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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 I'm a Brit myself, and I thought most people over here thought these views were outdated and lacked substance.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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  • by dada21 ( 163177 ) * <> on Thursday January 26, 2006 @10:38AM (#14566948) Homepage Journal

    I'm against all public education systems. I don't believe they've worked.

    That being said, if we must have them, let's focus on pure education -- facts, repetition, useful classes: how to read, write and perform basic math. At most, some basic scientific theory might be OK.

    Everything else -- health, PE, higher sciences, diet -- leave it to the family or to competitive higher education.

    If we cut back public education to ages 6-11 and strictly teach the basics, we can return thousands back to each family in tax savings. It'll be more than enough to let a parent stay home, teach with other parents helping and they can save money to send their kids to private upper education.
  • by wirehead_rick ( 308391 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @10:50AM (#14567084)
    It represents a fundemental and very scary thing.

    Dump people in numbers can believe stupid things and will follow dump leaders.

    It tells us that we have not moved forward in progression from the Roman Crusades. We have not moved forward from burning or drowning accused witches. We have not moved forward from what happened to the Germans who allowed the Nazi Party to rule and successfully exterminate 6,000,000 people under their noses and in their own backyard. It tells us any of these awfull scary things could happen, TODAY.

    Is there anything else more scary than a large mis-guided and dump population? If you want to be _real_ scared read Carl Sagan's book - Demon Haunted World. Some of the most scary stuff I ever read.
  • by RingDev ( 879105 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @10:54AM (#14567149) Homepage Journal
    "I'm against all public education systems. I don't believe they've worked."

    I went to a public school (in South Central Wisconsin), and I think my high school education was excellent. I joined the military and worked in the private sector before returning to college. I wound up bumping into a handful of students I graduated high school with. None of us were upper crust material (I think I was in the 49th percentile). But Hobbs and I aced the math and physics classes, after 6 years of being out of high school.

    Now, schools in the SC region of Wisconsin are some mighty fine schools. But if you head out to say, down town Milwaukee, the schools get larger and the education seems to decline. But I think this has less to do with the schools being public and more to do with class size and funding.

    Public Schools aren't a failed system, over all it's a very successful system, look at the high school graduation numbers now compared to 50 years ago, look at the average literacy rates. Now, like any system, there are weak points and short comings, but we're not going to cut off your arm for a broken finger. Standards enforcing, proper funding and class sizes, and teacher reviews can all help improve the lesser schools and help educate our youth.

  • Re:Et tu, Britannia? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Cruciform ( 42896 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @10:56AM (#14567172) Homepage
    I like to think of it this way:

    Evolution: Shit happens. Sometimes it's good shit. Sometimes it's bad shit. We just have to live with it.

    Creationism: God is all powerful and all knowing, and made everyting. He still does it wrong now and then because he's a sadist.

    Intelligent Design: "God" didn't make the universe, but he enjoys meddling with it. Like a 12 year old with a chemistry set. (sure, that's not the way that the proponents really see it, but if they want to claim they're not creationists they need some way to differentiate it)

    Try as I might, I'm unable to use any of these three methods to explain Baywatch.
  • by vandenh ( 224583 ) <> on Thursday January 26, 2006 @10:56AM (#14567178) Homepage
    I have no problem with people believing in ID but I do have a problem with representing this as science in school. What is wrong with teaching pure Darwninian evolution? The people who are religious will have no problem combining pure evolution with the existence of god. Why do people insist on trying to teach religion and science mixed? Both can live together IMHO and religious people should understand that the teaching of pure science in no way threatens their religious beliefs. The fact that some *are* threatened is a whole different topic... those people want to force religion on other people.
  • by gfxguy ( 98788 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @11:01AM (#14567236)
    Excellent post... I was just discussing this the other night and concluded, if nothing else, schools should teach only reading, writing, and math. I would be inclined to include science and history, but that opens up some problems, in my opinion; these are the classes that can teach values that parents may not agree with. Especially selective use of history. I recently saw a middle school history book that literally had the entire middle section dealing with the U.S. Civil War removed. It was in the contents, but not in the book - and the pages weren't just ripped out, it came from the publisher that way. Very disturbing.

    But I'd never given any thought to a "faster" public education... if you cut out all the crud, I could see how 11 year olds could be as advanced (if you can call it that) at math as 18 year olds. I'm not sure I agree completely with it, but it's very interesting.
  • by sparks ( 7204 ) <acrawford AT laetabilis DOT com> on Thursday January 26, 2006 @11:02AM (#14567247) Homepage
    Agreed - I have never heard anyone express this opinion in the UK, and I grew up in a prett fundamentalist pentecostal church.
  • by metternich ( 888601 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @11:04AM (#14567279)
    Do you really believe what you just wrote?

    1) Schools are funded primarily through state and local taxes, so even if the Federal government stopped all spending in the area, Federal taxes, (which are the bunk of what people pay,) would stay roughly where they are.

    2) K-12 still only accounts for about half of the budget in most states (41 % in CA, for example). So the most you'd be seeing with your "back-to-basics" cutbacks is maybe a 25% reduction in State Taxes.

