Science Section => Science General Discussion => Topic started by: Paolo on June 11, 2020, 03:55:07 PM

Title: Evolution -- a ''Defense''
Post by: Paolo on June 11, 2020, 03:55:07 PM
This was a message sent to me by someone on Facebook a while back, and I thought you guys could like it. It talks about epistemology of science and the difference between evolution and creationism. Without further ado, here it is:

''Hello Gabriel,

I am 47 years old, I have a doctorate in structural biochemistry and I am a teacher. I do research mainly on artificial intelligence and bioinformatics. But I am not an "evolutionist." The term "evolutionist" is a term used by creationists to give the idea that creationism is on par with a scientific theory like evolution, but the two have nothing to do with each other.

Evolution, to me, is like electromagnetism, gravity or organic chemistry. I do not believe in these phenomena and theories by personal conviction, but rather because they are clearly the best source of explanations for such things. Note that the theory of evolution gives you rigorous mathematical models of population genetics, explains how species characteristics have become fixed, underlies all modern genetics and proteomics, and so on.

Creationism says only that it was God who did all this but that explains nothing. You can't use creationism for anything in practice. It is a mere religious choice. And that results in another important difference. The creationist is creationist first, by his faith and personal conviction. Then he may be interested in looking for more information, but this will be secondary. The so-called “evolutionist” is simply someone interested in understanding things and who has no problem believing in something today and another tomorrow if a better explanation is found that justifies changing their beliefs.

As for wanting to "know which is the most correct [theory] based on the evidence," it is not just a matter of being correct or not. Consider the theory of relativity and all the mathematical models derived from it, which allow us to have a GPS system, send probes to other planets, calculate the position of the planets, the mass of the sun and a ton of other stuff. If one proposes to replace this with “God makes things move,” the problem is not just which one is right or correct. One must also consider that the latter is completely useless. You can't do anything with it.

The same goes for the theory of evolution and creationism. The theory of evolution is not just speculation and talk. These are rigorous mathematical models that allow you to do things like analyze genomes, optimize the use of antibiotics and vaccines, estimate the risk of a species becoming extinct due to loss of genetic diversity, and so on.

Another important aspect related to this is the specificity of the theory. Imagine the world was very different. There were trilobite fossils mixed with rabbit fossils, there were species with DNA and carbon-based molecules, other with silicon, others with completely different molecules. There were vulture-headed monkeys and goat-legged lizards, and dragons and so on. Whatever you imagine is compatible with creationism. In any case, it could have all been the creation of an omnipotent god.

But the theory of evolution only applies to very narrow cases. For example, if a set of species evolved from a common ancestor, those species are distributed in a family tree and must have similarities to each other, the differences must be grouped into their respective branches, and so on. Only a very small subset of what could be is compatible with the theory of evolution. And it is precisely what we observe. For example, chickens still have the teeth genes inherited from their reptilian ancestors.

Of course, an omnipotent god could also have created the chicken with crocodile genes and inactivated the genes so that they would not express themselves. But it's hard to see why the in the world he would do such a thing.

In short, creationism is a personal belief of some people who want to believe that this was all done by their god. They are in their rights. But it explains nothing, is of no use in practice, and if we want to understand reality, evolution is a much better and more grounded alternative. As for "evolutionism," this is like calling "gravitationalist" to someone who believes that there is gravity just to appear that the contrary belief has any merit. :)

As for the [creationist] statement you asked me to counter:

'' [...] we don't see random changes doing that to enzymes (increasing their specificity) on a scale which could possibly account for all of life's specified complexity ''.

I cannot rebut this statement because, if I interpret it correctly, it seems to me to be true.

Suppose ‘’we don't see’’ means we can't observe in the lab. If that is what he means, then of course we cannot see changes in the scale needed to explain the full complexity of life because this is a process that has been going on for four billion years.

But that is like claiming that you have never seen anyone grow to age 80. You're only 25 years old, so it's impossible to have seen someone born, grow up and grow old until 80. But it would be nonsense because we can see some people getting older from 79 to 80, others from 78 to 79 and so on. Putting the puzzle pieces together it is obvious that people can grow old from birth to 80.

This is what happens with evolution. If you look at only one enzyme you have no idea what has happened in the last 4 billion years. But if you put the pieces together, looking at this change here, that one there, the fossil remains, the similarities and differences in today's species, and so forth, all of this together is immense evidence for evolution, and none of that creationism can explain because, unlike evolution, creationism explains nothing. In fact, if you have read many creationist books, you may have noticed that the only thing they talk about is the theory of evolution. They can't explain why our retina is inverted but that of the octopus is straight, why the recurrent laryngeal nerve passes under the subclavian artery, why the dolphin is genetically more like us than the shark, and a million other things''.

