Dawkins: Evolution is ‘not a controversial issue’

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Atheist. Biologist. Writer. Thinker. Richard Dawkins has developed an international reputation of spreading the word that evolution happened and that there is no “intelligent design” or higher being, as you might gather from the title of his book “The God Delusion.”


But no matter what you think about his convictions, his ideas have gone viral – including the word “meme.”

CNN caught up with Dawkins while he was passing through Atlanta earlier this year. His next U.S. tour is in October.

Here is an edited transcript of part of the conversation. Watch the video above for a more focused look at Dawkins’ ideas about evolution vs. intelligent design.

Today, a lot of people think a “meme” is a LOLcat or a photo that’s gone viral. How do you feel about that?
In the last chapter of “The Selfish Gene,” I coined the word “meme” as a sort of analog of “gene.” My purpose of this was to say that although I’d just written a whole book about how the gene is the unit of natural selection, and that evolution is changes in gene frequencies, the Darwinian process is potentially wider than that.

You could go to other planets in the universe and find life, and if you do find life, then it will have evolved by some kind of evolutionary process, probably Darwinian. And therefore there must be something equivalent to a gene, although it may be very, very different from the DNA genes that we know.

I wanted to drive that point home. And rather than speculate about life on other planets, I thought maybe we could look at life on this planet and find an analog of the gene staring us in the face right here. And that was the meme. It’s a unit of cultural inheritance, the idea that an idea might propagate itself in a similar way to a gene propagating itself. It might be like catchy tune, or a clothes fashion. A verbal convention, a word that becomes fashionable, like “awesome,” which no longer means what it should mean.

That would be an example of something that spread like an epidemic. And the word “basically,” which is now used just to mean “uhh.” That’s another one that’s spread throughout the English speaking world.

These are potentially analogous to genes in the sense that they spread and are copied from brain to brain throughout the world, or throughout a particular subset of people. The interesting question would be whether there’s a Darwininan process, a kind of selection process whereby some memes are more likely to spread than others, because people like them, because they’re popular, because they’re catchy or whatever it might be.

My original purpose was to say: It’s not necessarily all about genes. But the word has taken off.

There are people who use meme theory as a serious contribution to the theory of human culture and I’m glad to say that the idea of things going viral has also gone viral. 


continue to source article at lightyears.blogs.cnn.com

73 COMMENTS

  1.   Creationists know nothing!

    Actually they know less than nothing!  Someone who simply knows nothing has potential to learn! – No retarder fitted!

    Creationists (especially YECs) are like a bank account with a massive overdraft! You can pour in knowledge, but it still does not come up to a zero balance!

  2. 40% of Americans believe the universe is less than 10,000 years old and yet evolution is “not a controversial issue”?    

    NOTE:  I’m NOT saying evolution is not true.  I’m saying that as an “issue” it is certainly controversial, at least here in the USA.

  3.  It isn’t controversial because no real argument against it exists. Without a real scientific argument backed up with theory and experimentation there is only a purely emotional reaction to an unwanted idea. That doesn’t constitute controversy any more than crying over unicorns being non-existent constitutes  an argument for their conservation. The number of people who are just flat wrong and ignorant doesn’t change the meaning of words.

  4. If the discussion is limited to the educated, scientific community, then evolution is certainly not controversial.  I am saying, however,  that in the world-at-large (at  least in the USA),  there IS a controversy.  People posting here might not like it because the folks on the other side are ignorant and refuse to be educated, but that does not change the fact that there is a controversy.

  5. Bill Nye sure poked a hornet’s nest with that video, glad to see our side is taking advantage of it.

    Also people will surely notice that every single creationist reaction disabled both comments and ratings.

  6. Controversy. Noun, plural: controversies

    1. A (public) discussion, dispute or debate, marked especially by the expression of opposing views.

    Unfortunately, controversies can be generated endlessly simply by virtue of people disagreeing. Even with facts and well-established theories.

    PS: Excellent talk Dr. Dawkins! Some pass the plate, I prefer to pass on the link.

  7. There is no controversy, even in the US, in the scientific community. I think that’s the point, yes people argue all sorts of nonsense in the public domain but there is as close to universal consensus on evolution as you can ever get on anything within the scientific community. 

  8. If I met God when I die … I think the first thing I’d say is, “Well, which one are you? Are you Zeus, are you Thor, Baal, Mithra … are you Yahweh? Which god are you, and why did you take such great pains to conceal yourself, and to hide away from us?”

    To which he might reply, “All of the above. After all, what’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.”

    To which I might then reply, “I see you read Shakespeare. But my real concern is why you have remained anonymous all these years, aside from leading Moses on his pilgrimage perhaps, and your talks on the mountain, if correctly chronicled by again, unknown authors. Some say he wrote the account, but it was written second person!?”

