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Biotech Science

Bacteria Make Major Evolutionary Shift In the Lab 1185

Auxbuss sends us to New Scientist for news sure to perplex and confound creationists: scientists have watched a new, complex evolutionary trait develop in the lab. "A major evolutionary innovation has unfurled right in front of researchers' eyes. It's the first time evolution has been caught in the act of making such a rare and complex new trait. And because the species in question is a bacterium, scientists have been able to replay history to show how this evolutionary novelty grew from the accumulation of unpredictable, chance events."
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Bacteria Make Major Evolutionary Shift In the Lab

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  • by zach_d ( 782013 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @04:03PM (#23733905)
    You could counter your neighbour with "gravity is 'just a theory'" as well.
  • by samkass ( 174571 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @04:06PM (#23733993) Homepage Journal
    No, it'll still just be a theory. A theory that happens to match reality with a large pile of evidence behind it. But in science, there's really no such thing as a "fact", simply theories with greater levels of evidence supporting them.

    Gravity is just a theory. The Sun-centered solar system is just a theory. Radio waves are just a theory.
  • Big deal (Score:2, Interesting)

    by devotedlhasa ( 1298843 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @04:08PM (#23734027)
    I've been watching bacteria developing complex evolutionary traits in my refrigerator for some time now....
  • Re:Two words (Score:2, Interesting)

    by zifn4b ( 1040588 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @04:19PM (#23734333)

    I know the parent is meant to be funny but it always amazes how the general opinion is that the Intelligent Design camp is at odds with the Creationist camp. Who's to say that God isn't a metaphor for the forces at work that allow our universe to exist? In that sense, God would be responsible for evolution and all the other processes at work here.

    Granted I'm Agnostic but the problem with the Creationists is that they take the stories of the Bible literally. There are several branches of Christianity that understand that parts of the Bible are meant to be interpretted metaphorically. In reality, you'll find that most religious texts have common metaphors that refer to the same basic concept.

    So, why continue perpetuating the rhetoric which continues the "Us vs. Them" mentality? Instead, we should all work together, searching for that which we refer to as "God", "Mother Nature", "Father Time", "Flying Spaghetti Monster", etc. Whatever you want to call it, it's an entity unto itself and this discovery sheds a little more light on what it is and how it works.

  • Re:Evolutionist (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ZonkerWilliam ( 953437 ) * on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @04:19PM (#23734341) Journal
    I agree, it makes a reader think that their research is biased.
  • Re:Two words (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nsayer ( 86181 ) <`nsayer' `at' `'> on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @04:30PM (#23734699) Homepage

    why should I accept your authority that God exists and Jesus is real?
    I have nothing for the former, but as to the latter, it's pretty well established [] that Jesus was a real, historical figure.

    Perhaps that's not what you meant in your question, but then that simply means you should have worded the question better.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @04:38PM (#23734943) Homepage

    This is an important result, and it's going to be more important when the mechanism by which it happened is figured out. Read the article.

    The great thing here is that the researcher made a backup every 500 generations of bacteria, by freezing samples. So it's possible to go back and make this happen again and again, which has bee done. Then it's possible to find out exactly when it happened, and eventually decode the DNA before and after the evolutionary jump. This should produce some real insight into the underlying mechanism. We're a step closer to figuring out how evolution really works.

  • by morgan_greywolf ( 835522 ) * on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @04:46PM (#23735185) Homepage Journal
    No, no. That'll be countered with drivel like "God is a FACT! Jesus is a FACT! The Holy Spirit is a FACT! And if you don't believe in these FACTS, the FACT is that you're going to Hell!"

    (Which I suppose must also be some sort of 'fact', too huh?)

  • What kept them? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hcdejong ( 561314 ) <hobbes@xmsn[ ]nl ['et.' in gap]> on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @04:47PM (#23735209)
    The interesting thing will be: why were e.Coli never able to metabolise citrate? Has new code been added to allow for citrate metabolisation, or was the mutation much smaller, maybe removing a blockage from existing but dormant code?

    The press release is fascinating and infuriatingly incomplete at the same time.
  • Re:Two words (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ArcherB ( 796902 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @04:52PM (#23735345) Journal

    Which is fine with me. People can believe what they want. Where I start to have problems is when they want to start forcing others to teach their personal beliefs in Science class.
    How about the following:

    Physical Fine Structure Constants-- The four forces in nature may each be expressed in a dimensionless fashion to allow their relative strengths as they act in nature to be expressed in a way that facilitates comparison. These are summarized in Table 2, and are seen to vary by 1041, or 41 orders of magnitude (10 with 40 additional zeros after it). Yet modest changes in any of these constants produce dramatic changes in the universe which render it unsuitable for life. Several examples will serve to illustrate this "fine tuned" nature of our universe.

