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Richard Dawkins on Nilsson/Pelger
December 10, 2004 5:39 AM   Subscribe

Creationists argue that the complexity of the human eye could not have arrisen by random Darwinian natural selection, since it "must be perfect to work at all". The Nilsson and Pelger computer experiment refutes this with a method of awesome beauty, showing that a human-quality eye is not just possible under Darwinian evolution, but nigh-inevitable. This is from Do Good By Stealth, chapter 3 of River Out of Eden, which is maybe the greatest thing I've ever read.
posted by Pretty_Generic (67 comments total)

 
Whoa, evolution is a racist concept? That's a new one on me. To think, I've been a racist all these years and never knew it.
posted by veedubya at 5:49 AM on December 10, 2004


Ignorance 101 as taught by fundamentalists everywhere. Oh, wait, perhaps it does make more sense that the earth was created in six days about 6000 years ago. While we are saying that, we could also say that the earth is flat and the center of the universe. Then we can say that the power of the vagina makes women evil. But first and foremost, god rules!!!!!
posted by mervin_shnegwood at 5:51 AM on December 10, 2004


"Didn't you know that evolution is basically a racist concept? Some evolutionists still teach that white man evolved from 'negroes' who evolved from apes."

And I'll bet that people putting that forward are tenured at prestigious universities.

And the next panel displaying the discredited parts of man's evoltionary tree but ommitting most of the logical ones is fantastic!
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:06 AM on December 10, 2004


Well, our distant common ancestors were dark skinned and can arguably be called "negroes". It's the idea that this means modern white people are better than modern black people that is completely fatuous.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 6:13 AM on December 10, 2004


I mean better mentally: we ARE indisputably better at dealing with cold weather. :)
posted by Pretty_Generic at 6:17 AM on December 10, 2004


I've always thought that the idea that the eye is an example of the "divine's" hand at work came from Newton. He was also heavy into alchemy and esoteric Christian apocryha...
posted by pemdasi at 6:17 AM on December 10, 2004


In his new book The Ancestor's Tale, Richard Dawkins explains that the eye evolved independantly 40 times throughout different species.

Of course, creationists would simply argue that only a higher power could have performed such a feat...and 40 times, no less!

Hell, even Darwin himself had his doubts (also quoted from the second link in the post, albeit for different purposes):
To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree.
On the Origins of Species, 6th ed.

He then goes on to show how this, in fact, could be the case, discussing light-sensitive pigment cells on starfish. As far as theories go, I think this Dawkins fellow might be on to something :)
posted by bachelor#3 at 6:23 AM on December 10, 2004


argh...^independantly^independently
posted by bachelor#3 at 6:25 AM on December 10, 2004


"We also share about 50% of our DNA with bananas and that doesn't make us half bananas, either from the waist up or the waist down."

Steve Jones

Scientist, Evolutionist


hey steve, you and i obviously have a different view when looking down.
posted by three blind mice at 6:27 AM on December 10, 2004


comedygenius
posted by Pretty_Generic at 6:29 AM on December 10, 2004



posted by orange clock at 6:29 AM on December 10, 2004


"We also share about 50% of our DNA with bananas and that doesn't make us half bananas, either from the waist up or the waist down."

Steve Jones


You know creationists are desperate when they start quoting members of The Sex Pistols.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:32 AM on December 10, 2004


Also, Richard Dawkins discusses eye evolution in general, in his excellent book "The Blind Watchmaker"
posted by acrobat at 6:37 AM on December 10, 2004


"In The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin commented, sexual selection, "depends, not on a struggle for existence, but on a struggle between the males for possession of females; the result is not death to the unsuccessful competitors, but few or no offspring." "

or, more accurately, by the selection of suitable males by sharp-eyed females.
posted by three blind mice at 6:38 AM on December 10, 2004


Creationists themselves are the strongest argument yet against the theory of evolution.

But then again, they do resemble lower simians at times with their stupid ravings!
posted by nofundy at 6:41 AM on December 10, 2004


As acrobat says, "The blind watchmaker" is a great book, I've even opened the eyes of a few open-minded creationists (yes, there are a few) by lending them the book...
posted by escorter at 6:41 AM on December 10, 2004


Mayor Curley, thank you. A spit-laugh of paper towel proportions.
posted by thinkpiece at 6:48 AM on December 10, 2004


Inevitable. I call it equilibrium. Life finds its own solutions, simple or complex.
posted by fleener at 6:49 AM on December 10, 2004


I want to be a fundamentalist Dawkins supporter. Creationists should be gunned down - "But, I don't understand it, so it can't be true." - personally, I want it all to be so fantastically complex that I can't understand it. Imagine if God was as basic and dull as a creationist would have you believe!
posted by The Ultimate Olympian at 6:53 AM on December 10, 2004


[Obligatory Bill Hicks Quote]

"I believe God made me in ONE DAY!"
"... yep, with you, it sure looks like he rushed it."


