"Darwin was the first to use data from nature to convince people that evolution is true, and his idea of natural selection was truly novel. It testifies to his genius that the concept of natural theology, accepted by most educated Westerners before 1859, was vanquished within only a few years by a single five-hundred-page book. On the Origin of Species turned the mysteries of life's diversity from mythology into genuine science." -- Jerry Coyne
Sunday, July 13, 2014
A previous version of this blog was vaporized by Google after a lunatic Christian asshole complained about it. I was able to save some of it including the entire right column.
Christians: We developed from ancient apes and we are still apes. Your dead Jeebus was an ape. You idiots worship a dead ape.
The Hominidae (anglicized hominids, also known as great apes) form a taxonomicfamily, including four extant genera: chimpanzee, gorillas, humans, and orangutans. -- Wikipedia
To any atheist wimp who thinks I should suck up to religious idiots: go fuck yourself.
"Intelligent design" are fancy words that dishonest Christians use when they really mean "supernatural magic".
Creationist retards: when you call magic "design", that doesn't make it any less childish.
God is just another word for magic. There is no magic in the universe.
In a perfect world (a world without morons) there would be no need for the word 'atheist' because there would be no theists.
To any evolution-denier who invokes the Christian creationist organization called the Discovery Institute: you're a fucking idiot. Grow up.
To any Christian who accepts the facts of evolution: you are still a god-soaked idiot. Grow up and stop disgracing my country.
If you call yourself a theistic evolutionist you're really an evolution denier because there's no theistic bullshit in science.
Worship Me or I'll Torture You FOREVER.
-- Your Loving God
Tone matters, because too many have been insufficiently fierce in their criticism of pious excuses for sloppy thinking. Tone matters because we haven’t been rude enough in the face of special claims of privilege for religious inanity. We need to flip that tone argument around 180°—the problem isn’t that our tone is so harsh, it’s that yours is so inappropriately soft towards people who lie to children, who want to gut our educational system, and who want to taint science with a bias for magic. -- PZ Myers
Those of us who have for years politely concealed our contempt for the dangerous collective delusion of religion need to stand up and speak out. Things are different after September 11th. Let's stop being so damned respectful!
It's hard not to look at someone like Don McLeroy, professional science-denier and flaming creationist asshole, and not feel considerable disgust that that man was in charge of destroying the public school curriculum in the state.
An essential element in the teaching of science is the encouragement of students and teachers to critically appraise the evidence for notions being taught as science. The Society states unequivocally that the dogmatic teaching of notions such as Creationism within a science curriculum stifles the development of critical thinking patterns in the developing mind and seriously compromises the best interests of objective public education. This could eventually hamper the advancement of science and technology as students take their places as leaders of future generations.
— Geological Society of Australia
Religion is a cruel hoax sustained by miracles, fear, superstition and ignorance. Evolution is a science sustained by proven facts. Take your pick. -- Dean Carson
Scientific education and religious education are incompatible. The clergy have ceased to interfere with education at the advanced state, with which I am directly concerned, but they have still got control of that of children. This means that the children have to learn about Adam and Noah instead of about Evolution; about David who killed Goliath, instead of Koch who killed cholera; about Christ's ascent into heaven instead of Montgolfier's and Wright's. Worse than that, they are taught that it is a virtue to accept statements without adequate evidence, which leaves them a prey to quacks of every kind in later life, and makes it very difficult for them to accept the methods of thought which are successful in science.
-- J.B.S. Haldane
There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."
-- Isaac Asimov
Science hard. Brain hurt.
God easy. No think.
Should Creationism be taught in public schools? Oh God, no. Oh, Jesus. We thought we had made a big advance with the Scopes monkey trial….My God, evolution is a fact, and if these people are disturbed by being the descendants of monkeys and fishes, they’ve got a mental problem. We can’t afford the psychiatric bill for them. That ends the story as far as I’m concerned. -- Mike Gravel, former Democratic United States Senator from Alaska, who served two terms from 1969 to 1981, and a former candidate in the 2008 presidential election.
Theistic evolution is not evolution. It's a childish religious belief. It's a version of magical creation, not much better than the bullshit in Genesis. -- Human Ape
Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.
-- Charles Darwin
If the history of science teaches us anything, it is that what conquers our ignorance is research, not giving up and attributing our ignorance to the miraculous work of a creator.
-- Jerry Coyne
Science is a philosophy of discovery, intelligent design is a philosophy of ignorance.
-- Neil deGrasse Tyson
It's been 55 years since the Miller-Urey Experiment, and science has made enormous progress on solving the origin of life. This video summarizes one of the best leading models. Yes there are others. Science may never know exactly how life DID start, but we will know many ways how life COULD start. Don't be fooled by creationist arguments as even a minimal understanding of biology and chemistry is enough to realize they have no clue what they are talking about.
Darwin knew a lot of biology: more than any of his contemporaries, more than a surprising number of his successors. From prolonged thought and study, he was able to intuit how evolution worked without having access to all the subsequent scientific knowledge that others required to be convinced of natural selection. He had the objectivity to put aside criteria with powerful emotional resonance, like the conviction that evolution should be purposeful. As a result, he saw deep into the strange workings of the evolutionary mechanism, an insight not really exceeded until a century after his great work of synthesis.
Darwin’s theory of evolution has become the bedrock of modern biology. But for most of the theory’s existence since 1859, even biologists have ignored or vigorously opposed it, in whole or in part. It is a testament to Darwin’s extraordinary insight that it took almost a century for biologists to understand the essential correctness of his views. -- New York Times
If the history-deniers who doubt the fact of evolution are ignorant of biology, those who think the world began less than ten thousand years ago are worse than ignorant, they are deluded to the point of perversity. They are denying not only the facts of biology but those of physics, geology, cosmology, archaeology, history and chemistry as well. This chapter is about how we know the ages of rocks and the fossils embedded in them. It presents evidence that the timescale on which life has operated on this planet is measured not in thousands of years but in thousands of millions of years.
-- From page 85 of "The Greatest Show on Earth, The Evidence for Evolution" by Richard Dawkins
Charles Darwin’s masterpiece, “On the Origin of Species”, shook society to its core on publication in 1859. Darwin was only too aware of the storm his theory of evolution would provoke but he would surely have raised an incredulous eyebrow at the controversy still raging a century and a half later. Evolution is accepted as scientific fact by all reputable scientists and indeed theologians, yet millions of people continue to question its veracity. In “The Greatest Show on Earth”, Richard Dawkins takes on creationists, including followers of ‘Intelligent Design’ and all those who question the fact of evolution through natural selection. Like a detective arriving on the scene of a crime, he sifts through fascinating layers of scientific facts and disciplines to build a cast-iron case: from the living examples of natural selection in birds and insects; the ‘time clocks’ of trees and radioactive dating that calibrate a timescale for evolution; the fossil record and the traces of our earliest ancestors; to confirmation from molecular biology and genetics. All of this, and much more, bears witness to the truth of evolution. “The Greatest Show on Earth” comes at a critical time: systematic opposition to the fact of evolution is now flourishing as never before, especially in America. In Britain and elsewhere in the world, teachers witness insidious attempts to undermine the status of science in their classrooms. Richard Dawkins provides unequivocal evidence that boldly and comprehensively rebuts such nonsense. At the same time he shares with us his palpable love of the natural world and the essential role that science plays in its interpretation. Written with elegance, wit and passion, it is hard-hitting, absorbing and totally convincing.