    The relative magnitude of the gravity force and the electromagnetic force has been found to be crucial for multiple reasons. Note from Table 2 that the electromagnetic force is 1038 times stronger than the gravity force. It is the force of gravity that draws protons together in stars causing them to fuse together with a concurrent release of energy. The electromagnetic force causes them to repel. Because the gravity force is so weak by comparison to the electromagnetic force, the rate at which stars "burn" by fusion is very slow, allowing the stars to provide a stable source of energy over a very long period of time. If this ratio of strengths had been 1032 instead of 1038 (i.e., gravity were much stronger), stars would be a billion times less massive and would burn a million times faster.

    The frequency distribution of electromagnetic radiation produced by the sun is also critical, as it needs to be tuned to the energies of chemical bonds on earth. If the photons of radiation are too energetic (too much ultraviolet radiation), then chemical bonds are destroyed and molecules are unstable; if the photons are too weak (too much infrared radiation), then chemical reactions will be too sluggish. The radiation produced is dependent on a careful balancing of the electromagnetic force (alpha-E) and the gravity force (alpha-G), with the mathematical relationship including (alpha-E)12 , making the specification for the electromagnetic force particularly critical. On the other hand, the chemical bonding energy comes from quantum mechanical calculations that include the electromagnetic force, the mass of the electron, and Planck's constant. Thus, all of these constants have to be sized relative to each other to give a universe in which radiation is tuned to the necessary chemical reactions that are essential for life.
    It comes from HERE []. I bring up to illustrate that there is an awful lot of science that goes into Creationism and/or ID.

    The article is a good read. It basically covers how incredibly narrow the limits are concerning the laws of nature. If any one of them was just an astronomically small amount different, then the Universe would not exist as we know it, and certainly life would not form. Which leads your budding C/ID believer to ask, "what are the odds of this happening by chance?"
  • by everphilski ( 877346 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @05:00PM (#23735559) Journal
    I also believe that it is entirely possible that he did so by means of evolution.

    My problem with this - by someone who claims to be a Christian - is this:

    The Bible specifically says "And there was evening and there was morning, the Nth day." There are specific set spans of time spelled out in the Bible. And it specifically says "And God called out X and Y and Z and God formed Adam out of the dust of the ground", etc. It gives specific instances of God creating with His hands.

    My problem is this: when you claim that evolution creeps in there, then the 24 hour days vanish. God no longer formed Adam out of the dust of the ground. If you believe the Bible to be truth, then you call God a liar.

    But it doesn't stop there. So you don't believe the first 2 chapters of Genesis. Where do you stop? The fall into sin? The flood? The promised savior? By doing that you are calling the Bible a collection of stories, form which you can pick and choose. And that becomes dangerous.

    **That** is my beef with Christians who compromise. I have no problem with people who choose not to believe in Christianity, that's their choice in life. I do have a problem with people who cherry-pick their beliefs within Christianity, or any religion for that matter.

    (For the record, I do believe in a literal creation. I have no issue with micro evolution within species.)
  • Re:Two words (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cheater512 ( 783349 ) <> on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @05:04PM (#23735659) Homepage
    In a (nearly) infinite universe, there is a (nearly) infinite number of lifeforms.

    So quite a high probability of life actually.
    Sure the chance of life evolving on Earth was quite lucky but it was bound to happen somewhere.
  • by Fished ( 574624 ) <> on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @05:13PM (#23735851)
    In philosophy of science, there's a very interesting concept called "falsifiability". This was offered back in the 30's and 40's by Karl Popper as the dividing line between a scientific theory and a non-scientific theory. Popper argued (I personally think convincingly) that the process by which one arrives at a theory was irrelevant to the question of whether it was scientific. What was much more important was the ease with which a theory could be falsified. The issue is not whether a falsifying observation has been found, but whether one CAN be conceived of. On this basis, Popper opined that many of the social sciences (especially history and political science) were NOT scientific.

