I'm a physics student at a large state university.
I'll put in more info, and maybe a few "user boxes", soon.
Christmas vacation is over. I will probably not be contributing here in the near future. Please try to keep the "counterexamples to relativity" page from getting overgrown with ridiculous items.
While I am a Protestant, I find myself in nearly complete agreement with GregG's essay on creationism here, and I highly recommend it. If I had time, I'd offer some contributions to the "todo" sections.
The vandal spree of December 29, 2012
A few comments about the recent vandal spree that I was involved with.
A note in Talk:Main Page seems to suggest that some admins take delight in the recent vandalism attack, as though it vindicated Conservapedia's position on certain issues. I doubt that the sysops actually took delight in reverting all that, and I certainly didn't find my small part in that effort much fun. (Though it was, in a perverse way, exciting being in the middle of all that.) Other people's hateful actions do not affect the correctness of, or vindicate, one's positions. They just show that those people are hateful. For example, I hate Kim Kong Un, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Bashar al-Assad, as I'm sure everyone here does. That doesn't vindicate al-Assad's war against his own citizens. The rightness of Conservapedia's positions on various issues is to be found in the writings of its contributors, not in the actions of vandals.
That note also contains the statement that "the general public is reading this". That is true; the talk page page has nearly half a million views. But a later note rails against "childish temper tantrums", and then bears a picture of John Wayne. What kind of impression is made on those people, most of whom are grownups, to see that?
Here is why I accept evolution. This is intended as an adjunct to my answers to the "quantifying openmindness" test.
To be clear, I specifically mean Darwinian macro-evolution. This has nothing to do with cosmic evolution, chemical evolution, geological evolution, molecular evolution, or abiogenesis.
Simply put, the scientific evidence is utterly overwhelming, and becomes more so with each passing year. Even though we don't see direct evidence of macro-evolution happening before our eyes (though we do see micro-evolution happening with E. Coli bacteria, with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and with pesticide-resistant pests), the evidence is totally overwhelming. It is not necessary to see something with ones own eyes to be absolutely certain that it is true—no one has seen an electron, or a proton, or a neutrino, or a W+ boson.
Specifically, what the scientific evidence tells us is that Darwinian evolution is the correct explanation for the diversity of the tree of living beings. In Darwin's time, the evidence was somewhat circumstantial, and his claims were not totally buttressed by genetic evidence. This made his theory somewhat controversial, and the scientific community at large took some time to accept it.
But recent developments in genetics, particularly DNA sequencing, make the case overwhelmingly strong. The DNA evidence showing the genetic relationships, buttressed by the geological evidence showing the timelines of the various phyla and species, is unmistakable. And it is getting more so as time passes. Every few months I come across another article showing how DNA analysis has helped put another piece of the puzzle in place, explaining yet another aspect of the biological "family tree".
There are thousands upon thousands of books, articles, and journal papers explaining and discussing these points. One can go to any bookstore, especially college bookstores, and get a wealth of information on the subject.
Other places to look
Are there alternatives that need to be considered? Of course. One needs to be openminded about this. As part of my openminded investigation of this topic, I looked at what really ought to be a good source for alternative explanations—Conservapedia itself. Conservapedia is known to take an editorial stance against evolution, so it ought to be able to explain why evolution is wrong.
Conservapedia's evolution page
But Conservapedia's page on the subject is filled with fundamentalist religious material, crowding out any attempt at a decent scientific analysis. It just goes on and on and on with fundamentalism, along with digressions into obesity, bestiality, atheism, Communism, and other totally unrelated topics, along with pictures of Hitler, Stalin, various creationists, a Lion, ants, and cats. This is not the way to do science. Discussion of some stupid thing someone said about how "black women are objectively less physically attractive than other women" is not the way to do science. Filling the page with links to creationist or fundamentalist websites is not the way to convince people looking for scientific explanations.