    He smiled and nodded, but then came his response to my question:

    “Son, let me give you a metaphor. Consider that while spending a day at Disneyland, that prior to each ride or concession stand attended, you were confronted by Walter himself, or one of his employees, who present prima facie documentation, including a video sent to your cellphone detailing by whose authority and permission you were allowed a venue there. Worse, you noted while cruising through Big Mountain that at nearly every turn, Mr. D’s face would appear out of the darkness as if keeping tabs on you.

    Consider that this continued throughout the day, and that Pirates of the Caribbean even contained an animatronics of Mr. D, who actually singled you out of the boat, wagging a gnarled finger at you and the others as you passed by, sending chills up your spine, and from the looks of the others on board, all suffering a similar, chilling response. At the end of the day, you were quite relieved to leave the park, and return to your covert and private world.

    In my mind’s eye, I viewed my mentor, whoever he/it was retreating from my presence, and as I paused to reflect on what seemed like an earthly sabbatical of sorts, I realized at once that if there was indeed one or more who had some role in allowing my escapade to ‘Theme Park Earth’, and with not just free admission, but free enterprise as well, that anonymity is indeed the only pathway to civility.

    As even Lord Byron once aspired to, total independence of mind and spirit are epochs of our existence. And now in retrospect, me thinks that perhaps I have protesteth too much …

  9. How can you remain a creationist?

    () Preserve your virginity. Never read a book or article on evolution unless it was written by a creationist. 

    () Never read the bible cover to cover. Doing so would expose the overwhelming number of errors and inconsistencies.

    ()Be proud of your subnormal IQ that blocks you from understanding evolution. Express your ignorant opinions loudly and publicly on every occasion. 

    ()Pretend to believe the creationist myth in order to bilk the gullible.

  10. Great interview.

    One minor quibble though — just because 40% of Americans reject evolution doesn’t mean that they all think the Earth is less than 10,000 years old.  There are plenty of creationists who accept the age of the Earth as being 4.54 billion years old, but apparently think that God had millions upon millions of creations over several billion years.  Obviously this makes no more sense than than the YEC theories, but rejection of evolution doesn’t necessarily mean someone believes in a young earth.

  11. Oh the game of it all.

    “Professor Dawkins, what would you do if you died and met God at the pearly gates?”

    “Why I would ask him what God are you….” “Why are you so invisible.”

     “Well, better to have no name my child and keep my nose out of your business. Nothing more pesky than having your Father call three times a day while your vacationing in the Bahamas. Ha Ha Ha …and you know what an intrusive God I am. He he.”

    “Hey everybody, give God a break. He’s giving us a break by giving all this earthy stuff for free. You could choose to do good or bad with it; it’s your choice. You just pay the consequences or get rewards after you’re dead. So you better like the gift.”

    “Hey wait everybody, what’s that? a bright light! Mom! Hey Mom, love you too. Miss you. I’m so glad to see you (face fades into static) Trees float by and your kindergarten teacher is wearing green boots. Light is piecing holes through everything. Cars shoote s honl  goes by dwingle. Nope  let go nbhiol time now. Everything is love. frighlc is beautiful. winlgl barn. this fbhicl k a loop stop. Light surrounds. Bright colors flash and fade. vvvvvvp, ttttttth, black then color, black then fade, silence, blackness, no thought, stop…… no light, all black………. nothing, no thought……….. nothing, black stillness….nothing……nothing….no thing

    Done

    Done

    Nothingness

    done

    The final end.

    —————–

    That’s right everybody. This is it. Enjoy the trip.

  12. The Flying Spaghetti Monster, aka the one TRUE GOD is not going to bad happy with this! Pastafarians have had it with these “scientists” and their discussing use  of atrocities such as reason, facts, logic, and thinking!

  13. I think this is why scientists and other intellectuals are sometimes accused of living in ivory towers. Denying that there’s a controversy over evolution smacks of wishful thinking or even hubris. Rock-solid evidence is the best possible counter to erroneous beliefs, but it’s effective only as long as the ones holding these beliefs are capable of understanding, or willing to accept, the evidence.

    If experience has taught us anything, it’s that those with an entrenched belief system will somersault backwards through fiery hoops before they even acknowledge the validity of the methods by which scientific knowledge is arrived at. And these people are very much in the majority.

    So yeah there’s a controversy. And anyone who wilfully disregards the evidence of his own eyes and experience should be encouraged to answer the question: if there’s no controversy over evolution, then why is evolution so controversial?

  14.  If it is a controversy in the US, then surely that is because it suits American creationists to paint it as such. They want to teach the “controversy” to their kids, and that is what is wrong, not necessarily the controversy, per se.

  15.  The problem is of course, that there are still plenty of  wagging fingers at every turn in our earthly theme park. Why bark yourself, when there are ample self-trained dogs around to do it for you ?

