The Amazing Meeting 2014

Like it? Share it!

Sign up for news and updates!






Enter word seen below
Visually impaired? Click here to have an audio challenge played.  You will then need to enter the code that is spelled out.
Change image

CAPTCHA image
Please leave this field empty

Login Form



What it Means to be a Skeptic PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Michael Blanford   

Written by Tyrel Eskelson, opinions writer for the Sheaf, the student newspaper at The University of Saskatchewan.  It's great to see this in a student publication.

What it Means to be a Skeptic

It is perhaps a common misconception that one who defines him or herself as a skeptic could also interchangeably be labeled a contrarian or a disparager.
A skeptic is not someone who is cynical, close-minded or rejects new ideas. In fact, it is quite the opposite.

A skeptic is someone not in a fixed position but rather one who adopts a process. Skepticism uses the application of reason to evaluate all claims and requires compelling evidence before something is believable.

Modern skepticism is embodied in the scientific method, which gathers data to formulate and test natural phenomena. With the use of this tool a claim becomes factual when it is confirmed to such an extent that it would be reasonable to offer a provisional agreement.

Skepticism is therefore a process of applying reason and critical thinking to establish validity. It is the practice of finding supported conclusions, rather than the justification of preconceived beliefs. This statement is essential to understanding the following.

Why is it that skeptics seem to hold such dismissive or flippant positions on claims of supernatural or paranormal grounds?

All facts in science are provisional, subject to testing and challenge and therefore skepticism is a method leading to provisional conclusions. Claims like that of psychic ability, water dowsing or creationism have been tested and failed enough times that one can conclude that they are not valid. These results are provisionally held until proven to be false or subject to change.

There is also a point where the compilation of evidence becomes strong enough that it is reasonable to agree with its conclusions. An example that has been tested time and again is the laws of thermodynamics. Every physics course usually conducts a lab testing this law and finds the same supported conclusions. This weight of evidence would suggest that perpetual motion is extremely unlikely and one must use the tools of skepticism to bestow a decision on any claims of such.

Skepticism is a tool that costs nothing to use and can provide an invigorating glimpse of reality. It redirects attention, authority and subsidy away from insignificant superstition and refocuses towards ideas that are beneficial to humanity.

The next time you are presented with a claim that seems far fetched or hard to believe remember that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and it is important to demand such.

Skepticism is a wonderful tool and one which I hope you will find useful in your own search for life’s truths.

Reprinted with permission from the Sheaf (online edition).
Trackback(0)
Comments (52)Add Comment
..., Lowly rated comment [Show]
...
written by sailor, September 27, 2010
"I was not aware that creationism had ever been tested and had failed using the scientific method!"
Certainly in the case of the 6000 year old world it has.
Also if you apply the "created in six days"
All the evidence is against it.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +21
@popsaw
written by A Monkey's Uncle, September 27, 2010
The problem with creationism is that it is deeply unfalsifiable. Because at every turn you can just say "Well, yeah, God created it to look like that."
The universe gives every sign of being some 14 billion years old, but yeah, perhaps god created it to look that way 6000 years ago. All species seem to descend from a common ancestor, but yeah, perhaps God just created it to look that way. Perhaps God simply likes to deceive people. If he doesn't, though, then creationism contradicts pretty much the whole of geology, biology, cosmology and probably several other disciplines.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +16
@sailor, Lowly rated comment [Show]
@popsaw
written by philosaur, September 27, 2010
The bible does not say that the world was created ion six literal days. That is a man made myth.


So who arbitrates which portions of the Bible are to be taken literally, and which are to be taken figuratively? You?

Is "Thou shalt not kill" to be taken figuratively? How do you know?

I have to say though that Evolution and Abiogenesis have failed using the scientific method since no experiments to create life in laboratory conditions have ever been successful and science tells us that living beings reproduce according to their kind and that adaptation and mutation exist within kinds.


1. Evolution does not rely on abiogenesis--despite what creationists say.

2. A lack of positive results does not entail a negative result. So the fact that scientists have not been able to create life in a lab is no indication that abiogenesis didn't occur. Scientists also can't create a sunrise in a lab--but we know that the sun isn't Apollo's chariot.

3. Scientists don't talk about "kinds", but species. And species is merely a classification meant to group genetically (or phenotypically) similar populations.

report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +28
@philosaur, Lowly rated comment [Show]
...
written by podfish, September 27, 2010
popsaw, you're making strawman arguments. No one really cares if you concede that six days may not be literal - it doesn't make the rest of your points more reasonable. I suspect you know this already, but:
- there's no need to create life in a laboratory in order to apply the "scientific method" to the question of whether God created life or not. The scientific method dictates the approach that's taken to come up with and validate theories about how it happened. As other posters pointed out, if you just say "God did it" you have not proposed a falsifiable theory. That's not a scientific theory, even if it's a true proposition. Failed attempts at creating life (not that there -are- any of those yet) wouldn't disprove evolution, though if such attempts mount up it may cast doubt on their theoretical underpinnings. "Positive proof" isn't often a part of a scientific theory. In fact, such a thing may not exist. "High levels of confidence" in a theory is a better goal of scientific analysis.
- and this emphasis on the jargon of "kinds" "species" etc. is silly. The classic large-animal evolutionary trajectory taken by the eohippus to the modern horse is more relevant. No-one claims that you breed a chimp to a human to create ape-men; at most they claim that as each evolved from a common ancestor, interbreeding would be harder and harder to achieve. Remeber Olaf and the bull; he can't pick it up now, but he could when it was a calf. It doesn't matter which day he first failed...
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +11
@Podfish
written by popsaw, September 27, 2010
The six days myth is one that is commonly used in order to scientifically discredit the bible. I am merely showing compelling reasons why it should not be understood to mean six literal days.
I did not state that life must be created in a laboratory. I said that there have been (failed)attempts to create life under laboratory conditions. I have not stated that God did it as I am aware of the futility of that statement since I cannot offer proof.
The article states that "Modern skepticism is embodied in the scientific method". I am skeptical of creation and Evolution, Abiogenesis and any other theory regarding the origin of Life and I accept that neither has been proven using the scientific method. I favour the Genesis explanation regarding living things reproducing according to their kind since that is what we observe. until it can be demonstrated, using the scientific method as endorsed by the article, that this does not have to be the case.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -10
@popsaw
written by Hierro, September 27, 2010
Just because you've disproved the "myth" of the six days, does not mean that in the next sentence you can take the Bible literally and say God created the animals as we know them today. It's either to be taken completely literally or completely allegorical, and with a mixture of literal and allegorical what is your criteria for determining what is to be taken literal or not?

Evolution has a mountain of data showing that it is the most likely contender for why there is speciation, i.e different species of animals. Abiogenesis has nothing to do with evolution. Abiogenesis is about how life began and Evolution is about what happens after that point.
And actually, there HAVE been some successes at artificial life. Synthia was created by a team including Craig Venter.
So what you're saying is not an example of skeptical thinking, but rather wishful thinking.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +9
Wow
written by Caller X, September 27, 2010
Refreshing to see a good article, not a space-filler. Of course it's all been said before but it's worth reviewing. Would it kill you to pick a font size and stick to it?