[OBHQ]

posted by chicobangs at 7:07 AM on December 10, 2004


The fact that Richard Dawkins is a jerk does not make him a good scientist. In fact, the fact that Richard Dawkins finds it necessary to pontificate on things he knows little about makes him a bad scientist.

Darwin seems to have thought that the idea of evolution was a complex sort of theory that demanded a lot of thought and consideration, not a dogma acceptance of which ought to be demanded of the scientific community and of everyone in society. People like Dawkins, who want some sort of license to run around blabbing about what they think might be the origins of this or that and "skewering self-righteous fanatics" in their own self-righteous indignation, would be better served by learning some love and kindness for their own species. There's a reason we evolved those traits, after all.
posted by koeselitz at 8:59 AM on December 10, 2004


Ooh, ad hominem.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 9:32 AM on December 10, 2004


koeselitz: What are you talking about?

The fact that what Richard Dawkins writes is good science makes him a good scientist. For all I know, Albert Einstein was an absolute boor at parties and liked to smash up peoples cars with sledgehammers for fun. I don't really care, and don't see what difference it makes when judging the science itself.

Dawkins generally does an excellent job at explaining and supporting what he says and writes. He's not pushing a dogma, he's pushing a scientific theory. Dawkins zealousness in this endeavor is a response to the babbling done by Creationists trying to push their unscientific bullshit into schools and into mainstream science.

The "dogma" and bad science is theirs, friend, and frankly I'm happy to have Dawkins continuing to skewer them. If you don't like what he says, then let's have the debate on the content. But to obliquely savage his ideas by accusing him of not having enough love and kindness for humanity seems especially childish to me.
posted by Swifty at 9:32 AM on December 10, 2004


Is the human eye really perfect? (pdf link)
posted by Manjusri at 9:37 AM on December 10, 2004


By the way, the Talk Origins website is really your one-stop-shop for all Evolution vs. Creationism needs.
posted by bshort at 10:05 AM on December 10, 2004


My eyes certainly aren't perfect. I've always assumed God was punishing my selfish, spiritually near-sighted sinfulness with actual myopia. Maybe it's time to rethink that. Hmm.
posted by Hildago at 10:08 AM on December 10, 2004


There's also this book out there on the evolutionary development of the eye. Granted this happened several million years before the start of the Creationists universe and deals with animal which probably shouldn't exist much less be our far distant ancestors, but you know, sometimes it good to read something based on the sedimentary record of time.
posted by rodz at 10:37 AM on December 10, 2004


Manjusri: I was going to bring up that octopus eye thing too. By creationist standards, we are clearly inferior to the octopus, who has nearly the same eye as us, but without that unfortunate blind spot.
posted by rusty at 10:53 AM on December 10, 2004


From the article "But even with these conservative assumptions, the time taken to evolve a fish eye from fiat skin was minuscule: fewer than 400,000 generations. " But the thing is you just don't get a mutation every single generation do you, my son has the same eye I do, and my eye is the same as my Dads. So his argument that you could evolve an eye pretty quickly is still a little flaky.

I certainly believe in evolution, I have a slightly harder time with Speciation, the point where a common ancestor splits into two distinct entities. Seems like it almost relies on isolated populations to work which doesn't really jibe with the Out Of Africa theory.
posted by zeoslap at 11:41 AM on December 10, 2004


From the article "But even with these conservative assumptions, the time taken to evolve a fish eye from fiat skin was minuscule: fewer than 400,000 generations. " But the thing is you just don't get a mutation every single generation do you, my son has the same eye I do, and my eye is the same as my Dads.

but your son is not the entirety of his generation, nor you of yours, etc. If there were mutations in every instance, then evolution wouldn't make sense as a theory - you have to pass on characteristics. The idea is that mutations occur on a semi-regular basis, and if they make the bearer a)more likely to survive or b)more likely to mate, they will have good chance of being passed on.

