I’ve been trying for years to reconcile my usually-excellent bullshit filter with the idea that evolution is considered a scientific fact. Why does a well-established scientific fact set off my usually-excellent bullshit filter like a five-alarm fire? It’s the fossil record that has been bugging me the most. It looks like bullshit. Smells like bullshit. Tastes like bullshit. Why isn’t it bullshit? All those scientists can’t be wrong.
If you are new to the Dilbert Blog, I remind you that I don’t believe in Intelligent Design or Creationism or invisible friends of any sort. I just think that evolution looks like a blend of science and bullshit, and have predicted for years that it would be revised in scientific terms in my lifetime. It’s a hunch – nothing more.
Yesterday I read this article in Newsweek about how DNA testing is being used to show that, well, fossils are bullshit.
The bottom line is that DNA tests (which do not set off my bullshit detector) have shown that you can’t really tell what set of bones begat other sets of bones just by looking at how they differed and how old they are. Apparently evolution is more complex than imagined, and there were lots of ape-people varieties wandering around at the same time. Some had modern features that they weren’t supposed to have. The so-called modern features apparently popped up and disappeared more than once, and in more than one species.
My bullshit filter accepts this new information. I was having a hard time with the idea that some goober in tan pants would dig up a bone fragment in Africa and know it was his own (great X 1,000) grandmother. It just didn’t feel right. And now we know, assuming the DNA evidence is solid, that the guy in the tan pants was full of shit. All that the fossils show is that there used to be ape-people who are not us.
To be fair, there’s still plenty of evidence for evolution. It’s not going away anytime soon. But personally, I’m cautious about any theory that keeps the same conclusion regardless of how many times the evidence for it changes. There was a time when the seemingly straight line of fossil evidence was the primary foundation for the theory. Now it seems that that straight line was like Little Billy from Family Circus finding his way home from the playground. And there was a time when it seemed evolution was probably a fairly continuous and gradual process. Now it seems it happened in bursts, relatively speaking. And there was a time when it seemed that mutations had to give some sort of survival advantage to endure, and now scientists believe that isn’t necessarily true.
And if this isn’t enough to spike my blog hit count, I should add that the first person to explain that science continuously revises itself -- and that’s what makes it so great! -- has no free will.