Category Archives: Evolution

A Real Cause of Atheism

After having recently interviewed Ernan McMullin I found this page on writings by Christian scientists. These are the lot that Myers and Dawkins tend to not talk about because they make sense. I still tend to think their theology is silly but at least it doesn’t conflict with scientific principles.

I found this quote interesting from Is Evolution Atheistic? by Dr Denis Alexander:

Evolution itself is not atheistic. A robust Christian theism readily encompasses evolution as an expression of God’s creative actions. But, sadly, there are prominent scientists, like the Harvard sociobiologist E.O.Wilson, who left their earlier Christian experience to become atheists because they faced hostility to evolution. Arguably, attacks by well-meaning Christians on evolution promote rather than counteract atheism.

It makes two great points: 1) Evolution does not at all deny the existence of God; and 2) Ignorant attacks on evolution by well-meaning Christians actually undermines their aims.

From the Ha Ha Dept. of the Insanity Division of the Institute for Creation Research

PZ points out a lovely article from the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) called Evolution’s Evangelists.

It’s all pretty funny but the last line really cracks me up: “No matter where the evidence leads.“. They are implying that Dawkins, Scott and Myers, have made up their minds regardless of where the evidence might lead as if to imply that their viewpoint is unscientific.

I have a theory for you — the moon is made out of cotton candy. Now you are going to claim that we’ve been to the moon and we brought samples of the moon home with us. Or you are going to say that we can measure the density of the moon through various methods. You’ll bring up all sorts of “science” reasons why my theory is wrong. But face it — your mind is made up. You are not willing to consider that the moon is made out of cotton candy? What is wrong with you? You are some freakish zealot.

Intelligent Design (ID) has about the same amount of evidence supporting it as does my theory that the moon is made out of cotton candy. You will be expelled from science school if you believe that the moon is made out of cotton candy. There are no credible papers in scientific journals discussing the theory that the moon is made out of cotton candy.

Thus, this whole Evolution vs. Intelligent Design debate would be on entirely different footing if there actually was a theory of Intelligent Design. There isn’t one. There never has been one. The religious people hope they’ll find one someday and that’s great. No one has any problem with people pursuing their own scientific research. It’s not the fault of Dawkins, Scott or Myers that ID has no support in evidence. Poking “holes” in the theory of natural selection is not a theory.

Fer fuck’s sake, they named their institute “The Institute for Creation Science” and then they have the gall to accuse scientists of ignoring evidence? These guys predetermined the outcome of their research when the chose their name. They are complete frauds.

Why IDiots are idiots

Here’s what we know:

1. 13.73 billion years ago, the universe was created.
2. Somewhere around 4 billion years ago the Earth was created.
3. Around 3 billion years ago, life formed.
4. Life evolved and grew more and more complex and diverse.
5. Today there are millions of species.

The Intelligent Design (ID) movement, exemplified by the movie Expelled, has a problem with #4. They think God mucked around in #4. Science doesn’t have a theory (yet) for how the universe was created (#1). We know exactly what happened milliseconds after the Big Bang, but we don’t know how the Big Bang banged. We don’t have much of a theory about how life was created (although we are making significant progress) (#3). We have really, really good theories of #2 and #4. They are based on hardcore science and have been argued about and tested very thoroughly.

So if you are fervently religious and want to believe that God did #1 and #3, fine, great, have at it. We’ll probably prove you wrong on #3 someday but for #1, God snapping his fingers is as good of theory as any.

But why would you argue with #4? Evolution is obvious. Natural selection is obvious and if you think God is smart then he might think of a way to do things that was clever! He didn’t zap fully formed humans into existence He created a beautiful machine that opened up like a flower over billions of years from which stepped a mind capable of wondering and worshipping. Evolution is a testament to the patience and the brilliance of God. Science is never and could never be at odds with the will of the Creator.

So ID isn’t just bad science, it’s bad theology, it’s bad philosophy, it’s bad everything. It’s especially destructive because it falsely presents itself as being on the side of believers. That is nonsense. True believers are in awe of God’s creation, including the Big Bang, the old earth and natural selection. Science studies God’s creation, it doesn’t oppose it.

We need more snobs like PZ

Thank you, micadelic, for one of the most inane analyses I’ve seen of the Expelled issue:

i just wonder why, if mr. pz is so smart, he’s doesn’t realize he was used as part of a pretty clever publicity stunt. expelling him from expelled! and then he rushes to the nearest computer to breathlessly report how he was kicked out. priceless.

pretty funny if you ask me (and i believe in evolution). i just think pz is an insufferable intellectual snob and it’s great to see him get punk’d.

