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Evolution and misconceptions





Ankhanu
This has been a topic I've thought about on several occasions, so I'm going to toss the question out to all of you:

What is the most common misconception that people (without an educational background in evolution) hold about evolution? What are the most common bits of misinformation?
werste4
As far as I know, many people think that evolution is a process of perfecting creatures. But this is not true at all. It is just adapting creatures to their enviroment. Evolution has no real aim. There is no intelligence behind it.

For example many people think it would be better if a create is intelligent and strong. But maybe there are enviroments which do not require this attributes. The intelligent and strong creatures may not survive, if they do not adapt themselves to this enviroment with other attributes. And this is evolution, too!

I think the main aspect of evolution is natural selection. Only those creatures which got the right attributes will survive. And only those you survive are able to reproduce and give their attributes to the next generation. So the next generation is build of the attribute which helped the parents to survive.
ocalhoun
Probably the biggest misconception (even in the educated) would be that it involves only DNA.
There's a bit more to it than that, as evidenced in that surgically modified single-celled creatures (supposing they can still reproduce with the modifications) will produce more cells that have the same deformities. I'm sure in this exciting new age of decoding genomes we don't want to hear that that genetics isn't everything, but in that example it is possible to have two single-celled creatures with identical genetics, but very different forms... It may be worth looking into just how far inheritance of an acquired trait can go.
Gagnar The Unruly
I'd say a big misconception is that evolution = natural selection. In reality, a lot of evolution happens without any selection at all. Random forces called genetic drift cause evolution, and so do nonrandom mating and migration.

I think another misconception that hasn't been mentioned yet is the myth that evolution's never been directly observed.
DoctorBeaver
I think the biggest misconception is that we are descended from monkeys. That is an argument used by creationists in an attempt to debunk evolution.
Ankhanu
DoctorBeaver wrote:
I think the biggest misconception is that we are descended from monkeys. That is an argument used by creationists in an attempt to debunk evolution.


That depends on how you're defining "monkey"
newolder
DoctorBeaver wrote:
I think the biggest misconception is that we are descended from monkeys. That is an argument used by creationists in an attempt to debunk evolution.


?

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6WG1-4NGBB3S-1&_user=10&_coverDate=06%2F30%2F2007&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=3cfd27c585d2a88106b54e8f4912bf89

“Apparently, pB1/FLAM emerged from 7SL RNA in the common ancestor of primates and ... Aplodontia rufa (mountain beaver).”

This was a while before various monkeys left the trees. ed. Rolling Eyes
Indi
Punctuated equilibrium and "missing links".

The amount of disinformation spread about this topic is incredible. The most common false "fact" i see is that we have allegedly never found the "missing link" between us and our "ape" ancestors, and that this missing bit of evidence represents a huge hole in the theory of evolution.
Gagnar The Unruly
Yeah, the most recognized symbol of evolution, the 'Descent of Man,' is based on fallacy. Too bad, since it all most people 'know' about evolution.
Indi
Gagnar The Unruly wrote:
Yeah, the most recognized symbol of evolution, the 'Descent of Man,' is based on fallacy. Too bad, since it all most people 'know' about evolution.

Ooo, good one.
Ankhanu
Anyone care to explain the descent of man misconception? This is (possibly) actually a new one to me.
nisibdv
One of the biggest missconception is that people take this theory as a fact. Common people (and a big percentage of scientific people) have (intentionally or not) forgotten that evolution is a THEORY, a man made system of ideas backed by a set of observation and observation embedded in theory. People should realize that a theory is never completely true, and that is the interesting thing with theories: there is always place for revolutions in science.
Gagnar The Unruly
I think another major misconception people have is that, because evolution is a theory, this means that it may not actually be true. In fact, there is no reason to believe that evolution does not occur, and it has in fact been clearly demonstrated that it has to occur (see Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium). Not only that, but is has been observed countless times throughout human history. In 150 years, there has not been a single, testable scientific hypothesis that has presented an alternative view to evolution that has not been discredited. If I say for that evolution cannot be known to occur because it is theoretical, I may also say that there is no such thing as gravity because it is purely theoretical.
Ankhanu
That evolution occurs is NOT a theory... which is apparently a misconception. The process(es) by which evolution occurs is where the theory is. That is an important distinction.
Indi
Ankhanu wrote:
That evolution occurs is NOT a theory... which is apparently a misconception. The process(es) by which evolution occurs is where the theory is. That is an important distinction.

