What the faithful call “uncivil”

The other day I heard from a friend who’s using WEIT as a text in a summer-school evolution course.  This is at a large university somewhere south of the Mason-Dixon line.

I was told that my book was a hit “with about 95% of the students,” but that “5% thought I was an asshole.”  I was pretty chuffed, but also concerned—not such much that students called me an asshole, but about why they would see me as an asshole.  That’s a pretty personal remark, and though I can live with students not buying my evidence or arguments—after all, they’ve been propagandized with faith since they could understand English—I couldn’t see that there was anything in the book that would tar me with such an epithet.

I asked for clarification, and the teacher sent me a short explanation, including a reconstructed dialogue with a female student who was apparently horrified by one statement in the book: “If a designer did have discernible motives when creating species, one of them must surely have been to fool biologists by making organisms look as though they evolved.”  Here’s what I got:

Girl: “He doesn’t have to do that.”
Me: “Do what?”
Girl: “sound like a jerk like that.”
Me: “What do you mean?”
Girl: “He didn’t have to say that. He could have concluded differently. He didn’t need to make that joke at creationists’ expense.”
Me: “That’s pretty mild, don’t you think?”
Girl (and a minority of others): “Even if it’s mild, it’s unnecessary.”
Boy defender: “Have you seen the shit the other side says? I’d say this is a pretty innocuous response comparatively.”
Girl doesn’t back down. Insists that creationists don’t do such things.  3 or 4 other people agree with her.
(agree that you’re a fucking asshole).

This resulted in me making an entire lecture where the class was forced to examine video arguments made by famous creationists and to identify the specific fallacious arguments used. I also forced them to read Ray Comfort’s introduction to the origin.
The girl was not pleased.

When teaching evolution, especially to religious people, I’m always concerned that I might bruise their feelings or come off as arrogant or strident.  There’s a time and a place for stridency and mockery, but the classroom is not one of them.  But in this case I completely reject the notion that what I said was “assholish.”  If you believe that the world and its life was created ex nihilo by God, how can you explain why thousands of biologists have, after looking at the evidence, concluded otherwise?  My statement was simply factual: if there was a fundamentalist-style creator God, He must have created things looking as if they evolved.

There is of course a trace of satire in what I said, but what students really object to, I think, is the cognitive dissonance it creates in them.  Indeed, why would God have done that?  And what kind of God would have done that?  A duplicitous one?  And so they take their dissonance out on me.

When you can’t answer an argument, harp on the tone—or call your opponent an asshole.  To students like these, I paraphrase Roman Polanski: “It’s college, Jake!”  You have no right not to be made uncomfortable at university.

263 Comments

  1. Jolo
    Posted August 12, 2010 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    I also forced them to read Ray Comfort’s introduction to the origin.

    Isn’t that a crime against humanity?

  2. Posted August 12, 2010 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    She wasn’t calling you an asshole for anything you did, she was calling you an asshole for causing her cognitive dissonance. Other than patting her on the head and assuring that god did indeed create the world ex nihilo 6,000 years ago in exactly 6 days, I don’t see how much nicer you could be about it.

    • Mutating Replicator
      Posted August 12, 2010 at 11:01 am | Permalink

      Well put. I have run into this many times with my fellow churchgoers (yes, you have an evolution-accepting religionist in your midst). By putting a known human face on inconvenient facts, you become associated with the undesirability of those facts. It’s akin to the age-old phenomenon of “shooting the messenger.”

  3. Sajanas
    Posted August 12, 2010 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    It is funny that I see books that don’t simply skip over the implications of evolution to religious thought usually get worse reviews because those who hold religious views desperately want to avoid having them taken down a peg. Even if they aren’t creationists, I imagine they don’t like having it explained just how unlikely it is that the Bible is true.
    The combination of the usual pain of having someone tell you flat out your wrong combines with the indignation that comes from being told the opposite (religious) viewpoint for so long from people you (wrongly) trusted to give the answers. Like when I was irritated to discover so much of the history I was taught as a young child was poorly laid out and not really accurate.

    • Reginald Selkirk
      Posted August 12, 2010 at 10:23 am | Permalink

      the usual pain of having someone tell you flat out your wrong

      You’re ungrammatical.

      • Sajanas
        Posted August 12, 2010 at 10:49 am | Permalink

        And now heartbroken

        • MadScientist
          Posted August 12, 2010 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

          Gee, wasn’t that uncivil of Reg? :P

      • SeanK
        Posted August 12, 2010 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

        You didn’t have to do that.

      • ckitching
        Posted August 12, 2010 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

        Once again, a New Grammarist is forcing their views down someone else’s throats. You can’t force someone to take grammar seriously if you’re that strident!!

        • AdamK
          Posted August 13, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

          Their mean!

  4. Posted August 12, 2010 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    Ha. You biology types have it easy! Try teaching the fundy children about the actual sociology and history of early Christianity! The consensus of scholarship is that if there was a Jesus (and there almost certainly was, but the movement is an amalgam from several desert-dwelling prophets) he was an illiterate rabble-rouser raving against the religious and secular authorities. You biology people are just saying that biblical interpretations about evolution are wrong, social scientists are asking “what do you mean by “bible”?”

    • Mike Barnes
      Posted August 12, 2010 at 10:08 am | Permalink

      By consensus of scholarship you’re refering to mainly cultural Christians, who would have difficulty facing the idea that there never was a Jesus. In fact there are good reasons to suppose ‘Jesus’ is fiction from start to finish. E.g. the lack of mention in contemporaneous accounts (which do refer to John The Baptist, who certainly did exist). E.g. the classic giveaway in the gospel of Mark, written and compiled when Jesus’ time was still within living memory. Here ‘Jesus’ repeatedly performs miracles in front of crowds then asks his disciples keep silent about them. This was almost certainly because the gospel writer/compiler was covering himself: there were people still alive who could say ‘I don’t remember that happening…’. Later gospel writers mostly didn’t bother with Jesus’ strange caveat -there were no eyewitnesses alive to contradict what was then being written about him.
      You only bother to do this if your subject never existed.

      • H.H.
        Posted August 12, 2010 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

        You only bother to do this if your subject never existed.

        Or you do it if your subject existed but never performed the miracles claimed.

        • MadScientist
          Posted August 12, 2010 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

          Or if you don’t want the attention – but not being hounded by paparazzi is a human thing, surely the god-man could have put up with it? The bible (new testament) has anachronisms which are consistent with someone who is ignorant of history writing the thing at some future date, not to mention claims of proclamations which somehow fail to make it into any existing records and claims about Roman civil life which are just plain wrong – which indicate that the author(s) are even ignorant of Roman custom. For example if a Roman official had actually ordered that all babies be rounded up and killed, that would be something that would be news; some other Roman and any literate subjects would have written about it, but it’s all a lie. You’ve got to watch out for those Romans you know, they eat babies. And if you’re not a good kid and refuse to eat your vegetables, that black guy you see begging by the curb will kidnap you and eat you. It’s nothing but a lie to teach people to hate other people, just as the catholic church had been teaching people to hate all Jews over at least the past 1200 years.

          • Alex SL
            Posted August 12, 2010 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

            Technically speaking, wasn’t he head of a client state of the empire instead of a Roman official?

            Does not change the fact that such a mass murder would have made the antiquity equivalent of headlines, though.

            • Brian
              Posted August 12, 2010 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

              Why did Joseph have to return to his ancestral home for the census? When you take a census, knowing where people came from is no help in determining tax, infrastructure, etc.

            • Owl700
              Posted August 16, 2010 at 7:27 am | Permalink

              You’d also have to shut down all the businesses, farms, and construction sites. This would add up to a lot of tax dollars wasted while people wandered for weeks on donkeys.
              As for Joseph, wasn’t there about a thousand years between him and David? How many people could actually trace their ancestry back that far?
              It seems like an inefficient and expensive way to hold a census.

    • Reginald Selkirk
      Posted August 12, 2010 at 10:27 am | Permalink

      if there was a Jesus (and there almost certainly was, but the movement is an amalgam from several desert-dwelling prophets)

      In addition to what Mike Barnes said, if Jesus was not the miracle-working, resurrected Son of God, it doesn’t really matter whether he existed in some supernatural form. Suppose there was a prophet of the time, or even an amalgam – if he wasn’t magic, who cares?

      Do you think there was really a lumberjack named Paul Bunyan, but who was normal sized? Does it matter?

      • Reginald Selkirk
        Posted August 12, 2010 at 10:29 am | Permalink

        Oops, change to “it doesn’t really matter whether he existed in some non-supernatural form.”

      • Buzz
        Posted August 12, 2010 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

        Whether it’s important that Jesus had magical powers depends a lot on what school of Christian theology one adheres to. The historical Jesus was, as stated, probably a minor rabble-rouser, who may have had some remarkable insights about morality. To some Christians, it’s Jesus’s teaching about love that are the most crucial element of his religion.

        However, what probably made Jesus into one of the pivotal figures in history was something that happened after his death: His body (quite likely) went missing. This converted his followers into a sort of immortality cult. Once that amount of magic had been introduced into the story, the later generations of Christians started embroidering his tale with other miracles. For many (or most?) Christians, it is the magic and afterlife stuff that makes Jesus important to them, but that’s not true of them all.

        • MadScientist
          Posted August 12, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

          There is absolutely nothing remarkable about Jesus’ preachings on morality – they all predate Jesus and we see similar teachings in places which had not been influenced by the christians. For example, long long before the Jesus fables there was Gautama Buddha. Turn the other cheek? Buddha. Be nice to your neighbors? Buddha. Forgive your neighbors? Buddha. Blessed be the cheesemakers? Buddha – oh, ok, maybe not that one.

          • Urmensch
            Posted August 12, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

            Of course, ‘Blessed be the cheesemakers’ wasn’t meant to be taken literally; it refers to any manufacturers of dairy products.

          • Brian
            Posted August 12, 2010 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

            Plato has Socrates give the golden-rule and turn the other cheek.

      • What a maroon
        Posted August 12, 2010 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

        If Bunyanites had developed a thriving cult, taken over the largest empire of the time, gone on to conquer a continent, bloodily suppress anyone that disagreed with their interpretation of Bunyanism, colonized much of the world, spread their belief through moral and physical coercion, still held sway over about a fifth of the world population, and had the gall to declare their moral superiority, don’t you think it would be important to examine objectively whatever evidence there is of who, exactly, Paul H. Bunyan was?

        (Aside to Dr. Coyne–please understand that when I call you a Maroon, I do so not to insult you, but, as a fellow Maroon, to bestow upon you the greatest honor I know.)

    • oldfuzz
      Posted August 12, 2010 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

      “The consensus of scholarship..” may be a stretch. In my limited reading of Christian “scholarship” I have found consensus on some points, but disagreement as to the whole. My primary sources are (in the order they came to mind) Hans Kung, John Dominic Crossan, Marcus Borg, Robert Funk, Burton Mack, and many scholars of The Westar Institute. There are others who have written extensively on Jesus. I do not include those who begin with the fundamental Christian premise then interpret all evidence to support it. While the focus in science may be to find the universal “truth” of phenomena, the progressive Christian seeks a personal “truth” as to what constitutes Christian behavior having discarded the idea that there is one way, even that the Christian way is the only way. This may be more troublesome to the fundamentalist than atheism because the progressive says “I am a Christian” then discards the core issues of the fundamentalist as false. Of course the question of what constitutes a Christian scholar is debatable. My view is that their primary professional engagement is within Christianity and would be doubtful if they didn’t carry a well worn Greek New Testament wherever they go.

      • Marella
        Posted August 12, 2010 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

        I am less interested in ‘the concensus of scholarship’ than reality, and on a highly emotional issue like Jesus they may well not be the same. Unless you have read “Jesus, Neither God Nor Man’ by Earl Doherty then you are not competant to discuss the question. It really is quite convincing that Jesus is a myth. There are others but this is the most comprehensive book on the subject. Robert Price’s ‘The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man’ is good too.

        • wilzard
          Posted August 12, 2010 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

          “Unless you have read “Jesus, Neither God Nor Man’ by Earl Doherty then you are not competant to discuss the question.”

          Yes! And if you aren’t a Dr. Dr. Dr. then you must refrain from discussing any philosophy.

    • GrueBleen
      Posted August 12, 2010 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

      I’m fascinated that you can so blithely say that “there almost certainly was” a living ‘human form’ that went by the name of Jesus – a not totally uncommon name at the time, I’ve been given to believe.

      Do you have any sort of Bayesian, or even frequentist, analysis to demonstrate a probability of ‘his’ existence significantly higher than 0.5 ? Or is it just a ‘gut feel’ estimate ?

      However, I do have a question I’ve been wanting to ask a student of the history and sociology of early Christianity: how could ‘Jesus’ have ever gotten away with calling himself, or publicly being called, ‘Christ’ ? My understandig is that ‘Christ’ (Greek ‘christos’ or ‘annointed one’) is an outright claim to being the Messiah. Surely the Sadducees would have had him for breakfast long before his supposed crucifixion for making a claim like that ? Or even for having it made for him.

      • Havok
        Posted August 13, 2010 at 12:45 am | Permalink

        Do you have any sort of Bayesian, or even frequentist, analysis to demonstrate a probability of ‘his’ existence significantly higher than 0.5 ? Or is it just a ‘gut feel’ estimate ?

        Richard Carrier is currently doing just that in a 2 volume set (vol1 concerning Bayes Theorem as it relates to historical studies, vol2 on the historical Jesus).

        • GrueBleen
          Posted August 13, 2010 at 4:13 am | Permalink

          Thanks for that. A quick Google on ‘Richard Carrier Bayes Jesus’ yielded some interesting pages, amongst which Common Sense Atheism’s report of the Licona-Carrier ~debate~ was entertaining (though very long).