I suppose I should stop being surprised at the things you think…

PZ attempted to see a movie that he was in. The makers of the movie knew he was coming and waited until the last moment to kick him out. (They could have just emailed him and told him he wasn’t welcome.) The “clever publicity stunt” made those tools look like extra special tools when they kicked out PZ and let Dawkins in! Oops, sorry, didn’t recognize the most recognizable atheist in the world (who is also in the film!). PZ’s reporting of the incident was hilarious and the press associated with the incident was 100% critical and negative towards the movie. Oh, yes, very clever.

I’ve met PZ and he is a very humble and very nice person. He is not a “snob” in the slightest. What he is is extremely knowledgeable about this issue — evolution — and he is constantly defending generally accepted science against people who don’t know a single fucking thing about it. Yes, I suppose one can seem like a snob when you are an expert on a subject and you are debating self-righteous idiots without a clue WTF they are talking about.

The core issue here is very interesting — how the Right pretends to be anti-intellectual. Anti-intellectualism is an agenda of elevating mediocrity and small-minded thinking while denigrating education and intelligence. It’s completely nuts and it gets us incompetent leadership like George W. Bush — a “regular guy” completely devoid of the skills necessary to do his job.

We need a hell of a lot more “intellectual snobs” and a lot less influence by ignorant people too lazy to be intellectually engaged with the world.

PZ slices/dices

PZ has another great post slicing and dicing ignorant creationists.

You should read the whole thing but here is a humorous little quote:

Even if physicist discovered that the Big Bang was a result of a cataclysmic battle between Odin and a gang of frost giants, it would not perturb our understanding of life’s history here. It would make the cosmologists freak out, which would be fun, and it would shape our philosophical understanding of our presence here, but evolution is built on evidence on this planet, evidence that will not go away whatever the physicists discover about events 14 billion years ago.

It is amazing that none of the IDiots take on the very specific points that PZ makes in this post. Their arguments are really weak and easily refuted and yet the believers just ignore ideas that undermine their weird little superstitions.

You are either for us or agin us

The global climate change debate has something in common with the evolution “debate”. (As an aside, I’d call the former an actual debate. The latter is only a debate in the minds of the deluded.) The thing in common is that in both cases you have one side arguing against scientific consensus and the other side defending scientific consensus.

Generally people who are arguing against scientific consensus point to past failed hypotheses to indicate that science can be wrong, has been wrong in the past and should not be treated as infallible. They are right about this, of course, but they miss a very, very, very important point: it was science itself that corrected these mistakes. It was not op-ed pieces or vague conjectures by untrained people, it was “big science” that found the correct answer.

So people who defend scientific consensus are not defending a particular conclusion, they are defending the processes that make such conclusions possible at all. Without science we can’t debate global climate change or evolution.

The people who argue against scientific consensus often say, “We’re not anti-science, we are against the squashing of debate perpetrated by ‘big science’. They get a theory and everyone jumps on the bandwagon at the expense of other valid scientific explanations.”

They are wrong about this. Global climate change and evolution, to stick with my two examples, are under constant attack by scientists. There are a million mundane (and perhaps a couple profound) controversies that are debated within the scientific community constantly. Literally, it never ends. That is what science is.

If we assume that we have 10 competent, honest scientists in a room and 8 of them agree with hypothesis A and 2 of them agree with hypothesis B, we call hypothesis A the scientific consensus. It does not mean that A is true and B is false, it means that the arguments of A convince more scientists than the arguments of B.

I’m personally not an expert at climate science or evolution. I can’t really make up my own mind based on the scientific data — I don’t have the training. Chances are, neither do you. My problem with the “anti-science crowd” is that their disagreement with scientific consensus is not based on the science but instead based on other factors such as their political leanings or their religion. Those are piss-poor reasons to take a view radically different from scientific consensus.

The bottom line is, either you trust the scientific process or you don’t. The only people capable of creating more successful theories are scientists. Unless you are personally an expert on the scientific matters at hand, your only rational alternative is to defer to scientific consensus.

Why Expelled is irrelevant

Some people might confuse this issue so let me be clear: the movie Expelled is irrelevant and Intelligent Design (ID) is irrelevant. They don’t matter at all and they are not a threat to actual, bona fide science in the slightest. Research continues unabated and it is not slowed down in any way by these religious kooks who are trying to create controversy where there is none.

So don’t confuse our passion for science, reason and rationality with any actual concern about the ID “movement”. It will have literally no impact on our scientific progress.

