Thursday, May 24, 2007

Uh oh. The GOP's Achilles' Heel.

It never fails. Whenever there is a general election, the GOP candidate is invariably at some point asked about their "belief" in evolution (as if it were part of a belief structure). Ken Blackwell of has addressed the issue by raising the old false dichotomy of micro versus macroevolution. It is false because processes that operate today can be seen to have operated in the fossil record. He suggests that GOP candidates should answer thus:

“Well, if you mean microevolution, where an organism adapts to its environment with the flexibility inherent in its DNA, then yes I believe in that; we see it every day in nature. But if you mean macroevolution, where mutations stack on one another to create entirely new organ systems and transform one species into a totally different species, then I, along with many scientists, have serious issues with that theory.”

There are several problems with this response. First, it assumes a separate process for macroevolution apart from microevolution, a stance many biologists would oppose. Second, his description of macroevolution is muddled at best and incoherent at worst, and third, his statement that many scientists have serious issues with the theory is flat-out wrong. I have been working in evolutionary biology for 20 years now and I can think of very few field biologists or palaeontologists who doubt the ability of evolution to explain biotic diversity or the fossil record.

He states that a "99% evolved eye is useless." Since when? It is 99% better than nothing. Evolution is not all or nothing. His grasp of the material suggests that he has been only reading Michael Behe and William Dembski, instead of people who work in the field. I would not encourage any GOP candidate to respond like this. I would encourage them to learn what evolution is and what it isn't and respond accordingly. The GOP tends to have an "anti-science" tag hanging around its neck. This kind of response does not help.


  1. Anonymous9:30 AM

    His grasp of the material suggests that he has been only reading Michael Behe and William Dembski, instead of people who work in the field.

    Maybe it's just poor writing, but to imply that microbiologist Michael Behe doesn't have professional credentials and doesn't understand Darwinian theory because he doesn't "work in the field" is absurd. The same goes for mathematician William Dembski.


  2. You are right. It was. Dr. Behe does have professional credentials and is clearly a dedicated researcher, but his irreducible complexity arguments have been not to be nearly as sound as he originally stated and it is not clear to me that he has adjusted them any in light of that. I have read William Dembski's works and, while he is a brilliant mathematician, he has very little grasp of how biological systems work.

  3. Correction to the above post: "...his irreducible complexity argument have been shown not be nearly as sound as he originally stated..."