Regarding the Evolution Debate
[Brian's Response to my response.]
Thank you very much for your smart ass reply, but you are obviously not aware of the definition of evolution.
Evolution - As defined in Life The Science of Biology, W. Purves, and associates: "Any gradual change. Organic evolution, often referred to as evolution, is any genetic and resulting phenotypic change in organisms from generation to generation."
Your lack of knowledge of scientific interpretation is obvious. Evolution refers solely to the genetic changes that have been observed in living organisms. Abiogenesis is the concept of spontaneous life, that is, life from chemical substances. While abiogenesis has not been proved, organic evolution most certainly has.
"Speciation has been observed. In the plant genus Tragopogon, two new species have evolved within the past 50-60 years. They are T. mirus and T. miscellus. The new species were formed when one diploid species fertilized a different diploid species and produced a tetraploid offspring. This tetraploid offspring could not fertilize or be fertilized by either of its two parent species types. It is reproductively isolated, the definition of a species." -Talk Origins Archive
The scientific definition of "theory" is not the same as the everyday usage of the term. A few quotes regarding this:
"Today, nearly all biologists acknowledge that evolution is a fact. The term THEORY is no longer appropriate except when referring to the various models that attempt to explain HOW life evolves... it is important to understand that the current questions about how life evolves in no way implies any disagreement over the fact of evolution."
- Neil A. Campbell, Biology 2nd ed., 1990, Benjamin/Cummings, p.434
"A few words need to be said about the "theory of evolution," which most people take to mean the proposition that organisms have evolved from common ancestors. In everyday speech, "theory" often means a hypothesis or even a mere speculation. But in science, "theory" means "a statement of what are held to be the general laws, principles, or causes of something known or observed", as the Oxford English Dictionary defines it. The theory of evolution is a body of interconnected statements about natural selection and the other processes that are thought to cause evolution, just as the atomic theory of chemistry and the Newtonian theory of mechanics are bodies of statements that describe causes of chemical and physical phenomena. In contrast, the statement that organisms have descended with modifications from common ancestors - the historical reality of evolution - is not a theory. It is a fact, as fully as the fact of the earth's revolution about the sun. Like the heliocentric solar system, evolution began as a hypothesis, and achieved "facthood" as the evidence in its favor became so strong that no knowledgeable and unbiased person could deny its reality. No biologist today would think of submitting a paper entitled "New evidence for evolution"; it simply has not been an issue for a century."
- Douglas J. Futuyma, op. cit., p.15
In conclusion, I assume that you have no clue as to the differences between abiogenesis and evolution. I suggest you research the terms in greater detail, so you may be able to reply in such a way that does not make you look ignorant.
You enjoy being condescending, but when someone returns the favor, you seem to take it very personally. I rose to the same level of arrogance in my letter as you established in yours. If you consider the tone as "smart ass", then I suggest you reread your first note and you may learn something about yourself.
You assumed I was a Creationist. You were wrong. You assumed I was uneducated in the scientific method. Once again, you were mistaken. You made sweeping and inaccurate generalizations about what Creationism is, and now you write back to say I'm the one who's ignorant because I obviously don't understand the finer nuances of Evolution.
What a gift to give us to see ourselves as others see us.
But now that we've exchanged the obligatory insults to each other's intelligence, let us focus on the real issue. The fact is, we're talking past each other. This is a common problem in the debate between Evolution and Creationism. Both sides make the most "points" by misstating what the other's viewpoints are. The biggest loser in this practice is the public, who gets nothing but bad information from both sides.
You are living in an Ivory Tower if you are unaware that most folks are being taught that life "evolved" out of the primordial ooze. Abiogenisis hides behind the skirt of Evolution, since Natural Selection is well established while the origins of life are not. I confess, I thought you were defending Abiogenisis, because you were attacking Creationism (the competing explanation). I specifically acknowledged I was NOT questioning Natural Selection, for the very reasons we both agree on.
But why agree when we can have much more fun disagreeing?
Your quote from Douglas Futuyma contains the essence of real debate:
"In contrast, the statement that organisms have descended with modifications from common ancestors - the historical reality of evolution - is not a theory. It is a fact, as fully as the fact of the earth's revolution about the sun. Like the heliocentric solar system, evolution began as a hypothesis, and achieved "facthood" as the evidence in its favor became so strong that no knowledgeable and unbiased person could deny its reality. No biologist today would think of submitting a paper entitled "New evidence for evolution"; it simply has not been an issue for a century."
I'm sorry, but although Mr. Futuyma may have greater scientific credentials than either of us, his statement is a gross exaggeration. (Yes, even the almighty scientists can get carried away in their efforts to know it all.) When he says the theory of evolution is a fact, is he referring to the entire belief structure that surrounds evolution? Is he suggesting that not only have SOME organisms descended with modifications from common ancestors, but that ALL have? Is he defending Macro-Evolution as well as Micro-Evolution? Is he suggesting there are no unanswered questions about Evolution in general? Because clearly, there are. Darwin himself raised several, including the difficulty in explaining how sophisticated organs like the eye could have evolved when they require multiple modifications to occur simultaneously before they serve any purpose at all. Mr. Futuyma (and I assume, yourself) pretend all these questions are answered, and that this "theory" is as factual as the earth revolving around the sun. The comparison in ridiculous and not sound science.
