Aww, bless their stubborn little cotton socks

There has been a major discovery in the fossil record of evolution announced today. Several examples of a new species of fish have been found with a functioning neck and bones in its fins. This means that there is now physical evidence of the shift between sea-dwelling species and tetrapods, the main type of large animals that exist today.

Animals such as the newly discovered ‘Tiktaalik roseae’ (the name for this fish-with-nearly-legs) constitute some pretty weighty evidence on the side of evolution being factually correct. Previous to this, one of the main arguments from Creationists has been that no animals have been found that are at an intermediate stage between the major groups that we currently have (despite several examples already existing… But never mind, this is an even better one). You would think that this would be taken as a bit of a blow to the Creationists, demonstrating as it does that animals did live that were halfway between one type of being and another, but apparently not. You’ve got to love ’em really:

Duane T. Gish, a retired official of the Institute for Creation Research in San Diego, said, “This alleged transitional fish will have to be evaluated carefully.” But he added that he still found evolution “questionable because palaeontologists have yet to discover any transitional fossils between complex invertebrates and fish, and this destroys the whole evolutionary story.”

Yep, previously it was:

‘there are no transitional animals, so evolution must be wrong’

and now it’s

‘there are no transitional animals for this other bit of time, over there, you know, that bit where things were squiggly, no, no, left a bit, yeah, you haven’t got anything to cover that bit over there have you? Ha! You’re so lame! And you smell! Phew-y! You love digging up bones ‘n’ stuff, I bet you’re weird.’

Err… Well, it’s something like that anyway.


23 thoughts on “Aww, bless their stubborn little cotton socks”

  1. You mean that there are people out there who think that the moon glows? That’s really weird… Do they think that only half of it glows, and it slowly rotates until we can’t see the glowing bit?

  2. Creationists are just like Abi Tittmus, pointless, were proving their ‘theories’ wrong every day yet they still persist in that terrible habit they tend to undertake: living.

  3. I wouldn’t go that far, but it is odd that they essentially deny logical observations on a daily basis.

    Still, while they can be kept away from the education of children then they are essentially harmless. Currently the US courts have accepted this, although it looks like President Tony Blair might have a go at putting it into UK schools. Oh the humanity!

  4. Well here’s the quote and a link to the story. Make up your own mind about the creationists:

    The Emmy-winning scientist angered a few audience members when he criticized literal interpretation of the biblical verse Genesis 1:16, which reads: “God made two great lights — the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars.”

    He pointed out that the sun, the “greater light,” is but one of countless stars and that the “lesser light” is the moon, which really is not a light at all, rather a reflector of light.

    A number of audience members left the room at that point, visibly angered by what some perceived as irreverence.

    “We believe in a God!” exclaimed one woman as she left the room with three young children.

  5. Aww, bless. There’s something about innocent devotion to archaic modes of belief that can be quite endearing. It’s also slightly terrifying that people are so easily angered about another person stating the obvious in 2006.

    You’d think that basic astrophysics, i.e. the moon is just a big rock, would be safe enough ground to not piss people off. I guess that’s what the speaker thought too, but apparently not!

    I really should make a note for the future: never over-estimate your audience.

  6. “Creationists are just like Abi Tittmus, pointless, were proving their ‘theories’ wrong every day yet they still persist in that terrible habit they tend to undertake: living.”

    Thing about theories is… gaah.. how do I condense this into a short post. I’ve not written an essay in 3 years, and then I had to write one on the distinction between Theory and Observation a few weeks back. I could go on about this for a fair while. Point is, when it gets down to it, Science=True is a pretty shakey rock to stand on. Don’t get me wrong, the Creationists are on shakier rock. On sand, if you will. Good old Biblical analogy. That’ll annoy ’em. Anywho, the distinction between theory and observation can be pretty thin, so, while we may laugh because what they believe is based on an old book, who’re we to say our basis for our theories is any more valid?