    3) So let's see now 25% reduction in state taxes probably saves you, at most, a few grand a year, probably less, Losing one income earner will cost you more like 25 grand, at least.

    4) Another Conservative Pipedream bites the dust.
  • Re:Et tu, Britannia? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by The Only Druid ( 587299 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @11:05AM (#14567296)
    As a particularly comical example of this, have a look at the recent Dover County court decision (Kitzmiller). In it, the ruling Judge wisely points at that amongst the advocates of intelligent design, there was essentially no agreement as to its meaning. In fact, one school board member continually referred to it as "intelligence design [sic]", another believed it was the same as creationism, another believed it only referred to the emergence of intelligence, etc.
  • by nowhere.elysium ( 924845 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @11:16AM (#14567467)
    i've often wondered why this concept hasn't been entertained by more people, to be honest. incidentally; if this gets marked as trolling or flamebait, then i'll be pretty disappointed. i am a christian. as such, i believe in the idea that God created us. however; i look at the way that the ecosystem fits together, the niches that the various species occupy, and i can't help but wonder if any mind could have started a project (i.e. creation), and intended it to come out as it has today. which leads me to the next part; what if (and this is just an if - you'd need to be a better theologian/philosopher/scientist than me to prove/disprove this) the current biological state of every species on the planet has evolved from an original design? i think that there's a fair chance that both evoluion and creationism are true; no-one ever said that God's idea of seven days was going to be the same as ours... for all we know, His 7 days could be our 4.6 billion years. in which case, i ask you; have you never gone back to redress something that you designed some time ago? maybe that's how evolution wokrs out. before i get some over-zealous types having a go at me, dubbing me a heretic, i'd like to add this: we were, according to every faith, given free will. this amounts to being able to define ourselves, and develop ourselves. hence; we can enforce our own evolution. the word 'evolution' does not directly preclude the existence of God; it means that a biological agent can adapt itself over time, is all. if we're designed to survive in a given environment, and we change that environment, does it not necessarily follow that we would adapt to maintain ourselves? isn't the point of good design to be able to adapt and survive to the surrounding environment? in which case, this whole debate is pointless, and the proto-fundamentalists in middle america (who i have precisely zero respect for, by the way) can all shut up, and stop bible thumping. they're giving all of us religious types a really, really bad name. anyhoo, that's just my personal view upon it. if i'm wrong, then i'm wrong. either way, don't flame me purely because it's not the most scientific of views, please...
  • Re:Not surprised (Score:3, Interesting)

    by timjdot ( 638909 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @11:19AM (#14567519) Homepage
    But politics is so much easier! Who wants to observe the non-creation of new species and admit WE are the mass extinction event? What happened to the life on Mars?

    I'm still waiting to for the return of the dinosaurs as WE turn the whole world back into a sauna!
  • by Hank the Lion ( 47086 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @11:20AM (#14567537) Journal
    please explain to me how ... a species with 21 pairs of chromosomes can EVOLVE into one with 22 pairs.
    If you look at people with Down's Syndrome, you will see that this is not as impossible as you think. [] gives a good explanation.

    Basically, when forming sperm or egg cells, the chromosomes divide up 24/22 instead of 23/23, and you have offspring with one chromosome extra. This extra chromosome could be passed on to their own children, so if somewhere down the line two subjects with one extra chromosome would mate, there would be a chance that their offspring would have a complete pair extra.

    I don't know if it happened this way, but it certainly would be possible.
    Down's Syndrome (and other extra-chromosome conditions) are rare, but not that rare.
  • Re:Species Evolve (Score:5, Interesting)

    by finkployd ( 12902 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @11:29AM (#14567653) Homepage
    Either that, or God is the kind of programmer who likes to create reusable objects.

    Sorry, I couldn't help it

  • by f97tosc ( 578893 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @11:33AM (#14567722)
    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?

    1. Some people have XXY chromosomes; those with genetic disorders like Down's syndrome may have a different number. It is not such a great step to imagine two chromosomes being fused, split up, or being produced twice (first identical, then later one modified).

    2. I am not religious, but to the extent that I can imagine a God, the one you are describing is not very impressive. So the Creator instituted the evolutionary process, but some steps were to complex for this process to handle, so he went back and tinkered. "Oh, early humans have been evolving quite well now for a couple of million years, but I need one more chromosome, and that just isn't going to happen under the original laws I defined before. Time to intervene and add a chromosome here, a gene there." How did the Almighty Creator of the Universe become a micro-mangaing bio engineer? Or are you a polytheist, and adding a particular chromosome was the task of some junior spirit/ godling?

  • by Sage Gaspar ( 688563 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @11:46AM (#14567882)
    "If taught correctly, creationism does not necessarily imply one religion. It implies intelligent design meaning God, gods or advanced aliens. And why shouldn't it be taught? If evolution is scientifically sound, can't you present sufficient evidence in the classroom to prove it? Or are you worried that *gasp* some people might prefer to continue to adhere to their faith?"

