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Correcting Misperceptions About Evolution 838

Posted by samzenpus
from the lost-cause dept.
Beagle writes "The science of evolution is often misunderstood by the public and a session at the recent AAAS meeting in Boston covered three frequently misapprehended topics in evolutionary history, the Cambrian explosion, origin of tetrapods, and evolution of human ancestors, as well as the origin of life. The final speaker, Martin Storksdieck of the Institute for Learning Innovation, covered how to communicate the data to a public that 'has such a hard time accepting what science is discovering.' His view: 'while most of the attention has focused on childhood education, we really should be going after the parents. Everyone is a lifelong learner, Storksdieck said, but once people leave school, that learning becomes a voluntary matter that's largely driven by individual taste.'"
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Correcting Misperceptions About Evolution

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  • Origin of life ?! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bytesex (112972) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @02:18AM (#22584846) Homepage
    Is the origin of life really a part of the theory of evolution ? I thought it was the origin of species. The origin of life, to me, seems more like a discrete (soapy, fatty) chemical process that doesn't have a lot in common with the process of evolution. Why convolute the two ?
  • by MacDork (560499) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @02:21AM (#22584872) Journal

    Everyone is a lifelong learner, Storksdieck said, but once people leave school, that learning becomes a voluntary matter that's largely driven by individual taste.

    Some people aren't learning.... They simply take whatever their political party happens to push and parrot it. Take intelligent design or global warming for instance.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 28, 2008 @02:21AM (#22584874)
    So I guess its a good thing that it doesn't say that in the summary then.
  • by sethawoolley (1005201) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @02:38AM (#22584982) Homepage

    Everyone is a lifelong learner, Storksdieck said, but once people leave school, that learning becomes a voluntary matter that's largely driven by individual taste.

    Some people aren't learning.... They simply take whatever their political party happens to push and parrot it. Take intelligent design or global warming for instance.

    Except in the case of global warming, where the scientific climatologist community has a consensus as strong as evolutionary theory is to the scientific biological community.

    Considering that the anti-global-warming campaign is a purely political and corporate-interest maneuver, looks like you're going to have to eat your own words.

    That's too bad, because you almost had a point.
  • by ilikepi314 (1217898) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @02:51AM (#22585050)
    Seriously. I went to a lecture series on evolution, and was rather disappointed upon leaving.

    The speakers spent most of their time discussing why Intelligent Design is wrong, and getting into semi-religion-bashing. I heard nothing about any of the things that the summary to this article mentions, for instance, which was actually something I wanted to know more about. I'm not very familiar with all of the specific evidence myself (I'm not a biologist).

    Now look -- as a scientist, I can completely respect and agree with the fact that ID is not science, for a multitude of reasons. But look at it from the point of view of someone "new" to science that was curious -- they showed up to an event, hoping to learn more about what evolution is and understand the "debate", and all they heard was how Creationism is wrong and how we need to fight religious groups and educate the people about the truth. "Educate with what?", that person will ask. "They haven't given any proof yet, and just seem to talk about how much they hate religion when they get together.". THAT is what the average person sees, and it doesn't really make scientists look good, and gives ammunition to the people that spread misinformation about evolution. Will that person ever go back to an evolution talk in order for us to clear up misconceptions? Probably not; forever, that person will now think "Wow, Evolutionists are crazy, I'm not going to that again.".

    There's other issues of course, but the public image of an evolution scientist right now needs to be cleaned up before many will even bother to listen.
  • by syousef (465911) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @02:58AM (#22585096) Journal
    Three reasons:

    - No, not everyone is a lifelong learner. That's the ideal not the reality. Just look at how hard it is for some older people to pick up computers after 40.

    - The religion that's indoctrinated them has done so since birth. You're going to ear bash them for an hour or two and expect them to change their lifelong beliefs? You'll only create resentment.

    - You have a much better chance at reaching the parents through the children. However if you only reach the children, it simply won't be an issue in 40 years.

    Limit going after the parents to insisting that science is taught in science classes and religion is not.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 28, 2008 @03:00AM (#22585110)
    ID is controversial because of the implications of its evidence, rather than the significant weight of its evidence. ID proponents believe science should be conducted objectively, without regard to the implications of its findings. This is particularly necessary in origins science because of its historical (and thus very subjective) nature, and because it is a science that unavoidably impacts religion.
  • Pluto (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PMuse (320639) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @03:05AM (#22585130)
    Getting people to change their opinions, beliefs, or conclusions is just difficult all over. For example, a group of smart -- really smart (I mean two-plus-standard-deviations-out-of-the-global-mean and scientifically-trained smart) -- people recently debated [wikipedia.org] how to define a planet.

    They and their fathers had grown up thinking that Pluto was a planet because of mankind's relative inexperience at astronomy. Recently, mankind learned facts [wikipedia.org] that required rethinking of what "planet" meant so that when the term was used, everyone knew what it did and didn't mean.

    Remember how easy and sensible that debate was? When it was "over", the definition had as many footnotes [wikipedia.org] as principles.

    And those were scientists. Heaven help us when we have to reteach anything to the general public.
  • by MacDork (560499) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @03:12AM (#22585172) Journal

    Some people aren't learning.... They simply take whatever their political party happens to push and parrot it. Take intelligent design or global warming for instance.

    Except in the case of global warming, where the scientific climatologist community has a consensus as strong as evolutionary theory is to the scientific biological community.

    Considering that the anti-global-warming campaign is a purely political and corporate-interest maneuver, looks like you're going to have to eat your own words.

    That's too bad, because you almost had a point.

    Actually, it appears you just made my point for me... (^_^)

  • by sethawoolley (1005201) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @03:26AM (#22585252) Homepage

    Actually, it appears you just made my point for me... (^_^)

    Circular reasoning. Try to to address the facts next time.
  • by someone1234 (830754) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @03:37AM (#22585304)
    Try to learn more. When i learned about evolution, i heard nothing about intelligent design (neither pro nor contra).
    It isn't the scientists fault that ID reared its head in the USA and they got to 'defend' their theory.
  • by HazyRigby (992421) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @03:51AM (#22585388)

    The problem, IMO, is that some people see it as an us-them situation.

    Actually, it is an us-versus-them situation.

    On the one hand, you have people who believe that everything--laws, beliefs, what have you--should be based on logic and reason. On the other hand, you have folks who, while not necessarily opposed to logic or denying its usefulness, decree that sometimes the decisions should be placed in the hands of a (by all descriptions) wishy-washy, temperamental, and angry deity. A deity who may or may not have our best interests at heart, mind you.

    I find these two world views to be at odds. I'm not suggesting that you personally are one of the "legislate religion" crowd. But they certainly do exist, especially in the States. How do you argue with a line of reasoning that stops at "God says so"? You can't. That's why I find the idea of trying to educate the public (at least, the 75 percent or so of the public who happen to be religious) about evolution almost laughable. What point is there in explaining that natural selection is about as non-random as you can get to a person who believes that only sentience creates order? Why would you try to get across the idea of common descent to someone who insists upon believing that snakes can talk, that a man housed every species of animal on one boat, or that a dead man came back to life to appease his father (who was also himself)?

    I'm sorry in that I don't mean to insult you (or anyone else). But I just simply don't see the point in trying to get the holy rollers to grasp scientific concepts. Will it make them less likely to try to legislate against scientific progress? I doubt it.
  • by Black Parrot (19622) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @04:04AM (#22585440)

    The article does actually detail that Darwin's theory of evolution doesn't cover the origin of life.
    What's interesting is that the fact that evolution is happening doesn't depend on whether the first life forms were created by abiogenesis, aliens, or even God.
  • by tempest69 (572798) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @04:04AM (#22585442) Journal
    The initial concept was that man was able to change the traits of livestock and pets through selective breeding, or manual selection.. and that the forces of nature may be doing the same, creating multiple species of iguana, as we do dogs.

    This has some big consequences.. that recursion would mean that whatever was a common ancestor would need a common ancestor,, all the way down. and perhaps plants and animals are fundamentally different arising from different organisms, and a few trunks might appear for bugs, fungus, and bacteria..

    By choosing traits carefully, a phylogeny was developed, which related animals to each-other.. strangely this worked really well.

    Anyway, evolution predicts that there is a tree structure, and that endpoints dont cross over.. so mammals dont get 4 chambered lungs like birds, but might still have some egg laying abilities like reptiles. Not should we see the octopus eye structure in humans. or bug armor on birds. Armadillos will have armor from keratin like a rhino horn, or fingernails.

    Anyway, once molecular biology and sequencing came out, it solidly backed the theory.. Phylogeny people have been re-mapping the tree, bacteria took some serious adjustment, larger organism less so.