    • Michael Kingsford Gray
      Posted August 13, 2010 at 3:11 am | Permalink

      Darren Sherkat:
      “…if there was a Jesus (and there almost certainly was…)”

      What evidence made you arrive at that conclusion?
      I have inspected the available evidence and arrived at the firm conclusion that Jesus was as much a fictional character as Sherlock Holmes.

      • Mike Barnes
        Posted August 13, 2010 at 10:13 am | Permalink

        Exactly. And subject to the same laws of fiction. I see it in screenwriting: take an early draft with the makings of an idea (eg the early gospel of Mark before the resurrection was added later), expand the backstory (Jesus birth in Luke etc, which Mark didn’t have), and put the hero under increasing threat. If possible make the audience think the hero dies (Reichenbach Falls/Golgotha) then milk the moment for all it’s worth.
        I wonder if, in the end, this is what distinguished the gospels chosen for the bible from the others – the early church realised that some had a better story to them (if you ever read the gospel of Judas, what’s striking is the complete lack of story). All fiction, and not a patch on Conan Doyle’s creation.

  5. Posted August 12, 2010 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Excellent quality control. I don’t think Mooney and his ilk has to worry about you–you have the integrity, the ability for self-examination, and the passion for your topic so you will not snoop down ever to what he accuses you of doing.

    Faith-heads identify with god. It is them, and they are it. You imply that god is dodgy, you are implying they are. So they defend god which is ridiculous because the big guy should be able take care of any situation.

    Their indignation or state of being offended gets them off the hook, as they can’t present evidence to defend themselves in their belief. Their cognitive dissonance rears its ugly little head, and they then decide this bad feeling is because you insulted god (really them).

    • Posted August 12, 2010 at 9:42 am | Permalink

      And of course, you are not insulting them! So they are wrong. And because of deference to religion, many take their oversensitized side.

    • Posted August 12, 2010 at 9:53 am | Permalink

      I think Michelle’s nailed it.

      I get that pretty often: religious people often take it as a personal insult if you criticise God (and the Bibe provides plenty to criticise!) or, even worse, say that you don’t believe in him.

      How can you be so ungrateful and arrogant as to not even believe in him?!!!

  6. Posted August 12, 2010 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    Bang on. And I mean that both ways: keep at it because I think your position about cognitive dissonance is exactly correct.

    As you wrote yesterday, biology precedes our desires, including our desires to assign cause to an unknowable agency in spite of contrary evidence that cohesively explains cause with a mechanism that yields testable effects. Unless and until an equally informed biological explanation is made for how this agency creates, then the evolutionary explanation remains the default in spite of earnest desires that it was not so.

    And the advice to students is sound: deal with it.

  7. Posted August 12, 2010 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    It’s also a sign of really deep cluelessness that she thinks you said anything out of the ordinary – this has always been a huge nagging problem ever since believers realized that organisms did look as if they’d evolved. Why else did Philip Gosse write Omphalos?! It’s a big honking problem, and has been for a long long time. She’s a college student, so ignorance is not astonishing, but…still, that’s a lot of ignorance.

    • MoonShark
      Posted August 12, 2010 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      Yeah, my first thought was “how sheltered is this girl?”, if such a mild (and logical) criticism ticks her off. Was she homeschooled?

      A classroom response I could stomach more than Ray Comfort would have been a discussion on the Scopes trial and dissection of William Jennings Bryan’s arguments. Follow it up with the Dover trial. At least those have historical significance and make legal precedent. Comfort is just a worthless windbag compared to the public policy battles IMO.

      • MadScientist
        Posted August 12, 2010 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

        I wouldn’t really recommend Scopes except perhaps to law students. Discourse in courts is – well, bizarre.

    • llewelly
      Posted August 13, 2010 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

      Ophelia Benson August 12, 2010 at 9:58 am:

      It’s also a sign of really deep cluelessness that she thinks you said anything out of the ordinary – this has always been a huge nagging problem ever since believers realized that organisms did look as if they’d evolved. Why else did Philip Gosse write Omphalos?! It’s a big honking problem, and has been for a long long time. She’s a college student, so ignorance is not astonishing, but…still, that’s a lot of ignorance.

      I wasn’t homeschooled, but I never encountered a remark like Jerry Coyne’s in any classroom, or in any required textbook, in high school or college. I encountered it through extra-curricular reading of Russell, Gould, Sagan, and so forth.

  8. Posted August 12, 2010 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    To my mind, the distinction between civil and uncivil goes something like this:

    Civil: “You’re wrong about X for the following reasons….”
    Uncivil: “You’re stupid for believing in X, because….”

    There are occasions when being uncivil is appropriate (I’ve done it myself) — but realize you’re into the mud-fight from that point on.

    Some people will get angry even over a civil reproof, but then it’s obvious that it’s their problem, not yours. To a reasonable observer, they have now lost the moral high ground.

  9. Posted August 12, 2010 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    “Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.”

    One of the now-classic noir lines, but I do believe that it belongs to Robert Towne, the great screenwriter, and not to Polanski, who directed.

  10. Bob Carlson
    Posted August 12, 2010 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Why expect a rational response to the mildest criticism of the concept of creation from a person who clings to an irrational belief in the concept of creation?

  11. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted August 12, 2010 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    As Orac says:

    A statement of fact cannot be insolent.

    • Scote
      Posted August 12, 2010 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

      insolent |ˌɪnsələnt|
      adjective
      showing a rude and arrogant lack of respect.

      I think is possible to be truthful yet rude and arrogant, so I think it is silly to pretend that one can’t be insolent when making factual statements. I think more insolence towards religion can be merited, though I mean that in the sense of rudeness and lack of respect rather than arrogance.

      • Olaf Davis
        Posted August 13, 2010 at 3:25 am | Permalink

        I assume he means that the statement of fact itself can’t be insolent. Of course you can state it in an insolent way – “Two and two makes four, you malodorous twit!” but the informational content of the statement “2+2=4″ is not insolent, nor is any other factual claim.

        • Rob
          Posted August 13, 2010 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

          “You are a bastard”

          Is that insolent, even if your mother wasn’t married at the time of your birth?

          • Michael Kingsford Gray
            Posted August 13, 2010 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

            Not in Australia!
            It is a back-handed compliment intended to display close mate-ship.
            Seriously.

  12. SLC
    Posted August 12, 2010 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Does Prof. Coyne really want to cite a convicted rapist like Mr. Polanski as a font of insightful wisdom?

    • Posted August 12, 2010 at 10:42 am | Permalink

      Does SLC really want to use logical fallacies as a substitute to ideas?

      • SLC
        Posted August 12, 2010 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

        I suspect that if Ms. Irene had been the victim of Mr. Polanskis’ attentions, she would be warbling a different tune.

        • Brian
          Posted August 12, 2010 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

          I’ll never breath oxygen because I heard the Nazis breathed oxygen. Oh wait….

        • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
          Posted August 13, 2010 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

          Maybe, but then she would make an actual argument, not the non sequitur you prefer after the fallacy.

          That’s like a serial idea-rapist right there.

  13. Damian
    Posted August 12, 2010 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    That Professor Kicks Ass! I find it quite amusing that the only problem the student could come up with was a logical comical observation. The statement was an accurate observation, and it reminded me of the old comic strip of god creating man, and he says ‘instead of starting from scratch, lets just use modified chimp DNA.’ The statement was not asshole-ish, in the least. I am curious if you have gotten any similar creationist reviews about that, or any other statements?

  14. Posted August 12, 2010 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    This could be an opening to discuss lower intestine functioning and the evolution of fecal displacement.

    Always take the Socratic dialectic when presented with profane derision.

  15. Eric MacDonald
    Posted August 12, 2010 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    Are the religious really such tender plants? To listen to them speak or to read their words is often to wonder at their astonishing inability to deal with the simple fact that any statement raises questions as to its provenance, truth, reliability, grounds, etc.

    There is nowhere that should offer protection from such questions. Universities certainly ought to be uncomfortable places, otherwise how would learning be possible?

    But churches should not be immune either. To a large extent, to be sure, they are self-enclosed worlds, and within them everything seems to make sense, and even to seem important. But it should come as no surprise that those outside do not see it that way, and this fact alone should give even the religious a measure of liberality in their dealings with their neighbours.

    That it often does not is a clear indication that the foundations of religious belief are weak, and the beliefs based on them are therefore correspondingly insecure. Out of this context epithets such as ‘asshole’ arise (amongst the less cultured) as the homage that religious angst pays to critical reason.

    • Tulse
      Posted August 12, 2010 at 11:41 am | Permalink

      Are the religious really such tender plants?

      Yes, the believe in a supernatural being that created the trillions of cubic light-years of the universe, and routinely would wipe out whole cities, yet cry if you suggest that god doesn’t actually exist. Their god can dish it out, but can’t take it.

      • articulett
        Posted August 12, 2010 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

        Yep.

      • MJ
        Posted August 12, 2010 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

        Nope. Not tender plants at all.

        They’re foot-stamping children who *must* have their way. They shout you down by crying “asshole!” “be civil!” “stop being so strident!”. Then they say terrible things about you. Then they conveniently forget that their rhetoric is nasty and hate-filled (as this girl apparently did).

        The point is not that they’re tender. They’re powerful. But they hold power *only* because they hold the beliefs that they do, and those beliefs are high-status in society. To question their beliefs is to question their “right” to have what they want, when they want it. And children simply cannot stand that.

    • MadScientist
      Posted August 12, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

      Bah, for me “asshole” is like “buddy”; what big city can you live in without everyone’s middle name being “Asshole”?

      • Michael Kingsford Gray
        Posted August 13, 2010 at 3:14 am | Permalink

        Adelaide, where it is “arse-hole”.

  16. Jack van Beverningk
    Posted August 12, 2010 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    No matter how mild AND correct the author’s statement may have been, I kind of agree with the girl’s simple observation that, indeed, “He didn’t have to do that”!
    And quite frankly, I wish Jerry hadn’t.
    Here is why:
    I have some very good friends who are staunch YECs. After various discussions I think I’m now pretty close to them agreeing to read a book about evolution, to be recommended by me.
    I obviously want this book to be ONLY about the mechanics, so to say, of evolution, and NOT contain even the slightest hint of creationism-bashing (because, that’s where they would stop reading. Whether that’s dumb or not, I don’t want that to happen). My problem: I can’t find such a book! There’s ALWAYS, no matter how mild, a sneer in there towards creationism. How hard can it be to write about evolution and refrain from mentioning a creator, God, or even ‘design’? Even a book by the religious Ken Miller (Finding Darwin’s God) takes some nasty stabs at creationists. There are certainly times and places for doing so, but NOT in a book that aims to explain evolution to creationists!
    The only book ,sofar, that comes pretty close to being ‘clean’ in that respect, is Darwin’s Origin itself, but that’s not really a suitable evolution 101 for creationists. WEIT COULD have been this book .. but alas, it is not: creationists are not going to like it. And NOT because they don’t like the presented evidence.
    If anyone KNOWS of a creationism-bashing-free book on fairly basic evolutionary theory .. I’d like to hear about it!

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted August 12, 2010 at 11:27 am | Permalink

      Unfortunately, I think your quest is futile, for why would ANYBODY write an evidence-for-evolution book these days without mentioning creationism? It’s the raison d’etre for writing such a book, and it’s disingenuous to leave it out. After all, we don’t write books on the “evidence for atoms” or the “evidence for a spherical earth”. Why? Because there’s not a large movement opposed to those things.

      I have to say that if your friends are such tender flowers that just the mildest of criticisms of religion, just the merest hint that there might be widespread, religiously based opposition to evolution makes them completely impervious to evidence, which is the intellectual equivalent of stopping their ears and hollering “nya nya nya nya!”, then I don’t have a whole lot of interest in changing their minds. I am trying to educate mature people, not wilting lilies. And what good is helping people accept evolution without helping them be rational at the same time?

      If you wish, you can get my book and censor it by simply magic-markering out the passages that criticize creationism. That should do it.

      I stand by what I wrote, and I’d do it again.

      • Posted August 12, 2010 at 11:59 am | Permalink

        And what good is helping people accept evolution without helping them be rational at the same time?

        Much what I was trying to say below. It’s no use saying eyes forward, don’t pause to look at anything along the way, above all don’t think. Teaching shouldn’t be like hypnosis.

        • Jack van Beverningk
          Posted August 12, 2010 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

          Jerry and Ophelia .. my answer to the various ‘why’s” and “what good is it” .. is: because my strategy is “ONE step at a time” and SMALL steps at that. And yes, maybe it IS disingenuous, this foot-in-the-door approach. But we all know creationists who finally DID ‘see the light’. It can be done! But not by starting to call them kooks and nutcases.
          And no, that’s NOT accommodationism.
          And Jerry, maybe I SHOULD take my copy of WEIT and ‘edit’ it a bit ;-) .. after all, I’m about to get a whole new, autographed, brand new copy for myself .. all for voting for the right cat! HA!

          • tm61
            Posted August 12, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

            I agree, Jack…

            Because the book referred to a “creator” or “designer”, the girl was able to avoid arguing the facts, and instead seized on what she saw as an attack on her beliefs.

            • whyevolutionistrue
              Posted August 12, 2010 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

              But really, do you think if the book hadn’t mentioned a creator, that she would become a wholehearted proponent of evolution? I don’t think we live in a world like that!

            • Tacroy
              Posted August 12, 2010 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

              Qu’on me donne six lignes écrites de la main du plus honnête homme, j’y trouverai de quoi le faire pendre.

              If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him.

