Thursday, March 25, 2004

Okay, time to bash some Western Fundamentalists infecting the gene pool....

Yes, Islamic fundamentalists are a definitive threat to the peace and prosperity of humankind, this is obvious. But in the spirit of fairness, I want to talk about another threat currently diluting the gene pool, CREATIONISTS (spit!). It seems that creationism masked under another name, known as "Intelligent Design" is still causing problems here in the US. The danger to our overall education should not be underestimated. Children who are taught that creationism is a theory of equal value in scientific terms with evolution are being misled and will not gain the needed background to progress further in any discipline that requires this fundamental knowledge.

Evolution:Biological evolution is a change in the genetic characteristics of a population over time. That this happens is a fact. Biological evolution also refers to the common descent of living organisms from shared ancestors. The evidence for historical evolution -- genetic, fossil, anatomical, etc. -- is so overwhelming that it is also considered a fact. The theory of evolution describes the mechanisms that cause evolution. So evolution is both a fact and a theory. Hands down the best description of this explanation comes from Stephen Gould-

In the American vernacular, "theory" often means "imperfect fact"--part of a hierarchy of confidence running downhill from fact to theory to hypothesis to guess. Thus the power of the creationist argument: evolution is "only" a theory and intense debate now rages about many aspects of the theory. If evolution is worse than a fact, and scientists can't even make up their minds about the theory, then what confidence can we have in it? Indeed, President Reagan echoed this argument before an evangelical group in Dallas when he said (in what I devoutly hope was campaign rhetoric): "Well, it is a theory. It is a scientific theory only, and it has in recent years been challenged in the world of science--that is, not believed in the scientific community to be as infallible as it once was."

Well evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world's data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts don't go away when scientists debate rival theories to explain them. Einstein's theory of gravitation replaced Newton's in this century, but apples didn't suspend themselves in midair, pending the outcome. And humans evolved from ape-like ancestors whether they did so by Darwin's proposed mechanism or by some other yet to be discovered.

Moreover, "fact" doesn't mean "absolute certainty"; there ain't no such animal in an exciting and complex world. The final proofs of logic and mathematics flow deductively from stated premises and achieve certainty only because they are not about the empirical world. Evolutionists make no claim for perpetual truth, though creationists often do (and then attack us falsely for a style of argument that they themselves favor). In science "fact" can only mean "confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional consent." I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms.

Evolutionists have been very clear about this distinction of fact and theory from the very beginning, if only because we have always acknowledged how far we are from completely understanding the mechanisms (theory) by which evolution (fact) occurred. Darwin continually emphasized the difference between his two great and separate accomplishments: establishing the fact of evolution, and proposing a theory--natural selection--to explain the mechanism of evolution.

- Stephen J. Gould, " Evolution as Fact and Theory"; Discover, May 1981

There are many people who believe in the existence of God and in evolution. Common descent then describes the process used by God. Until the discovery of a test to separate chance and God this interpretation is a valid one within evolution. Basically, scientists can present definitive, testable theories concerning the evolution of species throughout time, but what "started" or "created" the big bang and everything in the Universe is most definitely open to interpretation. I personally believe that this is a question that is impossible for humans to answer at this time. I'm not quite sure we could grasp the meaning behind the answer either. The very first stanza from the Tao Te Ching states "The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao."- meaning if you can explain the universe and the reason for it in words, then you don't understand it.

So, I wish to supply the readers of this blog with a fine tool for debunking your local ignorant creationists.

BEHOLD! 15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense

Also, I highly recommend visiting Talk Origins to expand your knowledge of not only the creationist debate, but also the many new and exciting discoveries in the study of evolution.

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