    Now there is a push to generate "ancestral genomes" so that we have an idea of what the predecessor organisms were capable of... and where some of the novel enzymes popped into being. So enzymes which appear to be adaptation from our last ice age might be related in some way to survival of the cold, or eating rodents without GI distress. But with some timing, and some idea of the climate, the flora, and fauna some good guesses can be made as to why a subtle change might have happened.

    So evolution theory may help in figuring out why humans stopped making vitamin C, and rats never need a vitamin C pill or fruit in their lifetime.

    Or it can confirm things that we might already have guessed.. that humans make less stomach acid during pregnancy might be an evolutionary adaption to morning sickness.. because most pregnant women don't seem to have chronic bulimia problems, ie rotten teeth, esophagus ulcers, which would occur at higher acid concentrations. anyway, once they find the control mechanism I'm betting that it'll point to roughly the time when we started bipedalism.

    Yes evolution is science, it does matter, knowing the history of automobiles lets us understand why tempered glass isnt appropriate for a windshield. Knowing the path that our ancestors evolved with lets us know what we should watch out for when we start tinkering.

    Storm Storm

  • Re: Pluto (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Black Parrot (19622) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @04:10AM (#22585468)

    Getting people to change their opinions, beliefs, or conclusions is just difficult all over.
    To a big extent it's a Catch-22 situation. The vast majority of anti-evolution arguments are based on misconceptions of what the facts are and/or what the theory says. But you can't educate the deniers on these matters, because they believe those flawed arguments prove the whole thing is wrong, and won't listen long enough to be corrected. (And try to prevent the next generation from listening, too.)
  • by Black Parrot (19622) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @04:23AM (#22585532)

    The speakers spent most of their time discussing why Intelligent Design is wrong, and getting into semi-religion-bashing.
    Unfortunately, science his come under a concerted religious/political attack, and scientists can't just sit back and ignore it anymore.

    (Not that that invalidates your points. Scientists need to find a middle ground.)
  • A modest proposal (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FarHat (96381) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @04:28AM (#22585566)
    I suggest that we make a rule that if you do not believe in evolution you cannot be prescribed any of the newer antibiotics in case you get a bacterial illness since the earlier ones should be just as effective. If creationists are right, they will save some money, and if they are wrong we will exert a gentle evolutionary force toward people with better critical thinking skills.
  • by ResidntGeek (772730) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @04:33AM (#22585584) Journal

    Obviously, certain parts of creation support certain parts of evolution, the problems are where one attempt to discredit the other.
    No, the problems are where anyone thinks creation reflects reality in any way. Evolution doesn't prove creation and genesis aren't true; basic geology, cosmology, biology, and physics all do.
  • by LaskoVortex (1153471) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @04:34AM (#22585586)

    Also see Ann Gibbons, "Calibrating the Mitochondrial Clock," Science, Vol. 297, 2 January 1998, p. 29 for evidence that our common female ancestor lived approximately 6500 years ago. I'm not making this stuff up; the sources cited are evolutionists.

    First, you really should link to the articles in question, as that would be the polite thing to do: Cann [nature.com] | Gibbons [sciencemag.org] (pdf [dnai.org]).

    Second, it is obvious that you have chosen a belief system and grasp at any evidence to support it, blatantly disregarding all other evidence. A google of those papers make them look to be two "classics" that creationists refer to again and again. The youngest is over 10 years old. Where are the more recent Science/Nature papers that confirm the conclusions of these papers? They don't exist.

    Here is an acid test for good research: Does it stand the test of time? Is the field explosive in the scientific field 10 years later? Some examples of paradigm shifting fields are stem cells, apoptosis, and RNA catalysis. The papers you cite do not measure up to these standards and so are highly suspect. Good science gets confirmed by other scientists and not by conjecture or preachers who thumpin bibles. Where are the papers confirming the 6500 year old mitochondrial clock or have recent advances shown problems with the previous model? Do the research yourself if you are objective like you think you are--or you can remain blinded by your belief system. But if you wish to remain blinded by your belief system, don't burden others with your belief system like you are doing here.

    When uninformed people have opinions on science that smell of belief and bias, my suggestion to them is to go spend five to seven years to get a PhD in a field of natural science. Don't cop-out and pick some religious school where you end up with a thesis full of bible quotes. Find a real state-run university without any allegiance to any religion. Do actual research out in the field (dig bones, sequence DNA, dissect plants, count the strata of geological formations, etc.), synthesize the data and write your thesis on what you have discovered. Don't lie and make up data to support your belief system! Even [insert your favorite religious prophet or diety here] wouldn't do that, right? Integrate the comments of your committee and defend your thesis in front of them. Once you have your PhD from the accredited state-run university without any religious affiliation, come back and examine your belief system from the perspective of a trained scientist. Until then, you are simply fooling yourself, discrediting the members of your faith, and annoying the knowledgeable.

  • by nametaken (610866) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @04:54AM (#22585690)
    I see where you're confused. Not all religious people are creationists, and not all scientists are atheists. The vast swath in between actually represents the majority. Religion and science need not be mutually exclusive pursuits in a person. Be upset about attempts to pervert science in school, that's fine, and let them be upset about douchebags who insist that going to church on Sunday makes you incapable of contributing to science. Both are equally retarded.
  • by snowful (1231472) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @05:21AM (#22585800)
    It's a fact that the earth is generally spherical in shape. We can measure it. The Theory of Evolution is still a theory because, by definition, it has yet to be proven by any method.

    I wonder, how many of your professors have presented theories as fact?

    That, to me, is a scary thought. If all scientists believed theory to be fact, which would be dogmatic, there would be no more need at attempts in disproving theory. I believe that would make the scientific establishment's principles akin to the Catholic Church.

  • No More Obligation (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jekler (626699) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @05:22AM (#22585806)
    I previously felt an obligation to inform the misinformed about a variety of topics. I've decided that the average person cannot be informed, they outright reject facts, evidence, and are almost incapable of critical thought. How the hell are you supposed to inform someone who rebuts with "yes, but the bible says..." or they start telling you about how they feel or what they "believe", when you thought you were discussing facts.

    I became disenchanted over the last 8 years or so, as we were able to watch videos side-by-side of a politician stating "I stabbed a dog in the heart." and then a second video stating "I've never stabbed a dog." and then some member of the public is questioned about what they saw and they don't even recognize that conflicting statements were made. Then an "expert" begins discussing the two statements and is somehow able to reconcile completely contradictory statements into a seamless truth. It's like we're not observing the same reality. Of course since reality is a mental construct, it's true in some respect that we're not observing the same reality. And if we're not even in the same reality, how the hell can I possibly inform them of the laws and theories that govern the reality I'm in? I live in a world with gravity, evolution, electro-magnetism, chemical reactions, thermodynamics... they live in a world of magic, "truth", and gravity pulls down because that's how it feels today, and universes that pop-up out of nowhere because we live in a world designed like a video game.

    And what's so weird is that I'm not even a skeptic. I like to believe I'm pretty open-minded. If any of my knowledge comes into question, I'm ready at the drop of a hat to re-examine things and see where I stand.

    I guess I'm at the point now where I don't care if people like Bush ever acquire something approaching intellect. They can stay stupid for the rest of their stupid lives.
  • by Alsee (515537) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @05:37AM (#22585908) Homepage
    why would we need to push this on everyone outside the context of science?

    Why would we need to push "earth orbits the sun" on everyone outside the context of science? Science touches upon every area of our lives, and we are generally screwed if we don't have a population with a reasonable basic general education. A basic overview of biology needs to be covered in highschool just as much as a basic overview of chemistry does. Biology without evolution makes as much sense as chemistry without the periodic table of elements.

    Going on to college to get an education as a doctor, or countless other professions, pretty well first requires a foundation learning elements and evolution and more.

    There is something seriously wrong if a medical school has to teach fractions and other remedial math. There is something seriously wrong if a medical school has to teach atoms and other remedial chemistry. There is something seriously wrong if a medical school has to teach the evolutionary tree and other remedial biology.

    And even then, they don't need to discount other accountings

    What do you mean "discount other accountings"?

    Do you mean like "discounting" the sun going around a motionless earth accounting of the solar system? And "discounting" the four element earth-air-fire-water chemistry accounting of chemistry?

    If that is what you mean, then yeah, the general public rather should have enough general education to be aware that such "accountings" have been completely discounted.

    -
  • by meringuoid (568297) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @05:57AM (#22586024)
    When you allow for more than 24 hours to happen in one of God's days, the only thing that comes up against the face of modern science is that the birds came before the dinosaurs.

    That, and the plants on Earth before the creation of the Sun.

  • by CrazyJim1 (809850) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @06:08AM (#22586084) Journal
    That, and the plants on Earth before the creation of the Sun. Light was in existence before the sun.
  • Define "Alive" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 28, 2008 @06:17AM (#22586122)
    There are self-replicating objects that do not seem to be alive, but they do grow and expand to fill their niche.

