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May 12, 2005

The Theory of Evolution: Just a Theory?

Posted by William D. Rubinstein

Historian Prof. William D. Rubinstein shares his doubts about the theory of evolution. He raises questions about evolution to which he seeks answers.

Like most people with enquiring minds, I have at least a desultory interest in many fields beyond my own narrow specialty, including the mysteries of science. I am not a scientist, needless to say, although I think I have as much common sense as the next man and probably more in the way of an independent viewpoint than most.

I have thus long been fascinated by the great dogma of the Theory of Evolution, which of course was formulated by Charles Darwin in his seminal work On the Origin of Species in 1859, probably the most important book published during the nineteenth century. The Theory of Evolution in its commonly-voiced form has long struck me as having so many dubious features that it is genuinely surprising that it has not attracted many more challenges than it actually has - although (I gather) a growing number of scientifically-trained commentators are also having their doubts.

One reason for the failure of scientists to challenge Evolution is that the whole subject is tainted and pervaded by the religion vs. science question, such that anyone who questions Evolution is automatically dismissed as a "Creationist" who believes in the literal truth of the Bible and who is seen as having an agenda of religious fundamentalism behind his doubts. Let me make clear, then, that I am not a religious fundamentalist. I do not believe that the Bible is literally true. I do not believe that the world was created in six days in 4004 BC, or that all of life perished apart from the handful of humans and pairs of animals rescued by Noah on his Ark. On the contrary, I have no reason to suppose that the accepted scientific chronology of the earth's history and the emergence of life is not entirely correct - the earth is around 4.5 billion years old, life began perhaps a billion years ago and crawled out of the seas around 500 million years ago, and so on. Nor do I have any reason to doubt that humans are descended from primates, our line having branched off perhaps ten million years ago, although just how and when the defining qualities of homo sapiens - our intelligence, ability to communicate through language, curiosity, etc. - emerged are anything but clear.

Nevertheless, there are so many deep implausibilities in the Theory of Evolution as it is commonly understood that it seems to me, as a non-scientist, that something must surely be radically wrong. Let me set out the doubts which I (and many others) have had about Evolution.

• Evolution appears to be plainly impossible. Animals cannot "evolve" into new and different species. If one breeds cats for a thousand generations, they will still be cats, won't they? They simply will not "evolve" into cats which look like kangaroos and are genetically different from felis domesticus. It simply won't happen.

• Moreover, no one expects "evolution" to occur. If your pet cat gave birth to a litter of kittens, one of which had two tails, you wouldn't exclaim, "Aha! Here is the next stage of feline evolution!" One would assume that the two-tailed kitten was a freak of nature. No one would claim that a deviant animal was an example of evolution at work. If you read in a newspaper that a cat gave birth to kittens which looked like racoons, and had a different DNA structure from ordinary cats, you would assume that a hoax or fraud was being perpetrated. No one, anywhere, would conclude that we have just beheld an example of Darwinian evolution in actual fact.

• Even more importantly, to the best of my knowledge no one has ever seen an example of genuine evolution, that is, of one species producing an offspring which was clearly of another, different species. Of course, there are hundreds of billions of living beings in the world, and it would be remarkable if anyone spotted a clear-cut evolutionary change. On the other hand, people have been looking for evidence of evolution for nearly 150 years, and scientists would certainly be sensitive to the emergence of any new species, with the evidential value this would have for proving Darwin right.

• Most claimed examples of evolution at work are highly dubious. Perhaps the most familiar such example, often cited in textbooks, is of the moths in Lancashire whose colouration progressively darkened during the nineteenth century as dark-coloured moths became progressively more likely to blend in with their soot-darkened surroundings, and hence escape the notice of predators, while light-coloured moths were more likely to be seen and eaten. Even if this actually occurred (and there is apparently some doubt), this is, however, not an example of the evolution of a new species, but of certain members of the same species with favourable characteristics having a better survival rate than less favoured members of that species. The species itself has remained unchanged.

• The alleged general evidence for evolution throughout chronological history is often arguable, even logically fallacious. All biology textbooks by definition point to the fact that certain geological strata contain the bones of primitive horses, while the strata above it - assumed to have been deposited more recently - contain the bones of more advanced horses, and conclude that the primitive horses gave rise to the more advanced species. But no evidence is offered that the primitive horses were actually the ancestors of the advanced ones. The linkage is simply assumed. The reasoning here is obviously circular and fallacious - the very issue under discussion is assumed to have occurred, without further direct evidence.

• There are actually no "missing links" in the fossil record, a fact which, I understand, is continuously swept under the rug. According to Darwinian theory, such transitional species should have constantly appeared (and keep appearing), yet remarkably few have ever been observed. There are apparently no known transitional fossils in the whole fossil record of the plant kingdom, although millions of fossil plants have been found [Cited in William R. Corliss, ed., Science Frontiers II: More Anomalies and Curiosities of Nature (2004), p. 154]. What the actual fossil record allows us to infer is apparently that entirely new species appear, as it were, fully-formed.

• New organs in living bodies must appear fully-formed at once or they can serve no biological purpose and confer no advantage upon that creature. On the other hand, the complexity of most organs would seem to make this impossible. Charles Darwin himself was well-aware of this, and apparently regarded it as the most important criticism of his theory. The example which is always given is the eye: the retina cannot simply appear at one time, the lens a million years later, and the optic nerve a million years thereafter. The entire eye, including it neural connections with the brain and, through it, with an animal's locomotive system, must all have appeared at precisely the same time. The odds against this happening by sheer random chance are incalculably vast, and yet many creatures on different branches of the animal kingdom have "evolved" eyes which function in similar ways - squids, spiders, and humans, for example.

• The "fittest" do not survive. Most species extinctions appear to be the result of unpredictable natural catastrophes, like the meteor which allegedly wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Moreover, the survival of any creature, regardless of its "fitness", depends wholly on there being a viable food chain. If the lions in the jungle killed and ate all of the gazelles, the lions would themselves quickly starve to death. For their survival, there must be enough slow gazelles to feed the lions, but also enough fast ones to ensure the continuation of the food chain.

• The incredible complexity of life, and its apparent ever-increasing sophistication over time, strongly implies a guiding force of some kind, and one which can produce a continuous array of new creatures of ever-increasing complexity. Whatever that force may be, it must therefore be capable of producing new species more complex than the previous ones - something which at first glance seems impossible, implying some kind of advanced problem solving force. Where is it situated? How does it go about "solving" the problems confronting it.

I simply do not know what all of this means, although the best inference which might be drawn is that new species apparently "evolve" suddenly and fully-formed, a concept, known as "saltation", which has been advocated in the past, and which was recently revived, at least in part, in the late Stephen J. Gould's theory of "punctuated equilibrium". The mechanism which brings about these sudden, fundamental changes, however, remains (so far as I know) completely unknown, but must be marked by a high order of creative ability. The drawn-out transitional process suggested by Darwin, however, does not appear to accord with the facts, coolly considered.

William D. Rubinstein is professor of modern history at the University of Wales - Aberystwyth.


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"The "fittest" do not survive"

Ah but they do! For in Darwinian terms, "fitness"="ability to survive" Therefore, "survival of the fittest" = "survival of the survivors"

"The incredible complexity of life, and its apparent ever-increasing sophistication over time, strongly implies a guiding force of some kind, and one which can produce a continuous array of new creatures of ever-increasing complexity"

Why does it necessarily strongly imply this? Complexity can easily result from the repepitive application of simple rules.

This is a very interesting and thought provoking article, by the way. Prof Rubinstein is right to decry the tendency to immediately demonise anyone who expresses the slightest doubt about evolution being anything other than hard, law-of-gravity like fact, as a "creationist."

Posted by: James McQueen at May 12, 2005 08:50 PM
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This is quite the stupidest article I have ever read.

Posted by: Nick Mallory at May 12, 2005 10:25 PM
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This is quite the stupidest article I have ever read.

I thought it poor, but not quite as bad as some creationist things I have seen. It seems to summarise most of their common groundless (but I "would say that") objections, and the "just a theory" title is a big give-away.

Prof Rubinstein is right to decry the tendency to immediately demonise anyone...as a "creationist."

Why?
Unfortunately, evolution is something that on the surface is comprehensible by the layman, yet is extremely complex and difficult to understand. Therefore, it's very easy to misunderstand what's going on and think that it can't possibly be true. The complexity of it makes it easy for creationists to raise "problems" such as the ones listed in this article that it's not so easy to dismiss with a sound-bite explanation. For more information on this sort of thing, I usually recommend http://www.talkorigins.org/

I have long thought that the reason physicists don't get quite so much hassle about their subject is it is harder to get a superficial grasp of it. After all, fundamental particles &c. don't really impact upon the conciousness of most people, but animals are everywhere.

Posted by: Milo Thurston at May 13, 2005 11:58 AM
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The time frame involved in the transmogrification of species, and other evolutionary phenomena, renders it impossible for any given generation to grasp the complexities of gradual change, even with the benefit of the very recent acquisition(in evolutionary terms) of the ability of homo sapiens to record and pass on existential observations to its successors.
Is not 'evolution' merely a one word description of the sum total of what has occurred up to the moment of consideration of the phenomenon itself? As time itself is unstoppable, except for the individual - by means the death of that individual - none of us will ever 'get to know' evolution ; we are necessarily universally handicapped (otherwise we would be God) and therefore always behind it in the race against time. Evolution and chaos may well be as one. But we will never know for sure. We can only construct infantile and fantastic theories about what our narrow and short-lived perceptions actually mean. The sum total of human knowledge about everything is almost certainly complete bollocks: mere amusement in the Grim Reaper's waiting room aka 'life'. But then, complete bollocks is just part of the sorry scheme of things entire. Don't fret Professor, just write your own script and appoint yourself as lead actor in your own play, just as the rest of us do. You may even get some applause if you manage to make it convincing; but then there's always those hissing ruffians up in the Gods!

Posted by: Frank Pulley at May 14, 2005 01:32 AM
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not quite as bad as some creationist things I have seen

You must be joking. This is a creationist thing. It is a collection of recycled cliches straight from the creationist playbook, backed by total ignorance on the subject of biology.

I do agree that evolutionary biology is a complex subject, easy to misunderstand and requiring some serious study to understand. That makes this article particularly bad, given that the author is a professor of history and therefore presumably has some understanding of what scholarship means. This article exhibits none.

Posted by: PZ Myers at May 14, 2005 06:44 PM
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Hilarious! UK satire at its best!

Posted by: pough at May 14, 2005 06:58 PM
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This may not actually be the stupidest, most ill-thought out, least imaginitive article I have ever read, but it is certainly a contender.

Please sit down with an educated biologist and have them explain to you, point by point, why your opinions on this topic are entirely incorrect. Even your definitions of what it means for new species to emerge are wildly off-base.

Also, one other request. Please do not write things like "although (I gather) a growing number of scientifically-trained commentators are also having their doubts." This is clearly untrue. A number of ideologically driven, ignorant charlatans are expressing doubts. Scientists are of a remarkable uniformity regarding this topic.

Posted by: Mark Trodden at May 14, 2005 07:40 PM
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"Evolution appears to be plainly impossible," you write, citing the theoretical evolution of "cats" into ... what? Ah, they must still be cats!

But - if you can accept that genetic mutations are possible, and if you can accept that some genetic mutations can engender others - both things which should be self-evident for anyone who has ever, say, bred tulips - then it's not such a great leap to imagine that over generations such mutations can pile up, particularly in isolated populations, and create something not the same as the original species.

Of course, if you believe that genes are immutable, well - we have nothing to say to each other.

"No one has ever seen an example of genuine evolution..." Not so. There are quite a few examples of "intermediate" species, including along the human line... You're betraying your ignorance here. Read the available literature on the recent discoveries in ancient humanoids and you'll see that you've missed a great deal. When you cite of the oft-debunked "moths in Lancashire" case, you're using a straw man: that example has long since been debunked. There are many better examples of evolutionary devolpment.

Sigh. In all, this is a remarkably fatuous article. Best of luck in doing whatever it is you do; as a biologist, you're an utter failure.


Posted by: R.H. Gassan at May 14, 2005 08:00 PM
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Anyone wanting a full documentation of the idiocies of this article should look here for a point-by-point demolition:

http://pharyngula.org/index/weblog/comments/a_historian_disgraces_himself/

Posted by: Stephen Frug at May 14, 2005 08:06 PM
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I presume that historians are careful to use the best and most reliable sources. If this be the case, the Rubinstein artlice is clearly parody.

Posted by: Les Lane at May 14, 2005 08:21 PM
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"...unlikely to be truly reliable or to be based on anything more than a perusal of obvious secondary sources.''

Quote (referring to nonspecialists) from an earlier Rubinstein artlcle at this site. Rubinstein has proved his point, only in his case "obvious secondary sources" would have been academically superior.

Posted by: Les Lane at May 14, 2005 08:41 PM
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Prof. Rubenstein,

Is there a library in your town?

Among other species whose rise was observed are broccoli, grapefruit, and Spartina townsendii, a salt grass that arose in the Thames River in the 1860s, and which is one of the most carefully recorded, early instances of a complete confirmation of Darwin's hypothesis. I'm sure you could find this stuff on the web with a little work.

In the meantime, you may want to reacquaint yourself with what science is, and how it works, and why creationism is not science. I recommend this made-for-social-scientists-and-teachers publication from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences -- I link to the introduction, where you can get the definitions from the start: http://books.nap.edu/html/creationism/introduction.html

I hope you can go back and edit this article. It suffers badly from a lack of library work, which I hope you will amend.

Posted by: Ed Darrell at May 14, 2005 08:55 PM
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This is a joke, right? Someone tell me this is a joke. No one who is a professor of anything should be allowed to be this stupid.

Posted by: CC at May 14, 2005 09:26 PM
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This article is a joke right? If not, then I think Professor Rubinstein should stick to history.

By the way, speciation has been observed many times, and sometimes even in the lab.
http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB910.html

" The alleged general evidence for evolution throughout chronological history is often arguable, even logically fallacious. All biology textbooks by definition point to the fact that certain geological strata contain the bones of primitive horses, while the strata above it - assumed to have been deposited more recently - contain the bones of more advanced horses, and conclude that the primitive horses gave rise to the more advanced species. But no evidence is offered that the primitive horses were actually the ancestors of the advanced ones. The linkage is simply assumed. The reasoning here is obviously circular and fallacious - the very issue under discussion is assumed to have occurred, without further direct evidence."

This is just silly. Does Professor Rubinstein think the top strata got deposited first? Then how did the bottom strata get inserted afterwards with fossils intact?

Posted by: Jeff Wunder at May 14, 2005 09:28 PM
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This article: Just an opinion?

I realize that everyone is entitled to their own opinions but your readers need to recognize that this article is in fact not only an opinion but an uninformed one. You may in fact "have as much common sense as the next man" but your knowledge of the theory of evolution is extremely lacking. I am not a biologist and have only one college level anthropology class behind me but it is extremely easy to see the flaws in your arguments. Rather then spending my time pointing out all of them out I'll refer you to one facet of modern evolutionary theory that you have missunderstand: Punctuated Equilibrium.

According to the theory (yes, theory, everything is s theory unless you happen to be God) of Punctuated Equilibrium says "instead of a slow, continuous movement, evolution tends to be characterized by long periods of virtual standstill ("equilibrium"), "punctuated" by episodes of very fast development of new forms." Please read this website: http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/PUNCTUEQ.html and you may realize some of the flaws in your arguments. Simply put evolution doesn't just happen in one cat giving birth to a raccoon as you put it. There are ecological changes that call for the species to adapt or parish. The moths in Lancashire are a great example of this. No, the moths did not become a new species overnight but after many, many years with enough incremental changes the Lancashire moths of the future will be different enough to be categorized as a new species.

Posted by: Harshblogger at May 14, 2005 09:35 PM
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I have long thought that the reason physicists don't get quite so much hassle about their subject is it is harder to get a superficial grasp of it. After all, fundamental particles &c. don't really impact upon the conciousness of most people, but animals are everywhere.

Or it's because particle physics doesn't really impact creationist exegesis much; unlike evolutionary biology, paleontology, archeology, and chunks of geology and astronomy. Although even atomic physics is targetted if need be. See for instance the work of Russell Humphreys, Andrew Snelling, or Larry Vardiman in the RATE group where they try to find new and creative means of speeding up isotope decay rates in the past.

Posted by: Dave S. at May 14, 2005 09:37 PM
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While denying that he is a creationist, Professor Rubinstein has done a good job of repeating the anti-intellectual talking points made by creationists who are as ill-informed as he is.

Maybe someone can tell me why it is that otherwise intelligent, educated people think that they can waltz into the middle of a complex discipline with which they have at best a passing familiarity and instantly discern its fatal flaws? Must arrogance always be so highly correlated with ignorance? Will Professor Rubinstein next try his hand at debunking relativity by pointing out how non-intuitive Einstein's concepts are?

Professor Rubinstein ought to be made aware that personal incredulity is a lousy foundation for a logical argument in the sciences. I would have assumed that the same was true among historians, and that he already knew this.

Finally, the "...reason[s] for the failure of scientists to challenge Evolution..." have nothing to do with religion. Rather, they have everything to do with poor arguments, non-existent evidence and a complete lack of intellectual honesty on the part of the anti-evolutionists. Maybe Professor Rubinstein could talk to some real biologists before he makes these kinds of blanket statements.

Posted by: Tom Ames at May 14, 2005 09:37 PM
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If one breeds cats for a thousand generations, they will still be cats, won't they?

This depends on which genes have been modified and selected for / against within this population, or if this population is in some way isolated from all of the other cats.

This article shows that the author has a very fundamental misunderstanding of how evolution works. Very small changes, over very long periods of time, result in very large changes. This is a concept that, when applied to virtually any other subject, makes perfect sense. Erosion works in this way. Say you have a mountain. It then rains. Water flows down this mountain and picks up small debris along the way. This debris, running down the mountain at a fairly quick speed, kicks up dirt and pebbles and rocks and carries them down the mountain. Repeat every time it rains over the next 1 - 100 million years. Guess what. You have a valley where the mountain was and an alluvial fan where the stream empties out. For a great example, look at the Mississippi River/Great Plains(formerly mountains) and Louisianna (alluvial fan dumped into the Gulf of Mexico).

Evolution works in the exact same way. I don't really understand why people don't get that reproduction of all organisms is imperfect. Look at the diversity among the children of the same set of parents. Even if the parents were to have hundreds of children, none of them would exactly the same. Even twins, etc. have differences.

One thousand generations of what we currently call 'cats' may very well result in something we would not consider to be a 'cat'.

Posted by: Aaron Stafford at May 14, 2005 10:25 PM
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As the aforementioned Stephen J.Gould wrote about a similarlly wrong headed attempt to question the "dogma?"
of evolution, "...if I spent all of my time responding to this tripe I'd never get any work done."
If I were to write a blog posting, say questioning the exsistence of the Holocaust because I didn't see any of it and I don't know anyone who did, I would be laughed off the stage! Yet the author of this piece uses the same well worn arguments that been answered thousands of times over to prove this theory. If the good professor were to rely on third and fourth hand hearsay of this kind in his own scholarship then I don't need to examine his work as it is sure to be nothing but warmed over sheeps guts.

Posted by: P.C.Chapman at May 14, 2005 10:38 PM
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My God, this has to be one of the more silly pieces of creationist/ID apologia I've seen. The example about the cats has to be one of the worst examples I've ever heard as a "questioning" of evolution. No doubt the "staff" will not approve my criticism, but let's try anyway.

Stick to history. Really. It's clear you don't have enough understanding of biology to realize what a fool you've just made of yourself by writing this article. And if you think I'm being tough on you, I'm not really, at least not in comparison to PZ Meyers' rebuttal at Pharyngula. Please, learn some science. Then get to Talkorigins.org! Every single one of your "doubts" about evolution are addressed there in incredible detail. PZ also rebuts you point-by-point in a manner that's far more detailed than I have the patience for.

Posted by: Orac at May 14, 2005 10:53 PM
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He doesn't have enough of a grasp of evolution to criticize it. All of those questions have been addressed. It boggles the mind how people think they can criticize evolution without understanding it. Please read up on the topic before you make a fool of yourself.

Posted by: Dan at May 14, 2005 11:08 PM
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What a hoot. I had to show my girl friend when she got here. She giggled and laughed louder with each outlandish comment that she really got in the mood. Thanks. HD

Posted by: Hill Dare at May 14, 2005 11:19 PM
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You might be interested in a reply to this article by an actual biologist:

http://pharyngula.org/index/weblog/comments/a_historian_disgraces_himself/#continue

It contains answers to all of Rubinsteins questions, and links to online sources to further answers and actual evidence for those answers. If you are at all interested in evolution, I urge you to read it.

Posted by: guthrie at May 14, 2005 11:26 PM
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Professor Rubenstein uses some interesting qualifiers that tell us he's largely ignorant of actual evolutionary biology. Let me look at a few of his allged points.

1. He says he has "a desultory interest". "Desultory" suggests no professional knowledge of biology, thus eminently qualifying Professor Rubenstein to pontificate about it.