    What I find intriguing here is that we have what would appear to be a falsifying observation being offered for Intelligent Design, which ironically tends to validate it as being a scientific theory, even as it is perhaps being disproved. However, as I try to think of a simply, falsifying observation that would disprove evolution, I'm drawing a blank. Yes, there are many complex possibilities -- develop a time machine and go back and check, etc. -- but nothing simple and straightforward that could happen in the here and now. Maybe I'm wrong, and those wiser than I can offer something. (My training is in philosophy and theology, not biology.) But right now, it looks to me like Intelligent Design is actually *more* scientific by Popper's criteria than Evolution, because it is more easily disproved.

    And if evolution is not really falsifiable by a simple observation (and I've debated this more than once and never been offered a *simple* falsifying observation), then perhaps it is evolution that is not scientific?

  • by drsmithy ( 35869 ) <drsmithy@gm a i l .com> on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @05:23PM (#23736047)

    They don't believe that microbes become jellyfish, chickens become dinosaurs/dragons or apes become human [...]

    Neither does the Theory of Evolution.

    There is no difference between "microevolution" and "macroevolution" - except to people with agends, and those who don't know what they're talking about.

  • Re:Two words (Score:4, Interesting)

    by element-o.p. ( 939033 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @05:39PM (#23736389) Homepage
    Or you could be like me: a godist (in your terms) who really wants to reconcile science and faith. If a scientific discovery comes along that challenges my understanding of the Bible, then I need to figure out how what I understood the Bible to say is different than what God really intended to say. Back in Galileo's day, the position of the Church was that the earth was the center of the universe, and all the heavens (lower-case "h") revolved around it. No matter how hard I try, I can't find that in the Bible. Ergo, no conflict between science and religion. The Big Bang vs. creationism -- well, what do you think it would have looked like if God spoke and suddenly a universe was born? ;) Evolution vs. creationism...well, the Bible says God created all of the creatures on the earth, but it doesn't describe the method by which He did it, does it? Having said that, I'm not quite ready to embrace evolution as the origin of species (as opposed to evolution within species, which I do accept), but this discovery is definitely interesting.

    The answer to ignorance of science or ignorance of faith is always going to be education - school, word of mouth, whatever. We need to talk it out, show why science is useful, and why the community of religion and other aspects can also be useful, and why either can be detrimental (sure the A-bomb was neat, but geez...).
    Agreed 100% -- I couldn't have said it better, no matter how hard and how long I tried.
  • Re:Two words (Score:3, Interesting)

    by snkline ( 542610 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @05:52PM (#23736623)
    The funny thing about your comment is, whether or not "Troy" has been found is entirely debatable. It isn't like the site has signs. Whether the archaeological site now typically called Troy is the Troy of Greek myth, is completely unknown.

    Of course, even if it is that Troy, it doesn't change the mythical nature of the narrative, unless you believe in the Greek Gods, as they are rather prime players in the story....

  • Re:Two words (Score:1, Interesting)

    by DanielJosphXhan ( 779185 ) <> on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @05:54PM (#23736669)
    Small sect. You might as well take all the people that code in LISP and call them a representative sample of programmers worldwide.

    In any case you're confusing a belief in the sanctity of the human body with something far different, a belief that present reality cannot be changed by human working. Even that point (which you have managed to confuse) is tangential to the evolution/creation debate. I am slightly puzzled why you made it, unless you simply let your triumphalism run away with you (easy to do, as I'm sure the Christians will agree).

    My point is not that these people don't exist. They do. They're just a vanishingly small sample. My point is, instead, that your argument is specious, your logic is flawed (at best), your triumphant crowing is annoying and immature, and your post did nothing to further your cause.
  • Re:Two words (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @05:54PM (#23736675)
    The Jewish historian named Josephus recorded Jesus' life in detail among many other things. In the end he decided that Jesus was not the promised Messiah and remained of the Jewish faith and so here is an example of a record of Jesus' life originating during his ministry by a third party who had no reason to lie.
  • Re:Two words (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Idiomatick ( 976696 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @06:28PM (#23737327)
    That sure is a lot of effort to rationalize an old book. Wouldn't it be easier to take it from a new standpoint ... look at the world then the book and decide whether or not its needed?
    Anyways there are contradictions within the bible itself. How is that rationalized. How do you rationalize the 6000year issue?
      Also, about the flat earth thing: []
  • Re:Two words (Score:5, Interesting)

    by db32 ( 862117 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @06:32PM (#23737409) Journal
    I think you are right to a degree. I have read some of his stuff but quickly became irritated with him. His tone quickly became anyone who doesn't believe is stupid and they believe in nonsense. He made a large number of assertions that morality can only exist because of God, but he relies on a terribly flawed model to make his proof. He ignores the fact that humans by nature are herd/community animals and not loners. Humans tend to go quite insane without other humans around.

