Connect the dots.

There is a peculiar breed of Republican, currently dominant in the party, quite unable to connect the dots, literally or figuratively.

In the matter of the evolution of the species, including mankind, these Republicans offer faux scientific objections not to natural selection (which is the “theory” in “the theory of evolution”), but to the fact of evolution itself. An frequent objection is that “the intermediary steps are missing — there are no ‘in-between species.’” There was actually some logic to this, a century ago. Imagine a time when only three early hominds were known: Homo erectus from one million years ago, Neanderthals from 250,000 years ago, and modern man. We might plot the advance of these species over time like such:

A reasonable person might say well, that’s nice, but you’re missing the in-between species — there are missing links. And reasonable people said just that. So more digging was done, more research on bone fragments, and a few decades later we’d filled in the gaps with newly-discovered ancient species:

That is certainly compelling but, still, some may say that looks pretty good, but we can’t be absolutely certain about that curve without filling that in more. Decades later, all of those gaps had been filled in, too, giving us this modern representation of the ascent of man:

Now there can be no question about how to connect these dots. But these Republicans continue to insist that there are gaps, “missing links.” Of course, there will always be missing links. We’d require a fossilized hominid to represent every generation for the past million years to improve on this. (As Bill Bryson points out in “A Short History of Nearing Everything,” if everybody in the United States at this moment were to drop dead simultaneously, approximately 75% of a skeleton’s-worth of bones would become fossilized. Evenly distributed, that’s one bone per 22,970 square miles. Good luck with that.) It’s simply disingenuous to claim that evolution is not obvious from such a progression. But anti-logic Republicans look at the line and scoff: Ha! That’s not a curve! Those points are so wildly dissimilar that only a fool would think they’re connected.

But this isn’t limited to evolution. Consider global warming. One need not look beyond the rise in temperatures in the past 150 years to see that the earth is heating up dramatically, yet there are still people who literally cannot connect those dots and insist that no such warming is occurring. That could be anything!, complains our Republican. Who’s to say that just because the dots on the graph are higher that temperatures have gone up? They also had a very difficult time connecting the dots after September 11th (“Bin Laden determined to strike in US“) and are currently having a hell of a time connecting the dots in the U.S. attorneys scandal.

First grade must have been rough for this bunch. They’d have a hard time knowing what to do with this connect the dots:

Why, that could be anything!, cries our Republican.

Don’t you think, we must ask our friend, it’s probably the Cat in the Hat?

Balderdash!, complains the Republican. You’ve settled on an outcome without even conducting the proper research. See here, I’ve discovered it’s not the Cat in the Hat at all!

It’s a fish!

It’s clearly not a fish. Obviously, it’s the Cat in the Hat. Our Republican barely made any effort to connect any of these dots. Seeing that he’s not winning any converts with his initial theory, he tosses out a new one.

I’ve got it, I’ve got it!

It’s a banana!

That’s not even vaguely close to connecting any of those dots. No effort was made. It’s not a banana. It’s not a fish. It’s the Cat in the Hat. See?

I saved a lot of time by, y’know, reading the title: “Connect the Dots with the Cat in the Hat!” But, just in case, I went ahead and connected those dots. And, what do you know?, my hunch was right.

That’s science, baby.

68 thoughts on “Connect the dots.”

  1. The lord god almighty shall smite thee for denying the dogma of the connect-the-dots fish.

    BLASPHEMY!!!

  2. This seems like a mildly clever attempt to conflate biblical literalists who insist dinosaurs roamed the earth within the past 6,000 years with those of us who wonder how man-made global warming seems to be heating up Mars as well. You’re better than that. It won’t do.

  3. This seems like a mildly clever attempt to conflate biblical literalists who insist dinosaurs roamed the earth within the past 6,000 years with those of us who wonder how man-made global warming seems to be heating up Mars as well.

    Really? You believe that the earth isn’t warming at all?

  4. Gravity is just a theory, too, does that mean I can fly? I wanna fly, soooo bad! Maybe if I just believe I can fly, I can fly…

    Ooooh, now it’s just me and the cow jumping over the moon… wweeeeeeeee!!!

