Louisiana fights back against creationist legislators

By Phil Plait | March 12, 2012 7:00 am

In late 2008, the Louisiana government passed a bill into law that allowed teachers to teach creationism in the classroom. Then the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education followed up by adopting a policy that allowed "outside supplemental material" to be used by teachers, in a thinly veiled but quite clear attempt to allow creationist works in the classroom.

This attack on education by the religious right had some fallout. Because of all this, the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, a scientific society with over 2000 members, chose to boycott Louisiana for their annual conference. I think that was the right move, since it sends a signal that teaching antiscience in the classroom means groups that support science will take their business — and their money — elsewhere.

It also lit a fire under a young man named Zack Kopplin, a high school student and fighter for reality, who started a campaign to get the law repealed. I’m very pleased to write that Zack — who began all this as a high school student, I remind you, and is now a freshman at Rice — got 75 Nobel Laureates to sign on and endorse his effort. 75. He also has an impressive list of other supporters as well.

His website, RepealCreationism.com, has lots more info on what he’s trying to do. If you live in Louisiana, and feel as I do about this, send Zack some love and support.

And when it comes time for elections, remember who wanted to educate the children of Louisiana, and who wanted to push kids through school thoroughly unprepared for 21st century life.

[Note: There was a typo in a picture I had put at the bottom of this post. Fixing it would mean redoing the whole thong, so instead I just took the image out of the post. My apologies.]


Related Posts:

Louisiana: well, that’s it then
Jindal dooms Louisiana
Louisiana: even more doomed
Louisiana: epically doomed

Comments (79)

  1. Well done Zack!

    As always, I like to pimp my little Facts, not Fantasy web page. In particular these two:

    Introduction Page

    Creationists, Read This!

  2. Messier Tidy Upper

    Hey, an anti-creationism post – first one of these I’ve seen here in a while! :-)
    (For clarity : This is purely an observation not a complaint, request or anything like that.)

    Nice to see the defiant mouse image too – but where’s her rocket launcher gone? ;-)

    Good on ya Zack Kopplin. Good work – and best wishes for its success. :-)

  3. Jonathan

    If you’re going to complain about how Creationism is not science, then you should state that evolutionism is not either, it’s a THEORY (as Darwin himself said), and one that has been proved to be a pretty big flight of fancy many times. You call allowing creationist works in the classroom an attack on education?? I call it a more thorough education. I’m a creationist, but I actually advocate learning about evolution, as long as the people teaching show the true facts of both sides. Neither can be proven by science, both have to be accepted by faith, but it’s pretty easy to show how evolution is the much more unlikely option. If you don’t allow creationist material in the classroom, you’re narrowing the minds of the students and removing their freedom to think for themselves. The fact that you’re so opposed to teaching students about Creationism makes it seem that you’re worried that they might realize it makes a lot more sense and start believing it. If you’re so sure it’s baloney, then what’s so wrong with having students hear about it? If it’s so wrong, they’ll realize it. True education should neutrally but factually present opposing ideas to students so that they can draw their own conclusions.

    I like your blog, when you stick to talking about astronomy, but every time I read something of yours like this in which you slander other people’s viewpoints and insist our country will go to pot if we don’t kill off all Creationism, your capacity to reason drops several points in my estimation of you. Of course, you can write whatever you want on your blog, justunderstand that not everyone subscribes to the same error as you do.

  4. Dan_Veteran

    Are you against teaching creation at all in classes or just in the science class? I agree it should not be taught as science but should be part of a religious studies course.

  5. Dave

    I sill have a hard time with both theories, but why is the Big Bang the only option for existance? I, myself, am a Christain, and was raised to believe that God created the heavens and earth. But sometimes I do have a difficult time with it, but I also can’t figure out how this entire world, space, galaxy…EVERYTHING..could have came from nothing. There is not really proof for either one is there? I am not trying to stir up anything. I come on here to read Phil’s Blog everyday, he does a fantastic job. I love his YouTube discussions and watching him on the space programs…but why can’t both sides be talked about at school? There is just so much animosity towards Christain belifs these days. I have no desire to have a battle about religion, I just love science and space and this blog, that when I read this post it kind of makes me feel “inferior” for what I believe. Anyways, Phil, keep up the good work, I respect you and your work…just don’t agree on everything that you do, but thats what makes this world unique. Have a great day everyone, get out and look at the stars tonight!

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/11/suit-nasa-specialist-axed-intelligent-design-lawsuit_n_1338192.html?icid=maing-grid7%7Cmain5%7Cdl3%7Csec1_lnk2%26pLid%3D142646

  6. AGreenhill

    Your picture of the cat and mouse is very confusing… because the “” … so I read it (twice) as “maybe doomed not”…

    Anyhow – good for Mr Kopplin… glad to see young people take political action for what they believe – and a double bonus since it’s a battle against people who wish to make a theocracy out of this democratic republic.

  7. Marilyn

    Bully for you, Zack!! You’ve got more going for you than a board room full of adults four times your age. Keep it up–heaven knows we need you helping out with that amazing mind and strength you have. Thanks, Zack!

  8. Jeff

    yes, sad. Kids like Zack, much more are needed.

    This 21 st century world is such a mixture of technology/internet , which I equate with advancement of civilization; and such retro stuff from the old world like religion and war. I am very concerned that the retro will win. I am no longer convinced the evolutionary process that generated the human species works in an “advancement” kind of way; it’s opportunistic, the genes that reproduce and adapt to the environment best will propogate in the population. I am not convinced that means the “advancement” type of things. People who read this blog tend to be of that enlightened type, but what about these religious retros and warmongers, what’s going on there?

  9. truthspeaker

    I am no longer convinced the evolutionary process that generated the human species works in an “advancement” kind of way; it’s opportunistic, the genes that reproduce and adapt to the environment best will propogate in the population. I am not convinced that means the “advancement” type of things.

    You are correct, that’s how evolution works.

  10. Georgijs

    Good thing that we don’t such pests in my country. Or at least I don’t think we have.

  11. Hey, all this conservatism, religious fundamentalism, and so on has an upside. Do we really want to stop the re-creation, through in- and back-breeding, of Neanderthal and Denisovan (and who knows how many other) archaic hominid/ns? Will we really ever be able to figure out where we are going, if we don’t have examples of where we’ve been? If geneticists can resurrect woolly mammoths, why not the woolly-minded, through their own eschewing of contraception?

  12. Clare Nelson

    Can creationists spell the name of their own state? Can the scientists? Look at the cat-and-mouse image a bit more carefully.

  13. Jared Gee

    I am a big fan of Zack and the movement to repeal laws allowing Creationism to be taught in schools, but I am a very religious member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and a high school science teacher.

    (Yes, I’m ready for the Mormon/religion-blasting to start now.)

    However, despite my faith and my profession I don’t think Creationism belongs in schools. First, a science class is meant to teach science–the things we have discovered through observation and experimentation–not teaching things learned by faith. Second, if we were to teach Creationism principles, how is that fair to anyone who doesn’t share that belief? It’s not like principles of Creationism are remarkably unified between religious groups.

    I applaud Zack for caring enough about a cause as a high-school student to try to make a difference.

  14. truthspeaker

    Jonathan – your post provides an excellent example of the lies and false information that we don’t want taught to students in science classes.

  15. Topher Kittle

    So even though a good bit of what Jonathan says is dishonest (the part assigning common use of the word theory for scientific use of the word) I think he’s got a valid point. Why not show both? I mean come on, true education isn’t just conveying the necessary facts, which is what a many people here seem to be saying. A true education means solving real world problems or at least deriving an opinion of them. Presenting both side by side would be an excellent cross-curricular activity touching on debate, current events, history, life science, social science, philosophy, etc. In the end, provable truth based in logic always wins out and it’s not diminished or in any way reduced by being challenged.

  16. Grand Lunar

    Efforts like this give me hope for the future.
    We need more students like this one.

    @3. Johnathan
    “True education should neutrally but factually present opposing ideas to students so that they can draw their own conclusions.”

    Problem is, Creationism isn’t an opposing idea.
    It’s a falsehood.

    Should we teach Stork Theory alongside pregnancy?
    Should we teach Geocentricism in Geography class?
    How about teaching that 1+1=5 in Mathmatics?

    Get the picture yet?