The eye is not currently a primary factor in survival & procreation, in that, eg, those people who supposedly perceive four primary colors (what are they called?) are unlikely to have better chances of reproduction etc, so that their mutations won't become dominant.

Also, keep in mind how enormously long the history of the earth is. All of human history is a tiny blip when thinking on a geological scale.
posted by mdn at 12:01 PM on December 10, 2004


zeoslap, your son doesn't have the same eye you do. That's precisely why there's a coefficient of variation and a heritability figure, which are taken account of, pessimistically, in order to make this hypothesis.

Dawkins isn't claiming that big, noticeable mutations occur regularly or are important parts of evolution. He's saying that it's the tiny imperceptible differences between your eye and your sons that build up over many generations and allow natural selection to take place. When the first mammal was born, an extraterrestrial biologist would have no interest in it because the creature would be imperceptably different from its non-mammal parents. I urge you to read the book so that you understand these concepts better.

As for the speciation/Out of Africa thing... I just have no idea what you're talking about, and I suspect you don't. You do realise that races aren't species don't you?
posted by Pretty_Generic at 12:01 PM on December 10, 2004


zeoslap: I would recommend Dawkin's new book, The Ancestor's Tale. It's a backwards trip through the Common Ancestors, and I would characterize it as both accessible and fascinating.
posted by ltracey at 12:01 PM on December 10, 2004


oops - I should have said, more likely to survive and hence more likely to mate - doesn't matter if you survive but don't pass the characteristic on.
posted by mdn at 12:02 PM on December 10, 2004


Have they given up on the eye yet? If so, then there's always the spine, the brain, then after they've been cornered again they can play the morality card (obviously only humans are good, animals act like viscious psychopaths) etc.

The creationists are always playing the god of the gaps fallacy.

posted by skallas at 12:30 PM on December 10, 2004


mdn, I was referring to the actual article, Dawkins says " ... I have usually fallen back on the sheer magnitude of geological time. It now appears that the shattering enormity of geological time is a steam hammer to crack a peanut." i.e He's saying that this simulation allows him to no longer rely on the enormity of time argument (that you just used) and that in actual fact it could happen in as little as half a million years to go from photocell to a good eye. This assumes that each generation is better than the last.

In summary... The actual simulation took 400,000 helpful mutations to evolve the eye which I don't think he can use as the basis for saying that it could happen in ~400,000 years. I think he still has to rely on the time argument.

With regards speciation, I do know what I'm talking about thank you very much. Out Of Africa theory states that all life sprung from a single place. While the only observed speciation events have occured when one population has been isolated from another. So what triggered the explosion in life in this one place when there were no isolated populations.

and for the record I'm by no means a creationist.
posted by zeoslap at 12:42 PM on December 10, 2004


ltracey I'll pick it up, sounds good.
posted by zeoslap at 12:42 PM on December 10, 2004


(okay i may have confused the spread of humans, with the spread of life itself)
posted by zeoslap at 12:44 PM on December 10, 2004


I don't quite understand why the eye is considered more "amazing" than, say, the endocrine or central nervous system.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:48 PM on December 10, 2004


zeoslap: With regards speciation, I do know what I'm talking about thank you very much. Out Of Africa theory states that all life sprung from a single place. While the only observed speciation events have occured when one population has been isolated from another. So what triggered the explosion in life in this one place when there were no isolated populations.

Where did you get that? The Out of Africa theory simply states that Homo sapiens sapiens originated in Africa and in a relatively short period of geologic time, migrated throughout the globe. It doesn't say much about, for example, the Tasmanian Devil which evolved from an isolated branch of the mamalian family tree to a lifestyle remarkably similar to the American Wolverene.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:54 PM on December 10, 2004


The actual simulation took 400,000 helpful mutations to evolve the eye which I don't think he can use as the basis for saying that it could happen in ~400,000 years

You're right! That's because "year" is a different word to "generation"!

With regards speciation, I do know what I'm talking about thank you very much.

(okay i may have confused the spread of humans, with the spread of life itself)


Uhuh. Get thee to a library.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 1:01 PM on December 10, 2004


Also, I think that functional isolation is just as important as geographic isolation. To something like E. coli, a clump of soil might as well be Mars. (Which is what makes E. coli a good indicator of fecal contamination.) Another one of my frustrations in discussing evolution is that we pay much more attention to the rather patchy and spotty fossil record of terrestrial vertebrates, and very little to the wonderful record of marine invertebrates that have been fossilized by the billions. Our best understanding of the Permian and Cretatious mass-extinction events comes not from counting vertebrate species, but from counting the invertebrates. Paleobotanists have also made huge contributions to understanding evolution, but get sligted in favor of cute dinosaurs.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:09 PM on December 10, 2004


Everything we have to model evolution has a creator. Think of a computer 1000 years from now that becomes self-aware. If all traces of humanity were gone it might look back and find its origins in the Timex Sinclair, split paths of divergent, and periods of punctuated equilibrium. In that regard the idea of intelligent creation is reasonable.

