“Holes” in the Theory of Evolution

As a quick update on my last post:  Yesterday my son’s science teacher gave a short presentation on “The Evidence for Evolution”. During that presentation my son raised his hand and asked:

“You said the Theory of Evolution had lots of holes. Could you tell me what they are?”

She gave two reasons:

  • Second Law of Thermodynamics: “Things become more disordered, not more ordered”.  To this, my son countered saying, “But that is only for a closed system”.  But he says the teacher did not respond.
  • Irreducible Complexity:  “How can something so complex come from something so simple.”
    My son did not have an opportunity to respond to this.  He said to me, “I wish I was faster on my feet.” :-)

After telling me this, my son said to me, “I am really disappointed.  I use to think my teacher was a very rational person.”  To which I responded.  “Look buddy, I am sure she is very rational.  It is just that we ALL can become illogical and sloppy when he feel something precious to us is under attack.”

My friend and I are still considering how and when to respond.  I think those of you that know the generic Creationists ‘arguments’ can easily see how it now seems pretty clear where the teacher stands now.

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50 responses to ““Holes” in the Theory of Evolution

  1. Isn’t there still debate as to whether the universe is a closed or open system and didn’t Einstein posit a closed finite system? Perhaps because as yet there is no absolute proof on either count, as is the situation with many things, then the teacher has opted for one position as opposed to the other and either could be correct.
    Perhaps the teacher is not so much a Creationist as just someone who has a different perspective and who has chosen one of two beliefs in regard to the universe as a system. My impression was that apart from this issue she was an excellent teacher. Perhaps a way out is for the teacher to present both answers and explore the ramifications of closed and open systems.
    And what is the answer to irreducible complexity?
    The other question which the theory of evolution raises is why do things evolve in one direction, that of simple to more complex? If chance and random mutation is at work then would not evolution move in both directions?

  2. Sad that someone can become a science teacher without a fundamental understanding of the scientific process and its history. This whole topic is such an opportunity to teach and learn about science itself and is wholly lost on this teacher.

  3. Humanist Dad

    I would look to see if the official curriculum for the course requires that a teacher tell students about the ‘holes in evolutionary theory’. If not, the teacher is supposed to simply teach what it is. Teachers never teach the holes in particle theory, why single out evolution?

  4. Veronica Agrestis

    She doesn’t have a clue about evolution OR thermodynamics. In what sense is she qualified to teach science at all?

  5. Rosross, I will save Sabio or maybe someone else some time and answer your last question as to why Evolution moves in one direction. Evolution only moves in one direction because to us the observers time SEEMS to move in one direction. My understanding of the idea of evolution is that individuals of a species are “born” all the time with variations from the norm.
    When these variations are disadvantageous to the individual it will die. The variation may also be neutral. At least for a while. Then when conditions change this variation will either prove good or bad for the new conditions.
    Then of course there are the clearly advantageous changes. We the observers usually only see the advantageous changes because those that were harmful die off before we get a chance to see what they were. Unless the were human children with birth defects or we are unlucky enough to see a two headed snake or catch a fish with a deformed body or some other coincidence.
    I myself do not see what the second law of thermodynamics has to do with evolution, closed or open universe. Also if the word universe means everything that there is does calling it closed or open really make any sense? It would seem to me to make a little more sense to wonder if the universe is finite or infinite. But I myself can not see the universe as being finite. It just seems self evident to me that nothingness is an impossibility.
    If nothingness is an impossibility was sort of limits in either terms of time or space could be placed on a word that is supposed to stand for everything that there is. Of course since it seems likely that know human being alive today really understands time or space, thinking of string theory, anything
    could be possible. Who knows what lurks in those other dimensions?

  6. @Corporal,
    Many thanks for taking the time. I appreciate your input. I would only question the view that if something is advantageous then it brings with it endurance. That is a logical assumption but I wonder if it is so simple.
    I say that in terms of the development of life which is often far more vulnerable than one presumes it needs to be or which makes any evolutionary sense: the Australian koala for instance eats eucalyptus leaves and there are hundreds of varieties, but their digestive system will only allow them to eat a few. The Chinese panda is similar in that it is highly selective in terms of diet. Both of these seem to run counter to the theory that ‘the fittest survive.’ Both species are threatened because of their digestive limitations. I guess the interesting thing for me is why would one evolve to produce such limitations and what purpose would or could it serve? Anyway, just more questions than answers a lot of the time.