  17. Daniel J. Andrews

    I’m a creationist, but I actually advocate learning about evolution, as long as the people teaching show the true facts of both sides.

    (for some reason, my paragraphs aren’t spacing..I even hit enter twice to make extra large spaces. Sorry)

    I was a creationist. Jonathan, please, don’t fall into the trap of thinking you know what you are talking about because you most emphatically do not. You *will* mislead other impressionable people who may be looking up to you. You may be responsible for driving them from God when they find out you mislead them and fed them lies, however unintentional those lies were.

    For me, I learned how much of what I had been taught was based on misunderstandings of facts. That took years longer than it should have because I didn’t want to admit people I admired and looked up to could have been that wrong. There were indeed “both sides” of the facts–problem is, the creationists’ sides were based on misunderstandings.

    E.g. They’ll tell you chimps DNA is only about 50-60% (some low number) similar to humans–it is really over 98%, but they got their number from misreading a paper looking only at the similarity in Y-chromosomes, not the whole genome.

    An example from this week is the misreading of the gorilla genome where they say it contradicts evolution–it doesn’t and the result really is what you’d expect if evolution happened and the kicker is that it actually contradicts creationism.

    The list of misunderstandings creationists are taught goes on and on. Pick your five best arguments then delve into them. Check primary sources. Ask for help if you’re stuck. You’ll find that someone somewhere misread the paper and made claims that the paper doesn’t support or actively refutes. You’ll find the lists of scientists who dispute evolution actually don’t.

    In short, you’ll find that everything you think you know about science and evolution is wrong. Badly wrong. If you’re not willing to seek the truth no matter where it leads, then at least please kindly don’t spread the lies–as truthspeaker said, you provided an excellent example of the false information we don’t want taught in schools. Thank you.

    Incidentally, if you’re looking for born again Christians who have no difficulty with evolution, check the books by Dr. Francis Collins and Dr. Kenneth Miller. They know what they’re talking about when it deals with science. I challenge you to read them.

  18. Daniel J. Andrews

    Why not show both? I mean come on, true education isn’t just conveying the necessary facts, which is what a many people here seem to be saying. A true education means solving real world problems or at least deriving an opinion of them. Presenting both side by side would be an excellent cross-curricular activity touching on debate, current events, history, life science, social science, philosophy, etc

    Because one is science, the other is not. Supernatural explanations are not science. The scientific method deals with the tangible, the measurable, the quantifiable. The hypothesis must be defined very precisely. Supernatural, by its very nature, cannot be measured, is not quantifiable. You’d have equal difficulty in developing a hypothesis about good, evil, morals because you can’t define these precisely, they can’t be quantified.

    This doesn’t mean the supernatural (or morals or good or evil) does not exist–it just means the scientific method is not equipped to deal with it. You need a different set of tools.

    By all means discuss creationism in a philosophy or religion class along with the creation stories of other religions. But it doesn’t belong in a science class. “God did it” is not a scientific hypothesis.

  19. robm

    But sometimes I do have a difficult time with it, but I also can’t figure out how this entire world, space, galaxy…EVERYTHING..could have came from nothing.

    And this has what to do with evolutionary biology? Creationism is the theory where all the plants and animals were created ex nihilo i.e. from nothing.

  20. Monkey

    Its kids like that (at the time a “kid”!) that keep me smiling…

    Way to go….and keep going. As a teacher with face to face time with many students, outreach like this is rare in a time of apathy=cool. I applaud thee.

  21. mandas

    Jonathon (and all other ignorant creationists)

    Your statement that theory is not science is probably the most ignorant comment I have ever read. What do you think science is?

    And you need to understand this. Evolution is not a theory. It is a fact. We see it happening all around us every day. There are theories about how and why evolution occurs, and Darwin’s theory of natural selection is but one. There are others. But creationism – and it’s bastard child intelligent design – are not among them. They are religious dogma, pure and simple.

    You say you are a creationist. All that means is that you have uncritically accepted a story from a bronze age book as fact – when anyone can demonstrate to you very easily that it is both contrary to evidence, and cannot possibly be true because of the mountains of internal contradictions contained within.

    I’m glad you want children to know the facts of creationism. I do to. Because the more of them who are told the facts, the less creationists there will be.

  22. @21, mandas, I cannot agree more. A theory typically IS science, as it must be backed by quantitative facts and observations. As evolution is a theory, it’s a theory that has so far, been as well supported as special and general relativity.
    Meanwhile, creationism… Well, which theory do we accept? The Hindu theory? The Zoroastrianism theory? The Judaism theory? The various Native American tribal beliefs? The Australian Aborigine theory?
    I know, the one with the largest army and the most nukes, right?
    Since reason obviously left the building, when creationism is brought up. Or do we teach EVERY religious creation story in schools?
    For the latter, I actually condone that, of course, that class would be CULTURES, not science.
    What is funny is, we WERE taught about the existence of creationism as a view, the concepts of guided evolution, we had cultures classes that discussed every major religion and culture in the world (if a bit simplified). It served me well over my many nation deployments over the decades. :)

    But, for the fundamentalist Christian stating the bible is the literal word of God, I simply observe that I now understand WHY Noah was confused, as God made the mistake of addressing him in Middle English and he spoke a precursor of Aramaic…
    Then, ask that person, in their view, WHAT did David slay with a sling? If they pronounce a giant, I explain how the HEBREW version is a totally different creature and was far from being considered simply a giant, but also supernatural, hence they also espouse human/angel hybrids running around…

  23. peter

    I cannot believe responses like those in here. America is going backwards. Evolution has nothing to do with the big bang and is fact, not theory. As for creationism, like all religion it is merely a flight of fantasy.

  24. Topher Kittle

    @ Daniel: That’s basically my point. When put up to the rigors of science it doesn’t hold water. Do you honestly think we’re better off not including it in the scientific discourse when by including it more people might see that? (along the lines of what mandas says) Let people who believe in creationism see that it isn’t science then maybe they will make the distinction you make about needing different tools.

    And just to reiterate, creationism is also a social phenomenon that could make for an excellent cross-curricular lesson. I just feel like it’s too big to ignore, unlike the stork theory or geo-centrism that Grand Lunar mentions which last I heard had few adherents. Also, I think it’s at the heart of a distrust of science in the US, despite all the consumer perks it has given us. That distrust makes people stick their heads in the sand about other things that I won’t go into here.

  25. mandas

    Dave @6

    You say you have a difficult time imagining that everything in the universe came from nothing. Yet you also say you are a christian. So by your own words you would have to have a hard time imagining where your god came from as well.

    You see, that’s the problem with the religious argument. It is a logical fallacy. If you want to claim that nothing can come from nothing and that something as complex as the universe must have had a creator, then you have to make the same argument about your god. And it is disengenuous to try to claim that god was always there, because as soon as you do, you are saying that something CAN come from nothing and you have just invalidated your original premise. If god can come from nothing, then so can the universe.

    You also want to argue that both sides should be taught at school. The problem is, there isn’t a ‘both sides’. There is science – and then there is a plethora of myths that stem from a time before science and knowledge was as advanced as it is currently. And to suggest we teach these myths on an equal footing with science is nonsense.

  26. Hevach

    A few people have responded to Johnathan’s comment, but people seem to be neglecting the simplest fault: Theory does not become proven and upgraded to law. Theory builds out of laws.

    Law is only observation and relation. It offers no understanding. For evolution, the law is the fossil record, the progression of species forms, and observed adaptation within species. These are all things we have seen, some directly in nature, others artificially through our history of breeding and hybridizing livestock, and others from the fragmented fossil record. But the laws offer no understanding.

    Galileo made observations, from which the first laws of gravity were established. Newton mathematically described them, providing definitive laws of how gravity works (at least at speeds far below c). But both left us with no theoretical framework – no understanding of what caused gravity, or even what it really was. The theory of gravity would came much later.

  27. Thomas

    Jonathan:

    Evolution is a theory, which means it is an explanation that is consistent with all the facts, and contradicted by none of them. Creationism is not a theory, but rather a hodge-podge of lies and misunderstandings. If your Muslim faith is challenged by evolution, I suggest that you find a more sophisticated imam, who will tell you that modern Islam has realized that there is no conflict between your worship of Allah and acceptance of science. Or you could convert to Christianity which likewise has no conflict with evolution. Creationism (I assume you mean the Hindu creation story) should be taught in religion class, not in science class.

