Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

Why Evolution is True

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Considering the plethora of books about evolution out there, is it really necessary to publish yet another one? What can another book about evolution have to offer that previous books have not provided? This new book not only presents the latest information about evolution to come to light, but it also responds to the most recent attacks made upon this branch of scientific knowledge. The book, Why Evolution is True (NYC: Viking; 2009) by Jerry Coyne, is the most up-to-date and one of the most clearly written books about evolution that is currently available — and that’s saying a lot since most books about evolution are excellent.

This beautifully written and fascinating book delves into the answers to several questions; How has (and is) evolution tested scientifically? What predictions do scientists make based on the Theory of Evolution? Have these predictions been supported by the experimental evidence? This book is Coyne’s detailed presentation of the most impressive and modern discoveries of fossil, animal and plant data that have been published in a variety of scientific fields that impinge upon and contribute to The Theory of Evolution.

Take the field of biogeography, for example. Biogeographers have long known that there are two types of islands: oceanic islands, which arose from the seafloor and have never been connected to a large land mass and continental islands, which have become isolated from a large land mass sometime during their history due to rising sea levels or fracturing continental plates. Biogeographers have documented time and again that these two island types can be easily distinguished because all oceanic islands lack native mammals, amphibians and freshwater fish — animals that are present on continental islands. This is not due to any defects associated with continental life since humans have introduced continental species such as rats, goats, pigs and other domestic animals onto oceanic islands throughout history, demonstrating that continental species are quite adept at island life. Additionally, species found on oceanic islands are often very similar to each other — radiations from a few ancestral species — while those on continental islands are not.

“Why would a creator happen to leave amphibians, mammals, fish, and reptiles off oceanic islands, but not continental ones?” wonders Coyne. “Why did a creator produce radiations of similar species on oceanic islands, but not continental ones? And why were the species on oceanic islands created to resemble those from the nearest mainland?”

The fossil record is consistent with evolutionary biology, too. When paleontologists look for particular transitional forms, they are found in the fossil record precisely where they should occur if evolution occurred. For example, the earliest birds appear after dinosaurs but before modern birds, as we see illustrated on the front dust jacket cover of the book.

Primate fossils follow this same pattern. Coyne discusses a series of fossils that are intermediate between chimp and humans, where the older fossils are more ape-like while progressively younger fossils are those that possess more characters associated with humans. Creationists react to this by claiming that all of the great ape fossils are either humans or apes with no discernible intermediates, and that they are separated by “a large and unbridgeable gap.” But interestingly, when tested, creationists can’t agree among themselves as to exactly which fossils are “human” and which are “ape”. “Nothing shows the intermediacy of these fossils better than the inability of creationists to classify them consistently,” concludes Coyne.

Developmental biologists have identified atavisms that betray close evolutionary relationships, too. Atavisms are dormant ancestral features that are sporadically expressed during embryonic development and sometimes after birth, too. This is likely due to the activation of genes from an organism’s evolutionary ancestors that remain normally unexpressed. For example, humans possess the genes for making tails, but these genes are usually deactivated. But not always: page 63 has a photograph of a human infant with a 3-4 inch atavistic tail!

Speaking of genes, geneticists have also made some interesting discoveries, such as dead genes. Dead genes are those genes whose inactive sequences are found in the chromosomes of particular groups of organisms. “Virtually all species harbor dead genes,” Coyne notes, “many of them still active in its relatives.”

Dead genes are even found in the human genome. One example is the human inability to manufacture our own vitamin C — despite the fact that the necessary genes exist in our genome. A close look at the sequences reveals that just one gene has a mutation in it, and this is exactly the same mutation shared between all other primates, while guinea pigs, which also cannot make vitamin C, have a completely different mutation.

“Why would a creator put a pathway for making vitamin C in all these species, and then inactivate it?” Coyne asks. “Why would the same inactivating mutation be present in all primates, and a different one in guinea pigs?”

Even though Coyne’s initial motivation to write this book stemmed from his annoyance with those who claim that intelligent design is science, he doesn’t attack religion. Instead, as demonstrated in some of the passages I’ve quoted here, he does what scientists do best: he makes predictions. In this case, he makes predictions that naturally arise from evolutionary theory as well as from creationism and “intelligent design” and details how actual scientific data conflict with religious beliefs.