    That's the problem with abiogenesis: we need to define what counts as alive before we can say what started life.

    Mind you, that's a problem religions avoid quite assiduously too: where does the soul get put in? Too early and the infant dies with a soul (natural termination). Too late and we have premature babies without a soul. So where does "life" begin? Why do humans get one but not Apes? How different from a human does a human have to be before it doesn't get a soul? E.g. did "Lucy" have a soul?

    PS your PZ Meyers quote means nothing. It just states a position and doesn't actually bring anything to the table.

    Abiogenesis is chemistry, correct. But chemistry doesn't define what "life" or "alive" is. And that definition IS what Abiogenesis is. As I said, we already have self-organised non alive collections that exhibit many of the characteristics of life. We have a line which is "definitely alive" and a line that is "definitely not alive" but these lines DO NOT MEET.

    Abiogenesis is how to bridge the gap between to show how "Not alive" and "alive" are part of a spectrum and something "not alive" can gain the characteristics we assign to the "alive" side. If we never find how that happens, maybe THAT is the "irreducible complexity". But the IDers aren't looking for it. They take on faith that anything they don't understand NOW is irreducibly complex. And that isn't how to learn. It's just dogma.

    Does PZ Meyers' discourse help in that goal?
  • by Doug Neal (195160) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @06:38AM (#22586232)

    When people tout theory as fact, yes, they are dogmatic in the same way as evangelicals.
    Look up what "theory" means in a scientific context. It doesn't mean what you're using it to mean, which is more like "hypothesis". Evolution is not a hypothesis.

    One can't help but wonder how much of the (undue) credibility that "evolution deniers" are given is down to this simple difference in semantics...
  • by smilindog2000 (907665) <bill@billrocks.org> on Thursday February 28, 2008 @06:45AM (#22586264) Homepage
    The process of evolution is a highly confirmed theory, to the point that most of us just go ahead and refer to it as a fact. To say it's only a theory at this point requires an esoteric discussion of the definition of theory vs fact, and the only rational people I know who have any lingering doubts about it are deeply religious and take the Bible quite literally.

    However, exactly what happened in the past, and when, gets murkier as we go back in time. By the time we get to the actual origin of the self-replicating life form from which we all evolved, we have very little insight. Some scientists even suspect that Earth's initial life form may have come from an asteroid, and evolved initially outside the Solar System. Others, more religious than me, suspect God had a hand in it, and I have trouble rationally arguing against that theory.

    I think it's best to focus on more recent evolution in discussions with less educated parents, and those who purposely avoid learning about it. I find few people who believe God made the Earth in seven days have any clue how massive the body of evidence for evolution is. To respect their point of view, I generally concede that a "day" could have been a very long time back then, or perhaps God has reasons for trying to fool us. We don't even need to settle the "fact" vs "theory" dispute. Simply educating people about why we believe evolution is happening would be a great step forward. Arguing about what happened billions of years ago to create life in the first place just gives fud-slingers an opening to refute the entire body of evidence for evolution.
  • by jandersen (462034) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @06:45AM (#22586270)
    The theory of evolution is a theory that offers an explanation of how the observed fact of evolution has happened. This is like gravity: we have known its existence for thousands of years, but Newton created a theory of gravity, and Einstein improved on it. But the proposed mechanisms of evolution are not limited in scope to living organisms, they are just as valid for non-living chemistry, and perhaps it is artificial to distinguish sharply between life and dead matter.

    Apart from that, the origin of life is in itself a highly interesting subject, well worth a closer study.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 28, 2008 @06:57AM (#22586336)

    fact that you can't breed a cat from dogs no matter how many cat like features you breed into the dogs.


    This observation actually supports evolution theory.

    The theory of evolution is basically this: (1) There is basic inheritance of characteristics from parent to offspring (later on, the discovery of DNA supported that). (2) Despite inheritance, there is still variation between individuals in inherited characteristics, even amongst siblings born of the same two parents. (3) Some individuals survive to breed, others do not. (4) Characteristics that are passed on to the next generation are the characteristics of individuals that have managed to survive to the point of being able to breed. (5) The fittest individuals in any given generation of any given population are the ones that in general tend to survive to the point of being able to breed.

    These points are all basically observed, tested facts. That is it ... that is all there is to it, really.

    "Fittest" means "fit for the environment". There are many different types of environment, so what is "fit" for one species might well be fatal for another. That means that birds, for example, don't tend to survive to breed if they have heavy bone structure ... but bears might.

    As for your point about dogs and cats ... evolution agrees with you. You don't get cats born of dog parents ... you get cats. Cats that look mostly like their parent cats. Mostly, but not entirely ... and not like just the mother cat or the father cat but a sort of meld or merger of the two.

    What evolution says is that at some time, a long, long time ago, there was a type of species (not a dog or a cat, but something four-legged, with fur, and claws, etc, etc) that "split" into two slightly variant groups. Over time, down through the thousands and thousands of generations since, the two groups gradually became more and more different until today they are dogs and cats.

    The theory of evolution doesn't say that you can breed a cat from dogs. It says instead that you can, over the course of thousands of generations through countless small changes, breed both dogs and cats from the same pre-historic common ancestor animal.

    BTW: - when you argue against something, you should argue against what it actually says, and not what you thought it said.
  • by aproposofwhat (1019098) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @07:06AM (#22586358)

    If you want the most basic tip of all, read the New Testament first.

    Tip 2 - completely ignore the Old Testament, as it's mythical nonsense.

    Tip 3 - stick to the Gospels - Paul was an authoritarian prick and should be discounted by anyone with common sense.

    Tip 4 - don't take any of it literally, especially not in translation.

    Tip 5 - you can come to the same moral conclusions on strictly utilitarian grounds, so gods aren't strictly necessary.

  • by notrandomly (1242142) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @07:32AM (#22586456)

    If I am wrong, it is because I am the victim of bad science, not because I am grasping at any evidence to support my belief system.
    If that is so, then why do you make claims that are factually incorrect [talkorigins.org]?

    The problem with the books on evolution I have read is that they assume evolution is true, and then fit the pieces into that assumption. This is different from books on the other branches of science, which start with the basic experiments, and then introduce the theory to explain them.
    No, this is exactly how science works. You do the ground work. The research. You figure out the basics, and then you build upon that. When a geologist does his research he builds upon existing and peer-reviewed research that has been shown to be supported by all known facts. Evolution is exactly the same as any other scientific field. The difference is in your head. It is wishful thinking on your part.

    For example, any description of relativity begins with important observed facts, like the null result of the Mitchelson-Morley experiment or the reduced rate of decay of particles traveling at relativistic velocities. Only then do they introduce the theory to explain those facts. Every explanation of evolution I have read basically says, "We evolved from lower live forms, and here is how the facts fit into that assumption," which is exactly the opposite approach.
    What about a description of the theory of gravity? Does that always begin with important observed facts? What about the theory of electricity? Does that always begin with important observed facts?

    I get the feeling that you are being intentionally dishonest. You use anecdotal evidence to "prove" that evolution is somehow different than other fields in science, but this is not the case at all, as anyone even remotely familiar with science would know.

    Whether fact or theory is mentioned first, that does not change the way the facts support the theory. Even if it was true what you claim, that evolution is presented differently from relativity (but not from gravity or electricity), this is merely a red herring, because the facts don't become more or less supporting of the theory in question depending on whether they are mentioned before or after. Again a sign that you are grasping for straws. That you have definitely made up your mind already and are only looking to reinforce your own beliefs.

    If this had not been the case, you would have looked up the four false claims you made in your other post, and taken the actual facts into account. You did not, so you are either not willing to actually check the claims that you have found on creationist sites, or you are aware that what you posted had already been refuted, which means that you are being intentionally dishonest.

    I cited four examples for creation evidence off the top of my head, but I have read hundreds more.
    Well, all your four examples were refuted. My guess is that your "hundreds more" would be as well. We've seen them all before, and they are spreading because people desperately want them to be true. But unfortunately for creationists, they are not. They are factually incorrect, based on quotes out of context, misunderstandings, straw men, etc.

    If you would like to educate yourself, go through your list of "hundreds more" examples, and look them up in this index of creationist claims [talkorigins.org].

  • by ricegf (1059658) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @07:32AM (#22586458) Journal

    The process of evolution is a highly confirmed theory

    Actually, if your goal is to convince parents to allow evolution to be taught to their children, this isn't the best point to make. How about, "The process of evolution is a highly useful theory" instead? Even if God created the world 6,000 years ago exactly as it was 6,000 years ago, and let evolutionary processes take it from there, would it really matter? Evolutionary science would still be just as useful in understanding life - well, whatever life is...

