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Science

Evolution Named Scientific Achievement of 2005 943

Posted by Zonk
from the science-wins dept.
lazy_hp writes "The BBC reports that research into evolution's inner working has been named rtop science achievement of 2005 From the article: 'The prestigious US journal Science publishes its top 10 list of major endeavours at the end of each year. The number one spot was awarded jointly to several studies that illuminated the intricate workings of evolution. The announcement comes in the same week that a US court banned the teaching of intelligent design in classrooms.'"
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Evolution Named Scientific Achievement of 2005

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  • Common sense.
    • Common sense told us the earth was flat. /obvious
      • by pnewhook (788591) on Friday December 23, 2005 @10:02PM (#14330484)
        Common sense told us the earth was flat.

        Actually thank the bible for that one.

        The bible states numerous times that the earth is "firm" and "immovable". Therefore it cannot be a sphere orbiting the sun now can it?

        Also the bible references "earths four corners" something that's only possible if the earth was flat, and Daniel 4:10-11 references a tall tree that is visible to the farthest reaches of the earth. Also only possible if the earth was flat.

        So if you take the bible literally, then you must believe in a flat earth.

    • Well, ID is still taught in Kansas, Ohio and Georgia.

      I think the real winner of this in 2006 is the people who need a cheap labor source. After all,if you get a crap-ass education in one of these misguided school districts, it's going to be hard to get a job that pays more then minimum wage.

      Some of the backers of ID are really just aiming to keep people uneducated and within control. Liberty will eventually win out-- the Catholics tried to control education and discourse 500 years ago, and they eventually
  • by maddogdelta (558240) on Friday December 23, 2005 @02:35PM (#14327964)
    Nominated for 2006, GRAVITY!!!!
  • by Silverlancer (786390) on Friday December 23, 2005 @02:35PM (#14327969)
    Gravity to be named the top scientific achievment of 2006. Expect the contest for 2007 to be between the invention of Algebra and the discovery of atoms.
  • Hmm... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gorzek (647352) <gorzek@gmail.AAAcom minus threevowels> on Friday December 23, 2005 @02:36PM (#14327971) Homepage Journal
    Not that I support Intelligent Design (I think it's hokum, personally), but I can't help thinking this decision is politically-motivated. Doesn't mean it's not deserved, but it sure is convenient, coming on the heels of the ID court decision.

    Aw, what do I know?
    • Actually the intelligent design people were told this was goig to happen by a higher power(CIA informants working for Bush) So they were trying to fill the headlines up to drown out this news.

      How many people can I piss off or on today.
    • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MightyMartian (840721) on Friday December 23, 2005 @02:41PM (#14327998) Journal
      There have been some pretty big developments, particularly in comparisons of chimp and human genomes, which is going to give us an enormous understanding of just what, at the genetic level, makes us human. That being said, I do think the victory of reason over Medievalism in Dover (though a limited one), has played a part.

      The saddest part is that no matter how vast our understanding of evolution becomes, there will always be those who, for religious or logically unsound reasons, or just out of plain ignorance and misplaced incredulity, will reject it, and there will be those that wish to misrepresent or out-and-out destroy science simply to prop up their too-deeply held superstitions.

      • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by gorzek (647352) <gorzek@gmail.AAAcom minus threevowels> on Friday December 23, 2005 @02:46PM (#14328034) Homepage Journal
        What I find saddest about the ID movement is that they have the wrong-headed idea that evolution rules out an Intelligent Designer. Nothing about evolution implies it is random and undirected. While each generation is certainly full of mutations that have no purpose, over the long run all species evolve traits that assure their survival, a form of genetic "intelligence" itself.

        ID proponents would be better served examining how evolution *validates* their viewpoint. Just because evolution doesn't specify an Intelligent Designer doesn't mean there isn't one, just that we can't prove one scientifically. For some reason, being unable to prove something scientifically means, to some people, it just doesn't exist.

        I'm not a Christian, and I don't have a firm belief in any kind of God, but ID supporters are clearly looking at evolution the wrong way.
        • Re:Hmm... (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Nato_Uno (34428)
          Interestingly enough, personal beliefs aside, I think the *evolution* people are looking at ID the wrong way, insisting that "ID proponents are all religious whackos!" and "ID rules out evolution!".

          There are prominent examples of *non-theists* who are proponents of ID (like Michael Behe and Francis Crick, for example - Google is your friend).