@a monkey's uncle:

The universe gives every sign of being some 14 billion years old


You don't buy into that, do you? When I was a kid (long ago) the universe was 4 or 5 billion years old. Just like bad countries are always two years away from getting a nuclear weapon, the finish line on the universe's age will continue to be moved back, forever and ever, amen.

@philosaur

Is "Thou shalt not kill" to be taken figuratively? How do you know?


No, it's not, but that's because I don't rely on translations. The word is actually "murder." As you may recall, when the Hebrews originated invaded the Promised Land, they slew the existing inhabitants, the Canaanites. The big mystery to me is why it took them 40 years to get from Egypt to what is now Israel. All they had to do was walk up the beach a ways.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -2
...
written by jmarley42, September 27, 2010
@Caller X
The universe gives every sign of being some 14 billion years old
You don't buy into that, do you? When I was a kid (long ago) the universe was 4 or 5 billion years old. Just like bad countries are always two years away from getting a nuclear weapon, the finish line on the universe's age will continue to be moved back, forever and ever, amen.

From the OP:All facts in science are provisional, subject to testing and challenge and therefore skepticism is a method leading to provisional conclusions.

You may be misremembering a long ago (your words, not mine) lesson about the age of the Earth (estimated to be 4.7 byo) for the age of the universe.
When you were a kid (long ago, your words, not mine)

Also, as Michael said in th OP, all facts in science are provisional. As tools and methods improve, old estimates give way to newer, more probable estimates.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
@jmarley42
written by Caller X, September 27, 2010
No, the age of the Earth has been pushed back too, since those days of the first acorn and the first dewdrop.

"Newer more probable estimates"? Reeeeeallllly? Here's a bold prediction: it's never going to stop.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -3
@popsaw
written by huonia, September 27, 2010
I understand, I think, what popsaw is getting at, but it does not address the fact that millions of Christians DO choose to interpret the book of Genesis in terms of six literal days, and all the rest that generally follows it.

It would be something like me saying that I'm a dyed-in-the-wool skeptic who totally believes in Creationism. My saying so doesn't mean it's the common state of mind.

(I don't, by the way.)
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +2
Enlightining but apparently misunderstood.
written by danieljref, September 27, 2010
I don't know if it's just me but...
The article says:
All facts in science are provisional, subject to testing and challenge and therefore skepticism is a method leading to provisional conclusions.

It looks clear to me that the meaning of this sentence is: "No matter how hard you want it to be that way, science will never give you a definite answer, so the correct method is that you should always remember that what science tells you is most certainly a probability and not the truth."
Which begs the question: Then why do all skeptics always behave as if they are right when their own method prohibits them to behave as such? I mean, a skeptic may hate creationism (or whatever) but he could never say it is wrong because "all facts in science are provisional". It's either that or the article is dead wrong.

P.s.: @Caller X - I used to have the same doubt about the "40 years from Egypt to Israel". What I heard was that it took so long because that was the amount of years to change the whole "slave generation". If Israel was to be reached, it should be done by people who were born free, i.e., without the mentality of being a slave, because only in this situation would Israel endure. I must warn you that I took this at face value as it sounded pretty reasonable to me. I'm too lazy and uninterested to check it out. This is only a tip for you if you want to dig deeper.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
A provisional scientific fact does not always mean an uncertain fact
written by Skeptigirl, September 27, 2010
written by danieljref, September 27, 2010
I don't know if it's just me but...
The article says:
All facts in science are provisional, subject to testing and challenge and therefore skepticism is a method leading to provisional conclusions.

It looks clear to me that the meaning of this sentence is: "No matter how hard you want it to be that way, science will never give you a definite answer, so the correct method is that you should always remember that what science tells you is most certainly a probability and not the truth."
Which begs the question: Then why do all skeptics always behave as if they are right when their own method prohibits them to behave as such? I mean, a skeptic may hate creationism (or whatever) but he could never say it is wrong because "all facts in science are provisional". It's either that or the article is dead wrong.
To understand what is meant by scientific terminology one must recognize science has it's own terminology. You cannot apply loosely fitting lay terms and expect to make sense of what you are reading.

In science a "fact" still conveys a high degree of certainty. It was a "fact" until as late as the 1950s that the Earth's crust was one solid thing. Now it is a "fact" that the crust is made of large slowly moving plates. That is an example of how science adapts to new discoveries. Some scientific conclusions are much less certain. It is uncertain what the mechanism for the force of gravity exactly is. Bent fabric of space has been suggested but what exactly is the fabric of space made of? Yet it is a "fact' that gravity exists and follows a mathematical "law" of gravity.

This is just how science deals with evidence. It doesn't make science any less certain or less successful. In fact, there has been a clear benefit in using the scientific process to understand the nature of the Universe. Science has given us vaccines while prayer has never successfully eliminated devastating diseases in such a broadly successful way. Science has given us the ability to land a spacecraft on Mars. Creation stories haven't even successfully described what a planet and a star was.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +5
Which creation story would that be, popsaw?
written by Skeptigirl, September 27, 2010
written by popsaw, September 27, 2010
I was not aware that creationism had ever been tested and had failed using the scientific method!
Specify your creation story, the specific details of whichever one you choose, and you will almost certainly easily find scientific evidence that refutes the accuracy of the creation story you choose (unless of course you choose the scientific evidence supported description of how we think the Universe and space-time began).
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +6
For those who don't know yet...
written by Zoroaster, September 27, 2010
engaging popsaw in any form leads to him hijacking another thread with rehashed arguments ad infinitum. If you really want to try to change his mind try the forums.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +5
...
written by medains, September 27, 2010
"All facts in science are provisional, subject to testing and challenge and therefore skepticism is a method leading to provisional conclusions."

The thing that the article fails to point out is that scientific "facts" that fail testing give way to other improved "facts". So whilst our estimate of the age of the universe keeps being revised, it is being revised towards a more accurate figure, with narrower error bands. When it was discovered that Newtons laws were inaccurate at very high speeds, a new (and improved) theory of relativity provided a better fit, and a greater understanding.

Whilst science may never reach the "ultimate truth" - every step increases our knowledge and understanding. And a skeptic with the same broad approach places themselves on a life-long journey of discovery.

report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
@danieljref
written by Caller X, September 28, 2010
"
P.s.: @Caller X - I used to have the same doubt about the "40 years from Egypt to Israel". What I heard was that it took so long because that was the amount of years to change the whole "slave generation". If Israel was to be reached, it should be done by people who were born free, i.e., without the mentality of being a slave, because only in this situation would Israel endure. I must warn you that I took this at face value as it sounded pretty reasonable to me. I'm too lazy and uninterested to check it out. This is only a tip for you if you want to dig deeper."


Well, I admire laziness, having always considered it a form of intelligence, so I will do it for you.

The Hebrews weren't slaves. Moses was a player at the Egyptian equivalent of "court". Moses's brother Aaron made it to the promised land. IF you can believe the bible, a lot of people lived quite a long time in those days, but 40 years is more like two generations. Like much of the bible, this story is just made up. Except, perhaps, for the part where the Canadians, I mean the Hebrews slaughtered the Canaanites.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +3
Wrong Again
written by Caller X, September 28, 2010
Whoa, got that wrong, it was Joshua, not Aaron. Sorry about that, Chief. Slim. Slick. Boss. Pardner. Homeslice.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
...
written by addams013, September 28, 2010
popsaw: 1) Evolution must rely on Abiogenesis if a creator is ruled out.

