That idiot is teaching?
Great Cartoon, the whole thing simplified.
A theory is a theory right? So why doesn’t my theory equal your theory?
The answer is that a Scientific Theory has to meet certain rules, and guidelines. It must be something that can be questions, tested, and analyized.
If you say that there are little green men on Mars, you have to show some proof that they are there, explain how they can exist and survice on Mars, and why they are little, and why they are green.
To say that it is Gods Will is not a Theory, it is a belief, and just because you believe something doesn’t makes it true.
After all there are those who believe that the GOP is the party of the little people, and care about American values.
:)) Tony Auth.
Only ideas which are substantiated by reality are good.
Like, the Republicans are bigots who prey upon the uneducated with fear.
Since Reagan they have destroyed the middle Class doing it.
Ah, the modern concept of education principles illustrated…
Great cartoon. It goes on my office door.
Is that supposed to be Don McLeroy? http://tinyurl.com/yehttma
Don’t think Ol’ Don has read much by or about Tom Jefferson.
harleyquinn - how do you manage to be totally and completely stupidly wrong on everything?
Well, it takes a lot of effort. In fact, all of his waking hours. The key is making sure that you use the “right” sources. In his/her case, anything but well studied, peer-reviewed literature.
(And I say that as a professional evolutionary biologist. Ain’t no way harleyquinn has read and really understood the import of the data and experimentation supporting evolution.)
Unfortunately, kreole, that man IS teaching in far too many places.
The “Teacher” has a list of names for scientific theorists on his right but only wacky theories on his left. Shouldn’t there be a list of conspiracy theorists there, not their theories. Hmm? Robertson, Limbaugh,,,,,,,,,,,,,,?
Thank you, M. Kitt. I live in Texas, and I and my colleagues have to put up with this nonsense constantly, with respect to many scientific issues.
It often seems like the Enlightenment never happened, or, perhaps more correctly, that many political groups wish that it hadn’t.
Maybe we should let Texas secede and all the right wing believers and religious nuts move there and stay away from the rest of us. Build a big wall around it while we’re at it. And cut off communication so we don’t have to listen to them.
I’ve heard that suggestion on many occasions. As a counterpoint, I have two ideas (only one of which is serious; see if you can figure out which one it is).
If you let Texas secede, at least make Austin the “Berlin” of Texas with massive airlifts of supplies as was done for Berlin after WWII.
The only real cure for ignorance is education. Large groups of ignorant humans are not only a danger to themselves but also to everyone else who has to live with the consequences of their ill-informed choices.
We also have “evidence” written in stone. On the one hand the religious have tablets nobody has ever actually seen.(stones or gold plates in a hat) On the other hand we have fossils in stone, coal and petroleum. (and records frozen in ice).
One side can put up, the other is a put on.
^^”My own views on evolution are not that popular” – what are they? why are they not popular?
An idea is a theory. Once the theory is proven, it is no longer a theory. It is a law. Because a theory hasn’t been proven doesn’t mean it is not true. Some theories are workable such as the theory of nuclear power. We know it works, but it is still a theory.
Everyone is entitled to their theory but it should not be forced upon everyone else. Auth is right.
There is some confusion here between the popular definition of “theory” and the scientific use of “theory.”
In the popular definition, theory can mean “contemplation or speculation and guess or conjecture” (American Heritage Dictionary). In science theory means “a coherent group of general propositions used as principles of explanation for a class of phenomena.” (same source)
These differing uses of the same word are the source of lots of confusion about scientific theories. In the case of evolution, when scientists call it a theory they are elevating it to the status of an idea that has overwhelming support, e.g., the theory of relativity.
harleyquinn, you remind me of the female character in “An Education,” who is so profoundly ignorant that she doesn’t realize her ignorance. As Socrates said, a wise person knows what they don’t know.