ID creationism is misrepresented by its adherents, not its critics.
The various statements of what ID creationism is are simply obfuscations of the following argument:
I don't understand the reason for X phenomenon. Therefore X phenomenon originated by magic.
For example, take the contention that the bacterial flagellum could not have originated through a step by step process. That's an obfuscation of the true argument, which is "I don't understand how the bacterial flagellum could have originated through a step by step process."
The response, of course, is: Well, maybe you not understanding something doesn't mean it can't be understood. There are other reasons why you might not understand something. Maybe you're just stupid.
Dembski gave some talk in Oklahoma, and he got totally pwned. He talked about the bacterial flagellum, and some guy in the audience, during the question and answer session, said, I can explain how the bacterial flagellum could have originated through a step by step process, and did it. Of course, then Dembski wanted more steps. No matter how many steps you present, the ID creationist wants more. This is a slight variation of the ID creationist argument, and reads as follows:
I won't admit that X phenomenon could have originated through natural means. Therefore, X phenomenon must have originated by magic.
And the answer, of course, is: Well, maybe you're just a liar.
The idea that proponents of ID creationism have been discriminated against is based on a misconception - namely, that every idea is of equal merit. ID creationists aren't able to gain acceptance for their ideas not because of philosophical resistance, discrimination, or conspiracy, but because their ideas are stupid. I mean, when a real scientist explains phenomena that an ID creationist says is unexplainable, is the ID creationist still entitled to a respectful hearing for his claim?
ID creationism adherents believe in ID creationism because they haven't considered, or don't want to consider, the possibility that they're just retarded. Well, it's time for them to consider it.
-- Mike Toreno
Everyone should read these three books:
"The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution" by Sean B. Carroll
"Why Evolution is True" by Jerry Coyne
"The Greatest Show on Earth, The Evidence for Evolution" by Richard Dawkins
Everyone should read what Ken Miller said at the Dover trial:
It takes nothing more than a child of a few years to understand the incompatibility of understanding how the world works as opposed to essentially Santa Claus type thinking. It is a matter of honesty to admit that someone being raised from the dead is not a belief compatible with what we know of in science or that the myriad of religious beliefs from around the world are simply not square with the scientific knowledge of the day. It is rank dishonesty to pretend that science and religion are compatible while trying to backdoor tons of material as 'outside' the realm of science. -- KevinB
One parent asked how money could be wasted on a subject like evolution: "As budget cuts continuously chip away at our children's future of a good, quality college-ready education," she wrote, "I would think there would be more educational, more worthwhile and certainly more factual learning that could be taught." She requested that her son be permitted to "bide his time elsewhere" when evolution was taught.
Ms. New explained that evolution is so central to biology, the boy would be biding elsewhere all year long. Practically every chapter in her Prentice Hall textbooks — "Bacteria to Plants," "Cells and Heredity," "Animals" — used evolution to trace the development of life starting with bacteria, green algae and gymnosperms.
The books were purchased by her district, and she sent her supervisors copies, marking evolution references with dozens of Post-its, but it didn't seem to register. On April 25, 2005, during a meeting about parent complaints with her principal, Rick Conner, she recalled: "He took a Bible off the bookshelf behind him and said, 'Patty I believe in everything in this book, do you?' I told him, 'I really feel uncomfortable about your asking that question.' He wouldn't let it go.' " The next day, she said, in the lunchroom, "he reached across the table, took my hand and said: 'I accept evolution in most things but if they ever say God wasn't involved I couldn't accept that. I want you to say that, Pat.' "
Asked to comment during an interview here, Mr. Conner would say only, "I don't want to talk about it."
Four days after her encounter with the principal, Ms. New was summoned to a meeting with the superintendent, Dewey Moye, as well as the principal and two parents upset about her teaching evolution. "We have to let parents ask questions," Mr. Moye told her. "It's a public school. In a democracy people can ask questions."
Ms. New said the parents, "badgered, got loud and sarcastic and there was no support from administrators."
Babs Greene, another administrator, "asked if I was almost finished teaching evolution," Ms. New recalled. "I explained to her again that it is a unifying concept in life science. It is in every unit I teach. There was a big sigh."
"I thought I was going crazy," said Ms. New, who has won several outstanding teacher awards and is one of only two teachers at her school with national board certification. The other is her husband, Ward.
"It takes a lot to stand up and be willing to have people angry at you," she said. But Ms. New did. She repeatedly urged her supervisors to read Georgia's science standards, particularly S7L5, which calls for teaching evolution.
On May 5, 2005, she filled out a complaint to initiate a grievance under state law, writing that she was being "threatened and harassed" though "I am following approved curriculum." She also wrote, "If we could get together within 24 hours and settle this and I feel I have support to teach the standards, then I would tear it up."
I believe in evolution. In America that's a controversial statement. More than half of us reject the theory of evolution, and for some, it's not only wrong, but the source of nearly everything that's wrong with society today. But to a biologist like me evolution isn't politics or sociology. It's a scientific idea. And it might just be the best scientific idea ever.
Darwin's great insight was that the living world today holds the key to our biological past. The fact that he worked in an age before genetics, before the discovery of radioactivity, before the identification of even a single pre-human fossil, makes his work that much more remarkable. Darwin didn't know about the gene, but today we trace the ways in which genes themselves produce evolutionary change. Darwin didn't know about DNA, but today we follow the course of evolution thru our own DNA and the story is unmistakable. Like everything else on this planet, we evolved.
The objections often raised against evolution, like the age of the earth, or their so called gaps in the fossil record, are remarkably easy to answer. And I've done that many times, in books and lectures and twice, even in a federal court. But the evidence isn't what really bothers most Americans about evolution. What bugs them is that evolution says something they just don't want to hear. Namely, that we not only live in a natural world, but we are part of it, we emerged from it, or more accurately, we emerged with it. To them that means we are just animals. Our lives are an accident, our existence is without purpose, meaning, or value. My concern for those who hold that view, isn't just that they are wrong on science, wrong about the nature of the evidence, and mistaken on a fundamental point of biology, it's that they are missing something grand and beautiful and personally enriching.
Evolution isn't just a story about where we came from. It's an epic at the center of life itself. Far from robbing our lives of meaning, it instills an appreciation for the beautiful, enduring, and ultimately triumphant fabric of life that covers our planet, and even this beautiful little state, from the deep forests of Hope Valley to the rich aquatic life of Narragansett Bay.
Understanding that doesn't demean human life, it enhances it. We may be animals, but we are not just animals. We are the only ones who can truly appreciate, as Darwin put it, that there is grandeur in this view of life. And indeed there is.
To accept evolution isn't just to acknowledge the obvious, that the evidence behind it is overwhelming. It is to open one's eyes to the endless beauty that life has generated and continues to produce. It is to become a knowing participant in the truest sense, in the living world of which we are all a part.