No more than a theory of gravity relies on determining the origin of mass.

Evolution is merely a theory attempting to describe how life behaves. It's completely agnostic about how that life got here. There is no sense in which it depends on abiogenesis, even if you rule a creator out -- any more than gravitational theory requires an explanation of the origin of mass, even if you rule a creator out. (Gravitational theory simply doesn't concern itself with the origin of mass. At all. Evolution, likewise, doesn't concern itself with the origin of life.)

popsaw: 2) A lack of positive results is lack of positive proof and therefore fails the scientific method.

This is simply an appeal to ignorance, and fails basic logic, never mind science.

Besides, who says we lack positive results? We've described potential chemical pathways that lead to life. We've found naturally-occurring organic molecules that replicate themselves. Even though we lack evidence that certain suggested mechanisms of abiogenesis are, in fact, the one or ones responsible for life on this planet, that does not equate to zero positive results. Far from it.

popsaw: there is no support for theories maintaining that new “kinds” have been formed since the creation period.

False.

The fact that Helacyton gartleri (a change in "kind" that is, arguably, across entire taxonomic kingdoms) and Sticker's sarcoma (ditto) exist shows that there do not appear to be any kind of barriers preventing change at some arbitrary point. While this sort of thing is rare -- and we expect it to be -- it demonstrates the lack of a barrier that keeps populations of organisms constrained to a certain "kind" (for any meaningful definition of "kind").

Moreover, if something exists, it is up to the person who asserts the existence to demonstrate that existence. Can you point to any evidence that there is a point at which genetic change stops, or even slows down? How do we test it?

Now, on the flip side, there is copious evidence not just that things do change across the arbitrary barriers that creationists like to pretend are there, but that they have. Are you interested in discussing them?

popsaw: The unchangeable rule that “kinds” cannot cross is a biologic principle that has never been successfully challenged. Even with the aid of modern laboratory techniques and manipulation, no new “kinds” have been formed. Hence, because of the distinct discontinuity apparent between the created “kinds,” each basic group stands as an isolated unit apart from other “kinds.”

To quote The Daily Show, "You couldn't be wronger if you tried to be more wronger."

popsaw: For example, sterility presents an impassable gulf between man and the animals.

How does this even remotely relate to the idea that allele frequency can change in a population over time?

In fact, if evolution is true, we would expect reproductive isolation to occur. And not just complete reproductive isolation, but everything in between that and populations that can fully interbreed: populations that can partially interbreed, populations that can only produce infertile offspring, and so on and so on. The fact is that boundaries between "kinds" are less than clean. If "kinds" are eternally separate, why should this be so?
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +5
...
written by GrahamZ, September 28, 2010
In fact, if evolution is true, we would expect reproductive isolation to occur. And not just complete reproductive isolation, but everything in between that and populations that can fully interbreed: populations that can partially interbreed, populations that can only produce infertile offspring, and so on and so on. The fact is that boundaries between "kinds" are less than clean. If "kinds" are eternally separate, why should this be so?
Thank you -- I was going to say approximately the same thing.
My main problem with creationism (although I have many) is that the ONLY evidence of it are ancient texts of dubious veracity. There is no first-person observation presented of the creation. At best, the books seem to present a story that mixes a large amount of fiction with nonfiction. I could easily substitute a dozen invisible Elves for God in the creation myth and end up with a story that is equally plausible (or implausible). The fact that you may never have seen an Elf should not stop you from believing in them, by the same logic that not seeing God stops you from believing he exists. At least my theory of elves (as opposed to an infallible deity) explains all the flaws in creature design (everything from mental illness and inherited diseases to bad backs to near and farsightedness).

report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
The abiogenesis gap god is about to go the way of the creation gap gods
written by Skeptigirl, September 28, 2010
Researchers have made substantial progress in the field of abiogenesis. But if it is anything like evolution theory science deniers, it will be decades or longer before the deniers catch up to the actual science in their arguments.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +2
...
written by jdodd74, September 28, 2010
there is no support for theories maintaining that new “kinds” have been formed since the creation period.

I may be reading this too simply, but does this mean to suggest that humans coexisted with dinosaurs and did not develop much, much later?
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -1
@addams013
written by popsaw, September 28, 2010

Evolution is merely a theory attempting to describe how life behaves.


I agree that evolution is only a theory. Some however state that it is a fact. Those are the ones at which this quote was aimed... "Evolution must rely on Abiogenesis if a creator is ruled out".

"We've found naturally-occurring organic molecules that replicate themselves. Even though we lack evidence that certain suggested mechanisms of abiogenesis are, in fact, the one or ones responsible for life on this planet, that does not equate to zero positive results. Far from it."

As a skeptic, I am unconvinced by any claims or experiments that do not actually create life. Or demonstrate how it was created.
The fact that Helacyton gartleri (a change in "kind" that is, arguably, across entire taxonomic kingdoms) and Sticker's sarcoma (ditto) exist shows that there do not appear to be any kind of barriers preventing change at some arbitrary point. While this sort of thing is rare -- and we expect it to be -- it demonstrates the lack of a barrier that keeps populations of organisms constrained to a certain "kind" (for any meaningful definition of "kind")."


I had to look up "Helacyton gartleri" but the kinds the creation account is referring to are the finished product,the flying creatures according to their kinds the domestic animals according to their kinds, of all moving animals of the ground according to their kinds, and humans!

"Now, on the flip side, there is copious evidence not just that things do change across the arbitrary barriers that creationists like to pretend are there, but that they have. Are you interested in discussing them?"

I am interested in discussing anything which discredits My assertion is that living creatures reproduce according to their kinds (as we observe). This is to say that a horse always produces a horse, a dog a dog etc. I am interested in discussing anything which discredits this statement.

"How does this even remotely relate to the idea that allele frequency can change in a population over time?

In fact, if evolution is true, we would expect reproductive isolation to occur. And not just complete reproductive isolation, but everything in between that and populations that can fully interbreed: populations that can partially interbreed, populations that can only produce infertile offspring, and so on and so on. The fact is that boundaries between "kinds" are less than clean. If "kinds" are eternally separate, why should this be so?"


There is much variety within each kind which may cause some to feel the boundaries are not clean. The boundaries between defined kinds such as bovine, feline, human etc cannot be crossed.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -4
...
written by addams013, September 28, 2010
popsaw: I agree that evolution is only a theory. Some however state that it is a fact.

The fact is that there is substantial evidence to corroborate it, more than just about any other theory science has going for it.

While it's pedantically true that all scientific theories are provisional, after a certain amount of evidence has been gathered, it becomes increasingly unusual to withhold acceptance. Evolution is well beyond this point. Generally, when a theory has substantial support (like the heliocentric theory of the Solar System), scientists are comfortable treating it as fact and proceeding from there.

popsaw: As a skeptic, I am unconvinced by any claims or experiments that do not actually create life.

