Bill Nye and Evolution Discussed on Fox 9

I did this thing:

Minneapolis News and Weather KMSP FOX 9

A few notes:

Ross Olsen is a retired physician who is a principle player in our local Young Earth creationist group, which produces the local creation science fair (this search will get you most of my posts on that).

When I said second amendment I meant first amendment. But maybe I was really thinking about ... oh, never mind.

My intent was not to debate Evolution, although Ross clearly had a different idea in mind. Ross was asked to this discussion by the producers after they (the producers) contacted me to talk about Bill Nye's comments. Then, they (the producers) needed to find a creationist so I suggested that they contact the Twin Cities Creation Science Association, they did, and this is how they came to invite Ross. I mention this because the more typical scenario is that the evolutionary biologist is set up for a debate they weren't expecting. That is not what happened here.

Originally we were supposed to focus on Bill Nye's statement that people who think that the world is less than 10,000 years old need to re-examine their religious beliefs. Here are my thoughts on that particular question, apropos the longer term and larger scale critique of the critique of the critique of the critique of Bill Nye's video:

Bill is wrong for two reasons:

  • First, people need to reconsider their understanding of their own religion, not rethink their beliefs. If you want to believe that the world is less than 10,000 years old, fine, but if you are Catholic, for example, you need to know that you are a member of a religion that does not think that. Most people in America are members of a religion that don't subscribe to the Young Earth form of creationism, and in fact, many generally accept the scientific understanding of evolution with a little god sprinkled in here and there. So, you don't need to reconsider your beliefs, but rather, you need to quit the religion you are currently a member of and join a different one.
  • Second, as a scientist I don't want to tell people about their religions (as an Anthropologist I'm happy to do that now and then, of course). People who think the earth is less than 10,000 years old need to reconsider not their religious beliefs, but rather, their scientific literacy and more broadly, their own credulity. We have tee ring sequences that extend back to before 10,000 years, forchristakes.

And when I say "wrong" I mean I agree with him. Of course.


  • It is worth noting that there really are very few people in the US who are true Young Earthers. The poll indicated (see below) is misleading. If you take people to a nice natural history museum and show them interesting stuff about geology and fossils and so on, and ask them if they think the earth was created in six days in the year 4004BC, they will generally say no. If you had asked the same exact people if they take the Bible as literally true, without going into details, a large number of them will say yes. It all depends on how you ask the question, and on what people are specifically afraid of (looking stupid vs. enraging a vengeful god).
  • The combined number of people who believe in Bigfoot, Aliens being among us and the Loch Ness Monster is probably greater than the number who, when pressed, actually believe in the 6 days at 4004 BC version of creationism. And, it is more likely that Bigfoot exists. Marginally.
  • I was also hoping to say this: Evolutionists do not insist that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old. We don't care how old the Earth is. We'll work with whatever facts are established. It's the Physicists who are telling us how old the earth is, and they are using the same subset of Physics that are used to make nuclear power plants work pretty well most of the time, to operate the nuclear navy that keeps us safe from our foes, and that allows the use of nuclear medicine which is so important in diagnosis and cure of disease and disorder. If the physicists are wrong about the age of the earth then we need to have an urgent conversation with the engineers at the nuclear power plant, the Joint Chiefs, and the local hospital administrators.

Now, on to the Gallup Poll. Here are a few summary facts. The original is here.

First, a baseline. For the poll in June 2007,

Evolution, that is, the idea that human beings developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life: True - 53%, False - 44%

Creationism, that is, the idea that God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years: True - 66% False - 31%

So, a majority of people think based on that poll that Evolution is true. And, a majority of people think that Creationism is true.

Gallop provides a graph that summarizes a slightly different way of asking the question:

Bottom line: Most people "believe in" evolution in the US, though many take a theistic view of some kind or another.

More like this

Good job, Greg!

By Patrick Clarkin (not verified) on 25 Sep 2012 #permalink

Go, Greg! That was gutsy! You actually helped them find a creationist for you to debate??

By Marc Kuchner (not verified) on 25 Sep 2012 #permalink


I really admire you. Tremendously so. And yet, honestly -- I almost don't know how you manage to do this -- over and over and over again. I know WHY, of course; I just don't know how. Consider in contrast my cowardice, to wit: (1) Recently, after reading/suffering through an egregiously stupid opinion piece (= an extreme distortion of reality even by Fox standards!), I reconfigured my personalized Google News page to reference Fox sources (all of them) "NEVER." (2) We both know that every single one of Dr. Olsen's points, and those of his ilk, were framed SO much better, so much more eloquently, 150 years ago, by some (let's admit it) rather formidable Victorian thinkers (in their own fields). So this whole fight, especially its revival in the past 30 years, has for me taken on the stench of a very insipid off-off-off Broadway play with an unfathomable run of, oh I don't know, let's say 50,000 performances? (3) Even in my own family — (there's the rub, right?, we all have our own families to contend with!) — I've grown so weary of my relatives' antipathy toward evidence-based medicine, and their hostility toward me for actually trying to help ill loved ones get well, that I sometimes find myself thinking [cue inner voice:] "oh what the hell, let 'em die if that's what they want!"

