Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sign in the Harvard Museum



Here's a sign in the Harvard Museum of Natural History.

Wouldn't it be better to say that supernatural explanations for biological diversity were once considered and later discarded?

Why do you think it says "many scientists and religious leaders do not perceive an inherent conflict between religion and the scientific theory of evolution"? Wouldn't it be more honest to also mention that many scientists and religious leaders do perceive that religion and evolution are in conflict?

21 comments:

Miranda said...

"Wouldn't it be better to say that supernatural explanations for biological diversity were once considered and later discarded?"

The passive voice doesn't help a whole lot. Can you reformulate that using the active voice?

Steve said...

You've seen
Jesus and Mo, right?

Anonymous said...

I have three quibbles:

1. Evolution is something that happens in the world of life. There are theories which explain why evolution happens or explain features of the world of life as a consequence of evolution, and, in that sense, they are theories of evolution.

2. Creationism, whether of the Young Earth, Old Earth, or Intelligent Design varieties, does not offer explanations, but only denies the reality of evolution.

3. (And this is just my own personal quibble) In a scientific context, couldn't they do better than use the technical word "exponentially" to mean "a lot"?

Tom S.

D. Swart said...

"Why do you think it says..."

Perhaps an exercise in quelling?

Larry Moran said...

Harvard forgot to mention that there are many scientists and religious leaders who do not see a conflict between science and Young Earth Creationism.

The people who wrote this mealy-mouthed disclaimer also seem to be confused about the difference between the *facts* of evolution and the theory of evolution.

One Brow said...

I think the conflicts some feel exist between science and religion are already well-emphasized, and don't need to be repeated for this sign.

Miranda said...

A quibble on Anonymous's quibble:

"2. Creationism, whether of the Young Earth, Old Earth, or Intelligent Design varieties, does not offer explanations, but only denies the reality of evolution."

They deny the reality of macroevolution as opposed to microevolution. Usually, at least.

Filipe Calvario (from Brazil) said...

"Wouldn't it be better to say that supernatural explanations for biological diversity were once considered and later discarded?"

I'd hardly think so. It was never considered, in our MODERN conception of Science. In Philosophy, surely. By Scientists, personally, surely. In MODERN science, no.

"Why do you think it says 'many scientists and religious leaders do not perceive an inherent conflict between religion and the scientific theory of evolution'?"

To avoid conflict. To ensure people that they are not necessarily denying their religions by appreciating the work. Not every one wants to be Dawkins. They just want people to separate Science and religions, there. There are proper places to discuss this matter, but a Museum would better stay away from this.

"Wouldn't it be more honest to also mention that many scientists and religious leaders do perceive that religion and evolution are in conflict?'
They're already posting a sign in the museum. The word "Creationism" makes it obvious about the religious leaders, and the expression "Intelligent Design", coupled with the explanations in the sign makes it obvious about the scientists.

Ty said...

"They deny the reality of macroevolution as opposed to microevolution. Usually, at least."

A meaningless distinction only valued by those who don't understand the terms.

Miranda said...

Ty, let's keep in mind what Roger Lewin wrote: "The central question of the Chicago conference was whether the mechanisms underlying microevolution can be extrapolated to explain the phenomena of macroevolution. At the risk of doing violence to the positions of some of the people at the meeting, the answer can be given as a clear, No."

Besides, what I wrote before is still true.

Kevin said...

Miranda, your quote is from 1980. A lot has changed since then. The only response now to the question of whether microevolution and macroevolution are essentially be the same process would be "well why wouldn't they be?"
Once speciation occurs, what is there to prevent the two populations from departing indefinitely?

Anonymous said...

Flat-earthers do not deny that there are round hills and other non-flat local features of the earth.

The point remains unchallenged that anti-evolutionists of all sorts do not offer explanations, but only denials.

Tom S.

Filipe Calvario (from Brazil) said...

This flat-Earth thing reminds me of many events throughout the History, when a dichotomy took place,like flat/round Earth, abio/biogenesis, helio/geocentrism, creationism/(micro and macro!) evolution by natural selection.
It generally takes some time for Science to gather necessary evidence for deciding for one or another side.

Nevertheless, there are still modern geocentrists, flat-earthers, creationists out of the Science, but their number has decreased, not by affirmation of the arguments, but rather by obvious evidences.

After the satellites, rockets and images of the space, the number of flat-earthers and geocentrists has decreased immensely, because people cannot resist such evidences.