  7. One other thing, it seems to me that there are many people,
    well at least many Catholics, who believe in evolution but think that it is not random but directed by some form of intelligence. I am not very familiar with
    why they take this view though. Maybe some one else can present this view point in a effective manner.
    I bring this view point up because I believe that evolution is directed but my view is not based on science it is based on art. And in this wok of art the
    it was reveled that the pea brains responsible for the ebb and flow of all planetary history have a great fear of being discovered. They went so far as to murder a Dutch scientist who found not just evidence but proof of their
    existence. And for your information that is the real reason that the famous Dutch Film maker Theo von Goe was murdered a while back. He was planning on doing a documentary on the murder of the Dutch Scientist, whose name was, let me see, hold on it is coming to me, Q yes it was something that started with a Q, no wait it was not a Q, The name Braun rings a bell. But that is not it either, I am sorry I just can not remember..
    He was not famous anyways. Even if you were to find his obituary there would be no mention of murder in it.
    You might have noticed that I refered to the murders as pea brains.
    That is a justified discription in my opinion because while they may be capable of miracles like parting the Red Sea it is only because they have access to machines and technology millions, if not billions, of years ahead of our own, including nano-technology.
    I myself see signs of their handiwork everywhere, including in the graffiti
    in the neighborhood. Scientists think that I am not qualified to make such discernments though.

  8. You nailed it when you said that everyone’s susceptible to becoming illogical on issues. It seems that your son’s teacher is mistaking ‘things that the scientific community is still debating’ with ‘holes’, however; Humanist Dad’s suggestion would work well; perhaps discussing this with someone at the school would help.

  9. Ian

    Both her holes betray both a lack of understanding of the science, and are classic creationist talking points. So I think it is very clear she wasn’t misunderstood.

    Your son did well responding to the thermodynamics issue.

    ”How can something so complex come from something so simple?”

    What’s so fun about this question is that it seems to demand a short answer. Like “because of love!”, or god, of course.

    But what an odd thing to say as a *hole* in evolutionary theory. Since that is really the point. Evolution is an answer to her question. Its like saying “what are the holes in the theory of how car engines work?”, “well, how can something that is stationary, move?”, erm… you didn’t understand the question, did you?

  10. Ian

    @ross “Anyway, just more questions than answers a lot of the time.” You can find the answers to those questions in any undergraduate textbook on evolution. Usually spelled out pretty clearly, since some students do still arrive at college with that same misconception, even though it is on the high-school syllabus here. That your “above average” knowledge of evolutionary science hasn’t stumbled on the answer to your question, is a little unfortunate.

  11. rosross – there are always going to be questions. Science has never said it has all the answers and it probably never will. Every answer generates new questions. However science has proven itself highly effective at finding answers about the world around us. Unless there is some evidence other than we just do not know I would think the default position would be to let science do its thing and allow it the time to investigate.

    Ignorance, as exemplified by we do not know questions, seems to me to be a terrible basis for supporting any belief. There are so many things that we did not know at one time in which God or some other supernatural explanation was used and which we now do know the answers to; this includes disease, earthquakes, lightning, etc.

    Ignorance is the starting point for research, it should not be the foundation of a belief, which is what creationism and its more modern version, intelligent design, comes down to.

    As for the entropy argument, I get a kick out of that one. I always ask those who promote this thoroughly discredited argument against evolution how then do animals and trees grow, how do we grow from a fetus to a grown person? If we are in a closed system and order is decreasing then these instances of growth and increased order should not be possible.

    If they point to the parents eating food and such to provide the energy needed for increased order I then ask how is that possible since the sources of our food also grow and increase in complexity and if we live in a closed system that should not be possible. It quickly becomes evident that we do not live in a closed system but instead in a very open system and so this entropy argument fails… again..

    Oh, as for why the Koala’s diet is so limited, the reason is because it evolved to take advantage of a food source that no other animal eats. It does not have to compete for access to this food. The fact that the food is low in nutrition is a downside to this, but the advantages of not wasting time and energy in competition for their food outweighs this disadvantage.

    Yes, at some future point the eucalyptus trees could become endangered and then they would be in trouble, but evolution is not about the future and has not way of dealing with what might be. Instead it deals with what is advantageous in the here and now. I would point out that their limited diet does not seem to have hurt them at all. Their almost extinction on the Australian mainland is due to being hunted by humans and to humans encroachments and destruction of their forests and habitats, not to dietary problems. And on the islands around Australia where they survive in abundance.

  12. Rossross, please do not spread mistruths about wild species. You are wrong on all fronts.

    The koala bear is not endangered; the IUCN lists it as least concern. Their destruction of woodland habitat caused the Australian government to list it as a priority species, but this would earn it only the status of vulnerable, which is two “steps” up from endangered; and it has nothing to do with their diet.

    The reason the koala primarily eats eucalyptus is because of something called an ecological niche. The abundance of eucalyptus was not being used so koalas evolved in tandem with that niche with special adaptations.

