Another really dumb poll question about evolution

| 56 Comments

Possibly stimulated by Jerry Coyne’s post, there’s a spate of web attention to a survey concerning evolution, science, and religion performed by the Center for Public Policy of Virginia Commonwealth University (pdf here). The survey was purportedly performed in collaboration with VCU Life Sciences. I seriously wonder who they consulted in the Life Sciences. It surely could not have been an evolutionary biologist, because like so many such surveys, this one asks a stupid question, and commenter Kevin on Coyne’s blog nails it:

I have a HUGE problem with question 1.

“Which of these statements comes closest to your views on the origin of biological life:”

What? Are you talking about abiogenesis? How am I to know whether it happened all at once or gradually over time?

The alternatives offered were

– Biological life developed over time from simple substances, but God guided this process,
– Biological life developed over time from simple substances but God did not guide this process,
– God directly created biological life in its present form at one point in time?

[Note: the order of answers was randomized among people]

Kevin went on:

Now, if you’re talking EVOLUTION, that’s a different kettle of fish. That can be defined as “diversity of life forms on this planet.” That we know a LOT more about.

But “origins of life”? Not so much.

Bad poll question. Horridly bad. Almost designed to allow theists to wedge a god into a gap.

Exactly right. This poll in fact tells us precisely nothing about acceptance of evolution because of the sloppy wording of that question. Worse, asking the question that way merely propagates the creationist conflation of the question of abiogenesis and the reality of evolution. So again, I wonder who in the VCU Life Sciences they actually consulted on that question.

56 Comments

The same problems we have with the news media are rampant among pollsters; the people in these fields have severe misconceptions about science themselves.

Yet the use their professional status to either wittingly or unwittingly spread and reinforce misconceptions. By wording their questions exactly in line with public misunderstanding, rather than getting an objective poll of opinions, they simply end up confirming the misconceptions people already have.

The news media are particularly annoying in this regard by propagating the notion that there are two sides to every issue while further compounding the problem by making it seem that these purported two sides have equal weight.

Most of the times pollsters and reporters don’t even bother to hone their own understanding of anything they are reporting on. They simply translate expert understanding into the prevailing public misconceptions thereby reinforcing the erroneous memes that are already propagating.

Most of the physicists and other scientists I’ve worked with over the years really dreaded having an interview with a reporter; and most tried to avoid drawing any public attention to their ongoing work even though it was important. Better to report it in the journals.

Some years ago I was interviewed by a newspaper reporter who attended a talk I’d given to a local business organization. The story as published precisely reversed the point I argued in the talk. Fortunately the story also got my name wrong, so it wasn’t really me saying the dumb things attributed to me. :)

Ah well, I guess this can be filed in the same basket as the poll that, through poor wording, found that a large proportion of atheists believe in god.

http://hotair.com/archives/2008/06/[…]ieve-in-god/

RBH said:

Some years ago I was interviewed by a newspaper reporter who attended a talk I’d given to a local business organization. The story as published precisely reversed the point I argued in the talk. Fortunately the story also got my name wrong, so it wasn’t really me saying the dumb things attributed to me. :)

That’s exactly what I think egomaniacs probably did to God when they wrote books like the Bible, the Quran and the Book of Mormon, among others. No one knows what God is like, what he wants for us, what his name is (assuming he even has one), or if he even exists at all.

Polls about evolution are almost always useless, because they rarely make any attempt to find out what the people they’re polling actually know about the theory of evolution. So it becomes like asking the “man in the street” if radio signals are composed of waves or particles. All you’d really be testing is the number of people who are familiar with the “double-slit” paradox and other subtleties of the question (relatively few) vs. people who’ve heard of “radio waves” (and think they know the answer) vs people who just say “huh?” (probably most).

Hey, where’s P Z Myers when we need him? One of his favorite stunts is encouraging his fans to mess up online polls, with amusing results:

http://circleh.wordpress.com/2009/0[…]istian-poll/

I don’t think the bad wording will actually alter matters that much. Most people reading this sort of thing will just interpret as about evolution. Heck, the vast majority of the the population doesn’t’/can’t distinguish between evolution and abiogenesis. So poor wording but likely doesn’t alter the interpretation of the data that much. The only issue that may be relevant is that there’s some evidence that the percentage who accept evolution is lower when the word “evolution” is used explicitly in a question. But that’s more of a framing issue than anything else.