Religion is the antithesis of science, an anesthetic for the mind that disables critical thought and encourages the acceptance of inanity as fact, and wishful thinking as evidence. -- PZ Myers
Your Discovery Institute is a horrific mistake, an epic intellectual tragedy that is degrading the minds of those who consume its products and bringing dishonor to you and to the church. It is for good reason that Casey Luskin is held in such extreme contempt by your movement's critics, and there's something truly sick about the pattern of attacks that your operatives launched in the weeks after the Biola event. It's clear that you have a cadre of attack dogs that do this work for you, and some of them seem unconstrained by standards of integrity. I can't state this strongly enough: the Discovery Institute is a dangerous cancer on the Christian intellect, both because of its unyielding commitment to dishonesty and because of its creepy mission to undermine science itself. I'd like to see you do better, but I have no such hope for your institute. It needs to be destroyed, and I will do what I can to bring that about.
Most definitely Christianity is a mental illness, and unfortunately this disease is usually incurable. If a brainwashed child is still a Christian retard at age 21, he or she will always be a retard. -- Human Ape
There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, and science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works.
-- Stephen Hawking
By the way Christian morons, how does this heaven business work?
If I understand your cowardly belief correctly, your soul (whatever that is) magically flies up to the clouds (or who knows where) and then magically transforms itself into your disgusting dead body, except that now you're alive again, living in some magical place infested with other Christian idiots like yourselves. Jeebus must be waving his magic wand like crazy to make this bullshit work. And your magical selves live forever in this fantasy land, for trillions and trillions of years. Long after the entire universe goes extinct, you're still alive playing with your harp, bored out of your fucking mind.
-- Human Ape
http://tinyurl.com/yclezr6 But, as Lovan noted in his piece, “83 percent of home-schooling parents want to give their children ‘religious or moral instruction.’” I weep for those children. For many of them are simply being brainwashed by their parents. Yes, that’s what it is—brainwashing. For a parent to ignore 150 years of solid science, feeding their children lies based on theology, is to deprive those children of the wonder of the universe—a wonder based on truth rather than medieval superstition. It kills off the part of a child that most needs nurturing: her sense of wonder, and all the possibilities of life that are opened up by that wonder. How many budding biologists have been stifled by their parents’ willful ignorance of science, and on their insistence that the Bible is the real source of biological information? Generation after generation of ignorance and religious dogmatism, all perpetuated by religously based home-schooling.-- Jerry Coyne
You know, there’s this pervasive idea in biology that I think is wrong. It goes: we humans are at the pinnacle of the evolutionary tree, and as you get up that tree, brain size must get bigger. But a fly is just as evolved as a human. It’s just evolved to a different niche. -- Jeremy Niven
It would be so nice if those who oppose evolution would take a tiny bit of trouble to learn the merest rudiments of what it is they are opposing. -- Richard Dawkins
The other stress in Darwin's marriage was his science and Emma's religion. Darwin knew that people would think that his theory, in Thomas Huxley's words, "killed god," and he also knew that this fact would pain his wife, who worried for her husband's soul to the point that she wrote him letters to that effect. It is, in fact, the likeliest reason why Darwin avoided the growing conflict between science and religion. Toward the end of his life he received many letters querying him on his religious attitudes. Darwin's long-silence gave way to a few revelations. In one letter penned in 1879, just three years before he died, Darwin explained: "In my most extreme fluctuations I have never been an Atheist in the sense of denying the existence of God. I think that generally (and more and more as I grow older), but not always, that an Agnostic would be the more correct description of my state of mind."
A year later, in 1880, Darwin clarified his reasoning to the British socialist Edward Aveling, who solicited Darwin's endorsement of a group of radical atheists. Darwin declined the offer, elaborating his reason: "It appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments against christianity & theism produce hardly any effect on the public; & freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men's minds which follow[s] from the advance of science. It has, therefore, been always my object to avoid writing on religion, & I have confined myself to science. I may, however, have been unduly biased by the pain which it would give some members of my family, if I aided in any way direct attacks on religion." Emma was a deeply religious woman, so out of love and respect for her, Darwin kept the public side of his religious skepticism in check, an admirable feat of self-discipline by a man of high moral character. -- Michael Shermer
From the EncyclopÃ¦dia Britannica:
The field of molecular biology provides the most detailed and convincing evidence available for biological evolution. In its unveiling of the nature of DNA and the workings of organisms at the level of enzymes and other protein molecules, it has shown that these molecules hold information about an organism’s ancestry. This has made it possible to reconstruct evolutionary events that were previously unknown and to confirm and adjust the view of events already known. The precision with which these events can be reconstructed is one reason the evidence from molecular biology is so compelling.
Chance alone cannot explain the marvelous fit between individuals and their environment. And it doesn't. True, the raw materials for evolution--the variations between individuals--are indeed produced by chance mutations. These mutations occur willy-nilly, regardless of whether they are good or bad for the individual. But it is the filtering of that variation by natural selectionthat produces adaptations, and natural selection is manifestly notrandom. It is a powerful molding force, accumulating genes that have a greater chance of being passed on to others, and in so doing making individuals even better able to cope with their environment. It is, then, the unique combination of mutation and selection--chance and lawfulness--that tells us how organisms become adapted.
-- Jerry Coyne, Why Evolution is True, page 119
As man advances in civilization, and small tribes are united into larger communities, the simplest reason would tell each individual that he ought to extend his social instincts and sympathies to all the members of the same nation, though personally unknown to him. This point being once reached, there is only an artificial barrier to prevent his sympathies extending to the men of all nations and races. If, indeed, such men are separated from him by great differences in appearance or habits, experience unfortunately shows us how long it is, before we look at them as our fellow-creatures. ... This virtue, one of the noblest with which man is endowed, seems to arise incidentally from our sympathies becoming more tender and more widely diffused, until they are extended to all sentient beings. As soon as this virtue is honored and practiced by some few men, it spreads through instruction and example to the young, and eventually becomes incorporated in public opinion.
-- Charles Darwin; The Descent of Man, 1871
If anything is absolutely, rock-bottom true, it’s that life evolved, beginning about 4 billion years ago, and that the creation myth of Genesis is completely wrong.
The plight of many science teachers today is not less dire. When they attempt to expound the central and guiding principle of biology; when they honestly place the living world in its historical context -- which means evolution; when they explore and explain the very nature of life itself, they are harried and stymied, hassled and bullied, even threatened with loss of their jobs. At the very least their time is wasted at every turn. They are likely to receive menacing letters from parents, and have to endure the sarcastic smirks and close-folded arms of brainwashed children. They are supplied with state-approved textbooks that have had the word 'evolution' systematically expunged, or bowdlerized into 'change over time'.
The Theologian is an owl, sitting on an old dead branch in the tree of human knowledge, and hooting the same old hoots that have been hooted for hundreds and thousands of years, but he has never given a hoot for progress.
Science is a particular way of knowing about the world. In science, explanations are limited to those based on observations and experiments that can be substantiated by other scientists. Explanations that cannot be based on empirical evidence are not a part of science.
In the quest for understanding, science involves a great deal of careful observation that eventually produces an elaborate written description of the natural world. Scientists communicate their findings and conclusions to other scientists through publications, talks at conferences, hallway conversations, and many other means. Other scientists then test those ideas and build on preexisting work. In this way, the accuracy and sophistication of descriptions of the natural world tend to increase with time, as subsequent generations of scientists correct and extend the work done by their predecessors.
