Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Columbus Dispatch takes a leap of faith, declares evolution a ‘fact’


Editorial

The Columbus Dispatch editorial writers have been at it again. This time, while writing about the John Freshwater case, they have taken it upon themselves to solve the hotly debated topic of origins.

It turns out, according to the gurus at the Dispatch, that the evolutionists have been right all along. We did evolve from the cosmic ooze.

The Dispatch said, “While there are scientific debates about the specific mechanisms of evolution, evolution itself is a scientific fact.”

In other words, the Dispatch doesn’t have a clue how life got from the first self-replicating molecule to highly complex human beings. It just happened. Believe.

Far be it from me to doubt a Dispatch editorial, especially one with the religious sounding title “Judgment day.”

However, I am having trouble reconciling the Dispatch’s claim that evolution is a scientific fact with the Dispatch’s own definition of science:

“Science, by definition, is the study of natural processes, not supernatural ones. Any theory that invokes supernatural explanations for natural phenomena is not science, it is religion, and therefore is inappropriate in a science class.”

Wouldn’t that mean that evolution is religion?

If the “specific mechanisms” (the natural processes) of evolution are unknown, then evolution has not invoked any explanation. To accept evolution as fact is a “leap of faith.”

That’s so religious of the Dispatch.

Related coverage:

“School Board’s Expert Witness: Debating Is for Politics, Not Science”

“Evolution – Is It More Speculative Philosophy than It Is Science?”

“Shame on The Columbus Dispatch”

See the articles in the archive for additional coverage of the Freshwater controversy.

16 comments:

RBH said...

The fact of evolution: All life on earth that we know of, including humans, is descended from a common ancestral population of single-celled critters. The evidence for that fact is overwhelming, and comes from half a dozen independent scientific disciplines ranging from paleontology to molecular genetics. It is about as well established as the fact that the earth is in orbit around the sun.

Many of the "specific mechanisms" of evolution are known. Important among them is natural selection, but there are more. I suggest that you learn a dab about what evolution actually is and what the theory of evolution actually says, in contrast to what Kent Hovind and Ken Ham claim is evolution. What amazes me in all this is how confident creationists are that they know what evolution is without actually studying the hard-won knowledge that tens of thousands of scientists have painstakingly wrung from decades--nay, centuries--of field observations and laboratory research.

While the Dispatch may not have a clue (though an editorial is probably not the venue for a detailed description of it), scientists certainly do have much more than a clue. I suggest you start here for an elementary-school level introduction, and then move on to something at the high school or even college level of material to get some idea of what evolution actually is.

Dave Luckett said...

You quote the Dispatch's editorial opinion that invoking "supernatural explanations for natural phenomena is not science, it is religion, and therefore is inappropriate in a science class" and you ask: "Wouldn't that mean that evolution is religion?"

It would seem that you imply that evolution invokes supernatural explanations for natural phenomena.

If this was your intention, I think you owe your readers an explanation. What supernatural explanations are these?

If not, what was your intention? To imply that science doesn't know everything? Every scientist would heartily agree. To imply that if it doesn't know everything, it knows nothing? Surely you can see the obvious illogic of that.

Science knows facts demonstrated by evidence. Common descent of living things is a fact demonstrated by evidence. It really is as simple as that.

Sam Stickle (mountvernon1805) said...

RBH,

Thanks for commenting.

My editorial was, of course, a response to what the Dispatch wrote. I do not presume that the Dispatch speaks for everyone in the scientific community.

Perhaps you should pass on your observations to the Dispatch, and ask them to share with their readers any of the “specific mechanisms of evolution” that are known.

harold said...

"Perhaps you should pass on your observations to the Dispatch, and ask them to share with their readers any of the “specific mechanisms of evolution” that are known."

You seem to assume that since you are personally unaware of the mechanisms of biological evolution, such mechanisms do not exist.

However, it would be a waste of time to discuss the matter with someone who cannot or will not consider evidence. May I ask, is there any evidence that could convince you that humans share common ancestry with the rest of life, and evolved from pre-human ancestors, and if so what that evidence is, and if not, why not?

Also, if you are dismissive of the theory of evolution, it would make the most sense for you to state what you prefer as an alternate explanation. May I ask if you have an answer to the following questions, and if you do, how we can test your answers?

If the origin of humans involved a supernatural designer, who is the designer? Precisely what did the designer do, and how did that designer do it? When did that designer do it? What is an example of something that is not designed by the designer? If your answers here are influenced by the Bible, do you agree that pi is equal to exactly three, and that the world is flat, and if you do not, how is it that the Bible can be symbolic on those issues, but must be taken literally as a contradiction of the theory of evolution?

xdrta said...

"My editorial was, of course, a response to what the Dispatch wrote."

And yet you badly misinterpret what they did actually write. To go from the Dispatch's, “While there are scientific debates about the specific mechanisms of evolution," to your, "the "specific mechanisms” (the natural processes) of evolution are unknown," seems disingenuous in the extreme.

Paul Burnett said...

Your editorial should have been titled "The Columbus Dispatch takes the high road and agrees with every actual science organization in America that evolution is a scientific fact."

Can you explain WHY you disagree with the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Academy of Sciences, and EVERY other actual science organization in America on the fact that evolution is a scientific fact with almost two centuries of scientific theory explaining how it works?

Are you operating under the delusion that you know more about evolution than the biology departments of essentially every college and university in America? Or are "bible colleges" that teach the scientific illiteracy of creationism the only coleges you are aware of?

