Thursday, January 11, 2007

Plausibility Survey

How plausible is the following statement with respect to various events in the history of life on earth?
Random mutation and natural selection, together with other known natural mechanisms and environmental events adequately explain "X".

For X, fill in the following, and then state the plausibility of each (10 = highly plausible; 0 = highly implausible):

1. microevolutionary changes, such as bacterial resistance

2. minor macroevolutionary events such as the appearance of varieties of beetle species with no significant morphological changes.

3. minor macroevolutionary events such as the appearance of horses and zebras from a common ancestor.

4. moderate macroevolutionary events such as the appearance of horses, cows and sheep from a common ancestor.

5. macroevolutioary events such as the emergence of whales and bats from a common mammal ancestor.

6. the Cambrian Explosion (the apparently sudden appearance in the fossil record of many complex, multicellular animals, dated at about 540 million years ago).

7. the origin of life itself- the first appearance of life on earth.

Please comment! I will wait for some comments before giving you my answers. Feel free to describe yourself when you give your answers in whatever way would be of interest to readers. I may tweak the survey if there are comments that convince me that it can be improved significantly, but I will put any significant changes in a new post.

I encourage links to this survey, as I am genuinely curious to see how others evaluate the evidence.


Update: I revised number 2 to clarify that I was referring to varieties of beetle species with no significant morphological changes.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Scientists and Bad Logic

Related to my previous post on the history of the ID movement, below is a quote from Philip Johnson on how he got interested in Darwinian theory and why people who are not scientists are competent to evaluate the evidence and arguments:

GN: As a lawyer and law professor, how did you become interested in writing a book that analyzes Darwinism?

PJ: I was in England on sabbatical in 1987-88 and began reading on the subject. I found it fascinating and began looking into it further. I found out many interesting things. For example, some scientists at the British Natural History Museum were saying things that were completely contrary to the Darwinian theory, and they were being told to shut up and keep quiet. I looked into it to find out what was going on. While there, I bought all kinds of scientific books and read the scientific journals at the University of London, where I was a visiting professor. In retrospect, it's perfectly logical that I should get into this subject, because fundamentally it's all about the relationship between assumptions and proof. Specifically, people aren't always forthright about their assumptions.

Evolutionary biologists state their assumptions as fact. They state their assumptions emphatically, then treat them as proof. One of the first things I noticed was that some evolutionary biologists I talked to couldn't appreciate the difference between what they'd proved and what they'd only assumed. They didn't really understand the difference. Thus I wrote Darwin on Trial, which is really a critique of bad reasoning presented as legitimate science.

It does not take a scientist to identify bad logic. I started seeing it as soon as I started reading on this issue and following it in the media.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Mystery Odor and Bloomberg's Confidence

CNN is reporting a mysterious odor in New York City. I had to chuckle at Mayor Bloomberg's "confidence." He has no idea what is causing the smell, but is very confident that it is not dangerous:
"One thing we are very confident of, it's not dangerous," Bloomberg said. "How long and what the sources are, we just don't know."

This reminds me a little of the confidence of some scientists that macroevolutionary theory explains the Cambrian Explosion, even though scientists are not sure of the actual mechanisms and/or environmental factors that caused it.