Why Darwin Matters

I’m currently reading “Why Darwin Matters” by Michael Shermer, whilst at the same time trying to follow the comments on Jacks blog. A ‘debate’ involving, amongst other things,  evolution, while people still debate this is beyond me (though Shermer gives some very good reasons why we should debate the ID/Creationists), as my comments will hopefully help show to some extent.

[Yes, I know I should be finishing the several other blog posts I’ve promised various other people, and writing the book review for “The Heathen’s Guide to World Religions”, but … but … but I have no valid excuse.]

Anyway, I have posted the following comments on Jack’s blog, but thought I’d reproduce them here so you don’t have to wade through all the comments on his blog (and possibly have your brain explode):

5 reasons why people resist the truth of evolution:
1. A general resistance to science.
2. Belief that evolution is a threat to specific religious tenets.
3. The fear that evolution degrades our humanity.
4. The equation of evolution with ethical nihilism and moral de-generation.
5. The fear that evolutionary theory implies we have a fixed human nature.

(From “Why Darwin Matters”, Michael Shermer pg30/31)

Those who cavalierly reject the Theory of Evolution, as not adequately supported by facts, seem quite to forget that their own theory is supported by no facts at all.
– Herbert Spencer, Essays Scientific, Political and Speculative, 1891

(A quote from “Why Darwin Matters”, Michael Shermer pg 45)

Note: that quote was written in 1891, and science has found a whole lot more to corroborate the theory of evolution since then.

Creationists often demand “one transitional fossil”, when provided with that fossil they then demand the transitional fossils in-between [paraphrased]. This can be called:
The Fossil Fallacy

The belief that a single ‘fossil” – one bit of data – constitutes proof of a multifarious process or historical sequence.

But we know that’s not the case:

We know evolution happened not because of a single transitional fossil … but because of the convergence of evidence from such diverse fields as geology, palaeontology, biogeography, comparative anatomy and physiology, molecular biology, genetics …

When I read that I thought “how could anyone not understand evolution is a sound scientific theory, how could they try and debunk it with one or two arguments?”. Then I re-read some of Marcus’ and facilis’ comments and I despaired.

(quotes and paraphrasing from “Why Darwin Matters” by Michael Shermer)

I sometimes despair when I see people like Marcus trying every trick in the book to attempt to debunk evolution, as if one person, however educated, or not, they are, could disprove what thousands of scientists in many different field have come to accept as fact during the last 150 years.

I’m enjoying Shermer’s book so far (about half way through) and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in evolution, from either side of the fence. Though the ‘god botherers’ need to switch their godness off whilst reading it, they need to read it with an open mind.

In writing the above sentence I can just hear some religious type saying “but you haven’t turned off your non-godness while reading it”, or “you’re just accepting what these other atheists say” (or something similar).  Just let me say this, first read my about page, then know I studied the bible with an “open heart”, I was baptised because because I believed. BUT, then I started to study the bible more and kept coming up with questions that couldn’t be answered. I started to study (using the term very loosely) evolution and biology and tried to work what I was learning into what I “knew”.  I attended a couple of lectures and invented the term Creatio-Evolutionist (pity I never copy-righted it), an attempt to combine what the bible and religious leaders where telling me with what was known in the scientific community at the time (this was before DNA came into the picture).  Then I misplaced my faith, then I just didn’t care, then I woke up and really thought about it all.

This was when, after reading many texts, I came to the full and complete understanding that evolution explains how we got here and that that is a wonderful and amazing thing.

To the religious readers, if your faith is so weak that in discussing evolution you have to resort to all sorts of fallacies and weasel words, then perhaps your faith isn’t worth keeping. Try to honestly, and openly, read some of the vast quantities of material on evolution (read this for a start), try not to insert a “god of the gaps” or a “goddidit” into your thinking, and try to think of it logically and sensibly. Read “Why Darwin Matters” , or some similar book, and then, I defy you, debate your point with an expert, or highly knowledgeable person, like Shermer or Dawkins, and see how long you last.

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Filed under atheism, Charles Darwin, evolution

11 responses to “Why Darwin Matters

  1. My brain has exploded many times over attempting to talk sense into Marcus. It fails.

  2. Welcome Skelliot I feel your pain.

  3. Here I’ll ask you one thing. I am a Christian and believe the 6000 year fact.
    If man came through the evolutionary form change and adaptation of monkeys, why are monkeys still here. The only reason science gives for monkeys as a possible transitional form is because they are the only thing that existed close enough at the time. If the theory of evolution which says, we are here from evolution of form and adaptation to surrounding, would be true, the monkeys which we came from wouldn’t be here. We would be the newe transitional form. The theory can’t be true if I am a evolutionary form from a monkey that is still here. So therefore, if I am here and the monkey is here, where are the other changed forms. How is it that some monkeys evolved and some didn’t. The theory just doesn’t support itself.

  4. Charles Darwin day is February 12th. I’m sending you an email soon!


  5. seantheblogonaut

    Fuck that guy is obstinate

  6. welcome Canaan, you have fallen into one of the most basic traps of creationism. Humans didn’t descend from monkeys, we descended from a common ancestor (there’s a real nice diagram on page 8 (25/89) of the evolution.pdf which shows this.).

    Secondly just because one species descended from another doesn’t automatically wipe out the previous species. (A basic, but rather bad, analogy; just because you descended from your grandparents didn’t mean they were automatically wiped out when you were born.) Species evolved for numerous reasons and due to numerous events,one of the ‘triggers’ in evolution is geographical. As species started to move about they had to adapt to different conditions, species that stayed where they were either died out or adapted in a different direction. Hence different but in some way related species developed.

    There is ample scientific literature that does explain ( a lot better than I have above) how we have so many different species and how some evolved and some didn’t. Please try and read some of the great scientific literature written by scientists who have no religious bias, not the literature written by religious clerics, or even scientists with strong religious leanings.

    One final thing there is no such thing as the “6000 year fact” there is absolutely no scientific evidence to support the idea the earth is only 6000 years old. Quite the contrary, many different fields of science have shown that the earth is about 4.54 BILLION years old. Canaan if you want to believe the earth is only 6000 years old fine, but don’t call that a fact, it’s strictly a Christian religious belief.

  7. Marisa

    Thanks for the overview of the book. I might have to add it to my reading list.

    One comment: any single person COULD cast doubt on evolution, scientifically, if they were to observe certain phenomenon. For instance if human fossils were found in rock strata that was tested to be 30 or 40 million years old.

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but since evolution is a scientific theory, one requirement is that it is possible to show it is wrong IF there is data that the theory can’t explain.

  8. Welcome Marisa, a good point .

    There may be perceived flaws or weaknesses in the theory of evolution, but to date, as far as I’m aware, no one has yet falsified any of the theory as it currently stands.

    Even the Texas Board of Education has ruled that schools are no longer allowed to teach the so-called weaknesses of the theory of evolution.

  9. I recently finished reading Shermer’s book. Not a bad read, but not excellent either.

    By the way, don’t celebrate the Texas decision too much…the “strengths and weaknesses” clause might be out, but now the board is specifically targeting common descent.

  10. Hi airtightnoodle, as I just said on your blog; it’s a bit of a case of “two steps forward, one step back”. Each time science discredits one aspect of the creationists arguments they come up with another one. However, none of their arguments hold any scientific weight, as Shermer says

    If you can’t persuade teachers to teach your idea based on its own merits, see if you can get the government to force teachers to teach it.

  11. I am a Christian and believe the 6000 year fact.

    I loled.

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