Category: Evolution



I recently skimmed a YouTube video with Kent Hovind entitled 100 Reasons Evolution is Stupid! If you don’t know who Hovind is, you should definitely check out some of his videos — they are case studies of hucksterism. I really can’t comprehend how people watching his speeches don’t see him for what he is. It’s not even the fact that he’s spreading a belief in so-called Intelligent Design (creationism) — something I think is ridiculous. It’s his mannerisms and speaking style. Regardless of what he was discussing, I wouldn’t trust him. He could tell me the sky is blue and I’d be highly suspicious of his claims, just because he sounds like a conman.

As I watched just a short clip, I quickly noticed one lie without really searching for it. He claimed that Stephen J. Gould — a renowned evolutionary biologist — stated the following:

“The absence of fossil evidence for intermediary stages between major transitions in organic design, indeed our inability, even in our imagination, to construct functional intermediates in many cases, has been a persistent and nagging problem for … evolution.”

It seemed strange to me that an ellipsis was required right before the word evolution in this quotation. Usually ellipses are used to removed unnecessary information, but in this case, what would have fit in here except vital information. It almost seemed as if Hovind was trying to hide something. Well, perhaps I was mistaken, so I looked up the full quotation.

“The absence of fossil evidence for intermediary stages between major transitions in organic design, indeed our inability, even in our imagination, to construct functional intermediates in many cases, has been a persistent and nagging problem for gradualist accounts of evolution.” (Gould, Stephen J., ‘Is a new and general theory of evolution emerging?’ Paleobiology, vol 6(1), January 1980, p. 127)

If you don’t know, Gould was not in favor of the gradualist account of evolution; however, he was of course in favor of evolution itself. Gould supported “punctuated equilibrium” — a view of evolution as quick explosions of diversity in organisms and long periods of little change. Therefore, this quote does in no way demonstrate that Gould questioned the idea of evolution. It is a flat out lie to portray it as such — which is what Hovind did. At best, Hovind can claim that there are disagreements about how evolution functions — which is true.

Although it upset me to see that Hovind was spreading lies to children, I felt better knowing that he’s now rotting in jail. Not sure exactly what for, but if I cant quote mine from all the things he’s said in his life, Hovind said this about his incarceration:

“I went to … jail … because I … solicited … children with … the intention to … have sex with them … and then … murder them.”

Those are Kent’s words, so this isn’t a lie, right?


Often during an argument about the validity of evolution, one who doesn’t believe in evolution will assert something along the lines of: “If evolution is true, then how could something as perfect as the human eye be created? The answer, of course, is that were were created perfectly in God’s image; we did not evolve from animals.”

Here, I will admit, is a clever piece of rhetoric, though wrong nonetheless. The reason that it is clever is that it plays to our pride. Who would argue that we humans aren’t perfect? Well, I would.

Consider the human body carefully. Every individual part can not only break down, but can cause the death of the individual! If you can’t imagine how this is possible, let me remind you of the six-letter word “cancer.” Even the most unimportant parts of your body, let’s say a toe, can be stricken by cancer, and you can die. If you don’t believe this, look up the reason for Bob Marley’s death. If you don’t want to spend the time opening this, in short, his religious beliefs dictated that his body must be one, and amputation is not an option. Mr. Marley contracted cancer on a toe, and refused to amputate. The rest is biology.

So, any part of our body can have a problem — one of the manifold problems possible — and that problem can cause a termination of our whole life, not just a problem with that part in particular.

Let’s consider an unarguably intelligently designed device as a comparison: a car. If you were going to buy a car and the dealer told you that if you get a tiny bit of rust on any part of this car, the whole car would eventually be destroyed by this bit of rust, would you want to buy this car? On a car, if you get some rust on your bumper, and you don’t treat the rust, the worst that will happen is that the bumper will eventually rust off — the rest of the car will be fine.

So, a machine that is intelligently designed by a mere human is superior in this fundamental way to a human who was designed by an omnipotent being. Wow, we humans are smarter than God then. That’s nice to know.