    The greatest irony for me is that Jesus was VERY vocal about the whole Pharisee approach to the religion. He advocated the "love thy neighbor" and everything else falls into place naturally approach rather than the Pharisees and their "you must follow this monsterous list of rules and rituals" approach. Interestingly enough he also talks about how many of you will have claimed to know me and I will say I have never known you, get away from me. Even from the getgo he predicted that a large number of his "followers" would fall right back into that rules and rituals approach over kindness and compassion. He was ridiculed for spending so much time with the various sinners of his time and his answer was "A healthy man has no need for a doctor." What is preached today in the name of Christianity is almost identical to the very same religious structure that Jesus fought against.

    Dunno about the whole religious aspect of it all, but I think Jesus himself seems to be a pretty good example of how humans should behave. Which is why I think Jesus as a man is more impressive than Jesus as a divine instrument. As a man it means we should all be able to emulate that behavior. As a divine figure it gives the copout crap about how "he died for our sins, all you have to do is accept that".

    Either way my two most favorite things to mess with the overly religious is walking past them as the pass out their bibles, preach on the corner, or pray in public(all of which was specifically advised AGAINST by Jesus "pray alone in your room for when noone else can hear you pray God does") and saying "Jesus was such a jew" and watching them get up in arms because they are so ignorant of their own faith. The other fun one is a similar exploit, when asked some variant of "Do you accept Jesus?!" I answer something to the effect of "I follow the teachings of Yeshua" and laugh as they blather on about how I must accept Jesus instead.
  • Re:Two words (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pugugly ( 152978 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @06:37PM (#23737471)
    There is the rather ruthless approach as well.

    If you genuinely believe God will cure your son's pneumonia, and I genuinely believe a doctor will cure my daughters pneumonia, then only the survivors of our respective decisions will go on to reproduce.

    As it happens, Pneumonia has a significantly lower mortality when treated than untreated.

    Education is only the answer if you genuinely *like* those people. Alternatively, you can simply allow those that believe in science to reap the awards of science. Personally, I'm all for banning creationists from any technology *not* specifically mentioned as a good thing in the Bible.

  • Re:Two words (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Sancho ( 17056 ) * on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @06:47PM (#23737627) Homepage

    If I'm a godist, I might believe that God cures all ills, and never take my pneumonia-ridden son to the hospital. Bummer for my son but it was God's choice if he died.
    And your son won't grow up to pass those beliefs on to his children.

    The answer to ignorance of science or ignorance of faith is always going to be education - school, word of mouth, whatever. We need to talk it out, show why science is useful, and why the community of religion and other aspects can also be useful, and why either can be detrimental (sure the A-bomb was neat, but geez...).
    Maybe I'm too cynical, but I just don't see this working on most creationists. Or hell, most religious people (stem-cell research is a great example of a scientific area which doesn't conflict with religion in any way, shape, or form, but which many religious people still protest.)
  • by pauljlucas ( 529435 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @07:03PM (#23737859) Homepage Journal
    The thing most people don't understand is that the word "theory" doesn't describe the word "evolution." The correct way to say it is, "Darwin's theory of evolution is Natural Selection" or "Natural Selection is the theory of evolution." Hence the theory is Natural Selection that describes the fact of evolution.
  • Re:Terrible argument (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @07:18PM (#23738091) Journal
    Why would life not form? Because the laws of nature say so? But we just established the laws of nature are not the same in this alternate universe. Its a variation on the first fallacy. "Life" has the characteristics of this universe because it exists in this universe. If there was another set of rules, life might be much more likely, much less likely, extremely different or very similar.

    The problem is that most variations produce "bland" universes where a single force tends to dominate, wiping out variation in structure. Life as we know it lives and forms best on boundaries between different matter types and energy differentials. Our universal constants seem to produce more of these than most the other possible variations. There may be variations where "interesting" universes exist, but they are relatively rare combinations according to the models. Is it just a coincident that we are in a "boundary and variety abundant" universe when most combos are not?

