TOS Blog: Daily Commentary from an Objectivist Perspective

Evolution is Scientific Fact, Not a “Lie from Hell”

Georgia Congressman Paul Broun made some waves this month when he stated that the theory of evolution, the fundamental integrating theory of biological science, is a lie “straight from the pit of hell.”

Charles Darwin spent more than twenty years of his life gathering evidence for the theory of evolution. He presented it in 1859 with the publication of On The Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection, which—drawing on observations of an incredible variety of animal and plant life from all over the world and integrating it with geology, geography, animal husbandry, and the available fossil record—proved the theory of evolution. This says nothing of the observations and experiments of later scientists, which bolstered and expanded the theory.

Congressman Broun would do well to note that, while there is overwhelming evidence for the theory of evolution, there is zero evidence for the existence of the “pit of hell” from which it supposedly came. Faith in “God’s word” is not an intellectually defensible argument against a scientific theory. If Congressman Broun wants to criticize some element of the theory of evolution, he must provide evidence for his claims. Isaac Newton, responding to criticisms of his theory of optics, indicated the kind of evidence required to properly dispute a scientific theory:

I could wish all objections were suspended . . . from any [grounds] other than these two: of showing the insufficiency of experiments to prove . . . any part of my theory, . . . or of producing other experiments which directly contradict me, if any such may seem to occur.

Isaac Newton, the greatest scientist in history and himself a religious man, would never have taken seriously faith-based arguments against a scientific theory—and neither should anyone else.

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

Posted in: Religion, Science and Technology

Comments are welcome so long as they are civil.
  • Anonymous

    According to the Broun Wikipedia page, he is a Republican and a member of the Tea Party Caucus. Each year, there is a new crop of antievolution education bills in state legislatures — almost always by Republicans.

    For the antievolution crowd in general, contradicting what’s in the Bible is sufficient to prove an idea wrong. Evolution, in their view, leads to atheism and failure to gain salvation. Sooner or later, this crowd is going to figure out that Ayn Rand’s ideas are also inimical to salvation.

  • Anonymous

    Broun “thinks” science and thinking are straight from the “pit of hell”. Any proposed legislation against science should, by law, then physically, be barred from reaching the floor of any legislative body. This is a requirement of representative gvt. So is a similar nullification of any such executive directive of gvt. and decision of judges and justices.

  • John Gold

    Ayn Rand never came out in favor of evolution.

    Interestingly, evolution provides a basis for conservative politics. It’s most likely that differences in intelligence and temperament among the races have an evolutionary basis and also male/female differences.

  • Anonymous

    In “Philosophy: Who needs it?,” Rand wrote “I am not a student of the theory of evolution, and, therefore, I am neither its supporter nor its opponent.” This is a simple and rational view of a specific naturalistic theory; it should not be cited by conservatives as support for their opposition to evolution. Anyway, she would certainly not see life in theistic terms in a theistic universe.

  • Roark

    Evolution is just a theory, which is why it is not called the “fact of evolution.” The study of the theory has yielded some great scientific advances and understanding of biology, but it has not proven Darwin correct.

  • Ross England

    The idea that evolution is “just a theory,” is a common misconception which usually springs from a divide between how the word “theory” is used in vernacular vs. how it is used in science.

    In vernacular, “theory” is roughly equivalent to the scientific term “hypothesis”–an unproven, speculative account or explanation which needs to be proven on the basis of factual observation and experimentation.

    In science, however, “theory” is the highest achievable status for a body of experimentally proven facts. It is a unified framework of principles, proven by observation and experimentation, which yields explanatory power in a broad department of nature. It is nonsense, in science, to refer to a scientific theory as “just a theory”–it would be somewhat tantamount to saying of an Olympic gold medalist that he is “just the world champion.”

    Evolution is not diminished by not being called “the fact of evolution”(I can think of no scientific principle, law, or theory which is ever called “the fact of ___.”) It would, in truth, diminish evolution to even call it “the fact of evolution” because that would imply that it is one simple fact, when it is actually a broad synthesis of an astounding number of scientific facts.

    I titled this post “Evolution is scientific fact…” not to say that it is one fact, but that is through-and-through *factual*. The study of evolution has led to scientific advances precisely because the theory is true, but the advances are not what prove the theory. The theory was more than adequately proven by Darwin himself on the basis of abundant observational evidence. Modern scientists have added to the theory by elucidating in better detail how evolution *works*, not by adding better proof that it occurs.

  • http://twitter.com/profchuck22 Charles Ivie

    Evolution is a fundamental scientific principal. There are many scientific discoveries that could not have been made without an understanding of this principal. We are beginning to comprehend how DNA forms the mechanism of life and how bacteria and a virus mutate to avoid destruction by antibodies and antibacterial agents. Evolution is as much a part of science as are the equations provided by Newton and Einstein. An understanding of the process is just as vital to biology as Newtonian gravitational equations are to physics.

  • http://twitter.com/profchuck22 Charles Ivie

    Saying that one “favors” evolution is a bit like saying one favors gravitation. The statement is completely without any useful meaning.