  5. No, Waldo, not at all. I think it’s clear that over the last century the earth has gotten .7C warmer on average. At least that’s the figure I’ve seen more than any other.

    The real question is whether the warming is man’s doing or part of a natural cycle of warming and cooling that’s been occurring as far back as we can measure. That’s what this whole foofaraw is really about, isn’t it?

    I just have a lot of what I think are legitimate questions about the theory of global warming. To wit: What’s the deal with Mars getting warmer? Might the sun have something to do with it? If the greenhouse effect is the cause of global warming, why then did the earth grow measurably cooler from the 1940s to 1970s?

    Those are specific to the topic at hand. More generally, I’m always skeptical doomsday scenarios. They’re great at selling newspapers and giving more power to government, but from Malthus to Ehrlich they’ve been wrong. I think this latest incarnation is too.

    Finally, I think it’s prudent to be skeptical whenever the “solution” to the “crisis” is what the people advocating it would do anyway. The greens want to tax oil and coal companies because they want to tax oil and coal companies. They want everyone driving more fuel efficient cars ’cause that’s what they believe in. The global warming crisis is a convenient vehicle for getting these things done, and I actually don’t doubt the sincerity of the beliefs of its proponents. I just think they’re wrong.

  6. No, Waldo, not at all. I think it’s clear that over the last century the earth has gotten .7C warmer on average.

    Then what’s the problem? I’m writing about global climate change deniers, the people who say it’s simply not happening at all.

  7. This reminds me of the (fictional) story of the little boy experimenting with frogs.

    When he said “jump” his frog jumped. He pulled one leg off the frog and said “jump”, the frog jumped, but not as far. He pulled of the second and third leg, and the frog still jumped when he said “jump”, albeit not as far as the first time. Then he pulled of the 4th leg and said “jump”, but the frog didn’t jump. His conclusion, when frogs don’t have any legs, they go deaf.

  8. (Sorry about the messed-up HTML; here’s a better version, I hope.)

    Judge Smails, if you’re interested in actual scientific assessment of the Mars data, RealClimate had a very interesting post on the subject a while back. And another one examining the possible effects of solar variability.

    The question of the causes of global warming isn’t an either/or one — that is, even if there were a contribution from solar variability, that wouldn’t disprove anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming. Climate scientists aren’t just guessing about causes; climate models take into account the various forcing effects. Thus the recent IPCC consensus concluded that there is a 90% or greater probability that *more than 50%* of observed warming is attributable to human actions (emphasis mine.) (The fact that there are multiple forcing factors, and not just greenhouse gases, is also how climate models can correctly model the weak cooling from 1940-1960 as part of a stronger warming trend.)

  9. I enjoy a dig against republicans as much as the next fellow, but do you think you might be over generalizing republican sympathy with evolution skepticism? Stating up front that it is a peculiar breed of Republican frames the matter only so much, as it could have been a peculiar breed of Episcopalian or Italian.

    Otherwise, you make a point brilliantly with pictures.

  10. I enjoy a dig against republicans as much as the next fellow, but do you think you might be over generalizing republican sympathy with evolution skepticism?

    Thing is, Republicans (as a party, certainly not to an individual) have worked hard to create support among the anti-science crowd. It’s a vote that they court. (Witness President Bush’s 2005 support of teaching creationism in science classes.) I always try hard to avoid painting all Republicans with the same brush, which is why I’ve taken pains here to explain that I’m not referring to all (or even most) Republicans.

    If the bulk of creationists are Italian, I suspect that’s coincidence. But the fact that they’re Republicans — and the Republican Party wants them to be Republicans — seems like no accident.

  11. That’s true, but it’s just politics – nothing to be ashamed over. For instance:

    Thing is, Democrats (as a party, certainly not to an individual) have worked hard to create support among the criminal element. (Witness Hillary Clinton’s advocacy for the restitution of voting rights for convicted felons.)