    Just $0.02 from a real, live evangelical Christian in the wild... ;-)

  • by Alsee (515537) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @07:35AM (#22586470) Homepage
    This is a bold and (imho) arrogant statement considering that the origin of species and the origin of life are both fields of forensic science.

    It is no more "bold" or "arrogant" than an investigator going to a car wreck and stating "The car was going well over 100 MPH, period".

    nobody here was at the scene and all that remains is some artifacts that we can investigate.

    Correct.
    Correct, and humans evolved, period.
    Correct, and yhe car was going well over 100 MPH, period.

    Each and every day we convict people "Beyond Any Reasonable Doubt" in a court of law, based upon forensic science.

    Yes, forensic science can and does provide "Beyond Any Reasonable Doubt" answers about the past. And actually evolution level of proof goes way beyond any courtroom case. Maybe a few dozen police and prosecutors spend maybe a few months on a few slim pieces of evidencejust enough to get a conviction, and quit. On the other hand hundreds of thousands of scientists and other experts have spend over a hundred years examining a planet-sized-crimescene with near infinite evidence and endless tests.

    And just DNA evidence is an irrefutable slam dunk in a rape case, the entire planet of DNA evidence is an irrefutable slam dunk for evolution.

    watched many documenataries where evolutionary thought is force fed.

    I have no idea what you were taught, but I do know that most highschools are doing an absolutely abysmal job teaching the subject. Many schools fail to cover it at all, and those that do cover it often do a rotten job teaching what evolution actually says, and even when schools do accurately teach what evolution says they generally fail to present the evidence irrefutably backing it up.

    Many of the facts and arguments for creationism are dismissed outright, without investigating the evidence.

    Oh come on. Well over a hundred years and hundreds of thousands of people.... you seriously imagine there is ANY such evidence that HASN'T been investigated to death and properly rejected?

    Highschools don't spend any time on it just as they don't spend any time "investigating the evidence" four-element earth-air-fire-water chemistry. Because scientists already investigated it. Highschools teach supported science, they don't teach ideas that have been investigated and proven false.

    Having said that, how many of you have read the bible?

    Hmmm, lets see.... we're I assume we're talking United States here... where the ballpark of 100% of the population are Christian...
    Are you seriously suggesting that anything less than the overwhelming majority of a half million or so earth and life scientists have read the Bible?

    Come on, that is obviously silly. Of course they have.

    The public realm ridicules creationism because the general thought is that it is out-moded.

    Yes, along with the idea of the sun going around a motionless earth.

    Some people took the Bible and said Galileo was wrong and that his solar system contradicted the bible and that his solar system was an attack to deny God.

    Some people took the Bible and said Darwin was wrong and that his evolution contradicted the bible and that his evolution was an attack to deny God.

    Exact same thing. People closing their eyes and closing their minds and closing their hearts, and presuming to tell God how He is and is not permitted to run His universe.

    Genesis is Hebrew Old Testament. It was written in poetry and symbolism. Yes, poetry. The poetry of the language was lost when it was translated out of Hebrew. And now some people are trying to take it as a literal science textbook and trying to produce scientific implications out of symbolic poetry. And surprise surprise, those implications have been scientifically tested and demonstrated incorrect.

    After all, there is a large resistance to the Galileo solar system, mainly from creationists but also from others. Even though it i
  • by skiman1979 (725635) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @08:14AM (#22586658)
    As a Christian, the way I see it, why can't evolution be the process that God has used (and is still using) to create the universe? The Bible says that God created the world in 7 days (rested on the 7th), but does not define what a day is. A day to an eternal diety could be billions of years. The Bible also does not go into details of how he created things. If I remember correctly, it simply says that he 'said let there be and there was and he saw that it was good.' Evolution could just be what happened behind the scenes. The Bible also refers to creating the "heavens and the earth". It seems a bit confusing there. Is "earth" the 3rd planet from the sun in this solar system in the milky way galaxy, or is "earth" simply planets? God created a firmament between "the waters", and called the firmament Heaven, and then he created land in the waters below Heaven to separate the waters into seas. To me, that sounds like he created our planet Earth, and Heaven is all of the stuff outside Earth (the universe?). So what about the waters above the firmament (Heaven)?
  • by Snorklefish (639711) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @08:19AM (#22586678)
    Would it matter? Absolutely. Evolution works on far grander time scales. Few are the species that have emerged over the course of 10,000 years. The climb from the ooze to land too hundreds of millions of years. The rise of the mammals, the emergence of primates, the appearance of immediate human predecessors - none could have occurred via evolution if you constrain the world to 6,000 years old. Changes would occur, but not the glorious diversity of life as we know it.
  • by msuarezalvarez (667058) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @08:24AM (#22586700)

    Everything that's replacated in labs is real, but not everything that is real can be replicated in labs, at least without an unbounded supply of luck, patience, time, and resources.

  • by sumdumass (711423) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @08:48AM (#22586852) Journal

    Why would we need to push "earth orbits the sun" on everyone outside the context of science? Science touches upon every area of our lives, and we are generally screwed if we don't have a population with a reasonable basic general education. A basic overview of biology needs to be covered in highschool just as much as a basic overview of chemistry does. Biology without evolution makes as much sense as chemistry without the periodic table of elements.
    First, I don't think I ever mentioned taking them out of school or not teaching any of it. But evolution in the sense of that's what science uses instead of some ultimate truth would suffice just as well and not have the conflicts it does today.

    here is something seriously wrong if a medical school has to teach fractions and other remedial math. There is something seriously wrong if a medical school has to teach atoms and other remedial chemistry. There is something seriously wrong if a medical school has to teach the evolutionary tree and other remedial biology.
    Where are you going with this? I don't remember ever saying don't teach it. I said don't force it outside the scope of science as some ultimate truth that disproves everyone else's belief systems. That isn't a hard concept is it?

    What do you mean "discount other accountings"?

    Do you mean like "discounting" the sun going around a motionless earth accounting of the solar system? And "discounting" the four element earth-air-fire-water chemistry accounting of chemistry?

    If that is what you mean, then yeah, the general public rather should have enough general education to be aware that such "accountings" have been completely discounted.
    I mean it exactly as it appears. We where talking about evolution in conflict with creation. The vast majority of people will never, ever use the idea of evolution in the parts in conflict with creation in their daily lives. It would only be the people who go into a field who need to know this or people who are somehow subjecting themselves to it. Teaching evolution outside of science says this isn't important to them. As long as the student, person, whoever knows that they use this approach in science, then where is the problem for these people who will never need to know it?

    There is little to no need to make the claim that evolution disproves creation or shows that some religious belief is wrong. Especially in the minority of parts that conflict in this. If someone says in class, my preacher says X, just tell them that in science they do Y. It would be no different the saying in spanish water is called agua. When they speak spanish or do science, they use agua and evolution. When they do whatever else they want, they do whatever else they want.
  • by Kjella (173770) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @08:50AM (#22586860) Homepage

    No, the problems are where anyone thinks creation reflects reality in any way. Evolution doesn't prove creation and genesis aren't true; basic geology, cosmology, biology, and physics all do.
    Amen (sic) to that. To take genesis literally, you have to deny the existance of summer and winter as we have yearly tree rings and glacier layers dating further back than 6000 years. The only way to take it as truth is to take the world as a complete fraud, all of it. Certainly an almighty being could do that, but then I'd feel more like I was in some teenager's ant farm than under the protection of some loving divine.
  • by david_thornley (598059) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @09:13AM (#22587004)

    Actually, the Genesis account of evolution isn't all that bad if you figure it was an attempt at describing it to people who knew no astronomy beyond the observational, approximately no chemistry, no biology beyond agriculture, no large numbers,and various other lacks in what is considered a modern scientific education. Sure, you have to be flexible on what a "day" means, and you have to figure that "God created" describes a large variety of techniques, but it has the great virtue that it isn't necessary to teach several years of biology and physics and astrophysics and math at least up to partial differential equations and tensors before getting to the stuff about God and morals.

  • by Knuckles (8964) <knuckles@nOsPaM.dantian.org> on Thursday February 28, 2008 @09:17AM (#22587022)
    Yeah, I am aware that hard-core materialists postulate this. Until this concept has proven itself by creating life from non-life in the lab, I would be a bit more cautious with the judgment that there really isn't anything more to it.
  • by fireboy1919 (257783) <rustyp@@@freeshell...org> on Thursday February 28, 2008 @09:22AM (#22587052) Homepage Journal
    To take genesis literally, you have to deny the existance of summer and winter as we have yearly tree rings and glacier layers dating further back than 6000 years.

    Genesis has no mention of an origin date. So you could still take it literally.

    The only way to take it as truth is to take the world as a complete fraud, all of it. Certainly an almighty being could do that, but then I'd feel more like I was in some teenager's ant farm than under the protection of some loving divine.