    Exactamundo. Except science and faith are two completely different things. Science is descriptive and predictive based on a sort of majority rules perception, faith is belief in something that exists beyond our perception. Once something exists in our perception, that aspect passes into the realm of the scientific. What makes evolution science is that tangible things that exist in perceptive reality have been discovered that support the theory. ID is presented as a faith issue, because (and feel free to correct me if you think I've overlooked something) the arguments for it are either purely abstract exercises with dubious logic or attacks against evolution. I mean dubious in a purely logical sense, and I freely admit that logic does not necessarily apply to faith. But it's the cornerstone of science.

    "Growing up in America, I could never decide who had a greater missionary zeal: the Southern Baptists or the evolutionists, most of whom were not even fit to be called amateur biologists."

    Here's where I may agree with you. How many that scoff at non-evolutionary beliefs actually know a real justification for evolution? However, most people can understand the two theories well enough to understand that one is faith and the other science.
  • by SilentMobius ( 10171 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @11:50AM (#14567942)
    Religious education in the UK has always been a joke. Perhaps if it was taken a little more seriously and taught as comparative theology rather than a fact memorising session then issues such as this could be be taught in school, rather than R.E. being dismissed as a second class subject.

    I.D. and creationism are not science. But they are important and children should be educated about these beliefs.
  • Yessh.. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by yawn9 ( 848734 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @11:53AM (#14567986)
    This thread got huge. I don't see why everyone is so stuck to one side of the argument. I'll preface this reply (even though no one will likely read it) by saying that I am in fact a Christian. Yes, this means I believe in the creation. Now, that out of the way... It seems that all of you who claim to be 'educated' are also athiests. Why is this? Is it because your 'scientific' mind tells you that nothing can exist before the beginning of time? This is something that can be viewed as a flaw with both theories. With the creation, God was around, and with the big bang, there were some dust particles. If that's not entirely accurate, bear with me, as the exact details of evolution theory do not matter here. Point is, something existed before the beginning of time in both thoeries, so they both must be false. That is the scientific method, right? It's quite obvious that no person will EVER be able to explain the beginning of time. They might be able to use science to explain how things progressed, but not why. The science can't provide a reason for what was there to begin with and how it got there. My viewpoint is this: evolution theory is valid. But not quite to the extent that most people caught up in it think. I've seen enough science in my few biology courses to know this is the case. Natural selection is real. I would say, though, that evolution theory is how God did his work. Evolution is an endless process that is still going on today. There's no reason for these two viewpoints to not co-exist. One could even say that the big bang is the method God used to create the universe. Now here's where my evolution knowledge gets a little flaky. Most evolutionists from what I've seen will dispute my argument here pulling out dates and timelines. But if I'm not mistaken, these timelines were created with carbon dating, which has been shown to yield inaccurate results. I'd research to find some instances, but I'm late for class. Yes, I'm a senior in a university studying engineering. I guess that makes me somewhat educated, doesn't it?
  • by dada21 ( 163177 ) * <> on Thursday January 26, 2006 @11:59AM (#14568056) Homepage Journal
    The real problem is that there is a poor chain of responsibility. Teachers don't get backing from parents or the pricipal. Parents would rather blame teachers than take responsibility for their kids.

    I'll never blame the teachers -- I do blame the teachers unions. I offered an idea about separating teaching from grading -- offer teachers the ability to teach a given curriculum, and then let a private organization grade the students. I found out the teachers unions don't allow this. I wish I could grade my own work that I perform, I'd always give it a "C" -- that way I can ask for more funding to try to do better with what I have to work with.

    I also blame the government mandates. It is very hard to fire a teacher -- I blogged about this [] a week ago, and I quoted this recent 20/20 [] episode:

    We tried to bring "20/20" cameras into New York City schools to see for ourselves and show you what's going on in the schools, but officials wouldn't allow it.

    In the last four years, only two teachers out of 80,000 were fired for incompetence.

    It took years to fire a teacher who sent sexually oriented e-mails to "Cutie 101," a 16-year-old student.

    You can download this 20/20 episode via torrent, if you want the link e-mail me.

    The teachers are not necessarily to blame, although I do tell my friends that are teachers to leave the union (almost 20% of them have!). Government funding also tends to run up the costs without the actual workers getting the benefit -- more government money attracts more government cronies.

  • by thehubbell ( 928572 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @12:12PM (#14568273)
    The replies to this article's response posts make me doubt your reasoning abilities. The entire defense (or frame work) of Macro Evolution has turned to sarcasm and name calling.

    If you have to start name calling and relying on sarcasm to strengthen a scientif-(pol)-ical viewpoint then you have a weaker intellectual basis than you thought.: You must have a framework work to... Your complete framework is based on making fun of people. It is so focused on trying to say something funny enough to score a 2 on Slashdot. Most of your sarcastic remarks are a 2 rated by other people who believe what you believe anyways. Wow you are so consumed by your pseudo intellectualism you are reduced to ignore the complete contradiction between thermodynamics and evolution (just a side note). You're only a like few billion years wrong. Look I am about to get through my entire comment with out calling you "Stupid". I believe most of you mother would consider me more intelligent than you based on I don't have to attack people I disagree with name calling. Wow you prove your point by making fun of people. Thats higher thinking.