Oh, and DrCanuck, thank you for your succinct statement about the ongoing nature of science. We can prove what is false, but we cannot definitively prove what is true. Hence, our ongoing search for the best and most comprehensive scientific explanation for the natural world.
It also helps to keep me employed ;-)
An idea may become a hypothesis.
I’ve been mostly lurking here for years because I rarely have the spare time to engage the menagerie of posters here (which makes me feel like I’m engaging in “hit and run”). But I am very aware of many of the folks that take the time to comment regularly. Mostly they’re a great bunch, but there are some for whom real conversation is clearly not the goal…
Craig Linder, thanks for your interesting posts. Further on the Enlightenment – it seems to be under attack from two sides – one the one side, those who never heard about it, on the other side, those – including some postmodern academics – who think we can move beyond it – throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The first group by and large is just ignorant. I wonder if you have any thoughts on the second group? (Perhaps I beg the question with my characterization of them).
I think I understand what you’re referring to when you talk about “some postmodern academics”–the ones that assert that science is just a social construct and therefore is not really objective or deserving of some special status of knowledge. If that’s not what you’re talking about then the rest of this post may be off base.
While I can agree that there are some aspects of science that are a social construct, I have to say that it always seems like the critique is leveled by folks that don’t really understand the scientific process and certainly not by folks who have committed themselves to doing real science. Science has at least some real objectivity because it is possible to collect data that contradict particular hypotheses about how the natural world works.
For example, if I say that I think E = mc^5, the data simply do not support that hypothesis.
I suppose a postmodernist would argue, that I cannot provide proof that the true relationship is E=mc^2. They might also say that there are some data that do not support E = mc^2, but that I choose to ignore them because I will claim there are extenuating circumstances or an experiment was not done properly etc.
It might seem like that last sentence is where they have a point and that a scientist uses the idea of a “good experiment” to weasel his/her way out of an insurmountable problem. I have a different perspective.
In science, we have been working our way toward a consistent explanation/model for the natural world by a kind of process of successive approximation that depends critically on experimentation (as opposed to the mere logic or assertion of an idea that is commonly agreed upon). We determine what cannot be true via experimentation, and provide stronger or weaker provisional support for what might be the correct explanation or at least a sufficient explanation.
The idea that an experiment can be well or poorly done doesn’t undercut science, because even the quality of an experiment can be demonstrated by the same means that any experiment is done. That is, if you have a hypothesis about why an experiment is poorly designed, the design features themselves can be the subject of experiment. We do this all the time and call it troubleshooting.
For me, there are two clear acts of faith that underlie science which might be called social constructs.
There is some sort of consistency to the natural world (lawfulness as opposed to either chaos or lawfulness with occasional supernatural intervention)
Cause and effect are real (maybe this is just a corollary of the assertion of lawfulness)
PUP – Proves a good point, if you give a conservative a long, detailed, supported explainations of the facts they, like PUP, completely ignore it and make a false statement like “The complete lack of fossil evidence for “evolution…”, and consider the arguement closed. The Conservatiive doesn’t feel the need to give any evidence to support their statement, the statement is enought, and you are wrong!
Conservatives like the comfortable world they live in, and have no desire to change it, all they want is to make the rest of us live in it.
So that’s what’s wrong with Texas (and Kansas). Amazing!
harley, evolution is a FACT. Darwin kept developing the concepts over decades, but this did not mean he thought he was wrong – nor was he. The theory of evolution was not complete, if only because Darwin didn’t have our knowledge of genetics, which was the one biggest missing piece in his theories, but he was a magnificent scientist by any measure – arguably the greatest of the past two centuries, and he managed to deduce enough of how genes worked to ensure modern genetics wouldn’t contradict evolution. The conceptual framework still isn’t complete, but it isn’t going away. The discussions are about the mechanisms, the idea of variable speeds of evolution, and newer work into genetics that makes it far more subtle than we imagined at first.
But none of this downgrades evolution – if anything, it supports it.