Precisely.

Just to add clarification:

Gravity is not a theory. We can observe it in action, and we can measure it. It's there, man. Deal with it. The theory of gravitation is an attempt to explain how it works and how it comes to be.
Similarly:
Evolution is not a theory. We can observe it in action*, and we can measure it. It's there, man. Deal with it. The theory of evolution by natural selection is an attempt to explain how it works and how it comes to be.

The theory of evolution by natural selection might be wrong, but the fact that evolution exists would never change.

*And yes, we have observed it in action - despite the claims of creationist propaganda, we have observed both evolutionary variation within a species (so-called "microevolution"), and we have observed evolutionary variation creating a new species (so-called "macroevolution").
Gagnar The Unruly
My replies seem not to be posting, but I agree with Indi. I would also add that it has been shown that evolution has to occur (see Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium).

editNevermind, I must be braindead.
powers1983
I think the biggest misconception relating to evolution is that some people (thankfully just an ignorant minority at present) have totally failed to realise that creationism is merely a form of fundraising.
Ankhanu
Thanks, Power, but, um, that's not the point of this thread. It's not proselytizing an anti-creation sentiment, it's a poll on opinion of what aspects of evolution the general public tends to misconstrue... not what creation is or isn't. This thread has nothing to do with creation.
xbcd
the most common misconception to Evolution that people have is that it is not compatible with Creationism. you can have evolution with creationism. God's plan was for his creatures to change through time into what they are now.
coeus
Misconception comes in place of definitions.
Micro-evolution has been observed to be true.
Macro? I don't think so, then again I don't want to claim to be a know-all, so please enlightenme if there are real world examples of macro exolution occuring (one species into a different one...unless I was taught the wrong defination of macro)

Also, Indi knows of a 'missing-link' ? Please, share.
Ankhanu
Speciation has been observed in many plants, though less in the context of one species becoming two and more in the context of hybridization resulting in a viable offspring that is reproductively isolated from both parent populations (polyploidy in hybrid preventing reproduction with parents).

But yeah, macro-evolution is measured in geologic time generally, our ephemeral lives are just too short to observe it, and the concept hasn't been around long enough to have records to see if it has happened in recorded history.
Indi
xbcd wrote:
the most common misconception to Evolution that people have is that it is not compatible with Creationism. you can have evolution with creationism. God's plan was for his creatures to change through time into what they are now.

All true, but the reason creationism in general is so hostile to evolution is that if you have evolution, you don't need creationism. Once you accept evolution, the only thing you're lacking is a theory of abiogenesis - which, really, is trivial - and then you can toss away the idea of divine creation completely.

Needless to say, this is quite a troubling prospect to people who want to believe that their religious beliefs are grounded in rational argument. Thus, the "controversy".

------------

Incidently, there's yet another nasty misconception: that evolution has anything at all to do abiogenesis. It does not. It works well with abiogenesis, sure, but you don't need abiogenesis to have evolution, and you don't need evolution to have abiogenesis. They are completely different things.

coeus wrote:
Misconception comes in place of definitions.

Definitions should also be subject to investigation. The terms "microevolution" and "macroevolution" are nonsense... as in, they make no sense whatsoever. If microevolution exists, then macroevolution must exist... any claim otherwise is absurd. Similarly, if macro evolution exists, then microevolution must exist as well. So the distinction is artificial and meaningless. In fact, it doesn't actually exist in the scientific writings on the subject - it is a manufactured distinction created by opponents to evolutionary theory that serves only to save them from looking like complete loons.

coeus wrote:
Micro-evolution has been observed to be true.
Macro? I don't think so, then again I don't want to claim to be a know-all, so please enlightenme if there are real world examples of macro exolution occuring (one species into a different one...unless I was taught the wrong defination of macro)

As Ankhanu said, speciation (what you would call "macro" evolution) has been observed many, many times, but mostly in plants. No, i can't name any specific examples off the top of my head, because the names are 30-letter long Latin words. But i will point you at a reference in a sec.

There have been cases observed in animals... in real time (not using the fossil record). Using the standard biological definition of "species" - any group within which interbreeding is possible (thus, you have a new species when it can no longer interbreed with the old species) - there have been observed cases of "micro" evolution changing a species so much that it can no longer interbreed with the original - control - population... mostly in things like fruit flies. If you choose define "species" differently, you can, of course, set the bar wherever you like, allowing you to claim indefinitely that "macro" evolution has never been observed - and if you actually read the creationist literature, you'll find that's exactly what they do.

