Category Archives: Evolution

Tennessee Plagued By Zombies

Conservative zombies are the worst kind. They slowly drone on about the ills of the world –especially about the nasty scientists who could possibly cure them–all the while projecting their own flaws on humanity. Evidently, the non-zombie children aren’t sufficiently curious about science, or, more specifically, skeptical enough about evolution or climate change, two subjects zombies hate. So, Tennessee Conservo-Zombie Party member, Bill Dunn, has drafted legislation he thinks will fix the imagined problem:

This bill requires schools to create an environment that encourages students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues.

Conservo-zombies are just too slow and dull-witted to see that they’re the ones lacking these skills. When you happily drool over yourself and yammer monotonously and nonsensically like a medieval village-idiot, while insulting every non-zombie as unworthy of the zombie “after-afterlife”, you really shouldn’t be giving others advice.

7 Comments

Filed under Evolution, Religion

Religion Survey Results

A survey asking about people’s knowledge of religion has some not-so-surprising results. Protestants and Catholics are less knowledgeable about their own religion’s doctrines than atheists, Jews, and Mormons.

Forty-five percent of Roman Catholics who participated in the study didn’t know that, according to church teaching, the bread and wine used in Holy Communion is not just a symbol, but becomes the body and blood of Christ. [Yahoo News]

In addition, Americans don’t grasp the secular laws that protect both government and religion, the separation of church and state.

The study also found that many Americans don’t understand constitutional restrictions on religion in public schools. While a majority know that public school teachers cannot lead classes in prayer, less than a quarter know that the U.S. Supreme Court has clearly stated that teachers can read from the Bible as an example of literature.

“Many Americans think the constitutional restrictions on religion in public schools are tighter than they really are,” Pew researchers wrote. [Yahoo News]

Questions concerning Charles Darwin and evolution were included in the survey.

Respondents were also asked, “And which of these court trials focused on whether evolution could be taught in public schools?” and offered the choice of the Scopes trial, the Salem witch trials, and Brown vs. Board of Education. Only 31% of respondents selected the correct answer of the Scopes trial, 36% selected Brown vs. Board of Education, 3% selected the Salem witch trials, and 30% said that they didn’t know. [Nation center For Science Education]

Nothing particularly surprising in the results. The Pew Research Center’s report is here (PDF).

1 Comment

Filed under darwin, Evolution, Religion

Trilobites Swim Circles Around Creationists – Part 1

Property Of TheDarwinReport

TheDarwinReport

Apologetics Press is so intellectually anorexic, it’s frightening to imagine the base level of research involved in its preparation of creationist material. It’s like watching a poorly conceived horror movie; on the one hand it’s something to laugh at, and on the other it has the occasional shock, even if it’s just a comically masked killer jumping from behind a door with an over-sized knife. It’s cheap thrills, good for a few chuckles. So, here’s today’s feature —the Apologists had something silly to say about the complexity of the trilobite eye. It begins:

One of the most fascinating finds in the fossil record is that of the long-extinct trilobite. Trilobites resided in the Earth’s ancient oceans, and often are considered to be the world’s first arthropods—creatures that consist of hard shells, and that have multiple body segments and jointed legs. Trilobites, which possessed a hard exoskeleton, bear a resemblance to horseshoe crabs, and are thought by evolutionists to be one of the first animals to have lived on the Earth. [my emphasis]

Ah, the errors run like a river: 1) Old-earth creationism invariably involves typological thinking; in other words, some group of organisms must be a “type” without the word ever being adequately defined. Here the Apologists roll the more than 20,000 species of trilobite into one type, as if they were referring to a single creature; and throughout the remainder of the article, trilobite traits are lumped on to that type with complete disregard for the immense diversity that exists within the class, Trilobita. 2) And which paleontologist claims that trilobites were the first arthropods? The first arthropods are thought to have been leggy segmented soft-bodied worms from the Early Cambrian. In fact, if you were to remove all that armor from a trilobite it would look like a worm. It’d be like peeling an artichoke, where there isn’t much underneath. 3) Next, the Apologists claim “evolutionists” think of trilobites as the “first animals to have lived on Earth”. How does it work out that trilobites were the “first arthropods” and the “first animals”? What 19th century children’s encyclopedia have these dimwitted clowns been reading? The sponges might have something to say about who the first animal was.

