are impossible under evolutionary theory.

One could imagine extreme cases that would do this (a modern rabbit in pre-Cambrian strata is the classic), but we haven’t found any. If there were no discernible relation or sequence in fossils, or no discernible relation between modern animals and fossils, that would be a problem too, but casual inspection shows these things are not true. Similarly, one could imagine genetic evidence that would challenge common descent, but actual evidence overwhelmingly supports it.

Reed, we do not seem to be able to reach agreement on what we disagree on.

Reed:

What your example should tell you is that fossils are rare, and interpreting them is difficult. One new fossil can re-arrange phylogenetic trees significantly, but that doesn’t say anything about the mechanism of evolution. The theory of evolution doesn’t say anything about whether Neanderthals were our direct ancestors or only cousins. It does predict that we are likely to be related. Unraveling the specific record isn’t a test of evolution, unless it results in conclusions that are impossible under evolutionary theory.

One could imagine extreme cases that would do this (a modern rabbit in pre-Cambrian strata is the classic), but we haven’t found any. If there were no discernible relation or sequence in fossils, or no discernible relation between modern animals and fossils, that would be a problem too, but casual inspection shows these things are not true. Similarly, one could imagine genetic evidence that would challenge common descent, but actual evidence overwhelmingly supports it.

I agree that “Unraveling the specific record isn’t a test of evolution”.

Your example of a rabbit in pre-cambrian strata to refute the evolutionary theory is a good one.

I do not object your arguments, since I find them rather clear and sound. I wanted to point out that not all people are intimately familiar with science. For example, punctuated equilibrium was thought by some to be against Darwin’s original proposition.

I would like to hear more examples (rabbits) of how to distinguish a good theory from a theory that explains all and nothing.

Yes, me and my putative layman need education in many issues.

By the way, I do agree that special relativity is not a theory of gravity. I was talking about space flights and claimed that Newtonian mechanics is applied almost exclusively. Special relativity is sometimes used as a necessary correction, e.g. in the global positioning system (GPS).

Regards

Eric

Two questions. 1. How do people who perpetuate the “human caused” global warming hoax explain the fact that evidence is coming in showing the same type of warming is occurring on Mars? 2. Why do people who are doing such a great job of using real science to defend evolution from the ID hoax make fools of themselves by swallowing the “human caused” warming hoax without doing the real science that’s showing solar causes?

Eric wrote:

“The question, however, is how to tell apart a theory that has an enormous predictive power from a “theory” that explains everything.”

As Reed has correctly pointed out, the theory of evolution cannot account for all possible observations. That is why it is science. There are potential observations that it most certainly could not account for. That is why it is falsifiable. That is why it cannot explain “everything”.

Reed also gave several examples of observations that could not be explained by evolutionary theory and correctly pointed out that these have never been observed. So the question is, can you give any examples of something that would falsify the theory of evolution that has been observed?

This is where the frustration of creationists comes in. The theory of evolution has tremendous predictive and explanatory power and no matter what observations are made it seems to be able to accomodate them. If you are just sure that the theory is wrong, I guess that could be really frustrating. However, you cannot mistake your frustration with some inadequacy of the theory. It just might be that the theory is actually correct. That would certainly explain why it can acomodate any observations that are actually made. In any event, since the theory is still falsifiable, that should give you hope that one day someone somewhere will find something to falsify it. After all, that is what real scientists do every day, attempt to falsify theories.

Since real scientists don’t worship their theories or believe them to be perfect, falsifying evolution would be just fine. I for one would certainly love to see a theory with even more predictive and explanatory power. After all, that is what would be required to overthrow such a robust theory. Simply finding a few anomalies that evolution cannot explain might call the theory into question, but at this point, I think that you would have to come up with a better explanation for all of the observations if you want to discard the theory of evolution. Of course that means that “GODDIDIT” won’t cut it at this point.

Well, as usual, there’s two sides to the global warming story. And THIS time, that “other side” is way too big to ignore—at least for those of you who actually care about science.

Recently, literally hundreds of scientists from multiple disciplines, including very respected environmental scientists, decided to speak out publicly and say some serious things that Al Gore, Greenpeace, and Naomi Oreskes simply ain’t telling you.

Over 400 prominent scientists from more than two dozen countries recently voiced significant objections to major aspects of the so-called “consensus” on man-made global warming. These scientists, many of whom are current and former participants in the UN IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), criticized the climate claims made by the UN IPCC and former Vice President Al Gore. The new report issued by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s office of the GOP Ranking Member details the views of the scientists, the overwhelming majority of whom spoke out in 2007.

