The evidence for evolution

[The internet is down at the Kirksville Holiday Inn. The only other time this has happened to me was when I was in Russia. What this means is that posting may be light today. Fortunately Greg prepared a post on a recent talk he gave about evolution, which is below. JAC]

by Greg Mayer

Jerry has posted a couple of times in the last week or so on the “creationist shenanigans” at Georgia Southern University, where a professor is apparently openly proselytizing for his religion in classes on the history of science. One of the items the professor has produced is an online document titled “No evidence for evolution“. It’s actually a rather sad document– and not just because it’s a typically dishonest creationist exercise in quote-mining, which would have us believe that Jerry Coyne, George Gaylord Simpson, Jeff Levinton, Niles Eldredge, and Steve Gould, among others, can all be rallied to the cause of creationism. Nor is it because he mixes in quotes from the likes of  Michael Denton and Francis Hitching, as though they had any authority at all. Nor is it even because of his schizophrenic view of Gould and Eldredge, who on the one hand he wields in support of creationism, but on the other he attacks (through quotes) because (gasp!) they are evolutionary paleontologists. No, it’s sad because it’s all so old. Other creationists did this decades ago– and, frankly, better. The quotes are almost all old ones– from the 1980’s and earlier (the latest quote I noted was 1997– the page is dated 2002). The reason it’s so sad is that not only does this guy know nothing about biology or paleontology, he’s not even a very good creationist– he apparently hasn’t kept up with developments in his own “discipline”!

Just a day or two after Jerry posted, my colleague Chris Noto informed me that a talk I had given at Darwin Day celebrations earlier this year was now available online. Entitled “The Evidence for Evolution”, it seemed like a happy coincidence, and so I share it with you here. (Note that the Parasaurolophus and sauropod behind me seem quite interested, the latter even bending his neck above and around me so he can read my notes on the podium! There was a human audience too, although, as usual, until a late attendee arrived, no one wanted to sit in the front seats.)

The talk was given at the Dinosaur Discovery Museum in Kenosha, Wisconsin, as part of their Darwin Day events last February. It was based on the chapter I wrote for The Princeton Guide to Evolution, edited by my friend and colleague Jon Losos, which was officially published right about the time I gave the talk. The talk is about descent with modification per se, and not on the mechanisms of evolution (except insofar as the observation of current evolutionary changes allows us to see such mechanisms directly), and the main topics were the fossil record; transitional forms; comparative morphology, embryology and genetics; biogeography; and evolution in action. I would particularly draw attention to the example of observed speciation in Spartina in England (about 30:44). It’s an example of allopolyloid speciation (a new species arises by hybdidization with increase in the number of chromosome sets), which is common in plants (though not animals), and is expected to occur very rapidly, but it’s nice to have a case where humans observed the speciation event start to finish (1829-1892).

(The camera battery went dead for a bit, so there’s about 5 minutes of the biogeography section missing; the dead space was edited out with a “wave”– you’ll notice it.)

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Mayer, G.C. 2014. The evidence for evolution. pp. 28-39 in J.B. Losos, ed., The Princeton Guide to Evolution, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.

26 Comments

  1. francis
    Posted November 11, 2014 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    //

    • Diane G.
      Posted November 11, 2014 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

      //

  2. Dominic
    Posted November 11, 2014 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    I look forward to watching this when I have a spare 35mins! Is it possible to download?

    • Dominic
      Posted November 11, 2014 at 8:01 am | Permalink

      I always go for the front – usually because I have no glasses (lost them in April!)…

      • colnago80
        Posted November 11, 2014 at 8:07 am | Permalink

        Use Firefox with with the Download Helper Add-On.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted November 11, 2014 at 8:38 am | Permalink

        There’s a download button underneath the video at the Vimeo site. Just click on the “vimeo” word in the above video window.

  3. Timothy Hughbanks
    Posted November 11, 2014 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    Apparently, the creationists haven’t caught on to newest stratagem: “I’m not a scientists, but…” So old fashioned.

  4. Diana MacPherson
    Posted November 11, 2014 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    Those are great dinosaur heads mounted on the walls!

    I always sit in the front seats because I can’t see screens very well so had I been there, everyone would have been treated to the back of my head in the video!

    • Posted November 11, 2014 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      I always sit in the front row, because I’m a geeky nerd. 🙂

      • merilee
        Posted November 11, 2014 at 9:59 am | Permalink

        me, too;-))

        • Posted November 11, 2014 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

          me three!

          • merilee
            Posted November 11, 2014 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

            Well, wouldn’t we have quite a happily geeky crowd up front (possibly with hands raised…)

            • Mark Joseph
              Posted November 11, 2014 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

              Another front row sitter here.

  5. Posted November 11, 2014 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    🐉

  6. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted November 11, 2014 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    I would love to buy the Princeton Guide to Evolution. Any chance of a Kindle edition? (just sort of kidding)…

  7. Posted November 11, 2014 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    I think we need to foment a beef between christian creationists and sceintologists (least appropriate name ever). That way they can duke it out between Genesis and Xenu and the rest of us can just get on with our adult lives.
    Or better yet, we pick a culturally irrelevant city that has nice weather, I think Orlando, Florida will do nicely, and we tell all the creationists and apologists that there is a big conference on why atheists are mean. They can gather at some hotel convention center, we’ll make sure that the phones dial in but not out, and let them all just have at it. That should keep them all occupied for a good long while.

    • Posted November 11, 2014 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

      Better than that, we need to drive a counter-Wedge between Intelligent Design & YEC creationism (the OEC form is nearly defunct, represented almost exclusively by Hugh Ross’ shrinking Reasons to Believe cluster). The ID gang scrupulously tries to distance themselves from their YEC compatriots with one hand, while cuddling close with the other on matters they don’t argue about (eg evil Darwinian materialism). They can do this easily because (A) ID avoids Map of Time chronology issues so they never bump into geochronology in their own poorly-defined argument & (B) ID never actively criticizes any YEC claims nor even acknowledges the YEC roots of popular antievolutionists they otherwise trumpet (eg Casey Luskin not noting Don McLeroy’s creationism in the Texas textbook battles). The upshot is that ID functions as a stalking horse for YEC, which is a potential stumbling point for them that our side would do well to exploit at every opportunity

  8. Posted November 11, 2014 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    (The camera battery went dead for a bit, so there’s about 5 minutes of the biogeography section missing; the dead space was edited out with a “wave”– you’ll notice it.)

    Uh-oh…Jerry’s not going to be happy about that. It’s his favorite line of evidence!

    b&

  9. Posted November 11, 2014 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Creationists are just so very sad. What’s the point in winning converts with lies and/or stupidity?

    • Les
      Posted November 11, 2014 at 9:56 am | Permalink

      Lying for Jesus.

      • JohnnieCanuck
        Posted November 11, 2014 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

        Seats in pews and dollars in collection plates?

  10. Posted November 11, 2014 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    i got super confused at the human/great ape DNA bit. 23/22 respectively? that’s just a typo, right?

  11. ladyatheist
    Posted November 11, 2014 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    “as usual, until a late attendee arrived, no one wanted to sit in the front seats”

    Perhaps they were afraid of the dinosaurs.

    Or perhaps we all just need to assure people that we don’t spit as we speak. So few speakers make that promise, it’s a shame.


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