Science, Just Science

1 December 2008

The Evidence For And Against Evolution

A nice little post over at the Daylight Atheism blog:

“Teaching the controversy” has always been a rhetorical centerpiece of the intelligent-design movement, but it has become a more prominent part of their strategy in the wake of ID’s 2005 court defeat in Dover, Pennsylvania. Seeking to avoid blame for the Dover verdict, creationist groups such as the Discovery Institute pleaded that they had never wanted to teach intelligent design per se, but only the “evidence for and against” evolution.

The most sinister part of this argument is its apparent fairness. Who could object to teaching students all sides in a dispute? Hardly anyone, of course, which is why ID advocates sometimes trumpet polls showing that large majorities say students should be taught the evidence for and against evolution. That shouldn’t be a surprise: if there were legitimate evidence against evolution, even I would certainly want it to be taught, as I think most atheists would. But the problem is that these polls ask a loaded question by assuming that there is such evidence.

If there is a legitimate, scientific controversy over some issue, then by all means, teachers should present all sides in a fair and even-handed manner. However, this is not a description which applies to the teaching of evolution. Creationists and their intelligent-design comrades have steadfastly avoided making their case to the scientific community (where it meets with near-unanimous scorn). Instead, they’re attempting to do an end-run around that scrutiny by forcing their beliefs into public schools before they have won the approval of practicing, qualified scientists in those fields. This is completely backwards from how these controversies are supposed to be resolved.

The problem with “teaching all sides” is that it can give fringe ideas a credibility they have not earned. Excessive concern for “balance” leads to presenting the speculations of cranks and crackpots as if they were on equal footing with the positions defended by vast majorities of qualified experts. (The media has a similar problem.) And this is very useful to advocates of pseudoscience, who often do not need to win the rhetorical battle outright; they can triumph merely by muddying the waters and preventing a consensus from forming around the truth. This is the same strategy employed by tobacco companies, as we can see from the second excerpt above, as well as by oil companies seeking to forestall regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.

[Read The Rest Of The Blog Post Here]

And that, in a nutshell, is the point … that is exactly why ID has no place in the science classroom.

“Teach The Controversy” they say. “What controversy” we ask, “There is no controversy!”

“Teach both sides of the argument, show the evidence for and against evolution” they say, but the sad fact (for them) is that there is no evdience against evolution, no evidence, no controversy and ID is not now and never will be science.

James “Kyuuketsuki” Rocks (UK Tech Portal)

17 November 2008

A Letter To A Creationist Nation

Filed under: Creationism & Intelligent Design,Science — Kyuuketsuki @ 11:37 am

OK,

So it wasn’t a letter to a creationist nation but from one Karl Gibberson, a physicist and Christian, to creationist Ken Ham. Here’s some excerpts …

“One of the most painful experiences of my life was abandoning my belief in young earth creationism. I had been raised in a wonderful Baptist church that was fundamentalist but, as it was on the edge of a potato field in rural New Brunswick, Canada, it lacked the hard political edge that makes American fundamentalism so unappealing. It was a great place to grow up, to learn to love God, and I have nothing but fond memories of the believers with whom I worshipped as a child.”

And …

There were several reasons I abandoned creationism. And now, years later, I am convinced that creationism poses insurmountable problems for anyone who would defend creationism today. I would like to mention a few general concerns and then some specifics to make my point.

Creationists have to “explain away” a gigantic mountain range of evidence that the scientific community has accumulated in the past century. Neither the scientific community nor the scientific data is is on their side. They have to believe that God created a profoundly deceptive world, with countless markers inexplicably pointing to evolution, even though that was not how things originated. This makes no sense. Creationists, who are almost always Biblical literalists, also have to come up with eccentric and strained readings of the Bible to accommodate its many references to ancient near eastern cosmologies. The Bible speaks of a solid dome in the heavens (Genesis 1:6) holding back the waters to take one example. The Bible refers to the earth as “immoveable,” to take another (Psalm 93:1). The alternate readings of these passages by the creationists are not faithful to the text and twist the original Hebrew in ways that would make it unrecognizable to the writer. I don’t think creationists are as faithful to the Biblical text as they claim.

The most disturbing claim of the creationists, however, is their accusation that the scientific community is engaged in a vast conspiracy to trick the public into thinking that evolution is well supported. I believed this when I came to college but, as I pursued my degrees in physics, I realized that this could not possibly be true. Science is ruthlessly honest and done by bright, often maverick, intellectuals who would never sign on to a conspiracy to suppress the truth. As a fully trained scientist, now with a Ph. D in physics and publications in research journals, I can attest to the high level of integrity of the scientific community and its methods. Heroic efforts are made to ensure that bias and carelessness do not creep into scientific research. When you say, in your book The Lie: Evolution, that scientists cannot be trusted because they are “biased” and “not objective,” you are devaluing the work of so many honest and unsung heroes. Scientists are “truth-seekers,” which is why they have discovered so many useful and interesting things about the natural world–from curing smallpox, to landing a man on the moon, to establishing that epilepsy is not caused by demon possession. Scientists may not be perfectly objective, but this is hardly a license to set aside those parts of science that you don’t like. Medical doctors are certainly not perfect, but we put our lives in their hands when we go to the hospital. The question is not “What absolute guides do we have, that will lead us to certain truth?” The question is: “What is the most likely road to whatever truth we are capable of grasping?”