I have not been persuaded either way... atheistic evolution has many holes... as does intelligent design. The literal biblical account, however, has no basis in scientific reality.
posted by dancingbaptist at 1:17 PM on December 10, 2004


You're right! That's because "year" is a different word to "generation"!

From article: "For the kinds of small animals we are talking about, we can assume one generation per year"

So, Pretty_Generic, in this case, a year is equivalent to a generation. Just sayin'. :)
posted by davejay at 1:17 PM on December 10, 2004


pretty_generic, you're right i got a tad confused, but i did admit it so no need to rub it in now is there? and like davejay points out it was Dawkins himself who equated a year to a generation, it was the crux of him thinking that this allowed him not to use the 'enormity of geological time' argument which I don't think it does. Not that the time argument is a bad one, it isn't, but the simulation doesn't change the need for far more time than 400k years to evolve an eye.
posted by zeoslap at 1:28 PM on December 10, 2004


Well, with davejay's quote of the original phrase, assuming a year per generation seems entirely reasonable. What we are forgetting is generation times longer than a year is a statistical rarity, and humans with an estimated 12-15 years to sexual maturity, are in a tiny and select club. (Above the 98th percentile.) Assuming a generation time of a year actually seems to be conservative.

But lets work this from the other way. If we place the bar at 10 years, (a figure that is well away from the median) we are still only talking about 4 million years. Still a small figure in geologic time. 4 million years is less than 1/10th of the time between the KT boundary and now. 1/50th of the time to the Permian mass extinction event. 1/100th of the time since the Cambrian.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:45 PM on December 10, 2004


Is this conversation evolving?
posted by nofundy at 1:47 PM on December 10, 2004


atheistic evolution has many holes

Uh, like what? Conflating a lack of fossils from every single generations and the complete lack of rigor and critical thinking in Creationism means you're either willfully obtuse or woefully misinformed.
posted by bshort at 2:01 PM on December 10, 2004


Is this conversation evolving?

No. Evolution is a combination of mutation and natural selection. Mutation causes new and different iterations, while natural selection punishes the poorly created or suited with death before procreation. Evolution is a hurry up and wait.

It would be kinda cool to see an truly evolutionary community blog system. Left to natural selection, memes that are not responded to or read, "die" by being erased after a certain amount of time. Only the fittest posts survive, metafilter is evolved to inside jokes, Bush hating and pictures of found objects.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 2:03 PM on December 10, 2004


bshort

If you are 100% sure and can explain evolution with 100% certainty and are 100% sure no being created the universe then you are intellectually dishonest.
posted by dancingbaptist at 2:22 PM on December 10, 2004


I agree in the comic about Creationism. In my scientific endeavors, I assume evolution to be fact, however, when I study evolution, I cannot help but wonder if G,A,T,C, and U are legos.
posted by dancingbaptist at 2:31 PM on December 10, 2004


dacingbaptist: If you are 100% sure and can explain evolution with 100% certainty and are 100% sure no being created the universe then you are intellectually dishonest.

Certainly. Which is why scientist quantify their level of confidance in a theory.

Given the multiple lines of evidence for evolution, and the vast quantity of that evidence, the quality of that evidence, I am more confidant that evolution is the driving mechanism behind the diversity of life on Earth, than I am that the Huygens probe will actually land on a moon of Saturn this month. The evidence for evolution is more overwhelming than the evidence for the existence of moons in our solar system.

In fact, I'd place my confidance in evolution somewhere between death and taxes.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:35 PM on December 10, 2004


dancingbaptist: care to point out some holes in evolutionary theory? Or are you just going to sit around and willfully misunderstand how science works?

Or, just for shits and giggles, how about if you give some examples of where Creationism actually shows any adherence to the scientific method or indeed to any logic whatsoever.

