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Tilting at Windmills

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March 31, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

THE SAD STATE OF TODAY'S TEENS....Apparently our educational system really is going down the toilet. Even the creationists are doing a lousy job:

As his students rummage for their notebooks, [biology teacher Al] Frisby introduces his central theme: Every creature on Earth has been shaped by random mutation and natural selection in a word, by evolution. The challenges begin at once.

"Isn't it true that mutations only make an animal weaker?" sophomore Chris Willett demands. " 'Cause I was watching one time on CNN and they mutated monkeys to see if they could get one to become human and they couldn't."

With all the resources at their disposal, this is the best that high school rabble-rousers can come up with these days? Nothing about the Second Law of Thermodynamics proving that evolution is impossible? Nothing about irreducible complexity? Just some lame question about a CNN show?

I fear that we're losing our younger generation of creationists. I propose a billion-dollar nationwide intervention program followed up by high stakes testing to ensure that our kids are prepared to talk ID trash at a tenth grade level before they're exposed to high school biology. This is a disgrace.

Kevin Drum 2:48 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (140)

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Comments

I opened up my critical thinking class to a debate on any highly controversial issue in the media today, they chose Brangelina.

Posted by: nutty little nut nut on March 31, 2006 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

Huh huh, well, like, you know, it's like, so hard, like to study and stuff, when, you know, like, there's all this cool stuff on myspace, like, you know, homie, like, you know I so need to talk, like, you know, on my cell phone to all my buds, like, you know, i mean, yea, whatever, you know, like, sure dude, huh huh huh huh

Posted by: Average teen on March 31, 2006 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

What you're witnessing is natural selection at work on creationists.

Posted by: Steve on March 31, 2006 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

But don't worry. Surely it can handle the tens of millions of new non-English-speaking students this next round of Amnesty and Guest-Worker programs are bound to bring in.

Posted by: Derek Copold on March 31, 2006 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

This teen is going to be the President in 2030. His advisors will come from the Indian Institute of American Political Science and Economics.

Posted by: lib on March 31, 2006 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

My wife teaches at Heald college; this semester they gave her a class of over forty students. Last night during formal, end of the quarter student presentations, the other students were talking, texting, e-mailing, one was even reading a newspaper held out at arms length. They have no respect for authority and when confronted by an instructor they immediately go to the Dean to complain. They feel their $25K should by them a care-free education.

Posted by: nutty little nut nut on March 31, 2006 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

I'm afraid the non creationists are jsut as bad. We have allowed at least 30 years of educational deterioration. That's a generation. I will take at least that long to recover, since the people becoming parents, and then teaching their kids, are hopelessly ignorant. Science is the future. America has chosen to look into the past, religion. Show me ten people who can explain the First, Second and Third laws of Thermodynamics, who can explain what the difference between a hypothesis and a theory is, and who can relate the historical relevance of Bismarck, Tojo and Marx. I doubt it is doable.

Posted by: Chris on March 31, 2006 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

buy

Posted by: nutty little nut nut on March 31, 2006 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

TV is all they know. At least give the kid credit for watching something other than MTV.

Posted by: Yankee Sailor on March 31, 2006 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

Show me someone who knows how to use an apostrophe.

Posted by: nutty little nut nut on March 31, 2006 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

"TV is all they know. At least give the kid credit for watching something other than MTV."

I agree. At least the kid's asking a question (instead of simply quoting gospel inanities).

Posted by: Matthew on March 31, 2006 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

Intelligent Design is the theory that churchgoers are too simple to be able to understand science. It can be applied to anything. If you don't understand it--calculus, say--it's because God doesn't want you to. That's why it's called Intelligent--because it's the theory that what you can't understand is by definition impossible for you to understand because nobody does, really, they'rejust faking. It's the circular reasoning behind fundamentalism--if it doesn't make logical sense, it's because it's not supposed to make sense, and besides God has spoken directly to your leaders so stop thinking for yourself. It's congruent with the whole Bush Knows Things Beyond Your Understanding salespitch of neocons and Rovians.

Posted by: W Action on March 31, 2006 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK


I doubt if 1% of the posters here understand natural selection. Since that is the case, I'm not exactly sure exactly how they can 'believe' in it.

Posted by: gcochran on March 31, 2006 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

If an alien read the posts here, it would certainly conclude that all these guys are so smart that each and everyone of them would be able to compute the Lyapunov exponents of a chaotic attractor without the aid of any computer.

Posted by: tbrosz on March 31, 2006 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

If an alien read the posts here, it would certainly conclude that all these guys are so smart that each and everyone of them would be able to compute the Lyapunov exponents of a chaotic attractor without the aid of any computer.

And of course, tbrosz goes all esoteric on us to prove he's the smartest of the smart.

Posted by: Stranger on March 31, 2006 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

What the classroom needs is a hired goon to slap students like this and say "that's the dumbest fucking argument I ever heard. Next time don't be a jackass!" At least that would be amusing.

There are still a lot of holes in the whole theory behind how mutations shape DNA over the course of millenia, but the advent of computers and with it mathematical biology biology is one of the most dynamic scientific fields of today. Which is why, I think, there's such a strong reaction against it. Dynamic scientific fields are threatening.

Posted by: Raznor on March 31, 2006 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

The article also said that many teachers are not able to refute the creationist students' arguments. That seems to me to point to inadequate training.

Any high school biology teacher should be familiar with creationist pseudo-scientific arguments and how to debunk them.

The students the article profiled seemed to be rude and defiant, interrupting the teacher not out of genuine truth-seeking but just teenage boredom and rebelliousness. They should be disciplined; if that is not happening, we have a problem.

Posted by: tyronen on March 31, 2006 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know what you're talking about, Kevin. Why, just look at BigRiver, FrequencyKenneth, MountainDan, conspiracy nut, and Freedom Fighter: their arguments are always germane, insightful, and relentlessly logical. They can argue with the best of them. Strawmen, false dilemmas, ad hominems, non sequiturs, and begging the question are the new black.

Posted by: Alek Hidell on March 31, 2006 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK

Meanwhile, right now on A&E's Biography Channel, they're showing Manhunter, a Hannibal Lecter movie, as if it were true.

Posted by: cld on March 31, 2006 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

They are doing all sorts of screwy things with the education system here in Michigan and they haven't even gotten to screwing with the ID and science standards yet!

Posted by: madmatt on March 31, 2006 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

And The History Channel is showing 'Stigmata: Marked for Life, the wounds of Christ mysteriously appear on people'.

Posted by: cld on March 31, 2006 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

The latest on Kaloogian demonstrates the problem with the right-wing. It's laziness. Pure and simple. They've been able to get away with so much for so long that they no longer think that they even have to try. I think this is the beginning of the end. The right is self imploding because they are taking their power for granted.

That's my take at least.