I am pained to see how the creationists tar the entire scientific community with this brush of bias, for they smear the work of a great many Christian believers like Francis Collins, Ken Miller, and John Polkinghorne, who have made their peace with evolution without compromising their Christian faith. These three scientists are friends of mine and I can attest to the vitality of their faith.

And finally …

To be a creationist requires distorting the ancient text of the Bible–God’s revelation in Scripture–to camouflage the obvious references to an obsolete cosmology. And it requires distorting the data from science–God’s revelation in nature–to camouflage the mountain of data supporting evolution. Why not accept the world at face value and let it speak for itself? And why not let the Bible be what it most clearly is–a collection of inspired texts from the ancient world, and not a textbook of modern science?

In embracing evolution my view of the natural world has been deeply enriched, for I have become a part of that world. I write these words from a home office looking out into a New England forest. The leaves have donned their autumn splendor and many are joining the birds in the air, in preparation for winter. Deer, wild turkey, raccoons, squirrels, and countless other species live in those woods, and occasionally come to visit and nibble on my landscape. How awesome to think that I share a history with these life forms and that, to varying degrees, I am related to them. I am humbled to think that God’s creative work is of such grand coherence and scope that the universe is one gigantic narrative of creation. This seems far richer than my former creationist view that the universe is a collection of separately created things. And, to top it off, God created us with minds capable of unpacking the whole amazing story.

Why would any Christian find it hard to believe that evolution was God’s way of creating?

[Read The Entire Article Here]

Even as an atheist I found that quite, quite inspiring and, to be honest, if I were ever to return to the Christain fold again (and I think it unlikely) this kind of view is how I would have to mold myself.

James “Kyuuketsuki” Rocks (UK Tech Portal)

9 October 2008

FT: Creationism Is About Politics Not Religion

Filed under: Creationism & Intelligent Design,News,SJS Comment — Kyuuketsuki @ 1:29 pm

The Evolution Of Creationism
Christopher Caldwell
September 5 2008

The address by Sarah Palin, the vice-presidential nominee, to the Republican convention on Wednesday was hailed by both supporters and detractors as marking an epoch in US politics. The Alaska governor introduced herself as a representative of the small-town Americans “who do some of the hardest work . . . who grow our food, run our factories and fight our wars”, and warned that she was not coming to Washington to seek the good opinion of the press. For Republicans, it was the most electrifying oratorical moment in a generation, when the authentic voice of middle America made itself heard again after decades of silence. For Democrats, it was a rant unprecedented in its boorishness and effrontery.

Leaving aside Alaskan regional exotica, from moose stew to snow-machine racing, the great novelty of Ms Palin’s candidacy is that she is the first national nominee since William Jennings Bryan a century ago to be called a “creationist” – a disbeliever in the theory of evolution. This is unfair. Those who describe Ms Palin that way are latching on to one exchange during the Alaska governor’s race two years ago when she said she had no objection if teachers questioned Darwin. “I say this as the daughter of a science teacher,” she said. “Don’t be afraid of information, and let kids debate both sides.” She explicitly ruled out putting creationism on school curriculums.

But she is not exactly shouting her mainstream views from the rooftops, either. A new kind of opposition to the theory of evolution has stirred small-town America in recent years. From the 1960s until the 1980s, believers in the Biblical account of creation managed to stymie the teaching of Darwin in Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana. But only briefly – they were drubbed in the courts, on the grounds that their teachings violated the separation of church and state. Outright creationists, of the sort who date the Creation to 4004BC, are today few, disorganised and weak. What the US does have, though, is an active community of campaigners for “intelligent design”, the belief that nature is too complex to be understood without reference to a “designer” – presumably one with a capital D. Intelligent design, too, has fared badly in the courts, but the political questions it raises are live. They tell us a bit about why populism made such a thundering return to US politics this week.

[Read The Rest Of The Article Here]

So religion is about power & control? I’d never’ve guessed! Honest!

James “Kyuuketsuki” Rocks (UK Tech Portal)

1 October 2008

Pharyngula: A Review Of “Explore Evolution”

Filed under: Creationism & Intelligent Design,Education,News,Science,SJS Comment — Kyuuketsuki @ 8:16 am

According to PZ Myers of the Pharyngula Blog, The Discovery Institute is about to replace it’s previous anti-evolution textbook, “Of Panda’s And People” and John Timmer of Ars Technica reviewed it saying:

“the book doesn’t only promote stupidity, it demands it. In every way except its use of the actual term, this is a creationist book, but its authors are expecting that legislators and the courts will be too stupid to notice that, or to remember that the Supreme Court has declared teaching creationism an unconstitutional imposition of religion.”

PZ Myers has read it and agrees it is as bad as the reviewer says.

Read Myers slightly more comprehensive comments here and the full review here.