    It sort of reminds me of those Java applets where you tweak constants to produce pretty patterns. Most combinations are not very interesting because they tend to over-do or under-do one thing or another such that it dominates everything, creating something too uniform or too random: muck. The nice combos are the lucky "sweet spots".

    The anthropic principle against a field of multiple universes seems like the best explanation for the "fine tuned constants" to me.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @07:26PM (#23738173)
    Caesar was easily documented and talked about because he was the king, his image on money. Paying homage to Caesar was encouraged, if not the law of the time. Do you know what persecution is? People who talked about Christ or him being the messiah were basically put to death or in prison back in the time of Caesar. Oh you must have not read the evidence we do have to support this (The New Testament)? Who back then is actually going to risk death to document Christ and his existance? His Apostles of course. The Jews and Romans wanted his existance erased from history. So it makes sense that people wern't ready to document his existance in fear for their lives. Your perspective of this time period is that Christ was as instantly as popular as a Caesar or a Alexander who were kings and known by every person in humanity by default. So of course there is going to be more documented evidence of Caesar and Alexandar. This is why it took a while for Christianity to spread; it didn't happen overnight like a king is crowned overnight and is instantly recognized.

    Whoever modded you up has no perspective of this time period whatsoever.
  • Re:This is why ... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Taibhsear ( 1286214 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @07:50PM (#23738493)
    Actually soap doesn't tend to kill bacteria. It merely lifts it off the surface of the skin and running water carries it away. (but for sanitization purposes it serves essentially the same outcome) However, there were studies done that found antibacterial soap was no better at sanitizing skin than normal hand soap. The antibiotic in some hand soap rarely takes effect until the bacteria is already off of your hands. And therefore is essentially useless. This is however merely allowing the bacteria to gain an evolutionary defense against the antibiotic. It should not be used in the home. It should be reserved for hospital use only.

    Citation []
  • Re:Two words (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mahjub Sa'aden ( 1100387 ) <> on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @08:11PM (#23738865)
    I am curious why misapplication of evolutionary biology on a large scale is forgiveable, leading to hundreds of millions of deaths, but misapplication of Christian dogma leading to a few deaths at worst is something we must, at all costs, root out.

    I have a unique perspective on this, being a largely secular Muslim. Members of my faith are misapplying and twisting Muslim dogma to justify their terrorist activities and giving the rest of my religion a bad name.

    Why, then, do we not call a spade a spade and simply say that misapplying things is a bad idea? It lead to, among other things, the Crusades, the Holocaust, slavery, terrorism, the Community Gulags and purges, and Microsoft Windows. Or at the very least something was misapplied to justify these things.

    Simply because those misapplying happen to agree with you does not make it less virtuous to call them for what they are. When you do not call them for what they are, you deny yourself the opportunity to critique others: Cleanliness starts at home.
  • Wrinkly spreaders (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Michael Woodhams ( 112247 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @09:00PM (#23739721) Journal
    This isn't the first time we've seen evolution in the lab. Andrew Spiers has been doing it for years - e.g.
    here (2003) [] or more recently here [].

    Basically Spiers grows bacteria in an unstired beaker. As the limiting resource for growth (nitrogen? Oxygen? I forget) is most available at the top of the beaker, it soon evolves a mutation which allows the bacteria to stick together and form a mat at the top ("wrinkly spreader"). Then somewhat later the mat collapses as freeloaders have evolved and come to dominate the population.

    Spiers' experiment is highly predictable - the populations always go through the same phases, but different colonies turn out to have used different mutations to get there. This differs significantly from the research here, where it appears a low probability event has occured.

    (Warning: the above is primarily based on my memory of a talk he gave several years ago. My memory is known to be lossy.)
  • Re:Two words (Score:3, Interesting)

    by shellbeach ( 610559 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @09:16PM (#23739967)

    Back in Galileo's day, the position of the Church was that the earth was the center of the universe, and all the heavens (lower-case "h") revolved around it. No matter how hard I try, I can't find that in the Bible. Ergo, no conflict between science and religion.
    Um ... the issue stemmed partly from Joshua 10:13, which reads:

    "And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day."

    Obviously this passage only makes literal sense if the Earth is stationary, and the church was reluctant to treat any passage as allegorical unless there was direct proof to the contrary (something, incidentally, which Galileo failed to provide at the time).

