Pharyngula

What? Only 50 myths?

Over at the Raving Atheist’s forum, contributors have compiled a list of 50 evolution myths. It’s actually at 51 right now—I could have told them there are a lot more than 50—but it’s entertaining. Now they just have to get cracking on 51 rebuttals to the myths. A lot of them are in the Index to Creationist Claims already.

1) Evolution gives you what you need

2) We popped out of monkeys one day

3) The theory of evolution is tied to the big bang theory

4) The theory of evolution says random chemicals mysteriously made the first cell

5) Darwin took back his theory of evolution on his death bed (that’s an urban myth created by Christians)

6) They eye accidentally formed itself somehow.

7.) That things evolve ‘magically’ without selection involved. It’s just some slow process…At least this is what I believed as a kid!8.) That evolution equals eugenics.

9.) That it has a GOAL.

10.) That it can happen to anything, even watches and pottery.

11.) That it’s a scientific conspiracy theory we believe in to battle Christianity.

12.) That evolution equals atheism.

13.) That there is an actual difference between micro and macro-evolution

14.) That it is a ‘Random’ process.

15.) That there are no transition fossils

16.) That humans evolved from the Apes that are around today.

17.) The second law of thermodynamics makes evolution impossible.

18) If evolution is true, how come there are still monkeys?

19) Evolution requires faith.

20) Survival of the fittest means organisms should go kill off weaker members of its species to make survival easier for the stronger members.

21) Physical changes that occur during the lifetime of an organism will be passed on the offspring.

22) Survival of the fittest is circular logic.

23) Only the fittest survive. (In actuality, if an organism can barely get by then it classified into the “fit” category).

24) Kent Hovind is an expert in the fields of evolution, biology, and other sciences.

25) Organisms evolve/mutate during their lifetime if a new selection pressure exerts itself.

26) Evolution caused slavery.

27) Many scientists are now casting doubt on Darwin’s theory.

28) Charles Darwin is Satan.

29) Evolution can’t exist because of irreducible complexity.

30) Evolution is JUST a theory.

31) God made evolution so he could trick as many scientists as he could into believing it, instead of him, just so he could light them on fire for all eternity. But he still loves them.

32) Man and dinosaurs existed at the same time. T-Rex used to be a vegetarian

33) ‘Darwinists’ claim that any criticism of the theory of evolution is unscientific

34) Evolution is effectively refuted by ‘the Cambrian Explosion’

35) Scientists “believe” in evolution.

36) There is great strife in the scientific community over evolution.

37) Kent Hovind is a brilliant man!

38) Evolution can’t explain love.

39) If evolution is true, why are there homosexuals?

40) There are no transitional forms: One species gives birth to another! Through magic!

41) If you believe in evolution, then that means you think it’s okay to kill, rape, and steal

42) Evolution is not testable or empirical, therefore it is not science.

43) No Darwin, then no Hitler

44) The perfect match between bees and flowers must be a designer because it can’t be evolution.Evolution has to do with survival from predators, not how well you can carry pollen.

45) Mutations are never beneficial

46) There is limits to biological change: new kinds never arise

47) Vertebrate embryos never resemble each other

48) Evolution must be wrong because gravity pulls things down right, but that clearly doesn’t happen because birds can stay up in the air.

49) Oh you evolutionists make me laugh, it was God who created the world. It says so in the bible and the bible says its true, so IT IS TRUE!!!

50) Evolution was responsible for the Columbine high school shooting

51. Evolution can never be proven because we didn’t see it occur.

By the way, #13 is not a myth. There is a recognized difference between micro- and macro-evolution. The myth creationists use is that macroevolutionary events are somehow less well supported than microevolution—they’re wrong.

Comments

  1. #1 Larry Moran
    August 21, 2006

    flack says,

    The particular results of the process — what the specific mutations will be and which ones will turn out to be advantageous — may not be predictable, but as a whole, this process looks anything but random.

    If you don’t like the word “random” then feel free to substitute any other word that conveys the essential meaning. I’ve decided to use “accident,” as in “evolution by accident,” precisely because I want to avoid semanitc quibbles about the exact meanings of “random” and “chance.”

    The point is that there’s a lot more chance and accident in evolution than most people admit. When you say that evolution isn’t random you are denying an essential, and well-documented, element of evolution at many levels.

