Turned up to eleven: Fair and Balanced

Thursday, January 10, 2002

I have seen several sites with discussions/expositions on Darwin and evolution recently, most recently on Rand Simberg's Transterrestrial Musings, within a discussion I have included myself in, and the junkyardblog. After reading many comments, including some borderline heresy on the merits of Darwinism, I feel compelled to pontificate. The question of evolution (and Evolution, for that matter) has been settled. period. end of discussion. No serious scientist or student of science disputes that the process takes place, nor that it is, in the end, the process by which life on Earth (and elsewhere??) develops. This is true not because the theory makes sense (although it does) or because it is elegant and easy to comprehend (although again, it is) but because IT FITS THE AVAILABLE DATA. It is all well and good to have "faith" but it has nothing to do with the scientific question at hand. If we place Scripture side by side with the facts of paleontology (or evol. bio, or microbiology, for that matter), something striking stands out. The "Holy Writ" has no basis in historical biological fact. This is not to say that events catalogued in the Bible didn't happen; many of them did. But the Creation story is just that; a story, a myth, and one that even the authors and early scholars never really believed (read Karen Armstrong's A History of God and The Battle for God for more on this). By the way, for anyone who reads this after the junkyardblog, it is worth noting that William Dembski, referred to as a reviewer of some anti-Evolution statements, is a mathematician who has written what he considers a refutation of Evolution based on mutation rate calculations. What he fails to consider, as many non-biologists do, are the many ways that genetic frequencies can change (drift, isolation, point mutation, sexual reproduction, hybridization, recombination, etc). Some of these mechanisms allow for very fast, very large changes in genetic makeup through a very few generations. The final result is a large field, biology, coming to terms with an organizing principle, Evolution by natural selection. The principle is by nature broad, and the details are complicated, and not everything about everything is known. Because the issue has become a proxy for the debate between science and religion, the actual principles of Evolution have been ignored (by the way, I use Evolution and evolution advisedly, to distinguish the fact of evolution from the Theory of Evolution, much as one might distinguish the fact of gravity with the Theory of Gravity). Without launching into it, the fact that this drags on says a great deal about the poor education in science and critical thinking in the United States, and how important these skills are for living in a complex, technological, advanced society.