  16. I don’t understand how America has moved so far backwards so fast. I am only 27. When I was a child we went to church every Wednesday and Sunday. Both my parents taught sermons. By any measure a very religious family in a very religious small town.  Yet EVERYONE believed in evolution NO ONE believed the world was only 6000 years old. Everyone understood the bible was allegorical. I remember asking my father about a bible story that I didn’t understand. Now my father, a teacher and deacon of an evangelical baptist church mind you, sits me down and explains that I’m looking at it wrong. It doesn’t mean literally what it says. That primitive people thousands of years ago couldn’t read or write so they used colorful stories because they are memorable to pass on lessons. Much like the Easops fables I read i school. Now how do we go from that to were we are now?

  17.  That’s what I’m trying to say, there is no valid opposing view, debate, or dispute. Controversy implies a valid opposition, there is no valid opposition. There is no valid argument against evolution from the other side, all they have is appeals to authority and an emotional response to unwanted information. We have to stop letting the other side use words that portray them as having an equally valid point of view, it only helps them when we engage them on those terms.

  18. The appeal to teach the controversy is nothing more than a devious ploy. Should our kids have the democratic freedom to choose between the controversy of knowledge or ignorance? We should not stand by and give our kids the message that failure is a choice they can make.

  19.  What your quibbling over truly is a technicality. Believing that science is the result of an unending stream of millions of miracles is perhaps even more grave than believing that god did his bit a short while ago then left us in peace. These people can hardly accept that the sciences are an effective way to understanding the material universe if they believe that change is simply the result of god pulling the strings. The only answer these people would have is divine revelation.

  20. I was say up front that I am a Priest, Fundamentalist and Pagan.

    You ask some good questions and make some interesting comments in your video and I feel sorry for you.

    1. When you ask God “Which God are you”. The answer very well might me, I am God and I am the easiest thing in the world to find. Christians, Muslims, Buddhist, Hindus, Pagans and yes even you have found me. I am part of the wonder you feel when you look at a flower and think about all that evolution went through to produce it. I exist in black holes that can not exist in your space-time and rips that fabric of space. I exist in realities that you know exist but can not explain where Quantum Entanglement and David Bohm’s “Implicate and explicate order” happen. I exist in realities where time as you know it has no meaning. I am God because I am everything, everything you know and the so so much more you don’t know.

    As a modern Pagan we try to look at what and how the Pagans in the past dealt with the “God” questions and how they believed what they did. We do not believe WHAT they believed but try to understand what was at the core of their belief. We hold in reverence the great ancient thinkers such as Plato, Aristotle, Eratosthenes, Hippocrates, Hypatia (my personal favorite). They were all great mathematicians and scientists. They knew the earth was round 1600 years before Columbus. They were also great Philosophers and thought in terms of things like Pythagoreanism. They knew things that we are just now starting to relearn, that in order to understand our physical world you must also try to understand the non-physical world.

    The vast majority of their teachings were destroyed by followers of the “God of Abraham” and started the Dark Ages.  The people that proudly announced that “Religion doesn’t have anything useful to teach us”. It that case they were talking about all the Pagan type of religions (and there were many) in favor of their view of religion. You know exactly what you are telling us. Except now your case is “Religion doesn’t have anything useful to teach us” you are talking about the “God of Abraham” should be replaced by your religion.

    The U.S. Oxford Dictionary defines religion as:”the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods: ideas about the relationship between science and religion – a particular system of faith and worship: the world’s great religions – a pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance: consumerism is the new religion”*http://oxforddictionaries.com/

    Now your religion is a worship of nature and only the physical world we exist in. And that dogma IS a religion.

    As a Pagan I was taught and am teaching that the path to real truth as far as we can conceptualize it can only be found when you look at something from different viewpoints to search for many meanings.

    For those reading this don’t worry Pagans and OTHER religions that want people to search for all the possibilities survived the dogma of followers of the “God of Abraham” and we will survive this dogma of “If you dare to believe in something that you can not physically touch, smell, see, taste or hear something, it can not exist”. We see it for what it is, “I don’t like a certain religions or religion so ALL religion must be bad” That is not following the search for knowledge that is following resentment and fear. You know exactly what you are speaking against. You have every right to decide that you have nothing to learn from all the people that came before you. Religion was a big part of their lives. You stay there while we KNOW that in our searching for all those things that can not be explained we will discover so much that will enhance our lives and existence. And as you preach and denounce ALL thought of “intelligent design”, that also includes the notion that reality is so complex that it has formed it’s own form of consciousness.

    Well I will shut up now.

  21. As a Pagan I was taught and am teaching that the path to real truth as
    far as we can conceptualize it can only be found when you look at
    something from different viewpoints to search for many meanings.

    That’s not exclusive to paganism. The Jains endorsed anekantavada  (illustrated by the blind men and elephant parable) before Buddha’s time. The many-perspective approach works for science in the form of converging lines of evidence; those perspectives which are fueled by imagination are only addressed if they provide useful models.

    The downside of anekantavada is the notion that the perspective of storytellers carries the same weight as that of experts in any relevant discipline.