The reason we give so much attention to these kooks is because it is amusing. It is amusing what otherwise smart people will do while under the influence of religion. They pick and choose their science to accommodate their pre-determined conclusions. They believe so strongly in their mythology that they feel it trumps the time-proven work of thousands of scientists. They think that pointing out “holes” in the theory of natural selection gives weight to their mythology. Apparently they are desperate for proof of the creator they are so sure listens to their prayers every night. They just don’t want to live in a world that can be explained without such a deity.

That’s fine. I don’t need to change their minds. I don’t care what foolishness they teach their children. I don’t care what movies they go to or what movies they make. I don’t care if they think evolution is some big conspiracy of “big science” and I don’t care at all that religious kooks get fired for being incompetent scientists. I just think it is funny.

So keep it up, Ben Stein. Your career is soon to be pigeon-holed into speaking to churches about the evils of “big science”. While you are speaking in these mega-churches the A/C will be running, thanks to the ideal gas law, the PA system will work because of electromagnetism and quantum mechanics and you won’t be lifted bodily into heaven thanks to the universal law of gravitation.

Science delivers every day for the godless and the deluded alike.

PZ sums it up for us

Don’t even bother to watch the video, just read PZ Myer’s rebuttal of Ben Stein’s arguments for intelligent design.

There is a big difference, Ben, between free speech in public discourse and the curricula we agree to teach in our public schools. For some reason people forget that you can teach your children whatever superstitious crap you want if you homeschool or use religious schools. REMEMBER: What Ben tries to portray as the embattled defenders of free speech are really people who want to bring specific religious teachings into our public curricula in addition to it already occupying the church, the home and religious schools. They want it in public schools too.

Now Ben does do a good job of trying to not seem radical but he is a radical. He doesn’t understand how science works and he is equating wild speculation with valid science. He can “talk and think” all he wants about ID. You all can. Let’s all “talk and think” about ID. That’s great. No one is objecting to that. We’re objecting to teaching anything other than science as science in science class. That’s it.

So the “squashing debate” argument is completely fallacious.

But I agree with Ben Stein when he says:

Societies progress by asking questions, having freedom of speech and freedom of inquiry. We’re not trying to shut anyone up. Bill Maher can say anything he wants. All these Darwinist people, all these atheists can say anything they want. We would just like to have freedom of inquiry and freedom of speech. And is this problem important? Is freedom of inquiry important?

Yes, it is important. The gaps in evolutionary biology are under intense attack by evolutionary biologists. There are thousands of people around the world competing to prove, deny or improve the existing models. Research is abounding in these fields. What Ben wants is already happening. He is confusing the ravings of a few vocal creationists with science. Science IS challenging “Darwinism” every day. It’s just a fact that natural selection is still the theory to beat. ID does not come close by any objective measure to competing with natural selection in terms of a successful and well-tested theory.

More ID drivel

Some ‘tard that goes by bornagain77 over at Uncommon Descent said:

ID ONLY makes an inference to an intelligent agency when overwhelming complexity is found that can not be accounted for by chance in any way, shape, or fashion. ID makes NO inference to the exact nature of the designer and is Thus compatible with any of the other “Creator” centered religions besides Christianity. It is even, for the time being, compatible with alien beings being the creators.

I don’t know how they write that shit with a straight face.

First of all, natural selection is the OPPOSITE of chance. Dawkins explains this very well. In a complex biosphere, not all organisms are created equal. Some survive better, reproduce better and compete better. The world is filled with their descendants.

Second, any theory of Intelligent Design (ID) leads ultimately to a more complex being than is being explained by ID. So the IDiots say “this is too complex, it must have been designed”, apparently not realizing they are invoking a more complex thing in the process. It is logically bankrupt.

Do you think it is chance that this above mentioned ‘tard goes by bornagain77? Of course not — the ID movement is people with a conclusion (God is the benign creator of the universe) looking for science to back it up. That is the antithesis of science and it is why the belief in ID is a sure sign that you are an academic hack.

IDiots

I’ve never visited Uncommon Descent. It is so funny to see these guys twist their faith into a scientific theory, fooling themselves and a few other people along the way. Here are their words:

Materialistic ideology has subverted the study of biological and cosmological origins so that the actual content of these sciences has become corrupted. The problem, therefore, is not merely that science is being used illegitimately to promote a materialistic worldview, but that this worldview is actively undermining scientific inquiry, leading to incorrect and unsupported conclusions about biological and cosmological origins. At the same time, intelligent design (ID) offers a promising scientific alternative to materialistic theories of biological and cosmological evolution — an alternative that is finding increasing theoretical and empirical support.