    Am I proud to have the biblical literalists show up on election day and vote Republican? Not really. Am I glad they do? You bet.

  12. Thanks for the reference Jim E-H. Very interesting reading. I have never understood the Mars argument. Contrarians are using a positive to prove a negative, or saying that “If Mars is warming then humans are not causing Earth’s global warming.” Huh?


  13. Thing is, Democrats (as a party, certainly not to an individual) have worked hard to create support among the criminal element. (Witness Hillary Clinton’s advocacy for the restitution of voting rights for convicted felons.)

    I’m pleased that, in your effort to draw a parallel here, you found convicted felons to be the closest analog to creationists. ;)

  14. @Judge Smails: If a 500-foot deep chasm were to open up in the middle of a Kansas cornfield, I doubt you would say, “Bah, it is only the natural erosion process of the plains!” Then why do you doubt that the dramatic uptick in CO2 and temperature levels (beginning around the era of industrialization) is not due to humans, given that it is higher than anything in 60,000 years?

  15. There is a wide chasm between speculation and science, yet even educated people can confuse the two.

    The Theory of Evolution is speculation; it is untested. While there may be considerable observational data that supports this theory, we do not know how to test the theory. We have no way to evolve a creature from chemicals in a laboratory to a multi-celled beast. Moreover, the theory has is little practical application. If people do not accept the theory, is it worth insulting them?

    The Theory of Global Warming is also untested. Assuming our planet warming, there no proof man is the cause. If we assume the Theory of Evolution has credence, then we have to take seriously what we have found in the fossil records. These records suggest that the earth’s weather patterns have changed significantly over time. Warming and cooling periods predate our industrial age. What caused that? No one knows.

    We have heat source we call the Sun. There is no good reason to assume this heat source emits radiation at absolutely constant levels. In fact, because we can see sun spot cycles, we already know of some of the Sun’s cyclic behavior. What do we not know about the Sun?

    Some say the consequences of global warming could be catastrophic. However, acting upon this theory as if it were fact will also be catastrophic. Cheap energy helps people to feed and cloth themselves. Cheap energy heats our homes.

    Connecting the dots requires an open, receptive mind. There is an interesting global warming documentary that promotes an alternative view available free on the Internet. You may wish to view it. Here is a pointer (http://citizentom.com/2007/03/16/global-warming-documentary/).

  16. If people do not accept the theory, is it worth insulting them?

    The theory is natural selection, not evolution. If people do not accept natural selection as the mechanism for evolution, that’s totally reasonable. Way out of the scientific mainstream, but reasonable. But not accepting the fact of evolution is just whacked.

    The Theory of Global Warming is also untested. Assuming our planet warming, there no proof man is the cause.

    Man? I didn’t say anything about man. Sounds like you and Judge Smails are on the same page here.

  17. “But not accepting the fact of evolution is just whacked.”

    There are quite a few very, very intelligent scientists who do not agree with what you call a fact. They’re whacked because they don’t agree with you?

  18. jon – no, they’re whacked because they don’t agree with the evidence, and their arguments for dismissing the evidence are whacked. “Quite a few”? Can you name more biologists than you can count on one hand who do not agree with the fact of evolution? Being a scientist may make you a smart guy, but it doesn’t make you especially qualified to judge biological evidence, any more than being a biologist makes you especially qualified to judge models of the life cycle of stars.

  19. Waldo, please do not retreat into semantical arguments.

    The generally accepted mechanism for the Theory of Evolution is natural selection. In fact, until Darwin proposed natural selection as a plausible mechanism for evolution, the Theory of Evolution did not have much credence. In practice, the Theory of Natural Selection and the Theory of Evolution are one and the same.

    The primary interest in global warming comes from the notion that global warming might be induced by man. Look at your own web site. While natural global temperature variations might cause some alarm, based solely upon natural variations, few would take catastrophic predictions seriously. We know too little about the earth’s natural climate cycles.