Coyne also includes an interesting section in the last chapter of the book where he explores the fear that evolution inspires in many religious people. He points out that religious opposition to evolution is not due to a lack of scientific evidence, for there is plenty of that, but it stems mainly from fears that the moral fabric of society will fall apart if people accept the fact that humans descended from ape-like ancestors. But that said, Coyne goes on to recognize that ethics are not the result of religious belief at all. Further, he is not deterred from using scientific findings to examine humans in the light of our evolutionary ancestry and postulating that this realization could mean a great deal for our future evolution.

Most of us do need meaning, purpose, and moral guidance in our lives. How do we find them if we accept that evolution is the real story of our origin? That question is outside of the domain of science. But evolution can sill shed some light on whether our morality is constrained by our genetics. If our bodies are the product of evolution, what about our behavior? Do we carry the psychological baggage of our millions of years on the African savanna? If so, how far can we overcome it? [p. 225]

I highly recommend this book to everyone who is seeking a clearly written and level-headed review of the most recent and relevant scientific findings and for how they support modern evolutionary theory.

Jerry Coyne earned his PhD in Biology at Harvard University under Richard Lewontin. Coyne is professor at the University of Chicago in the Department of Ecology and Evolution and currently teaches evolutionary biology, speciation, genetic analysis, social issues and scientific knowledge, and scientific speaking and writing. Previously, he has served as Vice President of the Society for the Study of Evolution, and as Associate Editor of Evolution and The American Naturalist. This is his second book: his first book, Speciation, was co-written with Allen Orr (Sinauer Associates, Inc.; 2004).

Comments

  1. #1 Selasphorus
    May 21, 2009

    I’m currently reading this and enjoying it. I like to have my arguments polished.

  2. #2 Ben
    May 21, 2009

    While Darwin’s wonderful theory of evolution may appear fairly watertight, it would appear to rest it’s case on the understandable presumption 160 years ago,of nature being responsible for the progression of design.Given the situation our humanity finds itself in today is it not time for an evolution of scientific thinking which allows other issues to be taken into account,such as the world population growth in the last 65 years in particular andour potential for self-destruct.If our scientists can begin create life, why not other much more advanced scientists in other solar systems doing this and much more? We have to include the principle of progression of design,presumed to be evidenced by the theory of evolution, into a larger and more inclusive framework of understanding, that would allow so many other issues to be included in a sensible, logical and relevant way to the condition of humanity TODAY. While it may be comfortable to rest on the interpretation of the evidence of evolution hitherto collected, are scientists in danger of ignoring other issues simply because they do not come from a scientifically credible sources? Which do you think is the most logical,
    1.We were created by a supernatural deity
    2.We were created by a process of natural selection through unimaginable chances over millions of years
    3.We were created by over a relatively short time compared to Evolution theory, through the progression of design by advanced science

  3. #3 Rob
    May 21, 2009

    If theory of evolution is true, what will humans turn into next considering this is a non-stop chain event?

  4. #4 T. Bruce McNeely
    May 21, 2009

    Ben:

    Answer – none of the above.

  5. #5 Science Avenger
    May 21, 2009

    We don’t turn into anything recognizeably different immediately Rob, we gradually change. We’re doing it now, and so are all the living things around us. It’s 10 million tiny changes, not a few big whoppers. If a fish gave birth to a salamander, it would NOT be consistent with modern evolutionary theory.

  6. #6 Left_Wing_Fox
    May 21, 2009

    Ben: So if we were created by aliens, who created the aliens?

    At least Christians get around that by placing God outside the natural universe.

  7. #7 MPG
    May 22, 2009

    Ben:

    Going by the evidence we already have, #2 is the most likely. Although your wording leaves a little to be desired – chance might be “unimaginable” if you take the current state of a system, assume it’s the only valid state and work backwards from there, but who says humans as they are now was the only possible outcome?

  8. #8 Terry Trainor
    May 22, 2009

    “”Why would a creator happen to leave amphibians, mammals, fish, and reptiles off oceanic islands, but not continental ones?” wonders Coyne. “Why did a creator produce radiations of similar species on oceanic islands, but not continental ones? And why were the species on oceanic islands created to resemble those from the nearest mainland?””

    Creationists are getting very tired of this kind of straw-man argument. Creationists do not claim God created every creature alive on the planet in it’s exact present form, nor do they claim that he created each island in it’s present configuration.

