Thursday, April 26, 2012

Why are we still ignorant?

I edited the letter down to 513 words at the request of the newspaper's editor. I'll post a link if/when they publish. Most of Mr. Shipe's "facts" are copied from "Answers in Genesis Ministries."

Here is why, The Mountain Press - Letter: Evolution is a religion forced on our children

My reply as sent to the newspaper.

I wonder how bills like the new Tennessee Monkey Law are passed. Then I read a letter like the one by Jack Shipe published in The Mountain Press April 26, 2012. Since Mr. Shipe claimed to have been a science teacher, I see that such ignorance has deep roots. Not one of his so-called facts can stand against honest examination. John Scopes was not motivated by the 1925 ACLU advertisement, which merely offered to defend anyone arrested for teaching evolution. There was never any “reward” offered. Some Dayton business men brought it up to Scopes as a way to boost travel to, and the reputation of their town. “Nebraska Man” was never introduced at the trial. There was never any scientific evidence introduced at the trial. Some scientific materials were appended to the record after the trial, but none of these mentioned “Nebraska Man.”

There is nothing in Mr. Shipe’s assertions about the so-called Nebraska Man that was accurate either. The tooth fragments were discovered by a rancher and amateur geologist, and he sent them to Henry Fairfield Osborn. Osborn was a paleontologist, not an archaeologist. Osborn published in 1922 that they were from a primitive ape, and never identified them as human. Other paleontologists were doubtful that this was even correct. In 1925, controlled professional excavations showed that the tooth fragments belonged to an extinct pig. This finding was published not only in scientific journals, but in popular newspapers like the New York Times.

Charles Lyell never mentioned an age of the earth in years in “Principles of Geology, vol. 1” published in 1830. He did mention tree rings in Volume 3 published in 1833 when he cited the work of another scientist who estimated that an African Baobab-tree could be as old as 5,150 years old. Early attempts to estimate the age of the earth used the cooling time of rock, or iron. For example, in the 1700s Boffon heated iron spheres and timed their cooling rate and estimated that Earth to be at least 300,000 years old. In unpublished notebooks he speculated the number could be billions of years. This was extended by Lord Kelvin who in the 1860s estimated that the Earth’s surface could be between 20, and 400 million years old. When it was shown in 1903 that radioactivity heated rocks, Kelvin’s estimates were overturned.

Apparently Mr. Shipe cannot grasp simple physics either. The “leap second” results mostly from the gravitational friction between the Earth, and Moon. This currently keeps the Moon tidally locked with the Earth slowing its rotation, and the Moon (equally slowly) moves further away from the Earth. This is currently adding about 1 second to the Earth’s rotational speed per 500 days, but was not constant throughout time. At the current rate, this is just about 85 days per 1 million years.

The next exposure of great ignorance is Mr. Shipe’s confusion about the evolution of sex. The division into reproductive sexes was never, and could never be a single generational jump. Today we can observe hundreds of species with individuals reproductively both male and female. Some, like the fish Semicossyphus pulcher, are first female, and then later in life transition to male. The evolutionary origin of sexual reproduction dates well back to the yeasts which are both sexual, and asexual.

Finally, it is clear the Mr. Shipe does not even know what a species is, let alone how they evolve. For the first, I recommend reading, “What is a Species, and What is Not,” by Ernst Mayr which also explains why all evolution has always been at the species level. And, we have of course directly observed this in nature, and experiments. I have compiled a list of many examples available from my personal blog (Google: “Emergence of New Species” ).

The only comfort we can take from Mr. Shipe’s letter is that he is no longer a teacher.


EastwoodDC said...

The Mountain Press editorial page will be vastly improved by your contribution. Well done.

Gary S. Hurd said...


I had to edit it down to ~500 words at the request of the editor. It was over all an improvment.

I'll post when it shows up.