    Look at your own reference on temperature data. We do not have much good data. Most of it is proxy data. Even the temperature records since the 1850′s are skewed by the heat island effect. Based upon fossil records some scientists believe there has been significant world-wide variation. However, without the introduction of some new factor, we don’t expect the earth’s climate to become as inhospitable as global warming affirmers have predicted.

  20. There are quite a few very, very intelligent scientists who do not agree with what you call a fact. They’re whacked because they don’t agree with you?

    Name three biologists who do not believe that evolution exists. Just three.

  21. Waldo, please do not retreat into semantical arguments.

    If you think that drawing a line between natural selection and evolution is “sematical argument,” I’m afraid that you’re simply wrong.

    Really, I don’t know what else to tell you. If you believe that global climate change is real, then I cannot understand what you find troubling about this. If you do not believe that evolution exists, I cannot help you, but I assume you don’t take antibiotics.

  22. Just three?

    http://www.icr.org/research/index/research_biosci/

    I don’t agree with them by the way. It certainly seems to me that evolution has the facts behind it. I’ve been to enough discussions on the subject and read journal articles to know that it’s not a “done deal” though. Through history, there have been a lot of times where the scientific community has decided they had all the answers, then a couple hundred years later those scientists look like blooming idiots. Happens all the time. :-)

  23. Waldo, I merely think it wise to distinguish one’s beliefs about the world from one’s religion. Science makes a very poor religion. The scientific method provides an orderly way of modeling cause and effect, but it has limits. For example, science can tell us nothing about the Original Cause.

    When people get into emotional arguments about evolution and global warming, I cannot prove anyone wrong. What I can do is show they cannot prove they are right, and you cannot. All you have are guesses, albeit these guesses are considered educated guesses.

    These guesses provide an insufficient basis for name-calling much less public policy. If unbelievers do not choose to believe in the sacred theories of evolution and global warming, are you going to burn them at the stake?

    Consider that many evolutionists and global warming affirmers insist on spreading their beliefs using the power of government. Is that not wrong? Connect the dots. Have we not prohibited our government from establishing a religion?

  24. Of course, it’s not as if Citizen Tom will actually ever take evidence into account, if it works against his own belief system. Despite tens of thousands tortured, a few thousand “disappeared” political opponents, and a terrorist attack on US soil, Tom thinks the jury’s still out on him.

    He is a silly silly person. Don’t waste too much time on him.

  25. From Citizen Tom:

    “What I can do is show they cannot prove they are right, and you cannot. All you have are guesses, albeit these guesses are considered educated guesses.”

    CT, a “theory” cannot be proven true, it can only be proven false. If it were PROVEN true, then it would be a scientific FACT.

    Please remember that the explanation for the fact of gravity is “only” a theory.

    You seem to be conflating the “theory” of scientific terminology with “theory” as used in the vernacular. Additionally, these “educated guesses” you reference are called hypotheses, in scientific terms. Theories are well-tested and documented explanations – they are NOT the same as “educated guesses”.

  26. Olivia, I believe you are partly correct. Technically, your definitions of theory and hypothesis are correct. What you underestimate, I fear, is the perfidy of human beings. To score political points, even scientists will abuse the English language.

    The last step of the scientific method to test the validity of theory by showing that the theory correctly models cause and effect. Scientists set up experiments whereby they test whether their hypothesis correctly predicts different outcomes based upon different inputs. Unfortunately, people have had very little luck developing experiments that convincingly demonstrate the validity of either the “Theory” of Evolution or the “Theory” of Global Warming.

    On the other hand, while we don’t truly understand what causes gravity, we can model its effects quite well. Hence we have a useful Theory of Gravity, and we are able to land unmanned spacecraft on the surface of Mars.

  27. Citizen Tom is misinformed and misinforming.

    As far as natural selection and speciation, both of these have been well established in both the laboratory and the field time and time again. Of course, creationists generally accept both of these, and only really disagree with common descent. Common descent, however, is a historical science, and as such, talking about “testing” it directly is nonsense. What we test in historical claims is the theory against the physical EVIDENCE: the physical evidence is what we experiment on and work with and run tests on.