              –Cardinal Richelieu

              Sorry, if they’re still at the stage where they’ll seize upon the disparagement of a “creator” or “designer” in order to refuse to argue the facts, you are simply not going to be able to find any book on evolution that is innocent enough to not contain such things. If you’re looking to take offense, you can find it anywhere (as Cardinal Richelieu so kindly points out).

            • Jack van Beverningk
              Posted August 12, 2010 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

              “do you think if the book hadn’t mentioned a creator, that she would become a wholehearted proponent of evolution?”

              Probably not, but at least there was a chance to have sown a seed of doubt. NOW she’s just angry.
              And of course, you didn’t write the book just for that girl: hopefully MANY tens of thousands will read it, and with THAT, chances that you CAN pull a doubter over a line become VERY real. To then potentially alienate people by making unnecessary comments about a creator is, I personally think, unfortunate: not only does it distract from the book’s focus (i.e. presenting evidence), but it possibly negates some of the good the book may have done. Mentioning a creator (or the silliness of the concept) does in no way improve on the evidence presented. To quote Dragnet: “JUST the facts, ma’am!”

            • wilzard
              Posted August 12, 2010 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

              “To then potentially alienate people by making unnecessary comments about a creator is, I personally think, unfortunate: not only does it distract from the book’s focus (i.e. presenting evidence), but it possibly negates some of the good the book may have done. Mentioning a creator (or the silliness of the concept) does in no way improve on the evidence presented.”

              It provides a dichotomy.

              Most creationists, imo, have been taught common creationist arguments (long refuted) to counter anything they might hear that contradicts their closely held beliefs.

              How can you teach them anything if they are already mentally discarding evidence you may have or arguments you may present?
              Mind that almost anything you can say to them will seem “uncivil” because you may be questioning a cherished belief.

          • articulett
            Posted August 12, 2010 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

            Many people HAVE changed their minds from Jerry’s book. They’ve commented here on the subject. The same goes for Dawkins who is more “uncivil”. Books have to be read before they can change minds.

            And why do you want to change the mind of someone who imagines themselves SAVED for believing some story? Do you want to interfere with their imagined salvation? I think sowing a seed of doubt is the kindest thing of all.

            Writing a book to the specification of creotards (and their supporters) probably means that the book is just read less. Jerry answers the straw men created by creationists in his book and empowers his reader to do the same.

            Maybe Eugenie Scott’s book on the subject will be more to your friends liking.

            • Jack van Beverningk
              Posted August 12, 2010 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

              “The same goes for Dawkins who is more “uncivil””

              Dawkins? “uncivil”?
              HAVE you read Dawkins’s books? Shockingly few “uncivil” words in ‘m!

              “Books have to be read before they can change minds” .. OR critiqued, for that matter!

            • Tulse
              Posted August 12, 2010 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

              Dawkins? “uncivil”?
              HAVE you read Dawkins’s books? Shockingly few “uncivil” words in ‘m!

              Exactly, and yet he is the bête noire of atheism to most Christians, seen as the worst of the uncivil worst. In other words, even if one is civil, any questioning of faith is seen as insulting and rude.

            • Notagod
              Posted August 12, 2010 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

              I see no point in getting them to understand the processes of evolution if they simply integrate it back into damngoddoneit. They miss the point of what it means to understand what is happening and how it happens. Evolution is all about the natural processes that enable changes. Those process can be tested in the lab and will yield predictable results (absence of any of the christian gods is obvious and should be noted.) Lower rear torso orifice!

              Sounds to me like your friends could use a firm kick in the ass.

            • Marella
              Posted August 12, 2010 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

              If you have to lie or doctor the truth to convince people it’s better that they not be convinced at all. Those are the tactics of the faithful and I’d rather not be tarred with the same brush. If people won’t believe the evidence then you can’t help them with lies.

            • Posted August 13, 2010 at 8:41 am | Permalink

              Another point is that minds such as this students’ are not always changed all at once. After reading Why Evolution is True, Dr. Coyne’s book may very well contribute to her changing the mind months, or years down the road, after learning more facts and mulling it all over.

          • Rayl
            Posted August 13, 2010 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

            Jack, you seem certain that your idea will work,so why don’t you write that book yourself instead of complaining about Jerry’s book?

            • Jack van Beverningk
              Posted August 13, 2010 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

              1. “you seem certain your idea will work” *blink* Where? See my comments to the contrary elsewhere in this thread.
              2. “Write it yourself”: also answered that one already.
              3. “Complaining about Jerry’s book”: expressing one single and simple wish for one very specific case doesn’t constitute complaining about his book! I’m a great fan of WEIT. LOVE it!

    • Kirth Gersen
      Posted August 12, 2010 at 11:46 am | Permalink

      Leaving out contraditctions to YEC beliefs is also inevitable in any book on evolution or geology, because those subjects themselves inherently contradict those beliefs.

      A general/popular book on geology without any mention of radiometric dating, the fossil record, or geologic time would be mostly blank pages. A popular book on evolution without mention of long time scales, nor what the YEC’s call “macroevolution,” wouldn’t be much of a book, either. It would be a bunch of blank pages.

      • Kirth Gersen
        Posted August 12, 2010 at 11:47 am | Permalink

        Oops… that should start “including contradictions.”

        • Jack van Beverningk
          Posted August 12, 2010 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

          I’m ALL for for explaining ALL the facts, no matter how much they contradict a reader’s belief! THAT is not my point.
          My point is that we should leave the inevitable conclusion (“so you were horribly wrong”) to the reader. And NOT rub it in their faces, by explicitly stating that fact. It’s all just about basic and proper pedagogy.

          • Sigmund
            Posted August 12, 2010 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

            I suggest ‘Evolution’ by Douglas Futuyma.
            On the other hand I disagree that Jerry’s point about God designing it too look like evolution is a nasty remark. It’s an argument that originally came from creationists themselves (as Ophelia pointed out above with the mention of the Omphalos idea) and is even echoed by the ‘worlds bestest philosopher’ – MP3 – with his frequent reliance on the Last Thursday argument.

            • whyevolutionistrue
              Posted August 12, 2010 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

              Sorry, Sigmund, but chapter 23 of Futuyma’s textbook is COMPLETELY devoted to critiquing creationism! I know because I teach from that book.

            • Sigmund
              Posted August 12, 2010 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

              Yes perhaps, but by the time they reach chapter 23 they’ll be atheists anyway!

            • Kassul
              Posted August 13, 2010 at 11:32 am | Permalink

              Have you(or more likely, Jerry) seen the 2nd edition of Futuyma’s Evolution (published in 2009)? Is it a substantial improvement over the 1st ed? It has a couple of years to have some new bits of research incorporated, and there’s been time for feedback on the organization of the previous book/etc/etc… but sometimes these texts are at best minimal improvements over past editions. If it’s a repackaging with a few minor tweaks I might as well get the older copy for a tiny fraction of the price…

              Always on the lookout for new books to read though, love the threads dedicated to it Dr. Coyne, as well as the rest of the blog. Thanks!

          • articulett
            Posted August 12, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

            I hardly think Jerry’s comment “rubbed anything in their faces”? Such hyperbole.

            In any case, I think the bare facts are unsettling to creationists.

            Speaking of geology, look at this great find: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38661354/ns/technology_and_science-science?GT1=43001

            Would it be uncivil to note, “if there is a desigener, he either made the world billions of years ago, or he made is look that way to every to fool geologists?”

            • Jack van Beverningk
              Posted August 12, 2010 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

              “I hardly think Jerry’s comment “rubbed anything in their faces”? Such hyperbole”

              Such disingenuous quoting!

            • Ichthyic
              Posted August 12, 2010 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

              Such disingenuous quoting!

              nope. He nails your argument right on the head.

              it’s nothing but hyperbole.

              You’re sadly mistaken if you think that removing and post-hoc “offensive” statement to a creationist wouldn’t immediately engender them to find yet another passage to take offense at.

              You mention “Origins” as the only book that contains no statements of direct offense to creationists, yet the VERY TITLE of the book itself has been quoted by creationists as offensive.

              you know very, VERY, little about what drives the creationist mindset.

              You’d be much more productive approaching a creationist as someone who has been brainwashed in a cult, than an open mind awaiting “just the facts”.

          • Posted August 12, 2010 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

            You know Jack, you appear to be a competent typist. Why don’t you write the book you want written?

            • Jack van Beverningk
              Posted August 13, 2010 at 10:17 am | Permalink

              Hm .. I briefly considered that, but here are my arguments not to do so (not necessarily in order of importance):
              1. I’m not a biologist. (Okay, if I could FIND a biologist who would offer to verify my writings, then that is hardly an argument).
              2. The people I intend to write it for only speak and read English, which is not my native language. Writing in a thoroughly foreign language is tough. (Believe me! I’m doing it right now, and I’m SWEATING!)
              3. I’m pathologically lazy.

    • Posted August 12, 2010 at 11:47 am | Permalink

      How is the quoted passage a “sneer against Creationism”? It seems to me to be more a nod towards ID than anything else… It acknowledges the ID arguments, and states the logical consequences, without passing judgment either way.

      The only way that can be insulting is if the very fact that one believes in ID/Creationism is an insult unto itself. Which is probably true, but… how can a intelligent cdesign proponentist complain about that?

      “I believe in intelligent design.”

      “So you believe the world, as it exists now, was designed by an intelligent agent?”

      “You asshole! Stop mocking me!”

      • Jack van Beverningk
        Posted August 12, 2010 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

        As for that exchange: my point is: if you’re writing a book explaining evolution, stick to just that: don’t enter into the ‘design/creation’ discussion, no matter how mild or even friendly. Don’t question the opposing view, just present your case. Sow a seed of rationalism and reason. Let it germinate. SLOWLY.

        • Yakaru
          Posted August 12, 2010 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

          I doubt any creationist would find that sentence any more confronting than any of the facts contained in WEIT.

      • Kamaka
        Posted August 12, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

        So write the book already.

      • Jack van Beverningk
        Posted August 12, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

        “How is the quoted passage a “sneer against Creationism”?”

        Disingenuous quoting! (or simply not reading well)

        • Ichthyic
          Posted August 12, 2010 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

          Disingenuous…

          Jack, in the immortal words of Inigo Montoya…

          “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

        • Posted August 13, 2010 at 7:18 am | Permalink

          What? Disingenuous? You said, Jerry shouldn’t have written it because you want a book giving the evidence for evolution that doesn’t contain any sneers against Creationism. In what way was my quoting of you disingenuous? Would you like to clarify what you meant?

          • Jack van Beverningk
            Posted August 13, 2010 at 10:43 am | Permalink

            Granted, maybe ‘disingenuous’ is a bit too harsh a word, but here’s why I commented on it: I NEVER said that Jerry’s remark was a sneer! You may infer that (as you seem to do) indirectly from my remark that I haven’t found any book yet that doesn’t contain some form, however mild, of a sneer towards creationism. To then take a phrase out of such a book, that WAS considered a sneer by some girl, and present it as if ~I~ actually SAID that phrase was a sneer, well, that IS leaning towards disingenuous quoting. But again, we’re now getting into arguing for the sake of arguing.

    • Posted August 12, 2010 at 11:56 am | Permalink

      OK, sooner or later one has to counter Last Thursdayism in books about the history of life on Earth, because thousands of preachers and apologetists resort to it when they speak to the faithful.

      Last Thursdayism cannot be disproven, but it can be mocked for its stupidity.

      • Posted August 12, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

        And yet it’s worse than that — the passage in question doesn’t even mock Last Thursdayism, it merely presents it!

        If you are offended because someone straightforwardly articulates what you believe, maybe your beliefs are the problem, eh? :D

        • Jack van Beverningk
          Posted August 12, 2010 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

          We KNOW their beliefs are the problem. If you want to change their beliefs (and I recognize that quite a few people are not interested in doing that at all), then you CAN’T do that by simply TELLING them that their belief is the problem. You will have to let them make that discovery themselves. All you can do is present them with relevant information. That’s ALL I’m saying. My first step on that path is to make them aware of what evolution REALLY is about and what it is not (so that they stop asking questions about why there are still monkeys etc).

          • whyevolutionistrue
            Posted August 12, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

            Oh but you’re wrong. Just have a look at Dawkins’s “Convert’s corner.” He has changed many many minds by telling people exactly what you say they shouldn’t be told (and, of course, simultaneously teaching them about evolution). Not all religious people are of the wilting-lily type!

            • J.J.E.
              Posted August 12, 2010 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

              Moreover, not all creationists are wilting lilies either. Some of them take the challenge and are actually converted.

              Anyway, I think Jack wants to rescue the lost or nearly lost causes. More power to him if he thinks he can pull a few of those people out. But given their marginal nature and their relatively small number (people who are on the exact border of salvageability), I think it is incumbent upon him or people that believe as he does to write appropriate materials. As Jack says, even Ken Miller doesn’t cater to that thin region of borderline cases.

            • Jack van Beverningk
              Posted August 12, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

              Me: You don’t make friends by telling people they’re wrong.
              Jerry: You’re wrong!

              But seriously, Dawkins has a slightly larger audience than i do, PLUS, and this is also an answer to J.J.E., I target a very specific (and very small) group, and I don’t think that has come across clearly. To be sure, I LOVE a good debate with decently serious YECs, and I have no problem recommending books that openly and fiercely challenge their ideas! However, what I’m looking for is a VERY basic book that explains the very basics of evolution to people who say things like “I can’t believe that we got here all by chance”, “why are there still monkeys”.. etc, you know, the arguments that even Ken Ham at Answers in Genesis tells his readers not to use! I don’t mind questioning their beliefs openly and in discussion with them, but only AFTER they at LEAST have a rudimentary clue as to what we are talking about. And UNTIL they have that basic knowledge, I don’t want to (prematurely) start a discussion on a creator, design and scripture. THAT’s all.