Posted by: gq on March 31, 2006 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

Many of the hyperchristian students aren't really trying to best the teacher, which they know they're not equipped to do. Their heckling is just a vehicle for asserting that god thinks the teacher is wrong. As far as they're concerned that closes the discussion; so any sort of objection, no matter how frail, will do. And it's not necessarily something they enjoy. More like a chore...

1 Peter 3:15: "...be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you..."

Posted by: penalcolony on March 31, 2006 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

It's not that they don't have any respect for authority, they don't have any respect for educational authority.

The only solution to this would be to pay teachers something commensurate with Congressmen.

Posted by: cld on March 31, 2006 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

The questions are great. They betray a curiosity about evolution beneath the animosity. If a teacher doesn't know the answer to a question like "How do we know these aren't deformed racoon bones instead of whale bones?", they should encourage and help the student to find an answer.

Posted by: Boronx on March 31, 2006 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

What Raznor said, and this:

"Why, you little punk. Who the hell are you to tell me how to teach my class? Shuddup or I'll break off that goddamn tail of yours right at the stump.

"This is a biology class, Skippy. Not a debate class. Not a Simpsons episode. Not a church camping trip. A. Biology. Class. We deal in science here. That means observation, hypothesis, experiment, and theory. Not wild guesses, mythology, or what some guy in a cheap suit told you on a Sunday morning while winking at your kid sister in the front row.

"You are here to learn. If that is not to your liking, then leave."

Posted by: Matt on March 31, 2006 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

If a kid walks away from public schools and CNN with intelligent design being the worst dumb idea he has stuck in his head, we'll be doing a lot better than we are now.

As far as I know, Jay Bennish is back in front of his class, teaching kids. So it goes.

A biology teacher who can't refute the usual creationist objections to evolution in five minutes is probably in the wrong business.

Posted by: tbrosz on March 31, 2006 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

cld>The History Channel...

...is has always seemed a clearly reactionary project, run by republicans and probably proposed by think tank "fellows".

Posted by: Bruce the Canuck on March 31, 2006 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

The only solution to this would be to pay teachers something commensurate with Congressmen. Posted by: cld on March 31, 2006 at 3:39 PM

With or without Abrahamoff style contributions?

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on March 31, 2006 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

i'd just like to throw this out there, but imho (and its very humble) its not the teachers or the students. its the system.
this isn't scientific evidence, but i lived in germany for four years. in college classes i've talked to various people who have traveled around the world. i can specifically recall japan, china, and england as places those people have visited. all were teachers, one a college professor and two high school teachers. my point is that all of us agreed that it wasn't the teachers or students in the U.S. that are the problem. The teachers here are definately up there with the best, if not the best. And of course our students have just as much capability to learn as any other. the general feeling was that it is our system which needs to be revamped.
again, not science, but it is an outlook that a lot of people seem to have.

Posted by: chris on March 31, 2006 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe it's not the education system. Maybe it's just us. All day long we're bombarded by media culture sellling quick fixes, instant gratification, and dumbed down perspectives - and somehow we're surprised when people actually believe it.

As far as Derek's remark regarding immigrants, it depends. If their kids fully assimilate and buy into the impoverished excuse for a culture we as a nation have settled for, then he's right, they will do just as poorly (if not more poorly) than the kids currently in school. But then again, if they keep the same work ethic their parents have shown (I dare you to make a 3,000 mile trip and work 12 hour shifts in a kitchen or in the fields), I think we'd be surprised at how much better they do than "native born" kids.

Posted by: moderleft on March 31, 2006 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

Second law of thermodynamics proving evolution is impossible? I think everyone is smart enough to know it only applies to closed systems.

Have you ever looked in the toilet before you flushed? Have you ever calculated the entropy change between say . . .
1) a mixture of crude oil and air and 2) carbon dioxide
or between
1) Uranium 235 and 2) it's fission products
and on and on and on

We accellerate entropy to an extent that squirrel monkeys can't fathom. They watch the rain forest fall around them -- and while their studying that reality -- judiciously, as they will -- we'll act again, creating other newer higher entropy realities, which they can study too -- until we wipe them out and replace their precious "reality" with a less ordered, less complex, and lower energy ecosystem more useful to us, and that's how things will sort out.

Posted by: toast on March 31, 2006 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

The latest on Kaloogian demonstrates the problem with the right-wing. It's laziness. Pure and simple. " Posted by: gq on March 31, 2006 at 3:37 PM

See also Ben Domenech...

I think you're exactly right gq.

Posted by: A Hermit on March 31, 2006 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

We talk about how Mullahs are wrong to teach from a religious point of view while continuing to insert religious points of views into our schools. What's the difference? None. Both obscure real learning.

Posted by: del on March 31, 2006 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

I had a teacher who had a little box that contained two tape loops. One was laughter, the other someone crying. Once he used both: a kid began his book report on "All Quiet on the Western Front" by saying that it described the adventures of British soldiers in World War I.

Posted by: Wombat on March 31, 2006 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

But then again, if they keep the same work ethic their parents have shown...

Again, we see that wonderful, optimistic little "if", meant to cast away all doubts with promises of bright, sunny future to distract us from the problems that are already here.

Seriously, have you seen the Hispanic drop-out rates? Oh, I'm sure you have a wonderful solution to this problem right in your pants pocket, but why don't we give it a spin on the students already here before we import tens of millions more.

Also, something like 20-30% of Hispanics in the U.S. are Evangelical Protestants, so they're not exactly going to be into the works of Darwin and Huxley.

Posted by: Derek Copold on March 31, 2006 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

chris, "the general feeling was that it is our system which needs to be revamped."


What do you mean by our system?


If you mean the educational system, I couldn't agree more. Nearly everything I learned in high school could have been learned in elementary school, and at least half of what I took in the first four years of college could have been covered in high school.

Posted by: cld on March 31, 2006 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

That was no mutated monkey on CNN, that was Wolf Blitzer.

Posted by: tom on March 31, 2006 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

It's neither the teachers nor the students. It's not the educational system either. It's the culture.

If aI m a teenager who sees that a C student not only gets to go to Yale but also becomes the President with tens of Ph. D.s at his becon call, the most rational course of action for me would be to not aspire to be a Ph. D.

Multiply such cues a thousand times for examples from the sports and entertainment, and you soon realize that the kids are being very rational when they chose to ignore academics and knowledge in general.

Posted by: lib on March 31, 2006 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK


Yes, it's the responsibility of others to acquit themselves as adults while we baby ourselves. That's how life is supposed to work.

Posted by: cld on March 31, 2006 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

'Cause I was watching one time on CNN and they mutated monkeys to see if they could get one to become human and they couldn't."

Looks like they did succeed after all, Junior. Oh, and have you listened to the guy your parents voted for for President talk lately?

Posted by: brewmn on March 31, 2006 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

Once, in my High School Latin class, we were given a list of projects to undertake. Half the class -- myself included -- chose an essay topic on the Second Punic War. (It was, to the best of my ability, "What consequences would it have entailed to the region had the outcome of the Second Punic War been reversed?).

Out of 10 students doing an essay -- I was the only one to have correctly identified who won the bloody 2nd Punic War in the first place.