    This is where Richard Dawkins should jump in–I know he’s reading this ….

    ————

  2. #2 Steve LaBonne
    August 21, 2006

    By the way, just for old times’ sake, I’ll opine that Larry and Dawkins don’t fundamentally disagree but are simply talking at cross purposes by way of their different rhetorical emphases. Dawkins does not deny the random element in evolution; if he did he’d have, for example, to reject the use of molecular clocks. Larry obviously does not deny that populations become better adapted to their environment via selection. Dawkins, understandably in his books addressed to non-scientists, feels the need to (over)emphasize the perfection of adaptation to counter creationist propaganda which aims to deny the existence of any non-random element in evolution, thereby rendering the appearance of design inexplicable execept by invoking Big Daddy in the sky. Larry, equally understandably (and especially because his professional focus is molecular evolution, where drift is highly visible), wants to promote scientific accuracy by countering the mistaken impression that Dawkins’s readers may well receive that there is no significant non-random component in evolution (beyond the occurrence of mutations). I can see where both are coming from, and the “war” seems a bit overblown to me.

  3. #3 Larry Moran
    August 21, 2006

    Steve LaBonne says,

    I agree with that, since the “sloppiness” is one of the things that makes ID obviously untenable. However, it would also be idle to deny that under some regimes of very strong selection pressure- often involving arms races- evolution can come up with very good designs, and demonstrably has done so. I don’t see the need for extreme one-sided statements on either side of this question.

    It’s clear that something needs to be done. All you have to do is look at the comments posted above to see the extent of the misinformation that’s been spread by Dawkins and his fellow ultra-Darwinians.
    In my opinion, the best way to counter the extreme one-sideness of their books and articles is to present a strong case for the other point of view. That may require a few extreme statements in order to get everyone’s attention. I realize that for people like you that’s not necessary.
    ———————-

  4. #4 G. Tingey
    August 22, 2006

    “Species” – an organism that can breed with its’ own memebers, but not others…..

    BUT, as Dawlins, and others have pointed out, this definition, whilst generally useful, falls down sometiomes.
    There ia/are the gulls, which live around the N. palearctic region….
    Here in England we have the lesser black-backe gull – which can cross-breed with the Siberian lesser bb gull – which can breed with the Heuglins gull – which can breed with the Birula’s gull – which can breed with the Vega gull (BTW we’ve been goin round the Arctic Ocean in ab Easterly direction, and are now at the Bering strait – which can breed with the American Herring gull – which can breed with the (European) Herring gull – which is completely different from, and genetically incompatible with the lesser blackback …

    Dawkins also gives an example in “The Ancestors’ Tale” of Salamnders in the USA

  5. #5 Ichthyic
    August 22, 2006

    I’d love to see PZ further explain his initial comment rejecting the “myth” of macro vs. micro evolution, as from my viewpoint, I tend to agree with Carlie.

    All of us in the zoo. dept. at UC Berkeley never found reason to make the distinction, and NOTHING even in the itarweb has a definitive reason to make the distinction.

    both “macro” AND “micro” evolution have refered to chaning allele frequencies within a population, depending on who published a given paper. However, they do essentially refer to the same thing.

    I’ve only ever seen the term used by any biologist to temporarily make a distinction for arguments sake, but I’ve personally never seen a real distinction made in the literature.

    Aside from the creobot usage, that is, which is of course of their own design.

    It’s definetly worthwhile to hash this out, since, as I mentioned, there isn’t really any definitive authority on the subject.

    which of course bring up an obvious question:

    what would one accept as an authority on the validity of seperating the terms from the more parsimonius “evolution” by itself?

    Would any recent well accepted and used college level text on evolution be authoritative to most here?

    My version of Futuyma is pretty old at this point. Could somebody check and see what a new version of Futuyma has to say on this issue?

    if it says nothing, I’d say that’s a definitive answer by itself.

  6. #6 Ichthyic
    August 22, 2006

    It looks like most people aren’t even aware of the fact that there’s a controversy. That’s quite sad, actually.

    actually i think you’re wrong there, Larry. It seems to me that most here ARE aware of the controversy, but still see no definitive reason to seperate evolutionary theory into the two terms under discussion.

    We did, in fact, have this argument many times when I was a grad student at Berkeley, and every time concluded that the division was artificial and applicable mostly only in theoretical contexts, at best.

