21 November 2005

A Science Lesson

A few friends asked me about my earlier post, A Quick Poem on Intelligent Design. In general, the evolution/creation/intelligent design debate has nuances that a lot of people aren't familiar with. Evolutionary theory is a passion of mine, and I was involved for several years in a number of online evolution/creation debates. I was the geek girl in nursery school, aged 4, who didn't want to be a mommy or a teacher. I wanted to be a paleontologist. In retrospect, I would have preferred physical anthropologist, but that distinction didn't come along for a few years or more. (And instead, I'm a computer programmer.)

Anyhow, here is a quick guide to my poem:

Was Darwin right? Or was it God that put us here intact?
'Cause I've heard evolution's both a theory and a fact.

Charles Darwin's theory of evolution through natural selection roughly states:
Organisms have heritable traits they pass on to their offspring.
A species has more members than will survive.
Those that survive do so more often - as a generalisation - because their traits favourably enhanced their survivability.

In addition to these three statements, we know now about genes and DNA. The theory of evolution thus includes the concept that heritable traits are stored in an organism's DNA, and changes to these traits occur due to copying error (random mutations) during reproduction. Another part of the theory is that all life forms (all microbes, plants, animals, etc) evolved from one (or very few) common ancestors over time. This is sometimes called "common descent".

The strength of a scientific theory, and what distinguishes it from a hypothesis, is that it is supported by all related known facts. If any fact contradicts the theory, it must be dropped (this is what makes a theory falsifiable, and this is absolutely required for a theory to be counted as scientific). A theory also must be predictive. (Karl Popper, the father of Science Philosophy, extended this definition in the 1950s to include retrodiction - the act of predicting in the past.) Sometimes theories are not accepted by the scientific community until the mechanism of how something happened is understood. In the case of evolution, random mutation and heritability were the mechanisms by which common descent was made possible. [Creationists have claimed that "random mutation cannot introduce new information". This shows a misunderstanding of genetics, biology and information theory.]

Fact: evolution has been seen, measured, tested, etc. Creationists have claimed that this is not enough to prove common descent. They distinguish between micro-evolution (change in a gene pool) and macro-evolution (change to a species which effectively turns in into a new species). In fact, both of these "types" have been seen, measured, tested, etc. In addition, Creationists have never been able to specify how there could be some sort of "stopping mechnism" preventing evolution from going further than changes within a "kind". Since the discovery of homeobox (HOX) genes, we also now know that a small change to a HOX gene can alter the timing during an embryo's development and can result in huge developmental differences.

And are we accidental or was everybody planned?
If so, was it Jehovah? Or did Wanda lend a hand?

Biblical creationists like to believe that there is only one creation story worth introducing into science classes. In fact, there are thousands of creation stories, and since the science curriculum is fairly full, it would make more sense to introduce a Comparative Religion course instead.

Lenny Flank, a member of a number of numerous online Creation/Evolution debate lists and a renowned herpetologist, posits Wanda, the Witch of the North as an alternative creator. The U.S. Bill of Rights states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion". This is often interpreted to mean that no one religion can be supported to the detriment of a different one. Effectively, this should mean that, in terms of what is taught in public schools, Creationists' belief in Jehovah takes no precedence over Lenny's belief in Wanda.

Micheal Behe says that certain things are too complex.
A designer must have done them using supernat'ral specs

Michael Behe is one of the most famous supporters of Intelligent Design (ID), being a well-read, well-educated, well-spoken biochemist who published his hypothesis of irreducible complexity in a 1996 book called Darwin's Black Box.

Irreducible complexity is the hypothesis that certain molecular structures are so complex that could not have evolved, since any partial structure would have been useless and therefore would not have been selected. Behe's most famous example is that of a bacterium's flagellum motor. The claim is that any partial motor would be useless and thus it would have had to be created in toto, or designed.

(There are a number of counter-arguments on the web to this and other Behe examples, both in terms of the mathematics required, and in terms of separate sub-systems that show that the motor is not irreducible. I won't go into detail here.)

But my fallen arch is achy and my vision's not so hot.
If I'm a perfect speciman, how come my back is shot?

ID posits an intelligent designer, but does not explain why various species exhibit poor design. An example is the panda's digestion: its digestion is so inefficient that it eats for 16 hours a day and excretes most of what it takes in. ID has no explanation. Creationism would say, "God works in mysterious ways" or point out that the expulsion from Eden caused species to "de-evolve". Since ID cannot admit its religious roots, it's left with an explantory gap.