Was it bad teaching? No. It's kids being dumbasses. That's what being a kid is about. Sometime in college, your dumbassery generally smacks you senseless, and you stop. If not, you go on to vote Republican.

Posted by: Morat on March 31, 2006 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

You should consider reading a small book by Morris Berman. "Twilight of American Culture".

The author doesn't have a lot of warmth to offer, nor is his solution a very realistic one.

He makes some pretty astute observations about cultures and what could save ours though.

Regards,

Patrick

Posted by: Patrick Briggs on March 31, 2006 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

" 'Cause I was watching one time on CNN and they mutated monkeys to see if they could get one to become human and they couldn't."

I thought they cancelled Crossfire.

Posted by: alkali on March 31, 2006 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

I read that article this morning and I felt like I was going to puke.

We are an incredibly dumb nation. I mean, how else to explain Kansas, our president, and the questions about scientists trying to mutate monkeys into humans?

Doooooooomed!

Posted by: The Tim on March 31, 2006 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

A biology teacher who can't refute the usual creationist objections to evolution in five minutes is probably in the wrong business.

I don't really think that's the point, Tom. I read the story this morning with my Cheerios, and my reaction was the same as Kevin's: "this is the best they can do? This isn't challenging the subject, it's just disrupting the class."

If these guys have something cogent to say, it will probably benefit everyone to say it and have it discussed on. But if they are just going to make noise, they should be sent home or to the mall or the Heritage Foundation or wherever it is that the disinterested kids get sent.

Posted by: craigie on March 31, 2006 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

It's kids being dumbasses. That's what being a kid is about. Sometime in college, your dumbassery generally smacks you senseless, and you stop. If not, you go on to vote Republican.

Or, a better, more concise version of my post.

Posted by: craigie on March 31, 2006 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

Sometime in college, your dumbassery generally smacks you senseless, and you stop. If not, you go on to vote Republican.

Smug Alert!

Posted by: Derek Copold on March 31, 2006 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

"'...they mutated monkeys to see if they could get one to become human and they couldn't.'"
That must be Babs's and Geo. H.W.'s little secret.

Posted by: Dabodius on March 31, 2006 at 5:00 PM | PERMALINK

craigie:

I don't really think that's the point, Tom. I read the story this morning with my Cheerios, and my reaction was the same as Kevin's: "this is the best they can do? This isn't challenging the subject, it's just disrupting the class."

If these guys have something cogent to say, it will probably benefit everyone to say it and have it discussed on. But if they are just going to make noise, they should be sent home or to the mall or the Heritage Foundation or wherever it is that the disinterested kids get sent.

But on the bright side, with disruptive kids like that, comment boards on blogs like this will never go dry.

Posted by: tbrosz on March 31, 2006 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

'Cause I was watching one time on CNN and they mutated monkeys to see if they could get one to become human and they couldn't.

Why is CNN mutating monkey's to see if they can become human? Are they looking to replace Larry King?

Posted by: ibid on March 31, 2006 at 5:09 PM | PERMALINK

This is a really serious inquiry. How many of you pseudo-scientists who claim to be so smart out their actually know the answers to these questions.

1. Yes the second law applies only to closed systems, but how do you account for the beggining value of entropy in the entire universe?

2. What is the number of nanoseconds so far in the universe?

3. What is the range of the best guess numbers for how probable it is for life to spontaneously begin from inorganic materials?

4. Is the Miller, Urey experiment still considered the best guess for the early generation of amino acids?

5. If everything about original biogenesis is clear and so obvious, why has panspermia become in vogue as a legitimate theory?

The point is not to argue about evolution/creation - the point is that the actual question of origins is an interesting area of inquiry which has been clouded by the bold proclamations of popular pseudo-scientists on both sides. If Kevin laments the inablility of todays teens perhaps it is because dogmatism is just as heavy or perhaps more so on the naturalists side than it is on the creationist side.

Posted by: John Hansen on March 31, 2006 at 5:28 PM | PERMALINK

John Hansen: What is the range of the best guess numbers for how probable it is for life to spontaneously begin from inorganic materials?

It is inevitable.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 31, 2006 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

Hmmm...I do a Bible study with evangelical students every Wednesday night in a red town in a red county in a red state. And they somehow manage to understand the basics of evolution, which they accept over ID. They also ask questions that show inquiring minds and curiosity. Perhaps we are showcasing the wrong students with a soundbite context to prove political points?

Posted by: Gretchen on March 31, 2006 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK

sa-

Huh? If it is inevitable how come to our best knowledge life has definitely not evolved on the Moon, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Venus, Mercury.....

Posted by: John Hansen on March 31, 2006 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK

John Hansen,

SecularAnimist is just making another one of his usual insane claims.

SA, isn't it time for you to don your "The End is Nigh" sandwich board and take to the streets?

Posted by: Debug on March 31, 2006 at 5:46 PM | PERMALINK

John Hansen: Interesting questions. If only they had anything, anything at all, to do with evolution.

Posted by: bob on March 31, 2006 at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK

John Hansen wrote: "Huh? If it is inevitable how come to our best knowledge life has definitely not evolved on the Moon, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Venus, Mercury....."

Because your original question was sloppy. If you don't like the answer, refine the question.

Posted by: PaulB on March 31, 2006 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

PaulB,

"Because your original question was sloppy."

Er, no. Sloppy questioning is most definitely not the reason life has not evolved in those places.

Try again.

Posted by: Debug on March 31, 2006 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK

Multiply such cues a thousand times for examples from the sports and entertainment, and you soon realize that the kids are being very rational when they chose to ignore academics and knowledge in general.

Are you saying their selection is natural?

Posted by: Bob M on March 31, 2006 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

Debug: SecularAnimist is just making another one of his usual insane claims.

Sounds like Don P is posting under a new handle.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 31, 2006 at 6:10 PM | PERMALINK

If everything about original biogenesis is clear and so obvious, why has panspermia become in vogue as a legitimate theory?

Dude, there is a difference between evolution and the origin of life itself. Evolution is not in doubt. The origin of life, not so much. Maybe that's how it's possible for smart scientist types to believe in God without feeling the need to dispute evolution. Something to be learned there, I think.

Posted by: craigie on March 31, 2006 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK

Hansen (March 31, 2006 at 5:28 PM):

Your questions are mostly non sequiturs. But let's assume no one knows the answers to any of your questions. So what should we do? Start searching the ancient (& highly corrupted, btw) texts of religions to find the answers?

Seems to me, the honorable thing to do is the acknowledge the ignorance and honestly study phenomena that might lead to answers that can be validated experimentally.

(To webmaster: It would be nice to include the address of the post one is replying to. E.g.
, or . My attempts failed.)

Posted by: jimvj on March 31, 2006 at 6:12 PM | PERMALINK

But on the bright side, with disruptive kids like that, comment boards on blogs like this will never go dry.

You know, for fifty bucks, I could probably teach you to be amusing.

Posted by: craigie on March 31, 2006 at 6:16 PM | PERMALINK

bob-

In my understanding evolution refers to the assumption that complex forms of life including man were created entirely by natural processes starting from inorganic materials.

The question of biogenesis and whether it is a reasonable assumption therefore has everything, everything, everything to do with the evolutionary hypothesis.

Posted by: John Hansen on March 31, 2006 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK

craigie gets it exactly right.

when people blow past that distinction it is usually a sure sign they have no idea what they are talking about.

Posted by: bob on March 31, 2006 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

nope. evolution is about speciation: given that life exists, what explains the variety?

questions about how we get life to begin with are (largely) a seperate issue.

put another way, Darwins book is "The Origin of Species" and not "The Origin of Life" for a good reason.

Posted by: bob on March 31, 2006 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK

Regarding my "insane claims":

"The origin of life was an inevitable process of emergent complexity -- a transition from the geochemical simplicity of oceans, atmosphere, and rocks, to the biochemical complexity of the first cell [...] Hydrogen, the simplest of all the chemical elements, formed in abundance shortly after the Big Bang origin of the universe. Those hydrogen atoms inevitably formed stars, which soon synthesized the periodic table's full complement of chemical elements. These chemical elements, in turn, led to the emergence of Earth-like planets, and from such planets life, too, arose in all its diversity. And perhaps, given living planets and sufficient time, consciousness and self-awareness are also likely consequences of emergent complexity in a universe that is learning to know itself [...] In a universe with a hundred billion galaxies, each with hundreds of billions of stars, we humans may be seen not as an improbable quirk of fate, but rather as an integral part of the inexorable cosmic progression from simplicity to complexity."

-- Robert M. Hazen, Ph.D., author of Genesis: The Scientific Quest for Life's Origins, published by the National Academies Press. Hazen is Staff Scientist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington Geophysical Laboratory and Professor of Earth Science at George Mason University.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 31, 2006 at 6:33 PM | PERMALINK

bob

-but most of the objections to evolution that spur the movement to ID involve the inablility to generate the first irreducibly complex lifeforms. By restricting evolultion to speciation you simply sweep the most difficult problems under the rug where they belong when dogmatism reigns.

Posted by: John Hansen on March 31, 2006 at 6:33 PM | PERMALINK

My experience is when a scientist uses the word inevitable it is because he does not understand the process.

Posted by: sa on March 31, 2006 at 6:35 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry that post should not be from : sa it should be addressed to sa

sa -

My experience is when a scientist uses the word inevitable it is because he does not understand the process.

Posted by: John Hansen on March 31, 2006 at 6:36 PM | PERMALINK

i'd just like to throw this out there, but imho (and its very humble) its not the teachers or the students. its the system. Posted by: chris

No. You're thinking too big and squishy. Not everything we learn can be snappy and fun.

The problem is their parents.

Next.

Posted by: Jeff II on March 31, 2006 at 6:41 PM | PERMALINK

John Hansen wrote: My experience is when a scientist uses the word inevitable it is because he does not understand the process.

That's a very glib and entirely empty comment.

I recommend reading Hazen's book. It directly addresses the questions that seem to concern you. In addition to the National Academies Press website that I linked to above, you can get it from Amazon.com for under twenty bucks. Publisher's Weekly says "The origin of life is a hotly contested scientific field, of which Hazen provides a balanced view, airing all the controversies, and only slightly favoring his own pet theory." Whatever your own views, you will be better informed about scientific approaches to the question of the origins of life if you read this book.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 31, 2006 at 6:44 PM | PERMALINK


john:

congratulations! you seem to have inadvertantly stumbled upon the intellectual bankruptcy of much of the ID movement: many of the objections they raise over 'evolution' are not objections to evolution at all, but rather a straw man of their own construction. evolution simply does not make claims about the origin of life.

and let me be very clear about this: i am not "restricting" evolution. i am merely stating it correctly.

Posted by: bob on March 31, 2006 at 6:45 PM | PERMALINK
1. Yes the second law applies only to closed systems, but how do you account for the beggining value of entropy in the entire universe?

There are a number of theories about how this could come about.

One such notes the fact that entropy only usually increases. It decreases in small systems all the time, and in a very big system like the universe, it will decrease if given an unlimited ammount of time.

2. What is the number of nanoseconds so far in the universe?

3.16E16 nanoseconds in 1 year times 14.3(?) Billion years = 4.5E26

3. What is the range of the best guess numbers for how probable it is for life to spontaneously begin from inorganic materials?

(0,1]

4. Is the Miller, Urey experiment still considered the best guess for the early generation of amino acids?

Don't know, except I think they've found evidence for possible amino acids in space.

5. If everything about original biogenesis is clear and so obvious, why has panspermia become in vogue as a legitimate theory?

These are theories about two different things: How life came to earth, and how it started. Panspermia only competes with abiogenesis theories that say life started on Earth.

If Kevin laments the inablility of todays teens perhaps it is because dogmatism is just as heavy or perhaps more so on the naturalists side than it is on the creationist side.

The difference being that the creationisms isn't anything more than dogmatism. Many people want to be more certain than is warranted by their own learning about important questions. If such people by good fortune latch on to a strong scientific theory, this in no way detracts from the value or accuracy of the theory.

If you peel away the layers of ignorant cheerleaders from creatonism, you won't have anything left.

Posted by: Boronx on March 31, 2006 at 6:51 PM | PERMALINK

The sad state of teens? Need I remind all that one george bush has degrees from yale and harvard? Last time I checked, that "grownup" can't string two cogent sentences together.

Posted by: Pechorin on March 31, 2006 at 6:51 PM | PERMALINK

sa -

I may take your recommendation - it sounds like an interesting read. But I am a little disturbed about his claim "...of the inexorable cosmic progression from simplicity to complexity..."

My experience is that inorganic things generally do not evolve to more complex states ( think 2nd law here ).

On the other hand, life, as a general term, seems to be all about
maintaining a complex state against all the battles presented by the decay of all things.

Posted by: John Hansen on March 31, 2006 at 6:53 PM | PERMALINK

"2. What is the number of nanoseconds so far in the universe?"

What is point of this question? If we don't know the age of the universe to nanosecond precision, we can't state that humans and chimps came from a common ancestor? Do you just want to know the age of the universe and thought "nanoseconds" sounded more scientific? I didn't think it was possible, but this is even more inane than the CNN question.

Posted by: MattT on March 31, 2006 at 6:57 PM | PERMALINK

I dunno, John, I'd say Galaxies, solar systems, planets are all so much more complex than an undifferentiated cloud of Hydrogen.

Posted by: Boronx on March 31, 2006 at 7:00 PM | PERMALINK

John Hansen wrote: My experience is that inorganic things generally do not evolve to more complex states ( think 2nd law here ). On the other hand, life, as a general term, seems to be all about maintaining a complex state against all the battles presented by the decay of all things.