Progress in science consists of the development of better explanations for the causes of natural phenomena. Scientists never can be sure that a given explanation is complete and final. Some of the hypotheses advanced by scientists turn out to be incorrect when tested by further observations or experiments. Yet many scientific explanations have been so thoroughly tested and confirmed that they are held with great confidence.
The theory of evolution is one of these well-established explanations. An enormous amount of scientific investigation since the mid-19th century has converted early ideas about evolution proposed by Darwin and others into a strong and well-supported theory. Today, evolution is an extremely active field of research, with an abundance of new discoveries that are continually increasing our understanding of how evolution occurs.
Humans aren't high on the evolutionary scale…there is no evolutionary scale. We aren't the pinnacle of anything.
All religious ideas are childish beliefs in magic, and of course they don't have one shred of evidence. Every religious belief ever invented, including the belief in the Magic God Fairy, is nothing more than the wishful thinking of cowards. -- Human Ape
The religious imagination is paltry and petty compared to the awesome reality. -- PZ Myers
Q. SPEAKING OF ISLANDS, WHEN AN APELIKE FOSSIL WAS DISCOVERED ON THE INDONESIAN ISLAND OF FLORES IN 2003, A GREAT CONTROVERSY BROKE OUT AMONG ANTHROPOLOGISTS. SOME SAID THIS THREE-FOOT TALL SMALL- BRAINED CREATURE WAS A NEW SPECIES OF HOMINID — A HUMANLIKE PRIMATE. OTHERS CLAIMED IT WAS AN EARLY HUMAN WITH A BRAIN DEFORMITY. WHY DID YOU JUMP INTO THE FRAY?
A. Because I thought it was a hominid. This thing about its being a human ancestor with a diseased brain never made much sense. The people who insisted it was a deformed early human couldn’t believe that it was possible to have such a huge reduction in brain size in any hominid. Yet, it’s possible to get a reduction in brain size of island animals as long as the selection pressure is there. There’s nothing to stop this from happening, even among hominids.
Q. SO WHY WERE OTHER SCIENTISTS INSISTING THAT FLORES MAN WAS A DEFORMED HUMAN?
A. Because there’s this idea that nature moves inexorably towards bigger brains and some people find it very difficult to imagine why if you evolved a big brain — as ancient hominids had — why you would ever go back to a smaller one. But evolution doesn’t really care. This smaller brain could have helped this species survive better than an energy-consuming bigger one. The insects have shown us this.
From page 8 of The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins: Evolution is a fact. Beyond reasonable doubt, beyond serious doubt, beyond sane, informed, intelligent doubt, beyond doubt evolution is a fact. The evidence for evolution is at least as strong as the evidence for the Holocaust, even allowing for eye witnesses to the Holocaust. It is the plain truth that we are cousins of chimpanzees, somewhat more distant cousins of monkeys, more distant cousins still of aardvarks and mantenees, yet more distant cousins of bananas and turnips ... continue the list as long as long as desired. That didn't have to be true. It is not self-evidently, tautologically, obviously true, and there was a time when most people, even educated people, thought it wasn't. It didn't have to be true, but it is. We know this because a rising flood of evidence supports it. Evolution is a fact, and this book will demonstrate it. No reputable scientist disputes it, and no unbiased reader will close the book doubting it.
Your comments are evidence yet again, though it isn't needed, that religions only survive because of the invincible ignorance of their practitioners. Not just ignorance of biology, and physics, and geology, and cosmology, but ignorance of history, and of anthropology, and sociology and psychology. An ignorance that enables the individual member at one particluar time and place to imagine that they, uniquely, have the truth, and that all of the other billions of humans who live now, and lived in the past, didn't. What extraordinary arrogance and ignorance. Encouraged, indeed demanded, by the leaders of every religious cult, for various motives that have nothing to do with any supposed reality of an imaginary second life. And everything to do with power, and wealth, and misogyny, and xenophobia.
Over the past quarter-century, poll after poll has revealed that nearly half of all Americans flatly reject evolution, many clinging to the ancient superstition that the earth was created only 6,000 years ago, complete with all existing species. But as Richard Dawkins shows in his splendid new book, The Greatest Show on Earth, the theory of evolution is supported by at least as much evidence as is the germ theory of disease--heaps of it, and from many areas of biology. So why is it contemptible to reject germ theory but socially acceptable to reject evolutionary theory?
One answer is religion. Unlike germ theory, the idea of evolution strikes at the heart of human ego, suggesting that we were not the special object of God's attention but were made by the same blind and mindless process of natural selection that also built ferns, fish and rabbits. Another answer is ignorance: most Americans are simply unaware of the multifarious evidence that makes evolution more than "just a theory," and don't even realize that a scientifictheory is far more than idle speculation.
Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution.
-- Theodosius Dobzhansky
From page 80 of 'Why Evolution is True' by Jerry Coyne:
One of my favorite cases of embryological evidence for evolution is the furry human fetus. We are famously known as "naked apes" because, unlike other primates, we don't have a thick coat of hair. But in fact for one brief period we do--as embryos. Around sixth months after conception, we become completely covered with a fine, downy coat of hair called lanugo. Lanugo is usually shed about a month before birth, when it's replaced by the more sparsely distributed hair with which we're born. (Premature infants, however, are sometimes born with lanugo, which soon falls off.) Now, there's no need for a human embryo to have a transitory coat of hair. After all, it's a cozy 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit in the womb. Lanugo can be explained only as a remnant of our primate ancestry: fetal monkeys also develop a coat of hair at about the same stage of development. Their hair, however, doesn't fall out, but hangs on to become the adult coat. And, like humans, fetal whales also have lanugo, a remnant of when their ancestors lived on land.
Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.
-- Richard Dawkins
Darwin matters because evolution matters. Evolution matters because science matters. Science matters because it is the preeminent story of our age, an epic saga about who we are, where we came from, and where we are going.
-- Michael Shermer
Evolution is God's redundancy notice, his pink slip.
The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so. If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference. -- Richard Dawkins
I should love to have everybody taught about evolution from a fairly early age, because it is so important, so exciting. It answers so many questions and mysteries; it solves so many problems. Until you know about it, you're wandering around on this Earth looking at trees and birds and flowers, not knowing why any of them is there. Evolution is the answer to that riddle, so you're not really a whole person if you don't know where you come from and why you exist. And it's not difficult. It's not like relativity, it's not like quantum theory – it's something teachable to fairly young children. -- Richard Dawkins
Darwin anticipated problems with his theory. Modern science has answered them. Evolution by Natural Selection has been triumphantly vindicated as fact. -- Richard Dawkins
So the case is closed in a most beautiful way, and that is, the prediction of evolution of common ancestry is fulfilled by that lead-pipe evidence that you see here in terms of tying everything together, that our chromosome formed by the fusion from our common ancestor is Chromosome Number 2. Evolution has made a testable prediction and has passed.
In October 2008 a group of about sixty American high-school teachers met at the Center for Science Education of Emory University, in Atlanta. Some of the horror stories they had to tell deserve wide attention. One teacher reported that students 'burst into tears' when told they would be studying evolution. Another teacher described how students repeatedly screamed 'No!' when he began talking about evolution in class. Another reported that pupils demanded to know why they had to learn about evolution, given that it was 'only a theory'. Yet another teacher described how 'churches train students to come to school with specific questions to ask to sabotage my lessons'.
