Phraseology

Don’t enable religion by using an inaccurate phrase! To avoid that embarrassing situation, either print this out and put it on your office door, or, barring that, memorize it.

(From The Skeptical Avenger).

And if you don’t understand Why Evolution is True, there’s an eponymous book that can help . .

(Full disclosure: I sometimes catch myself saying “I believe in evolution.”)

h/t: Rixaeton

160 Comments

  1. James Rednour
    Posted November 15, 2012 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    I don’t believe in evolution; I accept the fact of evolution.

    • Posted November 15, 2012 at 10:50 am | Permalink

      I accept the fact of evolution, and am convinced that the theory of evolution (modern synthesis — including genetic drift, Larry – but very likely not group selection) is true (provisionally).

      This meme (in the non-Dawkins sense) is kind of old. You need to get out on the interwebs more, Jerry! 😉

      There are a handful of words – “believe”/“belief”, “faith”, … well at least those two – that are perfectly good idiomatically, but which lead to equivocation fallacies when the discussion has a religious dimension. Thus is behooves us to use more precise and concrete terms. At least, that’s my belief.

      /@

      • Dominic
        Posted November 15, 2012 at 11:14 am | Permalink

        It is a bit like ‘think’, or ‘consider’ or ‘regard’ etc. Language is imperfect & we use it imperfectly. It is easier to say it in this short way, but I would put it the other way around to be clear what we are saying first, rather than what we are not saying. Thoughts?

      • Posted November 15, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

        Language frames thinking. “Believe” suggests either believing through faith, or regarding as more probable but still uncertain (“I believe it’s going to rain tomorrow”).

        Relatedly, I think that “theory” and (unless we are specifically referring to the historical figure, or to natural selection acting on variation) “Darwin” should be avoided:

        http://paulbraterman.wordpress.com/2012/08/02/dont-say-darwin-when-you-mean-evolution-part-ii-naming-and-framing/

        • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
          Posted November 15, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

          We can’t replace “theory”, indeed you yourself give no alternative.* And I doubt “science theory” is much better unless they get the notion there is a difference.

          My own solution is below. I take your theories and give you “superfacts”!

          ———-
          * Even if you could possibly trade “evolution theory” with “evolution science”, it would only work in biology and further work to separate it out as somehow different. That is because biologists have chosen to make their theory inclusive of new mechanisms, in other sciences theories are more often exclusive and so replaced as we learn more.

          It is actually the latter use that maps better to testability of theories, as it becomes more explicit that theories are rejected as we go. I wish biology had chosen differently. Alas, it is now history.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted November 15, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

        Maybe it is me, but I am willing to go a bit further.

        The hypothesis testing that puts confidence intervals on observations is what is used to test theories.

        So I will gladly say that a theory is a fact, not in the trivial sense of its mere existence, but in the same way as an observation is a fact. The constraint on that becomes that it is the one remaining theory.

        Provisionally, yes – but so are observations – we could make obeisance to uncertainty everywhere to make sure that people don’t put facts above theories.

        And since it is meaningless to entertain theories without their observational constraints and tests, constraints of connecting theories with the same, et cetera et cetera, a theory can be as robust as an isolated observation if not more. That is why I like to lump all the apparatus together and call theories “superfacts”. Precisely so theories are not getting shortchanged in comparison with facts.

        Maybe it is too confusing compared to the standard description though.

        • Posted November 16, 2012 at 9:41 am | Permalink

          People who should know better, including the Education Minister in a previous (secularist!) Turkish Government, think that if evolution is a theory, it remains uncertain. Bollocks, of course; no one argues like this about atomic theory. There are the facts of evolution; common descent and change over time, as much facts as the American Revolution; and then there are theories, and live discussions, about the roles of the various processes involved (natural selection, neutral drift, epiphenomena, exaptation)

          So I suggest we only say “theory” when we are referring to the latter, not the former. Regrettable that we have to trim our language to avoid being misunderstood or misrepresented in this way, but that’s how it is.

  2. Posted November 15, 2012 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Very good indeed! It is something I started doing a long time ago when they asked me “Do you believe in Evolution???” (you an imagine the pitch and tone). Answer (picking up a glass, cup, stone, whatever solid): “what do you believe is gonna happen if I drop this ?” You do not believe, you know is gonna fall, and the speed and the rest. It is the same with Evolution: I do not believe it is true, I know it happened and it is happening.

  3. Posted November 15, 2012 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    I have been haranguing some of my relatives with this phrase for a while, and am most thankful for this poster! Just in time for Christmas…..

    • gravelinspector
      Posted November 15, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

      Surely it’s only “Christmas” if you believe in Christ. And therefore, “Saturnalia” if you believe in Saturn (as a god, not as a planet).
      Which would make the default name for December 25th to be “Newtonmas”, because everyone has the law of gravity applied to them. (Claimed exceptions will be required to produce testable evidence, not just a note from Mummy that “Johnny is excused from Gravity today because we believe in Ghod.”)

      • Posted November 15, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

        Guess you missed my implicit 🙂 🙂

        • gravelinspector
          Posted November 16, 2012 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

          (ditto, including the smileys)

      • Posted November 15, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

        You’ll not be using the days of the week, next! (With the possible exception of Sunday & Monday.)

        /@

        PS. My mass is many, many newtons, sadly.

        • Tristan
          Posted November 16, 2012 at 3:47 am | Permalink

          PS. My mass is many, many newtons, sadly.

          I doubt that. Your weight, on the other hand…

          • Posted November 16, 2012 at 5:23 am | Permalink

            Having a Ph.D. in physics, I do know better, but the solecism was necessary for the play on newtonmas…

            😛

            /@

        • gravelinspector
          Posted November 16, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

          Lessee …
          Sunday – Sun … no problems ; bassking away.
          Monday – Moon … no problems ; howling away.
          Tuesday – Tiw, god personifying war … on a day when (amongst other wars) the Israeli – Palestinian war is ramping back up … I can’t say that I’m happy about it, but it’s an undeniable force, even if it’s not personified.
          Wednesday – Woden, god personifying wisdom … I can live with that (sans the personification).
          Thursday – Thor, god of storms and hammers … I called my rock hammer (recently lost [SAD]) “The Equaliser” (for all rocks get equalised in the end!) and I get rained on profusely enough to not have any doubt about these forces of nature. Again, sans personalisation. (I laughed when the Noggins named a recently discovered meteorite impact structure “Mjollnir”.)
          Friday – who was that … Freya? Harvests, fertility, that sort of stuff. Yeah, I’d have to come up with a justification for that one. Before the end of next week.

      • Marella
        Posted November 15, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

        We can all celebrate the solstice, winter or summer depending on hemisphere.

        • Posted November 16, 2012 at 5:29 am | Permalink

          Indeed! I usually confuse my colleagues and clients by wishing them a happy hibernal festival — or, for those in the antipodes, the more mellifluous happy aestival festival… 

          /@

          • gravelinspector
            Posted November 16, 2012 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

            My wife, being from Siberia, understands hibernating. Being from Britain (and resident in Scotland), I feel the temptation to estivate most summers.

        • HaggisForBrains
          Posted November 16, 2012 at 9:53 am | Permalink

          “Have a cool Yule!” OK, so I’m an ageing hippy.

          • gravelinspector
            Posted November 16, 2012 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

            Growing old disgracefully, I hope?

            • HaggisForBrains
              Posted November 17, 2012 at 6:44 am | Permalink

              One tries. Hair is getting longer, and I’ve taken up motor racing (well, hillclimbing), but I can’t find my beads, and the flairs stopped fitting about 40 years ago.

  4. Posted November 15, 2012 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    Most appropriate reminder

  5. Posted November 15, 2012 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    posted in twitter with #hashtag #evolutionisafact

    Get the hashtag viral

  6. Avis
    Posted November 15, 2012 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    It is on my door! Thanks Jerry.

  7. Posted November 15, 2012 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on myatheistlife and commented:
    Ahem!! Now Hear This…..

  8. gerard26
    Posted November 15, 2012 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    Great poster! and a more precise answer to the question evolution vs. non- evolution.

  9. Dominic
    Posted November 15, 2012 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    I am not sure that this is going to work, not because it is not true, but because of the way we see things. We have the negative statement in the top line; people who are opposed to evolution will latch on to that line. They will not stop to think about it. Perhaps someone could test this with a group of students. I seem to recall something having been done on this regarding climate change denial or politics…

    • JohnS
      Posted November 15, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

      I agree, sorta. How about a rewording? Maybe something like:

      “It’s not that I BELIEVE in evolution, but that I understand why it’s true.”

      Or:

      “I UNDERSTAND evolution — BELIEF has nothing to do with it.”

      A problem with these is that the original just sounds better.

      • Scott near Berkeley
        Posted November 15, 2012 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

        How about “know”, as in “knowledge”.

