SCIENCE IS NOT A DEMOCRACY, PART 758

In a rare comment to this blog, an M. Sheldon, responding to this post, reveals that he is suffering from the same terrible triad that plagues too many Americans: He isn't up to snuff on biology, he doesn't understand the fundamental meanings of science and the scientific method, and his views on these and related topics have been scuttled by an overzealous reliance on supernatural beings.

Our visitor has made a brief but eminently fiskworthy statement:

The Dover School board simply stated facts.
"Evolution is a theory, not necessarily a fact."
Are evolutionists afraid of debate?
/I don't subscribe to either ID or Evolution, nor do I believe in the seven-day creation story. However, they all have just as much weight as the other.


Fair enough. This won't take long.

The Dover School board simply stated facts.
"Evolution is a theory, not necessarily a fact."


The brazenly disingenous Dover School Board (which M.S. misquoted, but no matter) simply lied its junk off. Kitzmiller v. Dover Judge John E. Jones, in rendering an unusually scathing ruling at the end of a trial which turned out to be about as closely matched as Custer v. Raging Bull, clearly felt the same way:

Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false.


Here's the statement that Dover teachers were mandated by the school board to read to students prior to lessons including evolution:

The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin’s theory of evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part.

Because Darwin’s theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The theory is not a fact. Gaps in the theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.

Intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin’s view. The reference book, “Of Pandas and People,” is available for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what intelligent design actually involves.

With respect to any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves the discussion of the origins of life to individual students and their families. As a standards-driven district, class instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve proficiency on standards-based assessments.


I've bolded passages that are outright bullshit. The Dover creationist fucknuts (who have all since been voted off the school board, by the way) were pulling the usual trick of translating "theory" into "wild-ass guess" so as to give the appearance of hedging on the part of biologists. Evolution is a fact -- a whole assortment of them actually -- and the theory of evolution is a malleable model which attempts to explain and unite these facts. For example, scientists may differ with respect to their ideas surrounding the precise mechanisms of evolution, the relative importance of genetic mutations in engendering modifications to a population of organisms over time, and so forth. But to claim that evolution is not a fact is to deny what 99.99 percent of working biologists hold true. (It's also ignorant, misleading or both to label the broad body of knowledge we have 150 years after On the Origin of Species was published "Darwin's theory," and Of Pandas and People was shown during the trial to be nothing but creationist dreck, but I'll not comment further on these issues.)

To say that intelligent design is an "explanation" of anything is also horseshit. None of its proponents have any data, any experiments, any hypotheses; what unites and drives them is the belief -- or duplicitous claim -- that evolution is false. Understand that ID creationism's only function is its use as a tool for waging war on evolution. That's it. (see the now-notorious Wedge document, assembled some years ago by the leading ID think tank in America, for evidence.) It's the latest repackaging of special creation, and Judge Jones understood this week when, in his ruling, he referred to the "breathtaking inanity" of the Dover School Board.

More from M. Sheldon:

Are evolutionists afraid of debate?

Ah, yes. The old "if they're complaining, they must be afraid!" crippled thought train. If evolutionists were afraid of debate, they wouldn't be evolutionists. They wouldn't be scientists at all. Why? Because everything within the generally accepted body of knowledge known as evolution has been rigorously tested, re-tested, and peer reviewed; hence, in a very real sense it's been heavily "debated" -- and has prevailed at every turn. That's how the scientific process works. It's understandably anathema to creationists, who have nothing to support their beliefs except for an ancient book of fables, tradition, and blind faith in the utterly absurd.

What chaps scientists' balls is the colossal waste of time and energy that's required when creationist frigbags, zombie-like in their uncomprehending persistence, rise up and try to stick their religious fuckery into science classrooms, biomedical research labs, and other places it doesn't belong. No one wants to be distracted from all-important instructional and research processes owing to the fact that a bevy of bumpkinturd hammerheads from Burnt Balls, Texas were programmed at age two to believe that Adam and Eve actually existed and that the world was created in six days by a skygod resembling a mafia don with Alzheimer's.

Think of it this way: Assume there was a widespread, ongoing, well-funded movement to overturn the germ theory of infectious disease -- which posits that bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms are the causative agents of a host of illnesses -- in favor of the untestable, zany idea that evil spirits (including the ghost of Elvis) underlie these morbid conditions. If doctors and microbiologists raised a fuss over this, would M. Sheldon accuse them of shying away from a good ol'-fashioned debate? No, he wouldn't (I assume, or hope). He'd recognize that dealing with these shitasses on their terms would be an immense waste of resources. So it is with evolution; but M. Sheldon fails to recognize the parallels because he's stuck in the same rut as a lot of faithful people who have zero applicable background in biology, yet confidently state that evolution is open to question. Which brings me to M. Sheldon's coup de grace:

I don't subscribe to either ID or Evolution, nor do I believe in the seven-day creation story. However, they all have just as much weight as the other.

He misses the message entirely. Facts are not matters to be "subscribed to" based on one's whims. People (those not totally brainwashed, anyway) can choose whether or not to buy into a particular set of religious beliefs. People can legitimately differ with respect to the moral aspects of abortion, the death penalty, the value of manned space flight, and a host of other issues. But science is not foreign policy or a gubernatorial race or a flavor of ice cream. To "not subscribe" to that which is as rock-solid as anything within the range of human endeavor can be is to profess willful ignorance. Nothing more.

One needn't become an expert in paleontology or geology or biology to become attuned to the fact that the best, most active minds in the world are wholly in tune when it comes to evolution. One only need recognize one's own deficits, or more precisely, that scientists -- while obviously not perfect -- know what they're doing, and that if a planet full of them believes something there's probably a very good fucking reason why. The same, of course, could be said of physics, chemistry and any other established scientific discipline.

