The end of evolution this year? I don’t think so.

June 8, 2012 • 5:02 am

Alert reader Atom called my attention to this article from the “education” section of the conservative site WorldNetDaily (WND): “Evolution to fall in 2012?”  While the site is conservative, it’s still surprising that it would go after one of the best-established and best-documented theories in biology: evolution.

Their article takes off from the recent Gallup Poll on Americans’ views on evolution, emphasizing the slight uptick in young-earth creationists (up 6% since the last poll, but identical to the figure from 2006), while ignoring the long-term rise of 6% (since 1982) in those who accept purely naturalistic evolution). Now polls don’t determine scientific truth, but the lack of substantial increase in evolution-acceptance over the last thirty years is indeed distressing.

Based on this, and several other reasons, WND sees 2012 as The Year That the Theory of Evolution Will Die:

1. A well-known religious apologist says that there’s no evidence for evolution.

Carl Gallups, author of “The Magic Man in the Sky: Effectively Defending the Christian Faith,” says the trend is not surprising

“The more that real science – science that is truly observable, demonstrable, repeatable, and falsifiable is set forth with modern technological means and experimentation, the more evolution proposition is found ‘wanting,’” Gallups told WND. “People are just not buying the drivel of much of the pseudoscience of evolution that is attempted by the academic community to be passed off as absolute, settled science. Many foundational matters of evolution proposition simply do not meet the definition of ‘settled science.’ I think most people are intelligent enough to figure this out.”

Here are what I see as foundational principles of evolution:

  • Evolution (genetic change in populations) occurred
  • Life originated about 3.5 billion years ago and the original lineage and its descendants split many times, leading to the millions of species alive on Earth today and the many more who have gone extinct
  • (The flip side of the above point): those millions of species have common ancestors, so that any pair of species, no matter what they are, had a common ancestor  at some time in the past.
  • Evolutionary change involves the gradual (that is, over tens to millions of years) transformation of populations; it is not instantaneous nor do individuals themselves evolve
  • The appearance of design in nature is the result of natural selection

All of these propositions are regarded as “settled science,” not in the form of absolute truths—we don’t have those in science—but as propositions supported by so much evidence that you’ve have to be either a moron, perverse, or blinkered by faith to doubt them.

2. Gallups says that life is too complex to have evolved:

We also are understanding the decreasing statistical chances that all 20 million species of life, and their subsystems and sub-subsystems, and the necessity for their interconnectedness, could have arrived here by an accidental and random beginning in some magical, unobserved, never-recreated soup – as the evolutionists would have us to believe.”

The 20 million species did not arise by an accidental and random beginning, but largely through a process (natural selection) that is a combination of chance and determinism. The invocation of pure chance or randomness alone is a common creationist lie.

And yes, we don’t yet know exactly how life arose, but once it did we have a pretty good idea of how it evolved, and an excellent idea of when different groups arose or went extinct. I suspect that we’ll never know for sure how life arose, but I also suspect that in a few decades we’ll have a good idea.  At any rate, invoking God for the origin of life is worse than saying “we don’t yet know.” The former is arrogant, the latter humble.

3. We don’t have transitional fossils.

Gallups offered the following as examples of his assertion: “The missing link between chimps and man has still not been found. Really! In over 150 years of desperately looking for it, we have no such fossil evidence. If evolution were true, we should have many such pieces of verifiable fossil evidence. Instead, we have none.”

He continued, “Not one scientifically verifiable transitional fossil has been discovered proving that one kind of living thing eventually becomes another kind of living thing.”

He apparently hasn’t seen the australopithecines. Nor has he seen the transitional fossils between fish and amphibians, between amphibians and reptiles, between reptiles and birds, between reptiles and mammals, and between terrestrial artiodactyls and their whale descendants.  What Gallups says above is simply a lie, and he knows it’s a lie.

But is the best one by far:

4. We need to eat other living creatures, ergo Jesus.  Yes, you heard it right.  Gallups tenders one of the most bizarre attacks on evolution I’ve ever heard: The Argument from Eating:

When we ingest other living things, the DNA of those living things (fruits, vegetables, nuts, meats, etc.) just happens to be compatible with our DNA so that cellular respiration can take place. If it were not for the fact that our DNA is so akin to all other living things, we could not eat. If we could not eat, we would die.

Is the process of eating and cellular respiration the result of a mere fluke of evolution? Alternatively, could it be that a common Designer made certain that the process of eating and cellular respiration would function in such a precise and perfect manner? Which answer appears to be the most probable to you?

If the supposed cosmic and random happenstance of evolution was the real reason that all living things exist, why, when, and how did this happenstance mechanism decide that living things needed to eat anything in the first place? Would it not be odd that evolution should come up with the idea of food and energy creation through cellular respiration?

Cellular respiration is an astoundingly complex, energy-expending system. Yet in order for life to be sustained, living things must have other living things to ingest. What an odd thing for a mere cosmic coincidence to develop, by random generation. Is it not a strange convenience for evolution that all living things have such unimaginable DNA similarity that cellular respiration is possible?