But when all is said and done we don't really (contra received wisdom) get to pick our fights; they pretty much pick us. It's just that, man, don't we wish the fights were a wee bit more INTERESTING?

By Joe Marcus (not verified) on 25 Sep 2012 #permalink

Joe, I love the Broadway show analogy. Can we add that the cast consists of all the people who flunked out of a second rate acting school?

In order to do this kind of thing you have to get a bit separated from it. Ross and I had a pleasant chat before the show, and then we were put in separate places and the production assistant seemed to try to keep us separate after the show, but instead we just shook hands and kept chatting about whatever it was we were chatting about before the show, etc. Not that I don't take the adversarial position to heart, I do. But there is an intentional separation.

Having said that, the separation is incomplete and does not always work. Let me offer yet another metaphor: Dealing with this (and even worse, dealing with the recent discussions in the secular-skeptical blogosphere about sexism and such) is like working in a Level 4 containment facility. You're fine as long as you keep the sealed HazMat suit on. Every now and then, though, a pipe falls off or the suit is torn and "it" gets in and you get sick and feel really bad and want to not do it anymore.

Then you patch the suit up.

I have two kinds of co-fighters in these fights. The ones that do what I do and we do it in cooperation to some extent, and the ones that ALSO are emotional allies. I'll always try to help out the former, but I'll lay myself down on mud for the latter. Who are rare. They know who they are. It is very easy in these fights for individuals to put their own egos ahead of the necessary camaraderie. A smaller number, this latter group, don't. They don't keep the spare patches for the HazMat suits to themselves, but share them around even at risk of their own contamination. Mutual aid is important and necessary.

I'm a professionally trained ecologist and former science teacher, and even I don't really get what the "List of Steves" meme (used in both this subject and global warming) is supposed to mean. I assure you, when actually brought to bear against a creationist or eco-denialist, it will never get someone to make the right deductive link.

The name "Steve" was picked because of SJ Gould. The idea is that if you arbitrarily narrow down the list so what must be a very small subset (by picking one first name in this instance) it is still way longer than the Discovery Institute's list linked to above.

@ron: Your exhaustive (by implication from your use of the phrase "_the_ list of scientists") list contains twenty-one entries. The number of practicing scientists in the United States was 2.1 million in 2001 (the most recent data available, So you're right, it's not "unanimous", it's just 99.999%.

By Michael Kelsey (not verified) on 25 Sep 2012 #permalink

Actually, his list is much longer than that, perhaps you could only see the first page. But there are all sorts of problems with it. As you say, for starters, a list even a few thousand long pales in comparison to the actual number of scientists. Also, you point out that there are 2.1 million US scientists, but the Discover Institute is international. Also, a fairly large number of those scientists are not life scientists so their view of evolution is opinion based on something other than expertise. Also, I'm not sure where this list stands now, but when the Discover Institute came out with it initially it included a lot of people who do "accept" evolution and were rather surprised to find themselves on the list. There are other issues that have been pointed out as well, with the demographics of the list. Also, "examining evidence for the Darwinian Theory" as it says is something every scientists does in fact agree to, of course, so if this question was asked the right way to enough people there would be a lot of agreement among people who are clearly and definitively not creationists. And so on.

At first I thought they picked the name "Steve" because of the religious anti-gay quote "it's Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve", which also makes some sense in the creation-myth context.

As for the TV appearance, way to go. You did come across a bit nervous and at times you spoke a tad fast for my foreign ears, but good job none the less I'd say.

There once was a name named Nye
who was not a very nice guy
When asked question about evolution he would lie
and when challenged he would hide.
His middle name was Claude
but he was a great big fraud.
He alwasy felt rather spunky
cause he claimed kin to a monkey.
He told the kids thjey were adoring
while remained very boring.
Now the kids just laugh at Nye
cause they know evolution is a lie.

By Militant Saxon (not verified) on 25 Sep 2012 #permalink

The list included many scientists who know enough about evolution to know that "Darwinism" means one thing to evolution and quite another to a creationist. "Darwinism" is mostly closely related to adaptation and natural selection, which is a limited understanding of the Theory of Evolution and so they didn't agree because they know that there is more to it:

The statement which the signatories agreed to is not anti-evolution. It says,
We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged. (Discovery Institute 2004)

Ron doesn't know shit about skepticism about Darwinian Theory.

By Michael Haubrich (not verified) on 25 Sep 2012 #permalink

Good segment, but he kind of gotcha at the end re: the Courts. The courts, yes, were wright in McLean V Arkansas and other cases but they can also be wrong.

By Michael Haubrich (not verified) on 25 Sep 2012 #permalink

Invoking an awful 19th century court decision was not a gotcha. It made him look desperate.

Nice work! I wish it would have been longer; these types of segments always seem rushed, so good job getting in a decent amount of content in the allotted time.

