Science and anti-Science

Please send any reasoned disagreements to me. If your facts and logic are convincing, I'll change my mind !       




People should believe facts and reality, not lies and delusions and scams.

Anti-Science section
Science And Religion section
Pseudo-Science section (including ESP, Astrology, Quack Remedies)
What Science Says section
Evolution, and Science section





Anti-Science



My guesses at historical roots of anti-science attitudes, in order:
  1. Galileo and the telescope (and Copernicus, Kepler, Newton, etc).

    1600's. First time the Catholic Church perceived science as a direct threat to their doctrine and power ? Showed that the heavens weren't full of perfect spheres, Earth wasn't the center, there were things not described in the Bible or known by the Church, etc.


  2. Franklin and the lightning-rod.

    From "The Wrong Kind of Snow: How the Weather Made Britain" by Antony Woodward and Robert Penn (on Amazon):
    [On June 18 1764, the steeple of St. Bride's church in London was struck by lightning. One of many prominent church-steeple-strikes over the decades that had done serious damage, collapsing steeples and killing people.]

    The event has huge consequences. St. Bride's is a site of antiquity. The first Christian church is built here in the sixth century and seven churches follow ... [After the strike] King George III consults the American polymath Benjamin Franklin, famous for his groundbreaking experiments conducting lightning. ...

    The concept of a lightning "attractor" or rod, which renders the uncontrollable force of a storm harmless, is hugely controversial. It challenges a fundamental aspect of Protestant and Catholic theological meteorology - that storms are delivered by the "Prince of the Power of Air", Satan himself, and the only means to resist them is through prayer. Franklin is an arch-infidel, according to people like John Wesley. In the heated eighteenth-century struggle between science and religion, the lightning rod is an excellent weapon. And it works.


  3. Workers against automation.

    Luddites (1810's) and others reacted against job loss or change of jobs due to use of machinery.
    Wikipedia's "Luddite"


  4. Gas warfare (mustard gas, chlorine gas) and machine-guns in WW I.


  5. Evolution (Scopes trial, 1925).


  6. Gas chambers, and massive fire-bombing of civilian cities, in WW II.


  7. Atom bombs in WW II.

    Incredibly powerful new weapons, horrible effects on Japanese civilians, terrifying invisible radiation. Spawned anti-nuclear movement.


  8. Cold War / missile gap / Cuban missile crisis / space race.

    Fear whipped up by the military-industrial complex, so they could build and sell more weapons.


  9. Thalidomide (1961).


  10. Industrial pollution.

    Point sources such as Love Canal (1970's; wikipedia's "Love Canal"). General situations such as Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" (1962), or DDT. Big oil spills in the oceans. Smog.


  11. Vietnam War.

    Agent Orange, napalm, carpet bombing. On TV.


  12. Tobacco industry.

    Major attack on science as a defense against lawsuits and changing public opinion.
    From wikipedia's "Tobacco politics":
    "The first major study that showed the causal link between smoking and lung cancer was published in a study done by Sir Richard Doll in 1950."





Insufferable Intolerance's "3 Things That Science Deniers Don't Understand About Themselves"
John Timmer's "Ars Science Q&A: How to deal with science denialists"
Skeptical Raptor's "Science denier indicators - the pseudoscience bullsh*t meter"
Steven Novella's "Liberal vs Conservative Antiscience"
Atul Gawande's "The Mistrust of Science"



My guesses at modern USA roots of anti-government and conspiracy attitudes:
  1. J. Edgar Hoover (1920's to 1970's).

    Started out fighting anarchists, using mass arrests and deportations. Soon saw Communists and homosexuals everywhere, and worked to persecute them. Later broadened the fight to personal enemies, political dissidents, and the civil rights movement. Used illegal methods, and secret files.
    Wikipedia's "J. Edgar Hoover"


  2. McCarthyism (1950).

    Whipping up fear of Communists everywhere, in government and Hollywood, for political advantage.
    Wikipedia's "McCarthyism"


  3. JFK assassination (1963).

    Very popular president, hints of Mafia and Cuban and Soviet involvement. Followed by assassinations of MLK and Robert Kennedy.


  4. Vietnam War.

    Tonkin Bay deception, lies about body-counts and casualties and atrocities and secret bombing and imminent victory. Class discrimination in the draft rules.


  5. Watergate (1973).

    Dirty tricks against enemies and other political party, CIA involvement, lies by President and top men.





Dangers from anti-science attitudes:
David Niose's "Anti-intellectualism Is Killing America"
Janet Allon and Kali Holloway's "9 senseless social panics that did lasting damage to America"
Connecting Hitler, anti-science, and climate change: Timothy Snyder's "The Next Genocide"
Dr. Robert Fraley's "Why Science Denialism Is Costing Us A Fortune"



Some people think the government or "scientists" are conspiring to hide alien UFO's or to ignore ESP. But:
See my Conspiracy Theories page







Why do some people hate the government or "science" so much ?




(based on 2009 study)


Daniel Denvir's "GOP Assault on Truth: Why Do Conservatives Pretend They Know More About Science Than Scientists?"
Sean McElwee's "Yes Virginia, The GOP Is Anti-Science"
Andy Borowitz's "Republicans Consider Welcoming People Who Believe in Math and Science"
cartoon
Right-wing science



Exaggerating or hyping science stories is counter-productive:

Some recent stories that have been exaggerated or hyped: Michio Kaku went on book tour 3/2014 to sell his book "The Future of the Mind", and said all kinds of wild things about future brain technology we MAY have someday. Copying a brain to disk, controlling a human's behavior completely, downloading new memories and skills into a human brain, etc. We've taken only the barest minimal steps toward any of this today. Yet he's hyping it as if we'll have it all in 20 years or something. And he's extrapolating wildly on every one of the capabilities. Much of it may never work to anywhere near the degree he's talking about. article

This kind of exaggeration will cause the public to feel fooled, and increase distrust of science and science journalism.

From Dave Barry's "Year in Review 2012":
"In science news, a group of physicists announces that, after decades of research costing billions of dollars, they believe they have confirmed the existence of the Higgs boson, which according to them is an extremely exciting tiny invisible thing next to which all the other bosons pale by comparison. This is breathlessly reported as major news by journalists who majored in English and whose knowledge of science is derived exclusively from making baking-soda volcanoes in third grade. Back in the lab, the physicists enjoy a hearty scientific laugh, then resume the important work of thinking up names for exciting new invisible things they can announce the discovery of."






Science And Religion



Can science and religion co-exist ?

Sure, but that doesn't mean they're equally true or valid. There is one science, tied to and verified by testing against the real world. There are a thousand religions, all artificial (most likely), actively resisting any kind of testing, denying the power of reason, insisting on blind faith, shutting their eyes to any contrary opinion or fact. Sure, science and all of the thousand religions can co-exist.

But as soon as any religion gets specific about the real world, it tends to conflict with science, or just be wrong. Unless you really torture the language to take most meaning out of it, the Bible conflicts with science and reality.
Religions on the Creation
The Rapture

For example, science has proved that the Universe and Earth are far older than the Bible says. Human genomics shows that we are not descended from just two original humans.

Richard Dawkins says interesting things about religion and science:
Interview by Laura Sheahen
Why I Am Hostile Toward Religion
Interview by Gordy Slack
Wikipedia's "The God Delusion"

From WoodwardRobert:

> I find it disappointing that so many scientists want
> to rule out the existence of god, rather than keep an
> open mind, as surely to be a good scientist you should
> be willing to consider all possibilities.

You completely misunderstand the nature of science.

Science is a process of putting forward a hypothesis on the basis of logic or some observational evidence, then collecting further evidence, comparing it to the predictions of the hypothesis being tested, then either modifying the initial hypothesis or discarding it, then proposing a new hypothesis.

The scientific process is not about treating all possibilities, however ridiculous and unsupported by logic or observational evidence, as being equally valid and only discarding a possibility when evidence is found that does not support it.

When theologians can provide unequivocal evidence that an aspect of the Universe, or a process operating within it, is the work of a divine supernatural being, then science will examine that evidence against the predictions of the "god" hypothesis and accept or reject it. Thus far no evidence has been found that requires a supernatural explanation of the phenomena or process, not even creation of the Universe.

The persistence of those that believe in a god or gods in the face of an absence of evidence for divine actions is what characterises religion and distinguishes science from dogma.

Thus far science has found no need to invoke the existence of a god or gods as an explanation of the Universe, what exists and happens within it.

From Jerry Coyne's "Emperor Has No Clothes Award" acceptance speech 2011:

The problem I call "accommodationism" is increasingly widespread in the U.S. It's the view that science and religion are buddies. They answer different kinds of questions but in different spheres but they can be harmonious, and maybe they can help each other or mutually reinforce each other. I think that's completely bogus.

...

Why is there widespread opposition to evolution? We don't have widespread opposition to black holes or gravity or antibiotics. It's because evolution hits you in the solar plexus if you're religious. It attacks the most powerful argument for god that ever existed, which is the design argument.

...

... The false idea is that religion can produce knowledge. Religion doesn't increase any kind of knowledge. Science does. ...

...

... Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. That's the way religious people "know" stuff. They just find it in their heads through intuition. Or they're taught it by their parents.

Religious ideas don't change by finding out more stuff about nature. Religion does not progress in its understanding of the divine, if there were a divine. Theology or religion changes because of two things: Science shows it's wrong, which is what happened with evolution and Adam and Eve and the flood stories. Or secular morality forces religion to change because they just can't stand up against secular ways of morality ... Things like gay rights and rights of women have been pushed on churches by changes in secular views, not by religious people themselves.