    ~7,000 year old earth very unlikely

    If I could draw here would be my description of a cartoon. Picture any great thinker eating a large bowl of FSM and the caption would read, "MMMM... this is good satire, but I am afraid it will not satisfy my hunger."

  • Re:Et tu, Britannia? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by richieb ( 3277 ) <[richieb] [at] []> on Thursday January 26, 2006 @12:23PM (#14568418) Homepage Journal
    Which is exactly what scientists have done with our solar systems and celestial mapping. Then together with all the other evidence, you have a theory of how the Solar system works, which is proven by other supporting data. That's when it becomes a theory.

    Did the Sun rise 10,000 years ago, according to this theory? 5,000,000 years?

    Evolution is the same. We observe stuff, do experiments when possible and provide a theory.

    Evolution explains things like this very well:

    • Why are all organisms on Earth based on DNA?
    • Why are there mamals?
    • Why are there ten species of zebra in Africa and none in Australia?

  • by Lewisham ( 239493 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @12:28PM (#14568497)
    Not only do I want to hear the questions, but I also would like to know what explanation is given for them. I live in a house of medics at a top 10 university that I won't name. None of them had heard of Intelligent Design, and why would they have done? They don't read Wired, and they don't check US Science web sites. I would say 90% of my non-geek friends haven't heard of it.

    That some of the cleverest people I know haven't heard of Intelligent Design makes the 20+% of people very tough to swallow. They must have been presented with an explanation of the options. I would say there is also a sizable minority of Britons that don't understand Evolution, because they didn't care enough about school or science to listen.

    You could present the options in such a way to make Intelligent Design sound like an attractive middle ground.

    "Do you believe God created everything?"
    "Do you believe we all are descended from single cells in a big soup millions of years ago?"
    "Do you believe that there are things that Science can't explain, and that's where a higher power must have done something?"

    You can't believe in ID if you've never been taught about it.

    ID has a place in schools, and so does creationism. It's in Religious Education. I really valued that class; it opens your mind to other cultures and religions, and question your own beliefs. I was brought up in a church school, but a secular secondary school. It was when I did the project on "Does God exist?" that I ever questioned what I was told. I think ID is an important idea; a lot of belief systems seem to feel there are things that can't be explained (like Taoism). But I don't personally buy it. Evolution does happen. What creationis- sorry, ID proponents... should be looking for is looking at reasons why a deity might have set off evolution, or whether evolution is controlled. I mean, isn't it AMAZING how complex the brain and human body actually is?! That's as good a reason for a deity existing as any.
  • Re:Genius (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bonius_rex ( 170357 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @12:32PM (#14568563)
    neither theory is even close to establishing scientific proof of their ideas, yet the intellectually "elite" have no problem ridiculing those who don't believe in evolution wholesale.

    That's because "theory" is as good as it gets. There is never "proof." Evolution happens to be the very best explaination science has come up with. It fits the available data. If you don't believe in evolution, you don't believe in science.

    Since the scientific method is basically the application of rational thought to the observable world, if you don't believe in science, you don't believe in rational thought.

    People who don't believe in rational thought are often - quite justifiably - ridiculed...or institutionalized.

  • by schlumpf_louise ( 829960 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @12:32PM (#14568568)
    In all fairness the first time I heard of Intelligent Design was here on slashdot, I usually read my news online and I'm a student so have no TV. If as a 22 year old student I found out about intelligent design on slashdot, then it's probably accurate to say that most people in the UK wouldn't know what it was. It's probably the most intelligent sounding option, purely cus it uses nice big words (as well as the word intelligent) so people on the street were like "yeah I think i'll pick that one". And another person said already that as a country we're quite secular. I did a very small (my sample size was only 120) study on secularisation in England in 2002, the majority (about 97%) said they thought of themselves as Christian, but not even half of them went to church on a regular basis, few of them had ever read the entire Bible, many had never read any of the Bible. The majority were also pro abortion.
  • Re:Et tu, Britannia? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 26, 2006 @12:33PM (#14568583)
    Care to tell me when it was Science to teach "Theory" (Evolution) as Fact?
  • by Cujo ( 19106 ) * on Thursday January 26, 2006 @12:34PM (#14568592) Homepage Journal

    It's not clear to me what you're arguing here, but it sounds like just another "God of the Gaps" argument, whcih even many Christians reject explicitly: "science can't yet explain X, so we turn to religion to explain it." Then,as the gaps narrow, your God gets smaller and less important. Eventually, the gaps close altogether.

    Human and social behavior are complex and have a complex and fascinating history. It will take a long time to find all the evidence and make sense of it, but there has been substantial progress for more than a century. As we advance further, will the little god who dwells within the Great Mystery of Human Existence then be evicted? I think so.

