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Britons Unconvinced on Evolution 2035

pryonic writes "The BBC is reporting that more than half of Britons do not believe in evolution, with a further 40% advocating that creationism or intelligent design should be taught in school science classes. I'm a Brit myself, and I thought most people over here thought these views were outdated and lacked substance. None of my close friends give any credit to creationism or ID, but we're all well educated athiests so I guess that's to be expected. Maybe I've been blind to the views of the majority in this proudly secular country?"
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Britons Unconvinced on Evolution

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  • Proudly secular? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Snamh Da Ean ( 916391 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @10:42AM (#14566987)
    You mean that country in Europe where the head of state is also the head of the state's established church? And where you can't be head of state unless you're a member of the established church.

  • Re:Proudly secular? (Score:2, Informative)

    by pryonic ( 938155 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @10:48AM (#14567067)
    Yes I agree that Britain has very religious roots, and yes the Queen is the head of the Church of England. But there's no requirement for our Prime Minister to be Christian, or any of our MPs. I don't have to swear my allegiance to God at school every morning.

    You're right about the Royal Family and religion, it all stems back a long way into our history. But the vast majority of modern Brits, religious or not, believe that the church has no right intefering in state affairs. Hence why we're one of the most secular states in Europe.

  • Re:Not surprised (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 26, 2006 @10:50AM (#14567085)
    Don't worry, he'll be forever damned to a heaven without strippers or beer volcanos.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 26, 2006 @10:52AM (#14567117)
    As an Englishman in my late 30s I call utter bullshit on this article. These are the fanciful lies of someone with an agenda. I don't know where they pretend to have got their research from, but it's patently untrue. I never met a single person over here who even heard of "intelligent design" (a USA manufactured nonsense) and seriously nobody believes in creationism, even really old people. A more interesting question for me is, why would someone make up such an obvious pack of lies and for what reason?
  • Re:Ambiguity (Score:2, Informative)

    by jshine ( 321403 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @10:52AM (#14567122) Homepage
    As I understand the terms, evolution usually only refers to the process by which one type of living thing changes into another type of living thing through natural selection. As for the origin of life (the chance encounter of amino acids or RNA nucleotides or whatever), that would not fall under the term "evolution."
  • by goodEvans ( 112958 ) <devans@NoSPAm.airatlanta.ie> on Thursday January 26, 2006 @10:52AM (#14567126) Homepage
    I really have difficulty in beleiving this. Even here in god-fearing catholic Ireland, everyone I know thinks that creationism is bunk. The only thing I can think of is that they stood in the middle of the street and shouted, "Anyone like to give their views on Creationism and Intelligent Design?" That way they would only have got the religious nuts who espouse this pre-enlightenment throwback. Even the Vatican says that Intelligent Design is not science [com.com].
  • Re:Proudly secular? (Score:2, Informative)

    by sentiententity_UK ( 945317 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @10:59AM (#14567210)
    Britain has a somewhat unusual established religion. Atheism has long been considered no barrier to advancement in the Anglican Church...


  • by Nadsat ( 652200 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @11:01AM (#14567245) Homepage
    Somehow I doubt the distinctions in ID were of importance.

    The real success of the ID campaign is its rousin gup of the audience, inciting people into a fury of various emotions, and making the subject altogether taboo.

    I tire of all these emotional responses, for that's what ID wants. When we seriously react to it as if it were serious, we give it power. A better reponse is to shirk it off, giggle a bit, and equate it to an urban legend... why not add it to Snopes?
  • by Pentagram ( 40862 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @11:12AM (#14567395) Homepage
    A species (chimpanzees, our "closest" relatives, for example) with 21 pairs of chromosomes can EVOLVE into one with 22 pairs. Do the fossil records indicate critters with 21.1, 21.2, 21.3, 21.4.... pairs of choromosomes?

    No. Fossil records do not show DNA. However the clues in our genomes today show that what happened was that in a human ancestor one chromosome split into two.

    If not, then explain how a (presumably) mutant new example of an "evolved" chimpanzee with 22 pairs of chromosomes can find another exactly evolved 22-paired mutant -- at the same time -- in the same place -- recognize him or her -- and develop a brand new and unique mating ritual that works. All of these steps are recognized as being necessary to begin to form a new species.

    These are not the steps recognized as being necessary to form a new species. It is not clear that the offspring of a 22-pair mutant and a 21-pair non-mutant would be infertile, so it might not be necessary for two 22-pair mutants to mate. And there is certainly no reason for a new mating ritual to magically appear or for mutants to recognise each other.

    That said, to deny Darwinism is to ignore the stages and features our own embryos develop and discard: gills, tail, front legs.

