May 2008

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Comments

Kirk R

And I suppose you still think the world is flat, that dancing and singing causes the rain to fall and that curses are real.

Benjamin Burger

Scott,

I find it interesting that you find DNA evidence less "bullshit" then fossil evidence. If you get into the scientific literature, both forms of evidence are used to reconstruct the phylogeny of life on this planet. DNA comes from modern (living or near living) animals and plants, but it can not be used to reconstruct ancestral-descendant relationships, or say the relationships of extinct groups (i.e. dinosaurs). However, both DNA data and fossil data can reconstruct "who is most related to who" type relationships.

Fossils also provide divergence times and anatomical features useful for reconstructing what past worlds look like. For example molecular clocks use fossils to calibrate time. You are also narrowly focused on the use of fossils for as evidence for evolutionary relationships, but fossils tell such an amazing story of the history of the world, it is a shame that they are regulated into the "bullshit" "not bullshit" dichotomy that you have laid out. Your comic strip would benefit from a few characters from the earth's past.

Sailor

I notice your problem is with fossils, not DNA. Interestingly enough fossils were our main line of evidence till we figured out how to deal with DNA. Were mistakes made? Of course some, looking at bones and drawing the right conclusions is not always easy, so we should expect some revisions as DNA analysis becomes more widespread. DNA gives a resounding support to historical evolution (micro evolution we can study in the lab). If you want to get more educated on the matter try Sean Carroll :the making of the fittest"

mark

I enjoyed this post alot, especially some of the comments. For those suffering from eyebrow lice, here is the solution:
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mark

I enjoyed this post alot, especially some of the comments. For those suffering from eyebrow lice, here is the solution:
http://everydayyeah.com/?q=content/daily-pill-200-gel-concentrate

Harrison

Ha. I love the one where someone says "just like the impossibility of tossings a bunch of words together and getting his essay." I don't think you realize you nailed it on the head for evolution, not against it. Think about it... poopoo head.

Shar

This is to address Adam E's comment posted on July, the 3rd.

I couldn't have said it better myself. Thank you, Adam, for adressing Scott's not-so-awesome blog entry in such a mature and eloquent manner.

Of course, Scott has his own opinions, and we respect that. It was just a little disconcerting to see Scott write off evolution in such a seemingly sophomoric and tactless fashion. I for one am hoping this was just another outburst of the more eccentric side of Scott's humor.

Adam E

Scott, I just bought the Dilbert Complete Series DVD set and was a bit shocked to see in one episode the depiction of a paleontologist pawning off a shard from a piece of ancient pottery as a fossil.

Being a big fan and really relating to your comic on so many levels I was alarmed to see what appeared to be blatant creationist propaganda mixed into your creation. I felt a need to find out where you stood on this subject, and found this blog entry.

Now that I've read it, I'll try to accept your stand as neither supporting evolution, nor creationism, but I must say the *way* in which you attack evolution does not seem to be in the style of a skeptical scientist, it seems more in line with that of creationists who don't bother to understand what exactly they are criticizing -- thus attracting critics who would paint you as a creationist.

In short, and I mean this with all due respect, your criticisms of evolution are weak and show a poor grasp of the subject matter. You say that the rules keep changing but the conclusion remains the same. This is true, but to insinuate there is something wrong with that is quite odd. We are constantly improving our knowledge of how life got from point A to point B, but the new knowledge always points to the same conclusions.

For instance, when you get hungry you eat. When you eat, you stop being hungry. Right there we can start making accurate observations, but yet we have not even *begun* to explore the underlying mechanisms. We know if you don't eat, you will die. We just don't know why.

So perhaps someone comes up with a theory that humans burn food for energy like fire burns wood. That's sort of accurate, but yet not accurate at all. Either way, it's an attempt to explain how A and B are interrelated.

When someone else comes along and starts talking about digestive enzymes, proteins, carbohydrates, fats, glucose, ATP, these things are all new -- they all correct fallacies in the previous theories, and not one of them in any way begins to contradict the conclusion.

Why?