  • I hope (Score:5, Interesting)

    by QMO ( 836285 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @12:43PM (#14568741) Homepage Journal
    At first I hoped that you really CAN tell the difference between a mathematical theorem and a scientific hypothesis.

    Then I thought that if you did know the difference, then you were being deliberately deceptive when you compared them, which would be worse.

    Ignorance is easier to cure, and less destructive, than dishonesty.

    In the end, I guess, I hope that you really do know the difference, but were just not thinking when you suggested that they work the same.
  • Re:Yessh.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by All Names Have Been ( 629775 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @12:54PM (#14568940)
    Evolutionists? Is this like a gravitationist? Carbon dating show to be inaccurate? The theory of evolution includes the big bang? What are you babbling about? Your examples and made-up word choice betrays your bias and lack of knowledge about anything regarding this subject.

    Yes, I'm a senior in a university studying engineering. I guess that makes me somewhat educated, doesn't it?

    Well, no, it doesn't. I've always had problems with you engineering structualists anyhow - there's no way something as complicated as a bridge remains standing without some form of divine intervention, despite your structuralist insistences to the contrary.

    (My apologies if you're really studying to run a train! Woo-Woo!)
  • Re:Et tu, Britannia? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Genrou ( 600910 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @12:55PM (#14568949)
    Just as the Theory of Gravity has some problems and needs to be understood better/differently

    All the problems with the Theory of Gravity are addressed by the Intelligent Falling theory. []

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

    by Peter Bell ( 940885 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @01:16PM (#14569243)
    Actually I think the parent is right, ID is falsifiable... more so than *naturalistic* evolution.

    How do you falsify evolution? William Dembski writes:

    If it could be shown that biological systems like the bacterial flagellum that are wonderfully complex, elegant, and integrated could have been formed by a gradual Darwinian process (which by definition is non-telic), then intelligent design would be falsified on the general grounds that one doesn't invoke intelligent causes when purely natural causes will do. In that case Occam's razor finishes off intelligent design quite nicely.

    But, as for naturalistic evolution being falsifiable he writes:

    On the other hand, falsifying Darwinism seems effectively impossible. To do so one must show that no conceivable Darwinian pathway could have led to a given biological structure...The fact is that for complex systems like the bacterial flagellum no biologist has or is anywhere close to reconstructing its history in Darwinian terms. Is Darwinian theory therefore falsified? Hardly. I have yet to witness one committed Darwinist concede that any feature of nature might even in principle provide countervailing evidence to Darwinism. In place of such a concession one is instead always treated to an admission of ignorance. Thus it's not that Darwinism has been falsified or disconfirmed, but that we simply don't know enough about the biological system in question and its historical context to determine how the Darwinian mechanism might have produced it."

    So, no matter how complex, even if the system if irreducibily complex, the evolutionist could just say "we haven't figured it out yet"... this excuse could be used on and on with no chance for falsification. For more on ID being falsifiable, read the whole paper here: table.html []

  • Re:Yessh.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @01:19PM (#14569290)
    it because your 'scientific' mind tells you that nothing can exist before the beginning of time?

    Nothing that has any meaning, relative to our existence, no. Because the very nature of time is tied up in energy and mass, and no information can come forth from a state that doesn't (yet) include the interaction of those forces. The Big Bang is the point at which time starts to actually have meaning, and at which we have a framework in which the laws of physics that are at work in this universe become expressed in what we see around us. Nothing can exist before the beginning of time because time itself can't exist, decoupled from energy and mass... and energy and mass (the only things we have to work with, here) can't exist without time. The nothingness before the Big Bang is just that, and if it's not, it doesn't matter, because the Big Bang could also be thought of as the Ultimate Recycler. I'm more in the camp that sees nothingness as unstable and bubbling off all sorts of variations on our universe. We're awake in this one because this one's physical properties lend themselves to the circumstances favorable to, ultimately, self-aware sacks of protein typing on slashdot.

    Point is, something existed before the beginning of time in both thoeries, so they both must be false.

    Nope, that's not necessarily how cosmologists look at the Big Bang. Bad comparison, and an invalid point/comparison.

    quite obvious that no person will EVER be able to explain the beginning of time

    Why is that obvious? It's not to me. Asserting that, though, is a favorite way to insist that since it's all a permanent mystery, that we might as well embrace a universe that has a personality and a beard and that punishes villages with tsunamis because they're not faithful enough.

    But if I'm not mistaken, these timelines were created with carbon dating, which has been shown to yield inaccurate results.

    If you mean that carbon dating doesn't nail everything down to which week something happened, it's sure has hell plenty accurate to refute the people that are gambling their entire world view on the presumption that the universe is only 6,000 years old and that God is a big joker who plants fake skeletons to throw people off. Carbon dating, and countless other markers that show radioactive decay, isotope uptake, and other obvious signs (like mineral formation, tectonics, erosion, etc) all reinforce the observations made using the other techniques. Any time you use the scientific method to ask questions about this stuff, the fact that the universe is billions of years old, and that our billions-year-old planet is littered with the successes and failures of obvious evolution jump right out at you. You have to really work to close your eyes enough to make superstition a more effective way of seeing the world.