@Michael Haubrich, citing a relatively recent court case is totally reasonable and in this case adds support to Greg's argument even though courts CAN be wrong. The fact that courts can, or have, been wrong is absolutely meaningless and irrelevant. Every field can and has been wrong. NO FIELD has some sort of direct line to reality; rather all our understandings are (or should be) based on current evidence in each respective field; which doesn't make them right, only our best explanations given what we currently know. The fact that Ross countered the McLean V. Arkansas case by reminding us that courts CAN be wrong does nothing to detract from the evidence supporting the decision made in McLean v. Arkansas. If Ross countered with new legitimate peer reviewed evidence that was in conflict with the McLean v. Arkansas decision then we would have a different story... And now I wish both Greg and Ross had the opportunity to answer the interviewer's question, "Is there any evidence that could make you change your position?" (5:53) The answer to this question tells all. It is asking if you make your decisions based on evidence. It may be hard to imagine any evidence that could be found to detract from many well-established Theories such as evolution, plate tectonics, a heliocentric solar system, etc. But nothing is exempt from honest evidence-based scrutiny in science. Not even the speed of light! Although you better have more than some loose wires if you are going to challenge something so well-established. Which is why an arrowhead thought experiment analogy challenging evolutionary Theory should be considered at least as dishonest and intellectually abusive as telling your child X particle just traveled faster than the speed of light in that accelerator. To intentionally teach children ideas that fly in the face of our current well-established evidence-based ideas is to rob them of their maximum potentials and to deprive them of the opportunity to push the envelope of our understandings of the universe we emerge from; and we are currently doing this way too often.

By Sheep Brain (not verified) on 25 Sep 2012 #permalink

I agree that it is a valid argument for a longer debate, but the short format of television allows for someone like Olson to get in a dig that the courts get overturned. Because the audience he normally plays for is trying to get Roe V Wade overturned, and he used the Dred Scott decision because it is the example of a court being so wrong that it is nearly universally recognized as a moral wrong committed by the courts. If he were more liberal, he might have referred to the Citizens United case.

If you had had the time you could have gone into the "Wedge Document" as evidence that ID was developed as a blueprint to skirt cases such as McClean v Arkansas, and even to defeat the "Lemon 3 prong test" by taking the word God out of creationism, which was rather key to the Kitzmiller case, and the reason that Behe had to say that it could have been space aliens for all he knows.

Your points are all good, Sheep Brain. It's just that this sort of discussion on TV devolves into trading talking points rather than getting towards any real discussion. Your final point about teaching that neutrinos moving faster than the speed of light now that OPERA found a fault in a cable is a good one for TV.

I have never been on TV, so you can take my criticism with a grain of salt.

By Michael Haubrich (not verified) on 26 Sep 2012 #permalink

There once was a guy named Militant Saxon
Who was a complete dumbass
Who should not be allowed to have children,
nor the right to vote.
What a fucking moron.

By Drivebyposter (not verified) on 26 Sep 2012 #permalink

@Michael Haubrich, I gotcha... I mean got you... I mean I get what you mean. Yeah, the length of the exchange (and the audience) really does seem to determine how the game is played and what it means to be the "winner." Thinking about all this, I'm already getting upset in anticipation for the upcoming political debates where the commentators talk about the "winners and losers" based solely on performance and not on content... And the line between news for information and news for entertainment continues to erode.

By Sheep Brain (not verified) on 26 Sep 2012 #permalink

@Michael Haubrich

um, that page had 21 people on it, but was 1 of many pages.

Here are another 3000 names (if you look at more than the front page).

Hey, saying that there is "unanimity in the scientific community" is strong propaganda. Why let the facts get in the way of your agenda, right?

There is unanimity in the scientific community regarding evolution. It is not propaganda.

What I don't get is this: Creationism is a religion-driven concept. People who want to ram it down the throats of all of the children in public schools are religious. Is it not the case that in the Christian religion you are not supposed to lie?

Please explain, "Ron." Oh wait, actually, just go away.

I know everyone knows this, but the difference between the 47 percent and the 53 percent is not one's contribution to the overall tax revenue stream, mainly.

Yeah, give me some of them government cheese, boy!

By Drivebyposter (not verified) on 26 Sep 2012 #permalink

Ed Compton is delusional if he thinks he receives zero benefit from his taxes, but I can see he didn't get much benefit from school. It must have been private school?

Gee Ed, not remotely on topic and completely full of shit.

You're welcome.

I wish I had been home schooled. Better yet prvate schooled. The government school that I went to really sucked.

Oh, and I do get government benefits. I get to ride to work in my truck on agovernment road full or potholes that needed to be fixed 25 years ago. But, I understand the issue. We all know that funding abortion and birth control and GMO foods is vastly more important than infrastructure. So, i guess when the peasants gets all their free stud, the government can go back to use my portion of the contribtion to fixing roads again. As a matter of fact I think in my next 34% of my paycheck contribution I will designate that money strictly for road repair. After all, it is MY oney that I alone worked for and I should say where it goes. Then again, we 53 perventers could just all qit, burn our money, homes, cars, and belongings and demand that the other side work for us for a change. That would be nice.

