Evolution, Much Like Dry Land, Is Not a Myth
I had the idea to make a list of all the prominent people who don’t believe in evolution, but quickly found that would be too big. Unless it’s just a list of names, then there isn’t enough room in one essay to put everybody in there. Instead, I’ll periodically add people in other entries, and eventually compile a basic list. I start with the usual suspects – the conservative leaders that so many millions in the United States go to for advice.
“Evolution is a myth,” O’Donnell said as the others piped up incredulously. She repeated herself, then added: “Well then why aren’t monkeys still evolving into humans?”
This lady was the gift that kept on giving. In much the same way I like Rod Blagojevich, I loved her. I sure as hell didn’t want her getting elected, but having her around filled my heart with comedic joy. We haven’t heard much out of her in a while, but this quote was what got me thinking about this essay.
I want to catalogue all the nationally prominent people who either don’t believe in evolution, believe in creationism, or believe in intelligent design. I’ll list his or her name, provide some kind of proof for what they said, and explain why what they say is flawed.
On to Ms. O’ Donnell. The funniest part of this quote is where she calls evolution a myth.
Creation myths are a dime a dozen. When I say “creation myth” most people probably think of some Native American story that says the earth was molded out of clay by a grumpy raven. You may also think (deep down) that this creation myth is silly. A raven making the earth out of clay? Sounds like a Far Side cartoon! Well, the Christian creation story is also just that, a story (or myth) – and many would consider it just as absurd. All opinions aside, there is no scientifically testable evidence that either my made up Native American myth or the Christian myth are true. If you believe either one of them you believe them on faith – faith that whoever told them was writing the truth. You might believe faith comes from god somehow channeling truth into your mind. Within the realms of science, there is no way to prove that. After hundreds of years of testing, it is not an observable phenomenon. Unless new evidence comes up it’s just faith, not fact, and because it isn’t testable it has no place in a science classroom.
She also says that if evolution were true, then monkeys would be evolving into humans. I think what she’s saying is we evolved from monkeys, which isn’t exactly true. Modern monkeys – and all other primates – evolved from a common ancestor. Modern monkeys aren’t exactly the same as that common ancestor. They’re just genetically closer to that ancestor than we are. New species emerge when they’re isolated (either by distance or some physical boundary) from others in their old species. Then a change in their environment has to affect their ability to survive in their previous form. Whatever the case, that comment shows a complete lack of understanding of natural selection, speciation, and sex in general. That last one might explain this.
“There are hundreds and hundreds of scientists, many of them holding Nobel Prizes, who believe in intelligent design.” – Michele Bachman
She may be right. There may be “scientists” who believe in some kind of Intelligent Design, but that doesn’t mean they don’t believe in evolution as well*. Let’s say she’s right about these people she’s referencing though. That doesn’t mean they’re biologists – or even remotely connected to a branch of science that studies evolution. I would be surprised if an astronomer or geologist believed in ID. But a Chemist who works for Proctor and Gamble? Maybe one making the next popular male “enhancement” drug? Who knows? Maybe.
*You could interpret Intelligent Design different ways. For example, your version of god might have just applied a divine spark to start life. Once that happened the accepted version of evolution took place. By my count that’s as ludicrous as the guiding hand, but not as crazy as strict Creationism. I guess a very, very loose interpretation of ID could be that an even more remote god set up the basic laws of the Universe, and therefore set them up to result in evolution. That, however, is almost bordering on agnosticism.
Bachmann holds many, many flawed views of evolution. You can read them here.
She “didn’t believe in the theory that human beings – thinking, loving beings – originated from fish that sprouted legs and crawled out of the sea” or from “monkeys who eventually swung down from the trees.” – Palin in Going Rogue from a NY Times Article
Of course these things – being thinking, loving beings and also part of the evolutionary tree – aren’t mutually exclusive. Her argument here – and I admit I don’t have the whole excerpt – seems to rest on this. Semantics aside, her dumbing down of evolution is typical. It usually goes something like this: “I look nothing like a fish. How can we be descended from fish?” or “I’m way smarter than a monkey. You saying I’m descended from one is an insult!” That jump of logic ignores basic facts of evolution – like the complex mechanisms that underlie its theories – and appeals to the insecurity inherent in everyone.