What is the basis for your absurd contention that evolution is not a scientific fact? Are you not aware that essentially every natural history museum has displays explaining the scientific fact of evolution? Or is the Answers In Genesis creationist anti-museum in Kentucky the only museum you are aware of?

Please let us know what your opposition to evolution is based on - because it certainly can't be based on science.

Just Bob said...

If we are to consider "intelligent design" as a valuable adjunct to science, then it behooves the promoters of ID to answer the following:

If all scientists accepted intelligent design as true, HOW WOULD IT HELP?

What problems could be better addressed that are now intractable?

What new areas of PRODUCTIVE research would be opened up?

What new technologies, or cures, or just useful understandings of biology would result?

In short, what better results and PRODUCTIONS could we expect from intelligent design than we are currently realizing from methodological naturalism?

Sam Stickle (mountvernon1805) said...

Harold said, “You seem to assume that since you are personally unaware of the mechanisms of biological evolution, such mechanisms do not exist.”

The Dispatch editorial writers are the ones who made the statement that “there are scientific debates about the specific mechanisms of evolution.”

See my response to RBH.

Sam Stickle (mountvernon1805) said...

Xdrta,

Please explain your statement.

Sam Stickle (mountvernon1805) said...

Paul Burnett said: “What is the basis for your absurd contention that evolution is not a scientific fact? […]Please let us know what your opposition to evolution is based on - because it certainly can't be based on science.”

My editorial does not per se oppose evolution. The problem that I brought attention to is that there is a gap between the Dispatch’s own definition of science and the Dispatch’s statement that evolution is a scientific fact even while, according to the Dispatch, the specific mechanisms of evolution are still the subject scientific debates.

See my response to RBH.

harold said...

"The problem that I brought attention to is that there is a gap between the Dispatch’s own definition of science and the Dispatch’s statement that evolution is a scientific fact even while, according to the Dispatch, the specific mechanisms of evolution are still the subject scientific debates."

Therefore, if you are consistent, you deny that gravity is a scientific fact, because this is also true of gravity.

If you are consistent, you deny that it is a fact that cigarette smoking is a risk factor for some diseases, because the specific mechanisms of exactly how cigarette smoking predisposes to disease are the still the subject of scientific debate.

You claim not to "oppose evolution" but continue to attack the Dispatch for making a perfectly valid, if colloquial, statement about evolution.

Which part of the Dispatch's statements do you oppose? Do you deny that biological evolution is a fact, or do you deny that we could still learn more about the mechanisms of biological evolution?

Also, why did you evade every single one of my prior questions?

xdrta said...

Sam Stickle (mountvernon1805) said...

Xdrta,
Please explain your statement


You really can't understand that because scientists debate the specific mechanisms of a process that doesn't mean that all such mechanisms are unknown? It's hard to believe you can't understand such a simple thing. Theses types of debates go on all the time in the scientific community, see harold's message above for a few examples. You really should try to learn a little bit about science and how it works before pontificating on the subject.

RBH said...

Sam, here's one example of a scientific controversy about "specific mechanisms of evolution." We know that both natural selection and neutral genetic drift are mechanisms of evolution--both produce changes in populations over generations. We do not know all the variables that govern when one or the other is dominant in a population, but we do know that both operate. The Dispatch's statement that there are scientific debates about the mechanisms of evolution is accurate, but in no sense does that support your leap to If the “specific mechanisms” (the natural processes) of evolution are unknown, then evolution has not invoked any explanation. To accept evolution as fact is a “leap of faith.”

That sentence contains two substantial errors. First, we know about the mechanisms, but not the whole story about how they interact, and biologists doing research on that issue. Second, you conflate the fact of evolution--common descent--with mechanisms. That's a false conflation.

Sam Stickle (mountvernon1805) said...

Xdrta said, “You really can't understand that because scientists debate the specific mechanisms of a process that doesn't mean that all such mechanisms are unknown?”

My editorial was specifically dealing with the Dispatch’s statements. The Dispatch said that “there are scientific debates about the specific mechanisms of evolution.”

The meaning of the Dispatch’s statement would have been very different had the Dispatch, instead, wrote that “there are scientific debates about some of the specific mechanisms of evolution.”

Sam Stickle (mountvernon1805) said...

Harold said, “Therefore, if you are consistent, you deny that gravity is a scientific fact, because this is also true of gravity.”

You bring up an interesting comparison. Assuming that the comparison is correct, does that extend to other applications? Can something be considered a “scientific fact” if we have evidence that something happened even if we cannot provide an explanation of how it happened?

When I wrote my response to the Dispatch’s editorial, I was trying to consider the implications of the Dispatch’s statements. The Dispatch’s statement regarding what science is and is not seems to preclude theories that do not have natural explanations.

Sam Stickle (mountvernon1805) said...

RBH said: “That sentence contains two substantial errors. First, we know about the mechanisms, but not the whole story about how they interact, and biologists doing research on that issue.”

I would note that my statement (“If…”) was conditional upon the Dispatch’s statement being correct.

Also, see my last response to Xdrta.

RBH said: “Second, you conflate the fact of evolution--common descent--with mechanisms. That's a false conflation.”

I’m not sure which part(s) of my two sentences you quoted contained the “false conflation.” Were you disagreeing with my placement of “the natural processes” in parentheses alongside “specific mechanisms”?

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