  28. David

    I think, basically, four things regarding this whole discussion:

    #1: In my opinion, Evolution is no longer a “theory”, as there have been over 150 years of evidence to support it. It is a “scientific law” (Definition: A law generalizes a body of observations. At the time it is made, no exceptions have been found to a law.)

    #2: I was raised in the Presbyterian Church, along with a good public education system, and an open minded pair of parents, and somehow never had the problem of “either/or” it seems lots of the respondents here do. I have never had a problem integrating my religious beliefs with what I learned in school. Science & Religion aren’t mutually exclusive!

    #3: Religion should be taught in church & at home. If the people who are so worried about they’re kids not learning it in school, would worry more about teaching they’re kids themselves rather than expecting the schools to do it, they’d have nothing to worry about.

    #4: I believe Phil Plaitt is an of expert on astronomy, but apparently, he’s also an expert on religion. I would suggest he stick with what he knows about, as opposed to what he thinks.

  29. histrogeek

    I cannot express how little I want to wade into the creationist swamp (really it’s a trigger-laden mine field of mixed metaphors for me). First things first. Creationism is crap science. So crappy that it doesn’t even serve as a useful example of failed hypotheses (unlike Lamarckian evolution or anti- continental drift or Pasteur’s battles with the abiogenesists). Even the useless climate change skeptics are more useful in that regard. Any “teach the controversy” technique would be the worst blowout since the Pope made the same suggestion to Galileo.
    Someone earlier suggested creationism as part of religious studies. In a word, the word of a devout Christian I’ll mention, no. Teaching Genesis as part of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam would be fine, but Genesis as a book of an ancient people trying to explain the world with some later understandings as they impact later religion (original sin and so forth). Creationism on the other hand is not Genesis, it’s a late nineteenth century attempt to fight evolutionary theory by making song and story in honor of God and the world into a historical event, stripping it of awe and wonder and making it God’s to-do list. Like saying Jesus ascended by hovercraft. So creationism isn’t just crap science;it’s crap religion.

  30. Jonathan

    So, I keep seeing people talking about science vs. myth or nonscience or whatever. The problem is, where is the scientific evidence that Creationism is false? Over and over you assert that it is untrue, but I don’t see anything being presented to back up your claims, only insults and insinuations that Creationists must be, by definition, of lower intelligence than others. That kind of discussion is meaningless to me. Show me logic. Do you expect to win an argument with someone by insulting and debasing them till they finally decide you must be right? That’s ridiculous. I’m not going to make any claims as to my own intelligence, partly because I think I’m providing enough example in my comments, but I happen to know many very intelligent people who are also Creationists. It’s simply not true that being a Creationist equates to having a lower intelligence, or an inferior education.

  31. mandas

    Seriously Jonathon?
    I assume you are speaking about the creation myth in the bible, or are you talking about the Native American creation myth, the Australian Aboriginal creation myth, the Hindu creation myth, the Norse creation myth, Greek creation myth, etc, etc.
    And which of the two creation myths in Genesis do you accept? Genesis 1 or 2?
    Are the mountains of evidence of astronomy, cosmology, geology, biology, physics, chemistry, etc, etc not enough for you? To accept creationism, you have to deny all of these fields of science.
    Quite simply, if you accept creationism then, by definition, you must have an inferior education, because you have failed to grasp any and all of these sciences and the facts and evidence underpinning them.
    How much evidence do you want? As a first step, how about you read a few text books on the subject, then go to Google Scholar and do a search for the millions of papers on the subject.
    You want us to show you the evidence? How about a counter request. Show us some evidence for your position. Because that’s how science works you know. A theory is accepted until some counter evidence is found. If you want to invalidate evolution (and evolution does NOT explain how life commenced – that’s abiogenisis) show us some evidence that disproves it.
    At the same time, how about you show us even the slightest scintilla of evidence that suggests that the earth and all the life on it was created by some being. I can guarantee two things. Firstly, everyone here will be able to easily show it to be false. Secondly, you will refuse to accept it because your position is based on dogma, and not on reason.

  32. Raymond

    As a Christian who believes that science, evolution are not in conflict with faith, I am amused by the “Let’s teach both sides and let people decide for themselves”

    There are not 2 sides, Science and the other side. People who call for both sides assume science and Christianity. What about all the other religious beliefs? Living in Africa there are numerous non-Christian creation stories. If we were to teach all sides we would never get to teaching any science.

    I also remember arguing with my old pastor who was a fervent young earth creationist. He felt that teachers must teach both sides evolution, YEC and Scientific Evolution but would not be willing for someone to come and teach the science of evolution at the church, so people could see both sides.

    “Arguing with a fanatic is like playing chess with a pigeon. You could be the greatest player in the world, but the pigeon will still knock over all the pieces, crap on the board and strut around triumphantly “

  33. Nigel Depledge

    Hooboy, only 3 comments in and you have a loony already!

    Jonathan (3) said:

    If you’re going to complain about how Creationism is not science, then you should state that evolutionism is not either, it’s a THEORY (as Darwin himself said),

    Er, yes, it’s a scientific theory.

    That means a logical, self-consistent, unifying explanatory framework that is supported by the preponderance of evidence.

    Creationism – no matter which branch you choose to use as an example – is supported by none of the evidence, explains nothing, provides a dead-end to further investigation (where can you go after “Goddidit!”?), is contradicted by some or most of the evidence (depending on which brand of creationism you choose to look at) and is illogical. This, and a few other reasons I couldn’t bother to list, makes it Not Science.

    Did you have a point?

    and one that has been proved to be a pretty big flight of fancy many times.

    Ah, no. Here you refer to the religious creation stories.

    Evolution works for a living.

    You call allowing creationist works in the classroom an attack on education??

    Yes, because it teaches fantasy as if it were reality. Whereas the facts are, inter alia:
    1. All life on Earth is related;
    2. Patterns of relationships between organisms indicate a genealogical relationship, i.e. that of common descent;
    3. An organism’s environment can change that organism;
    4. Random factors (such as genetic drift and hybridisation) can also effect biological change.

    I call it a more thorough education. I’m a creationist, but I actually advocate learning about evolution, as long as the people teaching show the true facts of both sides.

    Heh. The facts are all on one side. Science has them all.

    Neither can be proven by science,

    Actually, common descent – a prediction of evolutionary theory – has been proven beyond reasonable doubt. Any demand for absolute proof is impossible because it is philosophically impossible to absolutely prove any empirical statement. For example, are you able to prove to me that you exist?

    both have to be accepted by faith,

    Nonsense.

    Evolution is supported by all of the available facts of biology, and is logical. It is, therefore, a reasonable conclusion. Creationism, OTOH, is illogical and some facets are actively contradicted by known facts.

    but it’s pretty easy to show how evolution is the much more unlikely option.

    Go on then.

    If you don’t allow creationist material in the classroom, you’re narrowing the minds of the students and removing their freedom to think for themselves.

    Even if this is true, it’s better than teaching them to believe in a fantasy as if it were fact.

    How would you feel if I tried to teach your kids to accept the dogma that the Tooth Fairy is as real as you or I?

    The fact that you’re so opposed to teaching students about Creationism makes it seem that you’re worried that they might realize it makes a lot more sense and start believing it.

    No, it’s because it harms the students’ ability to understand the difference between fact and fiction.

    If you’re so sure it’s baloney, then what’s so wrong with having students hear about it?

    It’s a waste of time.

    If it’s so wrong, they’ll realize it.

    This depends on what dogmas their parents have instilled them to believe. Seriously, any beliefs established by the time a child is 5 are nigh-on impossible to dislodge by such things as facts, unless that child makes a specific effort to question what they have previously been taught.

    True education should neutrally but factually present opposing ideas to students so that they can draw their own conclusions.

    Yes, and how much of that happens in – say – history or geography or French or Spanish? None at all, in most schools. High-school education is mainly about passing exams, but we should at least be teaching kids stuff that we know is correct – in this case, evolutionary theory – rather than stuff that has been shown to be false.

    I like your blog, when you stick to talking about astronomy, but every time I read something of yours like this in which you slander other people’s viewpoints

    It’s not slander to point out that something is wrong.