Oh, I forgto the most important contribution. I am proud to say that without me getting up and going to work every morning and making Al Gore some money he never could have invented the inetnet that I now use and without my continue support of the workplace, how would the 47 percent stay at home and view the internet funded by me. How nice.

Now if you will excuse me, I have to go steal some government cheese from a non taxpayer. After all I paid for it, I should have a bite.

By Ed Compton (not verified) on 26 Sep 2012 #permalink

Just like Obama said, YOU DIDN'T DO THAT! Someone else did!

Darwin was a man of wit
but he was also a twit.
He was only useful in taking up space
and like Greg, he was a life support system for a hairy face.
Deleted was my post
for rude was the host
I leave you now not in despair
cause I laugh at your nappy hair.
Now I must say bye
but first I throw at you a custard pie.
If it reaches your face
try to not take up more space.
Instead you can hit it with a pole, and if you miss
you can stick in your hole and then shove up the pole.
This is my last word
see ya later, turd.

By Cranky Commentator (not verified) on 26 Sep 2012 #permalink

I think that Ed is into his whisky, Greg, despite your best efforts to dilute him.

By Michael Haubrich (not verified) on 26 Sep 2012 #permalink


I didn't say anything about the number of signatories on the DIsco Toot's list of dissenters. I linked to's explanation of why it is a bogus list. Whether there are more than 3000 on this list is immaterial. Greg's statement is still accurate. There is unanimity of *real* scientists on the subject of evolution.

MD's are not scientists, engineers are not scientists, mathematicians are not scientists, etc. Having a PhD or an MS doesn't make one a scientist. When last I reviewed that list, the majority of the signers were engineers, MD's, mathematicians and people who do no work in the field of biology. Also, as pointed out, those biologists who did sign on were signing on because of the misleading nature of the statement, which was corrected for Project Steve.

Creationists and Intelligent Designers don't produce any science and that is why the don't get published in science journals other than such nonsense as Creation Science Quarterly, which seems to be peer-reviewed only for the grammar and spelling but not for science.

Arguing for irreducible complexity doesn't count for science, either.

By Michael Haubrich (not verified) on 27 Sep 2012 #permalink

Comment moderation! I'm being censored! Diluted! I am going to apply for my own blob at scienceblobs so I can delete comments by Laden!

By Michael Haubrich (not verified) on 27 Sep 2012 #permalink

@Paul Miers:

You misspelled "Haubrich." Your argument is invalid.

By Michael Haubrich (not verified) on 27 Sep 2012 #permalink

Why do I believe that a certain rob hood from madison, WI, is sockpuppeting and infesting the posts here again?

Greg wrote: "Most people in America are members of a religion that don’t subscribe to the Young Earth form of creationism, and in fact, many generally accept the scientific understanding of evolution with a little god sprinkled in here and there. So, you don’t need to reconsider your beliefs, but rather, you need to quit the religion you are currently a member of and join a different one."

Phillip Johnson ("Darwin on Trial") says naturalists define words like "evolution" and "science" in such a way that naturalism is true by definition. He commented in World magazine: "Evolutionary science is based on naturalism and draws philosophical conclusions to that base. That's why any theistic evolution is inherently superficial. It leads people into naturalistic thinking, and they don't realize it." (Nov. 22, 1997, p.13)

Poor Bill Nye.

1. "Denial of evolution is unique to the U.S."

No. Canadian stats essentially match U.S. stats re: percentage of atheists, creationists, IDers, theistic evolutionists, etc.

2. "It's very much analogous to trying to do geology without believing in tectonic plates."

Dr. John Baumgardner believes in tectonic plates.

3. Nye's old professor was Carl Sagan

ATHEISTIC NATURALISM God does not exist. There is no real design (only apparent design) and nature is all there is. [eg. Carl Sagan:"The Cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be."]

4. "ancient dinosaur bones"

Yeah, right...with blood vessels and soft tissue.

5. "Deep time. Billions of years"

So why do we find:

* helium in granitic rock

* microfossils of pollen, spores, angiosperms, gymnosperms, and at least one winged insect, in Eocambrian (Upper Precambrian) rock

* carbon 14 in some diamond samples???

6. "We need engineers that can build stuff, solve problems."

Then you need creationists, like the late Jules Poirier.

David Buckna

Hi Greg. Here you are, a professional wordsmith who faced off against me, a retired pediatrician, and the strongest point you were able to articulate was that the courts have declared intelligent design unconstitutional. You rightly stated that science is not done by public opinion polls. So where do you think science is done? Can I remind you that it is not done in the judiciary? It also is not done in the blogs. It is done by people, looking at evidence, testing hypotheses, and coming to conclusions, evaluating models. They need to be willing to change as Ignaz Semmelweis did when he discovered that washing his hands between the morgue and the delivery room dramatically reduced fatal infections in mothers and babies. His colleagues, however, were not willing to admit that they had been wrong and many patients died for their doctor's' pride. I wrote a piece for a town meeting on whether intelligent design should be taught in the schools ( .) Evolutionists accuse creationists of arguing from authority but ironically it is just the opposite -- the evidence points to a designer, evolutionists start with unshakable faith that there is NOT a creator and find ways to explain any piece of contrary evidence.