Also, you should consider the frequency of problems or injuries among humans. Evolution explains that our ancestors have only been walking upright for a relatively short time, on the evolutionary scale. Accordingly, this drastic shift in positioning of the anatomy should, considering evolution’s short adaptation time, cause numerous problems, probably for at least a few million years. As we might expect, humans have notoriously problematic spines. Spines that had many, many, many millions of years to evolve for horizontal usage are known to cause aches, pain, and even excruciating pain due to disc herniation from normal wear and tear. I know from personal experience how terrible this can be, I’ve had an artificial disc placed in between two cervical vertebrae to solve a disc herniation. If you’re wondering about the pain, it can be almost immobilizing and the pain can occur anywhere the impacted nerve leads to (in my case, down my left arm). Many also lose sensation in their extremities and possibly power. I lost sensation however, I never lost arm strength.

I have heard different percentages, however, it seems that by the time people reach 80, almost everyone will have a mild to severe herniated disc. Considering how debilitating this common injury is, I have no idea how a Creationist would explain this fundamental design problem. Maybe God likes it when we are in intense pain.

So, unless our “Intelligent Designer” is far less intelligent than us humans, it seems that the concept of Intelligent Design should at least be rechristened “A Little Dumb Design”.


Take a look at this site showing textbooks in Louisiana. All I have to say is… my God.

If you don’t wanna click, here’s couple samples from the site (P.S. click the pictures for a deeper analysis of Creationism):

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It is sometimes asserted that you must have faith to believe in science because we don’t have an answer for everything. Well, to an extent this is true. However, it is the best we have. Further, it is by far the best we have.

How do I know this? It’s based on the idea that trustworthiness of an argument comes from how deeply you can question the presuppositions before coming to an “I don’t know” answer. The trustworthiness of science in this regard is always many levels greater than religion. Let’s compare the two. Now, every assertion can have multiple questions, such as “Why is that,” or “How do you know that,” and so on. For the purpose of simplicity, I will only take one route to the foundational presuppositions of each assertion.

Science

Assertion: “Water can be used as a fuel for a power source known as hydrogen power.”

Question: “How do you know this?”

Presupposition: “Because water contains two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen and pure hydrogen can be used as a power source”

Q: “How do you know water has two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen?”

P: “Because the atomic theory has helped us come to this conclusion through many different forms of experimentation.”

Q: “How do you know experimentation will prove something?”

P: “Because this is what the scientific method states.”

Q: “How do you know the scientific method is effective?”

P: “Because it allows us to see repeatable results in experiments.”

Q: “How do you know that repeatable results is a good thing?”

P: “Because it allows us to see order in the universe so that we can understand it.”

Q: “How do you know that seeing order indicates anything?”

P: “Because discovering order allows us to make predictions. If something always happens, we can assume it will happen again and again so long as the variables are the same.”

Q: “How do you know that all experiments thus far have just by chance all worked out the way you expected?”

A: “We don’t know that.”

* I am not a scientist. There may actually be silly mistakes here, and I may have missed possible steps. My main point is to show that there are at least six levels of understanding that science has achieved in this particular case.

Religion

Assertion: “Jesus turned water into wine.”

Question: “How do you know that?”

Presupposition: “Because the Bible says so.”

Question: “How do you know that the Bible is correct?”

Presupposition: “Because God made it.

Question: “How do you know God made it?”

Answer: “We have faith that He made it.”

In this case, there are only two levels of presuppositions. The only evidence provided is the Bible. In the science example, the amount of evidence that has been provided for the six steps I mentioned  is an enormously large amount. It entails all the evidence we have achieved since the beginnings of the scientific method along this particular question’s path.

Further, the depth of research required as one moves up this ladder of knowledge increases dramatically. It requires much more evidence to show that water is two parts hydrogen and one part water than it does to explain why repeatable results are useful.

Biblical study can never go beyond the God question, unfortunately because God is supposedly infinite. He is beyond inquiry. Therefore, the conversation always stops there. This is not an intellectual way to view the world.

The fact is, science is always pushing the boundaries of these levels, in both directions; while religion is stultified.

