• What if we could pull “Jesus” out from behind the movie sign?

    You know nothing about my work!

    Jerry Coyne has won the internet today. Everyone can stop trying until tomorrow.

    When told by young-earth creationist Paul Nelson about all the biologists,mentioned by name, who “ave recently expressed frank doubts about selection,” Coyne emailed them to ask what they thought. It was a very fair and neutral email delivered by Coyne (though Larry Moran disagreed), and the responses were terrific.

    Go read all of them. This bit, from Michael Lynch, is my favorite:

    Thanks for calling my attention to this. I don’t consider myself to be in the camp of those who question the legitimacy of “modern” evolutionary theory. On the other hand, I do question the motivations of those who argue that the modern edifice has been patently unsuccessful and needs to be dismantled so that a new evolutionary synthesis can be erected to save the day. Not much drives me crazier than folks who make such statements without providing any evidence of ever having attempted to read a single paper in evolutionary theory. I find this attitude about as defensible as ID. The ID crowd tends to misinterpret my embracing of what I call “nonadaptive” mechanisms of evolution (drift, mutation, and recombination) as implying a rejection of Darwinian processes.

    And how does Nelson respond?

    I’ll stand by what these authors (Davidson, Lynch, Gerhart, Kirschner, and Wagner) have published on the topic of the efficacy of natural selection.

    Neslon then quotes some passages from the authors. In other words, he doesn’t believe what they say. He believes what he wants them to say in his pet quotations.

    I have no doubt that if we could bring Jesus himself out in front of the religious and ID-addled, and if we could confirm that Jesus was just a dude and/or didn’t mean what Christians seem to think he did, then Christians would still maintain belief in their pet interpretations.

    Of course this assumes there was a single person who correspondedclosely enough to the Greek Testament’s character.

    Category: Religion


    Article by: Larry Tanner

    • SmilodonsRetreat

      Ah, the famous “argument by quotation” tactic of the creationist. It doesn’t matter what they say now, because they said something that I interpreted to mean they hate Darwinism (whatever that is).

      It’s really fun to find a creationist using this tactic, find the quotes in question, then quote the very next sentence, which usually destroys the creationists claim.

      • lartanner

        Eventually, the creationists points out that the scientists fears censure from Darwinism’s orthodoxy.


    • frisbee_kid

      It would have helped Coyne if had had some actual evidence for efficacy of natural selection, ie something that demonstrates it is the designer mimic it was championed as.
      However, to date, no one has provided any such evidence. Why is that?

      • lartanner

        What sort of evidence for natural selection would you expect?

        • frisbee_kid

          Evidence for it being the designer mimic it was invented for. Evidence for it actually doing something. Because without that evidence all you have is sheer dumb luck and that ain’t science, Larry.

          • lartanner

            Yes, but what I meant was what specific artifacts or results would correspond to the kind of evidence that goes to natural selection? For example, do you think certain kinds of genetic evidence could be evidence for natural selection?
            Think of it this way: If you wanted to make the case for natural selection, what specifically would you look for to present to the scientific community and the public?
            I assume you believe that natural selection is, in principle at least, demonstrable. Please let me know if my assumption is incorrect.

            • frisbee_kid


              What do you have? Yes, natural selction exists- if you have differential reproduction due to heritable random (as in chance/ happenstance- see Mayr, “What Evolution Is”) variation, then you have natural selection.

              Problem is you can have differential reproduction that isn’t due to natural selection.

              So what do you have?

              And no, you can’t just point to something and say “natural selection didit”- how do you know? For one how do you know the mutations are random (chance) events?

              “Oh yeah eyes are beneficial therefor natural selection didit”- well no, because until the entire vision system is assembled, eyes don’t do anything except give something a soft entry into the brain.

              So you have peppered moths with the differing variations providing different levels of advantage or disadvantage, depending on the environment. You have bacteria that demonstrate the same thing. Except with bacteria once you remove the anti-biotic, the antibiotic resistant strain is quickly out-competed by the non-resistant strain.

              The point being is all it “does” is lead to a wobbling stability– population oscillation

            • lartanner

              I understand what you are saying here, frisbee_kid, but it still isn’t the answer to my question.

              My question is what specific kinds of data would we need to collect to demonstrate what natural selection does and causes–and doesn’t.

              Maybe it’s a bad or badly formulated question. I was just trying to get a sense of what you meant by Coyne and others having no evidence or scant evidence. Coyne’s book, of course, purports to be a summary of the evidence. I can only say, not being a biologist myself, that Coyne would be a far, far better person for conversation on evidence and “wobbling stability.”

              Just because it’s good history and good to recall sources, here is Darwin’s rationale of natural selection:

              If during the long course of ages and under varying conditions of life,
              organic beings vary at all in the several parts of their organisation,
              and I think this cannot be disputed; if there be, owing to the high
              geometrical powers of increase of each species, at some age, season, or year, a severe struggle for life, and this certainly cannot be disputed; then, considering the infinite complexity of the relations of all organic beings to each other and to their conditions of existence, causing an infinite diversity in structure, constitution, and habits, to be advantageous to them, I think it would be a most extraordinary fact if no variation ever had occurred useful to each being’s own welfare, in the same way as so many variations have occurred useful to man. But, if variations useful to any organic being do occur, assuredly individuals thus characterised will have the best chance of being preserved in the struggle for life; and from the strong principle of inheritance they will tend to produce offspring similarly characterised. This principle of preservation, I have called, for the sake of brevity, Natural Selection.