By Ross Olson (not verified) on 29 Sep 2012 #permalink

Hi, Ross, good to hear from you!

Creationism is a lousy way to describe, explain, or understand the natural world, and this inadequacy had been known for a very long time. Creationism is a form of religion, in the US mostly a Christian religion, but it occurs in other cultures as well as linked to other religions such as Islam. The strong point that I made is that we have in this country a separation of church and state, and the whole creationism thing has been determined by multiple court decisions that are very clear to be in violation of that fundamental American principle. The case law on this is as solid as it can get. Try as you might, you are never, ever going to get creationism in the public school science classroom, and every time some group or another tries to do so, it just does damage to the school system being attacked.

The question being discussed on Fox 9 was not the veracity of evolution. As I stated, matters of science are not determined by opinion polls, and as you've stated here, and I agree, matters of science are not determined by the courts. But that was not the question being addressed. Nor should it be. The issue of real-live evolution being the valid science and creationism not has, as I've stated, been settled with creationism wanting, irrelevant, and inappropriate. I did not go on Fox 9 to debate that issue ... I don't debate that issue. Because, Ross, there is no longer a debate. Science won, Bishop Wilberforce lost.

The question at had was what to allow in classrooms, and that unfortunately has become an issue for the courts to decide, and they've decided.

You have that last bit backwards. There is no evidence for a "designer" and the "unshakable faith" is that of the creationist. Nice try attempting to turn the rhetoric on its head, but no one will accept that (except for other committed creationists). It is kind of obvious, Ross.

Thanks for your comments, though!

It makes me very sad when I see how blind you are to the real issues. Design requires a designer. If you come upon a house on the beach, with windows and doors, electricity and plumbing, security and internet, you would KNOW somebody built it. The reason you don't see it for the far more complex design in any living organism is by a twist of logic, agreed upon by the mainstream scientific community and enforced by controlling the gateway to positions of influence. It is this: 1) science looks for natural explanations to phenomena 2) natural explanations are the only ones that are allowed. It is so subtle and so "reasonable" and the fallacy so basic that you don't even see it. Suppose you apply that philosophy to causes of death -- they are only natural. You find a body with a knife in the chest and must ignore it because the deceased obviously died of a heart attack. Don't you see that in the evaluation of origins you make it impossible for yourself to know if you are wrong. The evidence for creation is not religious evidence and it is not religion But it may well lead a person to the conclusion that there is indeed a Creator and may lead a person to commit their life to that Creator. In fact, the objection of many who deny the evidence for creation is that they do not want to be responsible to someone higher. Do you think you might have that factor operating in your own thinking? Judge Jones said essentially that even if there is evidence for intelligent design, that might cause students to believe in God which would establish religion and is therefore unconstitutional. look at the paper I referenced to unpack that legal travesty. It is like a trip down the rabbit hole and is more like a totalitarian state than a community of truth seekers. To withhold evidence is indoctrination, not education. Do you have the guts to truly evaluate your own views? Would you be able to change if you were really convinced? Or would you go down with the ship, pride intact, taking all your blogoshere with you?

By Ross Olson (not verified) on 29 Sep 2012 #permalink

The nature of the verb "designer" is part of your problem, Ross. Evolution does not work that way. But, if we allow some leeway in how we talk about this science stuff so it can be discussed in more lay terms, then it is OK, I think, to say that Natural Selection is a pretty good designer. If there is a god that designed life, that god needs additional training, because so many things in life are rather poorly designed.

A "Natural Explanation" is, really, simply a "possible explanation" as opposed to "impossible explanations." Science per se has no problem with a designer; there would, however, have to be evidence of a designer in order for such as concept to be taken seriously by science.

I'm quite sure that if a bunch of biologists came up with a State and a bunch of fundementalist evangelicals came up with a state, the latter would be way,way more totalitarian than the former. Remember, Ross, it is your people trying to jam your beliefs down the throats of our children.

Which we will not tolerate.

The following suggested Origins of Life policy is a realistic, practical and legal way for local and state school boards to achieve a win-win with regard to evolution teaching. Even the ACLU, the NCSE, and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State should find the policy acceptable:

"As no theory in science is immune from critical examination and evaluation, and recognizing that evolutionary theory is the only approved theory of origins that can be taught in the [school district/state] science curriculum: whenever evolutionary theory is taught, students and teachers are encouraged to discuss the scientific information that supports and questions evolution and its underlying assumptions, in order to promote the development of critical thinking skills. This discussion would include only the scientific evidence/information for and against evolutionary theory, as it seeks to explain the origin of the universe and the diversity of life on our planet."

Never discussing scientific information that questions evolution is to teach evolution as dogma.

David Buckna

Greg: "But, if we allow some leeway in how we talk about this science stuff so it can be discussed in more lay terms, then it is OK, I think, to say that Natural Selection is a pretty good designer."

Edward Blyth, English chemist/zoologist (and creationist), wrote his first of three major articles on natural selection in The Magazine of Natural History, 24 years before Darwin's "Origin of Species" was published.