Evolution on the other hand quite handily explains the panda: pandas evolved from carnivores fairly recently and their digestion is relatively poorly adapted to plant matter. In a similiar vein, the recency of human evolution to an upright posture explains some of our difficulties with bad backs, fallen arches, etc.

And is it science? If it is, we'll use it to predict
which parts evolved all by themselves, and which ones were hand-picked.

ID makes no predictions, and cannot say what evolved and what didn't. Thus, ID tends to become an argument (and a logical fallacy) for what's been called "God of the Gaps" (or, similarly, "Argument from Personal Incredulity"). If we don't understand something well enough, clearly it is too complex, and "Goddidit". If we then learn more details, the example was evidently just a bad example, and other examples are then offered, limited only by our current knowledge and rate of research.

In addition to not predicting / retrodicting what was designed and what was created, ID also cannot predict when design or creation will happen again. In contrast, evolution can say things about the rate of mutations and, based on population sizes, how fast changes can spread through a population.

But if it's just a backdoor way to get religion in
then you be damned! I shun you all. ('cos lying is a sin.)

Or you could say cowardly, dastardly, unethical, etc., if "sin" is too religious a concept.

78 Comments:

Anonymous Ingrid said...

Hiya,
I only just read this post. I really like your explanation of all that. Yay for people who understand what a theory is!

5:58 pm  
Anonymous Hydrocodone said...

acHhbB The best blog you have!

5:56 pm  
Anonymous tsp loan military said...

UDcMoT Nice Article.

4:43 am  
Anonymous alphen tour said...

Nice Article.

5:34 am  
Anonymous fioricet 120 tablet said...

Magnific!

6:17 am  
Anonymous celebrex celecoxib new mexico said...

Wonderful blog.

7:23 am  
Anonymous phentermine no prescription free consul said...

Magnific!

9:56 pm  
Anonymous what is in xenical said...

Wonderful blog.

2:35 am  
Anonymous buy tramadol with discount said...

Good job!

3:36 am  
Anonymous board message xenical said...

Good job!

4:33 am  
Anonymous cheap phentermine discount phentermine buy phenter said...

Magnific!

5:21 am  
Anonymous JohnBraun said...

iiF6v1 write more, thanks.

12:00 am  
Anonymous coed interracial sex said...

Thanks to author.

2:51 pm  
Anonymous dry sex tips said...

Nice Article.

3:24 pm  
Anonymous animal sex syories said...

Magnific!

5:15 pm  
Anonymous latin butt sex said...

actually, that's brilliant. Thank you. I'm going to pass that on to a couple of people.

5:48 pm  
Anonymous her first anal sex vixxxen said...

Wonderful blog.

6:24 pm  
Anonymous sex advice videos said...

Please write anything else!

6:53 pm  
Anonymous e-mail chat sex said...

Good job!

7:24 pm  
Anonymous pale sex video said...

Magnific!

7:54 pm  
Anonymous beast sex cartoons said...

Please write anything else!

8:31 pm  
Anonymous basic sex positions said...

actually, that's brilliant. Thank you. I'm going to pass that on to a couple of people.

9:13 pm  
Anonymous couple sex vacations said...

actually, that's brilliant. Thank you. I'm going to pass that on to a couple of people.

9:51 pm  
Anonymous hot transexual sex said...

Thanks to author.

10:24 pm  
Anonymous raine eric sex said...

actually, that's brilliant. Thank you. I'm going to pass that on to a couple of people.

10:54 pm  
Anonymous mambo movies sex said...

Wonderful blog.

11:30 pm  
Anonymous nude having sex said...

Beam me aboard, Scotty..... Sure. Will a 2x10 do?

12:07 am  
Anonymous dog anul sex said...

Beam me aboard, Scotty..... Sure. Will a 2x10 do?

12:39 am  
Anonymous free grandma porn videos said...

actually, that's brilliant. Thank you. I'm going to pass that on to a couple of people.

1:05 am  
Anonymous boy anal sex said...

The gene pool could use a little chlorine.

1:37 am  
Anonymous bosnia sex trade said...

Magnific!

2:11 am  
Anonymous adult sex frinds said...

Good job!

2:44 am  
Anonymous it picture sex said...

The gene pool could use a little chlorine.