The poll does tell us one thing: People – especially ignorant fundamentalists – think they know enough about evolution to answer those questions, regardless of their wording. As I pointed out in that comment thread, people in fundamentalist environments sometimes get a lot of the false and negative information about evolution through their pastor and feel they are informed enough to make a decision about the truth of it.

Maybe that should be one of the possible poll responses: “I don’t know enough about evolution or abiogenesis to answer this question.”

I agree that it’s a bad question. I have yet to see one that I like. Even if they do make sure not to confuse evolution and abiogenesis they almost always word them in ways that would be interpreted differently by different people, especially those who don’t understand the nature of science. For example the common choice (selected by a ~45% of respondents consistently over 25+ years) “God created humans in their present form in the last 10,000 years” could be selected by YECs, old-earth-young-life creationists, Omphalos creationists who will admit that the evidence does not support what they choose to believe, and even some theistic evolutionists who are thinking “souls,” not “cells.”

As for abiogenesis, we may not know much about the mechanism, but we are darn sure that it occurred about 3.8 billion years ago. What needs to be rubbed in, if only because most people are unaware of it, is that many evolution deniers fully concede that age of life, and some concede even the “biological continuum” that followed the origin of life.

I advocate asking as many “when” questions as possible. Why give evolution deniers the opportunity to hide their irreconcilable differences?

KP Wrote:

As I pointed out in that comment thread, people in fundamentalist environments sometimes get a lot of the false and negative information about evolution through their pastor and feel they are informed enough to make a decision about the truth of it.

Unfortunately it’s not just fundamentalists and their environments. Misinformation is everywhere, and the poll results reflect it.

Actually, the issue is not that abiogenesis and evolution are separate issues, which is very debatable in itself.

The fact is, not only do we not know the details of how the first cell arose, we also do not know anything of how this first simple cell transformed into a complex multi-cellular organism. I can think of over twenty+ development thresholds that defy explanation.

This is not to say that we can never figure it out. But current sophisticated speculation is no substitute for concrete knowledge. I think people intuitively understand this.

Whatever the case, one thing is for sure. It is way,way too early to call the game for natural selection.

“Natural selection is a maintenance junkie, not an engineer.”

Dale Husband said:

Hey, where’s P Z Myers when we need him? One of his favorite stunts is encouraging his fans to mess up online polls, with amusing results:

http://circleh.wordpress.com/2009/0[…]istian-poll/

Actually I find the results before the stunt quite interesting, if not surprising:

Young-earth creationism 29%

Old-earth creationism 28%

Theistic evolution 26%

Naturalistic evolution 4%

I don’t know 7%

None of the above 6%

I’ll bet that most fellow “Darwinists” expected the majority of readers of “Christianity Today” to be YECs, but instead it’s only 29%.

Even if we add the YEC and the OEC results it’s only 57%, not much more than the ~45% for the general public. And that ~45% is without having a specific OEC option, which I think would make it higher. I also expect the YEC/OEC ratio to be higher among the general public than among devout Christians, if only because the latter think more about “origins.” Unless one is completely detached from reality, the only way to deny the antiquity of Earth and its life is to just not think about it.

Steve P. said:

Actually, the issue is not that abiogenesis and evolution are separate issues, which is very debatable in itself.

I have asked creationists a half dozen times: “If, somehow – who knows how it could possibly be done – we actually had proof that life magically poofed into existence … how much of a book on evo science like, say, Coyne’s WHY EVOLUTION IS TRUE would have to be changed?”

I can’t think it would be more than a few paragraphs at most. And of course, all Darwin said about the origin of life in his entire laborious ORIGIN OF SPECIES was along the lines of life being breathed into a few forms or one. Darwin suspected the question might not even be answerable.

And not once has a creationist answered that question. They either ignore it or reply with an evasion. And I can bet that’s what going to happen here.

BTW, the people who are actually working on abiogenesis are biochemists and the like, for example Jack Szostak. Evo scientists certainly have an interest in the matter, but they don’t have the skillset to address it. Which leads to the question of why creationists don’t say abiogenesis is a crisis for CHEMISTRY.

Apparently that isn’t “debatable”.

Steve P. said:

Whatever the case, one thing is for sure. It is way,way too early to call the game for natural selection.