Do I really need to refute this? Animals and plants cannot develop from seed or zygote to adults without an input of energy, either through photosynthesis, chemosynthesis or ingestion of other organic matter.  You cannot build a body made of protein, DNA, and other biochemicals without ingesting the building blocks of those biochemicals, which means you can’t live on dirt or rocks. And if you’re going to eat plants or other animals, you’ll have to evolve a way to metabolize the stuff in their bodies.

(By the way, Mr. Gallups, DNA is only a very, very tiny component of what is metabolized when one thing eats another. Get your facts straight. And the DNA doesn’t have to be “compatible,” only able to be digested. Further, some organisms have a diet that has hardly any DNA. Red blood cells of mammals lack DNA, but vampire bats and mosquitoes do nicely on them.)

Happenstance mechanisms don’t “decide” anything: they just happen. And if you think cellular respiration and metabolism can’t be mere flukes of evolution, have a look at the complexity of a whale. No, that whale (and its own “mere flukes”) can’t have evolved either—except that have the fossils that show it did.

The reason Americans don’t accept evolution is not that they’re dumb or ignorant of the evidence. Mr. Gallups is neither.  The reason is that they’re so determined to hold onto their faith that they’ll make any argument, however stupid, to discredit the biggest faith-killer in all of science: Darwinism. It’s no coincidence that these moronic (and long-refuted) arguments are made by a man who is an inveterate Christian.

And I’ll bet Gallups a thousand dollars that in five years the theory of evolution will be at least as strong as it is now. Shame on WorldNetDaily for feeding its readers lies in truth’s clothing.

127 thoughts on “The end of evolution this year? I don’t think so.

  1. “If we could not eat, we would die” – is it just me, or should he be force fed On the Orign of Species?!

  2. “While the site is conservative…”

    Calling WND “conservative” is kind of like calling Joe Ratzinger a priest. WND is way, way, way over on the right end of the spectrum, and regular contributes to the extremist, theocratic, nut-job propaganda stream that is drowning our country.

    I think that the correct name for this publication is “World Nut Daily”.

    1. It sounded to me like Jerry isn’t familiar with the site. Being surprised that WND is going after evolution is like being surprised that AIG is overrun with creationists. It’s a site that routinely turns to people like Chuck Norris and Vox Day to comment on science.

      1. No, indeed, I’m not familiar with the site and haven’t followed it, and I don’t read much on FtB these days so haven’t seen Ed Brayton go after it.

        Oh well . . .

      2. Ah, the bliss of not being familiar with the site. I think fondly back to the time when I didn’t know about WND, when I could kid myself that there were bounds to the idiocy. Good times.

        Today’s (June 8) headline:


        1. WND is in direct competition with “Weekly World News,” home of Bat Boy, and headlines like “Man Cuts Off Own Head with Chain Saw – And Lives!”

  3. So we’ve gone from “complex specified information” and “irreducibly complex” systems like the bacterial flagella, as a few key things that couldn’t’ve evolved, to /eating/ is too complex to have evolved. Sounds more like ID is dying this year.

    Also, if creationism were true, wouldn’t different organisms be made of entirely different materials, wouldn’t eating be less likely under creationism than under evolution? The whole thing is silly.

    Having said that, World Nut Daily is flat out amoung the looniest of media sites out there, so anything “reported” in it is pretty meaningless.

  4. I’ve survived scores of ends of the world in my lifetime so I’ll probably not even notice an end of evolution.

  5. Tsk, tsk, Profesor Coyne: as I’ve noted before, ‘reason is because’ is a redundancy.

    1. What’s your problem with redundncy? It’s an ancient and effective rhetorical technique. Even the authors of the Bible used it extensively, so why’re you objecting to Jerry’s use of it? Haven’t you read Aristotle?


    2. I thought I’d caught then when I did my pot-publication edit. I agree and have deep-sixed it.

  6. Shouldn’t he be more worried about getting past December this year – seeing that the Mayan Calender portends the end of the World…. Secondly, if I am correct in saying, wasn’t there a Supreme Court case some time back in the USA involving creationists and Evolution as taught in schools..
    What a lot of taurus excretus!

    1. Oh, right, so you haven’t heard about the recent discovery of a more complex calender that extends out for another several thousand years, and the detailed instruction nearby on how to compute it out to damn near infinity? Not that the sort of cranks that believe in the end of the world won’t keep saying that the calender ends in December of this year anyway.

      They are rather a lot like Rhomney, apparently. There is no stupid idea, mistake, or misquote that isn’t worth continuing to use. This gave me a good laugh when I heard about it. Seems, most right wingers, when caught saying things that are factually inaccurate, will try to invent equally factually inaccurate replacements, to overcome their failure to get it right in the first place. Rummy, won’t even do that, he just keeps repeating the same disproven, unfounded, nonsense, without taking down ads, or quotes, or trying to explain them. If the guy doesn’t get elected as potus (man I hope not, but given what happened in Wisconsin…), he can always go to work for one of dozens of far right wing religion/conspiracy/crank based think tanks and creationist organizations. He can recycle their whole morass of idiocies into a brand new compaign, or book deal.