    Who would I be slandering, for instance, to point out that Santa Claus does not exist?

    If you believe in something that is intrinsically ridiculous (which creationism is) then you have no right to complain if you are ridiculed.

    and insist our country will go to pot if we don’t kill off all Creationism,

    Creationism is but one example of magical thinking that abandons reason in favour of dogma. If the US is to maintain its position at the forefront of the world’s scientific and technological nations, then it needs people who can discern fact from fiction, not people who are taught to believe only what they are told by their elders.

    More importantly, perhaps, the teaching of creationism as if it were fact would handicap the thinking ability of a generation of youngsters. In a modern, technological, democratic society, some basic understanding of science and technology is important in being able fully to participate as a member of that society, rather than as prey to every snake-oil salesman and politician who comes along.

    your capacity to reason drops several points in my estimation of you.

    This reflects more on you than it does on Phil.

    Of course, you can write whatever you want on your blog, justunderstand that not everyone subscribes to the same error as you do.

    It’s not erroneous to call creationism wrong.

    Furthermore, although you have claimed several things in your rather rambling post, you have not even tried to support any of them by reference to facts. Do you expect us to believe that which you assert merely because you aver it so?

  34. Nigel Depledge

    Dave (6) said:

    I sill have a hard time with both theories, but why is the Big Bang the only option for existance?

    Erm . . . this blog post is about evolution. Biological evolution. Nothing to do with the start of the Universe.

    I, myself, am a Christain, and was raised to believe that God created the heavens and earth. But sometimes I do have a difficult time with it, but I also can’t figure out how this entire world, space, galaxy…EVERYTHING..could have came from nothing.

    Rest easy, then. The Universe did not spring from nothing. It most probably arose through the action of natural processes.

    Creationists, however, would have you believe that the entire universe was created through magic.

    There is not really proof for either one is there?

    It depends entirely on what you mean by “proof”. If you mean “there is not one shred of evidence to support this assertion”, then you’re talking about creationism. If you mean, “the evidence indicates this to be the logical conclusion, but there is no such thing as absolute empirical proof”, then you’re talking about Big Bang theory.

  35. Nigel Depledge

    Dave (6) said:

    why can’t both sides be talked about at school?

    They can, in – for instance – a comparative religion class.

    However, creationism has no place being taught as if it were science, and that is what the apologists are attempting to instill.

    There is just so much animosity towards Christain belifs these days.

    On the contrary, there is such a lot of animosity against the discarding of irrational belief systems. Especially in the USA.

    And, cut it any way you care to, religion is irrational.

  36. Jonathan

    Isn’t it interesting that almost all the cultures around the world have a creation myth, but none of them have any stories about how life evolved over millions and billions of years…
    Anyway I’m not going to waste my time on this post anymore, I’m not convinced by all your claims that all of science supports evolution and none of it in any way supports Creation. I’m not a scientist and don’t have reams of papers to produce in support of Creation, but I know they exist, just as many of you probably know *about* papers which support evolution but aren’t ready to produce any relevant ones to the discussion. Therefore I realize I won’t gain any ground here. I’m not admitting defeat, because I still hold my position, I’m just resigning from the conversation.

    Thanks to those of you who at least remained civil, even in your errors. Unfortunately I can’t say thanks to all of the commenters.

    I’d like to point out that it’s humorous that someone made a sarcastic remark about creationists not being able to spell their own state, yet half of you couldn’t even spell my name right. It begs the question, “why are these things are even brought up?” Clearly there are people who have trouble with spelling, and people who believe varying things about the origin of the universe, and I don’t see why those two groups are connected in any way.

    At any rate, have a good life everyone. Hope it’s meaningful to you.

  37. Nigel Depledge

    Jared Gee (14) said:

    Yes, I’m ready for the Mormon/religion-blasting to start now

    If this is true, you have a very poor opinion of commenters on this blog.

    There is a distinct difference between criticising a feeble, illogical and dishonest argument made to support an creationist agenda, and directly lambasting a religion.

    In the same way, there is a difference between a factual statement such as “reigiouis belief is irrational” and polemic such as “followers of religion X eat babies”.

  38. Nigel Depledge

    Topher Kittle (16) said:

    So even though a good bit of what Jonathan says is dishonest (the part assigning common use of the word theory for scientific use of the word) I think he’s got a valid point. Why not show both? I mean come on, true education isn’t just conveying the necessary facts, which is what a many people here seem to be saying. A true education means solving real world problems or at least deriving an opinion of them. Presenting both side by side would . . .

    And here’s the issue.

    What do you mean by “both”?

    There are as many brands of creationism as there are brands of religion (more or less). Even if you limit the comparison to Christian creationism, there’s at least half a dozen varieties.

    In any case, what could you teach, in a science class, about creationism? “Oh, some people believe X but it’s wrong because of facts a, b, c, d, e and f”? What would this achieve to improve a student’s understanding of science?

    Sure, teach about creationism – specious arguments, lies, theocratic agenda and all – in a comparative religion class. But in a science class it would simply waste time that could be spent on teaching about science.

  39. Nigel Depledge

    Jonathan (26) said:

    So, I keep seeing people talking about science vs. myth or nonscience or whatever. The problem is, where is the scientific evidence that Creationism is false?

    OK, how about this –
    The bible asserts that god created all different kinds of animals each according to their kind.

    This is blatantly false. All life on Earth is related through common descent. Common descent is proven beyond reasonable doubt, and so is the fact that the sun will rise tomorrow. Absolute proof does not exist for empirical phenomena.

    And this is merely one of the dozens of wrong claims that creationism makes.

    Over and over you assert that it is untrue, but I don’t see anything being presented to back up your claims,

    Go and read any sensible biology textbook (i.e. one written by scientists). Go and read any one of hundreds of popular science books about evolution. Go to a museum and look at a Homo erectus skull. The evidence is in the public domain for you to find if you care to.

    BTW, you are beng hypocritical here, because you have presented nothing to back up your claims that all of modern biology is wrong. Put up or shut up. If you want evidence, evidence we have, but you go first. You, after all, are the one who is presuming to assert that thousands of scientists over the last 150 years or so have been getting it wrong.

    only insults and insinuations that Creationists must be, by definition, of lower intelligence than others.

    Where has anyone said this?

    If this has, as you claim, occurred in this thread, it should be easy enough for you to cite a specific quote.

    That kind of discussion is meaningless to me. Show me logic.

    OK, here’s a couple of starters for 10 (and you are getting about $100-worth of my time for free here so I hope you appreciate it):
    Why is it that we see nested hierarchies of relatedness among biological entities? Common descent explains this pattern, but special creation does not. There is absolutely no reason for any creator to make biological entities that show patterns of relationships that form nested hierarchies.

    All organisms that have DNA encode an enzyme called dUTPase, which exists to prevent the mis-incorporation of deoxyuridine residues in place of deoxythymidine during DNA biosynthesis. In all organisms, this enzyme does exactly the same job, yet its kinetic properties and amino-acid sequence vary from organism to organism. Even the exact composition of its active site varies, although in far tinier increments than the bulk of the protein. Evolutionary theory explains this observation very nicely. Creationism leaves you with a conundrum. Is the creator really so whimsical?

    Now, how about you come up with some logic in support of creationism?

    Do you expect to win an argument with someone by insulting and debasing them till they finally decide you must be right?

    Who here is attempting to do this?

    What I have seen is refutation of specific points you make, with the occasional snarky comment. BTW, if you follow the link that Larian LaQuella provides in #1, you will see that all of your “arguments” have been used – and heartily demolished – before. Many times.

    Do you have anything new to bring to the table, or are you intent on boring us and whining when we do not accept what you assert?

    That’s ridiculous. I’m not going to make any claims as to my own intelligence, partly because I think I’m providing enough example in my comments,

    No. “Intelligence” is too hard a concept to pin down. Just go and ask Mike Behe or Billy Dembski.

    What you have shown, however, is an unwillingness when making your own case to meet the standard you demand of science. Is that intellectually honest? Not from where I’m sitting, it’s not.

    but I happen to know many very intelligent people who are also Creationists.

    Being intelligent does not automatically permit a person to think critically.

    Also, if you refrain from making a vlaue judgement about your own intelligence for, presumably, good reasons, what qualifies you to judge the intelligence of other creationists?