But it is way past time to call it for creationists, whose idea of playing the game is to spend all of it calling penalties on the home team and never scoring a goal themselves.

Mr. G, Actually, ID is scoring when it hypothesizes that information is a separate entity, independent of matter. Yes, it is counter-intuitive and hard to grasp and validate, but who said science is easy.

The more folks here use rhetorical tactics of derision and ridicule, the better it is for folks like Stephen Myers. Its Myers’ Frazier to P.Z.’s Ali.

So you can understand why I am all for the derision and ridicule against ID. Hey, b*tch slap ‘em if that will help.

MrG said:

Steve P. said:

Whatever the case, one thing is for sure. It is way,way too early to call the game for natural selection.

But it is way past time to call it for creationists, whose idea of playing the game is to spend all of it calling penalties on the home team and never scoring a goal themselves.

Polls like this are problematic because designing good questions is difficult. For example, take a look at recent poll of professional scientists who are Christians on the ASA Voices Blog. http://www.asa3online.org/Voices/

Note in the comments where both the wording of the statements and my calculations had issues (a correction for my calculation error that did not materially affect my conclusions should be posted soon). This makes an assessment of the absolute value of support difficult because there is differences of opinions of what the various statements mean. It is pretty clear, however, that affirming none of the statements is a proxy for YEC and that would mean that less than 7.5% of our members are YEC.

My particular interest was the relative support of mainstream science and why there is a difference amongst us. One key area that did not promote any meaningful difference was whether our members went to a Christian or secular college for our undergrad degrees.

In increasing degrees here were factors that caused a difference of response:

1. Full-time employed scientists were more likely to accept the mainstream science than retired ones.

2. Scientists employed in areas where there was more basic research going on (education, government, and medical) were more likely to accept the mainstream science than not (industry, ministry).

3. Scientists whose areas of expertise are closer to the issues of evolution and the age of the earth (biology, geology, physics/astronomy) were more likely to accept the mainstream science than not (engineering)

It seems to me that the reason why mainstream science is more accepted is not starting presuppositions but rather the greater personal and professional exposure to the evidence.

Please note the conclusions above are my own and may or may not reflect the opinions of the ASA or its board of directors. The ASA does not officially endorse a particular view of origins but we do insist that our members approach the issue with scientific integrity. I would like to thank our executive director, Randy Isaac, for granting me permission to access the raw survey data.

Steve P. said:

Mr. G, Actually, ID is scoring when it hypothesizes that information is a separate entity, independent of matter.

Ah, creationist information! I have a long-standing question about that … how do I calculate the “information” in an arbitrary computer program?

Am I wrong in assuming that there is “information” as creationists understand it in a computer program? Or is it wrong to think it can be calculated? And if it can’t be calculated, can we determine if it increases or decreases and so is conserved or not?

I have asked this question to creationists a half dozen times. They have either ignored it or replied with an evasion. That is all I am expecting now.

“Ridicule”? As a president once put it; “I never give them hell. I just tell the truth and they think it’s hell.”

Well, for starters:

1) Life actually does has purpose. 2) Natural selection is a bit player. 3) Information is real and independent of matter. 4) There is no single universal common ancestor; there are several. 5) There is a universal design principle based on the integrity of the whole. 6) Out of sight is not out of mind.

I have asked creationists a half dozen times: “If, somehow – who knows how it could possibly be done – we actually had proof that life magically poofed into existence … how much of a book on evo science like, say, Coyne’s WHY EVOLUTION IS TRUE would have to be changed?”

Ah, creationist information!

See what I mean? You don’t like the destination so you mock the drivers. Go for it, m’ man.

BTW, you forgot to dis that crappy car they slapped together with last week’s collection.

“1) Life actually does has purpose.”

OK, we add that. One sentence. Nothing else in the book changes.

“2) Natural selection is a bit player.”

Huh? Life poofed into existence and that means natural selection is a bit player? Sounds like added assumptions here.

“3) Information is real and independent of matter.”

Huh? You can’t even define “information”.

“4) There is no single universal common ancestor; there are several.”

Huh? So you’re not just claiming life poofed into existence, it did it a whole bunch of times. On what basis do we determine if it did it once or many times? Sounds like added assumptions here.

“5) There is a universal design principle based on the integrity of the whole.”