With respect, that's not skepticism. That's denial. Without showing why the experiments done are irrelevant to the subject matter they claim to cover, continuing to say "no" is merely gainsaying.

Part of the skeptical outlook is an attempt to weigh the evidence, not merely deny its pertinence. Consider, for example, that science understands many things to be true that it must gather through inference. (Astronomy, in particular, would be a dead science if this were not so. Often, even looking at something from a different angle is simply not an option.) It's also the case that we can determine what is forensically consistent with the evidence at our disposal.

Finally, whether you accept the claims of experiments that purportedly yield insight into abiogenesis or not, these experiments have no particular bearing on the validity of evolution.

popsaw: I had to look up "Helacyton gartleri" but the kinds the creation account is referring to are the finished product,the flying creatures according to their kinds the domestic animals according to their kinds, of all moving animals of the ground according to their kinds, and humans!

Right. And the point is that Helacyton gartleri did not exist until the 1950s. It is also a remarkably different "kind" from its immediate ancestor (Homo sapiens) -- removed from it across the broadest barriers our taxonomy of organisms can describe. It is a change in "kind" for any meaningful definition of "kind".

popsaw: I am interested in discussing anything which discredits My assertion is that living creatures reproduce according to their kinds (as we observe).

Sticker's sarcoma. Helacyton gartleri. These direct observations discredit your assertion.

popsaw: This is to say that a horse always produces a horse, a dog a dog etc. I am interested in discussing anything which discredits this statement.

In the case of Sticker's sarcoma in particular, a dog definitely does not always produce a dog.

We should not be surprised that it is rare. Evolution expects that when speciation occurs, it will generally take place at the lowest taxonomic levels. If horses routinely gave birth to things that were not horses, it would serve as rather stark disproof of evolution.

Even so, there is rather remarkable forensic evidence that broad evolutionary change -- from one "kind" to another -- has occurred over time. I can go more into this if you like.

popsaw: There is much variety within each kind which may cause some to feel the boundaries are not clean. The boundaries between defined kinds such as bovine, feline, human etc cannot be crossed.

I realize that's your assertion, but there are (as I've pointed out) directly-observed instances that contradict you. When you say, "cannot be crossed", you seem to mean, "are not crossed only in the particular instances I choose to pay attention to". (You have yet to produce any evidence that they cannot be crossed; your assertion that they are not crossed is not such evidence.)
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +3
Like I was saying...
written by Skeptigirl, September 28, 2010
Reading popsaw's post...like most evolution theory science deniers, it appears it will be decades or longer before popsaw catches up to the actual science in his/her arguments.

@popsaw: I highly recommend you study the extensive body of data from the science of genetics if you are the least bit interested in debating evolution in the current century.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +4
...
written by GrahamZ, September 28, 2010
The most striking evidence of evolution, and the one most often denied, imho, is the evolution of the dog, albeit by unnatural, rather than natural selection. I've heard it said that had a German Shepherd and a toy poodle been discovered in the wild, instead of bred by humans, that scientists would have classified them as distinct species. The fact that they are currently regarded as the same species (only because the changes were guided by humans who sought to breed for desirable characteristics) is only a technicality. This is unnatural evolution that has been witnessed and documented (and guided) by animal breeders. And Wolves CAN breed with dogs, although it's generally not considered advisable to breed them; and they are considered distinct species.

I won't even get started on flu viruses and so on. I think the case of the dog speaks for itself.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +3
...
written by addams013, September 29, 2010
Skeptigirl: Reading popsaw's post...like most evolution theory science deniers, it appears it will be decades or longer before popsaw catches up to the actual science in his/her arguments.

That's assuming that the arguments will ever get around to science in the first place.

I find it amusing that, in order to accept evolution, s/he wants to see something give birth to something outside its "kind" -- a patently bizarre circumstance which evolution itself generally expects not to happen a whole lot(*). So in order to accept the theory, s/he wants to see something that the theory doesn't really anticipate.

Which I find amazingly weird. It's kind of like someone refusing to accept that the Earth revolves around the Sun until someone can point to an instance of stars revolving around the Earth.

(*) Not that that means it can't happen at all, even under extremely unusual circumstances. Frankly, if this were an honest discussion, after it became clear that "kind" barriers can be crossed sometimes -- something backed up through direct observation -- there would be thousands of follow-up places to go (e.g., "When can a 'kind' barrier be crossed, and why?"). Simply repeating the denial ("It never happens!"), especially in light of facts that show that this denial is wrong, seems to indicate a commitment to something other than determining what the facts really are. (Which, in turn, puts his/her claim to be interested in discussing things that discredit his/her assertion into doubt.)
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +2
Sorry, popsaw, evolution theory is a scientific fact.
written by Skeptigirl, September 29, 2010
written by popsaw, September 28, 2010
Evolution is merely a theory attempting to describe how life behaves.
I agree that evolution is only a theory. Some however state that it is a fact. Those are the ones at which this quote was aimed... "Evolution must rely on Abiogenesis if a creator is ruled out".


First, "merely/only a theory" are both lay comments, not consistent with scientific terminology as to what a theory is.

Second, by scientific standards, with scientific theories that are so well supported by the evidence as to reach a level of practical certainty, one can refer to these theories or other claims as facts. Thus evolution is a theory and now that we have overwhelming genetic evidence the theory is correct, evolution theory is as much a fact as is the existence of gravity a scientific fact. Facts, in science, connotate a very high level of certainty. At the same time, even scientific facts are subject to revision with new evidence. This is confusing to people who are not familiar with the terminology used in science and even many people who are familiar with scientific terminology are not all aware one can refer to some things as facts in science.

Third, maybe you think we need all the details of abiogenesis to rule out your gap god, but that is not the position of the scientific community familiar with the evidence of evolution theory and genetic science.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +2
Misplacement of "merely"?
written by addams013, September 29, 2010
Skeptigirl: First, "merely/only a theory" are both lay comments, not consistent with scientific terminology as to what a theory is.

Agreed. But since this sentence was mine:

Evolution is merely a theory attempting to describe how life behaves.

... let me point out that I meant to differentiate evolution from a (hypothetical) theory that would encompass both where life came from and why it is now so diverse. Evolution only covers the latter. Perhaps it would have been more clear to say something like, "Evolution is a theory that merely attempts to describe how life behaves."

I fully agree that from an evidential standpoint, evolution is about as solid as it's possible for science to get. You can't discredit it by saying that it's "only a theory" without discrediting, by extension, all of science -- which, given science's proven track record for getting things substantially correct, is a bit ridiculous.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
Definitely not me
written by danieljref, September 29, 2010
written by Skeptigirl, September 27, 2010
In science a "fact" still conveys a high degree of certainty.

Accepting the "technical term", if it only "conveys", then my analysis is still correct. Science (and even its "facts") only speaks in probabilities.
I honestly can't see how I'm using "loosely fitting lay terms" when in its own terms a science fact only deals with probability. (Even the "high degree of certainty" seems like an odd concept. It's only a high degree of certainty according to a specific period, and not in itself - the examples are a good evidence of that)

@Caller X
The Hebrews weren't....