          It's interesting to me that this whole thing has become a religious debate. I read the sticker that the Kansas school board wanted to attach to the textbooks and didn'
          • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by MightyMartian (840721) on Friday December 23, 2005 @03:04PM (#14328178) Journal
            If you read the Dover ruling, Judge Jones mentions this, and points out (and this applies to Kansas as well) that evolution is singled out for this sort of "just a theory, got holes" treatment. No other aspect of biology, no other scientific theory is forced into the same corner. The argument that there are holes in theory of evolution is correct, but then again, all theories have holes in them; unanswered questions, some data that doesn't fit neatly and the like. So it goes directly to motivation. The only reason that evolution is singled out is because those trying to get these stickers put on textbooks and those wanting pamphlets read in science class are trying to undermine the teaching of evolution. If this was an issue of intellectual and academic honesty, then every bit of science taught in a public school would have its own sticker or pamphlet explaining that there are holes in said theories. But as this is a religously motivated attack, evolution is singled out.
        • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by MightyMartian (840721) on Friday December 23, 2005 @03:00PM (#14328150) Journal
          The root problem with Intelligent Design is that it is compatible with all possible observations. Or, to put it another way, it has no explanatory power. In that alone it is meaningless to science. If you can't make predictions, if you can't formulate tests to falsify it, if any data gathered or potentially to be gathered, fits within the model, then you really don't have a model at all. ID was formulated intentionally in this manner, because it's part of the Big Tent strategy that the Discovery Institute and its allies have formulated. It's a political and legal strategy to get as many diverse groups whose only real commonality is "God did it" (where "it" can mean anything from special creation to theistic evolution).
          • Falsifiability (Score:3, Insightful)

            by nuonguy (264254)
            I agree with you. To be pedantic though, I think scientific objection to ID is Falsifiability [wikipedia.org]. The ID pushers make few claims that we can observe. Fortunately, they do say that the earth is only ~6000 years old, something we can measure objectively.

            The social problem with ID is that the people doing the pushing are religious bigots. Make no mistake about it. They're as open-minded as the taliban. They don't care whether it's scientific. They're not interested in a dialog or the truth. They have a
          • I believe that the same comment has been made about "String Theory", and while I would admit that it isn't falsifiable in general (though there are specific tests...such as mathematical correctness), I would still maintain that it's a scientific hypothesis.

            A more subtle definition appears to be needed. Falsifiability is needed for many purposes, but it doesn't seem (to me) to be the bedrock of what is scientific.
            • String theory is a working hypothesis. A good many of the physicists out there will shuffle their feet if not outright proclaim it not yet a scientific theory. It isn't yet testable, but it does offer at least some potential means, though it's going to take a few generations of particle accelerators before we get to that point. But that is key to even a hypothesis, it must at least hold out the possibility that it can be tested and falsified. ID cannot even provide some hypothetical means by which one c
          • The root problem with Intelligent Design is that it is compatible with all possible observations

            People who know about these things (ie. not me but some guys on the radio with reputations) argue that ID isn't even good theology. The "God of the gaps" argument implies that God is reponsible for everything - even the stupid or nasty stuff. ID is apparently built on this. If you want to worship an evil vengeful and capricious God that fits I suppose - but aren't these people pushing ID supposed to be Chris

        • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by CastrTroy (595695) on Friday December 23, 2005 @03:10PM (#14328224) Homepage
          This is where ID really fails in my mind. They say that because we don't fully understand evolution, and because of the gaps, that it must of been an intelligent being who did it. This sounds a lot to me like Mercury dragging the sun accross the sky in a chariot as an explanation because we didn't understand why the sun moved accross the sky. Just because we don't understand something fully, does not give any proof that an intelligent being was at work. This explanation has been used throughout history for things we don't understand, and it has been proven wrong. Unless there is real evidence that an intelligent being is doing something, which there never is, then you can't say that something is happening because of the intelligent being.
      • Re:Hmm... (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Asakusa (941025)

        Understand that some people live by faith or belief in something greater than "man is an animal". It doesn't make a difference to you does it? So how can it be "sad" if the people who believe in the Jesus, Hail Mary Mother Ghost of Alah or whatever, are happy believing in such?

        I personally am not Protestant or into Judaism, but I don't wholly subscribe to the idea that I'm just meat. Finding out how about how my body did develop is a vital activity, on the other hand.