-- From page 434 of "The Greatest Show on Earth, The Evidence for Evolution" by Richard Dawkins
From page 192 of "Why Evolution is True" by Jerry Coyne:
Since Dart's time, paleoanthropologists, geneticists, and molecular biologists have used fossils and DNA sequences to establish our place in the tree of evolution. We are apes descended from other apes, and our closest cousin is the chimpanzee, whose ancestors diverged from our own several million years ago in Africa. These are indisputable facts. And rather than diminishing our humanity, they should produce satisfaction and wonder, for they connect us to all organisms, the living and the dead.
But not everyone sees it that way. Among those reluctant to accept Darwinism, human evolution forms the core of their resistance. It doesn't seem so hard to accept that mammals evolved from reptiles, or land animals from fish. We just can't bring ourselves to acknowledge that, just like ever other species, we too evolved from an ancestor that was very different. We've always perceived ourselves as somehow standing apart from the rest of nature. Encouraged by the religious belief that humans were the special object of creation, as well as by a natural solipsism that accompanies a self-conscious brain, we resist the evolutionary lesson that, like other animals, we are contingent products of the blind and mindless process of natural selection. And because of the hegemony of fundamentalist religion in the United States, this country has been among the most resistant to the fact of human evolution.
From page 208 of "Why Evolution is True" by Jerry Coyne:
When dealing with the human fossil record, creationists go through extreme, indeed almost humorous, contortions to avoid admitting the obvious. In fact, they'd prefer to steer clear of the issue. But when forced to confront it, they simply sort hominin fossils into what they see as two discrete groups--humans and apes--and assert that these groups are separated by a large and unbridgeable gap. This reflects their religiously based view that although some species may have evolved from others, humans did not, but were the object of a special act of creation. But the whole folly is exposed by the fact that creationists can't agree on exactly which fossils are "human" and which are "ape". Specimens of H. habilis and H. erectus, for example, are classified as "apes" by some creationists and "humans" by others. One author has even described a H. erectusspecimen as an ape in one of his books and a human in another! Nothing shows the intermediacy of these fossils better than the inability of creationists to classify them consistently.
From page 223 of Jerry Coyne's priceless book "Why Evolution is True":
Every day, hundreds of observations and experiments pour into the hopper of scientific literature. Many of them don't have much to do with evolution--they're observations about details of physiology, biochemistry, development, and so on--but many of them do. And every fact that has something to do with evolution confirms its truth. Every fossil that we find, every DNA molecule that we sequence, every organ system that we dissect supports the idea that species evolved from common ancestors. Despite innumerable possibleobservationsthat could prove evolution untrue, we don't have a single one. We don't find mammals in the Precambrian rocks, humans in the same layers as dinosaurs, or any other fossils out of evolutionary order. DNA sequencing supports the evolutionary relationships of species originally deduced from the fossil record. And, as natural selection predicts, we find no species with adaptations that benefit only a different species. We do find dead genes and vestigial organs, incomprehensible under the idea of special creation. Despite a million chances to be wrong, evolution always comes up right. That is as close as we can get to a scientific truth.
"The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution" by Sean B. Carroll
Now, nearly 150 years later, we can see. We no longer look at Nature's diversity "as a savage looks at a ship." From the new DNA record, the evidence of the workings of the evolutionary process abounds. But many people--a great many--either do not see what scientists see, or do not believe what scientists have concluded.
I have borrowed the title of this chapter from the wonderful book Seeing and Believing by Richard Panek, about the invention of the telescope and how it changed our perception of the sky and our place in the universe. Like Darwin, Galileo's observations and ideas were rejected by authorities who had no use for new evidence or ideas. But, eventually, the observable evidence overwhelmed ideological resistance. For all of those who do see the overwhelming evidence of natural selection and life's descent from ancestors, and the immense span of time over which the story of life unfolded, it is, to put it mildly, baffling how so many still do not. It is absolutely astonishing and often infuriating that some take it so far as to deny the immense foundation of evidence and to slander all the human achievement that foundation represents.
With the facts on evolution's side, how can this doubt and denial persist, or even be growing, here at the outset of the twenty-first century?
From page 195 of "Why Evolution is True" by Jerry Coyne:
But even without fossils we'd still know something about our place on the tree of evolution. As Linnaeus proposed, our anatomy places us in the order Primates along with monkeys, apes, and lemurs, all sharing traits such as forward-facing eyes, fingernails, color vision, and opposable thumbs. Other features put us in the smaller superfamily Hominoides along with the "lesser apes" (gibbons) and "great apes" (chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, and ourselves). And within the Hominidae, sharing unique features like flattened fingernails, thirty-two teeth, enlarged ovaries, and prolonged parental care. These shared characters show that our common ancestor with the great apes lived more recently than our common ancestor with any other mammal.
Molecular data derived from DNA and protein sequences confirms these relationships, and also tells us roughly when we diverged from our relatives. We are most closely related to the chimpanzees--equally to the common chimp and the bonobo--and we diverged from our joint common ancestor about seven million years ago. The gorilla is a slightly more distant relative, and orangutans more distant yet (12 million years since the common ancestor).
From the National Academy of Sciences
Scientists use the term 'fact' to refer to a scientific explanation that has been tested and confirmed so many times that there is no longer a compelling reason to keep testing it or looking for additional examples. In that respect, the past and continuing occurrence of evolution is a scientific fact. Because the evidence supporting it is so strong, scientists no longer question whether biological evolution has occurred and is continuing to occur. Instead, they investigate the mechanisms of evolution, how rapidly evolution can take place, and related questions.
From the National Academy of Sciences
Scientists no longer question the basic facts of evolution. The concept has withstood extensive testing by tens of thousands of specialists in biology, medicine, anthropology, geology, chemistry, and other fields. Discoveries in different fields have reinforced one another, and evidence for evolution has continued to accumulate for 150 years.
From the National Academy of Sciences
The concept of biological evolution is one of the most important ideas ever generated by the application of scientific methods to the natural world. The evolution of all the organisms that live on Earth today from ancestors that lived in the past is at the core of genetics, biochemistry, neurobiology, physiology, ecology, and other biological disciplines. It helps to explain the emergence of new infectious diseases, the development of antibiotic resistance in bacteria, the agricultural relationships among wild and domestic plants and animals, the composition of Earth's atmosphere, the molecular machinery of the cell, the similarities between human beings and other primates, and countless other features of the biological and physical world. As the great geneticist and evolutionist Theodosius Dobzhansky wrote in 1973, ‘Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.’
Lehigh University Department of Biological Sciences
Department Position on Evolution and "Intelligent Design"
The faculty in the Department of Biological Sciences is committed to the highest standards of scientific integrity and academic function. This commitment carries with it unwavering support for academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas. It also demands the utmost respect for the scientific method, integrity in the conduct of research, and recognition that the validity of any scientific model comes only as a result of rational hypothesis testing, sound experimentation, and findings that can be replicated by others.
The department faculty, then, are unequivocal in their support of evolutionary theory, which has its roots in the seminal work of Charles Darwin and has been supported by findings accumulated over 140 years. The sole dissenter from this position, Prof. Michael Behe, is a well-known proponent of "intelligent design." While we respect Prof. Behe's right to express his views, they are his alone and are in no way endorsed by the department. It is our collective position that intelligent design has no basis in science, has not been tested experimentally, and should not be regarded as scientific.
