Saturday, October 31, 2009

Misconceptions part 2.

I thought I'd continue with the misconceptions about evolution topic.

1.Macroevolution has never been observed

Until the creationist 'anti-evolution' movement started, there was no distinction between macro and micro evolution, and among scientists there still is no distinction. The reason for this is because evolution works by accumulating small successive mutations, and there is no natural limit to how far the mutations can go. 'Microevolution' accumulates into 'macroevolution', so what is the point in creating a false distinction between the two?
Macroevolution I suppose would refer to changes that go beyond the species level, more commonly known as speciation. We have observed speciation, where two lineages of the same species have evolved apart from one another to the point where they can no longer interbreed. If this is what creationists mean by macroevolution, then indeed we have observed it.
There are also transitional fossils that show us that macroevolution has indeed occurred. One notable example is the series of transitional fossils that show the evolution of the horse. We have a full fossil record of the evolution from three-toed ancestors to the one-toed horses we have today.

2.Apes don't give birth to humans

This misconception is propogated by people like Kent Hovind, who happens to be in prison for fraud, nevertheless his son Eric continues to spread his disingenuous nonsense on his behalf.
The funniest thing about this misconception is that it's a complete strawman, this isn't the way evolution works at all. In fact, if an ape were to give birth to a human today, it would discredit the theory of evolution completely. If this is really the kind of evidence that Ken Ham and Kent Hovind would accept as proof of evolution, then the creationists and the evolutionists would switch places. The creationists would say "An ape gave birth to a human, therefore evolution is true!" and the scientists would say the complete opposite "An ape gave birth to a human, therefore evolution is false."
As I mentioned in the first point, evolution occurs by accumulating small successive mutations/adaptations, we do not ever see large jumps like this, which makes this creationist idea seem all the more ridiculous.

3.Mutations do not produce new features

'New features' is a misleading term because every 'new feature' is rather a modification of an existing feature instead of something new altogether. Take for example bird wings, are modification of tetrapod dinosaurs 'arms', which were themselves modifications of what used to be pectoral fins in their water dwelling ancestors.
In 1988 a scientist called Richard Lenski started a long term evolution experiment with E-coli bacteria, an experiment that is still continuing today. Lenski and his team have indeed seen mutations produce what would have to be classified as new information to the bacteria, the methodology and results can be found in that wikipedia link for all who are interested.
This creationist claim that mutations do not produce new features has been debunked by people who actually do science, yet this myth still continues to be spread like the plague.


  1. Thanks for sharing that Lenski experiment thing, I'd not been aware of it. I hate wikipedia though so here's the actual website detailing the experiment:

    What a pity that evolution is supposed to take millions of years so we won't be alive to see whether the e-coli actually become animals or vegetables, thus proving the process - although maybe at some stage one of those 'big jumps' will take place when all of a sudden over a comparatively short period of time a whole bunch of mutations take place. That would be nice to see.

    I need to reiterate here - there is no proof that God is involved in evolution, but there is also no proof that He is not. Given that, in the absence of proof one way or the other (we've still not found that teapot...), and also given that I much prefer living in the world where there is a God, I'll choose to continue believing as I see fit - which is, of course, my right in a Western democratic society.

  2. There have also been observations of single celled organisms evolving to become multi-cellular structures and colonies, which I guess is also a fairly large shift.

    Your position on the god/evolution thing is a very fair position, and if more people held the same view society as a whole would be that much more rational. Wishful thinking on my part, but who knows. Maybe some day it will come to fruition.

  3. Most people aren't smart enough to take Karl's position on God/Evolution, at least not intentionally, but I think that most people who have a faith in God can put aside Evolutions apparent huge scientific advantage and continue with their beliefs regardless of it places a whole lot more of society in the same bracket as him. Uninformed rationality perhaps, but rational in it's nature. Is it worth pointing out that from previous posts one could ascertain perhaps that this is a rationality you are yet to possess, assuming that someone with faith in a God being rational cannot discount Evolution fully means that someone without a faith can't rationally use Evolution as a point on which to argue an absence of God?

    P.s KJ, I am enjoying these blogs of yours.

  4. In these posts I'm not trying to disprove god, just writing to get some much needed information out there. I really don't have any qualms with people believing whatever they want to, but when they go around spreading misinformation it really gets to me.
    Just recently I found a creationist pamphlet that I had been given years ago buried under a pile of papers. Every single argument against evolution they gave was based upon logical fallacies and explanations that have been refuted umpteen times. I literally face-palmed when I read it. They can believe that snakes talk to people, and that the universe and everything in it was created 6000 years ago if they like, but when they go around trying to spread these malicious lies they need to be stopped.
    Some creationists have even tried to get schools to stop teaching science and teach creationism instead. It's just absurd.

  5. Affirmative. Some creationists are indeed super intense.

    "We'd be better off without religion"
    - Mr. R-Dawks

    Also super intense.

  6. Dawkins position on religion has nothing to do with whether evolution is true or not.

  7. LOL I wasn't saying that :)

    Just saying he's really intense, similar to them crazy creationists. They just have opposing agendas.

    The creationists would say "An ape gave birth to a human, therefore evolution is true!" and the scientists would say the complete opposite "An ape gave birth to a human, therefore evolution is false."

    Haha, I crave that statement :D

  8. Yeah that's the reason I reiterated that point about apes giving birth to humans, (I talked about it in my first misconceptions post) because I had to add that in there :P