  7. FWIW, although rational argument with WND is out of place, the common metabolism inherent in eating is predicted from common ancestry, but requires special explanation under separate creation.

    1. Forget “separate creation” — under creationism itself all the metabolisms and requirements of life as we know it ought to require special explanation. God, the angels, and all the spirits in heaven are “alive” in that they all apparently think, feel, function, relate, make choices, and cause things to happen. They don’t need DNA, oxygen, food, or even a physical space to exist in.

      If human beings evolved naturally in a natural environment through natural means, then the natural restrictions make sense. Supernatural foundations shake that logical and rational dependence to the foundation. Nature. Why is it there when the default would be not to have it? And why is it the way it is since a consistent system based only on divine conceivability could have been anything?

  8. WND has been laughable forever. Not a sentient conservative source for anything. Back in the late 90s they published stories that Clinton was imposing martial law. When it didn’t happen, they claimed credit for forcing Bill ‘s hand, causing him to delay his evil plot.

  9. It’s an old canard that evolutionary theory involves no “repeatable” experiments, often put forward by Duane Gish.

    If this were pushed to its logical conclusions, the police would never be able to convict a criminal of a crime on the basis of fingerprints, footprints, and other forensic evidence such as sweater threads or so forth. No “repeatable” experiments are involved in such deductions.

    1. And, of course, Dr. Lenski would disagree with that statement.

      As would Dr. Coyne. What do you think all those fruit flies are doing in his lab?

      And every other working biologist.

        1. That is exactly what they would say. Thinking about WND, what a gloomy way to start the morning.

      1. As would Dr. Coyne. What do you think all those fruit flies are doing in his lab?

        Buzzing annoyingly around his head while he tries to eat a peach.

      2. Point taken. The creationists are wrong in trying to !*fully*! separate historical science and operational science. Naturally, they always overlap and do so in the forensic police science I mentioned.

        I was referring primarily to how scientists read the fossil record and the original observations of Charles Darwin as a rebuttal to the logic that creationists have used.

  10. When we ingest other living things, the DNA of those living things (fruits, vegetables, nuts, meats, etc.) just happens to be compatible with our DNA so that cellular respiration can take place.

    This requires such a charitable reading to make any tenuous sense at all that one has to conclude ‘no, it makes no sense whatsoever in any way’.

    1. You are right, there is no charitable reading of this. It is pure, undiluted, nonsense. No one should think for a second that he doesn’t actually think exactly what he is saying either.

  11. I think Gallup should poll Americans on whether they accept the theory of gravity, followed up with a chance for fame and fortune by walking out of a 10th story window (call it an “exit” poll) for those who think that the laws of gravity (Newton’s classical formulation and Einstein’s theories of special and general relativity) do “not meet the definition of ‘settled science.’”.

    1. As —I think— Tim Minchin said once:

      “They say evolution is just a theory. I hope they do the same with the theory of gravity and just float the fuck away…”

  12. When we ingest other living things, the DNA of those living things (fruits, vegetables, nuts, meats, etc.) just happens to be compatible with our DNA so that cellular respiration can take place.

    Are these the same people who claim that complex organisms could not have appeared by chance alone ?

    1. You’ve highlighted the strawman Gallups setting up, that 20 million species evolved separately and just by chance have compatible chemistry. He thinks all the species were individually designed to be compatible.

      1. Personally, I’m especially fond of the loving care that went into the design of the wonderful compatibility of Anopheles gambiae, Plasmodium malariae, and Homo sapiens. Like three well oiled gears meshing together. It’s so complex and interlocking. Must be Jesus’ work.

        I’m surprised that more creationists don’t use this excellent example to make their point. Puzzling.

        1. Michael Behe’s most recent book, The Edge of Evolution (I think it is)goes into the mechanisms of malarial infection in great detail. His conclusion seems to be that the Designer may be Intelligent, but he might not be very Nice.

          1. Really? I’m oddly happy about that. I find creationists 64% more palatable if they own up to the wicked mess that creation often is. I wonder if Behe thinks it’s a Satan design, straight out of Hell Labs (TM), or if he thinks God sat down and designed this nasty thing as part of the curse of Adam and Eve, or what?

  13. There are mechanisms by which plants have instantaneous speciation events. It may also occasionally occur in animals.

    1. They kind of all sound like arguments from a five year old. In many cases, a five year old who somehow manages sophisticated vocabulary, syntax, and style.

      How many ways can you find to say “But somebody must have wanted it to work this way! Somebody big, and in charge.”

  14. The fact that we have to eat other living things would be evidence against a Loving Omnipotent designer. Why would you create living things, just to be eaten when he could have just created animals with cholorophyll.