    As for the supernatural, I will concede that the monster under my bed back in childhood was “supernatural”, i.e. imaginary and fed by primal emotion.

  22. It was not my intention to communicate that Paganism has the monopoly on searching for many meanings. My desire is more to communicate that when you try to deny the infinite possibilities that exist outside of our physical reality you are robbing yourself of so much.

  23.   Oynaq

    1. When you ask God “Which God are you”. The answer very well might me, I am God and I am the easiest thing in the world to find. Christians, Muslims, Buddhist, Hindus, Pagans and yes even you have found me. I am part of the wonder you feel when you look at a flower and think about all that evolution went through to produce it.

    The neuroscientists and some atheists, have also found the spirituality of “gods” in the imaginations and egos  of the biochemistry of  human brains: -  but some of us do not let those parts of our brains subjectively dominate our thinking or detract from our objective observations.

    I exist in black holes that can not exist in your space-time and rips that fabric of space. I exist in realities that you know exist but can not explain where Quantum Entanglement and David Bohm’s “Implicate and explicate order” happen. I exist in realities where time as you know it has no meaning. I am God because I am everything, everything you know and the so so much more you don’t know.

    In this part your assertions wander off into the unreality of the pseudoscience of “gapology”. -  The hypothetical gods hidden in any convenient areas (gaps) currently not fully investigated or fully understood.

    … .. .we will survive this dogma of “If you dare to believe in something that you can not physically touch, smell, see, taste or hear something, it can not exist”.

    That is a strawman – not a scientific view.  If something is undetectable it PROBABLY does not exist, but if evidence turns up it is considered. 
    This does not give credibility to whatever whimsy anyone chooses to invent or present.   If  it is “undetectable”,  NOBODY is in any position to make credible claims about it!

    We see it for what it is, “I don’t like a certain religions or religion so ALL religion must be bad” That is not following the search for knowledge that is following resentment and fear.

    Another strawman!  Each religion is looked at separately, but many have much in common, being features of human psychology and social structures.

    You know exactly what you are speaking against.

    Certainly where the subjects have been researched.

    You have every right to decide that you have nothing to learn from all the people that came before you. Religion was a big part of their lives.

    Science constantly learns from those who went before, but sorts out what can be tested and verified from made-up nonsense.

    You stay there while we KNOW that in our searching for all those things that can not be explained we will discover so much that will enhance our lives and existence.

    That is the constant process of scientific investigation.  Lives are and have been very much enhanced by applying science to our homes, food-production, medicines, transport, logical thinking, emotional well-being  etc.

    And as you preach and denounce ALL thought of “intelligent design”, that also includes the notion that reality is so complex that it has formed it’s own form of consciousness.

    There is no evidence whatever for “intelligent design” or that the material universe has “consciousness” – Just the wishful  anthropomorphism of people who do not understand physics or biology (or ecology).

    “Consciousness” is a property of the electro-bio-chemistry of living brains.

  24. If I wished to pursue “infinite possibilities”, I would rob myself of too much valuable time. The pragmatic treatment is to discard the woo and other nonsense. On the other hand, if I were living in an opium den,….

  25.   ZenDruid
    If I wished to pursue “infinite possibilities”, I would rob myself of too much valuable time. The pragmatic treatment is to discard the woo and other nonsense. On the other hand, if I were living in an opium den,….

    Following “infinite (imagined) possibilities”, you could spend a whole lifetime without ever reaching any “relevant to reality ones”!

    Err – hold  on – I’ve just explained ….. .. . .. . .. .

  26.  Oh come now Mr Darcy- surly a magical exception to the laws of nature was given to allow for one of the most important events in the fantasy known as “The Abrahamic Folly”- THE FALL!!!!!

  27.  “And as you preach and denounce ALL thought of “intelligent design”, that
    also includes the notion that reality is so complex that it has formed
    it’s own form of consciousness.”

    The “…notion…”- Notion?  Who cares about a notion?
     Why don’t YOU stop preaching!

    cat kettle black- Mr Preacher

  28. Please explain what you mean by “the infinite possibilities that exist outside of our physical universe”.

    As far as conscientious people are concerned, there is no “outside of our physical universe”.

    You appear to be an extraordinarily superficial version of a magical thinker.

  29. To be clear, I am not defending old earth creationists.  I just wanted to point out that in the video RD drew the conclusion that because 40% of the US population accepts creationism that they also believe the earth is 6-10,000 years old.  The YEC are a small subset of that 40%.  The fact that YEC are incredibly deranged doesn’t mean I think OEC are any less deranged (well, maybe slightly less, at least they accept some science).

  30.  People posting here might not like it because the folks on the other side are ignorant and refuse to be educated, but that does not change the fact that there is a controversy.

    In that case, best they start teaching the Flat Earth controversy too!
    http://theflatearthsociety.org… 

    Where should the line be drawn Jay G? At what point do fuckwits get ignored in order facilitate the rest of us on this planet a chance to advance?