Source (with link to the new report itself and other links) at:

http://www.gohtsn.com/article_894.shtml

I’ll close with some personal testimony from two genuine environmental scientists, and then I leave it to you to decide if people like (ahem) “Al Gore” and “Naomi Oreskes” are the ONLY folks you wanna listen to regarding this issue.

“Canada: IPCC 2007 Expert Reviewer Madhav Khandekar, a Ph.D meteorologist, a scientist with the Natural Resources Stewardship Project who has over 45 years experience in climatology, meteorology and oceanography, and who has published nearly 100 papers, reports, book reviews and a book on Ocean Wave Analysis and Modeling: “To my dismay, IPCC authors ignored all my comments and suggestions for major changes in the FOD (First Order Draft) and sent me the SOD (Second Order Draft) with essentially the same text as the FOD. None of the authors of the chapter bothered to directly communicate with me (or with other expert reviewers with whom I communicate on a regular basis) on many issues that were raised in my review. This is not an acceptable scientific review process.”

“Pat Michaels, senior fellow in environmental studies at the libertarian Cato Institute and research professor of environmental science on leave from the University of Virginia, said the sheer number of international acclaimed scientists included in the report makes it hard to dismiss. “They found an astounding amount of people who are in agreement,” Michaels told Cybercast News Service. “These are not just creation scientists. These are huge names. There are too many people for these to be agenda-driven statements. Scientists are just getting tired of exaggeration on this issue. Global warming has become a religious crusade.” (Source: CNS article.)

There you go. Think about it. Care to check out BOTH sides of this scientific story?

FL

David Stanton:

Eric wrote:

“The question, however, is how to tell apart a theory that has an enormous predictive power from a “theory” that explains everything.”

As Reed has correctly pointed out, the theory of evolution cannot account for all possible observations. That is why it is science. There are potential observations that it most certainly could not account for. That is why it is falsifiable. That is why it cannot explain “everything”.

I am not a native speaker in English language, but even then, I did not expect this kind of failure in conveying my message.

After reading my question again a few times, it still stands … in my opinion.

I did use quote marks as I referred to “theories” that explain everything.

When I was young, I found a perfect theory. I will reproduce it here : “Everything is because the apple blossoms are white”. If someone finds a red apple blossom, it is because the apple blossoms are white.

I do not object the evolutionary theory. I think it is one of the major scientific theories today. Its success and especially the way it is often reported in media may give the impression that no observation can refute it.

Of course, this is the problem with all popular reporting of science. They want to make headlines and tell that “revolutionizing finds have been made”. Reading the headlines gives the impression that everyone has been wrong this far, but now we know the truth. And somehow the underlying theory is still intact.

Regards

Eric

shux2k:

Two questions. 1. How do people who perpetuate the “human caused” global warming hoax explain the fact that evidence is coming in showing the same type of warming is occurring on Mars? 2. Why do people who are doing such a great job of using real science to defend evolution from the ID hoax make fools of themselves by swallowing the “human caused” warming hoax without doing the real science that’s showing solar causes?

1. My reading of it is that Mars is in that part of its Milankovic cycle where warming is to be expected. Do you have any evidence that it is the ‘same type of warming’?

2. Solar activity has been essentially unchanged for 50 years.

3. Given the basic physics of the situation, why would you expect the well-documented rise in atmospheric CO2 not to have an effect?

I don’t just listen to Al Gore. I also listen to Dr. Steinn Sigurdsson, Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Sigurdsson has something to say about the Mars observations, among other things.

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=192 http://www.astro.psu.edu/users/steinn/

FL: The reaction at Realclimate to the list of 400 names reminded me of the comments you see here about the 700 dissenting-from-Darwin names.

All you have to do is look at the names and some of the creative accounting used to bulk up the list. For example, they’ve added pretty much all of the names of Lomborg’s “Copenhagen consensus,” even though most arent’ scientists. Then, there’s the trick of including, say, all the co-authors of the Courtillot article, even though some of them (like Fluteau) certainly would not describe themselves as skeptics. There is Avery, with his “unstoppable global warming” nonsense (and no peer-reviewed scientific publications). There are a few real scientists, like Allegre and Courtillot (’nuff said about that), plus a lot of nonentities whose lack of credentials you can spot just by running their names through Web of Science. If this is the best 400 names that Inhofe can scrape together, then the denialist crowd is really in bad shape. I don’t think it needs any more comment than that. –raypierre

I wrote a blog about the global warming issue some time ago:

http://www.care2.com/c2c/share/detail/424786

The “chain of reason” in the global warming issue

There are four links in that chain, and all must be solid for the man-made global warming issue to be valid. Nothing else matters.