    This is also incorrect, and has been widely discredited. I wonder if I have just been trolled.
  • by Ephboy ( 761440 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @11:13AM (#14567418)
    I'm not sure where you are getting your information. Chimpanzees have 24 pairs of chromosomes and humans have 23 pairs. And what happened is that two of the chromosomes fused into one chromosome. Our chromosome two is essentially two of the chimp chromosomes (2p and 2q) stuck together. http://www.gate.net/~rwms/hum_ape_chrom.html [gate.net] has a pretty good picture of the chromosome two and its ape versions.
  • by protohiro1 ( 590732 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @11:15AM (#14567452) Homepage Journal
    This hypothetical speciation story assumes something that may not be true...that the change in behavior happened after the mutation. Perhaps the initial mutation was a change in behavior, creating a new species. As that species stopped interbreeding with the main line a 22 chromosome mutation spread through the population. Of course, either way it is speculation about a hypothetical situation. But we have to assume that in most situation if a mutation appears that makes it very difficult or impossible for an animal to breed it is unlikely to succeed.
  • *sigh* (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 26, 2006 @11:17AM (#14567478)
    we humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes, not 22. chimpanzees -- and, in fact, all the other great apes but humans -- have 24 pairs, not 21. one of the human chromosomes is the result of a fusion of two of the other great apes' chromosomes, a fusion that happened in the human ancestral line some time after we split off from our most recent common ancestor with chimps.

    such fusions happen relatively often, and usually result in individuals that can live perfectly normal lives, although they're somewhat less fertile than their conspecifics. the very rare thing is for such a mutation to become fixed in a genome and spread widely; in vertebrate animals, that sort of thing is genetically tricky. (though obviously not impossible, considering humans exist.)

    see also: http://www.gate.net/~rwms/hum_ape_chrom.html [gate.net]

  • Re:Proudly secular? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bogtha ( 906264 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @11:22AM (#14567560)

    It's true that we have a state religion. It's also true that it receives no government funding and is followed by a minority of people.

    It's true that our head of state is the Queen. It's also true that the monarchy lacks any real power and is kept around out of tradition.

    It's true that our schools are legally bound to provide collective daily worship of a Christian nature. It's also true that more than three-quarters of schools ignore this law, and that parents have the legal right to have their kids opt out anyway.

    I think you are mixing up England and the UK too. While it's true that there's a Church of England and a Church of Scotland, other areas of the UK got rid of their official faiths.

    So technically we are under the rule of a religious monarchy, but in practice we are a modern democratic secular country.

  • Re:Enough Already (Score:4, Informative)

    by scheming daemons ( 101928 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @11:22AM (#14567573)
    Say I believed the earth is flat. Does that add to or detract from YOUR well being?

    It does when you and your friends get elected to my daughter's school district board and have it taught to her in science class as if it was equivalent to "believing" that the world is a sphere.

    Believe what you want... but don't put in my kid's science curriculum.

    I'm teaching my kid to be rational and reasoned. I don't need her being confused by "junk science" being taught to her as if it were real science.

    Yes.. your beliefs detract from my well-being (and my families) when you legislate them into law and into school curriculums.

    That's where the Christian fundies crossed the line.

  • Re:The Economist (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 26, 2006 @11:24AM (#14567591)
    Exact quote from the Economist's website: "It is the kind of story about America that makes secular Europeans chortle smugly before turning to the horoscope page."
  • by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @11:26AM (#14567616) Homepage Journal
    Simple. Chimpanzees didn't evolve from humans and humans didn't evolve from chimpanzees. They did share a common ancestor in the past. In humans two chromosomes have fused. BTY humans have 23 and chimpanzees have 24 not the 21 and 22 you listed.

    The only fact I am afraid you got right is that our current knowledge of evolution is far from complete. There is still a lot that we don't know like how did life start. Lots of theories but none that have been proven. How the first eye evolved. The jump from single to multicellular. There are lots of unanswered questions but none require ID.
  • Re:Et tu, Britannia? (Score:4, Informative)

    by F_Scentura ( 250214 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @11:27AM (#14567626)
    "They loose objectivity and scream "I AM A STUPID IDIOT" to the masses of people as they intimidate and stick their collective tounge out at the very people who are interested in really understanding it."

    Sorry, but I can assist people IRL with their personal failings, however I can't make up for years of poor science teachers and countless hours of study in a couple of paragraphs. It's not as if the people will actually READ the links we could post to http://talkorigins.org/ [talkorigins.org] that counter every single creationist talking-point.
  • Re:Et tu, Britannia? (Score:2, Informative)

    by TripMaster Monkey ( 862126 ) * on Thursday January 26, 2006 @11:29AM (#14567655)

    You know, f you had completed reading my OP...in fact, if you had merely read one sentence past the one you chose to quote, you would have found that I addressed the issue of choices not having to be exclusive.