Now, theoretically it is possible for science to identify some other mechanism – though it’s kind of like saying there might be an alternative to gravity at this point – but the critics are not scientists, nor are they citing any science that has held up. They are using Genesis as a literal science textbook, which simply does not work.
Pup, ironically, you’ve just described the way in which real scientists evaluate the time when two species have split in the course of evolution - through changes in the genetic code. Man, read some of Stephen Jay Gould to get a better idea of how this works. We are the product of millions of years of mutations and genetic drift. The failures die; the successes continue.
“It should be apparent among thinking people, that dna is not transmutable beyond a set of obvious and quantifiable limits.”
State specifically what this is supposed to mean and how it relates to evolution.
“Organisms do not “mutate” into viable self-reproducing populations of mutant organisms.”
Untrue. For example, each and every person’s DNA has several point mutations compared with their parents’ DNA due to transcription errors by DNA polymerase. It’s true that most of those mutations do not affect their traits (phenotype), but some do. Are you trying to make a statement about how speciation occurs rather than mutation per se?
“Mutated organisms observed by science rarely reproduce and do not necessarily reproduce with their specific mutation.”
Organisms with new mutations cannot reproduce only if the mutation is dominant and so deleterious that it either kills the organism or makes it infertile. Many mutations are recessive, so even if they are very deleterious, they do not have an effect on reproduction when in the heterozygous state.
“Furthermore, it is now known that dna “cleans” itself much like the computer your using runs on at least two sets of the same files and is continually checking itself against the other and eliminating errors in code.”
It’s been known for decades that DNA polymerase has proofreading functionality and that there are mechanisms for repairing loss of nucleotides in just one strand of DNA, but this does not eliminate errors. With an average error rate of between 2 and 5 nucleotides per billion, each time a cell divides between 6 and 15 point mutations are introduced. And this doesn’t even include other types of DNA changes like insertions, deletions and duplications.
“The complete lack of fossil evidence for ‘evolution’ is such an annoyance for Evolutionists that they have had to come up with theories which are beyond “conspiratorial” in their limits as to qualify for the term ‘fantastic’.”
This statement betrays either deep ignorance on your part or willful deception. There are many examples of evolution in the fossil record. Check out diatom evolution recorded in Lake Yellowstone for one particularly well documented example.
Harley: I found this on Wikipedia – is it accurate as you understand Collins’ argument in The Language of God:
The universe was created by God, approximately 14 billion years ago.
The properties of the universe appear to have been precisely tuned for life.
While the precise mechanism of the origin of life on earth remains unknown, it is possible that the development of living organisms was part of God’s original creation plan.
Once life began, no special further interventions by God were required.
Humans are part of this process, sharing a common ancestor with the great apes.
Humans are unique in ways that defy evolutionary explanations and point to our spiritual nature. This includes the existence of the knowledge of right and wrong and the search for God.
Is this more or less what you believe? Where would you disagree?
Mr. Linder, Thanks for your sensible input. Thanks to all others too. You know I appreciate input from whomever because it gives clues as to whom I am dealing with. I never intend to hurt anyone’s feelings or rarely do I intend to hurt anyone’s feelings. Keep reading and keep smiling. Justice.
HI Craig – you understood me perfectly. A further question, if you will indulge me – when you are teaching, do you meet opposition to evolutionary theory? Does it come mostly from “creationists” (loosely speaking) or from post-modernists? Or in what proportion? Just curious.
No offense taken or even inferred as intended. I just wanted to try clearing the air of the usual, “it’s only a theory” argument.
Well, I only teach biology majors, so I rarely encounter direct criticism in classes. When students have stated that they have problems with evolution, it is always on religious and not postmodern grounds. I doubt most undergraduates in science have a lot of exposure to postmodern thinking unless they’re taking a lot of philosophy or perhaps some types of literary or architectural criticism.