    Here is a study to show what I’m saying. Notice the entire study is available, and it is from a scientific journal. From now on you need to also post these kinds of links before you spread misinformation about wild animals.


  13. Sabio, wow. I think you really need to go after this woman. The information she is presenting is straight from ID propaganda. She is trying to brainwash your child.

    Modern biologist Lynn Margulis points out that the earth is a dynamic system; this means that organisms constantly change and the earth changes in response to them. The teacher is presenting material for evolution that is long outdated and makes it seem like a relic. She’s incompetent.

    If I were you (and clearly I’m not) I would take several steps: first, write to the town newspaper. Second, get a group of parents and write to a state and or local official (does the education board or attorney general deal in these matters?)

    If none of this works, unless you’re otherwise loving the school, I would transfer your son to a private school. If she’s teaching this outdated junk, and trying to brainwash kids, I wouldn’t let any child near her with a ten foot pole, good intentions or not.

  14. associatedluke

    Holes like things Darwin didn’t think of..? Holes that are constantly being filled with new data..? Old data we thought we knew but now have to reconsider in light of new discoveries, technology, etc..?

    Still looking forward to a face-to-face addressing of this issue. Lots of assumptions in the way of true understanding.

  15. Ian

    @luke – there’s a little two-step that creationists play over terminology around this. When challenged, they often state that all science has holes. Like those you mention. So they aren’t technically wrong about evolution.

    But this is a slimey tactic of course, because religious science teachers don’t stand up and tell their class that the theory of gravity is full of holes, or atomic theory is just a theory. So one has to recognize that they’re not at all interested in raising this point as illustrative of the scientific method, but as a way of undermining this particular piece of science. They seek to leave their hearers with the impression that evolution is more uncertain, less evidences, or more open to re-evaluation than say the theory of gravity or the germ theory of disease.

    So yes, of course evolution has ‘holes’: and every piece of research aims to fill one. But you haven’t heard any of them properly laid out on the comments of the last two posts, and none of them undermine the theory. Any more than the ‘holes’ in the germ theory of disease make it possible we’ll discover that it is demons, rather than a virus, that is responsible for the common cold. Giving a balanced account of what science is, involves putting evolution into context with other theories (such as those mentioned). An honest approach (even if your religious views mean you can’t accept the science personally) would be to say that evolution is as widely supported and as integral to biology as relativity or gravity is to physics, for example.

    That she then goes on to raise things that definitely aren’t holes as holes is further evidence that she is teaching them her religious views, not the science she is paid to teach.

  16. @ Skeptnik Garrison :
    And my son says today each time the teacher told the children the reason for evolution (which she is required by the curriculum), she emphasize “Remember, scientists only THINK the fossils support the theory. The story get worse every day.

    My son, is fine, of course. But I get upset thinking about all the other kids fed this stuff.

    @ Humanist Dad :

    @ Veronica Agrestis :
    You are right. But in her defense — she is otherwise a very good science teacher — we all have our blind spots, eh? But this is religious propoganda.

    @ Razorboy :
    Thanx. But no one is debating the theory of Evolution (well, except ID folks – read: Creationists of many flavors), though they are debating how evolution occurs.

    @ Ian :
    Indeed. Thanx. I agree, all the folks here arguing against the Theory of Evolution need to tell us what they think it says. The confusion here is obvious.

    @ befuddled2 :
    Thanx for jumping in.

    @ amelie:
    Thank you for helping to educate. You are very patient.
    Concerning the teacher. We will pursue — but patiently and with more info. As you see above, my son comes home with more info each day — I want the max info I can get. I don’t want to hurt her (especially not her livelihood), but I do want to stop the nonsense. Our schools system is great — that is why we moved here — so we won’t leave. Besides, my kids are fine — we teach at home. We want to stay and fight for the other kids.

    @ Luke:
    Like Ian said. Just like I said above too: The teacher today emphasized, “This is JUST what scientists THINK.” (subtext: we know that Genesis is literally accurate).
    Of course the best action is to ask her. But I want to give her more line for a while — to get a real showing and give my boy more independence.

  17. Earnest

    I think we need to forgive the teacher to some degree, as Sabio’s son is only in Middle School. There is plenty of time ahead for him to engage in philosophical debate and refine his own positions. It could be that if he talked to the teacher after class there might be a more sophisticated level of discourse. The teacher may have been trying to pander to local religious conservatives in order to keep her job. She may also have dumbed down the conversation to allow the other students to have a digestible data set so they could study for the test and pass.

    Sabio I wonder how he would like auditing a college evolutionary biology course?

    Teaching and medicine are similar in America, if you bluntly declare the truth to all for a long enough time then enough people get irritated with you that it threaten your job status. The truth is less important than the need to put food on the table.