    This leaves you in a bit of a quandary, though, doesn't it? Do you now renounce the Bible, or renounce scientific observation? :)

    Having said that, I'm not quite ready to embrace evolution as the origin of species (as opposed to evolution within species, which I do accept), but this discovery is definitely interesting.
    You might be interested to know that the Catholic church has no problem with evolution ... I think you're getting yourself needlessly caught up in all of this what-the-bible-says business! Personally, my advice would be to follow the teachings of Jesus, and solve all your problems with more alcohol [] ...

    (incidentally, if that trick doesn't work, you might be interested in reading this essay [] by Stephen Jay Gould, on religion, science, and the unnecessary conflict between them ...)
  • Re:Two words (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Cairnarvon ( 901868 ) on Tuesday June 10, 2008 @11:06PM (#23741477) Homepage

    Like Douglas Adams once said:

    . . . imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in, an interesting hole I find myself in, fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!'

    Using a very narrow definition of life and then acting surprised when it probably couldn't arise in vastly different circumstances is disingenuous. Not to mention that it ignores the fact that nearly every part of our universe is incredibly hostile to life as we know it anyway.
    We're barely clinging to existence on the congealed surface of a ball of molten rock at the bottom of a gravity well in some tiny, god-forsaken corner of a massive, uncaring universe, pretending that that universe is in fact the best it could possibly be and made especially for us. It takes profound ignorance or cynical disingenuousness to defend the fine-tuned universe argument.

  • Re:Two words (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 10Ghz ( 453478 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @12:56AM (#23742617)
    The reason why Stalin and the commies were "atheists" was because they saw the Orthodox Church as a potential adversary to their rule. After all, the church was quite close to the Tsar, and deep down, Russians were a religious people. And if their religious leader had told them that their political leaders are godless heathens, things could have gotten ugly for the commies. But when Germany invaded USSR, Staling went to a mass and prayed.
  • critical thinking (Score:3, Interesting)

    by misanthrope101 ( 253915 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @01:32AM (#23742907)
    Person A: There is an invisible unicorn over there. He talks to me and watches over me. He's nice. Don't bother trying to detect him--he's too sly for that.

    Person B: There is no reason to believe in that unicorn. There is no evidence at all! You can't see, touch, smell, or hear him. He doesn't even give off heat, doesn't make noise, doesn't show up on any kind of instrumentation, etc. There is not even detectable mass! I'm guessing you're just making it up.

    Person A: Well, I can't prove I'm right, and you can't prove I'm wrong, so I guess we're in the same spot! Since you don't know any more than me, why are you acting like you're more rational than me?

    See what I'm getting at? You have completely turned critical thinking on its head. Believing in something for which there is no empirical evidence (by evidence, I don't mean that which is evident only after you have faith) is not on the same footing as skepticism. Saying that there is no tooth fairy is not a statement of faith.

  • Re:Two words (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rimbo ( 139781 ) <> on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @04:44AM (#23744203) Homepage Journal
    The simple way is to look at the Bible for what it is: A collection of writings by different human beings at different points of time who all had different views of the world. That pretty much covers all of the conflicts. It does, however, require you to use your brain from time to time.

    Hi! I'm a Christian, and I'd like to introduce you to a version of Christianity you might not have known existed: The kind that believes that if facts conflict with dogma, then facts win.

    Rant follows:

    There's an interesting history to Fundamentalism, and it (and the history of the Bible) is well-covered in the phenomenal book Whose Bible Is It? []. But the short version is that at some point, along with all of the Scientific knowledge that was challenging a lot of how we understood how the world works, a lot of Biblical scholarship occurred since the Enlightenment that was challenging to some standard dogmas. For example, the original Hebrew prophecy of the Messiah spoke of a "young girl," which in the Greek Septuagint -- which was the most popular "Bible" back when the New Testament was being written -- translated into a word meaning "virgin." Well, this eventually snowballed into the Immaculate Conception, but starting from the 1700s or so Christians started to recognize that what really happened was that young teenage Mary got herself knocked up.

    As people began to recognize these sorts of things, obviously there was some resistance from those who felt that commonly-held and well-treasured dogmas that had been held for nearly 15 centuries really weren't up for debate, and sometime in the early 20th century these "not up for debate" dogmas were published as pamphlets titled, "The Fundamentals." (From which we get the name, "Fundamentalism.")

    Now the key thing to note about this is that this didn't begin as a war between Science and Religion. It started out as a conflict within Religion itself. And it's notable that the Fundamentalists were taking the view that tradition trumped whatever the Bible actually originally said, that mistranslations and misunderstandings of what was in the book that had become traditional -- such as Young Earth Creationism -- were really more important than what had actually been written. You'll note that this is a very different thing from believing in a "literal" interpretation of the Bible.

