Sunday, December 23, 2012

Evolution Debunked!

I don't usually check twitter in the morning, but I'm glad I did today as I was treated to the following
 That's great! I've always wondered how evolution would be proven false, now I have a reference. It's a link to conservapedia and gives 48 counterexamples to evolution. It starts with the claim that if even one of the following 48 items is correct, then evolution is wrong. It goes on to say
Moreover, even if there is merely a 5% chance that each of these counterexamples is correct (and the odds are far higher than that[2]), then the probability that the theory of evolution is true is less than 9%.
What?! I haven't even gotten to the part about evolution and I'm already laughing out loud. Where do they get 5% chance for each of these items? I assume they just pulled that number out of their ass. And why would that lead to 9%? Well it's simple, they must be assuming that each of the arguments are independent, and if each has a 5% chance of being true, then each has a 95% chance of being incorrect, now we just need to combine the probabilities 0.95^48=.0852576, which is less than 9%, the math checks out! Let's assume that this ridiculous percentage is correct, their big claim here is that evolution has almost a 9% chance of being true. Is that really something to be so proud of?

One other point here before I move on, since I am planning on posting about this, I figured I'd check the wayback machine to see if I could get an archive of this page in case it gets changed at the source. And what I find is that on July 17 2011, they had 73 counterexamples instead of 48 which results in a 2.4% chance of evolution being true. Still doesn't seem terribly convincing to me, but it sounds a hell of a lot better than 9%. It might be fun to see what has been removed from the old list, I might do that in a later post.

Oh! I actually have yet another point here before I move on. Notice in my quote from conservapedia there is a footnote. It says the following.
Many of the counterexamples are indisputable, rendering each of their probabilities of being correct nearly 100%
And I'm laughing out loud yet again. If that were true, why not just focus on those ones? Why pollute your article with other items that merely have a 5% chance of being true? Or at least start with those one. The first section of this article should be "these counterexamples are nearly 100% certain to be true"

Arguments from Ignorance

Not surprisingly, many of these are simply arguments from ignorance. I would say the best example in the first section "logical examples" is item 6
The development of feathers, which could not have conceivably "grown" from the scales of reptiles
Now, I'm not a scientist, although I am a science fan, but my understanding is that this is pretty well understood. A quick google search gets us to the following page which seems to have a lot of information about how it evolved (full disclosure, I did not read that page). This reminds me of a book I have been wanting to read (Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle) maybe this will be my Christmas reading this year. At any rate, even if we didn't know how it was done, the lack of that information doesn't prove it didn't happen. This is a perfect example of an argument from ignorance.

Lack of Understanding of Evolution

Many of these items simply show that they writer doesn't understand how evolution works. In fact, they are so silly I'm not even sure how to respond to them, for example, number 7 (again, from the section "logical examples")
For evolution to be true, every male dog, cat, horse, elephant, giraffe, fish and bird had to have coincidentally evolved with a female alongside it (over billions of years) with fully evolved compatible reproductive parts and a desire to mate, otherwise the species couldn't keep going.
Uhh, yeah, that is how it works. Assuming we are focusing on species that reproduce sexually, males and females evolve together. Evolution happens slowly on the level of populations, this isn't a problem for evolution at all. The only way I can even make sense of this complaint is to try to figure out how the writer is misunderstanding evolution. Are they claiming that according to evolution, one species randomly gives birth to another, and that one would have nobody to reproduce with? It's like they are imagining a dog giving birth to the first cat and then claiming this first cat wouldn't have anyone to reproduce with. How unlikely would it be for 2 separate dogs to give birth to 2 cats at the same time?!?

Irreducible Complexity

 There is a whole section about irreducible complexity, which is actually just an argument from ignorance itself, which is why I wasn't going to make this my last item, but scrolling through the page I saw the bacterial flagellum and I couldn't help myself. Item 3 in this section states
The flagellum of certain bacteria contain a multi-part cellular motor which fails to function if a single part is removed. This is the classic example of irreducible complexity as publicised by Professor Michael Behe.
Yup, it is also the perfect example of why irreducible complexity is bogus. If you remove a part it stops working as a motor, but it has other functions. This is perfect for evolution. A great explanation can be seen in this video.

More next time?

There is plenty more material here, but this post is already getting long. Next time I feel like shooting fish in a barrel I'll revisit this list.


  1. That reminds me of the time I checked out Conservapedia several months ago. I wasn't really sure if I should laugh or cry. Although, I do recall some giggles and an absence of tears. :-)

    Anyway, nice slam.

    1. The sad thing is there really are people out there who would believe this stuff. I also imagine it is nice to have seen this stuff so I can be ready for it if it comes up in a conversation. Sometimes people will bring things up that are just so out there I have no idea how to respond on the spot. I imagine I could have found it on conservapedia.

      I think I'll keep it in mind for when I am low on material :)

  2. I only looked at a few.. "you can't explain beauty!" Really?! Then again, tides go in tides go out, you can't explain that either.. Checkmate atheists..

    1. Yeah, those arguments are so silly I'm not even sure how to argue against them. Do I try to give an example of a way beauty might be an evolutionary advantage? Do I try to get across the idea that declaring "God did it" isn't really an explanation for beauty either? I don't know.


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