You must watch :)
Last week, while debating some christians at the “Undeniable” event at Federation Square in Melbourne, I was given this pamphlet:
Nearly every question in this pamphlet is a demonstration of the absolute ignorance of what the actual facts and implications of evolutionary theory are. Actually, I think they are trying purposefully, through the framing of these ignorant questions, to misrepresent evolutionary theory to those who have not studied biology in high school or bothered to spend any time learning about it. They should be ashamed of themselves for using such dishonest tactics, and I think they owe an apology to those they have misled.
Here’s the thing about learning about science; it takes effort. You may have to actually read some books, which you might not find entertaining. It takes a lot longer to explain a scientific theory, and the evidence for it, than it does to utter the sentence “God did it.” It’s not something easily condensed to the size of a pamphlet.
But thanks to the wonders of youtube, we can meet you half-way. We can bypass some of that tedious reading nonsense for you. There is a user called cdk007, who has made an excellent series of videos explaining evolution, and debunking misinformation about it. They offer some of the most concise explanations concerning the topic that I know of, so I’ll be using some of the videos to augment my answers for some of these questions. But I would highly recommend watching all of his videos. Yes, that would take a while, but as I said before, complex concepts take time to learn.
Funnily enough, their first question isn’t actually about evolution. The theory of the origin of life is known as the theory of abiogenesis. The theory of evolution explains how life diversifies and changes over time, not how life was formed.
Secondly, notice the language used; Paul Davies “admitted”. As if he is conceding something. As if scientists have been asserting that they do know how the first living cell came about. They do not. But they have a good and plausible idea.
The rest of the question dishonestly implies that we think the first living cells came about by being fully formed from the chance collisions of already functioning proteins. This is not the case.
DNA was not the first type of genetic code, before that was RNA, and in the origins of life, there was probably something even simpler than that. The video I posted in response to the first question also addresses this question.
Firstly, this ’3 billion letters of DNA information’ is not all information, much of it is non-coding DNA. Going along with the cookbook analogy, it would be like if there was large sections of jibberish interspersed with each recipe. The jibberish is not information. It is only the coding information, or in this case the sentences of the actual recipe, that you could consider information. If life did not evolve but was intelligently designed, why would there be jibberish/non-coding DNA? There wouldn’t, the cookbook/DNA would be nice and neat and contain only the relevant information, just like real cookbooks that are intelligently designed.
Yes, mutations can have destructive effects, but most of them are harmless or do not cause enough harm to hinder the individual. On average, each human has about 128 mutations in their DNA.
Evolution works because those individuals that suffer from a harmful mutation either will not reproduce or be less likely to reproduce, and so their genes will not be carried on. Those with neutral mutations are not affected and will probably reproduce at the normal rate. Those who happen to gain an advantageous mutation will reproduce much more successfully, so those genes will become dominant in the population.
The rest of the question implies more misinformation about evolutionary theory; that complex functions or structures come about wholly formed from 1 random mutation. This is not the case. The notion is debunked in this video:
Another blatant misunderstanding. Although I find it hard to believe the person who constructed these questions is actually so ignorant, more likely they are again purposefully pushing misinformation. Their intellectual dishonesty should tell you something.
The process of evolution is not driven by natural selection alone. There are other forces, such as mutation, genetic drift, genetic hitch-hiking, and gene flow. It is all these forces acting together that causes evolution. Mutation provides the ‘creative process’ by introducing or modifying genes. Natural selection then acts upon this variance. Only the life that can survive will survive.
Beaks evolved in exactly the same way the variations in beak sizes did. Mutations will happen all the time that effect the shape of the skull. A certain shape of skull is more beneficial than another. A mutation will eventually occur that moves part of the skull toward the shape of a beak. This trait will allow the creature to reproduce more successfully, and its genes will dominate the population. Then, following generations will incur further mutations toward the shape of a beak, and they’ll dominate, and the same thing will continue to happen until an optimal beak shape is reached.
The finch itself evolved the same way every other bird did, through speciation.