Zzzzzzzzz.... Snort!! Hummm?! Yeah, right. You're right. It's all made up. (whisper) I think it was the government, maaaan... (/whisper)
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -4
@danieljref
written by Skeptigirl, September 30, 2010
"Loosely fitting lay terms" in my post referred to your theory modifier, "only". There is no scientific terminology where one would legitimately say, "only a theory". That's because theories in science run the gamut from proposed to all but certain. You can downplay the certainty of the evidence for evolution theory all you want. But ignorance doesn't make it so. Genetic science has confirmed evolution theory is indeed a scientific fact. It is both a theory and a fact. Anyone who doesn't recognize that is either unaware science does accept some things as facts, or unaware just how extensive the genetic evidence is, or both.

If we couldn't refer to facts in science it would make for a an impractical level of certainty for things the evidence supports being a certainty. Is it a scientific fact or 'only' an hypothesis that I exist? That the Universe exists? That gravity exists? That the Earth orbits the Sun and the solar system is located in an arm of the Milky Way Galaxy? That the Universe has many galaxies?

Most people can see it is rather ludicrous to think one cannot ever refer to anything as a scientific fact. But not as many people have thought about what level of evidence is needed to consider something a fact. And even less people are aware just how much the majority of all modern medical advances are dependent on the fact that evolution theory is correct. For those of us who are well aware of the current state of the evidence for evolution theory, it's ludicrous to keep up this charade of the theory being tentative. It simply is not. Period, end of debate.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
It's time to stop apologizing for not having the first step in evolution theory completely figured out.
written by Skeptigirl, September 30, 2010
written by addams013, September 29, 2010
Skeptigirl: First, "merely/only a theory" are both lay comments, not consistent with scientific terminology as to what a theory is.
...Evolution is merely a theory attempting to describe how life behaves.
... let me point out that I meant to differentiate evolution from a (hypothetical) theory that would encompass both where life came from and why it is now so diverse. Evolution only covers the latter. Perhaps it would have been more clear to say something like, "Evolution is a theory that merely attempts to describe how life behaves."

If you look at the history of the evolution debate, you'll see deniers have tried to use the abiogenesis 'gap' in the theory as an argument for years. It's as ludicrous and the false claim there are no transitional fossils and no use for half a wing or no explanation for how a complex eye could have evolved or you can't get a jet from throwing parts in a hangar infinite times and so on. But rather than address the abiogenesis gap, the scientific community debating evolution deniers simply deferred the argument, saying abiogenesis is a different question from evolution theory. I have never agree with this premise. Abiogenesis is of course part of evolution theory.

But it's a moot point now. Because current evolution science research is involved in sorting out the incredible details on the protein and nucleic acid molecular levels, it is clear that abiogenesis is just one step in the process and is no more than a gap we need some details on. Abiogenesis is in no way some magical mysterious thing we are years from understanding.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
errata
written by Skeptigirl, September 30, 2010
"As ludicrous and", should read, "as ludicrous as".

And there is an extra "a" in the preceding post.

What a pain. smilies/tongue.gif
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
...
written by addams013, October 01, 2010
Skeptigirl: But rather than address the abiogenesis gap, the scientific community debating evolution deniers simply deferred the argument, saying abiogenesis is a different question from evolution theory. I have never agree with this premise. Abiogenesis is of course part of evolution theory.

I think it's more than deferring the argument. If you spend much time debating creationists, you find that they tend to lump all sorts of things into "evolution" -- from the Big Bang to plate tectonics to fossil formation. It's a careful attempt to determine exactly what we're talking about. (This is also useful because creationists have very strange ideas about what evolutionists think, believe, and claim.) It's also a gentle way to try to begin opening their minds to the fact that their teachers, whom they've trusted and perhaps even admired, have been lying to them.

It may create new problems of its own, but the solution, in my opinion, is not to claim that abiogenesis is part of the theory of evolution. There's certainly some non-trivial connections, which become apparent as soon as it sinks in that determining exactly when things went from a bunch of self-replicating chemicals to something we could call "life" is difficult to determine. But that doesn't mean that the general focus of the two disciplines is conflated.

In a much broader sense, consider the disciplines of chemistry and physics. One could look at the phenomena of nuclear reactions and ask which discipline it fits into. The correct answer is both, and neither -- but it often pays to take one side (physics makes sense to me, but that may just be because of my own peculiar background) in order to start explaining the concepts necessary to wrap one's head around the theories, data, and experiments surrounding these phenomena. This does not imply that chemistry is physics (or vice versa).

Skeptigirl: But it's a moot point now. Because current evolution science research is involved in sorting out the incredible details on the protein and nucleic acid molecular levels, it is clear that abiogenesis is just one step in the process and is no more than a gap we need some details on. Abiogenesis is in no way some magical mysterious thing we are years from understanding.

We know a lot less about it than about the rest of evolution generally. For example, we can point to when and where morphological changes that led from reptilian lineages to mammalian lineages took place with high accuracy. On the other hand, we're still piecing together exactly which model of abiogenesis might be the one that did, in fact, lead to life on Earth. In a debate where the opposition is eager to seize on every uncertainty as a lack of knowledge, doesn't it make sense to describe the parts we're quite sure about and why we're quite sure about them -- especially since only the evolution part is really necessary to blow the concept of special creation wide open?
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
...
written by Skeptigirl, October 01, 2010
written by addams013, October 01, 2010
...If you spend much time debating creationists, you find that they tend to lump all sorts of things into "evolution" -- from the Big Bang to plate tectonics to fossil formation. It's a careful attempt to determine exactly what we're talking about. (This is also useful because creationists have very strange ideas about what evolutionists think, believe, and claim.) It's also a gentle way to try to begin opening their minds to the fact that their teachers, whom they've trusted and perhaps even admired, have been lying to them.
And yet all the debating has not produced the results one would expect given the state of the science and the years the debate has continued.

It's my observation the problem needs reassessing. Deferring the abiogenesis argument for convenience is a fine hypothesis. But maybe it's time to move on and try something else.

written by addams013, October 01, 2010It may create new problems of its own, but the solution, in my opinion, is not to claim that abiogenesis is part of the theory of evolution. There's certainly some non-trivial connections, which become apparent as soon as it sinks in that determining exactly when things went from a bunch of self-replicating chemicals to something we could call "life" is difficult to determine. But that doesn't mean that the general focus of the two disciplines is conflated.

In a much broader sense, consider the disciplines of chemistry and physics. One could look at the phenomena of nuclear reactions and ask which discipline it fits into. The correct answer is both, and neither -- but it often pays to take one side (physics makes sense to me, but that may just be because of my own peculiar background) in order to start explaining the concepts necessary to wrap one's head around the theories, data, and experiments surrounding these phenomena. This does not imply that chemistry is physics (or vice versa).
Blah blah blah.... No offense but you've lost the audience by this point.