OK, the Universe seems to have an underlying design. But evolution is not part that design, right? “6) Out of sight is not out of mind.”

Ah, say something vacuous and then dare someone to ask what it means. Nah, I just know vacuous when I see it.

See what I mean? You don’t like the destination so you mock the drivers. Go for it, m’ man.

Yep, I see exactly what you mean. You call “creationist information”, I ask you to define it, you complain that I’m being unfair.

OK, I’ve got your number now. You’re all talk. Game over.

Steve P wrote:

“:The fact is, not only do we not know the details of how the first cell arose, we also do not know anything of how this first simple cell transformed into a complex multi-cellular organism. I can think of over twenty+ development thresholds that defy explanation.”

The fact is that we have a great deal of knowledge about how eukaryotes and multicellular organisms evolved. You cannot, or will not, look at this evidence. You have no right a to an opinion on the subject. Of course it would not matter how much evidence there was, you would always claim that it wasn’t enough. Who cares what an uninformed an willfully ignorant person believes?

Steve P. said:

Mr. G, Actually, ID is scoring when it hypothesizes that information is a separate entity, independent of matter.

ID scores when it hypothesizes something? I guess that explains why the ID advocates never seem to get around to actually doing the research, publishing their results, or even stating their hypotheses in a testable form.

But, if that’s the way the game works, I hypothesize you don’t know what you’re talking about …

… and the refs score a goal for SWT! The crowd goes wild!

While I hate to seem to agree with Steve P on anything, I’m not sure why so many of you on Panda’s Thumb want to distance your discussion from abiogenesis. The origin of life is interesting, is pertinent to the study of evolution, and is a valid subject for biology.

It’s true that abiogenesis is still beset with many unanswered questions, but that shouldn’t scare scientists. That’s what makes the subject so interesting. The details of abiogenesis are not well understood at this time, but research will throw light on those questions, and when the answers are found I am confident that they will involve natural causes. No poofs!

RWard said:

While I hate to seem to agree with Steve P on anything, I’m not sure why so many of you on Panda’s Thumb want to distance your discussion from abiogenesis. The origin of life is interesting, is pertinent to the study of evolution, and is a valid subject for biology.

Abiogenesis is a FASCINATING subject. However, the basic premise of creationists is that the subject presents a “fatal flaw” of evo science when, from the point of view of evo science it really doesn’t affect the argument much.

Or, if it is a “fatal flaw”, one could just as easily argue it is a fatal flaw of chemistry.

In any case, the creationists are pushing an argument of ignorance: “If you can’t tell me how Alice walked to Bob’s house, then I can claim she actually teleported there.”

Steve P. said:

Mr. G, Actually, ID is scoring when it hypothesizes that information is a separate entity, independent of matter. Yes, it is counter-intuitive and hard to grasp and validate, but who said science is easy.

are you saying that you believe ‘information’ is analogous to ‘Soul’ or ‘Mind’? Is ‘detecting informtion’ detecting the work of God?

sorry for formatting errors

RWard said:

While I hate to seem to agree with Steve P on anything, I’m not sure why so many of you on Panda’s Thumb want to distance your discussion from abiogenesis. The origin of life is interesting, is pertinent to the study of evolution, and is a valid subject for biology.

It’s true that abiogenesis is still beset with many unanswered questions, but that shouldn’t scare scientists. That’s what makes the subject so interesting. The details of abiogenesis are not well understood at this time, but research will throw light on those questions, and when the answers are found I am confident that they will involve natural causes. No poofs!

Of course you are absolutely right. However, the creationist routine is to find something that is not completely understood, then claim that since you don’t know everything that you don’t know anything. It doesn’t seem to matter to them that they are not actually attacking evolution, they just need something that isn’t completely understood in order to slip in the god of the gaps.

The other reason that creationists seem to obsess so much about abiogenesis is that they really don’t understand how evolution works and are desperate to avoid learning anything that would demolish their smug and inaccurate portrayals. Zeroing in on a specialized field reduces the number of experts that they have to contend with and reduces the number of knowledgeable people that can answer their silly challenges.

That having been said, it really doesn’t matter how much is known about any particular aspect of biology, they are never going to look at the evidence anyway. They already know they are right, so who needs evidence? In any event they just can’t help but shift the goalposts every time they walk on to the field, it seems to be a reflex action.

