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By some measures, half of all Americans still reject the theory of evolution. But for others, the theory of evolution prompts a genuine crisis of faith.

Did you know that a growing number of scientists doubt the Darwinian theory of evolution?

Intelligent design is a uniquely American phenomenon, but only one of at least eight variations of the creationist idea, explains Michael Shermer in Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design. The assembled are knowledgeable, humane and deeply passionate about science as a way of knowing the world around us.

The result is a teaching moment that encompasses all the ages of the Earth. Evolutionary biologist Neil H. Shubin of the University of Chicago writes of the way living things emerged from the seas and describes the recently discovered fossil specimen of that first terrestrial explorer. Paleontologist Tim D. White of UC Berkeley lays out the forensic evidence of pre-human descent.

Nicholas Humphrey, a professor at the Center for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science at the London School of Economics, muses on how natural selection might have produced human consciousness. Harvard University cognitive neuroscientist Steven Pinker holds forth on the evolution of ethics. Harvard evolutionary psychologist Marc D. Hauser discusses the proper role of evolution in the science curriculum. Several essayists worry that the passions stirred by the intelligent design debate go well beyond the natural tension between science and religion.

They suspect that baser political motives are at work in a strategy crafted to discredit science itself as an independent auditor of political claims about global warming, stem-cell research, pollution and high-tech military systems.

In itself, an intellectual battle of ideas is not at all a bad thing. But what I and many other people find deeply disturbing are the mechanisms that drive the conflict. It seems that both sides are pawns in a bigger game, a game of politics and power. Tufts University philosopher Daniel C. Dennett, however, has no patience with conspiracy theory.

None writes so fiercely in defense of evolution as Shermer, a Scientific American columnist and founder and director of the Skeptics Society. As Quammen so ably documents, Darwin clearly understood the challenge that natural selection posed to the conventional Victorian Christian faith that sustained his friends and family. As an example of an almost certainly inherited instinct he cites the genius of Mozart. We are all familiar with the degrees of tameness of birds. Small birds may feed from our bird tables but birds of prey will rarely visit our gardens because they have had thousands of generations of persecution from man and his pets.

Domesticated animals gradually lose their wild instincts because man will not breed from individuals which display them. Darwin cites dogs from Tierra del Fuego which when brought to England kill chickens because they have had no previous experience of domestic poultry. From the many natural instincts he could give as examples of evolution, Darwin chooses three to discuss in detail: the parasitic egg laying habits of cuckoos; the slave-making instinct of ants, and the bee's ability to make honeycomb.

Darwin next deals with the problem of the existence of 'castes' in the sterile 'worker' females in insect colonies. Since the workers are sterile, how could they pass on their characteristics and instincts? He argued that in the insect colony, the fertile members will flourish if their sterile worker offspring are useful. Then the fertile insects will have more sterile offspring with the desirable worker traits, and so on. Darwin then tackled the problem of how to explain the origins of castes in the first place. To do this he pointed to several species of ants which exhibited varying degrees of caste formation from none at all to partial castes to those with highly developed and distinct castes.

The chapter ends with a triumphant claim that it is not special creation which accounts for all the wonderful instincts possessed by animals. In this chapter Darwin addresses the ability of separate species either to produce sterile or fertile offspring or none at all. Almost all other naturalists in believed that species were specially and separately created and were therefore fundamentally different from varieties. Varieties, or races, were a local population descended from a parent species, and differing from it somewhat in colour or other traits.

Darwin argued that there is no essential difference between varieties and species. The difference is one of degree, not of kind, clearing the path for his view that species are formed by natural selection and that the tree of life follows from the simple branching of two twigs or lineages. Darwin's contemporaries believed that the usual sterility of hybrid offspring from two species is of advantage to the two species.

Many believed that by this means species were kept distinct and separate and a confusing blend of everything mixed together was prevented. But Darwin argued that natural selection could never create sterility as it is of no benefit to the hybrids to be sterile. Instead, sterility must be an incidental consequence of the accumulated differences between the two species since they diverged from a common ancestor.

The longer they had been separated, the less likely that they could produce fertile or even infertile offspring. He ends the chapter having demonstrated conclusively that there is no way to make an absolute distinction between a variety and a species.

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It is simply a matter of the degree of divergence from ancestors. A small amount of change we call a variety. A more substantial amount of change we call a species. Darwin's aim in this chapter is to negate the obvious objection that the fossil record did not clearly reveal many of the intermediate forms that his theory predicts must have existed. He explained that the fossil record, whilst compatible with his theory, is so fragmentary that it cannot be used to disprove it.