Why then do evolutionists think of natural selection as Darwin's idea?

Blyth didn't attribute God-like qualities to natural selection, as some evolutionists do today. At least some are willing to admit: "Natural selection can only act on those biologic properties that already exist; it cannot create properties in order to meet adaptational needs." Noble, et al., Parasitology, 6th ed. (Lea & Febiger, 1989), p. 516.

David, is your ignorance about how we treat the history of evolutionary thinking, and your parallel ignorance about the role of Natural Selection in evolution willful or ... just ignorance?

One more attempt to get through to you and then I am done. Blogs are terrible ways to have discussions because there is too much posturing. I am afraid that your thinking is an unwitting example of where science education is going. By the way, the young are already being indoctrinated, by PBS, National Geographic and all the other popular science magazines, the major museums and the media in general. Bill Nye only supposed that somebody must be introducing subversive material because the population has not been totally convinced. You, as a product of that one sided education are unable to consider the quality of the evidence and the sloppiness of definitions. Natural selection does not design, it merely selects among the choices offered it. In fact it is more a mild conservative force, removing the grossly unfit but unable to eliminate the mildly harmful mutations that are slowly clogging the human (and every other) genome. See John Sanford's "Genetic Entropy." Your "dysteleology" argument is explained by the fact the original design is not being improved but is slowly deteriorating. (If you want to discuss why, contact me separately.) It must be exhilarating to be the chess master, playing dozens of games at once, but you have not noticed that you are actually losing most of them and because of your prior commitment, are not free to actually consider the implications. To point out evidence against a ruling paradigm is not to "jam our beliefs down your throats." That is what YOU and your fellow travelers are doing. We are actually doing science.

By Ross Olson (not verified) on 01 Oct 2012 #permalink

Ross, I am not a "product of eduction" ... I am a scientist with years of field and lab experience. I've worked on archaeological and paleontological sites ranging from 3.0 million years ago to tens of thousands of years ago that produce evidence for human evolution. I've studied the geology of landscapes in several parts of the world, helped work out the evolution of one of the Rift Valleys in Africa, have worked on 125,000 years of sea level rise and looked at climate change and hominid adaptations over the last 500,000 year in the Northern Cape of South Africa. I've coauthored key papers that have changed the way we look at human evolution, including the chimp-human split and more recent changes associated with the origin of our genus, Homo. I taught evolutionary biology at several levels at Harvard, Boston University, the University of Minnesota and elsewhere. I'm not sure why you think I'm a product of bad education that is passing out made up information to indoctrinate children. I'm one of the producers of the science, and one of the interpreters, helpers, and teachers working with the intention of guiding our young folks through the process of understanding the natural world around them, how it works and how it got the way it is.

I don't really play chess.

Greg, please cite some papers from the scientific literature which document in an experiment, series of experiments, or observations in nature, how natural selection has created NEW properties in order to meet adaptational needs.

Greg: "Evolution is an established fact."

What precisely do you mean by evolution? Phillip Johnson writes: "If somebody asks, 'Do you believe in evolution?' the right reply is not 'Yes' or 'No.' It is: 'Precisely what do you mean by evolution?' My experience has been that the first definition I get will be so broad as to be indisputable--like 'There has been change in the course of life's history.' Later on a much more precise and controversial definition will be substituted without notice. That one word evolution can mean something so tiny it hardly matters, or so big it explains the whole history of the universe. Keep your baloney detector trained on that word. If it moves, zap it!" ("Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds", 1997)

How about citing some papers from the literature that provide scientific evidence (NOT speculation, NOT conjecture, NOT evolutionary Just-So Stories) for MACROevolution aka molecules-to-man evolution aka vertical evolution aka information-building evolution.

David, see the links I provided above (about 6 comments back) for an answer to that question. Again, this is settled. You are being ingenuous.

Regarding the reply to "do you believe in evolution" the correct answer is "what do you mean by believe? Science is not about belief. That would be religion."

The word "evolution" does refer to multiple things, which is why Ross's comments are so out of place and strange, because he (and maybe you, can't remember) continuously conflate natural selection with evolution.

Once again, I've given you a good starting place for your own learning. Once again, I'll tell you that we are not debating evolution here.

OK, I lied -- I promised you it was the last time, but you walked right into another one. In answer to the accusation that you are the product of bad education, you listed your accomplishments. They are all very commendable. But then a couple entries down, you claimed that evolution is an established fact. That's where you betray your faulty education! Science is tentative and does not use that sort of language, just on the principle of the thing. But with all the anomalous evidence piling up, a little tentativeness is warranted.

By Ross Olson (not verified) on 01 Oct 2012 #permalink

Ross, I knew you would be back. Yes, you did lie. You have been telling a lot of lies. You might need o go to confession.

I admit to imperfection. How about you?
If you chose to answer the question rather than try for a giggle, you would undoubtedly be saying that there is no anomalous evidence-- and whether you admit to that now or let us all see it implicit in everything that you write, it is the final proof that you have been indoctrinated instead of educated. You are bright but unable to see those things you believe do not exist. There were many bright people who believed communism would solve the world's problems and they could not see that it wasn't working.