Let’s wallow in the rest of the Apologists’ misconceptions:

Evolution postulates that all living animals have progressed from simpler creatures, and that by the process of natural selection, organisms have “improved” along the way. Conventional thinking, therefore, suggests that since trilobites are so ancient, they must have been fairly simple creatures with primitive features. However, the eye of the trilobite—which is incredibly complex—refutes such a concept.

Yeah, well, when you disregard the tens of millions of years of natural history that occurred prior to the trilobites’ reign, it’s easy to make that argument. If no creatures with simpler eyes than trilobites had existed, then there would be a problem. But since there’s plenty of evidence to the contrary, the flaw clearly lies in the Apologists being willfully ignorant of the subject matter.

Most trilobites had a pair of compound eyes that were made up of 100 to 15,000 lenses in each eye.

Such intricacies suggest that evolution is a degenerative process, for nothing on Earth today compares to the eye of the trilobite.

Darwinian models that attempt to explain the trilobite’s eye are completely unable to account for such complexity, especially considering the fact that the trilobite is considered to have evolved so early. When one considers the complexity of the trilobite’s eye, and compares it with the considerably less-complex eye systems of animals and/or humans today, it would seem that evolution has “gone in reverse.” [my emphasis]

Additionally, they go on to quote-mine paleontologist Niles Eldredge, who only speaks to the complexity of the trilobite lens, not the entire eye. The unique characteristic of the double-layered lens (doublet) of the trilobite is that it corrects for the aberration that occurs when light travels from a less dense material like water to a more dense one like calcite (CaCO3), which is what the trilobite lens –and exoskeleton, not coincidentally– is made of. But the human lens is, in fact, more complex because it can change shape to focus, while the trilobite lens is fixed. What the Apologists don’t grasp is that evolution is adaptive and not progressive in the long term, and that the variation in nature demonstrates how many ways there are for solving the same problem. How many different types of eyes are there? Moreover, they fail to see that eyes don’t see; eyes merely collect light and convert it to signals for the brain to interpret. Are the Apologists going to argue that the trilobite brain was more complex than the human brain? They can speak for themselves –and their own brains– on this point. Are you smarter than a trilobite? Now that’s a game show I’d watch. Trilobites win every time.

Leave a comment

Filed under Evolution, Intelligent Design, paleontology, Trawling For Creationism

The Creationism Movie To End All Creationism Movies

The entertainment world is on fire with the rumor of another creation movie from Kevin Miller, the maker of Expelled. The story is to be based on the life of evangelist creationist Kent Hovind, a.k.a. Dr. Dino, the tax dodger, the prison bitch.

In September 2009, Resurrection Pictures is partnering in the release of The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry—a heartwarming coming-of-age story about three 12-year-old boys who are shown how to apply Scripture to daily struggles—and is a 2009 Silver Sponsor of the 168 Hour Film Project & Festival. Creation, Resurrection Pictures’ first original film project— a humorous and tearful story of a high school biology teacher’s struggle to expose the lie of evolution, based on the life of creation evangelist Dr. Kent Hovind and written by Kevin Miller the writer of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed is scheduled for production in 2010.

My reaction to this news can’t be expressed in mere words, so I offer you this video. Just pretend I’m the talk show host, and Kevin Miller and Kent Hovind are the guests. The fact that it’s in Dutch is irrelevant, for laughter is an international language.

1 Comment

Filed under Evolution, Intelligent Design, Trawling For Creationism

Dandelion Sex, Or The Lack Thereof

Dandelion (From Wikipedia)

Dandelion (From Wikipedia)

I’ve just finished reading Frogs, Flies, & Dandelions: the making of species by biologist Menno Schilthuizen –an engaging and informative book on species formation. Here’s a little taste of what I learned; it illustrates that genetics isn’t perfect, and evolution is beautifully adaptive.

Historically, the common dandelion, that ubiquitous and irritating weed found in gardens and fields throughout North America and Europe, has been a puzzle to botanists. For a long time, no one was sure how many species existed. In the 1700’s, Carolus Linnaeus said only one; in the 20th century, Scandinavian botanists claimed more than two-thousands existed. But with DNA testing, came the answer. Many dandelions are, in fact, clones. In place of normal sexual reproduction with two sets of chromosomes being divided into sex cells, the ovules and pollen, some dandelions reproduce by parthenogenesis, or virgin birth, because at one point in their history they mutated into having three sets of chromosomes, a number which is sexually indivisible. The mutant dandelions instead produce unfertilized –but still viable– seeds, each with a triple set of chromosomes –in other words, a clone.