  7. That really depends on the old distinction between a theory and a hypothesis. What the Creationists propose is a hypothesis, God created life pretty much as we see it now, but there is no method to prove that this is true and no predictions about future discoveries have been accurately made on the basis of it. The theory of evolution is based on observable evidence and has been used successfully to predict future discoveries (such as fish with half-formed legs).

    It’s dangerous to say that a pile of observable evidence is only slightly better than no evidence, because then you begin disregarding reality, which can lead you to all kinds of ideological problems, such as people proposing that black people are mentally inferior. There may be no observable evidence of this, but you can bet that some people out there propose this as a hypothesis and would like to argue that any evidence to the contrary of their belief is only circumstantial.

    That’s the thing: if you begin saying that observable evidence is meaningless then you create room for all kinds of idiocy.

    Naturally, large declarations should not be made on a small amount of evidence (“I have found a tooth in a field, so there must have been a murder!”) but when there is a lot of evidence then it becomes far safer to create sound theories (“I have found a human rib cage in a field, so there must have been a murder!”). The predictions based on the evidence may be wrong in the end, but they are made on a more solid foundation.

    Theories need to be on a scale similar to the evidence to support them. If they are grandly out of ratio then they are hypotheses. The theory of evolution has a mountain of evidence to support it and more things are constantly being found that corroborate it. The hypothesis of Creationism currently lacks any evidence at all.

    The interesting thing is that all Creationists would need to do is find one true anachronism and evolution would be destroyed, for example a fossil of a T Rex with a human skeleton inside it, but despite the ease with which evolution could be defeated (if it were wrong) they have completely failed to do so. That is pretty suggestive to me.

  8. I don’t know how much Philosophy of Science you’ve read, or whether that last point was entirely out of your own head, but it is really the only decent definition of a scientific theory that I’ve heard. The more falsifiable the theory the better. Creationists make their theories as unscientific as possible by coming up with an excuse for every piece of falsifying evidence. My only question is: is it right to give science the status that we do? (I’d go with yes, but I still think that it’s something that everyone should think about)

  9. People always get hung up on the fact that it’s called the “theory” of evolution; they feel that because it’s “just a theory” it’s not proven and is on the same level as a hypothesis. But in science, a theory is about as close to a fact as you can get, since we cannot travel back in time and watch evolution happen… a scientific theory doesn’t earn the title of theory until there is quite a lot of evidence to support it already. I mean, gravitation is also a theory, but nobody really disputes that one.

  10. In answer to grey mullets comment: i’m pretty sure that the point/argument you raise is a pretty old one (not calling you a fraud or a ‘copycat’ or anything, i’m no troll) but the fact is that the bible is merely observation, science on the other hand is theory which then carrys over into ‘controlled’ observation thus proving the theory. What i’m getting at is this: there is a thing line between theory and observation for a reason, they’re both required for the cold hard truth(“my theory is: I can prove that gravity exists by dropping my pencil and seeing if it gets pulled towards the Earth’s core. Crikey! It does, i’ve proved gravity!”),however, observation on its own proves nothing (“Wow Jesus can walk on water! Wait a second…..How is that possible?”). Theory is needed for the possibility of something, observation is required to prove it.

    I would humbly like to withdraw my comment concerning my view that all creationists should die. I now realise that this was unnecessary, immature, intollerable and certainly not very kind at all. I would like to apologise for any offence caused to anyone and for be-smirching the good name of this excellent site, sorry mata.

  11. Gm: No, I’ve not read any philosophy of science, but a PhD is a doctorate in philosophy, so I should be able to think clearly about such things by now!

    Doop: Don’t worry about it, we all say silly things sometimes, but thanks for realising it was a bit silly!

    Mack: There are people out there who say that gravitation, as we understand it, is wrong. They say that there is an unseen force from the sky that acts like a reverse magnetism. There’s a whole (small) museum to the theory in America. Never underestimate the ability of people to be stubborn in thinking the opposite to everyone else.