But he goes further and implies that the fossil record is so fragmentary that it cannot be used to prove it either, so that establishing the truth of his theory must be based on its ability to explain the phenomena of life as we see it today. Darwin opens by pointing out that we should not assume that the intermediates we are looking for as fossils will look 'midway' between previously discovered fossil species. They are more likely to resemble the common ancestor of two similar species and for reasons explained in chapter four such intermediates are often pushed to extinction too fast to leave abundant fossils.

Darwin then reminds the reader of the almost inconceivable time that the Earth has existed. He had seen at first hand the mind-boggling piles of strata exposed in the Andes. He had studied in detail the crawlingly slow rates at which coastlines and valleys are eroded which resulted in the depositing of sediments under the sea- which is how new sedimentary strata are formed.

He tries to give some idea of the immensity of geological time by calculating the thickness of strata across Britain as 72, feet, or 'very nearly thirteen and three quarter British miles' p. He then uses an estimate for the rate of sedimentation by the Mississippi to translate that thickness into years.

Darwin then demonstrates the scale of the age of the Earth by citing the thickness of the sediments in the Weald of Kent and Sussex as 1, feet. Using an average rate for coastal erosion he arrives at the figure of million years since the Weald emerged from the sea, an event which occurred during the Tertiary. This is long after life had started looking like life today, so the Earth must be unimaginably older than that.

Unfortunately his calculation was based on so many assumptions that it backfired on him and within days of publication he halved the estimate while making the corrections for the second edition. This was too late to stop it being challenged in a review of the first edition, so Darwin omitted it entirely from the next available edition the third. Darwin's methodological mistake had been to assume that the erosion of the Weald was overwhelmingly by marine action, when in fact erosion while on land would have been much more important.

The next section looks more closely at 'the poorness of our palaeontological collections', for if we 'now turn to our richest geological museums… what a paltry display we behold! Darwin recites a litany of reasons for this: Europe is the only continent which has been closely examined for fossils; only hard-bodied species are preserved; sediment only forms in a few areas; sea shore species such as barnacles are usually smashed by the waves; the rain dissolves shells from the sediment if it survives the uplift and land-dwelling species are unlikely to be buried in such sediments in the first place.

In fact, as Darwin quotes himself as concluding in his Voyage of the Beagle of pp. Darwin goes on to show how the chances of ever seeing the formation of a new species preserved in the sequence of fossils is negligible. He explains the difficulties for geologists of his day: if a species enters or leaves the rock sequence it may not record speciation or extinction but may just record migration; how are we to assess the precise relationships of the species and how can we identify which may be an ancestor? He illustrates his point with a thought experiment for the Malay Archipelago, a region the size of Europe with perhaps more species than anywhere else on Earth, but because of the geography almost none of them will be fossilised.

He declares that the lack of intermediate fossils is 'probably the gravest and most obvious of all the many objections which may by urged' against his views. Darwin opens the next section by saying that his old Cambridge geology mentor Adam Sedgwick had declared the sudden appearance of groups of allied fossil species to be a fatal objection to any theory of evolution. Darwin explained this as mainly an unfortunate result of the incompleteness of the fossil record.

The abrupt appearance of a novel group must be an artefact of poor preservation of the group's ancestors, and he can cite barnacles as proof of this. When he had published his monograph the sudden appearance of acorn barnacles in the Tertiary was a 'sore trouble' to him until one was reported mistakenly, as it later turned out from the Chalk.

Darwin: From Origin of Species to Descent of Man (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

He leaves the reader with the striking caveat that taking the fossil to be complete is as rash as landing 'for five minutes on some one barren point in Australia' and then discussing the number and range of that vast country's species p. In his final section Darwin declares 'the sudden appearance of groups of allied species in the lowest known fossiliferous strata' is a much graver difficulty, because the sheer range of fossils in these rocks proves that the world must have teemed with ancestral species before this, none of which has ever been found.

He predicts that pre-Silurian fossils will eventually be found in abundance, as indeed they have since been. Darwin closes the chapter with a one-page summary and a wonderful simile for the incompleteness of the fossil record:. I look at the natural geological record, as a history of the world imperfectly kept, and written in a changing dialect; of this history we possess the last volume alone, relating only to two or three countries.

Of this volume, only here and there a short chapter has been preserved; and of each page, only here and there a few lines…. On this view, the difficulties above discussed are greatly diminished, or even disappear. In this chapter Darwin shows how the fossil record is not just consistent with evolution but actually reveals much about the evolutionary history of life.