I'm on your side, try to keep that in mind as I offend you with my different opinion. If your argument makes sense, why have you made so little progress?

written by addams013, October 01, 2010We know a lot less about it than about the rest of evolution generally. For example, we can point to when and where morphological changes that led from reptilian lineages to mammalian lineages took place with high accuracy. On the other hand, we're still piecing together exactly which model of abiogenesis might be the one that did, in fact, lead to life on Earth. In a debate where the opposition is eager to seize on every uncertainty as a lack of knowledge, doesn't it make sense to describe the parts we're quite sure about and why we're quite sure about them -- especially since only the evolution part is really necessary to blow the concept of special creation wide open?
report abusevote downvote up.
Before writing this paragraph, tell me, when is the last time you reviewed the state of the science of abiogenesis?
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -1
@SkeptiGirl
written by Caller X, October 02, 2010
"Before writing this paragraph"? What do you want him to do, slingshot around time travel like they did in Star Trek iV?
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
Would it kill you to allow editing of one's posts? I blame Jeff Wagg. Cartalk manages it.
written by Caller X, October 02, 2010
Of course I meant to type "slingshot around the sun."
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
Caller X: ???
written by Skeptigirl, October 02, 2010
written by Caller X, October 02, 2010
"Before writing this paragraph"? What do you want him to do, slingshot around time travel like they did in Star Trek iV?
Yes, before writing the paragraph that addams013 wrote on 10-01-10.

I know my post sounded harsh. It's not what I meant. I am convinced the skeptical and science communities are part of the problem when it comes to convincing the public that evolution theory is a fact. Too many skeptics and science folks are themselves reluctant to speak of evolution theory as a fact. And of course abiogenesis happened, somewhere at some point in time. What is the alternative? Gods did it? Maybe you want to consider Zeus or Pele created life on Earth while you are at it.

I am in the medical field. One cannot read more than a couple research papers today before running into a study based on evolution theory. The human genome has been deciphered to a great extent. Much research today is on the level of codons in DNA (sequences of 3 nucleic acids) and how they code for proteins in the organism. We know that single substitutions in DNA can completely change the function of a gene by turning it on or off. We know that some microorganisms actually turn off their genetic repair mechanisms when challenged with a toxin in order to increase the rate of mutation. We can put the eye growth gene from the fetus of a rabbit into the larvae of a fruit fly and the fruit fly will grow normal insect eyes. No one is looking at transitional fossils to verify evolution theory. There are dozens of transitional species alive today. One can turn on turned off genes in a chicken egg and see evidence that scales and teeth grow.

The idea anyone is still debating evolution theory today is ridiculous. If every skeptic and science person had a clue about what kind of genetic evidence for evolution theory we actually have, they would understand why it's well overdue to refer to evolution as a fact, not something we just think happened because we have a whole lot of fossils that look like life evolved.

And because there has been an explosion in genetic science research, the flood has made its way to the labs of people investigating abiogenesis. There are several excellent lines of study currently ongoing. It's time to stop this farce of coddling believers in magical and superstitious explanations for how we got here by saying , "well we haven't proved [X] but we have lots of evidence", and, "I'm only talking about evolution but how the first cell formed isn't part of the theory". Yes, it is. And one should not be intimidated by people espousing superstitious and magical explanations because they are not satisfied with the pitance of evidence they believe is all there is.

Debate the deniers, yes, of course. But don't do it making excuses for the abiogenesis gap as if we need some kind of proof before we can say no magical gods were involved in the process.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
...
written by UglyLikeMe, October 03, 2010
I think this article gave a pretty good insight in what being a skeptic means, and provides a little bit more understanding behind skepticism, even if it's not the be all end all.

The rest of you in the comments were boring and didn't actually comment on the article at all.

Yes, all of you.

P.S. What sort of gang mentality causes the lot of you to downgrade these creationists' comments, just because their opinion differs from yours? I thought everyone was pretty well spoken (well, written) in their arguments, regardless of what they were. That being said, I actually downgraded as many of you as I could, learn to stay on topic! smilies/tongue.gif
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -1
It's Always A Whole Something
written by anyvainlegend, October 03, 2010
I wrote a blog article on the points of evolution that popsaw (and almost all creationists) gets wrong or misunderstands, in particular about how species evolve within species, yes, but through splits and other events, speciation can occur, where one group evolves in a different direction from the other.

THere are no mutant babies, or one species giving birth to an entirely new one in one generation. but that all species have arrived at the point we find them at today, and are not fixed, but have appeared in different and changing forms back through time. the animals we see today were not around millions of years ago, but their ancestors were. they may have looked very similar, but most have evolved to look very very different. this is owing to the changing environment (iceages, etc), as well as the fact that as animals change so do their predators.

I'm not sure if my science is 100% in the article, it's just a rough draft, so if ANYONE at all has any comments on it I'd appreciate it.

It's called "It's Always A Whole Something" and you can find it at: http://freedomfromtheend.blogs...thing.html
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
...
written by anyvainlegend, October 03, 2010
Just to be clear, the article is part of a larger body, and doesn't make a whole lot of sense contextually when read by itself.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
@anyvainlegend
written by UglyLikeMe, October 03, 2010
The context is what it means to be a skeptic. What isn't making sense to you? Or did you just leave a comment to plug your blog?
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -5
...
written by addams013, October 04, 2010
Skeptigirl: And yet all the debating has not produced the results one would expect given the state of the science and the years the debate has continued.

True. That's because of may factors. The state of science education is abysmal. Many who hold to creationism feel that they would become dangerously compromised at best, Hell-bound at worst, or anything in between, to accept something like evolution -- a danger to themselves and others. The system of thought that is passed off to them as "what 'evolutionists' think" is patently ridiculous. The "facts" that they are given to buttress their beliefs aren't, and they don't even possess the scientific wherewithal to determine why not.

I'm not convinced that the solution is to confuse the issue further by mixing fields that aren't mixed.

Skeptigirl: It's my observation the problem needs reassessing. Deferring the abiogenesis argument for convenience is a fine hypothesis. But maybe it's time to move on and try something else.

I'm all for reassessing the debate. It's my opinion that raising the science education standards would be a wonderful place to start. But you are the one making the assertion, and as such, the onus is on you to demonstrate support for your claim. Why would making abiogenesis a part of evolution proper be a benefit in educating creationists -- especially since they are all to willing to reject evolution without abiogenesis as it is, and since they find enough reason (on religious grounds) to reject evolution as it is, without abiogenesis?

Skeptigirl: Blah blah blah.... No offense but you've lost the audience by this point.

None taken. It's no secret that a careful understanding of the facts requires more care and attention to detail than simple rejection. "No" is very easy to say.

But if what we're after is proper understanding, allowing error to remain in place is not a solution. Neither is pandering to demands that the ignorant make.

Skeptigirl: I'm on your side, try to keep that in mind as I offend you with my different opinion.

I'm nowhere near offended. I just think you're wrong.

Skeptigirl: If your argument makes sense, why have you made so little progress?

See above.

It also makes sense to me to try to reach people with the truth of the matter in the same way they were deceived: one at a time.

I have more expertise in how creationists can come to understand the truth than you may realize. For most of my life, I was a rather enthusiastic young-Earth creationist myself. I came to understand that evolution is true before coming to understand what models of abiogenesis exist and what they have going for them.

Skeptigirl: Before writing this paragraph, tell me, when is the last time you reviewed the state of the science of abiogenesis?