  18. CRL

    The main problem seems to be that middle/elementary school teachers are chosen for their ability to relate to children, to keep order in classrooms, and (hopefully) to explain material that they know, but without regard to their competence without a topic, since our education system flatters itself and assumes that every adult knows all subjects at least on a middle school level. From what I’ve heard, most colleges have the opposite problem with many of their professors, assuming that everyone can teach, and thus that the expert with 1000 papers published in the field can teach better since they know more—not always true. High school teachers can go to either extreme, depending on the person, with a few happy mediums. (While I was explaining biology to my first year biology teacher, my second year teacher had a PhD, but spent most of class time reading the textbook aloud, and ended up leaving off quite a bit of information.) It seems like a little more balance between levels of our education system is necessary, though I have no clue how to bring it about.

  19. @Occam,

    But if something is still being debated and it forms part of a theory then surely it is a ‘hole?’ In other words the theory has gaps, or blanks or parts which don’t fit with the theory and that is why they are being debated?

  20. @Ian,

    Actually it is a long time since I left student textbooks behind and since then I have continued to read and if credible and proven answers had been there, either in the textbooks or the thousands of books I have read since, I would not still be asking such questions.

  21. @befuddled,

    I agree with you that there will always be questions and my understanding is that asking questions was a core premise in science. Science may not have said it has all the answers but it often says it has THE answer and that no answer which does not fit within a materialist/mechanistic paradigm could ever be an answer.

    Science is not highly effective at finding answers about the world around us beyond its materialist/mechanistic paradigm. Within that limited system it is highly effective. But there is much more to life and how it works than that. Which is why science has some answers about some things some of the time.

    And a default position to science is as dangerous as a default position to religion, which was the previous default position. Both are limited belief systems entrenched in a need to be right as opposed to a desire to truly understand. This world is not just ‘spiritual’ and I use the term as religion would and neither is it just material as science would have it. Science and religion are opposites at either end of a polarity and while each is invaluable in coming up with some answers, neither is capable of coming up with all answers or even complete answers.
    For what it is worth many scientists and doctors for that matter, have the strength and integrity to admit that sometimes ‘they do not know.’ Perhaps doctors do it more than scientists because demonstrably they do not know but admitting to one’s limitations is both advisable and necessary if open-minded enquiry is to continue and arrogance to be avoided.
    And neither do we still know exactly why diseases, lightning or earthquakes occur. If we did we would be able to predict them with absolute accuracy and perhaps prevent them. We can’t and we don’t.

    One of the common themes in a defence of science is to compare scientific knowledge with the most primitive beliefs that can be found. That’s easy and proves little because it is not a fair or valid comparison. One could also argue that just as the uneducated native sitting in the dirt is unlikely to comprehend the words of the scientist in any real way, that neither can or does the scientist understand the knowledge which the native could impart.

    And yes, fixed, fundamentalist religious views of Biblical creationism are easy to mock and make little sense, but there are other arguments for intelligent design which are not.
    And human nature being what it is, most people, including myself, would not still be looking for more or other answers if evolution had managed to make a sure and solid case for itself. I don’t give a toss what the answer is – I would just like an answer which makes sense and which can be proven to a substantial degree.
    And as for the explanation on the koala’s diet the reality is that some other animals do eat eucalyptus leaves although none as exclusively as the Koala. Wombats will, although they are purely ground animals and do not climb trees and so will Ring-Tail possums who do climb trees and live in them. Greater gliders also feed almost exclusively on eucalyptus leaves.

    Koalas have evolved, with millions of acres at their disposal and hundreds of eucalypt species, to eat only 14 of them…one wonders why given the abundance of food and the lack of competition for that food.
    Their limited diet makes them vulnerable and given the propensity for bushfires in Australia, particularly because it has been used for tens of thousands of years by Aborigines as a ‘farming’ practice, which could, in an instant destroy their particular habitat, one would think that evolution might have come up with a koala or two which was more resilient and adaptable.
    Koalas are not almost extinct on the Australian mainland – in some places they are of plague proportions. But yes, they are vulnerable still because of their diet.

  22. @Amelie,

    This is a discussion about evolution. I used the term ‘threatened’ in regard to koalas in that sense. I said they were vulnerable in terms of their diet and they are. That is not a mistruth. I did not use the term ‘endangered’ in the ecological sense – you use that term in that way.

    What I said was:
    I say that in terms of the development of life which is often far more vulnerable than one presumes it needs to be or which makes any evolutionary sense: the Australian koala for instance eats eucalyptus leaves and there are hundreds of varieties, but their digestive system will only allow them to eat a few.