  15. The known pathways of cellular respiration handily refute Gallup’s argument from eating, but he is apparently too clueless to realize it. Glycolysis is an ancient metabolic pathway used by all kinds of cells, both prokaryotic and eukaryotic. In larger eukaryotic cells, glycolysis is only one of many subsystems, with the rest being jury-rigged solutions added on top of glycolysis (Kreb’s cycle, electron transport chain, etc). Cellular respiration bears the fingerprints of natural selection, and in eukaryotes, requires the use of endosymbiotic organelles–our mitochondria–which have their own (prokaryotic) DNA.

  16. I had one creationist claim something similar…that ATPase was an irreducibly complex motor, ergo Jesus.

      1. Thanks for a funny image that has helped to offset the gloom I feel at contemplating WND so early in the day (i.e. without drink in hand to buffer the blow).

    1. And here’s the creationary spin on the synthase. Hold your ears but don’t mute it:

      These disingenuous fucks, who never did a goddam thing toward the effort to determine the structure, hijack the whole thing to give an imprimatur of credibility to their mantra. Note that most of the YT comments gush approval. Have at it.

      1. This is something I’ve noticed from the IDiots.

        All their “evidence” for a designer/creator is always parasitized science.

        They never actually increase our understanding of reality, they just take all the hard work done by scientists and pervert it to their agenda.

      2. Did they make that animation? It’s not a bad animation. At first I assumed it was pilfered from somewhere, as happens often enough, but I don’t see any exactly like it on youtube so I’m thinking maybe they did.

        It’s the ingratitude that always gets me. Sitting atop a cushy life almost entirely the product of science, they take something great that science has given them and try to poke science in the eye with it. Using electricity and computers and life beyond 35 to argue for an idea of a god who abandoned us to smallpox and polio… which science actually protects you from, it’s just traitorous.

        1. I wondered where it came from too, and figured like you that it must have been hijacked. I’ve seen John Walker talk about this and thought the animation looked familiar, but after you’ve seen a few of these, they all look the same in your memory. Maybe Biochemistry at BIOLA and its ilk involves mastering computer imaging for these purposes.

          Your second para is very well-put.

        2. Indeed, very well put.
          They too sit on the shoulders of the giant but they only use this privileged position to peck away at his ear and shit down his neck.

  17. The “missing link between humans and chimpanzees” has been discovered. It just isn’t a fossil.

    Chromosome number 2 in humans is very similar to what you would get if chromosomes numbers 2 and 3 in chimpanzees were fused. And identical retroviral signatures in corresponding positions in human and chimpanzee DNA suggest that both are descended from a common ancestor.

    Chromosome numbers do not have to match in order to produce viable offspring, so it’s entirely feasible that a common ancestor with 24 chromosome pairs would have been able to mate with both humans and chimpanzees even although humans and chimpanzees are sexually incompatible.

    Kinetic theory of chemistry is sufficient, in and of itself, to explain chirality. There may well have been life using dextrorotatory amino acids and laevorotatory sugars at some point in time; it got unlucky early on, is all.

    1. Chromosome numbers do not have to match in order to produce viable offspring, so it’s entirely feasible that a common ancestor with 24 chromosome pairs would have been able to mate with both humans and chimpanzees …

      “Hey! Look! Evolutionists are endorsing bestiality!!11!1″ — (Creationist who has just had the actual point fly over their head)

    1. When I see a headline like that at WND, I half expect the content not to be about the theory itself but more like, “Mark your calendars. 2012 is the year of the Theocratic Revolution.” That sort of thing. I know some of them would like that to be the story.

  18. I disagree with Jerry. This guy is an idiot. Well … maybe not. I suppose it is possible he is just an evil lying bastard.

    Did Karl Rove learn this from xian conservatives, or did they learn it from him? Both types use this same tactic of boldly proclaiming lies, that are blatantly obvious lies. Often other people immediately demonstrate that they have lied, to no avail. They use this tactic because they have figured out that it works. About 45% of the people will believe the lie, even after the lie is exposed. Finding out how the fuck that works should be a high priority for the cognitive sciences.

    1. Don’t forget that the American press will happily present the bald-faced lie and the truth as two opposing viewpoints, in the name of balance.

    2. Evil lying so-and-so absolutely. WND is a scam on the credulous and potentiatormofnthe right-wing puke funnel. I have no doubt they are laughing all thr way to the bank.

    3. It is more likely that both Karl Rove and WND got it from either aHitler or Goebbels.

      Of course it is also possible that the idea was formulated even before that (and definitely used before that) but if so I do not know where.

        1. Napoleon Bonaparte; The medieval Catholic Church; The Roman Empire; The US in the Mexican War; the US in the Spanish-American War; Germany in WWI; the Allies in WWi; and any tyranny, anywhere,anywhen.

          1. Used, definitely, but did they formulate it explicitely (as in, say “lie outrageously and people will believe it more easily” or similar)?