    Well, what's happened is that the Fundamentalists won the war. There are some good churches out there left, but generally the populations in those churches are elderly and dying off; in the rest of the churches, intellectuals are ostracized. Young Christians today know little more than a dumbed-down version of Christianity that's based on living through certain traditions, rather than a "way" or a "walk" to try and understand and learn about God; they think they know all they need to about God, and are ready to show the rest of the world just how it is. (Get off my lawn.)

    And this is the Christianity that they now inflict on the rest of the world. It is not my Christianity, not the Christianity I grew up with. But even that good old church was taken over by the Fundamentalists shortly after I left for college. And that war is over.

    Oh, as for Genesis 1? When you look at the text repeated in the verses, you see the same things over and over: "And God created... and said it was good." I think the point here is that God created the universe and everything in it, and called it "good." Note how the sun was not created until the 4th day -- so how could there have been an evening and morning? The "days" are just a poetic device, part of the oral tradition, a (very effective) memory trick used to help people remember the story during the many centuries the story existed but hadn't yet been written.

    (But if you are one of those Christians who needs the Bible to say something before you believe it, just take a peek at Psalm 90:4; given that Genesis is "The Fir
  • Re:Two words (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mpeskett ( 1221084 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @07:08AM (#23745059)
    I have the beginning of the book of Genesis open in another tab (via and even taking the days as long periods of time it still doesn't square with the scientific account.

    According to what I'm reading here:
    Day 1 - Light and day/night created, "water above" separated from "water below" by an expanse of sky.
    Day 2 - Land and sea separated, plants and vegetation placed on the land
    Day 3 - The sun and moon placed in the sky to govern the seasons, and provide light
    Day 4 - Sea creatures and birds created
    Day 5 - Land animals and humans created
    Day 6 - nothing specified, until the 7th day when he rested.

    Few things there...

    I'm not sure what the waters above are; we have yet to find an expanse of water sat on top of the sky, although that would perhaps explain the blue colour if you didn't know about the atmosphere scattering the sunlight.

    The Earth very clearly exists before the Sun in this account, and the Sun and Moon are created at the same time. Both not true. Even more noticeable is that plants were on the face of the Earth before the Sun was there to allow them to grow. The original light could be explained as stars from before the Sun, but starlight sure isn't enough to grow plants by.

    When it comes to the genealogies, I'm not so bothered by the sum total of their ages implying a 6000 year old Earth as I am by the fact that each man between Adam and Noah apparently lives for centuries. Noah had 3 sons at age 500 (note Abraham's disbelief at the idea of a son at the age of 100 in Genesis 17, they knew this stuff was impossible) then he went on to live to 950 years old for crap's sake... did they misplace a decimal point here? Perhaps there's further dilation of time here and "year" actually means 1 tenth of a year.

    That, and the fact that the story has the entire human race originating with a single couple. Basic genetics pretty much rules that out, unless there was some incredibly rapid mutation/evolution immediately after the fall. But of course evolution doesn't exist, does it? Round it all off with an impossible flood of the world and the Tower of Babel and the crazy whirlwind ride that is the start of Genesis is more or less complete.

    I'm not buying it.
  • Re:Two words (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Micah ( 278 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @08:03AM (#23745517) Homepage Journal

    I'm not sure what the waters above are;
    Water vapor in atmosphere? Rain clouds?

    The Earth very clearly exists before the Sun in this account, and the Sun and Moon are created at the same time.
    In the English translations it looks that way. However there are a couple things about Day 4.

    First it says that God ordered the lights to appear. The word here is Hebrew 'haya', meaning "let there appear". This is NOT the same as ex-nihilo creation, Hebrew 'bara', which is used for the heavens and the earth in verse 1.

    The second verse in Day 4 is a parenthetical note that says that God created the sun and moon, and the stars also. The verb there is the other Hebrew word for create, 'asa'. It also is not ex-nihilo creation, but the formation of something from what has previously existed. Also, the tense there is an imperfect past tense, stating that God had accomplished that at some point before the end of Day 4.

    Even more noticeable is that plants were on the face of the Earth before the Sun was there to allow them to grow.
    Yes it was.