        (“Do you believe in evolution??”)

        Answer:

        “Much more than that. I have knowledge, I know, that evolution is a true explanation for the biology of this planet.

  10. Launcher
    Posted November 15, 2012 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    It’s now posted by my desk. Looking forward to the conversations it will start (all pro-Evo, given that I work at a university with other biologists and in Seattle no less).

  11. jose
    Posted November 15, 2012 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    😀

    So annoying when the Prometheus scientist says “it’s what I choose to believe” and everyone is quiet like ooohhh she said something profound… bleargh. Yay for understanding!

  12. djockovic
    Posted November 15, 2012 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Of course, once “evolution” starts to refer to anything much more than “not special creation” it becomes not only permissable to doubt it, but about the only rational position. Here’s why:

    1. Evolution has no scientifically respectable starting point, but without one there will always be the suspicion that some quite different process was involved and there’s no reason to believe whatever that “quite different process” was will have stopped operating once life originated. Thus, until a scientifically respectable account can be provided for the start point of evolution the theory will be built upon a miracle.

    2. As we start to understand more about the active role played by genetic machinery, the miracle of the starting point gets ever more miraculous. That is, the more work this machinery has to do in the theory the more we stand in need of a respectable account of its origin, and the more the suspicion will be we are missin something (big).

    3. The mechanisms purported to have got us from the start point (whatever it is) to where we are now, have never been shown to be able to acheive anything like that. That is, now we know a little bit about what is involved in living systems we are only really starting to understand the scale of some of the problems, and this brings into sharp relief the paucity of some of the currently suggested answers.

    4. Many of the organisms evolution has to account for are not yet even describable by science. For example, we don’t know what a cat is in the sense we understand what a television is and how it works. Thus we don’t even know yet where evolution is supposed to get us, let alone that the suggested mechanisms are adequate to the task.

    5. When we throw consicousness into the mix, the problem becomes even greater. We have pretty much zero idea what consiciousness is, therefore we can’t say with anything approaching certainty what meachinisms would be up to producing it. And, as with point (1), until we get a better grip on this problem there will always be the suspicion that one (or more) revolutions in thought might be required before we even understand the problem, let alone answer it. And again, as with point (1) given the nature of revolutions in thought, we have no idea how any that are required would play out as regards theories put forward beforehand.

    Each one of these problems by itself, then, is enough to cast doubt, but taken together, they suggest that doubt is the only rational option. Thus anyone who claims to know evolution is true is either equivocating on the word “evolution” or is grossly overstating the case.

    • Posted November 15, 2012 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      All you’re describing is incompleteness of the theory of evolution; evolution per se is a fact.

      1. One you have any kind of replicator with differential (i.e., imperfect) replication in an environment with scarce resources, evolution is inevitable.

      2. The genetic machinery is the replicators. “Life” is a just an epiphenomenon that benefits the replicators. See Dawkins. (Or, earlier, Aldiss.)

      3. Incompleteness, not wrongness.

      4. Ditto. And nothing that we do know about cats &c. makes sense except in the light of evolution.

      5. “Pretty much zero idea” is a gross misrepresentation; see Damasio, Dennett, Edelman, Ramachandran, &c. (and those just amongst popular science writers). Moreover, we have clear ideas about what consciousness isn’t. And no reason to think that any explanation of consciousness will be inconsistent with evolution.

      /@

      • Posted November 15, 2012 at 11:52 am | Permalink

        * 1. Once…

        • djockovic
          Posted November 15, 2012 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

          Re your intro, so what, that means evolution is consistent with Go, aliens an a hundred and one other things that would render the theory of evolution laughable. And I already noted that if that’s all that is being claimed then it’s disingenuous.

          Re your numbered points:
          1 & 2 Don’t deal with my points. Re 2, though, not just replicators.
          3. I never said it was wrtong, I said the severity of the incompleteness means doubt is the only rational option.
          4. Nothing to do with my point and nothing really but empty posturing. What does that even mean?
          5. Pretty much zero is pretty much exactly right. And knowing what consciousness isn’t is about as empty as a statement could be – and the more you try to fill it the more it’s likely to be false, or wildly speculative, or grossly overstating the case.

          • Scott near Berkeley
            Posted November 15, 2012 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

            “Pretty much zero” sounds pretty much like Deepak Chopra. That is his favorite phrase about consciousness.

            Just like the study of “What is memory, and how is it physically, biologically done?” consciousness has been subject to thousands of studies and papers about its mechanism. Recently, even Science News published a very informative piece outlining some of the latest efforts in this field.

            To simply dismiss all those thousands of efforts shows you are ignorant on the subject; to have nothing but a handwave to offer as the basis of your dismissal of knowledge gained about consciousness identifies you as frivolous.

            • djockovic
              Posted November 16, 2012 at 6:52 am | Permalink

              Or perhaps I’m just not ignorant enough not to know what the actual situation is. And I would imagine that “pretty much zero” is not merely Chopra’s favourite phrase, but is pretty much the standard view of where science stands re the “hard problem”.

              As for being frivolous, at the risk of sounding frivolous, ooh handbags. Does Chopra also say that?

              • Posted November 16, 2012 at 8:56 am | Permalink

                “the standard view of where science stands re the ‘hard problem’.”

                Citation, please. I honestly don’t know what the majority view is, but it’s certainly not “standard”; it’s strongly disputed.

                The “hard problem” seems to be so described only by those philosophers of mind (e.g., Chalmers, Nagel) that see consciousness as a hard problem, which is really an assumption; here, “evolution can’t explain everything”. Well, maybe it can’t, but there’s no empirical evidence yet that consciousness isn’t within what it can explain.

                /@

          • Posted November 16, 2012 at 8:42 am | Permalink

            1 & 2. The problem is you don’t need to think about “life” (as we know it, Jim) to think about evolution; all you need is replicators.
            3. Actually, pretty much the same as 4.
            4. Empty posturing? Please take that up with Theodosius Dobzhansky.
            5. See below.

            /@

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted November 15, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

      Science is not defined by what it isn’t, but by what it is. So your lede and what follows is simply mistaken.

      And even if evolution was wrong, it wouldn’t mean “special creation” was right. Logic 101. You don’t win anything by looking at (in your case imaginary) failings of another’s theory, you must look at what would be good with your own theory. As such, “special creation” is not even wrong, it isn’t testable. So we know that didn’t happen.

      – Evolution is the process that takes living populations to living populations. An observation of a living population is therefore enough as a “scientifically respectable starting point”.

      Do we observe a living population? I give you humans as evidence. (Though whether creationists qualify as living, thinking humans I leave as an open question.)

      So no, we don’t doubt the fact of evolution (as observed in how biological populations have evolved into biological populations) nor the theory of evolution (as observed in the known mechanisms).

      – The process from chemical evolution to biological evolution is studied in, among other areas, astrobiology.

      We know it did happen.

      We can observe how the early universe consisted of diverse chemical populations that stars and planets consisted of. And today on Earth we observe diverse biological populations.

      We also know how it happened.

      We can observe with modern genetic methods that early life biologically evolved out of RNA/protein cells. We can also observe how chemical evolution in cooling catalytic systems selects enthalpic enzymes. Such an enzyme is RNA.

      In fact, this summer the thermodynamics of replicators were elucidated. It turns out that there is a heat bound on self-replicators. It is such that RNA is sufficiently stable to meaningfully build cells, but not too stable as its variants DNA, PNA et cetera, or as proteins, to pass the heat bound. [“Statistical Physics of Self-Replication”, England, arxiv 1209.1179, to be published.]

      So RNA is the only known pathway that could work, well testing the phylogenies that says this is how it worked.

      As for the pathways that could have happened, many are known. The perhaps simplest is Shoztak’s cells, which self-assemble out of two components.

      Here lipids self-assemble to vesicles. The cells grow by competing for lipids in the solution and by cannibalism. The largest cells wins.

      Meanwhile phospated RNA nucleotides diffuses through the cell membranes. Such energy activated nucleotides self-assemble to strings. When it happens inside the cells they help them grow bigger.

      Heat-cold cycles in the environment (think currents) make the strings divide and replicate, promoting chemical evolution of RNA ribozyme replicators and eventually exponentially effective self-replication. At that moment biological evolution has replaced chemical evolution.

      The route from replication machinery to genetic machinery is also known. The perhaps simplest is RNA helicase evolution. [“Hypothesis: Emergence of Translation as a Result of RNA Helicase Evolution”, Zenkin, J Mol Evol 2012.]

      So no, we don’t doubt the fact of astrobiology (as observed in how chemical populations have evolved into biological populations) nor the emerging theories of astrobiology (as observed in the known mechanisms).

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted November 15, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

        Meanwhile phospated RNA nucleotides diffuses through the cell membranes. Such energy activated nucleotides self-assemble to strings. When it happens inside the cells they help them grow bigger.