    Here is the relevant sentence for you, to save wear-and-tear on your scroll wheel:
    I understand that some people would like to see more than one 'theory' taught (the old 'teach the controversy' BS), but displaying the results in this manner is misleading in the extreme.
    What you're advocating is the 'teach the controversy' bunkum I alluded to in the OP. Here's why it's bunkum:there is no controversy. ID/Creationism, not being falsifiable, is not science, and does not belong in a science classroom. Period. If ID is allowed into the science clssroom, then you must also include other alternative explanations such as Flying Spaghetti Monsterism [venganza.org] and Last Thursdayism [washington.edu]. Otherwise, you're betraying the very 'objectivity' you profess to espouse.
  • Re:Proudly secular? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bogtha ( 906264 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @11:32AM (#14567702)

    there's no requirement for our Prime Minister to be Christian, or any of our MPs.

    More importantly, they can get voted in without being Christian. I believe that if somebody wanted to make it an issue, they could overturn the requirements that various USA states have on constitutional grounds. However, even if they did that, not being a Christian would be a severe impediment to their election campaign.

    I don't have to swear my allegiance to God at school every morning.

    Take a look at the Education Reform Act 1988 [opsi.gov.uk]:

    6.--(1) Subject to section 9 of this Act, all pupils in attendance at a maintained school shall on each school day take part in an act of collective worship.

    7.--(1) Subject to the following provisions of this section, in the case of a county school the collective worship required in the school by section 6 of this Act shall be wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character.

    You'll be pleased to know that 76% of schools break this law [bbc.co.uk].

  • by TheSync ( 5291 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @11:33AM (#14567718) Journal
    It turns out that variations in chromosome number are known to occur in many different animal species, and although they sometimes seem to lead to reduced fertility, this is often not the case. For example, Przewalski's Wild Horse has 66 chromosomes, but domesticated horse has 64 chromosomes, yet they can breed to produce fertile offspring.

    The is good evidence [gate.net] based on structural analysis of human chromosome 2 that it is the fused version of two chromosomes found in modern apes.

    The genetics of "Post-zygotic Isolating Mechanisms" of speciation is under much study now. Here is a great review [usc.edu] of speciation mechanisms.

    Generally the strong force on post-zygotic speciation is "epistasis", negatively interacting genetic loci. So different and negatively interacting genes are more important in speciation than slight differences in chromosomal configuration. There are some speciation events driven mainly by chromosomal configuration, though most are not.
  • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @11:34AM (#14567726)
    If not, then explain how a (presumably) mutant new example of an...

          Just because you don't understand the science doesn't mean that it's not true. Explaining how it works would fill several pages. Your best bet is to enroll in a genetics course, study hard for a few years, and then you will understand how it's not only possible but probable.
  • Re:bullshit! (Score:4, Informative)

    by cyclop ( 780354 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @11:53AM (#14567987) Homepage Journal

    Evolution and intelligent design are simply philosophies, not science. Neither should be taught in science, nor is the teaching of interspecial evolution absolutely essential to learning anything in biology.

    Evolution is an inevitable consequence when you have the following ingredients:
    - A genome that replicates with less-than-100% fidelity.
    - A phenotype that is dependent from the genotype
    - A fitness that is dependent from the phenotype

    Create such a system, and you'll see it evolve. It's facts: it has been simulated thousands of times in computers, for example. Life is such a system: therefore it will evolve.

  • Re:Ambiguity (Score:3, Informative)

    by TheWhaleShark ( 414271 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @11:58AM (#14568038) Journal
    For reference, that's not evolution, that's abiogenesis. Evolution very specifically deals with changes in existing populations of organisms.

  • Re:Et tu, Britannia? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Forbman ( 794277 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @12:04PM (#14568153)
    No, it's from watching what the so-called "megachurches" are about. Part cult-of-personality, part in-club, but mostly a big money-sucking unit that's tax-free if you do things right.

    Nothing denominational about it. In some towns, there is one Catholic church that is the above, and all the others just kind of limp along. In others, it's the Lutheran, Episcopal, Methodist or Baptist church. In certain areas it's an Assembly of God church or a big, non-demoninational. There is a bit of a "network effect" with churches, too. In Idaho & Utah, it's a Church of Latter Day Saints. Certainly the Mormons have made a rather big business out of it, as has historically the Roman Catholic church in the US.

  • by Aielman ( 735065 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @12:10PM (#14568244)
    A lot of misunderstanding can be avoided with the proper use of the terms. A hypothesis is "a tentative or working assumption which scientific study has yet to validate." A theory is "a hypothesis or group of hypotheses which have been validated but not to the point of near certainty." Journal of Theoretics [journaloftheoretics.com]
  • Re:Et tu, Britannia? (Score:3, Informative)

    by KlausBreuer ( 105581 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @12:13PM (#14568281) Homepage
    > the ID movement is 99.9% a PR campaign.