2. He uses the phrase "The Theory of Evolution in its commonly-voiced form". Voiced by whom? Ernst Mayr, perchance? Or by any professional biologists? Nope. How about considering it in the form voiced by professional biologists.

3. He claims that there are "so many deep implausibilities". Implausible to a layman ignorant of the actual theory? Yup. Implausible to one who has spent a professional career studying it? Nope. Ever wonder why people who actually study the field don't find it implausible? Is it possible they know something that Professor Rubenstein doesn't?

4. "Animals cannot "evolve" into new and different species". Sorry. Speciation has been observed. As in seen, field notes taken, etc.

5. "Moreover, no one expects "evolution" to occur." Only those who actually understand what "heritable variation" and "natural selection" mean at more than a kindergarten level.

6. "to the best of my knowledge no one has ever seen an example of genuine evolution, ...". The best of Professor Rubenstein's knowledge is woefully incomplete. "Genuine" evolution is relatively easily observable in field, laboratory, and nowadays in computer models embodying the esssential variables identified by evolutionary theory. Only those who haven't looked have not seen it.

7. "...scientists would certainly be sensitive to the emergence of any new species, with the evidential value this would have for proving Darwin right." Yup. And it's been published in the professional literature. Does Professor Rubenstein read the professional literature of evolutionary biology? I will also note that no evolutionary biologist that I know is concerned with proving Darwin right. In actual fact we know that Darwin was wrong in many respects, shown to be so by evolutionary biologists, and the current theory of evolution is a relatively distant descendant of Darwin's original theory. In general one isn't much interested in proving _anyone_ "right -- one is interested in systematically studying and understanding how the world works.

8. Of the infamous peppered moths, Professor Rubenstein says "this is, however, not an example of the evolution of a new species, but of certain members of the same species with favourable characteristics having a better survival rate than less favoured members of that species. The species itself has remained unchanged." Quite right. And to my knowledge (somewhat broader than Professor Rubenstein's) no one offers that as an example of speciation -- that's called a "straw man", Professor Rubenstein. Industrial melanism (of which there are many example, including Bistula) is an example of natural selection over a short period under relatively intense selection -- a change in the distribution of traits in a population as a function of differential survival and reproduction. No one expects to see a plethora of instances of phenomena that ordinarily take millenia to play out occurring in a single 150-year period. There are some, as I noted above, but not many. But just one is enough to establish the principle, and there are many more than one in the literature.

9. "There are actually no "missing links" in the fossil record, a fact which, I understand, is continuously swept under the rug." LOL!!! That one is purely ludicrous! There are transitional fossils -- "missing links" -- at the level of species, genera, and on up the phylogenetic levels.

10. "New organs in living bodies must appear fully-formed at once or they can serve no biological purpose and confer no advantage upon that creature." That's simple bullshit.

I'm sorry. I can't go on. Both my irony meter and my bullshit detector have burned out. One seldom sees such ignorance sprayed about in public by a man with the title "Professor" in front of his name. It's an indication of the depths to which education in the West has sunk. I am (almost) ashamed to have been a professor for 20 years once upon a time.

Richard B. Hoppe, Ph.D.
Affiliated Scholar in Biology, Kenyon College (Ohio)

Posted by: RBH at May 15, 2005 12:28 AM
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The main point of the article seems to be that the author is extremely ignorant of evolutionary theory. Wouldn't it have been more sensible for him to read a textbook or two, and address that ignorance rather than put it on public display? I do not see that willingness to comment on a topic about which one is ignorant is a trait to be admired.

A few details:

Life on Earth dates back a couple billion years earlier than stated (at least 3 thousand million years, not 1).

Speciation has been observed.

Transitional fossils exist by the museum-load.

Cats do not give birth to racoons. Who claims that they do? An early feline ancestor, may, over time (millions of years!), give rise to multiple species of cats - lions, tigers, tabbies, leopards, lynx... An early species of mammal may, over time(tens of millions to hundreds of millions of years) - give rise to species as diverse as bats, felines, primates, whales, ungulates, etc.

The author seems entirely ignorant of geological dating methods (isotope methods, etc)

Too many other mistakes to address individually. As I say, a good textbook or other book on evolution is called for. Carl Zimmer wrote a nice one, give it a read. For individual questions, there's the Talk.Origins archive on the web: http://www.talkorigins.org/

Posted by: arcticpenguin at May 15, 2005 12:50 AM
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The fact that a supposedly "educated" person can still be swayed by these kind of stock, long debunked creationist "Criticisms" of evolution is evidence of nothing more than how badly WE DO NEED evolution taught in the schools. Not less, but MORE.

This kind of talk is no more enlightened than the ramblings of the Flat Earth Society. It's just sad.

Posted by: dr. dave at May 15, 2005 01:07 AM
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This article is a prime example of intellectuals trained in one field making really complete fools of themselves in another. Prof.
Rubinstein should hang his head in shame.

Many examples of one species evolving into a different one are known; this is called speciation. Even the most cursory examination of the subject, such as reading an elementary university text on biology, would have provided examples. Read, for example, about the Faeroe Island mouse.

Transitional fossils (no educated person calls them "missing links") are known in abundance. Again, even the most cursory examination of the subject would have provided many examples.
Kathleen Hunt's Transitional Fossil FAQ is readily available online.

I won't even bother to address the remaining arguments, which have been endless debunked by biologists. This author of this really moronic piece has obviously read a single book by some creationist and thinks he understands biology, when he hasn't even the grasp of a freshman biology student.

Posted by: Fu Ling Yu at May 15, 2005 01:44 AM
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There is not a single argument made by Dr. Rubinstein here that wouldn't be shown to be false by even the tiniest amount of research!!!

For example, he says this:

"Even more importantly, to the best of my knowledge no one has ever seen an example of genuine evolution, that is, of one species producing an offspring which was clearly of another, different species."

"The best of your knowledge..."? That "best" isn't very good.

This is NOT how evolution works. Populations evolve, not humans. No evolutionary theorist believes that an individual offspring will be of a different species than their parents!

As an analogy languages also evolve. Before the fall of the Roman Empire, basically everyone in Europe spoke Latin. Afterwards, the languages diverged - "evolved" - away from each other. By the 7th century French could be read by Italians - but with difficulty. By the 17th century French could NOT be read by Italians (without additional education). Speciation had taken place!

But, at any point in this priocess, was there a child born who was completely unable to communicate with its parents?

Biological speciation has b een observed many, many times. But it does not occur in the mode suggested by Dr. Rubinstein.

Everything in this article is just as much utter and complete rubbish as is this statement about speciation.

Posted by: Randy Crum at May 15, 2005 02:12 AM
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First off, how did we get dogs from wolves? Did we just sit around until one day a timber wolf gave birth to a french poodle? According to your little article here, this is how evolution works. You don't think that if a wolf can become a french poodle in 10,000 years, that a monkey can become a man in a million?

Oh, and here's your evidnece that speciation does work via evolution:
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/

If there's a medical fact that doesn't seem to make sense to you (i.e. germ theroy), and 99% of the doctors accept the fact, and you have no medical training, I think it's safe to say you shoudl just take their word for it. No?
then why don't you do the same for the biological sciences. 99% of the 500,000 biologists accept evolution for a reason, sir.

Posted by: John at May 15, 2005 02:54 AM
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Although this article was hard to follow at times, I found it hillarious! What a perfect example of British deadpan hunour!
Unfortunately, there will be some idiots out there that will take this article and attach it to their Bible, as another "proof" that "evolution is just a theory!"

I'm glad to see that Professor of History Rubinstein is seeking answers about evolution. Everyone should be inquisitive and open to the scientific method of learning & understanding. Lucky man! He can find most of his answers down the hall, at the Biology, Anthropology, and other science departments.

Posted by: Andros at May 15, 2005 03:01 AM
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Dr. Rubinstein has made some really crude errors here. These errors could have been avoided be first trying to learn about the subject before pontificating on the subject. Rubinstein knowledge on the subject of evolution seems to obtained from poor "pop" science combined with the claims of the antievolutionists.

Dr. Rubinstein please consider the situation of someone with only a crude knowledge of history reads some claims of a Holocaust denier or someone who claims claims that no man has walked on the Moon. They don't know the subject and are impressed and without learning what credible historians have to say about all this simply posts on his blog the nonsense. This is what you have done for evolution.

Consider that the evolution of new species has been observed many, many times. There are in reality numerous transitional forms in the fossil record. Darwin was aware of complexity. He was able to show that organs did NOT need form completely formed. He pointed out that in the living world that there existed numerous grades of eyes. Today we can show even more. Pretty much every step between eyes as we have and no vision exists in the here in now. Punctuated equilibrium is NOT a theory of saltation. The use of the word "theory" used by this blog entry is not how it is formally used in science. The peppered moth has not been rejected as an example of natural selection in the field. So on and so forth. A freshman who submitted this post entry for a biology course would be quite rightly receive an F.

As previously suggested, Rubinstein should go to http://www.talkorigins.org/ . I would start with the main FAQ. And of course Rubinstein should also seek out books written by mainstream evolutionary biologists.

--
Anti-spam: Replace "user" with "harlequin2"

Posted by: Mike Hopkins at May 15, 2005 03:08 AM
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It seems that professor William D. Rubinstein would be best off sticking to his narrow field of expertise rather than pontificating on fields he has clearly spent next to no time in studying. It's doubtful he's even read Darwin's original work The Origins of Species let alone any modern book on biology and Evolution, which is particularly sad when said book is available for free online (http://www.literature.org/authors/darwin-charles/the-origin-of-species/).

The good professor would do well to remember that there is a significant difference between an opinion and an informed opinion.

Posted by: Les at May 15, 2005 07:53 AM
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Please, Professor Rubinstein- head on over to Talkorigins.org, and read their FAQ.

All your objections will be answered in easy-to-understand terms, and you may come to comprehend what the Theory of Evolution actually says- and, not so incindentally, learn what "theory' means in a scientific sense.

Posted by: MikeN at May 15, 2005 03:59 PM
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Dr. Rubinstein is incredulous when science says that life's complexity was generated by cumulative adaptation. He wants to posit a force that is capable of guiding, producing creatures, and advanced problem solving. But isn't that exactly what evolution is about: explaining the mechanisms that have guided life to what we see today?

If he means a supernatural force, then he is proposing the PITS (Parent-In-The-Sky) figure that explains everything and nothing. How good is PITS at advanced development when 99% of its species have died out? And if he means a natural force, then he is merely adding yet another mechanism to be explained by science.

Nature's productions appear (to our brains) to be intelligently designed. Simple seeds burst into exquisite flowers. Snowflakes appear to be made with precision tools. Planets are precisely placed in the only orbits that will keep them revolving around the sun indefinitely. Nature makes human babies out of slime in nine months! But these complexities are hardly explained by invoking an even more complex PITS.

Steve

Posted by: Steve Roski at May 15, 2005 04:24 PM
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> I simply do not know what all of this means...

Is the only comment in the entire article that isn't pure gibberish. Maybe he should try studying the history of Evolution from sources other than books written by people 'as' clueless as he is, before trying to comment on it. Then again, I suppose it would make perfect sense to study 'history' of Nazism written by noe-Nazis, steel building structures from out of work Adobe brick makers, fly fishing written by PETA or, as is probably the case with this 'historians' sources, evolution as written by people out of some place like the Discover Institute. Who cares of any of the groups mentioned know only just enough about the subject to make up excuses and not enough to notice when they have their feet shoved unto their mouths so far they are leaving teeth marks on their own knees. Apparently, history is just another in a long line of subjects where five minutes of research is now acceptable, instead of weeks or months of careful examination and collection of actual facts...

Posted by: Kagehi at May 15, 2005 09:19 PM
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It seems as though the good professor never learned about the miraculous modern invention of "Google. He could have looked up many of his "complaints" there. He could even have found Talk Origins, one of the best clearing house sites for Evolution related material on the web.

How does that old adage go vis a vis remaining silent and being thought a fool than opening one's mouth and proving it? Rubinstein would have done well to stop his misguided rumblings with "I am not a scientist."

Posted by: Jody at May 15, 2005 10:30 PM
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I realize that everyone is entitled to their own opinions but your readers need to recognize that this article is in fact not only an opinion but an uninformed one. You may in fact "have as much common sense as the next man" but your knowledge of the theory of evolution is extremely lacking. I am not a biologist and have only one college level anthropology class behind me but it is extremely easy to see the flaws in your arguments. Rather then spending my time pointing out all of them out I'll refer you to one facet of modern evolutionary theory that you have misunderstood: Punctuated Equilibrium.

According to the theory (yes, theory, everything is s theory unless you happen to be God) of Punctuated Equilibrium says "instead of a slow, continuous movement, evolution tends to be characterized by long periods of virtual standstill ("equilibrium"), "punctuated" by episodes of very fast development of new forms." Please read this website: http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/PUNCTUEQ.html and you may realize some of the flaws in your arguments. Simply put evolution doesn't just happen in one cat giving birth to a raccoon. There are ecological changes that call for the species to adapt or parish. The moths in Lancashire are a great example of this. No, the moths did not become a new species but after many, many years with enough incremental changes the Lancashire moths of the future will be different enough to be categorized as a new species. You even included another example at one point mentioning that "Most species extinctions appear to be the result of unpredictable natural catastrophes, like the meteor which allegedly wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago". You are correct. A natural catastrophe disrupted the natural equilibrium in the ecosystem causing a period of fast development of new forms.

Posted by: Harshblogger at May 16, 2005 04:20 AM
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This article is utterly disgraceful. I've spent many years reading the biological literature & examining the specious arguments offered by various creationists. But I don't reject the arguments for ad hominem reasons. They are bad arguments, whoever is making them. The arguments in this article are, each and every one of them, familiar and very bad indeed. Talkorigins is a good place to find responses to them all. But I can't resist taking one shot of my own here. We test scientific theories by comparing what they predict about certain kinds of observations against the observations themselves. So what does evolution say we should expect from the fossil record? Not fossils labelled as ancestors to present forms, obviouslyl! But we should find fossils with traits that blur distinctions that are now clear. And we do-- that is what transitional forms are! Archaeopteryx, for instance, combines features of birds (notably well-developed feathers) with a skeleton that fits the pattern for a small carnivourous dinosaur. We can't say that it is ancestral to present day birds-- but we can say that it blurs the line between dinosaurs and birds in a dramatic way, just as we would expect if birds and dinosaurs shared a common ancestor. The same goes for the evolution of horses from animals that lack the present defining traits of horses, the evolution of tetrapods from certain bony fish, of mammals from therapsid reptiles, and so on.

Posted by: Bryson Brown at May 16, 2005 05:49 AM
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This is a very interesting and thought provoking article, by the way.

It's interesting and thought provoking at least in so far as one enjoys contemplating grievous errors in logic and utterly incompetent research on the part of, of all things, a professional historian.

Posted by: John at May 16, 2005 07:18 AM
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Perhaps you meant "..quite possibly the stupidest thing..."

Please, don't be overly eager to post your opinion, lest you forget how to use the English language, Nick.

My take is that Prof. Rubinstein hasn't taken much time to go in-depth to look at mechanisms of evolution. The whole "how can an animal give birth to an animal of another species" reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the principles that govern genetic change in populations.

By the way, I came upon this blog complements of pharyngula.org, where an associate professor, Dr. Meyers, is writing the following regarding this post to his fans:

"I'm hoping it is merely the most incredibly deadpan English humor, because I've just read an appallingly stupid article on evolution there. It's written by a professor of modern history at the University of Wales-Aberystwyth, one William D. Rubinstein. Despite the credentials, though, the idiocy starts with the title, and it just gets worse and worse."

Kudos to Meyers for being professional.

Posted by: Chris Holterhoff at May 16, 2005 07:20 AM
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As a fellow enquiring mind, this might be a useful link, regarding the evolution of a complex feature (the eye, in this case):
http://myxo.css.msu.edu/papers/nature2003/

Essentially, although the end is result is complex, it can be produced by a large number of very small changes, easily accomodated within the known age of Life on Earth, starting from an extremely simple 'ancestor' eye, which would in itself be useful to the creature that bore it. Once the research and the calculations are done, it seems that the evolution of eyes is nothing like so unlikely as it seems from an everyday perspective.

Fascinating stuff!

Posted by: 4u1e at May 16, 2005 07:59 AM
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Dear Sir,

Please do direct you "enquiring mind" towards a good dictionary and look up the definition of 'scientific theory' and 'evolution'.

Common sense and the knowledge of the 'commonly-voiced forms of the Theory of Evolution' are a fine thing to possess, but if you wish to truely judge the worth of a scientific theory in public you should have invested a bit more than desultory interest; a basic text book or a short visit to http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-intro-to-biology.html might have already cleared a lot of your misconceptions.

Sincerely,
GA Blab, Talence, France

Posted by: Gerhard A. Blab at May 16, 2005 10:10 AM
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Professor Rubinstein, according to his biography, is an expert on the Holocaust. But consider, if we used the logic he uses here to examine his area of expertise, would we believe the Holocaust ever happened? It seems, on the face of it, absolutely ridiculous: this extremely civilised nation, the one that produced the geniuses Beethoven and Goethe, suddenly turned into murderous maniacs bent on wiping out a group who hadn't harmed them. Are we supposed to believe this? And that this people, known for their efficiency, continued to pour resources into this policy of extermination right until the end even though it was detracting from the war effort? And so on.

The point is, of course, that we do have evidence that the Holocaust happened. It is undeniable, and you don't have to be an expert to understand it. In exactly the same way, we do have evidence that evolution happens, it's just as undeniable, and the basics are understandable even to those with a "desultory" interest.

For what it's worth, I'd second the recommendation of many other commenters to visit the Talk Origins Archive, where many of Professor Rubinstein's misunderstandings would be corrected.

Posted by: Daniel Roseman at May 16, 2005 11:25 AM
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I feel intensely awkward even advancing a humble corrective to a PhD, though the domain of what I believe to be his error is, by his ownadmission, not his expertise. The more so because, though I am much closer to the biological sciences than Professor William Rubinstein, it is not my area of expertise either, but an adjunct to my professional studies, which are in medicine.

Still, though one acquainted with modern evolutionary biology might find more reason to quibble with Prof. Rubinstein, I find the most troubling aspect of his short essay to be a certain disingenuous strain: though he confesses he has "no reason to suppose that the accepted scientific chronology of the earth's history and the emergence of life is not entirely correct," and also asseverates that he has "as much common sense as the next man and probably more in the way of an independent viewpoint than most," his points against the plausibility of evolution seem to belie a decidedly negative and persuasive opinion.

Scientists do not (nor should) have control over the popular press, so if in fact Prof. Rubinstein's myriad misconceptions about modern
biological evolution stem from popular mischaracterizations, I hope this will not be laid at the feet of the thousands of evo-devo researchers who every day carry out meticulous work based on not the plausibility of evolution but the near-certainty of its occurrence.

The idea that evolution occurs in the manner Prof. Rubinstein implies, i.e., that a cat should have a litter of non-cat kittens, should be dispelled by any decent high school or college-level biology textbook.

His claim that no "missing link" exists in the fossil record is archaic as well as incorrect; transitional forms pollinate the whole of the geological column.

Most egregious, however, is his claim regarding the uselessness of
non-fully-formed organs. I agree that to one without a good introduction to biology, this may seem an intractible problem; and it is true that Darwin viewed the eye in particular as a difficulty--though it must be said both that a great deal of research and understanding, including the elucidation of genetics and embryology has occurred since Darwin's time, and that Darwin himself was confident that the eye could be explained. What I find especially troubling, however, is that this claim is taken nearly verbatim from the fringe academics who maintain the impossibility of common descent. Again, this is likely simply the result of a well-intentioned but non-expert man being exposed to popular mischaracterizations, as the efforts of the aforementioned fringe academics (particularly Dr. Behe, Dr. Dembski, and Mr. Johnson, Esq.) are more disproportionately spent in the popular media than in scholarly circles.

But it makes me curious--exactly what was the point of Prof.
Rubinstein's essay? If he truly possesses "at least a desultory
interest in many fields beyond [his] own narrow specialty, including the mysteries of science," I might expect him to have consulted a textbook or even a mainstream publication on evolution, or in place of that, airing the intellectual difficulties such as to solicit good, informed opinion to allay whatever problems may be allayed, in such deference as he should expect of those without a deep and formal understanding of history. The tone of essay, however, strikes the reader as less petitioning and more controversial. I can only, in the absence of a response from Prof. Rubinstein, defer these impressions to my lack of expertise in rhetoric, and my lack of understanding written argument, although I am very curious to learn of Prof. Rubinstein's purpose for the essay, and in any case if he should deign to converse with me, or seek more informed opinion on biological science through my intermediation, I should be happy to accept.

