A Conversation for Evolution and Creation - an Introduction and Glossary

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Post 1

Giford

It's been a while since this Project was completed, and further scientific evidence has come in. I thought it might be of interest to run through a (highly incomplete) selection of highlights:

2004: Discovery of 'Tiktaalik', a fossil fish/amphibian transitional. Not only is this yet another transitional fossil (of exactly the type Creationists maintain cannot exist), and not only does it fit almost exactly in the middle of one of the largest remaining gaps in the fossil record, it is the first transitional fossil to be located based on evolutionary predictions. The type, age and location of the rock where it would be searched for were all decided on the assumption that evolution is correct - and the expected transitional was located.

2005: Dover School Board Trial - Intelligent Design is ruled by a Christian US judge to be indistinguishable from Creationism, and thus a religion not a science. During the course of this trial, uber-Creationist Michael Behe is forced to admit under oath that ID is no more scientific than astrology.

2005: New Pope confirms his predecessor's judgement that evolution is 'more than a theory'.

Score so far: Evolution 3, Creationism 0.
(Of scientific items: Evolution 1, Creationism 0)

Gif smiley - geek


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Post 2

Hoovooloo


Score revision...

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/story/0,,1859761,00.html

Evolution 3: Knuckle-draggingly moronic backward mediaeval superstitious garbage: 1


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Post 3

Giford

One item I forgot:

Kansas School Board - once a bastion of Creationism - will have an anti-Creationist majority as of January 2007, after 2 Creationist board-members lost their primaries.

"The people of Kansas are tired of being the laughing stock of not just the nation, but the world," according to pro-evolution board member Janet Waugh.

Evolution 4, Creation 1
(Still 1 - 0 on scientific points)


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Post 4

Giford

More points from the last couple of weeks:

Yet more Neanderthal remains found in Gibraltar. All the usual tests - including C14 dating - back up the 'standard' ideas of when and where Neanderthals lived and their relationship to modern humans.

Also: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/5350666.stm . A massively diverse coral ecosystem (far more diverse than the Great Barrier Reef) is discovered in Indonesia. Again, fairly standard methods of speciation are supported - for example, the range of sea-floor depths appears to have combined with variations in sea depth to repeatedly isolate each specie. Although most (all?) Creationists would regard this as 'micro-evolution', YECs would appear to have trouble accounting for the length of time required for this.

Although these are both clearly scientific points in favour of evolution, there is little new to either of them, so I am only giving 1/2 point for each.

I have just realised that the completion of the human genome project also falls into the category of evidence since 2002. I am quite tempted to give 2 points for this stunning confirmation of evolutionary 'theory', but I will restrain myself. The overall similarity with other genomes (particularly chimp DNA) utterly conflicts with separate creation; the subtle (and often non-functional) differences between human & chimp DNA utterly conflict with a 'common designer'. Both are precisely as predicted by evolutionary biochemistry.

Evolution 6, Creationism 1
(3-0 on the actual evidence)

Gif smiley - geek


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Post 5

Ste

One of the most common arguments for evolution is the hordes of evidence accumulated from disparate fields over the last century and a half. But apart from sheer quantity, the quality is there too. DNA sequence evidence alone is sufficient to support the theory beyond any reasonable doubt.

My field is the evolutionary genomics of plant genomes (fancy way of saying "how plant genomes evolve") and I work with DNA all the time. I am constantly stunned at what evolution does and how damn *cool* evolution is.


It would be funny to make this a article, keeping a running score of evolution vs creation, like it's some kind of game, with commentary!

smiley - ok
Stesmiley - mod


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Post 6

Giford

Hi Ste,

I'm game - but the strict rule should be that only evidence that post-dates the original article (2001 or 2002 iirc) is allowed. Thus we can evaluate common Creationist claim no. 1, that 'new evidence is discrediting evolution'.

You will note that I have my 'strictly neutral' hat on in this thread, and I intend to keep it on (common Creationist claim no.2 - 'you only believe that because you're biased'). So, please post any new developments in plant biology, but anything prior to 2001 is inadmissible. Aw heck, post what you want, it just doesn't score points if it's old. Evidence in this thread has a 'best before' date .

Should be good to keep track of this stuff though. I'm definitely in the 'interested amateur' category when it comes to biology - I'm doing a biology A-level atm out of interest (no, I'm not 18 any more - just a smiley - geek!)

Gif smiley - geek


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Post 7

Giford

A couple of impressive new websites have also turned up.

http://www.creationwiki.net/Main_Page

Huge and very impressive-looking, mixing a lot of Creationist claims with genuinine facts. Displaces the TalkOrigins 'Index of Creationist Claims' as the most comprehensive listing of points on the net (imo). Definitely one point to the Creationists. This mix of impeccable presentation and dubious facts presented with authority is why Creationism remains a force. (See, for example, its essentially meaningless page on 'baraminology', which presents some technical-sounding terms but completely ignores the fact that its definition of 'baramin' is essentially identical to that of 'species' The difficulties caused by ring species mean that this idea is comprehensively disproved - they are essentially denying that 'microevolution' happens.)

A brief search also turned up an EvoWiki:

http://wiki.cotch.net/index.php/Main_Page

Appears more 'patchy', but is at least devoid of the fundamental errors plaguing its Creationist counterpart. Some of its articles are excellent, but a lot of them are hidden off of the main page. Perhaps I just find it less interesting because so much of the material is familiar. So a point for evolution too.

Rather amusingly, each website has an entry referring to the other. CreationWiki criticises EvoWiki for only allowing evolutionists to edit articles; EvoWiki criticises CreationWiki for only allowing Creationists to edit articles.

Looking back at some science articles from the past few months, I notice that New Scientist also reports the finding of a Precambrian transitional, dubbed Stromatovaris. You know, one of those things whose absence Creationists are always claiming conflicts with evolutionary theory. At a stroke, a sizeable chunk of Creationist literature changes from 'dubious' to 'wrong'. (Though as far as I can tell, CreationWiki does not repeat this claim, it does make the equally false claim that there are no transitionals between single-celled and multi-celled life forms.)

Oh, and Kent "Dr Dino" Hovind, owner of a 'Creation Science Museum' is up on charges of evading nearly half a million dollars in tax. His wife has pleaded guilty, but he has pleaded 'subornation of false muster.' Essentially, that means he's denying that the US authorities have the right to tax him because he is a 'citizen of heaven'. No, really.

9-2 and (4-0). Is it too soon to start drawing some conclusions here?

Gif smiley - geek


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Post 8

Giford

A new fossil of Australopithecus afarensis has been excavated in East Africa and described in Nature this week. This is the same species as 'Lucy', but is more complete.

We already have several A. afarensis skeletons - this skeleton is exceptionally complete and juvenile, which shows that in terms of development A. afarensis was considerably more human that chimp-like, with brain growth delayed for several years, as it is in humans. Total brain capacity as an adult remains not much larger than that of a modern chimp. So A. afarensis is confirmed as a human / chimp intermediate by a previously unavailable line of reasoning.

One point to evolution.

Also, my goof - Mrs Hovind plead NOT guilty (as did her husband, after his initial plea was rejected).

10-2 to evolution, and 5-0 on science points.

Gif smiley - geek


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Post 9

Dudemeister

One fundamental argument for the very-scientific-sounding "ID"-people (if there is actually one, outside of the "knuckle draggers" as a previous post puts it) is that if there is a need to have an "Intelligent Designer", How did the intelligent designer come to be?

If somehow the designer did not come into existence then there is no designer - pretty simple logic, every scientist would agree. If you cannot explain how the designer came into existence (one must exist to explain the "theory"), then there is more work to be done to complete the theory, and articulate it so a rational person won't just roll over laughing or puke.

Of course if something designed the designer (an intelligent commitee perhaps) then how did that thing/person/people/giant robot/Magrathean board of directors come to be, and....? So obviously its a silly train of thought. The designer of the intelligent designer would have to be more complex than the designer. If there is no need for a Designer of the Designer then there is no need to have a Desinger by the same argument.