James “Kyuuketsuki” Rocks (UK Tech Portal)

30 September 2008

Brunswick School Board Update

Filed under: Creationism & Intelligent Design,Education,News,Science — Kyuuketsuki @ 8:27 am

From PZ Myers Pharyngula Blog:

After reading e-mails by people disgruntled about the idea of teaching creationism, hearing about the state’s point of view and consulting with attorney Kathleen Tanner, Babson said she thinks the board will not try to go against the law to teach creationism, although she would like to see it in the classroom one day.

Fanti said he learned about the court cases after addressing the board and now thinks the idea of teaching creationism as part of the curriculum will be crushed. But he plans to ask the school board to encourage “evolutionists” in the schools to talk about the strengths and weaknesses of their theory.

“Instead of making it a religious issue, let’s make it a scientific issue,” said Fanti, who identifies himself as a chemical engineer.

James “Kyuuketsuki” Rocks (UK Tech Portal)

24 September 2008

US (Brunswick County): New Attempt To Teach Creation In Schools

Filed under: Creationism & Intelligent Design,Education,News — Kyuuketsuki @ 12:17 pm

Just saw this mentioned on Center For Inquiry:

Brunswick school board to consider creationism teaching

Published: Tuesday, September 16, 2008 at 10:40 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, September 16, 2008 at 10:40 p.m.

The Brunswick County school board is looking for a way for creationism to be taught in the classroom side by side with evolution.

“It’s really a disgrace for the state school board to impose evolution on our students without teaching creationism,” county school board member Jimmy Hobbs said at Tuesday’s meeting. “The law says we can’t have Bibles in schools, but we can have evolution, of the atheists.”

When asked by a reporter, his fellow board members all said they were in favor of creationism being taught in the classroom.

The topic came up after county resident Joel Fanti told the board he thought it was unfair for evolution to be taught as fact, saying it should be taught as a theory because there’s no tangible proof it’s true.

“I wasn’t here 2 million years ago,” Fanti said. “If evolution is so slow, why don’t we see anything evolving now?”

The board allowed Fanti to speak longer than he was allowed, and at the end of his speech he volunteered to teach creationism and received applause from the audience. When he walked away, school board Chairwoman Shirley Babson took the podium and said another state had tried to teach evolution and creationism together and failed, and that the school system must teach by the law.

“Evolution is taught because that’s what the General Assembly tells us to teach,” Babson said, adding that she doesn’t agree with it, but that students must learn it to graduate


[Read More Here]


James “Kyuuketsuki” Rocks (UK Tech Portal)

23 February 2008

Journal Live: County Rejects Faith Academy At Consett

Filed under: Creationism & Intelligent Design,SJS Comment — Kyuuketsuki @ 11:12 am

Another positive result for good sense and reason!

EDUCATION bosses yesterday gave an emphatic snub to ex-motor magnate Sir Peter Vardy’s offer to set up a faith academy in a former steel town.

In doing so Durham County Council rejected the advice of a former chief inspector of schools and of an ex-Government chief whip.

The issue is politically contentious, with former chief whip and North West Durham MP Hilary Armstrong coming under fire from Labour councillors for supporting the proposal from Sir Peter Vardy’s Emmanuel Schools Foundation in partnership with former Sunderland AFC chairman Bob Murray.

Ms Armstrong, whose constituency includes Consett, said the town’s children could miss out on a “marvellous opportunity”.

The council instead favours as potential sponsor a consortium called Durham Excellence in Education Partnership (Deep) involving Durham University, local secondary schools, North East Chamber of Commerce and the county council itself.

Two other MPs, Kevan Jones, of Durham North, and Roberta Blackman-Woods, Durham City, support the council’s preferred option.

After the council cabinet voted on its preferred sponsor, Ms Blackman-Woods said: “In the House of Commons today I congratulated Durham University and its partners for putting forward their bid.

“If it was ultimately successful, it would help to raise aspirations in the county and provide more opportunities for young people.” Mr Jones said: “Durham County Council’s decision is fantastic news for education in Durham. The involvement of Durham University and the other members of the Deep group will bring a great deal of expertise to the academies programme and will certainly help to continue to drive up educational standards in Durham.”

[Read The Rest of The Article Here]

Anything that stops people like Reg Vardy advancing his creationism into our schools is a good thing! Now if we can only get someone with some real balls to push these people out of what they already have we’ll be truly on the winning path.

James “Kyuuketsuki” Rocks (UK Tech Portal)

19 February 2008

Angry By Choice!

Filed under: Creationism & Intelligent Design,SJS Comment — Kyuuketsuki @ 9:33 am

I was browsing P. Z. Myer’s excellent Pharyngula blog and he linked to another one, Angry By Choice, a report about a Creation Science Home-Schooling Fair, and was saying what a typical mess it was and of course he’s right but I read Angry’s report and I saw something else, I saw hope!

Why do I say that? OK, it seems to me that even though these awful “creation science” leaders are doing what they do best (lie, cheat, delude and intentionally obscure reality for what I can only presume to be power and status) reason will win the day … at the fair there were exhibits at the show that showed young, creationism home-schooled, people were thinking or attempting to think rationally (don’t get me wrong, there were others that weren’t) and that gives me hope.