MrG Wrote:

“4) There is no single universal common ancestor; there are several.”

Huh? So you’re not just claiming life poofed into existence, it did it a whole bunch of times. On what basis do we determine if it did it once or many times? Sounds like added assumptions here.

Technically the Biblical creationists are the ones that have life originating “a whole bunch of times,” either with all “kinds” originating independently in a small space and time window (nevertheless involving numerous separate cell construction “events”), or periodically over billions of years (as “progressive” OECs claim).

Steve P. has long admitted common descent, and billions of years of it, but this is the first time I recall any detail. I am curious whether he is just agreeing with those mainstream scientists (e.g. Carl Woese) who claim that free-living ancestors may have originated a few times instead of just once, or pathetically backpedaling to pander to the big tent.

“If you can’t tell me how Alice walked to Bob’s house, then I can claim she actually teleported there.”

This reminds me of a passage in “Darwin’s Black Box” (pages 13-14):

Suppose a 4-foot-wide ditch in your backyard … separates your property from that of your neighbor. If one day you met him in your yard and asked how he got there, you would have no reason to doubt the answer, “I jumped over the ditch.” … If the “ditch” were actually a canyon 1000 feet wide, however, you would not entertain for a moment the bald assertion that he jumped across.

When I read that, I immediately wondered: For how long would you entertain the bald assertion that God carried him across? What if he said that an unspecified IT (Intelligent Transporter) did it, and refused to say anything about what an IT might be, or when, why, or how ITs carry people across canyons?

TomS said:

This reminds me of a passage in “Darwin’s Black Box” …

Yeah, I tend to think of it in terms of Behe’s infamous “woodchuck” argument (which I rephrase in terms of prairie dogs, since I have them for neighbors). “Doofus! You don’t even understand how evolution is supposed to work.”

By the same reasoning, long rivers are in defiance of the odds: “It has to go downhill all along its length! What are the odds?!”

Another thing about Behe: one expects a creationist to be an assertive ignoramus – “It’s da style!” – but one would think that a person with Behe’s qualifications would know better than to make obviously lame arguments like his “woodchuck” story. “You didn’t even bother to run this past anybody!”

Behind doors #1, #2, and #3 “The alternatives offered were”

– Biological life developed over time from simple substances, but God guided this process, – Biological life developed over time from simple substances but God did not guide this process, – God directly created biological life in its present form at one point in time?

[Note: the order of answers was randomized among people]

Did I miss something? In all instances it is presumed that there is a supernatural god that either did or did not have a hand in the process. None of the responses appear to say sorry, no supernatural explanation necessary.

Rich Blinne said:

Polls like this are problematic because designing good questions is difficult. For example, take a look at recent poll of professional scientists who are Christians on the ASA Voices Blog. http://www.asa3online.org/Voices/

Note in the comments where both the wording of the statements and my calculations had issues (a correction for my calculation error that did not materially affect my conclusions should be posted soon). This makes an assessment of the absolute value of support difficult because there is differences of opinions of what the various statements mean. It is pretty clear, however, that affirming none of the statements is a proxy for YEC and that would mean that less than 7.5% of our members are YEC.

My particular interest was the relative support of mainstream science and why there is a difference amongst us. One key area that did not promote any meaningful difference was whether our members went to a Christian or secular college for our undergrad degrees.

Thanks for outlining your analysis. It was on my list of potential posts here.

On my initial reading I found that particular finding–that the nature of the undergrad institution had no relationship to acceptance of mainstream science–to be surprising. However, thinking about it more, that may have to do with the history of ASA, founded in the 1940s as an anti-evolution organization but evolving into what seems to be primarily EC/TE membership. It’s a self-selecting membership, and YECs may be selecting themselves out of ASA.

Steve P. said:

“Natural selection is a maintenance junkie, not an engineer.”

What a lame distinction. Engineers do maintenance all the time. Or do you think they just sit around and design and build machines, only to let them wear out naturally?

Steve P. said:

Well, for starters:

1) Life actually does has purpose. 2) Natural selection is a bit player. 3) Information is real and independent of matter. 4) There is no single universal common ancestor; there are several. 5) There is a universal design principle based on the integrity of the whole. 6) Out of sight is not out of mind.

Nice set of assumptions. How about supporting them with empirical evidence?