  12. Mata: sorry if that came out sounding as “have you read this? No? Well then you know jack all”. I was thinking you might find some of it interesting.

    Dooplis: Yup, I know it’s not an original thought, I’m just coming out of a week or two doing not much other than reading Philosophy books, and thry can tend to be quite persuasive. I’ve been talked round to what seems to be the general opinion of most of the philosophers who write on the subject, namely that science is given far higher status than, perhaps, it should. The point is that all of our theories are based on observations which are based on theories which are beased on observations which are based on theories etc. and you wind up in a chicken/egg type situation, except without the risk of bird flu. I’m not saying that science in worthless, else I’d have no excuse to spend my Tuesdays making pretty coloured crystals, but I think that “To what extent should we give science the status of absolute truth” is a question that everyone should ask themselves and have a good think about.

  13. greymullet, you’re refering to science as if it is not our only option, it is. We believe in science simply because everything proved in it is truth, it is unique, nothing else of the sort, so I put this question to you: “If science isn’t absolute truth, what is?”. Also, before we go in one great circle the bible or any other religous book isn’t an alternative, no proof for itbeing as or even more so truthful than anything scientific.

  14. I think Gm’s point is more subtle than that. Science, by its very nature, is uncertain and it defeats the idea of ‘Truth’ (capital ‘t’). Every theory in science has proof for it, but very rarely is anything strictly given the name ‘law’. This is because the ‘truth’ (lowercase ‘t’) is always that scientific theories are only conceptual frameworks that haven’t been proven wrong yet.

    There is another aspect to all this that works on a less literal level: can science make us feel good about ourselves? When a relative has died, do we really want to know that they were just a fleshy bag of organic chemicals that statistically probably shouldn’t have existed in the first place? Do we want to know that our feelings of sentience and individuality are just weird evolutionary blips in the cosmos that probably have no ultimate meaning?

    There are some things that science just isn’t very good at, and making people feel special is one of them. The truth of the universe may well be that we are meaningless blobs of briefly active goo, but the Truth may be that our lives only have meaning if we believe that they can.

  15. I’m afraid paragraphs 2 and 3 of your comment mata are pretty irrelevant, truth is truth like it or not. So what if if you don’t like the truth? A murderer doesn’t like being found guilty, a politician doesn’t like being found to be corrupt. Also, if something hasn’t been proved wrong yet 9/10 times means it is fact, if we chose not to put our full support behind……………I can’t put it into words any clearer than “if we can’t believe in truth what can we believe in?”

  16. Yes, but what is this truth that you speak of dooplis? Is what you see through a microscope ‘true’? How do you know that that’s “reality”. The image the comes out relies on all kinds of assumptions based on the laws (theories) of optics. If those theories are wrong then you’re being provided with a false ‘truth’ by the microscope.

    I would argue that that same is true with your eyes. Your retina absorbs photons and sends the signals to your brain. How you brain chooses to interpret these signals is partially based on experiences. Your brain conjures certain expectations about the world (theories if you will) based on past experience. Your observations are, therefore, partly based on theory. You see something that looks like an apple, your brain subconsciously theorises that it’s an apple and so what you observe is an apple. This may or may not be the case, but whichever way, you will then use this (possibly flawed) observation to then formulate new theories e.g. it’s edible. It’s a seemingly scientific process (it’s an apple, apples are edible therefore it is edible) but if you were mistaken in the initial observation (which is perfectly plausible) then you may be about to bite into a poisonous pseudo-apple.

    This brings me onto another point,not so much to do with theory/observation distinction, but to do with your “if something hasn’t been proved wrong yet 9/10 times means it is fact” statement. This can be logically ‘proven’ to be a flawed argument. Just because something has been the case 9 times in a row, that’s not proof that it will happen the 10th time. (That last statement wasn’t the logical proof, that was me not being bothered with the logical proof. If anyone cares, I’ll type it out neatly, rather than through my normal rambling stream of consciousness that makes up most of my comments)

  17. I think the idea is that people should keep an open mind. This is true for both those who are religious and those who are scientific. Religious people should not deny the most probable conclusions that can be reached from mountains of evidence, equally those of a scientific background should not deny the spiritual value of intuitive truths to the quality of human life.