    So what happened? God created the universe, which expanded and the earth formed by generally accepted planetary formation physics. According to planetary formation theory, the earth should be covered in thick atmosphere, even more so than Venus, and it probably was. It was also covered by water after the initial cooling. Note that both of these conditions are mentioned in Genesis 1:2 -- "darkness was over the face of the deep."

    I also believe the phrase "the Spirit hovered over the waters" is a reference to the creation of the first life, widely believed to be in the ocean very early in life's history. The word for 'hovered' is the same Hebrew word used later for God brooding over Israel, protecting her like a hen protects its chicks. Obviously something profound was happening.

    Also early on was the collision with the Mars-sized object that ended up creating our moon. This ate up much of the atmosphere causing it to become translucent. Light from the sun was visible on the earth's surface for the first time, hence "let there be light."

    As the atmosphere dissipated over the eons, it eventually became transparent in Day 4, when the heavenly bodies were finally visible from the surface. This happened sometime before the Cambrian Explosion, which I think is rather nicely described in Day 5.

    Perhaps there's further dilation of time here and "year" actually means 1 tenth of a year.
    I don't think so. There are conceivable explanations. I admit none can be proven (nor disproven), but speculations as to how it could have worked. First, all humans were said to have been vegetarians in the beginning. This would allow one to be healthier if they had lived hundreds of years. Second, there may have been less cosmic radiation early on (one or more supernovae have occurred since man came to earth). But what I think had to have happened is that God modified human telemeres, which essentially limit our lifespan. Yes, the God I believe in is plenty capable of that, and the Bible says that God ordained our days to be no more than 120. A divine manipulation of telemeres seems to fit the bill here. Also note that other ancient cultures have legends of kings living 1000 years. This is not unique to the Bible.

    That, and the fact that the story has the entire human race originating with a single couple.
    I think again I have to appeal to manipulation by God. Note that at the Tower of Babel God is said to have confused languages. It seems reasonable to me that He would have changed a few genes in the process.

    I realize this isn't acceptable to a methodological naturalist. It certainly isn't falsifiable nor provable. To me there are a lot of other factors that make belief in the God of the Bible reasonable, and that belief causes me to accept Genesis.

    Round it all off with an impossible flood of the world
    I believe the Flood was geographically local, but it covered all the areas where humans were living at the time. I think I can even prove that from the Bible itself, which drives young earth fundies nuts. :)

  • by RexDevious ( 321791 ) on Wednesday June 11, 2008 @06:55PM (#23756173) Homepage Journal
    Ya gotta be pretty smart to live through being raised by them. Fortunately my mum was - hence me being here.

    Funny story - although Grandpa walked around with club feet his whole life (praying that condition away apparently takes a very long time); something did happen that finally convinced them to see a doctor. My uncle (who was about 15 at the time) went from being irrational, to disturbed, to homicidal. I guess when you've got a homicidal 15 year old male in the house, and you can't out run him because your "please fix my damn club feet" prayer hasn't kicked in yet - self-interest makes you do crazy things - like call the nice men in the white coats. But as with many things, if you wait until something is life threating before changing your approach - it's usually a bit too late. No, he didn't kill my grandparents or anything - he got the typical "locked up and shocked up" treatment most people in his condition got back in the '50s. I don't know if Granpa asked if he was also too late to get his feet fixed, or just kinda figured it out on his own. The whole experience did cure them of their religion though.

    Again, a bit late. The story losses it's "funny" status around the time my uncle escaped from the hospital. He burned down a block of flats for some reason, then later beat an old lady to death with a skillet because he thought she was trying to kill his children (he didn't actually have any children). Later he escaped from prison and showed up at my house with 2 other convicts, and car full of guns (no easy trick in England). My mum set them up and got them caught with no harm done to us (told ya she was smart).

    So, to get back to the "Christian Scientists only hurt themselves" question - no, they don't. They can get other people killed at the same time. My uncle could have just as easily been afflicted with typhoid and sent off to school with nothing but prayer just as easily as he was sent into society with severe mental illness (which may or may not have been the result of some other untreated medical condition).

    No one likes to take away something that makes people happy (like faith) - but until people take responsibility for their actions, it's the burden of others to deal with the mess. I think it's OK to argue that people should take responsibility for their actions - even if there's no way of doing it that won't offend them.

    And while I don't want to see religious discrimination anymore than anyone else here does - I recognize that there's a world of difference between *offending* someone and discriminating or persecuting them. It's OK, when necessary, to offend.

I've noticed several design suggestions in your code.