I think you're missing the point. I understand that abiogenesis is true. However, evolution is corroborated to an even higher degree. As I've pointed out earlier, a lot of creationism's traction is generated by pretending that "evolutionists" are just guessing, frantically trying any mental trickery they can come up with to keep from being undermined too quickly. As far as they're concerned, "evolutionists" don't see because they don't want to see. They also (erroneously) believe that any questions or unknowns in the theory are evidence for creationism.

With these strange ideas in mind, it seems pretty plain to me that even if we could get them to be patient enough to sit through several different models of abiogenesis, and even if we could mention to them what the nature of the evidence we've gathered is and how it seems to lend support in different degrees to different models (see your point above about "losing the audience"), they would see the very fact that we have several models of abiogenesis as more evidence of "guessing", more evidence that we're ignoring the "simple truth" of creation to embrace our "faith" in evolution. Their mindset doesn't let them see an understanding of abiogenesis as a strength; all they can see are the weaknesses that we would draft in. They'd only see that the theory, as a whole, has become more uncertain -- which, to them, is a weakness and an indication of falsehood.

Considering all this, what exactly do you think including abiogenesis under the umbrella of evolution would accomplish for the debate?
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
...
written by addams013, October 04, 2010
Skeptigirl: No one is looking at transitional fossils to verify evolution theory.

The creationists are, in a way. One of their oft-repeated arguments is that transitional fossils don't exist. Kirk Cameron recently challenged "evolutionists" to produce a "crocoduck".

Of course, we know that there are transitional fossils everywhere. The trick is getting creationists to understand what they are and what they represent.

Happily, your larger point stands -- there's more than enough evidence to support evolution, even if we had no fossil record to appeal to. The scientific community was convinced of evolution long before genetics, however, so it seems erroneous to claim that this kind of evidence cannot convince. (It's also interesting to note that this evidence that convinced them of evolution didn't include abiogenesis.)

UglyLikeMe: What sort of gang mentality causes the lot of you to downgrade these creationists' comments, just because their opinion differs from yours?

That's not the point. It's not "just because their opinion differs". There is empirical evidence on the matter. There is a way reality really is, regardless of our "opinion". And reality shows us that the creationists are wrong.

UglyLikeMe: I thought everyone was pretty well spoken (well, written) in their arguments, regardless of what they were.

The "well-written" nature of the argument is irrelevant to whether or not the argument is empirically supported.

UglyLikeMe: That being said, I actually downgraded as many of you as I could, learn to stay on topic!

Online conversations tend to wander. Welcome to the Internet.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +2
Reply to addams013
written by Skeptigirl, October 04, 2010
written by addams013, October 04, 2010
I'm not convinced that the solution is to confuse the issue further by mixing fields that aren't mixed.

Where do you divide the evolution cascade continuum? At the first replicating RNA? At the first replicating DNA molecule? At the first cell? At the first sustained replicating cell?

Notice that you must draw an arbitrary division there as to where to end the abiogenesis theory and start the evolution theory? This is also my answer to your challenge I need to support my contention that abiogenesis is integral to evolution theory.

Looking at the organism, fossils (aka history) and natural selection, one can get a distorted view that evolution theory is only about replicating organisms and natural selection of the fittest genes. But when one goes deeper into the mechanisms of evolution theory, one finds Darwin was on the right track, but didn't have all the specifics. It isn't survival of the fittest, it's random mutation and natural (and some unnatural) selection pressures. Lot's of genetic changes are neutral when it comes to selection. Yet coincidental circumstance can amplify a gene regardless of it offering a survival benefit to the organism.

But I digress. Once you move from the observed organism to understanding the process on the molecular level, you find a continuum from not life to life. You don't find whole organisms and survival of the fittest. There is no clear life/not life division. Abiogenesis IS part of the process and IS part of evolution theory.

As for dismissing my challenge to you to see where the abiogenesis science is at the moment, I still recommend you check out where the science is currently. It might surprise you.

I have more expertise in how creationists can come to understand the truth than you may realize.

I don't doubt your expertise. My comments reflect my experience with skeptics and scientists time and time again. They also typically fully understand the Creationists' point of view and tactics. They typically know all the issues... except one, the science of communication. So that's where my answer to this comes in:
Considering all this, what exactly do you think including abiogenesis under the umbrella of evolution would accomplish for the debate?


One of my favorite quotes was made in a Congressional hearing by Rick Piltz from NASA.
In response to a question by Representative Sarbanes, Piltz noted that those seeking to discredit or downplay the widely accepted climate science have “a predatory relationship to the uncertainty language” that is an accepted part of science.
You can find a link to the testimony here: http://thepumphandle.wordpress...e-science/


You can have all the facts and science on your side. And of course science and media illiteracy is a key issue. But unless you look at the message, how you are sending it and how it is received, all the valid knowledge one has to share falls on deaf ears. The science of communication looks at why that valid knowledge failed to convince. One of the barriers the Creationists throw up is to latch on to trigger words or concepts. Can't disprove God, aha! No matter there is overwhelming evidence gods are mythical beings humans made up. Can't call evolution proved? Aha! Gotcha. And so on.

I'm suggesting you look at those classical barriers. One of them is us. It is our excuses and lack of confidence. You may think it is scientifically accurate. Sure, if you want to debate a knowledgeable scientist why science doesn't test for designers. But if the Creationist is trying to change the debate to the straw man that scientists exclude evidence of gods, then debating why science doesn't test for designers plays right into their hands.

You may think it is easier to separate out a piece of evolution theory that we don't have the specific answers to. I see it giving Creationists a reason to claim they have a valid hypothesis in Intelligent Design. But they do not. There is no evidence supporting the need for a designer in evolution theory. I point out Behe's bacterial flagella was not irreducibly complex. We found the genetic structure it evolved from. I don't care that science doesn't test for designers. That argument plays into the Creationists' hand. I take the debate back to the evidence and don't let them change the debate from the evidence to the straw man of fairness and being open to alternative theories.

report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
...
written by addams013, October 05, 2010
Skeptigirl: Notice that you must draw an arbitrary division there as to where to end the abiogenesis theory and start the evolution theory?

Yes. I made that very point (with much less specificity) when I said, a few posts back (on October 1):

There's certainly some non-trivial connections, which become apparent as soon as it sinks in that determining exactly when things went from a bunch of self-replicating chemicals to something we could call "life" is difficult to determine.

However, I also made the point that because there is substantial crossover between fields in a particular area of study does not mean that the two studies should be considered identical. Unfortunately, I'd "lost my audience" by that point.

Ultimately, of course, the information to be understood in the Universe is not subject to our attempts to arbitrarily divide it into categories. We should not be surprised that crossover between disciplines exists. That does not make our attempt to describe different categories irrelevant, especially in a pedagogical sense (and since so much of debating creationists boils down to what evolution is in spite of their opinions and/or what they've been mistaught, it may be useful to think of this in a pedagogical sense).

Skeptigirl: Looking at the organism, fossils (aka history) and natural selection, one can get a distorted view that evolution theory is only about replicating organisms and natural selection of the fittest genes. But when one goes deeper into the mechanisms of evolution theory, one finds Darwin was on the right track, but didn't have all the specifics.

Now, this is interesting. It fits well with another point that I keep having to make to creationists: evolution isn't "Darwinism". (Our understanding of evolution has progressed far beyond him; and science isn't a personality cult in any event.)