As for references:
In great detail: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/
Quick and dirty: http://www.holysmoke.org/cretins/speci.htm

coeus wrote:
Also, Indi knows of a 'missing-link' ? Please, share.

Ah, excellent. Yet another common misconception: the fallacy of the "missing link".
Ankhanu
I for one dont' think that abiogenesis and the lack of support we have for it is a trivial part of our arguement at all. The origin of life is one of the major holes in the non-creationist arguement. That's not to say that Creationism is parsimonious at all or anything, but our inability to describe the origin of life is a major stumbling block.

Of course, the origin of life has little to nothing to do with the radiation of life, which this thread is about Smile

As for some of the speciating plants, several Dryopteris species hybridize and speciate, such as D. marginalis and D. spinulosa giving rise to D. intermedia... I know Dryopteris speciates via hybrid polyploidy... but I'm not 100% sure that I gave the right species crosses for an example Razz


The definition of species is something of a moving target to this day. There are so many complications to the standard definitions that it's not funny. The standard definition works ok for many commonly observed species, but even then the lines can blur heavily. It's a complex topic that is really quite interesting, while it is frustrating Wink
Indi
Ankhanu wrote:
I for one dont' think that abiogenesis and the lack of support we have for it is a trivial part of our arguement at all. The origin of life is one of the major holes in the non-creationist arguement. That's not to say that Creationism is parsimonious at all or anything, but our inability to describe the origin of life is a major stumbling block.

Of course, the origin of life has little to nothing to do with the radiation of life, which this thread is about Smile

Yes, i didn't say the question was trivial, i said it has nothing to do with evolution.

But for the record... excuse me?!?! Our inability to describe the origin of life? You're kidding right? ^_^;

Not only are we able to describe the origin of life, our current problem is that we have way too many descriptions and no way to narrow it down. There are literally dozens of theories of abiogenesis, from underwater volcanoes to sea foam in shallows. All are possible. All are plausible. We just currently have no way of knowing which actually happened.

Ankhanu wrote:
The definition of species is something of a moving target to this day. There are so many complications to the standard definitions that it's not funny. The standard definition works ok for many commonly observed species, but even then the lines can blur heavily. It's a complex topic that is really quite interesting, while it is frustrating Wink

Yes, all true. Which is why i took the high road, and picked the definition that set the bar as high as it will reasonably go (which just happened to be the standard definition as well).

Most of the problem with how to define "species" centers on how to define it in a manner that is both precise and general. The standard definition is not at all precise, which is why the problem exists. But that's not a problem here. It's vague, sure, but it's vague by being too broad. By using that definition, i actually make it harder to prove the case for evolution than if i had considered all the technical details - i'm basically saying if there's any chance that two populations might be the same species, assume they are. Yet even with that handicap, the evidence still exists.
Gagnar The Unruly
Here's a URL that has citations of multiple papers demonstrating speciation. Most papers fall into several categories:

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-speciation.html

speciation indirectly observed (but is the most parsimonious interpretation of the presented data)
speciation produced by artificial selection
speciation observed as it happens

I would expect most papers to fall in the first two categories. While speciation must be happening all the time, I can't imagine that the odds of observing it in action are great. However, we have ample phylogenetic, fossil, and ecological evidence to suggest that speciation happens spontaneously. Artificial selection experiments show us under what conditions speciation is possible, and what possible mechanisms exist.

It takes good luck and skillful observation to detect speciation in action. In one case, speciation was clearly observed by an autopolyploidy event in primrose. In the case of the apple/hawthorne maggot, speciation may be in progress, but the reproductive isolation event happened too recenly for the incipient sympatric species to diverge to the extent that they cannot reproduce (indeed, this may be an unrealistic expectation, as sister groups separated by millions of years often are capable of hybridization to some extent).

A note on micro- vs. macro-evolution. There are two camps among scientists: those who believe macro-evolution is an extension of micro-evolution utilizing the same processes as micro-evolution, and those who believe that different processes are involved.