  • Roark

    Again, it is called the THEORY of evolution.

  • stevebee92653

    How could any scientist actually think that evolution was responsible for the formation of DNA and protein synthesis. Science has gone way past the abilities of evolution. Scientists just haven’t discovered that fact yet. Evolution couldn’t make one single protein. Not one.

  • stevebee92653

    Again, since evolution could not make or come up with the formation of one single protein, evolution is excused from being the source of all of living nature. It’s time for real science to reload and get rid of this turkey that fools so many people. Like you.

  • Ross England

    The theory of evolution does not imply that evolution is the *source* of all living nature. Rather, evolution–changes in heritable traits occurring over successive generations–is the mechanism whereby the *diversity* of life has developed.

    The study of how living entities *as such* could have come to be, abiogenesis, is an active field of study which is separate from the study of evolution in all ways but one. We know that, however life came to be, it came to be in such a way that it possessed the capability to evolve.

    Your comment about evolution being unable to make a single protein is confusing to me. The theory of evolution does not hold that evolution is the means of making proteins. Proteins, according to biological science, are synthesized enzymatically on the basis of a genetic code which is carried on nucleic acids (e.g., RNA, DNA). Evolution is a process whereby heritable mutations to those nucleic acids can lead to *changes* in proteins over time, which, after many successive generations, can lead those proteins to be distinct from their ancestor protein.

  • Roark

    What happens when you make a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy….?

  • Roark

    I agree with the scientific findings of micro evolution – that is the only evolutionary posit that has real scientific weight behind it, however macro evolution is pure conjecture. Darwinism can never prove it because it has/can never happened.

  • Ross England

    Macroevolution is not distinct from microevolution. When microevolutionary changes accumulate to the point that one line of descent can no longer reproduce with the other, speciation (macroevolution) has occurred.

    Darwin could certainly prove it because he did prove it.

  • Ross England

    Precisely. It is the “theory of evolution”–a scientific theory, i.e., a fully proven integrating framework–not the “hypothesis of evolution”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Wood/1316296949 David Wood

    Actually, the theory is that of natural selection to explain why the fact of evolution exists. What we term “evolution” was readily apparent from the fossil record (and we can even witness microevolution in our lifetimes), but Darwin had to explain WHY it occurred, and his answer was natural selection.

  • stevebee92653

    You have no idea how dogmatic you sound. Of course evolution had to come up with tens of thousands of proteins, unless the very first living cell had all proteins that exist in modern species. Evolution had to also come up with the mechanism that you describe (transcription and translation), which of course isn’t possible. The DNA code evolving one base or even one codon at a time is also such an absurd thought. Ever consider writing down the pathway to the code? In your mind, how would it go? One amino acid codon per ten thousand years? The notion that evolution “turned on” with the very first living cell was obviously made up because the advent of life is a complete enigma for biology and evolution. So the best way to solve the enigma is the exfoliate it. Great strategy. The people that made it up hoped it would be spread by believers and not challenged. And that is what you just did. Spread it to me and you didn’t challenge it. Your nice story about proteins changing over time to produce new proteins sounds so sweet. But it’s malarkey. If you have ever seen a mathematical analysis of only one protein, you wouldn’t be so quick to deliver the tale. Feel free to take a look at my analysis at http://www.evillusion.net, p. 44. If you do,your answer will be “mathematics cannot be used to analyze evolution.” It’s your only choice. Evolution is the only science that abhors mathematical scrutiny.

  • Roark

    It has NEVER been proven that micro evolution leads to macro evolution. Again, it’s strictly conjecture, ie theory. What’s more, where are all of the transition species that should be alive due to macro evolution? There are too many holes in the theory to be sound.

  • Roark

    A theory has no empirical evidence, so it is not scientific fact.

  • Roark

    I’ll ask you the same question; where are the transition species? And why can’t macro evolution be replicated in science? Don’t waste your energies on macro evolution.-it is a scientific dead end.

  • Wendy

    What Ross England says about scientific theory is correct. A scientific idea only obtains reputable theory status if all scientific evidence supports it and none refutes it, even if it can’t be quantified as a law.

    Believing in a god or creator is less possible than a scientific theory–i.e., absolutely no evidence supports it

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?ref=name&id=100000501085308 Martin Lundqvist

    Actually, both amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) as well as nucleic acids (which makes up RNA and DNA) are very simple molecular construction. You don’t need any evolution for them to form, just simple chemistry.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?ref=name&id=100000501085308 Martin Lundqvist

    Any alleged cognitive differences between different human “races” have either been found negligble or totally inconclusive. Essentially, any person born with a healthy brain and the willingness to use it & take care of it will have no cognitive difficulties whatsoever.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?ref=name&id=100000501085308 Martin Lundqvist

    From Wikipedia: “A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring.”
    For example, a horse and a donkey can breed and produce a mule, but all mules are infertile hybrids, therefore cannot breed and thus are not considered a species.
    However, it is obviously so that the ancestor of both horse & donkey could breed with each other, and that horse became horses and donkeys became donkeys through natural selection, up to the point where donkeys & horses became different species.
    In other words, there is no such thing as a “transition species” – either two individual organisms are of the same species, or they are of different ones, end of story.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?ref=name&id=100000501085308 Martin Lundqvist

    Except not all cell divides are not “copies”, but are affected by mutation, thus not making an exact replica. Thus you end up with something different than what you started with.
    If this new mutated specimen has (different) genes that are better for survival, then it prospers, and will eventually drive out all its lesser competition to extinction. That’s how evolution works.