    You may not wish to take a crack at it again, but many of the individuals you list in support would have to be looked at in context. Without that specific context, like that of Gould’s contentions, the division doesn’t make sense at all.

    perhaps if you were to expound upon a modern bit of research that pragmatically utilized the distinction to good effect?

    I must admit, I haven’t seen any such papers in the literature recently, but it’s a big world out there.

    Bottom line, I still see no overall pragmatic value to the seperation of terms, but I’m willing to be convinced if someone can show a recent cogent argument, utilizing experimental work, that demonstrates a particular value to the seperation.

    I was hoping that those who examined their texts would actually cite relevant articles along those lines?

  7. #7 Ichthyic
    August 22, 2006

    so too does understanding microevolution demand an understanding of the environment and its interactions with organismal physiology on a shorter time scale.

    again, we could just substitute “evolution” for the micro and macro terms and your statement would be just as accurate, imo.

    Your analysis seems to me to be pretty good, though, regardless of whether I support the particular usage of terms.

    The point is, it seems irrelevant to create two terms for something that essentially overlaps to such a large degree when you do.

  8. #8 Ichthyic
    August 22, 2006

    thanks PZ. I won’t make further comment until i re-read some of these articles with this specific argument in mind.

    It is worth doing a specific thread on, if you ever get the time.

  9. #9 Larry Moran
    August 22, 2006

    Ichthyic says,

    We did, in fact, have this argument many times when I was a grad student at Berkeley, and every time concluded that the division was artificial and applicable mostly only in theoretical contexts, at best.

    I used to think that way up until a few years ago. Then I started to be bothered by the fact that some very, very smart people, who knew a lot more about macroevolution than I did, disagreed.
    It took me about two years to digest all the information and begin to understand where they were coming from. During that time I realized that many of the people who argued that macroevolution was just lots of microevolution had an agenda. I also began to realize that most of them (e.g., Dawkins, Dennett) didn’t really understand macroevolution.
    I decided to write a little essay to explain what I have learned and why these smart people think the way they do. I guess I wasn’t very successful.
    I recently read Eugenie Scott’s explanation in her latest book. She uses the analogy of macroeconomics and microeconomics. I may try and incorporate that into my essay since Levinton’s astronomy/physics distinction didn’t seem to make much of an impression.
    ——————

  10. #10 Ichthyic
    August 22, 2006

    During that time I realized that many of the people who argued that macroevolution was just lots of microevolution had an agenda.

    funny, I never had any inkling it was all a conspiracy…

    what agenda do you speak of?

  11. #11 Larry Moran
    August 22, 2006

    Ichthyic asks,

    funny, I never had any inkling it was all a conspiracy…

    what agenda do you speak of?

    Are you really as naive as this, or do you just play one on TV? :-)
    The scientists who work in the field of macroevolution tend to think like Levinton, Gould, Mayr, Eldredge, Vrba, and Stanley – although there are exceptions. Most of them are paleontologists. Their agenda is to legitimate paleontology and bring it to the high table.
    The ones who are pushing the idea that macroevolution is just lots of microevolution tend to be mostly interested in living species and population level events. They tend to be ultra-Darwinians. Very few of them understand punctuated equilibria or species sorting. Their adaptationist worldview is threatened by hierarchical theory and that’s probably why they oppose it so vehemently.
    It’s not a conspiracy, it’s just normal scientific infighting. It took me a while to recognize what was motivating the opponents in this controversy. The fact that they have an agenda doesn’t make them wrong but it means you have to be careful when you try and figure out what’s right and what’s wrong. Be skeptical when you read Dawkins and be skeptical when you read Gould.
    ———————

  12. #12 Ichthyic
    August 22, 2006

    Are you really as naive as this, or do you just play one on TV? :-)

    not at all, but whenever i hear “agenda”, i immediately think to post something that causes the person making the claim to spell it out for us.

    which you did.

    IMO, you’re dramatically overinflating the role “agendas” play in this area.

    but then, that’s what I expected, so maybe I’m just biased and have an agenda of my own, yes?

    (psst: I’m one o dem der “ultra-Darwinians.”)