    Wouldn't that be nice.

    Sadly, I believe that the ID movement merely *started* as a PR campaign. Currently, it is believed in by a large horde of morons.
    Well, okay. Let's say "a large horde of morons who do not see this as a PR campaign".
  • Re:Ambiguity (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 26, 2006 @12:24PM (#14568432)
    natural selection (which is readily observable)

    No. It is not. That is a lie.
  • by wpegden ( 931091 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @12:35PM (#14568617)
    The number of chromosomes is not engraved in stone. In fact, chromosomes break, rejoin and otherwise rearrange at a surprising rate---this is turmed chromosomal instability (a key signature of many cancers). Additionally, chromosome number can change through incorrect segregation at cell division. In general much of evolution is thought to occur through large changes in the structure of the genome (such as gene dulication). It has been shown that bakers yeast has duplicated its entire genome at some point, which could lead to twice as many chromosomes at least in the beginning. See http://www.wi.mit.edu/news/archives/2004/el_0308.h tml [mit.edu]. Of course most of such changes are deletirious (as are single gene mutations, the more familiar instrument of evolution) but some of them may confer an evolutionary advantage. Regarding your complaint regarding barriers to mating with different numbers of chromosomes: The equine species are good examples here, because they diverged rather recently and yet display rather different chromosone structure. Domestic horses have 32 pairs of chromosomes, Donkeys have 31. They hybridize to give offspring with... yep, you guessed it, 31.5 pairs of chromosomes. But they're sterile, you say, right? Sure, but what about the offspring of wild horses (33 pairs of chromosomes) and domestics (with 32)? They have fertile offsspring with 32.5 pairs of chromosomes. I encourable inquiring minds to explore these issues further on their own... this is not some gaping "hole" in the theory of evolution. It's troubling when posts on slashdot are modded "5: insightful" for being nothing but ignorant stabs in the dark... at best this is someone who has been puzzled by questions but too lazy to search for answers, and at worst, a sly underhanded attempt to equate Evolution and I.D. In the internet age, curious people (slashdot users, no less!) can quickly find answers to many of their simple questions with a quick internet search. I would recommend http://www.google.com/ [google.com] and http://www.pubmed.com/ [pubmed.com]. Search there for your conspiracies of scientists hiding holes in "Darwinism".
  • Re:Et tu, Britannia? (Score:5, Informative)

    by TripMaster Monkey ( 862126 ) * on Thursday January 26, 2006 @12:42PM (#14568727)

    Your post illustrates that you do not understand what a "theory" is in the context of science.

    From Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]:
    In scientific usage, a theory does not mean an unsubstantiated guess or hunch, as it often does in other contexts. Scientific theories are never proven to be true, but can be disproven. All scientific understanding takes the form of hypotheses, or conjectures. A theory is in this context a set of hypotheses that are logically bound together (See also hypothetico-deductive method).

    Theories are typically ways of explaining why things happen, often, but not always after their occurrence is no longer in scientific dispute. In referring to the "theory of global warming" for example, the worldwide temperatures have been measured and seem to be increasing. The "theory of global warming" refers instead to scientific work that attempts to explain how and why this could be happening.

    In various sciences, a theory is a logically self-consistent model or framework for describing the behavior of a certain natural or social phenomenon, thus either originating from or supported by experimental evidence (see scientific method). In this sense, a theory is a systematic and formalized expression of all previous observations made that is predictive, logical, testable, and has never been falsified.

    Hope this helps.
  • by scheming daemons ( 101928 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @12:48PM (#14568815)
    There is no such thing as "Macro Evolution" or "Micro Evolution". Those are terms invented by ID proponents.

    There is simply "Evolution". Small changes over time. Given enough time, the accumulation of change is great. Humans didn't evolve from monkeys, humans and monkeys evolved independently from the same ancient ancestor. You won't find, and wouldn't expect to find, an "intermediate" species between humans and monkeys... that's like saying there's an intermediate race between caucasoid and mongoloid (i.e. "Why haven't we found a race of people that are in between caucasian and oriental?") Common ancestry does not imply an intermediate species.

    I just wish this whole "rapture" thingy would get here already... the rest of us would like to advance as a species without the fundamentalists christians holding us back.