    It’s simply not true that being a Creationist equates to having a lower intelligence, or an inferior education.

    AFAICT, this is a strawman. I did not notice anyone claiming that creationists were of below-average intelligence. And some creationists are very well-educated.

    The important point here is that if a fiction (creationism) is taught in science class as if it were valid science, this devalues everything taught in those classes that is factual, as well as making it far harder for the students themselves to discern fact from fantasy in later life.

  40. Greetings and Salutations…
    Rule #3 on the Net – Do not feed the trolls.
    That having been said, I am really pleased to see Nigel’s cogent and interesting explanation of the meaning of “theory” in regards to science in #29. That lack of understanding of the definition of the word causes many problems when arguing with folks who prefer faith over fact. They tend not to understand that basic fact – that a scientific theory is a model based on observations that explains how those observations work together. They tend to cling to the definition of “in theory, I could win the lottery by purchasing one ticket” – which kind of falls into the area of faith based on optimism and ignores the concept of probabilities.
    After decades of interactions with Fundamentalists who have a very fixed and inflexible view of the world, I have developed a theory based on those observations. My theory is that these folks are often terribly frightened by the complexities of the modern world, and, so cling to a simplistic model of reality that they can get their heads around, and, is unchanging, and therefore brings stability to their lives. In many cases, they are bright folks who have simply been educated only in the creationist point of view and carefully shielded from alternative theories. They also have been programmed from birth to believe that questioning their belief system is a sin that will cause an angry God to cast them into the fiery pits of Hell for eternity. Not exactly the sort of programming that encourages one to consider alternatives.
    Do I think that they should be wiped out, as Jonathan states? Heavens no! After all, the only way a theory can evolve and become more accurate is by comparing it to alternative explanations and seeing if it continues to be better at explaining reality. As was touched on in an earlier post, the scientist does not create a theory and assume it is the whole truth, then, defend it against attacks that attempt to prove it false. Rather, when a theory is created, it is assumed to be incomplete (at best) or wrong (at worst), then, the scientist goes through a series of cycles, comparing the observations with the theory, and changing the theory to better reflect those observations. By this means, the wrong or incomplete assumptions are removed from the theory, causing it to become more and more valid. An astronomical example (just to wave at the original reason for the blog) is the day in 1977 or so when my Astronomy professor walked into class and announced that earlier in the week the size of the universe had doubled! This puzzled us a bit, as we had not noticed any indications, say, like our drinks spilling, or stuff falling off shelves. Well, Dr. White explained that since there was no way to directly measure the size of the universe, its size was based on a theory involving a fairly complicated formula. One factor in that formula was the Hubble Constant (yea…THAT Hubble….). So…he had just read a paper showing that, based on new observations, the Hubble Constant had been changed from 50 something to 80 something. Of course, the actual size of the universe had not changed, but, rather, the theory that explained it had been refined by improved information. and that change to the Hubble Constant had caused the estimated size of the universe to double.
    It was an interesting moment and lead to some lengthy discussions of cosmology and the current state of affairs in astronomy.
    Pleasant dreams
    dave mundt

  41. Tracy M

    It is not the scientific community’s job to disprove any creationist idea. In science the individual (or group) must take their hypothesis and develop tests to see if their hypothesis holds true. Then the creationist must provide the methodology, data and conclusions to the scientific community, where it will be (fairly) evaluated. If there are flaws in the methodology and data interpretation and conclusions, then the creationist must refine their experiments/observational conclusions. If the evidence doesn’t support the creationist hypothesis, the supporters of hypothesis either have to admit they have a failed hypothesis or continue to develop experiments to bring their hypothesis up to a competing theory.

    Science has rigorous but fair standards. All scientific endeavors have to go through the same process and are subject to the same scrutiny, to those outside of the scientific community, the judgment process seems harsh and unfair. However, it is a fair process and it is necessarily harsh.

    So I repeat, it isn’t up to the scientific community to refute creationism, it is up to the creationist community to bring the evidence and methodology and have it pass the same rigorous scrutiny that the theory of evolution had to pass. There are no exemptions to the scientific method. If the creation hypothesis can pass the test, then it can be taught as a competing scientific theory.

  42. ND

    Dave @6: “There is just so much animosity towards Christain belifs these days.”

    There is a lot of animosity against christian fundamentalist creationists who try to shove their religion into the science classroom in thinly disguised form of intelligent design. If you try to get your ideas taught as science in high school without doing the actual science to back it up, you’re bound to get people upset, with good reason.

  43. Nigel Depledge

    Jonathan (32) said:

    Isn’t it interesting that almost all the cultures around the world have a creation myth, but none of them have any stories about how life evolved over millions and billions of years…

    Only insofar as it is interesting that all creation myths are different.

    Were you trying to make a point, or is snide insinuation all you have?

    Anyway I’m not going to waste my time on this post anymore, I’m not convinced by all your claims that all of science supports evolution and none of it in any way supports Creation.

    Have you even tried to understand the arguments made against your statements?

    Have you even tried to come up with some evidence that supports one or another of the creationist positions?

    No, I thought not. So, in other words, every moment anyone spent reading one of your comments was a waste of their time. Thanks for playing. Don’t come back until you understand exactly what evolutionary theory is.

    I’m not a scientist and don’t have reams of papers to produce in support of Creation, but I know they exist,

    How can you know they exist if you have never even looked for them, let alone seen them?

    We would not necessarily expect specific peer-reviewed papers supporting creationism, all you have to do is point out some pertinent facts that are consistent with creationism but incompatible with evolution.

    For example, what convinces you that creationism is right and evolution is wrong?

    just as many of you probably know *about* papers which support evolution but aren’t ready to produce any relevant ones to the discussion.

    This need not matter, because I know many relevant facts. Being a biochemist, I have seen first-hand some of the evidence for evolutionary theory. I’ve also done something that you have obviously not. I have read On the Origin of Species.

    Therefore I realize I won’t gain any ground here.

    But you could gain ground – or at least a basis of respect for your honesty – by supporting your assertions with facts. It is your choice to not even try this. The fact that you have not tried to support what you claim leads one to the conclusion that you are not interested in having a discussion, but are merely trying to score points.

    Of course, proving my assumption wrong would be the easiest thing in the world for you. Just back up what you have claimed with facts.

    I’m not admitting defeat, because I still hold my position, I’m just resigning from the conversation.

    Which, loosely interpreted, means “I haven’t got a clue how to back up what I have claimed, so I’m going to run away with my hands over my ears singing ‘La, la, la, I can’t hear you'”. Right?

    Thanks to those of you who at least remained civil, even in your errors. Unfortunately I can’t say thanks to all of the commenters.

    And despite your whining, I have not seen anyone being uncivil to you. Can you at least support that assertion with a citation? If you refer to my “loony” comment, that’s a statement of fact, not abuse.

    I’d like to point out that it’s humorous that someone made a sarcastic remark about creationists not being able to spell their own state, yet half of you couldn’t even spell my name right.

    Actually, I got the impression that the comment about spelling (#13) was a dig at Phil. For some reason, I cannot view the cat-and-mouse image mentioned in #13, but that comment made me conclude that Phil had made a typo in the caption.

    As to who can and cannot spell your name right:
    Truthspeaker (15) said:

    Jonathan

    Topher Kittle (16) said:

    Jonathan

    Grand Lunar (17) said:

    Johnathan

    Daniel J Andrews (18) said:

    Jonathan

    Mandas (21 and 27) said:

    Jonathon

    I (29 and 35) said:

    Jonathan

    That’s only one-third of commenters who cited your comments spelled your name wrong. (Shame on you, Grand Lunar and Mandas!) And you must admit that “Jonathan” (unlike, say, “Nigel”) has several legitimate spelling variants, so some of that confusion is understandable.

    Now, back to addressing #32:

    It begs the question, “why are these things are even brought up?”

    Er, yes, why are you bringing up the way people spell your name when you refuse to address the legitimate arguments made in response to things you have claimed?

    Clearly there are people who have trouble with spelling, and people who believe varying things about the origin of the universe, and I don’t see why those two groups are connected in any way.

    Wow, it looks like you took that comment #13 really personally. Maybe you can’t see the cat-and-mouse image, either, huh?