  • Roark

    There is no scientific evidence to support macro evolution. Also, who’s talking about god?

  • Roark

    Mutations are not beneficial for any species. In fact, they spell the end of the species, because they tend toward entropy and do not adapt/evolve into positive genetic traits.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?ref=name&id=100000501085308 Martin Lundqvist

    Wow… I don’t know how to respond to such an ignorant comment. Why don’t you start reading up on, say, Wikipedia for change, before you post an anti-science comment?
    Here, I will even provide the link for you:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mutation

  • stevebee92653

    Obviously you don’t know what amino acids make. Or you are filtering for your belief system. It’s like saying screws are easy to make. They go into building a nuclear submarine, which isn’t. Don’t focus on amino acids. Focus on what they make, and how the entities they make operate. Then come back and tell me about simple.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?ref=name&id=100000501085308 Martin Lundqvist

    Strawman defence and argument from intimidation, I love it!
    As for constructing amino acids, all you need is the conditions of a Miller-Urey experiment:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miller%E2%80%93Urey_experiment
    (I am sure you heard about this in Biology class, no? Or did you sleep through school?)

  • Roark

    anti-science??? you are supporting a theory that has been nothing but a THEORY now for more than 150 years! In fact, it is junk science. Your desire seems to be to lump macro and micro evolution. I am sorry it can’t and will never be done or proven.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?ref=name&id=100000501085308 Martin Lundqvist

    (See my previous comment for a suitable reply to this bullshit)

  • Roark

    I read your previous reply, and it has more holes in it than swiss cheese. Happy Halloween!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?ref=name&id=100000501085308 Martin Lundqvist

    What a typical comment of yours, full of colour and devoid of substance.

  • stevebee92653

    Gee, you are so original. Actually you are a perfect evo-clone. Right on schedule, doing the “rag on his education” thingy that all of you clones do. Obviously you don’t care or know the impossibility of getting those amino acids to assemble themselves into proteins, or the problem of chirality, or that the system that makes proteins is itself made of proteins, or….. Do the education rag. It’s your best strategy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?ref=name&id=100000501085308 Martin Lundqvist

    Only you says it is impossible, while in fact it is simple chemistry (and yes, I am sure your teacher would lecture you on this too!). For example: every protein is made up of amino acids; have two or more amino acids plus energy then voila you have a protein – easy.
    Now what part of this is it that you don’t understand? Or do you wish to play the denial game all day long?

  • Roark

    with a sense of humor like yours you ought to go into stand up.

  • stevebee92653

    You are too uneducated to talk with. Go get an education, then give it a try. If you think two amino acids make a protein, you have no idea how uneducated you are. You are pure wannabe. The average protein is 150 amino acids. The smallest around 20 SPECIFIC amino acids. The system that makes proteins is itself made up of proteins, so any ideas on how the proteins that make proteins came to be? I can’t wait to read, cuz I’m sure you have all answers. You’re an evolutionaut! You know all!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?ref=name&id=100000501085308 Martin Lundqvist

    Sorry to disappoint you, but learning tables about how many exact amino acids go into every specific protein has not been my cup of tea. But as always, you are avoiding the issue…

    Every protein is molecule, and every amino acid is also a molecule – thus if amino acids were to form into proteins, all on would need is energy to make the transition. Put in chemical methodology:

    Amino acid A + Amino acid B => Protein-of-your-imagination

    Of course, you could put any number of A’s and B’s in there, as well as Amino acid C,D,E… up to Z, why not.
    If this makes me lacking in education, let’s just say I didn’t have any schooling in Bible studies ;-)

  • stevebee92653

    You might want to get a little education before you go around trying to look like an expert on something you know nothing about. Actually a lot of education. You don’t know shit.

  • Dave Smith

    The evidence is quite strong that the differences in IQ among the races are genetic. In a famous adoption study, black children adopted into upper middle class white families had the same IQ as blacks in general (85).

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?ref=name&id=100000501085308 Martin Lundqvist

    You say this is a famous study, yet I have never heard of it. Besides, IQ is inadequate for measuring cognitive abilities.
    Tell me, did the study cross-reference for substance and alcohol abuse? I would assume that to be common in would-be adopting parents; because such habits might cause brain damage in the child, obviously that would result in worse cognitive abilities.

  • Jimmy Lin

    To today’s GOP, science and facts are also lies from hell…

    -_- At this rate China is going to surpass our ass very soon if the tea partiers are not kicked out of the government.