By Ross Olson (not verified) on 01 Oct 2012 #permalink

Quite a few comments back (September 29th by Ross): Ross seems to think that the following statements are problematic: "It is this: 1) science looks for natural explanations to phenomena 2) natural explanations are the only ones that are allowed."

The alternative to 1 and 2 would be an unnatural explanation for a phenomenon...Right? If not, please clarify.

Assuming the above is what you mean:
Give me one reasonable explanation for ANY phenomenon that is best described by an UNNATURAL causal agent. Seriously. Name one that is currently observable (I mean the phenomenon of course, not the unnatural invisible cause, lol). Seriously, name one.

What would this even mean? Are we talking about a ghost slowly creaking my doors at night? A magical hand pushing my steering wheel away or towards danger? Please tell me more about these UNNATURAL causal agents. What makes them unnatural as opposed to natural?

The more these debates progress, the more I realize that it is as much a lack of understanding of physics as it is a lack of understanding of biology that keeps people from getting natural selection. There are 4 forces; just 4. If you want a 5th then go find evidence for it. You have to play by the rules of the universe if you want to argue about the universe. If you want to show a designer at work he/she/it needs to somehow use those 4 forces as they guide living things...nonliving too? Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hell, now that's an idea. And now I digress; what if there is an anti-designer too who is simultaneously at work undesigning living things. I mean if you see a broken clock on the beach, somebody had to break it, stuff doesn't just break on its own! Maybe we should start teaching our kids my new religion of Intelligent destruction. It is totally different than entropy just like ID is totally different from creationism. Who was the first to publisher to pick up Behe? I gotta get them on the line. Looks like this just turned into a three way fight!

By Sheep Brain (not verified) on 01 Oct 2012 #permalink

Ross, science figured out that the earth goes around the sun. Science questions itself all the time. Yet, there is no question that the earth goes around the sun. Yet, scientists still find out interesting things as they get finer and finer measurements of the geometry of the earth, the sun and the orbits, and related things.

Atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Michael Ruse, and PZ Meyers also proclaim evolution is a fact.

The National Science Teachers Association is careful not to state evolution is a fact, but might just as well: "A theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses, while a fact is an observation that has been repeatedly confirmed (National Academy of Sciences 1998). Thus, a scientific theory is not just a hunch or guess."

"Scientific theories continue to change as new observations and discoveries are made. Based on research, testing, and observation, the theory of evolution is the best scientific explanation we have for how life on Earth has changed and continues to change."

And from atheist Eugenie Scott (NCSE): "I never say that evolution is a fact. Evolution is a theory. It's much more important than a fact, because theories explain things."

Testing a theory experimentally is most efficiently done by disproving, not proving. Dawkins' statement in Time Magazine (Aug. 15, 2005) that a single hippo or rabbit fossil in Precambrian rock "would blow evolution out of the water" underscores the point.

Although no hippo or rabbit fossil has been found in Precambrian rock, microfossils of pollen, spores, angiosperms, gymnosperms, and at least one winged insect have been found in Precambrian rock.

So why haven't these discoveries blown evolution out of the water?

The vast majority of biologists believe in evolution, but appeal to the majority is a fallacious argument. The majority used to believe in the Ptolemaic model of the solar system, spontaneous generation and blood-letting, all shown to be inciorrect.

That's why scientists look for minority data--data that clearly doesn't fit one theory, but does fit another.Good science is always tentative and self-correcting, but this never really happens in the case of evolution. Regardless of the data, the idea of evolution as a valid concept is not open to debate. Students are allowed to ask "How did evolution occur?" but never "Did evolution occur?"

And if evolution is nothing more than "change in allele frequency over time" then all creationists would become evolutionists! 8-)

Still waiting for Greg to cite some papers from the literature that provide scientific evidence for MACROevolution. Good luck with that.

Greg, it's debatable whether or not you are a "prdoduct of evolutioanry thinking" but you are most CERTAINLY not open to the possibility that you could be incorrect, and that the consensus view of science on evoltuon just might be in error (ie, "evolution is a fact"). Your refusal to consider this possibility earns you the label of "non-scientific" in your approach because scientific ideas are NEVER supposed to EVER be so certain that they could be incorrect. I suggest that you go and read two books: 1. Slaughter of the Dissidents by Dr. Jerry Bergamn mentioned by Ross Olson on the show (your claim that the book is "overstated" as you so smugly asserted during the segment with Ross is flat out incorrect - the book contains some incredibly well documented case studies of the abuse mentioned by Ross), and 2. Betrayers of the Truth - a secular look at the history of the dysfunctional behavior of consensus-believing scientists who always seem to know better than anyone with a different idea. Anyone who reads these books and then listens to what you had to say in this segment with Ross KNOWS that you are a total wind-bag.