Or, if you want to start throwing around percentages and absolute knowledge, prove to me that your invisible superhero exists.
posted by bshort at 2:45 PM on December 10, 2004


bshort

I've only seen such sophistry and arrogance demonstrated by college freshmen... I remember thinking that way myself. If you would read my posts you will see that I do not condone the way creationist explore science as they do not follow the proper scientific method. Even those on the cutting edge of their fields, such as Green and Hawkings, do not discount with certainty a creator... though they lean towards the probability that there is not one. My mind is open, that's all.
posted by dancingbaptist at 3:19 PM on December 10, 2004


> I don't quite understand why the eye is considered more "amazing" than, say, the endocrine or central nervous system.

Its an easier meme to package and digest. I mean, how many creationists and other theists grok the Kreb's cycle? Chances are if you understand some biology then your chances of being a creationist are low.

So they just pick something they can package into an effective, but false message. Tis the art of propaganda and the selling of beliefs. Personally, I think its clever, but evil. Clever in the way that the way to disspell this lie is to explain a whole lot of evolution to someone who probably hasn't been exposed to it before.
posted by skallas at 4:06 PM on December 10, 2004


Seems pretty silly to me. I mean, I guess I understand it -- "Oooh, look, it's like a little telescope! We've built those, and we're terribly clever, but God must be even more clever!"

Of course, now we have computers, so we can start the whole thing all over again... "Oooh, the central nervous system is just like a big computer! We've built those, and we're terribly clever..." etc.

Look, folks, it's all just natural selection. Check it.

Cells don't have intention, they merely respond to stimuli. If (chemical) then (reaction). Over time, individual cells form groups because, again, the ones in groups survive better than the individual cells. It's (reaction) has grown exponentially more sophisticated and complicated as its divisions and members become more specialized.

Now when (lack of water to cells), we have (thirst). Now when (cells dying in numbers because of heat) we have (fear of the flame). We dub these new, more complex paradigms as emotions. But there's nothing particularly fancy or divine about them at all. You could reduce all of civilization to a product of natural selection on the cellular scale.

I see no need for God, except to get the ball rolling, and even then maybe not. My sentience has a limited lifespan, as all complex compositions inevitably break down, but I see the world as having a start and an end because I have a start and an end. It's quite possible that the "system" doesn't work like that at all. In fact, I'd say it's more likely, since over time, complex systems form and break apart in a continuous cycle. But what do I know, I'm just a stupid ape?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:08 PM on December 10, 2004


Evolution isn't about natural selection so much as it is natural rejection.

A mutation that provides great benefit might make it into the next generation. Or it might not: could be the mutant gets hit by a bus before it can reproduce.

Whereas a mutation that provides great disadvantage probably isn't going anywhere at all. Evolution favours what doesn't not work.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:01 PM on December 10, 2004


>Out Of Africa theory states that all life sprung from a single place.

This is incorrect. The earth was teeming with life. Perhaps you meant the apes which would become us. Well, there were also apes in the Americas. Its Homo Sapiens that came out of Africa, not all life. Well, obviously, the the African environment helped produce what later became humans for a plethora of reasons, some understood, some not. To expect humans to materialize everywhere spontaneously sounds like a religious concept to me.
posted by skallas at 7:04 PM on December 10, 2004


skallas, you needed to read a little further, i already admitted my mistake. kirk, even with the 10 year estimate you use you're still assuming one heritable, useful mutation per generation which isn't how things work. Dawkins is just misinterpreting the results of the simulation a bit, saying that it negates his need for the 'enormity of geological time' argument. I'm saying that the simulation doesn't say that at all, it proves with 400,000 useful, heritable mutations, you can get from a photocell to an eye, but it says nothing about how long those 400,000 mutations would take to occur. Surely you agree it's highly unlikely that the rate would be one per generation.
posted by zeoslap at 7:15 PM on December 10, 2004


I've only seen such sophistry and arrogance demonstrated by college freshmen... I remember thinking that way myself.

That's right, ad hominem away. Or, you could try and answer a few questions.