        • Re:Hmm... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by MightyMartian (840721) on Friday December 23, 2005 @03:06PM (#14328198) Journal
          Whether you are right or wrong about "we're just meat" argument has nothing to do with the debate. Evolution, like all scientific theories, has nothing to say on these philosophical and metaphysical matters. Why not complain about quantum mechanics or hydrodynamics, because they work on purely naturalistic premises? Evolution has nothing to say on God or the meaning of life, but then again, neither does any other scientific theory.
        • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by hesiod (111176) on Friday December 23, 2005 @03:09PM (#14328222)
          > So how can it be "sad" if the people who believe in [x], are happy believing in such?

          If one finds happiness in slavery, is he still a slave? Is it still wrong to treat him as a slave? Even if not "wrong," is it still sad?
        • by Jeremi (14640) on Friday December 23, 2005 @03:47PM (#14328497) Homepage
          I don't wholly subscribe to the idea that I'm just meat


          I think the dismissive phrase "just meat" implies that there isn't much to it. In fact you can implement some incredibly cool things using "just meat". Intelligent life, for example.

    • Re:Hmm... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Scoria (264473)
      Actually, it's simple. There is no scientific evidence that would support Intelligent Design. Intelligent Design is not a valid scientific theory, as it is not even remotely predictable. It's also unlikely that one could validate Intelligent Design through observation.

      Meanwhile, the theory of evolution is supported by both strong scientific evidence and observation. It is also predictable.

      One is the product of science, and belongs in a science class. The other is not.
      • I think you mean predictive, not predictable.
      • It must be Friday- time for another flame war on ID vs Evolution.

        You can't pick Evolution over ID as a scientific theory based on the evidence or on the testible hypothesis or on falsifiable hypothesis- the two are completely equivalent on those criteria, because the evidence used is exactly the same evidence. "God did it" and "Random Chance did it" are both theological statements that are logically indistinguishable from one another.

        You claim that ID is not predictible- but since it predicts the exact s
        • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by gorzek (647352) <gorzek@gmail.AAAcom minus threevowels> on Friday December 23, 2005 @02:56PM (#14328116) Homepage Journal
          But ID and evolution are not equivalent. One *assumes* an Intelligent Designer. The other does not. That evolution doesn't *require* such a Designer doesn't mean one doesn't exist, only that the theory does not rely on one.

          Your argument actually collapses on itself, because you have essentially said ID does nothing but add a layer of complexity to evolution--a layer that is unnecessary, does not aid our understanding of the evolutionary process, and does not alter observational results.

          That is exactly why I oppose ID being taught as an "alternative" or "replacement" for evolution. It is not, it is simply an ill-conceived modification designed to inject monotheistic dogma into a realm where it has no place.
        • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by smooth wombat (796938) on Friday December 23, 2005 @03:22PM (#14328321) Homepage Journal
          You claim that ID is not predictible- but since it predicts the exact same outcomes that evolution does,

          Er, no it doesn't. ID makes no claim other than an unidentified supreme being started the ball rolling. However, ID doesn't even provide evidence to support that such a being exists. It starts by assuming a being does exist. That's not a prediction. That's a statement of fact unsupported by anything.

          Further, if one is to believe what ID supporters say, "Things look they were designed", then that is patently false. Just because something looks like it was designed does not mean it was. I submit for your viewing pleasure the underwater rocks of Bimini. [google.com]

          For decades people assumed that they were a road from a long ago civilization. However, once the rocks were tested they were found to be naturally occuring phenomenon.

          ID makes no testable predictions. Even the Discovery Institute, the driving force behind this farce, provides no evidence to support their claim. None. All they do is try to point out supposed flaws in evolution, flaws which are repeatedly answered and shown not to be true but they keep spouting the same lies in the hopes the public is too stupid to realize they're lying.

          In fact, you do the same thing. You keep saying there are flaws yet provide nothing to support your claim. That's not how the scientific method works. If you think your idea deserves attention you have to provide evidence to support your claim. To date no one, and I mean no one, has ever provided any evidence to support ID. They immediately turn around and say, "Well evolution doesn't provide evidence for 'X'" where X is whatever the flaw of the week is. Trying to poke holes in a current theory does not make your claim valid.

          ID isn't science. Get over it.

        • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Hiro Antagonist (310179) on Friday December 23, 2005 @03:35PM (#14328416) Journal
          Too bad your argument is a strawman.