What’s most illuminating is that the same mutation has popped up several times. So there are several strains with triple chromosomes, all sexually isolated from one another because they can only reproduce by cloning themselves. But it gets better; the clones still produce pollen, except it is completely sterile. Only in the light of evolution does this sordid asexual tale make sense. Why waste the time and energy producing “irregular pollen” if it’s never going to be used? Perhaps god takes a sadistic pleasure in irritating people’s allergies. Or he’s invested heavily in big pharmaceuticals. If so, I hope he had Bernie Madoff sitting on his nest egg.

3 Comments

Filed under Biology, Evolution, Science

Richard Dawkins Shows Us Some Intermediate Fossils

It might have been more educational if Richard Dawkins –or that over-simplified museum chart– had explained that paleontologists aren’t so much concerned with complete transitional fossils –or intermediates– but the transitional characteristics displayed in the fossils. Fossils are after all collections of physical traits. But Dawkins is countering creationists, who are so often ridiculously literal in their interpretation of evolution that they imagine the fossil evidence for the transition between two distinct species as an exact in-between –for example, half dinosaur and half bird. Evolutionary history, though, is bushy and convoluted; a particular species may only bear an ancestral trait(s) that’s been slightly modified, or a novel trait(s) that is in its incipient state. That a species of dinosaur had proto-feathers –and not necessarily fully functional wings– is in itself profoundly informative. No cartoonish hybrid is needed as proof of evolution. The same goes for those floating pigs of the sea, those media hogs, those cousins of the hungry hungry hippo –the whales.

Leave a comment

Filed under Evolution, paleontology

When Economists Twist Biology

A site called KansasCity.com posts a column called Midwest Voices, and a professor emeritus of economics from the University of Notre Dame –Larry Marsh–has written an absurd piece insisting that if one accepts evolution then it follows that one must accept free-market economics, and therefore reject socialism; forget that the former is a science and the latter is a social policy.

Marsh begins with:

Is life fundamentally bottom-up and randomly designed or top-down and intentionally designed? Are you a socialist-creationist or a free-market evolutionist? If you reject this dichotomy and instead view yourself as a socialist-evolutionist, how can you justify arguing for the power of self-organization and unintentional, benevolent design in biology and against it in economics?

The gist of his column is that he thinks living under the umbrella of a free-market economy naturally benefits all individuals, which he sees as analogous to individual ants benefiting from being part of a colony –which is actually organized from bottom up rather from the top down (i.e. government). As Marsh says, “The queen ant is not a commander ant. The colony just consists of individual ants instinctively following their nature”.

I suppose he’s saying it’s our nature to be capitalistic. And by following our nature we all profit. Oh, but what a magnificently lame philosophy it is. Invoking Adam Smith and Charles Darwin, as Marsh does, and setting them up against socialist Karl Marx and creationist William Paley may sound good on paper, while sitting in the comfy chair inside a professor’s air-conditioned office, but reality isn’t so pretty.

Hasn’t Marsh heard the estimate that 99.9% of all species that have ever lived have gone extinct? Or that historically the average rates of extinction and speciation have been about equal? (Extinction: Bad Genes or Bad Luck by David Raup) Or that most offspring in the wild don’t make it to adulthood? The female Clownfish (anemone fish), for example, lays up to 1000 eggs in a clutch, but predation, genetic misfortune, and physical mishaps will likely destroy all but a tiny fraction. Mother Nature may recycle, but she’s a wasteful and inefficient bitch.

Should our economy be run in this fashion? Do we want General Motors using this model? Say for every one car it produces 100 will be junked. Or for every profitable loan Bank Of America makes, 100 will be bad debt. How long would the economy last?

That ‘radical’ Richard Dawkins has often said evolution is not a template for society; he likes to quote Tennyson –“nature, red in tooth and claw”. But through Marsh’s naive non-biologist eyes, evolution is not just an explanation for the origin and diversification of new species, it’s an instructive manual on how to live one’s life.

Marsh sounds like he accepts evolution, and as an academic he may well think he’s performing a double-whammy service by conflating it with capitalism, but he’s only cherry picking the parts of evolution that fit in with his economic views.

1 Comment

Filed under Evolution, Politics