Intelligent Design

Spread the word – Evolution is a scientific fact

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Nature wants all science organisations to preach the word of evolution by natural selection.

Evolution is a scientific fact, and every organization whose research depends on it should explain why. Three cheers for the US National Academy of Sciences for publishing an updated version of its booklet Science, Evolution, and Creationism (see www.nap.edu/sec). The document succinctly summarizes what is and isn’t science, provides an overview of evidence for evolution by natural selection, and highlights how, time and again, leading religious figures have upheld evolution as consistent with their view of the world.

For a more specific and also entertaining account of evolutionary knowledge, see palaeontologist Kevin Padian’s evidence given at the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial (see http://tinyurl.com/2nlgar). Padian destroys the false assertions by creationists that there are critical gaps in the fossil record. He illustrates the fossil-rich paths from fish to land-based tetrapod, from crocodile to dinosaur to feathered dinosaur to bird, from terrestrial quadruped to the whale, and more besides.

Creationism is strong in the United States and, according to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, worryingly on the rise in Europe (see http://tinyurl.com/2knrqy). But die-hard creationists aren’t a sensible target for raising awareness. What matters are those citizens who aren’t sure about evolution — as much as 55% of the US population according to some surveys.

As the National Academy of Sciences and Padian have shown, it is possible to summarize the reasons why evolution is in effect as much a scientific fact as the existence of atoms or the orbiting of Earth round the Sun, even though there are plenty of refinements to be explored.

Some actual and potential heads of state refuse to recognize this fact as such. And creationists have a tendency to play on the uncertainties displayed by some citizens. Evolution is of profound importance to modern biology and medicine. Accordingly, anyone who has the ability to explain the evidence behind this fact to their students, their friends and relatives should be given the ammunition to do so. Between now and the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth on 12 February 2009, every science academy and society with a stake in the credibility of evolution should summarize evidence for it on their website and take every opportunity to promote it.”

36 Replies to “Spread the word – Evolution is a scientific fact

  1. 1
    Scottus says:

    Dembski slaps Padian right back down in his place, starting on page 27 in this rebuttal:

    http://www.designinference.com.....embski.pdf

  2. 2
    Mapou says:

    I apologize for posting this under a different topic.

    As a Christian evolutionist (I believe that evolution does and did happen and that most of it was engineering by God over hundreds of millions of years), I am getting tired of the incessant materialist/atheist accusations that my religion is not falsifiable (testable). I think that falsifiability is a legitimate demand and that we should not be afraid of it. I also think that it is time that we Christians fight back. I conduct research in Biblical metaphors (e.g., the book of Revelation) and I have excellent reasons to suppose that the Bible contains amazing scientific knowledge coded as metaphors. Don’t laugh. Please read what follows.

    Based on my interpretation of various Biblical metaphors, I am able to make a couple of precise predictions regarding the human cerebellum (among other things). My predictions (see link below) go against the current consensus among neurologists who maintain that the cerebellum contributes to speech production. I am claiming, based on my research, that it does not and I believe that a careful inspection of cerebellar pathways will corroborate my claim. I realize that I cannot depend on the scientific community to help me test my hypothesis. My question is, how does one go about getting a prediction of this sort tested in the lab using an actual human brain and, more importantly, how much would it cost?
    http://rebelscience.blogspot.c.....cerebellum

  3. 3
    Undesigned says:

    Invoking Alan Feduccia only brings to light the absolute lack of “Dogmatic” thinking in science. Every word that has passed between he and I has reinforced this. He is at odds with a great number of people, but one should not invoke him to support anything remotely connected to a defense of ID. AiG tried this same tactic, with similar results.

    I think if someone wants to quote him, they should do so properly.

  4. 4
    ari-freedom says:

    “Invoking Alan Feduccia only brings to light the absolute lack of “Dogmatic” thinking in science”

    Nature: “evolution is in effect as much a scientific fact as the existence of atoms or the orbiting of Earth round the Sun”

    so much for the absolute lack of dogmatic thinking…

  5. 5
    mohammed.husain says:

    I have been following the Evolution-ID debate for sometime now. One thing I have noticed is that the ID proponents, in expressing their skepticism about the Darwinism do not really address the age of the Earth and scientific dating. I’ve read Richard Milton’s book, in which he spends considerable time addressing the assumptions at play in dating the rocks, fossils and ultimately the earth. Do ID proponents agree with his analysis? (Milton is not a YEC, and makes no Biblical claims). Really, I’m wondering if there is any scientifically rigorous work that addresses this issue of dating, its assumptions, its reliability etc. Thanks.