    And as for the theory of an ‘ecological niche’ it is convenient and neat but hardly fits with ‘survival of the fittest.’ And as I have said in another post, Koalas have little competition for eucalyptus leaves and are the bigger of the two animals who have evolved to feed virtually exclusively on them, and is bigger and stronger than the third one who will eat eucalyptus if it must and one wonders why, with millions of hectares and hundreds of varieties, there for the picking and eating, they evolved to eat only fourteen of one sub-genus. The other eucalyptus addict, the Greater Glider, has evolved to eat another species of eucalypt entirely – again, one wonders why. There was no circumstantial need to do so for either of them; no evolutionary imperative with so little competition given the size of the continent.

    And since I have spread absolutely no misinformation an apology will be accepted when proffered.

    And thankyou for the link. It did not say much and was nothing I had not read before but worth reading all the same.

  23. CRL


    It seems that, while some others in this and other threads are seeing evolution as purely random, you are seeing it as purely directed and rational. Neither is the case.

    Survival of the fittest is not survival of the strongest or the most powerful. It is the survival of the reproductively successful. There is no such thing as an evolutionary imperatives. Evolution is not a force of a law, but the byproduct of the “law” of natural selection, which, rather than being an experimentally determined “law”/theory like, gravity, is just a logical result of imperfectly self replicating objects subjected to an environment. Where there are imperfectly self replicating objects subjected to an environment (otherwise known as life living anywhere), there will be natural selection and, therefore, evolution. No forces or imperatives required.

    Life looks for a place to hang on anywhere that is possible. Furthermore, when two species are not in competition, they do not have to compete. Since a koala is not competing with a rabbit or giraffe for food and shelter, a koala does not have to be more reproductively successful than a rabbit or better at reaching food than a giraffe to survive. This isn’t just because of geographic separation. It is because, even if the three animals were living side by side (rabbits and koalas now do that, I guess…), they would not be in competition. So while koalas are ridiculous, evolution doesn’t know that. Evolution doesn’t know anything. Natural selection just discovered by trial and error (or rather, natural selection IS trial and error) that, by developing the ability to eat something no one else wants, a proto-koala can find a steady source of food, gain energy, and make baby proto-koalas.

    This is what an ecological niche is. Not some silly construction made by people trying to defend evolution, but a real thing that originates out of natural laws. There are infinitely many ways to survive and reproduce, and as organisms test them out, they change to fit their niche because those that fit better do better.

  24. @CRL,

    You misunderstand me although that is easy enough to do on every count, for everyone in such discussions.

    I don’t see evolution as purely directed and rational and have never said as much. What I have said is that I see evolution as a part of the answer in a process which demonstrates order, structure, intelligence far more often than it does random.

    I know survival of the fittest is not survival of the strongest or more powerful per se: and that it is about those who are reproductively successful for whatever reasons, but let’s admit that strength and power play a part or countless species would not have been decimated by stronger and more powerful species which humans have introduced.

    My point was that the Koala did not have to fight to survive on eucalyptus but could pick and choose in freedom, and without a care, which is kind of how Koalas are anyway and yet they involved in such a way that their selective diet made their survival more vulnerable than it would otherwise have been if they had not developed in such a way. In other words, beyond strength, they developed in a way which made their ability to reproduce far weaker than it might have been.

    And I never said evolution was a law nor saw it as such. That is a position more often taken by the most ardent of its supporters.

    Koalas are not ridiculous but they are vulnerable in an evolutionary sense and that raises questions. And of course evolution doesn’t know anything but it is surprising that koalas have survived as long and as well as they have given the capacity for nature to destroy environments suddenly and effectively.

    And if an ecological niche is a reality which originates out of natural laws and yet evolution has no laws how does that work? Does this mean that some things have laws and others, like evolution do not? It seems both counter-intuitive and contra-indicative.

    And if an organism tries out different ways to survive and reproduce we can assume the Koala did and then ‘opted’ for a way, despite the fact there was no competition to impel it in any direction, which made it biologically vulnerable.

  25. Well said CRL, good educational stuff.

  26. @ Earnest,
    Do you know this particular teacher’s motivations? I agree, unfortunately in our town, if you don’t pretend to be a Christian (or at least a Cultural Christian), it can have consequences. Thank goodness some folks will take chances.

  27. @CRL,

    I will continue to question until issues like this are resolved:

    “Darwin anticipated that microevolution would be a process of continuous and gradual change. The term macroevolution, by contrast, refers to the origin of new species and divisions of the taxonomic hierarchy above the species level, and also to the origin of complex adaptations, such as the vertebrate eye. Macroevolution posed a problem to Darwin because his principle of descent with modification predicts gradual transitions between small-scale adaptive changes in populations and these larger-scale phenomena, yet there is little evidence for such transitions in nature. Instead, the natural world is often characterized by gaps, or discontinuities. One type of gap relates to the existence of ‘organs of extreme perfection’, such as the eye, or morphological innovations, such as wings, both of which are found fully formed in present-day organisms without leaving evidence of how they evolved.”– Reznick, David N., Robert E. Ricklefs. 12 February 2009. Darwin’s bridge between microevolution and macroevolution. Nature, Vol. 457, pp. 837-842.