In a competitive society, we all want to be the best – the smartest, the best looking , the tallest. If you imply that someone resembles something that does not have those traits –or at least doesn’t have attributes that are attractive to other human beings – they get upset and defensive. If you haven’t already figured it out, the argument is pretty darned ironic*. It appeals to the same mechanism – natural selection – that the theory of evolution hinges on. Because we reproduce sexually, we want to be attractive to those of the opposite sex and pass on our genes. Attractive traits are ones that make us healthy and productive members of society. Most of the people I know aren’t attracted to monkeys or fish. Like other attacks on evolution, it’s also based on the audience’s lack of understanding – or unwillingness to understand – evolution and the scientific method.
*Would that be hypocritical? Or just not self-aware? Maybe stupid? Probably all of the above.
“I don’t think we came from monkeys. I think that’s ridiculous. I haven’t seen a half-monkey, half-person yet. Did evolution just stop? Did we all of sudden – there’s no other species that’s developing into half-human?
It’s like global warming. So I don’t know why it is so problematic for people to just so, I don’t know how God creates. I don’t know how we got here. If I get to the other side and God’s like, ‘You know what, you were a monkey once,’ I’ll be shocked, but I’ll be like, ‘Whatever.’
They have to make you care. They have to force it down your throat. When anybody has to force it, that’s a problem. You didn’t have to force that the world is round. Truth is truth. You don’t have to force the truth.” – Glenn Beck
I hate Glenn Beck like I love Christine O’Donnell. He’s either just as dumb or just as
pandering to the willfully ignorant as she is. He ‘s scary though because people follow him. He’s unstable, charismatic, and batshit crazy – a scary combination of traits. His mid-life conversion to Christianity* makes me think he believes everything he says. Converts are the craziest, right?
*Well, Mormonism, which is like the newer, wackier Christianity.
There’s some Christine O’Donnell in this quote. He doesn’t understand the evolutionary relationship between monkeys and humans. He also asks why there isn’t a half-human, half-monkey, which is the same problem. One could argue that, within his twisted evolutionary model, the other great apes are those half-human/half-monkeys. Our evolutionary line diverged from the chimps’, gorillas’, orangutans’, and gibbons’ more recently than from the monkeys’.
I would also be surprised if Glenn Beck got to “the other side” and God told him he used to be a monkey. No informed scientist has ever implied that any human being was once a monkey. Evolution does not occur within one generation. It’s idiotic, and lots of anti-evolution people say it. Beck might say that he was being rhetorical, that he was being over the top on purpose to make a point. But people will believe him. He is portraying science as nonsensical and illogical. If that’s true, then why wouldn’t people believe some scientists think this? He implies that there are competing – and moronic – lines or reasoning within the scientific community on this topic. There aren’t. Anyway, I’m pretty sure if heaven exists and there is a god, the only reason he* would want to meet or talk to Glenn Beck would be to smack him in the face.
*If we’re pretending there’s an all-knowing being that lives in another dimension, hears all of our prayers, and sends people to a place like heaven if they do his bidding after he whispers to a few random people we might as well give that thing a gender.
“We now officially came from a monkey, 47 million years ago. Well, that’s how it’s being presented here. It’s settled science. You know, this is all BS, as far as I’m concerned. Cross species evolution, I don’t think anybody’s ever proven that. They’re going out of their way now to establish evolution as a mechanism for creation, which, of course, you can’t do.” – Rush Limbaugh
Rush Limbaugh is like Glenn Beck but less charming. Limbaugh’s talent is continuous, loud talking. Maybe it’s because he works on radio, but he just keeps going, blabbering unsubstantiated nonsense. Beck likes melodrama – conspicuously significant pauses that work well on TV. Limbaugh likes anger and yelling. Anyway, what he says here is silly. Cross-species evolution? That’s not a thing*. I think what he’s saying is there isn’t any proof that evolution created speciation. That goes to another common anti-evolution argument – that it’s just a theory and can’t be proven.