In conclusion, while I still possess enough nerve, I would like to enumerate a few of the findings that, to those familiar with them,
confer a very high degree of plausibility to the idea of common descent. These include the cellular nature of all life; the universality of the genetic code; the commonality of biochemical pathways; the genetic similarity of different organism, proportional to the distance from their presumed common ancestor; the universal use of DNA as an information store; the exclusive use of the same twenty amino acids in all organisms; the embryological similarity of similar species; the arrangement of the geological column; the occurrence of atavisms; the occurrence of homologous structures; the differential prevalence of genes for sickle-cell and glucose-6-phosphatase traits among African and Mediterranean peoples (they confer resistance to Plasmodium falciparum malaria); and the reuse of similar proteins for similar tasks, such as bacterial and human rhodopsin, which are both involved in light sensing.

I have taken up far too much of your time already, and I shall end

Respectfully,
--
Tyson Burghardt

Posted by: Tyson Burghart at May 16, 2005 12:34 PM
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wow. Have you ever actualy read anything about evolution apart from what you found on the 'ignorant christians' webring?

Posted by: danieru at May 16, 2005 12:44 PM
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Dr. Rubinstein, have you ever encountered Holocaust denial? What is your response when somebody with no training in history writes an article on the Holocaust claiming to be neutral, but which shows clearly that the author has simply repeated a list of claims from an amateur Holocaust denial website written by a neo-nazi, without consulting any history books? I'd guess your response would be something along the lines of: "when using amateur websites etc as a source, check their factual accuracy" and "don't use a source with such an obvious agenda as the far-right has."

I hear the biology department at Aber isn't bad, I'm sure you could sit in on a few lectures.

Posted by: Joe D at May 16, 2005 02:45 PM
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I judge antiscience claptrap by how often I must stand up and walk outside for a short reality break while reading. I abandonded Rubinstein on my third visit to the front yard having barely read past a few pages. What is most odd is how did he gather such a list of conventional creationist “challenges” without bothering to have read any science?

I can only recommend that Prof. Rubinstein doesn’t sit too still for too long. He runs the risk of being buried as he is already brain dead.

After a quick beer, I finished reading. I had been nearly done. But still, 4 short breaks and a beer just to read that? Maybe I have become too sensitive to the absence of fact and reason. I thought that frequent exposure would have desensitized me by now.

Prof. Rubinstein should learn to use the search function at the TalkOrigins web site.


Gary S. Hurd, Ph.D.
Ancient Molecules and Modern Myths

Posted by: Gary Hurd at May 16, 2005 06:09 PM
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Well - you have to say two things for the Social Affairs Unit, although they moderate comments, they clearly are not afraid for critical comments to be posted on their site. Good on them
Two, whatever some people may have said, the SAU is clearly not a creationist site - very little to none of the other material on this site - material I have found - has anything to do with creationism. The only other piece which vaguely touches upon this is an article by Prof. Christie Davies - "Creationism in schools: a small price for a big reward" www.socialaffairsunit.org.uk/blog/archives/000158.php
- which supports the teaching of creationism, but says that it is complete nonsense.

Anyway my point is this, Rubinstein's article is tosh - but thanks for the article, it has found me an otherwise excellent site.

Posted by: Jonathan West at May 16, 2005 06:23 PM
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I had been tempted to bring up the Holocaust denial analogy, as Joe D did so aptly, but I didn't want to leave the Professor with an opportunity to ignore my criticism and become indignant at being compared to such odious people. However, now that it's been mentioned, I have to concur. Joe D is right on. Professor Rubinstein's piece reminds me of the level of scholarship that most Holocaust deniers misrepresent as "revisionist history" (minus the anti-Semitism and fascist apologia). He should really learn some biology before writing something else that makes him look as big a fool as this piece did.

Posted by: Orac at May 16, 2005 06:25 PM
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I do find the comments on this article rather peculiar - I am not a creationist, I do not believe in Rubinstein's arguments. But why the hysteria of the reaction - reading the responses to Rubinstein's piece would make one believe that he had supported child sacrifice, not challenged - in a rather daft way - Darwinism.

Posted by: Danny at May 16, 2005 06:27 PM
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Maybe because Rubinstein's arguments are mindbogglingly stupid coming from someone who clearly isn't stupid. What other reaction should you have to someone who admits to having only a "desultory interest" in a field, and then proclaims that 99.9999% of people who devote their lives to working in that field (and have done for the last 150 years) are studying something that is "plainly impossible"? And does so using arguments that even most creationist would be embarrassed by. I mean, most of his post is utter gibberish, and the rest could be refuted with five minutes of research on Talk.Origins.

Posted by: Ginger Yellow at May 16, 2005 06:48 PM
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Danny- Firstly, Prof Rubinstein has stepped straight into a vitriolic debate, since there are currentlys everal creationism versus evolution in schools arguments going on in the USA.

The "hysteria" as you call it is simply disbelief that someone supposedly so intelligent can make such basic errors as suggest that he did not do any homework and just wrote the first thing that came into his mind. You should note that most posters have tried to point out how he is wrong, and many give urls to further information. It is important to note the scientists are just as human as everyone else, in fact involvement in your scientific vocation is a good sign, so I am afraid that when they see something like this, it is easy to start shouting a bit loudly.

Posted by: guthrie at May 16, 2005 07:27 PM
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Here's my guess. Rubinstein "knows" that evolution is theologically offensive to him. He has little knowledge of what evolution actually is, but such knowledge isn't theologically interesting anyway.

He mentioned this to someone where he worships, and was guided to what seems to be an altogether typical creationist website, where (perhaps for the first time) he encountered "actual facts" ratifying his preferences. Most probably, he followed numerous links from that site to other sites, not realizing that creationist sites never link outside the creationist circle, and are notorious for copying one another. Sure enough, this wide circle of research only served to underscore the same points, repeated endlessly.

So he cherry picked the "creationist facts" (as opposed to biological facts) he thought he understood best, saw no compelling reason for the due diligence of checking with an actual scientist (after all, how may sites must one read to recognize unanimous agreement?) and generated an essay he almost surely thought would be straightforward and uncontroversial.

So it may be helpful to point out that many of those producing what Danny considers a "hysterical reaction" are actually practicing biologists, who see their life's work mocked while the ignorance they've spent their careers reducing is being spread wholesale.

I suspect that Rubinstein's world has plenty of hostorians populating it, but no biologists, and he has generalized from this experience. Scientists are rare, they don't do history (which is where all the important stuff is), they probably haven't had the opportunity to correct all the manifest shortcomings the web documented with such universal agreement.

Posted by: Flint at May 16, 2005 07:28 PM
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I am APPALLED by the manners and tone of the replies to this article. If this is what the Theory of Evolution does to people, then perhaps Christie Davies is right in his
article
where he suggests that "Creationism" be taught in schools.

The Theory of Evolution is far from being as intuitive as these correspondents seem to think. I suggest that THEY learn a bit of HISTORY. For a starter, to realise that the term "survival of the fittest" was coined by Herbert Spencer (railway engineer turned philosopher), and urged on a reluctant Darwin by Alfred Russel Wallace. And for the next course, a bite of the famous "Monkey Trial" in Dayton, Tennessee. The action was brought as a test case by the American Civil Liberties Union, but was effectively hijacked by their lawyer Clarence Darrow, already notorious for his defence of the teenage murderers Leopold and Loeb on the grounds that they had been brought up in a environment of intellectual starvation but emotional deprivation, and moreover that Leopold had been made to read Nietzsche.

Posted by: Robert H. Olley at May 16, 2005 07:52 PM
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I would say, Danny, that it is because the nature of the article demands such outrage. To see such ignorance happily presented by an allegedly academic mind is stunning. It isn't just that it's incredibly ignorant. It's that a professor of history, in general, should know better than to offer such arguments when he himself admits he knows little of the subject.

It also bothers us because we run into this tripe every day, and we've gotten quite sick of it.

Posted by: rrt at May 16, 2005 08:10 PM
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"why the hysteria of the reaction"
You must be in Europe. An unholy alliance has formed in th US between the political right and the Southern Baptist fundamentalists with creationism to be inserted in school curricula as a trade off for political support. Their latest ploy is to claim there is an alternative "scientific" theory to evolutioary biology, "Intelligent Design" (Google search this if you have time to waste). Mainstream biologists have been caught leaden-footed in the propaganda war and sometimes now can over-react. What infuriates them most is the allegation made by creationists that there is a scientific basis to ID that deserves being taught in state schools. Professor Rubinstein seems to have entered this controversy unwittingly, or so a brief email exchange would suggest.

Posted by: Alan Fox at May 16, 2005 08:27 PM
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Oh, by the way, the article mixes up saltation (a single generation Dr Who-style mutation in which one creature gives birth to a distinctly different creature) with punctuated equilibrium (a completely separate theory, which suggests that much of evolution occurs in relatively short bursts (think tens of thousands of years, rather than millions).

Saltation is accepted by very few people as a likely route for evolution. Punctuated equilibrium is a much more widely accepted variant on 'traditional' evolution - but does not resemble the model proposed by Prof Rubinstein in the final paragraph.

Posted by: 4u1e at May 16, 2005 08:29 PM
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This has to be one of the most egregiously ignorant commentaries I've ever seen from a Creationist. First, he sets out to admit he knows nothing about biology , evolution or science in general, then he proceeds to correct said biologists and evolutionists on all the "mistakes" they've made.

Did it not occur to the good professor to ask a biologist? Or even take a course in evolutionary biology, so he wouldn't be regurgitating Creationist pabulum without even understanding why it's wrong?

Posted by: lesz at May 16, 2005 08:32 PM
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"why the hysteria of the reaction"

You must be in Europe. There is an unholy alliance between the funamentalist southern baptists and right-wing republicans in the US, the trade-off being political support in exchange for creationism to displace mainstream biology in state schools. Their latest ploy is to promote a "theory" called Intelligent Design, which is presented as a "scientific" alternative to evolutionary biology.(If you have time to waste, a Google search will give the background.) Mainstream biologists have been caught leaden-footed in the propanda war, and now (INMHO understandably) can over-react to articles of the quality of Professor Rubinstein.

Posted by: Alan Fox at May 16, 2005 08:39 PM
•••

"why the hysteria of the reaction"

You must be in Europe. There is an unholy alliance between the funamentalist southern baptists and right-wing republicans in the US, the trade-off being political support in exchange for creationism to displace mainstream biology in state schools. Their latest ploy is to promote a "theory" called Intelligent Design, which is presented as a "scientific" alternative to evolutionary biology.(If you have time to waste, a Google search will give the background.) Mainstream biologists have been caught leaden-footed in the propanda war, and now (INMHO understandably) can over-react to articles of the quality of Professor Rubinstein.

Posted by: Alan Fox at May 16, 2005 08:42 PM
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“I do find the comments on this article rather peculiar - I am not a creationist, I do not believe in Rubinstein's arguments. But why the hysteria of the reaction - reading the responses to Rubinstein's piece would make one believe that he had supported child sacrifice, not challenged - in a rather daft way - Darwinism.”

Yes Danny, several of the replies to this article – many from professional biologists - border on the intemperate, but you need to understand why. Rubinstein’s article is spectacularly, jaw-droppingly sloppy. It is shot through with the most appalling howlers that would be bad enough from an A-level biology student. But this article was written by a tenured professor at a serious UK institution of higher education. This in itself raises an important and troubling question. There are some very good biologists at the University of Wales – Aberystwyth. If Professor Rubenstein genuinely wanted to understand modern developments in evolutionary biology, did it not occur to him that he should pick up the phone and talk to some of his academic colleagues who actually understand the issues? I’m sure that the biologists would love to describe their work and would be more than happy to explain to a genuinely curious outsider from a different academic discipline what they do and why they believe what they believe. But no, instead we get a creationist stream of consciousness that isn't even original. For anyone who genuinely cares about the quality of UK higher education, this article is just plain embarrassing.

Posted by: Tony Jackson at May 16, 2005 08:45 PM
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Danny:

He is casually dismissing a century of work and scholarship done by tens of thousands of dedicated researchers. And he is doing it from a position of profound ignorance (and what one must assume is utter disdain for the people who have dedicated their lives to illuminating this incredibly complex topic).

This sort of lazy concession to ignorant assumptions is incredibly destructive to our society.

And the fact that he is "challenging Darwinism" is exactly the problem. He's going on about his hazy understanding of a simple idea posited 150 years ago. He's apparently unaware of the immense field of research known as evolutionary theory -- the basis for all of our understanding of modern biology.

There's a little more to the theory of evolution than "you know, Darwin, mutation, selection, that stuff". It is very disconcerting when this is the state of public discourse. We are justifiably terrified by the potential consequences of this new reign of ignorance.

Posted by: justin at May 16, 2005 09:53 PM
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Danny wrote

I do find the comments on this article rather peculiar - I am not a creationist, I do not believe in Rubinstein's arguments. But why the hysteria of the reaction - reading the responses to Rubinstein's piece would make one believe that he had supported child sacrifice, not challenged - in a rather daft way - Darwinism.
It's not that he "challenged - in a rather daft way - Darwinism ...". It's that a man who should know better, a well-credentialed academic, casually dismissed the professional work of thousands of scientists in biology and its allied disciplines because he did not have the intellectual curiousity or professional integrity to at least minimally inform himself about the issues before he slobbered about it in public. Recall this is a man who has "Professor" in front of his name and "FRHS" behind it. One expects a bit better from a purported scholar. Had I (credentialed in a different discipline) blathered about British history with the same ignorance that Professor Rubinstein displayed about evolutionary biology, I don't doubt that his disdain for my sloppy scholarship would match mine for his.

RBH

Posted by: RBH at May 16, 2005 11:33 PM
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I am still wondering if Prof. Rubinstein published his article without being aware of the difficult conflict being fought between creationism (Biblical literalism) and conventional science, mostly in the educational arena but not only there. Apparently, he did not understand that there is no controversy at all among biologists on the subject of evolution. As a professional historian, he could have analysed the controversy as a contemporary social, political, cultural phenomenon, he could have described the arguments, he could have presented his personal insights as a historian on the subject. Maybe that was his intention. I am sure that by now he understands that he made a bad mistake, and is thinking how to rescue his reputation. May I suggest that he publish an explanation, a correction, a mea culpa, in the same internet site? The sooner, the better.

Posted by: jaimito at May 17, 2005 01:23 AM
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Danny,

You may not live in North America (specifically the States), so you may not be aware that in the U.S. science and reason, biology in particular, have been under serious and prolonged attack by a small group of religious fanatics who have a considerable amount of political power these days, thanks to their close ties with the party that is in control of both the representative and administrative branches of the federal government, not a few state governments, and not a few local school boards, which have power over the public (that is, tax-supported) schools in this country. We also have a First Amendment to our Constitution that prohibits, supposedly, government establishment of religion.

Therefore, we Yanks tend to get a bit nervous about this sort of bilge. Sorry for troubling the placidity of you fine people across the Big Pond.

Posted by: sort of buddhist at May 17, 2005 01:29 AM
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If you're wondering about the voluminous response, here's my short answer: Quote-mining. The creationists have another Ph.D. with no background in the field to cite out of context. It's a wonderfully circular arrangement.

This is regardless of whether the above is satire (as I maintain it must be -- no history professor would ever exhibit such childish "scholarship"). Creationists don't shy from citing The Onion, and this won't worry them, either.

D'A

Posted by: D'Archangel at May 17, 2005 03:45 AM
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Common Sense is not science - http://www.waywarduniverse.com/archives/2005/05/the_science_of.html

Posted by: Foster at May 17, 2005 05:30 PM
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This comment column is now beginning to sound like the screechings of an agitated ape colony.

"Creation Science is an invention of the devil" - Discuss.

Posted by: Robert H. Olley at May 17, 2005 06:16 PM
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Read a basic textbook on evolution.
Read basic theories of systematics
Study the theory behind taxonomy and how nomenclature works. This is a complicated field of study. One can expect to understand just by spouting ramdon thoughts. It takes years and a lot of hard work to really understand how evolution and taxonomy work. It's not simple.

This is not a thinking article. But just some mindless rambling by a person who, despite having a PhD, failed to do their homework.

Even though I have been just a lowly master's student and a TA, if this were handed to me as a report or a paper, I would give it an F. with the words "Please consult the current literature, before you half *ss a paper again."

Posted by: Andy at May 18, 2005 03:08 AM
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"If the lions in the jungle killed and ate all of the gazelles, the lions would themselves quickly starve to death." - unless they start eating german tourist. (There's apppearently an infinite supply of them.)

Secondly, lions don't live in the jungle, neither do gazelles. This is what happens when History professors rely on an old Tokens' song.

If this is a parady, Prof. Rubinstein, congrations. It's really convincing. I would feel like an idiot for calling you an idiot.
If you are serious, then you are an idiot.


Posted by: Bob at May 18, 2005 03:52 AM
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I note that this is , along with most (all?) of the other articles on this site, is a pure opinion piece. For most of the other topics this isn't a problem - you agree or you don't agree and you argue your case.

That's not an approach you can take with Science though. Sure, you can argue about who is right and wrong, but you need evidence to back you up. Prof Rubinstein's problem here is that he appears not to be aware of any of the vast amount amount of scientific work in this area and has constructed an argument based purely on his own thoughts. Unfortunately the evidence is not with him.

(On second thoughts, I'll partially withdraw my starting comment about opinion pieces being OK. There are unending radio, TV and newspaper discussions in the UK about how best to deal with various social problems. In almost none of them is the evidence raised to support the debaters' views:

Right-wing elderly conservative: Young offenders should be flogged and then imprisoned for 20 years - it's the only way they'll learn.
Right-on bearded lefty: No, we must understand their problems and talk it through with them in a non-accusatory environment.

Frankly, in many ways I don't much care about arguments based on opinion. Decide what you want to achieve, Get the facts about what works, then do it!)

Posted by: 4u1e at May 18, 2005 08:37 AM
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You must be joking. This is a creationist thing.

I am not joking about having heard sillier things. Nothing has yet beaten the following dismissal of evolution made to me by a creationist: "But a fish can't turn into a frog — they're made of totally different material!".

Posted by: Milo Thurston at May 18, 2005 12:57 PM
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This discussion is absurd. I refer you to the second poster and agree that this is literally the most stupid article I've ever read in an intelligent publication of any kind. (I actually went back once or twice to see if it was a parady and I'd missed something). A rebuttal is not worthy of anyone's time.

Posted by: John M at May 19, 2005 03:37 PM
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None of my previous articles for the Social Affairs Unit have attracted more than ten responses, most have only attracted a few responses. When I, for example, advocted abolishing the income tax - www.socialaffairsunit.org.uk/blog/archives/000214.php - it only received two responses. When I posted my article on evolution I did not expect it to attract a single response, not on a site unrelated to science or biology, let alone more than seventy.

I wish to make only two points in reply. First, to reiterate what I said in the article, I am not a “creationist,” and would not allow any of what I wrote to be cited by fundamentalists, although there are a wide range of non-“creationist” critics of evolutionary theory.

Secondly, I would be happy to donate say one hundred dollars or fifty pounds to charity if, by the end of ten years from now
(May 2015) anyone can produce an example of evolution in the animal world which has occurred during that time span - that is, the appearance of a new species of animal, which does not exist today, but which is descended from an existing species. (Of course this must occur in the natural world - laboratory experiments are excluded). I readily admit that ten years is a ridiculously short period, but there are more than one million species of animal life and new species should be appearing all the time, surely. I would stipulate a much longer time frame - fifty or five hundred years - but
won’t be around to monitor the results.

(Professor) William D. Rubinstein

Posted by: William D. Rubinstein at May 20, 2005 12:23 PM
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I agree with most of the criticisms made of Prof. Rubinstein's article. One thing does however bother me - namely the number of commentators who have dismissed Prof. Rubinstein's point about punctuated equilibrium and saltation as just another example of ignorance. For a start Rubinstein does not say that punctuated equilibrium is the same as saltation, merely that it "was recently revived, at least in part, in the late Stephen J. Gould's theory of "punctuated equilibrium"". The key words here are "at least in part", ie it is not the same. Secondly, equating "punctuated equilibrium" as at least in part drawing upon saltation is not a sign of ignorance about science. As I recall the main person making the link between saltation and punctuated equilibrium was Richard Dawkins - hardly a scientific dunce,

Posted by: Jacob at May 20, 2005 05:35 PM
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There are some good biologists at Rubinstein's home institution. I strongly suggest that he consult with him before continuing to make a public fool of himself. His latest offer (10 years to observe a speciation event) demonstrates a ludicrously misinformed notion of how the processes of evolution operate. He seems still to be operating on the 'cat giving birth to a raccoon' notion of evolution.

RBH

Posted by: RBH at May 21, 2005 01:51 AM
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Prof. Rubinstein,

You may claim that you are not a creationist, but you have chosen to waddle, flap, and quack like a creationist duck. Not one of your arguments is original to you. They are standard fare from creationists, some cases even being 50 or more years old, and were wrong even then. One is ~200 years old. Expect to be tarred with the creationist brush and buried under a pile of down. But I suspect, as stated below, you already knew that.

Whether you "would not allow any of what I wrote to be cited by fundamentalists" they will do so anyway, and probably already have, considering how late to the party I am. Because of the currents events nature of the SAU blog and your own specialization in modern history, I choose to ascribe darker motives to your essay than most commentators. You stated your awareness of the creationist controversy and your essay just added more fuel to it. That was not accidental. The strawman of a very nearly impossible challenge after having so many people direct you to plain facts, is simply more creationist moving of the goal posts. Did you even bother to actually investigate the pharyngula or talkorigins websites?