I do have biology colleagues who teach so-called “service” courses for non-majors, and they are confronted with students who are hostile to evolution more often than I am. They’ve only related incidents to me that involve religious/political beliefs rather than postmodern ideas.
Thank you Dr. Linder. Drop in anytime!
I hope you’ll forgive me for jumping in and also asking the same group what they consider the flaws are in what we consider extremely strong evidence for evolution. Specifically,
Evolution is defined as changes in allele (gene copy) frequency from one generation to the next.
(The definition encompasses both adaptive evolution due to natural and sexual selection, but also due to new mutations, migration between populations and random changes in gene frequencies [genetic drift].)
In natural populations, we’ve seen gene frequencies change in response to natural selection, including in well known cases like antibiotic and pesticide resistance. In several cases we even know exactly which genes were under selection.
How does this evidence fail to provide strong support for evolution?
Hey there harleyquinn…so very difficult for me to believe you are the real article! Tell us-you honestly cannot claim to adhere to what you post.
Lets make a deal…you read “The Pillars of the Earth and/or “World without End” by Ken Follett and I’ll read “The Language of God”.
After wards, let me know how you view medical science, now and then.
Thanks for the bon mots everyone! No need to use “Dr.” I don’t like honorifics much…
I hope my comments will prove their worth by their content not my mere authority. If I started spouting off on topics I don’t know very well, I bet you’d find plenty of errors and reasons to criticize
Dear Craig – very interesting series of posts. I’m a literary scholar, not a scientist. We don’t get many Christian fundamentalists in our program (I did have one brilliant student a few years ago who was Dutch Reform, and I had the impression he didn’t believe in evolution, though I never pressed him about it) but we do get some students argue for a kind of PoMo anti-Enlightenment position – a little Foucault mixed with some Derrida and a dash of Kuhn. I personally think these thinkers go together as well as red wine and fish, but that’s what these students seem to like. Mostly I teach archaic Greek lierature, so evolution doesn’t come up, but these student also don’t believe that we can know anything about human history, because it’s all interpretation. Well, sure, there’s interpretation, and without interpretation history is of no particular interest, but I just can’t believe that we know nothing about the past. I suspect they think of me as a sort of museum specimen.
This has been an unexpected and enjoyable Sunday evening class.
Some quick thoughts before signing off.
lonecat - Of the authors you mentioned, I’ve only read Kuhn. I wish I had the time to read many others.
fennec - You are very kind. I don’t mean to disappoint, but I’m not likely to be posting like I did today too often. Too many things to do and too little time. Like you, I also do some work in bioinformatics, but it’s all in development of better methods for phylogenetic inference. My other main area of research is adaptive evolution in plants.
harleyquinn - I feel like I may have misjudged you somewhat. Your last posts seem much more open minded than a lot of what I’ve seen here over the last year or so. Please consider dropping your pejorative characterizations of posters who are to the left of you. I think you’ll find many of them much more willing to engage you and take the trouble to explain their perspectives. I’ll also bet they’ll respect you for it. Remember, there are jerks of all political stripes, so it doesn’t make sense to paint with such a broad brush about folks that have a different point of view than your own.
Craig Linder, I enjoyed reading your comments on processes and willingness to improve.
Do you believe in the bible or view it as “seperate from science”?
What most of you, including Darwin are describing is merely selective breeding, either from an isolated gene pool like the Galapagos, or from intent such as a cattleman selecting which bull to breed his cows to in norder to get a calf with more desirable traits…a finch is STILL a finch, and a cow cannot become a horse…another good example:
how many types of eyes are there? Fish eyes, mammal eyes, frog eyes, bug eyes…the list goes on and on…how did the creatures who started to develope eyes get around and find food before they “evolved” enough to be functional?
Just think about all the broken noses, stubbed toes (or hooves, or whatever) before they could see…how could they find food, even?
On the other hand, Genesis does provide a coherent, logical accound of how life came to be, and in which order those things occured. Saying that mutations account for the variety of life on earth is like saying you can adjust the carbeurator in your automobile by throwing rocks at it til it works right.