RBH said:

Rich Blinne said:

One key area that did not promote any meaningful difference was whether our members went to a Christian or secular college for our undergrad degrees.

Thanks for outlining your analysis. It was on my list of potential posts here.

On my initial reading I found that particular finding–that the nature of the undergrad institution had no relationship to acceptance of mainstream science–to be surprising. However, thinking about it more, that may have to do with the history of ASA, founded in the 1940s as an anti-evolution organization but evolving into what seems to be primarily EC/TE membership. It’s a self-selecting membership, and YECs may be selecting themselves out of ASA.

As recently as 1995 our organization did not have a reputation of being TE friendly, at least from the outside. Ken Miller was scheduled to debate Michael Behe and he donned his umpire’s cap from the American Softball Association since he wasn’t sure if we were going to be a friendly audience. See here for more details: http://www.asa3.org/ASA/docs/asa_doc8.txt

It was at this debate the error in Miller and Levine concerning purposelessness was discovered. Michael Behe failed to warn his side of Kitzmiller that Miller promised to update the textbook with the next edition. This is the back story behind Miller’s “which version” retort during the trial.

I think your idea of self-selecting makes sense and it feels that way from the inside. So, the poll while not helpful perhaps of getting inside the psyche of a YEC is helpful in getting inside the psyche of a TE. What the poll shows is how evidence driven rather than “worldview” driven we are. In other words, our “worldview” determines how we behave but not which conclusions to which we are predisposed.

From our vantage point it would be really, really nice if the YEC or ID folk were correct. The problem is the evidence isn’t there. Where our Christian worldview intersects with this is that the truth is more important than winning an argument. Through the ASA I’ve gotten to know a number of professors at Christian colleges and universities and they showed the same attitude. They also instilled this attitude in their students. Thus, this was the first cohort I checked because I expected it to have no effect.

I’m not sure why so many of you on Panda’s Thumb want to distance your discussion from abiogenesis.

Fear Factor, of course.

(1) Prebiotic chemical evolution shares the same materialistic presuppositions as postbiotic evolutionary theory (for example the total denial of teleology).

(2): Evolution’s key component, natural selection, is viewed by evolutionists to be the driving force of BOTH prebiotic and postbiotic evolution.

Given both (1) and (2), the fall of abiogenesis would ultimately generate a goodly measure of Collateral Damage (in terms of general public perception) to postbiotic evolutionary claims. The fall of prebiotic chemical evolution would not overturn evolutionary theory, but it would open the door for increased public doubts.

That, in turn, could then translate into more states joining Texas and Louisiana in adopting pro-science, common-sense, critical-thinking-oriented reform measures. Evolutionists are scared to death of that possibility.

***

Abiogenesis is currently in TRAIN-WRECK mode, (“the weakest strut in the chassis of modern biology”, said John Horgan). May postbiotic evolutionary theory likewise jump the tracks as it crosses the railroad bridge. Bon Voyagee, baby!!

FL

FL:

Prebiotic chemical evolution shares the same “materialistic presuppositions” as “kinds” from “dust.”

Your bait-and-switch may work on 90% of nonscientists, but it doesn’t work here.

FL said:

Abiogenesis is currently in TRAIN-WRECK mode, (“the weakest strut in the chassis of modern biology”, said John Horgan). May postbiotic evolutionary theory likewise jump the tracks as it crosses the railroad bridge. Bon Voyagee, baby!!

FL

Is that why we have papers like this today in PNAS? http://www.pnas.org/content/107/28/12423.abstract

Nitrogen is an essential biotic element, yet difficult to fix into biotic/prebiotic molecules directly from N2. Despite N2 being the most abundant constituent in the Earth’s atmosphere through most of its history, only limited fixed nitrogen is available for the biosphere. In the thick N2 atmosphere of Titan with a trace amount of methane, atmospheric chemistry leads eventually to heavy organic gaseous species and aerosol particles. Understanding the formation chemistry and the resulting chemical structure of possible nitrogenated organic aerosols in the Titan atmosphere might help in constraining the atmospheric contribution in abiotic nitrogen fixation processes relevant to the origin and evolution of early life.

