October 26, 2007

Creationists Never Evolve: Case Studies from Florida

If there's one clade of organisms in the world that provides evidence against evolution, it may well be Creationists themselves. They seem to defy the very idea of change over time, at least if their arguments are considered.

As you may know from reading any number of science-related blogs, the newly proposed science education standards for my former home state, Florida, contains the word "evolution" for the first time. Unlike the last governor, Jeb Bush, current governor Charlie Crist has indicated that he supports the new standards and that he doesn't think Intelligent Design Creationism or Genesis Literalism have a place in science classrooms; he's stated that such concepts, if they are to be taught anywhere in Florida's public schools, belong in an elective class.

Encouragingly, it seems that the level of support among those responding to polling about the new standards runs near the 80% level. Nonetheless, the change to the standards are bringing out a number of the usual Creationist crazies and their arguments haven't changed at all. It's still the same old stuff they've been going on about for years that's been debunked time and time and time again... but it's amusing to look at in a gallows-humor way.

For example, WTSP (Channel 10, CBS in Tampa) invited comment on the story under the headline Students may be required to learn evolution. They were responsible enough to include a link to the proposed standards themselves and summarized the changes thusly:

The Florida Department of Education has drafted new science standards that for the first time require students to learn about evolution.

While the concepts are currently taught, it’s addressed as “biological changes over time.”

The new proposed science standards reduce the number of concepts taught to kids, allowing teachers to focus on “big ideas” such as “evolution and diversity” starting in the second grade.

The state’s goal is to give students a deeper understanding of science.
While not entirely accurate (if the concepts are taught, it's not the first time students are required to learn about evolution), the statement themselves is otherwise rather simple and even-handed. Fair enough. So how about some of the more amusing responses, then? Those who feel attached to grammatically parsable English may want to avert their eyes at this point.
Here is the fact. http://www.wayofthemaster.com/evolution.shtml

—Jim (Oldsmar, FL)

Isn't that cute? This guy thinks the truth is being propounded by the guys who came up with that brilliant "the banana is the atheist's worst nightmare" bit that has since passed into YouTube history as one of the silliest things ever. Jim has failed to evolve.
If evolution is true--why has it stopped?
This is why my boys do not go to public school.

— Roni (Palm Harbor, FL)

First, let's assume Roni is right and that evolution has stopped. Does that mean it never happened? At one time, a mountain in Washington exploded into volcanic activity. Then it stopped. Does that mean the volcanic activity never happened? Now let's take the given away; on what evidence could one possibly conclude that evolution has stopped? The fact that one doesn't see the neighborhood dogs turning into bipeds before one's eyes doesn't mean that they never will, of course. In fact, we do see evolution occurring around us all the time. In simpler organisms that produce many offspring with short generation times, we sometimes see dramatic changes. One could trot out the evolution of antibiotic resistance in bacterial populations or new alleles arising in fruit flies... but why bother? Roni is living proof that the Creationist argument never evolves. What she's presenting as her objection to evolution being taught in schools is analogous to a trilobite. That her boys don't go to public schools (do they go to school at all?) demonstrates again why Creationist arguments never evolve; the essential intellectual weakness of those who support the argument in the first place also leads them to construct bubbles around themselves. In order to hold these fantastically silly ideas, one has to essentially hide under a rock. The kids wind up going along for the ride. There's a good chance that they'll remain under that rock for the rest of their lives.
It should not be aloud.it conflicts with most peoples religous beliefs.theirfor should not be aloud, since religion is not aloud to be taught in public schools.

If they allow this they should allow teaching of the Bible

— D Naumann (Tarpon Springs, FL)

Another typical Creationist canard; anything that impacts religious belief must itself be religiously motivated. Something that contradicts a literal interpretation of Genesis must itself be a religious idea. If religion isn't to be taught in public schools, neither should anything that calls a religious belief into question. Followed to its logical end, of course, this argument winds up having schools teach almost nothing. They might as well be shut down. They couldn't teach anything about prehistory, since there are people who believe that the earth is only 6,000 years old and that history began with Genesis. They couldn't teach anything about earth science, since the Bible says that the earth is at the center of the universe. Even math might be called into question; the Bible doesn't say anything about it, and if God wanted us to know about it, the topic would have been covered. What's the point of having schools? Education would simply be taken care of in churches and consist of memorizing the Bible. What else could we possibly need to know?
To teach evolution as a theory is ONE thing, but to force our students to be taught this... it's unbelievable. Just another example of how God is being pushed out of schools, our children are taught not to have faith, and people wonder why society has so much crime and suicide. Hmmmmm......