In science, faith is a vice. In religion, faith is a virtue. In science, there are ways of knowing that you're wrong. I could give you a list of evidence that would convince me that evolution was wrong: fossils in the wrong place, adaptations in one species that are only useful for another species, a whole list of them. None has ever been found.

...

... there are scientists, good scientists, who are religious ... This doesn't show compatibility in anything more than a trivial sense. What it shows is that as humans we have an amazing ability to hold two different contradictory concepts in our mind. ... It shows cognitive dissonance. It doesn't show compatibility.

...

The incompatibility rests then on three things. First is the methodology. In science we are wedded to nondivine explanations for a natural phenomenon. We don't sit there and pray for an answer. We go into our labs or out in the field and look for stuff. And that works! We actually find things out, like antibiotics and how to fly to the moon. We can make predictions.

...

[Second is the philosophical] view that since assuming there's nothing supernatural has helped us make so much progress, then there must not be anything supernatural, because assuming there is a supernatural hasn't helped us one iota in understanding anything about the universe.

...

[Third:] When science and religion interrogate nature, you get different results.

Some examples of things that are religious truths are the creation myth, the great flood, the efficacy of prayer, the afterlife, etc. Science doesn't support the existence of these things. ...

... It could be scripture did give us an accurate scientific understanding of the world, but it didn't. If it's inspired by god, then you have to ask yourself "why not?"

The answer from theologians to what I just said is invariably this: But the bible isn't a textbook of science; it's not meant to tell scientific truth.

When you hear that, you have to reinterpret it as this: The bible is not true. That's what they mean when they say it's not a textbook of science.

...

There is another palpable difference between science and religion. What do you do when you make an assertion about the world that you know turns out to be false? In science it goes into the dustbin of discarded results like cold fusion or any number of falsified theories.

When a religious claim is falsified like creation or Adam and Eve, [religious people] simply turn it into a metaphor. "We didn't really mean it, folks. It wasn't meant that way. It means something else completely."

...

... religion doesn't tell us anything about reality. It tells us what's imagined or desired, not what is out there.

Does religion produce truth? No. I've interrogated readers on my website about this for three years by asking them "Give me one example about the truth of the universe that religion has produced." I should start offering a prize for that. There's never been an answer, at least one that makes sense.


From Ask An Atheist's "The Failures of Faith":

People often have discussions about whether scientific theories like evolution are compatible with religion. The answer is that it depends on the religion. But if you were to ask if science is compatible with faith, then the answer is simply, "No". It isn't.

...

Science and faith are incompatible, because they are diametrically opposite methods for determining truth.

...

When science finds a question that it cannot answer, it honestly says "I don't know". It doesn't end there, because an "I don't know" is an invitation to exploration, examination and discovery.

This refusal to make assumptions is the opposite of faith. Faith looks at an unanswered question and pretends to know the answer to it. It asserts much about things we don't actually know. Sometimes it even makes assertions in the face of contrary evidence.

Let's define faith. Faith is claiming knowledge of something not because you have evidence for it, but because you really want it to be true.

...

The problem with faith existing as one of many methods in a search for truth is that faith is just speculation without the need for investigation or evidence. It's just the assertion of fact without the proof to back it up.

...

[Science has given us both dangerous knowledge and beneficial knowledge. But:] Faith-based thinking is in the exact same place that it was in the Dark Ages, where its best achievements are comforting lies about things that no human being could possibly know.

...

"Science adjusts its views based on what's observed.
Faith is the denial of observation so that belief can be preserved."
-- Tim Minchin

Jerry A. Coyne's "Why Scientists Have No Faith in Science"
Lawrence M. Krauss's "All Scientists Should Be Militant Atheists"
Benjamin Frankin on Faith and Reason

And then there's simple willful ignorance: pic.

A lot of people seem to think it's a binary choice, either science or Christianity must be true, it's one or the other, so they attack science. No, there is science and then there are hundreds or thousands of religions. Science or any one of the religions could be true, or they all could be wrong and something else could be right. Science happens to be the one that matches the facts.

Science works; religion doesn't. God is my pilot





In response to Why do they believe that in defiance of the facts ?
Religious people get all kinds of benefits from believing what their community tells them to believe, from not rocking the boat, not irritating people. If the priest/church/Bible says to believe in Creationism, why not believe in it ? Doesn't really cost them anything, gives benefits.



Various modes of thinking:
[Generally from least productive or useful, to most:]
  1. Religion, superstition.
  2. Guessing / random.
  3. Tradition / inertia (do what we've always done).
  4. Science.



I had no idea: some people say science came from Christianity !

There were scientists before there was Christianity: ancient Egyptians and Greeks and Romans and more.
Jim Walker's "The Myth of Christianity Founding Modern Science and Medicine"
N. S. Gill's "Inventions and Discoveries of Ancient Greek Scientists"
Crystalink$ "Ancient Egyptian Science and Technology"
Wikipedia's "History of science and technology in China"
Wikipedia's "History of science in early cultures"

I don't know if/when any of these pre-Christian societies actually codified the "scientific method". But they did science (experiments, observations, reasoning) and technology and engineering.

Science flourished in Europe starting around 1600's DESPITE Christianity, not BECAUSE of Christianity. Most European scientists then were Christians because in many countries, people HAD to be Christians, or suffer punishment. The Church fought desperately against the findings of Galileo, Copernicus, Kepler, etc, and lost. The Christian, Biblical view of the universe (perfect unchanging objects and spheres, Earth in a privileged position, etc) was proven to be wrong. Later, the Church fought against Science on other subjects (ages of Earth and universe, Evolution), and again was proven wrong. Today, the Church still is an obstructive force on scientific matters (stem-cell research, Evolution).



The search for "meaning":

Some people say science can tell you how the world works, but "the meaning of life, the universe and everything" is the province of religion. Thus religion and science are not in conflict, and religion is needed, etc.

In "Travels" by Michael Crichton (on Amazon), he says people want to know "why", and science can't answer that question.

But maybe there is NO built-in meaning. Maybe life and the universe just "happened". Would that be horrible and unacceptable ? Why ? Would that mean that we should all just give up and go crazy and commit suicide ?

Science doesn't say "there is no meaning". It says "there is no good evidence that there is any meaning". If someone comes up with evidence, Science will change it's view.

And suppose we concede that there must be meaning, and science says nothing about meaning. Does that imply that religion must be the right way to find meaning ? And does it imply that the "meaning" from your favorite religion is the right one, out of the hundreds of human religions ?

Religion does not "answer" the question of "why". Religion dictates a belief to you, but has no real foundation for that belief. It is not giving you a valid "answer".

Never see a church with free Wi-Fi
Religions in the future
















Pseudo-Science



From Slashdot article:
... 7 clear signs that show something to be pseudoscientific:
  1. The use of psychobabble - words that sound scientific and professional but are used incorrectly, or in a misleading manner.

  2. A substantial reliance on anecdotal evidence.

  3. Extraordinary claims in the absence of extraordinary evidence.

  4. Claims which cannot be proven false.

  5. Claims that counter established scientific fact.

  6. Absence of adequate peer review.

  7. Claims that are repeated despite being refuted.



ESP (Extra-Sensory Perception):

Very interesting book partly about this: "Travels" by Michael Crichton (on Amazon).

99% of claims of ESP probably are fraud or delusions, designed to make money or fame. There have been some cases which seem fairly solid. But there are standing offers of large cash prizes for anyone who can demonstrate ESP in a laboratory, and the prizes have gone unclaimed.
Wikipedia's "List of prizes for evidence of the paranormal"



There may well be faint signals produced by the body and brain, that can be received by other bodies or brains. Science may be able to detect and explain these in the future. This might explain telepathy or mind-reading or "auras". This wouldn't be too surprising; we have lots of other examples of faint signals in science (electricity, gravity, light, pheromones, etc). Some animals and plants can sense or react to things (magnetic fields, electric fields, subsonic vibration) that we think humans can't sense, but suppose humans do have some very basic subconscious ability to sense those things ? We have some "senses" we don't usually think about, such as time sense, body position sense (proprioception), skin heat sense, pain sense (nociception). We use some of our other senses in ways we don't usually realize (echolocation via hearing). Perhaps we can "taste" chemicals or pheromones in the air, sense changes in humidity or barometric pressure or gravity, sense sub-sonics or other vibrations, etc. We can "read" the body language or faces of other humans, to varying degrees; perhaps we can sub-consciously read their breathing, their scent, etc also.

ESP involving information about the future is harder to explain; no known phenomenon involves signals from the future to the present. But maybe science will find such a signal. Or maybe that kind of ESP is untrue. Same for "messages from the dead".



Testing:
You don't have to be an "official scientist" to do a scientific experiment to test ESP. Here are some tests you could do if you or a friend thinks they have ESP:


From Skeptoid's "Prove Your Supernatural Power and Get Rich":
... we all want superpowers. We all want your supernatural ability to be proven true. And we want it so much that a large number of groups around the world will pay you to prove it.

...

... many members of the [testing] groups joined because they, too, have always dreamed of having a superpower. Should you win the money and prove that a supernatural ability is possible, you'll not only turn the world on its head, you'll be handed money by people who have never been happier to sign a check.

...

... I encourage you to go for it. Nearly everyone is rooting for you. We human beings have looked in a lot of places trying to find real magic or real superpowers, and we haven't found any yet. I hope, for all our sakes, that you will be the one who does.


Brian Palmer's "Investigative Intuition (Do psychics ever solve crimes?)"