You may have noticed that the Earth is bathed in a constant stream of energy from the Sun, which enables local anti-entropic processes and states.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 31, 2006 at 7:02 PM | PERMALINK

sa,

What page of the book does that quote appear on?

Posted by: floop on March 31, 2006 at 7:03 PM | PERMALINK

floop: What page of the book does that quote appear on?

That particular quote is from an online Q&A with Robert Hazen regarding the book, and his views of the origin of life, from February 16, 2006 at The Washington Post website. I concatenated two of Hazen's replies for simplicity of presentation. A transcript of the complete Q&A session is available here.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 31, 2006 at 7:13 PM | PERMALINK

You have misrepresented your source, as usual. Hazen didn't claim that life was inevitable at all, still less that it was inevitable "for life to spontaneously begin from inorganic materials," which is what you claimed. You pulled Hazen's statement out of context to try and hide the fact that it was his response to a question about how he would characterize his theory. If Hazen had said that life was inevitable, you would at least have found one reputable scientist who supports your claim, but you haven't even done that.

Posted by: Debug on March 31, 2006 at 7:23 PM | PERMALINK

Don P posting as "Debug" wrote: You have misrepresented your source, as usual.

I did no such thing, and you are a pathetic liar as always. Beyond that your comment is incoherent gibberish. You are the same pretentious, phony, dogmatic boor as ever, and as ever, desperately and endlessly trying to prove to yourself that you are superior to others.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 31, 2006 at 7:31 PM | PERMALINK

sa,

"I did no such thing"

Yes you did, you stupid liar. Hazen didn't say that life was inevitable. He said only that his theory could be characterized in that way.

Posted by: Debug on March 31, 2006 at 7:34 PM | PERMALINK

sa-

I read the Q&A with Hazen.

Very impressed. This is the type of scientists we need. He is not afraid to state out loud that evolution/biogenesis theory has many gaps that can be exploited by ID enthusiasts. ( Funny, how the expectation of the pseudo-scientist on the line was that Hazen would be attacked by ID'ers.)

If more scientists were like Hazen, I think there would be a lot more light shed in the evolution/creation debate. It appears to me that Hazen is very comfortable in his beliefs. He is not afraid of the gaps.


My question for you sa is - if you can see how pointing to a discussion by a real scientist like Hazen who has respect for his questioners can be so much more illuminating - how come most of the time you are such a smart aleck?

Posted by: John Hansen on March 31, 2006 at 7:40 PM | PERMALINK

Here's just how much of an idiot Don P is, regardless of what handle he uses to post his pompous stupidity.

Don P complains: Hazen didn't claim that life was inevitable at all, still less that it was inevitable "for life to spontaneously begin from inorganic materials"

Now, here are Hazen's exact words -- a direct quote: "The origin of life was an inevitable process of emergent complexity -- a transition from the geochemical simplicity of oceans, atmosphere, and rocks, to the biochemical complexity of the first cell."

Don P is pathologically stupid, or a pathological liar, or both.

And his assertion that I "misrepresented my source" is, in a word, bullshit -- and moreover bullshit from a serial liar who has repeatedly, blatantly and egregiously misrepresented the content and origin of documents he has cited in support of his own absurd claims. My source is Robert Hazen's own words, exactly as I said, which were published on The Washington Post website a few weeks ago, where anyone can see them and verify that I quoted him accurately.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 31, 2006 at 7:44 PM | PERMALINK

Don P posting as "Debug" wrote: Hazen didn't say that life was inevitable. He said only that his theory could be characterized in that way.

Now you are just babbling. You've really gone off the deep end.

I'm not saying that you are an asshole. I'm only saying that you could be characterized in that way.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 31, 2006 at 7:49 PM | PERMALINK

sa:

"Now, here are Hazen's exact words -- a direct quote: "The origin of life was an inevitable process of emergent complexity -- a transition from the geochemical simplicity of oceans, atmosphere, and rocks, to the biochemical complexity of the first cell."

I didn't say those weren't his words, you pathetic liar. I said you pulled them out of context to try and disguise the fact that he was describing his theory rather than making a claim of scientific knowledge. The question that prompted his statement was: "How would you boil down your overarching theory in a sentence or so?"

Posted by: Debug on March 31, 2006 at 7:53 PM | PERMALINK

sa,

"I'm not saying that you are an asshole."

I'm saying that you're one. And not just any asshole, but a lying, stupid asshole.

Posted by: Debug on March 31, 2006 at 7:56 PM | PERMALINK

I doubt if 1% of the posters here understand natural selection. Since that is the case, I'm not exactly sure exactly how they can 'believe' in it.

Speak for yourself. Sounds more like projection to me.

Posted by: Bob on March 31, 2006 at 8:00 PM | PERMALINK

Religion is the crystal methamphetamine of the masses.

Posted by: Toby Petzold on March 31, 2006 at 8:03 PM | PERMALINK

Willett:

" 'Cause I was watching one time on CNN and they mutated monkeys to see if they could get one to become human and they couldn't."

Just shoot it in the head before it discovers girls.

Posted by: Toby Petzold on March 31, 2006 at 8:06 PM | PERMALINK

Don P posting as "Debug" wrote: I said you pulled them out of context to try and disguise the fact that he was describing his theory rather than making a claim of scientific knowledge.

I did no such thing. I did not pull anything out of context, I did not try to "disguise" anything, and I did not in any way misrepresent Hazen's comments.

I commented several posts ago in reply to John Hansen's question about "how probable it is for life to spontaneously begin from inorganic materials" (his words) that it was "inevitable".

You called this an "insane idea".

I then quoted a "reputable scientist", Robert Hazen, who has written a book about the scientific approach to the origin of life, who describes his own theory of the emergence of life from "the geochemical simplicity of oceans, atmosphere, and rocks" (i.e. "inorganic materials") as being "an inevitable process".

You are an incorrigible phony.

Since, according to you, everything you write here is the result of "blind, mechanical forces" I cannot imagine why I am wasting time replying to your vapid and vacuous bullshit.


Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 31, 2006 at 8:06 PM | PERMALINK

If everything about original biogenesis is clear and so obvious, why has panspermia become in vogue as a legitimate theory?

Scientists generally take the view that biogenesis is favored (and inevitable) given enough time of exposure to a useful energy source (visible light, high energy redox pairs, etc.). It is still obviously a rare event. We don't know how long it took on earth because the Archean rock record is so fragmentary, however, the oldest sedimentary rocks known show evidence of biogenic carbon and the preserved morphology of small cells. These rocks were laid down within a few 100 million years of the last meteorite impact large enough to extinguish all life.

The reason panspermia is in vogue is that 1) solar system models show Mars becoming habitable prior to earth, 2) meteor impacts where much more common during early solar system history, 3) rocks are easily ejected from Mars (a smaller planetary body) without being melted or heated above the boiling point of water, 4) It can take less that 10 years for an ejected body to reach earth, 5) Those meteorites can drop to the earths surface without their cores being heated.