    I think that this [cowtown.net] addresses your comment quite nicely. In the original language Genesis is written in a style halfway between poetry and prose...kind of like the Odyssey. It is easier to tell what to take literally, and what to consider metaphor in the original.

    A lot of scholars believe that Genesis doesn't really make many extremely bold claims about the origins of life beyond the fact that God created the world and that there is an order in which he did it moving from the simple to the complex.

    If you have to engage in bigotry that really is very cutting, that would be a better place for you to start. I understand what you were going with, though. Bigots traditionally start from a position of ignorance and the start making wild claims to defame those they wish to accuse, and you wouldn't want to break tradition.

    Of course, you might find out that other people actually have valid points of view, which I'm sure will be disturbing for your faith, but I bet you can manage. Plenty of Christians pull their heads out of the sand and learn about the world around them, and they seem to be okay after that.
  • by ricegf (1059658) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @09:26AM (#22587082) Journal

    You missed a rather large point (God could create diversity, too), but forget that for the moment. Focus on the main point for a moment, and try to empathize.

    If your goal is to convince parents that their children need to understand evolutionary theory, is it better to say, "Your most deeply held beliefs are wrong, wrong, wrong, and we're going to teach them a different view because we're smarter than you and know it's right, right, right!", or is it better to say, "Regardless of whether history played out as you believe or as we believe, the evolutionary model is the best tool that we have for understanding the biological world as it exists today, and if your children don't understand or actually misunderstand it, they will be at a serious disadvantage in the competitive marketplace of ideas and jobs!"?

    If you answer the first because it better fits your world view, then be prepared to continue to fight a losing battle. Evangelicals are extremely focused on children, and will perceive the first approach as an attack on their children and their own right to raise them in accordance with their culture and beliefs. As with bears, you mess with the cubs at your peril. It's not a recipe for success; it's a recipe for irrelevance. If you don't believe me, look where it's gotten you today.

    Sometimes it's the science geeks who can't see the forest for the trees...

  • by pla (258480) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @09:42AM (#22587222) Journal
    Even if God created the world 6,000 years ago exactly as it was 6,000 years ago, and let evolutionary processes take it from there, would it really matter?

    Yes - For precisely the reason evolution feels counterintuitive in the first place.

    When you consider evolution as something like a set of totally random genetic experiments, you invite comparisons to other statistical phenomena, such as coin-tossing. Evolution amounts to saying "we tossed the coin 10,000[*] times and came up heads each time".

    In order for that to sound even remotely plausible (for a fair coin), you need to add in the idea "it took us a trillion coins, each flipped a trillion times, before we ended up getting 10k heads in a row". In a timespan comprehensible to human experience (we may not experience 6000 years personally, but can at least mentally grasp the idea of 100 or so human lifetimes), you simply can't run that experiment. You need to consider timespans of hundreds of millions of years for that string of 10k heads to appear.

    Thus, when dealing with someone who imposes the arbitrary premise that Earth came into existance in 4004BCE, you can't rationally justify (macro)evolution. It just doesn't happen on that timescale.



    * - Before the probability geeks jump all over me, in a trillion trillion (10^24) coin flips, you would only actually expect to see a longest string of 79 heads in a row. Evolution actually cheats a bit by throwing away the fair coins and favoring those that come out heads more often than not - But it still takes simply inconceivable spans of time for real results to occur naturally.
  • by jabuzz (182671) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @09:54AM (#22587366) Homepage
    No where in the bible does it say that God created the world in seven or even six days. He spends a indeterminate period of time creating the heavens and the earth. Then he creates light, again no mention whatsoever of how long this took. Finally he separates the light from the dark, and the first day happends.

    Frankly I give most people about 0/10 for reading comprehension.
  • by MikeBabcock (65886) <mtb-slashdot@mikebabcock.ca> on Thursday February 28, 2008 @09:55AM (#22587374) Homepage Journal

    The process of evolution is a highly confirmed theory, to the point that most of us just go ahead and refer to it as a fact. To say it's only a theory at this point requires an esoteric discussion of the definition of theory vs fact, and the only rational people I know who have any lingering doubts about it are deeply religious and take the Bible quite literally.
    ... or have a bad habit of believing everything they're taught instead of researching it for themselves. People who doubt evolution make better scientists than those who believe it because its well accepted. Doubt is good. Doubt is a healthy part of critical thinking. Combined with research and possibly experimentation (although mostly research in evolution's case), this makes for good science.

    The facts of it are that we have an extremely limited knowledge of the process of evolution. The scientific community is pretty good with the effects as observed, but not the process, although there are some good sub-theories about that.

    How and Why are good questions. Ask them more, explain your answers if you think you have them, and don't put down people who doubt if they're willing to listen and make good counter-arguments; those things will just help you refine your own thinking.
  • by samkass (174571) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @10:09AM (#22587494) Homepage Journal
    As a Christian, the way I see it, why can't evolution be the process that God has used (and is still using) to create the universe?

    Although that is, in fact, my opinion, I think religious scholars balk at this concept because it pigeonholes God into a smaller player in the universe. If God has to play by His own rules (and I'm not sure we have any documented proof that He has violated them), then it comes down to the opposite of what Einstein said about quantum mechanics: God ONLY plays dice with the universe. If the only effect God can have is to change the rolls of the dice, it limits God in a way that many highly religious folks don't believe He should be limited.

    The fact that we can trace most species back through DNA and how it's expressed physiologically in the fossil record means that God doesn't appear to be Creating much new life these days-- just letting the process run its course. And if you include humans in that tree and assert that there were billions of years of pre-human life that later formed humans, it again diminishes God's direct role as our immediate creator, and relegates Him to an indirect force that set things in motion a long time ago.

    Anyway, I think that's the objection.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 28, 2008 @10:13AM (#22587540)
    "The process of evolution is a highly useful theory" instead? Even if God created the world 6,000 years ago exactly as it was 6,000 years ago, and let evolutionary processes take it from there, would it really matter?
    Yes, it would. The science is about looking for most plausible theories explaining the true state as close as possible, not replacing one bullshit with another. Usefulness and pragmatism has nothing to do with it. All the evidence we have indicates that the Earth is little bit older than 6000 years. In science we are looking for the truth, not if it is or it is not convenient, don't we?
  • by BlortHorc (305555) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @10:19AM (#22587598)
    Repeat after me.

    There is. No. God.

    Once you get over the initial discomfort you will realise that a great many kludges you unconsciously apply to your day to day living can be done away with altogether, and indeed the entirety of your world view can be refactored into a far more consistent state to which a genuinely ethical basis can be applied if you only reject the nonsense you have been taught by the church and embrace the simple (and obvious) truth encompassed by the phrase:

    There is. No. God.

    No, really.
  • by Eivind (15695) <eivindorama@gmail.com> on Thursday February 28, 2008 @10:21AM (#22587616) Homepage
    Because of Occams Razor: Entities should not be multiplied needlessly.

    If you can explain the development from single-cell organism to homo sapiens to satisfaction without ever mentioning God, and then you add, as sort of an afterthought; this all happened because God wanted it so.

    Then "God" in your theory is superfluos: your theory *with* god doesn't explain or predict anything that your theory *without* God doesn't do equally well, so there's no reason to include him in the theory in the first place.

    Given equal explanatory powers, the simplest theory is the superior one. If you have 10 points from a data-set that happen to lie on a straigth line, there is guaranteed to be a 10th-degree equation that matches all the 10 points, but that's not the theory you should choose, given that data you should instead suggest the relationship may be linear.

    (in general k1*x^0 + k2*x^1 ... kn*x^n-1 can always be made to fit for any 10 points)
  • Re:hmmm... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bunratty (545641) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @10:27AM (#22587674)
    Except that religion is a set of supernatural and moral claims. Science, on the other hand, deals with the natural, objective, and pragmatic. Its beliefs are not dogmatic, but instead are testable and falsifiable. And do you really not realize the enormous public benefit that science has given us, such as that computer you typed your message on? I'd say it's well worth taxpayer dollars to support such a useful endeavor. No, I'd have to say that science is pretty much as dissimilar to religion as you can get. They are not at odds with each other, but instead complement each other.
  • by Eivind (15695) <eivindorama@gmail.com> on Thursday February 28, 2008 @10:29AM (#22587706) Homepage
    The distinction is silly anyways.

    If you can observe and test that a certain process works for 1, 10, 100 and 1000 generations, then the most reasonable assumption is that it'll work the same way with a 100 thousand or a 100 million generations too. Atleast absent some reasonable explanation for why it would not.

