But I give some serious reply to your inquiry. I can understand some people saying that a kind of religion has developed around the theory of evolution. This came home to me from two insidents.
One was while I once noticed that the Boston Globe newspaper had taken out space to defend the teaching of evolution in school. They took out a entire full length page and filled it with nothing but a photograph of a aged bearded Charles Darwin. I wondered why the sparse article should be accompanied by a huge mug shot of a distinquished aged old man. It struck me as an appeal to people's religious sensibilities to be awe struck by this massive image of "the great sacred Father" of Evolution.
The second incident came when I visited a high school which had a poster depicting the common themes of evolution theory. These eyes stared out intelligently at the viewer amidst a ape like being with arms raised as in benediction. A kind of light was depicted around the figure and the progression of the fiqures was meant to portray that man gradually emerged as intelligent from these lower animals until he kind of "blesses" human civilization with his higher insight. The art work struck me as something worthy of comparison with any fresca on St. Peter's Biscillica or on any stain glass window of religious edifice.
It doesn't surprise me that some critics feel the belief in evolutionary theory has become a religion.
You certainly have a point here. I would even say that quite a few people who take the 'side' of evolution, nevertheless don't have a correct understanding of it. (but then, it's quite a complex affair and not easy to get a feel for how it works, certainly not when you're surrounded by popular misconceptions even when they are not aimed against evolution)
On the other hand, one could take the view that a bit of drama and missionary approach is almost a necessity. Not what we would like ideally, but a functional compromise. Because of the background knowledge that is needed, the overall complexity, the lack of exposure of the general public (in general) to serious science, these complex issues start off with a serious disadvantage. The "meme" of religion has a natural advantage. It's unfortunately not obvious that truth and facts get to the surface all on their own. So sometimes the truth will have to hijack mechanisms/methods like propaganda and appeal to emotion in order to break into ignorance. Even if this same tactic at the same time offers ammunition to the opposition... It needs that little push, after which it should be able to stand on its own.
Now to your point about teaching evolution to kids. I would want it to be taught to my kids (who are now in their twenties) as a theory. I think they certainly should learn about the theory. And I think problems that some scientists have (yes both of them) with the theory should not be suppressed. I think that is good education.
That's all fine, but there is a strong misconception that there are "problems" with the theory. That is, any "problems" that would deserve extensive coverage in a course on the level of kids who would get an introduction into the whole idea of evolution. Evolution as a 'fact', and some of its main mechanisms are very strongly established and experience no meaningful scientific controversy. That's not to say that unknown factors and subjects of debate (around the relative contributions of the mechanisms, the historic details etc.) should be kept silent. But they should be thaught like what they are: the normal sort of gaps that still exist in even strongly established theories, simply the consequence of the fact that new answers automatically lead to new questions.
Well, I think flying pigs are pretty ridiculous. But I also think that a ape / monkey or what have you as a "primate" giving birth one day to a human being is also ridiculous. If someone shows me it occur one day that will seriously alter my sense of it being foolish.
That's certainly not evolution.
Well, you almost have that in the giraffe who stretch and stretched and stretched its neck until it evolved into the long necked creature that we see today.
That's also certainly not evolution as we understand it now.
Don't sneer at me. I was taught that all the animals gradually evolved into their present characteristics by natural selection. The turtle shell, the elephant trunk, the jelly fish, the bees, termites, ants, all evolved into their characteristics over huge amounts of time with natural selection navigating through near infinite possibities.
I don't think that change in species is ridiculous. I think the limitless change proposed by some evolutionists is ridiculous.
It's what the evidence points to, and what would be expected in the absence of any hard boundaries between the so called "micro" and "macro" evolution.
I think some truth can be arrived at through scientific study and some truth cannot.
And the truths that cannot (or that you don't want to) be arrived at through scientific study, what do you do with those?
Is this another way of saying that there is no point at which we can identify a living thing as "human"? Are you saying that there is no point in which we can say that a non human life reproduced a human life?
Both will always be possible, since it is a matter of choice.
The issue here is that you seem to be trapped in the preconception that there are "absolutes". You want to categorize, but fail to understand that categorization only works over very long timeframes.
Let's take the classic example of the electromagnetic spectrum of visible light: viewed from a distance, it's quite easy to point to the colors (violet - blue - green - yellow - red). But zoom closely into the areas between the colors, and tell me where exactly for example green changes into yellow? Basically, your guess is as good as mine... It's arbitrary. And unless one recognizes that and accepts the fuzzy concept, there will always be an argument.
Your "primate giving birth to a human" line illustrates a denial of the fuzzy and gradual transition. Starting from that premise makes it impossible to correctly picture how it works.
quote:And the truths that cannot (or that you don't want to) be arrived at through scientific study, what do you do with those?
I'm not sure if the parenthesis portion implies that I prefer not to believe that all truth can indeed be arrived at through scientific study. Is that the implied meaning of "(or that you don't want to)"?