  28. Ian

    “I will continue to question until issues like this are resolved:” – you didn’t read (or perhaps understand) the rest of the article then, did you? That quote is, however, one of the most copied and pasted on creationist websites, because if you read it through the lens of prior creationist propaganda, it appears to say something the paper doesn’t actually say.

    “Actually it is a long time since I left student textbooks behind” – it really shows. And you’ve now read “thousands of books” on evolution? You are simply lying now.

    “There is something patronising about various comments in regard to ‘educating’ others. …. It seems to be in one direction, not both.” – yeah, go figure!

  29. seems like you have your hands full here… I’ll pray… thanks for stopping by my blog yesterday… loved your take on the form I presented

  30. @Ian,
    If you take a position of thinking imputing the worst of motives the misunderstanding levels on the internet will rise dramatically.
    I was talking about student textbooks in general and having read thousands of books in general – not hard actually when one reads one or two a week for decades – not specifically on evolution.
    As to why it is a one-way direction for patronising, perhaps others are not as fixed in their views or perhaps they are more polite. Each may figure to their own.
    And yes, the quote is common but that does not detract from its substance or meaning. In truth, you don’t have to read too many biographies of Darwin to come to the conclusion he would have been astonished and probably embarrassed at what has been done in his name.

  31. RosRoss for goodness sake, pandas and koalas don’t even live on the same continent!

    I posted the koala study to demonstrate a point, yes. But I also did it so I could point something out to you: studies are the cornerstone of science. You and I can sit and chat all day long. But if you don’t post a study that demonstrates what you claim, then you’re not discussing science. You’re just daydreaming.

    The koala study was from a journal called Zoo Biology. Every scientific study has a standard form: Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion. You can find studies by using Google Scholar.

    An analogy: suppose I claim I found an extinct species that no one has ever heard of. It died off ten years ago and left no trace of itself. Now, how would I provide evidence? I would need to produce something testable. A fossil to be examined in the lab, hairs for DNA sampling, footprints to be studied. Without it, I’m just a rambling fool.

    So far you have posted no studies on Intelligent Design. Short of doing that, no one who studies science will take you seriously, and rightfully so.

  32. @Sabio well it sounds like you are doing great with your kids that they have good BS detectors. So right, putting someone’s job at risk is very serious. At the same time I can’t help but think of the minds she’s ruining, and the fact that she’s outright lying to her students.

    Anyway, I hope you keep us posted. You’re doing important work.

  33. Ian

    @ross – so in response to me saying your ‘unanswered questions’ are addressed in any intro to evolution course, and any undergraduatetextbook on evolution, you reply that you’re ‘beyond’ textbooks and you’ve read thousands of books. But now you’re admitting that you’ve just read thousands of books generally, not actually about evolution? And you wonder why nobody is taking you seriously here!

    “As to why it is a one-way direction for patronising” – because so far its been a one way direction for folks with no experience or understanding of a topic telling people who’ve studied it formally and full-time for years, that they’re wrong. I’ll stop patronizing you when you show me you can address these issues on equal terms.

    But so far you’ve consistently shown an inability to even use terminology correctly, let alone use it to make sensible points.

    That you don’t recognize your butchering of the terms, or the inanity of your examples, is the whole point. That you keep responding by insisting you are being misunderstood, but somehow are never able to clarify your point into a sensible argument, is indicative.

    “And yes, the quote is common but that does not detract from its substance or meaning” – It does if you can’t show you understand its meaning! I’ve read that paper, and I can’t fathom how anyone who understood it could take it as evidence against evolutionary theory. Maybe I’m ignorant. Can you enlighten me, specifically. I can cope with technical terms: I did a PhD on the mathematics of evolution. In particular I studied phenotype-independent genetic fitness. Which I mention because it has direct relevance to the long time-period dynamics in that paper. So how, specifically, do you think this paper undermines evolution? Show me how unfair I am when I think you are just reading the abstract through the lens of creationist propaganda.

  34. @Sabio and Ian: Yup, well aware that this indeed could be the case of a creationist/ID person in the wrong classroom as these phrases seem to point that way… however, it is conjecture at this point. Plus these events are being triangulated through a source and not experienced first hand. So while things are pointing that way, until you have a convo directly about these phrases and what this teacher is thinking, it’s guess work. Guess work that is laden with assumptions which will further cloud your conversation when you eventually have it.