            I certainly would be interested in quotes expressing something similar to “they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods”.

            Hell, I might even have seen such quotes but can’t remember them and when pointed to them I will be like “of course, how could I have forgotten that quote”.

            1. “.. in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying. These people know only too well how to use falsehood for the basest purposes.”

              1. Sorry I should have said this is from: Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf”, Murphy translation: page 134.

              2. I’d have to dig into my library for specifics, but I’m pretty sure Machiavelli discussed the Big Lie, and I know the Greeks did…it’s a thoroughly Platonic idea, one the Eusebius warmly embraced into Christianity.

                The Nazis were perhaps a bit grander in their version of the Big Lie, though…Eusebius, for example, advocated (the equivalent of) teaching Children about Santa Claus in order to prepare them for the “more” “real” “truths” about Jesus.



              3. It’s the same quote, different translation. The question is whether anybody else expressed it before Hitler in Mein Kampf as it would be necessary for Karl Rove to have had the idea from somewhere that does not eventually lead back to this formulation.

              4. Plato introduces the Noble lie in book 3 of The Republic. I am never sure how seriously to take the concept. This is what he has Socrates say:

                “I’ll first try to persuade the rules and the soldiers and then the rest of the city that the upbringing and the education we gave them was a sort of dream, that in fact they… were being nurtured inside the earth, and that when the work was completed, the earth, who is their mother, delivered them all up into the world. Therefore if anyone attacks the land in which they live, they must.. defend it as their mother… ” (Grube translation p. 91)

                I’m not sure he thought anyone would literally believe this noble lie – note that he talks as if everyone is to be taken in by it. It is also not clear how the lie would be perpetuated – those who bring up the children in the Republic (incidentally not the parents, the children would not even know who their parents were) would certainly know it to be false.

                However the very concept of a noble lie has had a profound influence on later writers. Machiavelli comes to mind.

              5. I don’t see “the noble lie” as being the same thing as “the big lie”.

                The noble lie is about why you lie, saying that it is ok to lie for a good cause (see also liars for Jesus).

                The big lie is the assertion that an outrageous lie is more easily believed than a more mundane lie.

                One is about a reason to lie, the other about a reason why some lies are more believable.

                I think there is at least one precedent to the Hitler/Goebbels formulation though a bit different and accidental:

                “I believe because it is absurd”. Accidental because while it is attributed to Tertullian it is a misquote and different in that it is from the point of view of the believer, not of the liar or of someone describing an alleged liar, but the misquote does show that the idea was floating that incredible things can be believed on the basis of them being incredible.

              6. “I believe because it is absurd”.

                I had a shocking experience of something like this when I was just starting to tell some of my closest friends (ages ago now) that I was at least an agnostic, probably an atheist. I was explaining to one friend how I just couldn’t continue to try to embrace a worldview, Christianity, that is so full of contradictions and difficulties. The scientific worldview tells a consistent story, a story that fits together and works in a way that Christianity never did. He looked at me, as though I had just said something amazingly naive. “Well of course it works, science was constructed to be consistent. It’s consistent by design.” He went on to explain that the difficulty of Christianity, all the things that, to us, seem inconsistent and not to work with reality, is a kind of evidence of it’s truth (!). If it were a fabrication of men it would be, like science, consistent. It was a startling inversion of reason and, I have to confess, the confidence and matter-of-fact way he made the observation, coupled in some strange way with the outrageousness of it, actually gave me pause, and made me feel uneasy for a little while before I could shake whatever spell that sort of thing weaves on some primitive part of the mind.

              7. He went on to explain that the difficulty of Christianity, all the things that, to us, seem inconsistent and not to work with reality, is a kind of evidence of it’s truth (!). If it were a fabrication of men it would be, like science, consistent.

                Interestingly enough, they never reject other religions because they are uhm… too consistent.

      1. I hear you, but is it really the same thing? I don’t know. It seems that the past examples controlled information flow well enough that counter information was rarely heard by the general population. These days, in the US, counter information is easily available. Very often, a lie is countered within hours by numerous major news sources.

        For example, Romney has been caught three or four times in major, obvious and easily refutable lies over his 2011 campaign. In each case the lies were refuted by at least half a dozen major news sources within hours of release. But Romney presses on boldly repeating the same lies with a straight face, following the trail blazed by Karl Rove. In the context of “recent” politics, Karl Rove devised this new tactic. It was his one big contribution and what made him so indispensable to the neocons. Sure, there has always been lying in politics. But to stand there and tell big fantastical lies that are so ridiculous that reasonable people are shocked by the audacity required? And then after your lie is aired out for all to see, to continue to repeat it? And that doing so will cause about 45% of the people listening to eventually believe you? Even though the true facts of the matter are being aired about freely as well? To do this repeatedly as SOP? In US politics that is new.

        Though of course many people simply choose to not inflict themselves with the pain of experiencing anything that contradicts their fantasy world view. After all they might then have to come face to face with how despicable their positions on say, women’s rights or LGBT’s rights for example, really are.