Horoscopes, Astrology, the Zodiac:

From Wikipedia's "Astrology":
While astrology may bear a superficial resemblance to science, it is a pseudoscience because it makes little attempt to develop solutions to its problems, shows no concern for the evaluation of competing theories, and is selective in considering confirmations and dis-confirmations.

...

Contemporary science considers astrology a pseudoscience. Criticisms include that astrology is conjectural and supplies no hypotheses, proves difficult to falsify, and describes natural events in terms of scientifically untestable supernatural causes.

...

Astrology has repeatedly failed to demonstrate its effectiveness in controlled studies, according to the American Humanist Society. The group characterised those who continue to have faith in astrology as doing so "in spite of the fact that there is no verified scientific basis for their beliefs, and indeed that there is strong evidence to the contrary." One well-documented and referenced paper, for instance, which conducted a large-scale scientific test, involving more than one hundred cognitive, behavioral, physical and other variables, found no support for astrological accuracy.

...

In 1953, philosopher Theodor W. Adorno conducted a study of the astrology column of a Los Angeles newspaper as part of a project examining mass culture in capitalist society. Adorno concluded that astrology was a large-scale manifestation of systematic irrationalism, where individuals were subtly being led to believe that the author of the column was addressing them directly through the use of flattery and vague generalizations.

...

... Shawn Carlson's double-blind chart matching tests in which he challenged 28 astrologers to match over 100 natal charts to psychological profiles generated by the California Psychological Inventory (CPI) test. When Carlson's study was published in Nature in 1985, his conclusion was that predictions based on natal astrology were no better than chance, and that the testing "clearly refutes the astrological hypothesis".

From The Straight Dope's "Is astrology for real ?":
Studies have shown that
(1) astrologers trying to deduce someone's personality from his chart do no better than chance;
(2) astrologers studying the same chart come to opposite conclusions as often as not;
(3) the birth dates of people with occupations linked to certain signs (e.g., politicians, scientists, soldiers) are in fact randomly distributed throughout the zodiac; and
(4) couples with "incompatible" signs get married and divorced at the same rate as compatible couples.

The fact is, people who want to believe in astrology will convince themselves it works no matter what. In one study of 22 astrology buffs, half were presented with their real horoscopes and half were presented with fake charts saying the exact opposite. Both groups said their horoscopes were 96 to 97 percent accurate.

My response to someone who says astrology is "one of the foundational sciences", because various early scientists also were astrologers, and astrology is embedded in various historical parts of science:
Yes, some of science grew out of astrology, as science grew out of superstition and religion and alchemy and culture and economics too. And many early scientists were also astrologers, just as today a few scientists maybe still are, and many scientists today definitely are religious. But that doesn't mean that either astrology or religion is "a science".

The crucial difference is that science is based on TESTABILITY, testing against reality. That is why astrology is not a science: it doesn't use testing and testability. And in fact astrology fails tests against reality. So as well as not being a science, it's not true, either.

[Astrology also doesn't try to come up with new ideas (and test them), which is another reason it's not a science. It's just a static system of (incorrect) knowledge.]



There are multiple astrological systems: Western, Indian, Chinese. And in Western astrology you could have a basic sun-sign analysis, or a "full" analysis. And there were older systems: Babylonian, Hellenistic, Medieval Islamic. I doubt they all agree all of the time, so most (or all) of them must be wrong.

From Skeptoid's "All About Astrology":

Most astrology systems rely on "houses", basically chunks of sky corresponding to each constellation. When a planet moves through a particular house, it's supposed to have a meaning different from when it's in another house. Unfortunately, there are all sorts of varying systems for defining where these houses are (Campaneus, Regiomontanus, and Placidean are the most popular methods in Western astrology), and every astrology system around the world has a completely different interpretation of what the houses mean.

But these only scratch the surface. Most astrological systems are extraordinarily complex, requiring years of study to master, and take many details into account ... While it's possible for astrologers to precisely codify exactly how their system is to be used, there are so many different systems, and so many different schools of thought within each, that there are probably as many different ways of doing astrology than there are astrologers. Every single school of thought contradicts another, and every overall system often profoundly contradicts the others. The question "How is astrology done?" has only one right answer: It depends on who your astrologer is.

Some people try to make astrology seem legitimate by throwing in a lot of trendy scientific buzzwords (such as chaos theory, fractals, quantum) to claim a scientific basis. That's all a distraction; all that matters is "does astrology work ?". And the answer so far is "no".



A simple test of horoscopes: go to a big library and read your horoscope for last week or last month in every magazine and newspaper you can find, omitting the ones that come from the same syndications (have exactly the same wording). Write down the major points of each one. Then look at the whole list; are there contradictions ? Why ? And why do some of your horoscopes mention one thing strongly while others don't mention it at all ?

Even simpler test of horoscopes: have a friend clip today's horoscopes out of a newspaper, cut each "sign" into a separate piece, note which one is for your sign, black out or cut off the names of the signs, and shuffle the pieces. Then hand the clippings to you; can you tell which horoscope is for you ? Which one matches your situation or personality ?



Horoscopes almost always are vague, and often very long. They never say something simple and direct and testable: "You will find a $20 bill on the sidewalk this week". It's usually "Love interest is possible this month, but may be disappointing. Mercury indicates a focus on money. Ceres in the Third House means your career could use some improvement. Green is a good color for you." It's a scattergun approach, trying to lead you to stretch events in your life to fit the horoscope and say "wow, it's right !".

Another way of thinking about horoscopes:
There are about 7 billion people on Earth. Assuming random distribution of birthdates, about 1/12th will be Cancers, 1/12th Pisces, 1/12th Gemini's, etc. So you share your sign of the Zodiac with about 7/12 billion, or about 583 million people. So when you read today's horoscope for your sign, it's not just for you, it's for you and 583 million other people. So, for example, if it says you're going to meet a tall, dark, handsome stranger, it means you and 583 million others are all going to meet tall, dark, handsome strangers ! Ridiculous !



Little reliable info, but many estimates that about 1/3 of people really believe horoscopes are true. Some info in: George Dvorsky's "Why Believing In Astrology Is Not As Harmless As You Think"
And it varies by culture: Rahul Tandon's "Astrologers look to the stars to help Indian businesses"

About.com's "Astrology: Art or Science?"
About.com's "Astrology FAQ: Who Cares?"
About.com's "Is Astrology a Pseudoscience?"
Relatively Interesting's "Astrology and Horoscopes Debunked"
Understanding Science's "Astrology: Is it scientific?"
Ishmael N. Daro's "The unparalleled nonsense of astrology"
Skeptoid's "How to Spot Pseudoscience"
Robert Matthews' "Astrologers Fail To Predict Proof They Are Wrong"
Madhavankutty Pillai's "The Scientific Case against Astrology"
Skeptico's "Testing Astrology – Again"
Washington Times's "Comprehensive study of 'time twins' debunks astrology"
Astrology & Science's "The Scientific Exploration of Astrology"
Skeptic's Dictionary's "Forer effect"
Chris Mooney's "More and More Americans Think Astrology Is Science"
Skeptoid's "All About Astrology"
Bad Astronomy's "Astrology"
Astrological blood transfusion
Sign at planetarium
Future predicted





Ah, the morning horoscope.
"Today will be a day like every other day"
D'oh! It just gets worse and worse.
-- Homer Simpson

From "Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants" (on Amazon):
On Friday morning, my horoscope didn't say anything about unpredictability or romance. Instead, it told me I was creative and resourceful. It was nice to hear, but I prefer my horoscopes to tell me the future, not offer me insights into my personality. I rely on fortune cookies for that.




Quack remedies:

From Liz Szabo's "How to guard against a quack":
Tips to spot questionable health providers:

What I wrote in response to a "natural-remedy" claim that seemed like quackery to me:

This sounds like quackery to me because:

1- It gathers in tons of unrelated buzzwords that no consumer really understands or that cover just about EVERYTHING: anti-oxidant, immune system booster, viral and bacterial and retro-viral infections, cancer, bowel syndromes, arthritis. The mechanisms of most of these areas are known to some basic level, and most of them have completely different mechanisms. The list of legitimate medicines/substances that work across all of these unconnected areas is ZERO. So this is an indicator of likely falsehood.

2- It says nothing about dosage, specific scientific studies, or any downsides whatsoever. All of those things are hallmarks of real medicines in the real world. Something claimed to work at ANY dose you choose, with no controlled studies by mainstream people with positive results, and with NO downsides, is likely to be bogus.

3- The subtext of "natural remedy" and anti-establishment. Just because something is "plant-based" or "natural" doesn't mean it works or is good for you. A shark eating you is natural. Hemlock is natural. Arsenic is natural. And the subtext is "here's something those smarty-pants scientists don't want you to know about; and don't get me STARTED about the gummint !"

4- The information source. This posting comes from a guy who also touts another miracle, natural remedy. Would be interesting to compare the spiel for the benefits of that one to the spiel for this one. Next month it will probably be some other miracle thing with an enormous list of benefits.

None of this PROVES that this remedy or the prior one is bogus. But it all makes it VERY LIKELY that they are bogus.

...

[Got back a response that listed the sins of the medical industry and "Big Pharma".]

I agree with everything you say about the medical industry, Big Pharma, etc. They haven't researched plants enough, go only for big profits, hate herbal remedies, thrive on sickness, etc.

However, that has nothing to do with the specific claims made for this particular natural wonder-substance. For example, any thing/drug/plant that claims to work on many major, wildly unrelated areas or diseases probably is bogus. Can you see that ? We know a fair amount about how infections work, for example. Each virus or viral family is unique, and no anti-viral drug or compound ever invented or found has worked on more than one type of virus. Bacterial infections work completely differently from viral infections. HIV is a retro-virus, a very specific thing. Yet this remedy is claimed to work against many/all of these. This just flies in the face of reason. Can you see that ?

