Catherine, there are those who simply wont' listen to evidence, because it has the bad taste to contradict their faith. Those you are wasting your time talking to.
As for those who MIGHT listen, I would mention the Kitzmiller v Dover trial of 2005, where the Discovery Institute tried to sneak intelligent design into the Dover, PA classrooms. One of their witnesses was one Michael Behe, who has pushing their bilge for a while. When he tried to make the claim of "no transitional fossils," he was rebutted with more published and peer-reviewed evidence than he could ignore ... and no, he had no response to it, either. They also tried to play the "irreducible complexity" card with the flagellum, and got that thrown back at them as well with a stinger structure similar to the flagellum and having much of the same structure. The Discovery Institute got handed their asses in that trial, big-time.
Still ... there are people out there who simply don't want to hear it. It's the old fingers in the ears, going: "LA LA LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU!" routine. These are the kinds of people who wouldn't even listen to Richard Dawkins because they know what they believe and will not be bothered by FACTS.
It's very depressing. Being a tutor of some form for most of my young life, I try to think that anyone and everyone can be taught.
I need to read up on Kitzmiller v. Dover, because some creationists have actually tried to claim that Behe PROVED intelligent design during that case, and they still cite irreducible complexity as a valid argument for intelligent design.
PBS's NOVA did an excellent piece on the Kitzmiller trial:
It's not a quickie at nearly two hours, but it is very much worth your time. I should mention also that Wikipedia has a pretty fair article on the trial as well.
As to those who don't want to be taught, the problem is that they already think they have THE TRUTH ... so what else do they need to learn?
I should mention that the video above is Chapter 1 of 12. Here is the complete, single-piece video of the program, if you don't want to have to fuss with watching it in segments.
I normally avoid trying to have a serious discussion with fundamentalists, unless they insist. Then I let them know that religion is a mind virus which infects human hosts.
Like other viruses, religious memeplexes perpetuate themselves by infection. Their "stories" include any claims at all which appeal to hosts, no matter how ludicrous. Life after death? LOL
Trying to reason with a religious meme-infested brain is like trying to reason with a drunk, a waste of time.
Thinking about mind-viruses:
Christianity alters your identity to insure the survival of ITSELF.
-- from Prplfox's video series - http://ning.it/R2isGS
I find this interesting because despite being an atheist, I do not accept evolution, and one of the reasons for this is the "lack of transitional forms" argument. I would appreciate any feedback people have (but not just a link to an article or website with no comment or explanation).
My reasoning is thus:
1) Take (for example) an archaeopteryx (A) and a modern bird (B), one of which is claimed evolved from the other.
2) For this to happen, there should be (e.g.) 1000 very subtle changes for A to evolve into B.
3) If there are 1000 subtle changes, there should be (e.g.) 10 transitional forms that we can find which are significantly different from the previous forms and through which we can trace the evolutionary process.Yet we do not find any, or maybe only the odd couple of bones from one transitional form.
To forestall the obvious objections to the points I made above:
- Yes, I know I am making up numbers, but this is only to try and illustrate my point to make it clearer.
- I know fossils only form rarely, but given that any transitional form is a successful species for hundreds of years, I would still expect some examples to have been found which haven't turned into fuel.
- I used an arbitrary pair of animals in for my example and obviously don't expect a fossil record for everything or even a majority of animals, but I haven't seen any animals connected with a good set of fossil records and I would expect at least a few.
- I do not accept something to be true just because lots of people believe it, because lots of intelligent people believe it or because lots of stupid people don't believe it.
- If evolution is false, this just means we don't know how life got here, it does not mean creationism or intelligent design is true.
Again, as noted above, we are fortunate to have any fossils at all, considering how difficult it is to create a fossil and the number of changes the Earth's crust has undergone.
To your argument of "there should be ten transitional forms for every thousand very subtle changes" that is a meaningless statement. We cannot draw a conclusion about how many transitional forms there "should" be because there is no way to gather statistics on how many we "should" find, nor is there any evidence we will or won't find more in the future.
Moreover, all forms are transitional. The subtle changes are so subtle you do not notice them not for hundreds, but tens of thousands of years.
That said, science advances by consensus. Evolution is the consistently-best description of how life diversified on Earth. It is buttressed by multiple scientific disciplines across a huge range of fields. The theory of evolution is better-buttressed than any other theory in science, so if you call into question evolution, you might also call into question gravity, electromagnetism, or hydraulics.