        1. It may be new in US politic (though I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t either) but replace english by Romney in the Goebbel quote from the Wiki article and it fits to a T:

          “The essential Romney secret does not depend on particular intelligence. Rather, it depends on a remarkably stupid thick-headedness. Romney follows the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. He keeps up his lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.”
          Goebbel paraphrased

          Fits well with your description:

          “But to stand there and tell big fantastical lies that are so ridiculous that reasonable people are shocked by the audacity required? And then after your lie is aired out for all to see, to continue to repeat it? And that doing so will cause about 45% of the people listening to eventually believe you? Even though the true facts of the matter are being aired about freely as well? To do this repeatedly as SOP? In US politics that is new.”

          Airing the truth doesn’t necessarily help because if they already bought into the lie before hearing the truth they can dismiss the truth by calling the person telling it biased or by using confirmation bias or the various cognitive dissonances we are so suspect to, just like a creationist can dismiss all the evidence for evolution when he hears it unless he is more interested in what is true than in his current position being true (I know, I was raised creationist and only when I developed my worldview to a point where I didn’t care about whether evolution was true or not could I objectively assess it and see that the evidence supported it).

          Also, the other side airing the truth (or their own Big Lie, just because one side lies does not mean the other doesn’t) doesn’t change a Big Lie into a regular one, at most it might prevent it working.

          If Karl Rove’s version of the Big Lie is substantially different from the formulation in the wikipedia article I cannot see how it is.

          1. You, and a couple of others above, have convinced me. It isn’t new. I would guess that Karl Rove keeps a copy of Mein Kampf close by wherever he is.

            Anybody no of any examples of this time honored tactic being successfully countered?

            1. I think it benefits from the asymmetry of the effort it takes to pin down and refute a lie (large) with the effort it takes to speak a lie (small). I have one friend who is particularly adept at the fire hose form of argument. He will make an outrageous claim. You will take the time to carefully lay out what is wrong with that outrageous claim. He will not even pause to acknowledge what you have said but will rather make four new outrageous claims all strung together. Oh my. The novice at this game will then try to carefully set out wat is wrong with each of these four outrageous claims. To which, of course, you will get in reply another four outrageous claims, or maybe eight. If the person with the fire hose of outrageous claims is also possesses a slightly manic energy, you are in a pitiable position.

              This is the frequent way that “debates” with creationists go. The formats and moderators, or lack thereof, allows one person to wield the fire hose of outrageous (but crowd pleasing) claims. The merely honest and intelligent person typically has no good counter to such a display.

              1. The only person I can recall being fairly successful against a Gish Gallop type of attack like that is Christopher Hitchens. Though I am sure others have done so. He did it basically by out-bullying them.

  19. WND isn’t just “conservative”, they’re wildly inaccurate and have no qualms about distorting facts or just making things up. This isn’t a surprise at all.

  20. The readers of WND hate evilution, so the WND asks some hack to write an article that says that evilution will be dead soon. Never mind that this Gallups person has to resort to lying and spouting idiotic nonsense to make his point. His troglodyte readers will be happy and that’s all that matters.

  21. Regular readers of – especially Ed Brayton’s Dispatches from the Culturer Wars – will not be at all surprised by WND’s mendacity and anti-rationality, as as there is an FTB post documenting the atrocities like every second day.

  22. “The appearance of design in nature is the result of natural selection.”

    Would it make sense to say the appearance of design in nature is a byproduct of human understanding, one that results from the way people perceive and learn about the world?

  23. Evolutionary change involves the gradual (that is, over tens to millions of years) transformation of populations; it is not instantaneous nor do individuals themselves evolve

    I would suggest as a more advanced nuance that it involves the logistic transformation. Whether or not this appears “gradual” depends on the time scale of your ruler relative to the time constant resulting from the degree of benefit/detriment in the mutation.

    Of course, mutations that are detrimental, neutral, or only minutely beneficial are more common than those with large benefits, so comparatively abrupt transitions (except for the rapid demise of major maladaptative mutations) are rare.

    Still, this allows for why “punctuation” events look so abrupt.

    I’m not sure whether trying to get this as part of common knowledge would help improve the overall understanding/acceptance of evolution, or whether most people find math too hard to grasp for the refinement to significantly improve their comprehension.

      1. That would suggest that to further push understanding of evolutionary biology, it would help to start pushing mathematics as a prerequisite development.

  24. Wow.. I am glad the multivitamin I took this morning has the right DN… heh, wait a second…

    But, seriously, this has got to be the first “new” argument for creation that anyone has come up with in like.. 200+ years. Even the ones that talk about DNA at all, in most cases, are just rehashes of some warped layman’s understanding of it, which one might expect a random person pre-Mendel, to have come up with, and included side lines into how their neighbor was once scared by an elephant. For them to even semi-comprehend DNA at all in the argument is like watching a chimpanzee figure out how to use a bed pan as a hat. I.e., a major breakthrough.