  • by hunterx11 ( 778171 ) <hunterx11@gma i l . com> on Thursday January 26, 2006 @12:53PM (#14568914) Homepage Journal
    It isn't just about some theory about the physical world. After all, how many people would be offended if you said you didn't believe in the Standard Model? There is no moral significance to the truth of falsity of evolution. However, the opponents of evolution, in an attempt to discredit it, attack science itself. Since the evidence supports it, they attack evidence as a means of knowledge. Since it is logically consistent, they twist logic into an irrational system. It isn't just an attack on evolution that they are waging, but an attack on our capability to understand the world: an attack on the human mind itself. All of our philosophical and technological achievements come from reason and science and an honest quest for knowledge. The goals of anti-evolutionists, if fully realized, would reverse the trend of human progress. Obviously this isn't going to happen, but they've already done a pretty good job of slowing it down.
  • Evolution / natural selection is as simple as this. "What can be, will be." Yes, that's it. This is the principle behind life. Why? If an organism / combination of proteins / grey goo / etc. can multiply, it will. If two different entities need one same resource to multiply, the stronger will get it. Why? If it can get it before the other, it will.

    Applying this to the origin of life, a combination of aminoacids which can self-replicate will flourish in comparison of those that don't. In those replications there are flaws, changes or mutations. Those that can multiply, will.

    Proteins are nothing but a composition of aminoacids. Aminoacids can be produced "spontaneously" in the right conditions. I'm sure that at some point, enough different aminoacids were present so that a simple chemical reaction
    (thunder, UV light) would bond them together.

    Why is it difficult to believe in the primordial soup? Let's think about it. According to Ramsey's Theorem [wikipedia.org] in an infinite discrete space, any specific combination of words can be found (this is also known as the infinite monkeys with typewriters writing a work of Shakespeare). So, what happens if we get enough proteins all mixed together, waiting for yet another catalyst?

    (I can testify something about the Ramsey's theorem. I know a guy who based a computer research paper on it for pattern recognition. [psu.edu] And the thing worked.)

    200 million years could be enough time for simple microorganisms to form. The earch is 4.5 billion years old. Think about it.

    Have you guys noticed how the book of Genesis starts with... "and the Spirit of God floated above the waters"? I was taught in school that the first lifeforms on earth originated on the surface of the sea.

    Maybe the problem with creationists is not that they don't believe in evolution, but that they find it to be physically impossible. Lack of faith perhaps? I wonder, why is it so easy for them to believe that God made Adam and Eve out of a pile of mud, and yet so difficult that God let the aminoacids combine and form simple organisms that would later combine and evolve?

    Creationists /ID believers try to use science to disprove evolution, like "aminoacids can be left and right handed, but some of those are poisonous". Well, these areguments can be easily rebated. I googled 5 minutes ago and found David C. Wise's page with a pascal program [aol.com] called "MONKEY", that demonstrates how effective random generation can be.
  • Re:Et tu, Britannia? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 26, 2006 @01:43PM (#14569633)
    Read the book "The Science of God". The first half of it(before the second half starts to get a little out there) is a very good read about how science and the bible have not actually contradicted each other, just science vs the church. It has many good examples of how science fits into the bible perfectly, but has just been overlooked by overzealous, overfundamentalist christians. All in all it is a good read that I think a lot of people could benefit from reading it.
  • Re:Et tu, Britannia? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @01:55PM (#14569815) Journal
    the 2nd law which has been categorically proven to require an intelligent direction of energy in order to produce a more complex mechanism or use of energy. I happen to be educated enough myself

    ROFL... take a physical chemistry class sometime. Belive me a little knowlegde can be dangerous, and you have very little.

    The 2nd law states that the entropy of a closed system must always increase. Lifeforms are not closed systems, they exchange energy, matter, and information with other systems. So there is no problem with the 2nd law!
  • Re:Et tu, Britannia? (Score:5, Informative)

    by TripMaster Monkey ( 862126 ) * on Thursday January 26, 2006 @02:11PM (#14570031)

    One idea posited by Intelligent Design is that the strong and weak nuclear forces...

    The fact that the Weak Anthropic Principle is true (and it can't help being true...it's a tautology) does not mean that the Strong Anthropic Principle is true. You'll need to do better than that.

    Another idea posed by Intelligent design is that there is a certain minimum amount of information needed to have life--things like ribosomes and transcriptase...

    This argument is equal parts misdirection and bunk. Self-replicating molecules can work with only a strand of six DNA nucleotides. Such a self-replicating molecule could have easily formed via pre-biotic chemistry. As life developed, such self-replicating molecules would have been outcompeted and extinguished by other, more complex groups of molecules.

    Did it happen in this way? Frankly, I don't know. But saying "I don't know how it could have happened....so God did it" is a classic argument from incredulity. Besides which, evolution has never purported to explain abiogenesis anyway so the entire argument is beside the point.

    Intelligent Design posits that life began within one hundred million years after life became possible (shortly after cooling to the point of liquid water.) This is a short time in geological terms. However, life has not begun once since. Therefore something either actively created life once it became possible or something actively keeps new forms of life from springing up.