Conservapedia's front page
So maybe the evolution page itself wasn't the right place to look. Surely a web site that is so strongly against evolution will give, or point to, some convincing argument. I looked at the main page. Sure enough, the left side has quite a number of links to various web sites (as of July 22):
- 1 link referring to using technology to "overrun Darwinism"
- 4 links relating to Nobel prize selection and creationists
- 1 link relating to Adolf Eichmann and his beliefs relative to evolution
- 4 links relating to the notion of a "young earth" and "young universe"
- 1 link referring to Biblical creationism
- 3 links to "evolutionary indoctrination"
- 1 link to a "resource to refute evolutionists"
Every single one of these links is to a fundamentalist religious web page! Four are to a "blogspot" blog (which, in the first sentence, mentions its connection with "Creation Ministries International"), and the other 11 are to the "creation.com" web site. Conservapedia had 15 opportunities to make a scientific case against evolution in these front-page links, and threw them all away.
Conservapedia's thermodynamics page
There are other pages at Conservapedia that relate to this topic. One is the page on the second law of thermodynamics. It contains the claim that the second law disproves evolution. That is nonsense. (It also says that it disproves relativity, a claim which is even more nonsensical.) The scientific discussion on the page is totally confused and misguided, and appears to be written for the specific purpose of refuting evolution, rather than elucidating scientific points. It seems to make an all-encompassing claim that disorder never decreases anywhere, so evolution could not have happened. This is simply false. A number of people (including myself) have attempted to argue the case on the talk page, and those attempts were simply met with the steadfast refusal, by an admin, to allow this to be changed—"It's impossible to go into reverse ... Case closed."
In addition to the scientific discussion, the page has huge amounts of the usual irrelevancies—creationist web site discussion and links, a picture of a creationist, discussion of politics, and a quote from Genesis.
Well, this is better than making an argument on purely Biblical grounds, but it still doesn't work. "Intelligent design" is well known to be creationism with religion scrubbed from it. It is widely believed that the point of this is to satisfy First Amendment principles about separation of church and state in scientific textbooks in school.
OK, fair enough. But, when Biblical arguments are removed, how good a case can be made? I looked at the www.intelligentdesign.org web site. It appears to make good on its promise not to use religious arguments. But its argument really boils down to this: The tree of life is too marvelous to have come into existence without some "intelligent designer" having made it happen.
This is a negative and totally unsatisfying argument. It really amounts to saying "because we don't [yet] understand how something works, we ascribe it to an intelligent being." This is not the way to do science. When you come across something you don't understand, you don't just throw in the towel this way. Thousands of things that were not understood at one time became understood later, through research and careful thinking. Such knowledge gaps as the evolution of eyes, or of bacterial flagella, or the failure to find certain transitional fossils, get explained all the time. There have been many cases of people claiming that certain transitional fossils are missing, and therefore evolution must be wrong, only to have the missing fossils found later. Science marches on.
There is no doubt that the universe in which we live is marvelous. Evolution is one of the marvels. The fine structure constant is another, as is the inhomogeneity of the universe just after the big bang, the strength of the strong force, the solubility of carbon dioxide, the crystal structure of water, and so on. Much has been written about the many seeming miracles that make the universe work and make life possible. (In the scientific literature, the phenomenon is often described as the "anthropic principle".) Unlikely or "miraculous" as the value of the fine structure constant might be, scientist don't just say that it isn't true. Biological evolution, like the value of the fine structure constant, may be marvelous or "miraculous", but it is nevertheless true.
Now we don't know why these things are true. Could it be that some intelligent designer made them so? Perhaps. But we don't say that, because we don't understand them, they aren't true. The marvelous/miraculous nature of the universe is really true. And that includes evolution. Did God cause all this to happen? Quite possibly. But it is not our place to second-guess just how He did it. That's for us to figure out. Using science.
So "intelligent design" is really just a cop-out. If you don't understand something, you don't just say that it can't be true.
If Conservapedia can't make, or point to, a case for believing evolution to be false, who can?