...

[Got back a response that some plants help multiple conditions, such as cannabis with glaucoma and appetite and more.]

[After some more back-and-forth:]

Would you agree that the burden of proof is on the person making an extraordinary claim ? And that claiming one thing can cure every disease known to man is an extraordinary claim ? And that pointing out most bogus wonder-natural-drug notices follow the same pattern (the 4 items I listed) is not a very extraordinary thing to claim ?

...

[Got back a response that said the wonder-remedy seemed to be working for a bunch of people he knew.]

But you understand why these anecdotes ("over 15 people on boats here are using the wonder-remedy ... and ALL claim an improvement in their condition") are useless, right ? Maybe some other factor accounts for this (maybe the barometer has changed, or humidity, or they all ate the same better food since they started taking the remedy, or once they started the remedy they stopped taking something else). Or maybe they feel better, but objective testing would show some of them actually are worse off (higher blood pressure or something). Or maybe they don't want to feel like fools for buying it, so they say "yes, it's working". Or maybe they feel better because they expected to feel better by taking it, and fooling them by giving them sugar-pills would have produced the same effect. Or maybe they all feel scientists are evil, and so they're lying about the drug working. Or maybe it really is a wonder-drug. Can't tell from those reports. That's why scientists do controlled tests, instead of just collecting anecdotes.

...

What's the list of things NOT cured or helped by this wonder-drug ?

[No response.]

From TheSciNerd on reddit:

[Apparently, there was some discussion before this part.]

> please, tell me why a mushroom CAN'T contain medicine?
> Tell me why a mushroom CAN'T contain unique
> polysaccarides that your body will use? Tell me why
> it MUST come from a white pill. You will be wasting
> your breath to tell me that NONE of the compounds
> we use for health can be found naturally and all
> must be synthesized.

We can talk about medicine from mushrooms. The most famous example is penicillin from the fungus Penicillium chrysogenum. The first attempts at mass production of penicillin were done with large fermentation cultures of the fungus, and then the penicillin was purified out. This article was written more than 10 years after the first large scale productions for the Army. Skimming through the data, you'll notice that the peak penicillin production of a fungal culture was 2,000 units/mL at 8 hours. A normal dose of I.V. penicillin for an adult is anywhere from 2,000,000 to 24,000,000 units per day, depending on the sensitivity of the bacteria being treated. A normal course of antibiotics is 10-14 days. Do that math. So, now you know why, at least for penicillin, how the fungus itself is worthless to medicine, but mass producing one of its chemicals in a laboratory has made a global impact on human health.

I'm not having this discussion with you to tell you that you are wrong and to rub your nose in it. I'm talking to you as a skeptic. We are not skeptical enough. If you question everything and accept nothing without reproducible evidence, you won't be had.

For example, did you know that your anti-medicine/pro-alternative health is not actually a stick-it-to-the-man grassroots movement that you probably believe it is? The natural medicine ideal in this country was not only marketed to the American public, but bullishly protected in Congress by lobbyists paid for by the largest nutritional supplement companies (e.g. Rexall/Sundown, Nu Skin, etc). The result of their public propaganda campaign and millions of lobbyist dollars resulted in the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994. Thanks to the propaganda campaign the act gained a great deal of public support, and was thus passed. Misguided Americans successfully fought for, and won, their right to be sold unregulated potentially harmful 'supplements' that promised to cure any and every condition not strictly defined by the FDA (i.e. Energy supplements are marketed as "alertness aids", because "fatigue" is an FDA-defined condition).

I just wanted to clarify that the "Big Pharma - money/greedy/evil" attitude is equally valid for the "Big Supplement" companies that push these worthless remedies. And, I say worthless now, and a tentative truth, as none have been proven through scientific methods (ie. clinical trials) to show any significant impact on any sort of disease process.

You touched on the idea that medicine comes from nature. You are 100% correct. Medicine as we know it today, originated from the folk medicine still practiced today by "alternative practitioners". The reason that Saw Palmetto has been used for hundreds, if not thousands, of years in folk medicine, but it is not used in Medicine today, is because it doesn't actually do anything. If you are interested in a systematic review of current available data for any of the "huggaballoo", as you called it, you should look at the Cochrane Collaboration. It's an independent non-profit that tries to assess the effectiveness of any 'medicine' available worldwide.

As for not being able to patent novel therapies, that's simply not true. A folk medicine plant can't be patented, but if anyone actually found a compound or family of compounds in a plant that had some medicinal qualities, you bet your bum they would patent it. Big and small pharma/biotech companies do exactly this. They take a 'medicinal plant', use different extraction solvents, and screen their extracts for medicinal compounds. Even known and previously patented compounds can be re-patented for a different purpose. Fluoxetine is the drug in Prozac, which was patented and FDA approved for depression. After the drug went off patent, it was later FDA-approved to treat menopausal symptoms, and re-patented under the brand name Sarafem. The point here is that, if something works provable (ie. randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trial), someone is going to patent it and make money.

The brilliant political stunts that the 'supplement' industry pulled off is similar, in that they are selling a product that is making billions per year, but with two big exceptions: (1) They don't have to prove their product is safe. (2) They don't have to prove that their product is effective.

Think about what that means.

Thanks to the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, I can put dry grass clippings in a capsule with a bottle that reads, "Ingredients: Organic Bermuda, aerial parts", and sell it to you, because it will cure your breathing problems.

I write "breathing problems", but because you have asthma, you read "asthma", or you have emphysema, so you read "emphysema".

My Bermuda grass cures asthma. It cures emphysema. It cures lung cancer. If you were born without lungs, my Bermuda grass would make you sprout fully functional lungs.

I don't need to prove any of that. But, who needs a clinical trial, when we have the living proof of Ms. Laney Dickinson from St. Louis, MO. She had been suffering from asthma since she was 2 years old. She was on every medication there is, was hospitalized for numerous asthma attacks throughout her life, and was being managed by a whole medical team, including Allergists, Immunologists, and Pulmonologists. Nothing was helping her asthma. So she stopped with Western Medicine, and turned to TheSciNerd's Bermuda grass. After 3 doses her symptoms subsided, and she now takes my Bermuda grass every day, and she lives asthma-free.

Sound familiar? Complete Bullsh*t, and 100% legal.

Additionally, my neighbor might have sprayed some toxic fertilizer and pesticides on my Bermuda grass. Luckily, I don't need to prove it's safe before I sell it to you for consumption.

I don't understand how consumers are not more disgusted with supplement companies than pharma companies.

So, let's talk about diet. I am a firm believer in preventing disease with a healthy lifestyle. That includes diet, exercise, stress reduction, not smoking, not drinking excessively, etc. I think you'll find it difficult to find a trained health care professional who disagrees. There are mountains of data supporting healthy lifestyle choices being positive determinants of health, in terms of disease-free life, quality of life, and longevity. The problem is that the benefits of diets that prevent disease are being extrapolated into the realm of treating diseases without any evidence of effectiveness. Is there a place for a modified diet in certain treatment plans? I wouldn't be surprised if diet could serve to improve outcomes of a disease treatment. Can diet alone cure cancer, as in the two stories you told me? No.

I say, no, because I have never seen any documented evident of a single person being cured of stage 4 lung cancer by eating nuts and berries.

Additionally, if a special diet was curing cancer, the evidence would be literally everywhere – in the news, in peer-reviewed science/medical journals, being discussed in classrooms all over the world.

It would only take a small proof-of-concept clinical trial to demonstrate that a certain diet can shrink cancer. It would be so easy, and all of humanity would benefit. There are 'clinics' and 'practitioners' all over the world that will swear by their diet, and tell you how many patients they have cured. The patients of those clinics will even tell you that they are cured! However, not one of them has tried to publish their findings under the scrutiny of peer-review. This is when you should be asking all of those experts why they don't want to prove to the world that their diet is real. There are two possibilities, either the diet doesn't work, and they don't want to lose their revenue when the diet is proven false, or their diet works, but they don't want to share their secrets so that they keep all the revenue! The latter is unlikely, but either way, screw that guy. He's a money-grubbing jerk.

And, that is really what ALL of this comes down to. Money.

Everybody wants to sell you something.

When it comes to disease I can choose a treatment that has to be proven safe and effective, or I can choose a treatment that does not need to be proven safe nor effective.

Both of those treatments are being sold by someone who wants my money.

Guess which one I'm choosing.

From Gold, Ames and Slone's "Misconceptions About the Causes of Cancer" (PDF):

The major causes of cancer are: 1) smoking, which accounts for 31% of U.S. cancer deaths and 87% of lung cancer deaths; 2) dietary imbalances, which account for about another third, e.g., lack of sufficient amounts of dietary fruits and vegetables; 3) chronic infections, mostly in developing countries; and 4) hormonal factors, which are influenced primarily by lifestyle. There is no cancer epidemic except for cancer of the lung due to smoking. Cancer mortality rates have declined 19% since 1950 (excluding lung cancer). Regulatory policy that focuses on traces of synthetic chemicals is based on misconceptions about animal cancer tests. Recent research indicates that rodent carcinogens are not rare. Half of all chemicals tested in standard high-dose animal cancer tests, whether occurring naturally or produced synthetically, are "carcinogens"; there are high-dose effects in rodent cancer tests that are not relevant to low-dose human exposures and which contribute to the high proportion of chemicals that test positive. The focus of regulatory policy is on synthetic chemicals, although 99.9% of the chemicals humans ingest are natural. More than 1000 chemicals have been described in coffee: 30 have been tested and 21 are rodent carcinogens. Plants in the human diet contain thousands of natural "pesticides" produced by plants to protect themselves from insects and other predators: 71 have been tested and 37 are rodent carcinogens.