3:17 am  
Anonymous ghb dingle said...

Give me ambiguity or give me something else.

3:47 am  
Anonymous cialis eye floaters said...

If ignorance is bliss, you must be orgasmic.

4:20 am  
Anonymous loans said...

640K ought to be enough for anybody. - Bill Gates 81

4:53 am  
Anonymous irish sex sites said...

Magnific!

5:35 am  
Anonymous best sex wine said...

I'm not a complete idiot, some parts are missing!

6:14 am  
Anonymous gerbils and sex said...

Give me ambiguity or give me something else.

6:52 am  
Anonymous ares sex stories said...

A flashlight is a case for holding dead batteries.

7:25 am  
Anonymous amateur made sex said...

Lottery: A tax on people who are bad at math.

7:58 am  
Anonymous sex and ubmission said...

Beam me aboard, Scotty..... Sure. Will a 2x10 do?

8:27 am  
Anonymous desperate sex cam said...

Give me ambiguity or give me something else.

8:52 am  
Anonymous office sex game said...

Ever notice how fast Windows runs? Neither did I.

9:22 am  
Anonymous cocaine documentaries said...

Lottery: A tax on people who are bad at math.

9:51 am  
Anonymous name said...

Calvin, we will not have an anatomically correct snowman!

10:24 am  
Anonymous first porn said...

What is a free gift ? Aren't all gifts free?

10:59 am  
Anonymous rebecca wild porn star said...

Suicidal twin kills sister by mistake!

11:33 am  
Anonymous animai porn said...

Magnific!

12:08 pm  
Anonymous life sex doll said...

640K ought to be enough for anybody. - Bill Gates 81

12:40 pm  
Anonymous australian phone sex said...

The gene pool could use a little chlorine.

1:11 pm  
Anonymous free wap porn videos said...

actually, that's brilliant. Thank you. I'm going to pass that on to a couple of people.

1:46 pm  
Anonymous disney porn toons said...

When there's a will, I want to be in it.

2:25 pm  
Anonymous hardcore porn daddy sex said...

Give me ambiguity or give me something else.

3:08 pm  
Anonymous  said...

Lottery: A tax on people who are bad at math.

3:41 pm  
Anonymous full sex sue said...

C++ should have been called B

4:21 pm  
Anonymous porn pov horny babe commands you said...

Clap on! , Clap off! clap@#&$NO CARRIER

4:58 pm  
Anonymous hentai teen sex said...

C++ should have been called B

5:29 pm  
Anonymous illegal transpo said...

Beam me aboard, Scotty..... Sure. Will a 2x10 do?

6:08 pm  
Anonymous chefs having sex said...

A lot of people mistake a short memory for a clear conscience.

6:51 pm  
Anonymous pokemon jesse sex said...

Give me ambiguity or give me something else.

7:35 pm  
Anonymous brittany spares sex said...

The gene pool could use a little chlorine.

8:24 pm  
Anonymous car sex stories said...

Wonderful blog.

9:07 pm  
Anonymous free ameatures sex said...

The gene pool could use a little chlorine.

9:46 pm  
Anonymous homemade reality porn said...

Suicidal twin kills sister by mistake!

10:34 pm  
Anonymous interracial sex movie said...

Beam me aboard, Scotty..... Sure. Will a 2x10 do?

11:28 pm  
Anonymous welcome to xxxuploads the future of stre said...

When there's a will, I want to be in it.

12:18 am  
Anonymous jewish sex rules said...

Wonderful blog.

1:01 am  
Anonymous post menopausal sex said...

Suicidal twin kills sister by mistake!

1:39 am  
Anonymous barley legal porn said...

Energizer Bunny Arrested! Charged with battery.

2:18 am  
Anonymous kerry washington sex said...

Lottery: A tax on people who are bad at math.

2:53 am  
Anonymous buy gay porn said...

Please write anything else!

3:30 am  
Anonymous 1oo free sex said...

Friends help you move. Real friends help you move bodies.

4:14 am  
Anonymous perverse sex sites said...

Good job!

4:55 am  
Anonymous cheap phentermine the claims generally are that said...

Magnific!

5:40 am  
Anonymous phentermine phentermine said...

Oops. My brain just hit a bad sector.

6:29 am  
Anonymous phentermine capsule said...

Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

7:15 am  
Anonymous illustrated sex 101 said...

Save the whales, collect the whole set

7:52 am  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home