Has CO2 levels in the Earth’s atmosphere been increasing over the past century? Scientific reports indicate that is the case. Is CO2 a gas that causes heat to be retained in an atmosphere, thus making it a “greenhouse gas”? Scientific reports indicate that is the case. Does human industrial and transportative processes produce vast quantities of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere? Scientific reports indicate that is the case.

Has the average global temperature actually increased over the past few decades? Scientific reports indicate that is the case.

Those who throw around issues like nuclear power, questionable reports of exceptional weather, recent solar output, or natural climate changes in ancient or prehistoric times, only seek to cloud the issue. Unless and until you deal directly with the four central issues at the heart of the global warming issue, you have no real case.

The chain of reason remains unbroken.

In order to refute the case for man-made global warming, you must disprove one of those four links in that chain of reason. Just one. Merely nitpicking details of the concerns about global warming, as those 400 scientists mentioned in the Senate report submitted by FL, won’t do. Scientists who are evolutionists critique evolutionary theory and argue against versions of it put forth by other scientists, but they do not deny evolution itself. But Creationists quote from them anyway to mislead people. Likewise, considering that the Senate report was put out by REPUBLICANS, who are naturally supported by the fossil fuel companies that have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo, one must wonder if a lot of quote mining and misrepresentation of those 400 scientists’ views occured as well.

http://scienceblogs.com/denialism/2[…]ur_study.php

Eric,

I guess I don’t understand your question. You say that you don’t trust a theory that can explain everything and I and others explained that the theory of evolution cannot explain everything. You asked for examples of observations that would falsify evolution and we gave you examples. I asked you for examples of observations that do falsify evolution and you have given none. I really don’t see the problem here.

Of course white apple blossoms explain exactly nothing. Of course they don’t explain pink apple blossoms. How do they explain the seeds in raspberry jam when raspberries appear to have no seeds? Refusing to question a “theory” or simply claiming that it explains everything is not science. The theory of evolution is not like that, it gives detailed explanations which can be tested and falsified. That is why it has changed over time, unlike your example.

Just for the record, there are a number of other observations that would falsify at least some aspects of the modern theory of evolution. These are things that could certainly not easily be accounted for by the current theory:

If a group of complex organisms were discovered on earth that had a drastically different genetic code from that used in all other organism it would be extremely unlikely that they could have arisen by descent with modification. At the very least they could have to represent a separate origin from all other life forms or perhaps a very early offshoot from the tree of life we know. The same holds true for any drastically different ribosome structure, DNA polymerase, cell cycle regulation, or any other ancient mechanism which is conserved in all other life forms.

If a complex animal were found with a fundamentally different type of development, for example lacking hox genes altogether, this would be extremely difficult to explain based on modern evolutionary theory. The same goes for any animal that has a drastically different mitochondrial gene order from closely related animals or a mitochondrial genome with a drastically different complement of genes than other animals. These things would be extremtly unlikely to arise in isolation and they would be very difficult to explain.

If any complex organisms were ever found that did not fit into the tree of life, it would be extremely difficult to explain. All organisms are related to each other and the nested hierarchy of sequence similarities observed can be used to deduce the branching order on the tree of life. If an organism were found that did not fit this general pattern, it would at the very least require a major revision in thinking.

Finding an entire group of life forms based on silicon instead of carbon anywhere on earth would be difficult to explain. So would finding large organisms not composed of smaller cells, or not based on DNA, or not being able to reproduce. All of these things would certainly call everything we think we know into question.

These are just a few of many possible examples. Of course, such trivial things as finding a living dinosaur would mean that certain details of evolutionary theory would have to be revised, but in general something like that could certainly occur given the current theory. Then again, if the earth is only 6,000 years old, or if there is no mechanism of inheritance, then the theory must be completely wrong. Do you think that either of those things is true?

Remember, in order to replace a theory, you have to come up with a better explanation for ALL of the data. Finding a few anomalies is not going to overthrow the most tested theory in the history of science.