In the upper atmosphere of Titan where substantial amounts of excited N(2D) are generated accompanied with unsaturated hydrocarbons, nitrogen incorporation into organic aerosols efficiently proceeds via N(2D) and HCCN. The HCCN heterogeneous incorporation may have great impact on the entire nitrogen chemistry, beause a significant fraction of excited N(2D) is decoupled from the CN-unit-based chemistry (Fig. 1, dashed box). Organic aerosols in the upper atmosphere of Titan might be a hidden N sink, which eventually accumulate on the surface of Titan with chemical potential for prebiotic evolution.

Maybe FL should take to heart the following from John Horgan’s review of “What Darwin Got Wrong” (6/27/10)

But their intended quod est demonstrandums are actually non sequiturs. Debates over gene conservation, contingency, self-organization, and other issues do not disprove the theory of natural selection any more than debates over how galaxies form disprove the big bang theory.

LoL, John Horgan

*rolls eyes*

The guys whole shtick is basically “science will never figure anything out, it’s all too complicated, and here’s the cherry picked lines of inquiry that went nowhere (or appear stagnant) to prove it.” His most irritating trait is his penchant for conflating media hype and actual scientific claims to try and make his case against the real potential of science.

I can see why, as a gaps humper, FL would be a fan.

darvolution proponentsist said:

The guys whole shtick is basically “science will never figure anything out, it’s all too complicated, and here’s the cherry picked lines of inquiry that went nowhere (or appear stagnant) to prove it.”

Straight from the mouth of Charles Fort. But at least Fort never pretended out of the other side of his mouth that he “wasn’t anti-science”. He was anti-science and didn’t care who knew it.

FL said:

The fall of prebiotic chemical evolution would not overturn evolutionary theory, but it would open the door for increased public doubts.

What exactly would disprove “prebiotic chemical evolution”? Even if current working hypotheses were not supported, there are many more to be tested before one would be forced to concede that magic was involved.

RWard said:

What exactly would disprove “prebiotic chemical evolution”?

I always get such a look on my face when I am told that it is “unreasonable” or “ridiculous” to refuse to believe that life magically poofed into existence.

“Huh? Even if it did, how could you prove it? By showing there was no possible other explanation? Even those nobody’s thought of yet? How could you rule out that we won’t have an explanation in 10,000 CE?”

“And why would we be inclined to prefer it as an answer? Because of all the other things that have been explained by IT JUST MAGICALLY HAPPENED? Oh RIGHT there’s such an enormous list of precedents. Indeed, why should we even consider that an explanation? It sounds more like saying THERE IS NO EXPLANATION IT JUST HAPPENED.”

MrG said:

RWard said:

What exactly would disprove “prebiotic chemical evolution”?

I always get such a look on my face when I am told that it is “unreasonable” or “ridiculous” to refuse to believe that life magically poofed into existence.

“Huh? Even if it did, how could you prove it? By showing there was no possible other explanation? Even those nobody’s thought of yet? How could you rule out that we won’t have an explanation in 10,000 CE?”

“And why would we be inclined to prefer it as an answer? Because of all the other things that have been explained by IT JUST MAGICALLY HAPPENED? Oh RIGHT there’s such an enormous list of precedents. Indeed, why should we even consider that an explanation? It sounds more like saying THERE IS NO EXPLANATION IT JUST HAPPENED.”

It seems odd that FL wanks off about how Creationism is going to replace Evolutionary Biology, yet, offer absolutely no evidence of how Creationism is a better science beyond his unsubtle implications that we have to believe him or he’ll have God send us to Hell to burn us forever for FL’s amusement.

Orthogonal approaches, Stanton. Science is a smoke-screen for FL, IBIG, Steve P., and similar tangential individuals. They simply do not care what empirical investigation reveals. If it’s not in the book, it’s just not true, and nothing, absolutely nothing, will change that. And they are proud of that fact.

Actually, I almost hate to say this, but I give FL points for saying that proof of life magically poofing into existence won’t affect evo science much – it wouldn’t change the vast bulk of it – but would open the door to increase public doubts.

It sure would. *I* would have doubts! But there’s the problem of how it could be possibly proven even in principle. No, sorry, a “negative argument of ignorance” is not persuasive – it’s just annoying.

fnxtr said: If it’s not in the book, it’s just not true, and nothing, absolutely nothing, will change that. And they are proud of that fact.

But there are several of us who believe that we are living in America or Australia or other places “not in the book”.