  35. Luke, I have to tell you there is no correct classroom for creationism if you mean in schools. Religious history is fine; but curriculum that undermines evolution is directly contrary to science in another classroom, and in fact the ideas of creationism run contrary to every law and theory in the life sciences. That means that were creationism true, it would violate and nullify nearly everything scientists to this point have shown to be valid in biology.

  36. @ rosross

    A lot of territory in your response, but in the interest of at least trying to be brief let me just focus on one rather fundamental issue.

    You mention science’s “materialist/mechanistic paradigm”.

    Yes, science looks for natural answers and there is a good reason that it does so. That reason is that no one has yet to figure out a way to distinguish between evidence for a non-natural cause and just plain ignorance.

    Whenever we face something we do not know there are four possible natural types of answers:

    1) There is a natural answer but we do not have enough information yet to determine what it is.

    2) There is a natural answer but we do not have the proper instruments and tools to discover it yet – rather like the microscope and telescope were necessary to understand disease (which we actually do understand enough to know that it has natural causes) and the stars and planets.

    3) There is a natural answer but we do not have the proper theory to understand and put the pieces we have together in the right was so as to see and understand it. Relativity and Quantum theories, along with Evolutionary theory are good examples of this.

    4) There is a natural answer but we are not smart enough and never will be to understand what it is. Rather like one of our distant ancestors, say the Homo Erectus, standing by the ocean and wondering what causes the waves and tides. There is a natural explanation, but he will never be able to understand that answer. We may find ourselves in a similar situation.

    Now, of course, there is the possibility of a fifth answer and that is that there is a supernatural or Godly explanation for it. The problem is how to you distinguish between this and the other possibilities I mentioned. So far I have yet to see any way to do so. As I said in my previous post, all the evidence I have seen for supernatural explanations in regards to speciation and evolution rely on ignorance and do not rule out the natural causes.

    To assume a supernatural explanation causes an end to research. However to assume a natural cause then you continue to work the problem until you find a natural answer that works. And science has been very, very successful at that. And this is why even very religious scientists assume naturalism in their work as scientists even though they do not throughout their whole lives. They do so because without it, science does not work.

    And this is one reason why Intelligent Design is so dangerous. In the guise of expanding science it would destroy it and destroy its effectiveness.

    If you disagree then all you need do is show me how to spot a supernatural explanation – what criteria must it meet, what characteristics does it have that distinguish it from a natural explanation. Remember, not knowing what the natural cause is doesn’t work for the reasons already listed above.

    Finally, science does not cover all of life. There are some who say it does, but it doesn’t and most scientists will agree with this. However, when discussing issues about the natural world it is the greatest tool we have. And our origins and the origins of life are part of the natural world.

    And it looks as if my attempt at brevity has failed. As usual.

  37. CRL

    Are koalas vulnerable? Perhaps. Where I live, we have a huge problem with invasive eucalyptus. Those trees spread like wildfire, which is a huge problem because they also spread wildfires. (Okay, I went to the zoo enough as a child to know that koalas are even picky within eucalyptus and only certain varieties, and thus would not survive here if kicked out of the zoo, even though our zoo is in the middle of a eucalyptus forest. What I am about to say still stands.) But vulnerable or not, koalas have survived!

    I explained why eating eucalyptus is an effective survival technique in my last post, and will not rehash that here. The most important point is that natural selection does not care about being the biggest or the strongest or the most versatile. And koalas have survived! They are surviving! They are reproducing! That is enough.

    Bacteria are a lot better at reproducing than humans. Put one colony in a flask of growth medium, and by the end of the day, the medium will be cloudy with bacteria. But humans evolved. Why? Because evolution goes to “different”, not better. Within one niche, yes, the organisms which reproduce the most are the ones who pass on their genes. But by finding a new niche, an organism/group of organisms which might be less reproductively successful can thrive, since they they do not have to compete with organisms in other niches. (Though I’m not sure if you still reject the concept of a niche. If so, you may have problems with ecology as well as evolution. The concept is fundamental to both.)

    “Darwin anticipated that microevolution would be a process of continuous and gradual change.

    Have you read The Origin of Species? While I do not suggest reading it, since it is incredibly repetitive and slow moving, and scientifically a bit outdated (in that back then, the age of the earth was still up for debate, genetics was not at all understood, and evolutionary biology had not been turned into a mathematical science) you should know that is completely and absolutely a book of macroevolution.

  38. CRL

    Does this mean that some things have laws and others, like evolution do not? It seems both counter-intuitive and contra-indicative.

    Oh, sorry, didn’t see this line. I was mostly being very messy in my terminology. At any rate, I think I was contesting a law of evolution, rather than a law of natural selection, which probably came from a sloppy reading of your post.