Dale, I agree with you. The way I put it is basically: It has been known for 150 years that CO2 absorbs infrared radiation. A century ago it was predicted that doubling the level of atmospheric CO2 would increase global temperatures by several degrees, partly directly and partly through a positive feedback mechanism caused by water vapour. Atmospheric CO2 is increasing rapidly, several lines of evidence showing human activity to be the primary, or even sole, cause of the increase. There is no known negative feedback mechanism remotely large enough to counteract the predicted effect on temperature.

I then ask contrarians where exactly they depart from this. All the arguments about bristlecone pines, urban heat islands and so on are merely nibbling around the edges. So far, they have mainly ignored me although I got one to more or less admit he based his views on wishful thinking.

The fact that, in the past few decades when solar activity has been essentially constant, global temperatures have been rapidly increasing is, to me, the long-expected confirmation that the basic physics is correct.

It is interesting that there seems to be a tendency for people’s attitudes to evolution/creation and global warming to be correlated, but not surprising in that in both cases there is one group that has explanations and makes predictions and another group that resolutely makes no predictions.

Eric Finn:

David Stanton:

Eric wrote:

“The question, however, is how to tell apart a theory that has an enormous predictive power from a “theory” that explains everything.”

As Reed has correctly pointed out, the theory of evolution cannot account for all possible observations. That is why it is science. There are potential observations that it most certainly could not account for. That is why it is falsifiable. That is why it cannot explain “everything”.

I am not a native speaker in English language, but even then, I did not expect this kind of failure in conveying my message.

After reading my question again a few times, it still stands … in my opinion.

I did use quote marks as I referred to “theories” that explain everything.

When I was young, I found a perfect theory. I will reproduce it here : “Everything is because the apple blossoms are white”. If someone finds a red apple blossom, it is because the apple blossoms are white.

I do not object the evolutionary theory. I think it is one of the major scientific theories today. Its success and especially the way it is often reported in media may give the impression that no observation can refute it.

Of course, this is the problem with all popular reporting of science. They want to make headlines and tell that “revolutionizing finds have been made”. Reading the headlines gives the impression that everyone has been wrong this far, but now we know the truth. And somehow the underlying theory is still intact.

Regards

Eric

The difference between a theory that has enormous predictive power and a theory that can “predict everything” is that the former has a specific domain it can only be applied to and has specific criteria that can falsify it, and that in a theory that can “predict everything,” very little actual explanations are given to describe natural phenomena, if any are given at all, and that there is no specific or general criteria given that is capable of falsifying it.

“Descent with modification” explains and describes how the current and past diversities of life have been achieved on Earth. Because an organism’s offspring tends to be imperfect copies of itself, one can expect small changes to accumulate with each passing generation, and these small changes add up to bigger and bigger changes. Also, other factors affect these changes, including interactions with the environment, other species, and other members of the same population.

“Intelligent Design” on the other hand, stipulates that a supernatural designer, hinted to be God, as described in the Holy Bible, created life, and that the complexity inherent in living organisms can only be described as proof of the existence of this designer.

Eric Finn said:

It may pose problems to a layman, if a new fossil emerges, and paleontologists state that now two of our ancestral species overlap by 200,000 years, instead of living one after the other.

Only so long as it takes to remind that layman that his life overlaps with his mother’s and grandmother’s.

The Satirist Pole Greaser said:

Both Christians and evolutionists see the same evidence but they interpret it differently.

While I realize PG is not serious, it is worth pointing out that this is wrong. It ignores the falsifiable testing of scientific theories, and lack of same in religious ones, which makes science far more than a different interpretation.

shux2k said:

How do people who perpetuate the “human caused” global warming hoax explain the fact that evidence is coming in showing the same type of warming is occurring on Mars?

IMO nothing reveals the lack of intellectual depth in global warming denialism as this question, whose absurdity should be clear to any thinking person after mere seconds of contemplation. It’s like saying “The 20 donuts a day I’ve started eating can’t be responsible for my weight gain, because Jon is gaining weight and he doesn’t eat donuts.”

David Stanton said:

…the theory of evolution cannot account for all possible observations. That is why it is science. There are potential observations that it most certainly could not account for. That is why it is falsifiable. That is why it cannot explain “everything”.

Adding to this excellent point, it is crucially important when making it to clarify whether “everything” means “anything possible” or “anything actual”. No, evolution cannot explain everything possible, but it CAN nearly explain everything actual. That is why it is considered so powerful in the first place. Some creationists who miss this point argue as if evolution can’t be falsified because it hasn’t been.