Harley – I’m not a scientist, so probably what I say about evolutionary theory isn’t worth all that much, but here goes, subject to correction by those more knowledgeable.
The principles enunciated by Collins by and large seem to leave most of evolutionary theory undisturbed. I’m not sure what a cosmologist would say about the first one (“The universe was created by God, approximately 14 billion years ago”) but I can’t see that this would make a difference to evolutionary theory. I note that Collins believes in the long time span needed for evolution, so he is in no way a Biblical creationist.
His second principle (“The properties of the universe appear to have been precisely tuned for life”) could easily be stated the other way round (The properties of life have developed in conformity to the properties of the universe), and I’m not sure how you would decide which of these is more correct.
I don’t know what to say about number three (“While the precise mechanism of the origin of life on earth remains unknown, it is possible that the development of living organisms was part of God’s original creation plan”) because it doesn’t seem to make much of a claim at all. I suppose any mechanism could be part of God’s original plan. So when we do find out how life developed (and I think I recall that there has been some real progress in that area in recent decades), whatever it is will fit this principle. So it doesn’t make any scientific difference.
Principle number four (“Once life began, no special further interventions by God were required”) simply allows any evolutionary scientist to continue to do evolutionary science without regard for religion.
Principle five (“Humans are part of this process, sharing a common ancestor with the great apes”) is no problem for evolutionary science, though it would be for those who believe in special creation. It’s really important, I think, to note the difference between Collins and creationists. Creationists cannot use Collins to support their position.
I suppose the most problematic principle is the last one (“Humans are unique in ways that defy evolutionary explanations and point to our spiritual nature. This includes the existence of the knowledge of right and wrong and the search for God”). I would have to read his book to know exactly what he has in mind. I don’t see that morality cannot be explained in evolutionary terms. I think many animals that live in groups have the beginnings of morality. Dogs certainly do. Religion is probably a good way to keep a band of people together – and a lot of early religion seems to be largely concerned with group cohesion. Language is probably unique to human beings (on our planet, anyway), but the roots of language are clearly seen in non-human animals. In any case, I am wary of any theory which rules out a scientific explanation as a matter of principle. There are lots of questions we don’t the answers to, but why should we give up? This is my problem with the “irreducible complexity” argument. How do we know that something is irreducibly complex? There are lots of things that used to seem irreducibly complex that are now understood. I expect that the frontiers of the unknown will continue to recede.
So, as I say, I’m not a scientist, so you don’t have to take any of this seriously, but it’s my attempt to think through some of these questions.
Have a good day.
‘preciate the response, harleyquinn–
A couple of things…my suggestion to read Follett was more a nod towards how medical science has advanced (evolved?) since the “good old days”. The conversation was bogging down with the evolution discourse. I suppose the jump to a historical fiction novel was a tad oblique. My bad.
And honestly, no, I am not one of those church history bad, so Bible bad people. I am of the firm opinion that organized religion and Christianity have little in common.
I like DrCanucks #3 thought…perhaps the human mind is incapable of unlocking all the mysteries. Yet we will continue to try. That’s the wonderful thing.
I’ll find “The Language of God” and read with eyes and mind as open as can be!
Yes, he is. In Utah.
I just note that while Galileo, Newton, and Einstein are also on the board, there could be many more, it is Darwin that twists the crank. Rocks from space have shown some evidence of possible, if not probable, life elsewhere than on our little spheroid. Looking far beyond what Galileo could see, we find ever more wonder, and questions as to “what’s up”. Narrow interpretation of only our own limited perspectives based on centuries old mythology- from LOTS of “ancient” sources, not just the “bible”, and ignoring the “science” of new data-seems well, really narrow thinking.
Neo: Betcha can’t win without ‘em.
How come that Cloward-Pivins thing didn’t make the “right’s” list?
^ Like Doc Watson.