The species one finds preserved in the most recent formations resemble most closely those still living. The resemblance between present and past life decreases as one descends into the rock record, as expected if evolution has occurred. If evolution is true, a species can never reappear once it has gone extinct. Darwin explains that the rare cases where such an event appears to have happened from the fossils must be due to species having migrated away then later returning.

He extends such generalisations to groups of species and in several passages he speaks of the waxing and waning of groups over time in the same way that in earlier chapters he had talked of the comings and goings of varieties. Thus the fossil record, patchy as it is, exactly reflects what one would expect if evolution has occurred since the origin of life: "Each formation, on this view, does not mark a new and complete act of creation, but only an occasional scene, taken almost at hazard, in a slowly changing drama. Darwin argues that extinction is a gradual process as decline leads to rarity then, when there are too few individuals to maintain a viable population, extinction inevitably follows.

Darwin relates hisexperience of unearthing extinct mammals in South America. Perhaps his most remarkable find was a single horse's tooth embedded with the extinct beasts thereby proving that horses must have existed in the Americas then gone extinct, long before the Spanish reintroduced them in the sixteenth century. Why did those native horses die out if South America is obviously a suitable environment for horses today?

What Darwin took from this case in his Voyage of the Beagle in was that we can rarely know why a species died out in the distant past. The next section deals with one of the most remarkable features of the fossil record, namely the simultaneous changes of whole fossil marine life across the world. Indeed, this 'correlation' of fossil species is the basis on which geologists compare the ages of rocks across the globe, even when the sediments which contain the fossils may be strikingly different.

Darwin argues that such global events are exactly what is predicted by his theory and are also strong arguments against special creation of species to suit particular environments. Opening a new section 'on the affinities of extinct species to each other and to living forms' Darwin declares that all life is part of one continuous system and there are no major groups of fossil species which do not have living relatives. This declaration is based on the findings of the best comparative anatomists, none of whom were guided by a prior belief in evolution.

Darwin then states that the further back one traces any group, the less it resembles living members but the more it resembles its nearest neighbouring groups; thus reptiles in Palaeozoic times were more like amphibians and further back still, both are more like some kinds of fish. Darwin has recourse to his chapter four diagram to show why, when read 'downwards', that is backwards in time, groups tend to converge in this way. He likens the history of a group to tree branches joining a trunk, although of course many twigs encountered on the way will have no living descendants.

This also explains why, he says, the fossils will generally appear intermediate to those in the preceding and succeeding formations. The next section is a brief discussion of whether the fossil record supports the view, commonly held by Victorian naturalists, that life tends to 'progress'. Darwin's approach to this question is more or less to dismiss it as untestable and teleological and therefore of no value to science. He does, however, explain that progress is a fair term for some trends in evolution inasmuch as fitter forms replace their parents.

This is followed by another short section 'on the succession of the same types within the same areas during the later Tertiary periods'. This was the 'succession of types', mainly of mammals found in Australia, South America and Europe, in deposits laid down since the Ice Ages. The point is that in any one area the successive species are all closely related but are quite distinct from the types found in other areas.

Darwin points out that succession of types is remarkable because there is no obvious correlation between the characters of the species and their environments. It must therefore be due to inheritance within groups of species isolated by geography from other groups. It is proof of evolution.

Certain types of animals and plants thrive best in certain climates, but if that was all there was to explain we would expect the same types of tropical creatures, say, in the jungles of South America as we see in the jungles of South East Asia. In fact there are very few species common to these two parts of the world. Darwin notes that the land areas of the world are divided into great biological regions, the most distinct being the continents of Europe, Africa and Asia on the one hand and of the Americas on the other.

But how to explain the biological differences between these Old and New Worlds? Darwin says the answer is the 'second great fact', that animals and plants have evolved separately in the two regions because the oceans are barriers to migration between them. Darwin now arrives at his 'third great fact', that on any one continent there are striking similarities between all the species within any particular group, birds for example, which is almost the opposite to their differences with the same group on other continents.

The answer had to be that each archipelago had been populated by migration from its neighbouring continent and that its endemic species had evolved from the migrants; in other words they had not been created in situ as Lyell had claimed. But the bird story was even more subtle, because Darwin had discovered that there were two very obviously similar species of Rhea occupying distinct parts of South America.

