December 16, 2005

Appeals Court Judges Misses on Evolution



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This story from the LA Times is out today:

A federal appeals court panel appeared sharply critical Thursday of a ruling this year that ordered the removal of stickers in science textbooks stating, "Evolution is a theory, not a fact."

Judge Ed Carnes of the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals said that the lower court judge had misstated facts in his ruling, overstating the influence religious protests had on the school board's actions. He also said the words on the sticker are "technically accurate," and that the Cobb County school board was justified in singling out the theory of evolution for comment.

"From nonlife to life is the greatest gap in scientific theory," Carnes said. "There is less evidence supporting it than there is for other theories. It sounds to me like evolution is more vulnerable and deserves more critical thinking" than other subjects.

Well, it seems Carnes either has a personal bias in favor of Creationism, or he's just not too bright. He doesn't even seem to realize what the "theory" of evolution is. That's a rookie mistake, like believing that the "theory of gravity" is about whether or not gravity exists. The "theory of evolution" is not a theory about whether evolution exists, it's a theory as to how evolution works. Evolution itself is clearly real, as proven by all the evidence--fossils dating back a few billion years, life forming more complex organisms as time progresses, with clearly defined branches of forms developing, one creature into two or more, one creature into another in a chain, leading up to present-day life. The core idea of evolution--that life changed from less complex forms into more complex ones--is about as solid as it gets.

You could argue that "evolution" has come to mean the theory of how, instead of meaning evolution as a whole. But not in this context. The people who put the stickers on those books clearly believe that evolution did not take place at all, and want students to get the official word from the government that God created all life in its present form. The phrase "Evolution is a theory, not a fact" is "technically correct" only if you completely ignore the context.

Further evidence that Carnes is bending things comes from his statement about "nonlife to life" being the "greatest gap in scientific theory." This only covers one part of the theory of evolution--the beginning--and completely ignores the remaining fossil record. One could still believe that God created the most primary life forms and let things snowball from there, and evolution is still real and present. But even that is still a "God of the gaps," using God to fill in for segments of scientific understanding not yet achieved.

Science can, without any contradiction or complication, be described as understanding "how God did it," not "whether God did it." Understanding that, evolution as described by science can be seem as an attempt to understand how life formed, whether as directed by God or not. The same can be said of how life began. If God did it, He must have used some method, one that could be described by science. Why is it so all-fired important for some people to believe that it was somehow magical? That it was not God directing the laws of molecular interaction so as to lead to the grandeur of life we see today, but rather some instant, mystical, clap-some-clay-together-and-poof-there's-life miracle that would be beyond science's ability to explain?

The outlines here are clear: people who believe that an old-looking guy with a beard and maybe a belly button slapped clay on clay and made life, and that's that; they believe that evolution is wholly untrue. This is a religious belief, and they're pissed that the evidence of the world contradicts that, and worse, that the government allows this contradictory evidence to be taught in schools. These are people who believe that all of evolution is untrue, and want this religious doctrine to be reflected in universal education. That's what the stickers are about; anything else is a snow job.

Note to Judge Carnes: get a grip on the issue.

Posted by Luis at December 16, 2005 07:33 AM
Comments

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Yes, the scientists are always confusing us, with "facts", and "scientific data":
http://www.yourdailymedia.com/post/1133441607

Posted by: Manok at December 20, 2005 07:42 PM

You claim the Theory of Evolution is "rock solid."
That's not true. This is why it's called a "theory."

Until it can be proven it's still conjecture.

The reason it hasn't been proven is that there are still "holes' in this theory. If man came from apes, why are there still apes? If the horseshow crab has lives for 250 million years without change, shouldn't it have changed by now, at least a little?

According to the theory, the horseshoe crab should be man now, and no more horseshoe crab.

Of the millions of fossils in the world, not one transitional form has been found. All known species show up abruptly in the fossil record, without intermediate forms, thus contributing to the fact of special creation

Macro-evolution says if nature breeds long enough, you’ll get a fish to turn into a lizard. It’s never happened. There is zero fossil record; nothing but conjecture to prove the “hypothesis" of Darwin.

Both Intelligent Design and Evolution are theories, neither has been proven. So why is either of them to be taught in our schools? Either teach them both as THEORIES, or don't teach them at all until one of them is proven.


BTW, ever wonder what a "coincidence" earth alone can sustain life, as far as we know?

[Editor: this was posted in a completely unrelated entry; I have moved it here as it seems that this is what the commenter was responding to.]

Posted by: Jeff Curtis at December 21, 2005 05:49 AM

You claim the Theory of Evolution is "rock solid." That's not true. This is why it's called a "theory." Until it can be proven it's still conjecture.Please read carefully. "Evolution" per se is rock solid. What people refer to as the "Theory of Evolution" is the current attempt to explain how evolution works.

It's the same as the "Theory of Gravity." It attempts to explain how gravity works, not if gravity exists. It is clear that gravity exists, and just as clear that evolution exists.If man came from apes, why are there still apes? If the horseshow [sic] crab has lives for 250 million years without change, shouldn't it have changed by now, at least a little?Apes as they live today are not the "apes" we evolved from. In fact, we did not evolve from apes--rather, both simians and humans evolved from an earlier hominid species. We just evolved farther and in a different direction. As for the crab question, there is nothing in evolution that mandates change; one species can remain unchanged for eternity, or it could evolve rapidly. Nor does evolution mean that every species that evolves must eventually end up as a sentient, tool-using species. It just has to change in some way that allows it to survive in its environment better than prior species, or fit into a new niche in its ecology. Sometimes changes are simply cosmetic ones, though these changes are not really "evolutionary" as they do not pertain to the survivability of the species.All known species show up abruptly in the fossil record, without intermediate forms...Really? Cite your source.Both Intelligent Design and Evolution are theories, neither has been proven. So why is either of them to be taught in our schools? Either teach them both as THEORIES, or don't teach them at all until one of them is proven.The difference is that evolution, for over a century, has gone through a rigorous process of providing evidence, analysis and argument, which is then tested, assaulted, criticized and torn down, followed by countless cycles of revision, resubmission, further criticism, and tearing down, until the core theory has survived the brutal process and the resulting arguments are hard science. Evolution has empirical evidence and is backed up by what we see in the real world. ID has none of this, not a single iota. It's nothing but creationism dressed up, with no evidence and no testing, no review, nothing.BTW, ever wonder what a "coincidence" earth alone can sustain life, as far as we know?The Earth is the only planet in our system which we have been able to exhaustively study on life--there could be life in Jupiter, on Europa, or Titan or other places in our system. And in this galaxy there are maybe 200 billion stars, and in the universe, hundreds of billions of galaxies, none of which we have yet observed.

Your claim is like coming upon a continent-sized field of stones, overturning only one of them, finding bugs, and then musing that it is amazing that as far as you know, out of all the trillions of stones that exist in that field, only that one has life under it.

Posted by: Luis at December 21, 2005 06:19 AM