    There is no reason why there should be a connection, apart from the fact that people who are better educated tend – on average – to be more punctilious about spelling, and also tend to be better-informed about the origin of biological diversity. I have no idea why you mention the origin of the universe, since this thread is about biological evolution, which has happened irrespective of how the universe began.

    You seem deeply ignorant about what evolution actually is, so here’s something to think on: Darwin himself, in TOOS (first edition, at least), assumed that the origin of life was divine. All that is needed for his theory to work is for life to have started or been started somehow, and for heritable variations to exist in populations of organisms.

    At any rate, have a good life everyone. Hope it’s meaningful to you.

    ‘Bye. See you in a few days.

    (A typical creationist internet “debating” tactic is to make a post pretending to leave in a huff and then to continue posting 2 or 3 days later. Is Jonathan typical? We shall see.)

  44. Nigel Depledge

    Xmundt (36) said:

    Rule #3 on the Net – Do not feed the trolls.

    What about giving them a metaphorical kicking, huh? Can we? Can we? Huh? Huh?

  45. Johnda

    This is awesome. I am so glad to see kids in high school fighting ignorance! Way to go, Zack! Also, thanks Nigel! You saved me a lot of typing time, and covered the points thoroughly. I would like to add that science is about observation and measurement. Creationism is not science because its premise states that the world is so complex it must have been designed by an intelligence. The two primary concepts in this statement cannot be observed or measured. Complexity is relative. Maybe our world is very simple and humans are just stupid. The second concept is a world-designing intelligence. Where is this intelligence? Can we test it? Measure it? No. The only evidence for this intelligence is the complexity that we already know we can’t measure. Creationism is not science, it is a blatant attempt by some Christians to have their religion taught in public schools.

  46. Jared Gee

    Nigel (38),

    Not so much that I have a poor opinion of the commenters on this blog as a host of experience that being religious (especially Mormon) is not looked on favorably in most sci/tech circles. If I had a low opinion of the commenters on this blog I wouldn’t bother to comment at all.

    As far as metaphorical kickings go, that’s fine by me. I’m sure I’ll be the recipient of more than a few. I feel like the average Creationist post on articles like this follows the same pattern:

    “Why not teach both?”
    “What are you afraid of?”
    “Let’s show the flaws in both.”
    “Why are you attacking me for my faith?”
    “Why not teach both?”

    With slight variations each time. It makes me tired.

  47. Daffy

    It always strikes me funny—and a wee bit racist— that the people who actually wrote the Old Testament are never consulted on this topic. Have any of you Bible literalists ever even talked to a rabbi? The whole thing is supposed to me a metaphor—or at best a parable.

    The Jews wrote the thing—ask them what it means.

  48. truthspeaker

    David, what facts do you think Phil got wrong about religion?

    That’s part of the problem with this issue. Christians who aren’t even creationists get upset when someone like Phil criticizes creationists and only creationists. Phil didn’t say anything about religion in general, or Christianity in general. And yet you say he shouldn’t write about religion.

    WTF?

  49. truthspeaker

    Daffy – rabbis living now have no more information about the intent of Genesis’s authors than you or I. They may be more connected to it culturally but they don’t have information we don’t have.

  50. Daffy

    They have an unbroken tradition—definitely more direct than Christian interpretation. Or are you suggesting God really did write the Old Testament through the Jews who then misunderstood it and then were properly corrected by the Christians who can’t even agree among themselves what it all means?

    Really? Seriously?

  51. CB

    @ 49 truthspeaker:

    I don’t get upset when Phil criticizes creationism. Because it’s really pretty dumb to interpret a religious text as a science book when it is clearly unsuited to the task and it’s highly doubtful it was ever intended to be in the first place. Just like it’s highly doubtful that a description of a table in the Bible was intended to convey the precise value of Pi!

  52. Daffy

    CB, change “highly doubtful” to “definitely.” When the Old Testament was originally written, science as a concept did not exist.

  53. mandas

    It’s probably a waste of time posting this, but I have to say it’s good for my ego to be proved correct about Jonathon, our friendly neighbourhood creationist.

    I would like to look at this quote at post #37:

    “……I’m not convinced by all your claims that all of science supports evolution and none of it in any way supports Creation. I’m not a scientist and don’t have reams of papers to produce in support of Creation, but I know they exist, just as many of you probably know *about* papers which support evolution but aren’t ready to produce any relevant ones to the discussion….”

    You said it Jonathon, you are NOT a scientist, and exactly as I stated at post #32, it doesn’t matter how much evidence is shown to you, you will refuse to accept it, because your position is based on dogma and ideology, not reason.

    I quite clearly pointed you to text books and Google Scholar, so to claim that no-one have produced any papers supporting evolution and debunking creationism is simply a lie (but what would you expect from a creationist). Just like you ‘know’ there are papers supporting creationism. Despite my request, you did not produce a single one, nor did you even offer a scintilla of evidence for your position that some being created the universe.

    You see, that’s the problem with you and all creationists. You claim to ‘know’ things, but when push comes to shove you are unable to show WHY you ‘know’ things. In reality, you ‘know’ nothing – you just ‘BELIEVE’ things. That’s not rational. Real scientists (and I count myself among them) believe nothing – we just have evidence that supports things. And if contrary evidence comes along, then we have to change our position.

    Its a pity you refuse to follow this simple principle.

  54. TR

    As several posters have already pointed out quite eloquently, there are many reasons why it is not possible to teach “both” theories. Several others have indicated that teaching creationism in a science classroom would debase and demean science, which I believe is also true, though that point is somewhat more esoteric. In any case, both of those points have been made well many times, and I won’t presume to elucidate either of them further.

    However, as a high school science teacher, I believe I am well qualified to give a more practical answer to the question “Why not teach both?”

    If I were to present “both sides” of this “debate” as equally valid, I would not be teaching at all. If I send my students out into the world believing that well-educated people don’t know if humans and primates evolved from a common ancestor over millions of years, or if humans were created in their current form just a few thousand years ago, then I wouldn’t be doing my job as a teacher. If I were to do that, I would simply be injecting into my curriculum an idea which was long ago abandoned by all those who studied the facts. I might as well teach about phlogiston in my chemistry class.

    But, you might say, why not teach about phlogiston? Doesn’t it help students to understand the currently-held beliefs if they can see them in contrast to earlier theories? Well, in point of fact, I do use phlogiston theory in my introduction to thermodynamics – I use it as an example of an idea which was once widely believed, but which had to be abandoned when it could not account for the empirical evidence.

    If I where to “teach the controversy” of evolution in this way, that would require me to have the students take a critical look at some of their parents’ most deeply-held beliefs. Jonathan suggested that teachers don’t want to introduce creationism to our students because we are afraid that they will see the flaws in the theory of evolution. I can tell you that the real worry is that asking students to bring their critical thinking skills to bear on any of these religious questions will only inject the teachers into a realm that most Americans believe should be reserved for the students’ parents and spiritual leaders. Believe me, the moment one of my students tells their parents that I spent time in class pointing out the disparities between the biblical timeline and the fossil record, my principle’s phone would be ringing off the hook! And even of my school did have the courage to back me up (and my house wasn’t fire-bombed), I would never get to spend another moment of class teaching biology; because every day thereafter would be an on-going debate about which chapter of this religious text does or does not contradict which verse of that one! (If you think I’m exaggerating, you should know that there are camps where fundamentalists send their children for the expressed purpose of learning how to hijack a classroom discussion in this way.)

    While I reject the characterization that high school education is all about test preparation, I can tell you that class time is exceedingly limited, and none of us can afford to spend any of it teaching students things which have been repeatedly shown to be untrue!

  55. #25 Topher Kittle:
    “I just feel like it’s too big to ignore, unlike the stork theory or geo-centrism that Grand Lunar mentions which last I heard had few adherents.”

    The whole point of his sarcastic reference to these two “theories” – one imaginary, the other centuries out of date – is that creationism, which does have millions of adherents, is no less ridiculous.