*Two different species shouldn’t be able to mate and create reproductively viable offspring although it doesn’t always work that way because definitions of species have changed over the years.
Technically, that’s true. According to the scientific method you never know anything with absolute, 100% certainty. That’s because for thousands of years people came up with ideas for why things were the way they were… but were very wrong. Then some smart people realized that every time somebody came up with a new explanation they eventually turned out to be wrong. Since these folks didn’t want to seem stupid to future generations, they came up with a back-up plan*, the scientific method. Basically, it says that observable phenomena and testable hypotheses lead to theories. That was different from how it used to be, when people just made up cool stories that sounded good around a campfire. Unfortunately, it also meant all conclusions are just theories – not facts or laws. All evidence out there might strongly point to a theory being true, but it’s still just a theory. For example, we understand how evolution works better than we do gravity. But they’re both theories.
*Not exactly true, but brilliant and hilarious if it were.
“Science is not always incomplete and I’ll give you an example. There are twenty-four hours in a day. Alright. That’s science.” – O’Reilly Factor.
The interesting thing here is O’Reilly doesn’t deny evolution; he just says intelligent design
should be taught alongside it. He does so in an interview with a Professor of Biology, and also in an editorial he wrote for FoxNews. You should read the interview. O’Reilly isn’t a journalist. Journalists ask questions and gather facts. O’Reilly regularly speaks – or yells – over his guests, not allowing them to continue when they make rational arguments against his views. He keeps going, not even acknowledging a rebuttal if the guest gets a chance to give one.
Anyway, the quote above is O’Reilly’s. He likes to paint himself as a moderate, and I suppose compared to the other people on FoxNews he is. The problem with this quote is that he’s flat-out wrong. He says that, because there are always 24 hours in a day and we’re sure of that, that’s proof that sometimes science isn’t just a theory, it’s fact. Well, first of all an hour is just a proportion of a day, so yes, there will always be 24 hours in a day. And it would be ridiculous to think that we might discover a day is longer or shorter than we thought it was. What? That happened last year?
Anyway, my flawed argument is beside the point. The point is science says we don’t know anything at 100% certainty. Some “theories”, like the fact that you and I exist, are at a very, very high level of certainty. Pretty much everything is lower than that one. Others, like the hollow earth theory, are significantly lower.
Besides that, Intelligent Design has no business being in a science classroom. There is no evidence to support the theory and it’s an un-provable hypothesis. Well, maybe it’s not entirely un-testable. If God is somehow changing genetics to suit his design then we would see some crazy, unexplainable phenomena acting on living bodies. One could argue that we have been doing significant biological and chemical research and experiments for many years and have never, ever come close to witnessing something like this going on. Meanwhile, there is a metric SHIT-TON of evidence for evolution. The two theories aren’t in the same ballpark. Hell, they’re not in the same universe. Without new evidence, there is no reason to take Intelligent Design seriously.
“But I think schools also ought to be fair to all views. Because, frankly, Darwinism is not an established scientific fact. It is a theory of evolution, that’s why it’s called the theory of evolution. And I think that what I’d be concerned with is that it should be taught as one of the views that’s held by people. But it’s not the only view that’s held. And any time you teach one thing as that it’s the only thing, then I think that has a real problem to it.” – Mike Huckabee
I’m leaving Mike for last because if you made me bet, I’d probably take Huckabee as the favorite to be the Republican nomination for president in two years. I’ve said enough already, so I don’t need to explain again why his statement is garbage.
All that being said, I’m planning on doing this with many more national figures in future posts. Hope you enjoyed this, and here’s a parting thought:
Why do those who believe in evolution have the burden of proof? Those who doubt evolution should have to explain why there is so much evidence for evolution and against creationism. In science, the burden of proof is on Creationists and those who believe in Intelligent Design. That’s why any classroom that teaches either of those two things alongside evolution is not teaching science.