    And the claim is made that this book is EXCELLENT?

    For anyone interested in civil debate of the REAL issues involved in Origins, come join us at Talk About Origins:
    http://www.tao.invisionzone.com

  9. #9 Bob O'H
    May 22, 2009

    Well, Terry, how do Creationists explain these patterns?

  10. #10 Wayne Hollyoak
    May 22, 2009

    The claim is constantly made that “Intelligent Design” theory isn’t “science”. Maybe “science” isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

    Let’s see, you take 3 idiots(intelligence is forbidden):
    1. mutation
    2. reproductive success
    3. eons of time(when all else fails invoke this one)

    Put them to task creating the diversity of life on this planet and you’ve got “real science”! Very impressive, this wonder we call, “science”.

    Wayne Hollyoak

  11. #11 themntman
    May 22, 2009

    Don’t bother debating creationists. They are scientifically ignorant and have created a fantasy land of “theories” to support a book written by people who thought the earth was flat. I will only entertain debating a creationist if they have degrees in biology and physics from respected universities, which none do.

  12. #12 Ryan
    May 22, 2009

    “The claim is constantly made that “Intelligent Design” theory isn’t “science”.”

    That’s because it’s not science, or even a theory for that matter.

    A theory is a collection of facts held together by a unifying idea. The facts are that we see evidence everywhere we look that supports the idea that species change over time. We see evidence in the fossil record, physiologically, and genetically that creatures share common ancestry.

    Given this information, plugged into the framework of the theory of evolution, we can make predictions and perform experiments. We can say that, given enough generations and mutations, E.coli bacteria can evolve the ability to digest citrate, a compound that no known E.coli bacteria in history has every been able to do. We perform this experiment and it works!

    Intelligent design (aka creationism) makes no predictions. It has no falsifiable tests that could be used to test it’s validity. It has no experiments that could be used to see if it fits with any observed data. All that ID has is one answer to every possible question: ‘Goddidit, and don’t question him’

    ID is not science. It barely qualifies as a hypothesis.

  13. #13 Aston Martin
    May 22, 2009

    At the end of the day, people are going to believe what they want to believe regardless of what the evidence suggests. A believer presented with 100% proof that there is no God will still believe. It’s in most people’s DNA to believe but that doesn’t make it true.

  14. #14 Duke
    May 22, 2009

    Ben:

    Evolution theory is [b]not[/b] about how the penomenon
    of “life” came into being,
    but it explains how living organisms evolve
    and develops into species .

    Please do not mix up these two questions.

    Evolution theory does not say a thing about a
    “creator” of life but it hints on how
    highly improbable it is that a “director”
    took command of the diversification and
    development of species, and it excludes
    all ways of the origin of species other
    than evolution.

    It does not exclude, however, the in vitro fabrication
    of new species — which can be called a natural process
    because man, having caused the origins of
    many new species by applying the laws of genetics,
    is a part of nature, and natural influences
    have always played a critical part in evolution,
    according to evolution theory.

    No scientist for the time being has created
    life in or outside a lab.

    So, outside evolution theory,
    theoretically there is a [i]miniscule[/i] probablity left
    that some kind of being/entity “sparked” life
    (voluntarily, if the entity was driven by something
    one could call “will”, or involuntarily).

    As there has no trace been found of such entity,
    however, it seems plausibile to me that life on earth
    originated from processes governed by the laws of
    physics in this universe.

  15. #15 Duke
    May 22, 2009

    Ben:

    Evolution theory is [b]not[/b] about how the penomenon
    of “life” came into being,
    but it explains how living organisms evolve
    and develops into species .

    Please do not mix up these two questions.

    Evolution theory does not say a thing about a
    “creator” of life but it hints on how
    highly improbable it is that a “director”
    took command of the diversification and
    development of species, and it excludes
    all ways of the origin of species other
    than evolution.

    It does not exclude, however, the in vitro fabrication
    of new species — which can be called a natural process
    because man, having caused the origins of
    many new species by applying the laws of genetics,
    is a part of nature, and natural influences
    have always played a critical part in evolution,
    according to evolution theory.

    No scientist for the time being has created
    life in or outside a lab.

    So, outside evolution theory,
    theoretically there is a [i]miniscule[/i] probablity left
    that some kind of being/entity “sparked” life
    (voluntarily, if the entity was driven by something
    one could call “will”, or involuntarily).