  56. Jonathan:
    Nigel has done a very good job of explaining what a theory is in science, but I’ll say this; evolution is not a theory, but a fact. That is to say, it’s an observed fact that living organisms evolve from one form to another. “The Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection”, as originally proposed by Darwin, and refined by others since, is a scientific theory, which attempts to explain how evolution happens – and which is supported by overwhelming amounts of evidence. Do you see the difference?
    Why do I say evolution is a fact? Because it has been observed to happen, within the timescales of human history! Firstly, we have the development of domestic dogs from wolves, and of farm animals from their wild ancestors, such as the cow from the auroch. This was achieved by humans selectively breeding the animals to enhance desirable characteristics and eliminate undesirable ones. So what’s that, if not an example of evolution? Of course, this was evolution by artificial selection, rather than natural, but it’s still evolution.
    Secondly, we have examples in nature, which have occurred with unintentional human intervention. In Britain in the 18th and 19th Centuries, a species of moth was observed to change its camouflage pattern, as the trees which formed its habitat were darkened by industrial pollution.
    Then there’s the Heike crab in Japan, whose carapace has a pattern with a striking resemblance to a human face, and specifically to the face of a Japanese Samurai! ( The story is told in Chapter 2 of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. ) It’s not difficult to imagine how this could have come about; if some crabs originally had markings which just vaguely resembled a human face, then superstitious fishermen might have thrown them back, with the result that those crabs whose markings resembled a face were more likely to survive and reproduce. As the proportion of crabs with face-like markings increased, the fishermen would throw back only those which more closely resembled a face, and so on.
    Evolution in action.
    So, you repeatedly asked us to provide evidence in support of evolution, and you have been given plenty. But when challenged to do the same to support your own beliefs, you respond by running away. As Nigel said, put up or shut up.
    Now how about this… Any valid scientific theory has the power of prediction; it can be tested by checking whether what is observed in nature matches what is predicted by the theory.
    Evolutionary theory predicts, not surprisingly, that there must have existed transitional forms, part way between creatures of one recognised species or class and those of another. There exist, in the fossil record, many examples of transitional forms – one of the best known being Archaeopteryx, a transitional form between a reptile and a bird – including some whose existence was predicted by evolutionary biologists, before they were actually discovered.
    And if the fossil record isn’t enough for you, there are also living transitional forms. Ever heard of the duck-billed platypus? So what is that, if not a transitional form between a reptile and a mammal? Well?

  57. Jonathan again:
    You want more? How about some evidence to support the fact that humans evolved, and to refute your belief that we were “created”? If we were indeed “created” by your hypothetical God, then he did a lousy job of it!!!
    Firstly, why would a super-intelligent, infallible “creator” have given us redundant body parts, which are not only useless, but worse than useless???
    The most obvious example is the appendix, which serves no purpose when it’s healthy, but kills you when it isn’t! Then there’s the coccyx, which again serves no purpose when it’s healthy, but can cripple you, or cause you a lifetime of pain, if you simply fall on it!
    The evolutionary answers: The appendix is the remnant of a digestive organ which our herbivorous ancestors had, but which has become obsolete in humans. The coccyx is the last remnant of a tail, which our monkey-like distant ancestors possessed.
    Secondly, why are we humans so prone to back pain and spinal injuries? Because our spine evolved over 100 or so million years, to carry a load horizontally, not vertically! Think about it; the human skeleton has exactly the same configuration of bones as that of every other mammal on Earth, from a mouse to an elephant to a whale. That fact in itself is pretty strong evidence of common descent, is it not? But almost all other land mammals walk on all fours. So if we were designed by a super-intelligent being, why didn’t he design us a whole new skeleton, fit for the purpose, instead of simply taking the “standard mammalian blueprint” and upending it 90 degrees?
    Again, the evolutionary explanation: Evolution by natural selection is all about tradeoffs between the advantages and disadvantages of any mutation-induced change. For early humans, walking upright had distinct advantages – reaching higher for food, being able to see further, etc. – which offset the disadvantage of causing us health problems in old age.

  58. Gunnar

    re: Neil Haggoth’s post about design flaws:

    And how about the glaring design flaw in vertebrate (including human) eyes? The retinas of vertebrate eyes are installed backwards, with their photo-sensitive cells facing the back of the eye instead of towards the the pupil, where the light comes in. This not only reduces their effectiveness and efficiency, it makes it necessary for the optic nerve to punch through the retina and attach to the front of it, which creates a blind spot and makes the retina more vulnerable to detachment in case of accidents, which is a fairly common problem that often results in permanently impaired vision. A design engineer that designed a camera with that kind of flaw would immediately be fired!

    Why would God deliberately inflict us humans (who are supposedly made in His/Her image) with such a foolish design defect? Organic eyes obviously don’t have to be built that way, as cephalopods’ eyes do not have that deficiency. Their photo-sensitive cells face the front of their eyes, and their optic nerves attach to the back of the retina, which avoids creating a blind spot and provides a more mechanically robust connection.

    Does God favor squids and octopuses over humans? Maybe the real God resembles a cephalopod more than She does a human?

  59. Nigel Depledge

    Johnda (46) said:

    Complexity is relative. Maybe our world is very simple and humans are just stupid. The second concept is a world-designing intelligence. Where is this intelligence? Can we test it? Measure it? No. The only evidence for this intelligence is the complexity that we already know we can’t measure

    Interestingly, one of the principles of the ID movement, WIlliam Dembski, makes a great deal of information and complexity, and came up with the term “complex specified information” to describe a marker for “design”.

    However, because Dembski’s works are pretty much all word-salads intended to obfuscate, it takes a great deal of diligence to parse any meaning out of them.

    I cannot recall who the author was, but I read an essay some years ago about some of Billy Dembski’s work, and they had gone through his blather carefully, sifting meaning from misdirection. They arrived at a remarkable conclusion:

    Billy’s definition of complexity reduces to improbability.
    Billy’s definition of specification reduces to improbability.
    Billy’s definition of information reduces to improbability.

    Thus, his so-called Complex Specified Information boils down to “Improbably Improbable Improbability”.

    (Dembski has heard of Shannon and Kolmogorov, but refuses to have any truck with them – probably because he does not understand their work.)

    As an aside, Dembski’s clearest definition of “design” was “the process of choosing between alternatives” (my paraphrase). Which would render a seive a Designer, and evolution as a design process.

  60. Nigel Depledge

    Jared Gee (47) said:

    Nigel (38),

    Not so much that I have a poor opinion of the commenters on this blog as a host of experience that being religious (especially Mormon) is not looked on favorably in most sci/tech circles.

    I think I see what you mean. Personally, I have no problem with people being religious as long as they keep it to themselves. I don’t have to respect those beliefs (respect msut be earned), but I most certainly do respect people’s right to have those beliefs.

    When people try to proselytise (sp?) or push their belief systems onto others, with that I have a problem.

    If I had a low opinion of the commenters on this blog I wouldn’t bother to comment at all.

    Fair enough.

    As far as metaphorical kickings go, that’s fine by me. I’m sure I’ll be the recipient of more than a few. I feel like the average Creationist post on articles like this follows the same pattern:

    “Why not teach both?”
    “What are you afraid of?”
    “Let’s show the flaws in both.”
    “Why are you attacking me for my faith?”
    “Why not teach both?”

    Most of these points have laready been addressed in this thread, but you are right – they do crop up with tiresome frequency.

  61. Nigel Depledge

    TR (55) said:

    Jonathan suggested that teachers don’t want to introduce creationism to our students because we are afraid that they will see the flaws in the theory of evolution. I can tell you that the real worry is that asking students to bring their critical thinking skills to bear on any of these religious questions will only inject the teachers into a realm that most Americans believe should be reserved for the students’ parents and spiritual leaders. Believe me, the moment one of my students tells their parents that I spent time in class pointing out the disparities between the biblical timeline and the fossil record, my principle’s phone would be ringing off the hook!

    This is all too true. There are towns all over the US where teachers are pressured by ignorant parents into short-changing evolution in biology, either limiting it to just one or two lessons, or not teaching it at all. From the point of view of a biochemist, this is insane, because evolution permeates every aspect of biology. Teaching biology without evolution would be akin to teaching chemistry without mentioning electrons, or to teaching physics without mentioning forces.

  62. Nigel Depledge

    I can’t believe I only just noticed this:

    The BA said:

    There was a typo in a picture I had put at the bottom of this post. Fixing it would mean redoing the whole thong, so instead I just took the image out of the post. My apologies

    Phil, what you do with your thong is entirely your own affair . . .

  63. truthspeaker

    Daffy, an “unbroken tradition”, even if true, is not a reliable way to pass knowledge down through the ages.