From Jerry Coyne's book "Why Evolution is True"
Evolutionary theory, then, makes predictions that are bold and clear. Darwin spent some twenty years amassing evidence for his theory before publishingThe Origin. That was more than a hundred and fifty years ago. So much knowledge has accumulated since then! So many more fossils found; so many more species collected and their distributions mapped around the world; so much more work in uncovering the evolutionary relationships of different species. And whole new branches of science, undreamt of by Darwin, have arisen, including molecular biology and systematics, the study of how organisms are related.
And we'll see, all the evidence -- both old and new -- leads ineluctably to the conclusion that evolution is true.
Royal Society of Canada, Academy of Science
The Academy of Science of the Royal Society of Canada considers that "scientific creationism" has nothing to do with science or the scientific method. "Scientific creationism" does not belong in any discussion of scientific principles or theories, and therefore should have no place in a science curriculum.
Science provides knowledge of the natural world in the form of evidence gathered by observation and experiment. Analysis of this evidence allows scientists to generate hypotheses that link and explain different phenomena. Scientific hypotheses must be capable of being tested by further research. If a hypothesis is found to explain many different facts, and even to allow accurate predictions of subsequent discoveries, greater confidence is placed in it, and it is called a theory.
The theory of evolution by natural selection was first clearly formulated in 1859, and for over a century it has been tested and improved by the research of many thousands of scientists: not only by biologists and geologists, but also by chemists and physicists. From deductions based on abundant data, the theory has been developed to explain the changes that have taken place in living things over much of the Earth's history. In its modern form, it remains the only explanation for the diversity of life on this planet that is acceptable to the scientific community.
Science itself evolves, since it must continuously modify existing explanations to incorporate new information. The theory of evolution continues to be refined as new evidence becomes available. Only one thing in science is not open to change: its demand that every explanation be based on observation or experiment, that these be in principle repeatable, and that new evidence be considered.
Scientific creationists adopt an entirely different approach in their attempt to explain the natural world. They accept either biblical or some other authority as overriding other kinds of evidence. They reject much of the accumulated scientific knowledge, and commonly deny the validity of deductions based on directly observable phenomena such as radioactive decay. This is because their philosophy is rooted in a different aspect of human culture. If their claim, that the Earth and all its living things were created only several thousand years ago, was correct, many of the central concepts of modern science would have to be abandoned. The methodology and conclusions of scientists and "scientific creationists" are therefore incompatible, and the term "scientific creationism" is a contradiction in terms, since it has no basis in science.
Delivered by Fellows of the Academy to each Provincial Minister of Education in Canada. Published inGeotimes, November 1985, p. 21.
American Association for the Advancement of Science (2002)
AAAS BOARD RESOLUTION ON INTELLIGENT DESIGN THEORY
The contemporary theory of biological evolution is one of the most robust products of scientific inquiry. It is the foundation for research in many areas of biology as well as an essential element of science education. To become informed and responsible citizens in our contemporary technological world, students need to study the theories and empirical evidence central to current scientific understanding.
Over the past several years proponents of so-called "intelligent design theory," also known as ID, have challenged the accepted scientific theory of biological evolution. As part of this effort they have sought to introduce the teaching of "intelligent design theory" into the science curricula of the public schools. The movement presents "intelligent design theory" to the public as a theoretical innovation, supported by scientific evidence, that offers a more adequate explanation for the origin of the diversity of living organisms than the current scientifically accepted theory of evolution. In response to this effort, individual scientists and philosophers of science have provided substantive critiques of "intelligent design," demonstrating significant conceptual flaws in its formulation, a lack of credible scientific evidence, and misrepresentations of scientific facts.
Recognizing that the "intelligent design theory" represents a challenge to the quality of science education, the Board of Directors of the AAAS unanimously adopts the following resolution:
Whereas, ID proponents claim that contemporary evolutionary theory is incapable of explaining the origin of the diversity of living organisms;
Whereas, to date, the ID movement has failed to offer credible scientific evidence to support their claim that ID undermines the current scientifically accepted theory of evolution;
Whereas, the ID movement has not proposed a scientific means of testing its claims;
Therefore Be It Resolved, that the lack of scientific warrant for so-called "intelligent design theory" makes it improper to include as a part of science education;
Therefore Be Further It Resolved,that AAAS urges citizens across the nation to oppose the establishment of policies that would permit the teaching of "intelligent design theory" as a part of the science curricula of the public schools;
Therefore Be It Further Resolved,that AAAS calls upon its members to assist those engaged in overseeing science education policy to understand the nature of science, the content of contemporary evolutionary theory and the inappropriateness of "intelligent design theory" as subject matter for science education;
Therefore Be Further It Resolved,that AAAS encourages its affiliated societies to endorse this resolution and to communicate their support to appropriate parties at the federal, state and local levels of the government.
Approved by the AAAS Board of Directors on 10/18/02
Geological Society of America (2001)
Contributors: Steven M. Stanley — Chair, Patricia Kelley, Richard Bambach, George Fisher, James Skehan, Don Wise, David Dunn.
The Geological Society of America recognizes that the evolution of life stands as one of the central concepts of modern science. Research in numerous fields of science during the past two centuries has produced an increasingly detailed picture of how life has evolved on Earth.
The rock record is a treasure trove of fossils, and by 1841, eighteen years before Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species, geologists had not only assembled much of the geologic time scale from physical relationships among bodies of rock, but they had also recognized that fossils document profound changes in life throughout Earth's history. Darwin showed that biological evolution provides an explanation for these changes. Since the time of Darwin, geologists have continued to uncover details of life's history, and biologists have continued to elucidate the process of evolution. Thus, our understanding of life's evolution has expanded through diverse kinds of research, much of it in fields unknown to Darwin such as genetics, biochemistry, and micropaleontology. In short, the concept of organic evolution has not only withstood the test of time — the ultimate test of any scientific construct — but it has been greatly enriched.
In recent years, certain individuals motivated by religious views have mounted an attack on evolution. This group favors what it calls "creation science", which is not really science at all because it invokes supernatural phenomena. Science, in contrast, is based on observations of the natural world. All beliefs that entail supernatural creation, including the idea known as intelligent design, fall within the domain of religion rather than science. For this reason, they must be excluded from science courses in our public schools.
This separation of domains does not mean that science and religion are fundamentally incompatible. Many scientists who conduct research on the evolution of life are religious, and many major religions formally accept the importance of biological evolution.
Misinterpreting the Bible's creation narratives as scientific statements, many creationists go so far as to attack the validity of geologic time — time that extends back billions of years. "Deep time" is the foundation of modern geology. It was actually well established, though not quantified, by geologists decades before Darwin published his ideas or most scientists came to accept evolution as the explanation for the history of life. Furthermore, thousands of geologists employing many new modes of research refined the geologic time scale during the Twentieth Century. Near the start of that century, the discovery of naturally occurring radioactive substances provided clocks for measuring actual ages for segments of the geologic record. Today, some billion-year-old rocks can be dated with a precision of less than a tenth of one percent. Moreover, modern geologists can identify particular environments where sediments that are now rocks accumulated hundreds of millions of years ago: margins of ancient oceans where tides rose and fell, for example, and valley floors across which rivers meandered back and forth, and ancient reefs that grew to thicknesses of hundreds of meters but were built by organisms that could not have grown faster than a few millimeters a year. By studying the fossil record that forms part of this rich archive of Earth's history, paleontologists continue to uncover details of the long and complex history of life.