    As there has no trace been found of such entity,
    however, it seems plausibile to me that life on earth
    originated from processes governed by the laws of
    physics in this universe.

  16. #16 James
    May 22, 2009

    @Wayne:

    Actually Wayne, intelligence is not required. The lack of intelligence of your ‘three idiots’ is actually quite apparent in the number of species that have gone extinct. It is also apparent today as many of the worlds species have shortcomings that any sort of intelligent foresight could have alleviated or prevented in the first place.

    Even our own bodies and the molecules that make them up (on the level of gene, protein and tissue) are riddled with ‘unintelligent’ (idiotic?) shortcomings. We can even trace these shortcomings through our genetic lineage and compare them, predictably, to similar genes/proteins/tissues in other species.

    The ‘eons’ of time that have been ‘thrown in’ has never been done so to decrease the margin of error for any sort of mathematical calculation. When every single atom we can observe has, under all conditions, an extremely predictable half-life, then we extrapolate that these atoms have always behaved that way. THAT is how we gain a more accurate view regarding the order of magnitude of the age of the earth.

    To everyone who assaults evolution and science in general as being dogmatic – science is simply a method that establishes relationships through experiment based on predictable results. If there were evidence to the support theories that oppose evolution, and this evidence was shown to be predictably verifiable (as evolution has – with every scientific finding since) then it would be granted validity accordingly.

    There are MANY topics in science that are currently being debated/overthrown/modified in light of new evidence. There is nothing dogmatic about this. It just happens that in the case of evolution there is no longer any room for debate, in the same sense that we no longer debate the existence of Zeus, the shape of the earth, the orbit of the sun around the planets etc.

  17. #17 Chip
    May 22, 2009

    “If theory of evolution is true, what will humans turn into next considering this is a non-stop chain event?”

    A good proportion of humans have evolved, very recently, into lactose-tolerant humans.

  18. #18 Chip
    May 22, 2009

    “If theory of evolution is true, what will humans turn into next considering this is a non-stop chain event?”

    A good proportion of humans have evolved, very recently, into lactose-tolerant humans.

  19. #19 Chip
    May 22, 2009

    If the story of the flood is literally true, why did the Native Americans, as they slowly dispersed from the Middle East to the Americas, bring snakes and gila monsters with them, but not cows and horses and pigs?

    And why did they take *all* the maize and potatoes and tomatoes and chile peppers and bison and turkeys and llamas with them?

  20. #20 Oran
    May 22, 2009

    Terry:

    You claim to represent all “Creationists” but I can’t find a well-defined common position. Different Creationists concede different points depending on how much science they were tricked into understanding.

    I wish all creationists would call this line of evidence a straw-man. Some call it a lie; you call it moot; others refuse to recognize the _pattern_ that is being presented as evidence of something.

    What all Creationists have in common is that they lose the debate about science and turn the debate to morality. As they begin to lose that debate, they turn the debate to faith and Pascal’s Wager at which point they stop claiming to represent a purely rational position but still claim the morally correct position…. The next day, however, the cycle repeats itself because they have forgotten the previous debate.

  21. #21 Mike
    May 22, 2009

    I get into this debate on a pretty regular basis. I am not an expert by any means, but I have the unique ability to “ride the fine line”. By that I simply mean I can see both sides of the story. Since evolution cannot be specifically routed back to a certain day and time, how can we say that there wasn’t an initial creator(s)?

    I like evolution and I can’t deny scientific fact; however, I wasn’t there. I didn’t see the tests. I also wasn’t there for any of the religious “happenings”. Everything I read in a book, a magazine, etc… could just be a story. I won’t say it is, I won’t say it’s not.

    I think these ideas of evolution and religion and morality are great topics for discussion with people who maintain an open view overall, but I wouldn’t want to be the one to discuss evolution in church!

    In my time on this planet, I have noticed that no matter who you are or where you come from, certain moral beliefs exist and others don’t. It is only through education that anyone will ever even come close to understanding what may have happened, how ever many years ago any of that may have happened!

  22. #22 Mike
    May 22, 2009

    I get into this debate on a pretty regular basis. I am not an expert by any means, but I have the unique ability to “ride the fine line”. By that I simply mean I can see both sides of the story. Since evolution cannot be specifically routed back to a certain day and time, how can we say that there wasn’t an initial creator(s)?

