Oh boy

Brother Paul Stein seems to be a bit ignorant when it comes to biology, so let’s explore what he thinks about evolution, shall we?

The Gregorian University in Rome recently held a congress on “Biological Evolution: Facts and Theories.” It unveiled two mistaken views on evolution.

Good on them…

On the one hand there is the creationist who claims that the world began only 10,000 years ago. He denies an incredible amount of scientifically discovered facts because they do not fit into his mental structure of the universe and his views about God. He sees a foe in evolution, and has not realized that if God made the world, He would not have made it contradictory to Himself.

Good so far…

On the other hand there are the unscientific scientists whose sacred rule states that anything not understandable by the mathematical and physical sciences is illusionary or irrelevant.

Those darn scientists with their requirement for evidence, how unscientific of them. I mean, if you have no evidence to support a claim, that claim is just as valid as the null, right?

It really is a “scientist creed” that they follow, a philosophy and a metaphysics masquerading as true science.

So, tell me, what is “true science” if it doesn’t involve tangible, measurable reality?

The result is that the Stephen Dawkins’ of the world start doing a biological metaphysics and talking about how evolution ‘proves’ there is no God.

Who? Do you mean Stephen Hawking or Richard Dawkins? I’ll assume Richard Dawkins, but his argument isn’t that such a thing doesn’t exist, but that we have as much reason to think it exists as we do faeries, sentient pasta, and celestial teapots.

It is because of scientists like these that the creationists have created a fissure: if evolution means no God, believers are forced into rejecting evolution completely.

Really? I thought many religious people were doing that LONG before those scientists were around. They rejected the non-teleological nature of natural selection. I believe you made one of them a saint. (Mivart)

The truth is that both of these positions are fanatical.

Yes, I’m so crazy to want evidence for scientific claims. Put me in an asylum.

One bases everything on a personal interpretation of a book inspired by God, the other on the observations of a limited scientific field extrapolated to the whole of reality.

Wait, what? You mean extrapolating biological observations in mice to use as models for human diseases goes too far? How is the field limited? Certainly not in evolutionary biology.

As Simon Conway Morris, professor of Paleobiology at the University of Cambridge, told me during the congress, we are not fighting to see which side wins the evolution war. We are looking for the truth. How did the world come to exist? Why does it exist? Any one who is doing scientific politics is in the wrong boat. Truth is not a two-party system.

I actually like this quote.

One of the most important aspects brought to the light by the congress at the Gregorian was the difference between the systems of evolution proposed by Darwin, Chardain, and Werner.

Nope, I ignore Chardin and Werner. I prefer Fisher, Mayr, Dobzhanzky, and Haldane… I ignore them for the same reason I mostly ignore Ken Miller; their ideas tends to be seeping with claims lacking any evidence. Oh, there I go again with my need for evidence (ANY evidence) when someone makes an extraordinary claim, like “we have a soul” or “we are special” when biochemically, neurologically, cellularly, and genetically, we are very similar to all other organisms to varying degrees.

The natural tendency is to throw all of these together under a generic title: but that’s nothing less than an injustice to many and a boon to few. It is equivalent to sticking Jews, Christians, Catholics, Moslems, Hindus, and Buddhists under one label and saying they believe the same thing.

But I never claimed Darwin, Chardin, and Werner were saying the same thing, I just said that Chardin and Werner were full of shit, Darwin admitted his ignorance, the other two made up answers to what was unknown. I’m OK with ignorance, I’m not OK with fabrication. Also, comparing theology to science really pisses me off. And another thing, learn to spell; it’s “Muslim.”

If we are ever going to get past the name calling that today’s evolution debate so often boils down to, we need to study the facts. The true facts.

Yay, let’s do it, facts, I like facts, numbers, images, you know, EVIDENCE. That silly thing you tried to dismiss earlier.

As an example of how much evolutionary theories diverge, all we need to ask is which “tools” the theory says nature uses in order to evolve.

Good idea, there’s genetic drift, selection, mutation, migration bias, among others. Which would you like to start with?

Then again, the role of finality, directionality, predictability, and chance in evolution are open ended questions.

Do you mean teleology? Well, that’s simple, evolution isn’t teleological, there is no finality unless a lineage goes extinct. It is predictable if there is selection or migration bias acting on a certain population and we know what it is and the magnitude of it. We also need to know about gene flow, possible sample bias, and present allelic frequencies, but yes, in the short term, we can predict it. We can also predict it in the very long term given certain circumstances. We can also predict what other organisms exist retrospectively given specializations of other organisms; particularly flowers pollinated by only one species or animals with only a single food source. (e.g. Xanthopan morganii praedicta was expected to exist because of the specialization of the flower of Angraecum sesquipedale) The role of chance in evolution deals with events such as storm-dispersion of plants and animals, specific mutation probabilities, and variability in presently insignificant traits.

