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.
You can read all about abiogenesis on the internet, and here is cdk007′s video on it:
I would also recommend learning about the Miller-Urey experiment.
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.
All explained here:
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.
And the fallacy of appealing to authority is committed. This Dr. Skell is a chemist.
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.