Wait, what?

Intelligent Design creationist Denyse O’Leary, in the midst of rationalizing (over at Uncommon Descent) why ID creationists spend all their time attacking science rather than doing science, has provided yet another example of how antievolutionists are pretty much pathologically unable to portray evolutionary theory (or its supporting evidence) accurately:

O’Leary: To me, Darwinism is like bad money. It becomes an intellectual vice. People are always looking for natural selection to generate random mutation, the way they are always trying to pass on the likely-bogus G-bill (when they are not out looking for the lucky strike). [Emphasis mine]

Yeah, right Denyse, it’s scientists engaging in an “intellectual vice” not creationists like yourself who spend all their time confidently bashing something they clearly don’t understand.

Newsflash: natural selection does not “generate” mutation; mutation is an independently occurring  source of variation from which natural selection “selects” after the fact.

For heaven’s sake, Google it Denyse! Here, I’ll do it for you; the top two hits for “natural selection” are:

Wikipedia – Natural Selection

U.C. Berkley – Natural Selection

That took mere seconds and after mere minutes of reading you won’t find anything on either of those two pages about natural selection “generating” mutations, random or otherwise. Here’s a bonus one on genetic variation from Wikipedia.

Is it really so much to ask for them to have a basic understanding of the science they put so much energy into repudiating?

[Hat tip to Larry Moran over at Sandwalk. Larry took the time to address O’Leary’s aforementioned rationalizations, have a look-see.]

Does being the “fittest” mean eliminating the less fit?

Creationists often portray natural selection —usually citing Herbert Spencer’s expression, “survival of the fittest”— as being a matter of the strong subjugating or eliminating the weak, usually tying it to eugenics, racism and ultimately (of course) to Adolf Hitler.

Here is a fun cartoon by Jay Hosler (author of Drawing Flies) that amusingly illustrates that this is at best an extreme oversimplification of the how natural selection actually works (click on the image for a larger version).

So if you really want to ‘win’ the evolutionary race, the way to do it is to “make love, not war”.

Of course it does sometimes happen in nature that organisms attempt to directly eliminate competition for resources—lions killing hyenas (between species), older larger bird chicks pushing younger siblings out of the nest (within a species)— but it is usually through the more indirect method of simply leaving more offspring and thus eventually dominating the environment. That way the competition fizzles out and goes extinct on its own rather than being directly attacked in any way.

Also such “might makes right” caricatures of natural selection ignore the fact that cooperative behavior within species can also lead to increased “fitness” as is seen in social species like ourselves as well as between different species as is the case with mutualistic relationships; the Yucca plant and some species of Yucca Moths for example.

Then there is the problem that creationists are trying to project the is-ought fallacy onto evolution. The idea being that though the process of natural selection sometimes leads to behavior that we would normally consider cruel or immoral, since it is natural, it is therefore good and we should encourage it.

However the mere fact that we observe something to happen in nature in one context does not mean that it is something upon which we would want to model our own behavior. In fact our success as a species in largely due to the fact that we don’t model our behavior on what we see in nature, or allowing nature to take its course.

See:

Index to Creationist Claims – Claim CA002 and Claim CA002.1

Evolution and Philosophy – Does evolution make might right? by John S. Wilkins

[Hat tip to NCSE on Facebook for the cartoon]

Irreducible complexity reduced

YouTuber QualiaSoup has produced a very nice, concise, refutation of the “irreducible complexity” argument used by intelligent design creationists against evolution; check it out:

Rush Limbaugh’s clueless rant about evolution

This last week I had the misfortune to hear Rush Limbaugh flapping his yap attempting to defend Christine O’Donnell’s ignorant comments about evolution. Unsurprisingly his comment were a grab bag of typical creationist nonsense. Here is the audio of the beginning of his diatribe:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Paraphrasing from the audio: “If humans evolved from monkeys then why are there still monkeys?”

This is logically exactly the same thing as asking “if my cousin and I are actually related, then why does my cousin still exist?”

Read on»

We need creationists lecturing us on evolution like we need another fenestra in the head

The Institute for Creation Research has presented the world with another taxonomic turd from the cat box of creationist wisdom. This time it comes from ICR’s “Senior Science Lecturer” Frank Sherwin. However before I get to the main event, I want to take a closer look at the litter in which Mr. Sherwin’s little jewel is nestled.

In the February (2010) issue of ICR’s monthly Acts & Facts Mr. Sherwin (whose background is in parasitology) graced us with an article titled “Darwinism’s Rubber Ruler” in which he argues that descent with modification is untestable and that “any and all scientific evidence” can be “stretched to fit” the theory.

The first thing that comes to my mind when reading this is to ask: if this is so, then how is it that I could have in my personal collection literally hundreds of books and pamphlets, many of them originating from Mr. Sherwin’s organization, that purport to contain absolutely scads of evidence that contradict evolutionary theory?

How about Dr. Duane Gish’s (the emeritus vice president of ICR) books Evolution the Fossils Say NO! (1978) and the update Evolution: the fossils STILL say NO! (1995)? How can the fossils say “no” to evolution if any scientific evidence (in this case fossils) can be “stretched to fit” the theory?

Read on»

Epic Horse Exhaust

OK, it took me a while to get to it but I am, as promised, responding to creationist Arthur Biele’s lengthy comments left in response to my criticisms of his writings on horse evolution. For those interested I suggest you go back and read Mr. Biele’s article and my original critique first. Those that do I think will find that his response didn’t really answer any of my original criticisms. Instead what he did was dump a new load of barely coherent nonsense on me.

A warning though, this goes on for quite a bit (it sure felt like it while I wrote it), which is of course due to the well known fact that accurately and substantially responding to horseshit takes considerably more time and effort than it does to spewing it.

Biele: With regard to Eohippus, If you knew anything about the actual fossil record, Eohippus finds are many and that category has been a dumping ground for certain archaic partial skulls that defy any specific classification, nor are they known to be ancestors of any known ‘evolved’ descendants, and they are mostly from Europe.

While apparently attempting to impugn my knowledge of the “the actual fossil record” Mr. Biele clearly demonstrates his own ignorance of the subject at hand. Let’s break this down in order:

Read on»

Evolution Rap from the Galápagos

[Via Why Evolution is True

Darwin and Lincoln’s bicentennial

Happy Darwin/Lincoln day everyone! On this auspicious day we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of both the founder (but not finisher) of evolutionary biology, Charles Darwin, and the great emancipator Abraham Lincoln, both of whom were born on this day, February 12, in the year 1809. Tis a day to celebrate both knowledge and freedom.

The Discovery Institute’s “A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism” list examined

In my review of the so called “Leaders Guide” (part 1 and 2) put out by the producers of the movie Expelled I addressed its reference to the Discovery Institute’s “A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism” list.

L.G. More than 700 scientists have signed this statement!

A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism

“We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.” (p.12)

To which I responded: “Yes they have a list of scientists, and many of them are the usual creationist suspects. Still others are scientists whose field of study is not particularly relevant to the subject of evolutionary theory. More importantly they constitute a tiny fraction of the global scientific community.”

Read on»