    What matters to evolution as science is whether the evidence confirms or disconfirms all the basic elements that MUST be true in order for common descent to be true. The evidence in case of evolution is not just vaguely there: its there in a degree outpacing, in depth and detail, nearly any other set of facts about the physical world. Countless lines of independent evidence all converge on the exact same tree of life, in great detail. Characterizing evolution as “speculative” is, and let’s call this what it is, either an act of ignorance or deception. Period.

    The physical evidence says that common descent is a reality in the history of life on earth. It is established far beyond a reasonable doubt, IF one actually looks at the actual evidence in toto.

  28. The support for evolution is built upon an astounding amount of empirical evidence—data that builds upon previous data. In much the same way, this is how all modern science works isn’t it?
    Our understanding of this emipical evidence—of how all components of the universe interact—works the same way on the smallest levels, as on the largest. The same chemicals that make up every living thing are the same. DNA is common to all life and has very minute differences, which result in hugely different ends.

    The way these common components of the universe interact/react is well understood. These laws/rules/observances so strongly work across so many sciences (astronomy, phsyology, anatomy, physics, chemistry, and evolution) that they are reliable indicators to understanding of the universe. This is how they work now, so they must have always worked this way.

    The Big Bang theory is a result of piecing together data from what we’ve learned. It may not fully explaination the theory at this time, but it is not built upon faith. Unless of course one calls the fact that we don’t hover off of the planet and into space “faith.” But we do not. We call that gravity. Which is a scientific theory so strongly evidenced that it has become a scientific “law.” This law supports many other sciences, such as physics and areonautics.

    In much the same way, evolution so strongly supports many other sciences in a symbiotic web of our understanding of life as we know it.

  29. Plunge – Historical science? That is a fancy phrase. I think what you are trying to describe is how we use forensic evidence.

    In a court of law, we use forensic evidence to ascertain whether or not an event we could duplicate (if we wished to) occurred. Such duplication would be difficult with respect to either the “theories” of Evolution, Global Warming, or the Big Bang. All we can do is map the evidence we have collected against our favored theory and see how it fits. Given that no one has ever seen a creature evolve, a globe warm, or the universe explode, this mapping process involves much conjecture.

    With respect to the Theory of Evolution, the fit between evidence and theory is not too bad. On the other hand, the fit between the evidence and Global Warming Theory is rather dubious. I suspect that is probably why you and Zen avoided the subject. To suppose that we should accept the Big Bang as more than speculative, you got to be kidding, but thanks for bringing it up.

  30. “All we can do is map the evidence we have collected against our favored theory and see how it fits. Given that no one has ever seen a creature evolve, a globe warm, or the universe explode, this mapping process involves much conjecture.”

    The thing is, when you’re dealing with actual scientists, all of those conjectures themselves get tested. And then those tested further, and so on and so on. After awhile, a pretty darn unassailable picture emerges, and all the avenues of alternative explanation get shut down. Calling it mere “speculation” at this point is simply being denial about exactly how strong the evidence is. The evidence supporting the evolutionary picture of life on earth is a stronger case than virtually any other physical reality we know, purely because there are just so many different ways to test the same claims, and the way in which they converge. When one line of evidence shows something, it could certainly be in error. But when virtually every line of evidence tells the same story in fine detail, the chance of this being all due to separate errors in totally different processes that just happen to match up becomes almost ridiculous to contemplate.

    Furthermore, you are just ignorant of the role of observation in science. Observation is one of the first steps in the scientific method not the final confirming step. Science does not have a rule stating that only eyewitness observance is certain. In science, nothing is certain except what all the evidence shows: an eyewitness observation, in fact, takes a big backseat to conclusive physical evidence.

    “With respect to the Theory of Evolution, the fit between evidence and theory is not too bad.”

    Again, this is such an understatement as to be a lie.

  31. To suppose that we should accept the Big Bang as more than speculative, you got to be kidding, but thanks for bringing it up.