— Dolly (Tampa, FL)

Dolly, who may or may not be the cloned sheep who went by that name, certainly acts a bit like a cloned sheep here. This is another Creationist bit of nonsense that has been utterly discredited, and continues to be on a daily basis. "If you don't believe in my God, you have no basis for morality. There's nothing to stop someone who doesn't believe from killing, raping and looting." The fact that there are plenty of other countries the world over that don't include theology in their primary school curricula and don't erupt in spasms of violence — and don't have violent crime and mental disorder rates as high as ours — would never enter into her thinking. Japan, Denmark, Sweden, Norway... there's quite a list. Dolly makes an unsupported connection between two unrelated phenomena and expects that the rest of the world hasn't evolved enough in its thinking to look at her argument and proclaim it fit to have been produced by monkeys pounding randomly on typewriters. Dolly has failed to evolve.
What many scientists are now seeing is that mutations aren't necessarily evolving (moving forward) rather the mutations are something less than the original. Certainly we wouldn't think that aids and cancer are the fittest now would we? Yet we see these mutated cells invading human/animal populations exponentially. Is that evolving? No! By the way that common ancestor that evolution says we all come from is bacteria in pond scum. You may want to claim that as your ancestor, but I'd rather not!! I also believe that randomness, luck and survival of the fittest do not evolve into orderly and intrinsically designed system as found in the human body, animal systems, plant systems, and the entire universe. You can definitely use the scientific method to test randomness bringing about order. Try it for awhile - it'll get old fast - cause it can't be done!

— Lyte

This one is such a nice, brief summary of straw men about evolutionary theory and Creationist circular logic that it's hard to pick a spot to start with it. Of course mutations don't evolve; populations evolve, and mutations are the raw material upon which natural selection can act to bring about variations in allelic frequencies within those populations. "Moving forward" implies directionality that isn't present in evolutionary biology; there is no goal to move toward, so directionality means nothing. If evolution were a compass, it would have no indicators for north, south, east or west. The needle would swing this way or that, but there'd be no means by which to deduce which way one was facing. Conflating AIDS and cancer is another telling point; they're two very different things. AIDS is caused by a lentivirus, and that lentivirus does evolve, which is why there are more and less virulent strains and why we see both simian (SIV) and human (HIV) versions in nature. Cancer, on the other hand, is caused in most cases by inherent flaws in the genetic material and replicative mechanisms in the cells themselves, which pretty well falsifies Lyte's subsequent claim that the human body is "intrinsically designed" by some infallible creator. Cancer is a very good example of a major flaw in any presumed design scheme. We certainly do see randomness bringing about order using the scientific method. Kids, try this at home: take a few tablespoons of salt and dissolve it in water. The crystals disappear because the Na+ and Cl- ions dissociate. They are in no particular pattern at this point; they;'re arranged in solution randomly. Now let the water evaporate and, lo and behold, we find square crystals arranged in a lattice. At no point in this process do we see angels coming down from the heavens to put the crystals together, and if we could tag the individual ions and repeat this experiment a thousand times, we would note that different individual ions associate in the lattices with other, different individual ions in each iteration... randomly. Yet we would go, in each case, from a more disordered to a more ordered system every single time, no matter how many times we repeated the experiment. I don't suppose Lyte has ever noticed any of this... because he hasn't evolved. Same old Cambrian-style arguments, same old Cambrian-style Creationists.

And finally:
so will someone explain this to me.
If we evolved from apes ,then why are apes still apes ,shouldent they be something like ,a freakin human by now

— Joe (Crystal River, FL)

You know, sometimes it's difficult to distinguish parody of Creationists from what the Creationists say themselves. This argument has been debunked on a practically hourly basis for at least a hundred years now, and yet there's always some clown who pops up and flings it out there as evidence of their argument like an angry chimp hurling handfuls of its own dung. Perhaps someone could explain to me why, if humans are supposed to exhibit a ratchet effect in terms of knowledge, there are still people like Joe in the world?

Creationists never evolve. Most populations that fail to evolve eventually become extinct, but this end can take a very long time to come about. I sincerely hope that it won't take all that long before Creationism vanishes from the meme pool... but I'm not going to hold my breath. Explicitly teaching modern evolutionary biology in public schools is a good step in the right direction, though.

Sphere: Related Content