Even if everything science has done was wiped out today and the creationists took power I believe (or at least have reason to hope) that reason would eventually triumph again because reason and logic opposes what these awful people do, that belief-in-spite-of-evidence gets trashed once humans start to think for themselves.

That isn’t a reason to be complacent but it does mean that even if ID triumphs its victory will, in all liklihood, be transient and Humanity still has a chance to suceed and that makes me look at things just a little more positively.

Call it faith if you wish but I believe in our future.

James “Kyuuketsuki” Rocks (UK Tech Portal)

6 July 2007

A Rebuttal Of The Claims On The TIS website

Filed under: Creationism & Intelligent Design,Science — Kyuuketsuki @ 10:33 pm

*** Originally posted by Chris Hyland of SJS ***

Introduction

The main aim of Truth in Science is to cast doubts on the modern theory of evolution, and promote the idea of ‘intelligent design’ as an alternative. The method of attacking evolution used is highly reminiscent of the book “Icons of Evolution” by the intelligent design advocate Jonathan Wells, and this book is indeed referenced on the site. The idea seems to be that we can infer from the fact that there are often oversimplifications and inaccuracies in modern biology textbooks, that there are problems with the theory of evolution itself, or that the topics covered somehow aren’t evidence for evolution at all. While most biologists would like to see a more thorough treatment of evolution in science classes, considering it is the cornerstone of modern biology; the impression given that any inaccuracies or simplifications hide problems with the theory, or present a particular field as providing greater evidence than it actually does is simply false.

Further Reading:

The idea of intelligent design as scientific theory is one that is completely rejected by the scientific community. While they present design as a scientific hypothesis, it’s proponents have not produced any research supporting their position, and instead spend their time either attacking evolution in the manner discussed above, or attempting to get their ideas taught in school science classes without first getting them as accepted scientific theories. While recently some in the movement has claimed that research is taking place, not one of them can even give an example of what intelligent design research would entail, or a hypothesis based on their ideas. It has been repeatedly shown that ID is not only more of a religious and political movement than a scientific one, but that it was created primarily in the wake of several US court decisions forbidding the teaching of biblical creationism in schools. Many ID arguments claimed to be based on ID are in fact old creationist arguments with any references to God removed. Presenting ID as a valid alternative scientific theory to be taught alongside evolution is not only an insult to the entire of modern science, it is at best seriously misleading our children and at worst intentionally deceptive.

Further Reading:

In the spirit of other intelligent design advocates, the Truth in Science website does not make any statements about topics like the age of the earth. This is generally referred to as the ‘big tent’ strategy of intelligent design, where all creationists are able to attack evolution without mentioning the major differences between them. Despite this, the website includes many references to young earth creationist sources in its anti-evolutionary articles, including references to ‘baraminology’, the attempt by creationists to classify living organisms into the ‘kinds’ mentioned in Genesis. Creationist authors cited include Kurt Wise, who has said that no evidence will convince him that the earth is old because that is what he believes the Bible says. Additionally, most of the advocates of Truth in Science appear to be young earth creationists and members of prominent young earth creationist organisations.

Further Reading:

This short review attempts to address some of the false or misleading claims made on the Truth in Science website that people may have been directed to by either media reports or from material that was sent to their school. The claims are addressed in approximate order they appear on the site.

  • Main Page
  • Misrepresentation Of Alternatives
  • National Curriculum
  • The Fossil Record
  • Antibiotic Resistance
  • Peppered Moths
  • Sickle-cell Anaemia
  • Comparative Genetics and Biochemistry
  • Horse Evolution
  • Embryology
  • Homology
  • Scottish Curriculum
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Related Articles

Homepage

The following (in bold) are major claims quoted from the Truth-in-Science home page, each is followed by one or more SJS bullet-point responses.

Welcome to Truth in Science, a new organisation to promote good science education in the UK. Our initial focus will be on the origin of life and its diversity.

  • The ‘origin of life’ is not a subject that is part of the UK science curriculum.
  • Given the kind of material that TIS promotes we find it extremely difficult to believe that their mission is to promote good science.

For many years, much of what has been taught in school science lessons about the origin of the living world has been dogmatic and imbalanced. The theory of Darwinian evolution has been presented as scientifically uncontroversial and the only credible explanation of origins.

  • Evolution is not a theory of origins. Evolution is a theory of diversity.
  • There is completely separate scientific discipline called Abiogenesis which deals with hypotheses about origins.
  • We don’t believe abiogenesis should be taught in school science lessons either, because all of the hypotheses out there are currently extremely tenuous.

This is despite the National Curriculum which states:
Pupils should be taught … how scientific controversies can arise from different ways of interpreting empirical evidence (for example, Darwin’s theory of evolution) [The National Curriculum for Key Stage 4 Science (Sc1: Scientific enquiry)]

  • This is from the Key Stage 4 Science Curriculum that was active BEFORE the first of September 2006. This curriculum is not longer current. TIS are aware of this (see later).

Few schools have taught this controversy. This is partly because many popular textbooks present Darwinism as the only scientific theory of origins and give little coverage to alternative theories, sometimes misrepresenting them.