    1. I don’t think it’s a “new” argument. I think it’s a variation on Fine Tuning, which is a variation of “Only God could have put us in a place where we have survived so well so far.”

  25. lies in truth’s clothing

    Nice! Though I would suggest that facts are the wolves in life.

    The astrobiology part concerns me. I wouldn’t agree that life necessarily have been pinned down to originate ~ 3.5 Ga bp. It is more precise to say that it likely originated before then.

    On the one hand the sparsity of geological evidence can’t establish it earlier with certainty as of yet, and IIRC ~ 3.2 Ga bp are the more accepted observations. On the other hand recent modeling of the Late Heavy Bombardment tail and prokaryote capabilities implies it was survivable, potentially including “crust busters” due to a crustal Goldilock zone ~ 1 km down. (Not enough time for all refs right now.)

    As for the common ancestry of life and metabolics, there are some really robust respectively interesting results:

    – We Earth inhabitants are all one large family, and that is a truly sweet result. It is also, and it never stops to amaze me, the best observation in all of science, with a factor ~ 10^2000 against, say, creationism!

    And the best we can ever imagine having. Phylogenies are combinatorial trees and identifying them are, famously, NP hard. So when we can heuristically find a large one, here the common ancestry of particularly the genetic system, they may in cases have monstrously heavy statistical certainty despite having just decent resolution (due to the sparsity of the fossil record).

    – Before the DNA world we had the RNA world. We have many fossils in the cells (RNA transcription of genes, RNA catalytic center in ribosomes, early RNA tagging of proteins going to the cellular membrane). And it predicts how the interlocking between todays proteins producing DNA and DNA producing proteins was preceded by RNA catalysts and RNA genomes.

    RNA organisms were likely autothrophs, but anyway no DNA problem.

    – There is a recent phylogeny of Braakman and Smith on evolution of metabolism, which according to them shows sign of divergence precisely after the creation of the oxygen atmosphere. The pre-LUCA would have been fitted with a curiously robust, redundant and over evolutionary time stable metabolic network that were fixed by “imprecise or unreliable enzyme function … or unreliable regulation”.

    They point out that this would leave open the possibility of chemical evolution at early stages, but it could also be a signal of a disappearing RNA world. [“The Emergence and Early Evolution of Biological Carbon-Fixation”, Braakman and Smith, PLoS Comp Biol, 2012.]

    1. ” would suggest that facts are the wolves in life.”

      I hope so, but I fear that the wolves are actually idiots with pitchforks and torches.

  26. He continued, “Not one scientifically verifiable transitional fossil has been discovered proving that one kind of living thing eventually becomes another kind of living thing.”

    No shit. It’s amazing that people find an argument in totally misrepresenting the theory. And, speaking of wingnuts, wasn’t Ann Coulter big on that one in Godless?

  27. When we ingest other living things, the DNA of those living things (fruits, vegetables, nuts, meats, etc.) just happens to be compatible with our DNA so that cellular respiration can take place. If it were not for the fact that our DNA is so akin to all other living things, we could not eat. If we could not eat, we would die.

    I can only imagine that the writer has never eaten any sugar or salt (or perhaps in the tortured world of Worldnet daily, those have a DNA too).

  28. It’s been raining all day and the puddles outside just happen to be the same shape as the indentations in the pavement.

  29. Since we are returning to the transition from chemical to biological evolution once again, I would like to point out a fresh result that goes directly towards testing a huge swath of early evolution in case anyone is interested. It also ties nicely in with the metabolism result I referenced earlier.

    The paper is an exciting result on RNA world organisms. We can predict that early RNA organisms lived in a world of little oxygen and hence much iron, before the oxygenation of the atmosphere. The paper tests that nicely, since it finds that iron ions works better than today’s magnesium ions for RNA catalysts:

    ““We’re used to our world of oxygen, and oxygen and iron is just a terrible combination. They make a hydroxyl radical, and everything it hits loses a hydrogen, shredding RNA and proteins too,” says Williams.

    Without oxygen in the mix, iron would no longer be a shredder of RNA and could instead serve as a potential co-factor in RNA folding, just as magnesium does.”

    The increase in reactivity is at least an order of magnitude in some cases. I believe the authors suggest somewhere that this also tests a prediction that RNA was selected over other similar compounds, it is particularly adept in taking advantage of the plentiful iron. And of course the high reactivity with iron means RNA is a much more realistic alternative as early catalyst, and will likely be found to form new kinds of catalysts in future work.

    Another interesting point here is that Benner sees this as an implication that the change from RNA to protein catalysis can be tied to the time of oxygenation. More specifically, it would be the point where an eventual mixture of catalysts would latest see the RNA mostly replaced. It is an excellent bottleneck constraint explaining why RNA world life disappeared in toto.

