Sunday, June 15, 2008

Instant Classic

Here is a classic creationist’s comment regarding the Texas Science Standards posted by “wenchwoman” to the Huston Chronicle 6/15/2008 11:48 AM CDT;

Creationists are not the only ones who question evolution. Evolution has not been tested nor proven. The fossil evidence does not support transitional evolution, which is the reason that you have arguments among the evolutionists which include theories like punctuated equilibrium. According to the laws of physics, for things to randomly become more complex does not make sense.

Why be afraid to teach the facts? Evolution has a lot of holes and flaws. Why use old, fake pictures like the moths in England (which have long been proven to have been faked) in modern textbooks? Give some texts that present the full evidence and keep up w/the data. That's all anyone wants.

I saw seven errors at first glance.

The first sentence suggests that scientists, like creationists, “question evolution.” Of course, creationists do not question evolution, they reject it out of hand. The overwhelming majority of biologists and others with professional qualifications related to evolutionary biology accept the basic theory of evolution without reservation. There are creationist biologists employed by religious institutions, and even government laboratories. In every case I have examined, their religious commitments preceded and dominated their scientific training. Scientists do widely and vigorously examine and reexamine the details of evolutionary theory. Examples would be the relative significance of transgenetic exchange versus mutation in the development of genomic complexity, or instances of allopatric versus sympatric speciation.

Next, it is perhaps too technical to point out that scientific theories are not subject to “proof” in the meaning of ultimate truth. We must always be open in principle that some better theory might be proposed. For example, we are still hoping for a fully successful theory of gravity. In this regard the Theory of Evolution is far better tested than theories of gravity. You can demonstrate this for yourself using a search engine for scientific literature, say Medline, or Google Scholar.

There are ample numbers of transitional fossils which expose the contrary claim as a simple falsehood. The higher in the taxonomic category you look the easier it is to find transitions. What is difficult is to absolutely establish direct species-to-species transitions from fossils. This, and now well known variations in the rate of species changing made the argument for punctuated equilibria so interesting. Darwin in his “The Origin of Species” pointed out that species extinction was a key event widening the separation between related species. Punctuated equilibrium arguments are extinctions on a large scale.

“The laws of physics” most certainly do not counter evolution. This is the hoary Second Law of Thermodynamics (SLoT) argument. There are many ways to refute this, but my favorite is to point out that we all begin as a single celled egg- quite simple compared to a billion celled adult. The SLoT no more prevents this than it does evolution. For a more through discussion, I recommend the following website;

Personal and professional harassment is a very common reason American teachers are afraid to teach about evolution today. And a recent study found that about 16% of high school science teachers are actually creationists who either skip evolution or (nearly 14%) actually teach creationism. (Citation: Berkman MB, Pacheco JS, Plutzer E (2008) “Evolution and Creationism in America's Classrooms: A National Portrait.” Public Library of Science, Biology 6(5): e124 doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0060124

The final significant error was about the Peppered Moth (Biston betularia) research by Bernard Ketterwell. These moths underwent a considerable change over the last two centuries from a light color with black specks, to a nearly all black form, and then back to a lighter form. This change was in parallel with the decline of light colored background in the trees the moths rest on caused by industrial soot, and the recovery following environmental laws after the Second World War. Ketterwell photographed two moths which he mounted to a tree for an illustration of the strong contrast between the two forms of moth. These photos were widely used in textbooks, because of how obvious and easy to understand this example of evolutionary change really is. The major falsehood told by creationists about this research was that Ketterwell’s data were faked by using dead moths glued to a tree. This has been strongly promoted by creationist Jonathan Wells of the Discovery Institute, in his book “Icons of Evolution.” The facts are quite different.

Well, any experiment can be improved on, and entomologist Michael Majerus was critical of Ketterwell’s earlier work. After many years, he was forced to conclude that Ketterwell had been correct all along. You can read more about this at;

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