I will counter challenge you with something that is much more meaningful. To make up for your lack of academic rigor in the above post, offer to endow (both with personal funding and with personal time and legwork soliciting contributions over and above your own) a permanent four year scholarship(of, let's say, 25% tuition coverage, don't want to be too greedy), awarded annually, to an enrolling freshman at your university committing to a major in evolutionary biology(if such is available, if not than an equivalent in biology). Your knowledge of the biological sciences may improve through your interaction with such students and the effort you make on their behalf.
Sincerely,
Paul Flocken

Posted by: Paul Flocken at May 21, 2005 01:53 AM
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I had thought that perhaps I had been too hard on Professor Rubinstein--that is, until I saw his nonresponse to his critics. At that point, I had to respond myself.

Posted by: Orac at May 21, 2005 04:46 PM
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Is it worth pointing out that while Prof. Rubinstein states that he is not a creationist many times, he specifically argues for a non natural power as the source of the diversity of life on Earth? That is, when he argues that "the incredible complexity of life, and its apparent ever-increasing sophistication over time, strongly implies a guiding force of some kind, and one which can produce a continuous array of new creatures of ever-increasing complexity. Whatever that force may be, it must therefore be capable of producing new species more complex than the previous ones - something which at first glance seems impossible, implying some kind of advanced problem solving force. Where is it situated? How does it go about "solving" the problems confronting it.", he is either arguing for either space aliens or a supernatural force. Since he never implies that he finds the space aliens idea plausible, he's left arguing that, while he is not a creationist, he believes in creationism. What is the sad state of higher education that such self delusion is acceptable?

Posted by: kb5zhh at May 21, 2005 10:36 PM
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This reply might be a duplicate, as my first post seems to have disappeared.

Is it worth pointing out that Prof. Rubinstein, while denying that he is a creationist, is not just regurgitating creationist arguments, but also specifically arguing for creationism? Specifically, when he argues that "The incredible complexity of life, and its apparent ever-increasing sophistication over time, strongly implies a guiding force of some kind, and one which can produce a continuous array of new creatures of ever-increasing complexity. Whatever that force may be, it must therefore be capable of producing new species more complex than the previous ones - something which at first glance seems impossible, implying some kind of advanced problem solving force. Where is it situated? How does it go about "solving" the problems confronting it." he is saying that the natural world cannot produce the diversity of life on Earth. This is reinforced when he claims that "The mechanism which brings about these sudden, fundamental changes, however, remains (so far as I know) completely unknown, but must be marked by a high order of creative ability." So while he claims to not be a creationist, he does believe in the actions of a creator. This is truly foolishness beyond the pale.

Posted by: kb5zhh at May 21, 2005 11:05 PM
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I should point out to the previous commentator that believing in a higher force guiding creation - or setting the building blocks for creation - does not make one a creationist. Prof. Rubinstein may be a creationist - but this is no eveidence for such a claim. By that standard you could end up claiming Darwin was a creationist - after all he was a believer in God - and thus in all probability a believer in the idea that the basic building blocks of the world were created by God. Darwin the creationist - not a very strong argument.

Posted by: Harry at May 21, 2005 11:54 PM
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A belief in weak creationism, that is that a higher power is ultimately responsible for the entire universe, is compatible with evolution. Additionally, weak creationism is believed by most biologists. But a believer in weak creationism is not typically defined as being creationism.

However, Prof. Rubinstein is arguing for strong creationism, that a higher power is constantly involving in the workings of the universe. Strong creationism is the belief set identified as creationists.

Posted by: kb5zhh at May 22, 2005 12:28 AM
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Secondly, I would be happy to donate say one hundred dollars or fifty pounds to charity if, by the end of ten years from now
(May 2015) anyone can produce an example of evolution in the animal world which has occurred during that time span - that is, the appearance of a new species of animal, which does not exist today, but which is descended from an existing species....

Professor, there is no need to wait to make your donation. Current speciation has been documented extensively. Here's a small list of source material. More can be found here.:


Weiberg, James R.. Starczak, Victoria R.. Jorg, Daniele. Evidence for rapid speciation following a founder event in the laboratory. Evolution. V46. P1214(7) August, 1992.

Kluger, Jeffrey. Go fish. (rapid fish speciation in African lakes). Discover. V13. P18(1) March, 1992.

Hauffe, Heidi C.. Searle, Jeremy B.. A disappearing speciation event? (response to J.A. Coyne, Nature, vol. 355, p. 511, 1992). Nature. V357. P26(1) May 7, 1992.
Abstract:
Analysis of contact between two chromosomal races of house mice in northern Italy show that natural selection will produce alleles that bar interracial matings if the resulting offspring are unfit hybrids. This is an important exception to the general rule that intermixing races will not tend to become separate species because the constant sharing of genes minimizes the genetic diversity requisite for speciation.

Barrowclough, George F.. Speciation and Geographic Variation in Black-tailed Gnatcatchers. (book reviews) The Condor. V94. P555(2) May, 1992.

Rabe, Eric W.. Haufler, Christopher H.. Incipient polyploid speciation in the maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum; Adiantaceae)? The American Journal of Botany. V79. P701(7) June, 1992.

Nores, Manuel. Bird speciation in subtropical South America in relation to forest expansion and retraction. The Auk. V109. P346(12) April, 1992.
Abstract:
The climatic and geographic history of the Pleistocene and Holocene periods modified the distribution of the bird population in the South American forests. Forest birds are found dispersed in the Yungas and Paranese areas with only minimal infiltration of the Chaco woodland, indicating an atmospheric change during the interglacial periods. In the Chaco lowlands, the interactions between non-forest birds reveal the existence of presence of a forest belt along the Bermejo and Pilcomayo rivers.

Kondrashov, Alexey S.. Jablonka, Eva. Lamb, Marion J.. Species and speciation. (response to J.A. Coyne, Nature, vol. 355, p. 511, 1992). Nature. V356. P752(1) April 30, 1992.
Abstract:
J.A. Coyne wrongly asserted that neodarwinism includes allopatric evolution but not sympatric evolution. Allopatric evolution occurs among geographically isolated populations, whereas sympatric evolution occurs within one species' entire population. Both are neodarwinian since each results from natural selection of genetic variation. Also, Coyne failed to recognize that the molecular models used to illustrate how genetic changes bring on speciation are most useful when researchers acknowledge that both inherited epigenetic and genetic changes affect speciation.

Spooner, David M.. Sytsma, Kenneth J.. Smith, James F.. A molecular reexamination of diploid hybrid speciation of Solanum raphanifolium. Evolution. V45. P757(8) May, 1991.

Orr, H. Allen. Is single-gene speciation possible?. Evolution. V45. P764(6) May, 1991.

Miller, Julie Ann. Pathogens and speciation. (Research Update). BioScience. V40. P714(1) Nov, 1990.

Barton, N.H. Hewitt, G.M. Adaptation, speciation and hybrid zones; many species are divided into a mosaic of genetically distinct populations, separated by narrow zones of hybridization. Studies of hybrid zones allow us to quantify the genetic differences responsible for speciation, to measure the diffusion of genes between diverging taxa, and to understand the spread of alternative adaptations. (includes related information) Nature. V341. P497(7) Oct 12, 1989.

Wright, Karen. A breed apart; finicky flies lend credence to a theory of speciation. Scientific American. V260. P22(2) Feb, 1989.

Coyne, Jerry A. Orr, H. Allen. Patterns of speciation in Drosophila. Evolution. V43. P362(20) March, 1989.

Feder, Jeffrey L. Bush, Guy L. A field test of differential host-plant usage between two sibling species of Rhagoletis pomonella fruit flies (Diptera: Tephritidae) and its consequences for sympatric models of speciation. Evolution. V43. P1813(7) Dec, 1989.

Soltis, Douglas E. Soltis, Pamela S. Allopolyploid speciation in Tragopogon: insights from chloroplast DNA. The American Journal of Botany. V76. P1119(6) August, 1989.

Coyne, J.A. Barton, N.H. What do we know about speciation?. Nature. V331. P485(2) Feb 11, 1988.

Barton, N.H. Jones, J.S. Mallet, J. No barriers to speciation. (morphological evolution). Nature. V336. P13(2) Nov 3, 1988.

Kaneshiro, Kenneth Y. Speciation in the Hawaiian drosophila: sexual selection appears to play an important role. BioScience. V38. P258(6) April, 1988.

Posted by: Jody at May 22, 2005 01:44 AM
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Jacob,

Punctuated equilibria is simply not a theory of saltation. And by that I just don't mean merely that is not entirely a theory of saltation, but that it has nothing to do whatsoever with saltation. As for Richard Dawkins, he went to pains to point out that puctuated equlibria is NOT in any way saltation. See chapter 9 of _The Blind Watchmaker_. Puctuated equilibria is a gradualist idea: it does not in any way propose any offspring is in any way radically different than the parents.

Dr. Rubinstein,

Your response is rather sad. Quite bluntly a hundred bucks is not enough money to keep track of you for ten years with the hope that you would shell out.

The reality is that the formation of new species is something that has been OBSERVED in NATURE many times. Denying that fact will not make it go away. Indeed most of the big name creationists will readily admit that the formation of new species has been observed. Only the worst of the worst will deny that the formation of new species has been observed.

Speaking of creationism, lets address you denial of being a creationist. I am not accusing you of being a creationist. Neither are the vast majority of people posting comments. What we are saying is that you have gotten your arguments either directly or indirectly from creationist sources. That the arguments that you are using are creationist is something that no one familiar with creationist literature will deny.

--
Anti-spam: Replace "user" with "harlequin2"

Posted by: Mike Hopkins at May 22, 2005 01:49 AM
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"I...would not allow any of what I wrote to be cited by fundamentalists,"

How?

Posted by: Bartholomew at May 22, 2005 02:21 AM
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Dr. Rubenstein said:

"Evolution appears to be plainly impossible. Animals cannot 'evolve' into new and different species. If one breeds cats for a thousand generations, they will still be cats, won't they?"

Animals DO evolve. There are numerous examples of speciation - both in the laboratory and in nature.

Scientifically define "cats". Evolution is a gradual process. It's like driving a car across the country. At some point you arbitrarily enter Nebraska - but only because someone put up a sign saying "Welcome to Nebraska". In fact, if you are traveling at 60 mph you are only a mile away from where you were a minute ago. But that is true of every single moment of your trip. You are no longer in Iowa and are instead in Nebraska simply because of those arbitrary definitions.

"Moreover, no one expects "evolution" to occur."

Actually people who understand evolution really do expect it to continuously occur - and it does! Most obviously are bacteria who evolve an immunity to a particular antibiotic. Doctors and scientists EXPECT that to occur. They would be literally SHOCKED if it didn't.

I could go on. Nothing that you say has any validity whatsoever.

I suggest in the future that you express opinons on things that you do know at least SOMETHING about. Evolution is not one of those things.


Posted by: Randy Crum at May 22, 2005 03:00 AM
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Intresting read.. I assume the Proffesor was joking, right?


Please Proffesor, if you ever decide to write an article like this... Please consult with a fellow Biologist in your institutition before you bring your ridiculous arguments on the web. Surely a man with your education should have more respect than this?

Posted by: Geral Corasjo at May 22, 2005 05:06 AM
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Interestingly, many of the comments posted on the article have disappeared. Prof. Rubinstein decided to leave a few and not to answer even them. His reaction of offering 100 dollars or 50 pounds (91 dollars at current rate) is ludicrous. I offer 91 dollars plus one framed picture of Ch. Darwin if he can demonstrate the appearance of a completely new natural language in the course of the next decade. Not someone inventing a language, but a real spontaneous field phenomenon. Paraphrasing him, it must be easy, as hundreds of natural languages are appearing and disappearing all the time.

To collect the prize pls. contact jaimito klein, Dept. Civil Engineering, Ariel, Samaria.

Posted by: jaimito at May 22, 2005 06:25 AM
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I do not believe I have ever - EVER - witnessed a more educated fool than Mr. Rubenstein. When I first heard about this I refused to believe it was anything other than a prank: how could someone - ANYONE - educated to the doctoral level at a place like Johns Hopkins be not only so pitiously ill-informed, but also so utterly and completely lacking in ELEMENTARY reasoning?

It seemed impossible. A high school drop out, yes, perhaps. But a university professor, even if merely a non-scientist?

What is worse, Mr. Rubenstein persists in this astonishing display of uneducation and stupidity.

The thing that he proposes be demonstrated - that a cat say, gives birth to a kangaroo - is a phenomenon that has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the Theory of Evolution. If such a thing were to happen, it would actually shake the theory to its very core - in fact I would say it may be the first directly observed piece of evidence in favor of creationism.

Nowehere does TOE ever predict such a phenomenon. The TOE predicts precisely what we observe in nature, and for which we have mountains and mountains of evidence gathered over decades - that there will be changes in the frequency of alleles within a gene pool over generations, owing mainly to natural selection.

Posted by: AC at May 22, 2005 07:17 AM
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To respond to Jaimito, I have been looking at this discusssion repeatedly since the comments started coming up - and it certainly does not look like any have been deleted to me. That's something you have to say for the people running this site - they seem to be more than happy to publish attacks on their articles

Posted by: John at May 22, 2005 10:07 AM
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The tenor of the responses are as to be expected. I think people are really too burnt out over religion to show this much excitement. What Dr. Rubenstein has stumbled into instead is politics. That is something I think we can agree really gets people worked up!

In the United States, creationism/intellegent design is a political movement. It is well organized and well financed. They have their base stirred up. They want to win at any cost. If the pro-evolution camp does not want to lose, they had better get stirred up as well.

In politics, if you don't respond in kind to a smear campaign, you lose.

Posted by: nidaros at May 22, 2005 02:17 PM
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Say you have a mountain. It then rains. Water flows down this mountain and picks up small debris along the way. This debris, running down the mountain at a fairly quick speed, kicks up dirt and pebbles and rocks and carries them down the mountain. Repeat every time it rains over the next 1 - 100 million years. Guess what. You have a valley where the mountain was and an alluvial fan where the stream empties out.

Nobody is arguing against micro-erosion. We can see it happen in realtime. However, it's mere conjecture that micro-erosion would somehow add up over time, magically creating a *poof* of macro-erosion, like in the "mountain to lake" just-so fairy tale that erosionists are so fond of. Keep in mind that erosion of an entire mountain has never been directly observed, nor re-created in a lab. In fact, it's clearly impossible to do so. Erosionism is pure faith, not science, because it can't be tested or falsified. If Erosionism is to be taught in schools, teach it in religion class, where it belongs.

By the way, Rubinstein's article was obviously satire. At least I sincerely hope so.

Posted by: C.W. at May 22, 2005 04:07 PM
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"First, to reiterate what I said in the article, I am not a “creationist,” and would not allow any of what I wrote to be cited by fundamentalists"

Ha ha ha ha ha ! And just how would you stop them?

Posted by: arcticpenguin at May 22, 2005 04:11 PM
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Good heavens, Professor. All of your arguments have been completely destroyed, and what do you do? Not come back here with your tail between your legs, but actually repeat another glaring blunder! One which has already been pointed out to you in the comments!

You are not likely to find evidence of an animal giving birth to a creature of an entirely new species within the next ten years - or ever. That is not evolution, or anything even resembling it. That you think it is simply goes to prove how little you know about this subject.

How about you just read Talkorigins.org and then come back here with some humility? You may even read some of the replies, rather than simply ignoring them.

Oh, and please do name some of these 'non-creationist' scientists that are critical of evolution. Or let me guess: Demski? Behe?

Posted by: Paul Christopher at May 22, 2005 04:48 PM
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AC,

"...how could someone - ANYONE - educated to the doctoral level at a place like Johns Hopkins be not only so pitiously ill-informed, but also so utterly and completely lacking in ELEMENTARY reasoning?"

Simple. Since the good professor is a biology major it is likely that he was never required to take anything more than a single one-semester introductory course in biology. Most of the time one can graduate from college without much instruction in elementary reasoning as well.

And then the good professor gets arrogant: after all he is a John Hopkins educated professor: why does he have to do elementary research into a subject before pontificating on it? And now he is in a bind. He can't change his tune without the admission that he failed to learn anything about what he was writing about before writing the article. So here comes the lame excuses...

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Anti-spam: replace "user" with "harlequin2"

Posted by: Mike Hopkins at May 22, 2005 05:16 PM
•••

“ When I posted my article on evolution I did not expect it to attract a single response, not on a site unrelated to science or biology, let alone more than seventy.“

Look Professor Rubinstein, a large part of the reason for all these hostile responses was the sheer spectacular ignorance your piece displayed. I have to be blunt with you: it was simply the most appalling thing written by an academic I have ever read. For goodness sake, you didn’t even seem to understand the meaning of the word ‘theory’! There is not the slightest evidence that you understand any aspect of modern evolutionary biology. But what is more worrying to me is that you show no evidence you have bothered to find out by actually talking to practising biologists or by reading a good text book or consulting many excellent web-based resources on evolution. As said in my last post, there are some smart people in the Biology department at Aber. Pick up the phone and talk to them!

“I wish to make only two points in reply. First, to reiterate what I said in the article, I am not a “creationist,” and would not allow any of what I wrote to be cited by fundamentalists, although there are a wide range of non-“creationist” critics of evolutionary theory.”

So why did you parrot a bunch of warmed-up creationist clichés? Every single one of your points has been bouncing around creationist echo-chambers for years. And who exactly are these “non-creationist critics of evolutionary theory”? Name them. In what sense are they critical? There are certainly plenty of legitimate controversies within contemporary evolutionary biology, but no serious biologist I know doubts that all living organisms are related to each other by ‘descent with modification’.

“Secondly, I would be happy to donate say one hundred dollars or fifty pounds to charity if, by the end of ten years from now (May 2015) anyone can produce an example of evolution in the animal world which has occurred during that time span - that is, the appearance of a new species of animal, which does not exist today, but which is descended from an existing species."

Well since you seem to think that speciation involves cats giving birth to kangaroos, then I suppose your money might be safe. Please take the elementary step of at least trying to acquaint yourself with the literature on speciation. The references posted by Jody might be a good place to start, but there are many more.

Posted by: Tony Jackson at May 22, 2005 06:46 PM
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As well as its many other faults, Prof Rubenstein's article is fundamentally self contradictory. He accepts, he says , that humans are descended from primates - and yet a few sentences further on expresses his disbelief that one species can give rise to another. So what do you believe, professor?
To assert that the late Stephen Jay Gould believed in saltation is grievous error and an insult to the memory of that eloquent educator - whose writings Prof Rubenstein would have done well to have read before unleashing his argument based on ignorance.

Posted by: Burgess Shale at May 22, 2005 07:02 PM
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Professor Rubenstein,

Allow me to translate the majority of comments made thus far into a form that you should be able to understand without needing to resort to parsering (in other words, presented in so base a manner that meaning itself is unmistakable sans attempted interpretation):

When you talk about subjects you obviously know nothing about, you are talking out of your (proverbial and literal) arse . And when people talk out of their arse in a public forum - especially those who *should* know better - they are inevitably told to shut up and sit down in short order - and rightly so. So please, professor, shut up and sit down before you make more of an arse of yourself then you already have.

Posted by: Ignorance is No Excuse at May 22, 2005 09:03 PM
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Dr. Oller,

It is a certainty that the tone of the discussion could be improved. So, perhaps a review of the evidence concerning Dr. Rubinstein's claims would be in order. Was Rubinstein right or wrong in what he wrote?

Is common sense a guide to scientific accuracy? I would think not. To point out an example that does not have to do with the current topic, consider quantum mechanics and such counterintuitive items as the two-slit experiment.

Are there a growing number of doubting scientifically trained commentators? Actually, this claim of Rubinstein's is ill-formed. One could have a point of view whose "market share" in the marketplace of ideas was monotonically decreasing while the absolute numbers of people involved was increasing. The interesting fact about the claim that "more and more" scientists are doubting the theory of evolution is that it predates Darwin's Origin of Species and comes close to predating Darwin himself. See Glenn Morton's essay for the details. Surely it is an odd sort of movement which has been continuously growing a century and three-quarters and yet still only incorporates a tiny fraction of the scientific community?

What of the claim that scientists have "failed to challenge" evolution? I direct your attention to Peter Bowler's "Evolution: The History of an Idea", in which the author describes a substantial number of theories in evolutionary biology which were proposed, challenged by scientists, and discarded as being at odds with the evidence.

Certainly Niles Eldredge and Stepehen Jay Gould considered punctuated equilibria to be a challenge to the view of "phyletic gradualism", and I do not recall anyone calling either of them a "creationist". A witticism comes to mind, but since the topic was a kinder, gentler exchange I will forego using it.