  • There is no controversy and claiming there is does not make it so.
  • Science does not recognise any theory called ‘Darwinism’.
  • We assume that by ‘Darwinism’ TIS mean the theory of evolution. Evolution is not a theory of origins.
  • There is no ‘scientific theory of origins’ there are a number of tentative hypotheses collectively referred to as ‘abiogenesis’.
  • There is plenty of coverage of all the alternative abiogenesis hypotheses.

New GCSE Science Specifications in September 2006 give a fresh opportunity to reconsider what is taught about origins in science lessons. These specifications place an emphasis on students understanding “How Science Works”. This concept is explained as follows by the Edexcel Examination Board:
“How Science Works” is primarily about helping students to engage with and challenge the science they meet in everyday life. Students need to adopt a critical, questioning frame of mind, going ‘behind the scenes’ to understand the workings of science and how it impacts on society and their lives.

  • Notice the mention of the ‘New GCSE Science Specifications in September 2006’. It’s strange how TIS fail to mention that these do not include the quote they have chosen above.
  • We have no problem with the ‘How Science Works’ program at all. We don’t think it should be applied to the origins question because it is still under research and can be considered ‘tentative science’ at best.
  • We don’t think that any tentative science should be taught in schools.
  • We don’t believe that any pseudoscience such as Intelligent Design should be taught in schools either.
  • We believe that the major and established scientific theories should be taught in schools.

We consider that it is time for students to be permitted to adopt a critical approach to Darwinism in science lessons. They should be given fair and accurate presentations of alternative views.

  • There are currently no credible scientific alternatives to evolution. Evolution is supported by a vast amount of evidence, makes a large number of predictions and is falsifiable. It is therefore a scientific theory.
  • Intelligent Design is not backed up by any data, makes no predictions and is not falsifiable. It is therefore NOT science at all.

In an Ipsos MORI Poll carried out in January 2006 for BBC Horizon , 41% of the respondents thought that Intelligent Design Theory should be taught in school science classes, and 44% believed that Creationism Theory should be taught. An Opinion panel Research Survey in July 2006 found that 30% of University Students in the UK believe in creation or intelligent design.

  • We lament this state of affairs and sincerely hope that Truth in Science is not making things worse.

There is a modern controversy over Darwin’s theory of evolution and the neo-Darwinian synthesis, and this has considerable social, spiritual, moral and ethical implications. Truth in Science promotes the critical examination of Darwinism in schools, as an important component of science education.

  • The only controversy over Darwin’s theory of evolution is that it conflicts with very literal interpretations of some religious scriptures e.g. the books of genesis in the Bible.
  • The ‘social, spiritual, moral and ethical implications’ of any scientific finding are – as always – outside of the remit of science. Evolution is a set of mechanisms to explain the diversity of life on this planet, nothing more.
  • Science fully supports critical examination of all scientific theories, all the time. This is done via a process called “peer review” which ALL that scientific papers must go through before they are published and is performed (and often administered) by scientists with relevant qualifications and a great deal of experience.

Misrepresentation Of Alternatives

The following (in bold) are major claims quoted from the Truth-in-Science page linked above, each is followed by one or more SJS bullet-point responses.

Alternatives to evolution are rarely presented; where they are they are presented as religious and without scientific merit.

  • Since no alternatives have been published in scientific journals and have been rejected by the scientific community, it is fair to say they are currently without scientific merit. With ideas such as the creationism and intelligent design movements it is a trivial task to show that they are religiously based.

National Curriculum

The following (in bold) are major claims quoted from the Truth-in-Science page linked above, each is followed by one or more SJS bullet-point responses.

Lord Filkin, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Department of Education and Skills, confirmed that Intelligent Design can be covered as part of the National Curriculum.

  • Schools minister Jacqui Smith has since said:
    “Creationism and Intelligent Design are not included in either the present science programme of study or the revised science programme of study to be implemented in September 2006” and “Intelligent Design is sometimes erroneously advanced as a scientific theory but it has no underpinning scientific principles or explanations supporting it and is not accepted by the international scientific community.”

The Fossil Record

The following (in bold) are major claims quoted from the Truth-in-Science page linked above, each is followed by one or more SJS bullet-point responses.

The fossil record shows a lack of transitional species.

  • A transitional fossil is defined as one that shows features of both more ancient and more recent organisms. By this definition there are hundreds of transitional fossil species that have been discovered, and many between higher levels such as families and genera. In many cases the theory of evolution allowed scientists to predict exactly where these fossils would be found.See Talk Origins (creationist claim CC200): There are no transitional fossils.

The fossil record should show a smooth continuum.

Punctuated equilibrium lacks a clear mechanism

  • The theory of punctuated equilibrium is based on observation of living as well as extinct species. There is much support in the population genetics and molecular evolutionary literature for their theory, as well as mechanisms at both the genetic and species level of how this phenomenon occurs.See Wesley R. Elsberry’s “Punctuated Equilibrium FAQ

Some scientists to say that evolutionist explanations are wrong, and that all life has not evolved from a common ancestor.

  • The number of scientists with relevant qualifications that believe this is miniscule compared to those that accept the accepted scientific explanation. Common descent is one of the most strongly supported theories in all of science, and those few that oppose it have produced no research to back up their claims.

The fossil record is the subject of a great deal of scientific controversy.