Of course, the more times you ask, “How do you know that?” kind of questions, as any parent of a 2-year old will know, to more abstract the answer becomes, to the point where it doesn’t really make sense to be asking the question anymore. This happens in the science example above.

I remember a great Louis C.K. skit on this, seen here, where his daughter keeps asking “Why?” and it humorously demonstrates the ridiculousness of this situation. It starts around the 7 minute mark.


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There seems to be a confusion among evolution skeptics that is overlooked by most people who accept evolution. Skeptics of evolution tend to think that evolution is a world-view that believers in evolution hold on to with all our might, unwilling to see the world otherwise. In other words, they view evolution as a religion.

This makes sense to evolution skeptics because they know that they cannot change certain beliefs that they have of their religion. They cannot stop believing in the basic tenets of their religion, or their life would be in shambles (or at least, that’s what they believe).

However, I hope I can speak for most people who believe in evolution when I say, if scientists suddenly found a serious problem that ran counter to evolutionary theory, and after a peer review, they declared that evolution was actually not the answer for how we arrived here, believers in evolution would be excited!  This concept is mind-blowing for evolution skeptics because it would seem to them like evolution believers’ lives would have been ruined because our concept of how the world works would have been ruined. Not at all. In fact, in order for evolutionary theory to be overturned, there would have to be an even more amazing, all-encompassing theory to replace it. So, would this be disappointing? No! This would be absolutely fascinating! There would be so many new interesting questions raised by this drastic discovery. There is nothing about evolutionary theory itself that we evolution believers cling to: we just accept the facts. We are not promised life after this life or punishment of our enemies. We simply accept what the scientific method demonstrates.

Of course, it is extremely improbable that the entire theory of evolution will be overturned considering the vast amounts of evidence in its favor and the absence of scientific evidence running counter to it at this moment. However, the vast amount of evidence for evolution does not make me happier. The fact is, people who believe in evolution tend to believe it because they care about science, not evolution specifically. They may have an interest in studying the mechanics or evidence of evolution, but caring for something is a little different.

We do care about the scientific method because humans have tried many methods for understanding the world in the past. Animal sacrifice, human sacrifice, palmistry, rain dances and so on, have all failed to produce repeatable results as the scientific method has. As a result of the repeatability of the scientific method, it has produced virtually all the inventions we see around us in modern society. I care to protect that concept because I care about preserving and advancing the benefits of modern society.

The theory of evolution has been arrived at via the scientific method. Therefore, I care about evolution only because I care about science. Whether or not evolution is true is not something I am emotional about; however, denying the accuracy of scientific analysis is an affront to our modern society and, as a defender of modern society, I feel a duty to defend the truthfulness of scientific analysis.


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The picture above represents a relatively old concept that in no way represents evolution. In case you don’t know it, it goes like this: given an infinite amount of time, a monkey randomly plunking away at a typewriter, will eventually write the entire works of Shakespeare from cover to cover. This, in my opinion, is an example of where probability and reality diverge. I have no idea what the odds of this happening is, but I have read that the required time for this to happen probabilistically is much more time than has ever existed. Further, if you consider the fact that every failure of the monkey to achieve the entire works brings the probability back to its original percentage (thinking that more failures means that the success is “due” is known as the gambler’s fallacy), it seems impossible that this unbelievable rare event would ever happen.

This is not how evolution works.

It seems that many people do not actually understand the basics of evolution – even those who claim that they believe in evolution.

I have a very pathetic example of this. I was visiting a friend’s house with a couple other friends. When I entered the house, I saw that the owner’s cat was enormous. I’ve never seen such an obese cat since then. The owner then said, “Yah, I known, and even stranger are his toes!” I looked, and I saw a somewhat grotesque sight. The cat had a serious case of polydactylism – too many toes on each paw. I’ve seen cats with six toes, but this cat had basically two paws on each leg. So, I said, “Ah, I guess that’s why he’s so fat, it must be a little painful to walk,” which I thought was a good guess. But then, another friend chimed in and said, “No, no , no. That’s evolution!” I stood there confused for a moment, trying to think of why this was an example of evolution. Not able to come up with an answer, I asked why it was evolution. “Because he has DNA to be fat, so his DNA developed extra fingers to compensate.” Actually, this friend was pretty dumb, so I doubt he said the word “compensate,” but you get the picture.

