Wednesday, October 20, 2010

If evolution is wrong...

I'm working on a one-page handout to be given out at an upcoming talk by a young-Earth creationist.    I think I've discovered a new slant on the 'why evolution must be true' arguments:

Evolution is as true as gravity:
Not only is evolution fully consistent with the other principles of science, if it were false they would also have to be false. 
If evolution is wrong:
·  Probability must be wrong.  If weak effects of genetic differences don’t accumulate over many generations, we must not understand the cumulative effects of recurring rare events.
·  Geology must be wrong.  If we don’t know how to date fossils, we must also not know how to date rocks.
·  Biochemistry must be wrong.  If biochemical pathways didn’t evolve, then metabolism makes no sense.
·  Microbiology must be wrong.  If viruses don’t evolve, we shouldn’t keep getting colds and the flu.
·  Genetics must be wrong.  If natural selection doesn’t happen, mutant genes must not be passed on to offspring.
·  Physics must be wrong.  If evolution hasn’t happened, we must not understand the laws of thermodynamics.
·  Pharmacology must be wrong.  If lab animals aren’t our relatives, our drug tests must be giving the wrong results.
·  Ecology must be wrong.  If we don’t know how species change, we must also not know how species interact with their environments.
·  Agriculture must be wrong.  If the plants and animals we eat didn't evolve by natural selection, we couldn't have improved them by artificial selection.

With young college students (my target audience) I think this may be quite a powerful argument for evolution.  Basically, if they believe that scientific research has gotten evolution all wrong, they have to also suspect all the other parts of science and technology that their lives depend on.

But I don't think I've done a very good job with the particulars.  I find it hard to twist my mind around the consequences of discarding things I'm confident are true, and I'd welcome any suggestions for improvement.

Here's the second part of the handout:

Evolution is as important as life:
As individuals and societies, we are now making decisions that will have profound consequences for future generations.
·  How should we balance the need to preserve the Earth’s plants, animals, and natural environment against other pressing concerns?
·  Can we preserve endangered species without changing them?
·  Should we alter our use of fossil fuels and other natural resources to enhance the well-being of our descendants?
·  To what extent should we use our new understanding of genes to alter the characteristics of living things?
·  How can we prevent bacteria from becoming resistant to our antibiotics?
Unless we understand evolution we will not be able to make these decisions wisely.

I think this is also not very well done.  I lifted most of it from the conclusions of the National Academy of Sciences 88-page report on Science, Evolution and Creationism.  If this doesn't get rewritten I'd better remember to credit them in a footnote. 

No comments: