Sunday, 11 September 2011
The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution
By Richard Dawkins
Imagine, if you will, that you are a doctor. You've spent about a decade of your life going through intensive schooling, studying fields like anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, microbiology, and dozens of other fields that all accumulate the knowledge you need to be able to treat humans. You've dedicated much of your life to attaining this knowledge, and the credentials that come with it showing that by an impartial institution you have earned a title that indicates you are an expert on the human body and what can go wrong with it. How intensely pissed would you be if you walk into your office to tell a patient that they have a brain tumor, and she looks up from her smart phone and matter-of-factly tells you that no, it's actually an imbalance of chi that's causing her headaches and dizzy spells. Now, instead of starting on the treatment that will make her better, you have to focus your energy on convincing her that not only are you right, but she is wrong. You have to spend session after session with her explaining that there is no natural evidence for chi, nor for anything like chi to affect one's head. You further show case study after study showing that the exact same kind of brain tumor you know she has. You show her the CT scans, the MRIs, the biopsies... and this is all the work you have to do even before you start to treat her.
Or imagine being a historian with your focus being on the Holocaust. You went through all your schooling reading first-hand accounts, meeting with holocaust survivors, seeing pictures of concentration camps, and you are doing your research on some nuance of the holocaust itself. Then someone comes up to you and tells you that the holocaust never happened. Say what? This is a point of view you didn't think anyone ACTUALLY held. Sure, someone had mentioned in passing that there were people that didn't believe the holocaust didn't happen, but that was reserved to people in tinfoil hats or stuck in an oppressive regime like Iran where they don't get outside information. So now instead of doing your research on how the post-WWI economic situation in Germany led so many ordinary people to blame the Jews for their problems, you now have to focus your energy on explaining to somebody that the holocaust did, indeed, happen.
This is how people who have studied evolutionary biology feel when dealing with creationists. Creationists demand so much from evolutionists to explain, but it's simply not that easy. Evolutionary biology is a complex, many-faceted field. A molecular biologist is not going to be as ready to explain how Tiiktalik is exactly what we expect as a transitional fossil between fish and tetrapods. A paleontologist will be hard-pressed to explain the transition between single-celled organisms to multicellular organisms. There are literally tens of MILLIONS of peer-reviewed, scientific articles on the subject of evolution. It's a complicated subject, and no one person can be expected to know it all.
Then, when bringing up salient points while discussing evolution with creationists, it often seems to fall on deaf ears. They dodge around us being able to answer their questions by constantly using vague terminology like "kinds" of animals, a topic I've dealt with before. They change the definition of evolution to something completely unrelated, like abiogenesis or cosmology, which I've also discussed in-depth. They move the goalposts when asking for evidence, claiming that the information I've given them doesn't fit the criteria they deem important. And some are downright dishonest when asking for evidence of evolution, much like Ray Comfort and his $10,000 challenge. Then, of course, there are those that flat-out ignore evidence given to them, some even here on Xanga going so far as to delete my comments.
So to all you creationists who say "it should be so simple to prove it true if it's a fact," you either don't realize what you're asking for, or you do and you're being intellectually dishonest. Evolution is not a concept one can master a full knowledge of in a handful of Xanga comments, just like quantum mechanics or optics or organic chemistry or any other science you don't question at all.
So tell me, creationists, what would it take to convince you that evolution is true? And before you answer, consider whether it is something that would actually convince you, or if it's even something that the theory of evolution would predict. Because the more I discuss evolution with creationists here, the less respect I have for creationists in general. This is your chance to redeem yourself in my eyes (if that even matters to you).