        Heat-cold cycles in the environment (think currents) make the strings divide and replicate, promoting chemical evolution of RNA ribozyme replicators and eventually exponentially effective self-replication. At that moment biological evolution has replaced chemical evolution.

        In between those paragraphs should have been:

        When cells grow beyond a certain size they divide spontaneously. The contents of the cell compartment will be randomly divided into the compartments of the daughter cells.

      • djockovic
        Posted November 15, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

        I just realised you were probably responding to my comment. It took me a while because you seem to have missed every point that was made. Reading 101 for you then.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted November 16, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

          djockovic I think you are “David Kaludjerovic” & also “Luther Flint” over at the All Ontologies Blazing blogspot

          Here you are complaining about being banned from here in October when you posted as “Luther Flint”:- On Jerry Coyne’s Hypocrisy

          A week ago you rehearsed the arguments you are using here today: Evolution: A View from the Wicked & also have a nice old go at Dawkins:-

          In conclusion, then, the ToE has no scientifically respectable starting point; its mechanisms have not been shown to be adequate for anything but the simplest of its requirements; and we don’t even know what the full requirements of those mechanisms are. Thus, B, C and the route from B to C, are all shrouded in mystery. Moreover, the profound nature of these mysteries suggests that we cannot really say we understand the problem yet, let alone that we have solved it. This is in such stark contrast to the theory the earth goes round the sun, that to claim what Dawkins did he must either be ignorant, stupid, insane, wicked (or all of the above).

          It’s a pity you couldn’t have just linked to your site ~ it would have saved a lot of time.

          • Posted November 17, 2012 at 12:24 am | Permalink

            Thank you Michael for doing this. I did a very superficial search and concluded that this person is probably not the tennis player. A lot of time has been wasted on this one.

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted November 17, 2012 at 3:35 am | Permalink

              Strange guy [it’s always guys] with an internal universe all of his own

              Thinks his arguments are consistent
              Thinks he can philosophise about free will, determinism & evolution using perceived gaps in the science to argue a contrary position
              Thinks he can do that with only a passing knowledge of the science & how she’s done

              I read somewhere that philosophy graduates are generally highly employable, but I imagine this one is stuck in his mum’s spare room with only a keyboard & a fragile ego for company.

              He will be back of course

              • Posted November 17, 2012 at 3:45 am | Permalink

                Exactamente! And, back with possibly yet another name.

    • NoAstronomer
      Posted November 15, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

      Do please go back under whatever bridge you normally hid under.

      Thanks,

      Mike.

      • NoAstronomer
        Posted November 15, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

        * hide

        • djockovic
          Posted November 15, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

          Fairly straightforward points though, eh? You can’t get to your starting point, your mechanisms have never been shown to be able to do anything much, and you have no idea what those mechanisms have to produce in any event. Maybe your poster should say, I have no idea whether evolution is even possible but I believe it with all my heart.

          • whyevolutionistrue
            Posted November 18, 2012 at 9:58 am | Permalink

            Okay djockovic; you’ve demanded that everyone answer your questions. Now you answer mine before you can post anything else

            1. Do you deny that evolution occurred?
            2. If you do, how do you account for the transitional fossils that occur at the right time in the fossil record, i.e. apelike human fossils 4 million years ago, whales with reduced hindlimbs, feathered dinosaurs, and so on?
            3. And what about the fact that we have inactive genes in our genome that are active in our relatives? Why are they there, if not from common ancestry?

            4. How do you account for the profusion of endemic groups on island, like the Hawaiian honeycreepers, while on oceanic islands like Hawaii there are almost no endemic mammals, reptiles, amphibians, or freshwater fish?

            5. A simple model of eye evolution by Nilsson and Prager does exactly what you say we don’t have: show that mutation and natural selection can produce a complex eye from a light-sensitive pigment spot in a relatively rapid period in evolution. Are you going to cast aspersions on that? And what about the evidence showing that new mutations in microbes have led to adaptation?

      • Posted November 15, 2012 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

        Trolls need fresh air too!

    • Fatboy
      Posted November 15, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

      (3rd attempt)

      I’ve always found that first point to be especially irritating (not that the others are much better). Just consider it with another science:

      1. Evolution Meteorology has no scientifically respectable starting point, but without one there will always be the suspicion that some quite different process was involved and there’s no reason to believe whatever that “quite different process” was will have stopped operating once life the atmosphere originated. Thus, until a scientifically respectable account can be provided for the start point of evolution meteorology the theory will be built upon a miracle.

      Of course, there are ideas on how life might have originated. Torbjörn Larsson discussed it a bit in his comment. And even if those current ideas prove to be wrong, I don’t see how you can say that the whole idea is built on a miracle. If anything, we’ve learned that life is just really complex chemistry. There’s nothing magical about it – no ‘vital spark’ required. Given the right conditions, life can emerge.

      • djockovic
        Posted November 15, 2012 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

        But when you say that given the right conditions life can emerge, you’re just making a statement of your faith, nothing more.

        How does meteorology even come close to being an analogy here? And even if it did, pointing at (yet) another miracle doesn’t help your case, it weakens it.

        And who said anything about a vital spark? My point was that until the theory of evolution moves beyond wild speculation devoid of almost any detail about almost anything it is rational to doubt it.

        Extraordinary claims and all that…

        • Posted November 15, 2012 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

          A statement of confidence, not faith. A big difference.

        • Posted November 15, 2012 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

          Seems like apples and oranges are getting a bit mixed here. The theory of evolution is currently our best understanding of the origin of species, not the origin of life.

          • djockovic
            Posted November 16, 2012 at 7:22 am | Permalink

            I know evolution is the theory of the devolopment of life following its origin, but the origin is a problem because evolution relies so heavily on what originated. Thus until that we have, at minium, some rough explanation of that, there will always be the suspicion that something central is missing from our understanding of this whole area, including evolution. This is because evolution relies so heavily on what originated for it’s explanatory power.

            This problem is made worse by the fact that the current evolutionary mechanisms can’t clearly be shown to be capable of producing what they have to produce. Thus another doubt creeps in. And yet another doubt creeps in because we don’t yet know what those mechanisms have to produce in the first place.

            In the most critical terms, then: we have a system we can’t account for, and some mechanisms we don’t know work, to get us to a place we can’t yet describe.

            • OlliP
              Posted November 16, 2012 at 10:06 am | Permalink

              Why do you claim that “current evolutionary mechanisms can’t clearly be shown to be capable of producing what they have to produce”? Artificial selection, for example on dogs or farmed vegetables, is a very good demonstration of the changes that evolution and selective pressure can generate over time. Obviously artificial selection is not excactly the same as natural selection, but there could hardly be a better demonstration. Until we have kept observing for another few million years.

    • steve oberski
      Posted November 15, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

      What theory do you propose in place of evolution that better fits the facts from diverse disciplines such as biogeography, genetics, the fossil record, cladistics just to name a few ?

      • djockovic
        Posted November 15, 2012 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

        I don’t propose to put any theory in its place. I simply propose we hold off making preposterous statements that go well beyond the evidence for religio-political reasons. A point which raises another problem for evolution: it has become so bound up with certain ideologies, and so often associated with wildly overinflated claims, that it is in danger of becoming the theory/dogma that cried wolf.

        • steve oberski
          Posted November 15, 2012 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

          Name some of these “preposterous statements”.

          • djockovic
            Posted November 16, 2012 at 7:29 am | Permalink

            “I understand why evolution is true”, for example.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted November 15, 2012 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

      “Evolution has no scientifically respectable starting point, but without one there will always be the suspicion that some quite different process was involved and there’s no reason to believe whatever that “quite different process” was will have stopped operating once life originated. Thus, until a scientifically respectable account can be provided for the start point of evolution the theory will be built upon a miracle.”

      So unless we have a perfect understanding of symmetry breaking and the Higgs field and have experimental confirmation of the graviton, we shouldn’t trust the theory of gravity, since it has no scientifically respectable starting point, and since (who knows?) there may be unknown processes involved, meaning the whole gravity theory thing is built on a miracle?

      Is that how you see that one, too?

      • djockovic
        Posted November 16, 2012 at 7:47 am | Permalink

        That may, or may not, be a good analogy. However, my points are, I think, wholly understandable in terms of origin of life-evolution-cats/consciouness. There is no need, therefore, to look to other situations which could conceivably be described in similar ways and then to try to claim that since there’s no problem there there’s no problem here. That is, if they are relevantly identical problems then just respond to mine, and if they’re not then resolving the other is waste of time.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted November 16, 2012 at 9:26 am | Permalink

          Yes, they are “relevantly identical problems,” making them a good analogy.

          Just as it is a fact that things fall down rather than up, it is also a fact that all of the life forms in existence today developed gradually, by incremental change over deep time, from a common ancestor. The explanation for the first fact (falling-down-ness), accepted (provisionally, but without serious dispute) by scientist working in the field, is General Relativity. The explanation for the second (biological change over time), accepted by the same standard, is the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection.