            • Posted August 12, 2010 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

              So you want a very specialized sort of book. WEIT isn’t that kind of book. Don’t you think it would have been a waste to try to make it that kind of book? It reached and is reaching a big audience, without anxious omission of that one sentence. Someone else can write the kind of book you’re looking for.

            • Posted August 12, 2010 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

              Jack, I can’t speak for others, but I grew up both religious and pretty knowledgeable about science, the age of the earth, evolution, etc. My opinion on evolution had been, “Who am I to question how God chooses to make things?” It was books like WEIT and other “you’re wrong” books that made me realize that there was a real conflict between science and religious thought.

              As others have pointed out, the short-term result is uncomfortable cognitive dissonance. You’re right that many people may respond by ceasing all further inquiry, but I can’t imagine that I’m alone in being the type who would rather find a real resolution.

            • Ichthyic
              Posted August 12, 2010 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

              Me: You don’t make friends by telling people they’re wrong.
              Jerry: You’re wrong!

              Interestingly, if we don’t tell you you are wrong in your assumptions here, would you actually go and write the book you want yourself?

              or are you REALLY looking for exactly that: the rest of us who have our own experiences with creationists to indeed tell you:

              You’re wrong.

          • Ichthyic
            Posted August 12, 2010 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

            You will have to let them make that discovery themselves.

            If that were really the case, creationism wouldn’t exist in the first place.

            No, you have to point out to someone they are wrong before they even bother to start considering whether they are or not.

            • Posted August 13, 2010 at 7:35 am | Permalink

              Unusual for me, as I avoid YECers, (as they disgust me, there they are, privileged members of the wealthiest country in the world, benefiting from its science/evidence based achievements like the leeches they are, and they insist on believing this garbage), I wrangled with a few at Pharyngula, and the astonishing bit of info that I walked away with, is that wrong or right is not important, what is important is that it feels right to them, they don’t care if it does not feel right for others.

              These jerks need to have the reality that sometimes there is a right side–a right side based on evidence shoved in their faces–and shoved in their faces consistently, and that such recognition of fact is necessary for our societies to progress.

              If they can’t get with the program, they and their kids will be left behind. American YECers deserve no consideration. Most of them will die being the fools that they are, the dangerous fools that they are. America will progress only if their inability to recognize fact from fantasy is not tolerated.

          • Posted August 13, 2010 at 7:20 am | Permalink

            Jack: My point was that if a person is offended if you acknowledge what their beliefs are, then I am not really sure what progress can be made to change their mind.

            If you believe X, and I want to convince you of Y (which contradicts X), how can I do that without even mentioning X?

            • Jack van Beverningk
              Posted August 13, 2010 at 10:21 am | Permalink

              “I am not really sure what progress can be made”

              Me neither! Not even IF progress can be made. But for some reason that doesn’t seem to stop me from wanting to try anyway. Call me Don Quixote!

    • Deepak Shetty
      Posted August 12, 2010 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

      Don’t most college level textbooks have information about evolution without the creationist-bashing (I dont know since I haven’t schooled in the states)?

      “creationists are not going to like it. And NOT because they don’t like the presented evidence.”
      Believe this if you wish. Someone who cared about evidence would be able to ignore mild jabs.

      • Kirth Gersen
        Posted August 12, 2010 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

        “Don’t most college level textbooks have information about evolution without the creationist-bashing?”

        The point is that information about evolution is, in and of itselfm, counter to the teachings of YEC and hence “creationist-bashing.” Because the definition of “bashing” seems to be “refusing to wholeheartedly accept.”

        • Deepak Shetty
          Posted August 12, 2010 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

          In general , yes I agree.

          The posters request seemed to imply that if the popular evolution books just kept away from the jabs , some creationists would start understanding evolution – I suspect we shall see that this is not the case :).

      • Jack van Beverningk
        Posted August 12, 2010 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

        Text books: good point! I just ordered Ken Miller’s text book: I heard it’s quite good. Will see.
        (Bought a 2nd hand 2003 edition, why on earth are text books here in the States so incredibly and insanely expensive?)

        • Deepak Shetty
          Posted August 12, 2010 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

          “why on earth are text books here in the States so incredibly and insanely expensive?”
          Beats me!. we were lucky , we used to get something called Low price editions of the same books in India (though the print quality was really bad)
          In any case all the best, though I doubt most of us will be holding our breath to see if the creationists see reason.

          • Jack van Beverningk
            Posted August 12, 2010 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

            I USED to get some really good text books (computer science) in the Netherlands, fairly cheaply, by well known American authors, that had, in big print, on the cover the text “CANNOT BE SOLD IN THE USA” …
            SOUNDS like someone is making BIG money off of these text books in the states and it probably aren’t the authors!

            • MJ
              Posted August 12, 2010 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

              Yep, that’s the schtick. Publish a new edition every two years, so the students can’t just buy used copies. Package it with unnecessary software, and charge double. And make the software only usable to the original registrant, so even if you can’t produce a new edition, the students still can’t buy the old one. Then, PROFIT!!!

            • Deepak Shetty
              Posted August 12, 2010 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

              Yep. The message for us was “Cannot be EXPORTED to the USA”. All legal I think.

    • Eric MacDonald
      Posted August 12, 2010 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

      How on earth can a book on the basics of evolution not mention creationism? After all, just recall the history. Evolution itself was posed against the background of a general belief in creation. On the Origin of Species was at least partly Darwin’s response to Paley. How could it not be?

      The real problem, though, I think, is one of intelligibility. Modern physics (and its implications) is almost unintelligible to the lay person. Even an understanding of Newtonian mechanics requires competence with some fairly complex mathematics. Since most religious believers don’t have such competence, modern physics is simply a datum with which all of us “work”, even the religious, although it causes as many problems for belief as evolution, if the truth were told.

      But biology is different. It’s personal. Saying that all life is interrelated is one thing. Saying that human beings — those privileged entities for which the whole cosmic show has been put on — are descended from more primitive forms of life: that’s a problem, right up close and personal. And while most people don’t understand the biological theory of evolution, the problem that it poses for belief is easily comprehended. Celestial mechanics? Hey, that’s not immediate and personal, and makes the believer’s god awesome, especially since you have to be very bright to understand it all. But our biology is really personal. So, without understanding, people will reject evolution, something you can’t do with cosmology.

      Besides you can look up at the night sky. You know even better than Pascal something of the vastness of space. But me? Myself? That’s another story. And remember, for a religious person, that person, me, myself, is in an immediate relationship with the god who made the whole show and made it just for me. So, even if it were, per impossibile, not mentioned, the statement of the theory of evolution would still have the very same effect on the religious, and cause a purely visceral repugnance in response.

      Remember how Sagan used to try to impress upon people the absurdity of claiming that the whole universe was created just for a few organisms crawling on a pale blue dot? Just doesn’t have the same impact as suggesting that we evolved from bacteria. That’s why evolution will always be a problem for simple religious belief (and most religious belief is dead simple). So biologists will always have to defend their turf against the barbarians (and religious believers are only a stone’s throw away).

      • Jack van Beverningk
        Posted August 12, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

        “On the Origin of Species was at least partly Darwin’s response to Paley” .. Yes, IMPLICITLY! And that was my point! Darwin did NOT add a chapter in which he told poor Paley how incredibly dumb and stupid that whole watch-in-the-forest story was.
        All I’m looking for is a book that explains basic things like gene mutations, natural selection, good examples of selection pressure, an overview of the evidence (much a la WEIT, but briefer), etc. JUST an intro. And ALL that without pointing out that the view of creationism is silly! If that’s IMPLICIT from the text, that’s fine, but for it to have ANY effect, the readers should figure that out by themselves.

        • Eric MacDonald
          Posted August 12, 2010 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

          But it wasn’t just implicit in The Origin. Darwin was very explicit. Time and again (52 times in all) Darwin speaks about ‘special acts of creation’, or the ‘theory of creation’, or the ‘doctrine of creation’. Evolution is an answer to a question that had been asked again and again throughout history. Empedocles was perhaps the first to have suggested it. And it was always an alternative to a supernatural act whereby a transcendent being brought life into being.

          In his Dialogues David Hume comes very close to expressing the theory, but laments that there simply isn’t enough evidence to go on, and sets it aside.

          Listen to what he says:

          To say that all this order in animals and vegetables proceeds ultimately from design is begging the question; nor can that great point be ascertained otherwise than by proving a priori, both that order is, from its nature, inseparably attached to thought, and that it can never, of itself, or from original unknown principles, belong to matter.

          Note the importance of those final words about original unknown principles. This is what Darwin provided: the stochastic mechanism by which design itself is derived from matter. But this is the question which, historically, was being asked, and for which, until Darwin (and Wallace) happened upon the answer, there had been no answer (though Hume came so agonisingly close).

          One of the problems, of course, is that it is difficult to set up an experimental situation where this can be observed by students in a lab. That’s why so much time must be spent discussing the mechanism and how that mechanism works over huge measures of time.

          (Although, at the rate superbugs are evolving, kids will have evidence in their bodies pretty soon, if we don’t come up with ways to foil the process. In fact, in my view, one of the reasons that Darwin lost all faith in a god had to do with the fact that his daughter Anne, in a tragic way, was simply selected out. After that he walked his family to the door of the church of a Sunday, but did not enter himself. These things have immediate application to religious questions. It is simply silly to suggest that they don’t, and can seen apart from them. Cosmology is distant, sometimes by billions of light years. Biology is as close as our bodies. It can’t simply be expressed without the implications. The history is a part of the story. How come we didn’t know? Well, thereby hangs a very important tale, and it’s part of the science too.)

          • whyevolutionistrue
            Posted August 12, 2010 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

            Yes, I posted something like this above without seeing this. Darwin’s Origin changed more minds about evolution than any other piece of writing, and yet it lambastes creationism over and over again. And biologists were ALL creationists then! So it’s simply wrong to insist that a more explicit critique is ineffective.

            • Jack van Beverningk
              Posted August 12, 2010 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

              I’d like to assume that Darwin’s changing of many minds had more to do with the excellence of his arguments, facts and data, than with him lambasting creationists.
              ~I~ think it’s simply wrong to suggest that since there IS ‘lambasting of creationists’ in the origin AND the Origin changed many minds, that THUS more lambasting of creationists will lead to changing more minds. That’s just sloppy logic .. but I think we’re drifting a bit off course here. ;-)

            • articulett
              Posted August 12, 2010 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

              Yes, you ARE drifting off course… because Jerry didn’t “lambaste” any “creationists”. He made an observation and a creationist found it “jerkish”. Creationists find anything that makes them feel defensive about their god, “jerkish”.

              Unfortunately, most of the facts about reality are not very supportive of the creationist view of god.

            • Eric MacDonald
              Posted August 12, 2010 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

              Ah, well, I don’t think Darwin lambastes anyone, but he does present a very reasoned case against the acceptance of creationism as the means by which life as we know it came to be. Nor, by the way, could it be suggested, reasonably, that either Professor Coyne, in WEIT, or Professor Dawkins, in TGSOE, lambastes creationists. Both are reasoned, and both give good reasons why creationism is simply not an option. If the religious find this kind of thing objectionable, then there is simply no hope for them at all.

            • Posted August 13, 2010 at 12:54 am | Permalink

              Reality has a well known antireligious bias. Some people aren’t ready for it.

            • Jack van Beverningk
              Posted August 13, 2010 at 10:25 am | Permalink

              Articulett: “Yes, you ARE drifting off course… because Jerry didn’t “lambaste” any “creationists”.”

              To drift even further off course, I NEVER said that Jerry lambasted anyone. This was about DARWIN ‘lambasting’ creationists in the Origin, and it was Jerry who brought that up, not me.

            • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
              Posted August 13, 2010 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

              that THUS more lambasting of creationists will lead to changing more minds.

              Yes, that is off course, because you started out complaining that there was “the slightest hint of creationism-bashing (because, that’s where they would stop reading.”

              Obviously it didn’t stop “staunch creationists” reading!

          • Posted August 12, 2010 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

            Great comment, Eric. A little education in itself.

            • Posted August 12, 2010 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

              (The longer one, I meant; the 3:07. Paley and Hume.)

          • Ichthyic
            Posted August 12, 2010 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

            I’d like to assume that Darwin’s changing of many minds had more to do with the excellence of his arguments

            …and that’s your PROBLEM, Jack.

            You’re blinded by your own assumptions.

            Even to the point of imagining how Origins was written, instead of how it actually was.

            I’m a little concerned for you at this point.

            • Jack van Beverningk
              Posted August 13, 2010 at 10:08 am | Permalink

              Your concern has been noted and is appreciated. Even though I’m at a complete loss as to what you’re trying to imply here:
              I’m blinded by my assumptions? I only stated ONE assumption: is that the one you object to (and therefore I’m supposed to be” blinded” by it?), and if so, what IS your objection? This feels a bit like arguing just for the sake of arguing.

            • Ichthyic
              Posted August 13, 2010 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

              I’m blinded by my assumptions?

              yes.

              you assume the following without support:

              1. That Origins is less offensive to creationists that WEIT is.

              2. That creationists would be more ammenable to evidentiary argument if there were no direct attacks on creationism.

              both provably wrong assumptions, that you have been basing your entire argument on.

        • tomh
          Posted August 12, 2010 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

          Jack van Beverningk wrote:

          “On the Origin of Species was at least partly Darwin’s response to Paley” .. Yes, IMPLICITLY! And that was my point! Darwin did NOT add a chapter in which he told poor Paley how incredibly dumb and stupid that whole watch-in-the-forest story was.

          And do Coyne or Dawkins have chapters where they explicitly say that creationism is incredibly dumb and stupid? Perhaps you could point out where those chapters are.

