Tag Archives: Evolution

The Magic of Reality

Richard Dawkins talks to Thom Hartmann about his new book The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True.

The first part of the interview can be viewed here (it deals primarily with genetic matters that will be familiar to most).



Filed under Atheism, Science

The Evolution Debate

It’s not really about theology at all…

Science philosopher Michael Ruse purports that the ceaseless conflict between creationism and evolution isn’t really a theological debate at all, but rather, a cultural one more akin to the perpetual arguments concerning abortion, gay marriage and capital punishment. “Evolution represents one side, rather than the other,” Ruse says.

I was going to post this last week, but never got around to it for some reason. However, in light of the ruckus over the views of our creationist minister of state for science and technology, Ruse’s observations may perhaps be germane to the discussion. Certainly, anyone that’s ventured into these wretched debates will likely corroborate his experience insofar that half-way into (if not before), most creationist dialectics, Christian apologists seem to lose the plot completely and instead start whacking away at various cultural and social piñatas. It’s not at all difficult to imagine Goodyear falling into the same camp, given the bizarre urgency with which he turned a simple question about evolution into a perceived attack on his religious beliefs.

Update: Can we link? Yes we can! No one should be fooled for a moment by Goodyear’s pathetic dissembling on this issue. He may be able to easily dupe witless “journalists” like Jane Taber and other gullible rubes, but it’s plain to see that he’s either unwilling or unable to fully apprehend one of the most basic theories of biological science; namely, evolution.


Filed under Religion, Science

“Young, dumb, and full of glum”

Hey, he said it… I didn’t. But if the foo-shits and all that.

Look, Gary Goodyear’s apparent ambivalence regarding evolution isn’t really a question about his “personal believes” (yes, it’s actually written that way on Pareta’s blog), but more simply indicative of how woefully unqualified this individual is to be minister of state for science and technology.

That he opted to turn a rather simple question about one of the most fundamental scientific tenets concerning the origin of our species into a matter of faith (“I am a Christian, and I don’t think anybody asking a question about my religion is appropriate,” Goodyear bizarrely responded when asked if he believed in evolution) is beside the point and speaks more to his profoundly dull intellect and political ineptness than anything else. Many people of faith have no problem whatsoever reconciling their personal belief in God with the theory of evolution; indeed, the Vatican has recently claimed that Darwinian evolution and the account of Creation in Genesis are “perfectly compatible” (go figure).

But all that aside, would it really be too much to ask that a qualified scientist — a legitimate medical doctor, for example rather than a chiropractor — be in charge of this portfolio? You know… somebody properly schooled in the scientific method. The fact of the matter is that chiropracty is based on treating imaginary defects of the spine (“subluxations”) by manipulation. These so-called defects, which are also common in people who are not sick, are believed by chiropractors to cause disease and dysfunction of organs. While many people swear by chiropractic therapy and notwithstanding all of its biomechanical pretensions, it’s actually nothing short of a faith-based quackery that feeds off the boundless credulity of its pain-afflicted patients.

Viewed this way, the question then isn’t whether Goodyear’s possibly antediluvian religious beliefs should give us pause for thought, but whether it’s appropriate for a practitioner of this pseudo-scientific fakery to be charged with oversight and management of Canada’ present and future science strategy

Update: Although he released a lukewarm statement yesterday indicating he believed in evolution, Goodyear balked at a request today to provide his definition for clarification. “My entire background has been in science and my personal beliefs are not important,” Mr. Goodyear said. Really? Is this the best he could do? He’s a CHIROPRATOR for fucksake and he claims his “entire background has been in science”? Earth to Goodyear…


Filed under Science

Time to Abolish “Darwinism”

Writing in the New York Times the other day, the highly alluring evolutionary biologist Olivia Judson argues that the “insidious terms” Darwinism, Darwinist and Darwinian. should be abolished because they “suggest a false narrowness to the field of modern evolutionary biology, as though it was the brainchild of a single person 150 years ago, rather than a vast, complex and evolving subject to which many other great figures have contributed.”

Judson imagines the great man’s astonishment if we could travel back in time and fetch him to the present day:

Oh, there would be so much to tell him! A full list would take me weeks to write out. But the obvious place to begin would be the discoveries of genetics, especially DNA. We’d have to explain that cells in each organism contain a code describing how to build that organism, written in chemical form — DNA — that evolutionary forces are constantly rewriting. Indeed, the study of DNA allows us to see the action of natural selection on a molecule-by- molecule basis. We can see the genes where natural selection acts to prevent evolutionary change, those where it drives change and those where it has no effect at all.

Then there’s the fusion of genetics with natural selection, which has enormously expanded our understanding of how natural selection can work. For example, it has led to the discovery that natural selection does not just shape individuals — the length of a beak, the color of a fin. It can also act on family groups, and thus drive the evolution of cooperation and other altruistic behaviors.
The reason is that evolutionary success can now be measured in terms of the number of genes an individual contributes to the next generation. Anyone who dies without reproducing does not directly contribute any. But because individuals have some genes in common with their family members, they can make an indirect genetic contribution if they help their relations to reproduce instead of reproducing themselves. Such “kin selection” is thought to have contributed to the evolution of the social insects — especially, ants, bees, wasps and termites — where only a few individuals reproduce and everyone else looks after the offspring.

We’d want to discuss evolution beyond natural selection — the other forces that can sometimes cause (or prevent) evolutionary change. For although natural selection is the only creative force in evolution — the only one that can produce complex structures such as wings and eyes — it is not the only force that affects which genes will spread, and which will vanish.
And, and, and.

Of course, this is something that many people have been advocating for years. Perpetuation of the term is mostly due to the deliberate mendacity of creationists who would prefer that evolution remain forever stuck in the 19th century in much the same way their own primitive Bronze Age belief system is largely fixed in the distant historical past. Pointing to the sheer absurdity of term, Judson says that “Darwinian” evolution, is like calling aeronautical engineering “Wrightism,” and fixed-wing aircraft “Wrightian” planes after the famous pioneers of modern flight, Wilbur and Orville.


Filed under Science