  6. 6
    jerry says:

    Undesigned,

    There are a lot of anti ID people (who in the established sciences is not anti ID) who express opinions that are consistent with ID. So should ID not use their beliefs to support the ID position in the relevant areas. The fossil record is a major case in point. This does not mean they have to support ID as a theory for ID to use their reasoning.

    For example, take the paleontologist who admits the fossil record does not support gradualism and retreats to punctuated equilibrium as the logical answer. Versus the traditional Darwinist who says that punctuated equilibrium is nonsense and the only gradualism makes sense.

    Why cannot ID take the argument from each which falsifes the other and use both argument to falsify both. Who cares what their over all point of view is.

  7. 7
    jjcassidy says:

    Undesigned: “I think if someone wants to quote him, they should do so properly.”

    What? In these words that passed between you two, are you saying that he does not think that Archaeopteryx is a bird, but a pseudo-saur? If that’s what he says in his findings, then that is what Dembski quoted. Not to suggest that Feduccia backs ID, but to give evidence against the certainty which Padian evinces in his quotes. It’s not to capture Feduccia’s view of evolution–which is irrelevant to using his conclusion that the Archaeopteryx is a perching bird.

    The point was not The Wonder that is Feduccia. That you think it is–or should be–suggests to me how much you know about argument. See, I quoted you. You probably wouldn’t agree with everything I’ve said about it, but that’s no matter, as long as that is what you said, it is proper to quote that of you.

    I don’t know that Dr. Dembski probably finds it all that daunting that Feduccia doesn’t agree with him on everything. So why should WD care a whit about what Feduccia thinks about ID, when he wants to quote him about the bird.

    Since the bird challenges Padian’s platform off from which he criticizes Pandas treatment as “error”, it’s the only thing Feduccia needs to be remotely correct about.

  8. 8
    Berceuse says:

    Re: #5

    I asked roughly the same question once and all I got was a reproachful lecture about how this site addresses ID not Creationism. But maybe you’ll get lucky…

  9. 9
    jjcassidy says:

    Mohammed and Berceuse,

    As a skeptic on both sides, I can’t speak as a proponent, but as an observer. I see the representation of ID is agnostic to dating issues. YEC and OEC could speak for design, irreducible complexity, evolutionary limits, etc.

    As well, if there were serious challenges to scientific dating, I don’t see that it would disturb the ID argument much. The calculations would have to change, but as far as I can see, it would give less time for undirected evolution to act and result in bloodying Darwinista noses.

    However there is no integral element of dating or of the presence or lack of common descent. The one common thread seems to be that evolution–as understood–doesn’t work as well as materialists suspect.

  10. 10
    ari-freedom says:

    Relative dating within an old universe can still be within the scope of ID. Remember that geologists are also evolutionists and have traditionally dated layers using index fossils on the presumption that evolution must be correct.

  11. 11
    jjcassidy says:

    “…every organization whose research depends on it should explain why.”

    … or fear losing your grants?

    As far as I know, that’s the one thing that puts the fear of God into modern Scientists.

  12. 12
    mohammed.husain says:

    Thank you jjcassidy and ari-freedom for addressing my query.

    Really, I’m not as concerned about whether or not ID can acommadate an old-earth or a young earth, I’m more interested in how confident we can be with any sort of scientific dating claims. It seems spectacular to me that anyone can speak with the certainty that scientists speak with about the age of the universe, earth or even some fossil for that matter. Perhaps this is my own naivete, I am dental student, and I’ve never studied geology. However, I do remember being taught in my chemistry class to be extremely cautious about extrapolating my curves, and I wonder if that same caution is exercised when geologists date their rocks, or fossils, or whatever. Furthermore, I would expect that when geologists and cosmologists perform the extrapolation necessary to arrive at scientific dating, that their assumptions be disclosed. I haven’t encountered transparency in this area, and so I’m a little suspicious about whether the assumptions typically used are the only valid ones, or even the most valid ones. Its question of confidence; how confident can we be in these dates that are thrown around so casually as to imply that there is no room for doubt.

  13. 13
    Gerry Rzeppa says:

    mohanned.husain –

    I share your “question of confidence” regarding the “dates that are thrown around so casually as to imply that there is no room for doubt.” Such talk is not only “spectacular”, as you say, but downright preposterous. And I speak from experience, since the universe has somehow managed to age over 8.5 billion years in my lifetime!

    I also think it odd that many who have plenty of doubts regarding materialistic evolution don’t have similar doubts about the dating framework that was (1) created using similar questionable assumptions and extravagant extrapolations, and (2) was, in many cases, specifically “designed” to support that theory of origins.