Modern, complex cells have complex pathways and functions, yes. But the earliest cells did not. Evolution predicts simple life will become more complex, so we shouldn’t be surprised that this has happened.
This question is similar to question 3, as it brings up the “Irreducible Complexity problem”, and is addressed by the video I posted in response to it.
The existence of ancient pottery is best explained by a designer, because we know humans were around to design it, we know humans were in the habit of designing all kinds of things, and can infer a reason for why a human would have designed a pot. The existence of life is not best explained by a designer because it only invokes the question of “Who designed the designer?”
At this point the likely answer from a theist will be “God is eternal, he has no beginning.” Well then, if it’s possible for something to have just always existed, why complicate things by saying it was a God that always existed, and that he created the universe, rather than just that the universe has always existed? Which is much more plausible, that from simple physics and energy the universe expanded and evolved complexity, rather than an infinitely complex being somehow existing from no cause.
And when you look closely at life, you find we are not so perfectly designed at all. Creationists like to point at how complex the human eye is and say that it couldn’t have evolved, so I’ll take that as an example. In the human eye, the nerve fibres that carry information from the retina to your brain, actually run in front of the retina, so light has to travel through these nerves before they get to the light sensitive cells. Then, these nerves cells bundle up and go through a small hole in your retina to get through to the other side and along to your brain, which actually results in a small blind spot. You would have to be an idiot to purposefully design it this way. But evolution doesn’t purposefully design things; whatever works good enough for the organism to survive is passed on. This design is good enough, but any engineer that designed a camera this way would be fired.
Another example is a nerve that runs from your brain stem to your throat. It runs straight past your throat, does a little twirl around your heart, and then runs back up to your throat. This is fine for the corresponding nerve in something like a fish. But through the gradual changes, the movement and transformation of organs, this becomes a stupid way to have the nerve in a mammal. In a giraffe, this corresponds to an unnecessary detour of nearly 5 metres. Any electrical engineer that designed a robot giraffe in this way would be ridiculed.
But it fits with the theory of evolution. Each change was a gradual change in length, and never was there a mutation wild enough to completely overhaul the way this nerve ran.
And naturalistic causes are logical causes.
Finally, a legitimate question. This experiment gives us a good idea as to how it might have evolved.
I can’t believe creationists are still using the “missing links” argument.
Every fossil ever found is a “transitional form”. YOU are a transitional form. No creature ever gives birth to a species that is different from itself.
Speciation is a very gradual thing. A photo of yourself from when you were 5 years old looks radically different from one where you are 90 years old. But if you took a photo of yourself every day, you would not be able to see the difference in any two consecutive photos.
Fossils only form under the most generous of conditions, and it’s amazing that we have the ones that we do. We can’t expect to get a fossil of every single generation of every living organism. Or like in the analogy, a photo from every single day of your life. But if we have at least a few photos from throughout your life, we can determine that the end picture of the 90 year old is the same person from the picture of the 5 year old.
And fossils are only one of the many evidences for common descent. Even if we never found a single fossil, the evidence is still enough to prove evolution beyond doubt.
Firstly, fossils do not reveal everything about an organism. While an organism may appear unchanged over a long period of time according to its bones, plenty of other changes can happen genetically. The internal biochemistry of a ‘living fossil’ is likely to be different from its ancient ancestor.
Secondly, if an organism has adapted to its environment, and its form has become optimal for surviving, and its environment does not change, then there is no reason to expect that it should change significantly at all.
Two logical fallacies here, the Argument from Adverse Consequences, and a straw man argument. Evolution makes no statement about the existence of a god/s. There are people who believe in both god and evolution, like the catholic church for example. And philosophical positions such as nihilism are irrelevant to the theory of evolution. The theory of evolution is merely the explanation for the fact that evolution occurs.
As for how morality evolved, that’s a complex subject. I go back to my earlier point about having to invest time to learn about complex things. Here is a playlist of a series of 5 videos which explain how morality evolves:
Wrong. Science is not in the business of telling stories. Unlike creationism, evolutionary theory does not assert anything that isn’t grounded in fact.