          In both fields, there are related, as-yet unresolved issues — Quantum Gravity and Origin of Life. Scientists have generated interesting hypothesis as to each. Many of those scientist are diligently working on these issues and making significant progress toward their resolution. When and if those issues are resolved, the results will be important and, perhaps, profound.

          Wouldn’t you agree?

          • djockovic
            Posted November 16, 2012 at 10:55 am | Permalink

            They’re not relevantly identical at all. For starters, the idea things fall down is far more secure a fact than the idea that all of the life forms in existence today developed gradually, by incremental change over deep time, from a common ancestor (GM crops spring to mind here). Also, it’s very easy to understand what things falling down means and what we would count as things falling down or otherwise, whereas it’s far from clear, eg, how ungradual things would need to be before we said the changes weren’t gradual at all. Moreover, saying things fall down doesn’t have the theoretical baggage sitting in the background the way the latter claim does. There are, eg, people who might agree with the latter claim and yet still say they don’t believe in evolution.

            There are numerous other points I could make as regards the differences, but I think your determination to argue this point purely in terms of analogy suggests you know full well there are relevant differences but that you can’t make the points you want to make with regard the original, as opposed to the (dis)analagous, problem.

            • Vaal
              Posted November 16, 2012 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

              “They’re not relevantly identical at all. For starters, the idea things fall down is far more secure a fact than the idea that all of the life forms in existence today developed gradually, by incremental change over deep time, from a common ancestor (GM crops spring to mind here).”

              You missed his point. He was talking about our best explanations for a set of observations. In other words: Scientific Theories.

              Evolution theory is regarded in the scientific realm as possibly the most robustly supported scientific theory we have.
              You have to be ignorant of the science and how much phenemona it ties together to deny this. It’s supported in the same way, by the same means, as any other scientific theory, including theories about gravity.

              Your same criticisms would apply to the theory of General Relativity. You are special pleading to point to the incompleteness of evolution theory to claim it is unreasonable to believe that theory.

              And your pointing to gaps in understanding how life may have arisen to cast doubt on evolution theory is standard creationist-level tactic that mixes up what scientific theories actually explain. Evolution is a theory that applies to populations of entities that replicate with heritable variation, within changing environmental pressures to survive. It looks at the implications for this combination – a change in phenotype being possible over successive generations – and looks for evidence to support that it does and did happen. Astounding mountains of evidence support the theory, which is WHY it has become a well established scientific theory.

              You can’t criticize it for failing to explain what it is NOT TRYING to explain.
              It’s like saying it’s not reasonable to make any secure claims about the science of aeronautics, because “ultimately all the things described in aeronautics depend on fundamental physics for which there are gaps in our knowledge.” That would be stupid. Please don’t make the same mistake.
              If you want to say that it’s unjustified to say “evolution is true” then you have to show how the theory actually fails as an explanation for WHAT IT PURPORTS TO EXPLAIN.

              All else is equivocation and misapprehension
              on how science works.

              Vaal

              • djockovic
                Posted November 16, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

                1. Two things being scientific theories does not automatically make them relevantly identical. That was his point and he was wrong.

                2. When you say the theory of evolution is the most robust in all of science, do you mean the theory that evolution (of some form) took place, or the theory that all the variation in life we see is the result of natural selection acting on random mutation (and a few other similarish mechanisms). In either case the idea that it’s the most robust in all of science is a joke, but in the former case it’s only mildly amusing as opposed to the latter where it’s hysterically funny.

                3. I’m not criticising evolutionary theory for failing to explain what it doesn’t try to explain. I’m saying that one of the things evolutionary theory doesn’t (try to) explain might have profound implications for it once/if it is explained because of the intimate relationship between the theory and that miraculous and unexplained central character.

                4. As regards my having to show that the theory fails as an explantion of what it purports to explain, I already did in point (3) of my intial post. The mechanisms currently avaliable have not been shown to be capable of producing anything like the stuff we know would need to have been produced.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted November 16, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

              Genetically modified crops undermine evolution in the same way that flying machines undermine gravity. (In your original comment, you said you had no problem with evolution itself, that your only concern was with Origin-of-Life issues. Now, in your last response, you are denying all of evolution. This type of shift isn’t ordinarily found in arguments being made in good faith.)

              Contrary to your assertions, evolution is every bit as plain and secure as gravity in that it supported by multiple lines of scientific evidence including, but not limited to, the fossil record, genome studies, population genetics, and bio-geography, among others. If you are unfamiliar with all these lines of attestation, you really should read the book that serves as the namesake for this website, or read Dawkins’s The Greatest Show on Earth. Or take advantage of the resources at the TalkOrigins website. If, after steeping yourself in this material, you still do not agree with evolutionary theory as accepted by a near-unanimous scientific community, then propose an alternative hypothesis — and, by all means, cite some evidence to support it!

              But, let’s face it, if you had a legitimate interest in understanding the subject you have been writing about here, you would already know this. The positions you’ve set out above are the ones commonly asserted — time after time ad nauseum — by religiously motivated cranks whose interest is not in understanding scientific evidence, but in gauging out enough doubt in their own minds that they can cling to their denial of that scientific evidence and, thus, preserve some space for a role in man’s emergence to be played by their preferred Creator-God. (Maybe you are the Black Swan here, djockovic, and your denialism stems from another source, but nothing you have said anywhere in these comments suggests so.)

              Given that you haven’t made any arguments based in evidence, I thought the best way to engage you might be through argument-by-analogy. But in view the circumstances set out above, it doesn’t seem that our dialogue can be productively continued.

              • djockovic
                Posted November 16, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

                It can’t be productively continued because you’re not up to productively commenting on what I actually said. If you were you would realise that the theory that all life evolved by means of natural selection acting on random mutations (and other similar mechanisms) is so from the claim that all life evolved (by some means) as to make it ridiculous to conflate the two as you are doing. It’s the “by some means” that interests me. This, and how it has come to be believed that those means are currently well understood, and clearly demonstrated to be up to the task, in the absence of anything remotely resembling a detailed account of exactly, or even roughly, how such a thing could actually be the case. My answer to that last point being that it’s because it suits a particular religio-political agenda. Thus, for example, your attempt to try to shoe-horn me into the role of religiously motivated critic rather than, as I see it, critic of religiously motivated pseudoscientific claims.

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted November 16, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

                I haven’t productively commented on what you actually said because you haven’t actually said anything productive. You discussed no scientific evidence and proposed no alternative scientific hypothesis to the Theory of Evolution — a theory that has earned acceptance from an all-but-unanimous scientific community — even after I pointed you to sources that provide precisely what you now claim to be asking for “… a detailed account of how such a thing [evolution] could be the case,” all in a comprehensive fashion accessible to laymen. Your argument comes down instead to the bald assertion that you do not find the pro-evolution evidence (with which you demonstrate little familiarity) personally persuasive.

                Also, contrary to your assertion, I haven’t shoe-horned you into the role of “religiously motivated critic”; I simply made the inescapably obvious observation that your plaints regarding evolution mirror theirs, then fairly invited you to tell us otherwise — to explain why you were the Black Swan of evolutionary denialism, the first whose motivation wasn’t religious, or financial, instigated by the buttery emoluments the religiously motivated schmear upon their bread (see, e.g., Berlinski, David). You fail to do so in your response, which seems a tacit admission that your objections stem from no secular scientific source.

                Evolutionary denialism can invariably be traced back to its religious source. One does not find a like level of gravity denialism because believers do not see it as posing similar doctrinal obstacles to their religious suppositions (though if they ever thought through why mass-less spiritual entities like angles are endowed with teets-on-a-bull appendages like wings, we just might).

                Adios, djockovic.

              • Vaal
                Posted November 16, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

                djockovic,

                “in the absence of anything remotely resembling a detailed account of exactly, or even roughly, how such a thing could actually be the case.”

                Simply shows an utter disregard for looking into the evidence.

                djockovic, what is your experience, and competence, in terms of looking into and understanding the theory of evolution and common descent? Do you understand how the fossils are ordered in the geological strata?
                If humans did not arise from an earlier primate species, how do you explain the progression we find in hominid fossil skulls THROUGH TIME in the fossil record?

                Do you understand the concept of “phylogenetic trees,” their place in evolution theory and the role they play daily in biology (for instance, in finding out how to fight pathogens, and save your ass should bio-terrorism or some new plague threaten us)? Do you understand the concept of “nested hierarchies” and what they imply? Do you have an alternate theory for the Homologies we see in nature?
                Before you have dismissed it, do you understand the genetic/molecular evidence
                for evolution?

