Tag: evolution

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When President Biden took office with a slim majority in the House and a tied Senate, the first order of Democratic business was to make sure nothing like a free and fair election ever happened again. To that end, they created HR1, a blatant attempt to lock in through federal legislation the integrity-undermining aspects of […]

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The Atheist and the Acorn

 

This starts with a joke. Not a particularly good one, but perhaps the novelty will save the humor. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard it told.

An atheist is arguing with a priest as they walk through a grove of trees. “How can you believe in a God who created such a disordered universe? Look at these mighty oak trees. See the tiny acorns they produce. And yet the massive pumpkin grows on a feeble vine. If I had designed the world that situation would be corrected, let me tell you.”

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The so-called “New Atheists” are desperate to demonstrate that one can have morality without God, and in fact that morality is baked in to our genetic code via the process of natural selection. Now, I’m not against the thesis that there’s an evolutionary component to morality or that natural selection isn’t a factor, but the […]

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I think the theory of evolution is the best thing we have to organize our knowledge about biology, but I’m struggling to think of a way that “belief” in it makes a practical difference.   In fact, it doesn’t seem to make any difference at all.  Many people who say they believe in evolution don’t act like it.  […]

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“Inherit the Wind” Comes Back Home to the Bible Belt

 

Inherit the Wind, a drama by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee, tells a highly fictionalized version of the famous Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925. In the real trial, The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes, a substitute high school teacher was accused of violating Tennessee’s Butler Act, which prohibited teaching human evolution in state-funded schools. But it was not a trial of real facts – it was a phony case manufactured by the American Civil Liberties Union.

When the Butler Act passed, the ACLU lost no time peppering the state with pamphlets offering to defend anyone who violated the Act. The problem was: the Act went unenforced – and was widely understood to be a symbolic political gesture. In fact, Tennessee had another statute that required public schools to use a specific science textbook that did teach human evolution. So, if the ACLU was ever going to challenge the Act in court, they had to manufacture the facts themselves.

The organization found an ally in George Rappleyea, a businessman from the small town of Dayton, Tennessee. During a meeting of local business leaders, Rappleyea convinced the pillars of his community to sponsor the ACLU’s test case in their county. Rappleyea was against the law himself and others supported it, but the primary argument Rappleyea made to his peers was that the media circus around the trial would be great for business. The others agreed. Now they just needed a defendant.

Darwin Was Wrong…

 

shutterstock_133811405…and Lamarck was right.

Well, maybe. Of the two major theories of human evolution developed in the 19th century, Darwin believed in natural selection — that human traits are passed along through DNA and not through environmental factors — and Lamarck believed that parents can transmit environmentally acquired traits.

Darwin won the sweepstakes, but Lamarck may not have been entirely wrong. From ArsTechnica:

Attention, Science! Fans: People are Complicated

 

Over the past few election cycles, it’s become standard practice to ask the Republican candidates whether or not they “believe” in evolution, and to use their answers as a test to determine the candidates’ piety, critical thinking skills, and cultural values. I find the evidence for common descent and change over time to be incredibly compelling, so I think the question is useful, but its heuristic value as a shorthand for whether one “accepts science” is wildly overrated. People are complicated, and it’s generally foolhardy to evaluate someone’s thinking on a single metric.

As a case in point, consider the exchange last night over vaccines. Over the last decade — and again in the debate — Trump has repeatedly claimed that vaccines are the source of the “autism epidemic.” This is demonstrably false. The rise in autism diagnoses is overwhelmingly the result of broadening its definition and greater public concern and awareness. Moreover, the study that initially started the scare has been retracted by its publisher, and the ingredient (thimerosal) most commonly alleged to be the culprit hasn’t been in the standard childhood vaccination schedule* since around 2002. Diagnoses have continued to rise, regardless.

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A while back, there were a number of posts here regarding young earth creationism (YEC), evolution, etc.  Since that time, off and on, I’ve pondered where exactly I come down on reconciling my faith and evolution.  I was raised a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which doesn’t have any definitive doctrine […]

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Misremembering History: The Scopes Monkey Trial

 

Rather than the often repeated adage that the victors write the history of an event, the story of anything is actually determined by the unswerving adoption of one version of it, and the telling of that version by a determined cadre of writers. In time, the version with the most persistent adherents becomes the “truth.” – David & Jeanne Heidler in Henry Clay: The Essential American (2010)

I still recall my entire family getting in the car for the drive to Hartford, Connecticut. It was the late 1950s, and my father was taking us to pick up a monkey. My father had a small role as an Italian organ-grinder in a play put on by a local community theater group. The director wanted to use a prop monkey, but dad insisted on the real thing. We housed that monkey for the next week; I remember it as nasty and mean-tempered, but the audience loved it and my father in his bit part (he always had a knack for showmanship). The play was Inherit The Wind. Last week was the 90th anniversary of the start of the trial (July 10, 1925) on which the play was based, an event that became popularly known as the Scopes Monkey Trial.

Climate Skeptics, Your Brains Just Aren’t Fully Evolved

 

brainLet’s face it. If you’re not freaking out over climate change, there’s something wrong with your brain. At least that’s what the climate alarmists think.

Brian Merchant’s article at Vice.com’s Motherboard blog, “Apocalypse Neuro: Why Our Brains Don’t Process the Gravest Threats to Humanity” discusses the ways primitive brains just can’t handle the looming threat of climate change.

Our brains are incredible little mushboxes; they are unfathomably complex, powerful organs that grant us motor skills, logic, and abstract thought. Brains have bequeathed unto we humans just about every cognitive advantage, it seems, except for one little omission: the ability to adequately process the concept of long-term, civilization-threatening phenomena. They’ve proven miracle workers for the short-term survival of individuals, but the human brain sort of malfunctions when it comes to navigating wide-lens, slowly-unfurling crises like climate change.

Hints at the Origin of Life?

 

This truly isn’t meant to be a stick in the eye for creationists/anti-evolutionists. This post is about a scientific breakthrough that is remarkably fascinating.

Scientists have accidentally discovered metabolic pathways mediated by non-organic molecules. The same process that occurs in cells, glycolysis, has been observed being “catalysed by metal ions rather than the enzymes that drive them in cells today.” And “many of these reactions could have occurred spontaneously in Earth’s early oceans.”

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Behold Pan sanctorum. Yes, The Onion mocks our reality-based community as only The Onion can. From the close: It is our understanding that these creatures lived in a kind of jungle-like forerunner to the Garden of Eden, until a day came when their enraged creator cast them out, flinging feces at them as they fled. […]

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Did you know that? The material that we all are made from is evidently magic. Now, the Neo-Darwinists wouldn’t explain it that way but if you read what they are proposing as a serious scientific theory – it sure sounds like they are talking about a magical substance. It’s so magical that if you get things just right […]

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