Microevolution occurs in large part by inheritance of 'quantitative traits.' These are traits controlled by many genes of moderately weak phenotypic effect (think height). Less important are single-locus traits (think Mendel's peas). Recently, however, it has been shown that even within quantitative traits single gene traits may be important, and mutations in these genes can cause quasi-macroevolutionary traits to be affected.

example: Two sister-species of monkey flower are closely related, but one is bee-pollinated and the other hummingbird-pollinated. It was believed that flower shape in color (which determines visitation rates by preferred pollinators) were complex multi-locus traits. However, it has been shown that a single gene encoding a pigment compound has an effect that dramatically alters host preference, and may even have pleiotropic effects on flower shape and size. It is hypothesized that the speciation event separating these taxa involved a mutation in this gene that altered flower color and attracted a different spectrum of pollinators -- leading to reproductive isolation and eventual speciation (although with hybrid fertility).

Macroevolution is typically thought to involve large scale gene rearrangements (e.g. gene duplication, polypolidy) and not accumulation of multi- or single-locus polymorphisms. Therefore, it may represent a distinct process of evolution than micro-evolutionary hypotheses. To my knowledge, this argument hasn't been resolved yet, although I think that younger evolutionary ecologists tend to believe in more of a continuum than older, more fogey-ish biologists. Note that the big proponent for this idea of different processes, S. J. Gould, is dead.
Ankhanu
Indi wrote:
Ankhanu wrote:
I for one dont' think that abiogenesis and the lack of support we have for it is a trivial part of our arguement at all. The origin of life is one of the major holes in the non-creationist arguement. That's not to say that Creationism is parsimonious at all or anything, but our inability to describe the origin of life is a major stumbling block.

Of course, the origin of life has little to nothing to do with the radiation of life, which this thread is about Smile

Yes, i didn't say the question was trivial, i said it has nothing to do with evolution.

But for the record... excuse me?!?! Our inability to describe the origin of life? You're kidding right? ^_^;

Not only are we able to describe the origin of life, our current problem is that we have way too many descriptions and no way to narrow it down. There are literally dozens of theories of abiogenesis, from underwater volcanoes to sea foam in shallows. All are possible. All are plausible. We just currently have no way of knowing which actually happened.


Not kidding at all.
I would say that the fact that we can't narrow it down indicates that we are unable to actually describe it. We have all kinds of very workable explanations for how amino acids and the like could have formed, but nothing solid on how life came from that step. There's a HUGE leap from basic molecules involved in life and the auto-replication of those molecules within membrane bound envronments, and what we call life.
Simply, we have no idea how life began. Creationists give a nice little story, but requires some huge leaps of faith as well as introduces a whole mess of other questions. All we have is a collection of situations in which a few molecules could have formed. All the current theories (creationist and abiogenic alike) have some planet sized holes in them...
coeus
Indi wrote:
coeus wrote:
Also, Indi knows of a 'missing-link' ? Please, share.

Ah, excellent. Yet another common misconception: the fallacy of the "missing link".


I was meaning for you to explain:

Indi wrote:
The most common false "fact" i see is that we have allegedly never found the "missing link" between us and our "ape" ancestors, and that this missing bit of evidence represents a huge hole in the theory of evolution.
Indi
Gagnar The Unruly wrote:
A note on micro- vs. macro-evolution. There are two camps among scientists: those who believe macro-evolution is an extension of micro-evolution utilizing the same processes as micro-evolution, and those who believe that different processes are involved.

That's not exactly true. It is more correct to say that the two camps are those that say "macro" level evolution is completely reducable to "micro" level evolution, and those that say that there are factors at the level of speciation that don't really apply to "micro" level evolution... but they do not dispute that "micro" evolution is one cause of of speciation.

To put it in maybe simpler terms - you have one group that says that all "macro" evolution is just lots and lots of "micro" evolution over time, and that's all that needs to be understood. Then you have another group that says: yes, that is true, but that is not the whole story... at the species level things get so complex that there are also emergent properties that cannot be simplified or they stop making sense.

There is no one (except creationists, of course) that denies that "micro" evolution will not eventually cause "macro" evolution... the only point of contention is whether or not there are other, additional, factors. To say "micro" evolution is true but "macro" evolution is not is absurd.

Ankhanu wrote:
Not kidding at all.
I would say that the fact that we can't narrow it down indicates that we are unable to actually describe it. We have all kinds of very workable explanations for how amino acids and the like could have formed, but nothing solid on how life came from that step. There's a HUGE leap from basic molecules involved in life and the auto-replication of those molecules within membrane bound envronments, and what we call life.
Simply, we have no idea how life began. Creationists give a nice little story, but requires some huge leaps of faith as well as introduces a whole mess of other questions. All we have is a collection of situations in which a few molecules could have formed. All the current theories (creationist and abiogenic alike) have some planet sized holes in them...

