Monday, 19 March 2012

So You Think You Don't Believe In Evolution?

It's really very simple.

The problem with creationists is they've been made to believe evolution is either something really complicated and hard to understand, or else it's something really stupid that no sane person could believe, like monkeys having human babies or crocodiles changing into ducks.

It's neither.

In fact it's something so simple that no sane person could not believe it. There are only three things needed for evolution to happen.
  1. Inheritance of physical characteristics.
  2. Imperfect reproduction of those characteristics to give variation.
  3. An environment which favours some variations over others making it more likely they will be passed on to the next generation.
Does anyone seriously doubt any of these? If so which?

Inheritance of physical characteristics? Haven't you noticed how children usually look quite a lot like their parents? Haven't you noticed how fish tend to have fish offspring and birds tend to have offspring which look a lot like themselves?

Imperfect reproduction of those characteristics? Haven't you ever noticed how you can tell the difference between individuals of many species? How some individuals have different colours to others or different markings? How some individuals are bigger or smaller or faster or fatter or thinner?

An environment which favours some variations over others? Do you think an animal which gets eaten is going to have more offspring on average than one which doesn't? Do you think an animal which finds food more easily is going to produce fewer offspring than one which can't get enough to eat? Or do you think this won't make any difference? How about an individual who finds a mate more easily than another or who rears its young more successfully? Which do you think is going to produce the most descendants on average?

So, if you believe evolution doesn't happen, you have to tell me what is impossible in any of these steps. Simply repeating a dogma in the face of the logic won't work. You have to say why.

If you can't tell me that, you have to tell me why these three simple steps don't lead to more of the physical characteristics which were favoured by the environment being present in the next generation, and so the ratio of those different characteristics changing over time in such a way as to make the individuals carrying them better at surviving and producing offspring in that particular environment?

Because, if you can't, you don't disagree with evolution even though you wish you did and even though you might have a book which says it doesn't happen. In fact, if you can't tell me why this is wrong you're agreeing that evolution not only happens but that evolution must happen if those three simple steps are present.

In other words, if you accept these three simple step occur, then you believe in evolution just as completely as does any evolutionist.

So, anyone willing to tell me why evolution can't happen - and so prove they don't believe in evolution?





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29 comments :

  1. Brilliant post. I've always wanted to know what a system that *didn't* evolve was supposed to look like. For instance, is the human race procreating around a sort of averaged Platonic human-concept? is that what "the image of God" is supposed to be? The fact is that a chaotic system evolves by definition, and conversely a non-evolutionary system cannot be chaotic. We don't need the deep physical science of the quantum to demonstrate that the world we live in is chaotic, because we can observe evolution happening. And if any one part of the system is chaotic, the whole thing is. It's thus a cakewalk to show that every part of the universe is evolving, and at every scale.

    Now when you have evolution of a species, that is, a family of replicators, further speciation is furthermore inevitable for the reasons you've outlined. But I think people get hung up on (or are oblivious to) the notion of members of one family simultaneously evolving in different "directions" and eventually forming two distinct families.

    Perhaps the point should be made that, given extinction rates, the "creator" would have had to start with an immense menagerie of which we see a tiny (probably really tiny) fraction today, and of which none will someday soon exist even if god doesn't kill us all to save a few of us like he promised in that book nobody reads.

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    1. Good point, and possibly the subject of another blog... :-)

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    2. "I've always wanted to know what a system that *didn't* evolve was supposed to look like."

      Look at the "intelligently designed" stuff filling your house: your computer, your house, etc. :-)

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    3. All of which have evolved...

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  2. I've been dealing with the anti-evolution crowd for longer than most of your readers have been alive (assuming that they were born around 25 years ago). This is the most accessible and easy to understand description of evolution that I've ever read. Thank you.

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    1. Thank you.

      It was written partly in frustration at the fact that creationists either need to be extraordinarily creative or extraordinarily ignorant to avoid seeing the beautiful simplicity of the evolutionary process.

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  3. I hadn't really appreciated the inevitability of evolution until you put it in this straightforward way. Thanks for the clarity you bring to subjects in this and your other posts. However, creationists accept 'micro-evolution'. Isn't a fourth factor needed for speciation; separation?

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    1. No. 'Species' is a man-made classification based on whether populations interbreed naturally when they come into contact. That ability is an incidental of evolution.

      This article explains the idea: Where Creationists Get Confused.

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  4. Careful not to reduce the theory of evolution into a tautology. That plays into the strategy of the theists to discredit evolution on the basis that it is not a falsifiable theory.

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    1. Unlike their favourite notion.

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    2. Heh. All three of the items Rosa listed are in fact falsifiable, they just happen to be true about living things. (They're not true of many non-living things.)

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  5. Evolution is indeed inevitable. Funny as it may be, a colleague of mine told me that once he opened the door to a pair of Jahweh Witnesses and invited them inside to talk about evolution. He explained to them the three unarguable facts mentioned by Rosa and after a while they concluded that evolution doesn't happen because God PREVENTS it from happening!!!

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    1. So their god created a system it has to constantly intervene in at every stage to prevent it working? And this is an 'intelligent' designer?

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  6. Awesome. Shared on Gplus https://plus.google.com/u/0/105202833136117660585/posts/HQUJgdviqH6

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  7. "Evolution is nothing less than the amazing story of life on Earth...an epic tale that has taken billions of years to unfold." Taken from DANIEL LOXTON's book, "EVOLUTION: How We and All Living Things Came to Be". This is a simplified version of evolution, simply and clearly explained with beautiful colorful pictures illustrating it. Daniel Loxton is Editor of "Junior Skeptic" the children's section of Skeptic Magazine. Geared to middle-age children and any teen or adult who wants a simple explanation of EVOLUTION! A wonderful book, written and illustrated to open our eyes to the reality of our beginnings. Give it a try, I did!