I want to quote Rubinstein here... "Nevertheless, there are so many deep implausibilities in the Theory of Evolution as it is commonly understood that it seems to me, as a non-scientist, that something must surely be radically wrong." This is something upon which I can wholeheartedly agree with Rubinstein. The common understanding of evolution is, as is demonstrated by Rubinstein's further text, composed of common misunderstandings of evolution. Certainly a part of what is wrong is the lack of effective education in this regard.

The claim that "evolution is impossible" and that speciation cannot happen is simply at odds with the scientific literature. See also the FAQs on observed speciation, more speciation events, and common descent. Beyond the insistence of evolution-deniers upon videotaped species transitions, there is an absolutely huge chunk of scientific literature on the topics of incipient speciation and analysis of reproductive isolating mechanisms. As for when one figures out that speciation has occurred, there can be difficulties, as in the cryptic speciation of populations of Cordylochernes scorpioides which look alike, but have genetically diverged such that there is postzygotic reproductive isolation. That sort of situation means that the number of speciation events that are observed in the next few years may be a serious underestimate of the true number of speciations that take place. Another point to be taken is that we can hardly be said to have a handle on knowing what species are in existence right now. The knowledge of populations in regions like the Amazon basin is still pretty sketchy, and yet there is immense biodiversity there (or was, given the habitat loss going on there).

When Rubinstein says that no one expects evolution to occur, he apparently means people who are not biologists and who are not looking at populations in nature. For biologists, though, the view is different. From studies of guppies in tropical streams to finches in the Galapagos to peppered moths to anolis lizards on Caribbean islands, researchers are doing work on characterizing the evolution that does, in fact, happen. Medical researchers are keenly aware of the expectation of evolution in HIV virus strains, and even forensic investigators have used that evolution in their casework. Agricultural researchers deal with evolutionary processes, too, in trying to reduce problems with pests and disease in crops and livestock.

Rubinstein then returns to speciation, and claims that no one has seen one species give rise to another in one generation. This would be a saltational change, and is something that Darwin thought did not happen. Biology is such a confounder of neat principles, though, that biologists have been privileged to see or detect saltational speciation. This is a pretty common occurrence in certain plant taxa, such as orchids. Consult the American Orchid Society list of species and note how many of those say "tetraploid". Each one is an existence proof to throw light on Dr. Rubinstein's essential ignorance of the topic. My genetics professor of many years back, Dr. Wallbrunn, was particularly interested in those tetraploid orchid species. Tetraploidy is known to have happened within animal species, too. Consider Hyla versicolor, a tetraploid daughter species of Hyla chrysoscelis. There are systems of differing ploidy in lizards to make your head spin. Speciation in mammals via differing karyotypy is something suggested by the evidence in the Suidae. That would likely take two or three generations to accomplish, but still comes pretty close to Rubinstein's demand for existing saltation to liven up more staid means of achieving speciation.

The claim that most examples of evolution are "highly dubious" doesn't stand up to scrutiny. Peppered moths were never claimed to have speciated. The point at issue in that research was whether it was a case of natural selection acting on a population. That's a different issue than speciation. And those researchers who actually work on peppered moths are quite clear that natural selection has been at work there. Please see Alan Gishlick's essay on the antievolution objections to peppered moth research.

Rubinstein claims that fossil evidence is arguable or "logically fallacious". While it certainly is the case that one usually cannot tell from a fossil whether it had offspring and produce a pedigree, one doesn't see antievolutionists taking this objection to its logical reductio ad absurdum conclusion and say that each foram in the white cliffs of Dover was a special creation of God thereby. While Rubinstein dismisses the fossil record for horse evolution, actual paleontologists say differently. Niles Eldredge says that the fossils are all found in the geologic record just as predicted by evolution in the correct temporal order, and says that these fossils are "every creationist's nightmare" (see his "Triumph of Evolution" around page 130 for the discussion). Bruce McFadden is a paleontolgist who has specialized in fossil horses (and was also one of my professors a long time ago). His take is the same, that the horse fossil record is a brilliant illustration of historical evolution.

When antievolutionists, and Dr. Rubinstein, claim that there are no transitional fossil sequences, I point them to a gradual and sympatric divergence in foraminifera and ask them to give their technical reasons for saying that that doesn't count as a transitional sequence. Dr. Rubinstein's objection falls into a category of responses that I call "non-evidentiary response items" or NERI. The neat thing about issuing a NERI is that one is relieved of the burden of actually looking at the evidence and making an effort to understand what one is looking at. The evidence is completely irrelevant to a NERI, which makes it easy to figure out whether someone is deploying one. If different evidence would not change the effectiveness of the argument, it is a NERI. Does it matter exactly what those horse fossils are to Rubinstein's argument? No, of course not. However, paleontologists have yet to be convinced of the superiority of simply stating a NERI as opposed to actually studying fossils and making inferences from what one finds there. I'm sorry, I seem to have let some rhetorical content slip into this response. As to the number of expected transitions, I made an estimate based on Charles Darwin's famous passage and came up with a number fully in accord with what we see today. If Dr. Rubinstein would care to turn his assertion into a quantitative form, we could then compare the two. I find it interesting that Rubinstein relies on Corliss as a source for a grand sweeping negative claim. Botany is not my field, so I will check on that.

Rubinstein repeats the old antievolution claim about organs needing to appear all at once and be integrated into systems. Eyes are certainly interesting examples, coming, as it were, in all forms of differing complexity from simple patches of light-senstive material through "cup" eyes to closed camera-style eyes. Even within a morphological form, one can find examples of differing structure, as in the differences between camera eyes in mammals and those in squid. Evolutionary biology does not hold that an organ like the eye has to appear "all at once". The critique as given by Rubinstein is an indictment of creationism, not evolution. Evolution posits that new organs are derived from existing organs. Rather than the eye, which is generally soft tissue and unlikely to fossilize, consider the mammalian middle ear and its three-bone impedance matching system. If any of those parts is missing, impedance is not matched and in humans that results in about a 30dB reduction in hearing senstivity. But there is a good fossil record of stages in the development of the mammalian middle ear showing that the middle ear did not "poof" into existence somewhere along the way, but rather was the result of a process that took millions of years in incremental steps.

Rubinstein has a certain fascination for the phrase "survival of the fittest". There is a historical connection to evolutionary biology, to be sure, but no evolutionary biologist nowadays considers it as anything but historical trivia, and certainly not a regulative principle in evolutionary theory. The role of contingency in historical evolution is widely appreciated in evolutionary biology. Others have already commented on the gap between Rubinstein's description of ecology and what actually obtains.

Rubinstein's claim that increasing complexity requires a "guiding hand" is noticeable for the complete lack of scientific research cited in its support. The assertion that "saltation" has any part in "punctuated equilibria" would come as a surprise to Gould, Eldredge, or even Ernst Mayr, whose theory of allopatric speciation forms the basis of PE. Allopatric speciation has nothing to do with saltation. The notion that something does or does not accord with the facts, coolly considered, implies that the person making the decision has actually taken the time to look at "the facts". It is by no means apparent that Dr. Rubinstein has taken the time to acquaint himself with a sufficient sampling of biological facts to make pronouncements within that field.

Posted by: Wesley R. Elsberry at May 23, 2005 02:47 AM
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Both ignorance and humour have been suggested in earlier comments. Some other possibilities (in jest, of course):

1. Perhaps the real Professor Rubenstein has been abducted (dare I suggest by aliens) and his access to The Social Affairs Unit blog has been hacked by a prankster.

2. Perhaps Professor Rubenstein posted his "opinion" as a Social Affair "experiment" or an attempt to create Internet performance art.

3. Perhaps Professor Rubenstein believes all scientists have been deluding themselves for centuries and that any comments that counter his assertions are spurious.

4. Perhaps Professor Rubenstein is attempting to prove that he is academically incapable of fulfilling his role at University of Wales in order to access some form of termination package.

5. Perhaps Professor Rubenstein is a victim of a religious extremist extortion group and is being forced to demolish his own credibility on a public forum to save the life of a loved one.


Professor, if your "opinion" was attempted in humour, it was ill-considered and irresponsible. Creationist views are being used to attack education standards in the United States. A clarification of your position would be appreciated.

Posted by: Virge at May 23, 2005 08:42 AM
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All I can say is it's a good thing the author is teaching history and not biology - don't give up your day job. Although come to think of it it's so poorly researched and based in conjecture and assumptions it doesn't speak well of his attention to detail or methodology.

The details regarding evolution have been well covered already. But I wanted to take issue with this creationist straw man of the supposed "dogma" of Evolutionary Theory. There ain't no such beast.

Evolutionary theory has evolved and changed considerably since Darwin's day. To appreciate this it's important to understand that Darwin himself developed the theory of natural selection to explain and make sense of evolution (to be accurate two theories - he also developed the theory of sexual selection). Even in his day there were already other theories of evolution - the Lamarckian theory of "the inheritence of acquired characteristics" being one of the more well known. Not that long after Darwin there was a huge challenge from followers of the recently rediscoved work of Gregor Mendel on genetics and mutation - initially this was believed to offer an alternative explanation for evolution. Indeed even after scientists like Mayr, Fisher, Haldane and Huxley were able to demonstrate that the two theoroes were actually compatible and develop what we now refer to as "the new synthesis" of genetics and natural (and sexual) selection - incorporating ecology and population genetics as well - there were still challenges from more Mutationist theorists such as the Saltationism of Goldshmidt. Evolutionary theory did not stop there either - since the new synthesis there have been many new challenges, debates and developments - the controversy around rate and the "punctuated" nature of evolutionary processes, the "neutral" mutation theory, the ongoing debate around Sociobiology, recent mathematical work around the role of patterns and chaos in evolution (eg Kaufmann), the continual re-emergance of Saltationist theory, the ongoing debate around adaptionism, the similarly ongoing debate around cladism and the new trends in taxonomy (including Phyllocode) and at the moment there is a major challenge to New Synthesis in the form of Margulis's ideas around the role of Symbiosis and cooperation in evolution and the possible implications of recent discoveries of the role played by processes of genetic exchange and horizontal gene transfer. And I look forward to what the likely discovery of life processes on other planets will show and how this may challenge and help develop evolutionary theory. What none of these theories does is propose supernatural origins for life or order - that is the problem with so called theories such as "Intelligent design" and "Creation science" - they propose nothing apart from that we stop thinking and stop questioning our origins (which they assume is a question taken care of a priori). But what they do show is that evolutionary theory (or really we should say theories) is now richer, more alive and diverse than it ever was, and that rather than being a "dogma" it embraces a world of debate and ongoing development as befits any science.

Posted by: amused at May 23, 2005 09:32 AM
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If I raise cats in the mountains, after a 1000 generations, we would end up with a different type of cat. I think evolution goes side by side with adaptation to the surroundings.

Posted by: Rod at June 4, 2005 01:03 AM
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Is this post a joke?

Every single point you make has no logical reasoning behind it.

Posted by: David Galbraith at June 4, 2005 01:35 AM
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I think all the name calling really adds cred to your counter-arguements. Jeez, relax. Don't you think everyone should all be allowed to question theories? In the very least on the internet. This article is free, you get what you pay for, don't act like someone ran over your missing-link-cat.

Posted by: Jordan at June 4, 2005 01:44 AM
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As a historian, doesn't the evolution of man-made technology astound you? If someone looked at the fossill record, it'd appear as if the computer species arrived as a readymade. And none/very-few of possible transitional species would appear in the record. What is the likelihood of finding an ordinary PC versus a tube-based or punch-card based computer?

Posted by: Philip Dhingra at June 4, 2005 02:37 AM
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Any inquisitive person could easily find, in a matter of minutes, answers to the arguments put forth. It will take a few more minutes to understand the literature, for the slower students.
I find it curious that people such as Rubinstein, who feign interest in the topic of evolution, do not bother to do the minimum research to understand the theory of evolution.
As Rubinstein obviously did not bother to do the research necessary to understand even the broadest strokes of the theory of evolution, I can only assume his is a willful ignorance.
Please resign your post as professor before you transmit your slovenly scholarship to any more young minds.

Posted by: LordLetThisBeATroll at June 4, 2005 03:53 AM
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Somebody check this guy's degree -- I don't believe he got it from Johns Hopkins -- in fact I think this is a prank, written by an 8th grader somewhere. It's not even his content of his argument that is so incredible, it's the amature way it's made -- just flinging half-truths and sillyness out there without any evidence of research.

I guess what goes for the spoken word goes for the written one as well:

"Better to keep your mouth closed and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt."

Posted by: Steve at June 4, 2005 04:35 AM
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I cringed and then threw up all over the floor when I read your cat example. It was horrible and flawed and showed you've read nothing of the subject.

Posted by: Steve Romej at June 4, 2005 05:42 AM
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But surely you accept that there are variations on the species of 'cat' e.g. siamese, tabby etc... which have arisen through both mutation and the interactions of various genes...

Furthermore these different breeds (much like with dogs) have different aesthetic and functional characteristics e.g. size, colour, speed etc...

Surely this alone must be enough to prove that natural selection is a viable theory for evolution.

Posted by: sudsy at June 4, 2005 07:24 AM
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You must also remember that the fossil record is a tiny snapshot of the number of animals that have lived on the planet, furthermore the accuracy of it can not be verified completely without sophisticated DNA testing (and with extremely decomposed samples this is not even possible)

Therefor you cannot use the 'incompleteness' of the fossil record to disprove evolutionary theory.

Posted by: sudsy at June 4, 2005 07:28 AM
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Dude, do the world a favour and read "The beak of the finch" by Jonathan Weiner.

Posted by: dinesh at June 4, 2005 07:39 AM
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This article proves nothing about the falicy of evolution, but it does absolutely prove one thing:

99% of the people responding to the article are assholes. Get over yourselves people. If you disagree with someone, disagree, but no need to be such pedantic assholes. Try not to be so full of yourselves.

Posted by: j at June 4, 2005 08:03 AM
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An assumption common to many comments found here is that ideology and serious science are things that can be neatly distinguished. This is a superficial view of what science actually is and can do that has been questioned in the philosophy of science for decades by many many scholars; so those who question Dr. Rubinstein's qualification to write about evolution should question *their* training in philosophy of science first.

Posted by: Ben at June 4, 2005 08:12 AM
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All of the comments here prove that evolution is our modern day dogma.

Posted by: Gary Gnu at June 4, 2005 08:29 AM
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I was hoping for atleast one point that i could see some merit in, but amazingly, every single point raised by the author is simply wrong, some even stupid.

William, I wouldn't pride myself on my common sense, if I were you.

Posted by: daniel m. at June 4, 2005 08:58 AM
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Please, author, at least do some research before you talk out your ass. Terrible article. I'd love to see some challenges to evolution, as that would force us to solve its problems and strengthen our knowledge of life and science and such, but this is just a bad, bad article.

Shame on you.

Posted by: Brian at June 4, 2005 03:50 PM
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Gary Gnu,

Hyperbole. Not 'All' of the comments here indicate any kind of dogmatic approach to the issue. Some are obviously more agitated than others, but there are a number of polite and informative comments, as well as a few who seem to support the professor (for whatever reason).

If you have a question as to the inspiration for the tone of the others, it can easily be explained: every one of the points the author makes is either a complete misunderstanding of the theory or has been shown to be false for years. At some point, people get tired of responding to the same ill-informed criticisms. If I were to routinely pester a mathematician about the validity of the fundamental theorem of calculus (it is, after all, just a theorem), wouldn't you expect that eventually they would stop explaining nicely and turn rather sour?

It's all the worse that the author has PHD attached to the end of his name, and says that he isn't a creationist. How long until this article is picked up by creationists under the headline: "The Death of Evolution: Secular PHD Explains Why Evolution is False"? All around, Dr. Rubinstein deserves what flack he gets.

Posted by: Jason F at June 4, 2005 04:25 PM
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This article is absolute filth. Here is a logical rebuttal.

Posted by: a vehement reader at June 4, 2005 06:55 PM
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"I would be happy to donate say one hundred dollars or fifty pounds to charity if, by the end of ten years from now
(May 2015) anyone can produce an example of evolution in the animal world which has occurred during that time span"

If you would really like to see how the theory of evolution stands up, why not read about it?

Posted by: Ryan Dickherber at June 4, 2005 08:51 PM
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Dr. Rubenstein,

I don't have the letters behind my name that you and most of the comment writers here possess, but I read the rebuttal at:

http://pharyngula.org/index/weblog/comments/a_historian_disgraces_himself/

and feel that your assumptions and arguments were handily dismissed.

In the interest of hearing your views in more depth than your two point reply allowed, would you publish a point-by-point rebuttal of PZ Meyer's post, citing published scientific research? As you would expect someone who attacked a historical theory to use accepted methods of presenting evidence, I think you -- a scholar -- would respect biologists enough to use work published by scientists to fully support your views when challenging a scientific theory.

Posted by: Rob at June 5, 2005 02:46 AM
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If we look at this ridiculous text in a wider perspective, what it really illustrates is some social scientists' willingness to argue for specific positions in questions of natural science, without having read up on what scientists say on the matter. In Europe, we don't have a creationist problem, but we do have social scientists claiming e.g. the impossibility in biologically grounded variations in personality traits between cultures, individuals, genders, etc. I am not saying they are necessarily wrong, but the way they approach the questions can be scary, sometimes claiming that biological research into such questions are "irrelevant" (as the government-funded Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research).

It makes one wonder why we, as scientists, should respect the work done by social scientists, when they don't respect ours.

Posted by: Julian Togelius at June 5, 2005 04:12 PM
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Presumably, sir, you're merely ignorant, and not a moron. I would hope a PhD. stands for that much in this absurdly misled world where people run around expecting evolution to mean sudden changes in appearance of species. I mean, seriously, did you take high school biology? Please read up on natural selection and how it works.

Shame on you.

Posted by: Andre at June 5, 2005 06:32 PM
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Professor Rubinstein could perhaps benefit from some modest meditation on the following quote from Sydney Smith,

Have the courage to be ignorant of a great number of things, in order to avoid the calamity of being ignorant of everything.

The article as a whole appears to me to be symptomatic of popular discourse on almost any subject. Anyone with a modest polysyllabic vocabulary (with or, in the Professor's case, without understanding) and a basic grasp of grammar feels competent to approach the pulpit.

Posted by: Mark at June 5, 2005 08:20 PM
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Good Lord -- is this a joke?

The obvious flaw here is that the good professor is clearly a font of ignorance on the subject of natural selection, proving once again that evolution is indeed counter-intuitive to people lacking a firm foundation of scientific context. Quelle surprise!

Next up: a dog trainer on the subject of theology!

Sheesh.


M F D H

Posted by: Matthew Frederick Davis Hemming at June 5, 2005 10:26 PM
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To the author of the article:

From one of the many telling quotes in your article....

"Nevertheless, there are so many deep implausibilities in the Theory of Evolution as it is commonly understood that it seems to me, as a non-scientist, that something must surely be radically wrong."

As a non-scientist, I suggest you learn about the scientific method, basic biology, anatomy and other hard sciences before authoring an article on a subject that you profess ignorance about, and that is expected to be prima fascia a scholarly work.

I am all for freedom of academic expression, but seriously, your University should think twice about renewing your contract.

Posted by: JDavidK at June 6, 2005 05:32 AM
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The last commentator should be ashamed of what he has said - it is not acceptable to call for someones dismissal simply because one disagrees with what they say - or they say something which is wrong about a subject plainly outside their academic area. If Prof. Rubinstein consistently made highly dubious historical claims - and continued to do so - there might - might - be a case for saying his contract should not be renewed. Here he is not talking about his own academic expertise - but on a subject which he himself says he has no expert knowledge. Shame on the previous commentator.

Posted by: David Johnson at June 6, 2005 10:46 AM
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If you stood out in the sun with a cloud passing overhead, shading you, the process would be gradual.
In fact, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly the moment when you are enveloped by the shadow. There is no clear point in time when you can exclaim, "AHA!!! THERE..." Even though this happens right in front of your very eyes.

Posted by: Mr Jupiter at June 6, 2005 11:24 AM
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Bwahahaha!

from the starting priceless quote "I am not a scientist, needles[sic] to say" this article gets funnier and funnier as one reads on.

Unless you take this drivel seriously. Then it becomes slightly scary.

Needles to say!

Posted by: Michiel at June 6, 2005 12:57 PM
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If Professor Rubenstein is not taking the mick, then he is a total tit.

Posted by: Greg at June 6, 2005 02:59 PM
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Well done on the attention seeking!

Your own insignificance must have misled you to publish this piece of pathetic ranting on a subject you have no clue of. The fact that I am actually wasting my time typing this shows how angry you have made me. I'm not even going to try and prove you wrong on any of your points because you have described evolution yourself quite beautifully. Think about that while you evolve into a proper scholar and grow your first brain cell.

"NEEDLES" to say, so-called scholars like you face extinction anyway. And here's something else controversial: Thank God for that!

Now go back to your cave.

Posted by: Dr Colossus at June 6, 2005 03:24 PM
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"Dr Colossus" - what's the need for the personal abuse. To disagree with someone there is no need to call them names. In fact all it does is make you look like a nutter. I can't see why people think they need to defend reason by reserting to name calling.

Posted by: David Johnson at June 6, 2005 04:02 PM
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Thanks for the laughs, the lads and I really enjoyed this one!