    Then you’d need to chalk it up as one of the biggest conspiracies in all of scientific history that COBE found that the universe’s creation and expansion rate were precisely as predicted by the big bang theory. There was a great deal of question within the scientific community as to whether the relatively young big bang theory had any merit (hence the derisive “big bang” nickname), but that disappeared 100% once COBE’s results came in. There is zero question — and I mean absolutely none — that the universe was formed as is described by the big bang. Again, we’re back to the basic question of connecting the dots — if you can look at the entirely unified scientific consensus and the overwhelming, unimpeachable evidence presented by the entirety of the scientific community (or even COBE’s data) and conclude that the universe was not formed by the big bang, then you’re simply unwilling or unable to see the Cat in the Hat in that particular pattern of dots.

    As a kid, a good friend’s father worked on this project for years, at NASA’s Greenbelt facility. I was excited to see COBE launch, and far more excited to see the results come in. The changes that it made in cosmology were absolutely astounding.

  32. Plunge, much so-called scientific theory rests upon untestable conjecture. How do you test what you cannot replicate? Such a theory, because it provides a common reference model, is not useless, but it is only unassailable because disproving it presents just as big a problem as proving it.

    As I understand it, the COBE observations matched the “hot Big Bang theory,” that is, the model adjusts to match the data.

    While the mathematics of the Big Bang Theory definitely exceed my limited capabilities, I think it safe to say the fundamental observation that gives rise to the theory is the red shift. Spectral observations indicate the stars are moving apart. So we have a bunch a astronomers trying to model how that might have begun. Interesting, even fascinating. I do not even mind paying taxes to fund such research, but to take such theory too seriously is to take ourselves too seriously.

  33. I would have a lot more respect for creationists (and the ones who hide behind the intelligent design moniker) if they published a credible critique in a scientific journal rather than creating statistical puppet shows at the American Legion for John Q. Public.

  34. “Plunge, much so-called scientific theory rests upon untestable conjecture. How do you test what you cannot replicate?”

    These questions simply highlight the fact that you don’t know what you are talking about. When talking about past events, we do not replicate the past (that doesn’t make any sense): we replicate experiments that test certain assumptions about the past against evidence. And in the case of common descent, the evidence is unequivocal and overwhelming: not untestable conjecture, but claims that have, in fact, been tested from virtually every angle anyone can think of.

    Of course, as far as things like natural selection go, we can and do replicate experiments that validate all the basic features and claims in the here and now, and we see things evolving all the time.

  35. As I understand it, the COBE observations matched the “hot Big Bang theory,” that is, the model adjusts to match the data. — Citizen Tom

    That’s the way science works. And if there were any evidence against common descent, evolution, natural selection, or whatever it is fashionable to object to these days, then the model would indeed change.

  36. Plunge, when using forensic evidence to study the past, we “recreate the past” quite often. People even do it for amusement. In court rooms, lawyers do it to show the jury how the crime was committed. History enthusiasts reenact the past for fun. Sometimes these people simulate entire battles.

    Scientist do the same. To ascertain how it affects the product yield, chemists will mix different concentrations of reactants. That is why Galileo dropped weights from a tall building. That is why we have people trying to create, for example, life from simulated primordial soup.

    Consider what scientific theories do. They model the relationship between cause and effect. If you have never observed the cause and then the effect — when all you can do is observe the effect — you have a serious limitation. You are reduced to speculating what the cause might be.

    We come into the world ignorant. It is only because we can observe (and our parents tell us) that we know each of us came from a woman’s womb. Imagine, however, if you grew up and no one would tell you how you came into the world. Eventually, you would recreate the past, and you would know.

  37. @Citizen Tom: We have observed natural selection as driven by mutation and Malthusian pressure. We have seen how mutations in the placement of homeobox (Hox) genes leads to radically different body plans. We have seen how the melting point of mixtures of DNA from different species consistently indicates a phylogenetic tree of life that also matches the fossil record — a pattern that would not appear if common descent were not true.

    Do you have an alternate theory that still fits the data? Where did those fossils come from?

