Anyone interested in paleontology, rational thought, or the scourge of creationism might want to read the transcript of an interview with Per Ahlberg, Professor of Evolutionary Biology at Uppsala University in Sweden. His straight talk and wit are refreshing. Here’s a sample:
I think mainstream science has a duty and a responsibility to expose creationism and ID for the pseudoscientific frauds that they are. This is something quite different from engaging them in debate, the way you would do with adherents of an opposing but conceptually sound scientific viewpoint. Scientists must expose them simply because they are frauds, and it won’t do to have large parts of the population bamboozled by the lies and misrepresentations of charlatans… Note that there is an important point here: creationists and ID proponents by necessity attempt to befuddle their audience, not just about the evidence for evolution, but about the nature of scientific enquiry in general. They have to, because it is their only way of concealing the threadbare nature of their own claims. (His emphasis)
From this, it should be clear why I have chosen to take part; though you can add the fact that I enjoy talking to people and presenting my ideas to popular audiences. Money, fame and hot chicks would be welcome but have not been forthcoming so far…
Per Ahlberg is known for his work with fossil tetrapods. His latest contribution is as co-author of a paper about 395-million-year-old tetrapod trackways that were found in Poland. (Here’s a summary of the find by PZ Myers at Pharyngula). And a short video about the find is available on the Journal Nature website. Enjoy!
(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.
These guys either didn’t read the complete definition or they have a really crappy dictionary, or they’re just stupid. They are wearing clownish costumes on TV, after all. I just wish they had looked up the word “colloquialism”. If they had, they might have understood that some words, like “theory”, often have a common everyday definition as well as a scientific one. Even Scrabble players appreciate the fact that many scientific terms can’t be found in Webster’s or American Heritage.
The “evolution is only a theory” argument is sad, pathetic, and old. It’s what uneducated goofballs spout from their blowholes.
In addition to the common definitions, Merriman-Webster’s defines a theory as “a plausible or scientifically acceptable general principle or body of principles offered to explain phenomena” and “the analysis of a set of facts in their relation to one another”.
It’s strange how these three wise men missed that one.
Over at ScienceBlogs.com, PZ Myers, on his Pharyngula blog, issued a request for people to bust up a pathetic evolution poll (read the text of the story). His readers succeeded and the poll was dashed. The question asked in the poll was:
What do you think the appropriate lesson should be in public schools?
1. Evolution only
2. Evolution, pointing out weaknesses in theory
3. Evolution and creationism
4. Creationism only
What strikes me as disturbingly normal about this poll is that creationism is immunized against criticism. Evolutionary biology is a science and all scientific positions are open to falsification, if valid counter evidence is presented. But in the poll, creationism isn’t set up in the same manner as evolution is in choice #2. To be fair, shouldn’t there have been the following 5th choice?
5. Creationism, pointing out weaknesses in the theory
Denounce evolution all you want, but if creationism is to be allowed in the science classroom, it has to be able to withstand rigorous testing, picking and prodding. And that means looking at all its weaknesses. All of them. It’s kind of like asking a sleazy politician to open up his closet door. Skeletons aplenty.
Top 15 Creation Science Fair Projects
15. Sexual Selection: Observations on the blond girl next door
14. My mom’s purse and the 2nd law of thermodynamics
13. The Grand Canyon: It’s smaller than it looks
12. Human vs. parrot IQ test – How Mr. Crackers cheated
11. Practicing Social-Darwinism for fun and profit
10. Bible College Cut & Paste Research Techniques
9. Viagra and the irreducible complexity in my pants
8. The geology of baking soda volcanoes
7. SPF 13: The Devil’s Number
6. Peer Review, Schmear Review: My friends suck
5. Praying For An “A+”, Without Really Trying
4. Abiogenesis in the Pillsbury Dough Boy
3. Spanking the monkey: Literally!
2. That evil Charles Darwin: An Unbiased Review
1. Noah’s Ark: Cargo Ship or Luv Boat?
When I wrote this silly list, I had no idea that the reality of creation science education is stranger than my fiction. I was shocked to discover an actual entry, from a 2001 creation science fair, “Women Are Designed For Homemaking”. It was an 8th grade boy’s project. I’d be interested to know if his mother or father had a hand in the work.