There is no convincing evidence that synthetic chemical pollutants are important as a cause of human cancer. ...

From Sense About Science's "Making Sense of Chemical Stories":
The reality boils down to six points:
  1. You can't lead a chemical-free life.
  2. Natural isn't always good for you and man-made chemicals are not inherently dangerous.
  3. Synthetic chemicals are not causing many cancers and other diseases.
  4. 'Detox' is a marketing myth.
  5. We need man-made chemicals.
  6. We are not just subjects in an unregulated, uncontrolled environment, there are checks in place.

sci-ence.org's "The Red Flags of Quackery"
Stephen Barrett and Victor Herbert's "Twenty-Five Ways to Spot Quacks and Vitamin Pushers"
Robert L. Park's "Seven Warning Signs of Bogus Science"
Skeptoid's "How to Spot Pseudoscience"
Science vs. Pseudoscience
Debunkatron
Avi Roy and Anders Sandberg's "7 Science Cliches That Are Complete Garbage"
Science-Based Medicine's "Answering Our Critics"
Steven Novella's "Evidence Thresholds"
Barry L. Beyerstein's "Why Bogus Therapies Often Seem to Work"
Helen Branswell's "Some herbal products don't contain what label promises ..."
Paul Offit's "The Vitamin Myth: Why We Think We Need Supplements"
The Daily Beast's "Whole Foods: America's Temple of Pseudoscience"
Cari Romm's "Vitamin B.S."
Yvette d'Entremont's "The Bullsh*t Hypocrisy of 'All-Natural' Foods"

The Logic of Science's "Medical errors may be the 3rd leading cause of death, but that's not as bad as it sounds"




From Skeptoid's "Asking the Socratic Questions":

Is there any effective way at all of getting someone to consider a different explanation?

The answer is yes, and it involves getting the believer to arrive at alternate explanations on his own. ... Socratic questioning helps people to take a second, closer look at their own beliefs, and to apply critical thinking even when they least expect it.

There are six commonly described categories of Socratic questions:
  1. Questions of Clarification (such as: "Just so I'm clear, do you mean you saw something unidentified, or you actually identified it as something from another planet?")

  2. Questions that Probe Assumptions (such as: "What are the characteristics of alien spacecraft?")

  3. Questions that Probe Reasons and Evidence (such as: "How were you able to make a positive identification of 'alien'?")

  4. Questions about Viewpoints or Perspectives (such as: "You seem to have the perspective that anything unfamiliar to your personal experience must be alien. Is that correct?")

  5. Questions that Probe Implications and Consequences (such as: "Don't you think someone in science or government would have expressed an interest if so much of astrophysics were suddenly proven wrong?")

  6. Questions about the Question (such as: "Do you think these are important questions that should be asked?")




Distorting science to support some belief:

Some people cherry-pick facts from science, or snipe at science, to try to justify some "spiritual" or "sciencey" belief system. Often beliefs such as multiple universes, connectedness of everything, existence of "spirit" or "soul", etc. Or just a standard religion.

Typical tactics they use: A common feature among all of these: people saying things about science often don't understand the science. They pick words or concepts and run with them, never bothering to look them up in Wikipedia or through Google and read about them. If you ask them a few basic questions about the science (Evolution, or Higgs boson, or Big Bang, etc), their ignorance becomes clear.



Making money from pseudo-science:
IndustryRevenuesProfitsInfo
Natural/alternative medicine and supplements ??? ??? Eugenie V. Mielczarek and Brian D. Engler's "Selling Pseudoscience: A Rent in the Fabric of American Medicine"
David DiSalvo's "In Oz We Trust (But Should We?)"
Michael Specter's "The Operator" (Dr. Mehmet Oz)
Naturopathy ??? ??? ???
Homeopathy "The homeopathic flu remedy Oscillococcinum is one of the ten top-selling drugs in France, and it brings in $15 million a year in the United States." from Harriet Hall's "An Introduction to Homeopathy"
"U.S. consumers spent about $1.2 billion on homeopathic drugs in 2014" from Consumer Reports' "Homeopathic drugs: No better than placebos?"
Beth Mole's "FDA: Homeopathic teething gels may have killed 10 babies, sickened 400"
??? Wikipedia's "Boiron"
Acupuncture ??? ??? ???
Faith healing, psychic surgery ??? ??? ???
Diet / weight loss ??? ??? ???
Astrology, fortune-telling, horoscopes ??? ??? ???
Anti-vaxxing ??? ??? ???
Climate change denial ??? ??? ???
Polygraphy (lie detectors) ??? ??? ???
Graphology ??? ??? ???
Conspiracy theories ??? ??? Alex Seitz-Wald's "Alex Jones: Conspiracy Inc."
Ryan's "Infowars Store Proves Alex Jones is Exploiting Your Paranoia"
Spenser Davis' "How Alex Jones Uses Fear of the Government to Sell Diet Supplements"
Apocalypse / survivalist ??? ??? ???
Organized religion ??? ??? ???
Some of these have some real effects, may be only partially pseudo-science, are debated, etc.

Wikipedia's "List of topics characterized as pseudoscience"









What Science Says



Scientific view of the chain from Big Bang to humans:



  1. We ("Science") don't know what happened before the Big Bang or what caused the BB. We have no evidence. Lots of possibilities (many based on some piece of mathematics that fits our current evidence): multiverse (many types: Wikipedia's "Multiverse"), oscillating universe, etc.

    From World_Police on reddit:
    I want to start by correcting the single largest misconception people have about the Big Bang - that it is a theory of the origins of the universe - it isn't. The Big Bang Theory is a model which describes the formation and progression of large scale structure in the universe - things like the distribution of elements, the location of galaxies, and the expansion of the universe. It ultimately is not too difficult to understand, that is, until you get very near the beginning of the universe.

    The Big Bang Theory has a few fundamental equations, one of which is called the Friedman-Lemaitre-Robertson-Walker metric. This equation describes how distances in the universe change as a function of energy density and time. It turns out that there is a term in this equation which scales the universe over time. This is what leads to the theoretical understanding of the expansion of the universe. Combined with observation we can say things about the age of the universe and its properties.

    What we can not say, at least directly, is what the origin of the universe is. We know how old it is, and we know how big it is at any given time, but what process gave rise to it is outside the theory.



  2. The Big Bang occurred some 14 billion years ago, and we have evidence: microwave echoes and more.
    CWRU's "Big Bang"


  3. In the Big Bang, all of the Universe's matter and energy came into being, some fundamental laws and constants came into being, space came into being and started expanding, and time started running. We ("Science") don't know how that happened or why those particular laws and constants were created. Those laws and constants determined the existence and behavior of particles (quarks, electrons, protons, etc) and forces (gravity, electromagnetism, strong nuclear, weak nuclear) then and now. [Maybe particles are just ripples or vibrations in fields, but anyway ...] This set the rules for all of physics, chemistry, etc. We still don't understand some basic things, such as what mass or time really are.

    From discussion on reddit:
    It's not appropriate to say the Big Bang was at any "place". The Big Bang was merely the process of the universe starting to expand, and energy density dropping, because there was more space for a constant amount of energy to occupy.

    The Big Bang happened everywhere, because it was a process occurring on the universe in its entirety.

    ... assuming the Big Bang was actually a point singularity (which it probably wasn't, but that's another story), every point in the universe was at the same place at that time, and accordingly every point in space was the location of the Big Bang.

    Wikipedia's "Big Bang"
    Ethan Siegel's "The Big Bang for Beginners"
    The Onion's "Universe Older, Wider Than Previously Thought"


  4. For the first 380,000 years or so after the Big Bang, the universe was so hot that only plasma (extremely hot basic particles, as in the interior of a star) existed. As the universe expanded and matter in the universe cooled, by calculation and experiment we know when atoms could first form, molecules could first form, etc. Only hydrogen and helium and lithium and beryllium were produced directly this way; the nuclei for them formed in minutes after the BB, but the atoms much later.
    History of the Universe timeline
    Wikipedia's "Big Bang nucleosynthesis"


  5. From observing radiation from stars, and calculating how stars form and change and die, we can calculate when stars and galaxies formed, how far away they are, how fast they're moving, etc. First stars formed about 300 million years after the Big Bang. All elements other than hydrogen and helium and maybe lithium were produced inside stars. Normal stars such as Sol produce elements up to iron; elements above that are produced by super-novae.


  6. Great quantities of many basic molecules, including water, have been detected in "empty space": Wikipedia's "List of interstellar and circumstellar molecules".


  7. From studying rocks, we can see much of the history of the Earth, and how the surface has changed. But plate tectonics and weather have destroyed much of the evidence of past geology and life. The Earth formed about 4.5 billion years ago, but was lifeless for the first billion years or so, then had only very primitive life (algae, cyanobacteria, etc) for another two billion or so years. Early atmosphere was "reducing" (hydrogen, methane, ammonia) for first 2 billion years. Emissions from life (using photosynthesis) put lots of free oxygen into the atmosphere about 2.4 billion years ago, and the increased energy-processing of oxygen-based metabolism enabled development of multicellular organisms. Plants and animals started developing around 550 million years ago. Humans arose a few million years ago; recorded history only a few thousand years ago.
    Wikipedia's "History of the Earth"
    Wikipedia's "Evolutionary history of life"
    Wikipedia's "Timeline of human evolution"
    Wikipedia's "Great Oxygenation Event"

    [But from "Life Everywhere" by David Darling 2001 (on Amazon):
    New consensus among geologists and geochemists is that there was no reducing atmosphere before the oxygen event. Life has been found in many unexpected places, and so may have arisen in any/all of them: sea-floor hot vents, shallow hot vents, microscopic pores in hot underground rocks, moist surfaces of minerals, aerosol particles in atmosphere, as well as shallow coastal ponds or inland ponds.]