    , I'm a senior in a university studying engineering. I guess that makes me somewhat educated, doesn't it?

    Not yet, apparently! I hope that you won't be using your reliance on magic universal behavior or supernatural beings if you're tasked with engineering anything upon which the lives of my family might rely. You know, airplanes, traffic control devices, that sort of thing. The same science that you've surely applied to the study of materials, or optics, or friction, or fluid dynamics, etc., is the science that's used to study the age of the universe and the fundamental processes that gave rise to it (and to us). You can't have it both ways: putting science to work for you in your capacity as an engineer, but ignoring it when it takes some of the warmth and fuzzyiness out of creation mythology... and you're operating on mixed premises and deliberately constructing a world view built on contradictions. And engineers that tolerate contradictions don't build bridges over which I want to drive. You're obviously starting to think this stuff through... but treat all of like you would an engineering problem, and be willing to give up on the longer-range myths the same way that you have on the tooth fairy, or Santa.
  • by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @01:24PM (#14569350) Journal
    Seriously...why do schools test for scoliosis? Sure, it's a horrible, cripling disease but why is it the function of the schools to test for it? Why not test for other diseases such as diabetes?

    Now many schools systems are pushing for similar obeisity screening programs. What the hell does that have to do with a proper education?
    Some people are poor. Some children don't go see doctors or dentists regularly. Scoliosis is very easy to test for. Diabetes, not so easy.

    As for obeisity screening... fat kids are hungry all the time and being hungry interferes with learning. Half-starved children don't learn very well either.

    I'm not sure I understand why you disdain school lunches and breakfasts so much. Without proper nutrition, people don't physically grow much less learn anything.

    Some families cannot afford to give their children lunch. Remember that public school took kids out of the workforce. Kids who aren't working, aren't making money. As a result, the State (which requires school attendance) has to make up the difference.

    I'm guessing that since you have a computer, you can afford to feed yourself and that you're talking about things you haven't had to experience first hand.
  • Religion and values (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tony ( 765 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @01:47PM (#14569690) Journal
    1) the teaching goes on in the schools, and then you get dangerously close to - if not right on top of - seperation of church and state, with the state imposing a values system (i.e. religious beliefs) where it has no right to,

    I hate to burst your bubble here, but religion does not have a monopoly on value systems. The two are not equal, which is what you just stated.

    We do have a non-religious value system. It's codified in our laws. We can teach those values in school without stepping on parental toes.

    As for belief in creationism, that's fine, believe whatever you want. If you believe God set up the laws of physics and set the universe in motion knowing the outcome, that is a form of creationism, and I'll buy that as a possibility (though not scientifically testable).

    If you believe God created the Universe whole-cloth 10,000 years ago, I'm gonna say you're a backwards, willfully-ignorant rube. If you insist that viewpoint is taught in classrooms, I'm gonna say you are intentionally trying to destroy everything we've worked for these last three hundred years, and I'll have to ask you to give back your computers, your vitamins, all the medicines you might take for any allergies and whatnot; because if you deny science as a proven epistomology, you deny the advances made by science.

    Religion is not a proven epistomology. You might be able to pass it off as a metaphysics, but that's about it. Religious belief cannot explain the hows; it can only explain the whys. And that is where I start getting pissed, when you take something that is halfway decent at explaining why, and trying to pass it off as knowledge of the how.

    The quest for the divine is tricksy and difficult. If there's one thing I know about religion, it's that as soon as you know something about it, you are wrong. Near as I can judge, that is almost the fundamental nature of the divine.
  • Re:Genius (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Phillip2 ( 203612 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @02:06PM (#14569964)
    It's a question of how evolution is questioned.

    I have no problems with the idea that evolution should be open to question, and investigation. It is, after all, what evolutionary biologists do for a living.

    What I find irritating is "evolution is wrong, it says so in the bible". When faced with this, I have no real problem in ridicule. There is, after all, no mechanism for arguing against it.

  • Re:Et tu, Britannia? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 26, 2006 @02:22PM (#14570183)
    What's so incredible about that?

    Not everyone in the world (idiotically) responds to the word "Marx" with "OMG! SOVIET RUSSIA! NOT RAMPANT UNCONTROLLED CAPITALISM^H^H^H SORRY, LIBERTARIANISM, SO IT MUST BE EVIL!", like most on slashdot seem to.

    Some of us are aware that (a) Soviet Russia had almost fuck all to do with Marx's writings, (b) he wrote a lot more than the Communist Manifesto, (c) an awful lot of it made an awful lot of sense, and continues to today.

  • Re:Et tu, Britannia? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by arminw ( 717974 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @02:36PM (#14570399)
    ......I see that those with much higher education may just have that much more brainwashing......

    A good point! What I never hear proponents of the evolution religion mention is anything about the origin of the interlocking laws of physics and the parameters of the Universe, the solar system and all the other non-living properties that make life possible at all.

    Biological evolution is supposedly driven by such things as the "survival of the fittest". What is the mechanism that determined the various parameters on the micro and macro scale that make life even possible at all anywhere and more specifically a planet such as ours?

