March 18, 2016


Why you should stop believing in evolution You don't believe in it -- you either understand it or you don't (Keith Blanchard, 8/04/14, The Week)

Here are the rules, in a nutshell:

• Genes, stored in every cell, are the body's blueprints; they code for traits like eye color, disease susceptibility, and a bazillion other things that make you you.

• Reproduction involves copying and recombining these blueprints, which is complicated, and errors happen.

• Errors are passed along in the code to future generations, the way a smudge on a photocopy will exist on all subsequent copies.

• This modified code can (but doesn't always) produce new traits in successive generations: an extra finger, sickle-celled blood, increased tolerance for Miley Cyrus shenanigans.

• When these new traits are advantageous (longer legs in gazelles), organisms survive and replicate at a higher rate than average, and when disadvantageous (brittle skulls in woodpeckers), they survive and replicate at a lower rate.

That's a little oversimplified, but the general idea. As advantageous traits become the norm within a population and disadvantageous traits are weeded out, each type of creature gradually morphs to better fit its environment. [...]

[I]t turns out you can make the gears turn a lot faster -- in fact, we do it all the time. Have you ever seen strawberries in the wild? They're little tiny things, easily missed if you are not a bird or a bee. We bred them to be big and fat, specifically by only allowing the seeds from the biggest, fattest ones in each generation to reproduce. We similarly manipulate almost every other "natural" food we eat today: Take a stroll through any modern produce section and you can see the fruits, literally and figuratively, of evolution turbocharged by human intervention.

Dogs are another example: We invented the dog, starting with wolves and quickening the natural but poky process of evolution by specifically selecting breeding pairs with desirable traits, gradually accentuating particular traits in successive populations. Poodles, Rottweilers, Great Danes, Hollywood red-carpet purse dogs -- all this fabulous kinetic art was created, and continues to be created, by humans manually hijacking the mechanism of evolution.

No one doesn't believe the severely limited case that Mr. Blanchard makes.  Darwin's great insight was that, having observed how local farmers bred animals, he postulated that something similar must happen in "nature."  So far, so good.

The problems are twofold: first, that when you say that "Nature" works just like Intelligent Design, you need to be able to differentiate between the two, and the advocates can't; second, that the proponents can't demonstrate that or how speciation occurs in either evolutionary model.  And so you're left with that infinitesimal claim for Darwinism, that dogs get smaller and bigger whether or not we influence the pre-existing processes.  Everything after that is just a function of belief.   

Posted by at March 18, 2016 4:29 AM