So basically all that time that earth is sitting around waiting for spontaneous biogenesis it has peices of Mars dropping into the ocean over and over and over. If one of those peices of Mars has a single unicellular organism capabable of multiplying in it (as might be expected by it's longer history of life favoring conditions) this life form will take over the planet, diversify, and leave no major niches free for life from indigenous biogenesis. Even if life evolved on earth, martian microbes raining from the sky might be a bit more evolved and able to out compete earthlings for resources.

So panspermia is in fact supported by those that think life is inevitable and formed relatively easily through biogenesis. So easily that it formed on Mars in the short interval when it was habitable and Earth was not. They still think it takes a minimum of a few hundred thousand years and this is too long for earthlings to get a foot hold before the martians invaded via chunks of rock falling into the ocean.

Posted by: toast on March 31, 2006 at 8:09 PM | PERMALINK

My experience is that inorganic things generally do not evolve to more complex states ( think 2nd law here ).

"My experience" - well, there's your problem. If you're basing your beliefs solely on your personal and clearly limited experience that explains how you don't understand natural selection or the 2nd law of thermodynamics vs closed systems.

I suggest reading a little Darwin, Gould and Dennett, then get back with us.

Posted by: Bob on March 31, 2006 at 8:11 PM | PERMALINK

sa,

"I did no such thing. I did not pull anything out of context, I did not try to "disguise" anything, and I did not in any way misrepresent Hazen's comments."

Yes, you did, you pathetic liar. You pulled Hazen's statement out of context to try and hide the fact that he was merely describing his theory, not making a claim of scientific knowledge.

You have yet to cite even a single scientist who supports your claim that "it is inevitable" for life to spontaneously begin from inorganic materials.

Posted by: Debug on March 31, 2006 at 8:13 PM | PERMALINK

Life is elementally inherent. Our descendants will find find life throughout the universe because it cannot be avoided. By the numbers it cannot be avoided.

Heliocentrism superseded geocentrism. This is the general trend, still.

Posted by: Toby Petzold on March 31, 2006 at 8:17 PM | PERMALINK

Hansen:

My experience is that inorganic things generally do not evolve to more complex states

No one thing ever evolves, sir. Individuals are not chains; they are links.

Got it?

Posted by: Toby Petzold on March 31, 2006 at 8:19 PM | PERMALINK

Don P, posting as "Debug", you have now descended into moronic repetition of meaningless drivel. You are a person of low intelligence, intellectually lazy and slovenly, and, above all, thoroughly dishonest. I have no interest in wasting any further time on your idiotic comments or your endless, compulsive neurotic efforts to prove to yourself that you are superior to others.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 31, 2006 at 8:20 PM | PERMALINK

We have no idea how rare or common life is in the universe. We know of precisely one (1) planet on which life arose, and that is simply too small a sample from which to make confident predictions either way. Anyone who claims to be confident that the appearance of life either was "inevitable" or that it was incredibly unlikely is making a statement of faith, not reason. We simply don't know enough yet to draw any firm conclusions.

Posted by: JP on March 31, 2006 at 8:26 PM | PERMALINK

JP: Exactly right.

Secularanimist: You are a fool and a liar.

Posted by: Debug on March 31, 2006 at 8:28 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks Bob, gcochran is an arrogant ass who only posts so he can see his words in writing. He knows quite a bit about natural selection but very little about people.

JP -- actually we understand the mechanism which favors the presence of life over its absence. As the universe is pretty big, pretty old, and has a few billion years to go saying life is inevitable is not a giant leap of faith.

Posted by: toast on March 31, 2006 at 8:40 PM | PERMALINK

JP wrote: Anyone who claims to be confident that the appearance of life either was "inevitable" or that it was incredibly unlikely is making a statement of faith, not reason.

That's not true at all.

What we know of the history of the universe from the Big Bang to the present is that the fundamental nature of physical reality, established at the time of the Big Bang, is such that the universe proceeds "inexorably" (Hazen's word) from an initial condition of extreme simplicity (hydrogen) to one of extreme complexity (galaxies, stars, planets and complex organic molecules that can be directly observed to be widespread in the universe).

It is entirely reasonable to be confident that the emergence of life is an inevitable result of the observable evolution of the universe from simplicity to complexity, an evolution which is itself the inevitable result of the basic parameters of reality established at the time of the Big Bang.

To be "confident" of something is not to claim to know that it is a fact. Nor can "reason" (whatever that means to you) ever disclose a single fact. Only empirical observation can disclose facts.

To say, as I have done above and elsewhere, that the emergence of life is an inevitable consequence of the basic nature of physical reality established at the time of the Big Bang is to express an idea about the facts. It is not, nor have I ever claimed that it is, a statement of "scientific knowledge". This idea that the emergence of life is an inevitable result of fundamental physical processes in nature would suggest the hypothesis that life will prove to be widespread in the universe. Only continued empirical observation can determine whether that hypothesis is correct or not. I am personally confident that continued empirical observation will indeed demonstrate that it is correct.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on March 31, 2006 at 9:00 PM | PERMALINK

Very entertaining thread. However, based upon the political conduct which has lead to the current "ID" vs. evolution flare ups I would like to predict that if, tomorrow, one of the various unmanned rovers sent back a photograph of some sort of martian worm or other obviosly living thing, you'd still have the same crew arguing the same religious doctrine.

No matter how much advanced scientific theories filter down into everyday life, no matter how obviously (pick up that cell phone on the desk. Look at it. think.) there will always be some kucklehead making the point that "a theory that an appearance of life is inevitable" is meaningfully distinct from "an assertion that it is a scientific fact that an appearance of life is inevitable."

What may be inevitable is that if you sit around your dorm room with a big, Bob Marley like fattie, such arguments appear to make sense.

Posted by: hank on March 31, 2006 at 9:07 PM | PERMALINK

JP>Anyone who claims to be confident that the appearance of life either was "inevitable" or that it was incredibly unlikely is making a statement of faith, not reason. We simply don't know enough yet to draw any firm conclusions.

And so, may I bring up again that Bush Co recently cancelled the Terrestrial Planet Finder space-telescope project?

An instrument that could have answered that question for the nearest few hundred sun-like stars, by obtaining the orbits, mass, seasonal variations and atmospheric chemistry (oxygen, water vapour, methane) of any earth-like worlds, within ten years? By direct imaging! The ESA's Darwin analogue to the TPF is still on, but it was partially based on a common pool of expertise with NASA's project.

Cancelled. Along with, effectively, half the space and earth science projects in NASA's budget. Once a project is stopped, the teams scatter, and many years of progress is lost.

Why do republicans hate scientific truth?

Posted by: Bruce the Canuck on March 31, 2006 at 9:08 PM | PERMALINK

toast

We don't even know if there is a "mechanism which favors the presence of life over its absence," let alone understand it. We just don't know how likely it was that life arose on the Earth. It could be 1. It could be 1 in a trillion.

Posted by: JP on March 31, 2006 at 9:33 PM | PERMALINK

SA,

We can certainly explain how the formation of stars and galaxies follows from the physical laws apparently established at the time of the Big Bang (though we don't know whether those laws themselves were a fluke or inevitable), but we do not know how likely it was that life arose given those conditions. As I said, it could have been an inevitable event, or it could have been an astronomically unlikely fluke. We just don't know.

And even where life does arise, if there are any such places other than the earth, the probability of animal life or intelligent life arising may be another astronomically unlikely fluke.


Posted by: JP on March 31, 2006 at 9:44 PM | PERMALINK

"And so, may I bring up again that Bush Co recently cancelled the Terrestrial Planet Finder space-telescope project?"

I'd like to see it funded, too. But that's ultimately a political decision. Taxpayers are not under any obligation to fund a project simply because scientists want it or because it is scientifically valuable.

Posted by: JP on March 31, 2006 at 9:48 PM | PERMALINK

sa,

"To say, as I have done above and elsewhere, that the emergence of life is an inevitable consequence of the basic nature of physical reality established at the time of the Big Bang is to express an idea about the facts."

Brilliant. "There is a Santa Claus" is also an idea about the facts, but you wouldn't be any more justified in making that assertion than you are in asserting that the appearance of life from inorganic matter is "inevitable."

See, it's not a matter of "ideas," it's a matter of evidence. And you don't have any, as usual.

Posted by: Debug on March 31, 2006 at 11:04 PM | PERMALINK

Yo, Secular Animist-

Why the fuck are you responding to people who don't understand that the second law of thermodynamics doesn't apply to Earth? You're better off lecturing your cat on statistics. Jesus Christ.

Debug- Please cut off your balls.

Posted by: BarrettBrown on March 31, 2006 at 11:05 PM | PERMALINK

Apologies. I meant to include Hansen as well. Hansen, please cut off your balls. Better yet, why don't you two get together and buy a fucking encyclopedia so you can learn neat stuff about science? Like what a "closed system is?" That'd be super fun!

Posted by: BarrettBrown on March 31, 2006 at 11:08 PM | PERMALINK

Awww, geez, I was all ready to jump on the "what's the matter with kid's these days" bandwagon and instead I find supposedly grown men bickering over the question of whether 1 = 0.9999999999999999...

Posted by: Tripp on March 31, 2006 at 11:12 PM | PERMALINK

"I'd like to see it funded, too. But that's ultimately a political decision. Taxpayers are not under any obligation to fund a project simply because scientists want it or because it is scientifically valuable."

Very true. But imagine how much of this research we'd be able to fund if we did away with farm subsidies. Or, better yet, European military bases.

The space program always pays for itself in new technology, etc., as Robert Heinlein couldn't go five minutes without pointing out...

Posted by: BarrettBrown on March 31, 2006 at 11:27 PM | PERMALINK

JP, since your the observational type why don't you try removing life from your backyard.

Posted by: toast on March 31, 2006 at 11:36 PM | PERMALINK

BarretBrown,

Please disembowel yourself with an oyster fork.

Posted by: Debug on March 31, 2006 at 11:41 PM | PERMALINK

Okay, but first you've got to promise that you will
(a) learn the basics of science before flooding my favorite blog with nonsense, or
(b) cut off your balls, or
(c) just be sure to use birth control

Also, wave to me from Christian heaven or Valhalla or whatever.

Posted by: BarrettBrown on March 31, 2006 at 11:44 PM | PERMALINK

I agree. At least the kid's asking a question (instead of simply quoting gospel inanities). - Matthew

Asking a question? If only. The glaring problem here is NOT that he asked a question but that he followed it up with such a pathetic and transparent lie:

" 'Cause I was watching one time on CNN and they mutated monkeys to see if they could get one to become human and they couldn't."

Say what!?! Was this before or after the Myth Busters episode where they created a tornado in a junkyard to see if it would assemble a fully functioning 747? Mutating monkeys in an effort to turn them human? BALLS! Never happened! What a crock of shit! You saw nothing of the sort you lying scumbag!

What was the next lie out of his mouth? "This one time, at band camp, I took a pandas thumb..."

I expect better lies from High School students, I mean really.

I doubt if 1% of the posters here understand natural selection. Since that is the case, I'm not exactly sure exactly how they can 'believe' in it. - gcochran

Just because it is beyond the grasp of your intellect gcochran please don't project. Natural selection as a concept is simple enough to teach to any focused 10 year old in about 20 minutes. Maybe 1% of the posters here could write a paper for review on the subject but understand it? Please.

Posted by: Eric Paulsen on March 31, 2006 at 11:52 PM | PERMALINK

BarrettBrown,

Someone who says, apparently seriously, "The space program always pays for itself in new technology, etc" wouldn't know "the basics of science" if they hit him in the face.

Posted by: Debug on March 31, 2006 at 11:56 PM | PERMALINK

Oh my god. I already jokingly told Secular Animist not to debate you anymore, so I guess I'll just keep my mouth shut.

Posted by: BarrettBrown on April 1, 2006 at 12:09 AM | PERMALINK

On the other hand, fuck it. Here's a link. It should be on your wavelength. Here are some of the technologies that people like yourself should never be allowed to use:

http://techtran.msfc.nasa.gov/at_home.html

Posted by: BarrettBrown on April 1, 2006 at 12:16 AM | PERMALINK

And The History Channel is showing 'Stigmata: Marked for Life, the wounds of Christ mysteriously appear on people'.
Posted by: cld

And strangely none seem to even manage to be clear that crucifixion did *not* involve nails through the palm of the hand (which would immediately tear through) but between the bones of the forearm.

Since this was the preferred method by which rebellious or disobedient slaves were put to death, the Romans had a lot of practice over several centuries in refining the techniques involved for maximum pain and suffering over a long duration.

A 'humane' option involved allowing someone to break the legs or knees of the subject so that they couldn't support their own weight and would thus suffocate (the usual cause of death) sooner rather than later.

Posted by: CFShep on April 1, 2006 at 7:03 AM | PERMALINK

BB: "the second law of thermodynamics doesn't apply to Earth"

Huh?

When did that happen?

Entrophy has been repealed?

Yikes.

Posted by: CFShep on April 1, 2006 at 7:09 AM | PERMALINK

The only solution to this would be to pay teachers something commensurate with Congressmen. Posted by: cld on March 31, 2006 at 3:39 PM

With or without Abrahamoff style contributions?
Posted by: Dr. Morpheus

Um...yeah, I was heading down the same track but with the idea that the teacher merely teaches whatever version is espoused by whomever paid the biggest bribes.

Posted by: CFShep on April 1, 2006 at 7:13 AM | PERMALINK

CFShep on April 1, 2006 at 7:09 AM |

BB: "the second law of thermodynamics doesn't apply to Earth"

Huh?

When did that happen?

Entrophy has been repealed?