    "macro-evolution" is a cop-out from Creationists that have a hard time ignoring the fact that any high-school that cares to can run evolution as an experiment (with artificial evolutionary pressure) and see clear results inside of 5-10 generations of the choosen organism. (this need not take that long, yeast-cells divide on a time-scale of an hour/generation or thereabouts, even with something larger like mice the experiment will run inside of a single school-year)

    In essence, it says: "Yeah, sure it works for a day, a week, a month, a year, a decade, but it somehow WONT work for a millenium or a million years. I refuse to give a coherent argument as to why not, but will now stick my fingers in my ears, sing lalalala and pretend I won the argument."
  • by Abcd1234 (188840) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @10:40AM (#22587828) Homepage
    In the original language Genesis is written in a style halfway between poetry and prose...kind of like the Odyssey.

    Tell that to the biblical literalists.

    A lot of scholars believe that Genesis doesn't really make many extremely bold claims about the origins of life beyond the fact that God created the world and that there is an order in which he did it moving from the simple to the complex.

    Well that's all well and good, but why don't you jump down off your high horse for a second and realize that, odds are, the OP wasn't referring to people like you who, clearly, have some deeper understanding of theology than what their evangelical pastor told them in sunday school.

    The OP is correctly pointing out that *evangelical literalists*, you know, those jackoffs who believe the world is 6,000 years old, are clearly delusional if they choose to hold to their beliefs in the face of overwhelming fact. And, unfortunately, a) there are, inexplicably, a *lot* of these people, particularly in the US, and b) it is these very people that are the driving force behind the attempt to equate evolution with theism, and to inject theism into school curriculae.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 28, 2008 @10:40AM (#22587836)
    People do seem to get really hung up on the "but it's only a theory" and that can be an opportunity for some real discussion. I like to point out that Gravity is "only a theory" (an incomplete one at that) and that seems to get their attention. Of course, it's a theory with enough support within certain domains that we're willing to risk people's lives under the belief that it is correct. Somewhat ditto Quantum Theory, an understanding of which is more-or-less allowing me to write this message on this fancy computer. This can also lead to a nice discussion about the differences between hypothesis and theory, Evolution having moved well beyond the former and into the later.
  • by roman_mir (125474) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @10:41AM (#22587848) Homepage Journal
    Others, more religious than me, suspect God had a hand in it, and I have trouble rationally arguing against that theory. - I don't. We have never observed the laws of physics/math/chemistry to change from day to day, we have not observed causality not to work. Indeed in a Universe where causality would not work in 100% of cases, long term organization wouldn't be achievable. Universes have to be very long lived in order to organize themselves enough to produce stars, to burn stars to produce heavy elements, to create other stars with these heavy elements, to spread the elements around the Universe, to form Solar systems with those elements, to create planets from the dust with those elements. Universes have to be so big, as to allow chance to take place to create 'livable' Solar systems and to allow at least some of those Solar systems to produce life and for life to become intelligent enough to start asking such questions as how did we get here?

    If at any step of this sequence it was necessary for a god to get involved, then why wouldn't he/she/it just shortcut and really actually produce a universe in 6 days with the solar system and the people and be done with it? Why wait so long? Unless we discard every shred of evidence that this Universe, the Solar system, this planet and live on it exist for very very long periods of time, then we cannot seriously claim that everything was created in a very short period of time. Why should a god wait if he is omnipotent and only after some long period of time break causality of natural order of this Universe and introduce an outside influence? There is no reason, were I god and had I wanted to make a Universe to put life into it I would just go ahead and do so immediately and without waiting (of-course I am assuming that I would be an impatient god, but why shouldn't I? If I was a patient god I would setup the Universe to deliver me something unexpected, something I wouldn't be making directly, I would want a surprise and then I wouldn't break causality of the new Universe anyway.)

    It is however imperative that a Universe is not meddled with by introducing events that do break causality, if causality is broken even in small number of cases, given the time it takes to organize events it would make it impossible to achieve any real amount of organization leading to life appearance. Causality that is broken would leave trace behind that would be detectable and we would not be able to create a scientific theory to explain such a phenomena with any degree of usefulness.

    1. Either there is a god and he set up the laws for this Universe and let it develop by itself without meddling.
      OR
    2. There is no god.
      OR
    3. God compensates for every time causality is broken in a way that is extremely extensive and reorganizes the Universe, making the Universe extremely unstable in principle but not allowing us to observe the effects of his/her/its meddling. So he goes into great length to convince us that he doesn't exist.
      OR
    4. God has only done this once to introduce life into the Universe. Then why did he bother waiting such a long time for the Universe to develop itself into something that could support life? - this implies god is stupid.

    In either case it is actually irrelevant whether god exists or not, so there is no reason to introduce him into this equation, it doesn't change anything from our perspective. Thus reducing the complexity of this equation makes most sense.

    Cheers.
  • Re:Define "Alive" (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Moofie (22272) <lee@noSPaM.ringofsaturn.com> on Thursday February 28, 2008 @10:53AM (#22588022) Homepage
    Abandoning religion in favor of reason is like abandoning hammers because you like screwdrivers better. Seems to me like a wise person would look at the fact that religious modes of thought exist in every culture around the world, and understand that there is value in other thought processes than reductionistic rationality.

    There is no conflict between science and religion. Why are people so invested in creating one?

  • by dmatos (232892) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @11:14AM (#22588276)
    Okay, I will admit that what you have described is a plausible explanation for the origin of life. However, if we're trying to teach people about the theory of evolution, can we please use scientific theories for abiogenesis as well? The only part of your statement that I disagree with is the "must" in your first sentence. You are stating a fact that must be taken on faith, and thus, cannot be a scientific theory.

    Please construct a hypothesis about the origin of life that:
    1. can be disproven
    2. can be used to make predictions
    3. can have those predictions tested

    If you do so, and then test that hypothesis, and the results agree with the predictions, then I will allow you to call this item a scientific theory. However, even then, I would strongly caution you against the use of the word "must." When Newton developed his laws of motion, did he state that the acceleration of an object must equal the force on that object divided by its mass? If he did make such a statement, it was proven wrong when we revised it with relativity. Leave yourself open to the possibility that, even though your theory is the most likely explanation for something, it may be proven wrong in the future. Trying to prove theories wrong, or revising and improving them, that's a lot of what scientific advancement is today.
  • Re:Define "Alive" (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Snakefoot (1241778) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @11:15AM (#22588288)
    "There is no conflict between science and religion. Why are people so invested in creating one?" Lessee, rationalists, free-thinkers, and skeptics go around protesting creationism and its bastard stepchild "intelligent design" and trying to force their beliefs onto the population by fiat. No. Rationalists demand strict adherence to a set of rules and unquestioning acceptance of a book of rules written by they-are-not-sure-who but it was inspired by an unseen god. No. Rationalists have hundreds of radio and television broadcasts dedicated to spreading their beliefs (which do not include credible science) and mooching "love offerings" from viewers/devoted followers. No. Rationalists demand that government outlaw any teaching or belief system that does not agree with theirs. No. I guess I do not get it. Please explain in detail who is "invested in creating" a conflict between science and religion.
  • by ricegf (1059658) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @11:21AM (#22588354) Journal

    Reading comprehension just isnn't a strong suit on /. *sigh* I'll give it one more go.

    I wrote, "if your goal is to convince parents to allow evolution to be taught to their children... would it really matter?" Your response is to claim science is seeking "truth" (how noble). Philosophy seeks "truth" - science seeks understanding. Science is horseshoes - a better model wins points, even if it's still not exactly right. Newton's theories are demonstratably wrong (i.e., not the "truth") - but they greatly help me to understand how matter interacts because they are close enough for practical purposes. That's useful!

    Evolution helps me understand how life transforms itself through generational variations to fulfill environmental niches created by changes in its environment. Despite that I'm obviously not a biology major, and so have only a weak laymen's understanding of evolution at all, I find that useful. I don't give a flip whether it's "truth" or not.

    I strongly believe children should receive the best training in science - all of science - as we possibly can. Toward this goal (and note it's not my only goal!), I don't care whether their parents believe life originated from the primordial sludge, God Almighty, or the Giant Flying Spaghetti Monster, as long as their kids learn how to handle science and so can better understand their world, I'll consider that a good thing.

    Just as an aside, I teach three Bible classes to children most weeks, and I use science experiments to illustrate Biblical concepts (I teach the science concepts at the same time). This is right in line the St. Paul's argument that he would "be all things to all men that I might persuade a few". Because I have found Christianity to work very well for me (compared to my disastrous attempts at atheism), I'm very interested in helping children to know God (that's an even bigger goal of mine). I believe that will be very helpful to them, and having done this for several decades, I now know adults who agree that it does. And if children learn science along with the Bible, more's the better.