    I like evolution and I can’t deny scientific fact; however, I wasn’t there. I didn’t see the tests. I also wasn’t there for any of the religious “happenings”. Everything I read in a book, a magazine, etc… could just be a story. I won’t say it is, I won’t say it’s not.

    I think these ideas of evolution and religion and morality are great topics for discussion with people who maintain an open view overall, but I wouldn’t want to be the one to discuss evolution in church!

    In my time on this planet, I have noticed that no matter who you are or where you come from, certain moral beliefs exist and others don’t. It is only through education that anyone will ever even come close to understanding what may have happened, how ever many years ago any of that may have happened!

  23. #23 Mike
    May 22, 2009

    I get into this debate on a pretty regular basis. I am not an expert by any means, but I have the unique ability to “ride the fine line”. By that I simply mean I can see both sides of the story. Since evolution cannot be specifically routed back to a certain day and time, how can we say that there wasn’t an initial creator(s)?

    I like evolution and I can’t deny scientific fact; however, I wasn’t there. I didn’t see the tests. I also wasn’t there for any of the religious “happenings”. Everything I read in a book, a magazine, etc… could just be a story. I won’t say it is, I won’t say it’s not.

    I think these ideas of evolution and religion and morality are great topics for discussion with people who maintain an open view overall, but I wouldn’t want to be the one to discuss evolution in church!

    In my time on this planet, I have noticed that no matter who you are or where you come from, certain moral beliefs exist and others don’t. It is only through education that anyone will ever even come close to understanding what may have happened, how ever many years ago any of that may have happened!

  24. #24 mike
    May 22, 2009

    “Since evolution cannot be specifically routed back to a certain day and time, how can we say that there wasn’t an initial creator(s)?”

    Evolutionary Theory makes no claims on the origins of life and never has.

  25. #25 kermit
    May 22, 2009

    Hi, Terry. I see form your website that you are one of those who think that microevolution is reasonable, but not macroevolution: “What we DO deny is that over time they will become something other than viruses, bacteria, fruit flies, and human beings!”

    Please understand that the difference between chimps and humans is far smaller than that seen between some bacteria, and between some species of fruit flies. The nested hierarchies of morphology and genetics indicate descent with modification from a common ancestor, the fossil record shows that, we understand much of the genetics behind it.

    What proposed mechanism do you have that would prevent incremental changes from accumulating to the degree seen between human and chimp, or tiktaalik and human, for that matter? Why would God give us the same broken vitamin C gene as chimps, but not guinea pigs? Are you saying that we may be apes, but you aren’t no gosh darn fish?

    Kermit,
    proud fish, but not a gosh darn bird

  26. #26 Free Radical
    May 23, 2009

    Kermit has it right – the distinction between macroevolution and microevolution is completely specious. It’s a quantitative difference, not qualitative, and (like the question of “human or ape?” that Coyne raises) can be easily exposed as an argument of the beard.

    Open question for “microevolutionists” – how many minute evolutionary developments does your theory allow? Is twenty changes macroevolution? Sixty? A hundred? Ten thousand? A hundred million?

    Since your theory permits small, incremental changes like viral mutations, I’d love a real answer: how many such incremental changes do you allow before you declare the perceived shift fictitious, and what makes those changes different from the ones that came before you drew the line?

  27. #27 Steven L.
    May 24, 2009

    I always thought ring species were good evidence for how small changes can build up over time to the point that a new species arises.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ring_species

    For some reason, this phenomenon is rarely mentioned anymore in debates between evolutionists and creationists.

  28. #28 amphiox
    May 24, 2009

    Ben:

    1. There is no biological feature or phenomenon yet discovered that cannot be adequately explained by the known mechanisms of evolutionary theory.

    2. There is no evidence yet found, of any kind, that even remotely suggests the activity of an intelligent agency, other than humans, at any time during the course of earth’s existence.

    Thus there is no need to consider intelligent intervention in the history of life, until such evidence is forthcoming.

    If we humans off ourselves at some point in the future, the next intelligent species to evolve on this planet (if one even does) would certainly have to take into account our activities in any theory they devise regarding the history of life. And if they looked hard enough, they will find evidence of our presence and activity, some of which would be blazingly obvious. Similarly, if we were to find evidence of an intelligent species that preceded us on this planet (alien, earth-native, or supernatural), we would of course have to take into account their deliberate activities when we examine the history of life (at least in the time after their appearance). But of course we have found no such evidence to date.