Perhaps my characterizing M. Sheldon and his ilk as "cognitively worthless" in my previous post was uncharitable, but given the issues afoot in this one, it's hard to feel as though I made a mistake with that assessment.
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4 Comments:

Blogger M. Sheldon said...

A few questions and I will leave you be.
1-Please enlighten me (as you are obviously so much more intelligent than the rest of us judging by the enormous number of creative adjectives you use) How does evolution fit into the fossil record? During the Cretacious, there was a "big bang" so to speak of life forms that never before existed whos predecessors are nowhere to be found in said fossil record?
2-Please tell me the odds (Mathematics is a science you know) on everything working just right for life to form.
3-Finally, please be the first to explain how chemical evolution takes place.(do so and I will be sure that you are nominated for a Nobel Prize in Chemistry...and won't even ask for half the money.)

Evolution as it stands leaves too many unanswered questions. The only way to encourage debate (and thus discovery) is to present opposing views. Science depends on free-thought. Without such, we would still be getting our nightcrawlers by mixing dirt and rainwater.

12:21 AM  
Blogger Beaming Visionary said...

"During the Cretacious, there was a "big bang" so to speak of life forms that never before existed whos predecessors are nowhere to be found in said fossil record?"

You're behaving very civilly, and you didn't just cut and paste from a creationist site, so I'm going to be nice and keep my tongue out of my cheek here.

I am not aware of any Cretacious (sic) big bang. The Cretaceous period ended 65 million years ago and at this point animals were dying in great numbers (e.g., the dinosaurs), not proliferating.

I very strongly suspect you are thinking of the so-called Cambrian explosion, which occurred roughly 550 to 600 million years ago over a period of a few tens of millions of years. During this period, there was an apparent proliferation of organisms previously not encountered, as you say. However, this is largely accounted for (it's now believed) by the fact that the animals evolving into these "new" forms were too small or soft-bodied to fossilize. However, predecessors to these organisms have in fact been found (notably in Canada's Burgess Shale and in China). Besides, even if the rate of evolution was markedly greater in the Cambrian and is not merely an artifact of differential fossilization, there's nothing in evolutionary theory barring differential rates of speciation. Understand that these organisms did not all appear simultaneously -- not by a long shot.

Besides, evolution's veracity doesn't rely on the fossil record. What's been found in the fossil record is sufficient to confirm exactly what Darwin proposed about descent with modification (older to newer fossils demonstrating increased diversity and a number of "transitional forms"), but fossils' value lies in what they can tell us about specific morphology.

"Please tell me the odds (Mathematics is a science you know) on everything working just right for life to form."

This is both irrelevant (evolution isn't concerned with origins) and a red herring (obviously, no one can produce a number that's above scrutiny and it makes no difference because we're clearly here on Earth to discuss it).

"Finally, please be the first to explain how chemical evolution takes place.(do so and I will be sure that you are nominated for a Nobel Prize in Chemistry...and won't even ask for half the money.)"

I honestly don't know what you're asking, but whatever it is, it falls outside the purview of evolutionary biology.

"Evolution as it stands leaves too many unanswered questions."

According to whom? Not to anyone actually familiar with the relevant principles. You're not one of them. Please don't take this as an insult, but anyone who posits the confused questions you did is in no position to judge whether evolution standson firm ground. But I hope you continue looking into this fasicinating science; the talkorigins.org site is an excellent, comprehensive place to start.

"The only way to encourage debate (and thus discovery) is to present opposing views. Science depends on free-thought. Without such, we would still be getting our nightcrawlers by mixing dirt and rainwater."

Well said, but scientists studying evolution have been behaving accordingly since the 19th century. You don't really think that there's no lively, legitimate, internal debate among evolutionists, so you? Science is not a fundamentalist religion in which everyone adheres to exactly the same dogma and forms wall against outsiders, you know.

8:12 AM  
Blogger M. Sheldon said...

I have no problem with (as a matter of fact there's no doubt about) some evolutionary process leading to adaptations among a species.
To explain the cretacious comment, there was, at that time in fossil record, an enormous number of species who had no previous incarnation in the fossil record. The question has to be raised (and will likely never be answered) as to where they came from. Biological evolution is nearly a given. However, the actual creation of the first forms of life being attributed to spontanious chemical evolution, and for that spontanious act to continually take place long enough for there to be a contingency of these organisms requires a greater leap of faith than any belief in God.

3:18 PM  
Blogger kemibe said...

"the actual creation of the first forms of life being attributed to spontanious chemical evolution, and for that spontanious act to continually take place long enough for there to be a contingency of these organisms requires a greater leap of faith than any belief in God."

Actually, if you do some reading on theories regarding abiogenesis, you'll find that this is untrue.

To simplify, the aggregation of macromolecules into something sufficient to produce proteins with relicating properties, while dependent on beating long odds, only had to happen once. It's likely (but of course not known) that these early replicators were not the same replicators of today -- that would have required beating truly astronomical odds. If you view the transition from carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen atoms, plus possibly silicone and a few catalytic metallic-clay compounds, to primitive archaebacteria to eubacteria to protozoans to ... modern-day life as a gradual, stepwise, imperfect process, while appreciating the huge number of failures (99% of species that have lived are now extinct) and the mammoth time scales (~4 billion years) involved, the whole thing becomes incrementally more intuitive, though still boggling.

A belief in God requires faith and faith alone. Odds don't even factor in; the key is that our present science-knowledge gaps are just that; we may one day learn more fully about origins, because we have the tools and the means. But God will forever remain by definition out of the reach of analysis. Therefore, faith is the purview of religious belief alone. (Now, were I or anyone to state with confidence what happened 4 billion years ago to produce life, THAT would be "faith" -- or bullshit, to be more precise.)

3:30 PM  

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