Sunday 23 March 2008 - Filed under Evolution
I just read a great comment by Joe Kilner on a post over at Good Math, Bad Math. I’m taking the liberty of quoting it in its entirety, but click on over to Good Math, Bad Math if you want to see the rest of the excellent discussion.
Natural selection is basically a tautology, which is why denying it as a mechanism is “not even wrong”.
The argument (although many on both sides seem to miss this) is whether the mechanism of natural selection is sufficient to describe the variety of living organisms on earth. Anyone who thinks that it isn’t hasn’t spent any time suffering, I mean studying, invertebrate palaeontology (apologies to all fossil bivalve lovers out there).
Proper appreciation of the massive chains of development, the enormous time scales and the huge variety of life both past and present is hard and boring, which is why a lot of people don’t really do it and which so many see ID etc. as a viable alternative – because they can’t imagine how you get from bacteria to horse. Seeing in detail even one section of the journey is enough for you to say “Yes, OK, I give up, the evidence is overwhelming, please don’t ask me to identify another brachiopod”. But without the detail to make it real you are just left with the limits of your imagination, which is actually a pretty restrictive limit.
People forget how god damn long 3 billion years is. The Earth has been here for 4 billion years. They estimate life got started about 1 billion years later, or about 3 billion years ago. Just for reference, if you consider a human generation starts every 25 years or so, that is 120 million generations. By contrast, Jesus lived only 80 generations ago and Adam only 240 generations ago. Anatomically modern humans first showed up about 4000 generations ago. That only gets us back 100,000 years or 0.003% of the way back to 3 billion years ago.
The point being, you and I can’t conceptualize how long that is and our intuition fails us when we try to contemplate what is and what is not possible in that time frame.
2008-03-23 » lolife