So science, an effort practiced by thousands of people around the world, from hundreds of countries, ethnicities and faiths are illegitimately using science to promote a materialistic viewpoint.

Have you ever heard anything that fucking dumb? According to these crackpots, 99.99% of biologists and cosmologists are subverting and corrupting the science of the loony 0.01% who can’t understand why we don’t think Scripture is an appropriate reference book for a scientific theory of the creation of the mother fucking universe.

These people constantly misconstrue the arguments of the rational scientific community in order to make proponents of intelligent design (ID) seem like persecuted, besieged warriors of truth.

Face it, Dembski, you fucking retard deluded bastard — your science does not cut the mustard. Your scientific and indeed mathematical arguments are constantly trounced by more capable scientists and mathematicians. The scientific record does not support and indeed cannot support your fucked up bizarre-o mashup of religion and science. It’s not a conspiracy. It’s not an ideology. It’s a method, practiced by shit tons of people and its why we have the Internet, mobile phones, HD TV and MRI machines. These are the tangible result of science, real science, in practice. ID is a fantasy you have to justify your faith. As I’ve said before, I give your God a hell of a lot more credit than you.

Evolution as a Christian Theme

I had the great pleasure to meet Ernan McMullin. He is the godfather of a friend of mine.

Educated at Maynooth College in Ireland, where he received an undergraduate degree in physics and a bachelor of divinity degree in theology, he was ordained a Roman Catholic priest 1949. He went on to study theoretical physics on a fellowship at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies and earned a Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Louvain in 1954. Joining the Notre Dame faculty as an assistant professor of philosophy that same year, he became a full professor in 1967 and was named to the John Cardinal O’Hara Chair in 1984.(ref).

My friend wanted to get us together because we are both interested in astronomy and science and he is a priest and I’m an atheist. We also both like to discuss and debate.

He gave me a pamphlet for a talk he had given in 2004 called “Evolution as a Christian Theme”. We also discussed this topic in person. He believe that the theory of evolution is completely consistent with Christian theology. I told him my line, that if intelligent design is true, the design is called evolution. He said, “Exactly right!”

In the “Evolution as a Christian Theme” pamphlet he concludes his argument rather concisely:

[T]hese proponents of what nowadays goes under the label of “Intelligent Design” implicitly assume the inadequacy of the original creation to bring about the Creator’s ends without further later causal supplementation on the Creator’s part…[T]hey appear to conflate the order of nature with the order of grace; they seek miraculous signs in nature of a kind that would seem appropriate, rather, to the order of grace.

Fucking brilliant. The ID folks look for God in nature without realizing that God is, apparently, smarter than them: he made nature purely natural. His intent was encoded, if you will, in his creation, from the moment of creation.

So the problem with the ID folks is that not only does their science suck, so does their theology! Their infantile misunderstanding of theology has led them to believe things that are completely absurd and they jump through incredible hoops to justify them.

I’m not a Christian. I don’t believe in the Creator the way Dr. McMullin does. But in terms of a theological argument, I haven’t heard a better one: science is never and could never be at odds with the will of the Creator.

Majority of Republicans Are Idiots

That left wing radical group, The Gallup Poll, have released results with the headline “Majority of Republicans Doubt Theory of Evolution“.

The majority of Republicans in the United States do not believe the theory of evolution is true and do not believe that humans evolved over millions of years from less advanced forms of life.

That’s right, folks, a majority of 1 of the 2 political parties in the USA put their fucked-up political/religious ideology in front of generally accepted scientific fact. They don’t argue with electromagnetism or gravity or thermodynamics. Science has apparently avoided blasphemy in these areas. But with evolution, and apparently evolution alone, science is wrong. Hundreds of years of peer-reviewed, scrupulous, detailed, exacting work by thousands of people is wrong because, you know, the Bible tells me so.

Evolution — what is so fucking hard about this?

Thought experiment: a bunch of people are stranded for decades on a deserted island. The children of one of the families all die from an unfortunate genetic trait. That family passes on no breeding heirs and their gene pool on that island ends. That unfortunate genetic trait ends with them, yes? While it is still possible the trait exists in some of the other people, the fact is, the frailty of that trait causes those genes to be weeded out of the gene pool.

We see this in the world. Sickle cell anemia is correlated with an increased resistance to malaria. People without the sickle cell trait were more likely to die from malaria. The survivors were more likely to develop sickle cell anemia.

Survival of the fittest is obvious. Natural selection is obvious. I’m no expert on these matters, but I just don’t see what is so hard to understand about this.