    It is further curious that when one attempts to locate facts regarding the issue, he finds not only the lack of transparency you mention, but the very same kind of argumentative, ad-hominem invective that characterizes the evolution/design debate, as well. Look up books on “intelligent design” on Amazon and read the negative reviews; then look up books on “young earth” and do the same.

    Dr. Dembski says that “Nothing about [his book] Pandas is inconsistent with standard geological dating.” I suspect this is either because he’s trying to avoid a battle on two simultaneous fronts, or he wants to establish sufficient common ground for dialog with the opposition on other matters. But Dr. Dembski also says, “Materialistic ideology has subverted the study of biological and cosmological origins so that the actual content of these sciences has become corrupted” and the dates so often “tossed around” are very likely one of the primary elements of that corruption.

  14. 14
    rswood says:

    mohammed, i also share your skepticism of the dating methods for the same reasons you cite. however, i’m content to allow the id folk to work without addressing the question, since it isn’t overly germane to the specific problems they’re working on like ic and such.

    so for the time being you’re going to have to look to yec work done in this area and be prepared for a marginalization that would make id look like accepted dogma among the scientific establishment.

  15. 15
    ari-freedom says:

    it’s not just about politics. The ID inference becomes much more robust when it assumes the worst case scenario.

    The problem is once you move beyond the inference and try to understand the big picture.

  16. 16
    country6925 says:

    “Evolution is a scientific fact, and every organization whose research depends on it should explain why.”

    I’d like to see how much research actually depends on evolution. 😀

  17. 17
    DaveScot says:

    The problem when the claim for overwhelming evidence for prehistoric evolution is made it’s only evidence for common descent that is offered in support. Then they sneak in RM+NS even though they’ve offered no real evidence that RM+NS had anything to do with prehistoric evolution.

    We’re really dealing with two volumes of evidence that each support different aspects of Darwinian evolutionary theory.

    One volume is the fossil record along with comparative genomics. These, IMO, present overwhelming evidence of common ancestry going back hundreds of millions if not billions of years. ID does not contest common descent. Young Earth Creationism (YEC) is common descent’s antagonist. ID does not contest YEC either. Design detection doesn’t pin a date or method on the design. This volume describes and supports what’s commonly called “macroevolution”.

    The other volume consists of historic observations of mutation and selection. These present overwhelming evidence that heritable mutations do indeed happen and, through natural selection, result in differential reproduction. That said, none of the observations have included the creation of any complex structures on the order of novel cell types, tissue types, organs, or body plans. As well, mutations are overwhelmingly either detrimental or neutral and in the rare cases where they are beneficial it’s usually driven by desperation. By desperation I mean, by analogy, if your hand is badly frostbitten and gangrenous you can survive by amputating it. In your current state of imminent death getting your hand cut off is beneficial but normally one wouldn’t consider it an overall improvement. This volume describes and supports what’s commonly called “microevolution”. ID does not contest this either.

    The intellectual crime being committed by the Darwinists is linking the evidence for the two volumes together by hugely inflating the observed capabilities of RM+NS into a capability to create complex novelty such as new cell types, tissue types, organs, and body plans. They make the claim that macroevolution is the result of microevolution over very long periods of time.

    It is this gross inflation of the observed microevolutionary bounds of RM+NS into a mechanism that drove macroevolution that ID disputes.

    So, although I wouldn’t quite call it a fact, I would agree that the evidence for common ancestry among most if not all living organisms is overwhelming. But it’s certainly not as strong as the evidence that the planets orbit the sun in a manner predicted by the law of gravity or that water is composed of hydrogen and oxygen as described by the laws of chemistry. Prehistoric common ancestry is an inference while orbital mechanics and chemistry are empirical. I would call it a fact that microevolution occurs by way of mutation and selection. These are not inferential but empirical just like chemistry and orbital mechanics. What’s nowhere near a fact, or IMO even a reasonably credible hypothesis today, is the claim that macroevolution is microevolution writ large. Statistical improbability presents overwhelming evidence that this is simply not true.

  18. 18
    ari-freedom says:

    The theory of common descent comes after the theory of RM/NS but evolutionary theory doesn’t necessarily require it. Evolutionists would also be happy with inferring multiple independent origins of life or widespread horizontal gene transfer and drop common descent.

  19. 19
    tribune7 says:

    Really, I’m wondering if there is any scientifically rigorous work that addresses this issue of dating, its assumptions, its reliability etc.

    The science showing an old Earth is honest — unlike, say, the science showing the descent of all life from a common ancestor solely via natural selection and random genetic changes.