                Are you familiar with examples like Tiktaalik? It was evolution theory that allowed the paleontologists to predict where they would be likely to find just such a transitional form. How would YOU explain the finding of Tiktaalik, better than evolution theory explains it?

                You have just outright dismissed that evolution theory is inadequate, so can you indicate just how informed or competent you are to do so? You wouldn’t want to go off on a subject about which you are woefully uninformed…would you?

                Vaal

    • Tristan
      Posted November 16, 2012 at 3:50 am | Permalink

      You keep misspelling “I”. It’s not spelled with a w.

      • djockovic
        Posted November 16, 2012 at 8:06 am | Permalink

        Yes, we see that you have an answer to the problem.

    • OlliP
      Posted November 16, 2012 at 4:31 am | Permalink

      Ant gave you the starting point: differential replication and scarce resources. I would claim that those are irrefutable facts, in any reasonable sense of the word “irrefutable”. Did you just not know this before or are you saying that irrefutable facts are not a “scientifically respectable starting point”? If so, then what would be?

      Another interpretation of your post would be that evolution does not explain it’s own starting point. In that case the problem would be much worse than that: evolution not only fails to explain it’s starting point, but also to starting point of the starting point, the starting point of the starting point of the starting point, …, turtles.

      See how big the problem is?

      • djockovic
        Posted November 16, 2012 at 8:03 am | Permalink

        No, you’ve missed the point. I know what the starting point of evolution IS, my point was that we have no scientifically respectable way to get there. For why this is important in this particular case see my intial post.

        • OlliP
          Posted November 16, 2012 at 9:41 am | Permalink

          But a theory doesn’t explain it’s own starting point. You don’t need to know how the first replicator arose and how matter formed in the first place to use replication and scarce resources as a starting point. And Torbjörn Larsson explained above how things probably got there.

          But even though the starting point is not as firmly established as what followed (ie. evolution by natural selection), that doesn’t mean that evolutionary theory would be in any way on shaky foundations. The foundations are replication and scarcity, no matter where they come from.

          And I don’t think that a synthesis explanation from chemistry, physics, astronomy, astrobiology and geology could be called “not scientifically respectable”. You are allowed to have a best working theory even before the case is ironclad. The origin of life just isn’t a problem for evolutionary theory, just as it isn’t a problem for theory of the consumer or feminist legal theory (though it is easier to confuse origin of life with evolution than the last 2 examples).

          • djockovic
            Posted November 16, 2012 at 11:08 am | Permalink

            I never said the theory of evolution has to expain it’s own starting point. I said that until there is an explanation of that intimately connected starting point no theory built on top of it can be considered secure. This is because what we discover about that starting point may have radical implications for any theory which requires it as a key component. This problem would not be so bad, mind you, if the theory itself was internally secure. Thus this point is also part of a cumulative problem when put together with the poorly developed account of the workings of evolutionary mechanisms and the almost total ignorance of some of the items that those mehanisms have to produce.

            And of course you’re allowed to have a working theory. But what you’re not allowed to do is proclaim your working theory is an established fact. At least, not when it suffers from the type of problems identified above.

    • Posted November 16, 2012 at 9:51 am | Permalink

      djockovic here gives a marvelous example of the kind of Gish galloping that can go on once we blur the distinction between evolution as historical fact (not theory, like the elliptical orbit of the planets is not theory), and the mechanisms we invoke to explain it (theory, like gravity is a theory).

      Pre-Einstein, we could not explain the precession of Mercury, and until the 1960s we had no good account of the accretion of planets. But that’s no reason for reopening the 17th century dialog between geo- and heliocentric systems, and our ignorance of the origins of life and our gaps in knowledge about evolution are no reason for reopening the early 19th century dialog between evolutionism and fixism.

      • djockovic
        Posted November 16, 2012 at 11:32 am | Permalink

        I sort of agree. The problem though is that the word “evolution” has become so attached to the theory of evolution (often being used to refer to that theory) that it’s unlcear whether we would keep using the word “evolution” if the theory was found to be wildly wrong or radically incomplete. Moreover, even the term “theory of evolution” is sometimes used to refer to the theory THAT evolution took place, rather than the theory OF HOW evolution took place.
        This is why, in my original post, I explicitly unblurred this distinction by stating plainly that IF “evolution is true” did not simply mean “fixism” is false (I said “special creation” in my post), then doubt was the only rational option. Thus any Gish galloping is not down to me. As if I would…

        A further point being, if that’s all the poster is saying, do you not think it’s a touch equivocal/disingenuous?

  13. neil344
    Posted November 15, 2012 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    I accept the fact of evolution AND I believe in evolution. By that I mean, even in the absence of the facts of a particular matter, I expect those facts to be in accordance with the general fact of evolution until I am convincingly shown otherwise. And extraordinary claims will require extraordinary evidence.

  14. brad
    Posted November 15, 2012 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    I don’t get too bent out of shape about ordinary language phrases like this. Doesn’t seem to do much harm to me. “Believe in,” in this context, clearly means, “believe true.” THere is a slightly different sense when we say, “I believe in god,” for it has a sense of reliance on, in a way believing in a theory doesn’t (not being an animate object). But I can’t see it causes much confusion. Here’s a challenge. Can anyone find me a real life example by someone who is not clearly a lunatic (examples for thinking of what I mean by lunatic: Francis Collins, wrong as he is, isn’t one, Ken Hamm is) making a confusion based on this?

    SO 1) I beleive that evolution is true (i.e., in ordinary language, “believe in” it) and 2) understand and accept the evidence for it (because I also accept canons of rationality, if we want to get technical about it). Admittedly, the believing in phrase doesn’t get across what is said in 2), and it is important to add. But it’s pretty easy to add it. And of course, we believe something stronger, that we believe 1) because of 2). All of this is important to get across to a person inquiring of us whether we believe in evolution, but as a matter of fact, we do.

    Consider the other case: Someone says, I believe in god. Really, why we might ask? Some people, religious apologists, say, because I have reasons and evidence on my side. Others, fideists, say, no reasons, it’s just faith. We can make a point now. We are all evolutionary apologists, and there really are no evolutionary fideists.

    • brad
      Posted November 15, 2012 at 11:52 am | Permalink

      Notice that saying, “I don’t believe it, I KNOW it,” is really odd, because in the relevant sense of belief, belief is a necessary condition for knowledge, not an inconsistency with it. We might say, “Because my evidence referred to in 2) is SO strong for 1), I claim to know it as well.” This move is epistemologically fraught with problems, but it might well be true that we know that evolution is true. I don’t know of any clear non-controversial extant epistemology that licenses this move, but it is common to say.

    • Posted November 15, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

      brad – back to my relatives; clearly not lunatics but steeped in a culture where ‘believing’ evolution is taken in the same sense as equivalent to ‘believing’ in God. They see evolution as a belief system that is based on faith, paralleling their belief in God that is based on faith. Many have not gone to college and have very little understanding of science, and thus they are easily drawn into the canard that science is settled by debate. They do not fully understand the concept of a theory, and are thus drawn in by the ‘it’s only a theory’ crowd, usw. So, for me, “I don’t believe in evolution” is a very good opening line to get these people to think just a bit.

    • Greg Esres
      Posted November 15, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

      I don’t get too bent out of shape about ordinary language phrases like this. Doesn’t seem to do much harm to me. “Believe in,” in this context, clearly means, “believe true.”

      I agree. If someone asks if you believe in evolution, it really misses the point of the question and makes you look priggish, which isn’t a good start to the conversation. Better to say “Yes, I do, and here’s why…” You won’t be able to escape the accusation of it being a faith-based belief just by using a different word.

      • Vaal
        Posted November 17, 2012 at 8:27 am | Permalink

        Good point Greg!

        Vaal

  15. Strider
    Posted November 15, 2012 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    Ideally, aren’t one’s beliefs based on their knowledge?

    • gravelinspector
      Posted November 16, 2012 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

      Ideally, there’s no difference between theory and practice ; in practice …

  16. Posted November 15, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    “150 years of evidence shows that evolution is a theory”.

  17. John K.
    Posted November 15, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    While we are being pedantic . . .

    The two sentiments don’t seem mutually exclusive, in that one most certainly believes that which one holds to be a fact. The second statement is more comprehensive, to be sure, but it implies that you do in fact believe in evolution. You don’t JUST believe in evolution, but it is a belief you have nonetheless.

    Unlike those who have a belief in creationism, I believe in evolution for good reasons.

    • lanceleuven
      Posted November 15, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

      To be honest I’m not sure the discussion is about whether the two things are mutually exclusive or not. I think it’s more concerned with how one statement has inherent ambiguity that can be intentionally misinterpreted. Whereas, as you say, the second statement is more comprehensive, and therefore avoids that potential pitfall. You’re right though, we do believe in evolution. I think this is simply an attempt to frame that sentiment in such a way that creationists can’t argue that belief in creationism is as equally valid as belief in evolution. Because it’s not. Because like you say, we believe it for good reasons.

