The rugged gentleman on the left is Captain Ahab (as played by actor Gregory Peck), the obsessed whaler who hunts down Moby-Dick, the great white symbolic whale. The individual on the right is Australian-born conservative Christian, Ken Ham, the crazed founder of the infamous, Kentucky creation ‘museum’. Is it just me or is there a slight similarity between the two –in appearance and obsession level? If you don’t see it, then just pretend for the sake of the cartoon.
Tag Archives: Irreducible Complexity
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.
(Note: the groups in this figure are arranged along made-up “scala naturae” to emphasize the lack of relationship between genome size and intuitive notions of organismal complexity — please do not construe this figure as an endorsement of a progressionist view of evolution!).
The chart above and note are from genomesize.com
As the note says, the bars in the chart indicate ranges of genome size. The measurements are given as a C-value, which here is a measure of weight in picograms. As we can see, genome size and complexity do not go hand in hand. Salamanders, flatworms, and algae are just a few of the groups which have members with genomes sizes larger than that of the mammals. Et tu, Chondrichthyes? Members of the protozoa have the largest. Isn’t it bad enough that humans have to deal with penis envy, now this? If there is a creator, he has an “inordinate fondness” for amoebae. All that sexy amoebic swaying and oozing is what did it. It’s a damn popularity contest. The swimsuit contest lost us the most points; the amoeba slipped out of its top, showed some membrane, and won the day.
When I was 7 years-old my favorite subjects of conversation were Bigfoot and UFO’s. I eagerly believed in both of these questionable phenomena based solely on “the evidence” provided by cheesy TV shows. Boy, was I a major drongo (Australian slang for a stupid person). Well, I would have been if was an Australian. I’m not. I’m an American, so technically I was a dumbass. But America and Australia share a common problem. Both countries are plagued with creationism and other pseudo-scientific, and anti-intellectual movements, COUGH religion COUGH. Rev. Ken Ham is an export of Australia, I’m sorry to say.
So, it’s only natural that an organization of young Australians would spring up to encourage others to be more discerning and skeptical. It’s called Young Australian Skeptics: A Sanctuary for Young Free Thinkers. Check it out, or you’ll go to hell. What, you doubt me? Do you want to take that chance? But what if you’re wrong?
Dinesh D’Souza is a professional apologist. To him Christianity is the source of all good in the world, and evolution is nasty atheistic propaganda. Here’s an excerpt from a piece he wrote on evolution and intelligent design:
The problem with evolution is not that it is unscientific but that it is routinely taught in textbooks and in the classroom in an atheist way. Textbooks frequently go beyond the scientific evidence to make metaphysical claims about how evolution renders the idea of a Creator superfluous.
Chemistry and physics are also taught in an “atheistic way”, as are computer science and mathematics. Science, by its very nature, is secular because the supernatural is not open to any form of investigation. When teaching evolution a teacher ought not to even mention god, because god is not a source of viable data.
D’Souza accuses science of making “metaphysical claims“, but it is Christians like himself who are guilty of this sin. They presuppose the existence of a higher being, and they whine when their presupposition is contradicted in a science classroom. It is perfectly reasonable, considering the evidence, for a biologist to conclude that life on Earth evolved and was not designed. This claim is about the physical world, not the metaphysical one. To proclaim the existence of a grand designer is a “metaphysical claim“, one that is wholly untestable within our Earthly realm. In essence, what D’Souza is upset over is biologists not including a dash of the supernatural in the mix.
Most Christians don’t care whether the eye evolved by natural selection or whether Darwin’s theories can account for macroevolution or only microevolution. What they care about is that evolution is being used to deny God as the creator.
First D’Souza denounces science for making a “metaphysical claim“, then he squawks that science is not including the metaphysical. Way to go on the blaring contradiction there, Dinesh. Now I’m positive you’re a Christian and a creationist. Only an Olympic grade rationalizer would do a one-eighty within the span of a few paragraphs.
Asked whether Christianity deserves credit for founding the first Western hospitals, universities and even scientific breakthroughs, Myers said, “No. People made those contributions to Western civilization”… Christianity was a powerful motivating force in why people did those things. You can find all this out by opening up a history book.
[Emphasis added to distinguish the wheat from the chaff]
Apparently, D’Souza has no grap of science methodology or religion and its lack of methodology. Indeed, Christianity founded many great universities. But the fact remains that one cannot successfully investigate the natural world while limiting one’s answers to within a religious framework. European universities were scientifically unproductive places until the Enlightenment. In the 18th century, almost half of the pupils of Oxford and Cambridge studied for the clergy; emphasis was on the classics and the Bible. Natural philosophy, as science was known then, was looked upon with suspicion, as it meddled with the belief in creation. It was only when researchers were free to contradict scripture that any real work got done. Dinesh would find all this out by opening up a history book.
So, I dub Dinesh D’Souza creationist of the month for September, 2008. Congratulations, Dinesh, on a job well done.