Skeptigirl: Yet coincidental circumstance can amplify a gene regardless of it offering a survival benefit to the organism.

That's true even in

Skeptigirl: As for dismissing my challenge to you to see where the abiogenesis science is at the moment, I still recommend you check out where the science is currently. It might surprise you.

I'm still working on that. There's a lot of catch-up involved. smilies/smiley.gif But you could probably tell that already.

Skeptigirl: They typically know all the issues... except one, the science of communication.

Well, that's the trick, isn't it? We kind of have to convince creationists that science is valid before we jump into what science has discovered and how it interprets it. Otherwise, as you and Rick Piltz point out, we'll be rejected out of hand.

And that's the tragedy of it. Creationists often come to the table with the assumption already in place that they know the truth and you don't, so nothing you say can inform their understanding in the slightest. They claim to want a debate, when all they really want is to show the righteousness of their cause.

So perhaps you're right. If we can communicate to them why science is a trustworthy way to understand the Universe in the first place -- even forensically -- then demonstrating why we claim to understand what we do is relatively straightforward. Until then, no fact or explanation is capable of being understood or even contemplated.

Looking at things from that perspective, I can think of no good reason to exclude abiogenesis from things traditionally gathered under the umbrella of evolution.

Seems I was putting the cart before the horse. I concede the point.

Oh, and thanks for the discussion, and I apologize if I came off as brusque. I've learned to accept ideas only if they stand up to a little bashing. If there was a point where you felt offended or personally attacked, I ask forgiveness; please believe that it was only my intent to refine my thinking.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
Loose ends
written by Skeptigirl, October 05, 2010
substantial crossover between fields in a particular area of study does not mean that the two studies should be considered identical
Medicine and nursing have considerable "crossover", but these sciences are not on opposite ends of a continuum. The geology of Earth and the geology of planetary bodies can be dealt with separately, but they are both still geology. I don't see anywhere that abiogenesis and evolution can be logically divided. You agree the division is arbitrary. It's akin to making the argument life begins at birth, at conception, somewhere in between, or we should consider eggs and sperm to be living beings. You can talk about the organism exclusively in any one of these stages, but you cannot say the organism only begins at [X] point in the process.

I suggest you consider the terms, crossover and continuum, as not having the same meaning.


We kind of have to convince creationists that science is valid before we jump into what science has discovered and how it interprets it.
Just as with any science, all the answers are not yet known. My hope is that skeptics and scientists change their approach to communicating science to irrational thinkers, not just change their answers. It is the process which needs reconsideration. What you say makes a potential hypothesis. The next step is to test it, then develop approaches to the newly identified (or clarified) problem and test those approaches.

In any other scientific field, it's usually clear to people when progress is not being made, one might want to reevaluate, have you correctly assessed the problem. All failure to think rationally is not simply a knowledge deficit. You've identified one underlying problem, 'underlying premises' have to be dealt with before one can communicate knowledge that is dependent on the right underlying premise. So if science is discounted, imparting all the science knowledge in the world is not going to correct the knowledge deficit. And one underlying premise that allows science to be discounted is the uncertainty language we use.


Regarding this discussion specifically, I developed (a while ago, and not by myself) the hypothesis that our failure to address the appearance of uncertainty is giving irrational thinkers a way to deny the certainly of the scientific method, and especially the certainty of evolution theory. I don't doubt that once we address that appearance of uncertainty another rationalization for rejecting science and evolution theory will emerge. But maybe if it does, it will have a few less followers.

As for the abiogenesis, I am absolutely confident there is no need to shy away from this aspect of evolution theory. There is no need to cower when a Creationist throws out the, "you can't prove [x]" argument. Just confidently reply, "I can say with certainty, magic and superstition are not going to turn out to be part of the answer." How do I know that? Because science has a long track record of success and magic and superstition have a long track record of failure.

report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
about that brusque thing
written by Skeptigirl, October 05, 2010
Whoa, I thought I was the one being snitty. You don't need to apologize for anything. I didn't take any offense to anything you posted and I'm glad you didn't take my posts that way.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
...
written by addams013, October 06, 2010
Skeptigirl: I suggest you consider the terms, crossover and continuum, as not having the same meaning.

I don't think they have the same meaning. But I was certainly treating them that way, wasn't I? Ah, well.

You've certainly convinced me of the need to treat them less like a crossover; that was instinctively how I was treating them and thinking about them, I'll admit, because it was how I was accustomed to presenting information about them in debate.

Skeptigirl: Regarding this discussion specifically, I developed (a while ago, and not by myself) the hypothesis that our failure to address the appearance of uncertainty is giving irrational thinkers a way to deny the certainly of the scientific method, and especially the certainty of evolution theory.

And thanks to our discussion, I see where you're coming from, and I agree. Thankfully, even as a creationist, I had healthy regard for "following the evidence" -- I was just horribly mistaught as to what the evidence was; it was finding out about the real nature of the evidence that allowed the door to open a crack, which ultimately allowed me to find the truth of the matter. Creationists often claim to be consistent with "real science", and it's easy to think that the same commitment is there on their part and that whether or not their thinking is in line with the available facts matters to them. While I don't have the hubris to think that I'm unique, experience has taught me that most creationists simply don't care about what the evidence is. They believe they will never have to refine their thinking on the matter, so in their minds, why should they care?

Skeptigirl: There is no need to cower when a Creationist throws out the, "you can't prove [x]" argument. Just confidently reply, "I can say with certainty, magic and superstition are not going to turn out to be part of the answer." How do I know that? Because science has a long track record of success and magic and superstition have a long track record of failure.

Yes, absolutely. And "you don't know X" is far removed from "no one will ever be able to know X, even in principle". It's that assertion on which creationism and "intelligent design" rest -- the idea that they can know exactly what no human being can ever know. Which is weird, if you think about it.

I've gotten some traction out of pointing to the fact that the Earth moves, in spite of the fact that the Bible says that it doesn't and can't(*). Faithful people a few scant centuries ago justified criticizing the faith of others(**) who said that the Earth moved, justifying their actions with words from their Holy Writ. Now, should those people hundreds of years ago have known that the Earth moves? Should they have allowed for the possibility? If so, under what circumstances should we allow for the possibility that science can correct our understanding about what the Bible has to say?

Which goes back to your point that we need to establish science as trustworthy before we can present scientific evidence and expect it to be absorbed and contemplated.

I understand that there are those who still claim that the Earth doesn't move (e.g., fixedearth.com), but I've never had a conversation with one. I have no idea where I'd begin there.

Skeptigirl: You don't need to apologize for anything. I didn't take any offense to anything you posted and I'm glad you didn't take my posts that way.

That's good to hear. Thanks for being willing to discuss your thoughts.

(*) The faithful are often surprised when I show them exactly where their Holy Writ actually says that.

(**) And doing a lot more, too, of course.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
David Icke
written by Seymour Brighton, November 04, 2010
I want to hire someone to kill David Icke. If anyone is interested or has contacts in England to carry this out, email me.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0

Write comment
This content has been locked. You can no longer post any comment.
You must be logged in to post a comment. Please register if you do not have an account yet.

busy