Your choice, really.
posted by bshort at 8:33 PM on December 10, 2004


"In answer to the question of why it happened, I offer the modest proposal that our Universe is simply one of those things which happen from time to time."
- Edward P. Tryon, Columbia University
posted by MarkO at 10:09 PM on December 10, 2004


I suppose my view on evolution is a bit nihilistic. While microevolution is observed often, true macroevolution, or speciation, has never been observed. I've read Darwin's Black Box and believe it to be full of shit. I've seen a creationist seminar at a church that I was once a member of and found it embarrasing. Particulary sad is their twisting of the second law of thermodynamics... saying that everything leads to entropy. While that is true I also realize that this applies to the universe as a whole but not to contained systems. My assertion is, that no scientist could say with all honesty that "life was not created." Hell, some evil alien genius could have stirred the pot. I'm not arguing for a Christian God in this conversation, and certainly not for the biblical account of creation. At this point however, we are presumptious to say with certainty that nucleic acid molecules are not the creator's legos. So my argument is vastly different from Creationists, but not all that different from pure atheistic evolutionists. I'm simply asserting that with our limited knowlede of this field, with string theory physics in its infancy, and only a century or so of study on this topic, that we cannot be 100% sure. If I had to choose between advocating biblical creation or atheistic evolution, I would side with the assertion that atheistic evolution is more probable based on current evidence.
posted by dancingbaptist at 10:28 PM on December 10, 2004


dancingbaptist: At this point however, we are presumptious to say with certainty that nucleic acid molecules are not the creator's legos.

This seems like a straw man to me. Who is saying this, with certainty?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:42 PM on December 10, 2004


A long argument

More

The last straw

Now my question is: how in the world can you or I reason with a religious person about anything they believe, if we can't even get past "creation science"?

as an aside, my hope for the Middle East is waning.

:(
posted by MarkO at 10:56 PM on December 10, 2004


The head of vascular neurology at the Neuro Institute of New York, where I trained, used to bring up the old argument about the unlikely perfection of the eye as a proof of the existence of God.

He would then go on to describe how the tenuous blood supply of the posterior fossa: the vertebral and basilar arteries and their branches - was an elegant disproof of the same thesis.
posted by ikkyu2 at 2:40 PM on December 11, 2004


I wrote an eleven page paper on intelligent design for my "Science and Pseudoscience" class.

It was supposed to have been 15 pages, but a.) I couldn't find a way of rendering intelligent design falsifiable, and b.) There's not a shred of positive evidence in favor of intelligent design - the entire paradigm consists of arguments from ignorance against evolution, e.g. "We don't know how that happened - THE INTELLIGENT DESIGNER MUST HAVE MADE IT."
posted by Veritron at 4:39 PM on December 11, 2004


dancingbaptist: We can't completely discount intelligent design to exactly the same extent that we can't completely discount any theory whatsoever. Given that the intelligent design theory has no foundation in the scientific process and is by definition unfalsifiable, it stands side-by-side with my theory that life does not, in fact, exist at all, and my apparent perception of it is caused by alien mind control rays. Any evidence to the contrary is simply aliens monkeying with their rays.

So sure, you can keep an open mind all you want. But to believe in creationism requires that you abandon the scientific method entirely. There's little point in assuming that the universe operates according to discoverable and consistent rules except when some god figure wants to jump in and do something like create human life.

It's not so much "I'm right and you're wrong," it's more like "your theory is irrelevant from my perspective." If we're going to look at the issue scientifically, then any theory that is unfalsifiable simply does not exist. It's a dead end. That's the basic reason that creationists and evolutionists will never see any common ground.
posted by rusty at 12:52 AM on December 12, 2004


swifty: My problem with Dawkins starts from the fact that, well, no, he's not technically a scientist. Technically he's a popularizer, not a scientist, by which I mean he's not the guy out in the field doing the work. Now, I don't mind that much-- I'm not a scientist either-- but Mr. Dawkins takes the work that people do in the field and makes it say things that most scientists would never say, at least not professionally. See: his ax to grind on God. The fact that intelligent design tells us nothing doesn't disprove or prove anything; it just means a few people out there are nuts. Didn't we know that already?

No one intelligent uses the "intelligent design" argument. So Dawkins plays Al Franken to the creationists' Ann Coulter; so what? That doesn't make either side "scientific."

I wouldn't even mind so much if Dawkins stuck to the creation/evolution stuff. At least he's in his element there; he seems to have at least read Darwin once, where the other side hasn't, and, well, let them fight it out. But he goes way beyond this realm in his books, challenging religion as a whole, mocking those who find certain concepts interesting or who have minds open to them. In short: good scientists know where their fields of expertise end, and where they have to cede to other experts. Dawkins does not do this.

If he kept his bile for the creationists, it all might make sense. But he's only decieving himself and his readers by tilting at the windmill of all the religious people of all time while having a severely limited grasp of what exactly they've believed.
posted by koeselitz at 4:09 PM on December 12, 2004


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