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2868 Views 10 Replies Last post: Sep 7, 2011 9:01 PM by TotallyRadical RSS Branched from an earlier thread.
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Sep 7, 2011 10:20 AM

Re: Science Uncovered Fight Club debates - evolution thread

Humble Bumble in the original thread:


Looks cool! Not sure I can be in London for it but would love to be there if I am...


One thing I'd love to know is whether or not researchers ever worry if they are collecting (and, therefore, possibly killing) one of the last ever representatives of a species and thus potentially wiping it out? Particularly when they are in e.g. the Amazon rainforest and it is a bug or animal that was previously unknown to us.


From the seven you've suggested, numbers 3 and 6 would get my vote, but a few other suggestions for debate:


  • (As Dawkins is in the news again...) Does the strident atheism he represents do more harm than good for people's understanding of evolution?
  • Is it better for scientists to confront or ignore the 'anti-science' minority (e.g. Tea Party in America, anti-evolutionists, climate change deniers)? Does it damage their science if they do ignore them?
  • Given the economic hardships faced by many people in the world, is it right for humanity to undertake the expense of space exploration?



Hi Bumble


Just a comment on one of the suggestions for now (have to go to work).  My comments in red.


You said:

“…a few other suggestions for debate:

* “Is it better for scientists to confront or ignore the 'anti-science' minority (e.g. Tea Party in America, anti-evolutionists, climate change deniers)? Does it damage their science if they do ignore them?...”

I know nothing about the ideas of the American “Tea Party”, but to equate “anti-evolution” and “climate change denying” with “anti-science” is illogical and unscientific - even somewhat insulting to reputable scientists who hold those views.

Re “climate change deniers”: I don’t think any earth scientist or meteorologist denies that the climate is changing. The question is whether human activity plays any significant part.  I recently read an article about sunspots, suggesting that there is likely to be global cooling, (such as happened in the “Little Ice Age” in the 16th-19th centuries), because of an extreme sunspot low.

Re “anti-evolutionists”: There are many PhD scientists, (some are leaders in their field), who don’t believe in Evolution, for purely scientific reasons.  It has done no harm whatsoever to their science.  Many inventions and discoveries (for example, pasteurisation, and in modern times the MRI scanner) that have greatly benefited various branches of science, have been made by “anti-evolutionists”.




--------  Message was edited by: Jonathan - Natureplus host  Hi, I have branched your discussion from the original thread so that your debate doesn't overwhelm it. Feel free to carry on here but, as these topics can cause things to get (over-)heated, please remember to keep it civil. :)

  • Your 'article' about sunspots is a classic example (imo) of why ignoring climate change deniers is perilous. The whole notion that we are likely to face global cooling was based on egregious false reporting of the actual science (that is, it was baseless, shameful lies). If you go to the source (i.e. the actual article and the scientists behind the study), they were very explicit that their results had no bearing on current climate change predictions, that they did not predict a global cooling, etc. The only people stating that we are now heading for global cooling were the self proclaimed climate change 'skeptics' who, on the whole, wilfully mis-reported the study and put their own incorrect spin on what it meant


    However, I would agree with you - there are unlikely to be any real scientists worth their salt who would deny climage change is happening. There would also be none who are worth their salt that would claim that human activity doesn't play any significant part. The few climate scientists who claim otherwise are making political statements rather than anything based on sound science.


    Similarly anti-evolutionists - in this day and age, if they claim to be scientists then they simply aren't or can't be any good at true scientific endeavour, regardless of anything they may have discovered. The scientific evidence for evolution is incontrovertible. There simply isn't any legitimate science, either theoretical or experimental, to show that evolution is false, there is once again only religious or political belief.


    • Is a position taken against the theory of AGW or evolution skepticism or denialism?
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      • Hi again


        So you are saying, in effect, that you have an unshakable belief that:


        a) Global warming is man’s fault and has little to do with anything else (such as volcanic output, the sun’s activity etc).


        b) Evolution is true.


        c) The possibility of there being any evidence to the contrary for either of these beliefs is unthinkable.


        d) Anyone who questions them is, by definition, stupid and/or not a “real” scientist, however many PhD’s or years of high level research experience he may have.


        e) If you state these beliefs strongly enough then others should have to accept them.  Unless of course they are stupid or not real scientists (as in d)above).


        Is that correct?


        It has nothing to do with belief, it has everything to do with science and data.