By Kevin Wirth (not verified) on 02 Oct 2012 #permalink

Incorrect about what? We are not debating evolution here, because the "creationism-evolution" debate is not a valid scientific debate. It is nothing other than an attempt by Christian Fundementalist Evangelicals to get their religion into the public classroom. I don't debate evolution with creationists and I don't debate the existence of bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster (although I do touch on these subjects in my forthcoming novel) and I don't debate with flat earthers over the question of the earth being more or less a globe that goes around the sun (which is actually a very nearly perfect globe, by the way).

My refusal to consider the possibility of cramming someone's religion down the throats of school children in public schools earns me a very different label than the one you suggest. In fact, it earns me a few different labels: Patriot, Logical, Science advocate, Rational, and a few more.

You have a very poor understanding of how science progresses Yes, everything is always in question, but as we progress certain things become extraordinarily well established because of the great and overwhelming preponderance of evidence. But that is not even what we are talking about here. Here, you are attempting to compare an idea that has exactly the same weight as the hypothesis that there is a blue teapot orbiting Jupiter with a set of ideas that address the natural history of life on earth. Just because you think up the teapot does not mean that from then on everyone hast to take the teapot seriously.

Greg: "We are not debating evolution here, because the “creationism-evolution” debate is not a valid scientific debate."

Like I said... Regardless of the data, the idea of evolution as a valid concept is not open to debate. Students are allowed to ask “How did evolution occur?” but never “Did evolution occur?”

Greg: "It is nothing other than an attempt by Christian Fundementalist Evangelicals to get their religion into the public classroom."

Do all "Christian Fundementalist Evangelicals" want creation taught in the public classroom? No. But all want, at the very least, for evolution to be taught more critically.

Never discussing scientific information that questions evolution is to teach evolution as dogma.

The following suggested Origins of Life policy is a realistic, practical and legal way for local and state school boards to achieve a win-win with regard to evolution teaching. Even the ACLU, the NCSE, and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State should find the policy acceptable:

"As no theory in science is immune from critical examination and evaluation, and recognizing that evolutionary theory is the only approved theory of origins that can be taught in the [school district/state] science curriculum: whenever evolutionary theory is taught, students and teachers are encouraged to discuss the scientific information that supports and questions evolution and its underlying assumptions, in order to promote the development of critical thinking skills. This discussion would include only the scientific evidence/information for and against evolutionary theory, as it seeks to explain the origin of the universe and the diversity of life on our planet."

I have a couple comments to add. First of all, I completely agree with Ross. You have no evidence that evolution was a real thing. You say things evolve over billions of years. Yet, where are the fossils? Of course animals couldn't of lived a billion years could they. Also, are we still evolving? Even Darwin was questioning his theory's. How come humans haven't evolved since the evolution theory started? We have not changed. Since Ross didn't try to get through to you, I will. We are so complex that we must have a creator. You can't expect us to do it on our own. We need the help of someone more powerful than anyone could fathom. We are created will loving, forgiving, gracious arms. Are we perfect, no. But the Creator is. It is our own fault for imperfections. Please believe me and so many other intelligent people.

Helena, if you want to convince Greg, or anyone else, you first need to crack open a high school biology textbook and read the definitions of evolution.

You don't have to agree with them, just understand them. Otherwise, you will keep asking questions that reveal you are profoundly ignorant of even the definitions and how evolution works.

If you can't get basic concepts right, why should we bother listening to you on anything else? Would you listen to a person who claimed they knew how your car ran, but wasn't able to use the words "gas pedal" correctly in a sentence? Would you even listen to them on any other topic in which they claimed they knew something?

Keep in mind the warning from Augustine: " If they [infidels] find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? "

Here's more from Augstine--seriously, read it so you don't bring into even more disrepute that which you claim to hold in high regard.

By Dan Andrews (not verified) on 19 Mar 2015 #permalink

Evolution:Evolution is a process of gradual change that takes place over many generations, during which species of animals, plants, or insects slowly change some of their physical characteristics.
I understand what you are saying. I do understand scripture. I read it myself. Yet, some people interpret it differently. I also understand the concept of evolution. Please remember that I do find this subject very important. I do know that I can't end the theory of evolution by asking questions. I just want to here Greg's opinion on the matter.

"Even Darwin was questioning his theory’s [sic]"

Welcome to the world of science, Helena. The fact that you use the word "even" is quite informative about your apparent lack of knowledge about how science works. Any good scientist will question his hypotheses and theories. Any good scientist knows that theories are at best approximations of how the world works, a framework to not only explain but also predict. And when data comes in that does not fit in, there are two possibilities: the theory is wrong or the data is wrong. And then the scientist investigates further.

This is quite different from the world of religion, where data that does not fit in must be wrong. Evolution is one of those areas where religious people either outright reject the notion because they believe it contradicts their scripture (and therefore by definition must be wrong), or the theory of evolution gets an extra unscientific element such that it can be reconciled with scripture: declare that evolution is 'guided' by god. Problem solved, the religious person can sleep safe and sound again, his belief is not challenged.

You Yanks are so funny - you're still expected to have serious conversation with fruitloops who want to rant about creationism.

Hilarious. I love your country. You have such...diversity...

By Craig Thomas (not verified) on 20 Mar 2015 #permalink