What this means that while most are agreed on the law,

What law?

no one is certain about the mechanism of the law.

Again, what law?

It is similar to agreeing that there is a universal law of gravity but without agreeing on the formula.

Evolution isn’t a law, it is a theory, there is also the theory of gravitation in addition to the law of gravitational forces. Laws predict VERY specific things, theories are general, like the germ theory of disease or the cell theory.

If that’s the case, however, the disagreement is really about what gravity, and evolution, really are.

No, it’s about ways to PREDICT them, the disagreements over formulas are about how we predict these things, not if they exist or what they are. Theories are models, laws are formulas. Biology has very few laws because organisms and populations tend to have many compounding factors in their interactions.

What conclusion can we draw from all this? Evolution is real: there are organisms that evolve.


Evolution is not a fact, however, because a law is never a fact, but a rule describing the facts.

No, the modern theory of evolution is not a rule, it is a theory which both predicts additional facts AND explains existing facts. Evolution is also a fact in that evolution does happen. Equating the theory of evolution (how evolution happens) to the fact of evolution (that animals evolve) is grounds for revocation of your thought privileges, although it seems you’ve already lost this.

Evolution has not been proven because we still need a lot more work done

Yep, there is, for example: which speciation model is the most frequently occurring and how does sympatric speciation occur. In other words, must physical isolation exist or can populations diverge based upon novel alleles or behaviors (color or food preference in specific lineages).

on the subject of macroevolution: the jump to a new species.

Jump? What jump? There is no saltation between one species and another, it’s gradual, the demarcation of interbreeding is similarly quite fuzzy. Biology isn’t cut and dry, black and white; deal with it.

What is known for certain is that we have no other theory that can better describe the biological facts that we possess.

Well, that and a lack of contrary evidence…

Looking at it from the opposite angle, we can say that God is not outside nature working against it or in spite of it;

Can you? How do you know? If this deity is not outside of nature, then that means we should be able to observe this deity and find out where he or she or it has been hiding all this time. Now be a good boy and go find some evidence.

He works with it and through it.

How? How does this deity interfere with the natural processes? More importantly, why? Even more importantly, couldn’t this deity have done a better job guiding the evolution of our eyes?

So the proposition of God does not rule out evolution, while evolution in general remains the best and most convincing explanation we have if we look at the facts.

This could be read: “if a deity exists, evolution can still be real, but if a deity doesn’t exist, evolution is still real”

The decision is no longer about which school one belongs to or which side comes out on top.

It never was, reality isn’t a popularity contest. Facts should not be voted upon and the objective data indicate very strongly “evolution.”

We must discuss what it is that the particular evolution theory being used really proclaims and what rules and principles it uses.

Got a few weeks?

We must look for the truth without prejudice or narrow-mindedness to discover the reality of our world.

Yes, we must; when you have some reality to present with your frivolity, let me know.


7 Responses to “Oh boy”

  1. 2 Colloquy
    December 1, 2009 at 1:28 am

    This is simply an attempt to hold on to the “flock”. I have more of a problem with fundies than catholics. At least the catholics try and make room for reason even if they don’t always get it right. IMO of course.

  2. 3 jaredcormier
    December 1, 2009 at 1:46 am

    Honestly, I have a soft spot for the Catholics and Episcopalians, but putting religion into science makes for bad science and meaningless religion.

  3. 4 Pliny-the-in-Between
    December 1, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    I once had a soft spot for Catholicism as well – fortunately my fontanelles fused and that was the end of that.

  4. 5 jaredcormier
    December 1, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    I was, of course, referring to members of that religion completely excluding all members of clergy. I do like the joke, though.

  5. 6 Pliny-the-in-Between
    December 1, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    Sorry I couldn’t help myself. The Roman catholic Church is a fascinating body with an incredible history. I was actually sentenced to 5 years in a Catholic school as a kid and was fascinated with the church’s history. The parallels and evolution of the church that successfully blended the Roman pantheon into Christianity and modeled the church essentially as the new Imperium is amazing history. Now days they seem torn between making up for past transgressions while committing new ones. At least they aren’t flagrantly anti-science like many Protestant sects seem to be.

  6. 7 jaredcormier
    December 1, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    While they try to reconcile their religion with science, it’s usually by trying to put some metaphysical meaning into the research rather than modify their religion to fit the science…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Join the best atheist themed blogroll!

RSS Adventures in Ethics and Science

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS Blag Hag

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS denialism blog

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.


  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS Greg Laden’s Blog

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS Laelaps

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS Lawful Good Wonk

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS Pharyngula

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS Tetrapod Zoology

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS White Coat underground

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

Older stuff

wordpress stats

%d bloggers like this: