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A Conversation with an Evolutionary Zealot

An amusing tidbit for the people who are smart enough to know how little we know.

EZ I know where every life form on the planet came from.

ME WOW! You do? You mean science finally figured it out?

EZ Well it is still a theory.

ME OH... So you don't know.

EZ No- Weren't you listening? I know where every life form on the planet came from.

ME But you said it was still a theory.

EZ It is.

ME So you don't KNOW where every life form on the planet came from.

EZ What kind of idiot are you?


EZ I just told you. I know where every life form on the planet came from.

ME And you can prove it?

EZ Well no... It's just a theory. But it is a good one.

ME But... It's still a theory?

EZ Not really... We really have proof.

ME What proof?

EZ You really are just too stupid to understand science huh?

ME Yikes! Relax, I just asked for proof.

EZ You never ask the bible thumpers for proof.

ME Look- You told me you had....

EZ You are just an idiot.

ME What?

EZ You believe fairy tales like Adam and Eve.

ME I never said that.

EZ Yes you did.

ME Look, you said you knew where all the life on earth came from.. I simply asked if you had proof.

EZ Oh I have proof all right. Proof you are too stupid to understand. You never took a science class in your life or you wouldn't be asking all these questions.

ME Actually I took a large amount of science and mostly I learned how little we know about anything.

EZ Well if you took any science you know that I am right.

ME [scratching head] Right about what? I lost track of what you were saying.

EZ I know where every life form on the planet came from.

ME OK yeah, OK where did it come from?

EZ Well I don't know that.

ME But you just said you did.

EZ And I do.

ME Sigh-- OK Never-mind.

Both sides of the debate are obnoxious but the evolution zealots win by a mile.


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Comments (35)

Paul To be fair, y... (Below threshold)
Master of None:


To be fair, you need to have an evolution zealot debate a creation science zealot. I'll volunteer my sister-in-law for the role of creation science zealot.

S-I-L: It takes a leap of faith to believe in evolution!

ME: Huh? OK, can you pass the gravy please.

You should have asked him i... (Below threshold)

You should have asked him if any of his data was experiemental. :P That one always torques evangelical atheists...

Then you should have asked him if he knew what Baryon Number Conservation was, then nodded and smiled when he answered no.

This sounds so much like th... (Below threshold)

This sounds so much like the interview with Ann Elk and her theory about the Brontosaurus.

I was a huge science... (Below threshold)

I was a huge science nerd as a kid, and it's something that's stuck with me ever since. For anybody who's got even a passing interest in science, any kind of science, I can't recommend with too much enthusiasm The Feynman Lectures on Physics. Get the original recordings. They were made around 1961, so the quality is sometimes not all we could hope for, but they're spectacular. Richard Feynman was obviously one of the great scientific minds of the last century, but what really strikes the layman is how humble he was. To Feynman, what we don't know was far more interesting than what we think we know.

He says during his first lecture — which is about the atomic theory — something that's stuck with me ever since I first heard it. He's talking about the way atoms form molecules, and he points out that the line between molecules and just-a-bunch-of-ions is surprisingly fuzzy. When they're like this we call them ions and when they're like that we call them molecules. At one point he says something like, "Nature doesn't care what we call them. She just keeps doing what she's doing."

The point? The world around us does not depend on how well or how poorly we understand it. It's going to keep doing what it's doing whether our theories are right or wrong. So don't get too cocky. We could be completely wrong about everything and never even know it.

The legality of this is highly dubious, but if you google the phrase "Feynman lectures" and take a look at the first page of results, you might just find yourself on a Web site where you can download MP3 versions of some of Feynman's lectures.

You're so right.. I listene... (Below threshold)

You're so right.. I listened to them multiple times when I first got my iPod. I'd listen to them while I walked.

But then the wife stole the iPod and....

Can I possibly be the first... (Below threshold)

Can I possibly be the first one to point out that this sounds exactly like a conversation with the Democratic party about, well, anything?

I'd have a hard time arguin... (Below threshold)

I'd have a hard time arguing that he wasn't evolved from apes, and not too many generations ago, for that matter. Maybe in his case he's right.

"ME OK yeah, OK where did i... (Below threshold)

"ME OK yeah, OK where did it come from?

EZ Well I don't know that.

ME But you just said you did.

EZ And I do."

You had to be making this up. Surely no one is that stupid. Please, for the love of God, tell me that no one is that stupid

I'll probebly be pegged as ... (Below threshold)

I'll probebly be pegged as some kind of zealot, but I frankly beleive that the theory of evolution, in broad strokes, does a pretty good job of explaining the general pattern of evolution much better than most alternate theories.

No, we don't know the exact mechanism of how it happens. There are many theories that delve into the specifics, and possibly more than one way that it works. There are arguments within science that debate these mechanisms and the interactions of various fields of science, and there are gaps in our knowledge, but there has never been a serious, unexplainable, mismatch between the various fields of study.

The problem that I've always seen with the arguent is that some people who don't want to beleive that evolution is even possible demand a level of proof that itself is nearly impossible. An unbroken fossil record, for example, is not likely to happen because the criteria for fossilization is very difficult, especially for large animals. This is why the records keep getting rewritten. As new discoveries are made, the tree of life sometimes gets reordered. That's how science works. It doesn't mean that what came before it was completely wrong, just our best understanding of how it fit together.

And the same holds for all fields of science. When astronomers discover something new that makes them rethink long held beleifs, it doesn't call into question everything they've ever done. When plate techtonics was finally proved, it didn't throw out all of our thinking of geology, but it did cause a rethinking of some areas. Evolutionary sceince is no different.

Just because it's not absoliutly infallible does not make it false. Like all science, it evolves.

Speaking of how little we k... (Below threshold)

Speaking of how little we know, up here by Chicago, WTTW played "The Elegent Universe" last night, dealing with string theory. Very interesting and very weird stuff, especially the part dealing about branes.

Now, dealing with evolution, you have two sides, excluding the idiots on both:
-the side that's struggling to figure things out
-the side that shrugs its shoulders and moves on

However, it's always fun, no matter which side you're own, to watch the idiots fight it out.

Jordan, I am assuming that ... (Below threshold)

Jordan, I am assuming that you are discussing baryon number conservation as a way of bringing Keith Wanser's theories into the discussion. The problem is that the Big Bang theory is only tangentially related to the theory of evolution.

Evolution talks about how speciation occurs, and infers (among other things) that the mechanism can be taken back to the origin of life on this planet. The Big Bang theory on the other hand is an attempt at explaining where this planet (and all other observable extraterrestrial phenomena) came from.

Even were the Big Bang disproved (frankly, I think it's a bit of a stretch, but then I can't bring myself to believe in gravity as currently conceptualized), that would not say anything about evolution.

I like the idea of asking for experimental data, though. I've got to remember that one.

I went to county fairs as a... (Below threshold)
been there:

I went to county fairs as a kid. Look at the crowd at one of those and you will believe in evolution

no, I think that would disp... (Below threshold)

no, I think that would disprove it. Since the ones that I have seen at county fairs have NOT evolved. Heh.

One aspect of all the blath... (Below threshold)

One aspect of all the blatherings about evolution has always puzzled me.

To quote Stephen Jay Gould in "Ever Since Darwin":

"Darwin did two very separate things: he convinced the scientific world that evolution had occurred and he proposed the theory of natural selection as its mechanism. I am quite willing to admit that the common equation of evolution with progress made Darwin's first claim more palatable to his contemporaries. But Darwin failed in his second quest during his own lifetime. The thoery of natural selection did not triumph until the 1940's. Its Victorian unpopularity, in my view, lay primarily in its denial of general progress as inherent in the workings of evolution. Natural selection is a theory of local adaptation to changing invironments. It proposes no perfecting principles, no guarantee of general improvement; in short, no reason for general approbation in a political climate favoring innate progress in nature."

The thoery is thus quite limited, indeed much more limited than those who oppose it describe it as. I understand that reaction -- it is called "ignorance". What I don't understand, though, is why the theory evokes ANGER in those who oppose it.

The theory describes a mechanism that either has occurred and is occurring, or has not occurred and is not occurring. What is there to be angry about?

This babbling about evoluti... (Below threshold)

This babbling about evolution is unbecoming of Wizbang! but it has given me something to write about on my own blog.

But, what did (M)apes evolv... (Below threshold)

But, what did (M)apes evolve from?

Paul, if you're done pattin... (Below threshold)

Paul, if you're done patting yourself on the back for your openminded humility, would you be interesting in addressing the salient scientific content of Andy's post?

The NYT quote says that the discovery "whether it gets in the way of evolution, which depends on mutations changing an organism rather than being put right by a backup system." If you look at any reasonably detailed summary of the actual paper, such as this one, you'll notice that the plants which unexpectedly lack the mutation are only about 10% of the offspring. The other 90% are still mutants. In other words, even when this "backup system" is active, mutations still persist in most of the plants. The NYT summary is just...wrong.

So, a summary:
1) Something interesting happens.
2) MSM comes up with an uninformed misinterpretation.
3) Zealots deck misinterpretation with garlands and parade it through the streets.

Huh. Ever heard of anything like that happening before?

Oh yes— the "still just a t... (Below threshold)

Oh yes— the "still just a theory" gambit. As if there is no difference between theory and conjecture. As if evolution is merely a critical theory and not a product of the scientific method. As if there are any observations of nature that contradict the theory of evolution. As if the modern synthesis theory of evolution were just a short step away from going the way of Lamarckism.

Grow up, Paul.

<a href="http://www.discove... (Below threshold)
been there:
Paul,Wanna really ... (Below threshold)


Wanna really make him mad? Ask him, "Why does it matter?" After all:
1) whether evolution as origin of all species is true has no predictive value for new species of the "new and improved" kind.
2) Theoretical and applied sciences do not use evolution in any practical way.

What I don't understand is ... (Below threshold)

What I don't understand is how the theory that one species's DNA can change to form a separate DNA type making it a separate species can in any way account for the creation of DNA-bearing species in the first place. Sort of a chicken and egg thing....

Jeff Medcalf: I actually me... (Below threshold)

Jeff Medcalf: I actually mentioned baryon number conservation as a method of ensuring the guy is not an idiot. If he has just memorized someone elses propaganda, he'll likely be confused because he doesn't know what it is, or shot down because he thinks it deals a blow to his theory.

Yes, baryon number conservation deals with cosmology, not molecular biology, which is where evolution really is, but its still a very interesting field that can contribute to such discussions, though perhaps not in a way either side wants.

My problems with evolution reside with the fact that its almost entirely based on the fossil record, as we have no other graduation, (and how would we with how long scientists claim it takes), of the theory in action. There is no way to test it, therefore it isnt theory, its conjecture.

That, and the only part which you can definitively disprove, abiogenesis, it claims ignorance on. "We're not concerned with how it began, but once its there, evolution works." In my experience, the origins of things have much more to do with how they function than observations of their behavior do. (Human psychology is a good example of that principal).

Most non-evolutionists, including me mostly, suffer from the same problems Democrats do: they'll criticize the theory, but offer nothing better. (Some might offer the Bible, as no one has been able to disprove the disproveable parts yet, but they get castigated for "not knowing any science").

So no, I didn't introduce it to bring up anyones studies, I brought it up to see if anyone here knew what it was, and further, knew enough about it to make the obvious comment you did.

The only experimental data ever produced in favor of evolution was the 1956 Miller experiment in which he created amino acids from "primordial soup" and elecctricity. Unfortunately, 25 years later, molecular biologists found out about chirality, and it turns out the Miller experiment produces racemates, further disproving current evolutionary theory, not proving it.

OT: do you have a reletive in the Civil Air Patrol in Portland, Oregon? I had a CAP Lieutenent named Medcalf, (SS in his day job at the guard though).

been there: Read Michael Be... (Below threshold)

been there: Read Michael Behe's book "Darwin's Black Box". It's really good and well written. Both technical and simple.

It's an interesting, and qu... (Below threshold)

It's an interesting, and quite illumintaing bit a duplicity the author of this Blog has set in motion. Anyone who carefully explains the factual nature of evolutionary biology is cast as an evolution zealot. How terribly convenient. By extension then, anyone how explains arithmetic is a math zealot, and of course anyone who tries to teach children how to read and weite is an english zealot ... Thus, being zealots, they can be more easily dismissed. A most similar methodology was employed by Stalinists who managed to repress evolutionary biology and Mendelian genetics by framing anyone who tried to cut through that tragic misinformation as 'enemies of the state' and' Capitalist stooges'. This worked well, becuase the communist ideologue didn't have to address the content of the zealots argument becuase they'd already been disenfranchised via lableing ...I'm sure Stalin is smiling reading Wizbang. On to the meat of the matter.

Evolutionary biology, as has been patiently explained to the forces of neo-Stalinism loose on this Blog, does not address the origin of life. To insist it does after repeated corections is either sign of brain damage, comprehension issues, or dishonesty.

On Behe, he is best known for his book "Darwin's Black Box" or DBB. In DBB the idea of Irreducible Complexity (IRC) is introduced by Behe which is the assertion that an IRC system cannot evolve in a step-by-step manner in which each transient step provides the organism with an adaptive advantage. This is a newer biomolecular version of an old argument that asked the question "What good is half an eye?"

Note 1: To refute "X is always impossible in principle under condition Y" all we have to do is show one case in which X is plausible under condition Y. We do not need to prove X happened a certain way with extensive records of each minor event, we only have to show that it's plausible it could. Any evidence it did happen that way is merely gravy.

Note 2: In addition it's critically important to note that Behe does not offer a model for detecting ID, but of refuting classical Darwinian Gradualism. To assume that by doing so support's ID, or any other claim, would be to commit several known Logical Fallacies such as a False Dichotomy.

Note 3: Michael Behe states in DBB that he accepts the evolution of diverse species from common ancestors, including the evolution of humans from earlier primates. He's backpedaled away from that a bit more recently, but in his original version the genes which produce specific phenotypical processes, such as blood clotting or immunity or photosynthesis, were intentionally 'front loaded' into the very first self replicators and evolution whittled down what it needed from this vast primeval genome over time. Thus, to use Behe's IRC to refute common descent would signal ignorance on the part of the user.

I make these three notes because it's a typical modus operandi for IDCists to shift/move the goal posts from 'cannot plausibly happen using evolutionary mechanisms' to 'prove to me exactly how it happened using evolutionary mechanisms with absolute metaphysical certainty to my personal satisfaction', and then go on to conclude using the false dichotomy that whichever flavor of creationism one holds is the default winner; which usually means the rejection of common descent.

Keeping all three caveats in mind then, to falsify the idea of IRC as an obstacle to gradualistic evolution we only need a single plausible pathway by which the process could take place. Many such plausible pathways were known years before DBB's was published, such as scaffolding, co-option, and duplication/mutation, and would have been easily understood by a Professor of Biochemistry such as Behe. But for whatever reason he chose to disregard these contradiction to his thesis. An author is free to do that when he writes a book for the laypublic, but for a Tenured Professor to do so in his own field continuously in peer reviewed journals would eventually result in a charge of academic fraud.

Let's use the eubacterial Flagellum (e-flag) as our test case for plausibility. The Evolutionary Model in which the e-flag develops step-by-step makes a number of testable predictions. Among these would be the existence of transitional physiology's for the e-flag and the existence of related biochemical systems. This is observed observed. We have a good transitional range strongly supporting the gradual evolution of an eubacterial flagella from a type III secretory system. This plausible pathway also provides us with a plausible solution to Behe's original conundrum of how an IRC system could evolve step-by-step; co-option of an existing system for a new use.

Since we have a plausible pathway in which an IRC system develops step-by-step with each modification conferring adaptive value to the organism, which makes testable predictions and which are observed to be valid, we have refuted the assertion that there is no plausible pathway by which gradual modification and natural selection can account for at least one IRC system; thus refuting Behe's original assertion.

Again, carefully note that it is not necessary to prove that these events did in fact happen to the personal satisfaction for Behe's argument to be shredded, and shredded he is. of an IDC proponent. I assure you that is an impossible task no matter what evidence you present! And if you enter into that debate you have already lost. All we need to do is show that it's plausible in a single case under the framework of classical Darwinian Gradualism to refute Behe's assertion that it can never happen in principle.

Jordan-Actually spec... (Below threshold)

Actually speciation has been observed in both the laboratory and in nature. Most of the observations have been plant based. See the following for a number of examples:

~DS~: one word for you thi... (Below threshold)

~DS~: one word for you this morning, and that is, "Magnesium".

Hey Paul, I'm glad you've l... (Below threshold)

Hey Paul, I'm glad you've learned how to construct a Straw Man Argument. http://www-personal.umich.edu/~lilyth/strawman.html

Without intentionally overs... (Below threshold)

Without intentionally oversimplyfying the debate, I offer that the one glaring gap in scientific theory regarding evolution is the bridge between adaptation and evolution. In other words, it's reasonable to believe that cheetahs may become faster, but a significant stretch to think that Wildebeests will develop armadillo-style body armor to resist attacks. The former is simple adaptation, but the latter would require significant genetic modification.

I also offer that scientists have been just as closed-minded to any evidence contradictory to evolution as many Christians are to scientific proofs against God. For science to be true to its own ethics, few, if any findings can be regarded as infallable. This principle has been completely suspended towards evolution.

-S-I notice that i... (Below threshold)


I notice that in this and other comments you have little to offer other than personal attacks. Very impressive.

Bo -

You sound like what I call a "fish to monkey" anti-evolutionist. As in, "Evolution can't be true 'cause I ain't never seen no fish turn into a monkey."

If the species of cheetah can get faster incrementally by evolution and selective pressures, then why can't other genetically-indicated characteristics also come to be incrementally? Answer: they can, and do.

Paul, this is the guy telli... (Below threshold)

Paul, this is the guy telling YOU to grow up!!! (S9 that is)


"You sound like what I c... (Below threshold)

"You sound like what I call a "fish to monkey" anti-evolutionist. As in, "Evolution can't be true 'cause I ain't never seen no fish turn into a monkey."

Gee, andy, I guess I was wrong in expecting intellectual debate. Stereotypes, such as the obvious grammatical errors in that statement will do worlds of good in any confrontation. Keep up the good work!

Of course, the knee-jerk response would be for me to insinuate that you have the attitude that "Well, I ain't never seen no "god" so there must not be one." Well, that's not quite fair--that is actually the less-refined version of modern scientific reasoning--if it can't be seen, measured, or studied, it doesn't exist. Still, I feel that in ascribing their dialect to an individual such as yourself, I owe inbred, uneducated Southerners a heartfelt apology.

My point was that Darwin and those who followed, extrapolated from the observable into the unknown. Since then, scientists, driven by the "enlightenment" mantra to disprove the existance of God, took up the gauntlet and offered their evidence to prove the theory.

Darwin himself fits more into the mold of the modern-day "intelligent design" crowd. He reasoned that the Creator had set certain things in motion that led directly to the differentiation about which he speculated. His largest step away from strict Creationism was the offering that not every species was created individually--not that there was no Creator.

Admittedly, "God did it" isn't science, but neither is, "There is no God, so He couldn't have done it." Presuppositions strip science of credibility. When science ceases being directed towards discovery and instead rests upon "knowns," it becomes no different than religion, save in the age of the belief.

One last point you made: you said, regarding significant genetic characteristics' potential for alteration, "they can, and do." I would be more than happy to listen to any significant proof you could offer towards that statement. You are saying, essentially, that if A can become A+, then logically B can become C, even if it has to go through literally millions of incremental steps to do so. All I ask is for you to cite proof that either that degree of evolutionary development has happened in the past, or that it indeed is still continuing.

Again, what is the scientif... (Below threshold)

Again, what is the scientific theory of non human ID/C with regard to biodiveristy and what testable predictions does it make? What are some examples of falsification criteria?
I see scientically literate individuals making sincere attempts to understand this alleged theory, and several creationist defenders who know they don't have a scientific leg to stand on one waving their arms in the air and calling everyone else names. Great for grade school playgrounds, not so good in matters of science. How about some evidence, some science, etc, for this much vaunted theory of ID/C-at least state it for crying out loud- and less handwaving and name calling?

been there: Read Michael... (Below threshold)
been there:

been there: Read Michael Behe's book "Darwin's Black Box"

Thanks, Ill look for it

Three other good books to r... (Below threshold)

Three other good books to read are "Ever Since Darwin" (ISBN 0-393-30818-1) and "Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes" (ISBN 0-393-31103-1), both by Stephen Jay Gould, and "On The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life" by Charles Darwin, which you can read online at http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/origin.html.

Skybird, please go back to ... (Below threshold)

Skybird, please go back to elementary school. Learn spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Then read about evolution. THEN tell us about it. All you've done is make a fool of yourself.






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