          • Eric MacDonald
            Posted August 12, 2010 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

            Well, Dawkins, with good reason, suggests that creationists are like Holocaust deniers. I suppose that is saying something to the effect that this is just plain stupid, as it surely is.

            To deny the evidence, and persist in holding beliefs based on the details of writings that are now over three thousand years old, is stupid. It really really is. It is on a par with suggesting that the sun revolves around the earth, and if any of the fundamentalists were seriously to entertain that suggestion, they would be laughed off the scene. It really is preposterous that we are having this conversation, and yet we are having it with all the earnestness that we invoke in matters of great moment. What is the matter with this picture?

            • Michael Kingsford Gray
              Posted August 13, 2010 at 3:24 am | Permalink

              “Dawkins, … suggests that creationists are like Holocaust deniers”

              *History* Deniers, I think you’ll find.

            • Posted August 13, 2010 at 3:34 am | Permalink

              I think it was history deniers in The Ancestors’ Tale and Holocaust deniers in TGSOE. The latter are just the nastiest variety of the former.

            • Eric MacDonald
              Posted August 13, 2010 at 7:47 am | Permalink

              See page 4, of TGSOE, where he remarks that, unlike his imagined Rome deniers (p. 3), “Holocaust deniers really exist.”

        • PZ Myers
          Posted August 13, 2010 at 11:43 am | Permalink

          One little exercise I give my students is to hand them a photocopy of the pages on the complexity of the eye from Paley, and also give them the section from the Origin on eye evolution.

          It’s not merely implicit. Darwin wrote a direct rebuttal of Paley’s ideas. Any of his contemporaries would have seen it instantly — Darwin was specifically addressing the creationist notions of his day, just as Coyne is doing in WEIT.

          You MUST address student misconceptions. You may think you’re doing them a favor by not confonting them with the conflicts, but you’re not. The smart ones will think you’re avoiding problems with evolution, while the dumb ones will interpret your evasion as confirmation.

    • MadScientist
      Posted August 12, 2010 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

      Teachers of biology *always* run into the creatards in the classes and they simply refuse to disappear. I don’t see how it’s possible to write a book on evolution without addressing many of the lame things you know the creatards will say.

      • Norm
        Posted August 12, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

        Exactly. And if you don’t address them, creationists will claim victory by default, but if you do address them, they’ll claim that you’re delving into theology and that therefore, evolutionary science must in some way be a religious belief.

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted August 12, 2010 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

      p.s. You realize, don’t you, that The Origin is FILLED with explicit criticisms of creationism? It has a lot more anticreationist stuff, I think, than my own book. I can supply tons of examples, but I give some in WEIT.

      • Jack van Beverningk
        Posted August 12, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

        I have NO problem, whatsoever, with books on evolution that also attack, fiercely, creationism.
        I JUST don’t want it in my book in which I’m teaching people how to spell the damned word.

        And I’m NOT going to point out that Darwin’s “lambasting” is far easier to take by creationists than, say, a Christopher Hitchen’s critique, since then we’re getting in the HOT water of ‘tone’.
        NOT going there! Not touching it with a ten feet pole!

        • Posted August 12, 2010 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

          You could simply use a dictionary to teach people how to spell the word. And I agree if that’s as far as you’re willing to go, a dictionary will likely offend fewer creationists.

          • Jack van Beverningk
            Posted August 13, 2010 at 10:27 am | Permalink

            Psst .. that about ‘spelling’ … that was a bit tongue-in-cheek.

        • Ichthyic
          Posted August 12, 2010 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

          I have NO problem, whatsoever, with books on evolution that also attack, fiercely, creationism.
          I JUST don’t want it in my book in which I’m teaching people how to spell the damned word.

          first, you need to acknowledge, then, that your description of Origins itself was way off base.

          then, I highly suggest you stop backpeddaling before you break an ankle or something.

        • Josh Slocum
          Posted August 13, 2010 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

          Jack, what is wrong with you? Why do you suppose Coyne or anyone should care what you want in “YOUR” book? Coyne’s WEIT is not your book, it’s his. As others have said, you’re really going off the rails. Write your own book to fit your tastes, but for the love of Pete please shut up about WEIT.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted August 12, 2010 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

      Sounds to me like you want a regular text book instead of an intro book. Uninspiring, general, weary, not updated but at least first the history including creationism, when the modern science out of that.

      In that way the inherent criticism tend to be subdued. As well as the rest…

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted August 12, 2010 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

        Seeing some of the comments, “text book” and “intro book” is my descriptions. I have no idea how for example WEIT treats the subject, nor do I know how to write books for creationist country…

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted August 12, 2010 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

        And somehow I missed that text books were already mentioned. Excuses to Deepak Shetty.

        • Deepak Shetty
          Posted August 12, 2010 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

          ha ha. great minds and all that :)

    • Ken Pidcock
      Posted August 12, 2010 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

      How about Ernst Mayr’s What Evolution Is? It’s been awhile since I read it, but I recall that the author was pretty meticulous about avoiding confrontation. Unfortunately (?), as everyone else has said, it’s near impossible to explain evolutionary theory without contrasting it with other explanations for biological diversity, and thereby to avoid revealing creationism as wrong.

    • ckitching
      Posted August 12, 2010 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

      Well, I’m not sure it’s a great book, or terribly accurate, but Micheal Dowd is positively ecstatic about evolution from his theological standpoint, and has written a book on it. He may have written in the tone you’d like, though. I can’t really give any opinion on it, though.

      I think it may not matter what you choose, though. Even a statement of raw fact (like the correctly estimated age of the earth) is likely to be incredibly offensive to a YEC.

      • Ichthyic
        Posted August 12, 2010 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

        I think it may not matter what you choose, though. Even a statement of raw fact (like the correctly estimated age of the earth) is likely to be incredibly offensive to a YEC.

        …and you’d be exactly correct.

        • Kirth Gersen
          Posted August 13, 2010 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

          Exactly what I’ve been saying. Most of the facts, absent interpretation, much less “lambasting,” are offensive to creationists.

          Much like France is now starting to require bikini tops on many previously-optional beaches because Muslims are claiming that the simple fact of existence of these beaches “is an offense to Islam.” And we certainly wouldn’t want to offend anyone now, would we?

      • Mutating Replicator
        Posted August 12, 2010 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

        Dowd’s book basically explains why it’s impossible for any thinking person to deny the evolutionary origins of life, and then goes off into some weird new theology where evolution provides some kind of spiritual inspiration. His take on Christianity seems to be, “Oops, sorry about all that archaic original sin and substitutionary atonement stuff, here’s what we should make Christianity mean now that we’re all enlightened.”

      • llewelly
        Posted August 13, 2010 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

        ckitching August 12, 2010 at 5:08 pm :

        Well, I’m not sure it’s a great book, or terribly accurate, but Micheal Dowd is positively ecstatic about evolution from his theological standpoint, and has written a book on it. He may have written in the tone you’d like, though

        For Jack van Beverningk, the trouble with Micheal Dowd would be that Micheal Dowd is positively ecstatic about PZ’s free use of insulting words and phrases, about Dawkins’ direct dismantlings of arguments in favor of god, and about the Gnu Atheist stance in general. Dowd thinks the vigorous tactics of the Gnu Atheists are the best way to revitalize Christian thinking, and to get Christians to abandon aspects of their religion that have been clearly obsoleted by science. Dowd loves what Beverningk fears.

  17. Norm
    Posted August 12, 2010 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Of course, if you do make an argument along the lines of “God wouldn’t have done it that way”, you get folks like Cornelius Hunter shouting “metaphysics! metaphysics!” at you. Despite the fact that the only reason for making such arguments in the first place is to counter the creationist claim of “ooh look how complex it all is – God must have done it!” They’ll have their cake and eat it too if you don’t mind!

    • Posted August 12, 2010 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      That’s the thing though, the quote passage doesn’t even make that argument. It merely says, “If God did it, he must have done it this way.” It doesn’t go on to say “…and that’s stupid.” It very well could, but it doesn’t.

      If ID-ists are offended by that statement, it is they who are passing judgment on themselves.

  18. Posted August 12, 2010 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    If you believe that the world and its life was created ex nihilo by God, how can you explain why thousands of biologists have, after looking at the evidence, concluded otherwise?

    There’s a thing about this, and about the reaction. It’s related to the widespread disdain even among atheists for non-default atheists – for atheists who think it matters and makes a difference. The idea behind both seems to be that we should all just close our eyes and swallow the medicine and not think about it. So organisms look as if they have evolved; so what; just accept the facts, whatever they may be, and carry on. Don’t worry about it. Don’t ask questions. Just get on with your life.

    But that’s just wrong. You can’t just assume that the god you think exists is exactly the kind of god you want and not any other kind. You can’t just shut your eyes and hold your breath and ignore everything that doesn’t fit. You could be jumping into someone’s soup pot if you do that. “It’s a cookbook!”

    • GrueBleen
      Posted August 12, 2010 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

      Cute reference to The Twilight Zone there, Ophelia. (Just thought I’d mention that in case lots of others didn’t quite get it.)

      • Posted August 13, 2010 at 10:47 am | Permalink

        :- )

      • llewelly
        Posted August 13, 2010 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

        And here I thought it was a reference to C.S. Lewis’s The Silver Chair. And I was admiring the irony.

        • GrueBleen
          Posted August 13, 2010 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

          Not only, perhaps, but also ?

          However, widespread as the urge to serve man appears to be, I took it that Ophelia is much too serious to be wasting her time on gentle giants and green serpent ladies.

          Unless, perhaps, she’s been doing a bit of Zhuangzi dreaming ?

  19. Hempenstein
    Posted August 12, 2010 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Curious why someone with a mindset like that would be taking an evolution course.

    And too bad it’s a summer school course – if it was in the regular term, she’d be around the other 95% for perhaps a time sufficient for her views to begin to fracture from peer pressure. After all, she can only think the way she does from having been surrounded by the adamantly ignorant.

    It’s still not impossible that someday you’ll get a message that starts, “Hey, I once thought you were an asshole…”

    • Posted August 12, 2010 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

      My fundie sister recently took her degree in psychology, phi beta kappa, at one of New York’s fine state universities. She came through her liberal arts baccalaureate program with her beliefs unscathed. “Oh, I aced my Biology final,” she told me. “I knew how to spit out just what they wanted to hear, and I knew how false and misleading it all was, too.” She is proud of the strength of her faith and of her refusal to be duped by sly, atheist professors. Talk about holding two sets of contrary ideas in one’s head at the same time…

      • Hempenstein
        Posted August 12, 2010 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

        You’re brave to admit being related to someone like that.

        You might congratulate your sister for helping the unemployment problem. When she returns a blank ??, tell her that without people operating on principles like hers, there would be a lot of unemployed divorce lawyers.

        • Posted August 12, 2010 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

          Yes, Hempenstein, it’s tough stuff. On top of that, my sisters and I were never indoctrinated in and belief system. Our mother, now 91, is a steadfast atheist–and HER father was an admirer of Robert B. Ingersoll.

          This issue came up for my sister and me in connection with Sarah Palin, whom, in fact, she detests.

          I had written to her:

          “Anyone who is in deliberate denial of basic and consequential facts should not be a leader. That’s obvious. Should we elect someone who says she is sure the earth is flat? The essential issue is that biblical creation is a bronze-age myth based on, and adapted from, earlier myths. There are, of course, many creation myths. There is not one fact to support any of these myths. In stark contrast, evolution is incontrovertibly a fact (just like the fact of gravity and like the fact that germs, and not demons, cause illness). What’s more, the exhaustively established facts of common descent and change over time constitute a bedrock that underlies all of modern biology, medicine, botany, archeology, and anthropology, not to mention their many other tangential influences. Anyone who will not, or cannot, recognize this huge fact is a blinkered and dangerously deluded fool who does not know how to distinguish truth from falsehood.”

          Her reply:

          “USB’s main goal is to be sure no one leaves that room at the end of the semester believing in creation. I aced it, as I did everything else in that university, but I didn’t believe much of what I read. It was filled with big fat gaping holes. This is why I didn’t want to debate this: I knew you’d get ugly. Seriously, I believe you are a deluded fool as well. A blind atheist. So where do we go from here? Why did you insist on debating this when I said I didn’t want to? You know we’ll never agree, so why? Because an attack dog bent on putting others down can’t change his nature. I have nothing more to say to you. Don’t email me back, please.”

          I haven’t.

          • articulett
            Posted August 12, 2010 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

            The truth isn’t afraid of inquiry. Her god is.

            I think she’s afraid that if she questions god, she could end up suffering forever.

            Religious memes make people pitiful.

            • Posted August 12, 2010 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

              Yes, and more to the point, a good education simply cannot reach these people.

      • Ken Pidcock
        Posted August 12, 2010 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

        Your story is a good reminder that most students who reject what we teach never reveal it. And, while there is no reason to offer special deference to those who do, it’s worth acknowledging their engagement as positive in itself.

  20. Andy
    Posted August 12, 2010 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    People use the word “civility” when what they really mean is “deference.”

    • articulett
      Posted August 12, 2010 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

      Yes, even if you don’t believe in god, believers what you to act as if you find “faith” laudable rather than laughable.

  21. MadScientist
    Posted August 12, 2010 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    I didn’t even think that statement of yours was a joke; after all one of McReedy-Price’s excuses was pretty much the same thing – gawd made the fossils like that to test peoples’ faith.

