The Fruit That Hit Newton's Head Is Down With the Fruit of Darwin's Head

By Jennifer Welsh | September 22, 2010 2:23 pm

CircularTimetreelargeApple may not allow porn on its product line, but it has no problem with another source of controversy: evolution. A new, free iPad/iPhone application called Timetree, distributed by Arizona and Penn State Universities, allows users to map how long ago two living creatures separated on the tree of life, a subject that can get a bit sticky with creationists, says The Register:

Now, Apple has taken a stance which will upset a lot of Americans: it has allowed an app which specifies quite clearly that evolution is real and that humans and monkeys share a common ancestor some 30 million years in the past.

Querying the Timetree application accesses a vast database of data, the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s comprehensive taxonomy browser, which contains information on more than 160,000 organisms. Timetree even provides you with the publications relating to these connections, which can sometimes disagree with each other but, which The Register has discovered, all happily ignore creationism:

As far as our user tests have been able to determine, Timetree does not reveal one disagreement regarding evolution which is now becoming prominent in US politics: namely the issue of whether or not evolution actually happens or has happened. Religious hardliners on the American right are known for espousing the view that actually it doesn’t and didn’t, and that the various species were all created by God during one week just a few thousand years ago.

And while the information contained in the Timetree database may not provide credence to the creationists’ stance, the ability to see current clashes in the field is an important part of investigating the science of evolution, Sudhir Kumar, who helped develop the project, told the Penn State press office:

“One of the most important things about this knowledge base,” Kumar said, “is that it makes it possible for anyone to see the current agreements and disagreements in the field — immediately.”

The same functionality is available though the Timetree website, and more information can be found in the free e-book, The Time Tree of Life ,the downloadable poster (both available at the Timetree website) and in the paper documenting how Timetree works. But you don’t need all that documentation. If it’s in the app store, it must be right!

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The Loom: Google Earth for The Tree of Life

Image: Penn State Department of Public Information
  • Michael Farrell

    It is more than disturbing to receive a blog like this on a purportedly science-oriented website. There can be no doubt whatsoever that evolution is a fact under any scientific or even baseline logical observation and analysis. Why would anyone discussing such an issue give credence to a creationist attack? This is not to say the debates about the role of god or a creator cannot have a place… but to elevate them to a he-said-she-said equality regarding an interesting new resource is simply stupid. Are you suggesting every time someone puts up a scientific resource or finding it must be counterbalanced with a religious clearance or contrary opinion?

  • Brettster

    Not a single real scientist considers evolution controversial. This is like saying apple shouldn’t allow Google Earth because it advocates the view that the Earth is round without a second opinion.

  • Jennifer Welsh

    Hi all,

    Thanks for the comments. I thought this application was really interesting, and mostly I thought that the fact it (admittedly in tongue-in-cheek way) became a talking point about Apple’s self-described “control freak” application screening process was pretty hilarious.

    The point was that Apple didn’t flag this application, and that is a GOOD thing, because it means that even though a fairly large percent of the population doesn’t believe in evolution, that’s not stopping large corporations from realizing that IT IS a real, scientifically valid, proven fact.

    Thanks for reading, and feel free to keep discussing this issue!


  • KissWithAFist

    I have this app. Personally I think this is an issue of tolerance. Do you hear scientists/athiests complaining that there are about a million Holy Bible apps?
    No. At least not that I’ve heard of.

    I live in the UK, and it still baffles me how so many people can believe something that seems utterly illogical to me…

    Admittedly nothing I’ve said is very science based, but I’m studying philosophy so I guess I’m biased..

  • Erlinda Parody

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  • Hotels Füssen

    Interesting read – Thanks a lot.


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