  8. Laboratory experiments show that a few basic chemicals plus some electricity results in the formation of amino acids:
    Wikipedia's "Miller-Urey experiment"
    Duke's "Miller/Urey Experiment" (includes Juan Oro)

    Also, shock waves in atmosphere can form all four RNA bases:
    John Timmer's "Mimicking an impact on Earth's early atmosphere yields all 4 RNA bases"

    Wikipedia's "Abiogenesis"


  9. Organic basics used by life are not too complicated, in essence:
    • Carbohydrates ("watered carbon"):
      • Sugars: sucrose (C12H22O11), glucose (C6H12O6), others. Plants produce glucose through photosynthesis, then convert it to starch.
      • Starch: a large number of glucose units joined by glycosidic bonds. Produced by plants as an energy store; can be easily converted to release energy.
      • Cellulose: linear chain of several hundred to over ten thousand linked D-glucose units (C6H10O5xN). An important structural component of the primary cell wall of green plants and some algae.
    • Lipids: fats, oils. Typical formula might be C57H104O6. The main biological functions of lipids include storing energy, signaling, and acting as structural components of cell membranes.
    • Proteins: in milk, blood, etc. Large biological molecules consisting of one or more chains of amino acids (such as glycine, NH2CH2COOH). Contain nitrogen, and often sulphur and phosphorus, in addition to carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.
    Organic molecules tend to be large numbers of just a few types of atoms (CHON); inorganic molecules tend to be small numbers of varying types of atoms.

    [Info in this section mainly from Isaac Asimov's "Life and Energy" (on Amazon), and Wikipedia.]


  10. Formation of cells:

    From "Life Everywhere" by David Darling 2001 (on Amazon):
    "When exposed to ultraviolet, even a very simple starting ice of frozen water, methanol and ammonia, in the same proportion thought to occur in space ice, yields a slew of interesting organics. Ethers, alcohols, ketones and nitriles ... also HMT, which does something especially interesting if you add it to warm, acidified water - it forms amino acids". Some of the carbon-based molecules found in this ice mixture, when added to water, "organize themselves spontaneously into tiny rounded capsules that look strikingly like cells. When you examine these structures closely, you see they are bounded by a leaky membrane, two molecules thick. Just as in living cells, the membrane is made of molecules having hydrophilic (water-loving) heads that line up on the membrane's outer and inner surfaces, and hydrophobic (water-fearing) tails that point into the membrane's interior."

    Also from "Life Everywhere" by David Darling 2001 (on Amazon):
    "Cell-like structures emerge spontaneously when some organic materials found in meteorites are added to water. In fact, whenever oily or fatty chemicals occur in a watery environment they tend to arrange themselves into bubbles or globules that have the appearance of primitive cells."

    Paraphrased from Scientific American interview of Adam Rutherford, author of "Creation: How Science Is Reinventing Life Itself" (on Amazon):
    Life is more likely to have arisen at undersea hydrothermal vents, instead of coastal pools or lakes, because life generally needs a flow or "disequilibrium"; it is a continual process of consuming nutrients, reacting to changing energy, etc. A static environment doesn't suit it.

    Undersea vents are important not for the heat, but the flow of chemicals and energy (ions), and rock with lots of cell-sized pores or hollows in it. The biochemicals to operate a cell could have developed in such hollows, and later cell membranes enclosed them.

    Jack Szostak at Harvard has been working with simple versions of the molecules that make up cell membranes, and found that they easily pop together to form complete cell-membranes, and they easily divide to make two complete cell-membranes. This may not be exactly how early cells worked, but it shows how easily these things could happen.


  11. We can see that amino acids are used to form RNA and DNA. We can see how they are used to store information, and how they operate to enable cell operation, and reproduction. Many details still are unclear: protein folding, control mechanisms, ageing, cancer, junk DNA, multiple forms of RNA, etc.


  12. We can see how all living things on Earth use the same building blocks and structures (amino acids, RNA, DNA, proteins, enzymes, cell walls, etc), with simpler organisms using less of them and simpler forms of them, and complex organisms using more of them and more complex forms of them.
    Marshall Brain's "How Evolution Works"


  13. We can see how simple organisms have clumped together to form more complex organisms (jellyfish), or how simpler organisms or pieces of them have been absorbed into more complex organisms to do useful things for them. Human cells contain mitochondria; human guts contain microorganisms. We can see how a simple change makes an important difference between a simple organism and a more complex one.


  14. We can see how evolution has operated, resulting in incredible variation in some families of organisms, vestigial structures left over inside organisms, close relationships between species that at first seem quite unrelated.
    Marshall Brain's "How Evolution Works" (but he gets the "three parts of Evolution" wrong: they are variation, selection, inheritance; he says variation, selection, new species)

    See Evolution section, later in this page.


  15. We can see evolution and its parts (variation, inheritance, selection) operating even today, in organisms that reproduce extremely quickly (bacteria, fruit flies, etc).



How life "self-assembled":
  1. Big Bang created matter, space, energy, time, basic laws.
  2. Matter (basic particles) cooled and formed atoms.
  3. Atoms cooled and formed molecules.
  4. Molecules cooled, and clumped together into stars, planets, asteroids, gas clouds, etc.
  5. Stars ignited and formed bigger atoms.
  6. Atoms in space or on Earth combined to form elemental molecules such as H2, O2, N2, and simple molecules such as H2O (water), NH3 (ammonia), HCN (hydrogen cyanide), HCHO (formaldehyde), H2S (hydrogen sulfide), CH4 (methane), and related ions such as NH4+ (ammonium ion), OH- (hydroxyl ion), etc.
  7. Simple molecules or ions and energy (heat or energetic particles or electricity or UV radiation) acted to form more complex molecules, including tholins (Wikipedia's "Tholin") and amino acids (such as glycine, NH2CH2COOH).
  8. Various molecules or ions combined to form polymers (including proteins, which are polymers using amino acids).
  9. Amino acids and other molecules combined to form pieces of RNA (viruses or viruslike objects), which may have been self-replicating. There may have been earlier, similar things (PNA, TNA, GNA) based on simpler nucleic acids, which were later superseded by things based on RNA.
  10. Viruses or pieces of RNA got enclosed to form prokaryotic cells (bacteria, algae, etc).
  11. Somehow pieces of RNA were combined or changed to form DNA. (RNA does both heredity and catalysis; the later "DNA for heredity and proteins for catalysis" scheme is more complicated but better. And DNA is a stronger, more stable molecule than RNA.)
    Wikipedia's "RNA world hypothesis"
    Robert F. Service's "Self-Assembling Molecules Offer Clues to Life's Possible Origin"
  12. Cells captured or were invaded by useful pieces (viruses, bacteria, algae, etc) to do work inside the cells (organelles: mitochondria, chloroplasts, Golgi apparatus, nucleus, etc), becoming eukaryotic cells.
    Diffen's "Eukaryotic Cell vs Prokaryotic Cell"
    Wikipedia's "Cell (biology)"
  13. Cells grouped in symbiotic or parasitic ways to form multi-cellular organisms.
  14. Multi-cellular organisms became more and more complex (cells, tissues, organs, systems).
  15. Organisms joined non-physically to form societies (ants, bees, termites, animal packs, herds, human society).



There are large gaps in our knowledge (see for example Natalie Wolchover's "The 9 Biggest Unsolved Mysteries in Physics"; Four fundamental forces, dark matter, dark energy), we certainly don't know most of the details, we can't control or create much of this in the laboratory, and we have much more work to do. And some of it (what was before the BB; exact configuration of the surface of the Earth at every stage; the exact steps from one species to another; species that arose and then went extinct without leaving any trace) may never be known.

We can see that none of these steps requires the existence of God or some kind of magic to operate. Sure, you could invent God and paste Him in there somewhere, but that would be superfluous.

Some philosophers claim you need God to explain the existence of basic things such as cause-and-effect, and uniformity of laws throughout the universe. I think their arguments amount to "I don't know how it's done, therefore God must be doing it".

Facts/evidence trump everything: if new facts come to light, science will change its thinking. But zillions of facts and millions of experiments and observations and discoveries have produced the statements above, and back them up. And future new facts or understanding don't invalidate previous facts; they add to them, and new understanding has to account for the older facts, which remain true.

Science or Not's "Established scientific models are supported by multiple independent lines of evidence"



Starting with Plato but mainly represented by Descartes, some people have contended that mind/soul/spirit and body/matter are separate (Wikipedia's "Dualism"), and science will never be able to explain the mind. But science has an amazing record of eventually understanding things that once seemed completely beyond reach; I wouldn't bet against science. And as far as I can tell, soul and spirit are completely fictional inventions (I think "Modern Dualism" drops them completely), and the rest of Dualism amounts to "we don't understand what mind is, so let's assume it's completely separate from matter and there's something magic going on". Seems bogus to me.