That's completely untrue.

The problem with abiogenesis is not that we don't know how it could be done, it's that we don't know how it was done. We have dozens and dozens of theories of how it could have happened - and yes, including how the first cells formed.

So yes, it is true to say that we have no idea how life began. But that doesn't mean we're totally clueless. It's like setting up a delicate structure, then going away for a few days, then coming back to find the structure destroyed... you may not have any idea how it did happen, but you probably have no shortage of theories of how it could have happened (wind, someone banging the door in the next room, etc.). We don't know and may never be able to know how it actually happened here on Earth... but who cares? We know dozens of ways how it could have happened: isn't that enough?

coeus wrote:
I was meaning for you to explain:

Indi wrote:
The most common false "fact" i see is that we have allegedly never found the "missing link" between us and our "ape" ancestors, and that this missing bit of evidence represents a huge hole in the theory of evolution.

What part of that needs explaining? The claim that there is some missing link is nonsense, as is the claim that this alleged missing link represents some big problem to the theory.
Ankhanu
Indi wrote:
The problem with abiogenesis is not that we don't know how it could be done, it's that we don't know how it was done. We have dozens and dozens of theories of how it could have happened - and yes, including how the first cells formed.


Which I'm saying is a HUGE hole in our arguments. "Perhaps" and "maybe" and "it could have" are not good scientific answers. It's speculation, which, at its heart, so is Creationism. Until there's more than speculation, well, we don't have a solid leg to stand on, other than the generalized concept of parsimony.
Afaceinthematrix
It annoys me to no end when people say "Evolution says that we come from monkeys!" No it doesn't! One theory is that we come from a common ancestor, though.
coeus
Indi wrote:
What part of that needs explaining? The claim that there is some missing link is nonsense, as is the claim that this alleged missing link represents some big problem to the theory.


So you know the exact lineage of all species?
...
Pardon me for being skeptical. The reason there is a debate, and that evolution has many different theories and that many evolutions don't agree with a single theory, is that there are holes. Our DNA is 98% like that of a chimp and there were ape like men that walked the Earth millions of years ago so maybe we branched off of them. The truth is Indi...that there are missing links, there are unknown holes in all the theories. The theory itself seems logical but the evidance isn't there to prove or disprove it. We haven't found species that transition between us and those ape-like men (homo-take your picks). Unless things have change in the past 7 years since my HS science days.
Gagnar The Unruly
Forget everything you learned in high-school science, because it was probably out-of-date when you learned it or just wrong. The phylogeny of the radiation that produced us is becoming increasingly well-understood.

From the Smithsonian Institution:



Notice the complexity of our family tree. Also note that previous 'missing links' aren't our direct ancestors. Previous lines of descent listed us as a progression from Australopithecus afarensis to Homo habilis to H. erectus, H. neanderthalensis, then H. sapiens.

From this chart, it appears that H. habilis is the product of an early A. afarensis back-hybridization with a descendant clade (A. africanus). Then, some members of H. habilis hybridized with H. rudolfensis, which was from a different Australopithecine lineage (sharing A. ramidus as a common-ancestor with A. afarensis. The H. rudolfensis/H. habilis hybrid was H. ergaster, which was the common-ancestor of two sister taxa, H. erectus and H. heidelbergensis. Our direct ancestors were some population of H. heidelbergensis, and our sister taxon was H. neranderthalensis. The graph doesn't show this, but it is believed that some hybridization occurred between our species, and that Neanderthal genes, at one point separated from ours, have been partially integrated into our gene pool. Therefore, all extant humans are some partial hybrid of our ancestor H. sapiens and H. neanderthalensis species. I ask you, where would a missing link be found?

Note that there are some ?-marks on the graph, indicating regions of uncertain phylogeny. More data is needed for complete resolution. Also, speciation and extinction times are not known exactly, and are based somewhat on inference.
coeus
Thanks for the info Gagnar.
I found the site you got that from if anyone else is interested: here.