    It’s as plain and simple as this…if one believes the planet we live on is flat after the evidence is presented, then one is an imbecilic moron that should be ignored…in fact, no, one will likely be dangerous to those around them and should be treated or committed.

    If one believes the Universe and Earth is less 10,000 years old…ditto!

    If one believes a man in the sky created all living things, at any time, in present form or otherwise…ditto!

    I’m fed up to my back teeth with humanity being trailed down to the intellectual level of an Amoeba by whinging religious fuckwits…am I being strident? Indeed I am, but not too much in my opinion.

  31. It never ceases to amaze me that many bookstores devote equal space to the occult, new age, etc as to that allocated to science. Amusing to see folks scanning shelves of the former while on their cellphones!

  32. Just listening to Prof Dawkins clarity,his thinking,his intellect.And then listening to some of the inane,sad,and flat ideas of deists,creationists etc.Is literally mind boggling,how such peoples brains work – or should that be ….don’t work

  33. Katy Cordeth evolution itself is not remotely controversial and hasn’t been for a very long time.  It’s people pretending to tell children that it is somehow controversial that is actually controversial.

  34. It is always a pleasure to see Professor Dawkins educating the ignorant and the miseducated about the fantasy of creationism/ intelligent design vs. evolution, he is quite right their is no controversy,evolution is a scientific and cultural fact. 

  35. Exactly, IA.  Well said.

    If there is a controversy about evolution, then I guess that means there is also one about whether the Holocaust actually happened, the moon landings, 9/11, etc.

    Just because a group of ignorant people refuse to accept something that has overwhelming evidence for it such that it is completely absurd to deny it doesn’t make that thing a genuine controversy.

  36. Hi all, I am relatively new to the battle for reason.  My field of study in university was Psychology and Neurology, with a particularly strong interest in evolutionary psychology and the evolved components of the brain.  Hence, I reached the conclusion that faith based religion was nonsense and escaped faith based religion on my own.  Since my escape, I have grown more comfortable with calling myself an Atheist and I can see the danger presented by religious ignorance.

    I am looking for ways to address this danger and help diminish the level of ignorance that currently exists.  I have been commenting recently on this article on CNN.  My intentions are in the right place, but I find it nearly impossible to reach people who are highly religious,  a logical discussion often appears impossible as they simply resort to contradiction rather than argument.  My tactic currently has been to simply present evidence and let it speak for itself, rather than trying to engage in debate, just presenting evidence and letting others draw their own conclusions.  I’d like to learn how to gently engage and encourage meaningful debate, but my attempts have not been very successful.  And all too often I have succumb to frustration.

    I would like to know what else I can do.  Particularly in my local community to help.

  37. Welcome to my world. Unfortunately, there is no set menu for what you seek. Each case must be taken on its individual merits or lack thereof. Someone already sitting on the fence will require the slightest of pushes for them to see reason. On the other hand, for some, no amount of evidence or showing of the flaws in their thinking, will bring them to relinquish their brainwashing.

    Still…from reason to the ridicule, mindfulness to mockery…all have shown success…so do not despair, even when banging yer head against the proverbial brick wall.

    Edit: Having just paid a visit to your link…’Whipping a car with a piece of brush a la Basil Fawlty’

  38. Yes, well I have to work on my patience that became all too apparent.  But their appears to be little one can do when engaged by a troll other than doing ones best not to feed it.

    I do feel that Daniel Dennet was likely right when he said it is a process that is best performed over years.  That a seed might be planted in the minds of the religious that over years will lead to a realization

    My concern is that while we try to introduce knowledge and rational argument, others can simply try to confuse the situation, their arguments do not need to be anything more than irrational contradiction, but they can seed confusion and the appearance of controversy by doing so.  Anything that distorts facts or sows confusion really works in favor of faith based religion.  Since religion thrives in ignorance.

    I see this as the greatest weapon of those trying to battle on the side of faith have, they need not make any sense, all they need to do is beguile and confuse with contradiction and confusion.  It is in a sense easier, than the task we have.

  39. I’ve never heard of Big Mountain.

    In any event, Disneyland is a perfect example of natural selection operating on a cultural level.  It’s filled with people actively maintaining and promoting its operation at every turn, all “Walter’s employees”.  Characters created by Disney roam free, elucidated and reinforcing the Disney story.  The design of the characters, as well as the materials the suits are made out of, have evolved over time.The rides have evolved over time as well.  The Electric Light Parade was followed by some watery-dragon hologram battle and now is something else.  Captain Eo was replaced by Honey I Shrunk The Audience after Jackson fell out of public favor, then replaced when the cultural environment demanded it.  Space Mountain disappeared for a while and then emerged bigger, faster, and more refined.  The park has taken on various new attributes over the years, like Toon Town and California Adventure, evolving to meet taste.  And every element has been carefully tweaked and improved over time so that the park can be the optimum representation of “fun” as conceived by the Disney corporation.