Especially funny for me since, as a grad student, I worked with plenty of academics and can easily imagine the type that would have penned something such as this.

ROTFLMAO

Posted by: mike at June 6, 2005 04:31 PM
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I have respect for your organization and I really enjoy reading your
website. But what were you thinking when you published this piece. I understand that many people feel the need to discuss alternatives to the theory of evolution. However, a certain standard of scientific accuracy should be upheld in publications on that topic.

Rubinstein's article is completely, utterly, unbelievably wrong on many aspects which are not open to discussion -- starting right with the title, which shows a disregard for the scientific meaning of the word "theory" which can only be called inane coming from somebody who calls himself "Professor".

Posted by: Michael Strock at June 6, 2005 04:38 PM
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OMG! ROTFLMAO!

This MUST be satire, right? Right? Someone PLEASE tell me this is a joke!

If this is actually the opinion of a true academic, then I hope this article exposes Dr. Rubinstein as a crackpot and I hope that the University of Wales will review any other articles he has written and consider reviewing his competency as a professor!!!

Posted by: Ross J Harvey at June 6, 2005 07:10 PM
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As a college student who has written several mediocre papers, I believe there may be a chance that your students mediocre and fallacious papers have rubbed off on you? I hope this is the case. Have an ignorant day!

Posted by: Josh at June 6, 2005 10:28 PM
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Proof that if you even slightly question or disagree with the dogmas of modern science you get instant mob justice.

85% of the comments here were regurgitation of previous comments and a personal attacks and cheap shots at the article’s author’s credibility.

"Hey everyone else left insulting comments; I might as well jump on the bandwagon!"

I’m not taking any sides but if any of you behaved this incordially in person it would be evident of your almost complete lack of tolerance and lack of common courtesy and respect, even if you believed he were wrong.

Can one be wrong in sharing his opinion? It seems obvious from these comments that you can be. Not only that, but if you don’t agree its grounds for a piously-intellectual mob lynching.

Professor, even if I am the only one stating this, I respect your view and have many times felt the same, however being that I am, according to many of these commenters not as educated as they are I’m not revealing my own position on the issue.

To the majority of the commenters, your attitude and tone is utterly disgusting and disgraceful, were you not raised with any manners?

Posted by: brian at June 6, 2005 11:49 PM
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Prof Rubenstein is a successful troll.

Posted by: thelearner at June 7, 2005 06:54 AM
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I'm rather shocked at how vitriolic these comments are. Can no one simply answer the man's questions point by point?

I looked up a couple of figures on the net. From the earliest fossil human ancestor to us is about 5.8 million years - Ardipithecus ramidus kadabba (at least that's the earliest this site has listed). So say roughly 13 years on average for a generation gives us about 445,000 generations.

Seems like a pretty reasonable number of generations to handle the mutations. I would think there must be a mathmatical model to demonstrate that the kind of genetic drift this entails could be handled in this many generations.

Since when is it incorrect for "scientists" to ask questions... and be wrong? Everything is open for discussion - how else will you be able to teach these people?. Be reasonable and open rather than reactionary and hostile.

Posted by: Daniel Cram at June 7, 2005 09:15 AM
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The comments to the article are perhaps the most concentrated collection of arrogance I've seen in a long time. How is it that scientists who readily admit ignorance on a vast multitude of topics can be so religiously dogmatic on whatever today's scientific 'truth' happens to be.

/sigh... Today's scientific fact is often tomorrow's scientific fiction. You guys need to play in your sandbox a bit longer...

Posted by: Brad Carnahan at June 7, 2005 01:32 PM
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Professor,
Excellent article, keep your chin up, most of the comments here are negative and hateful and that is to be expected. These evolutionists have shown their true colors as not logical, thoughtful scientists, but emotional adherrents to the cult religion of Darwin. Anytime you attack the basic faith of someones religion as you have so aptly noted as dogma, you need to expect this kind of hatred and violent attack. Anyone who questions their faith has seen this, and experienced their hysterical attacks.

Posted by: Michael at June 7, 2005 03:21 PM
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To the majority of the commenters, your attitude and tone is utterly disgusting and disgraceful, were you not raised with any manners?

Considering that anyone who does not accept Creationism/ID is routinely accused of being atheists or anti-God, I would consider the posts here very polite.

When one has answered the same creationist argument for the twentieth time, patience begins to run out. Unfortunately, failing to respond to Creationist dogma, even once, appears to cause the religious fanatics to claim victory, as they have in Kansas.

So the Creationist/ID'ers must be cofronted for their "mistakes" ( a polite term for outright lies) again and again.

Posted by: Steve Ruger at June 7, 2005 03:47 PM
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I hope Prof Rubenstein continues to write extensively and exclusively on the topic of evolution. At least in biology he can provide comic relief and do not harm. It's probably much better for students that he buffoon in this arena than profess in his home discipline...

Posted by: John Siebert at June 7, 2005 03:48 PM
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Evolution is all around us. Go to your nearest dog or cat show. Ask a DR about MRSA or drug resistant HIV strains.
What you need is a selection factor, like a pride of lions or our tendency to over prescribe/missuse antibiotics. Add in a liittle time and POOF= you get something new. Ok so it takes a lot of time, but ...It may not be a species yet, but its well on its way.
Go to the nearest campus bookstore and look at a microbiology, botany, animal behavior, ecology, or better yet an evolutionary biology text. In there you will find MANY examples of experiments and and real world observations that support evolution.

Posted by: Guy at June 7, 2005 03:59 PM
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I am a person with a strong belief that there is a greater power on a higher plane than this. And after thinking it through in the years since I went to high school, I have come to a conclusion:

God created the heavens and the earth. What He created evolved from His original works into what we know today over billions of years. In short, God created Evolution.

Doesn't it say somewhere in the Bible (and I am paraphrasing here) that a minute is like a thousand years? Wouldn't that mean that it would take many millions of years in our time scale to equal one day in God's time scale?

And isn't there many years of hard scientific evidence that prove the truth of evolution?

These are just a few points of many you can find if you look with an open mind. The evidence is there. Both sides are wrong. And both sides are right. Each one has only a part of the picture. And from a rational, intelligent perspective, it is the only solution that fits all the evidence.

And as a personal point, I think that this whole argument of Creation vs. Evolution left the scientific realm years ago, and now resides firmly in the Twilight Zone, where ego, politics, money, power, and conformity of thought to "What I Believe" are much more important than freedom of thought, opinion, and speech. And I firmly believe that religion is a very small part of it from the Creationists' side. To paraphrase Darth Vader, "I find your faith disturbing..."

Posted by: Gilbert Moore at June 7, 2005 04:13 PM
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Professor,
As a scientist by vocation and historian by avocation, I found you article very disturbing. You have launched a very poorly researched audit of evolution out into the internet-o-sphere!

Transitional species nonexistant you say? Do a Google, sir, and you will discover that you are not very well informed.

No observable instances of evolutionary change? I refer you to any medical laboratory in the world today. You can watch strains of pathogens evolve over the course of scant days in order to overcome medicines, acquire more available hosts and expand their life cycles or vectors. Witness HIV, sir. From a primate pathogen of little concern to anyone but a couple of strains of baboon to a pandemic sexually transmitted death sentence for humankind in the short span of 20 years!

In closing, as an academician you should be firmly and soundly scolded for indulging the creationist claptrap tagline, "just a theory." All areas of academic endeavor are driven by theories. Lacking direct observation, any assertion is "just a theory." Washington crossing the Delaware is a theory, supported by written accounts. But we can feel pretty sure that this theory holds true despite more tangible evidence.

But lets look at some historical theories that nearly all hold invioble yet are utterly untrue:

Columbus "discovered" America. No, he landed in the Carribbean.
Magellan circumnavigated the globe. No, he was killed in the Phillippines.
St. George killed a dragon...come on now.

Posted by: H.G. Boyd at June 7, 2005 05:31 PM
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I may be a blind, deaf-mute who has lived the last ten years of his life in a sensory deprivation tank after having his brainstem replaced with the crank-shaft from a '72 Nissan Bluebird, but even I can tell that all of those whom disagree with professor Willie are America-hating commies and probably al-Jazerra columnist who hate god and look at there moms in a funny manner. God made ostrich wings so small to be bite-sized. (best when slow smoked)

Posted by: James D. PhD in Jello-shots at June 7, 2005 05:53 PM
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Ummm, science is science. There's really no argument here. At least from the scientific, enlightened point of view.

Posted by: Ray at June 7, 2005 06:53 PM
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This must certainly be a joke. "Professor"??
Can you please learn a little about how science works, before writing? Thanks.

Posted by: Dean at June 7, 2005 08:07 PM
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The human eye is an impossible creation. There is no way it could have just come to be. So is this microcomputer I hear so much about. I mean, there is no way this immensely complex device sprang out of nowhere. Only god could create such a technical miracle.

Unless, of course, you have a complete understanding of how it came to be. Then you understand that computers evolved. Start with a tubes, add in punch cards, and end up downloading mp3s and ordering drugs from Canada. (Don’t forget to add in the 50+ years of minute, progressive changes along the way.) What started as ‘on or off’ became the Xbox, and online banking and the digital camera.


We don't have the benefit of such through documentation of the last several millions of years. We do, however, have the power of observation and logic. We have seen how society and technology have evolved. It is the way of the world. Does it happen in nature? Yes. There are people out there who for thousands of years have used their mystical powers to enact evolution upon nature. They are called breeders. Ever been to a dog show? Ever seen a dog that fits into your shirt pocket? People have been breeding horses for thousand of years, they know about evolution even then. Ok, I know I am giving human influenced examples, but the concept is there. We didn't create the mechanism of change, we just accelerated it.

So back to the Eye. So, fine, no creature was born with a fully functioning, full color, focusable eye all of a sudden, it is too complex. So, how would evolution spawn such a thing? It can’t. Perhaps eyes started as a membrane that could roughly measure the intensity of light, so that the creature could find shelter, or sense the shadow of another creature. Maybe something even more basic. Like everything, it must have started out much simpler. Language started with a grunt. Just because you don’t have the history documenting millions of years of changes, doesn’t mean you have to resort to blaming angry gods for thunder.

Posted by: Derek Belanger at June 7, 2005 08:37 PM
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The premise starts out great, nothing to criticize really.
But your points are elementary in light of the big words you used.
Take just a couple physical anthropolgy classes before you speak on this subject. A feline with two tails, is a developmental mishap, there is not a chromosone for it. evolution is over thousands or hundreds of thousands of generations of a species. Missing links? we have only a few links or small gaps in the current Homo Sapien traced badk to neanderthalesis, cro-magnon, homo erectus, et cetra. We have thousands of skulls with changes measurable in 100ths of micrometers in areas of Zygotic arches, super orbital tori (sp?). You are well spoken but not so well read.
This is all with the fact I still agree on your premis.

Posted by: Mikael at June 7, 2005 09:21 PM
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LMAO!

Weeeeeeeeeee hee hee! This has either got to be one of the best troll-blog articles ever, in which the "professor" is a truly enlightened higher being exhibiting how primitive the evolution-deniers are by means of self-immolation.

If he was actually serious, it's a damning indictment of the intellectual quality of currently tenured university professors. As a scientist myself and one with many colleagues in several disciplines that I count as friends, I find it simply incomprehensible that someone with a university education can be so completely blockheaded about something that DOESN'T require a ton of brain power to understand. (Think evolution is hard to understand? Try wrapping your head about the arcane minutae of Radioisotope dating or figuring out why that $20 million oil well found nothing but water). I really can't see how a college professor would reveal such a glaring intellectual shortcoming in such a public way without this all being a big gag and he's just pulling our leg. I sincerely hope it's not the real deal, for the sake of intellectual integrity.

Either way, it's been a genius move of self promotion, perhaps he's running for elected office?

Posted by: GKG at June 7, 2005 09:29 PM
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WOW! Dr. Rubinstein, in all of your vast historical knowledge do you remember anything about the history of science? Since the beginning of the Enlightenment the vast ignorant masses have been less than eager to accept new ideas. For instance the resistance to the heliocentric model of the solar system. 'What...the earth is not at the center of the universe?!' Or perhaps the inability to accept the round earth theory. 'Don't sail beyond the horizon, you'll fall off!' How many scientists have burned at the stake or have been demonized some other way by the ignorant masses of suppossed learned men throughout history? You are on the verge of repeating history, Dr.

I've learned from history. I used to point - counterpoint with creationists till I was blue in the face, but now I don't waste my breath. I know their ignorant minds will eventually fade away just like the last of the Dodo birds!

Dr. Rubinstein, do you trust...let's say the mechanic who repairs the jet engines on the planes you fly on? You wouldn't walk into the hanger and start telling them you don't believe all this nonsense about thrust and propulsion would you? Or that they shouldn't wire up that flux capacitor thingy the way they've got it? Of course not, because the mechanic would hit you with a wrench. Why then are there so many like you who insist on sticking their noses into evolution when they can't even tell a mitotic cell from a zit on their face? Please leave the evolution and molecular biology to the scientists and enjoy the rest of your flight.

Posted by: M. Hoos at June 7, 2005 10:35 PM
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I won't address the original article. There seems little point. Rubinstein is wrong in every respect and his second post compounds his ill-informed stupidity.

I would, however, like to respond to those posters who are critical of the nature of the responses. I think a little inflammatory language is more than understandable under the circumstances. Here we have a PhD from a respectable UK institution spouting utter gibberish which is almost identical to the propaganda of right-wing, anti-intellectual religious fundamentalism.

The scientific method is not dogma: any theory can (and will) be falsified or superseded. And we can see from the history of science that our old theories can seem foolish after a sufficient period of time. But new theories must include and continue to explain all of the observations which gave rise to those earlier theories. To take an example: the fact that the Earth revolves around the Sun was an observation made many years before the existence of either Newtonian or Einsteinian theories explaining the motion of planets. But each of those theories had to take account of and explain the earlier observation.

It is the same with the “theory” of evolution. It is an observed fact that species evolve by a process of selection and differentiation. There is an absolute consensus among those working in the field that this is the case. While our understanding of the processes involved will deepen over time and we will undoubtedly prove to have been mistaken in some respects, this fact will not change.

That Rubinstein is curious about evolution and seeks answers to some of the counter-intuitive aspects of evolutionary theory is admirable. But his article displays a complete lack of even the most cursory research into the subject and his words parrot the false arguments of reactionary political and religious groups who seek nothing less than to discredit the intellectual heritage of our species. I think, under the circumstances, that a vehement and angry denial is in order. And really the most that anyone has said in these responses is “sit down and shut up”.

Posted by: Andy O'Callaghan at June 8, 2005 08:49 AM
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As a history professor shouldn't one be more sensitive to the fierce competition human beings have struggled through to advance themselves to this comfortable time in space.Personaly i wouldn't want to start evolution over again just because prof. Rubinstein is wrong about creationism and inadvertently reinforces the fear and intimidation used on catholic leaning homo sapiens and brings about that end game armageddon thing. that has to be the abortion of the worst mentality

Posted by: brad harris at June 9, 2005 05:45 AM
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(irony alert)

QUOTE: "I do not believe that the Bible is literally true. I do not believe that the world was created in six days in 4004 BC, or that all of life perished apart from the handful of humans and pairs of animals rescued by Noah on his Ark"

Prof Rubenstein,
How stupid are you? You're probably slightly below retard level and your mom was certainly unattractive. I don't have the time to go into detail about how ignorant this comment was, but I really think you should go to "http://thebible.org", which will explain in detail why your views on biblical fallablility are completely without merit.

Okay, all irony aside, I'm an athiest with a M.S. in electrical engineering, so I'm in complete agreement that the Professors opinions about evolution in this piece are ill-informed. But Jesus Christ people (no pun intended); you're proving his point that the scientific community is nothing more than a religion, seeking to silence those dare offer a dissenting opinion and resorting to name calling when it's too "inconvienient" to offer something like, say, oh I don't know, an actual logical retort using facts? Hell, substitute the word "Christianity" for "evolution" and the word for "faith" for "theory", and you pretty much have yourself an "intelligent design" message board.

I have spent a lot of energy in the past trying to argue that science and religion are not the same animal. I hope the next time I do, the person I am debating has not seen this message board.

Posted by: jerry falwell at June 9, 2005 06:03 AM
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No-one else seems to have linked to this yet so I will. 15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense an article in the July '02 edition of Scientific American.

It seems to answer all the common creationist questions including those from Prof. Rubinstein.

As for a working example of evolution, does this count. The story of the mule that gave birth to a foal. Is that evolution at work or is it to be dismissed as an act of God? I'd like to know an educated biologist's viewpoint on that, does that count as evolution?

Posted by: Stephen Paulger at June 10, 2005 01:43 AM
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Great blog post it obviously has put the fear in a lot of individuals whose faith is so deeply rooted in the belief of evolution. It will hopefully get people out of their dogmatic way of clinging to evolutionary way of thinking. It’s about time we stop letting this way of thinking hold mankind back. Questioning the thinking of evolution is the start down the right path Prof. Think of the many other people through out history who knew that everything was not brought about by pure chance and random chaos with no propose but survival of the fittest. Newton, Pasteur, Linnaeus, Faraday, Pascal, Lord Kelvin, Maxwell, Kepler just to name a few.

For all the venomous speaking of atheist believers in evolution who try and fail in claiming real scientists don’t believe in the bible or saying no real scientist doubts evolution. I never hear them tell people they should never get vaccinations or immunization because after all Louis Pasteur believed in the creator and did not accept darwin's faith in evolution. What about getting an MRI I doubt you will hear any say don’t do it do you know who pioneered that technology! Raymond V. Damadian, M.D and he reject’s evolution and can see the hand of the creator in science so you know the MRI is dangerous! Stay away from it! Don’t fly in planes because the Wright brothers were Christians. You can’t sail around the world because Christopher Columbus was a Christian. Burn all of Newton’s writings because not only did he write more on scripture then science he also gave credit where it was do to the creator in his scientific writings. He obviously was a mad man not one of the greatest thinkers and scientists in history.

Don’t feel the pressure to stop asking hard questions Prof. it puts you on the path to finding out the answers. Some of the greatest minds in history not only questioned evolution but after doing so completely rejected it!

Ota Benga

A couple of links to help answer any questions with facts.

http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs2002/1022re2ch3.asp

http://www.icr.org/pubs/imp/imp-103.htm

Posted by: Ota Benga at June 13, 2005 02:00 AM
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Wow! What brought out all the evolution fanatics? What brought out the darwin attack dogs? Was it not the honest doubts and misgivings of an Atheist? Did he not know that all opponents must be silenced with intimidation and belittlement, and the rest must keep their opinions to themselves, lest people will think there are problems with the theory of evolution and thus cause its toppling like the image of Saddim. Be careful what you say--the evolution fanatics will get you!

Another thing: for the posters that don't know. There is a difference between speciation and metamorphosis--what evolution is supposed to be all about.

Posted by: Moses Tribbey at June 13, 2005 03:59 AM
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Hey Professor Rubinstein

Seems like you are not the only historian growing in doubt about the evolutionary hypothesis. Check out what Professor Paul Johnson have to say about the "Darwinian Fundamentalists", to be published in the Forbes Magazine:

http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.php?command=view&id=2638&program=CSC%20-%20Views%20and%20News

Actually, seems like they have taken a full-front assault against your blog. But no need to worry, as a recently graduated historian myself, I agree with Mr. Paul Johnson: "Yet the Darwinian brand of evolution is becoming increasingly vulnerable as the progress of science reveals its weaknesses. One day, perhaps soon, it will collapse in ruins."

Too bad for the fundies. Let us sit side by side with Thomas Kuhn and watch a Revolution change the Scientific Structure´s Paradigm.

Posted by: Marcos at June 13, 2005 01:01 PM
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Hey Professor Rubinstein

Seems like you are not the only historian growing in doubt about the evolutionary hypothesis. Check out what Professor Paul Johnson have to say about the "Darwinian Fundamentalists", to be published in the Forbes Magazine:

http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.php?command=view&id=2638&program=CSC%20-%20Views%20and%20News

Actually, seems like they have taken a full-front assault against your blog. But no need to worry, as a recently graduated historian myself, I agree with Mr. Paul Johnson: "Yet the Darwinian brand of evolution is becoming increasingly vulnerable as the progress of science reveals its weaknesses. One day, perhaps soon, it will collapse in ruins."

Too bad for the fundies. Let us sit side by side with Thomas Kuhn and watch a Revolution change the Scientific Structure´s Paradigm.

Posted by: Marcos at June 13, 2005 01:06 PM
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Excellent Article. At last -- a good dose of common sense, which seems to be in short supply these days.

It takes more blind faith to believe in the theory of evolution than to believe that God exists and He created the world.

Check out answersingenesis.org (I'm not in any way associated with the web site or organization).

Posted by: Brad Mc at June 13, 2005 04:13 PM
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It seems that there is a slight ignorance on the part of most posters on the number of professional, well educated, modern scientists speaking within their field of expertise who hold strong objections to the theory of evolution. It is not challenged solely by people, who, like myself, have only a very basic knowledge on the topic.