Look, I'm not pretending to have all the answers. You're the one doing that. Punching holes in Creationism doesn't prove me wrong, because I'm not a Creationist. All I'm saying is that the theory of Evolution isn't perfect either, and it's outright arrogance to suggest anyone who questions it is stupid. The burden of proof lies on those who claim the theory is fact, not on those who raise legitimate questions about its validity.
How ironic that Mr. Futuyma use the Capernican model of the solar system as an example of how factual evolution is. Capernicus was silenced by religious dogma that refused to consider anything but explanations stooped in the orthodoxy of the day. Peer pressure kept Capernicus from being taken seriously for centuries, and they did it with catch phrases lifted straight from your very quote: "No knowledgeable and unbiased person could deny its reality..." Better watch out, critics who may question orthodoxy. If you raise any of these questions, your colleagues will assume you are either biased or unknowledgeable or both. It will be heresy!
So go ahead, put me down in your blacklist of ignoramuses who haven't blindly accepted the infallibility of Evolution. Then you and your elitist cronies won't have to exercise brain cells trying to solve any of these unanswered questions. (Even though that is the mission of science.)
If, on the other hand, you're seriously interested in learning more about this debate, I would suggest reading "Darwin's Black Box" by Dr. Behe (PhD. Biochemistry). It is just one of many books that raises intriguing scientific challenges to the theory that you have accepted as "fact beyond question".
[Response to Brian by Ramon]
I noticed that some of the evolutionary fanatics have tried to lure you into expending your resources and wasting your time in a long, drawn-out, electronic creation vs. evolution debate. They've tried to do that with Dr. Kent Hovind, too, but he didn't fall for their bait. Budikka, author of the poorly written and often illogical "300 Creationist Lies" piece of propaganda, was embarrassingly ignored by Dr. Hovind after he refused to reveal his real name (he thinks he'd become a target of a "campaign of harassment," which makes you wonder why Dr. Hovind is himself so free with his identity and so accessible to the often hostile public).
In another website, It Seems Kent Hovind is a Liar too, Budikka, now comfortable enough to use his presumably real name, Ian Wood, goes one step further in assessing the blame for his refusal to identify himself and his whereabouts:
He insisted on knowing who I was and where I lived, basically wanting my entire personal life to be revealed.
My name's Ramon Ruenes, from San Antonio, Texas. Oops, I just basically leaked my entire personal life!
This was in a era when abortion clinics were routinely being bombed and abortion doctors shot to death at their breakfast table by fundamentalists equally as committed to their cause as Hovind and his ilk are to theirs.
There you have it. He believes himself so important a figure in this debate, despite his admitted lack of scientific credentials, that he must keep his name (initially) and his city of residence a secret, or else Kent Hovind and an army of fundamentalists would abandon their families and their ministries and sacrifice their livelihoods just so that they could silence this relatively insignificant (despite his delusions to the contrary) creature. It makes you wonder how any prominent and very outspoken evolutionists, like Richard Dawkins or Stephen Jay Gould, still exist! That's a conspiracy far more audacious than those New World Order plots that are typically alluded to in the more right-wing realm of the talk radio circuit.
Regarding Brian's challenge, it's funny that he cites Nature and Scientific American as two bastions of scientific authority. Petitio principii (begging the question) is evident in that he assumes that because they declare creation science "not an accepted science in the major fields," it must therefore be so; and it must be so, of course, because Nature and Scientific American deem it thus! Brian notes that "peer-reviewed journals are essential to test a scientific assertion," but I guess that only applies when the "peers" in question are those who agree with him. The scientists who "peer-review" publications, like Answers in Genesis's Technical Journal, from a point of view opposite Brian's, must not count, because he rules them out a priori for not meeting his lofty qualifications for the job (namely, believing in evolutionism).
Brian seems to pin his hopes on the fact that since speciation has been observed, creation science must be bogus. Tell that to Dr. Carl Wieland, of Answers in Genesis, and author of the article, Speciation Conference Brings Good News for Creationists. In it, he notes that speciation, often accepted as proof positive of evolution, "is thus a positive for creation theorists," and cites the fact that most creationists believe that, for example, dingoes, wolves, and coyotes all descended from a pair of creatures on board the Ark belonging to the dog "kind." He goes on further:
The creationist assumes that real, substantive increases in information (that is, specifying for an increase in what might be called 'functional complexity') will never arise without intelligent cause. Speciation within the creationist model will therefore be expected to occur in the absence of any increases in the information within the biosphere, and thus can properly be classified as non-evolutionary.