Evolution doesn’t explain any behaviour, only behaviours that actually exist.
Ok, now I’m getting angry. This is a flat out lie. Nothing in biology can be properly understood without understanding evolution.
Norman Borlaug, arguably the worlds biggest hero, saved an estimated BILLION lives through his work in genetics, which hinges on evolutionary theory, in developing semi-dwarf, high-yield, disease-resistant wheat varieties.
The ridiculous assertion that evolution hinders medical discovery is not supported by any example or evidence. In fact, there is whole field of medicine relating directly to evolution: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_medicine
Scientific theories are not dogma. Unlike stories about talking snakes, women made from ribs and incest, they are based in fact, and are testable. Evolution is not ‘stealing time’ from experimental biology. For instance, this experiment, which by itself proves evolution, is experimental biology.
Yes, we can perform experiments: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Experimental_evolution
We can’t expect to have a video camera trained on early single celled life for 4 billion years while it evolves into modern life. But just the same as we don’t need to observe a crime happening, we can infer what happened from evidence left at the crime scene.
How, in any way, is the theory of evolution religious or dogmatic? The stupidity of this assertion boggles my mind. There is a reason the creationist/intelligent design advocates lost the Dover case. There is a clear distinction between science and religion, and the court recognised that.
And again the argument from authority, they could have at least done it right, and not quoted someone like Karl Popper who later changed his views:
“I have changed my mind about the testability and logical status of the theory of natural selection; and I am glad to have an opportunity to make a recantation” (Dialectica 32:344-346).
And I’d like a reference to the Ruse quote, I highly suspect quote-mining.
In conclusion, if you think the questions in this brochure are actually good questions, then you just simply have not understood or have never even tried to learn about the theory of evolution. Evolution is a fact as much as gravity is. Not knowing about, or not understanding evolution is one thing, not all of us have access to proper education. But to actively argue that evolution is wrong despite not understanding it, in the face of overwhelming evidence, is astoundingly ignorant.
This was the day after the QandA episode with Dawkins and Pell, which is the first thing they discuss, and shortly before the Global Atheist Convention. Skip to 02:34 to bypass the introductions.
I like the idea of not having a moderator, it’s much more interesting this way.
I’m a big fan of AronRa, and he really got amongst it at the GAC. He even lost his voice shouting over the top of christian preachers with a PA system. I guess that makes him a hoarse man of the anti-apocalypse :p
Here’s where he blew out his voice:
Here he is with askegg trying vegemite for the first time:
Here he is in a one on one with a christian preacher:
Here he is with Mr. Deity arguing with a creationist, Part 1:
And here is the episode of TheMagicSandwichShow he was in while in Melbourne, debating two intellectually dishonest creationists:
And if you just still can’t get enough of him, here he is in a podcast interview with Father Bob of Sunday Night Safran on Triple J fame: http://www.godless.biz/2012/04/16/father-bob-and-aronra/
Well here’s a news flash: The fact that you can’t sell your daughter for three goats and a cow means we’ve already redefined marriage.
And in any case, why on earth is preserving the definition (or what you perceive to be the definition) of a word more important than what is morally right?
Languages evolve with time. Words change meaning. Words drop out of vernacular, new words come in. Pronunciations change. You can’t stop evolution.
Indeed, the catholics themselves would say “We are against gay marriage!” Well guess what, the word gay used to just mean happy, but the meaning has evolved to mean homosexual. Why didn’t we see the bishops in a huff about that??
Maybe because it’s not a real reason. This pathetic, impotent argument is the only justification they can come up with to be bigoted homophobes.
I have never once heard a rational argument against allowing homosexual marriage.
Here are some of the reasons people give for being against it, these are real comments from this news article:
Yes Minister of Woop Woop Posted at 6:58 AM March 31, 2012
There is absolutely no doubt as to the biblical situation, clearly those pushing the ‘gay’ marriage barrow fail to comprehend the meaning of ‘abomination’.