    If it is not just randomness, what determined the fact that, for example, the proton is exactly 1836 times more massive than the electron. What determined that the electron binding energies of the carbon atom should be the ONLY one that is just right for life? Too strong, the long complex molecules like DNA could not unfold and let proteins be coded. Too weak, the large multi-atom molecules would not hold together.

    Why is the solar system exactly the way it is? If a star has another similar neighbor closer than about 3.8 light years, neither star could have a planet with an orbit stable enough for life to "evolve" in the first place. Half of all known stars are spaced more closely than this. Why are the masses and spacing of the earth and the sun what it is? Too much variation in any of these precludes the conditions for getting life.

    The probability of all the parameters needed to have a place where the CONDITIONS are met for life to happen are absurdly low, if chance is the designer, rather some intelligence who carefully planned and executed His design.
  • by Anon.Pedant ( 892943 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @02:41PM (#14570467)
    While it is true that much the current "intelligent design" rhetoric is coming from political/religious think tanks in the US, the intellectual antecedents of design are much older, and British. Most of the arguments - and even some of the specific examples - used by today's "intelligent design theorists" were fully explicated over 200 years ago by the Anglican theologian William Paley. In 19th century England, Paley's writings were required reading for students preparing for the clergy. As a student, Charles Darwin read Paley and was greatly influenced by his thinking.

    The roots of the "culture wars" are very deep, and go back long before Darwin published "On the Origin of Species." Despite the simplistic history found in most textbooks, the clash between established religion and evolution preceded Darwin's work. Darwin was participating in a long-running debate about how to reconcile biblical history with the new facts and interpretations of science.

    -- Anonymous Pedant

  • Re:Et tu, Britannia? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by GoofyBoy ( 44399 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @03:06PM (#14570792) Journal
    >I think that most scientists are aware that all scientific knowledge is provisional.

    Look how many people will defend evolution, even though strictly speaking, they need to post-fix each sentence with ", maybe.".

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

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

    They may be aware of it, in some elementary/background sort of way, but they don't act like it. If they don't act like it, does it really matter that they give lip-service to it?

    >Even fundamental theories are continually challenged.

    Yes this does happen, but scientists only accept these things only if after resorting to everything in their power to resist change, including emotional reactions. For example; "God does not play dice.".

    >All reasoning is contingent upon assumptions;

    Yes I agree, but at what point is it acceptable to make theories into assumptions/axioms?

    > What sets science apart is that scientists attempt to keep track of their assumptions, to remember that all conclusions are contingent upon those assumptions, and to constantly search for means of testing the validity of those assumptions.

    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?
  • Re:Yessh.. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by nexarias ( 944986 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @03:25PM (#14571065)
    Yes, I'm a senior in a university studying engineering. I guess that makes me somewhat educated, doesn't it?

    I don't think that studying engineering would give a person authority on the subject on evolution, despite his "educated" status. Most /. posters are, I suspect, armchair experts, and this is not necessarily a bad thing but their fact pool might not be as cohesive and consistent as one a modern professor would teach. So, anyways, I hope I scrapped the equivocation of an "educated person" and an "educated opinion".

    Next, the problem that by far bothers me the MOST in the thread is the very quick deduction that since there seems to be a need to explain how the universe started at all, that the Christian God is immediately pulled into the equation. This is of course, known as the problem of the 'prima mobile' (prime mover) --- what started the big bang?

    The problem with this is that even you want to posit an entity behind the prime mover, it is NOT necessarily the Christian God. A superentity, yes, a "God" in common terms, yes, but there is nothing that points to the fact that the prime mover is in fact the Christian God. This choice is as arbitrary as ABC, and is motivated purely only by cultural reasons; the Western Christian idea of "God".

    Similarly on one occassion I had an argument with a poster who argued that he experienced miraculous events in his life which he could not attribute to anything other than divine intervention. And that because of this, he was a devout Christian. I pointed out that from where I came from in Asia, I had friends of other "religions" (like Buddhism and such) who experienced miraculous events and automatically attributed it to the divine intervention of THEIR superdeity (Yes, I know Buddhism has no God, but modern strains of Buddhism has changed), so this was obviously culturally motivated. Therefore, there is *nothing* that says it has to be the Christian God; you are only primed to think so because that is the only superentity you have been exposed to. Thankfully, he agreed.

    So this is what I would like the self-proclaimed Christian posters here to take note of... sure, there are some events in your life, or some deep questions about the universe that seem to be well explained through the option of God, but there is absolutely nothing that points to it being the Christian God.

  • Re:Close Friends (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Vinnie_333 ( 575483 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @03:27PM (#14571088)
    Sorry to say that if you believe in gods, ... you are not well educated.

    Sadly, when I was younger and full of anger, I believed this as well. Then a little real world education woke me up. After meeting and working with some incredibly intelligent people in college and the engineering world that believe in religion, but are still logical, critical thinkers, I've settled down on my "if you believe in God you're a moron" hypothesis. I still have my atheist beliefs, they have their religious ones. But, being well educated, they understand how I came upon my beliefs. I am starting to understand why they believe theirs. Almost ALL of them that I've asked believe evolution should be taught in school, religion should be taught in church/at home.