    I am, technically, a religious man. I have a very strong faith in the existence of a force that could be described as ‘divine’, but I am also a realist and accept fully that there is not a single shred of evidence that I can present to support this, nor will there ever be. I also know that things that are thought to be true by science are most likely accurate, and this does not contradict my faith. My faith guides my actions and my view on what is the correct way to act. I do not think it judges me, because I will already know I am doing wrong if I am disappointed in myself. This has nothing to do with science but still everything to do with accepting the basic truths about the world around me.

    I am part of a system that is both grounded in science and in society. Science can provide me with rules as to why certain things happen, but society is guided by rules that, while explainable by evolution, still need to be sensed rather than read. When a person knows the rules of society then they still have the choice to follow them all, follow some, or follow none. My intuition, the part of me that feels the presence of the divine, tells me that the best way is to follow some. That’s not a scientific choice, and it is a truth that only an individual can feel.

  18. Mata: It’s nice to know there’s someone else who feels that way.

    Dooplis: I’m not saying that we should ‘deny the truth’. I was just questioning how you define truth. Just because something has happened 90%, or 99% or 99.9% of the time, it doesn’t mean that it will always happen. To use an rather unpleasant analogy, it’s chicken logic. That farmer walls down the path every morning, crunching in the gravel. He then proceeds to feed the chickens. This happens every day for a year. Then one morning the chicken hears the farmer walking down the path and thinks “Good, here comes the farmer to feed me.” The farmer walks over to the chicken, picks it and and snaps its neck.

  19. I’m now returning to this armed with 10 minutes of thought in the shower (yes, I use a lot of water and I’m ashamed, but if you’d met my hair you’d understand). I’ve been making 2 (related) points in this comments thread, and I feel the need to clarify why what Dooplis is saying is getting me so wound up.

    First Point: Science and truth are not the same thing. Let’s ignore my second point for a minute, and assume that observations are pure fact and undeniable. If you agree with Bacon (and I do), a scientific theory shouldn’t just restate the facts. That would be worthless. A scientific theory should take the facts and then formulate theories based on those facts. The theories aren’t just restatements, they are, to a certain extent, leaps. Forgive me for not thinking of a better analogy, but I’ve got “What a Wonderful World” in my head. Let’s say you’re looking at a tree-leaf. For the sake of argument we’ll ignore the fact that there are other pigments besides chlorophyll. So you say to yourself “This leaf contains chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is green. Therefore this leaf is green.” That’s all very well and good (well actually no, it’s a rubbish analogy, but it’ll have to do) but you’ve not advanced human knowledge in any way. A scientific theory would be “This leaf contains chlorophyll, this leaf is green. All leaves are green therefore all leaves contain chlorophyll.” You’ve come up with a theory. It’s scientific. And it’s not necessarily true. In fact, it can be argued that what makes it scientific is that it can, very easily, be tested (I need only find a leaf without chlorophyll to disprove the theory). That’s science. The theory is useful (or would be if you were setting up a factory that needed a steady source of chlorophyll). It’s not, necessarily true though.

    Second point: To quote Radiohead, “Just ’cause you feel it, doesn’t mean it’s there.”

  20. I’d better set my views straight before everyone gets this view of me being some religion burning nut: i’m not saying religion must obviously be false (although i do have very little faith that its true) i’m just saying that we should all trust and respect the findings of science as its the closest thing to ‘divine truth’ that we have got, nobody can question that with solid evidence (dam,too much of Phoenix Wright: ace attorney, DS owners should understand)

  21. On a completely unrelated note: new family guy and american dad released today in Britain, anyone with a taste for surreal, satirical and sometimes downright bordering on the ‘taboo breaking’ should buy them.

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