    For the god botherers, “uncivil” means you don’t agree with their nonsense. They’ll call you uncivil for saying you don’t believe there is a god (you don’t even have to attempt to convince them there isn’t one, just say it’s your private belief) and you are instantly branded as uncivil, evil, and so on. Nor do the envangelical ones consider themselves uncivil while telling everyone else they’re going to hell – oh no, they’re “saving” those people. It’s very much like Jon Stewart’s recent piece on Newt Gingrich – what’s important is that people listen to what he says and obey; what he actually believes and how he acts does not matter at all. It’s an Irving Kristol philosophy (well, it’s older than Kristol, but he’s one of the big names in 2-facedness in the past century). It is also the basic philosophy of anyone who buys into ‘framing’ (something which we oldtimers simply called lying).

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted August 12, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

      Nor do the envangelical ones consider themselves uncivil while telling everyone else they’re going to hell … – what’s important is that people listen to what he says and obey; what he actually believes and how he acts does not matter at all. …. It is also the basic philosophy of anyone who buys into ‘framing’ (something which we oldtimers simply called lying).

      Suits; the accommodationists do not consider themselves uncivil while telling everyone else to shut up.

      I just figured out how this relates to postmodernists – what’s important is that people listen to what he says. Still lying, just not interested in that you buy into the result, just that you buy it (on the market).

  22. Chris
    Posted August 12, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    How are these people going to be able to battle power of the Devil if they can’t even stand up to an incredibly mild joke?

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted August 12, 2010 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

      Obviously you haven’t seen Pope Robochair the Transformer action figure. It flies on feather wings and propels pedophiles among the unholy.

  23. Reinard
    Posted August 12, 2010 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    I notice she didn’t say that you were wrong, just that you hurt her feelings. That is very telling.

    • Tulse
      Posted August 12, 2010 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

      But truth doesn’t matter. Scientific “truth” is just all relative, and so on par with religious truth. The religious have (rather oddly) all become post-modern relativists.

  24. steve oberski
    Posted August 12, 2010 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Christopher Hitchens talks about the tendency of the believer to blindly accept the dogma of their cult without even knowing what it is.

    One of his examples is the number Catholics who conflate the virgin birth and the immaculate conception.

    This course on evolution using WEIT may be the first time the girl realized the implications of creationism.

    It sounds like she was more embarrassed than anything else at the intellectual paucity of her belief system.

    And who knows, perhaps it got her thinking rationally for the first time in her life.

    • Michael Kingsford Gray
      Posted August 13, 2010 at 3:32 am | Permalink

      Quite!
      A mental infant kicking up an exaggerated tantrum after feeling *rightly* embarrassed and self-belittled, knowing (deep down) that they are wrong, but will lose face if they admit it.
      Especially if they are forced to admit it to themselves.

  25. Posted August 12, 2010 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Science as a way of knowing has been extremely successful, although people may not like all the changes science and its handmaiden, technology, have wrought. But people who oppose evolution, and seek to have creationism or intelligent design included in science curricula, seek to dismiss and change the most successful way of knowing ever discovered. They wish to substitute opinion and belief for evidence and testing. The proponents of creationism/intelligent design promote scientific ignorance in the guise of learning. As professional scientists and educators, we strongly assert that such efforts are both misguided and flawed, presenting an incorrect view of science, its understandings, and its processes.
    From the Botanical Society of America’s statement on evolution
    July 27, 2003

  26. Posted August 12, 2010 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    Meh. I usually get called worse for not giving “partial credit” to the student who writes “d/dx (e^x) = x*e^(x-1)” on their calculus exam.
    (and THAT is from the student’s faculty adviser) :)

  27. Posted August 12, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    “If a designer did have discernible motives when creating species, one of them must surely have been to fool biologists by making organisms look as though they evolved.”

    I don’t see this as being insulting, it’s a genuine problem creationists have to deal with. They have to explain why it looks evolved, if they don’t they don’t have an explanation (they don’t have an explanation anyway, but still)

    • Jack van Beverningk
      Posted August 12, 2010 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

      To many creationists, ESPECIALLY YECs, this is indeed not insulting at all; in fact they would clap their hands in glee upon reading these sentences and nod enthusiastically! YES! That’s EXACTLY what God did! HE gave it the appearance of evolution! There IS no problem to deal with!

      But creationists come in great varieties and the marginally smarter ones will see it EXACTLY like Jerry meant it: as a, no matter how mild and superficial, mocking of their creator. And while you and I may be slightly amused by it, I can DEFINITELY see why some people would be insulted by it. I think they shouldn’t, but that’s besides the point.

      • Wowbagger
        Posted August 12, 2010 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

        YES! That’s EXACTLY what God did! HE gave it the appearance of evolution! There IS no problem to deal with!

        Except that that makes their God a demonstrable liar, and allows us the rhetorical high ground – we can point out that if he’s lying about that, how on earth can they know that he isn’t lying about everything else they believe him to have told them?

        • Posted August 13, 2010 at 3:38 am | Permalink

          Yep, that’s it exactly. The argument has God trying to deceive people, perhaps to weed out those with weak faith. This is actually a fairly common religious position.

          A reasonable answer, of course, is “How do you know that God isn’t lying about other things, too? Why should we trust such a lying character at all?”

        • Jack van Beverningk
          Posted August 13, 2010 at 10:32 am | Permalink

          Isn’t arguing that God is a liar or generally a very bad being, admitting that he exists?
          I think pointing out God’s flaws is a losing strategy when your aim is argue that there IS no God.

          • Notagod
            Posted August 13, 2010 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

            Not really but, I try to avoid the christian misconception anyway by being specific about the christian gods or the christian god-ideas.

            Christians have no consistent morals or ethics because lying, murder, anything for jebus is paramount.

          • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
            Posted August 13, 2010 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

            Not really, because when you have rejected one specific god explicitly, and can go on and mention all the ones what a religionista rejects implicitly.

            It is but a part of a reductio ad absurdum. (And what an “absurdum” it is!)

      • Michael Kingsford Gray
        Posted August 13, 2010 at 3:36 am | Permalink

        I take it that you can see that they would be insulted by facts, in no way means that they have the right to not be insulted by facts?

        You seem to be wavering on this point.

      • Posted August 13, 2010 at 7:30 am | Permalink

        Jack, could you tell me exactly how someone can address the fact that natural selection gives the appearance of design without mentioning the appearance of design?

        And if you think that that point should not even be addressed, then I don’t understand how you think you are going to convince someone whose logic is, “Ah yes, but these living things are so obviously designed. You can tell just by looking at them!”

        Remember, one of the big IDist memes is “microevolution yes, macroevolution no.” They are accepting the basic idea that mutation and natural selection operate to cause changes in organisms over time, but they are rejecting the idea that it could ever create the appearance of design. If you don’t address the appearance of design, then how will you ever defeat this meme?

        I think Ken Miller’s book will be more what you are looking for, but I’m sure you will still find passages that, well, spell out a creationist idea as wrong. It’s pretty much unavoidable.

        It would be like if I was writing a book laying out the case against carbon emissions, except you didn’t want me to mention global temperature for fear of offending the AGW deniers.

  28. articulett
    Posted August 12, 2010 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    I find the complaining students to be assholes– plus the quoted student’s comments were unnecessary. :)

    Face it, creotards are indoctrinated to think “arrogant asshole” whenever they get a whiff of someone challenging their precious beliefs. They’d much rather see the scientists as “assholes” than wonder whether their clergymen might not be as trustworthy as presumed.

    In their mind, they think they are “defending god”– forgetting that an omnipotent being would scarcely need such support.

    • Jack van Beverningk
      Posted August 12, 2010 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

      “creotards are indoctrinated to think “arrogant asshole””

      Aren’t we JUST a tad generalizing here?

      • Patrick
        Posted August 12, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

        Eh, partially. The casting of scientists as arrogant is one of the more common defense mechanisms of creationist ideology.

      • articulett
        Posted August 12, 2010 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

        Do you know a vocal creotionist who doesn’t think evolutionary biologists are arrogant? Have you read the Wedge document?

        • Mutating Replicator
          Posted August 12, 2010 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

          The ones I know chalk it up more to the devil’s work, sad ignorance of unbelief, or an unwillingness to recognize God’s creation work, or some combination of the three.

          • Ichthyic
            Posted August 12, 2010 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

            …a complete projection of their own ignorance, IOW.

            projection and denial, the creationist M.O.

    • Ken Pidcock
      Posted August 12, 2010 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

      Keep in mind that we’re talking about young students here, who are not willfully fraudulent. They are victims of a delusion, not creotards.

      • articulett
        Posted August 12, 2010 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

        Yes. Their indoctrinators were creotards.

        At the beginning of the year I have my students think of things that the smartest person could not know a hundred years ago, that most people know now thanks to science. And I ask them to list technology they have that their grandparents would have thought miraculous.

        I tell them that discoveries in science will allow them to learn things their parents couldn’t know when they were growing up and how we have technology that even the richest people in the past could not have.

        We talk about the things people used to believe that they no longer believe because of science (flat earth, geocentrism, demons cause disease, etc.) and that the cool thing about science is that once someone figures something out, everyone can use that information (think: medicine)and maybe one one of them will figure something out that will extend the knowledge of humanity.

        This sets up the idea that their thinking will go BEYOND their parents. (I also joke that their kids will find all their technology, music, clothing etc. “old school”) and have even more access to scientific advancements than they will.

  29. Posted August 12, 2010 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    Isn’t the teacher, and by extension Jerry, just “Teaching the Controversy,” which is what they (creationists) want? It sounds like the teacher did exactly that, and in much the right way.

    Of course, the “Controversy” is that creationism is still considered legitimate by people in the 21st century ;)

  30. Paisley
    Posted August 12, 2010 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    Jerry: “If you believe that the world and its life was created ex nihilo by God, how can you explain why thousands of biologists have, after looking at the evidence, concluded otherwise?

    What relevance does biological evolution have with the creation of the universe ex nihilo? (By the way, both Quentin Smith and Lawrence Krauss argued that the universe emerged ex nihilo.)

    Also, I wasn’t aware that Darwinian evolution accounts for abiogenesis.

    • steve oberski
      Posted August 12, 2010 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

      Most, if not all, people who believe life was created* by god also believe that the universe had the same manufacturer.

      * usually pretty much in it’s present form, although there appears to be a “micro-evolution” camp that admits to small evolutionary changes within species

      • Paisley
        Posted August 12, 2010 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

        It doesn’t help your cause when prominent atheists (e.g. philospher Quentin Smith and physicist Lawrence Krauss) are invoking the theological doctrine of “ex nihilo” to account for the ‘emergence’ of the universe.

        • Ichthyic
          Posted August 12, 2010 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

          It doesn’t help your cause

          what cause is that?

          By the way, both Quentin Smith and Lawrence Krauss argued that the universe emerged ex nihilo.

          yeah, so?

          http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn16095-its-confirmed-matter-is-merely-vacuum-fluctuations.html

          I think you don’t understand what that means.

          • Paisley
            Posted August 12, 2010 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

            What cause? The promotion of atheistic or scientific materialism

            And I do understand what quantum events mean. They mean that physical events are occurring without physical cause. (I fail to see how that supports the materialistic worldview, which is a strictly mechanistic one.)

            • Ichthyic
              Posted August 12, 2010 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

              What cause? The promotion of atheistic or scientific materialism

              it doesn’t relate.

            • Ichthyic
              Posted August 12, 2010 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

              I fail to see how that supports the materialistic worldview

              it literally IS something from nothing.

              with no input, or need of, any supernatural input to explain it.

              And I do understand what quantum events mean.

              no, you don’t, obviously.

        • steve oberski
          Posted August 12, 2010 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

          I knew I shouldn’t have fed the troll.

          • articulett
            Posted August 12, 2010 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

            I’ve come to the same conclusion. I should have known from the philosophy post… Paisley came from Massimo’s site, and I couldn’t understand him there either. (Paisley is a “he” I’ve learned, and I’m a “she”, for the record.)

            Since I understand everyone else posting here as well as peer reviewed science articles, I figured the problem in communication was Paisley and not me… typical “Dunning-Kruger”– probably due to indoctrination.

            Creationists seem to think they understand evolution better than those who might actually give them a clue.

            (So, Jack… suppose your students were like Paisley? Do you think all mind pabulum in the world would give them a clue? I’ve yet to see the evidence of such a thing.)

    • articulett
      Posted August 12, 2010 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

      I think you’re confused. Creationism states that everything poofed into existence as is. However, the facts show that life evolved very slowly over a long period of time.

      Abiogenesis is just life from non-life– whether god poofed life into existence or matter created in the stars slowly gave rise to complex life on at least one minuscule planet that evolved around one of trillions of stars.

      If people actually understand evolution and cosmology it should cause them to question simplistic explanations such as an invisible man “poofing” things into existence. If they study mythology and/or critical thinking, they should learn to question their own beliefs.

      • Paisley
        Posted August 12, 2010 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

        I’m not confused; you are. Darwinian evolution is a biological theory (actually a hypothesis), not a theory of physics.

        Also, the fossil evidence doesn’t support Darwinian “gradualism.”

        Presently, there is no materialistic theory for abiogenesis.

        “Natural selection and random mutations” is a simple explanation. Whether or not it accounts for the facts is another issue.

        • Ichthyic
          Posted August 12, 2010 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

          evolution is a biological theory (actually a hypothesis)

          no, you really ARE confused.

          Evolution IS a theory. Natural selection is a hypothesis of one of the mechanisms that is a part of that theory.

          A theory is a collection of related observations, laws, and supported hypotheses. It’s much stronger than any single hypothesis.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_theory

          Also, the fossil evidence doesn’t support Darwinian “gradualism.”

          depends on the place and the series you look at. I can show you thousands of examples where you see fantastic detailed gradations in the fossil record, directly correlated with independently derived changes in environment.

          Change in size of forams (the same ones used for geological survey for oil exploration) is a great example.