I thought about checking an "ID" website to see if anyone actually thought about this, not expecting anything that would require many neurons to fire contemplating it, or more than thinly veiled creationist dogma. I found one, a "FAQ" even on...

http://www.ideacenter.org/contentmgr/showdetails.php/id/1147

It has some pictures of DNA molecules and people in labcoats looking through microscopes, holding pipettes, etc. so it must be science.

All this "FAQ" says is that "One need not fully understand the origin or identity of the designer to determine that an object was designed. Thus, this question is essentially irrelevant to intelligent design theory, which merely seeks to detect if an object was designed."

Quite... Can anyone paraphrase this into a logical sentence? Perhaps "Intelligent design can't explain itself, because it doesn't explain anything?", "You can't ask this question because that would be trying to understand the origin of everything, which this theory is not about. Sorry we don't really care?", "If you ask this you must be a liberal, Bush-hating, anti-Christian, terrorist, anti-USA, anti-gun, anti-war, un-patriotic immoral person, so shut up before we lynch you from that tree - or nail you to it?"



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Post 10

Giford

Hi Dudemeister,

Yep, the article you've found is a pretty poorly argued one. They seem to be claiming that there is some kind of rule that you can deduce the existence of a designer, but can't make any more deductions about her. Specifically, you can't use exactly the same logic you used to infer the existence of a designer (briefly, complexity = design, and complexity cannot arise from non-complexity without an intelligent (i.e. complex) designer) to infer the existence of a designer of the designer. It's a non-starter, as many people pointed out to William Paley when he used this as the basis of his famous 'watchmaker' argument in the early 1800s.

Several people felt that the work of obscure Victorian botanist Charles Darwin further undermined this by showing that complexity can arise without design - however, this doesn't seem to have filtered through to the lawyers, educators and electrical engineers who make up 7 of the IDEA Centre's 9-person advisory committee.

In the real world, New Scientist this week as a mildly cool article on the evolution of snake venom, which is hardly earth-shattering but must be worth half a point (guess to which side).

And the Nobel Prize for Physics has just gone to work supporting the Big Bang. I'm being stingy, so no point here - it's not technically to do with evolution (although it does conflict with Creationism), and the work itself is too old to count here (though the Prize isn't).

10.5 - 2 and 5.5 - 0

Gif smiley - geek


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Post 11

Dudemeister

I happen to be an electrical engineer - not that I feel offended throwing us all in with that lot.

There is no serious argument and taking these idiots seriously is not worth the time.

Anyway. This is all about politics of the worst kind (heil!). The US is slipping, or has slipped into a pretty aweful state - Bush got "elected" or however he came to power and maintained it, "they" rely on truth-fearing, fearing and loathing the universe, our existence and everything "evangelicals". Better to totaly confuse the gullible and take advantage of it. ID is part of the plan obviously.


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Post 12

Giford

Hi DM,

Not intended as a slight against electrical engineers (or lawyers and educators) - only as people who set up 'panels of experts' that don't contain any experts on the subject! As an electrical engineer, perhaps you might like to phone IDEA up and offer to fix their plumbling, maintain their website or carry out cosmetic surgery for them. After all, all these areas are based on the atheist assumption of naturalism that IDEA are always railing against.

I'm sorry, I'm getting a little carried away and silly. Back to the scoring. Hot on the heels (well, wrists) of Tiktaalik comes another fish-amphibian transitional, Gogonasus. This one is more fish-like and is Australian. Out of interest, does anyone know what the largest remaining gaps in the vertebrate transitional record are? Is there any way of measuring the size of a fossil gap?

New Scientist also has an article showing how researchers have used the idea of genes having a 'grammar' to block the effects of a protein. Since this plays into the idea of genes having a literal language (i.e. being intelligently designed), I am going to award a point to Creationism on the science front for this. I admit that I don't fully understand the basis of the research, and I may come to regret this. In the meantime, congrats to the Creationists for finally breaking their duck.

I am still waiting for the Pope to renounce evolution. I have already awarded a point for this, but it has yet to happen. No change yet, just keeping an eye on it.