          Evolution says nothing about the origin of life on Earth. It does provide for the possibility of abiogenesis, and there are many theories as to how this work, but they aren't part of evolutionary theory. Evolutionary theory simply tells us that organisms change (because their DNA changes) over time in response to their environment, and that the primary two mechanisms of this change are variation and natural selection.

          Thus, evolutionary theory *is* testable, even in a lab -- you can take a fast-breeding species like the common fruit fly, apply artifical selective pressures, and watch the allelle frequencies[1] shift in real time compared to control groups. Dog breeding is another example; humans use a the natural mechanisms of evolution, but add in their own constraints in the selection and variation departments.

          If you could prove, experimentally, that some other mechanism accounted for this; or even that it wasn't the combination of selection and variation that prompted observed shifts in allelle frequencies, then you would easily be able to disprove evolutionary theory as it currently stands, and would open up new realms in modern Biology.

          Intelligent Design, on the other hand, says absolutely nothing about any of this; instead, it makes a claim about the origin of life that is by definition unfalsifiable, as it is vacuously true. Beyond this, discussion of ID as science is moot, because falsifiability is a prerequisite for ANYTHING to be considered a scientific theory. Want to prove me wrong? Give me a test scenario where ID can be invalidated through experimental results; after all, I just gave you one for evolution.

          [1] For the non-genetically inclined reader:

          Allelles are, if you will, defined points on the strand of DNA. Each group of allelles governs a set of physical traits, and each group of allelles can be populated by different genes, giving rise to different traits. For example, a single allelle governs the RH factor of your blood, so depending on what gene gets stuck in that allelle, which is determined by your parents' genetics, you are either RH+ or RH-. Since these points are well-defined, and produce physically observable characteristics, it is relatively easy to see the genetic change in a population over time, and link that change back to changes in the way the allelles are populated.

          To the genetically inclined: I know this is a simplistic explanation, but I think it's adequate for the purpose of this post.
          • Re:Hmm... (Score:3, Insightful)

            by adisakp (705706)
            Thus, evolutionary theory *is* testable, even in a lab -- you can take a fast-breeding species like the common fruit fly, apply artifical selective pressures, and watch the allelle frequencies[1] shift in real time compared to control groups. Dog breeding is another example; humans use a the natural mechanisms of evolution, but add in their own constraints in the selection and variation departments.

            Dog breeding for specific traits is an example of Intelligent Design using evolution (specialization and va
            • Re:Hmm... (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Phroggy (441) *
              As a Christian who believes in the Biblical account of Creation, let me say that I admire your reasoning, and I generally agree with you.

              #1) The only currently scientifically observed "intelligent design" are the activities of human beings (breeding, genetic engineering),hardly GOD or supernatural beings

              Agreed - there doesn't currently seem to be anything scientifically observable that would necessitate the existence of a supernatural Creator - if we observe something we have no natural explanation for, tha
        • You claim that ID is not predictible- but since it predicts the exact same outcomes that evolution does, that would mean that evolution wasn't predictable either

          I don't think this is true or I did not understand your meaning. For example:
          • There are two kinds of whales: those with teeth, and those that strain microscopic food out of seawater with baleen. Some scientist using the theory of evolution predicted that a transitional whale must have once existed, which had both teeth and baleen. Such a fossil has
      • Re:Hmm... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by arvindn (542080)
        Quotes from the Dover court decision:

        For the reasons that follow, we conclude that the religious nature of ID [intelligent design] would be readily apparent to an objective observer, adult or child...

        The evidence at trial demonstrates that ID is nothing less than the progeny of creationism...

        ...we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents...

    • I would be inclined to agree with you. Science (the magazine) is making its stance known in the whole debacle (in case anyone didn't know already). To me the science article here [sciencemag.org] wasn't that convincing. Most of it was genetics anyways - one could argue genetics was the big breakthrough. (personally I'm a fan of runner up #2...)

      -everphilski-
    • FTA

      Colin Norman, news editor of Science, said the choice was based solely on the merits of the research, not the battle over intelligent design.

      I still agree with you, politically motivated, I wish they could have shown a little more tact and rather than putting up a headline such as "ID you suck, naner naner". I wish they would have been a little more specific to the study that received credit for the award.