    Aside from the argument that no evidence is all the evidence you need, I do think you paint a very accurate, factual portrait of what an average person experiences at Disneyland: stuck in lines bombarded by constant advertisements for the entertainment you are already enjoying, no cell phone service, always observed by conspicuous security cameras, surrounded by thousands of other over-caffeinated, under-rested people on their last over-stimulated nerve.  Well done.

    Also, Theme Park Earth offers neither free admission nor free enterprise.  Freedom of speech is granted a lot of places though.  I commend you for exercising yours and thank you for allowing me to exercise mine.  Now, for some reason I have the urge to watch cartoons.

  40. So yeah there’s a controversy. And anyone who wilfully disregards the
    evidence of his own eyes and experience should be encouraged to answer
    the question: if there’s no controversy over evolution, then why is
    evolution so controversial?

    You have to understand that what’s at stake is “teaching the controversy.”  That’s what various creationists, especially IDiots, say that we should do.  And they mean “teach the science controversy” in science class.  In that sense, of course there is no controversy to teach.  The most one could say scientifically is that there is science, including evolution, and there are pseudoscientists and religious apologists who oppose that science.

    No one would deny that there is a “controversy” in the public sphere, if that’s all that the creationists were saying.  What matters is context, and the context involves “teach the [scientific] controversy,” when there is none, just science and nonsense.

    Glen Davidson
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  41. There is one thing that I think about in the discussion about evolution. For the evolution to happen it has to be a purpose of survival for the individuals in the chain of evolution. If we think about the early start where some chemical reactions coincident created the first living organism on a very basic level. Where comes this purpose to survive from, it had to be part of it from a very early stage. Could some explain this as I am not an evolutionary specialist. 

    Another thing is that if one does not believe there is a God, because it is not backed by some physical universe evidence. Then one says that the physical universe is all there is. This is not easy to evidence. I think before we knew about electricity, we could not measure it so it did not exist. It obviously did, so it was a wrong assumption…

    What if life itself is a non-universe thing, that is able to control the organisms of the universe, and that God is part of it. It would explain a lot wouldn’t it ? It might be hard to confront for some that we are probably not part of the physical universe as we claim to be all there is, but controlling our bodies here. Is this a way to hide our true identity? 

  42. olekeh
    There is one thing that I think about in the discussion about evolution. For the evolution to happen it has to be a purpose of survival for the
    individuals in the chain of evolution.

    As RD explains in his book “The Selfish Gene”, individuals only need to survive long enough to produce offspring.  It is their genetic patterns which have to be passed on for the species to survive.  Those which fail to adapt to changes, become extinct.

    If we think about the early start
    where some chemical reactions coincident created the first living organism on a very basic level. Where comes this purpose to survive from, it had to be part of it from a very early stage.
    Could some explain this as I am not an evolutionary specialist.

    The initial start of life is not included in the “Theory of Evolution”. 
    It is “abiogenesis” which is best explained by The Nobel Prize winning geneticist, Dr Jack Szostak:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v

    There would be “no purpose to survive”.  Only a feature in some individuals to replicate copies of themselves, which would propagate their numbers, while others which did not, would cease to exist.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A

    Another thing is that if one does not believe there is a God, because it is not backed by some physical universe evidence. Then one says that
    the physical universe is all there is.

     

    It is true that our best telescopes can only see part of the Universe, but as telescopes have improved, there is no evidence that physical laws of science are any different more in  more distant parts.

    This is not easy to evidence. I think before we knew about electricity, we could not measure it so it did not exist. It obviously did, so it was a wrong assumption…

    There is no evidence of any entities or energies which are not part of the physical universe.
    You example of electricity is a good one.  God-did-it-by-magic!  has always been the lazy ignorant answer for the unexplained. 
    Thor was the Norse god of thunder and lightning.

    What if life itself is a non-universe thing, that is able to control the organisms of the universe, and that God is part of it.

    That is a self contradiction.   Anything which interacts with anything else on Earth uses energy which is  detectable by science as part of the universe.

    Life and death has been physically studied in laboratories and hospitals. 
    Life is a process of growth & self replication of cells while death is a breakdown of the chemistry which keeps organisms functioning.

    It would explain a lot wouldn’t it ?

    Not really.  It would give no explanation of how processes of life or death work on Earth.  It would be invoking magic. 
    If I have a life-threatening illness I contact a doctor for physical treatment, not a witch-doctor for magical treatment.

    It might be hard to confront for some that we are probably not part of the physical universe as we claim to be all there is, but controlling our bodies here.

    We are made of atoms and molecules, just like the rest of the physical universe.  We do not even keep the same ones all our lives.  Our individual cells die and are replaced by our bodies replicating new ones, but unlike our ancient ancestors,  these stay together and work as a team in our bodies.

    Is this a way to hide our true identity?

    Our “identity” is our self image in our brains.  Our brains which control our bodies,  are made of physical molecules just like the rest of our bodies and the rest of universe. 
    As neuroscientists have shown, our thinking and memory works on electrical signals and biochemistry, with no energy inputs from anywhere else. The vision of “self” in our imaginations as separate from the reality of the universe is psychological, but can become delusional in some.

    The linked “Origins” videos should help you understand abiogenesis.

  43.  It’s refreshing to see the happyness beaming off prof. Richards face ( I’d laugh too at the questions asked).
    I am not sure I’d have the same patience as he has to eloquently  answer all  questions . On   the question “what happens when you die”? I do not waste any time anymore .( I am officially “over it”)

  44. RD: “Evolution is not a controversial issue”

    Correct. At least as a legitimate controversial issue. Evolution is ‘true’ as Jerry Coyne has stated.

    But are those statements true? Coyne’s alludes to the fact of evolution existing as a known progression [true], and RD’s alludes to the non-existence of a valid controversy regarding the theory [true], since the definition of controversy is “A dispute, especially a public one, between sides holding opposing views.”

    Although one exists with young earth creationists, it is easily discredited, and thus not a valid one. RD: “While it seems very laudable to teach the controversy, to teach both theories, but there [simply] aren’t two theories … “

    Correct again. But unlike simpler mechanistic theories like germ theory, photon theory and yes, the theory of gravity, the ToE entails many qualitative and quantitative aspects, is forensic [distant past in its major innovations], and thus, non-replicable, or empirically testable. Simpler adaptive functions can be replicated, but its major innovations cannot. And the best we can do to verify mechanistic processes is by attempted parallel studies [drosophila and E. coli to name two], and to extrapolate results to fit unobservable past events.

    So while the ToE is well established, mechanistic modalities are not at this time, except by subjective interjections of logic to explain mechanistic functions. But, one will say, there is nothing ‘subjective’ about science. Actually, there is.

    If (1) all data were accessible, and (2) if our senses of deductive reason were infallible, there would be little subjectivity, or variances in data assessment. But given the two qualifiers for totally objective science given above, scientific assessments of complex and multifaceted theories such as evolution are not set in stone . . . yet. And perhaps, never.

    So is ID even a remotely possible factor in phylogenetic progressions [evolution of all phyla]? I’m afraid that it is. Accordingly, to remove any consideration of ID [not creationism or a 'poof' scenario] from the lab bench constitutes extreme subjectivism, and therefore fails true scientific rigor.

    In short, ID by some interjectory agencies in the remote past must be allowed in as an *adjunctive hypothesis within evolutionary theory. And it will stand or fall of its own accord.

    * one to operate in concert with existing mechanistic hypotheses

  45.  

      Beau Leeman
    So is ID even a remotely possible factorin phylogenetic progressions [evolution of all phyla]?  I’m afraid that it is. 

    Only in the very remote sense that fairies at the bottom of the garden are a “remote possibility”.

    Accordingly, to remove anyconsideration  of ID [not creationism or a 'poof' scenario] from the lab bench constitutes extreme subjectivism,

    No it doesn’t!  The massive balance of evidence says it it not worth wasting scientists time. 
    If any ID enthusiasts want to produce some evidence which is fit for peer-review in a reputable scientific publication, they are free to do so.  It can then be independently tested.

    and therefore fails true scientific rigor.

    Nonsense! – ID claims have failed abysmally on all occasions that they have been exposed to scientific rigour!

     

    In short, ID by some interjectory agencies in the remote past must be allowed in as an *adjunctive hypothesis within evolutionary theory. 

    That is not how scientific theories are constructed.  Whimsical remote possibilities are not incorporated in scientific theories before they have been tested peer-reviewed and confirmed by independent repeat testing of evidence and methods.

    And it will stand or fall of its own accord.

    It has already fallen on every occasion it has been presented.

    BTW: Where did you cut and paste this from?

     

  46. Many times I see my own country and watch in absolute despair how religion
    stops the progress of science and genuine understanding of nature. the first
    time I discovered the Theory of Evolution I was nine years old, I had this
    first encounter with Darwin’s beautiful theory in an old and dusty book of my
    mom that she had in high school when Morocco was under French occupation, I was
    so confused and I asked here: is it true what I read in this book? And you know
    what would be the answer of a very religious mom… When I look at the educational
    program in high schools in Morocco like other Muslim countries today, I find it
    despicable how they teach youngster a course of Islamic education while the
    beautiful theory of Evolution is discarded, I find it so sad; in my homeland,
    creationism is triumphing, just look at the oil’s money that Saudi muslim
    preachers are spending, spreading the whole none-sense of what they claim as
    scientific miracles while any well educated man or woman can easily refute the
    claims of the divinity of Islamic creationism, it’s widely spreading, the new recruits of islam take
    the claims of Muslim preachers as truths because they’re not educated about
    the tactics of those preachers. But anyway, the moment in history we’re leaving
    today, is like the hundred years that followed the idea of Copernicus that
    challenged the divine view of the church about the real nature of the solar
    system, and Darwin is as genius as Copernicus was, they both made a revolution
    shaking the established dogmas of the clergies, and as Copernicus had his
    defendants, Darwin had and have his own defendants too, the biggest nowadays I think is
    Richard Dawkins