I recently had discussion with another blogger, DesertWarrior, on his blog post, The Chicken or the Egg, which triggered my desire to write a straightforward explanation of evolution.

I feel obliged to explain the basics of evolution so that ignorant believers of evolution and skeptics of evolution alike can at least know what they’re talking about.

Note: I will just say “mutation” for any beneficial change in DNA because there are a few ways the DNA can change across generations, but it will be too annoying to reiterate all of them each time. (The main way, by the way, is recombination of the genes in a novel way).

1) Probability

Very simply, evolution works by the concept of probability. If you take a game of Texas Hold’em Poker, for example, there are different probabilities for getting different hands preflop (this means, the first two card you get – don’t worry, you don’t need to know all the details of Hold’em if you aren’t familiar with this). The odds of getting the best hand (pocket aces) is 220 to 1, or 0.45%. It is very improbable to get this hand; however, if you play 220 hands, probability says that you should get this hand once. Of course, sometimes you will get this hand 10 times in 220 hands, and sometimes you won’t get this hand in 500 hands. But the average is 220 to 1.

Now, apply this same logic to the probability of a specific gene mutating in a way that is beneficial to the organism. Let’s say the chances are the same as pocket aces, 220 to 1. Then, if there are 220 offspring born in one year, this mutation is expected to happen once. Suddenly, something that is improbable, because expected. In this way, there is no luck or chance involved in evolution.

Add to this the fact that every part of your body can be modified in a beneficial way by a mutation. This means that each organism is not just taking a gamble once with one particular mutation, but with every single part of their DNA that can mutate.

Now, you must realize that most mutations are bad or neutral, so good mutations are not common. However, as we can already see, each organism has many chances to have one good mutation, and these chances are compounded by the number of offspring within the species. As a result, the probability will always be in favor of adaptation.

2) Environmental Adaptation

Next, is the concept that determines which mutations will survive. The one fact that confuses most people about evolution is that there is no such thing as a good gene or a good mutation. It’s all relative to the environment. Being a tall person may be beneficial in our current society, and the trend is that humans are getting taller; however, this is only because we enjoy an abundance of food. In an environment lacking food, being smaller is a benefit because you need fewer calories to survive. It all depends on the environment surrounding the organism.

Of course, mutations have no consciousness. Unlike as my stupid friend noted above thinks, evolution has no ability to compensate or consider the environment. It is all due to the fact that many probabilities are occurring simultaneously. Some organisms are born with serious deficiencies, and die. These organisms never procreate and never pass on their DNA. Some organisms appear more sexually attractive and they will procreate more and pass on their DNA more successfully. Some organisms will have a better ability to survive, and they too will have a greater ability to pass on their DNA.

Over deep time, these beneficial mutations add up in the descendants of a particular organism, and the descendants look very different than their ancestors. This is a slow process. It is not a sudden jump from a fish to a dinosaur – that would be the equivalent of the monkey writing the works of Shakespeare on a typewriter scenario (in a word, impossible).

That’s it. That’s the basics. There is no need for a guiding hand in this process. If you think it’s too unlikely to be successful, then you can simply check out the various computer simulations that have been done with these simple parameters. Every time, the computer organisms rather quickly (on an evolutionary scale) adapt to their environment. It works mathematically, and it works in the real world.

Now, there are people who will raise questions about specific aspects of evolution (such as speciation, or “why are there homosexuals?”, and so on); but what I have said above is what anyone who wants to talk about evolution MUST know without sounding ignorant.

Your comments are welcome. I have studied evolution quite a bit more than the average person; however, I am not an expert. I will try to answer your questions if I can; however, I will not go into extremely precise examples (these are generally the kind of gotcha questions. For example, I heard once, “If the Earth is so old, why is there so little dust on the moon?”) These kind of questions just try to obfuscate the discussion. If you stay on topic, I’ll be happy to answer your questions. 🙂

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