      That’s my interpretation of it anyhow’s.

  18. fullyladenswallow
    Posted November 15, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    Let’s see. What would be the difference in the following phrases?

    1. “I believe in evolution.”
    2. “I believe evolution to be true.”

    Perhaps this is hair splitting or knit-picking but it seems to me that the word “in” is really the pivotal part of speech here and the word “believe” is not so much the culprit when it comes to clarity.

    Any thoughts? Linguists, do your duty.

    • Posted November 15, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

      In my experience at two southern public universities, the word “believe” is always a bit loaded with religious meaning, because religion is such a big part of everyday life. I learned to avoid the B-word altogether, and say “I ACCEPT evolution as true”. (Ditto for plate tectonics, another scientific target for Christian inanity).

    • JohnnieCanuck
      Posted November 15, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

      Linguistically speaking, ‘knit-picking’ is an eggcorn.

      Sorry, but I only just learned about the word eggcorn a few days ago and my initial enthusiasm hasn’t yet settled down.

      • fullyladenswallow
        Posted November 15, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

        OK, I got it. So I’ll get rid of the damn “K”, although I prefer to “pick” at wool rather than head lice.

        • Posted November 15, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

          At least you’re only picking at their eggs.

          /@

          PS. OT: My favourite eggcorn: a damp squid.

          • fullyladenswallow
            Posted November 15, 2012 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

            Guess I should have stuck with just “hair-splitting”, although eggcorns sound tasty.

            So the phrase “peaked (peeked) my interest” is an eggcorn while “piqued my interest” is not?

            • Posted November 16, 2012 at 3:12 am | Permalink

              Yes, because “piqued” is idiomatically & etymologically correct. It is from French piquer: prick, irritate.

              Compare, e.g., “picador”, a bullfighter on horseback who pricks the bull with a lance to weaken it and goad it.

              /@

          • Posted November 16, 2012 at 3:13 am | Permalink

            PPS. “Putting someone on a pedal stool” is another good one.

    • Posted November 16, 2012 at 6:09 am | Permalink

      Even the second one is a bit weird, if taken strictly. Propositions are true (or false) not processes/events, so “evolution is true” has to be taken to be elliptical for “a sufficient number of propositions in a theory of evolution are true”.

  19. Posted November 15, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.” -Neil deGrasse Tyson.

  20. drbobdrbob
    Posted November 15, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    How about “I don’t just believe in evolution, I understand why evolution is true.”

    • neil344
      Posted November 15, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

      And I have evidence to support my belief, unlike you credulous faithists.

    • DaveH
      Posted November 15, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

      I always liked a line that I first heard from the wonderful musician Chris Smither, in answer to the question: “Oh you don’t believe in evolution, do you?”
      He replied, “You don’t believe in evolution, you either understand evolution, or you don’t!”

  21. Robert Bray
    Posted November 15, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    Speaking of word choice and phraseology, I don’t thing ‘brainwashing’ is appropriate for what those demented Xtians are doing to their kids. It’s more like ‘brain forming,’ though the ultimate effect is just as tragic.

  22. Posted November 15, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    I do believe in Evolution, and I understand why it is true. There’s no conflict in those statements.

  23. Posted November 15, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if the skulls is a good image, with its implicit focus on the last few microseconds of evolution? Likewise the other “evolution” meme, the procession of hominin males (with their right legs delicately forward)?

    How about a kitteh-themed one, with tiger, lynx, moggie, and further back hyena and thylacine?

    • Posted November 15, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

      The skulls specifically address the “man created in God’s image” aspect of creationism.

      • Posted November 15, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

        I guess you’re right, that that is the only part of evolution some of these boneheads have ever heard of. I have addressed it more directly with this image.

    • Marella
      Posted November 16, 2012 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

      A kitteh themed one would be good too though.

  24. lanceleuven
    Posted November 15, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    I like the intention but to be honest I’m not a big fan of the wording. I think I prefer ‘accept’ to ‘understand’. But I guess that’s simply personal preference (or me just being pedantic).

    I believe in evolution because I accept the authority of overwhelming evidence.

    • Posted November 15, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

      I prefer accept also. I usually say I accept the scientific theory and fact of evolution. However, I would be less reluctant to say believe in secular Europe or in secular elite American academic circles though because such a word would not cause misunderstanding as it would in the wider, god-crazed, drunk-with-faith American society.

  25. RFW
    Posted November 15, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    Good call. A closely related tactic is to restate religious “I believe” statements as “your opinion is”. The distinction may seem over-nice to many, but “believe” carries with it an aura of immutability, whereas “opinion” implicitly allows for change.

    In drafting the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, T. Jefferson used the word “opinions” instead of “beliefs”, which sets a very good example. Further, “opinion” allows a sharp contrast with “actions”, so you may have the opinion that handling snakes (say) is the way to salvation, but if you act on that opinion, you may find yourself in trouble with the law in those states that forbid snake handling.

  26. Occam
    Posted November 15, 2012 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    If any of the present have taken a “political-stance-quiz” during the recent presidential campaign, you are likely to have encountered the question: “Do you believe [in] the theory of Evolution?”
    (cf. http://www.isidewith.com/political-quiz )

    At least, isidewith.com allowed not just for the dreaded Yes/No vote, but also for choosing “another stance”, e.g.,
    “Yes, Evolution is a fact.”
    The “Yes” can be construed as a clarification of the affirmative. Still, it is logically awkward. Facts are facts, whether you believe in them or not.

  27. Pray Hard
    Posted November 15, 2012 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been saying this to people for years.

  28. Paul W., OM
    Posted November 15, 2012 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    I hate, hate, hate this meme.

    I believe in evolution in the same sense that I believe in photons, and don’t believe in Bigfoot.

    Of course I believe in evolution, and so does almost everybody here. We just don’t Believe in it in some twisted religion-specific sense, for stupid reasons, or glorify believing stuff there isn’t good evidence for.

    Yes, it’s ambiguous, and sometimes we may prefer to say “I accept the fact of evolution” for clarity, but we should never say “I don’t believe in evolution.” We do.

    We shouldn’t let the theists take important words away from us by twisting them beyond recognition—we should fight back against their perverse use of basic terms like “believe,” and should hold on to the words’ central, prototypical meanings.

    They’re everybody’s words, and their central meanings have nothing to do with religion. Keep using them, and use them right.

    Don’t let them take our words from us. Ugh.

    • Ludo
      Posted November 16, 2012 at 12:32 am | Permalink

      -“Don’t let them take our words from us. Ugh.”
      I agree: Let not our language be controlled by postmodernists, faitheists and anti-evolutionists!

    • kelskye
      Posted November 16, 2012 at 1:31 am | Permalink

      “I hate, hate, hate this meme.”
      Me too. *high-five*

    • neil344
      Posted November 16, 2012 at 10:01 am | Permalink

      I agree. The sign should read “I believe in evolution BECAUSE I understand why it is true.”

      You can believe in something with reason and evidence, and that is fine.

      You can believe in something without reason and evidence, and that is futile.

      You can believe in something that is contrary to reason and evidence, and that is moronic.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 3:21 am | Permalink

        +1

        ‘believe’ is too useful a word to allow the goddists to hijack it

  29. Posted November 15, 2012 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    After READING ALL OF THIS I AM INTELLECTUALLY WORN OUT.However,from twenty some years of study of religion and evolution, plus dabbling in Abiogenesis,I am confident that evolution is true. I may not like it, but it is what it is. Leon martin.

  30. kelskye
    Posted November 16, 2012 at 1:30 am | Permalink

    Understanding is still a belief. The problem isn’t with word belief, but the pernicious association between belief and faith. Of course I believe in evolution, but it’s because I understand how it works!

  31. jj
    Posted November 16, 2012 at 1:53 am | Permalink

    I prefer the word “conclude” as in “I conclude that the theory of evolution is the best explanation of how we got here from archeobacteria due to the massive, overwhelming evidence therefore.”

    For the record, everyone has to believe something, I believe I’ll have another piece of chocolate now.

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted November 16, 2012 at 10:18 am | Permalink

      The version I know is “Right now I believe I’ll have another beer” Not wishing to appear sexist, but are you female by any chance, jj :-)?

  32. Michael Fisher
    Posted November 16, 2012 at 5:07 am | Permalink

    “Life is the art of drawing conclusions from insufficient premises”
    Samuel Butler
    British satirist
    1835 – 1902

  33. MKray
    Posted November 16, 2012 at 5:09 am | Permalink

    `Belief’ is used in different ways, and I have often heard people say (often defensively) `I choose to believe XXX’ where XXX is typically some religion. Talk of choosing beliefs seem anomalous to me. I have sympathy with the idea that evolution should not be in the category of things that is subject to choice.

  34. Posted November 16, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    I believe in diabetes. I believe in gravity. I believe in calculus.