I'll tell you where I'm coming from...
Looking at your post count, I think it's fair to call you a regular here? In that context, it kinda surprised me how (poorly) you still characterized evolution. The examples you gave repeat the same parody of evolution that normally characterizes people who are eiter pretty ignorant or dishonest. Somehow I think you not only *should*, but also *do* know better than that.
Why is it then, that you hold onto that easily ridiculed portrayal? The only reason I can think of (besides dishonesty, but I certainly don't immediately jump to that conclusion), is that you feel better about it that way. You obviously start from the premise that evolution can and should not be true. So, for yourself, you embrace the picture of a female primate mother with a human baby popping out. An image that is so ridiculous that you can easily discard it without further thought, like any other sane person. You can then easily bash that parody without feeling uncertain, and feel good about it. So much nicer than being confronted with all the unsurmountable evidence that inevitable leads to only one conclusion.
Do you envision a society where spirituality or philosophy is no longer needed? Do you envision a society finally discarding the idea of revelation, prayer, communion with God, intuitive senses of right and wrong, or trust in the messages of morally exemplarary people?
I think things like revelation, faith in God, and faith in a god's desire to communicate the otherwise unknowable to people, philosophical speculation are the tools other than scientific study that people use to arrive at truth.
I have no problem with that, but what if others defend another truth/God? How are you guys going to work it out and agree? :) I'm not saying these concepts you name are all 'worthless', but just that it can be dangerous to refer to them as 'Truths' (TM). People who have other ideas about a 'Truth' (TM), tend to be not just considered as having another opinion; they are considered to be wrong. And that's a pretty shaky basis to get along with each other...
I think when you sit across the table from a scientist who is in tears at undergoing a painful divorce, it comes home to you that some problems cannot be worked out with a slide rule. And some forms of truth must be attained apart from the tools of science.
I don't associate the concept "truth" with any of this, actually?
just a quick post to let you know I'm working on a reply. There seem to be some profound differences between your and my take on evolution. What it says, what it MEANS and what it "should tell us". Together with the language barrier it's quite a task to come up with something comprehensive, structured and worthwhile, but I'm working on it!! (which isn't a guarantee that I will deliver what I promise, in the end lol)
First I appologize if I did give you the impression that I thought you were "dishonest" (despite me pointing out explicitly that I wasn't ;) ) Here, (again, I might say), there is a great number of gradations between the extremes . Being
"speaking the truth about something which one understands perfectly and of which one is perfectly informed, even though it has an undesirable impact on one's worldview"
one the one hand, and
"lying on purpose about something which one understands perfectly and of which one is perfectly informed"
on the other hand.
I would certainly (based on what I think to know about you thus far) not situate you in the latter group.
Let's start here:
Please don't tell me I don't understand evolution when I assume that the theory suggests that our most distant ancestor is some one celled animal. And that by gradual reproduction over long long periods of time transmutations caused a human being to come out.
Let's say in my ignorance that I suggest that an amoeba is the ancestor of you and I. Maybe technically I misrepresent the lattest research. But I don't think I am far off. Through sexual (or asexual) repoduction over many many fuzzy millennia of gradual transmutation, natural selection did its work to cause these descendents to arrive at their present form as Homo Sapien. Do you still say "You just don't understand evolution?"
I will certainly agree that this is a much better representation already than "a primate giving birth to a human being". So the first question is: why then do you still spontaneously decide to use the inadequate characterization (not to say downright misrepresentation) at times? Strawmen usually show up for a reason.
I should also add though, that even someone who characterizes evolution/common descent like you just did, could still misunderstand the essence. One should also always keep in mind that the mechanism is not thought to be teleological and/or progressive. I.e. "further evolved" is not thought to be synonymous to "higher animal". (I noticed you used the term 'less than human' at some point) And if we rewind time and let things start all over again, we would never get Homo Sapiens again. Maybe not even intelligent beings, or (even more) maybe not even the same biochemical basis.
I mention this because part of some people's "disbelief" is caused by this idea that it would require such staggering innumerable amount of precise coincidences to exactly produce Homo Sapiens, while this is not much different from the "incredible coincidence" someone feels when winning a lottery. It's only an "a posteriori" coincidence or improbability (?)
If you want to talk about feelings, I "feel" that to ask me to believe that the present state of all the living things was arrived at gradually by evolutionary transition, is too much to ask me to believe given a process like natural selection.
I "feel" like you are asking a great deal of me. I feel like you are asking me to excercise faith in something of a miracle. This process as far as I have been able to see is "goaless" and random.
But honestly... Surely it's not just completely a matter of "believing"?? There happens to be lots of evidence that makes it entirely possible.
Let us assume for a minute that you have nothing at stake (no biasses, no history). Next you start wondering about the diversity of life (and possibly how it all came about). Still next, you are confronted with the findings in (molecular) genetics, biogeography, geology, morphology... What do you think would be the best coherent, elegant and useful explanation for all this evidence? It doesn't even have to be 100% perfect right from the word go. But in what direction would you look?