  29. #29 Damagio
    May 25, 2009

    I think Satan created half of the species. He can; he changed his side a lot later.

    The Bible also says that God gave this planet to Satan.

  30. #30 amphiox
    May 25, 2009

    Note that:
    1. An intelligent agency could poof into existence an entire biosphere, and that biosphere would immediately begin to change according to the mechanisms of evolution.

    2. An intelligent agency (less powerful than 1) could poof into existence a single species and insert it into a pre-existing biosphere, and immediately that species would begin to evolve in reaction to its new environment, and the pre-existing biosphere would immediately begin to evolve in response to it.

    3. An intelligent agency (more powerful than 1) could poof into existence an entire biosphere, and work ceaseless to prevent it from ever evolving, smiting everything that ever remotely changed, and STILL that biosphere would continue to evolve.

    Evolution is not incompatible with design. It will not be refuted by a detection of design, nor will its confirmation refute design.

    Design theory fails on its own, because IT IS UNNECESSARY. There is no observation in the natural world to date that requires recourse to an explanation by design.

  31. #31 Jerry Coyne
    May 25, 2009

    Thanks for the kind words!

    Jerry Coyne

  32. #32 Mike Olson
    May 26, 2009

    An earlier “Mike” mentioned being fearful of discussing evolution in church. I’m not sure why. Most mainstream protestant religions are okay with evolution, as is Catholicism. I’m Presbyterian and my church is cool with it. I’m also a layman on this subject, and although “anything” can be written in a book, I have to give much greater credibility to some explanations than others. If it helps the ancient Hebrews believed that pi=three. Given that understanding of geometry, I’ve got to believe the creation story was a myth with a message. I have no desire to gut the ethics that can be drawn from Christianity, but when it comes to explanations of the physical world I think I’ll take accumulated knowledge over a repeatedly re-translated written account of an ancient oral tradition.

  33. #33 Julia
    May 27, 2009

    the author seems to have a lot of questions for “a creator.” my question for the author would be — if there was a creator, who are YOU to question them? being THE creator, and you being the created, you then have no right to question what the creator has done at all. so what if Creator has chosen to create but deactivate a vitamin c producing pathway? it’s his/her choice. just as any painter could choose the colorings, patterns, etc. without having the finished product question the artist’s choices. ( a little bit of a ridiculous example, i know. . .but i think that questioning a Being that created you — whether you believe it to be real or not — is ridiculous, too)

  34. #34 Owlmirror
    May 28, 2009

    if there was a creator, who are YOU to question them?

    If there is a creator, then we are all victims of the creator’s mistakes, malfeasance, incompetence, and deliberate cruelties.

    being THE creator, and you being the created, you then have no right to question what the creator has done at all.

    Who are YOU to say we have no right to question what a putative creator has done?

    just as any painter could choose the colorings, patterns, etc. without having the finished product question the artist’s choices.

    Newsflash: the finished product of a painter does not know that it exists.

    Here’s a better analogy for what you’re really saying: “just as any parent can do anything they want to their child without having the child question the parent’s choices.”

    You condone child abuse, child rape, and child murder — as long as it’s done by the parent(s).

    Well, I hope you never have children.

    but i think that questioning a Being that created you — whether you believe it to be real or not — is ridiculous, too

    That’s because you’re a moral relativist.

    If the creator is not real, the point is moot. If the creator is real, it bears responsibility for its actions and inactions.

  35. #35 maia
    May 28, 2009

    wow – i like how you brought in parenting, a totally unrelated topic to creating things. that was good. totally relevant.