Acceptance of deep time is not confined to academic science. If commercial geologists could find more fossil fuel by interpreting the rock record as having resulted from a single flood or otherwise encompassing no more than a few thousand years, they would surely accept this unconventional view, but they do not. In fact, these profit-oriented geologists have joined with academic researchers in refining the standard geologic time scale and bringing to light the details of deep earth history.
Modern studies of the evolution of Earth and its life are not only aiding us in the search for natural resources, but also helping us to understand how the Earth-life system functions. Annual layers of ice in the Greenland glacier, for example, range back more than a hundred thousand years. These ice records warn that Earth's climate may change with devastating speed in the future. The geologic record also reveals how various forms of life have responded to past environmental change, sometimes migrating, sometimes evolving, and sometimes becoming extinct. In the present world, bacteria are now evolving rapidly in ways that render antibiotics ineffective; to respond to bacterial evolution, we must understand evolution in general.
The immensity of geologic time and the evolutionary origin of species are concepts that pervade modern geology and biology. These concepts must therefore be central themes of science courses in public schools; creationist ideas have no place in these courses because they are based on religion rather than science. Without knowledge of deep time and the evolution of life, students will not understand where they and their world have come from, and they will lack valuable insight for making decisions about the future of their species and its environment.
From the Paleontological Society
Evolution is both a scientific fact and a scientific theory. Evolution is a fact in the sense that life has changed through time. In nature today, the characteristics of species are changing, and new species are arising. The fossil record is the primary factual evidence for evolution in times past, and evolution is well documented by further evidence from other scientific disciplines, including comparative anatomy, biogeography, genetics, molecular biology, and studies of viral and bacterial diseases. Evolution is also a theory – an explanation for the observed changes in life through Earth history that has been tested numerous times and repeatedly confirmed.
Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (1994)
The fossil record of vertebrates unequivocally supports the hypothesis that vertebrates have evolved through time, from their first records in the early Paleozoic Era about 500 million years ago to the great diversity we see in the world today. The hypothesis has been strengthened by so many independent observations of fossil sequences that it has come to be regarded as a confirmed fact, as certain as the drift of continents through time or the lawful operation of gravity.
Paleontology relies for its evidence on two different but historically related fields, biology and geology. Evolution is the central organizing principle of biology, understood as descent with modification. Evolution is equally basic to geology, because the patterns of rock formations, geomorphology, and fossil distributions in the world make no sense without the underlying process of change through time. Sometimes this change has been gradual, and sometimes it has been characterized by violent upheaval. These processes can be seen on the Earth today in the forms of earthquakes, volcanoes, and other tectonic phenomena. Vertebrates have also evolved at a variety of rates, some apparently gradual, and some apparently rapidly. Although the fossil record is not complete, and our knowledge of evolution will always be less than entire, the evidence for the progressive replacement of fossil forms has been adequate to support the theory of evolution for over 150 years, well before genetic mechanisms of evolutionary change were understood. Paleontologists may dispute, on the basis of the available evidence, the tempo and mode of evolution in a particular group at a particular time, but they do not argue about whether evolution took place: that is a fact.
The fossil record has long been seen as a search for "ancestors" of living forms and of other fossil forms. Some fossil vertebrates appear to have no features that debar them from ancestry to other groups, and so could be seen as potential ancestors. Nevertheless, paleontologists do not focus on a search for direct ancestors, but rather look for sets of evolutionarily derived characters that are shared by fossil taxa that can then be linked as each other's closest known relatives. Proceeding in this way, paleontologists have clarified in recent years a great many mysteries about the origins and interrelationships of major groups of vertebrates, including birds, dinosaurs and their relatives, lizards and snakes, Mesozoic marine reptiles, turtles, mammals and their relatives, amphibians, the first tetrapods, and many groups of fishes. At the same time, techniques of geologic dating, including magnetostratigraphy, radiometric dating of many different isotopes of common elements, lithostratigraphy, and biostratigraphy, have provided independent lines of evidence for determining age relationships of the sediments in which fossils are found. This evidence from the principles and techniques of chemistry and physics support the finds of paleontology based on paleobiological and geological analyses, making the theory of evolution the only robust scientific explanation for the patterns of life on Earth.
Evolution is fundamental to the teaching of good biology and geology, and the vertebrate fossil record is an excellent set of examples of the patterns and processes of evolution through time. We therefore urge the teaching of evolution as the only possible reflection of our science. Any attempt to compromise the patterns and processes of evolution in science education, to treat them as less than robust explanations, or to admit "alternative" explanations not relying upon sound evolutionary observations and theory, misrepresents the state of our science and does a disservice to the public. Textbooks and other instructional materials should not indulge in such misrepresentation, educators should shun such materials for classroom use, and teachers should not be harassed or impeded from teaching vertebrate evolution as it is understood by its practitioners. The record of vertebrate evolution is exciting, inspirational, instructive, and enjoyable, and it is our view that everyone should have the opportunity and the privilege to understand it as paleontologists do.
Adopted November, 1994
From the National Association of Biology Teachers
While modern biologists constantly study and deliberate the patterns, mechanisms, and pace of evolution, they agree that all living things share common ancestors. The fossil record and the diversity of extant organisms, combined with modern techniques of molecular biology, taxonomy, and geology, provide exhaustive examples of and powerful evidence for current evolutionary theory. Genetic variation, natural selection, speciation, and extinction are well-established components of modern evolutionary theory. Explanations are constantly modified and refined as warranted by new scientific evidence that accumulates over time, which demonstrates the integrity and validity of the field. Scientists have firmly established evolution as an important natural process.
From the National Academy of Sciences
How Science Works
The study of evolution provides an excellent example of how scientists go about their work. They observe nature and ask testable questions about the natural world, test those questions through experiment and new observations, and construct explanations of evolution based on evidence. As scientists gather new results and findings, they continue to refine their ideas. Explanations are altered or sometimes rejected when compelling contradictory evidence comes to light.
Some scientific explanations are so well established that no new evidence is likely to alter them. The explanation becomes a scientific theory. In everyday language a theory means a hunch or speculation. Not so in science, the word theory refers to a comprehensive explanation of an important feature of nature that is supported by many facts gathered over time. Theories also allow scientists to make predictions about as yet unobserved phenomena.
A good example is the theory of gravity. After hundreds of years of observation and experiment, the basic facts of gravity are understood. The theory of gravity is an explanation of those basic facts. Scientists then use the theory to make predictions about how gravity will function in different circumstances. Such predictions have been verified in countless experiments. Evolution stands on an equally solid foundation of observation, experiment, and confirming evidence.
From Judge Jones' decision in the 2005 Dover trial
It is our view that a reasonable, objective observer would, after reviewing both the voluminous record in this case, and our narrative, reach the inescapable conclusion that ID is an interesting theological argument, but that it is not science ... In summary, the [school board's] disclaimer singles out the theory of evolution for special treatment, misrepresents its status in the scientific community, causes students to doubt its validity without scientific justification, presents students with a religious alternative masquerading as a scientific theory, directs them to consult a creationist text [Of Pandas and People] as though it were a science resource, and instructs students to forego scientific inquiry in the public school classroom and instead to seek out religious instruction elsewhere.