Edit:
LOL, click on "Ardipithecus ramidus" you will get this message: "We're sorry that our site is still incomplete. We are trying to get the all of the gaps filled." Anyone else find the humor in that?
Indi
coeus wrote:
Indi wrote:
What part of that needs explaining? The claim that there is some missing link is nonsense, as is the claim that this alleged missing link represents some big problem to the theory.


So you know the exact lineage of all species?

? Excuse me? Where did i claim that?

i say the idea of a missing link is nonsense... and your response is: "so you have found it, then?"

So if i'd said the idea of a pink and yellow spotted elephant is nonsense, you would ask me to show you one?

?

coeus wrote:
Pardon me for being skeptical. The reason there is a debate, and that evolution has many different theories and that many evolutions don't agree with a single theory, is that there are holes. Our DNA is 98% like that of a chimp and there were ape like men that walked the Earth millions of years ago so maybe we branched off of them. The truth is Indi...that there are missing links, there are unknown holes in all the theories. The theory itself seems logical but the evidance isn't there to prove or disprove it. We haven't found species that transition between us and those ape-like men (homo-take your picks). Unless things have change in the past 7 years since my HS science days.

There are holes in the record, but as Gagnar pointed out, none of them really look like the alleged "missing link" the myth talks about.

But that's not the point. Even if we never complete the entire chain... who cares? That's not evidence for or against evolution. Hell, even if we do complete the entire history of human development back to the original amino acids... so what? That won't be proof of the theory of evolution. The whole idea of a "missing link" has no bearing on the theory of evolution.

Even Darwin recognized that the rarity of fossils made the likelihood of constructing the entire chain improbable at best. You cannot use a "missing link" in the chain to falsify the theory of evolution, because supporters could always rightfully claim that the species existed, we just haven't found fossils of it - which is a reasonable claim. So Darwin came up with other ways to make the theory of evolution falsifiable (although, he didn't put it in those terms back then). As it turns out, we did far, far better than Darwin thought we would with regards to filling in the blanks... which is cool, but not necessary to the theory of evolution. The chain isn't complete now (well, the tree isn't complete at any rate), but we can see it's structure well enough to see that the theory of evolution holds true for it. Holes in the chain do not represent holes in the theory of evolution, they represent holes in the fossil record.

Thus: the claim that "we have allegedly never found the "missing link" between us and our "ape" ancestors, and that this missing bit of evidence represents a huge hole in the theory of evolution." i ask again, what part of that needs explaining?
Ankhanu
Missing links aren't holes in evolutionary theory, they're gaps in phylogeny. There's a difference.
Indi
Ankhanu wrote:
Missing links aren't holes in evolutionary theory, they're gaps in phylogeny. There's a difference.

Yes! Precisely. That's a good summary.
coeus
ye-yeah indi...thanks...got all that from gander...moving on...

Indi wrote:

But that's not the point. Even if we never complete the entire chain... who cares? That's not evidence for or against evolution. Hell, even if we do complete the entire history of human development back to the original amino acids... so what? That won't be proof of the theory of evolution. The whole idea of a "missing link" has no bearing on the theory of evolution.


Science is based on evidence for it's claims. Religion is based on faith for it's claims. Do you agree or not? If you did than to never complete the chain would mean science doesn't have proof and thus evolution is a theory. You, on the other hand, speak as if it is 100% fact, the way life happened, no other explaination is needed because your view of evolution is what happened and the science world agrees. The fact of the matter is that science can't say this. At least not yet...we don't have full proof, we have theories, ideas, a scientific hypothesis. So to speak as if it is 100% fact, the only way would be highly unscientific. Open your mind to other possibilities while still embracing your own theories...it's the scientific way.
Ankhanu
coeus wrote:
... to never complete the chain would mean science doesn't have proof and thus evolution is a theory. You, on the other hand, speak as if it is 100% fact, the way life happened, no other explaination is needed because your view of evolution is what happened and the science world agrees.


You're confusing some very important points here. We're talking about evolution and speciation. You're talking about a phylogenetic tree. While the phylogenetic tree is, in essence, tracing an evolutionary pathway, the phylogenetic tree is NOT a theory of evolution... it is a model with evolution as its base.

When we're discussing evolutionary theory, what we mean is the process by which evolution occurs, not what species goes where in a phylogenetic sequence of speciation events. Human evolution is a pretty small part of the evolution pie and really, quite insignificant. We don't have a complete phylogeny for ANY species, let alone ourselves, that does NOT indicate that the theories are flawed, that just means that we haven't found everything we need to construct the phylogeny, perhaps because the evedence for certain steps did not fossilize, perhaps because we're digging around in the wrong spot.

