Discussing Natural Selection

I was invited to participate in a livestream discussion about natural selection. In this case it was for The Crucible livestream on the Promethean Secular Frontier Network on YouTube. This episode of The Crucible was hosted by Sunny Shell and my fellow panelists were Aron Ra, the prolific YouTube defender of evolution, and Brit Garner, science educator and host of the Nature League YouTube channel. I had a lot of fun doing it, hopefully I will get a chance to do more of this new fangled moving pictures technology. My thanks to Sunny and Wes (the producer) for having me on and to Phil Calderone for suggesting me to them (Phil invited me a few years ago to join him in a debate against a couple of creationists).

Give it a watch:


Round 2 of: What “hope” do you have being an evolutionist?

herrad2Well, Ms. Korzeniewski has made a couple of responses and I will give her one more spot in the PCwP limelight, however after this the discussion, if there is one, will probably stay in the comments.

Her first response was basically a second-hand threat of exquisite mind flailing torture of infinite duration at the hands of her all loving deity, apparently for the unpardonable crime of daring to use the brain that her deity supposedly gave me.

Needless to say I do not find this a terribly compelling argument in favor of creationism.

Ms. Korzeniewski, once again, please try to understand such threats cause just as much concern for the non-believer as say, the threat of hell from the Islamic version of God, probably causes you. That is none at all.

If you want to make any impression on someone who does not already share your beliefs, you are going to have to use evidence, logic and reason, not threats from what they consider an imaginary being.

We shall now proceed to the non-threat potions of her comments.

Read on»

Zebras: Nature’s Ultimate Prey

In a related story:

God Admits Humans Not Most Impressive Creation

Loves me some The Onion

Darwin’s Pigeons

This seemed apropos:

[Hat tip to the WhyEvolutionIsTrue channel on YouTube.]

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.


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]

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»