Thursday, June 11, 2009

Always keep learning

Caught this little gem over on Pharyngula, which as you might know is one of my favorite blogs. "Reaching creationists: here's the toolbox . . ." PZ Myers posted a great graphic:

The left side gives a much better example of evolutionary processes than the right. One of the reasons, at least to me, is that the right side seems to 'randomly' focused. What I mean is it leaves out the whole Natural Selection part of the process. It also implies that mutation is a response to a need.

While experimenting has shown that populations under pressure can increase their reproductive rate (Evolution can occur within 10 years) , that doesn't translate into a directed mutation. All it means is that there is increased opportunity for mutation. After all one of the positive aspects of sexual reproduction is an increased opportunity for mutation. So the right image, with it's implied 'mutation in response to need' is addressed much more clearly in the left graphic.

So the obvious question in the left side is what happens if no beneficial mutations(mutations that aid in the survival and reproductive opportunity) come about? Well quite obviously the size of the population will at best remain stable, but more than likely will shrink over time. if it reaches a point where the number cannot sustain itself, it will go extinct. SO you see while the right graphic doesn't addresses this, it's easy to extrapolate it from the left graphic.

All in all a nice and surprisingly simple graphic. Now the premise of the rest of his post I am not as sure about. Will this graphic really help in reaching out and helping Creationist understand Evolution? I think it's simply another attempt to respond to increasingly poor characterizations of the evolutionary process. I know I have been accused of disagreeing with Creationist's positions. In reality I don't really care about their position. They are free to believe what they wish to believe. But I do try and correct them when they mis-characterize science. It's one thing to say 'I don't believe in evolution.' It's completely something else to say 'I don't believe in evolution because evolution is yada yada yada.' when the yada yada yada has nothing to do with actual evolutionary theory.

For example you have no idea how often I have heard someone claim that evolution is false because it doesn't explain Abiogenesis, or it's statistically impossible, or tornadoes don't build 747s, or it doesn't follow the scientific method, or . . .. Well you get my point. I don't care what a Creationist wishes to believe, but when they mis-characterize science, either from ignorance or deliberate falsehood, they need to be corrected!

While this graphic might help with some of those who simply are ignorant, it won't help those that are ignorant by choice and ignore any evidence to the contrary. It also won't help much with those that are lying on purpose. Those folks are pretty much beyond hope. Then you have the appeasers who claim the graphic will only apply to micro-evolution and not macro-evolution, when anyone with a functional brain can see how it would apply to evolution, period.

In the end I do like the graphic and I hope you do as well. When it comes times to strap on the armor and battle yet another Creationists who thinks they have all the answers, this graphic will certainly be part of the weapons choice! Thanks PZ!

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