Of course, such changes (for example, speciation as a result of horizontal changes in information, or as a result of a mutational defect with a loss of information) do not in themselves offer evidence against 'big picture' evolution, since they can easily be assigned a place within the overall model. However, one needs to emphatically point out that they do not suffice to demonstrate the validity of such evolutionary belief, since they can be just as easily assigned a place within a creationist model.
If speciation fits into either model, then its relevance in the matter is moot. Either side can't use it to trump the other, though evolutionists might find it handy to push over their straw-man constructs or to burn their creationist effigies, regardless of how little resemblance their designs bear to actual creation theories.
Oh, and Brian obviously finds a lot of opinions in the talk.origins archive of use in his attempts to debunk creation science. He might want to check out Timothy Wallace's True Origin Archive (http://trueorigin.firinn.org//indexfl.htm), self-described as "a rational alternative to--but not affiliated with--the Talk.Origins Archive." When Brian repeats the oft-quoted (among evolutionists) pseudo-axiom that "Creationism begins with the unsubstantiated assertion that the world was created 6000 years ago, in it's [sic] present form (I guess he's talking about all those creationists who don't believe in a global catastrophic Noahian Deluge. Too bad I can't think of any--Ramon). It is therefore not possible to create testable hypotheses from this, which is required to be classified as a field of scientific study." Mr. Wallace submits for public discussion several creation science theories that are empirically falsifiable, or scientifically testable, in his essay entitled A Theory of Biblical Creation (http://trueorigin.firinn.org//creatheory.htm). Any self-styled evolutionary "peers" should try give that an objective "review" before they construct any more inaccurate creationist pinatas to beat blindly.
Sincerely, Ramon Ruenes
P.S. Here are some links representing creation science, in response to Tommy's evolutionism URLs:
Center for Scientific Creation
Answers in Genesis
The Genesis Network
Institute for Creation Research
The Revolution Against Evolution
P.S.S. Where'd you get the idea that creationists believe that fossils were created by Lucifer to divert attention from the Bible? [Ed. Note: I didn't mean to suggest it was the "official stand" of Creationists, just one explanation I had seen discussed in a newsgroup.] A global, year-long, and sediment-shifting/depositing flood is the only (and in my opinion much better) creation science explanation that I'm familiar with! Here are some website links to creationist explanations behind fossils and their curious record:
Where are the Human Fossils? (http://www.christiananswers.net/q-aig/aig-c014.html)
Is there fossil evidence of 'missing links' between humans and apes? (http://www.christiananswers.net/q-aig/aig-c029.html)
The Fossil Record
I appreciate a detailed response from an actual Creationist, since I'm basically "agnostic" on the subject and feel a little uncomfortable explaining Creationists theories when I don't necessarily hold them. (But then again, perhaps that qualifies me as a better arbitrator, since I don't hold a stake in either position.)
When I say I'm agnostic regarding the origin of life and the creation of species, I mean that I don't feel any theory can be conclusively and scientifically proven this long after the event they seek to explain actually occurred. (Much like the "Big Bang" theory is only a working hypothesis.) It's a position that seems to anger more Scientists than it does Fundamentalist-- which is exactly the opposite of what I would have predicted. It underscores a growing perception that many scientists have a "faith" in the theory of Evolution that goes beyond the existing scientific evidence. When pressed to prove this theory as fact, Evolution suddenly becomes Micro-Evolution (limited to only minor changes that have been observed over time within species). But these limitations are noticeably absent when attacking Creationism, inferring instead that Macro-Evolution (major changes within species that eventually result in entirely new species, i.e., ape into man) are common knowledge and beyond debate.
This debate often turns into an ongoing never-ending emotional argument, filled with more name calling than facts. (And yes, I'm guilty of that too!) Between the Creationists web links you listed above and the pro-evolution sites provided earlier by Terrible Tom, readers should be able to make well informed conclusions for themselves.
Evolution is a theory in the Scientific sense of the word. I really don't think it's wrong for scientists, when they are in front of the general public, to say that evolution is a fact, because in the public's mind, that statement is closer to the truth than if they were to say "theory." Most people don't realize the difference between theory and scientific theory.
Probably true, except the public notion of evolution is much broader than what many scientist mean when they say it. (Or at least, will admit to when pressed on the matter.) Are they talking minor (micro) evolution that has been proven, or major (macro) evolution which attempts to explain the origin of the species and indeed, of life itself? The latter questions have never, and probably will never, be proved either way.
The misuse of the terms "theory" and "evolution" are prime examples of inferences being used to exaggerate a position which is technically correct, but generally misleading. I have a friend who insists "micro evolution" and "macro evolution" aren't really words, because the Creationists came up with the terms. But since when did our language become the sole property of science? They bend it and abuse it like everyone else. The reason "micro & macro evolution" caught on is because it serves a public need in better defining the terms of the debate. We need better clarification from both sides before any middle ground can be discovered. But the two sides have vilified each other so much, the last thing either side seems to want is better understanding, let alone compromise.
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