It’s worth noting that despite FL’s best attempts to cherry pick both the scientist and the quote, he did not even present a quote that refuted anything in particular. They were merely a collection of quotes from scientists who believe that they believed their critiques were not addressed. We have no idea what those critiques are. The many facets of climate change are numerous enough that one can disagree with many technical details, but not fundamentally disagree on the notion that it is happening. Wait this does sound suspiciously like history repeating itself.

David Stanton:

Eric,

I guess I don’t understand your question. You say that you don’t trust a theory that can explain everything and I and others explained that the theory of evolution cannot explain everything.

We can agree that the theory of evolution cannot explain everything, and thus it passes one of the gates to science.

You asked for examples of observations that would falsify evolution and we gave you examples. I asked you for examples of observations that do falsify evolution and you have given none. I really don’t see the problem here.

I liked the example of the pre-cambrian rabbit.

If I find any evidence to falsify the evolutionary theory, I will let you know.

Of course white apple blossoms explain exactly nothing. Of course they don’t explain pink apple blossoms. How do they explain the seeds in raspberry jam when raspberries appear to have no seeds?

Now you are mistaken. White apple blossoms do explain all the raspberries, with or without seeds.

Refusing to question a “theory” or simply claiming that it explains everything is not science. The theory of evolution is not like that, it gives detailed explanations which can be tested and falsified. That is why it has changed over time, unlike your example.

My example (white apple blossoms) was not an example of a scientific theory. Otherwise it is perfect.

Just for the record, there are a number of other observations that would falsify at least some aspects of the modern theory of evolution. These are things that could certainly not easily be accounted for by the current theory:

If a group of complex organisms were discovered on earth that had a drastically different genetic code from that used in all other organism […] …any drastically different ribosome structure, DNA polymerase, cell cycle regulation, or any other ancient mechanism which is conserved in all other life forms.

If a complex animal were found with a fundamentally different type of development, […] The same goes for any animal that has a drastically different mitochondrial gene order from closely related animals or a mitochondrial genome with a drastically different complement of genes than other animals.

If any complex organisms were ever found that did not fit into the tree of life, […]

Finding an entire group of life forms based on silicon instead of carbon anywhere on earth […]

Agreed. If any of those were found, then we should question the validity of the evolutionary theory. On a second thought, why would silicon based life forms be a problem to the evolutionary theory? It would be a problem to the concept of common descent, but common descent (only one ancestral form) is an observation, rather than part of the theory.

These are just a few of many possible examples. Of course, such trivial things as finding a living dinosaur would mean that certain details of evolutionary theory would have to be revised, but in general something like that could certainly occur given the current theory. Then again, if the earth is only 6,000 years old, or if there is no mechanism of inheritance, then the theory must be completely wrong. Do you think that either of those things is true?

Finding a living dinosaur would be nice, but it would not have any impact to the theory of biological evolution. A (very) young earth would be a serious problem, according to current understanding. There is a multitude of evidence indicating age of about 4,500 million years.

Remember, in order to replace a theory, you have to come up with a better explanation for ALL of the data. Finding a few anomalies is not going to overthrow the most tested theory in the history of science.

I am fully aware that in order to replace a theory (with substantial amount of supporting evidence) one needs to provide a better explanation for all of the data, and some new predictions.

The concept of gravity would not be abandoned, even if several well-respected scientists reported an apple falling upwards.

Most tested… I have visited several pubs that all were the oldest in the world.

Regards

Eric

Both Christians and evolutionists see the same evidence but they interpret it differently. Evolutionists see the universe and think it all came about by random chance, Christians see the it as the work of Jesus; this is not the same as “denying” the existence of the universe!

So many errors in one paragraph. Since there are Christian and non-Christian evolutionists your argument does not hold. Furthermore, evolution is about what happened to life once it arose not about the evolution of the universe and finally, seeing evolution as the work of Jesus still means that evolution is true.

Stanton:

The difference between a theory that has enormous predictive power and a theory that can “predict everything” is that the former has a specific domain it can only be applied to and has specific criteria that can falsify it, and that in a theory that can “predict everything,” very little actual explanations are given to describe natural phenomena, if any are given at all, and that there is no specific or general criteria given that is capable of falsifying it.

Personally, I would be happy with a theory that “can predict everything”. Theories that “can explain everything” are more problematic.

Seriously, you made a good point.

Regards

Eric

Science Avenger:

Eric Finn said:

It may pose problems to a layman, if a new fossil emerges, and paleontologists state that now two of our ancestral species overlap by 200,000 years, instead of living one after the other.