          If you want larger series, have you never seen marine mammal series, or equine series?

          If you’re thinking “punc eq”, do recall that Gould and Eldridge proposed that based on incomplete observations, and observations of incomplete series.

          Moreover, we also know that rapid morphological changes can be induced with very minor mutations to key genes involved in development, and so see what would amount to rapid jumps in something as incomplete and time-long as the fossil record.

          Even so, we have been able to predict, using current evolutionary theory, EXACTLY where and what kind of fossils we should find.

          Indeed, it was the very predictive power of evolutionary theory that allowed Neil Shubin to find Tiktalik.

          I would highly suggest you try reading “Your Inner Fish”, but I suspect reading is not your strong suit.

          • Paisley
            Posted August 12, 2010 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

            I am not questioning evolution as a historical fact. So, to say that “evolution is a theory” is meaningless. I am only concerned with the proposed naturalistic mechanisms to account for evolutionary change. There is no doubt that “natural selection and random mutations” are the major cornerstone of the neo-Darwinian synthesis. And as you yourself have already stated: “natural selection” is only a HYPOTHESIS.

            Yes, the proposal of “punctuated equilibrium” is one example. (Besides, Darwin himself admitted problems with the fossil record in the “Origin of the Species”).

            Eldredge and Gould proposed that the degree of gradualism commonly attributed to Charles Darwin is virtually nonexistent in the fossil record, and that stasis dominates the history of most fossil species.

            (source: Wikipedia: Punctuated equilibrium)

            Ichthyic: “Moreover, we also know that rapid morphological changes can be induced with very minor mutations to key genes involved in development, and so see what would amount to rapid jumps in something as incomplete and time-long as the fossil record.

            Please give a documented example.

            What does “Tiktaalik?” prove? That you found one transitional fossil?

            • articulett
              Posted August 12, 2010 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

              Can’t you read? It demonstrates the predictive power of evolution?! Duh. No alternative does that, so I can see why you’d miss the words written before your eyes. And, surely you know that we have millions of transitional fossils. Unless it’s the last of it’s kind, every fossil is a transitional fossil. It’s DNA that proves evolution is a fact, however. I think you’re a little pissy because there’s no evidence for the invisible friend you desperately wish to believe in.

              –O.K. Jack, Paisley writes like a pretty typical person who got their understanding of evolution from creationist sources. See if you or anyone can get him to sound like he has a clue as to what he’s talking about. I don’t think any amount of coddling or any amount of evidence is enough to clue in a person who imagines themselves saved due to what they “believe in”. See if you can prove me wrong.

              Myself, I find it much more fun to talk about such people than attempt to talk to them. Is Paisley making sense to anyone other than himself?

            • Ichthyic
              Posted August 12, 2010 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

              I am not questioning evolution as a historical fact. So, to say that “evolution is a theory” is meaningless.

              what’s meaningless is this statement, since evolution is both an observed fact AND a theory.

              I am only concerned with the proposed naturalistic mechanisms to account for evolutionary change.

              cite scientific evidence in support of ANY non-naturalistic causative phenomena. At any time. Any where.

              There is no doubt that “natural selection and random mutations” are the major cornerstone of the neo-Darwinian synthesis.

              look up “neutral drift” sometime.

              In fact, I was just about to leave for a talk at Victoria University about this very subject.

              here’s a quote:

              We investigate how easy it is for fitter variants in a population (i.e. fitter genotypes or fitter species) to invade a network that consists of a “hub” connected to many “spokes”. Birth-death processes (where births cause deaths of neighbours) are known to amplify the effects of fitness over neutral drift in such a network (as well as in more complex ones such as scale-free networks). Death-birth processes are identical in all respects except that deaths ‘allow’ births at neighbouring sites to succeed. We show that death-birth processes lead to fitness being strongly suppressed and almost eliminated as an evolutionary force in the hub-and-spokes network. More generally, when successful births rely on the deaths of resident individuals, as they do in many plant communities, and when the connectivity networks of interacting individuals are highly heterogeneous, as is likely in fragmented habitats, then dynamics are expected to become more neutral-like, regardless of measurable differences in individual fitness.

              emphasis mine.

              so, you see, your ignorance of the scope of how we actually investigate evolutionary theory is what’s really at issue here.

              selection is a mechanism that has been supported with tens of thousands of studies in the field and in the lab. Drift has been supported by thousands of similar studies.

              sometimes selection applies, sometimes a different mechanism like drift.

              depends on the circumstances.

              “natural selection” is only a HYPOTHESIS.

              …supported by tens of thousands of studies, as I have previously mentioned.

              Darwin himself admitted problems with the fossil record in the “Origin of the Species”

              so, we’ve learned nothing about the fossil record in over 150 years?

              or YOU haven’t?

              You’re actually spitting back Eldridge and Gould at ME, after I just explained what was wrong with their hypothesis?

              *shakes head sadly*

              you actually might want to read that wiki article on Punc Eq a little more closely.

              Please give a documented example.

              look up: Hox genes

              What does “Tiktaalik?” prove?

              that you can predict exactly what you’ll find in any given fossil strata, just applying what we have learned about evolution.

              and yes, there are MANY other examples. These are not hard to google up, if you’d take the 30 seconds to do so.

            • Ichthyic
              Posted August 12, 2010 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

              @articulett

              so I can see why you’d miss the words written before your eyes.

              The creationist mind defensively (and subconsciously) filters out information in order to avoid upsetting the delicate house of cards they use as a framework for the severe compartmentalization they employ (such extreme compartmentalization being the only way they are able to function on a day-day basis).

              likewise, it will automagically cherry-pick seemingly concordant information from any source they glance at, like Paisley did with the Punc Eq wiki article.

              by the way, I wonder if Paisley understands that both Gould (was – RIP) and Eldgredge (is) staunch supporters of modern evolutionary theory?

              OTOH, who cares.

            • llewelly
              Posted August 13, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

              Paisley August 12, 2010 at 10:43 pm :

              And as you yourself have already stated: “natural selection” is only a HYPOTHESIS.

              oh, look, the “only a THEORY” argument has received a vocabulary upgrade. How charming..

          • articulett
            Posted August 12, 2010 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

            Agreed, Ichthyic. I’ve followed the creationists for some time; I just prefer more honest conversation than conversation with someone trying to convince themselves their magical beliefs are rational. Creationists pretend to want dialogue but they are incapable of discourse regarding anything that threatens their faith. I feel like they are just trying to convince themselves by throwing up smoke and mirrors (and always the same ones too!). They just come across as smarmy and dishonest to me. Even when they’re seemingly honest in most parts of their life, they get weird and shifty and hard to pin down when it comes to whatever it is they are using to justify whatever supernatural things they believe. What honest person wants to be associated with them? I think this guy says it well: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/08/rush_to_the_sciencemobile.php#comments

            As creationist manipulations evolve, teachers must involve better “inoculations” against it. Jerry’s book does that well which is why it’s been so well received.

            I think anyone who thinks he or anyone should “tone it down” fails to recognize how virulent creationism is (you get to live happily ever after if you believe this shit!). When the indoctrination is strong, believers get very incurious– I guess they think they know everything there is to know on the subject (see: Paisley) and often their latest gleanings are very out of date and straight from creationist partial quotes. (For every creationist quote, there is an equal and opposite rest of quote.)

            Nothing works on someone who believes faith is a means of knowing something true or a path to salvation. They “need” to believe that faith gives them something that the faithless don’t have so they are ever spinning their observations in that direction. You have to prod someone away from the indoctrination and superstitions that they’ve been afraid to question before any real learning can begin. And there doesn’t seem to be any evidence at all that accommodationism is the best approach. It just seems dishonest to me. God is no more scientific than the demons we don’t want students to believe in. And when you accommodate, people might get the idea that faith is something worth accommodating, but there is no evidence that this is so. The truth has nothing to fear from scientific inquiry.

            I think DonExodus (in the video) said it better than I.

            Good luck on your talk. (Paisley might not be able to get a clue, but I suspect a great many others are learning from you.)

            • Ichthyic
              Posted August 13, 2010 at 12:03 am | Permalink

              Creationists pretend to want dialogue but they are incapable of discourse regarding anything that threatens their faith. I feel like they are just trying to convince themselves by throwing up smoke and mirrors (and always the same ones too!). They just come across as smarmy and dishonest to me.

              that’s been my experience as well.

              …and, thanks.
              :)

            • Ichthyic
              Posted August 13, 2010 at 12:11 am | Permalink

              oh, btw, for those wanting to examine a very detailed, gradual evolution tracked in the fossil record and independently linked with environmental shifts…

              Microfossils, baby!

              http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/fosrec/Lipps1.html

              I wonder if Paisley would understand the reasons why we can commonly get a really detailed series of “stepwise evolution” in the microfossil record, that might be much harder with larger species?

              *sigh*

              can i just refer to Prothero’s book instead?

              Oh hell, I’ll let Jerry himself stump it:

              http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2009/02/22/don-protheros-superb-book-on-the-fossil-record/

        • Ichthyic
          Posted August 12, 2010 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

          Presently, there is no materialistic theory for abiogenesis.

          nope.

          there ARE a handful of hypotheses that appear to have at least some support though. You’d be aware of these if you spent five minutes actually looking.

          …unlike the idea that there is some intelligent designer somewhere, which has zero evidence in support.

          zero.

          • Paisley
            Posted August 12, 2010 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

            I said THEORY, not hypotheses.

            • articulett
              Posted August 12, 2010 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

              Do you have a point? Does anyone other than you know what it is?

            • Ichthyic
              Posted August 12, 2010 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

              I said THEORY, not hypotheses.

              I know you did.

              but you’re so fucking confused about the difference between the two I thought it best to both AGREE WITH YOU that there is no current theory of abiogenesis, as well as point out that there are many workable and supported hypotheses.

              again, your confusion about what “theory” and “hypothesis” actually mean is messing up your ability to communicate.

            • Ichthyic
              Posted August 12, 2010 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

              Do you have a point? Does anyone other than you know what it is?

              I think he’s demonstrating an example of Dunning Kruger effect for us.

              pathetic, ain’t it?

    • tomh
      Posted August 12, 2010 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

      Paisley wrote:
      I wasn’t aware that Darwinian evolution …

      What exactly do you mean by “Darwinian” evolution? Is there another kind of evolution that you’re contrasting it to, “Lamarckian” evolution perhaps, or “creationist” evolution? How many kinds of evolution do you know of?

      • Paisley
        Posted August 12, 2010 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

        Well, strictly speaking, Darwin’s original theory was partially Lamarckian. (Neo-Darwinian evolution is not.) But, yes, Lamarckian would be another type. There are other hypotheses besides “neo-Darwinism.”

        • Ichthyic
          Posted August 12, 2010 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

          There are other hypotheses besides “neo-Darwinism.”

          There are no other supportable ones.

          period.

          If you want to reject selection as a mechanism in and of itself, you can make that argument, but you would then be forgetting that selection is only ONE mechanism of population change contained within the larger theory of evolution.

          We already DO account for drift, for example.

          • Paisley
            Posted August 12, 2010 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

            Ichthyic: “it literally IS something from nothing.

            with no input, or need of, any supernatural input to explain it.

            Saying that “something emerges from nothing” is tantamount to invoking magic or the supernatural. It certainly does not qualify as a materialistic explanation.

            By the way, the “random” in random mutations is largely due to quantum events, which Ken Miller – evolutionary biologist and chief opponent (not proponent) of ID – proposed as the mechanism (if that is the right word) for theistic evolution in his book entitled “Finding Darwin’s God.”

            Ichthyic: “There are no other supportable ones.

            True, that’s why they’re hypotheses (just like “natural selection”).

            Ichthyic: “If you want to reject selection as a mechanism in and of itself, you can make that argument.

            I’m not completely rejecting “natural selection.” It seems reasonable to me that it plays a part. But I’m surprised to learn that you’re willing to dispense with it.

            • Ichthyic
              Posted August 12, 2010 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

              Saying that “something emerges from nothing” is tantamount to invoking magic or the supernatural.

              nope.

              again, you don’t understand the article I linked to.

              By the way, the “random” in random mutations is largely due to quantum events,

              no, “random” wrt to mutations refers to directionality, not frequency.

              Ken Miller’s musings on quantum theory amount to nothing more than a god of the gaps argument, and has nothing to do with his arguments in support of the SCIENCE behind evolutionary theory (or the lack thereof in creationism – I.D. included).

              just how small a gap do you want to stuff your god into, eh?

              True, that’s why they’re hypotheses (just like “natural selection”).

              no, that has nothing to do with the definition of hypothesis.

              and, as I said repeatedly, there are tens of thousands of published articles, readily available at any uni library, you can peruse yourself to see evidentiary support for the hypothesis of selection as a mechanism of evolution.

              It seems reasonable to me that it plays a part.

              yet you spend all this time arguing against it?

              But I’m surprised to learn that you’re willing to dispense with it.

              where did I say dispense anywhere?

              just tell me before I waste any more time:

              Are you completely delusional?

              wait, don’t bother, the answer is rather obvious.

              *sigh* to think of anything else I could have been spending my time at.

            • articulett
              Posted August 13, 2010 at 12:14 am | Permalink

              Paisley you are very confused in exactly the same way creationists are confused. And dishonest in the same way. You even misunderstand Krauss on the formation of the universe (or you never listened) so you can keep imagining you know what he says and that you can pretend it’s as nonsensical as the notion that your invisible friend poofed everything from nothing. You’ve made no points and supported no arguments on any subject here, though you seem to imagine otherwise in your mind. Moreover, you are impenetrable in a very Behe-esque sort of way.