No, it doesn't, when the earth is considered in isolation. The second law of thermodynamics is analyzed in connection with closed systems, and the earth considered in isolation is not a "closed system." The earth gets energy from, for example, the sun, which must also be considered in a 2d law of thermo discussion.

There are numerous examples that, if taken in isolation, appear to violate the 2d law of thermo. Refrigerators are merely one, as is air conditioning. But they aren't closed systems, either. They operate using energy from external sources, and those sources need to be taken into consideration when determining whether entropy of the system (refrigerator & energy source) has increased.

The commenter really should learn something about which he is bloviating before he bloviates.

Posted by: raj on April 1, 2006 at 7:47 AM | PERMALINK

People, Earth is not a closed system. That's why, when you plant a seed, it grows into a plant, instead of just rotting. Go outside and try it.

Posted by: BarrettBrown on April 1, 2006 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

Come on, guys. If you want to get all pedantic about it, the Second Law most certainly applies to the Earth and on Earth. The Second Law at its most basic simply says that the change in entropy will always be greater or equal to zero.

Hoewver, the Second Law is not so useful for making predictions when you don't have a closed system. The Earth is most assuredly not a closed system. So the idea that the Second Law somehow prohibits evolution or self-organization is still pure and unadulterated bullshit.

Barrett, the seed isn't a great example. You move a seed into an isolated system, and it can still grow (up to a point, obviously) because of its stored energy.

Posted by: mwg on April 1, 2006 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

Good point, although that depends on the size of the closed system.

Posted by: BarrettBrown on April 1, 2006 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

If you made the earth a closed system life would persist till the sun swallowed the earth in 5 billion years. Plate tectonics and fluid convection powered by radioactive decay would maintain regions of life supporting chemical disequilibrium for at least that long.

Posted by: toast on April 1, 2006 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

This is Daniel Read one of the students in the article. I feel I have been missrepresented and judged. I am 16 and have been fallowing Christ since i was 7. I have done much reserch on this topic, for both sides. My best friend does not belive in God and is a evolutionist. My father is a ex- biology teacher and belives in evolution. I know my stuff. I also am very respectfull in class and at the same time am upfront about my faith. My disire is not to debate even though i am in high school debate, but to share the hope and joy I have in my Lord Jesus Christ

Posted by: Daniel Read on April 2, 2006 at 12:36 AM | PERMALINK

You may not agree with the theory of evolution, but what do you have against spelling and punctuation?

Posted by: Eric Paulsen on April 2, 2006 at 12:48 AM | PERMALINK

Barret Brown

I assure you I have read a lot on thermodynamics having a Ph.D in Physics from UCLA.

I also am well aware of what a closed system is. If you read my posts I never suggested that entropy could not have a local increase. Please do not associate me with Don P. I have had the distinct displeasure of arguing points with him before and found it a waste of time. I suggest you read Brian Greene's book - The Fabric of the Cosmos. He has a fairly good discussion of entropy and especially how difficult it is to include the effect of gravity in discussions of entropy which is why the universe as a whole seems to "evolve" from what we think to be a fairly disordered state ( of diffuse clouds of hydrogen with small lumps ) to what seems to be a more complex state ( but lower total entropy because of the peculiarities of gravity ) of glaxies, stars, planets etc. I admit I don't fully understand the intracacies of this process and therefore can not predict whether its seemingly inevitable progression implies the inevitable progression on an earthlike planet from inorganic substances to life.

Anyone who claims he does understand this enough to be able to scientifically calculate the probablitly of life throughout the universe is just blowing a bunch of hot air.

You should read a person like Hazen. He probably knows a lot more than you do and yet speaks with none of your brashness toward what he knows he does not or even can not know.

Dr. John Hansen Ph. D
1990 UCLA

BTW - What is your degree in may I ask?

Posted by: John Hansen on April 2, 2006 at 1:47 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry, its late, that should have been "..but higher total entropy"...

Posted by: John Hansen on April 2, 2006 at 1:57 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry - one more mistake - i meant "...local decrease"

Posted by: John Hansen on April 2, 2006 at 2:00 AM | PERMALINK

Hansen, I'd suggest that, in the future, if you wish to avoid being spoken to in a "brash" manner, you refrain from jumping into a thread with a sentence like this:

"How many of you pseudo-scientists who claim to be so smart out their actually know the answers to these questions."

Likewise, you should refrain from ending a message by claiming that "dogmatism is just as heavy or perhaps more so on the naturalists side than it is on the creationist side."

Only a closet creationist would actually claim that dogmatism is heavier on the side of naturalism than it is on the side of creationism, seeing as how creationism originates from an actual dogma - the Book of Genesis, in the case of our local Christians.

I don't have a degree, I'm afraid. I do have a book coming out this summer on the intelligent design debacle, though. Perhaps you should pick up a copy. At the very least, you may learn how to properly construct a sentence in the English language.

Better yet, skip my book and just read some Dawkins.

Posted by: BarrettBrown on April 2, 2006 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

BarretBrown

Thanks for taking the time to write a more thoughtful reply than "cut your BALLS off".

First of all, I am not a closet creationist. I am a creationist.

Second, the reason I asked the questions I did is I find that true science is the willingness to ask and address questions which may defeat your own position. People who are willing to do this can be found on both sides of the evolution/creation debate. I don't think they were the best questions or even very good questions- but they are examples of somethings which may be of consideration.

OTOH - there are many intelligent people - of whom I truly wish you to become some day - who are willing to listen to and take part in genuine discussion. Its really easy on a board with all friends to be a smart aleck - but it only serves to promulgate ignorance.

Third, Dogmatism - in the common parlance - has more to do with the attitude of the advocates of a postion over the source of a position. This is what I find so irritating about some of the advocates of so-called scientific positions. It is shocking that in the case of the arguments put forward by some individuals "..dogmatism is heavier on the side of naturalism.." If you deny this you probably have never really practiced the profession of science and realized how hard it is to eventually remove wrong information. Much so called knowledge is based on who promotes it as opposed to the truth of the ideas. Naturalists do a lot to promote sustained ignorance when they treat questions like "...what is the probability that life can be spontaneously generated from inorganic materials.." as if it has a simple answer. I hope your book is a bit more humble, than your posts.

Posted by: John Hansen on April 2, 2006 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

Hey its Daniel Read the teen in the article
I have found joy and peace in my faith and it is because of that that I have a obligation to share it with my class mates not to prove them wrong but to give hope to this broken world. I will never be able to prove 100% creation and you wont be able to prove 100% evolution, but i know 100% that God exist because i have experianced him. There is nothing that brings me more joy than leading someone to Christ. This is what we were made for to serve God and bring his love. This is why I will never pass up a opertunity to talk about God.Evolution cant do this.

Posted by: Daniel Read on April 2, 2006 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

Spend more time in English class, Daniel. And work harder.

Posted by: shortstop on April 3, 2006 at 12:22 AM | PERMALINK

ha ha I cant spell but I am in advanced english and have a 3.67 GPA

Posted by: Daniel Read on April 3, 2006 at 6:00 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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