Thursday, January 8, 2015

An Observation on Evolution Debates

Note: Some of this was written as if addressing a creationist. 

Charles Darwin, author of Origin of Species, is NOT the only scientist ever to study evolution.
Whether evolution is valid or not isn't really a question which anyone is going to prove as laymen in an Internet debate. The real issue here is who should we trust for an understanding of the world. I've been debating with evolution deniers first several months now, and I have yet to meet one who can actually explain with the claims of evolution actually are. The "Evolution" being rejected is not actually evolution, but a strawman presented by preachers in an attempt to discredit science.

I accept the consensus conclusion of tens of thousands of independent international scientists around the world. These scientists actually studied evidence from many different disciplines, to include:

  • Radioisotope dating
  • DNA comparisons on living species
  • Morphological comparisons of living animals 
  • Morphological comparisons of embryonic development
  • Detailed catalogs of skeletal evolution, including temporal information from radioisotope dating, geographic information which shows the moron of the species, and eventually modern day ancestors of the skeletal remains. 
As a scientist, I seek out criticism of my work. Peer review is there to ensure I'm not reaching conclusions that are unsupported by the evidence or misinterpreting evidence that I've reviewed. Carefully criticizing my peer's work is one of my responsibilities — essentially, looking for potential holes or gaps in my case. That's how science works.

Authority is not worth much in science. A famous scientist may get more frequent invitations to be the keynote speaker, but her academic presentations and papers must continue to stand on their own merits. In fact, many audience members or paper reviewers become more critical for a famous scientist's work out of a desire to appear smarter. 

When a creationist claims the mainstream scientific consensus is wrong, they're essentially claiming that the scientific process has not only failed, but that it continues to fail. And it does this not for a single research laboratory, but for the entire biological and paleontological branches of science. That the scientists who have dedicated their lives to the careful study of a narrow aspect of biology or paleontology is somehow fatally flawed. That gaps and erroneous assumptions have somehow gone undetected. And if that isn't absurd enough, these gaps and flaws must persist across the study of many different species, by scientists from many different institutions and countries.

phylogenetic tree of life, showing the relationship between species whose genomes had been sequenced as of 2006. The very center represents the last universal ancestor of all life on earth. Note the presence of Homo sapiens (humans) second from the rightmost edge of the pink segment.
The sheer magnitude and absurdity of this claim of scientific community ineptitude is difficult to grasp.  The figure at right is a dramatically simplified view of the tree of life as determined by sequencing modern genomes. While consolidating this information and constructing the tree via statistical analysis may have been the work of a couple teams of scientists, the supporting collection of evidence and extraction of genetic data was supported by many different scientific teams.  Though the branches in this figure are developed by statistical clustering models (likely k-means), they match the branches of phylogenetic classification of modern species and fossil records. Independently, either one of these two approaches to classification of species is compelling evidence for evolution. Taken together, with the understanding that they agree, is overwhelming evidence. If a god created these creatures as we see them, it must be a trickster god, trying to deceive us into believing evolution. 

I'm not able to conceive of a means by which this could happen.There are clearly smart people working at ICR and AiG to attempt to discredit the theory. Rather than starting with the evidence and considering several possible conclusions, these "scientists" start with their conclusion (biblical "Truth™") and work to find confirmation for it in the observable world. This approach is fundamentally dishonest. Yet their work has had little or no impact on biology or geology. Their findings are reviewed and dismissed as invalid or irrelevant. If there were valid points to their claims, they would be recognized by a the scientific community.


  1. By Ivica Letunic: Iletunic. Retraced by Mariana Ruiz Villarreal: LadyofHats [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
    Caption: phylogenetic tree of life, showing the relationship between species whose genomes had been sequenced as of 2006. The very center represents the last universal ancestor of all life on earth. The different colors represent the three domains of life: pink represents eukaryota (animals, plants and fungi); blue represents bacteria; and green represents archaea. Note the presence of Homo sapiens(humans) second from the rightmost edge of the pink segment. The light and dark bands along the edge correspond to clades: the rightmost light red band is Metazoa, with dark red Ascomycota to its left, and light blue Firmicutes to its right.

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