  • While there are some genuine scientific controversies concerning the fossil record, none of them involve the reality of common descent.

Archaeopteryx was not an ancestor of birds and is no evidence for evolution

  • The claim that Archaeopteryx is a transitional fossil between dinosaurs and birds is not the same as saying it was a direct ancestor of birds (see above). There are many other examples of reptile to bird transitions that are also used as evidence.See Talk Origins (creationist claim CC214): There are no transitional fossils between reptiles and birds.

The duckbilled platypus shows features of both reptiles and mammals, but is not transitional between the two.

  • The platypus contains highly specialised features of its own that are not shared by either reptiles or mammals, therefore it does not appear to transitional between the two. This shows a misunderstanding of how transitional fossils are identified.

The Cambrian explosion shows many animal forms appearing without any fossil ancestors.

Non-evolutionists take the fossil record to show that the Cambrian animals did not evolve gradually from a common ancestor, and came into being through intelligent design.

  • No intelligent design advocate has produced any hypothesis of how Cambrian animals came into being through design, or produced any research supporting the idea that they could not have evolved. In contrast there are several hypotheses from many fields of science dealing with the evolution of Cambrian animals.

Antibiotic Resistance

The following (in bold) are major claims quoted from the Truth-in-Science page linked above, each is followed by one or more SJS bullet-point responses.

Most antibiotic resistance involves the spread of traits from bacteria already resistant before the antibiotic was in use.

  • There is much evidence that many cases of antibiotic resistance are have been caused by mutation of several genes, as well as creation of new genes. Triclosan resistence in S. aureus is cause by mutations in several different genes, and vancomycin resistance involves a radical change to the structure of cell wall, and the development of five different genes. This complexity is reflected in the fact that bacteria did not develop resistance to vancomycin until thirty years after the antibiotic was introduced.Further Reading:
    * Refutation of creationist arguments regarding antibiotics
    * Post from the talkorigins newsgroup on the subject

Antibiotic resistance does not result in the formation of new species, or prove that all of life arose from single celled organisms.’

  • Antibiotic resistance is not used as an example of speciation, and not all evolution involves the formation of new species. Antibiotic resistance is just one piece of evidence and it is bizarre to claim that a single piece of evidence must be proof of the theory of evolution by itself.

Peppered Moths

The following (in bold) are major claims quoted from the Truth-in-Science page linked above, each is followed by one or more SJS bullet-point responses.

The peppered moth story only involves small scale change.

  • The purpose of Kettlewell’s and other experiments was to determine if the changes in peppered moth genotypes was due to natural selection, these experiments were not intended to look at speciation or other aspects of evolutionary theory.

Kettlewell’s experiments were flawed.

Sickle-cell Anaemia

The following (in bold) are major claims quoted from the Truth-in-Science page linked above, each is followed by one or more SJS bullet-point responses.

The fact that sickle-cell mutation confers resistance to Malaria does not prove that all organisms arose from a common ancestor.

  • The idea that individual pieces of evidence in support of evolution must prove the entire of common descent on their own is misleading. The modern theory of evolution is based of countless pieces of evidence from 150 years of research.

Comparative Genetics and Biochemistry

The following (in bold) are major claims quoted from the Truth-in-Science page linked above, each is followed by one or more SJS bullet-point responses.

The difference between the human and chimpanzee genomes has been lowered from 98% to 96% after the sequencing of the chimp genome.

  • Since the most common measure for describing differences in genomes is based on individual nucleotide differences, so describing the difference as 98%-99% is entirely appropriate.See: Nature article on the chimpanzee genome

Similarities between organisms may be due to them having the same designer.

  • Evidence for common design must begin by specifying what is expected from the designer. For example predicting when we expect similar or different forms. Then it can be seen whether new evidence fits in with prediction. Any theory could be concocted to fit the data after the fact. Considering that no one has yet proposed an actual theory if design it is hard to see in what sense this is a scientific statement.

The existence of non-standard genetic codes is evidence against common descent.

  • These kind of claims appear to purposefully ignore the larger picture of molecular similarities in organisms. In any case there is no reason to think that the non-standard genetic codes disprove common descent, especially as they are only slight variations of the standard code. There are also plausible theories as to their existence.Further Reading: EvolvingCode.net

Different analyses give different patterns of evidence.

Horse Evolution

The following (in bold) are major claims quoted from the Truth-in-Science page linked above, each is followed by one or more SJS bullet-point responses.

The change represented by horse evolution can be accommodated by both evolutionary and non-evolutionary theories.

  • This claim is hard to evaluate since no one has produced an analysis of the horse fossil record using a non-evolutionary theory.Further Reading: Fossil Horses (Florida Museum of Natural History)

Embryology

The following (in bold) are major claims quoted from the Truth-in-Science page linked above, each is followed by one or more SJS bullet-point responses.

Some textbooks use Haeckel’s embryo pictures, which are flawed.

  • While this is true, the implication that embryos do not show similarities is untrue. At earlier stages of development for example, vertebrate embryos show similarities and differences that match the pattern of common descent.

Many school textbooks still refer to Haeckel’s work.

Embryos never have gills, and calling features of human embryos ‘gill slits’ is merely to read Darwinian theory into the evidence.

