Wednesday, November 16, 2005

*Replies to Dr. Andrew Loke*

Great stuff and argumentation coming from the following writers and their blogs.

The Humean Condition is written by a philosophy major and I like her writings from the few that I have seen thus far.

Work Smarter, a Ph.D candidate at our very own NUS, gives us a great historical annecdote as well as demonstrating why it is simply stale old argumentation reguritated. And oh, the philosophical problems with it too. It's a much much more thorough critique than my is.

The Annotated Budak gives a short succinct letter to the ST that hammers on the core problems (scientific and logically) of the letter.

The following is my own letter to the ST, it makes for easier reading somewhat than the original post. And yes, I fixed the wrong quote amongst other things.

Dear Sir,

I read with great incredulity, Dr Loke's letter "Man's Evolution from Monkey a proven scientific fact? No it's not" primarily because of its disingenous argumentation and its bald assertion that Evolution is a highly debatable theory.

"Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of Evolution", Theodosius
Dobzhansky (1900-1975). This statement rang true then and rings true even today, every experiment done simply verifying the strength of the modern theory of Evolution.

The theory of evolution as it stands is not debated. What is debated are the exact mechanisms and the important certain factors have over the other. To claim otherwise is highly disingenuous and certainty terribly misleading. The only place where this debate is going on is political and narrowly religious.

If micro-evolution can occur, then where's the magic barrier than prevents it from becoming macro-evolution? There can be sufficient changes within the gene pool such that one species can actually separate into two. Science does not stand still and there exists a wealth of evidence for macro-evolution, a very useful guide for the layperson (and even for scientist wanting to know more about Evolution) is at's 29+ Evidence for Common Descent and Evolution (

Similarly it's a terrible assertion that the fossil record contradicts Evolution. No, science is empirical and the fossil record has consistently borne out Evolution. But for more evidence, here's's Fossil Hominds: The Evidence for Human Evolution ( . Or again here, Transitional Vertebrate Fossils ("). There have been missing links filled in but the problem with this is that every time science comes up with another missing link they (the Creationists) end up claiming that there are now TWO gaps.

Furthermore, numbers don't matter in a scientific debate, strength of theories and evidence does. More to the point, a close reading of the statement expressing 'doubt' shows that any scientist could in good faith sign that statement. It simply expresses doubt about Darwinism. Modern Evolution has long since passed that stage, we now know that Darwinism is incomplete because he did not have knowledge of Mandelean Inheritance of genes. It did however, make the theory much stronger. But if it's just numbers you want, the National Centre for Science Education's (NCSE) ( 3541_project_steve_2_16_2003.asp) "Project Steve", which is a tongue-in-cheek parody of such lists. After all, scientists named "Steves" (which include Steven and Stephanie) make up about 1% of scientific populace, but even so, they have over 600 names down on a purposeful statement, which makes it effectively tens of thousands of Scientist who accept Evolution on an evidentiary basis.

And it's rather interesting that DNA and RNA is brought up because there are the basic building blocks of life and it is not sheer coincidence that it has an identical nature in EVERY species. That is proof positive of Common Descend. But more fundamentally, how RNA and DNA came about is not an issue because it does not detract from Evolution.

Furthermore, one has to question the basis on which Dr Ter claims that the hominid fossils are debatable. Perhaps if he were an evolutionary biologist specialising in hominid evolution, his authority could be accepted. But the evidence is really incontrovertible.

There really is no theoretical debate about Evolution, it is more like theological one. While Dr Ter is partially right in that it's not a proven fact of science. But it is such a cornerstone of science and so convincing is the theory that scientist have effective accept it as fact. A theory is not guesswork or conjecture, much less a hypothesis. It is a framework with both descriptive and predictive power over existing facts. At any rate, there is no convincing alternative to Evolution, 'disproving' Evolution does not prove any other theory and that's the fundamental problem with Creationism and Intelligent Design.

Answers in Genesis believes that anything that's not in the Bible must be false, so any science that contradicts it must be wrong. As such they believe in a 6000-10000 year old Earth as well as a world wide flood that coincidentally just happened to arranged the fossils in a perfect geological strata by age. Forming a conclusion and struggling to cram the fact to fit their version of 'science' simply is 'cargo-cult science', it is not scientific.

Lastly, the books that Dr Ter speaks of are not scientifc work or research by any stretch of the imagination, there have not been peer reviewed and have been thoroughly discredited not just by scientist but also theologians. In fact, Dr Behe's discrediting in the recent Dover trial might have been absolute when he admitted that his definition of theory was so broad that no scientifc organisation accepts and so broad in fact that Astrology would count as a 'scientific theory'.

This is a great example of why there is a need to separate religion and state and in particular religion from science.

Anyway, I've been following the Creationist movement since 1997 when I did my first project on evolution and creationism and it hasn't gotten anywhere since then. In fact, they have been predicting the death of Evolution since the 1800s and gee, it's still going strong. The more we learn the sillier they get. I think the ID movement is very clear proof that they know they can't win at the science which is why this battle is fought on the political and theological battleground.



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