    To sum up, the RNA world is suddenly a whole lot more capable and complex than earlier believed. While it was earlier reasonable that DNA was preceded by RNA for the reason that making DNA deoxy nucleotides required proteins, we may soon find that RNA was selected simply because iron is ubiquitous in minerals of terrestrial planets.

    While I have to agree that we may never know “for sure” which unique pathway was taken, I do believe we may eventually have a set of overall tested likely pathways. In fact, even if I don’t know what is formally required I have even dared to put up here the idea that a phylogeny of characters testably roots biological evolution in chemical evolution with RNA relatives as the first acquisition. The putative iron selection of RNA tests this further.

    It would also imply that biochemistry in the universe has some generic pathways, but that is quite another barrel of monkeys.

    1. Probably not. I imagine a global nuclear catastrophe would kill most life on earth, but not all. What was left would have new niches to fill in a very different environment.

  30. Thanks for a powerful take down of creationist nonsense. I have nothing to say of creationist irrationality that would not just repeat criticisms in the post and the comments.

    Here though is a somewhat different point of view.

    The first argument used by Gallups involves the results of polling in the US. From the perspective of this Australian, the US is very important, but it is not the whole world. There are many countries where support for evolution is in the range of 80%.

    The insular US centered perspective of the Gallups of this world is very disturbing when viewed from my part of the world.

  31. “All of these propositions are regarded as ‘settled science,’ not in the form of absolute truths—we don’t have those in science”

    So why not rename the blog to “whyevolutionissettledscience”?

  32. “When we ingest other living things, the DNA of those living things (fruits, vegetables, nuts, meats, etc.) just happens to be compatible with our DNA so that cellular respiration can take place. If it were not for the fact that our DNA is so akin to all other living things, we could not eat. If we could not eat, we would die.”

    That strikes me as, probably, nonsense. (Except the last sentence, which is absurdly obvious).

    Do we actually need any DNA in our diet at all? Never mind that most food we eat has DNA in it, but if it were possible to chemically remove just the DNA from steak and apples and so forth, leaving all other components untouched, would we notice any difference? And if it was removed from all our food, would it make any difference to our health?

    (I suspect the answer is ‘no’, in which case it follows that it wouldn’t matter if DNA were ‘compatible’ with ours, so long as it wasn’t actually poisonous).

    I genuinely don’t know the answer to that question, though.

    1. That is correct, I suspect.

      I think humans retain the ability to synthesize nucleotides – ATP is so closely connected to RNA and then DNA synthesis – and we hear of “essential amino acids” (those of the basic set we don’t synthesize) but not “essential nucleotides”.

      1. Thanks for that.

        I think, if our DNA is unique to us personally (such that we can leave it lying around crime scenes for the Law to nail us later) then it follows that we must manufacture it ourselves, we can’t just eat it. Does it also follow that any DNA we eat all gets broken down in our digestive systems? (Because if we absorbed any, would we start growing cow cells or fish cells etc?)

        (Please excuse if this is a stupid question)

  33. “And if you’re going to eat plants or other animals, you’ll have to evolve a way to metabolize the stuff in their bodies.”

    “have to evolve” is where the theory sounds like absolute truth again. A trivial example: man did not have to evolve the ability to breathe in space in order to walk on the moon.

    Man also did not have to evolve the ability to be conceived in vitro. Can one detect that a particular person was conceived in vitro? If yes, it would be interesting for ID theory. If no, as I presume, then one has an example of intelligent direction of man’s biological development for which there is no detectable biological evidence after the fact.

    Does a man inherit his digestive system from sexually reproducing human parents? Most likely. Did uncreated, unmoved matter fall into positions that caused life to start? Why would you hypothesize that?

  34. I have a question. I understand how evolution is a combination of the non-random process of natural selection and the randomness of mutations. But doesn’t the randomness of mutations really mean that we don’t know what caused the mutations? Wouldn’t mutations really be non-random if we knew the cause, and therefore evolution doesn’t have any randomness or chance involved in it at all? I know it would be extremely difficult to find all the causes of all the mutations that occurred through life’s history, but wouldn’t it still be wrong to say the mutations occur by chance simply because we don’t know the cause of every mutation?

    1. Umm. If you an find it, you can sometimes figure out what happened. All errors are copy problems, of some sort. Something gets copied twice, or to the wrong place, or not copied at all, or copied wrong. The later one is the most problematic one, because being “copied wrong”, can be anything in – a) actually miscopied, b) damage from radiation, c) damage from other sources.

      Nothing in the universe would be “random” if you could “know” what caused it. This means next to nothing, because how the heck do you identify, after the fact, which one of the dozens of possible things caused a change in a gene, never mind what may have caused *any* of the other possible effects? That is what random in this case means, the literally impossibility of determining just what exactly, out of an unknown number of factors, caused the mutation.

      Basically, we are not talking about single causes, in most cases, so thinking its possible to find the specific cause of *all* mutations… You might as well try to figure out which specific raindrop was key in breaking a weak rock, when it froze the next night.

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