Regardless, the process is what we're talking about, not phylogeny.

That evolution occurs is fact; how it occurs is theory. Major distinction.
Indi
coeus wrote:
ye-yeah indi...thanks...got all that from gander...moving on...

Apparently not, because you're still repeating the same misconception.

So Gagnar's explanation didn't work, and neither did mine. Ankhanu's might have, but just in case, i'm going to try again.

coeus wrote:
Indi wrote:

But that's not the point. Even if we never complete the entire chain... who cares? That's not evidence for or against evolution. Hell, even if we do complete the entire history of human development back to the original amino acids... so what? That won't be proof of the theory of evolution. The whole idea of a "missing link" has no bearing on the theory of evolution.


Science is based on evidence for it's claims. Religion is based on faith for it's claims. Do you agree or not?

Well of course. -_- What part of what i wrote contradicts that notion? i did not say that evolution does not need evidence, i said that completing the phylogenic tree would not serve as evidence. Look, i said it right here: "Even if we never complete the entire chain... who cares? That's not evidence for or against evolution."

coeus wrote:
If you did than to never complete the chain would mean science doesn't have proof and thus evolution is a theory.

Now you were doing ok with the definition of science up to this point, then it all fell apart. Science does not work by proving theories. Science works by disproving theories. Why? Because it is actually impossible to prove theories. And that is part of what i was trying to explain.

Let's say we complete the entire phylogenetic tree, in every detail, capturing every species on earth and their evolutionary interactions. You seem to be under the mistaken notion that doing this would somehow "prove" the theory of evolution. It won't. It would certainly support the theory of evolution, but it would do nothing towards proving it. It may be that the theory of evolution is totally wrong, and the real theory (whatever that may be) just happened to make a phylogenic tree that looks exactly like one that would be made by the wrong theory (ie, the theory of evolution). There is no way to know that this is not what happened, thus even a complete tree that completely supports the theory of evolution is not proof that evolution is true.

On top of that, you seem to be suffering from that depressing misconception that something is "just a theory" until we find "proof", then it's a fact. No. Wrong. Completely totally wrong. Get that notion out of your head.

First, is evolution a fact? Yes. It's been observed. We've watched plants and animals evolve. We've seen it. It's real. It's a fact. The completion or not of the phylogenetic tree will do nothing to change that.

Second, is evolution a theory? Yes. The theory of evolution is the best explanation we have for the diversity of species. And we have an insanely overwhelming amount of evidence that that theory is correct - the theory of evolution is probably the best evidenced theory in human history (the only likely competitor for the title of the best evidenced theory in human history is relativity).

Third, if we find more evidence, is it ever possible that theory of evolution will be... i don't know... upgraded?... to something more than a theory? No. Never. Assuming we never become omniscient, then until the end of the universe (or the end of humanity at least), no matter what evidence we find, evolution will always be "just" a theory (unless it gets proven wrong, of course). Nothing - no evidence - not filling in the blanks in the fossil record or even becoming immortal, going back in time and watching speciation happen - nothing will ever make evolution more than a theory.

Isn't that a bad thing? No, it's not. Quite the opposite. It's a very good thing. A theory is the highest status possible in science. A theory is better than a law in science. A theory is better than a fact in science. The only thing better than a theory is an accepted theory - which is also a theory - and evolution is the accepted theory for speciation. So it can't get any better for evolution. "Proof" of the theory - even if such a thing were possible (which it is not) - would not "upgrade" evolution any higher than what it is now: the accepted scientific theory of speciation.

Hell the only work being done now in that field is all detail work, trying to figure out specific little niches of the theory of evolution. The theory is being tweaked and modified as these things get better and better understood, but the general gist of it remains the same. Will it always remain the same? i don't know - no one does. Maybe someone will come along tomorrow with a better theory. But i wouldn't bet on that.

coeus wrote:
You, on the other hand, speak as if it is 100% fact, the way life happened, no other explaination is needed because your view of evolution is what happened and the science world agrees. The fact of the matter is that science can't say this. At least not yet...we don't have full proof, we have theories, ideas, a scientific hypothesis. So to speak as if it is 100% fact, the only way would be highly unscientific. Open your mind to other possibilities while still embracing your own theories...it's the scientific way.