    Do any of these sound idiotic to you? Well, it’s no different. Just say that these theories / laws are backed up with science. Do we really want the Creationists influencing our language?

    • John Scanlon, FCD
      Posted November 17, 2012 at 8:31 am | Permalink

      I’m with you, and would never endorse an “I don’t believe in Evolution” poster.

      I would never say it without visible air-quotes and heavy irony-flagging stress, and fully expect never to say it once as long as I live. Pretty sure I would put the important distinction between “believe… because…” and “have faith… despite…”.

      • Posted November 18, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

        Air quotes are a great idea, especially when being forced to respond to such a question.

  35. Hayden
    Posted November 16, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    Ugh, not you too, Jerry!

    I don’t think we should be ceding the word “belief” to the religious. It’s a completely neutral word, and beliefs can be held for either rational or irrational reasons.

    To quote the Wikipedia article on belief…

    > Belief is the psychological state in which an individual holds a proposition or premise to be true.

    That’s it. That’s all it is. If I give you a proposition p, and you agree with it, then you “believe in p”. Here the proposition is the theory of evolution. If you agree with what the theory of evolution states, then **you believe in evolution.**

    I believe in evolution, *because* I understand it.

  36. djockovic
    Posted November 16, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    @ Ken Kukec
    You haven’t productively commented because you still, unbelievably, haven’t grasped the simple points I am making. As for including no evidence, what would you like me to do, invent a theory of abiogenesis and then critique it. My point is that there is no real theory of abiogenesis – just some very preliminary speculations. Same goes for consciousness. And since both points are well known, it’s hard to believe you are unaware of this.
    As for my ciriticisms being religiously motivated, no, they aren’t. I already ststed that plainly but you appear to have missed it. Here it is again, my objections are not religiously motivated. By contrast, my objections are motivated by the fact that whenever I raise these doubts, otherwise semingly rational people suddenly can’t seem to be able to read properly (as you demonstrate), and this makes me think there must be something to the doubts. BTW, did I mention my objections were not religiously motivated? No, ok then, my objections are not religiously motivated. Get it now?

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted November 17, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

      You assert I haven’t grasped the simple points you are making, but you haven’t made any points, simple or otherwise. You have not engaged, not once, the vast amounts of evidence, from independent lines of research, that supports evolutionary theory. Instead, you present a classical argument from personal incredulity — that because you, djokovic, do not understand how evolution works, there must be a problem with it.

      If you are arguing in good faith, then answer the questions Vaal and I have put to you – explain why the evidence supporting evolutionary theory doesn’t (beyond your oft-repeated assertion that it hasn’t been shown to do what it claims). Feel free to pick one of the multiple lines of evidence available and have at it.

      You also claim that some discovery relating to abiogenesis will infuse the field with some unspecified hoodoo-voodoo, some mystical, completely unknown process that will set biology on its ear — without aking any effort to identify what it would be, how it would work, or why this is so. (For someone so critical of any gaps in evolutionary science, you’re sure putting a lot of unwarranted faith in the closing of this gap to support your “points.”)

      Finally, as to whether your argument is religiously motivated, you say you “already ststed [sic] that plainly” they were not. Not in any comment to me, you didn’t. What you did was accuse me of trying to shoe-horn you into a religious position (when I pointed out the obvious correspondence between your arguments and theirs), without ever denying it. (You might want to check your facts before accusing others of an inability to “read properly.”) But you’ve now made that assertion plainly, and my policy is to accept such an assertion at face value, unless and until refuted. So go ahead and set out for us the secular, scientific basis for your arguments — and, please, something beyond a reference to unspecified gaps and the same djokovic-ian incredulity. Say something that will at least demonstrate (for the first time) some basic understanding of the science you have been so wont to criticize.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted November 17, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

        C’mon, djokovic, show the doubters on this site you’ve got it in you, son. Pick just one of the lines of evidence supporting evolutionary theory — biochemical, embryological, comparative anatomy … you pick it! — and explain to us why it fails to support evolution in the way claimed.

        Here, I’ll make it easy for you: Give us your take on the paleontological evidence (you know, like, fossils). The internet is full of “refutations” of the evidence in the fossil record by evolution deniers — all of it bullshit, but still. (Evolution denialist motto: “Always wrong; never in doubt.”)

        We anxiously await your erudite response, kiddo.

        • djockovic
          Posted November 18, 2012 at 6:04 am | Permalink

          The fossil record gives little indication of what precise mechanisms were involved in changing one species into another. Thus it only provides evidence for the idea THAT some form of evolution took place and not for the idea that evolution took place via the mechanisms currently suggested.

          I’m sorry I wasn’t able to respond within your time limit and this led you to believe, falsely, that I had been called out and was a no-show. I’ll try to be more prompt in future.

          Now, why don’t you try to respond to my actual points, as opposed to some others you just made up. And don’t get so worked up, it’s very unbecoming, as it makes it look like you have little to offer but bluff and bluster.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted November 18, 2012 at 8:08 am | Permalink

            That’s it? That’s all you’ve got? Your comprehensive study of the fossil record leads you to conclude that “it only provides evidence for the idea THAT some form of evolution took place”? (emphasis yours)

            You’ve vacillated here between the position that evolution didn’t happen or that it did happen but we don’t understand anything about how. Why don’t you for once clearly state your understanding of what the science shows?

            What are these “actual points” you think you’ve made that merit response? As far as I can see, they have been two: that a miracle happened with the origin of life; and that you, djockovic, don’t understand the mechanisms of evolution, so those mechanisms must be insufficient to accomplish what the scientific record demonstrates has taken place.

            Please cite the scientific studies that you contend support this second “point” of yours, that the mechanisms set out in the Modern Synthesis cannot account for what we find in the evolutionary record. That would take your “point” out of the realm of personal incredulity, such that a meaningful response might be formulated.

            And I’m not worked up. I’ve tried to engage you in a civil manner. You’ve been the one continually dropping snide remarks about everyone else’s “reading ability” and haughtily claiming that they are intellectually incapable of responding to your devastating “points” (whatever it is you think they are). But thanks for the etiquette tip anyway.

            • djockovic
              Posted November 18, 2012 at 8:28 am | Permalink

              Well your reading ability is awful. You still don’t get the simple point that was made above, for example.

              And it’s not for me to show that the mechanisms haven’t been shown to account for it, because since they haven’t been shown to account for it, there isn’t anything for me to criticise. That is, the kind of detailed accounts that would need to exist for these mechanisms to have been shown to be capable of what is claimed for them simply don’t exist. What we have, by contrast, is, eg, a collection of skulls and the assumption that mutation done it, and the assumption that mutation (in the currently understood sense of that term) done everything else as well. That’s what I doubt.

            • djockovic
              Posted November 18, 2012 at 8:41 am | Permalink

              And, fwiw, as an example of your misunderstanding, I’m not saying the mechanisms “cannot” account for what we see, I’m saying the mechanisms have not been shown to be able to account for it. I therrefore await the evidence, extraordinary claims and all that…

              And stop with the argument from incredulity nonsense – it’s not a real fallacy you know.

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted November 18, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

                It’s not a real argument, either. But it’s one-half of your precious “points.” The other is “then a miracle happened.”

                And no, it’s not for you “to show that the mechanisms haven’t been shown to account for it”; it’s for you to put in the effort to learn the scientific evidence before making unsupported (and unsupportable) claims — something quite plainly you have not done. Until you do, your “points” are meaningless, devoid of content. That, you’ve made quite clear, notwithstanding my awful reading ability.

              • articulett
                Posted November 18, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

                I suspect that the only people who think that think natural selection has “not been able to account for evolution” of the species are people who believe in a god who will punish them if they accept evolution.

                To those without such fears, evolution is considered as “proven” as gravitational theory, heliocentrism, germ theory, atomic theory,cell theory and other scientific theories. That is, it is by far the best explanation available for the evidence and it allows us to predict new evidence. New evidence continually adds detail to the theory and never has there been evidence which contradicts it.

                No other explanation regarding origin of the species comes close. Genetics confirms evolution as a fact… (unless maybe you believe in trickster supernatural entities that mess around with DNA just to make humans think that they evolved.)

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted November 17, 2012 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

      You were called out, djokovic, and you came up empty. A no-show. The Big Nada.

      All you were challenged to do was string together a coherent sentence or two demonstrating a rudimentary familiarity with just one the lines of scientific evidence supporting evolutionary theory – any one of the numerous lines of evidence, your choice, whichever one you consider to be your, you know, personal métier — but you failed to step up to the plate to take your cuts. (If you can hack it, if you can meet this simple, straightforward challenge, please do; I will recant, here on this site, with unmatched alacrity.) But until you do, I’m left to assume that your basic scientific knowledge of the field is commensurate with what you’ve demonstrated in your dozen-and-a-half comments upstream: essentially nil.