    Anyway, now that's $0.09 worth, and I've probably exhausted my quota of words on /. for the month. I just trying to warn you that "evolution == anti-Christian" is a losing tactic at least in the USA, where 75% or so of the population self-identifies as Christian. "Evolution == a useful tool for understanding life" is a winning tactic for convincing parents to permit their children to learn about evolution. Even for geeks, marketing matters. But do what you like.

  • Re:Define "Alive" (Score:3, Insightful)

    by saider (177166) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @11:21AM (#22588370)
    We have a line which is "definitely alive" and a line that is "definitely not alive" but these lines DO NOT MEET"

    Perhaps we should not expect a clearly defined line. Black and white thinking in a grey world will lead to frustration. Many of the opponents of evolution tend to want bold lines separating this from that and use the fact that there are no such lines as proof that evolution is wrong. In reality, it is the expectation that things fit into nice orderly charts and categories that is causing the problems, and often their respective faiths preach that the world falls into this paradigm. It should be no surprise that they have difficulty with fuzzy boundaries and uncertainty commonly encountered in science.
  • Re:Define "Alive" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alinabi (464689) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @11:32AM (#22588492)

    religious modes of thought exist in every culture around the world
    Until relatively recently, some form of slavery existed in every culture around the world. Eliminating it was, however, a big step forward.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 28, 2008 @11:37AM (#22588562)
    How long is a day before there is a sun and earth to define what a day is?
  • Re:Define "Alive" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by yakmans_dad (1144003) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @11:43AM (#22588630)
    Actually, there's a grave conflict between Science and the religions which depend upon revealed truths. Take the Judeo-Christian Creation story. In it, Man is the source of woe in the world due to disobedience. Science shows that woe (sickness, old age, death, pain) is just part of the whole package from the git-go. That's a pretty serious conflict. What ill is the promised Messiah supposed to rectify? Etc. The creation of human life isn't the only religious question that Science has jumbled the accepted answer.
  • by ProteusQ (665382) <`dontbother' `at' `nowhere.com'> on Thursday February 28, 2008 @11:52AM (#22588732) Journal
    IMO, this is how the average dissenter (for lack of a better word) sees the situation:

    SCIENTIST: I am a scientist. What I discover, you will learn.

    AVERAGE JOE: What if I disagree with your results?

    SCIENTIST: You can't disagree meaningfully unless you're also a scientist.

    AVERAGE JOE: OK, how do I become a scientist?

    SCIENTIST: You must first learn everything I know.

    AVERAGE JOE: I don't have time or the money for that.

    SCIENTIST: It's the only way.

    AVERAGE JOE: If I do, at what point do I get to question the theories I think are BS? Aren't people fired for not being pro-evolution?

    SCIENTIST: They aren't scientists!

    AVERAGE JOE: So in order to be a scientist, I have to agree with you. But once I agree with you, I'm allowed to disagree with you.

    SCIENTIST: That's not what I was trying to convey --

    AVERAGE JOE: Forget it. You're just trying to tell me what to think about everything. I'll just wait until someone proves you wrong. You scientists are always correcting yourselves, anyway.

    ***
    I'm not saying that the dissenter is right, but based on my interactions with various people, I think this is a snapshot of the mindset. I also think the above is a snapshot of a certain type of PhD. The pro-science case would certainly be helped if certain arrogant voices didn't pipe up so often.
  • by Hatta (162192) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @11:56AM (#22588784) Journal
    the only rational people I know who have any lingering doubts about it are deeply religious and take the Bible quite literally.

    If you take the bible literally, you are not a rational person.
  • by cvd6262 (180823) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @11:57AM (#22588810)
    You wouldn't take stories about old Greek myths and say their days were figurative and really represented a longer time. Specially when it's connected with evening and morning day x.

    Sophocles would disagree with you. You know, in Oedipus Rex? The Riddle of the Sphinx?

    "What goes on four legs in the morning, on two legs at noon, and on three legs in the evening?"

    The answer is "A man, who crawls on all fours as a baby, walks on two legs as an adult, and walks with a cane in old age."

    So, here we have an "old Greek myth" with a figurative day representing longer time, despite morning, noon, and evening being clearly represented.

    It's good that my humanities degree is finally coming to use.

    Next question...
  • Re:hmmm... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) <obsessivemathsfreak@@@eircom...net> on Thursday February 28, 2008 @12:02PM (#22588848) Homepage Journal

    If you spread your belief in a theory, the theory of evolution, and you do so with the zeal of those in other religions, and you think your way is the only right persepective, you got yourself a religion...
    Not if you have actual evidence for your beliefs and theories. Cold hard data, mountains of it in fact. Evolution has this in spades. Religions do not require any evidence. In fact, some explicitly prohibit any evidence at all. There is a clear distinction between the two.
  • by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary@nOSpam.yahoo.com> on Thursday February 28, 2008 @12:03PM (#22588864) Journal

    "Not reading the summary" is the new "Not reading TFA". /. shall have crossed the event horizon when people no longer even read the headline, and just offer random noise disguised as comments, which will then be modded insightful.
    Oh, wait...
    Fixed that for ya.
    You can use a stove and a pan to boil water. Hope that helps.
  • by fropenn (1116699) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @12:05PM (#22588896)
    Genesis has two distinct creation stories:
    http://www.sullivan-county.com/identity/2cs.htm [sullivan-county.com]
    Which one should be taken literally?
  • by inviolet (797804) <slashdot AT ideasmatter DOT org> on Thursday February 28, 2008 @12:08PM (#22588930) Journal

    People who are deeply religious and who hold fundamental beliefs without any basis of evidence are not rational. And while it might be fair to say they are irrational in this one sphere of discourse, that is basically the same as saying they are functionally schizophrenic. It would be more accurate simply to say that people can be articulate without being rational. Just because a person is intelligent enough to coherently express their thoughts, as your deeply religious friends no doubt are, that says nothing about the quality or rationality of those thoughts. It is quite possible to thoroughly and eloquently articulate extremely poor, utterly irrational ideas - just ask Hitler or Bin Laden.

    Well said.

    Let me add another car to your train of thought:

    People who renounce rationality, are stuck with only one method to judge the truth of others' ideas: by judging the speaker's articulateness.

    That is why scientists need not (and usually are not) articulate: in the rational realm, it is a secondary skill. It is certainly useful, but it isn't a requirement. Not so with the irrational realm: preachers et. al. need eloquence as a primary skill, because that is how their audiences judge the truth of their words.

  • Re:Define "Alive" (Score:3, Insightful)

    by turnipsatemybaby (648996) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @12:20PM (#22589072)
    That's a cop out and you know it. There are a not insubstantial number of people who DO believe that the bible is the literal word of god. Also, he mentions Judao-Christian, in other words both Jewish and Christian faiths. And for that matter, we should be also including ALL Abrahamic religions, including Islam. All contain significant populations that take their holy books as facts.

    The only reason people don't include other faiths in this bag of anti-scientific nonsense is because they're not as well known so it's hard to comment.

    Even if we take your 2nd point as fact, there are still plenty of people who believe what I stated above, and these people believe themselves to be 'true' Christians/Jews/Musllims/whatever and the rest of us hethen scum. And you can't tell them that they are not, because you can't prove a belief based on nothing more than hearsay.

    As for #3, that's a meaningless statement. Humans have proven that they are exceptionally skilled at rationalizing anything they want. If 'many scientists' find no conflict between science and religion, then all the power to them, but the fact remains that science is based on the premise that what we observe in the world can be explained by NATURAL causes, which means God has absolutely no business in scientific discovery.
  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @12:28PM (#22589182) Homepage
    "What goes on four legs in the morning, on two legs at noon, and on three legs in the evening?"

    The answer is "A man, who crawls on all fours as a baby, walks on two legs as an adult, and walks with a cane in old age."


    Ha ha, what a moron! The answer is a donkey. It has four legs in the morning, then at noon you chop two of em off, and then in the evening you stick one back on.

    But I guess Emo Phillips isn't Sophocles.

    Anyway, what Mr. "You need to read Genesis again" seems to be missing is that Genesis was originally written in Ancient Hebrew, which, I feel I need to point out, is not English so a literal interpretation of the English translation makes no sense at all. In ancient Hebrew, the word that is translated as "day" can mean "day" or it can mean "a large division of time", and an equally accurate translation would be "eon" or "age".

    Hebrew was a poetic and yes, symbolic language so translating it into a language which lacks these features, and then interpreting this translation literally as though it is the infallible Word of God is stupid. If it's so infallible that even translations can be taken literally, then why are there multiple English translations?

    My dear fellow Christians: The Word is not a book.
  • Re:Define "Alive" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by terjeber (856226) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @12:32PM (#22589232)

    Seems to me like a wise person would look at the fact that religious modes of thought exist in every culture around the world

    Sexual abuse of children also exist in every culture around the world. That doesn't make it reasonable or acceptable. Religious modes of thought are irrational, one could say pathological modes of the mind, and I hesitate to call them "thought".