  • by Homology (639438) on Friday December 23, 2005 @02:41PM (#14327999)
    I thought the mail client Evolution was named "Scientific Achievement", until I got past the headline...
  • Tacky, tacky (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Otter (3800) on Friday December 23, 2005 @02:48PM (#14328060) Journal
    Shoehorning a bunch of legitimately interesting work into "Evolution!" is just heavy-handed politicking, that cheapens both science and Science. What they don't seem to get is that the ID people have no long-term investment in science and don't care if they bring the whole thing down; scientists need to be careful about drawing the line between research and politics.

    And, hello -- how about the HapMap?

    • Re:Tacky, tacky (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DogDude (805747)
      I couldn't agree more. To even mention "Intelligent Design" or other such nonsense in a scientific discussion gives it credence that it doesn't deserve. "Intelligent Design" should be given the same amount of attention as the theory that the guy standing on the corner of my street has about aliens, slippers, and papayas: none.
    • Re:Tacky, tacky (Score:3, Informative)

      by phritz (623753)
      Did you even read the articles? I highly recommend them - very accessible and good reads. And, BTW, a third of the main 'evolution in action' article is dedicated to HapMap. They make an excellent case for how evolutionary science has had some really big discoveries this year. ID only gets mentioned once, in the weekly editorial. But with things like the comparison between the chimp and human genome and observations of speciation without geographical barriers, it's clear that this wasn't simply a political
  • by snarkh (118018)

    The announcement comes in the same week that a US court banned the teaching of intelligent design in classrooms.


    The court did not ban the teaching of the ID, it ruled that the teachers
    cannot be forced to do that.

  • FYI Charles Darwing wrote On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection in 1859.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Darwin [wikipedia.org]
  • by Douglas Simmons (628988) on Friday December 23, 2005 @03:10PM (#14328227) Homepage
    This is an instance of a decision being made over something that has nothing to do with politics intrinsicly based on politics. The same kind of thing happened in 1973 when homosexuality was removed from the American Psychological Association's big book of diseases [psychologynet.org]. This decision wasn't made because the members of the APA decided homosexuality suddenly did not meet the definition of diseases (which it did, as it is still in the book thinly-veiled under the name Gender Identity Disorder), rather the APA buckled under tremendous political pressure from an aggressive homosexual movement.

    Maybe that was a Good Thing, but should decisions like identifying the Best Scientific Achievement of a year and medical decisions of vast importance be something we leave open to the whims of politics? I realize that in this case there was no "buckling" from pressure but it apparently was intended to reflect political shifts of our time. Whatever the case, it just doesn't sit well with me.

    • by Alsee (515537)
      This is an instance of a decision being made over something that has nothing to do with politics intrinsicly based on politics.

      Nonsense. They are simply recognizing the huge amount of recent work that has immensly increased our understanding of evolution and its mechanisms. You'd be right if they were mearly recognizing the staggering quantity of raw evidence in support of evolution that has accumulated recently, as the quantity was already overwhelming, and is about as signifigant as more evidence in suppo
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 23, 2005 @03:17PM (#14328278)
    As a liberal Christian, I have a certain passionate hatred for creationism. I despise creationism because it makes Christians look like a bunch of narrow-minded idiots. For example, I was reading in a Christian newspaper an article about the ICR [icr.org], which stated the earth was young, and cited four reasons for this. All four reasons [1] have been long-since refuted over at Talkorigins.org [talkorigins.org] or the Evolution Wiki [evowiki.org]. I was able to refute three of the four points off of the top of my head.

    I have seen creationist after creationist come to this Creation-Evolution debate board [christianforums.com] I lurk on, tell us the Earth must be young because of XXX and that we are all wrong. Once we present to them some scientific evidence that the Earth is old, they get real quiet real fast.

    Basically, believing in an old Earth is only possible when a creationist is in a serious state of denial. Case in point: The only people who believe in a young Earth have a religious reason for doing so. Many Christians believe in an old Earth; not one atheist believes in a young Earth.

    [1] The original offending article can be seen here [goodnewsetc.com]. The refutations can be found here [lhup.edu] (just because you can come up with one case where we got different dates doesn't mean the 99+% of cases where we get the same age via different techniques is invalid) here [talkorigins.org], here [evowiki.org], and here [talkorigins.org] (the refutation is for creationist claims for c14 levels in coals, but the process in question can make diamonds have c14 atoms also).
  • by whitehatlurker (867714) on Friday December 23, 2005 @03:49PM (#14328510) Journal
    I wonder how "Evolution" feels about the award - 4 billion years [eurekalert.org] of hard work, and now it gets recognition.

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