  38. Consider what scientific theories do. They model the relationship between cause and effect. If you have never observed the cause and then the effect — when all you can do is observe the effect — you have a serious limitation. You are reduced to speculating what the cause might be. — Citizen Tom

    Most of science labors under this “serious limitation”, including germ theory. (Do you actually see the bacteria and viruses damaging the body?) Yet, if you got MDR tuberculosis, would you just take penicillin, since you don’t accept evolution?

    We come into the world ignorant. It is only because we can observe (and our parents tell us) that we know each of us came from a woman’s womb. Imagine, however, if you grew up and no one would tell you how you came into the world. Eventually, you would recreate the past, and you would know.

    That’s an argument for science. :-P

  39. Zen, don’t you think it is just as silly to adamantly affirm the THEORY of Evolution as it is to admanantly reject it? Why care so much? If a medical doctor chooses not to believe in the theory, he can still competently set a broken bone, even if you tell him a dinosaur broke it.

    The more we study a subject, the more questions we have about that subject. More often than you might think, we discover that the assumptions and the data that support our conclusions shaky. At other times, we discover our explanations cover only a small subset of the cases that require explanation.

    The complexity of Creation should be enough to humble us. What is a wonder is that so often it does not.

  40. Actually I find it intellectually lazy to just say “God done it” when theories or expalinations appear too overwhelming to understand without trying. Lazy as well is the insistence to focus on the tiny grain of doubt, rather than the entire mountain of evidence in support of evolution. Or global warming. Or the big bang.

    The more we learn about how well everything within the universe fits together is humbling. The natural world is a result of processes we can explore, study, and decipher. That is incredibly awe-inspiring.

    So if a new, better theory should come along to challenge evolution, it will have to fill an incredibly precise niche that takes into account all of the empirical evidence built across every other known scientific field. If such a theory should arise, then I’m certain it will be embraced. But scientifically speaking what’s the leading alternative?

  41. “Zen, don’t you think it is just as silly to adamantly affirm the THEORY of Evolution as it is to admanantly reject it?”

    You just keep trying to change the subject, not to mention keep harping on this goofy misunderstanding of what the word “theory” means in science. “Theory” in science, as has been explained to you before and apparently must be again, has nothing to do with something being speculative or conjecture. Heck number theory is 100% deductively proven, and its still called a theory. So stop misusing the word in order to misinform.

    “Scientist do the same. To ascertain how it affects the product yield, chemists will mix different concentrations of reactants. That is why Galileo dropped weights from a tall building. That is why we have people trying to create, for example, life from simulated primordial soup.”

    So? How does this in any way address what I said?

    “Consider what scientific theories do. They model the relationship between cause and effect. If you have never observed the cause and then the effect — when all you can do is observe the effect — you have a serious limitation. You are reduced to speculating what the cause might be.”

    No, because you can piece together the evidence to find out. That’s the whole point. People like you just deny, or don’t understand the evidence.

  42. Waldo, please remember what I said. Because neither of us has any way of evolving a creature, neither of us has any way of proving or disproving the Theory of Evolution. Fossils are obviously the remains of dead creatures. However, because some of the fossils are rather strange, we can only speculate how they got here. Because of our education and thorough indoctrination into the theory, we think evolution via natural selection a very reasonable explanation. If we thought otherwise, wouldn’t our teachers be disappointed?

    Let’s consider a popular contrary theory. What if the Garden of Eden did in fact exist, that our entire world was the garden. Would not God have populated it with a wide variety of interesting and varied creatures?

    The Bible says men once lived much longer. What if during the intervening millennia since creation our DNA has degenerated? What if we have confused evolution with degeneration, death and decay? What if since man left the Garden, the earth has suffered successive catastrophes of Biblical proportions and our planet has been repeatly strewed with remains of untold numbers of creatures? Unlikely. Perhaps. Yet even the approved theories require we formulate huge disasters.

    Of course, much of the forensic evidence argues for a much older earth, and before we started despoiling our tropical forests and corral reefs, no one would have thought to suggest these places were underpopulated. Still, one ought to be prepared to question supposedly proven theories. More than once in history people thought so highly of their theories about the nature of the universe they persecuted those who were wiser.