  47. This problem will never go away until scientist come up with an alternative to the word “theory” – some word that means “indisputably proven fact” – to describe evolution. The general public understands the word “theory” to be something UNPROVEN, as in “just a theory.” Why is this not recognized and addressed by the scientific community? What I’d like to see is for the scientific community to hold a symposium, have its members vote on this new word, and issue a PROCLAMATION that from henceforth evolution will be categorized as a(n) [new word meaning indisputably proven fact], NOT a theory, and henceforth evolution will be referred to as “The [new word meaning indisputably proven fact] of evolution.” Of course, it wouldn’t solve the problem overnight, but it would be a good start.

  48. reasonableperson88
    This problem will never go away until scientist come up with an alternative to the word “theory” – some word that means “indisputably proven fact” – to describe evolution. The general public understands the word “theory” to be something UNPROVEN, as in “just a theory.” Why is this not recognized and addressed by the scientific community? 

    The problem seems to be that dictionaries are not written by “the scientific community”, but are written by “the linguistic community”, who often do not understand science.

    Many of these dubious ambiguous definitions are found in dictionaries – as illustrated here.

            http://www.merriam-webster.com

    the·o·ry noun ˈthē-ə-rē, ˈthir-ē
    plural the·o·ries

    Definition of THEORY
    1 : the analysis of a set of facts in their relation to one another

    2 : abstract thought : speculation

    3 : the general or abstract principles of a body of fact, a science, or an art < music theory>

    4a : a belief, policy, or procedure proposed or followed as the basis of action < her method is based on the theory that all children want to learn>
    b : an ideal or hypothetical set of facts, principles, or circumstances —often used in the phrase in theory < in theory, we have always advocated freedom for all>

    5 : a plausible or scientifically acceptable general principle or body of principles offered to explain phenomena < the wave theory of light>

    6a : a hypothesis assumed for the sake of argument or investigation

    b : an unproved assumption : conjecture

    c : a body of theorems presenting a concise
    systematic view of a subject < theory of equations>

    Proper definitions of “scientific theory” are rare and embedded in heaps of verbosity offering  “alternative definitions”, which do not apply to science. Even proper definitions like this one are not clearly explained – mentioning “falsifiabiliy” but not explaining this in terms of “testing” :-

    http://www.thefreedictionary.c… – Noun1. scientific theory – a theory that explains scientific observations; “scientific theories must be falsifiable”

  49. Further to my earlier comment:-

    In the quote below a proper definition of “scientific theory” from  the  United States National Academy of Sciences, is included, but only AFTER a whole load of verbose “alternatives”. 
    It does however explain the difference between objective ” descriptions of true reality” and human opinions.

    http://www.reference.com/brows… 

    Theory
      [thee-uh-ree, theer-ee] Show IPA

    The word theory  has many distinct meanings in different fields of knowledge, depending on their methodologies and the context of discussion.
    In science a theory is a testable model of the manner of interaction of a set of natural phenomena, capable of predicting future occurrences or observations of the same kind, and capable of being tested through experiment or otherwise verified through empirical observation.

    For the scientist, “theory” is not in any way an antonym of “fact”. For example, it is a fact that an apple dropped on earth has been observed to fall towards the center of the planet, and the theories commonly used to describe and explain this behavior are Newton’s theory of universal gravitation (see also gravitation), and the general theory of relativity.

    In common usage, the word theory  is often used to signify a conjecture, an opinion, a speculation, or a hypothesis.
    In this usage, a theory is not necessarily based on facts; in other words, it is not required to be consistent with true descriptions of reality.
    True descriptions of reality are more reflectively understood as statements which would be true independently of what people think about them.

     According to the United States National Academy of Sciences,

    Some scientific explanations are so well established that no new evidence is likely to alter them. The explanation becomes a scientific theory.
    In everyday language a theory means a hunch or speculation.

    Not so in science. In science, the word theory refers to a comprehensive explanation of an important feature of nature that is supported by many facts gathered over time.

    Theories also allow scientists to make predictions about as yet unobserved phenomena,

     

    The problem is that scientific theories are not facts per  se  – but may be so for practical purposes subject to revision (that is minor adjustments), in the light of new evidence: – (as open minded people accept!)

        reasonableperson88 What I’d like to see is for the scientific community to hold a symposium, have its members vote on this new word, and issue a PROCLAMATION that from henceforth evolution will be categorized as a (n)
    [new word meaning indisputably proven fact], NOT a theory,

    However, the above definition from the United States National Academy of Sciences, combined with statements on evolution by other scientific bodies, should be clear.

    The problem is not in the statements, but in the dictionaries, and in the  ignorance of members of the public who do not read such statements.

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