  36. #36 Julia
    May 28, 2009

    owl,

    i am not a moral relativist. i believe in an absolute moral standard — one that you don’t agree with. i don’t know why you made the leap from creation to parenting but i don’t agree with anything you said about parental rape or whatever. my point was that an almighty creator (which you clearly aren’t unless you’re gonna whip out an entire universe out of nothing) has the right to create as he pleases.

    so we are aware of our own existance and a painting isn’t –our consciousness is a gift that we are granted.

    in my belief system, i believe that God created the world perfectly and it is mankind and our sin that has marred it -not his mistakes.

    of course, i understand that those are MY beliefs and you do not hold to them. i know that you will lambast me and call me close minded and unscientific because i hold those beliefs. i’m okay with that. i wasn’t on here trying to convince anyone of my point of view, i was only pointing out that that author had questions for a being he doesn’t actually believe exists. if, however, this being DID exist it would (logically) be more powerful than the thing it created — although, now that i think about it that is not the line of thinking here.

    i suppose the line of thinking that Coyne and you, owl, hold is that you are more powerful or more moral or just plain old smarter than that being, if it even exists.

    anyway, if it was powerful enough to create, it would not be held accountable to you. it would be held accountable to someone on the same plain or higher, in much the same way that parents are held accountable by other adults, not their children, to go back to your illogical connection there.

    also, you and i have a fundamentally different view of God. i view him as loving and you obviously view him as abusive.

  37. #37 Owlmirror
    May 29, 2009

    i like how you brought in parenting, a totally unrelated topic to creating things.

    “things”? So living human beings are “things”?

    I guess you’re not familiar with Christianity. After all, Christians acknowledge that the putative creator is a parent. There’s this line that Christians say: “Our father, who art in heaven”.

    I suppose you never heard of such a thing. Kids these days; ignorant of the basics of religion. And sociopaths who thinks that living feeling human beings are no different from “things” that are not alive and do not feel.

    Fantastic.

  38. #38 Owlmirror
    May 29, 2009

    i believe in an absolute moral standard

    No, you cannot possibly believe in an absolute moral standard. You demonstrate your moral relativism both in your original comment, and in your current response.

    i don’t know why you made the leap from creation to parenting

    I guess you’re not that familiar with Christianity either. See my previous comment @#37.

    but i don’t agree with anything you said about parental rape or whatever

    If you say this…

    my point was that an almighty creator (which you clearly aren’t unless you’re gonna whip out an entire universe out of nothing) has the right to create as he pleases.

    … and then say this, you’re a moral relativist. You have one moral standard for the weak (human beings), and another moral standard for the powerful. Heck, you even write “almighty“!

    Your moral standard appears to be “Might makes right”. Almighty makes all-righty.

    Well, almighty then.

    so we are aware of our own existance and a painting isn’t –our consciousness is a gift that we are granted.

    Gifts are not something that grant the giver the right to do “as he pleases” with the recipient. If someone buys you dinner, does that meant that the buyer can then do “as he pleases” with you?

    More to the point, can parents — who arguably “give” their children life, in the form of food and protection — do “as they please” with their children, with no limits whatsoever?

    If you disagree, then the only reason to not hold the creator to the same standard is… moral relativism.

    in my belief system, i believe that God created the world perfectly and it is mankind and our sin that has marred it -not his mistakes.

    How hard is this to understand? If you know that your action will cause harm, and perform the action anyway, you bear responsibility for that action. The only reason to not hold the creator to the same standard is… moral relativism.

    A creator who creates lots of fragile china and puts it in a small shop, and then knowingly allows a bull to enter the shop has made a mistake (assuming he wants unbroken china) and bears complete and total responsibility for his mistake. Unless you’re a moral relativist, that is.

    i know that you will lambast me and call me close minded and unscientific because i hold those beliefs.

    At this point, calling you close-minded and unscientific are the last things I have in mind. Right now, my goal is to try to get you to understand some very basic moral points. Once you get that far, then maybe we can discuss epistemology.

    i was only pointing out that that author had questions for a being he doesn’t actually believe exists.

    The author had questions for the “being he doesn’t actually believe exists” because so many people apparently do believe this being exists.

    The author is trying to point out that actions of this putative creator do not make sense for an intelligent being, whereas a natural explanation that involves unintelligent processes would naturally not need to make the same sort of sense. Inheritance of a shared defect is consistent with nature. It is not consistent with the actions of a being that would presumably be aware of that defect, and could presumably easily remedy it.

    i suppose the line of thinking that Coyne and you, owl, hold is that you are more powerful or more moral or just plain old smarter than that being, if it even exists.

    See, you even wrote “more powerful or more moral”, as if they were the same thing, demonstrating your “might makes right” moral relativism.

    But I suppose I am more moral than this being would be, if it existed.

    I don’t think you understand the very basic point of morality, here. Let me try and make it a bit clearer.