    *snicker*

  13. #13 Ichthyic
    August 22, 2006

    BTW, earlier I asked what the latest version of Futuyma had to say on the issue and Allen MacNeil had just posted this in response to a similar query over at the ‘Thumb:

    From Futuyma, D. (2005) Evolution Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, MA, Ch. 21 “Macroevolution: Evolution Above the Species Level”, pp. 501-521:

    “Much of the modern study of macroevolution stems from themes and principles developed by the paleontologist George Gaylord Simpson…, who focused on rates and directions of evolution perceived in the fossil record, and Bernhard Rensch…, a zoologist who inferred patterns of evolution form comparative morphology. Contemporary macroevolutionary studies draw on the fossil record, on phylogenetic patterns of evolutionary change, on evolutionary developmental biology, and on our understanding of genetic and ecological processes.”

    this still leaves open for debate the specific efficacy of the separation, but pretty much solidifies in my mind that I’ve fallen behind in what the latest arguments are.

    However, it does hearken back to the endless arguments between the paleos and the zoologists that i recall from my graduate school days.

    I’m going to spend some time re-reading a lot of these references and get a better handle on the issue and see if I change my mind over my stance from 20 years ago.

    Oh, drat, that’s right, I’m an ultra-darwinist and so my personal agenda will likely override my ability to rationally decide the issue for myself.

    oh well.

    ;)

  14. #14 Steve LaBonne
    August 22, 2006

    And by the way, in their original punctuated equilibrium papers the main mechanism postulated by Gould and Elddredge was- wait for it- the good old allopatric speciation model of Mr. Modern Synthesis himself, Ernst Mayr (of which there are in turn clear anticipations in Darwin). So I don’t think punk eek is actually very relevant to the “Dawkinsist vs. Gouldist” cage matches Larry is so fond of detecting; it really doesn’t require novel mechanisms beyond those routinely invoked in the study of “microevolution”. The real differences in worldview are more in the area of the relative importance of different levels of selection. Further discussion of that topic might be interesting and Larry’s views on it would be most welcome.

  15. #15 Ichthyic
    August 22, 2006

    Further discussion of that topic might be interesting and Larry’s views on it would be most welcome.

    agreed, but I’ve got some catching up to do before I jump in again.

    Hopefully PZ will have some time to get involved in a new thread discussing the issue.

    cheers

  16. #16 Larry Moran
    August 22, 2006

    Ichthyic says,

    IMO, you’re dramatically overinflating the role “agendas” play in this area.

    The evolution wars are all about perspectives, worldviews, and agendas. Facts aren’t that important. But don’t get me wrong, worldviews are important. It makes a big difference on how you interpret data.

    but then, that’s what I expected, so maybe I’m just biased and have an agenda of my own, yes?

    Yes. Everyone approaches these problems with biases. Mine happen to be a molecular bias with a fondness for Gould and pluralism. I tend to see evolution as a sloppy, complex phenomena with many causes. If you’re an ultra-Darwinian you will have a very different bias. Part of that bias is to downplay and trivialize all challenges to classic Darwinism.
    It’s good to recognize our own biases and try to compensate whenever possible. But you knew that already, right?

    ———————-

  17. #17 Larry Moran
    August 22, 2006

    Steve LaBonne says,

    And by the way, in their original punctuated equilibrium papers the main mechanism postulated by Gould and Elddredge was- wait for it- the good old allopatric speciation model of Mr. Modern Synthesis himself, Ernst Mayr (of which there are in turn clear anticipations in Darwin). So I don’t think punk eek is actually very relevant to the “Dawkinsist vs. Gouldist” cage matches Larry is so fond of detecting; it really doesn’t require novel mechanisms beyond those routinely invoked in the study of “microevolution”.

    Spoken like a true ultra-Darwinian! Dawkins would be so proud of you! :-)
    Like I said, lots of people don’t understand punctuated equilibria. :-)

    Have you read The Structure of Evolutionary Theory yet?

    ————————-

  18. #18 Amira
    February 15, 2008

    Evolution of man…. a money had a science project.. he won 1st place and decided to make it the pet… soon other monkeys wanted the science project soo they paid the monkey to make more… later the humans(pets) got together had a party… then we all dominated the world….

  19. #19 turk pornosu
    August 2, 2008

    Hi admin,
    What I would be interested hear from Larry is what he thinks about that question. Or if he does not following Gould on the -thicker- notion of species selection, does he believe there are other genuinely new principles in macroevolution that are irreducible in the non trivial sense.

    Thanks.

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.