From Rodney Brooks in "The Next Fifty Years" edited by John Brockman 2002 (on Amazon):

For at least the last five hundred years, science and technology have confronted us with generalizations that eroded our sense of ourselves and our world as unique, and made us variously uncomfortable, enraged, and even violent. ... [Galileo and] the position of earth in the celestial scheme. ... Charles Darwin generalized humans as just a part of the animal kingdom, directly related to it by bloodlines ... following the work of Crick and Watson, it became clear that many of our most fundamental genes have diverged little from those of yeast or fruit flies. At the end of the century, we were faced with two more such generalities: Perhaps our version of life did not originate here on Earth but was seeded from a life source on another planet. And finally we found that humans did not have as many genes as were expected, and in fact had fewer genes than many other animals, and even potatoes. We are not unique on that count, either.

Each of these generalizations has challenged our view of ourselves. We have become less special, part of a bigger reality. The loss of specialness has often been hard to bear ...

...

The [next] generalization that we are facing is that we humans are machines - and as such, subject to the same technological manipulations we routinely apply to machines. ...

The central unstated tenet of modern molecular biology is that everything about living systems, ourselves included, is a product of molecular interactions. Modern biology is based on strict materialism. There is nothing else besides molecules interacting according to mixtures of various forces and subject to the randomization caused by temperature and quantum effects. There is no elixir of life, there is no life force, there is no mind that is not materially based, there is no soul. These attitudes are not in question among scientists, just as there is no question that we and potatoes evolved from a common ancestor. ... [There are details to be worked out and some ideas will change, but] The central tenet - that we are the product of trillions upon trillions of mindless molecular interactions and nothing more - will stand: It is not phlogiston or ether but a fact confirmed in thousands of new experiments every day of the week, every week of the year.

From Michael Pollan in "The Omnivore's Dilemma" 2006 (on Amazon):
... One by one science is dismantling our claims to uniqueness as a species, discovering that such things as culture, tool making, language, and even possibly self-consciousness are not, as we used to think, the exclusive properties of Homo sapiens. ...

All possible explanations for the creation of the universe:






Evolution, and Science



The Theory of Evolution has three parts (variation, inheritance, selection). Variation involves changes from parent to offspring, inheritance involves the characteristics of that offspring being passed to its offspring, selection involves the environment acting to affect the reproductive success of organisms. (It's surprising how many people feel free to criticize the theory bitterly, without even knowing the definition of it.)
Wikipedia's "Introduction to evolution"
Wikipedia's "Evolution"



Common misstatements or misunderstandings of Evolution:
The Logic of Science's "10 common myths about evolution"
Wikipedia's "List of common misconceptions - Evolution"



"Intelligent Design" versus Evolution:

Evolution is just a theory:
Proponents of "Intelligent Design" try to seem reasonable, saying "oh, Evolution is just a theory, so let's give equal weight to another theory, Intelligent Design".

But there are lots of other possible theories. For example: (1) that life on Earth was created by aliens who are still here and controlling us, or (2) that the non-living parts of the world were created by intelligence and life is an unintended parasite, or (3) that we're just programs "living" inside a computer. These additional theories have just as much evidence in their favor (zero) as "Intelligent Design" does, so why shouldn't we present them also ? I'm sure we could come up with another dozen theories, also unsupported by facts. Should we teach all of the possibilities in schools ?

From comment by William Young on an Alternet.org article:
"Do you know what a theory is ? It is not an opinion. All scientific idioms are theories. Gravity, heliocentrism, the periodic law, etc. A theory is the best explanation for the data observed and will change when better data is found ..."

From James J. Krupa's "Teaching Evolution":
Stephen Jay Gould said it best: "Evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world's data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts."

From someone on reddit:
[When you say "just a theory":]

You're confusing theory with scientific theory. What the average Joe calls a theory is "that thing you wrote on the back of a napkin last night at the bar".

In science, that's called a hypothesis. A scientific theory is a proven explanation of how nature works. Think of it more like you would germ theory, or music theory.

Words in science:
(mostly from Library of Alexandria's "Fact vs Theory vs Law vs Hypothesis vs Proof")
  • A hypothesis is a testable explanation of some phenomenon.
  • A fact is an objective and verifiable observation.
  • A theory is a well-tested explanation of some phenomenon, based on a body of facts.
  • A law is a statement based on repeated observations of facts, but not an explanation.
  • Proof is not a word in science; the best you can say is an experiment rejects a hypothesis or fails to reject it.
So a theory is not a "guess". A theory does not become a law when it is "proven". There is no "proof".

Patrick Allan's "The Difference Between a Fact, Hypothesis, Theory, and Law In Science"

Is Evolution "only" a theory because it's disputed ?

So far Evolution is the theory that is supported by the facts. And it has far more facts than just the fossil record supporting it: commonality and increasing complexity of DNA and cellular structure across animals from viruses and bacteria up to humans, for example. Continuing evolution in modern times, such as the appearance of antibiotic-resistant germs and pesticide-resistant insects, or lactose-tolerant mutation in humans about 5000 years ago.



From someone on reddit:
"Hey, buddy, gravity is just a theory. Let's teach both sides and let the kids decide."

Skeptoid's "How to Debate a Young Earth Creationist"
Godless in Dixie's "Does Evolution Contradict Christianity?"
Evolution vs Design



A common gambit: "The human body (or the eye, or the cell) is so amazing that it had to be created by God".
But scientists have discovered simpler organisms that form all the steps between raw elements and the complete human body. From elements in "primordial soup", someone has done experiments that show how electricity through the "soup" can create amino acids. Algae and amoebae show simple molecules and amino acids combining to form very simple life, with reproduction and inheritance. Simple cells combine and evolve and aggregate to form multi-cellular organisms. Addition of a single light-sensitive cell to such an organism gives it a tremendous advantage over its totally blind competitors, an advantage which improves its chances of surviving (a key part of evolution). Although many steps are still fuzzy and there are major gaps, science can show how the human body evolved from lower life forms over stunningly large periods of time. It only seems impossible if you don't know about the scientific data, or don't want to hear about it.
Human eye vs. Evolution

By the way, new species and features are not always more complex than older ones.
From a discussion of "teleological biology" (the idea of a universal intent encouraging the development of life, reason, consciousness) in H. Allen Orr's "Awaiting a New Darwin" (review of Thomas Nagel's " Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False"):

Nagel's teleological biology is heavily human-centric or at least animal-centric. Organisms, it seems, are in the business of secreting sentience, reason, and values. Real biology looks little like this and, from the outset, must face the staggering facts of organismal diversity. There are millions of species of fungi and bacteria and nearly 300,000 species of flowering plants. None of these groups is sentient and each is spectacularly successful. Indeed mindless species outnumber we sentient ones by any sensible measure (biomass, number of individuals, or number of species; there are only about 5,500 species of mammals). More fundamentally, each of these species is every bit as much the end product of evolution as we are. The point is that, if nature has goals, it certainly seems to have many and consciousness would appear to be fairly far down on the list.

Similarly, Nagel's teleological biology is run through with talk about the "higher forms of organization toward which nature tends" and progress toward "more complex systems." Again, real biology looks little like this. The history of evolutionary lineages is replete with reversals, which often move from greater complexity to less. A lineage will evolve a complex feature (an eye, for example) that later gets dismantled, evolutionarily deconstructed after the species moves into a new environment (dark caves, say). Parasites often begin as "normal" complicated organisms and then lose evolutionarily many of their complex traits after taking up their new parasitic way of life. Such reversals are easily explained under Darwinism but less so under teleology. If nature is trying to get somewhere, why does it keep changing its mind about the destination?

...

... science, finally, isn't about defining the space of all formally possible explanations of nature. It's about inference to the most likely hypothesis. And on these grounds there's simply no comparison between neo-Darwinism (for which there is overwhelming evidence) and natural teleology (for which there is none). ...

A few points summarized from terrific article by H. Allen Orr in 5/30/2005 issue of The New Yorker magazine:

A few points from article by Neil deGrasse Tyson in 11/2005 issue of Natural History magazine:

From someone on reddit:
It baffles me that saying "I don't know yet" isn't an acceptable answer.

If I asked someone "What is 20548 x 5436 ?" they could answer with "I don't know yet, let me work it out". It's not acceptable to immediately say "AHA! There is no answer, obviously only god knows!".

Just because it's hard doesn't mean there isn't an answer.



From article by Burkhard Bilger in 22 Nov 2010 issue of The New Yorker magazine:

"There is no such thing as an individual", Lynn Margulis, a biologist at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, told me recently. "What we see as animals are partly just integrated sets of bacteria." Nearly all of the DNA in our bodies belongs to microorganisms: they outnumber our own cells nine to one. They process the nutrients in our guts, produce the chemicals that trigger sleep, ferment the sweat on our skin and the glucose in our muscles. They work with the immune system to mediate chemical reactions and drive out the most common infections. Even our own cells are kept alive by mitochondria - the tiny microbial engines in their cytoplasm. Bacteria are us.

"Microbes are the minimal units, the basic building blocks of life on earth", Margulis said. About half a billion years ago, land vertebrates began to encase themselves in skin and their embryos in protective membranes, sealing off the microbes inside them and fostering ever more intimate relations with them. Humans are the acme of that evolution - walking, talking microbial vats. ...
Ratio of number of human cells to microorganism cells in body may be more like one-to-one: Alison Abbott's "Scientists bust myth that our bodies have more bacteria than human cells".

From "A Short History of Nearly Everything" by Bill Bryson (on Amazon):

There are trillions more [bacteria] tucked away in your gut and nasal passages, clinging to your hair and eyelashes, swimming over the surface of your eyes, drilling through the enamel of your teeth. Your digestive system alone is host to more than a hundred trillion microbes, of at least four hundred types. Some deal with sugars, some with starches, some attack other bacteria. A surprising number, like the ubiqitous intestinal spirochetes, have no detectable function at all. They just seem to like to be with you. Every human body consists of about 10 quadrillion cells, but about 100 quadrillion bacterial cells. ...