If you would not favour somekind of evolutionary scenario, what would it be then, instead? (I'll admit rightaway that I have no idea of your position in detail)
I don't think that the evidence is unsurmountable. And I don't think that separating the non-human mother and the human child with millions of years of "fuzzy" little transitions helps that much. There are such tremendous differences between humans and even the closest other life that it is still asking a lot to believe.
Would you characterize something like 2.5% as a 'tremendous difference'? I would also advice to not put the millions to billions of years aside as irrelevant or insignificant. A true understanding of the kind of timeframes involved would greatly help to lessen some of your skepticism.
For all the people who have been telling me that I just don't understand either purposely or otherwise, I am still waiting for this moment of shock that the idea of macro evolution is not all that hard to accept afterall.
Nobody will ever be able to let you experience your definition of "macro evolution" with your own eyes and Live!. I suppose you also totally reject any star formation theories and 'Big Bang'-like scenarios on that basis.
Then, about the "fuzzy electromagnetic spectrum" analogy that I used.
First of all, the analogy was targeted (because most useful only) at one issue in particular: the gradual but ultimately significant change of one population(species) over time (for example as a result of changing environment). Resulting in us, in retrospect, making distinction between two (or multiple) "serial species" (prior and later). Thus, think of it as one seperate piece of branch of the evolutionary tree, that has no sub-branches or forks (or disregard them for this particular analogy). In that particular situation, setting the exact seperations between different sequential species is entirely a matter of agreement. How much genetic and morphological change needs to accumulate before we start to talk about a "new species"? Since they don't co-exist in time, you can not for example execute a mating experiment.
Which also means that we're looking at a 'temporal' analogy here. The branch moves horizontally through design space but the vertical axis is time. The different colors and gradations could be thought of as corresponding with different genetic make-ups at different TIMES, and not with for example different coexistent species at one particular moment in time. (although near a fork/sub-branch it could also apply).
The "fuzzyness" we're talking about does in no way compromise taxonomy. Its only implication in that context is perhaps that the exact temporal location of subbranching and forks in evolutionary branches is somewhat blurred. But once the branches have diverted sufficiently, it is both clear that they should be considered seperate AND that they have a common ancestor in their past.
The reason that we don't routinely experience this "fuzzyness" between existent species at a particular moment in time, is that natural selection is most severe between creatures who occupy the same ecological niche in the same area. So if a species has somehow split off only very recently, but nevertheless gets in competition with a very closely related species again (like when a geographical seperation disappears), the least successfully adapted will quickly just be outcompeted and disappear. (or alternatively move to another niche instead, which speeds up the growing differences) So because of this, the branches of the evolutionary tree tend to have a lot of 'air' between them.
It concerns me a little bit also that some educated people may "choose" to declassify me and my children as human beings. If you want to teach children that to date we really can't pinpoint what is a human, that has some social implications that I think should concern us.
As pointed out above, I was not considering "fuzzyness" in that context.
However, let us look at your argument here.
First of all, it is an "Appeal to Consequences of a Belief". According to your interpretation, accepting evolution would support racist thinking, so therefore you deny it. However, your feelings towards what the consequences could be, have no influence on it being true or not.
Fortunately, there's no need to look at it this way, for a multitude of reasons:
1) as a social species, we collectively create our own morals. If some Natural Principle seems to dictate a moral that we collectively reject, then we are completely free to disregard whatever it seems to imply. We don't have to deny facts for this. Just stop assigning moral consequences to those facts. After all, the only way they could have moral consequences, is when we ASSIGN them.
I'm concerned about an education of kids which makes the line between humans and nonhumans ambiguous to the point that it is completely up to one's choice to bestow identity on people to be one of them or not.
First of all, If the evolutionary paradigm tells anything relevant here (in this hypothetical context), it is that such a line does not exist. And if you think about genetics, consider that there is much more genetic diversity WITHIN racial groups than BETWEEN racial groups. No support for your nightmare scenario there!
Suppose some have scientific reasons to believe that the fuzzy line has not been crossed by some people yet?
So if we zoom in close enough on some people walking around we might well see that some humans are not really humans yet? Or have we all crossed the ambiguous line between non-human and human somewhere in the past?
A "line" is by definition not fuzzy. Any "line" of this sorts that is drawn is the responsibility of the party that draws it. So are the consequences assigned to being on this or the other side of the defined "line". Let's say there would somehow be scientific agreement about where we put the fine line that needs to be crossed to become "human". Evolutionary thinking would then certainly NOT support the statement that on the one side we have "a 100% human", and on the other side we would have "totally non-humans". It would be like: the huge majority of non-humans is 99% human, a minority of them down to 98% human. And the group of so-called "non-fully-humans" would be roughly half of all creatures that we were trying to classify, lol. So any honest, objective "value" that would be assigned according to this classification, would have almost no impact compared to the existing background of social differences.