If your argument is there is insufficient proof, then all those fields have less. Yet I don't presume you will jump up out of your chair and float off into space.
A working theory must account for all the facts, and adapt, change, be modified, or abandoned if it cannot. It must also be predictive. Attributed to JBS Haldane (a scientist) he is once reported to have answered the question of what would shake his support for evolution, and responded "A rabbit [fossil] in the Precambrian."
If such a thing (or something similar) were found, then the theory must be modified or even abandoned to account for it. Unlike religion, science does not ignore inconvenient facts. It adopts them.
Major scientific theories have been overthrown before. Evolution could equally be overthrown if evidence came forth that the theory could not account for. However, with support from fields as diverse as geology, biology, mathematics, and even nuclear physics that support it, such evidence would need to be quite convincing; it would be an extra-ordinary claim, and thus would need to be extra-ordinary evidence.
Even with no transitional forms whatsoever, the field of genetics by itself gives overwhelming support for evolutionary theory, a field which we have Cotton Mather (the witch-burner of Salem) to thank for with his study of different varieties of corn in Colonial Massachusetts.
The putative transitional form is not the only evidence for evolution.
As to the rest of your arguments: do not believe evolution because lots of people do - believe it because of the overwhelming evidence for it in excess of any other scientific theory which you already take as true.
You are right: even if evolution is proved to be untrue, that would mean a new theory would replace it, not (insert religious belief here). Religious beliefs could only be inserted if they can be shown to be true. But in the instant one particular belief is shown to be true, it becomes science.
Since religious views make claims about life and the universe, they can be tested in the same manner as any other claim. Barring any evidence forthcoming from the religious (dubious), they can all be shown to be false, even if evolution were also shown to be false.
There is so much support for evolution that "theory" is a misnomer. A more proper name would be "the fact of evolution."
Just the ravings of a high school educated city councilman and erotic Romance editor, your mileage may vary.
Indeed. Evolution is not a theory it's a process that is definable and demonstrable just as other processes are, such as metabolism, photosynthesis or ecological succession . There are however, mechanisms inherent in those processes that are theory (continuous vs. punctuated evolution for example). Invalidating a mechanism within the process doesn't, necessarily, invalidate the overall process.
I have (as a biology teacher) always referred to evolution as the theories of evolution.
I really hate calling people unintelligent or irrational (Catherine)
I have (as a biology teacher) always referred to evolution as the theories of evolution.(Jim)
Both of these factors count in people denying evolution. Long and slow process like evolution is very difficult to grasp by common folks(I am avoiding word unintelligent). This difficulty is futher enhanced by the fact that its knowledge is still at theory level.
That the transitional forms should be like half whale-half giraffe is a very erroneous argument. Homo habilis, homo erectus and homo sapiens are transitional forms of evolving humans and there is evidence of their existence.
Those who need to believe that man was created from Israeli dust deliberately refuse to accept evolution. They are not ignorant or fools. Their refusal to believe in evolution is very deliberate. The history of the Discovery Institute's trials illustrates this clearly. It is an open secret that what they really want to do is to malign, discredit or stop science by invoking god in scientific work. "Somehow push our god in your science" they say.
Thanks for the reply James. Yes, I agree my numbers are meaningless. As I stated there were there to try and illustrate my point. Also, I was using hundreds of years to try and be generous, I know the timescale is actually longer.
I know all forms are transitional. I was choosing 2 distant forms arbitrarily to demonstrate lack of fossil record between them. My point about getting a new form per x small changes was that it may take this many changes before we can recognise the form as significantly different from the previous one.
My argument is not "insufficient evidence", but more along the lines of "if evolution was true we would expect to see X but we don't". I admit the distinction is subtle.
We have some dinosaur fossils that are over 230 million years old. Having e.g. 10 distinct transitional forms between 2 species that occurred in the last 2-3 million years should be quite easy compared to that.
I think I agree with everything else you said. (Please note that the comments in my previous post that were preceded by a dash were not meant to be arguments for my case, they were just to avoid people repeating the obvious objections)
Jim - I would be interested if you have more information on how evolution is demonstrable. I am unaware of any demonstration of how one species evolves into another or of any technological advances that evolution has significantly contributed to.