Posted by: Anonymous at June 13, 2005 05:46 PM
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I supported Rubinstein's conclusions at Stranger Fruit only to find my post subsequently deleted. So much for Stranger Fruit. Both Robert Broom and Julian Huxley agreed that a new genus has not appeared in 2 million years. This is the same Julian Huxley that wrote "Evolution: The Modern Synthesis." He actually got this idea from Broom as I documented in my Manifesto. Seven pages from the end of his book, Huxley destroyed the Darwinian myth with a single devastating and lengthy paragraph which ended as follows:

"For the arthropods, represented by their highest group, the insects, the full stop seems to have come in the early Cenozoic: even the ants and bees have made no advance since the Oligocene. For the birds, the Miocene marked the end; for the mammals, the Pliocene."

There is not a single documented example of a new species arising in historical times. Instead we see rampant extinction without a single replacement.

I have repeatedly offered the challenge to present any two extant species for which one can be demonstrated to be the ancestor to the other. I have received no response, something I have learned to expect.

There is every reson to believe that phylogeny, like ontogeny was front-loaded, self-regulated and self-terminating. Having rejected both the Lamarckian and neoDarwinian models, I have proposed what I regard as the only remaining conceivable evolutionary hypothesis in the form of "A Prescribed Evolutionary Hypothesis" which is in the latest issue of Rivista di Biologia along with the much heralded paper by Jonathan Wells.

What we observe are the products of a past evolution not "evolution in action" as the Darwinians so blindly continue to maintain.

It is time to abandon the most failed hypothesis in the history of science. With the able assistance of some of the finest evolutionary minds of two centuries, I have offered an alternative which, as nearly as I can determine, can acommodate everything we really know about the great mystery of organic evolution.

Commenting on ontogeny and phylogeny, one of my sources:

"Neither in the one nor in the other is there room for chance."
Leo S. Berg, Nomogenesis page 134

and

"Evolution is in a great measure an unfolding of pre-existing rudiments."
ibid page 406

I supported Rubinstein's appraisal at Stranger Fruit only to find it was deleted later. So much for Stranger Fruit. I agree entirely except the time constants are not accurate. Both Robert Broom and Julian Huxley (who got the idea from Broom as I documented in my manifesto) claimed that not a new genus had appeared in the last 2 million years. Furthermore there is not a documented case of a new species appearing in historical times. All we see is rampant extincton without a single replacement. It is inetersting that Julian Huxley, the author of "Evolution: The Modern Synthesis," destroyed the Darwinian myth in a single paragraph seven pages from the end of that book.

Posted by: John A. Davison at June 15, 2005 01:12 AM
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Rubinstein is right on folks. Evolution is finished, with not a new genus in two million years and no new species in historical times.

Posted by: John A. Davison at June 15, 2005 06:57 AM
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In the wild realm of life it would seem that the first of a transitional species are seen as a threat to the latest who continue to naturally select the new qualities that appear desirable to them, hence quickly refining the original mutations into a new species by way of natural selection.This process would not be possible without the role testosterone plays in giving the most powerful males the ability and desire to steer thier genes along there own narrow course thus keeping the competition to a minimum.

Posted by: brad harris at June 16, 2005 12:03 AM
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Pardon me, but Professor Rubenstein freely expressed his ignorance of current evolutionary thought, brought up what he has heard, and left himself wide open to (1) being taught gently and having his elementary questions answered by honest scientists, or (2) being derided, scorned, belittled, and written off by people who call themselves scientists but who are certainly not tolerant of others' lack of knowledge. Interesting, isn't it, that the most vicious attacks contained the least enlightenment, and the kindest were written by those sympathetic to Biblical concepts, even though the Professor made it obvious and clear that he does not consider himself a creationist! Frankly, I don't consider him a creationist either, judging by his rejection of the fundamentalist stances toward the Genesis accounts of Creation by a Supreme Eternal God and the chronology that follows showing a young earth. However, in questioning both evolution and creationism, he virtually said, "Show me the truth and show it to me scientifically." I applaud his honesty and his desire for reasonableness. He is far from being the first to question the assumptions behind these two life origins accounts. And it is the assumptions that are at the bottom of the controversy: Is there a Creator God and is the Bible true? Evolutionists assume that natural forces working undirected by any intelligence could produce the vast array of living things, that the Bible account is mythological or allegorical, that no spiritual force actually created us in His image,and that because "almost all scientists" agree, that makes it truth. Creationists assume that the Bible record is historically sound, that we arrived by divine fiat and not by random (or selective) natural processes, and that life could not arise without supernatural power.

I have never met a creationist who objected to the rich evidence for variation within kinds of plants and animals. But a chihuahua, a poodle, a collie, and a Great Dane are still all the same species--canis familiaris--domesticated dogs--able to crossbreed--even though I daresay that any evolutionist coming upon their fossilized bones would declare them different species! Creationists also do not claim that every possible variety of plant and animal life came from the Creator in exactly the form they exhibit today. Without doubt, a few thousand basic kinds could easily have produced, through natural genetic means, the array we see today.

To give evolutionists due credit, I believe most of them are honest, truth-seeking people who have been taught that it is science only if one assumes that there is no Creator God, and that it is not scientific to assume that there is a supernatural Power. I believe this is a fundamental thinking error. Only when ALL possibilities are fully explored will the pieces finally fit together.

Let's all at least dialog respectfully, please. And thanks, Professor Rubenstein, for getting this thread going.

Posted by: Yen Pomeroy at June 17, 2005 06:28 PM
•••

Pardon me, but Professor Rubenstein freely expressed his ignorance of current evolutionary thought, brought up what he has heard, and left himself wide open to (1) being taught gently and having his elementary questions answered by honest scientists, or (2) being derided, scorned, belittled, and written off by people who call themselves scientists but who are certainly not tolerant of others' lack of knowledge. Interesting, isn't it, that the most vicious attacks contained the least enlightenment, and the kindest were written by those sympathetic to Biblical concepts, even though the Professor made it obvious and clear that he does not consider himself a creationist! Frankly, I don't consider him a creationist either, judging by his rejection of the fundamentalist stances toward the Genesis accounts of Creation by a Supreme Eternal God and the chronology that follows showing a young earth. However, in questioning both evolution and creationism, he virtually said, "Show me the truth and show it to me scientifically." I applaud his honesty and his desire for reasonableness. He is far from being the first to question the assumptions behind these two life origins accounts. And it is the assumptions that are at the bottom of the controversy: Is there a Creator God and is the Bible true? Evolutionists assume that natural forces working undirected by any intelligence could produce the vast array of living things, that the Bible account is mythological or allegorical, that no spiritual force actually created us in His image,and that because "almost all scientists" agree, that makes it truth. Creationists assume that the Bible record is historically sound, that we arrived by divine fiat and not by random (or selective) natural processes, and that life could not arise without supernatural power.

I have never met a creationist who objected to the rich evidence for variation within kinds of plants and animals. But a chihuahua, a poodle, a collie, and a Great Dane are still all the same species--canis familiaris--domesticated dogs--able to crossbreed--even though I daresay that any evolutionist coming upon their fossilized bones would declare them different species! Creationists also do not claim that every possible variety of plant and animal life came from the Creator in exactly the form they exhibit today. Without doubt, a few thousand basic kinds could easily have produced, through natural genetic means, the array we see today.

To give evolutionists due credit, I believe most of them are honest, truth-seeking people who have been taught that it is science only if one assumes that there is no Creator God, and that it is not scientific to assume that there is a supernatural Power. I believe this is a fundamental thinking error. Only when ALL possibilities are fully explored will the pieces finally fit together.

Let's all at least dialog respectfully, please. And thanks, Professor Rubenstein, for getting this thread going.

Posted by: Yen Pomeroy at June 17, 2005 07:57 PM
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As some probably know, I posted a support for Rubinstein's essay at Stranger Fruit. It was deleted. Since then all of my several posts have been deleted there. So much for Stranger Fruit.

Posted by: John A. Davison at June 18, 2005 12:09 PM
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Evolution is NOT a theory. It is an undeniable phenomenon of the past. There is no evidence it is now proceeding beyond the formation of varieties and subspecies. Like ontogeny it has proven to be self-limiting and self-terminating. I have presented my case for this scenario in the paper "A Prescribed Evoluitionary Hypothesis" in the current issue of Rivista di Biologia and would be happy to defend it here or elsewhere. I ask only that my posts not be deleted as they have been at certain other forums.

Posted by: John A. Davison at June 18, 2005 12:20 PM
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The notion of a few thousand original forms is an interesting one and not a new idea. Leo Berg, for whom I have enormous respect, offered the following comment in the conclusion section of his book -"Nomogenesis or Evolution Determined by Law."

"Organisms have developed from tens of thousands of primary forms, i.e. polyphyletically. page 406

Are any of us prepared to show he was wrong?

Posted by: John A. Davison at June 18, 2005 03:23 PM
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I find this silence most revealing.

Posted by: John A. Davison at June 20, 2005 01:50 AM
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John - I think the silence is more because this thread has run its course - your last post comes more than a month after the thread opened. (I happened to come back because I'm waiting for another process to finish and found this bookmark I made some time ago).

I'm no expert, but what's your take on the commonality of DNA in all living creatures (suggesting a single common ancestor, not thousands)?

I'd like to pick up on a couple of points made by Yen Pottery as well. With respect, your interpretation of Prof. Rubenstein's posting is, well - generous. I'll accept the premise that he was merely professing his ignorance (for the sake of the argument!). What really worries me is that plenty of people left polite, helpful notes and links on good scientific work that answered the questions he raised and the Prof showed no interest in any of this evidence or in any of the responses to his challenge to show evidence of evolution. That's not the approach of someone look

Looking at the postings, it doesn't seem to be the case that all of the kindest correspondants were those sympathetic to Bibilical concepts. I do think it's unfortunate that the immediate response of so many people is so aggresive, because it can turn people against something that is by far the majority scientific view of evolution, against which no-one has manged to find any real solid evidence. Scientifically speaking of course, the manner in which the evidence is put has no bearing on its validity - and the evidence is overwhelmingly in favour of evolution - but in PR terms it would be better to have a more neutral response, I suspect.

Picking up your point about dogs - not all species of dog can interbreed. Without being too explicit, a Great Dane and a Chihuahua would find it impossible in practice, although genetically compatible. This could lead to speciation, and in a few million years time we might not call the results 'dogs' at all.

Posted by: Matt at July 22, 2005 08:02 AM
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Um, we already have observed examples of speciation.

Link 1 and Link 2

Posted by: Dracil at July 29, 2005 02:09 AM
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I find it amazing how the, "evolution is dogma", people constantly talk about all the vast numbers of scientists who supposedly question it, but can never provide a) names, b) cites or c) any evidence that they are not like Rubinstein and in some field which has little or no actual connection to biology. Since when does arguing against false information, invalid arguments and incorrect statements make something 'dogmatic'? If my barber insists he inmprove my gas mileage for my car by dropping toothpaste and bubblegum in the gas tank, is it 'dogma' to point out that these things are provably more likely to destroy the engine than improve its performance? Is it dogma for medical doctors to question the validity of someone that makes claims that chicken entralls and pscychic surgery are 'valid' medical practices, even if the doctors provide evidence that they are fake? No, the array of complaints and similarity of comments on here have nothing to do with dogma. They are not more dogmatic than if 50 people posted, "No, you really do not need to learn how to fly planes to do so successfully", in reply to someone claiming that, "its so easy anyone could jump in the latest 747 or jet fighter and fly it!"

Yes, the people posting have not equitted themselves all that well, but they are reacting no worse than most of you, "its all dogma", people would if someone showed up outside your church every single day screaming, "Jesus was a pediphile, and it doesn't matter that there is no evidence, and all of 'mine' has been disproven, debunked or logically inconsistent with reality, I know the truth! You're just quoting dogma!" And no, I am not comparing evolution to religion, just pointing out 'why' the people here have reacted the way they have. In the last year, I practically can't read a news paper without at least once a week seeing some variation of, "Darwinian Evolution is wrong, and we made up a bunch BS nonsense to try to prove it!" The fact that modern evolution has about as much to do with Darwin and modern cosmology has to do with Kepler's mechanical universe designs is **always** ignored in favor of a whole zoo of screaming idiots insisting that instead of 5-6 *different* competing theories, we are still all grunting over Darwins original version like cave men who just discovered fire.

Tell me. To quote Scott Adams, "When did ignorance become a point of view?" Or for that matter, why is it that God fearing Christians, when confronted with something that contradicts 'their' dogma, always start abandonning their own ten commandments, starting with the one that loosely says, "Don't just make shit up to try to discredit other people's views!"? I am amazed how it is that the people anti-evolutionists constantly claim are dogmatic provide massive amounts of evidence to support themselves, while the creationists 'always' resort to misquoting them, making up excuses, claiming things that are invalidated even by basic science or just flat out lying about the goals, intent and basic nature of those they complain about. This is an example of what we in the US are forced to deal with:

http://www.geocities.com/SouthBeach/Pier/1766/hovindlies/A.html

I am sure the anti-darwin crowd on here will just call the entire refutation dogma though... After all, they have no interest in checking 'any' other field of science to see how undogmatic evolution is or admitting there is *any* debate in it:

http://dannyreviews.com/h/The_Dynamics_of_Evolution.html

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/1418794.stm

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/05/050502144430.htm

http://66.102.7.104/search?q=cache:rOMU9h3ePu8J:www.cnr.colostate.edu/class_info/nr575/webfiles/johnson%26omland_2004.pdf

http://66.102.7.104/search?q=cache:sFlqB5JTg4MJ:garnet.acns.fsu.edu/~phensel/Research/jcr00.pdf
...

Its amazing how many times you find the words 'debate', 'model', 'different', etc. get used in a field that is so dogmatic, according to the anti-darwin people, it won't abandon something that it is claimed, but oddly no scientist still supports, as still the 'theory' its all based on.

Heck, this one is so dogmatic it has 'five' different theories they applied to one species:

http://66.102.7.104/search?q=cache:8Nw6E6OQ5pQJ:www.science.oregonstate.edu/lytlelab/DAL/PDFs/Lytle2001_Ecology.pdf

Why would they bother trying to come up with five different theories, if they ***always*** default to some imaginary original concept of Darwinian Evolution, that no one except the creationists even talk about?

Posted by: Kagehi at August 1, 2005 09:33 PM
•••

Dolphins evolved from sheep, apparently?

Whilst Dr Rubebstein gets a scientific hiding for his clandestine creationist opinion, one that George Bush alarmingly supported on record today, according to the FT, it is interesting to look at the bigger picture of religion V science.

The general sentiment of feedback on Dr R’s article is one of ‘science equates to cool, religion is for fools’. On the subject of evolution, I think it is worth pointing out that religion, or more appropriately faith, is an integral part of being human. The unfortunate bi-product of Rubenstein’s dogma, or any religious dogma for that reason, is that it marginalises faith as something out-dated and defunct.

I fully support the evolutionist view, but also feel that all life’s ills will not be solved in a laboratory and there is sometimes a paradoxical dogma in (some) scientific pursuits as the secret to the future of mankind that can eclips rational thought.

At a philosophical/theological level, it could be said that science and religion meet up at the ‘top’. There are also many parallels between them along the way. Religion and human endeavour inspired by religious doctrines has saved millions of people’s lives over the centuries. They have also been responsible for millions of violent deaths. Mankind’s scientific pursuits have saved millions of lives, but they have also extinguished lives by the million – Hiroshima anyone?

Okay, this is a very simplistic view, especially when compared to On The Origin of Species, but I thought it was worth making the point. Science Vs religion is like day Vs night, there is no obvious winner, they are both parts of a universal predicament and are in some ways interdependent.

As a passing thought, in our pursuit to avoid/evade extinction as a result of global warming, science is trying to engineer itself out of the problem – a problem brought about by the industrial revolution, some might say.

Will we beat the clock on this one? Does science hold all the answers?

Arguably, is it not the ever-decreasing respect and lack of compassion that human beings have for each other and their environment that is more to blame for the predicament we find ourselves in? Therefore, is it not faith, or the many core values held within religious beliefs that are fundamental in nurturing a change against that tide?

We can’t pray the problem away, but at the same time there is no panacea in the shape of scientific formula that will see us home and dry.

Logically, both religion and science are integral to the continued development of humanity, as they have been for centuries. Both should be examined, criticised and enhanced, but both should also be treated with equal and utmost respect. Rubenstein tips the scales clumsily in one direction, but let us not worship a scientific approach to humanity that can swing the balance too far in the other direction.

Posted by: Billy at August 4, 2005 03:45 PM
•••

Im curious about humans evolving from primates. I am no professor nor a phD holder, but i do have some doubts in evolution theory.

To my understanding, for Darwin theory to be correct, shouldnt half-primates still be alive today? The fact that we have chimpanzees frolicking in the jungle, shouldt we also see neanderthals or half-ape men? But we only see chimps and humans...is there a reason why those in the middle did not survive?

Or, on the other extreme hand, shouldnt all forms of primates be non existant altogether, since they all evolved to a higher form (humans)?

And, if the Darwin theory is correct, 10 million years from today, should we expect to see a re-emergence of ape-men, since Chimps are evolving daily?

What im asking is entirely sincere and not an attempt to ridicule the Darwin theory. I just find this phenomenon unexplained by the Darwin theory....perhaps i never read his full book...?

Posted by: Alan at August 6, 2005 06:17 AM
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I do not regard a common genetic code as in any way in conflict with a polyphyletic origin of life and its subsequent evolution. The triplet code for example is the simplest conceivable way to specify the twenty or so amino acids. Such a code was anticipated by George Gamov long before it was verifed inthe laboratory.

It is my conviction that there is absolutely nothing in the Darwinian model that ever had anything to do with creative evolution. Natural selection, in contrast with artificial selection, is entirely conservative and probably always was.

I have abandoned both Darwinian and Lamarckian models in favor of what seems to me to be the only remaining possibility. There is absolutely nothing in the Prescribed Evolutionary Hypothesis that is in conflict with what we really know about creative evolution, a phenomenon of the past. It has been erected on a basis provided by some of the greatest minds of the past, not one of whom ever accepted the Darwinian myth and a myth it most certainly is. Those scientists, Leo Berg, Otto Schindewolf, William Bateson, Robert Broom, Pierre Grasse, Reginald C. Punnett, Henry Fairfield Osborn, Richard B. Goldschmidt and all others, including myself, who have exposed the Darwinian hoax have simply been ignored. We are not allowed to exist in a world dominated by an ideology that rejects any possibility that the world might have been designed.

Don't take my word for it. Examine the Bibliographies of Gould's magnus opus "The Structure of Evolutionary Theory" or Mayr's "The Growth of Biological Thought" and see who is not mentioned or, if they are, dismissed with what Grasse described as "Olympian authority."

"No sadder proof can be given by a man of his own littleness than disbelief in great men."
Thpmas Carlyle

"Everything is determined... by forces over which we have no control."
Albert Einstein

Posted by: John A. Davison at August 18, 2005 12:26 PM
•••

Dogs are wolves or if you prefer wolves are dogs and they always were and they always will be. Macroevolution (the formation of true species and the higher categories) is a phenomenon of the past. Darwinism and the entire mutation/selection model never had anything to do with creative evolution. Phylogeny, like ontogeny does today, resulted from the expression of internal factors in which the only role for the environment was to act as a releaser for latent endogenous potentials.

Posted by: John A. Davison at August 19, 2005 02:41 AM
•••

I have presented some challenges at Terry Trainor's forum Creation? Evoluition - or Both?? forum. If anyone is interested in repsonding to them, please join the discussion. The thread is "A few evolutionary challenges." All are invited. I am tired of being ignored, deleted, disemvoweled and denigrated. Let the mountain come to Mohammed. He is waiting patiently for an opportunity to expose the Darwinian myth for what it has always been, a figment of the human imagination.

Posted by: John A. Davison at August 24, 2005 02:02 AM
•••

Those challenges I presented have not yet met with any response. I also invited participation at Corante where they also elicited no reaction and I just learned that I can no longer post there. It is all so repetitive, consistent and above all revealing of the total bankruptcy of the Darwinian model. Thank God for Trainor, who still heads up a forum where dissent is still allowed. It is remarkable when one realizes that Trainor, a devout Christian and a Young Earth Creationist, should be the one to allow free expression from one who is neither. It must have something to do with the Golden Rule. I cannot imagine any other explanation.

Posted by: John A. Davison at August 28, 2005 12:10 PM
•••

Ss for the entire Darwinian paradigm, let me quote Bertrand Russell:

"It is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatsoever for believing it to be true."

Soon, Darwinism will join the Phlogiston of Chemistry and the Ether of Physics as just one more testimony to the unlimited powers of the human imagination.

Posted by: John A. Davison at September 1, 2005 12:37 PM
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John,

If you want answers to your "challenges" post them to the talk.origins newsgroup.

http://groups.google.com/group/talk.origins?hl=en

Posted by: Greg at September 13, 2005 05:26 AM
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Greg

Thank you but my challenges are already well known and remain unanswered. I am also tired of abuse and so now largely confine my heresies to Terry Trainor's remarkably tolerant forum "Creation? Evolution? or Both?"

Incidentally I am the one responsible for adding "or Both?"

Thanks.

Posted by: John A. Davison at September 21, 2005 11:30 AM
•••

I have finally been banned even from the above forum. Lord but I am proud.

Posted by: John A. Davison at October 2, 2005 12:04 AM
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"Rubinstein is right on folks. Evolution is finished, with not a new genus in two million years and no new species in historical times."

John Davidson's a real star, isn't he? The best example I've been given about visible evolution is one which we all know about. Lions and tigers. They both used to live in Europe.
Lions can interbreed with tigers, and in captivity they sometimes do, but they don't in the wild. So they're close. But it'd be a rare creationist that said they weren't different. Should any survive in the wild, we'll find them getting more and more different from each other. It's an example of how evolution works, using examples we all know. Right here, right now.

Posted by: dave heasman at October 6, 2005 10:54 AM
•••

Hey, I've got a blog, and I'm certainly not a historian. Perhaps you'd like to hear my 18-page dissertation on how Abraham Lincoln used his orbital death ray to liberate the Jews from their oppressive Mongolian cyber-masters?

Posted by: Ryan Allen at October 6, 2005 04:09 PM
•••

Dave Heasman, whoever that is:

It is my understanding that the offspring of a lion/tiger mating are sterile, thus conforming to Dobzhansky's definition of separate species. Remember the mule?

Incidentally it is John A. Davison,not John Davidson. He is a singer and actor. I'm a hard headed bench scientist who recognized Darwinism as a fairy tale 50 years ago and I have published several papers proving that beyond any reasonable doubt. I've got another one in preparation. Where may I find your published work?

I find it hard to believe that any objective person can still accept any aspect of the biggest hoax in the history of science.

Posted by: John A. Davison at October 6, 2005 09:38 PM
•••

Is this satire????

Posted by: zeno at October 12, 2005 12:07 PM
•••

Like many other correspondents on this page, I find it hard to believe that Rubinstein has ever read anything at all, still less the vast quantity of argument which may have prevented his posing such stupid questions on a subject he is patently unqualified to discuss. Not content with his ignorant ramblings on this topic, I see he has now turned his ill-informed attention to the matter of the 'true' author of Shakespeare's works. A cursory glance at his 'evidence' (in which, surprisingly, he professes to be unable to detect the merest 'flaw'), is enough to convince me that he should confine his modest talents to 'modern history'.

Posted by: michael j moohan at October 16, 2005 01:43 PM
•••

Avast ye maties! Arg! You landlubbers need to get a life. Geehar!
-Captain Graypatch

Posted by: Chris Claze at October 18, 2005 02:08 AM
•••

Sorry, but your post rather shows you inability to see things, rather than the absense of things... Most of your statements are either impressively weak, or plain false.

Posted by: El at October 18, 2005 10:04 PM
•••

It pains me to read the hundreds of comments refuting Rubinstein's comments. I am what you all would classify rhetorically, and derogatorily, a "creationist." How many of you does it take to say he is an ignorant man and he is not well-read? You claim he will change his views if he educated hisself by taking a trip to the library; if "your kind" are the ones writing all the books, it will be a little hard to form an educated opinion wouldn't it?
I am perplexed in my beliefs though, I believe God created the heaven and earth and all things in it, but yet I am drawn to the fact that evolution must be true...how else can you explain the development of such an ignorant and arrogant class of humans from one Charles Darwin?

Posted by: La Espada de Dios at October 26, 2005 04:32 PM
•••

La Espada de Dios

The answer is that we are all "Born That Way"which also happens to be the title of William Wright's extremely important book summarizing the evidence that justifies its title.

"Everything is determined... by forces over which we have no control."
Albert Einstein

Also a determinist, I have incorporated determinism in the Prescribed Evolutionary Hypothesis. In any event chance had absolutely nothing to do with organic evolution. Of that, with Leo Berg, I am certain.

Posted by: John A. Davison at October 28, 2005 04:25 PM
•••

Surely if a mutant being interbred with its own then a hybrid mutation could emerge from time to time thus a sudden brand new species, eg.. man, is created in an instance.
Although the Mule, which is always sterile, creates a possible biological safeguard to this theory.
Mind you interbreeding between species is rare and a mutant interbreeding to create a hybrid probally not on the same plain as a horse and a donkey.
Mmmmmm good theory, sudden emergence of new species and original species left intact leaving fossill records proven.
This is the breakthrough????????????????

Posted by: james cameron at October 31, 2005 07:42 PM
•••

I now have my own blog.

prescribedevolution.blogspot.com/

Feel free to participate.

Posted by: John A. Davison at November 5, 2005 10:41 AM
•••

For the professor, rather than textbooks, I suggest something a little easier to grasp: Darwin for Beginners (brief book review). A copy of Darwin for Beginners can be ordered from Amazon.co.uk

Posted by: Monado at March 31, 2006 05:29 PM
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Amazing!!!!!!!what a sickening outpouring of bile and bilge this article produced......how dare this man question what WE have been taught and ...believed.What happened to respect for other peoples opinions?No argument is ever won by mocking sarcasm.

Posted by: marshall lock at April 6, 2006 08:41 PM
•••

it never ceases to amaze me how many people completely ignore his opinion and claim its too complex to answer those questions. Credit to those who successfully downplayed the Professors argument with real points, but scrawling through comment upon comment of people rubbishing his argument when they apparently have no reason to because they have even less knowledge of evolution than the professor.

I personally dont know much about the detail of the theory of evolution but I found this article interesting purely as a conversational piece which prompted some real genuine arguments against the points made. It shocks me that so many see Creationist and Evolutionist view as a complete antithesis of each other. The Bible does in no way contradict Darwinist thought, some Christians just twist it to because they are scared of any challenge to Christian thought, I'm sure there are examples of it in other religions too(most of whom directly contradict many theories with their views, much more than Christians might I add). I know there are some good(and many rubbish) Christian commentries on Evolution as I have a friend who was very interested in such things. I just wish I could understand his arguments enough to repeat them here!!

Posted by: Joseph Pearson at February 8, 2007 12:39 PM
•••

For one thing, it gives new evidence for a contentious feud about whether this species, which walked upright, also climbed and moved through trees easily.
The species is Australopithecus afarensis, which lived in Africa between about 4 million and 3 million years ago. The most famous afarensis is Lucy, discovered in Ethiopia in 1974, a creature that lived about 100,000 years after the newfound specimen.
The skeleton was discovered in 2000 in northeastern Ethiopia. Scientists have spent five painstaking years removing the bones from sandstone, and the job will take years more to complete.
Judging by how well it was preserved, the skeleton may have come from a body that was quickly buried by sediment in a flood, the researchers said.
The skeleton has been nicknamed "Selam," which means "peace" in several Ethiopian languages.
Most scientists believe afarensis stood upright and walked on two feet, but they argue about whether it had ape-like agility in trees.
That climbing ability would require anatomical equipment like long arms, and afarensis had arms that dangled down to just above the knees. The question is whether such features indicate climbing ability or just evolutionary baggage. The loss of that ability would suggest crossing a threshold toward a more human existence.
Spoor said so far, analysis of the new fossil hasn't settled the argument but does seem to indicate some climbing ability.
While the lower body is very human-like, he said, the upper body is ape-like:
* The shoulder blades resemble those of a gorilla rather than a modern human.
* The neck seems short and thick like a great ape's, rather than the more slender version humans have to keep the head stable while running.
* The organ of balance in the inner ear is more ape-like than human.
* The fingers are very curved, which could indicate climbing ability, "but I'm cautious about that," Spoor said. Curved fingers have been noted for afarensis before, but their significance is in dispute.

-discovery

Posted by: timothy at April 21, 2007 09:28 AM
•••

There are several fundamental flaws with modern Darwinian theory that this author didn't cover. For example, the historical record of the human species clearly indicates that human beings have more than a singular base drive of reproduction; the historical record clearly indicates, just as the Bible claims, that human beings have two base fundamental drives; 1) reproduction and 2) irrational lust for wealth. As several historicans have pointed out, modern Darwinian theorists apparently haven't studied human history very carefully.

The larger problem with Darwinian theory, is the grand assumption that the universe is a product of unguided, natural processes. There is no evidence that this is true, thus the theory is based on a postulate with zero facts in evidence. Thus, it is not only not a valid theroy, it is not even a plausible fairytale.

There is zero evidence that anything has ever resulted as a "creation" of unguided processes and there is overwhelming evidence that everything that exists, is a result of deliberate design. Human beings can create machines that essentially fix themselves and likewise, the Creator can quite logically, create a universal "machine" that adapts and changes pretty much on its own. However, there is no evidence or human experience that indicates that anything has ever appeared on it's own from the top down. Thus, to conclude such or even to propose such an absurd notion, is an example of the worst kind of supersitious mythology, not worthy of the Chinese universe on the back of a turtle theory of creation.

And finally, modern findings in the past several decades have very much discredited Darwinian singular-origination theory, as it is now considered entirely unknown how life first appeared on our planet and it may well, never be understood. Modern theories range from life or what makes up life being carried in on asteroids and comets, on down to zillions of life forms appearing all over the original primal earth on down to life first appearing in sea water, fresh water, caves, mud and even, under the earth. There could very well be 100, 10,000 or a zillion primary sources from which life adapted and changed over time, rather than the singular-origin Darwinian model long insisted on without any conclusive evidence.

The bottom-line truth is, we don't have any idea how life formed on this planet and as a recent PBS special called "Origins" concluded, how life appeared remains "one of the great mysteries of modern science".

Anybody who claims otherwise is quite plainly, an obvious liar, based on the current known evidence.


Thank You, Sincerely
Richard Aberdeen 615-889-1669
richard@freedomtracks.com
www.FreedomTracks.com

Posted by: Richard Aberdeen at September 28, 2007 07:58 PM
•••

This thread certainly has stretched out a bit over time.

Mr. Aberdeen,

Lust for wealth has no impact on evolution theory. Are you saying it's instinct? Fine. Propose a way humans get selected for it, and if it makes sense, you have a live hypothesis. If you're really serious, see if there is a gene that codes for such greed -- then we can do serious work to see when humans acquired it.

But in either case, lust for wealth says nothing against Darwin's theory.

Darwin's theory makes no statement about the universe. One key problem that defines ill-informed creationism is the assumption that Darwin, who worked in biology and geology, made some grand assumption about the universe. He made no such assumption.

Another key problem that defines ill-informed creationism is the idea that evolution is "random" or otherwise undirected. How can anything happen if there is no direction? creationists whine.

Creationists fail to understand that the genius of Darwin's insight into nature is that Darwin discovered nature has methods for creating things to match their tasks -- natural and sexual selection. "Selection," your dictionary will tell you if you know how to use it, is rather the opposite of "random" or "accidental" or even "undirected." The big gripe of creationists is that nature is smart enough to use a simple algorithm like natural selection to create the appearance of superordinate reasoning on somebody's part. That's just not so. Creationists hate to admit to a God that smart, though, because such a God probably won't share their prejudices.

Until such time as creationist make a serious attempt to understand why and how science puts so much stock in Darwin's ideas, we'll have to be content with the Himalayan Mountain Range of evidence -- facts -- that point to evolution, that evolution explains, and which falsify creationist claims and which creationism cannot in any way explain except with a quirky, eccentrically nasty, and brutal god.

I'll take evolution any day. It's the Christian thing to do.

Every step of evolution detailed by Darwin has been observed in the wild, in real time. Speciation by the methods Darwin described has been observed hundreds of times. Creationists love to claim it ain't so, but it is. Creationists will go so far as to deny the well understood and common fruits of evolution, such as broccoli, radishes, Canola, beef and chickens. It would be comical were it not so tragic. The processes you claim cannot occur have been observed to occur repeatedly, and our modern diets depend on the fruits of that evolution observed. So much for "no evidence" claims. They are only made possible by intentional blindness -- thank you, but I prefer not to poke my own eyes, and I advise creationists to stop it.

Anyone who claims that evolutionists are liars when they explain what evolution science teaches us about origins of life is, simply, bizarrely denying reality. Darwin never posed a "single origin" hypothesis, nor has anyone else in science made serious arguments to that effect to the point you seem to think that it's dogma to someone. It's not dogma to anyone.

We may never know how life originally arose; but Darwin's theory does not depend on how life arose at all (Darwin said it was "breathed into" forms on the Earth, rather as Genesis 2 describes it, but you appear not to put any stock in that, either). However, you also appear to completely ignore the very rich field of astrobiology. James Ferris, Andy Ellington and their thousands of comrades at NASA and universities across the planet have research that gets us right to the moment that life got started, with very few gaps.

Some scientists say we'll know how some life arose, perhaps in the next decade.

In the meantime, you might do well to wander over to Astrobiology magazine at NASA's site -- it's all online (http://www.astrobio.net/news/) -- and learn what humans really know, in a field that you don't appear to know even exists.

Anyone who claims the evidence doesn't exist, is probably just ignorant of the facts. It takes guile to lie about such stuff, and people who don't know it exists may lack the evil intent. At least, that's what we hope.

Posted by: Ed Darrell at September 28, 2007 11:23 PM
•••

In fact, scientists have made such a big deal out of Darwin's theories when really they possess no further truth on the creation of life than any other source. That education would consider Darwin's theory of evolution as near enough fact is crazy, there are obvious patterns that work as a theory, sure, but there are serious inaccuracies.

Darwin's contribution to science is greatly overexaggerated and his main contributions go ignored much of the time. His sociological writings which completely changed the direction of sociological thought by disproving Lombroso has to be a much more important achievement than a theory which no scientist has been truely able to bring together in a logical explanation of life and creation. Its a fragmented assortment of truths and ignorant ramblings.

Posted by: Joseph T Pearson at September 29, 2007 01:04 PM
•••

Darwin's collecting for the British Museum remains the largest set of contributions to more collections by one human, to any collection, ever. As a scientist, Darwin is grossly underesetimated by those who wish his contribution was smaller. I love to see creationists get deeply into the debate -- almost inevitably they trot out the old canards against evolution including insectivorous plants, worm mould, the evils of the war against aboriginals in Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand, and problems with the geology of atolls, without appreciating the irony that the key research in each of those fields was done or made public by Darwin, originally. They cite Darwin in their quest to denigrate Darwin, not knowing what they do.

Evolution theory, as Darwin described it, is regarded as fact by scientists because it has so often proved to be so, and it is the foundation for modern medicine and agriculture.

Come to my site, and read "Why Study Evolution?" I don't even scratch the surface there.

Posted by: Ed Darrell at September 29, 2007 03:38 PM
•••

As a history major I would like to say that this simpleton does not represent historians in any sense. I am very happy that none of my professors are like this man, mine happen to research somthing before writing an essay of somthing as important as EVOLUTION. sir, I pity your students.

Posted by: Chris Arsenault at October 23, 2007 06:52 PM
•••

Wow. The rumors are true. The Theory of Evolution is becoming a religion. How amusing.

Posted by: Mike at December 5, 2007 12:00 PM
•••

If one breeds cats for a thousand generations, they will still be cats, won't they?

Errrr... 1000 generations of cats takes you back not much further than, oooh, the Norman Conquest. (A female cat can breed at a year or so and can easily have one litter per year, if not two.) Hardly a geological or evolutionary time span.

1000000 generations and you might well have a lot of things that don't look like cats.

Posted by: Rick at January 1, 2008 06:16 PM
•••

Me thinks the evolutionists dost protest too much. Wow, if their point is that obvious why repeat it endlessly with such vitriol ?

Posted by: Andreas at January 31, 2008 10:18 PM
•••

Professor Rubenstein has left out the influences of environment on speciation, the extreme amounts of time the evolutionary theory posits necessary for change to occur in species, and the small, incrimental steps the theory suggests lead to evolutionary change. (Cats to Kangaroos, please!) I find it very hard to believe, and indeed somewhat sad that this article was written by a university professor. Would you, professor, allow a paper from a student displaying this level of research?

Posted by: Gary Besser at February 21, 2008 12:01 AM
•••

Comprehension Of Evolution

http://www.physforum.com/index.php?showtopic=14988&st=180&#entry327257

This is not another attempt to DEFINE evolution.

This is an attempt to COMPREHEND evolution. An attempt to comprehend evolution with, again, my favorite scientific approach, with common sense.

Common sense leads me to start my this attempt with the presently conjectured start-state of the evolution of all evolutions, with singularity, and to then ask what is next. Should we now seek Evolution's Potential? Do we next need a conjectured end-state?

Is evolution a process that arrives at an end-state? How will cosmic expansion end?

We cannot even conjecture...

Will it end with a stable steady state, a balance between the ever self-diluting force that accelerates the motion of galaxies clusters and the since-singularity tensioned space-distance cosmos matrix? Or will it end with a collapse, with a return impansion towards singularity, that will then again ...? And how may it evolve towards its end state?...

Is this unknowability what constitutes the stochastic nature of evolution?

Yet it is observable that every temporary phase of evolution is a start-state of further evolution.

And it is observable that all objects and processes and natural laws in the universe, are - since singularity - products of evolution and are themselves continuously further evolving. Everything in the cosmos is fractal, rehappens on many scales, and is continuously evolving. Each and every system in the universe continuously evolves within the total universal evolution and all the systems' evolutions are intertwined.

And it is also observable that all evolutions are fueled by culture, culture being the totality of ways of the system's dealing (reaction to, manipulation of, exploitation of) with its environment.

Suggesting,

Dov Henis
http://blog.360.yahoo.com/blog-P81pQcU1dLBbHgtjQjxG_Q--?cq=1

PS: Present state (March 2008) of the stock market appears to point at the relationship between stocks and stochastic... DH

Posted by: Dov Henis at April 4, 2008 04:25 PM
•••

Years ago I got involved in a heated debate, (not about evolution). My opponent stated at one point "I am winning this argument, because you're yelling". It has stuck with me for over 20 years. It seems to me that evolutionists are the ones yelling in this debate. Calling those who find the , (many), holes in evolution as "stupid" or whatever, simply makes them look desperate. They are yelling, and losing.

Posted by: Malcolm at July 26, 2008 01:58 PM
•••

Perhaps an oversimplified analogy is the example of going from letter A to letter Z.

If A is the starting point and it eventually evolved into Z there should be 24 other steps to get the end product. Perhaps there should be even more according to Darwin's "short though sure" steps. If there were only 2 or 3 so called "steps" (i.e. transitional species) because they might have similarities, then they aren't necessarily transitional species. Dogs and cats have similarities after all.

That being said, we should be able to find more of at least some of the 24 intermediate steps than we do the 2 single points of A and Z - unless of course Z still lives today.

The big picture of the fossil record doesn't show that - it shows life begins, life ends; and then begins again with new types of species.

What is mistakenly called "evolution" or "natural selection", would be better called, "Theistic Genetically Engineered Flexibility". If God has the power and brains to create a universe, surely He would know that adaptation would be necessary in an ever changing set of ecosystems that all work together, themselves, in irreducible complexity.

Anyways, I've rambled enough I suppose.

Best Regards, GEDII

Posted by: GEDII at November 2, 2008 01:01 PM
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The bottom line is the whole matter of evolution or creation IS a matter of faith. I could spend, as I have, many hours of conversation pointing out holes, and regardless of the many postings here, there are holes in Darwin's theory, but it comes down to faith. One's faith either sides with a creator or one has faith that there is not a creator. True, the history professor seems to have fallen on the side of a creator, or in essence matter plus energy does not equal life without the external input of concept or information and I agree. Did this information ordering the structures of organisms also evolve? I could put amino acids in a shaker and shake(add energy if you like) until the cows come home and if I'm lucky, I may come up with only the simplest of proteins. However, being subject to the second law of thermodynamics and chemical equilibrium even these will break down again.

That being said, the personal attacks upon his honesty and his intellect are completely irrational. Remember, the professor and his opinion are in the company of some of the greatest minds of the 20th century. Does anyone here think that someone like A. E. Wilder-Smith possesses the credentials to have an opinion on this matter?

Posted by: michael36363 at January 23, 2009 01:03 AM
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As a historian, you should certainly believe in the maxim that the one making the historical claim has the burden of proof. Thus, I believe it is more than fair to point out that a number of reasonable scientists have mentioned that the fossil record provides no real evidential support to the evolution position as can be seen by this article on evolution.

Posted by: John Martin at May 16, 2009 08:33 PM
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I read Dr Rubinstein's article and then a few of the many comments that followed. What fascinated me was that so many of those that decried his viewpoint as being unscientific offered no evidence to back up their assertions that the doctor was wrong on point X, or Y or what-have-you.

The great irony was the criticism of Dr Rubinstein as a "mere historian", for daring to talk about how life and the various species of life, altered over the years. Sorry, but I would have thought a historian was probably the best qualified to talk of the past. Empirical scientists have to justify their theories by recreating them. Whoops! That's the 'get out clause', is it not, for evolutionists - they cannot predict, nor barely explain when or why it will happen.

Posted by: Stephen at December 20, 2009 05:12 PM
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