Because the conclusions are not based on theory. They are based on observation. The theory part is just trying to explain how A and B inter-related, and although it's constantly refined, it's always moving closer and closer to the truth of the mechanism at work -- and the conclusion is never affected (because the observation is accurate, even when existing theory has holes).

Now, we could talk about Copernicus. You could point out that the sun, to-this-day, appears to circle the earth but that observation was proven to be inaccurate. Touche`, however there has never, to-this-day, been any evidence to overturn the observation of evolution.

In fact, all evidence points *towards* it. As modern science gets older we've begun finding species that have diverged within the last 100 years! We're getting to the point where we'll start having before and after photos like some weight loss commercial. Evolution is fact. The theory is trying to figure out how it works.

Now, you can say God might be in the details. You could be right, but there is definitely some sort of mechanism at work.

You can say that fossils are BS, and I'd agree that there's only so many accurate conclusions we can draw from them, however we've come a long day from the days when someone mistook an Iguanadon's thumb for a horn, and "hobbits" aside, most paleontologists are a lot more conservative these days.

Anyway Scott, I am a big fan of your work and I hope I was able to give a little something back to you here.

Just remember that the problem with science is that some of the more arrogant people tend to think we know more than we actually do -- but the basic theories we work with these days are created with sound methods and are rarely turned on their heads.

Even Einsten's theories only expanded on what Newton did hundreds of years ago -- and Newton's equations are still perfectly accurate for calculating goings-on here on earth (and are much simpler, to boot).

Gawell

Scientific fact?! I don't know if I should celebrate or just accept the fact that I'm surrounded by ignorant apes.

For some reason what we know is based on science, but science is based on what we know so far. That would mean we know close to nothing, and that science is less believible then the words spoken of an 80-year-old alcoholic, who is senile, with alzheimers. But then again, science change all the time. I still remember the good old days when Pluto was a planet, do you? And when books actually contained real "scientific fact".

So there are reasons Evolution is considered a theory, since it might contains small fragments (only visible in highly advanced microscopes) of truth.

I'm not religious, and I do not support any decade-old toasted cheese sandwich said to bear an image of the virgin Mary.

K. Mapson

There's a difference between the mechanism and the means. In the simplest terms:

If ANY system has these three characteristics:

1) living things reproduce,
2) mutation during the reproductive process is possible, and
3) the worst equipped animals may be killed early or otherwise fail to reproduce

then that system will result in evolution by natural selection. Mutations sometimes provide worse equipment, sometimes better equipment. The worse-equipped will not live to reproduce, or will be less attractive to the opposite sex. The best equipped will live longer, reproduce more, and be hotties to the opposite sex. As you know, there are only so many experiences to get laid in a lifetime -- and some studs seem to get laid all the time without effort while for other it's a once in a blue moon proposition. Absent the uniquely human activity of contraception, who would reproduce more? Who's traits would thrive?

The fossil record is irrelevant to the process. Of course, we would expect there to be fossils, and there's no rational disagreeing with the fact that there are fossils that are dozens of millions or hundreds of millions of years old. That the puzzle hasn't been put together right is no reason to declare that there's no puzzle at all!

Matt B

Heh - just discovered this entry after reading the 'Scientific Fact' one. And I thought I was being novel in linking the 'Scientific Fact' concept to evolution...

jimmiraybob

Scott,

In all fairness, there's nothing wrong with an internal bullshit meter, if what you mean is a sense of skepticism. If that's the case, most good scientists have a well honed bullshit detector. Many times during my pursuit of a BS and then an MS in geology, while sitting through some survey class or other (engineering, humanities, sciences), my bullshit detector would go into full alert mode – I was a non-traditional student and brought much hard-won, worldly "knowledge" to the endeavor; a trained gut instinct if you will. This was a good thing since it meant endless hours going past the survey materials, by definition an incomplete treatment of a subject, and led to a fuller understanding of the subject. I was usually able to satisfy myself that the detector was off kilter due to incorrect calibration with bad gut instinct – not uncommon among such instruments. Once however, the bullshit detector led to a master’s thesis, a successful defense and a MS. Cool.