...

Bacteria, never forget, got along for billions of years without us. We couldn't survive a day without them. They process our wastes and make them usable again; without their diligent munching nothing would rot. They purify our water and keep our soils productive. Bacteria synthesize vitamins in our gut, convert the things we eat into useful sugars and polysaccharides, and go to war on alien microbes that slip down our gullet.

We depend totally on bacteria to pluck nitrogen from the air and convert it into useful nucleotides and amino acids for us. ...

From NPR "Science Friday" 6/15/2012:
Microbial populations can vary greatly from person to person. The same jobs (digestion, etc) have to be done in every human body, but they might be done by completely different types of microbes in one person than in another. And even if two people have the same type of microbe X doing job Y in their bodies, those two populations of microbes often have slightly different DNA and characteristics.

Great similarities or identical structures in humans and lower animals:

Main ways that Intelligent Designers attack Evolution:
TalkOrigins' "Index to Creationist Claims"





Another common gambit: "There are big gaps in the fossil record; science can't prove every step of evolution from algae to humans".
From "A Short History of Nearly Everything" by Bill Bryson (on Amazon):

It isn't easy to become a fossil. The fate of nearly all living organisms - over 99.9 percent of them - is to compost down to nothingness. When your spark is gone, every molecule you own will be nibbled off you or sluiced away to be put to use in some other system. That's just the way it is. Even if you make it into the small pool of organisms, the less than 0.1 percent, that don't get devoured, the chances of being fossilized are very small.

In order to become a fossil, several things must happen. Only about 15 percent of rocks can preserve fossils, so it's no good keeling over on a future site of granite. In practical terms the deceased must become buried in sediment, where it can leave an impression, like a leaf in wet mud, or decompose without exposure to oxygen, permitting the molecules in its bones and hard parts (and very occasionally softer parts) to be replaced by dissolved minerals, creating a petrified copy of the original. Then as the sediments in which the fossil lies are carelessly pressed and folded and pushed about by Earth's processes, the fossil must somehow maintain an identifiable shape. Finally, but above all, after tens of millions or perhaps hundreds of millions of years hidden away, it must be found and recognized as something worth keeping.

Only about one bone in a billion, it is thought, ever becomes fossilized. ... [then they have to be found] ... Fossils are in every sense vanishingly rare. Most of what has lived on Earth has left behind no record at all. It has been estimated that less than one species in ten thousand has made it into the fossil record. ...

... The fossil record is almost absurdly biased in favor of marine creatures. ...
From "Beginnings" by Isaac Asimov 1987 (on Amazon):

Naturally, the record is not complete. Even today, known fossils represent only about 200,000 different species of life, and this cannot be more than 1 percent of the total. ...

[To form a fossil, life form must be trapped in mud, buried in conditions where it won't decay, lie preserved for a very long period while its atoms are slowly replaced by atoms from surrounding rock, and survive geological upheavals. Then be found by humans.]

All in all, the fossil record is not only terribly incomplete but may remain so forever. Still there is enough in it to demonstrate evolutionary change forcibly. It must also be remembered that the scientific view of evolution doesn't depend on fossils alone but on evidence from many branches of science, all of which strongly confirm what the fossils tell us.



From a show on NPR 2/2007:
Apparently, Intelligent Design proponents have been forced to acknowledge that evolution occurs in just about every species except the human species. They still maintain it doesn't occur there.
[But since humans have lots of symbiosis in them, such as the bacteria in the intestines, and our cell structures show direct lineage from other organisms, this stance isn't very tenable.]

From Mark Gordon on Facebook:
The big political problem with evolution is that much of Christian theology since Augustine of Hippo has been built on a literal reading of the first few chapters of Genesis. Without the fall from grace and original sin, there's no need for a universal redeemer. That's why so many Christians are clinging so desperately to Creationism. Certainly, some Christians are willing to let go of Augustine's theology, but many cling to it desperately.

For centuries, religion has had a series of defeats of its claims about the real world. Religion claimed the heavens were unchanging and perfect spheres; Galileo showed that to be wrong. Religion claimed God created all species and they never went extinct; Georges Cuvier showed that to be wrong. Religion claimed only God could have created life and humans; Darwin showed that to be wrong.

Apparently, some opposition to the Theory of Evolution was dishonest right from the start:
From Isaac Asimov's "The Solar System and Back" (on Amazon):

[When Darwin's "The Origin of Species" was published in 1859, English zoologist Sir Richard Owen] was horrified. Natural selection, as Darwin described it, was a blind force, changing species through its action on random variations among individuals.

Owen could not accept evolution by random effects and he came out against Darwin. That, of course, was his right. It was even his scientific duty to disagree with all his might. Darwin's suggestion, like all scientific suggestions, had to survive the battles fought in the intellectual arena, and no honorable weapon was outlawed in such battles.

No honorable weapon. Owen chose to review Darwin's "Origin of Species" in as many different outlets as he could wangle. He chose to make those reviews anonymously and to quote extensively and with worshipful approval from his own work, making himself sound like a crowd. He chose to give an unfair summary of the contents of the book and to ridicule it rather than to present opposing testimony objectively. Worst of all, he encouraged others to denounce Darwin, vitriolically and unscientifically, before lay audiences, feeding them the necessary misinformation for the purpose.

In short, Owen was cowardly, spiteful, and contemptible ...

Botanical Society of America's Statement on Evolution
John Rennie's "15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense"
Steven Novella's "Ten Major Flaws of Evolution - A Refutation"
"Index to Creationist Claims" edited by Mark Isaak
Ethan Siegel's "22 Messages of Hope (and Science) for Creationists"
"Five Major Misconceptions about Evolution" edited by Mark Isaak
Evolution FAQ
Dennis O'Neil's "Evidence of Evolution"
TeachThemScience's "What evidence is there for evolution?"
Carl Zimmer's "Evolution Hidden in Plain Sight"
Science or Not's "Established scientific models are supported by multiple independent lines of evidence"

Chris Mooney's "7 Reasons Why It's Easier for Humans to Believe in God Than Evolution"

Some people try to compromise by saying (in effect) that the youngest point in history or development that science can't explain must be where God starts; God is the explanation for what science can't explain. If science couldn't explain how the Earth was created, then God must have created it and the Bible tells us how. If science couldn't explain how the moon and stars and planets moved, then God must be controlling them. If science couldn't explain how life arose, then God must have created it. The problem with this is that science keeps improving and understanding more things. By this rationale, soon "God" will be limited to "what happened before the Big Bang and how the values of the cosmological constants were determined".




From "A Short History of Nearly Everything" by Bill Bryson (on Amazon):

Chemical reactions of the sort associated with life are actually something of a commonplace. It may be beyond us to cook them up in a lab, a la Stanley Miller and Harold Urey, but the universe does it readily enough. Lots of molecules in nature get together to form long chains called polymers. Sugars constantly assemble to form starches. Crystals can do a number of lifelike things - replicate, respond to environmental stimuli, take on a patterned complexity. They've never achieved life itself, of course, but they demonstrate repeatedly that complexity is a natural, spontaneous, entirely commonplace event. There may or may not be a great deal of life in the universe at large, but there is no shortage of ordered self-assembly, in everything from the transfixing symmetry of snowflakes to the comely rings of Saturn.

So powerful is this natural impulse to assemble that many scientists now believe that life may be more inevitable than we think ...

...

Certainly there is nothing terribly exotic in the chemicals that animate us. If you wished to create another living object, whether a goldfish or a head of lettuce or a human being, you would need really only four principal elements, carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen, plus small amounts of a few others, principally sulfur, phosphorus, calcium, and iron. Put these together in three dozen or so combinations to form some sugars, acids, and other basic compounds and you can build anything that lives.

From "Is Anyone There ?" by Isaac Asimov circa 1965 (on Amazon):

The human body is composed of some 50 trillion cells.

Within every cell are smaller bodies. The nucleus contains chromosomes, which control the machinery of inheritance. Outside the nucleus are mitochondria which contain the energy-handling apparatus. In plant cells are chloroplasts which are living versions of the solar battery, equipped to convert the energy of sunlight into the chemical energy of stored food.

All these "organelles" may represent the remains of primitive "pre-cells". Such pre-cells may finally have come to exist in co-operation, forming complex structures much more efficient than themselves taken singly. These pre-cell co-operatives (what we now call cells) then took over the world.

Cells don't exist without chromosomes, but chromosomes (after a fashion) exist without cells. These objects, which resemble bare chromosomes, are what we call "viruses". ... Viruslike objects may have existed billions of years ago, before the evolution of cells, and may have been capable of independent reproduction. They may have had within themselves all of the capacity for growth and multiplication, and may therefore have been somewhat more complex than modern viruses.

For the viruses that exist today have been spoiled by the very availability of cells. The modern virus is a complete parasite that has shed the equipment it needed for independent life and merely maintains itself, no more, outside the cell. Once it gets a chance to enter a cell of the proper type, however, it can make use of the cell's chemical machinery for its own purposes; multiplying itself at the expense of the cell's own needs and sometimes killing its host in the process.

From James Agenbroad on Facebook:
At some point you have to decide whether the people who wrote down the bible were lying to you, or GOD was lying to you when he created a universe that appears very, very old.

Doonesbury on Evolution
Textbook disclaimers
Family Guy's version of Creation (video)









Bookmark and Share

Home       Rants and Reasoning    Site Map

Privacy policy