    It should be fairly obvious that, given the fact that life has occupied every conceiveable niche on this planet, that any 'new life' will be effectively prevented from developing. In short, that 'something' that actively keeps new forms of life from springing up is the already established life.

    Intelligent Design posits that life changed very slowly immediately after life began, then a profusion of new life forms came into existence during the cambrian period, and life has changed very slowly since.

    Ah yes...the Cambrian Explosion argument...again, bunk. The only reason the Cambrian Explosion looks like an explosion at all is because this particular time period is when animals started to evolve hard structures such as teeth and shells....structures that fossilize easily and are easily identifible. There are plenty of Precambrian fossils, however, that developed in the same way and that argue against a sudden Cambrian explosion. Simply put, the "Cambrian Explosion" wasn't an explosion at all.

    By the way, the general tone of your post is sarcastic and demeaning, and makes an excellent example the close mindedness of some proponents of Evolution.

    I'm sorry you percieve my demand for a rational argument to support your "theory" as demeaning. I'm also sorry you percieve those who do not abandon rationality in favor of 'God did it' at the slightest pretext as 'close minded'.

    I would like to say something about your use of scare quotes around the word "theory." I think you'll find, if you look, that a theory is defined as a set of statements having two subsets--the set of statements that are acceptable (s.k.a True,) and those that aren't (s.k.a False.) Thus Intelligent Design easily meets the definition of theory, and your use of scare quotes is unwarranted.

    Your definition of the word theory is disingenuous in the extreme...and sadly, par for the course for ID proponents.

    Here is the actual definition of theory, from Merriam-Webster's Medical Dictionary [reference.com]:

    Main Entry: theory
    Pronunciation: 'thE-&-rE, 'thi(-&)r-E
    Function: noun
    Inflected Form: plural -ries
    1 : the general or abstract principles of a body of fact, a science, or an art
    2 : a plausible or scientifically acceptable general principle or body of principles offered to explain natural phenomena --see ATOMIC THEORY, CELL THEORY, GERM THEORY
    3 : a working hypothe

  • QTAP (Score:3, Informative)

    by ichigo 2.0 ( 900288 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @02:15PM (#14570078)
    strong and weak nuclear forces are finely balanced. Any stronger, and the universe would consist of the near-equivalent of a neutron star at the center of the universe and nothing any where else.

    This and other reasonings that somehow hint at intelligent designers, fall under the anthropic principle [wikipedia.org]. The physical realm around us will by necessity seem perfectly fine-tuned to support us, because if it wasn't, we wouldn't be here to examine it. And if the many-worlds interpretation of quantum theory holds true, then there exists an infinite number of universes, of which an infinite number is incapable of supporting our kind of life.
  • Re:Et tu, Britannia? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 26, 2006 @03:10PM (#14570851)
    "What evolution does NOT explain is how, for example, an organ such as the eyeball was formed. No form of evolution can explain this, and trying to is just as bad as a ID or creationism believer."

    http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB301.html [talkorigins.org]

    You're a font of creationist talking-points.
  • Re:Et tu, Britannia? (Score:3, Informative)

    by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @03:25PM (#14571061) Journal
    But ID isn't a counterpoint to evolution. The "official" definition supplied by guys like Dembski and Behe are so vague that one can either accept or deny evolution, and still accept ID. It has no explanatory power, so why would you teach it in a science class, unless to demonstrate a set of assertions which aren't science, but the ID advocates sure are not going to want that.
  • Re:Et tu, Britannia? (Score:5, Informative)

    by tgibbs ( 83782 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @03:26PM (#14571069)
    Look how many people will defend evolution, even though strictly speaking, they need to post-fix each sentence with ", maybe.".

    In science, all knowledge is provisional, so it is belaboring the obvious to say, "The earth orbits around the sun maybe", or "F = MA maybe." This was one of the most telling points that the judge made in the Dover trial. Because all science is provisional, attaching a disclaimer to evolution, and not to other statements of scientific knowledge, gives the false impression that evolution is somehow more subject to doubt than other scientific knowledge.

    Look how science is taught, with the assumption that everything written in the textbooks are true.

    Every science course I ever took began with an explanation of the scientific method.

    Look how people will base their scientific careers and life-work on things that may or may not be correct.

    Every scientist does that. So what? It is the only workable way of doing science that anybody has ever found. The people who go into science are the ones who find that fundamental uncertainty exciting and inspiring. It is not what is known that attracts people to science; it is what is not known. Those who are uncomfortable with living among the shifting sands of scientific knowledge should go into fields such as mathematics, where true proof exists, or into religion, where faith does not require evidence.

    I have the Old Testement/New Testement/Koran/"insert any religous text", which is a set of recorded assumptions. I base theories from these assumptions. From observation of human interactions and from human history I think that the validity of these assumptions remain true. Am I a scientist performing science?