What do you guys think?
Title: Evolution -- a ''Defense''
Post by: Paolo on June 11, 2020, 04:21:32 PM
[duplicate post]
Title: Re: Evolution -- a ''Defense''
Post by: Mike Cl on June 11, 2020, 05:48:00 PM
That about sums it up.
Title: Re: Evolution -- a ''Defense''
Post by: Baruch on June 11, 2020, 09:49:16 PM
Evolution is seeing the forest for the trees.  Both are necessary.  But some people can't put various information together into a coherent picture.  That is basically what Charles Darwin did.  The evidence since 1850 has gotten overwhelmingly strong.  When one opposes Darwin't theory, one can oppose Darwin's primitive explanation for biological change.  This is fish in a barrel.  The explanations for biological change are much more sophisticated now, it isn't just about mating.
Title: Re: Evolution -- a ''Defense''
Post by: Hijiri Byakuren on June 11, 2020, 11:20:12 PM
I think it's safe to say that pretty much everyone on this forum agrees with what your Facebook contact said. I'm not sure why you felt the need to preach to the choir, as it were.
Title: Re: Evolution -- a ''Defense''
Post by: Hijiri Byakuren on June 11, 2020, 11:22:06 PM
Why did you post this twice? (
Title: Re: Evolution -- a ''Defense''
Post by: Shiranu on June 12, 2020, 12:19:19 AM
Merged with duplicate thread. - Shiranu

Otherwise agreed with most of it, accept this statement made a few times...

But it explains nothing, is of no use in practice...

I am not comfortable with the idea that science should be a stand-in for philosophy or the end-all, be-all of cosmology. The myths and folklore involved in the origins of the universe often times contain really great literature and storytelling as well as preserve cultural traditions.
Title: Re: Evolution -- a ''Defense''
Post by: SGOS on June 12, 2020, 05:55:29 AM
Oddly, I have good friends, a man and wife that are creationists.  They don't push their views on me.  We could never be friends if they did.  We all like nature, so sometimes we talk about the natural world.  I would never talk about evolution around them intentionally, but on two occasions, I have let slip in passing something about natural selection, because it's hard to talk about the natural world without including science.  On both occasions, the wife abruptly said in a strong tone of disapproval, "I don't believe it."  End of story.  Neither of them make any attempt to explain the creation myth to me, nor do I ask them.  I know the story as well as I know the story of Sleeping Beauty.  One time, the husband did seriously ask me how it all began.  I just shrugged my shoulders and said, "I don't know."  I'm not going to waste my time explaining astrophysics, or pretend to know  everything about it, especially if they don't want to hear it.

One time, they came to my house to tell me about a miracle.  Two months earlier, their doctor told the husband he had cancer, but the day before, a specialist told them he did not have cancer.  I suggested the first opinion was a mis-diagnosis.  Again, abruptly,  "No, No it was a miracle.  What else could it be?  What do you believe?  Don't tell me. I know what you believe.  We don't want to hear it."

Yes, we are close friends, and I love them both.  We just avoid talking about areas where they intensely disagree.  And they don't try to save my soul.  In a way, it's been a lesson in caring, tolerance, and making relationships work.  Of course, both sides have to want that.  None of it is all in my hands.  And there are many Christians I don't want to have relationships with at all.
Title: Re: Evolution -- a ''Defense''
Post by: Paolo on June 12, 2020, 10:06:00 PM
I think it's safe to say that pretty much everyone on this forum agrees with what your Facebook contact said. I'm not sure why you felt the need to preach to the choir, as it were.

I just felt he presented his case in a really concise and well-written way. So much that I translated it to English (it was originally in Portuguese).
Title: Re: Evolution -- a ''Defense''
Post by: Paolo on June 12, 2020, 10:09:13 PM
Why did you post this twice? (

I posted it on different sub-forums, but somebody in the staff correctly merged the two posts. I thought on the main forum I could get more visible, and thus, get more replies. So, I posted it there as well.
Title: Re: Evolution -- a ''Defense''
Post by: SGOS on June 13, 2020, 09:32:00 AM
I don't know how everyone else does it, but I have the forum's Recent Topics option set as my forum home page.  In my case, I see everything that is current, no matter what subforum it's posted on.  In other words, It makes no difference where you post it.  I'll see it.