  • While they are not technically gill slits, the structures are properly referred to as ‘pharyngeal pouches’. These structures are morphologically indistinguishable between human and fish embryos, and while they go on to form gills in fish, in humans they go on to form structures that evolved from gills such as the middle ear and the thymus.The fact that human and fish embryos develop the same structure reflects the fact that mammalian ancestors were once aquatic gill-breathing vertebrates.Further Reading:
    * See Talk Origins (creationist claim CB704): Human embryos do not have gill slits; they have pharyngeal pouches
    * Panda’s Thumb: Explanation of evolution of human organs from gills

Parents, teachers and pupils should be aware that one of the key evidences for evolution used by these textbooks is flawed.

Homology In Vertebrate Limbs

The following (in bold) are major claims quoted from the Truth-in-Science page linked above, each is followed by one or more SJS bullet-point responses.

Scientists only pick certain features to support common ancestry. For example the platypus has fur like a rabbit, a bill like a duck and lays eggs like a crocodile.

  • This is a misrepresentation of how homology is inferred from comparative anatomy. At any acceptable detail, a platypus’ bill is very different from a ducks, and does not support common ancestry between the two. The overwhelming majority of features point to a common ancestor with other mammals. These kinds of claims ignore the fact that many different lines of evidence give the same overall pattern of common descent, and in cases of comparative anatomy the overwhelming majority of features studied support the same pattern. To claim this is not the case involves very selective citing of the literature, and ignores the fact that the study of limb development increases the support for common descent.Further Reading:
    * Talk Origins: Discussion of how limb homology is evidence of a common ancestor of reptiles and birds
    * NCSE: Explanation of how homology is misrepresented by creationist Jonathon Wells

As Darwinists have to assume that evolution has occurred in order to identify homology, they cannot use homology as evidence for evolution. Using homology as evidence for evolution is to argue in a circle. And circular arguments prove nothing.

  • This is not how inferring homology works. Similarities of many traits group to show a nested heirarchical pattern of common descent. This patter was originally identified by Linneaus long before Darwin. Common ancestry is inferred because of the huge number of traits and different lines of evidence that show the same pattern.Talk Origins (creationist claim CB801): Claim that homological evidence for common ancestry is a circular argument.

Scottish Curriculum

Students are taught that their behavior is dependent on their genes.

Students are taught that their unique place in the world as humans is due to the recent evolution of large brain size.

  • The syllabus says: “In relatively recent evolutionary times there has been an exponential increase in human brain capacity. It is the large size of the human brain which gives humans a unique place in the animal world.” Biologically speaking our brain capacity is the main distinguishing feature between humans and other animals. Any other differences that may not be biologically based are beyond the scope of a biology syllabus.

Differences between males and females are explained using Darwin’s controversial theory of sexual selection.

  • Although certain tenets of sexual selection are controversial, it is generally accepted by the scientific community. There is evidence for sexual selection at both the population and the genetic level.See Stanford University: Discussion of sexual selection

Frequently Asked Questions

The following (in bold) are major claims quoted from the Truth-in-Science page linked above, each is followed by one or more SJS bullet-point responses.

Over 600 scientists with PhDs have signed a public statement: “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.”

  • This is an example of a fallacy known as an argument from authority, it is not the number of people you can get to sign a list that decides the validity of a theory it is research and evaluation of the evidence. Even if we were to accept these lists as authoritative, if you count the signatories with relevant qualifications (about 20%) the total comes to much less than one percent of all qualified scientists. The statement also presents a false dichotomy, as not even Darwin believed that natural selection was the sole driver of evolution, so this does not even count as an antievolutionary statement.See Talk Origins (creationist claim CA111.1): More than X scientists support …

British school textbooks misrepresent creationists views.

  • Although not desirable, this is understandable, considering the vast majority of views on specific topics held by creationists. This problem is compounded by the fact that there is currently no scientific theory offered in support of creationism.

New advances in science often begin with just a few scientists who are prepared to risk questioning the reigning paradigm.

  • While this is true, theories at this level of development are not generally suitable to be taught in schools, and theories pushed by small groups questioning the reigning paradigm may also turn out to be completely wrong. Cold fusion is an example of a theory that is not taught in schools even though there are hundreds of papers on it in the literature.

Peer pressure stifles objections to evolution.

  • Even if this was the case it could only ever be temporary as the evidence should be impossible to deny. However scientists are encouraged to challenge accepted ideas and produce novel results, a scientist who successfully challenges evolution would achieve worldwide fame and respect in the scientific community.See Talk Origins (creationist claim CA320): Scientists are pressured not to challenge the established dogma

Theories of origins have profound moral, social, ethical and cultural implications.

  • This may be true, but it does not change the fact that there are no scientific alternatives. Additionally, any such impact has no bearing on evolution’s validity as a theory.

Scientists discount theories that make reference to God or supernatural mechanisms.

It is very difficult to publish papers which contain alternative theories to evolution. When one was published attempts were made to ruin the career of the editor.

