Friday, June 22, 2007

Evolution

I just watched a documentary about the Intelligent Design movement. I still do not understand how people can deny evolution or even why. Or say things like "I don't believe in evolution." Evolution is not faith or belief. It's a matter of science. It's something that is continually tested each and every time scientists go into a laboratory.

I know that scientists have biases. Everyone does. But when it comes to testing theories, scientists are usually rigorous. They want to find out an answer, not prove their idea. I do not think that people truly understand this. I have stood beside other scientists that had their entire work reversed by a few experiments that negated their theories. And they didn't cover them up. They published them and changed the way they viewed and hypothesized their slice of science.

There are two major problems with trying to work Creation into science. And make no mistake, Intelligent Design is just another way for literal creation to recreate itself. The first major problem is that Intelligent Design is not science. Scientific theories or hypotheses, or at least the way many view it, must be falsifiable. This means that every test must be able to negate the hypothesis. In other words, just asking a question is not science. The scientific method, though reductionist, is a very good way to do science as it provides as answers that are as objective as possible. If you haven't seen it lately, in a nutshell the scientific method is observe, form hypothis, test hypothesis using experiments that provide for negating said hypothesis, and keep going. For instance, one of the hypotheses that I am working on these days is that carbon sources alter belowground microbial richness. Right now the answer is sort of. Which will be further tested and refined, at least until I start law school then someone else will pursue it. Intelligent design can not be falsified by any experiment. It is based solely on belief.

The second major problem, related to the first, is that the only way they approach proving ID is to attack evolution. However, advocates of ID rely on non-evidence. For instance, the fact or rarity does not prove a designer. It only proves that something is rare. My favorite quote comes from John Paulos:

"... rarity by itself shouldn't necessarily be evidence of anything. When one is dealt a bridge hand of thirteen cards, the probability of being dealt that particular hand is less than one in 600 billion. Still, it would be absurd for someone to be dealt a hand, examine it carefully, calculate that the probability of getting it is less than one in 600 billion, and then conclude that he must not have been dealt that very hand because it is so very improbable." --John Allen Paulos, Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and its Consequences.

So possible and rarity are not incompatible by any stretch of the imagination. But falsifying evolution doesn't prove another theory. It simply falsifies evolution.

I don't have the space to deal with every ID argument, but there are a number of very good sources out there that do this.

So why do I care? Because evolution is a basic pillar of biology. It is important in discussing embryology, cell and molecular biology, pesticide use, antiobiotic and other drug useage, and in the discussion of the environment. Evolution is an important consideration in so many of the important issues facing the human race. Want to know why antiobiotic resistance happens and why it can be so dangerous? It has to do with evolution. Want to know why concern over species loss is so important or why small populations can be such a problem leading to extinction? It has to do with evolution.

Evolution is so important to so much of science. America wants to be a leader in the scientific fields. We can't do this if we deny such a huge driving force. We can't call ourselves educated if we do not understand as basic a notion as evolution. A professor will not write medical school recommendation letters for anti-evolution students. Do you want a doctor that doesn't believe in evolution over prescribing antibiotics or who ignores the reason why the flu vaccination changes every year? I sure as hell don't. Yet, people are suing him for discrimination. Idiocy.

2 comments:

IsmaelTapiaII said...

I have a degree in philosophy, and one of my old philosophy professors used to say that there were two concepts you had to accept if you were interested in living in the modern world: the atom and evolution. Rejecting either one of those, he said, meant that you weren't ready to participate meaningfully in any sort of discussion in the 21st century. I have to say that I agree.

People who don't "believe" in evolution are, frankly, stupid. And it's not even about religion. Science can never disprove any relgion--at least not one that refrains from making verifiable factual statements. It's all just ridiculousness.

Eliza said...

That is something I have argued for years. Science is not here to disprove religion. Or prove it. Apples and oranges. But for some reason, the concept of evolution makes some people think that science is attempting to refute the Bible. I have never and will never understand literal interpretations of the Bible. It's been edited by committee, for cripes sake.

Arrrrgggghhhh.