    No because you are leaving out the part about continually seeking ways to test and challenge these assumptions. For a scientist, nothing is more exciting that finding a way to challenge and test something that he or she has always previously been forced to take as an assumption.
  • Re:Proudly secular? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 26, 2006 @03:35PM (#14571203)
    It's still illegal for a Catholic to become Prime Minister. Honest, look it up. In fact, being brought up as a Catholic I found anti-Catholicism engrained throughout the whole of British society, establishment included. Even now, if I mention that I went to an RC school (but am no longer a practising member of any faith), it still gets raised eyebrows and snide remarks. This is *not* uncommon.

    It is also a requirement to swear allegiance to the monarch on entering parliament and therefore an oath of allegiance is effectively sworn to the Church of England. You can not logically swear allegiance to somebody who's primary duty is to be "defender of the Faith" without yourself swearing allegiance to that Faith. It is possible to do what Benn used to do and state "under duress and protest I hereby..." but one of the reasons why Sinn Fein won't take their seats in Parliament is that oath.

    You might also want to check out how many Bishops sit in the House of Lords and can vote against/for Government bills. The Church of England also has its own synod which is recognised in UK law as being rather special - you might want to do some reading up on it.

    In addition to all that, off the top of my head, no member of the Privy Council is non-CoE. That means no ex-Prime Minister, any current MP who is referred to as "the Right Hon." as opposed to just "the Hon.", and a whole shedload of other hangers-on.

    The idea that Britain is a secular country is as ludicrous as suggesting the deep South of the US "once had a thing about Christianity, but it all got forgotten ages back".

    It is also a myth that "most" Brits aren't Christian, and an even bigger myth that to be a Christian you must be ignorant: it just means you believe a particular guy was Son of God, it doesn't require you to have a literal interpretation of the Old Testament regardless.

    And can I just point out that stating that because there is no evidence it can't possibly be true that it exists is a ludicrous proposition for educated people to take: there was no evidence for quantum physics until the last century, but it didn't prevent it from going on. I'm not a Christian, but I really despise the "better than you" attitude around here.

    I hate religious discussions on Slashdot - it just betrays how fricking ignorant, smug, self-satisfied and prejudicial everybody around here is.
  • Re:Close Friends (Score:5, Informative)

    by nathanh ( 1214 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @06:30PM (#14573539) Homepage
    As has been said over and over and over again by quite a few people on /. in the many ID debates: Maintaining a belief is not incompatible with being well educated, logical and analytical.

    Quoth Albert Einstein (again): "God does not play dice".

    Every fucking time there's a discussion about religion, somebody trots out the "God does not play dice" quote...

    It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it. (Albert Einstein, 1954)

    I don't mind if you want to argue that religious conviction has no clear connection with intelligence or lack thereof, but leave Einstein and his quote about gambling gods out of it. Einstein did not believe in the Christian God.

  • by tsch ( 593024 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @07:20PM (#14574034)
    From positiveatheism.org [positiveatheism.org]:

    Einstein did once comment that "God does not play dice [with the universe]." This quotation is commonly mentioned to show that Einstein believed in the Christian God. Used this way, it is out of context; it refers to Einstein's refusal to accept the uncertainties indicated by quantum theory. [Emphasis mine] Furthermore, Einstein's religious background was Jewish rather than Christian.

    A better quotation showing what Einstein thought is the following: "I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings."

    Einstein was unable to accept Quantum Theory because of his belief in an objective, orderly reality: a reality which would not be subject to random events and which would not be dependent upon the observer. He believed that Quantum Mechanics was incomplete, and that a better theory would have no need for statistical interpretations. So far no better theory has been found and evidence suggests that it never will be.

    A longer quote from Einstein appears in Science, Philosophy, and Religion, A Symposium, published by the Conference on Science, Philosophy, and Religion in Their Relation to the Democratic Way of Life, Inc., New York, 1941. In it he says:

    • The more a man is imbued with the ordered regularity of all events the firmer becomes his conviction that there is no room left by the side of this ordered regularity for causes of a different nature. For him neither the rule of human nor the rule of divine will exists as an independent cause of natural events. To be sure, the doctrine of a personal God interfering with natural events could never be refuted, in the real sense, by science, for this doctrine can always take refuge in those domains in which scientific knowledge has not yet been able to set foot.

      But I am convinced that such behavior on the part of representatives of religion would not only be unworthy but also fatal. For a doctrine which is to maintain itself not in clear light but only in the dark, will of necessity lose its effect on mankind, with incalculable harm to human progress. In their struggle for the ethical good, teachers of religion must have the stature to give up the doctrine of a personal God, that is, give up that source of fear and hope which in the past placed such vast power in the hands of priests. In their labors they will have to avail themselves of those forces which are capable of cultivating the Good, the True, and the Beautiful in humanity itself. This is, to be sure, a more difficult but an incomparably more worthy task ...