    That doesn’t mean that the conclusion of a 4.5 billion year old Earth is correct, though. It just means that the rebuttals to the science are philosophical rather than measurably objective.

    Also, a measurably objective rebuttal can still be found. Maybe you are the one to do it. 🙂

  20. 20
    the wonderer says:

    Why aren’t there arguments among atomic theorists or astronomers as vitriolic and vivacious as there are concerning common descent.

    RE: age of the earth
    The primary need for a really old earth is gradualism. Anything created ex nihilo would automatically suffer from the appearance of being some age other than what it is.

  21. 21
    Paul Giem says:

    mohammed.husain,

    In the ID movement one will find people with varying opinions about common ancestry, the age of the earth, and other matters. We usually do not spend too much time arguing about these issues, as it detracts from the main point; Can one recotgnize the traces of intelligent design and activity before humans came on the scene? The scientific establishment says no; others say yes, and the evidence appears to be on their side. If the scientific establishment were truly open, it would debate the dissenters without threatening them. That is obviously not happening.

    What happens to the other questions if ID is admitted to be the best inference from the data remains to be seen. Again, to avoid distractions from the main question, most of the time it is not debated on ID websites, even though one can pick out ID advocates on either side of these questions, including at the Discovery Institute.

    If you wish to come as close as possible to the question of radiometric dating and the age of the earth, I would suggest two volumes. The first is The Age of the Earth by G Brent Dalrymple, published in 1994, arguing for a long age for the earth and life on it. The second is Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth, volume II, edited by Larry Vardiman, published in 2005, arguing for a short age for life on earth. You might also look up my book Scientific Theology, particularly chapter 5, linked by clicking on my name. There is a lot of material in those three resources. Happy reading.

  22. 22
    vjtorley says:

    In response to comments querying the evidence for the age of the universe (13.7 billion years or so) and the age of the earth (about 4.5 billion years), the following links might be helpful:

    http://www.astro.ucla.edu/~wright/age.html (The Age of the Universe, by Professor Edward L. Wright)

    http://www.reasons.org/resourc.....dating.pdf (Radiometric dating – A Christian Perspective, by Dr. Roger C. Wiens)

    The argumentation contained in these two articles is fairly rigorous. I think it would be inaccurate to characterize it as nothing more than “questionable assumptions and extravagant extrapolations,” but I’m happy to let readers judge for themselves.

  23. 23
    SCheesman says:

    the wonderer: “RE: age of the earth
    The primary need for a really old earth is gradualism. Anything created ex nihilo would automatically suffer from the appearance of being some age other than what it is.”

    In fact, it goes much beyond this. The universe shows many features make sense in an old universe but would be almost compeletely irrelevant or unnecessary in a young one; everything from the arrangement of star in galaxies in orbits that are stable over billions of years, to the nucleosynthesis of elements in stars (what’s the point of such an elegant system, taking millions/billions of years if the universe is only intended to last a few thousand years, and the elements were just created “as is”?), to the resonant-locking of rotations in our own solar system, which takes millions of years to happen, and has no benefit or penalty in a YEC scenario? Even a back-of-the-envelope caculation of the origin of the moon post-collision based on tidal energy transfer gives a date that is within 50% of the “old” age of the earth. There are countless other examples of such “apparent age”. If the earth was really created young with apparent age built in, why is it that so many of the evidences of apparent age seem to point to the same ball-park in the billions of years?

  24. 24

    Padian destroys the false assertions by creationists that there are critical gaps in the fossil record. He illustrates the fossil-rich paths from fish to land-based tetrapod

    If one can extrapolate an entire body from a tiny piece of jawbone or humerus, then I guess one could also see all kinds of rich paths from fish to tetrapods.

    I don’t see as well as Dr. Padian. Stupid faulty unintelligently designed eyes.

  25. 25
    ari-freedom says:

    Scientists claim the moon is ~4.5 billion years old.

    Ultimately everything is pegged to the dating of certain meteorites.

  26. 26
    JPCollado says:

    “[…] and highlights how, time and again, leading religious figures have upheld evolution as consistent with their view of the world.”

    Seems there is an internal contradiction going on here. If leading religious fugures have no problems with evolution, then one would think religion is not the primary motivating force behind much of the resistance against Darwinism. It is self-destructive to argue that D (a dissident) does not accept E (evolution) because of R (religion), and then turn around and affirm that E and R are perfectly compatible with each other. From this line of thinking, it is more than abvious that R is not the cause of the dissidence, and therefore a case cannot be made that criticisms of darwinian evolution (I qualify it here since the article didn’t) is necessarily just another manifestation of creationism.