    No, abandoning religion in favor of reason is not like abandoning a hammer in favor of a screwdriver, it is like a carpenter favoring a hammer over a Twinkie for work. Twinkies just aren't good tools for anything other than getting fat a lazy. They are generally bad for you. Just like religion. Any kind.

  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @01:22PM (#22589916) Journal
    It's not a Christian preoccupation, it is a modern-era Evangelical Protestant preoccupation. The older strains of Christianity, and, in particular for the West, Roman Catholicism, never claimed the Bible was 100% literal. In fact, one of the most influential of the Church Doctors, Augustine, made a strong case for not invoking Scriptural interpretations that ran counter to what even the non-believer knew to be true, lest Scripture be brought into disrepute.

    Sola Scriptura is, by and large, a modern way of interpreting the Bible. No one prior to that had required that sort of theological footing. Even the Jews of Jesus' time did not interpret Genesis literally. For instance, the Genesis cosmography clearly invokes the Sumero-Akkadian flat Earth under a crystal dome in which the heavenly bodies are set. By the 1st Century AD there was hardly a learned person in Europe, North Africa or Asia Minor, regardless of religious beliefs, who believed in a flat Earth. That portion fo the Genesis cosmography was simply reinterpreted to something other than the more ancient Middle Eastern idea of the universe.
  • by Hatta (162192) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @02:17PM (#22590556) Journal
    I believe your basic problem is that you're assuming that because there are gaps in our understanding that god must fill those gaps. Even if your points were true, which I'm not going to address as other's have done so adequately, that's still no reason to throw your hands up and say god did it. 3000 years ago people thought thunderbolts were thrown by Zeus, but we keep looking and we found a naturalistic answer that is so much more satisfying than a superstitious non answer. Naturalism works because we can use the understanding gained to create technologies that actually improves our lives. Scratching our heads saying "well gee, I guess god must have done it" never got anyone anywhere.
  • by Hatta (162192) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @02:46PM (#22590936) Journal
    As a Christian, I've been troubled, and even dismayed, by the paucity of actual scientists among writers who question the theory of evolution.

    That's what happens when a theory is as well supported by evidence as evolution is. Are you also dismayed by the paucity of physicists who question thermodynamics? Or that of astronomers who question the heliocentric theory?

    It would be a waste of time for every researcher in the biological sciences to be familiar with Behe's work. I'm sure you have no idea how specialized science is, and the immense amount of information you have to absorb just to come up with a novel idea to test. There's just no time in the day to test every one of our assumptions.

    And yes, we do have assumptions and we rely on them to make sense of our data. When our data doesn't make sense that's when we question our assumptions. So go on and find a way to quantify complexity, and demonstrate that some threshold level of complexity is "irreducible" and we'll start listening.
  • by Alsee (515537) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @02:48PM (#22590976) Homepage
    An investigator would most likely have witnessed several 100mph crashes

    Absolutely not a requirement.
    Based on physics and material properties and knowledge of the structure of the car one can absolutely examine the wreckage of a 250 MPH crash and be determine "The car was going well over 100 MPH, period".

    You are tossing science out the window scrambling for some excuse to reject some part of science you want to toss out. Forensic science, it's about the past, we have no witness testimony, therefore it's not real science. That's not denial of evolution, that's denial of much of science itself.

    currently the vote is not unanimous

    Proof "Beyond Any Reasonable Doubt".

    Question, what happens in a courtroom if you get one fruitloop on the jury and a non-unanimous 11-1 vote? It's a mistrial and they round up 12 new random people and they DO still get a "Beyond Any Reasonable Doubt" verdict.

    They DO still get a "Beyond Any Reasonable Doubt" verdict.

    You are again wildly overreaching for an excuse to toss out evolution.
    NOTHING is unanimous if you allow one person to walk in and endlessly insist 2+2=3.

    Among people with an actual degree in any of the earth and life sciences the vote here is about 685-to-1.

    And we are not merely talking about mere disagreement between respected colleagues. We are talking about 685 people saying the 1 is entirely NON-CREDIBLE. 685 saying the 1 is not merely mistaken but completely failing to meet any minimal standard of reasonable rational rational work and repeatedly persisting in trivially factually falsifiable errors.

    There is no reasonable way you defend this as a meaningfully nonunanimous situation. In absolutely ANY field more than 1-in-685 who manage to get a degree are simply crackpots and are universally recognized as crackpots by their colleagues. But than 1-in-685 people in the population is literally suffering from a severe mental disorder. More than 1-in-685 people are unreasonable irrational and fanatical.

    We're talking "Astronomers who reject stellar fusion and instead claim the sun is powered by electricity".

    You do not need a unanimous vote of every person on the planet to achieve a "Beyond Any Reasonable Doubt" verdict. If you are permitted to run out and scrounge up a 1-in-685 headcase you are defending moon-landing-denialists and you are defending flat-earthers and you are defending 2+2=4 denialists.

    You are again wildly overreaching for an excuse to toss out evolution.
    NOTHING is unanimous if you allow one person to walk in and endlessly insist 2+2=3.

    >you seriously imagine there is ANY such evidence that HASN'T been investigated to death and properly rejected?
    Obviously there is, scientists with evolutionary biases and scientists with new-earth creationist biases are still having heated debates.


    How can you possibly think it reasonable to slap a "bias" label on the 100% unanimous agreement?
    Oh, I'm sorry. I was rounding off to the nearest full percentage point. Let me fix that and round to the nearest full decimal point:
    How can you possibly think it reasonable to slap a "bias" label on 99.9%.

    Bias. Yeah, right along with the "lead causes brain damage" bias position.

    But setting aside your wildly unreasonable "bias" characterization...

    FlatEarthers can engage in heated debates.
    You are again wildly overreaching suggesting that somehow means there's any evidence for FlatEarthism that hasn't been investigated to death and properly rejected. Having one universally recognized crackpot stand up and repeat the same trivially factually falsifiable claims over and over does not mean there's any evidence that hasn't been looked at. All the FlatEarth claims HAVE been fully examines, and properly rejected as trivially provably wrong.

    Of course it's poetry, that doesn't mean it can't be read literally.

    I said Hebrew Old Testament Genesi
  • Re:Define "Alive" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lukesl (555535) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @03:02PM (#22591186)
    Abiogenesis is chemistry, correct. But chemistry doesn't define what "life" or "alive" is. And that definition IS what Abiogenesis is.

    Speaking as a biologist, I think this statement is exactly incorrect. It's true, life is chemistry. The reason why chemistry does not define what "life" is is because anyone who really understands biochemistry understands that there is no meaningful distinction between "living" chemical systems and "nonliving" ones. The belief that there is some fundamental distinction between the two is called vitalism, and it was discredited a long time ago. Theories of abiogenesis attempt to explain how the chemical reactions we observe in "living" systems arose. Whether you or anyone else considers those chemical reactions to be "living" or not is totally irrelevant. Debating whether something is "alive" or not is similar to debating whether Greenland is a continent or not. It's a pointless, simplistic distinction applied post hoc for the purpose of justifying some sort of nonrigorous internal prejudices.
  • by PitaBred (632671) <slashdot.pitabred@dyndns@org> on Thursday February 28, 2008 @04:14PM (#22592326) Homepage
    It's called "politics", and geeks are notoriously bad at it. It's talking out both sides of your mouth, and not being consistent internally with what you present externally.

    It may be a recipe for losing, but it's also one for not being hypocritical.
  • by Grendel Drago (41496) on Thursday February 28, 2008 @10:09PM (#22596070) Homepage
    By gum, you're absolutely right that the authoritarian nightmares of the twentieth century were mostly non-religious. (Not uniformly, though; the Taliban may have been small, but boy, were they scary.) The key difference isn't between religious and non-religious systems, I think, but between different ways of knowing. There's an interesting letter from Richard Dawkins to his daughter [fortunecity.com], which lays out a foundation for this idea, in that reasoning from evidence is depicted as a good way to know something, while authority, tradition and revelation were bad ways. Authoritarian murderers relied on the strength of their authority--when the people in North Korea were so indoctrinated that they'd rather eat their family members than rebel against the government, that's authority. When Stalin made his wacky decrees because they came to him in a brain cloud, that's revelation. Those aren't good reasons to rely on anything.

    Stalin, Mao and their link are no more morally equivalent to your average liberal-democratic secular humanist than a member of the medieval Inquisition is morally equivalent to your average nominally religious member of a Western democracy. The former members of each pair have more in common with each other than either does with the latter set, and it's completely missing the mark to point at secularism as the cause. While religion is the most obvious embodiment of ways of knowing that lead to authoritarianism, it's hardly the only road that leads there.

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