Politics and Evolution

I am a bit reluctant to get into this topic, because many of the people whose fellowship (and political alliance) I value are creationists of one form or another. Generally, they’re often better people although not specifically for that reason. But, here goes:

Citizen Tom notes that the Catholic Church has, for many decades at least, accepted the notion of evolution — as a question independent of cosmological origins.

Scout stated that “I distinctly recall a Republican presidential candidate forum a couple of cycles ago where every candidate raised his had to say he did not accept evolutionary theories about life on this planet.” My recollection is different so I replied to him as follows:

Your recollection appears to be off, scout, by a large margin. The question was posed to the field of ten GOP presidential candidates in 2008, and three of the ten raised their hands. This screenshot will refresh your memory (Citizen Tom, you may have to tinker with this to get it to display):

But that was 2008. The question was in the news also in 2004, it being a way for Democrats (especially Democrat reporters and debate hosts) to attack Republicans without actually touching on the real issues. During the 2004 contest, Kerry and Bush each published position statements on evolution, creation, and what should be taught in schools. A forum I was quite active in at the time, focused on evolution, immediately filled up with jeers at Bush’s “ridiculous” notion (as they put it) that the decision should be left up to the states as we don’t have the final answers. I put up the campaign statement, while the media had a field day with Bush’s “stupidity” and the forum resounded to unending insults of Bush’s policy statement.

I had some fun with this for a few days, before revealing that I had published Kerry’s statement instead of Bush’s. Then I showed both; they were materially indistinguishable.

As an aside, a number of my readers here are folks I was introduced to through that evolution debate forum. Thank you for joining me, and for still being here a decade later. I tried to treat people respectfully (though there were a few folks arriving their who qualified as trolls), and I made a number of lasting friendships.

Scout’s memory issues aside, I must note that a great many religious people see no conflict between the notions of creation by God and evolution from that starting point, as how God works. This concept, called “theistic evolution,” solves all the problems nicely and does no harm (“does not pick the pockets” it was once said) of functionally agnostic science on the topic.

A belief in creation (in any form) also has little to do with the role of president, except that creationists are more likely to reach the correct position on climate change as being a complete non-catastrophe. And also more likely to hold in high esteem the founding documents of the United States, as opposed to the disdain expressed and evidenced by leftists such as our current office-holder and his current officer Holder. If President Obama were to become convinced that he could pull some America-damaging stunt or some large leftist support by accepting creationism, he’d be there in a heartbeat.

A long time ago, Guinness ran a commercial focused on evolution that was quite clever.

A devout believer could imagine something like this projected (backward) into the mind of a soon-to-be-Biblical writer. Without a clear timescale for such a projection, the writer would make the most sense of it he could … and even the same projected sequence could be interpreted very differently to create the two (seemingly incompatible) versions of Genesis in the Bible.

What is happening at the molecular level runs parallel with what we’ve observed for millennia of creatures and plants. Those that seem closely related in form and ancestry turned out to be closely aligned molecularly as well — with the random scars of genetic accidents passed down through the same lineage. We have had a few surprises; some creatures were more closely related to each other than expected, some less so.

We’re still trying to work out the details of the evolution of the two major groups of bats; one is evidently closer to primates than the other and shares our cross-wired optic nerve, an odd accident that has turned out to be useful for visually oriented creatures like us and the megabats, the big bats such as fruit bats). Microbats, and other mammals in general, don’t have this crossover. Their genetic similarity is a bit problematic, as they have similar percentages of AT versus GC base pairs in their DNA, but not as much in the same sequences as would be expected. More research showed that animals that expend high amounts of energy, including hummingbirds, tend to slightly favor AT versus GC links. We don’t fully understand why this is true, yet. But this research, like a million other inquiries, uses the Theory of Evolution to pursue understanding of nature to excellent effect.

The Theory of Evolution, unlike catastrophic global warming, is falsifiable. There is no nonsense like “Cold? It’s Global Warming! Hot? Dry? Wet? The same? It’s still because of Global Warming! Everything is, no matter what! And it means DOOM!”

The mechanics of evolution have been sussed out pretty well now, by scientists of every faith and none, of every political persuasion and of nations all over the world, to a very high degree of detail. The predictions made from the Theory of Evolution are demonstrated constantly.

One can posit Intelligent Design as a background control — but it makes no difference in practice. If a person spends an evening in Vegas and does well at the craps table, he can assert that every roll of the dice was guided by the hand of God. That’s fine … not that he can expect to get that same divine push the following night. ];-)

Molecular combinations are much the same; there are just more of them. But they follow rules just as rigid as the die’s only having six possible numbers to show. Comparatively simple systems can produce amazingly complex results, just as the slightly-more-than-100-degree angle between the two hydrogens in an H2O molecule sets up forces that produce the astounding intricacy and uniqueness of a snowflake.

What are the odds that a particular snowflake will be created? Uncountable quintillions upon quintillions to one; it’s essentially statistically ruled out. And yet the molecular forces and simple rules create billions of snowflakes per second—all different—during a good snowstorm, and don’t much care about the probabilities. They’re not trying for a particular design; that’s just the result.

==============/ Keith DeHavelle