  • Re:Et tu, Britannia? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CODiNE ( 27417 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @03:52PM (#14571481) Homepage
    Just out of curiosity's sake, I've always wondered what could be used to falsify the theory of evolution as well.

    I know in the past it was largely taught that animals slowly evolved over millions of years at a fairly steady rate. Later as many fossils seemed to show a large variety of animals appearing at roughly the same time so then the more accepted theory of evolution changed to rapid spontaneous changes after long periods of stability.

    Then others claimed various natural features that supposedly could never evolve that way, as far as I know those have been explained with possible evolutionary paths.

    So then, seriously my question is... is there any way that evolution can now be falsified? Would there be any experiment at all that could change the scientific communities view on this? I'm not trying to look like some expert or say I know what's wrong with science or evolution... I'm just wondering a bit how the falsifiability argument works when pointed the other way. Isn't the theory of evolution a bit too nebulous to be falsified? Or does that argument not apply to it for some reason?
  • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Thursday January 26, 2006 @05:30PM (#14572817)
    Any spheroid can be assumed to be flat over a small enough surface area.

    That is the point. If you're say building something, for example, the Flat Earth theory is good enough. If you're traveling through a region, you use a planar map. We still have applications that use it.

    Second, belief is not theory. I don't believe the Earth is flat, but that doesn't stop me from using Flat Earth Theory to get around town. A theory is a model. It attempts to explain certain observations under certain circumstances. A belief ultimately is that certain statements are true or false.

    Again looking at ID, it doesn't explain crucial details of biology. Why, for example, do children of any species physiologically resemble their parents? Evolution provides this as a prediction and it ultimately hasn't been contradicted. We've even discovered the mechanism by which this occurs. Evolution predicts that species experience selection, namely, that there are traits that can help or hinder the survival and propagation of a member with that trait. This is pretty straightforward. Evolution predicts that species experience mutation. Molecular biology has detected such mutations in the DNA. Finally, evolution predicts that species will adapt to selection, ie, that beneficial traits will become more common in a population and harmful traits will become less common. This is commonly called "microevolution".

    However, we can now use the above to extent to long time scales. There's no reason that evolution can't result in seperate population groups that cannot breed with each other. The fossil record has been quite useful in demonstrating the existence of evolutionary pathways for most species.

    In comparison, what predictions can we make with ID? I find it telling that the theory doesn't even describe who or what is the "intelligent designer" nor the mechanism by which the designer actually changes lifeforms. It doesn't make predictions on why biology looks the way it does (eg, why isn't life silicon based?) nor place good predictions on the fossil evidence. Further, it sets up a false dichotomy between evolution and ID. For example, there's no obvious reason why a designer couldn't impose selection pressure (eg, culling of a population) and artificially evolve a species. That's what humans have done for the past 10,000 or so years with many domesticated plants and animals.

    Here's a better ID theory. The global mass of bacteria is wholely or in part intelligent. Information is contained in the bateria's DNA, RNA, and perhaps proteins, and communication is performed via well-known exchange of genetic material. Modern plants and animals were evolved in order to expand the bacteria's habitat and to increase mobility and reduce communication lag. As bacteria expanded the working knowledge of evolving complex structures, they took on greater challenges including evolving fly and intelligence.

    Some predictions: animals and plants harbor substantial amounts of bacteria since they were designed to do so. Bacteria should have mechanisms for imposing selective pressure on organisms. Microbes can cause disease and kill infected animals so there is a mechanism that could be used for selection. The existence of a global communication network needs to be established. Perhaps, someone can insert message tracers as DNA snippets and observe their propagation in the wild. If such a network exists, then these snippets should appear in distant locations over some period of time (perhaps measured in decades).

    What makes this a useful theory is that it makes concrete predictions that can be tested. We have an intelligent designer and even some description of how the designer is intelligent (ie, how it stores information and communicates with itself). We have a mechanism by which the designer can alter life (selection via bacterial infection). We even have goals (expand environmental habitat, decrease communication lag).

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

    by workindev ( 607574 ) on Monday January 30, 2006 @01:36PM (#14599673) Homepage
    Interesting how you managed to pound out a long winded dissertation on the definition of "science" when you apparently don't even know the definition [] yourself. This definition is neither strict nor explicitly connected to the Newtonian Scientific Method.

    Science, by definition, is a broadly defined as "activities applied to an object of inquiry or study", and your examples of "Invention, research and other progress of human knowledge" clearly fit this definition.

    Language is the tool we use to communicate, and if different sides in a debate keep redefining the meaning of the words used to decribe the core concepts being debated, then the language becomes meaningless, and thus, the debate itself will become meaningless, and both sides will be reduced to packs of monkeys trying to out-OOK each other.

    Indeed. You should probably work on that.

Fear is the greatest salesman. -- Robert Klein