"The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution" by Sean B. Carroll
Fortunately, there is, however, an altogether new way of deciphering species' relationships. It also relies on DNA, but rather than being based on the degree of sequence similarity, it looks for the presence and absence of certain landmarks in specific places in species DNA. These landmarks are produced by accidental insertions of junk DNA sequences near genes. Particular chunks of junk DNA, call long interspersed elements (LINES) and short interspersed elements (SINES), are very easy to detect. Once a SINE or LINE is inserted, there is no active mechanism for removing it. The insertion of these elements marks a gene in a species, and is then inherited by all species descended from it. They are really perfect tracers of genealogy. These insertion events are very rare; therefore, their presence in the same place in the DNA of two species can be explained only by the species sharing a common ancestor. The inheritance of variable markers in DNA is the same principle applied to paternity testing in humans. By surveying the distribution of a number of elements that arose at different times in different ancestors, biologists have sufficient forensic evidence to determine species' kinship beyond any doubt.
From Jerry Coyne's book "Why Evolution is True"
I certainly make no claim to be the Milton of Darwinism. But I can at least try to dispel the misconceptions that frighten people away from evolution and from the amazing derivation of life's staggering diversity from a single naked replicating molecule. The biggest of these misconceptions is that accepting evolution will somehow sunder our society, wreck our morality, impel us to behave like beasts, and spawn a new generation of Hitlers and Stalins.
That just won't happen, as we know from the many European countries whose residents wholly embrace evolution yet manage to remain civilized. Evolution is neither moral nor immoral. It just is, and we make of it what we will. I have tried to show that two things we can make of it are that it's simple and it's marvelous. And far from constricting our actions, the study of evolution can liberate our minds. Human beings may be only one small twig on the vast branching tree of evolution, but we're a very special animal. As natural selection forged our brains, it opened up for us whole new worlds. We have learned how to improve our lives immeasurably over those of our ancestors, who were plagued by disease, discomfort, and a constant search for food. We can fly above the tallest mountain, dive deep below the sea, and even travel to other planets. We make symphonies, poems, and books to fulfill our aesthetic passions and emotional needs. No other species has accomplished anything remotely similar.
But there is something even more wondrous. We are the one creature to whom natural selection has bequeathed a brain complex enough to comprehend the laws that govern the universe. And we should be proud that we are the only species that has figured out how we came to be.
From the National Academy of Sciences
Creationists sometimes claim that scientists have a vested interest in the concept of biological evolution and are unwilling to consider other possibilities. But this claim, too, misrepresents science. Scientists continually test their ideas against observations and submit their work to their colleagues for critical peer review of ideas, evidence, and conclusions before a scientific paper is published in any respected scientific journal. Unexplained observations are eagerly pursued because they can be signs of important new science or problems with an existing hypothesis or theory. History is replete with scientists challenging accepted theory by offering new evidence and more comprehensive explanations to account for natural phenomena. Also, science has a competitive element as well as a cooperative one. If one scientist clings to particular ideas despite evidence to the contrary, another scientist will attempt to replicate relevant experiments and will not hesitate to publish conflicting evidence. If there were serious problems in evolutionary science, many scientists would be eager to win fame by being the first to provide a better testable alternative. That there are no viable alternatives to evolution in the scientific literature is not because of vested interests or censorship but because evolution has been and continues to be solidly supported by evidence.
From the National Academy of Sciences
But today there is no scientific doubt about the close evolutionary relationships between humans and all other primates. Using the same scientific methods and tools that have been employed to study the evolution of other species, researchers have compiled a large and increasing number of fossil discoveries and compelling new molecular evidence that clearly indicate that the same forces responsible for the evolution of all other life forms on Earth account for the biological evolution of human characteristics.
From the National Academy of Sciences
Based on the strength of evidence from DNA comparisons, the common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees lived approximately 6 to 7 million years ago in Africa. The evolutionary tree leading from this ancestral species to modern humans contains a number of side branches, representing populations and species that eventually went extinct. At various times in the past, the planet appears to have been populated by several human-like species.
In fact, understanding evolution should surely deepen and enrich our appreciation of the living world and our place in it. The truth -- that we, like lions, redwoods, and frogs, all resulted from the slow replacement of one gene by another, each step conferring a tiny reproductive advantage -- is surely more satisfying than the myth that we were suddenly called into being from nothing.
-- Jerry Coyne
Creation science has not entered the curriculum for a reason so simple and so basic that we often forget to mention it: because it is false, and because good teachers understand exactly why it is false. What could be more destructive of that most fragile yet most precious commodity in our entire intellectual heritage -- good teaching -- than a bill forcing honorable teachers to sully their sacred trust by granting equal treatment to a doctrine not only known to be false, but calculated to undermine any general understanding of science as an enterprise?
-- Stephen Jay Gould
My point here is that there is anincredible amount of evidence for evolution, far more than any one person can digest, and that it is a vital field, still growing and still producing new results. All those papers don't get published unless they contain some new observation, a new experiment, a new test of the idea…and evolution has weathered them all.
We also harbor dead genes that came from other species, namely viruses. Some, called 'endogenous retroviruses' (ERVs), can make copies of their genome and insert them into the DNA of species they infect. (HIV is a retrovirus.) If the viruses infect the cells that make sperm and eggs, they can be passed on to future generations. The human genome contains thousands of such viruses, nearly all of them rendered harmless by mutations. They are the remnants of ancient infections. But some of these remnants sit in exactly the same location on the chromosomes of humans and chimpanzees. These were surely viruses that infected our common ancestor and were passed on to both descendants. Since there is almost no chance of viruses inserting themselves independently at exactly the same spot in two species, this points strongly to common ancestry.
-- Jerry Coyne
The plain fact is, religion must die for mankind to live. The hour is getting very late to be able to indulge in having key decisions being made by religious people, by irrationalists, by those who would steer the ship of state not by a compass, but by the equivalent of reading the entrails of a chicken.
Faith means making a virtue out of not thinking. It's nothing to brag about. And those who preach faith and enable and elevate it are our intellectual slave holders, keeping mankind in a bondage to fantasy and nonsense that has spawned and justified so much lunacy and destruction.
Religion is dangerous because it allows human beings who don't have all the answers to think that they do. Most people would think it's wonderful when someone says "I'm willing Lord, to do whatever you want me to do". But since there are no actual gods talking to us, that void is filled in by people with their own corruptions and limitations and agendas.
This is why rational people, anti-religionists, must end their timidity and come out of the closet and assert themselves. And those who consider themselves only moderately religious really need to look in the mirror and recognize that the solace and comfort that religion brings you actually comes at a terrible price.
If you belonged to a political party or a social club that was tied to as much bigotry, misogyny, violence and sheer ignorance as religion is, you'd resign in protest. To do otherwise is to be an enabler, a mafia wife for the true devils of extremism that draw their legitimacy from the millions of their fellow followers.
-- Bill Maher
Q. So what you're testifying here is that modern genetics and molecular biology actually support evolutionary theory? A. They support it in great detail. And the closer that we can get to looking at the details of the human genome, the more powerful the evidence has become. -- Ken Miller at the Dover trialhttp://tinyurl.com/2llumn