Thursday, September 10, 2009

The five top arguments for and against evolution and Creationism

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PZ has unearthed an article from the Telegraph which focuses on the upcoming release of Jon Amiel's Creation, which is supposedly a biopic of Charles Darwin (and I say "supposedly" because the jury is still on whether it's gonna be an accurate depiction of Darwin's life or not). Inspired by the once-again-renewed "debate" between evolution and creationism (even if it's been settled for 150 years), the Telegraph article also points out what the journalist who wrote it believes are the five most common and/or pertinent arguments for both evolution and creationism. I thought it'd be fun to check these out, no?

First, we have the top five pro-Creationism, anti-evolution arguments. (I know that this appears to be merely a list of the most commonly-used creationist arguments against evolution, rather than the journalist actually believing in these canards and pushing them forwards (contrary to what PZ seems to think), so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt on this one.)

  • No evidence for evolution
  • There is no evidence that evolution has occurred because no transitional forms exist in fossils i.e. scientists cannot prove with fossils that fish evolved into amphibians or that amphibians evolved into reptiles, or that reptiles evolved into birds and mammals. Perhaps becuase [sic] of this a surprising number of contemporary scientists support the Creation theory.

    ... And we start with absolute rock bottom. No evidence for evolution? Oo-kay ...

    Surely, we can only go up from here in terms of the quality of these pro-creationism arguments?

    » History is too short

    Creationists argue that if the world is as old as evolution claims it is there would be

    -billions more stone age skeletons than have been found

    -many more historical records like cave paintings than have been found

    -a lot more sodium chloride in the sea

    -a lot more sea-floor sediment

    Or further down still. Aie, aie, aie. More on how these claims are ridiculous here and here.

    Let's keep digging – er, going:

    » Compound Eye

    The eye that enables some organisms to see in the dark is so complex that no proven theories for its evolutionary development have yet been put forth. As the CreationWiki puts it, the Compound Eye “has all of the hallmarks of intelligent design and defies attempts to explain it through natural mechanisms”.

    The mere fact that CreoWiki was brought up to back a claim up should be grounds for instant humiliation, but again, I believe the journalist is just repeating what creationists themselves are saying instead of actually presenting these arguments as his own.

    Anyway, the "the-eye-is-too-perfect-to-have-evolved" claim is one of the oldest creationist arguments out there, which is amusing considering how thoroughly it's been debunked for so long, by so many. We know just about everything there is to know about the eye, from how it came to be to how it works. Saying we don't know is just devastatingly ignorant.

    But the next argument for Creationism may just be the most profoundly stupid one yet:

    » Allegory

    The Bible uses allegory to explain the creation of the earth. It is a story, so employs figures of speech and other literary devices to tell the story of how God created man e.g. Genesis “days” could also be read as “ages”.

    This ... makes absolutely no shred of sense at all, no matter how I read it. What is this argument even trying to say? That because the Bible is written in pretty poetry (which is debatable), Creation is true? What?

    Anyone with a decryptor ring willing to explain to me what this means would be much appreciated. Otherwise, seeing as this argument's logic states that pretty texts equal to their claims being true, I'll be flying over to north Scotland next summer to try and locate a certain school of witchcraft and wizardy. (Obscure reference to my favorite book and film series. Three guesses which.)

    And finally, our last argument against evolution ... let's hope it's a halfway decent one this time:

    » Why?

    For what purpose is all of this? Evolutionists have never offered a satisfactory explanation.

    Sadly, no, it isn't a decent one, but merely the old excuse that "evolution doesn't explain why we're here or why anything is as it is!". Sorry folks, but no, evolution doesn't explain any sort of purpose or reason. The thing that creationists just won't get through their thick skulls, is that it doesn't even try to. Purpose is not what evolution is about. The theory of evolution (if we may still call it a theory, if only to be pedantic) explains why different species share similar attributes, how natural selection works, etc. It serves to describe and explain natural processes. It doesn't care about why we're here or what we're here to do; it's about the how. Looking to evolution to explain our purpose or to lead us down the right moral roads makes as much sense as basing our entire lives' decisions on the flips of a coin.

    Phew, we're finally out of the Land of Creotardism. Next, the article points out five top-ranking arguments for evolution, against Creationism:

    » Answers

    Evolution is the only solution to a problem that no other theory can explain. Among other things, it explains how and why plants and animals exist, where all life comes from and what happens to us when we die.

    Err ... dammit, he had to blow it. So close. No, evolution doesn't explain "how and why" we exist (referring to the argument of "purpose" again), nor does it tell us "where all life comes from" (that's a field called abiogenesis, and we still are far from having a fixed answer, to say the least, about the origins of life), and even less does it show us what happens when we die (we just decompose, nothing more). That is a complete misinterpretation of evolution; it's so bad, you'd think the journalist was totally clueless about it, which is disheartening considering it's what he's writing about. So much for journalistic competence.

    » Tangibility

    The theories of evolution are based on explanations of a scientific and material - as opposed to abstract - nature.

    Finally, we're making some sense, though I do wonder how many "theories of evolution" there are. I wasn't aware there were many ways to explain natural selection.

    » Support

    The evidence in support of evolution is vast, supported by tens of thousands of laboratory studies.The vast majority of the scientific community and academia supports evolutionary theory – as do more than half of the world’s religious bodies.

    Finally, something devoid of things to correct. Although, there are many more types of evidence than only lab studies and experiments – the fossil record, to name one. Also, I'd note that the use of this argument pretty much clears the journalist's name as far as him being an evolutionist or a creationist goes. I don't see why a creationist would state that "[t]he evidence in support of evidence is vast", do you?

    » Space

    Objects in space, which are more than 8,000 light years away, can be seen from earth.

    This is a pretty good one, as far as I can tell. We can prove that things we see in the cosmos are much, much older than creationists' 6,000-year timespan – older than the Earth and everything around it, even. Kinda hard to refute that. (But then, these are creationists. Trying to refute facts is just what they do.

    And finally, the clincher ...

    » No imagination-stretchers

    Show me Noah’s boat.


    (via Pharyngula)
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