              Here are Kenneth Miller’s actual regarding randomness and evolution:

              This statement is false on two accounts. Evolution is not a “random” process, and to characterize it as such seriously misleads students. Natural selection, the most important force driving evolutionary change, is not random at all, but an observable, verifiable process that fine-tunes variation in populations of a species to the demands of the environment in which they live. It is true, of course, that variation in a species arises from sources such as mutation and sexual recombination, which are inherently unpredictable. Therefore evolution, like any historical process, can be influenced by random forces.

              If you and he want to insert god into random QM fluctuations or other gaps to help prop up your magical beliefs, feel free. But it isn’t science, and most scientists think that it’s dishonest, if not “philosophically inconsistent with science.” It’s the kind of argument that can prop up any “woo” including the wacky new agey stuff you don’t buy into.

            • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
              Posted August 13, 2010 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

              Saying that “something emerges from nothing” is tantamount to invoking magic or the supernatural.

              No.

              – In quantum mechanics you have fluctuations where particles go in and out of existence all the time. Particles out of vacuum (and its fields), as it were.

              – Our type of universes (FLRW) are zero energy. As such they can tunnel from other “seed” universes, spontaneously “emerge from nothing”.

              – Vic Stenger’s “GOD – The failed hypothesis” discusses how physical existence and its laws can spontaneously symmetry break out of initial “nothing” (having perfect symmetry as such). That is because spontaneous symmetry breaking is a natural thing to do for systems, it is observed all the time.

              It is a good read on understanding physical processes.

    • Ichthyic
      Posted August 12, 2010 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

      Also, I wasn’t aware that Darwinian evolution accounts for abiogenesis.

      hmm, I hear that a lot, yet…

      what does common descent imply about abiogenesis?

      Certainly, our current knowledge of how life HAS evolved constrains possible hypothesis over its initial origins.

      so, yes, evolution DOES have quite a lot to contribute to hypotheses regarding abiogenesis.

      Think: RNA world for one.

      • Paisley
        Posted August 12, 2010 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

        The neo-Darwinian hypothesis does not apply to abiogenesis.

        • Ichthyic
          Posted August 12, 2010 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

          The neo-Darwinian hypothesis does not apply to abiogenesis.

          one, it’s not a hypothesis, it’s a theory.

          two, as I just pointed out, it does.

          • Ichthyic
            Posted August 12, 2010 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

            Paisley…

            I get the impression you think you’re addressing people here who haven’t a clue what the ToE is.

            uh, many of us here are actually professors or students or post docs IN THAT FIELD.

            Are you sure you want to claim personal expertise in this area?

    • James W
      Posted August 13, 2010 at 5:38 am | Permalink

      Jerry said: “If you believe that the world and its life was created ex nihilo…”

      Paisley said: “What relevance does biological evolution have with the creation of the universe ex nihilo…”

      Did you deliberately switch from “the world and its life” to “the universe” in your fatuous, pointless question? Or are you just poor at reading for comprehension?

      Also: although implict, Jerry’s comment can be assumed by a reasonable person (possibly not you) to address people who believe the world and its life were created ex nihilo pretty much as they are now – i.e. deniers of evolution.

      Yes, this does mean accepting implicit sense from the text and not actively and dishonestly looking for things to pick up on (wow – it’s as if we’re not actually in a courtroom and this is some kind of forum for reasoned discourse!)… but yes, his comment is relevant to biological evolution, and no, it does not imply evolution accounts for abiogenesis.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted August 13, 2010 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

      I wasn’t aware that Darwinian evolution accounts for abiogenesis.

      Abiogenesis is believed to involve the same mechanisms in an early stage.

      Inheritance was distributed over the system at first, and it is a technical question if you want to call that “Darwinian”.

      But it’s all evolutionary mechanisms.

      Presently, there is no materialistic theory for abiogenesis.

      Depends on what you ask of that theory.

      There are several models that constitutes predictive theories, such as Szostak’s membrane and replicator systems. He has presented several predictions himself.

      Especially metabolism first theories likes to be put in that form. The Zn world theory is explicitly predictive and tested over its many predictions.

      Both Szostak and Zn world seems to have no barrier for being developed into whole pathways. It is more technical problems of complexity, because full pathways aren’t known and the interactions are unknown. (I.e. every likely pathway was competing.)

      So yes, there are predictive theories that can be and in some cases have been tested. There are schematic pathways that goes in and out of them that may need more elaboration. (I.e. they may not be known as incremental and evolutionary yet.)

      But it is too simplistic to say “no theory” and it is too simplistic to say “barriers” or even “no progress”.

  31. Tim Harris
    Posted August 12, 2010 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps JvanB could write the book he wants himself. Then everybody would be happy – JvanB himself, his Creationist students, the rest of use who aren’t particularly interested in the misunderstandings of the prejudiced and humourless – and there wouldn’t be this silly argument over an innocuous observation that only those who come with a quivering determination to find offence would even begin to find offensive.

  32. Ichthyic
    Posted August 12, 2010 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps JvanB could write the book he wants himself.

    I think he would inevitably find the book would be full of blank pages.

  33. rufustfirefly
    Posted August 12, 2010 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    A true believer is offended by the simple fact that someone exists who doesn’t share their belief.

    • Michael Kingsford Gray
      Posted August 13, 2010 at 3:53 am | Permalink

      That is the very mechanism by which a parasitic ‘mind-virus’ protects itself.
      Somewhat ironically, it is an Evolutionary Certainty.

  34. Ichthyic
    Posted August 12, 2010 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

    The girl was not pleased.

    Finally, I want to be very clear that I take the exact opposite position to that of Jack.

    I say this is a GOOD thing. If she WERE “pleased”, then likely she wouldn’t be challenged at all, and would easily be able to forget anything she might have learned there.

    Challenging student’s belief structures has been a time honored tradition of academia, and with proven reason.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted August 13, 2010 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

      This.

  35. Paisley
    Posted August 13, 2010 at 1:37 am | Permalink

    articulett: “If you and he want to insert god into random QM fluctuations or other gaps to help prop up your magical beliefs, feel free.

    I don’t have to. Ken Miller has taken it upon himself to do it.

    To pick just one example, the indeterminate nature of quantum events would allow a clever and subtle God to influence events that are profound, but scientifically undetectable to us.” (source: pg. 241 “Finding Darwin’s God” by Kenneth R. Miller)

    Personally, I don’t agree with Miller’s theology. But “quantum evolution” warrants serious attention. It is a testable hypothesis.

    A Quantum-Theoretical Approach to the Phenomenon of Directed Mutations in Bacteria(hypothesis)” by Vasily V. Ogrysko

    • Notagod
      Posted August 13, 2010 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

      It is telling of their character that they would want to worship such a little shit.

    • Ichthyic
      Posted August 13, 2010 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

      I don’t have to. Ken Miller has taken it upon himself to do it.

      …and you’ve taken it upon yourself to misinterpret it, AND implicitly claim it somehow supports the idea that supernaturalism is a better explanation of… what?

      like I said, you’re bloody delusional.

      • Paisley
        Posted August 14, 2010 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

        Miller is an advocate of theistic evolution. Whether or not you choose to acknowledge this fact doesn’t it.

        Kenneth R. Miller, professor of biology at Brown University, author of Finding Darwin’s God (Cliff Street Books, 1999), in which he states his belief in God and argues that “evolution is the key to understanding God” (Dr. Miller has also called himself “an orthodox Catholic and an orthodox Darwinist” in the 2001 PBS special “Evolution”)

        (source: Wikipedia: “Theistic evolution“)

        • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
          Posted August 14, 2010 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

          It seems you lost your way in your argument. articulett said, after mentioning Miller:

          “If you and he want to insert god into random QM fluctuations or other gaps to help prop up your magical beliefs, feel free. But it isn’t science, and most scientists think that it’s dishonest, if not “philosophically inconsistent with science.” It’s the kind of argument that can prop up any “woo” including the wacky new agey stuff you don’t buy into,”

          And your answer is to mention Miller again.

          Miller is an advocate of theistic evolution.

          This is a science blog, not a religious blog. A technical term would be evolutionistic creationism. (Aka “evolutionary creationism”.)

          • Paisley
            Posted August 14, 2010 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

            Torbjorn Larsson: “Vic Stenger’s “GOD – The failed hypothesis” discusses how physical existence and its laws can spontaneously symmetry break out of initial “nothing” (having perfect symmetry as such). That is because spontaneous symmetry breaking is a natural thing to do for systems, it is observed all the time.

            It is a good read on understanding physical processes.

            Saying that something SPONTANEOUSLY emerges from NOTHING does not qualify as a physical explanation. No amount of spin-doctoring will change this fact. It’s that simple.

            • articulett
              Posted August 14, 2010 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

              Can you give an actual cut and paste source of a physicist saying that “something came from nothing”. That appears to be another one of those creationist straw men.

              By the way, who would you trust more for the best actual explanation for the birth of our universe– a bronze age text, a guru, or a physicist. I know what I’d pick.

    • Ichthyic
      Posted August 13, 2010 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

      It is a testable hypothesis.

      no, it’s not.

      that paper you cited doesn’t even begin to address a realistic experimental test.

      It’s basically word salad.

      Is this what you consider “peer reviewed scientific research”?

      again… fucking. delusional.

    • articulett
      Posted August 14, 2010 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

      And how does this have to do with the topic under discussion?

      Francis Collins has magical beliefs too. But neither of them call these beliefs “science”. They recognize them as “faith-based” beliefs.

      You seem very very confused, and it seems your theology is to blame.

  36. Havok
    Posted August 13, 2010 at 5:51 am | Permalink

    I don’t have to. Ken Miller has taken it upon himself to do it.

    Acting in a manner which cannot be distinguished from a stochastic process such as QM doesn’t sound very much like the Christian deity at all. You might be able to slip some form of Theism through the gaps, but I doubt anyone would recognise it as Christianity (or whatever theistic religion takes your fancy).

    But “quantum evolution” warrants serious attention. It is a testable hypothesis.

    Simply being testable doesn’t mean something warrants attention. From a brief look at your links, the claims seem to be rather implausible.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted August 13, 2010 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

      It is interesting that those who claims that they can rig a statistical + deterministic process to look fully statistical never demonstrates it. I don’t think it is so easy as they claim.

      Granted, you can never distinguish a finite set between deterministic or stochastic origin, you can always give both algorithmic or stochastic fits. But here we are discussing emulating a known process with another except on specific points, and then hiding the result. The specificity would be an unavoidable finger print though.

      Moreover if they claim it is a quantum process, it won’t work at the outset, they can’t have hidden variables. So it would show up in tests for certain.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted August 13, 2010 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

      I guess what I’m saying is that if you want there to be a gap, sure, but it must be unspecific.

      As soon as you specify what happened (say, a specific mutation born by a replication error), it would have been in principle observable at the time.

      So we could in principle isolate organisms and insure that there is no “quantum woo” going on. (It would be practically impossible, more’s the pity.) Is that the weak gods Miller wants?

  37. Davidg
    Posted August 13, 2010 at 6:35 am | Permalink

    I think that questioning their religion, beliefs and specifically their god’s motives can be so much of a taboo for them that when they experience it from someone else, it elicits the same taboo response in their amygdala as a swear word. A little andrenaline rush that they misinterpret and makes them think that this person’s being offensive.

    So blaspheming or questioning their deity can be equivalent in their minds to saying ‘cock’, ‘arse’, ‘fuck’ etc.

    They should realise that the problem lies within their own indoctrination rather than the way that the non-religious approach them with ideas.

  38. Posted August 13, 2010 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    FWIW, I don’t dismiss Jack’s general point — that there is a place for books that describe evolution without explicitly slamming Creationism or the need for a deity to guide the process. His lament would seem more fitting if it were in regards to some of the passages from The Selfish Gene or The Blind Watchmaker, where Dawkins pretty much explicitly says, “And this why we don’t need any of that God nonsense.”

    I am not saying I wish Dawkins hadn’t written that; who knows how many people were stimulated to re-examine their beliefs when they suddenly encountered such a direct head-on challenge in the midst of an otherwise religion-neutral treatise on evolution? There is at least as much of a place, if not more so, for books that challenge as there are for books that seek to inform without provoking!

    I’m just saying, I don’t dispute Jack’s point that there is a place for books that — as boring as this is — seek to inform without provoking. What I am objecting to is that I don’t see how the sentence in question could possibly be viewed as provocative, or at least more provocative than absolutely necessary given the subject matter. The key point of the modern synthesis, or any Darwin-esque theory of evolution, is not simply that changes happen over time which are honed by natural selection, but that over great time scales these changes can give the appearance of design. If you don’t address the latter point, you leave open the door for this micro/macroevolution sophistry that the modern IDists are fond of blathering on about — not to mention having missed the entire point of what makes the theory so powerful!

  39. John H.
    Posted August 13, 2010 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    FWIW, I found the mention of creationism in WEIT to be unnecessary, but that’s only because I don’t believe that garbage, and I only wanted to know more about evolution. I do somewhat feel that creationists would not read the book (or would stop partway through) simply because their “faith” was being challenged. So, in some ways (IMHO) the challenge of writing something like WEIT is in attacking creationism without ever explicitly mentioning it. A contradiction, perhaps. We have to fool them into rational thought.

  40. Matti K.
    Posted August 14, 2010 at 1:51 am | Permalink

    Well, listening to Jack, it seems that the process of teaching science to creationist students is as delicate as defusing bombs.

    One must remember, thouhg, that reading textbooks is just part of education. What shoud a science teacher do when a creationist student points out the contradictions between religion and creationist beliefs? The confrontation is inevitable, so why should it be avoided in books?

    • Michael Kingsford Gray
      Posted August 14, 2010 at 4:01 am | Permalink

      Reality has no need for ‘kid gloves’.


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