    I absolutely don’t think Genesis 1 or 2 were written by God. I think they were written by Jewish priests or people working for them a long time ago. And I think modern rabbis have no more or less chance of determining the intent of those authors than anyone else.

  64. Nigel Depledge

    @ Truthspeaker (64) –
    And if you look into the matter, scholars agree that the Pentateuch had multiple authors (although they disagree about exactly how many).

  65. Daffy

    Truthspeaker, I think you are missing my point. Jews wrote the Old Testament (probably based largely on Babylonian mythology); then Christians much later came along and said it was the literal Word of God and must be accepted as actual history and science. Follow? If anyone should be listened to, it would be the people whose traditions started the whole thing—but even if you don’t want to listen to them, the whole premise is ridiculous right out the gate. It would be like me taking “The Lord of the Rings” and declaring, “Hey, dummies, this is the exact, literal Word of God! Don’t listen to what that deluded Tolkien guy says!”

  66. #59 Gunnar:
    And neither of us has mentioned the really obvious one… Why would an intelligent “designer” have given us testicles on the outside??? :-)
    ( Evolutionary answer; they have to be at a slightly lower temperature than that of the body core to function. )
    I fully agree with your comments about eyes. Which makes it even more stupid, that the ID supporters frequently talk about them as one of their favourite examples of so-called “irreducible complexity”! “What’s the use of half an eye?”, they ask, or “of half-evolved eyes?”.
    Er – the answer to that is pretty obvious, isn’t it? If you define “half an eye” as one with half the capability of a fully-developed eye, then half an eye, while far inferior to a complete eye, is still far better than no eye at all! Duh!!!
    To continue the reasoning, we still see in nature examples of “half-evolved” eyes, “quarter-evolved” ones, and every fraction you care to think of in between, right back to the simple light-sensitive cells of earthworms, which can detect the direction of the Sun, and nothing more.
    Think of all the different kinds of eyes in the animal kingdom – from the compound eyes of insects, to the pretty advanced ones of mammals and birds, to those of cephalopods, which as you say, are better than ours!
    As Richard Dawkins has pointed out, eyes have evolved no less than 14 times, in 14 already diverged branches of evolution.
    A fine example of creatards demolishing their own argument!

  67. In science, “theory” means “well-tested explanation.”

    The harping upon what Darwin knew, didn’t know, or couldn’t explain is as ludicrous as if you argued that jet planes couldn’t exist because James Watt had only primitive steam engines–but made the argument while you were standing in a modern airport. That’s the state of evolution today compared to what Darwin knew. Darwin puzzled mightily over why a mutation wouldn’t blend back into the average.

    Here are some things that no one knew in 1859:

    * that inherited traits were passed on in discrete packets.
    * what genes or chromosomes were
    * that acquired traits could not be inherited
    * what substance carried the heritable traits (DNA)

    It wasn’t until the Modern Synthesis of the 1930s and 40s that we started to get firm grip on how evolution happens. We know much more about it than Darwin ever did or dreamed of. The Neutral Theory, Molecular Evolution, and evo-devo are further extensions of the theory since then.

    Evolution is inevitable. For evolution to happen:
    1. Individuals must reproduce to form a new generation.
    2. The offspring must tend to resemble their parents due to inherited characteristics.
    3. Characteristics being selected must vary between members of the population.
    4. Individuals must have different reproductive success based in part on their characteristics.

    If these things are true, natural selection on the varying characteristic must occur:
    * If the environment is stable, selection favors an organism’s current highly adapted state.
    * If the environment changes, the organism is pushed towards a different state and we observe evolutionary change.

    Evolution is a change in the genetic make-up of a population, as shown in changing proportions of individuals with various traits. It might be apparent in their appearance but could also be disease resistance, inherited behavioural tendencies, different biochemistry, or a myriad small adaptations to a different geographic area.

  68. “You spelled my name wrong!”
    “How did we spell it?”
    “Potato Head.”
    –with thanks to Berke Breathed and “Bloom County”

    “Those who deny evolution are really denying nearly ALL science that has been conducted in the past 200 years, and the sheer amount of education needed to catch them up to reality is nearly insurmountable.” –Larian LeQuella

    Evolution has been tested far more than Gravitation and is better understood.

    Someone recounted chatting with a nonce companion about “The Beak of the Finch,” where the authors surveyed all individuals in a small island population of birds for thirty years. The reader explained that the researchers found a precise variations in beak size and bird survival depending on rainfall and consequent plant survival and seed production. The listener was fascinated and enthusiastic until the reader mentioned the word Evolution. Then the listener turned away, harrumphing, angry and feeling put upon that he had been seduced into contemplating such an evil idea. It’s sad, really, that people are so brainwashed and can’t feel the delight of new knowledge.

  69. TR, the answer’s obvious: don’t mention the Bible nor comment on it. If students ask, just say that the Bible is a religious scripture and this is a science class.

  70. truthspeaker

    66, Daffy, of course it’s ridiculous to think Genesis or any other book is the word of God, but to suggest that modern Jews know any more about the intentions of the original authors than anyone else is silly.

  71. Nigel Depledge

    Oh, and, somewhat belatedly, @ Larian LeQualla (1) –

    I went and read your Creationists, Read This page, and found it to be a good summary of the reasons why creationist arguments fall down. I even learned some stuff about information theory and thermodynamics that I had not known before.

  72. TR

    Monado, FCD says “…the answer’s obvious: don’t mention the Bible nor comment on it. If students ask, just say that the Bible is a religious scripture and this is a science class.”

    That is, of course, exactly what we do – which is what has the [cdesign proponentsists] so upset. They don’t want me to say “religious texts teach religion, we are studying science.” They want me to “teach both” or at least “teach the controversy.”

    But I sometimes wonder if these people have actually thought this through: they seem to be assuming that if every HS Bio teacher was free to bring ID into the classroom, we would all stop teaching evolution. Or at least they believe that if we were to stand evolution and ID side-by-side, all of the students would conclude that the last 150 years of paleontology, biology, chemistry, and mathematics have all been wrong. (As Monado has pointed out, if you believe in genes, reproduction, and probability, you can’t dispute natural selection, and natural selection plus time equals evolution.) Has it occurred to the IDers that, when presented with all of the information, almost all of the students will almost certainly come to the same conclusion that everyone else has? What will be left of their religion when they set it in opposition to something which is so clearly and demonstrably true?

    I wonder if they realize that the average high school students spend much more time with their teachers than with parents. Do they know how influential a knowledgeable, popular, charismatic teacher can be?

    (Full Disclosure: I only claim to be two of the three.)

  73. Nigel Depledge

    Oh, I went and mis-spelled Larian’s name again.

    It’s LeQuella, not LaQuella, or LeQualla.

  74. Damonwv

    There are plenty of scientists out there creationist and non creationist that still say there are issues with the entire goo to you Idea. You need some real evidence and not second guessing. I havent seen one person yet give me a valid answer from the beginning to the present.

  75. Mark Hansen

    …I havent seen one person yet give me a valid answer from the beginning to the present.

    Damonvw, that’s because creationists don’t ask valid questions.

  76. Andrew

    “There is just so much animosity towards Christian belifs these days.”

    Absolutely. There are (for example) people that are so hostile to Christianity that they pretend that evolution contradicts Christianity. Fortunately, most Christians are too smart for those folks (who call themselves “creationists”), but it’s still a tragedy every time a creationist convinces a Christian that he has to lie about God’s world in order to really believe in God.

  77. Damonwv

    . Mark Hansen Says:
    March 27th, 2012 at 5:01 am

    “…I havent seen one person yet give me a valid answer from the beginning to the present.

    Damonvw, that’s because creationists don’t ask valid questions.

    Sure its a valid question. How can existence come into being from non being. Sounds pretty valid ot me, what is invalid are the answers you get. Im well aware of cashmit effect and quantam mechanics trying to explain, but it doesnt answer into being from non being.

  78. Mark Hansen

    And Damonwv, you clearly don’t understand, or choose not to understand, what constitutes a valid question about evolutionary theory. Evolution does not explain where life originally came from. It explains how life is modified. It would be like asking why evolutionary theory doesn’t explain the internal combustion engine. Same reason; it’s not within the purview of evolutionary theory.

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