Friday, June 6, 2008

National Academy of Sciences: Evolution/Creationism

I recently made the comment that I would take peer reviewed academics over dishonesty any day: referring to one of "the sleaziest documentaries to arrive in a very long time." (This statement is not meant to offend anyone who likes the movie, it is to raise awareness.)

A good question to raise in response to my statement would be: How does this statement help the layman? It is a little hard for the layman, or any non-biologist, to gain an opinion of evolution from the peer reviewed literature. It is so easy for scientists to make claims then hide behind technical literature while insisting everyone believe them.

If you want a good review of our current understanding of evolution the best comes from the National Academy of Sciences itself. For those who don't know, this is the most prestigious scientific organization in the world. (Probably at least.) Also, the best and only the best scientists in every field are members.

They have an official publication on evolution and creationism called: Science, Evolution, and Creationism. The team that authored the book was led by Francisco J. Ayala of UC Irvine so you know it is good. :)

Seriously, this book provides the most honest assessment of our understanding of evolution. Furthermore, it is written at the level of the layman. Moreover, you can read it free online, download the pdf, or order a hardback copy if you like it that much.

Every literate human should read this book. (And if you are illiterate, have someone read it to you.) After reading this book you will be in a position to adequately judge evolution for what it is as of 2008. I think you will be shocked at how much of a pro-religious tone it has.


  1. I read through a little of the booklet and it seems interesting. It gives the standard textbook arguments for evolution. The only thing they glossed over and that is the major drawback of the theory is that the creation of a new species has never been observed (at least not that I have heard of). They gave the famous example of adaptation of guppies that is in ALL biology textbooks, but in that example a new species was not created. The critical idea behind evolution is the creation of new species, that is a group of life forms that cannot inter breed with other life forms. That has never been observed. If the theory is to have any grounding that critical fact must be observed. They give several arguments about how new species should be created and under what circumstances they should be created but they have never observed it.

    As an analogy it is like our never having observed the Higgs particle. If and when it is observed it will confirm or disprove some theories, but until then we are missing the critical proof. The same goes for evolution, until we observe the formation of a new species we are missing the critical proof.

  2. You raise a good point, one weakness of the book is it doesn't "give the beef" on the level many people want. Many people want you to be able to say: "Look, this dog became a cat and we witnessed the whole evolution".

    I believe this is called Macroevolution.

    1. First, I don't know to what level Macroevolution has been proven/observed. However, I know many people think it has. There is an internet site devoted to evidence for macroevoltion: "29+ Evidences for Macroevolution".

    2. Second: we think rivers carve out canyons. We have not witnessed an entire canyon carved out by a river. However, we see a few inches being carved out a year by each river, do the math, and see that over millions of year a river should have carved out a canyon identical to the one we have in front of us.

    Similarly, we see every species, including humans, have gene sequences that are continuously changing little by little as the generations go on. We then do that math, realize if this has happened for millions of years we should see many animals that look like the came from the same original genes but now differ by a few hundred or thousand genes, and wala, this is exactly what we observe today.

    So, in my opinion, macroevolution has at least been proven/witnessed of the same level as the idea that canyons are carved out by rivers.

  3. PS. I laughed when I read your sentence on the guppies.

    Hey, everyone likes guppies. The story sounds better when you talk in terms of things like guppies.

    The best thing the to use in an evolution talk is something like E. Coli, but that would just scare everyone. :)

    "Linux, penguins => Good, Evolution Guppies => Good".

  4. PSS. While writting my above comment I came across one of your past comments:

    "Shame on you Joe. PS: For those of you whose frontal lobe (that part of the brain used is recognizing irony, satire and humor) may not be up to specs this morning...(Please hold onto your torches and pitchforks and let me explain)"

    You are a funny guy. These kinds of comments always make me laugh.

  5. Hey Joe, I think it is "PPS" rather than "PSS". Just FYI.

  6. Hmmm... Well, it looks like Wikipedia (the source of all useless knowledge) lists both "PSS" and "PPS" as acceptable. However, I don't quite get the reasoning behind a "post-subscript" as there was no "subscript" to begin with. However, as there was as "post-script" (the "PS") a "Post-postscript" seems more reasonable. I guess I just don't get the stylization. Any comments on this?

  7. (Sorry, I have a bad habit of leaving long or repeated comments not directly related to the original post. :( )


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