11.5 - 3 and 6.5 - 1

Gif smiley - geek


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Post 13

Ste

[Paraphrasing someone I can't remember] If you fill a gap in the fossil record, all creationists will do is cry "look! there are TWO gaps in the fossil record!".

Stesmiley - mod


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Post 14

Dudemeister

Oh come on! If genes have a "language" or a "grammar" why does that mean they have been designed by any stretch of the imagination - or being stretched on a rack until you confess allegiance to whoevers stretching you?

I don't think we can expect much from the Pope that's more progressive than stuff from around the Norman conquest of Britain time, or the world of the ID people - He's holding out for "tradition" and will probably not build on what JP2 did for the Catholic church and the world in general, more from inaction than anything else. So I don't think he would renounce evolution either.


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Post 15

Giford

Bee / wasp transitional discovered. Bizarre.

12.5 - 3 and 7.5 - 1

Now 1-0 to evolution on the surrealism score too.

Ste, that's why I was wondering if anyone has found a way of measuring 'gap size' - even if it's simply by fossil date.

DM - quite possibly, but I don't know enough to make a judgement. Therefore your task, should you decide to accept it, is to present a concise report on what exactly 'grammar' does mean with regards to biomolecules. This mesage will self-destruct in five seconds. Or possibly not.

Gif smiley - geek


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Post 16

Giford

Nice big article on evolution in high-profile magazine National Geographic - illustrated using the 'faked' Haeckel 'human' embryo picture. Gaargh!

12.5 - 4

Gif smiley - geek


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Post 17

Giford

And the bizarre just keeps coming.

A dolphin with extra fins has been found off the coast of Japan. This atavism ('throwback') shows that dolphins have the genes to produce four limbs, but that they are not usually expressed. This fits neatly with the evolutionary idea that dolphins are descended from land mammals (something similar is occasionally seen in whales - and indeed in Wales, where natives are also believed to be descended from land mammals).

Creationism / ID has - afaik - no explanation for why God would have included these genes in aquatic mammals, whereas their presence is a prediction of evolutionary theory.

As a side point, you will note that sharks (not descended from land animals) never produce this kind of atavism. It therefore does not seem that this is a novel mutation (i.e. this is not dolphins being born 'part-way' to developing legs). I have yet to hear Creationists address these points.

One more point to evolution:

13.5 - 4 overall and 8.5 - 1 on just the science points.

These figures are starting to show that the scientific evidence for Creationism is seriously lacking.

Gif smiley - geek (half Welsh)


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Post 18

Giford

Uber-Creationist and 'Creation museum' owner Kent Hovind has been convicted (along with his wife) of over 50 counts each of tax fraud. They could potentially recieve sentences of over 200 years each, although 4 years seems more likely.

After initially pleading 'suborned of false muster' (as a citizen of the kingdom of heaven he was not subject to US jurisdiction), then 'not guilty' since he had no employees (merely people who did voluntary work and to whom he regularly gave money), Hovind eventually offered no defence to the charges.

I am torn over whether to award a point to evolution or subtract one from Creationism, so I will do neither.

Personally, I would find Hovind spending a few years in jail and having his 'museum' (a profit-making organisation) seized a good result. Life imprisonment would be a ridiculously excessive sentence that I do not feel is justified by tax evasion.

Gif smiley - geek


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Post 19

Giford

Oh dear oh dear. Sea anemone genome now sequenced. I think it's safe to say that the evo side is winning the surrelism stakes hands down.

More seriously, although there have been a few surprises, the sea anemone genome is pretty much exactly what evolution predicts - related to vertebrates, but much more distantly than anything else yet sequenced. The significance is that it is the first time that a genome has been sequenced from an organism so distantly related to other studied organisms. One point to evolution.

A new study of P. Robustus teeth shows that they were probably nomadic, varying their eating habits throughout the year. Interesting, but not directly relevant enough to warrant a point.

14.5 - 4 (or 9.5 - 1)

Gif smiley - geek


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Post 20

Ste

I thought they won the surrealism thing when they sequenced Fugu - the poisonous pufferfish as seen in Finding Nemo and loved by high-powered Japanses businessmen...


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