    And these are the kinds of articles that pass the dauntingly scrupulous methods of a world class science magazine interested in only publishing immaculate facts.

  27. 27
    Gerry Rzeppa says:

    vjtorley says:

    “The argumentation contained in these two articles is fairly rigorous. I think it would be inaccurate to characterize it as nothing more than “questionable assumptions and extravagant extrapolations,” but I’m happy to let readers judge for themselves.”

    I reply:

    One of those articles says, “…there is no way to change the rate at which radioactive atoms decay in rocks…” It should have said, “There is no known way to change the rate…” Just a few years before I was born “There was no way to split an atom.” Questionable assumptions, both.

    The article further states that “…the radioactive atoms used in dating techniques have been subjected to heat, cold, pressure, vacuum, acceleration, and strong chemical reactions to the extent that would be experienced by rocks or magma in the mantle, crust, or surface of the Earth or other planets without any significant change in their decay rate.”

    Note the phrase “to the extent”: but “extent” in what sense? Surely not duration! No one ran a billion-year test of this nature. In fact, the tests were probably limited to months, at best. And an extrapolation that stretches a month’s data acrosss millions of years is extravagant by definition.

  28. 28
    idnet.com.au says:

    ARN has a helpful response to Nature’s call to spread the word.

    http://www.arn.org/blogs/index....._evolution

  29. 29
    alan says:

    Please help me on this: Re. #17 “So, although I wouldn’t quite call it a fact, I would agree that the evidence for common ancestry among most if not all living organisms is overwhelming.”

    Question: If microevo. does NOT = or produce macroevo. to the level of creating the complexity observed, how then is there “overwhelming” evidence for common ancestry? What is the difference between evolution (rm +ns) and common ancestry? And is common ancestry the same as common decent?

    thanks

  30. 30
    Lutepisc says:

    JPCollado, you make a very good point @ #26. Either the opposition to NDE has a religious basis (as the Dover decision argues)…or NDE is entirely compatible with religion (as the NAS allegedly sees it).

    It can’t be both ways.

  31. 31
    congregate says:

    Lutepisc: Religion is not a monolithic entity. The opposition to the teaching of evolution in Dover was clearly religiously motivated to some extent. But it is nevertheless possible to be religious (to believe in a supernatural god) and to simultaneously believe that Darwinian evolution is the best explanation for the diversity of life on Earth.

  32. 32
    Lutepisc says:

    Thank you, congregate. I see I moved off JPCollado’s finely-tuned point that the NAS document is internally inconsistent.

  33. 33
    JPCollado says:

    Mr. congregate,

    where did the article state that the evolution these so called “leading” religious figures ascribe to is necessarily darwinian in nature? Not only that….as if on an effort to enhance the misunderstanding, the author(s) doesn’t even mention the name of a single religious personage as an example.

    Religion, like you wrote, is not monolithic. This also applies to evolution, and the article did a terrible job (as well as the editors of Nature for failing to correct the error) in not highlighting the necessary distinctions.

    This was a logical categorical error, and a magazine devoted to screening mistakes of this sort, should know better.

  34. 34
    JPCollado says:

    Modifying the first premise will not change the outcome of the article’s fallacious argument, as long as the second premise still holds. To clarify:

    Let C = creationism

    P1: D does not accept E, because of C
    P2: E and R are perfectly compatible with each other

    What is the conlusion?

    The article is forcing us to make a few untenable affirmations, one of them being that R and C are not compatible with each other. But we could see that this does not make sense because C is a sub-set of R. The only way that R is compatible with E and C at the same time is if E shared some element of C (Theistic Evolution?). The problem is that the article is not making any kind of distinction. Evolution is a big word encompassing a wide variety of ideas and positions. Likewise with religion.

    Another fallacious conclusion is the agitation behind D coming from fringe religious groups, because, certainly they are not coming from “leading” religious figures. It goes on and on. The editors of Nature should be ashamed of allowing such shoddy scholarship and/or writing and misleading the public.

  35. 35
    magnan says:

    mohammed.husain (#12): “Really, I’m not as concerned about whether or not ID can acommadate an old-earth or a young earth, I’m more interested in how confident we can be with any sort of scientific dating claims.”

    vjtorley in #22 gave two good links on radiometric dating. Wiens’ paper is especially good. I think the radiometric dating data for igneous rock strata is compelling, and most of the dating of fossiliferous sedimentary rock layers used by evolutionists is derived from this. Accordingly the dating of the fossil record is on a very firm foundation. Of course, it can be speculated that isotopic decay rates have changed with time, or that the whole assemblage was created instantly with all the supposed evidence of age incorporated to deceive us.

  36. 36

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