I maintain that the same thing is happening with creationists: they won't accept it by arguments. There is already a big number of people who accept the TofE, and I think the fossils have a lot to do with it. The more DNA researches are done, the more fossils are found, the more the TofE explains things in the Nature, the less creationists will be out there. It's a matter of time and work. Saliva is being spent in vain.

Ty said...

"Ty, let's keep in mind what Roger Lewin wrote: "The central question of the Chicago conference was whether the mechanisms underlying microevolution can be extrapolated to explain the phenomena of macroevolution. At the risk of doing violence to the positions of some of the people at the meeting, the answer can be given as a clear, No."

Nice quote mine. Like I said, anyone who thinks they are meaningful distinctions from an evolutionary standpoint doesn't understand the terms.

"Besides, what I wrote before is still true."

Yes, it's true that there are people who don't understand what they are talking about. How is that useful information?

Here, let me try it:

"Some people don't know how to solve algebra problems."

Hmmm, no, I don't find that as satisfying as you apparently do.

Larry Moran said...

Ty says,

Nice quote mine. Like I said, anyone who thinks they are meaningful distinctions from an evolutionary standpoint doesn't understand the terms.

I think there's a difference and I explain it in Macroevolution.

Does that mean I'm stupid?

Here's the short version. Microevolution cannot explain speciation, mass extinctions, and species sorting. Microevolution cannot explain why there are more marsupials in Australia than in North America.

This does not mean that microevolution is unimportant in macroevolutionary biology, it just means that it isn't sufficient.
 

Anonymous said...

The distinction between "micro"evolution and "macro"evolution is irrelevant to the point that the creationists deny evolution, and do not have anything positive to offer. Creationists are quite clever at one thing, which is diverting attention from their lack of anything positive to offer.

Tom S.

Takis Konstantopoulos said...

Isn't it obvious that the Harvard Museum guys are, merely, trying to be political and keep creationist-intelligent-designers happy? They recognize there are many of them around and don't want to offer a slap on their face.

Of course they should have been more honest and, of course, you or I would have phrased it more directly. But there is a fine line between political statements and dishonesty. The Harvard Museum has chosen the political approach.

Vladimir said...

The theory of evolution and the idea of intelligent design are not mutually exclusive concepts. Arguing with a creationist I pose the question, "If God is all knowing and all powerful, how hard is it to imagine that he instilled this idea of evolving biological organisms in his construction of the universe." I pose a similar question to evolutionists, "The idea of evolution does not disprove the idea of intelligent design...if anything it helps support that idea."

Now, depending on your faith, some believe that "God" pointed a finger and said "cow" and thus a cow was made....this kind of fairy tale thinking is where we run into problems. Unfortunately creationists who are religious leaders have a following of people who accept what they are told, on faith, as fact. Although, the scientific community also has a similar following, generally speaking the scientific community tends to have a more intelligent/educated following, but also a significantly smaller group than those who in the other set.

And I know that these sets have some crossover, the danger lies in the laws and policy creation, and the creationists generally have a larger backing. This at times leads to the stifling of research and free thought.

--Vlad

Miranda said...

Earlier, I wrote:

"2. Creationism, whether of the Young Earth, Old Earth, or Intelligent Design varieties, does not offer explanations, but only denies the reality of evolution."

They deny the reality of macroevolution as opposed to microevolution. Usually, at least.

===

I think if I had added a derogatory comment about creationists, people here wouldn't have felt the need to do it themselves. So here it is again:

"Even if they are woefully misguided, they deny the reality of macroevolution as opposed to microevolution. Usually, at least." To say that they "deny the reality of evolution" still turns out to be half-true.

Ty said...

No, Larry, I don't think you are stupid. But you are correctly using the term to mean a field of study, not a biological process. Not as a distinction between two kinds of evolution.

As you well know, and point out in your writing, this is not how the creationists are using the terms. It is meaningless to say, "I believe in microevolution, but not in macroevolution." It is the equivalent of saying, "I believe in fossils, but not in paleontology."

Anonymous said...

The point that I was trying to make, and which is being ignored, is that creationists of whatever kind do not offer explanations for anything. We can debate the fine details of just what aspects of science they deny and which they accept and which they remain silent about, but that is far less interesting than the fact that they have nothing positive or substantive to offer as alternatives.

Tom S.