Yes, but why on earth should the biblical view be imposed on people who think your bible is nothing but bronze age nonsense? Religion doesn’t own marriage, marriage was around since before reliable recorded history, ie. before christianity.
Philip of Brisbane Posted at 7:11 AM March 31, 2012
I’m not Catholic, however as a Christian I have to disagree with gay marriage. I do not hate gay people, I respect them as people but I would be going against my own values and ethics to support homosexuality. For this I would be labled homophobic. The majority of the pro gay lobby likes to critise those who oppose their view and degenerate into baseless name calling.
So he is morally against homosexuality, yet he does not hate gay people and respects them as people.
I’ve heard the similar argument “I have friends who are gay and they’re great people but as a christian I cannot morally condone it”
And that’s the telling part; “as a christian”. There’s a conflict there. Their normal sense of human decency doesn’t tell them that there’s anything wrong with homosexuality, which is what allows them to be friends with them, and to “respect them as people”. But then they remember “Oh wait, I’m supposed to get my morality from this bronze age book and what the people from church tell me, not from my own thoughts”.
If they truly found homosexuality an abomination, and morally unacceptable, there should be no way they can respect or be friends with gays.
It would be like saying “I don’t hate murderers, I have friends who are murderers. I respect them as people, but I would be going against my own values and ethics to support murder.”
Niloc of Sunshine Coast Posted at 7:13 AM March 31, 2012
The church has a right to be heard. After all the concept of marriage has its basis in religion and its traditions. Proponents for change have a right to put their case forward and it is a sad day if the views of all (including the non-gays) cannot be heard because of fear or persecution. The pollies will also need to take into consideration whether the church has any relevance when so few Australians observe religion apart from taking the public holidays! It would be interesting to have input from the Muslim community too.
Fear of persecution? The people who are against gay rights have fear of persecution?? Have we forgotten the inquisition? If the church had its own way, as it once did, anyone who was even an atheist, let alone pro-gay rights would be fucking BEHEADED. Are we going to seriously now argue that the poor catholics are being persecuted? What a joke. Reminds me of this comic:
Kitty K of NQ Posted at 8:40 AM March 31, 2012
So sick of minority groups getting everything. Gay marriage is not normal. I don’t want my kids seeing two men walking hand in hand down the street and thinking that’s normal. It’s not, it should not be legal. Hollywood has made it trendy. I’m backing the church on this one.
Why? Who does it harm? She thinks it’ll turn her kids into homosexuals? Well, so what if it does? You won’t love them anymore? Another argument with nothing but pure bigotry at its root.
And you don’t need to be married to hold hands and walk down the street. I don’t know why people think that by allowing homosexuals to get married there will suddenly be more of them, not that it should be a problem.
D Forster Posted at 9:10 AM March 31, 2012
Marriage is for men and women to procreate children in a secure relationship. Civil Union recognises same sex relationships for matters of Law. A Civil Union surrounded by friends and family should bestow on the happy couple the joy of committing their lives as one. Marriage acknowledges the biological intent of a man and woman to bring children into the world in a secure environment encompassing the needs of the child.
By this logic, no couple that doesn’t want kids should be allowed to get married. Too old to have kids? Forget it. Couples that medically cannot have children should have their marriage status revoked!
Goldie Posted at 9:44 AM March 31, 2012
I am told that a lot of gay people are very creative so if that is the case they should have no problems coming up with another name instead of marriage which is a union between a man and a woman. I have no problems with these people but I say to the ‘why not crowd’ why can’t you respect a long held tradition and do it another way, is that too much to ask. Not everything is better by being changed.
But some things are. Arranged marriages were a long held tradition too. Why didn’t people respect that and call a non-arranged marriage something other than marriage? like Schmarriage?
Henry McGill Posted at 12:28 PM March 31, 2012
Steve I am a catholic but not a church goer and as far as I am concerned gay marriage is not on. If it were up to me I would be dealing with gays alright and it wouldn’t be pleasant for the sick deviates.