    A law in science is usually something like Force=mass•acceleration. Simple, fundamental, and always works. In this sense, you could call natural selection a law. In fact, I would call natural selection the F=ma of biology, in that everything else flows from it. But you could imagine (well, not quite imagine, perhaps) a universe in which F=velocity^2/42. If, somehow, this universe develops imperfectly self replicating objects, it will have natural selection. In that sense, natural selection is more than a law. It simply follows from the concept organisms which produce offspring that are similar, but not the same, as their parents that some of these offspring will pass on more of their traits, and these traits will become more prevalent in a population.

    I guess what I really objected to was that you were giving nat’l selection some kind of foresight. Like it would know that koalas would be vulnerable because they only ate one kind of food. It clearly didn’t know that dinosaurs were vulnerable because they were huge and lived above ground. And so they died. Or that humans are vulnerable because we have the capacity to create nuclear weapons. If anything, you are just proving that natural selection is blind. In other words, your examples are disproving intelligent design.

  39. Earnest

    @ Sabio: I do not know the teacher’s motives, but the staff seem to me to be frequently expressing valid evolutionary concepts. Including the moths that were white on trees, then brown on sooty trees, then white again under the Clean Air Act. And they correctly described this as a persistent polymorphism which was variably expressed by a large population.

    @ RosRoss: read up on the Founder Effect and get back to me when you are done. This easily explains abrupt jumps in genomes and phenotypes.

  40. Thanks to all those who replied to me. I have found it informative and interesting but I have decided to opt out of Sabio’s blogs. Earnest, I will read the Founder effect.

  41. @amelie: ” I have to tell you there is no correct classroom for creationism if you mean in schools.” Completely agreed. It has no place in the human mind, let alone a classroom. Just want to give a check on the situation until a f2f happens.

  42. @ Luke:
    No need for a “check” on our process. We are very measured in our approach. But as I wrote above, I want to give the teacher more time to show her colors and get more quotes. Waiting and talking prior to that has helped. My friend and his wife and I discussed it more at his home last night.

  43. @Sabio: And I’m saying that getting this 2nd or 3rd hand isn’t good enough. Better to go to the source than to hang back and think you have a handle on what’s going on. It seems as though it is as your son describes and what you’re instincts are telling you, but rather bow to the “almighty gut” I’d rather explore and see if there are other factors we’re not aware of. Triangulation in this situation could cloud things.

  44. @ Luke:
    Of course 2nd hand is not as good as first. Seriously, you don’t think I know that — your pastor job is changing your tone here, it seems.
    I’m saying that jumping in too early may shut down our evidence. I am gathering evidence. It is better to hang back. If I run in, it will seem like the hyper, over-interfering parent. I am patient for stuff like this. I don’t think I have a handle on it — that is why I am waiting — she can surprise me any moment — but her words to date, don’t have a place in any setting — as other readers have said to you.

    By waiting, I am not “bowing to the almighty gut”, I am gathering information slowly and digesting. No rush. And to think outloud before then is helpful. I am triangulating and I will continue to.

    Maybe you ought not to rush in and judge my approach. Maybe your advice is more ironic than you imagine.

  45. I think you pointed out an important life lesson to your son — that we all tend to become irrational when something we hold precious seems threatened to us.

  46. associatedluke

    That’s all I wanted to hear: why the hang back. I was recently involved in a situation where everyone, myself included, hung back and thought we knew what was going on and it blew up in all our faces. But that’s a story for an email… There was something deeper going on.

    I am glad your son and this teacher have you here to fight for the correct understanding of the theory of evolution. Thanks for the clarification.

  47. associatedluke

    BTW: “…your pastor job is changing your tone here, it seems.”
    -There is no tone, that’s you again. I read comment after comment stating that “Yeah! Let’s get her! She has no business teaching!” and I wanted to offer something else. Would have before seminary, during, and now after.

  48. @ luke
    Oh right, I mistook your tone because of all my baggage — I forgot.
    then you said, “That’s all I wanted to hear.” — so glad I answered your doubts.

    Remember, just because you read comment after comment that you feel are saying “Yeah, Let’s get her!”, remember when addressing Sabio to consider only Sabio’s comments. Don’t lecture the whole congregation with a comment to me. It is sort of like reading Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and imagining it is all just one-and-the-same story. :-)

  49. associatedluke

    HA! Touche. (not touchy ;-))

  50. Earnest

    @Luke, Sabio:

    Exactly. This would be sub-ethical if we were meeting in a coffee shop gossiping behind the back of someone we all knew while not allowing her to defend herself. But we are (other than myself) unaware of who this person is other than in theoretical terms. We are not likely to induce shunning in her environment by our discussion. But I think it is extremely important to self-referee when having a discussion like this without the person who is the object of discussion.

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