Don't lecture me on "the scientific way" when you don't even understand what a theory is, and how it is evidenced and proven/disproven.

And don't tell me how i speak unless you're going to do it right. i do say the process of evolution is a fact, because it is. If you doubt me, we can run the experiment together, and i will show it to you. But i do not say the theory of evolution is a fact. It is a scientific theory. It is not a theory as you seem to define it (otherwise you would never say something as patently silly as "If you did than to never complete the chain would mean science doesn't have proof and thus evolution is a theory"), it is a scientific theory. That means it is not proven and never will be and never can be. If you're waiting on such proof, you will have a loooooong wait. 'Cause it ain't comin'. Ever.

And "opening your mind to other possibilities while still embracing your own theories" is not "the scientific way". The scientific way (in short) is to embrace nothing except the most parsimonious thing that the evidence dictates, and to ditch that in a heartbeat when you can embrace it no longer because new evidence or a more parsimonious theory has come along. There is no need to open your mind to anything, although it doesn't hurt. All you need are the facts, and the most parsimonious explanation for them, and you can tune out everything else.

And for the record, a scientific theory is not a scientific hypothesis.

Please, read up on science. You really have it all wrong.

--------------------

Now, hopefully you've got a better idea of what was wrong with the misconception you keep repeating, but just in case not....

It is impossible to prove a theory true. Totally and completely impossible. Either you have an axiom (which is true by definition), a tautology (which is simply a repetition of terms), or you have something that you can never be sure of.

Therefore you can never prove the theory of evolution true. Never. Not ever. The only thing you can do is prove it false.

So can the phylogenetic tree prove the theory of evolution false? No. If we have a phylogenetic tree with gaps where there should transitional species, it could mean one of two things:
1.) the theory of evolution is wrong.
2.) the tree is wrong.
Given the way the tree is constructed (from fossil evidence, which is, by nature, rare and difficult to interpret), it is far, far, far, far, far more likely that a disagreement is a problem with the tree than with evolution. And given how well the tree currently agrees with evolution, you can add a bunch more "far"s to the previous sentence. The fact that the tree exists at all is pretty damn strong evidence for evolution.

So the phylogenic tree - complete or not - cannot prove evolution true, and it cannot prove evolution false.

So it can't be proof for or against, but is it evidence? Sure, it's existence is evidence for evolution. Would a hole in the tree be evidence against evolution? No, it would be more rational to believe that it's a gap in our knowledge of the fossil record. Would completing it give more evidence? Not really, it's complete enough now that it is irrational to assume that it could not be completed if we just had more fossil evidence. Actually completing it is unnecessary from the standpoint of the theory of evolution. Failure to do so won't serve as evidence against, and success won't tell us anything new about evolution (although it would tell us a great deal about phylogeny).

Thus, completing the phylogenic tree is not really relevant to the theory of evolution. "Missing links", if there were any or not, would not present a problem to the theory of evolution.
EanofAthenasPrime
The two main problems are
1. Many aspiring evolutionists don't really grasp this concept "As far as I know, many people think that evolution is a process of perfecting creatures. But this is not true at all. It is just adapting creatures to their enviroment. Evolution has no real aim. There is no intelligence behind it.

For example many people think it would be better if a create is intelligent and strong. But maybe there are enviroments which do not require this attributes. The intelligent and strong creatures may not survive, if they do not adapt themselves to this enviroment with other attributes. And this is evolution, too!

I think the main aspect of evolution is natural selection. Only those creatures which got the right attributes will survive. And only those you survive are able to reproduce and give their attributes to the next generation. So the next generation is build of the attribute which helped the parents to survive."

2. Most creationists believe evolution is an instantaneous event, animals suddenly morph (usually in the time span of a day or millisecond) into other (random) creatures. Of course most biblical scholars don't hold this world-view but an alarming amount of Christians shield there knowledge of the theory of evolution (probably they are afraid of losing faith.)
Indi
Someone suggested another one to me:

Another misconception is that eugenics is [related to/supported by/a logical conclusion of] evolutionary theory.

In reality, the logic of the theory of evolution is that eugenics is a bad idea.
Ankhanu
It's related in that it uses the proposed pathways of selection in the same way that we've used them to engineer domestic plants and animals through the centuries. But yeah, it's not supportive of the idea.
miacps
Thanks, guys. That was a good read, very educational! Wink
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