    See, in a non-relativist moral code, might does not make right. With great power comes great responsibility. With all-power and all-knowledge comes all responsibility.

    I saw a segment of a science program a while back, about genetic diseases. Because of a tiny, tiny glitch in the original DNA of a happy baby, after about a year or so of life, the baby stopped being happy. Waste products accumulated in his brain instead of being broken down, as happens normally. He stopped being able to move. When the toxic accumulation became too great, he died.

    Now, who was responsible for this death? The parents were not; they had no idea that they both carried the gene for Tay-Sachs disease, and that their son had inherited a double copy. But if some creator existed, one who had the knowledge that both parents carried the gene and that their son would get the double dose of the gene that killed him, and who had the power to easily have tweaked that tiny glitch so that it wasn’t a glitch to begin with … that creator would also have had the responsibility for that baby’s suffering and death. And for all suffering and death.

    One more time: knowledge and power confer responsibility.

    Unless you’re a moral relativist.

    anyway, if it was powerful enough to create, it would not be held accountable to you. it would be held accountable to someone on the same plain or higher, in much the same way that parents are held accountable by other adults, not their children.

    You do realize that you’re contradicting your earlier statement and essentially saying that parents can do “as they please” with their children — including abuse and rape and murder — simply because their children are too weak to stop them?

    Make up your mind. Are you a moral relativist, or a sociopath, or just a hypocrite?

    also, you and i have a fundamentally different view of God. i view him as loving and you obviously view him as abusive.

    Because you think that might makes right, and are a moral relativist. And I do not and am not.

  39. #39 mikeC
    June 12, 2009

    The Terrible Tale of Pastor D’s Encounter with Urology

    Pastor D was feeling good
    As well-behaved preceptors should:
    He never sinned, he never thought
    About things that he didn’t ought,
    Nor ever lusted for a lass
    Or coveted his neighbour’s ass.

    He had set out to write a sermon
    Condemning scientists as vermin:
    This evolution makes no sense,
    God spake, and made the world commence,
    And everything has turned out fine
    Due to Intelligent Design.

    But while he penned this screed of blame
    A twinge of pain shot through his frame,
    An agony as fierce as chili
    Between his anus and his willy.
    And thus it was our firebrand
    Was let down by his prostate gland.

    A cry rose up from in his heart:
    “The human body’s not so smart!”
    And then a thought (quite unbecoming)
    “God damn this god-damned human plumbing!”
    All mixed up with this wisdom pearl:
    “God don’t exist, or She’s a girl!”

    And now, wracked with both pain and grief
    He cannot pee, has no belief.
    So while Intelligent Design
    May be OK if you feel fine
    It doesn’t do to mix a smidgeon
    Of logic in with your religion.

  40. #40 mikeC
    June 12, 2009

    The Terrible Tale of Pastor D’s Encounter with Urology

    Pastor D was feeling good
    As well-behaved preceptors should:
    He never sinned, he never thought
    About things that he didn’t ought,
    Nor ever lusted for a lass
    Or coveted his neighbour’s ass.

    He had set out to write a sermon
    Condemning scientists as vermin:
    This evolution makes no sense,
    God spake, and made the world commence,
    And everything has turned out fine
    Due to Intelligent Design.

    But while he penned this screed of blame
    A twinge of pain shot through his frame,
    An agony as fierce as chili
    Between his anus and his willy.
    And thus it was our firebrand
    Was let down by his prostate gland.

    A cry rose up from in his heart:
    “The human body’s not so smart!”
    And then a thought (quite unbecoming)
    “God damn this god-damned human plumbing!”
    All mixed up with this wisdom pearl:
    “God don’t exist, or She’s a girl!”

    And now, wracked with both pain and grief
    He cannot pee, has no belief.
    So while Intelligent Design
    May be OK if you feel fine
    It doesn’t do to mix a smidgeon
    Of logic in with your religion.

  41. #41 HellCold
    September 23, 2009

    Four facts:

    1. I believe in God. I don’t have to explain it.

    2. I believe in science. Explains itself.

    3. Julia doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

    4. Owlmirror owns the comments here.

    HellCold

  42. #42 Noname
    January 4, 2010

    If evolution is real then why are there still chimpanzees today? Evolution couldn’t be real because there are still chimpanzees today.

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