Just because homosexuality seems sick to you doesn’t mean they are sick. I’m willing to bet that this bloke doesn’t mind watching lesbian porn, but is sickened by male homosexual porn. Well, me too. That’s why we’re heterosexual. But just because we are sickened by it, doesn’t mean they are, indeed they quite seem to enjoy it. And since it is consensual and it does no one else any harm, then what exactly is the fucking problem? No pun intended.
Then there’s sometimes the “Homosexuality isn’t natural” argument, and the “Mankind would all go extinct if not for male/female couples”.
Firstly, it is natural. Hundreds of other species exhibit it. Not that what is natural or not constitutes what is moral or not. It’s natural for some mammals to eat their own babies too.
And are we seriously concerned about a lack of population at the moment? And again, allowing gay marriage doesn’t magically create more homosexuals, it just allows existing ones to get married.
And there is an evolutionary explanation for why it is natural. Read up on the ‘gay uncle’ hypothesis.
I’m often asked why I get angry about religion. Well I wouldn’t be, if the religious kept their own views to themselves. But it’s when they expect to impose their own personal beliefs about imaginary sky man and how we should live onto us that I get angry. And that happens alot.
If someone has a valid, rational reason why gay marriage should stay banned, please do let me know.
“Mr Penisula said those who have been healed were still taking medication for their illnesses.” So maybe.. just.. MAYBE.. it was the medication, not jesus? If jesus healed them why would they need medication?
The risk of being diagnosed with cancer before the age of 75 years is 1 in 3 for males and 1 in 4 for females.
The risk of dying from cancer before the age of 75 years is 1 in 8 for males and 1 in 12 for females. (source: http://www.aihw.gov.au/cancer/#incidence)
So if the church has 150 people, let’s say half of each gender, then we would expect 44 of them to get cancer over their lifetime, and 16 of those to die. So just statistically, we should expect 28 cancer survivors to occur within that group.
Is it really so miraculous that they’ve found 6 of them?
And when those statistical 16 die of cancer it’ll be the old “god works in mysterious ways” non-explanation. It’s funny how gods “mysterious ways” always appear to be indistinguishable from chance.
It reminds me of this story from not long ago, which I was even more disgusted by: http://news.sky.com/home/uk-news/article/16117269
A christian friend of mine recently posted this on Facebook, with the caption:
So a necessary condition of being a live human is having mental activity, and the early foetus has no central nervous system or brain, hence no mental activity. It doesn’t develop until after 16-20 weeks gestation. So a 12 week foetus is not a live human, it’s a bunch of cells that’s ‘killed’, not a human. 43% of conceptions are self-aborted by the mothers own body anyway if it detects something wrong. So why shouldn’t the mother be able to use extra knowledge that her body doesn’t have to enhance the decision of whether to continue the pregnancy?
I might agree that late abortions are stupid (but still not murder), unless they are done for medical reasons. Thankfully, in most first world countries at least, the percentage of abortions at or after 20 weeks is less than 2%, which is reasonably consistent with the percentage of abortions due to medical reasons we would expect.
I’m not saying all abortions before that are fine and dandy, they are always a risk to the patient, and a drain on health systems. But I don’t see them as ‘unborn lives’ (oxymoron?) that are ‘taken away’. They have the potential to become lives, yes, but so do eggs and sperm. Every time a woman menstruates the potential for a human life is lost, every time a man ejaculates 300 million potential people are lost.
I want to reduce the amount of abortions too, but I’d do it by addressing the causes of unwanted pregnancies (education quality, poverty, etc.). I do not want to see abortion outlawed. It will still happen whether it’s legal or not, and it’s much better for doctors to do it, lest you end up with situations like this http://drjengunter.wordpress.com/2012/02/11/anatomy-of-an-unsafe-abortion/
I think every women should have the right to a safe abortion. It’s unfair to any baby to be born to a mother and/or father who doesn’t want it, or, even with all the right intentions, doesn’t have the wherewithal to support it.
“If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found;
Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.” – God (Deuteronomy 22:28-29)
This is bullshit. Don’t we have to adjust for inflation??