So what is the bond which exists between these species? That bond is 'simply inheritance'. Darwin next discusses in some detail the actual means by which migration occurs in nature. He recounts some of his experiments on the surprising abilities of seeds to germinate after salt-water immersion, indicating how they can travel great distances across the sea. He points to dispersal by birds as a potent mechanism. Darwin now addresses the three greatest biogeographical difficulties raised by his theory that species only have one origin in one place.

The first difficulty is the discontinuous distribution of alpine species which he explains as resulting from climate change. He starts with the curious distribution of 'relict' alpine species on the tops of mountains. These are now separated by temperate lowlands over which they could not easily migrate and he attributes their distribution not to independent creations but to warming of the climate since the Ice Ages leaving the alpine species stranded on the mountains.

Darwin begins this chapter with what he calls the second of his greatest difficulties, namely the wide distribution of freshwater species. Obviously freshwater species can't migrate across the sea. Darwin's solution is that because freshwater is relatively ephemeral, only those species adapted to migration across land will have survived to evolve. He describes their great migratory powers in some detail, largely based on his own research. Birds are a crucial agency as they eat, or have accidentally attached to them, freshwater snails, seeds and eggs which they often transport rapidly over remarkable distances between water bodies.

Flying water-beetles too, as Darwin attests, may be borne by the wind over land and sea, and fish containing species they have swallowed may manage to swim down one river and up another. By these agencies the best adapted freshwater species can spread far and wide. In the next section he plays one of his trump cards: his solution to the peculiar fauna and flora of oceanic islands. Thus the power of the creationist argument: evolution is 'only' a theory and intense debate now rages about many aspects of the theory.

If evolution is worse than a fact, and scientists can't even make up their minds about the theory, then what confidence can we have in it? It is also a fact.

Objections to evolution

And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Archived from the original PDF on Missouri Association for Creation. Louis MetroVoice, October , Vol. September Washington, D. Institute for Creation Research. Version 2. Wired September 25, March 30, The Cincinnati Enquirer. The Washington Post. August 2, National Center for Science Education. April 6, Retrieved May 24, Chesterbrook, PA: CreationSafaris. Did he believe in God? Did he recant evolutionism when he died?

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Original version. Updated version here. The Development Hypothesis — via Wikisource. Creation Seminar Series, part 5. Craig; Brockhurst, Michael A. Bibcode : Natur. Nature Reviews Genetics. Texans for Better Science Education Foundation. Spring, TX. TalkOrigins Archive Transcript. April 16, As biologists use the term, macroevolution means evolution at or above the species level. Speciation has been observed and documented. Published as Isaak , pp. September 23, Stefan December 2, Bibcode : Sci February 25, TalkOrigins Archive Post of the Month. Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal.

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Are These Birds Too Sexy to Survive?

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The answer to this question is, quite simply - no! Morris and his colleagues have constructed a completely fallacious and deceptive argument. November American Journal of Physics. Bibcode : AmJPh.. The Mathematical Intelligencer Letter to the editor. Sewell, Granville Fall The Mathematical Intelligencer Opinion. March Journal of Molecular Evolution. Bibcode : JMolE.. Animal Diversity Web. Ex Nihilo. Evolution lowers man from the 'image of God' to the level of an animal. Why then should he not behave as one, in his own life and towards others?


April 2, The Hornet Editorial cartoon commentary. I have to apologize once more for the wild flights of my incorrigible artist. I told him most clearly and positively to draw me a life-like portrait of that profound philosopher, Mr. Albert, Jr. August 8, Taking Issue Essay. Taking Issue subject: Evolution and Religious Faith.

Liverpool, England.

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Right Wing Watch. August 17, Agape Press. New York: Anti-Defamation League. August 22, Archived from the original on March 3, Retrieved April 8, Evolution News and Views. Sarfati, Jonathan December Creation Ex Nihilo Guest editorial. Archived from the original on 3 March Retrieved 8 April Dakota Voice. Archived from the original on 11 October Tallahassee Democrat Op-ed "My View". In the popular mind, the concepts of evolution justified the exploitation by the 'superior races' of 'lesser breeds without the law.

Social Darwinists vigorously advocated empires, saying that strong nations—by definition, those that were successful at expanding industry and empire—would survive and others would not. To these elitists, all white peoples were more fit than nonwhites to prevail in the struggle for dominance. Even among Europeans, some nations were deemed more fit than others for the competition. Usually, Social Darwinists thought their own nation the best, an attitude that sparked their competitive enthusiasm.

In the nineteenth century, in contrast to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Europeans, except for missionaries, rarely adopted the customs or learned the languages of local people. They had little sense that other cultures and other peoples deserved respect.