Sunday, May 3, 2009
The proper response here is really "well duh, your right." Darwin's origin of species does not attempt to explain the origin of life. The theory only states that over time, the genetic structure of populations of plants and animals will change. The fact that evolutionary theory doesn't address the origin of life has nothing to do with its validity. While there are those who have theories about the origin of life, no biologist worth their salt will tell you that they know for a fact where life came from. It remains one of the big unknowns. While I don't buy into this idea, its reasonable to argue that the creator made life, then used evolution as tool to get us to this point.
Another bizzare argument I was given one is that "Darwin was a racist." My answer there is two fold. First, Darwin was a man of his time, no more or less racist than your typical Englishman the the late 1800's. The second part has to be "and how does that bear on his theory?" For arguments sake lets agree that had he lived in the American south, he'd have been a KKK grand wizard, while this would have made Darwin a disagreeable chap, it would have done nothing to reduce the value of his theory.
Finally I often hear "What about Social Darwinism, Hitler liked his theory..." Much like the when people of my ilk say things like "religion is responsible for more wars than anything else combined" and we hear back "its not God's fault that people twist His words", how is it the fault of evolutionary theory that some twisted SOB's will misuse it?
Thursday, April 16, 2009
The picture at the top allows for two important points, the first is that the fossil record shows transitional species. Someone asked me to show transitional species from bacteria all the way up to human beings. As you look through older sets of rocks the species are there. Precambrian rocks show only single cell critters, Cambrian rocks show somewhat larger and more complex plants and animals. Everyone here knows the rest of the story. Someone once said that a beautiful elegant theory can be wrecked by a single ugly fact. If somebody was to produce a fossil showing human footprints alongside Trilobites, or a spearpoint embedded in a T-Rex skeleton, evolutionary theory would fall down in an instant. So far it hasn't happened. The second point is that the diagram is terribly misleading because it looks like a ladder. in fact each of those horse progenitors had several descendants. The diagram should look much more like a bush or a cobweb than a ladder.
One final story, as a kid one of my favorite prehistoric creatures was the Dimetrodon, I always thought the sail fin was really cool. But what was even cooler was a new trait that makes the Dimetrodon one of the more significant "transitional species" It was the first creature to sport multiple types of teeth. Before Dimetrodon came along animals had either sharp pointy teeth or dull crushing teeth. Even though this really neat sail backed beast was clearly not a mammal, it was one of the first steps along the way, it is likely that the fossilized creature above is a distant ancestor of all of us reading my blog today.
Monday, April 13, 2009
The point of this little essay is just to demonstrate that evolution does not have to make increasingly complex organism, it can, and most often does, keep things very simple. That’s why most life on earth is still bacteria. It takes a great deal of luck to rise from the goo, we should feel honored….