        (a) No - climate change and global warming has multiple factors that contribute to it, as the science demonstrates and is what anybody studying climate science will tell you. What is more or less incontrovertible is that man's CO2e emissions are a significant factor in this century's rapid temperature increases and that, left unchecked, those rapid increases will not stop. What is more or less incontrovertible is that those rapid increases are unprecedented in modern history. The only real areas of uncertainty lie in the impact of aerosols and the impact of cloud cover.


        b) Yes. For it not to be true now would require a great big gobbing bit of research that completely overthrew pretty much everything we know about the life sciences, and not just evolution. It would have to be an earth shattering hit.


        c) It isn't that there is any evidence to the contrary being 'unthinkable' it is that there simply isn't any at all. Show me a rock solid bit of research, which hasn't already been demonstrated to be deeply flawed or flat out wrong, that shows evidence that evolution is completely improbable or that AGW isn't happening and I'll eat my hat. All I ever see in these disputes (with climate change in particular) is people blowing some paper or other completely out of all proportion (or claiming that it says something it simply does not), and then said paper being shown to be very wrong (or having not said what was claimed in the first place). The one you mentioned earlier is a classic example of deniers doing not just one of those things but both - overinflating what it says and claiming it says something it never did.


        d) No, it is simply that anyone who states that AGW or evolution is undisputably wrong is just not looking at or understanding the science. Questioning everything is what real scientists do all the time, but stating outright that evolution or AGW are wrong just flies in the face of all the published and growing evidence.


        e) See first sentence of my reply.


        P.S. I know that this post is about a Fight Club but perhaps we ought to take this discussion elsewhere (ie. a new thread?). The museum is looking for people suggesting debates to be had at their event, not for people going over what they probably find to be old ground... Agree? I'm not free over the weekend however.

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            • Drosophila wrote:


              By “Evolution” I mean the idea that gradually, in the far distant past, simple organisms became more and more complex over time, until they gave rise to the incredible complexity and variety of life that we have today.)…






              Conceptually, every 'complex' lifeform on the planet today can be considered to be merely a collection of simple unicellular organisms living in symbiosis with each other. It is just that those unicellular organisms all share common genetic material and ancestry, and are interdependent on each other for their survival, and exist as a 'complex' machine.



              Is that really so drastically different to e.g. something like Dictyostelium (slime mold) or other 'simple' multi-cellualr lifeforms?



              And complexity is a curious terminology. We know now (from genome sequencing efforts that have only been possible in the past 10 to 20 years or so) that the number of genes that separates highly 'complex' organisms such as we humans from a fruit fly are not many in number, that we share genetic ancestry with some of the simplest lifeforms currently alive on the planet (the Archaea) in processes as fundamental to living things as protein synthesis and the replication of genetic material.
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          • I don't have much time to reply as I'm at work, but there are well over 200 years of accumulative evidence for evolution and it is this entire body of evidence that is rock solid, not one or two papers. For the greenhouse effect, there is over a 100 years of research since Arrhenius first put forward the principle, though the data behind AGW are less mature than this principle and that for evolution and therefore, more uncertain. However, the entire body of evidence for AGW being a very real effect is wholly compelling.


            And interpretation of data IS science, but it is a process of interpretation that is testable, fits all the observations, passes the test of review by your peers and stands the rigours of time and subsequent research. So I'll say it again, show me a single, credible alternative to evolution that fits those criteria, or one that shows that evolution can't explain the development of all species on the planet since the universal ancestor and I'll eat my hat. If you look in the scientific literature, you simply will not find it. I can find it elsewhere for sure, but that isn't science.


            ... The main reason for my post is that John Timmer at Ars Technica has a good article on how the anti-science movement in the US is a badge of honour for tea partiers and is, very depressingly, becoming one for any Republican candidate because they think it is needed to win their bid for the presidency:




            It is this stance in America that I would define as an anti-science movement where people are actively trying to displace the current scientific understanding of evolution, climate change and more with religion and ignorance.


            Got to go.



            (PS Thanks to Jonathan for moving our posts to a new thread!)
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              • A fascinating series of arguments.


                I am inclined to  agree with you,  Drosophila, in that there has yet to be the "rock-solid" proof of any of  the theories mentioned.  The theory of evolution does have a very  plausible basis, but it possible that it could be misinterpretation of  the evidence; climate-change does appear to be in effect, but the causes  certainly do have to be open to question - it is a relatively  young science, and the data is pretty sparse, and could so easily be  kidnapped for political or personal gain  - and certainly appears to  have been, in many instances!   Humble Bumble does seem to be fixated in certain views - dare I risk saying that that is not a very scientific attitude?

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  • Hi again,


    I've updated the title to the thread (and also the titles of each post to prevent confusion with original Fight Club thread) as this debate appears to be centering on evolution. I'm going to start a new debate thread for other topics so please limit any further discussion in this thread to evolution, thank you.




    Natural History Museum

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