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  8. Quibble: selection (your no. 3) is not needed for evolution to happen. Genetic inheritance and variation is all that's needed.

    Also, as Tony remarks above, many creationists accept microevolution, and do not realize that that scales continuously to "macroevolution". Thus, it rests upon the scientists to explain speciation, key innovations, and major transitions. I just had a lengthy exchange on my blog with a creationist who won't accept evolution unless we can document a complete transition from a major family to another:

    For example, your link to the articles about the lizard... Did the lizard ever become anything OTHER than a lizard? In the same vein, is there any scientific proof that a plant has ever been observed to have changed into something other than a plant? The answer is a resounding "no."

    Therefore, I don't think your post here is going to convince any hardcore creationists, but hopefully young people on the fence will get it.

    Regarding speciation: there are plenty of mechanisms by which one species can become two. Separation (allopatric speciation) is not the only way - there is a lot of research into speciation when there is no hard separation (sympatric speciation).

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    1. >Quibble: selection (your no. 3) is not needed for evolution to happen. Genetic inheritance and variation is all that's needed.

      Granted that genetic drift in a non-selecting environment, and founder effects, are part of evolution, but what do you think gives non-randomness to evolution if it's not environmental (natural) selection?

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    2. >For example, your link to the articles about the lizard... Did the lizard ever become anything OTHER than a lizard? In the same vein, is there any scientific proof that a plant has ever been observed to have changed into something other than a plant? The answer is a resounding "no." <

      Which is of course as infantile as arguing that trees don't have branches because we never see one branch breaking off and moving over to attach itself to a different part of the tree. I suppose in a way you have to admire creationists who can deluded themselves with these psychological excuses for remaining stoically and determinedly ignorant of the subject they so confidently pronounce upon.

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    3. Evolution entirely without selection is unimaginable, but when it sometimes isn't there, there can still be evolution. But not a very interesting kind, as you imply, where fascinating traits evolve.

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  9. Good article, but please can I just make the point that the majority of Christians/other religious folks are NOT 'Creationists'? That quite a few of us have had an education and have entered the scientific community. Who can understand and enjoy science in its own right.

    There is a growing tendency to lump us religious folk in to the 'stupidly deluded ignorant' basket which is bordering on the arrogance and self righteousness that some of the atheist community has developed, yet condemns all of the religious community for having in the first place! I hate being portrayed as an abusive ignorant deluded idiot who likes to hide behind a bush, abuse their kids and not allow an education outside of Sunday school.

    One of the first great scientific books I have ever read was Darwin's 'Origin of Species' and have since gone to work in the health care field, which involves a LOT of science - biology, physics, chemistry etc. It is not my intention to hijack the thread (Unlike some on both sides who will hijack science for the sole purpose of their own egos and pomposity by presenting themselves to be more 'superior' than the other.) but I feel its not logical to make assumptions of another community without getting to know all of that community in the first place.

    Many thanks for reading. And yes, I hope those who choose to ignore and explore the concepts and theories presented in the physical world by scientific research and evidence, need to wake up!

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    1. Possibly, if you were more vociferous in your condemnation of your fellow religionists and took them to task when they try to mislead people over science, your protestations would be taken more seriously.

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  10. Evolution is wrong and god created all creatures as they are today. Some of the meaner ones died in the flood though. How do I know? Because the book says so...

    Just kidding! I stopped arguing with the creationists a long time ago.

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  11. There's actually a fourth thing you need to believe, and I've realized THIS is the stumbling point for many people who "don't believe in" evolution:
    0. Variation exists, and there's a lot of it.

    In the late Victorian period, there were museums with masses of glass cases, shelves, drawers, dense dense displays of the variety of life. Nowadays most people just haven't *SEEN* it.

    The whole "microevolution" nonsense is simply due to people not realizing how much variation there is. They accept that there's a little bit of variation, but don't realize that (for example) some people have extra bones, and some have working extra fingers, and so on. This is just a matter of never having looked at the evidence for the most part.

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  12. So, you believed in the nothing....interesting!!!

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    1. So you believe in misrepresentation and ignorance, eh, but not in dealing with the contents of the blog?

      Or could you not think of anything intelligent to say?

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  13. This strikes me as a false dichotomy. As I understand it, much more is needed than these three things for evolution to happen. The Universe must first exist, the chemical soup must have been correct, electrical charges (or whatever energy input) must be present, DNA must self-assemble and enough time must have passed without the new creature dying.

    So it's not enough that these three things happen, this is presenting only three options as though these are your only options, and drawing a conclusion from this false conclusion.

    Further, it appears to be a mischaracterization of the pro-creationist argument. I haven't heard of a pro-creationist scientist or science enthusiast who doesn't think that micro-evolution (such as the size of Galapagos finch beaks) does occur. Micro-evolution requires the three actions above. They would probably say that these things happen but they do not necessarily produce macro-evolution.

    Finally, I've come to trust the God who wrote the Bible, who clearly implied in Genesis that these things could not have occurred. He is trustworthy, and you can prove to yourself that He really exists by Googling the good person test.

    So I'm moving on, unimpressed. You may have the last word, I'm done here. God bless!

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    1. Can I suggest you use a dictionary to find out the definitions of 'false dichotomy' and 'evolution', then you wouldn't confuse them with other things.

      Your decision to 'trust the God who wrote the Bible' is an example of confirmation bias, by the way. Thank you for sharing. It isn't a scientific argument so isn't worthy of commenting upon further, especially since your decisions do not create reality.

      I hope that helps and doesn't shock you too much.

      Please try to confine your comments to the subject of the blog in future, and avoid preaching. Even Christians are expected to behave courteously here.

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  14. Another great post. The lack of creationist comments is no surprise!

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