  • Since no examples are given of papers containing alternative theories that were rejected from journals, there is no evidence for this claim. In the example given of the paper that was published it appears that the editor abused his position to get the article published, because it did no meet the journals standards nor did it contain appropriate subject matter. The editors charges of harassment are far from proven.

Even if scientists realise that Darwinism is flawed in their own field, they may assume that in other areas it is well supported by evidence.

  • Although it is hard to call this claim false as it is rather subjective a conversation with only a few scientists in relevant areas would reveal that they all believe it is their field that provides the most support for the theory. Paleontologists regard the fossil record as the best evidence, molecular biologists cite DNA sequencing, organismal biologists will cite comparative anatomy etc.

The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.

  • In terms of a scientific theory, this can best be described as a hypothesis or a conjecture. In over 25 years intelligent design has yet to produce any research supporting its claims.See Talk Origins (creationist claim CA100): Intelligent design theory is science.

Intelligent Design is not based on the Bible, and a growing number of scientists propose design as the best explanation for the existence of specified complexity in the natural world.

  • It is a fairly trivial task to show that a great deal of intelligent design proponents reject evolution for religious reasons. However their technical claims are rejected because they are demonstrably false. There is no reason currently to think that evolution cannot generate specified complexity.

Darwinism is questioned by thinking people all over the world.

  • Questioning of evolution is mostly correlated with certain denominations of fundamentalist Christianity that occur in many countries.

”’Many prominent advocates of Darwinism are ‘distinguished supporters of humanism’ (according to the British Humanist Association) and Evolutionary Biologist Richard Dawkins’ latest book is entitled: The God Delusion.”’

  • This is true, however there is no evidence that Richard Dawkins’ or any other Humanists support of evolution is because of their humanism. This is not true for a great many of the major supporters of creationism and their religion.See Talk Origins (creationist claim CA100.1): Intelligent design is scientific, not religious.

Related Articles

Looking at the articles at Truth in Science in more depth.

26 June 2007

News: UK Government Acts On ID!

Filed under: Creationism & Intelligent Design,News,Science,SJS Comment — Kyuuketsuki @ 9:10 pm

*** Originally posted by Chris Hyland of SJS (modified by James Rocks) ***

From “The Register”:

UK Gov boots Intelligent Design Back Into ‘Religious’ Margins

The government has announced that it will publish guidance for schools on how creationism and intelligent design relate to science teaching, and has reiterated that it sees no place for either on the science curriculum.

It has also defined “Intelligent Design”, the idea that life is too complex to have arisen without the guiding hand of a greater intelligence, as a religion, along with “creationism”.

Responding to a petition on the Number 10 ePetitions site, the government said: “The Government is aware that a number of concerns have been raised in the media and elsewhere as to whether creationism and intelligent design have a place in science lessons. The Government is clear that creationism and intelligent design are not part of the science National Curriculum programmes of study and should not be taught as science. “

… 

The petition was posted by James Rocks of the Science, Just Science campaign, a group that formed to counter a nascent anti-evolution lobby in the UK.

From the UK Government’s E-Petition website:

The Original Petition

“The Prime Minister has recently spoken about the importance of science education in the UK. Creationism & Intelligent design are greatly featured in the media and are being used disingenuously to portray science & the theory or evolution as being in crisis when they are not. Moreover groups such as Truth in Science are targeting our nation’s children and their science education with material that is not only non-scientific but have been rejected by the scientific community. These ideas therefore do not constitute science, cannot be considered scientific education and therefore do not belong in the nation’s science classrooms.”

“We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to prevent the use of creationist and other pseudo-scientific propaganda in Government-funded schools.”

Submitted by James Rocks of ‘Science, Just Science’ Campaign

From The UK Government (10 Downing Street):

The Government’s response.

The Government remains committed ensuring that young people have an understanding of the importance of science and the world around them.

Science is a core subject of the National Curriculum throughout every Key Stage. The National Curriculum secures for all pupils, irrespective of background and ability, an entitlement to a range of areas of learning. Its aim is to develop the knowledge, understanding, skills and attitudes necessary for each pupil’s self-fulfilment and development as an active and responsible citizen. It makes expectations for learning and attainment explicit to pupils, parents, teachers, governors, employers and the public, and establishes national standards for the performance of all pupils. All materials that support the teaching, learning and assessment of primary and secondary education, can be found on the National Curriculum website (new window).

The Government is aware that a number of concerns have been raised in the media and elsewhere as to whether creationism and intelligent design have a place in science lessons. The Government is clear that creationism and intelligent design are not part of the science National Curriculum programmes of study and should not be taught as science. The science programmes of study set out the legal requirements of the science National Curriculum. They focus on the nature of science as a subject discipline, including what constitutes scientific evidence and how this is established. Students learn about scientific theories as established bodies of scientific knowledge with extensive supporting evidence, and how evidence can form the basis for experimentation to test hypotheses. In this context, the Government would expect teachers to answer pupils’ questions about creationism, intelligent design, and other religious beliefs within this scientific framework.

We will be publishing guidance for schools, on the way creationism and intelligent design relate to science teaching. It will be possible to ensure that the weight of scientific opinion is properly presented. The guidance will be available on the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority website in due course. 

Whichever way you look at it this e-petition was a success for SJS and for UK science.

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