BTW, fixity of species is “not in the book”, either. Not even fixity of “kinds”.

Questioning motivations and processes behind the poll. Sounds like creationism dealing with evolutionism. just 43% for the good guys.? That makes 57% for important evolution. The poll might be wrong. Anyways the 43% is pretty good considering the apathy and therefore general tendency of people to accept what is taught in school and on TV. Indeed the whole media establishment is pro-evolution. Imagine if schools were free and diversity of ideas on origin prominent in the media? Creationism would be hitting 80%. What wrong with evolution advocates? Why can’t they make their case persuasive? is evolution basically illogical and common sense quickly smells this out?! Is evolution just believed in by people who have confidence its true because its dominant in education but they are ignorant of what it is about?

What America needs is a series of great debates before great audiences to inform,educate, persuade the people about the peculiar studies of ancient origins.

Are evolution advocates on this forum making a persuasive case? Not to me!

Robert Byers Wrote:

Are evolution advocates on this forum making a persuasive case? Not to me!

Which means that we probably are making a persuasive case to normal people.

Not sure where you get your 80%, or what % of it is your “YEC” that is rejected by many (most?) anti-evolution activists. Also, as you know, the DI does not want “creationism” (by which they apparently mean YEC and overtly Biblical OEC) taught. So they may get ~80% of students mindlessly parroting long-refuted “weaknesses” of evolution, but they won’t get many students to believe your particular fairy tale who didn’t believe it already. But I suspect that you don’t really care, as long as they censor the refutations of those “weaknesses.”

Robert Byers said: What wrong with evolution advocates? Why can’t they make their case persuasive?

They try to, by presenting the evidence, but most people - in this country, at any rate - are imbeciles.

Are evolution advocates on this forum making a persuasive case? Not to me!

Case in point.

FL said: Prebiotic chemical evolution shares the same materialistic presuppositions as postbiotic evolutionary theory (for example the total denial of teleology).

Refuting your distortions is a Sisyphean task, of course, but it’s the sort of thing we come here for, so…

Here again is the much-loved creo tactic of claiming that the materialist/non-teleological basis of science is just an arbitrary, a priori assumption. Which is an obvious lie. Even a rudimentary knowledge of the history of modern science tells you that teleology was commonplace in science relatively recently (up to a couple hundred years ago or so), and was painstakingly weeded out step by step as researchers and thinkers - many of whom initially had teleological assumptions - realized it was unsupported and/or unnecessary.

At no point did a cabal of atheistic scientists drive out the believers and then send out a memo saying, “No teleology in science from this point on!” Teleological/supernatural ideas in biology went the way of the humours and all sorts of other once-dominant concepts - they were refuted, and then deservedly relegated to the history books.

Byers: “Indeed the whole media establishment is pro-evolution.”

Colbert: “Reality has a well-known liberal bias.”

The difference: Colbert gets the joke.

MPW said:

Teleological/supernatural ideas in biology went the way of the humours and all sorts of other once-dominant concepts - they were refuted, and then deservedly relegated to the history books.

And it wasn’t just refutation, there was a certain fundamental logic underlying the abandonment of “magic pooferism”. At some point, people began to realize that attributing thunder and lightning to Thor’s hammer was more sweeping an explanation under the rug than an explanation: “Well, it’s just cosmic magic, what can we say? End of story.”

It’s sort of a question of both track record and utility. Sure, one might call that materialistic assumption “faith”. It is faith to believe the Sun will rise tomorrow – after all, it may not. It is hard, however, to compare that faith with the faith that Santa Claus will come down the chimney this Xmas eve … even though he hasn’t before.

And of course, if we get to allow “magic pooferism”, then I can insist that everyone take seriously my pet theory that cars, PCs, and other complicated tech only works by the intervention of unseen gremlins.

My qualifications are as an engineer. All engineers have a degree of faith in the existence of gremlins. OK with gremlins?

fnxtr said:

The difference: Colbert gets the joke.

But he’s not as funny.

What wrong with grammar schools. Cant they teaches proper grammars? Not to me!

“Biological life developed over time from simple substances but God did not guide this process, “

This question still seems to imply a god exists. It would be better to say something like “Biological life developed over time from simple substances by natural means” Although it would still be sloppy

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Richard B. Hoppe published on July 12, 2010 6:21 PM.

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