  43. “Because neither of us has any way of evolving a creature, neither of us has any way of proving or disproving the Theory of Evolution.”

    This is simply ridiculous. Do you even know what the twin-nested hierarchy is? Cladistic analysis? Why do people who have no idea what they are talking about feel like they can make grand pronouncements about what can or cannot be proven?

    “Fossils are obviously the remains of dead creatures. However, because some of the fossils are rather strange, we can only speculate how they got here.”

    They are not just “merely strange”: they all fit into a very very specific pattern that just somehow magically, I suppose, matches up with genetic analysis and, well I dunno: pretty must every other physical feature on the planet, all pointing at the same thing. It has nothing to do with indoctrination: it has to do with us having looked at all the evidence from virtually every angle and the same picture cropping up again and again.

    “What if the Garden of Eden did in fact exist, that our entire world was the garden. Would not God have populated it with a wide variety of interesting and varied creatures?”

    This story is simply contradicted by the evidence. Period.

    “What if during the intervening millennia since creation our DNA has degenerated?”

    That’s not what anyone looking at our DNA sees. You spin out all these what if ideas as if there were no way to test them out and see if they match the evidence. But there ARE ways to test them… and they don’t.

  44. Because neither of us has any way of evolving a creature, neither of us has any way of proving or disproving the Theory of Evolution. Fossils are obviously the remains of dead creatures. However, because some of the fossils are rather strange, we can only speculate how they got here.

    We can only speculate how they got here? What are the possibilities? They fell from the sky? Can you name any other candidates for how they got here other than evolution? Just one?

    How about the content of this blog entry? The descent of man, as it’s known, from Homo erectus? Homo heidelbergensis? Homo habilis? The clear path described by the advance of those proto-human forms leading to modern man? What are those, Tom? How do you explain them?

  45. When we study evolution, we only have the capacity to take a snapshot in time, and we extrapolate the rest. Like it or not, that is an innately risky exercise. Put yourself in the position of one of these experts. Imagine taking bits and pieces of crumbling rock formed in the shape of bones and looking for patterns that span across the ages. We have had people doing exactly that for several hundred years, speculating and sifting ideas from each other. The amazing thing is how much we think they know.

    What I find it interesting about this discussion is how this exercise began with two theories. Yet you fellows are spending all your time trying to convince me of the theory I find least objectionable.

    While politics surrounding the Theory of Evolution is unfortunate, I don’t think the theory wrong or poorly studied; I just think its proof remains beyond us. That is blasphemy? Is science is about the quest for knowledge or the worship of knowledge? Does skepticism have its place or do you treat such as heresy?

    The Theory of Global Warming, on the other hand, is almost entirely wrapped in politics. Rather than scientific analysis, we have fear-mongering – can we afford to take a chance (gasp)? It would appear that even Waldo recognizes the scientific basis for this theory weaker by far than that supporting the Theory of Evolution. Hence, rather than the hot air, Waldo wants to know where the fossils came from.

  46. “When we study evolution, we only have the capacity to take a snapshot in time, and we extrapolate the rest.”

    You seem really really taken in by this bizarre, almost metaphorical idea of vision being essential to science. What we have in evolution is no different than what we have in any other empirical study: we have evidence. Either that evidence supports evolution, or it doesn’t, or it supports something else. This “watching” or “snapshot” idea just isn’t relevant.

    “While politics surrounding the Theory of Evolution is unfortunate, I don’t think the theory wrong or poorly studied; I just think its proof remains beyond us. That is blasphemy? Is science is about the quest for knowledge or the worship of knowledge? Does skepticism have its place or do you treat such as heresy?”

    Good skepticism is INFORMED skepticism. Dissembling about how the evidence works in evolution, and just how strong the evidence is, isn’t skepticism. It’s apologia. Suggesting with a straight face that the evidence just as well could imply that all creatures were created at the same time in a Garden of Eden just isn’t within the realm of reality.

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