It's not that when something deep inside screams out a warning that there's something squishy afoot that there’s necessarily a problem with that inner voice, it's what you do about it. What a lot of people get confused about is the nature of science itself. Science is not the business of providing rock solid, inerrant, and eternally unchanging answers that become unchallenged and unchallengeable dogma. This scares away the timid - some people need a source of seeming inerrancy and constancy. Science is about challenging the collection of observations that started with a first possible explanation (hypothesis) to what is often casually discarded as 'just a theory' – this may represent decades or centuries of dedicated work by countless scientists who, all along the way, are as skeptical as anyone and often trying hard to find ways to challenge the building status quo -- young whipper snapper scientists eager to "make their bones," to quote a former president.

If an observation and subsequent assertion, such as Darwin's observations and conclusions, manage to hang on to become a scientific theory -- and remains dominant (with refinement based on additional observations and scientific experimentation) -- it's because credible evidence/testing has not been brought to bear to persuade the scientific community of its inability to best explain the observations. However, this does require using the methodology of science, which is why creationism and ID can’t gain a credible foothold in science (i.e., observation then hypothesis then experimentation/testing then inference then review then repeat process over and over again until enough evidence, often from more than one discipline, best supports an explanation of the phenomenon under consideration and, voila, a theory emerges).

Is the whole ball of scientific wax perfect? Of course not, there are humans involved. The scientific community has its fair share of pointy haired bosses, evil HR directors, and frauds & charlatans; and don't even get me started on sales vs. PR versus research & development. At any given time not everything is right. But the scientific method has a way of self correcting. It's simply because so many scientists, as I’ve said, have well honed bullshit detectors and know how to use the tools of science to expose fraud and even just plain old sloppy work. If evolution as a theory were a scientific fraud the first to expose it would be – wait for it – the scientific community by using – wait for it – science. There are contentious issues within the umbrella of evolution theory but then again – wait for it – that’s science. That doesn't discount the explanatory power of the theory as a whole.

You have a megaphone to use and it would be a shame to see you blasting away at evolutionary theory based only on the screeee of a bullshit detector alarm going off followed by ignorant speculation as to why (I don’t use ignorant as a pejorative). You can either continue to wave the red flag of bullshit, there will be many people who will worship you for going that far, or you can take the next step and spend a few years studying the geology, biology and other disciplines that are necessary for a more comprehensive and informed judgment (note that I did not say opinion). Who know's, maybe the ole bullshit detector will lead you toward a promising career in geology or even evolutionary biology.

You are so spot-on about the corporate world that I suspect that you’ve spent some time studying it in depth. If so, this would be strongly suggestive that the best subjects to expound upon are the ones we know best. Please don't be a pointy haired cartoonist.

Sincerely - jimmiraybob

Dolly Sheriff

I think your "bullshit detector" is working just fine -

See the biggest collection of "Just so" stories on the internet at

http://darwinstories.blogspot.com/

We have much to thank Darwin for. What a wonderful source of stories. All these stories are told by real scientists, with real university degrees and real jobs. Enjoy them!

Kind regards

Dolly

zottwee

Dear Mr. Scott,

Have you ever read "Darwinian Fairytales" by David Stove? If not, you should. The amazon link is here:

http://www.amazon.com/Darwinian-Fairytales-Selfish-Heredity-Evolution/dp/1594031401

The book buries Darwinism, utterly. Stove's dismemberment of Darwinism is along completely different lines from that of the usual critics. He does an especially devastating hack-job on Richard Dawkins. After reading this book, the only reaction you'll have to Darwinism and Darwinians is laughter, scorn, etc.

The book used to be on-line. Stove's promotional essay for his book is here...

So You Think You are a Darwinian?
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-chat/838691/posts

There are a few other exerpts (well worth pondering) here...

Darwinism's Dilemma (part I: Cave Man)
Darwinism's Dilemma (part II: Hard Man)
"Genetic Calvinism, or Demons and Dawkins"
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/chat/841182/posts

Tim

"This is just so sad. As long as you cannot be bothered to read some basic literature or flip through some scientific journal, all your comments re. this topic are just bullshit. The problem is, you are wrong in so many and so basic ways that I cannot even start to explain this to you (and if I did you would only add some smug remark)."

Burn!

With comments like this on your blog, Scott, I hope you have broad shoulders. A lot of these guys are saying, "You are so stupid that there is no point even trying to let you feed yourself. Put your helmet back on."
What I can't figure out, is why these guys stoop to calling you names if they are so smart. To a reader, they are the ones that sound lame. And the whole reading comprehension thing. They are obviously unable to see the irony here!
I gather from reading the original post that you think evolution has plenty of evidence to support it. Well, it definitely beats the "Earth is only 7000 years old, and fossils are just tricks the devil put in the ground to mislead us" theory. Funny, your readers are acting like that's what you believe!
Just to be clear, my comment does not in any way refer to my personal views on this topic. Other than everyone's self important tirade. And my lack of free will just forced me to add my own! Can anyone else see the irony here?

Stomper

gr8hands:

Thanks for the clarification.

--Stomper

gr8hands

Sorry, Stomper, I guess I missed the part where you acknowledged that you got your answers. I was in error to think you were still searching, and my comments were based on that. I won't do that again.

For anyone else reading this blog, this is an example of how the scientific method and peer review works -- it self-corrects if errors pop up (although it may take some time). Real scientists don't have much problem admitting when they made a mistake, and learn from it. Pseudoscientists (and the religious) on the other hand . . .

Ex-drone

When you extinguish the light of science, you attract the night creatures of ignorance. Enjoy the fellowship of your new-found creationist comrades. You can now share with them your convictions on Noah's flood, a 10,000 year-old earth, and the cohabitation of dinosaurs and humans. Apparently, those concepts will have an easier time passing your BS detector than 150 years of scientific development in evolution.

[Good reading comprehension. -- Scott]

bloodrage bob

mr. adams, my man, i am coming to the realization that you are one SERIOUSLY interesting dude. based solely on this blog post, i read 'the dilbert future'. (got it from the library. wasn't sure i'd like it, so sorry about the 'no royalties' thing).

your post here seems to be just a condensation of a longer riff on evolution in the book, and i'm deeply impressed that you've accurately predicted (as ann coulter did) the type and tone of the arguments that the evolution mafia would make against your unauthorized evolutionary impudence.

and then i got to the 'serious' section of the book. you the bomb, cat. ok, sure, so watterson and conley and even breathed are better - you know - better *artists*, but THOSE guys never did serious chapters on the nature of reality, and why we might all be wrongwrongwrong. maybe you're right about all that; maybe you're wrong....but that's not the point. the point is, you make the world a more thoughtful place, without having to resort to preaching and dogma, which ain't bad. god knows politicians and scientists and, lately, comedians can't do it.

my compliments.

Sharon

There are no fossils of in-between creatures. There aren't. If one creature became another and again and again, then there would be, and there should be.

The incredible intricacy of the human body could not have come into being by chance any more than tossing a barrel full of separate letters and words into the air could have become Scott's essay all by themselves.

God created it.

It would take more blind faith to believe in evolution.

alexander

collin, i'll speak for him, by paraphrasing Harlann Ellison when asked how he knew what rhino cum tasted like, and say, "Keep his personal life out of it!"


Shitzu.. yeah, thats about what the universe looks like to me.

alexander

Scott, I've always had issues with evolution as well. I'd like to try and clarify one thing. You don't seem to (from past posts and works) believe that evolution, via natural selection, doesnt exist. You seem to believe that its not the main method of creating new species and change. Is this correct?


As for free will, as i recall, you believe none of us have free will anyways, and, since you stated youd make that statement, are you trying to say that you therefore predetermined the first person to say it? and that that is why they have no free will, because you caused them to say it?

and does that only count for the first person to say it?

Id like to add that i love reading your posts. even when we dissagree, youre almost always entertaining in positing your positions and opinions.

Ohh, and, on teh fossils, ive always had problems with that as well. Ive had a background in comparative anatomy, and the sheer amount of "this is what this ape-person looks like" info they get from a bloody chunk of eyebrow always makes my on bs-detecor flare to the red.

Shitzu

Random, mindless, purposeless forces should produce a random, mindless, purposeless cosmos. Is that what we see when we look around us?

collin

How do you know what bullshit tastes like?

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