      But you know what you want to be true, djokovic, and evolution ain’t it.

      Gotcha.

      Anyway, thanks for playing. Johnny, let’s have a copy of the home version of the Why-Evolution-Is-True game as a parting gift for our contestant.

  37. djockovic
    Posted November 16, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    @vaal

    This question you asked “If humans did not arise from an earlier primate species, how do you explain the progression we find in hominid fossil skulls THROUGH TIME in the fossil record?”, shows clearly that you have not understood a word I have said. I’m completely happy with the idea that humans arose in the manner described. My issue is with the idea that anyone knows even roughly how this happened. Moreover, that’s a fairly simple change in the scheme of things. Much easier, say, than turning a single celled organism into a fish. So my issue is with the current theory of how evolution happened and the wildly inflated claims that are made for that theory (often supported by equivocation on the word “evolution”).

    • Posted November 16, 2012 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

      Djockovik, please clarify what on earth you meant about cats. And don’t be obtuse. Someone with a clear grasp of science should be able to explain what they mean in a clear fashion.

      “How this happened” is mind-numbingly clear. Through ecological niches, isolation and mutation. What don’t you get about that?

      You realize don’t you, that you have zero credibility here. Science is based on evidence, not “I don’t understand therefore it must not be true”.

      I’m happy to provide published studies if you promise to read and comment in them.

      But please first enlighten me on your cat idea. I’m sure to find it amusing.

      • Timothy Hughbanks
        Posted November 17, 2012 at 12:23 am | Permalink

        You won’t find it amusing – you’ll find it to be tedious and annoying. I’ve seen this same line of bullshit regarding horses from another wannabe philosopher:

        http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index;_ylt=At7.g1z8A0G7NXw2b3YAEhsjzKIX;_ylv=3?qid=20091027192250AAInQOr

        The guy posing the question, like our “djockovic” here was just an ass.

        • djockovic
          Posted November 18, 2012 at 5:39 am | Permalink

          No, it’s not the same point at all. That guy (that ass as you call him) is making a point, as best I understand it, about the defintion of a species and how that means that species don’t really change. While I (that other ass as you call me) was making a simple point about our current level of knowledge of what a cat is. Thus you (that complete ass as I call you) has misunderrstood my point, or his point, or both.

        • Posted November 18, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

          Ugh, you mean it wasn’t even original drivel? 🙂

      • djockovic
        Posted November 18, 2012 at 5:33 am | Permalink

        What I mean about cats is that they are not understood. We don’t know how the biologial system called ‘a cat’ works. Not, eg, in anything like the way we know what a television is.

        Now, since that fact is not that difficult to understand, don’t pretend to be so obtuse you don’t get it.

        And yes I realise I have zero credibility here. If you only knew how concerned how I was about that…

      • djockovic
        Posted November 18, 2012 at 6:33 am | Permalink

        I responded to your question about cats below.

    • Timothy Hughbanks
      Posted November 17, 2012 at 12:51 am | Permalink

      Since you obviously have a bug up your ass about the process of evolution, why don’t you lay out – on your own web site, say – just exactly what kind of detailed story you would consider to be necessary for us to be confident that we understand the process of evolution. Be very explicit. Then we in the rest of the world can decide whether the requirements that YOU have offered for a “respectable” scientific theory of evolution are reasonable. At this point, all we know about you is that you’re a person adopt various pseudonyms and succeeds in getting himself kicked off of various web sites. I’d be inclined to think that all you will demonstrate is that you are a bullshitter with insufficient depth of knowledge of biology to offer a critique with any specificity at all.

      • djockovic
        Posted November 18, 2012 at 5:51 am | Permalink

        The details would be something like a reasonably full account of the main genetic changes required to get from the genome of a single celled organism to, say, the genome of cat, using the mechanisms currently at the theory’s disposal, and bearing in mind the requirements for functionality every step of the way. You’ll notice that the ability to provide this would depend on being able to provide a relatively full account of how the genome of a single celled otganism and a cat works, so that would be a good start. Have you such a thing in either case?

        • Timothy Hughbanks
          Posted November 18, 2012 at 8:48 am | Permalink

          Nice Try, but the ball is in your court and, as expected, your reply is generalized BS. The theory of evolution arer well-supported by the facts of evolution and there is no convincing body of evidence that contradicts it. That’s what “respectable” scientific theories do – all of your silly assertions notwithstanding. You’re just lobbing cheap shots from the cheap seats.

          • djockovic
            Posted November 18, 2012 at 9:04 am | Permalink

            Why not deal with the issue raised rather than simply pronounce it a cheap shot. Have you an account of the things I asked about, or anything like it? Pick any examples you like – it doesn’t need to be cats, or fish. And I never said evidence contradicts it, I just said that the evidence that supports it (supports the idea that those mechanisms can do what is claimed for them) is far too thin for it to command the kind of faith you appareetly have. It is, to a great extent, an argument from being unable to think of anything else. We simply don’t know nearly enough yet to say with any certainty what mechanisms were involved, and we certainly don’t know enough to be able to show how the current mechanisms could do the job. And since this is the core of the current theory, the shots are anything but cheap.

            • Posted November 18, 2012 at 10:01 am | Permalink

              Command = ‘unfollow’

              Dang – bet it didn’t work…. dj – are you simply saying that some folks conjecture a bit too grandly re the TOE? Well, that’s why it’s called a theory, and that’s why currently it is the best explanation for the origin and diversity of species. You rail against the TOE advocates – OK – but provide no alternate hypothesis other than ‘since we don’t know, there must be something else going on’ -perhaps oogity boogity, goothg’s. If you are really saying that some folks have too much “faith” in the TOE, that could have been done in about 25 words.

            • Vaal
              Posted November 18, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

              (emphasis mine)

              “WE simply don’t know nearly enough yet to say with any certainty what mechanisms were involved, and WE certainly don’t know enough to be able to show how the current mechanisms could do the job.”

              The word “we” is unwarranted here and you ought to replace it with “I.” In other words: Please speak for yourself. Your ignorance evolution theory does not equate to everyone else being baffled.

              Have you read Jerry’s book? If so, would you like to take any phenemona mentioned in the book and explain, specifically, how the evolutionary explanation provided fails the task?

              Vaal

  38. litchik
    Posted November 17, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Um, duh. I still like Rachel Maddow’s rather inelegant “Evolution is a thing.”

  39. Posted November 18, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Djockovic asked a fair question though.

    1. How did single cellular life get to become multicellular life

    2. How did the genome of those primitive multicellular forms become something more complex, like a cat (I assume he’s confused and by genome means gene, since a genome is more of a map).

    As scientists we should be able to ask these questions, regardless of whether they’re asked by a Creationist, a little boy or an uninformed neighbor.

    I must finish some work emails first but I shall answer if he returns, or if someone is really smart they should be able to answer a few short paragraphs. I myself am not smart enough to do so.

  40. Posted November 18, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    By answer I mean in very general terms, like division, mutation, niche and isolation etc

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted November 18, 2012 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

      You can re-invent the wheel if you’re of a mind to, but there’s a pretty good overview, which should answer his questions and point him in the right direction if he wants additional information, right here. I pointed djockovic in this direction well upstream in this comment section, but nothing he’s said since suggests he’s taken the time to review it, or to review any other scientific source (or that he has an actual, legitimate interest in learning any science). Instead, he seems intent on staying in his evidence-immune cocoon, from which he can continue lobbing his repetitious canard about the evidence not showing what it shows — and, thereby, preserve whatever a priori beliefs it is that he’s so bent on protecting.

      If he spent half the time studying the existing evidence that he does carping about its alleged absence, he might actually learn some science. But, really, as he’s made painfully clear, that’s not what he’s on about, is it?

      • Vaal
        Posted November 19, 2012 at 6:48 am | Permalink

        Exactly.

        It would be one thing if Djockovic came asking honest questions suggesting he really wants to learn the science behind evolution. But he comes instead making bold declarations that there ARE NO reasonable explanations.

        Which everyone recognizes from dealing with creationists to be the sure sign of a mind already made up, typically for religious reasons. Even if Djockovic is not religious, his posts still indicate he has simply rejected (likely without much honest investigation) the science and evidence for evolution. So jumping through his vaguely worded hoops, trying to offer an explanation that would satisfy him in the space of some blog comments surely isn’t going to do anything. Which is why the responses we are giving center around demands for HIM to at least begin making sense of his position, and why we tend to ask questions “How do you explain X if not by evolution/natural selection etc?”

        Vaal

  41. Peter Beattie
    Posted November 20, 2012 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Jerry. That is much needed. Also, I would recommend not to use the “I accept“ version, if for no other reason than that it makes it seem as though passive acceptance and the professing of a belief were what is relevant. What is relevant is that people actively think things through, which is the only way understanding can be reached.


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