    Einstein has also said:

    • It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.

    The latter quote is from Albert Einstein: The Human Side, edited by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, and published by Princeton University Press. Also from the same book:

    • I do not believe in immortality of the individual, and I consider ethics to be an exclusively human concern with no superhuman authority behind it.

  • Weird... (Score:3, Informative)

    by StarTux ( 230379 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @09:51PM (#14575067) Journal
    I'm a brit too and have not known anyone in all the areas and schools I went to that did not laugh at Creationism. I know they like Ghosts and UFO's a lot and that there seem to be a lot of Paganism around, but still...
  • Re:Et tu, Britannia? (Score:3, Informative)

    by OwnedByTwoCats ( 124103 ) on Friday January 27, 2006 @09:31AM (#14577881)
    There are many observations that would throw a wrench into the theory of evolution.

    Darwin proposed one: identification of a feature in one species that exists solely for the benefit of members of a different species.

    I think it was Stepehn Jay Gould who proposed another observation: finding the remains of a modern chicken in precambrian rocks.

    But this was all hashed out and decided in the first half of the 20th century. Evolution is science. Evolution is a fact (in the sense of the history of life on earth, i.e. common descent), and a theory (mutation and selection, genetic drift).
  • by plunge ( 27239 ) on Friday January 27, 2006 @09:52AM (#14577980)
    "As always the devil is in the detail. To get from one species to another (as currently determined by a pair of genetic pools) requires a viable path. Not just stepping stones but a real, viable path. For every protein, every gene, every process that is needed to support life."

    Indeed. And molecular biologists have spent plenty of time working out exactly what those paths, both in specific and in general, are. Interestingly enough, living systems are a lot more plastic than most people give them credit for. Heck, there are 6 major types of human aorta morphology, all of which work about as well as the others. And the way this stuff grows is fasincatingly NOT like a strict blueprint, but rather like a recipe in which different ingredients can affect the outcome but don't necessarily turn the whole thing to mush right away.

    "The conventional dogma is that this occurs through a multiplicity of small changes (we have observed such small changes in real experiments - I have seen such data from my own lab), each of which gradually moves the population (genetic drift). The problem is that whilst this is a cosy theory, there is little remenant of this."

    I'm not sure what you mean by this. There is plenty of remnant of this. Not only do we have the rare examples of diatoms and snail shells showing that these changes, while they may not move at a steady pace, do generally happen gradually, but we have plenty of molecular evidence that the divergences we see happened because of natural selection and lots of mutation, both of which are characteristic processes that leave very specific marks where they've done their work.

    "We should now have more species than at any time ever,"

    Er, ??? Why? Are you doubting that countless species go extinct, sometimes in massive numbers? Although, it must be said: it seems like we do have one of the most diverse set of species in the history of the earth around today. We're currently in the process of killing off a good portion of it, but the globe is crawling with life in every corner, and again: species are more morphologicaly diverse than almost ever before that I can think of.

    "and species should not be distinct but a continuum (if we take the slow steady mountain climb approach advocated by the likes of Dawkins)."

    Not if some die out, which they very often do. But as a matter of fact we do have many continuums as well: ring species, the way hybridization has all sorts of varying levels instead of a bright line, etc.

    "This is not something that makes sense but is very nice for putting very long timescales on things. Burst evolution, where dramatic environmental changes radically alter the genetic pressure on organisms whilst providing the circumstances to allow genetic change can be observed experimentally but, being unpredictable, throws all the happy 'slow steady climb' molecular clocks out of the window."

    You don't know much about how molecular clocks work if you think that they don't have ways to compensate for differences in evolutionary change. Of course, you probably _definately_ don't understand how they work if you think they primarily measure rates of evolutionary change, when in fact they measure the fairly constant rates of mutation in particular sorts of non-coding sections of genetic material, controlled to detect error and changes via statistical methods.

    "There are also distinct problems with establishing mechanisms for major events - evolution of sex, evolution of DNA duplication, evolution of completely novel genes etc."

    The evolution of novel genes is so well documented that it's absurd to include on this list. The other two are indeed very hot questions in biology, but the problems are largely that we don't have enough evidence to determine which of many many different possibilities were the one actual mechanism. That's not at all the same thing as having a problem seeing how they could have happened at ALL. An inability to know where certain comets were in the distant past does not const
  • Re:Close Friends (Score:2, Informative)

    by nincehelser ( 935936 ) on Friday January 27, 2006 @10:42AM (#14578296)
    >Einstein did not believe in the Christian God.

    Given that he came from a Jewish family, that's not exactly a news flash.

Executive ability is deciding quickly and getting somebody else to do the work. -- John G. Pollard