Only so long as it takes to remind that layman that his life overlaps with his mother’s and grandmother’s.

Indeed !

Regards

Eric

SLC — Thank you. I found that informative.

It is also a good example of how science works with the evidence to disqualify various hypotheses.

ID, on the other hand…

Stanton: It’s extremely hard to defeat the Theory of Evolution, especially since its current enemies regard “facts” as being “the Devil’s trading cards.”

Every-time I read that I smile and laugh. Thanks for the humorous, and apt, analogy.

FL:

Makes for an excellent, informative comparison of viewpoints!

http://www.cei.org/pdf/5820.pdf

FL

No it’s not. It’s stupid. Look at these retarded points:

AIT never acknowledges the indispensable role of fossil fuels in alleviating hunger and poverty, extending human life spans, and democratizing consumer goods, literacy, leisure, and personal mobility.

Well, let’s all give praise to the Black Death because it made labor more valuable.

It never acknowledges the environmental, health, and economic benefits of climatic warmth and the ongoing rise in the air’s CO2 content.

All hail the greater transportability of tropical diseases! Woohoo! With more people getting Malaria, doctors will make more money!!!! Woot!!!

It neglects to mention that aggregate mortality and mortality rates due to extreme weather events declined dramatically during the 20th century.

Causality how? Because I can’t think of anything to mock this point with because it seems so unrelated. Weather related fatality reductions seem to be more of a product of better forecasting, plus increased health and wealth than global warming.

It neglects to mention the circumstances that make it reasonable rather than blameworthy for America to be the biggest CO2 emitter: the world’s largest economy, abundant fossil energy resources, markets integrated across continental distances, and the world’s most mobile population.

Someone must be kidding me. That’s one of the most self-centered, self-serving and arrogant claims I’ve ever read.

The book impugns the motives of so-called global warming skeptics but never acknowledges the special-interest motivations of those whose research grants, direct mail income, industrial policy privileges, carbon trading commissions, regulatory power, prosecutorial plunder, or political careers depend on keeping the public in a state of fear about global warming.

Yeah. It’s like the police. Getting paid for arresting criminals. That’s so bogus! What are their real motives?

FL and SchmucksXXXL (or whatever) -

Since this is a wide-ranging discussion, can you each provide a brief answer to this question -

What causes AIDS?

I’m just curious to see what you say.

Moses:

Stanton: It’s extremely hard to defeat the Theory of Evolution, especially since its current enemies regard “facts” as being “the Devil’s trading cards.”

Every-time I read that I smile and laugh. Thanks for the humorous, and apt, analogy.

I’d laugh, too, but, I’ve encountered too many creationists who embody Martin Luther’s little spiel about “Reason is the Whore of the Devil” to a tee, alas.

A comment on denial of human-caused climate change, here at the dead end of the thread…

Even if the evidence were less devastating, the denialist view is flawed at a logical level.

Given the potential devastating effects of rapid climate change, the expected value of making moderate behavioral changes now is far better than the expected value of ignoring the situation.

Several years ago, one could have made a strained case that “we should behave as if human-caused climate change is happening, but it might not really be happening”. Even that case is hard to make today.

It has NEVER been rational to argue that we should ignore even the possibility of human-caused climate change.

Climate-change deniers are effectively arguing that if I insulate my house, and don’t turn down the heating, my house will still not get any warmer. As a physicist I find that implausible.

Stephen Wells:

Climate-change deniers are effectively arguing that if I insulate my house, and don’t turn down the heating, my house will still not get any warmer. As a physicist I find that implausible.

They don’t care about that: Climate-change deniers, as with creationists, don’t care about reality or evidence, what they say is the gospel truth, and to hell with reality and evidence.

Stanton:

… and to hell with reality and evidence.

In this case, reality is going to say to hell with you, all of you right back…

Thanks for the thought provoking article

A devastating comparison

Kåre Fog has examined the lists of alleged errors in An Incovenient Truth put out by Monckton, the CEI and so on and counted how many actual errors they found. The score: in the film and book combined there were 2 errors and 12 flaws. (Fog defines a flaw as “a misleading statement which does not fully agree with the facts”.)

For comparison, Fog lists 110 errors and 208 flaws in Lomborg’s “The Skeptical Environmentalist”.

FWIW, catching up on old threads:

SLC, thank you, it was informative.

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This page contains a single entry by PvM published on February 8, 2008 10:19 AM.

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