[Home] [Updates] [Site map] [Quotes, Unclassified, Classified]
The following are quotes added to my Unclassified Quotes database in November 2006. The date format is dd/mm/yy. See copyright conditions at end.
[Index: Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct, Dec]
1/11/2006 "It is surprising that so little word of it has leaked out, because it seems to have been one of the most important academic debates of the 1960s, and, as I see it, the conclusion is pretty staggering: Darwin's theory, I believe, is on the verge of collapse. In his famous book, On The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, Darwin made a mistake sufficiently serious to undermine his theory. .... At one point in his argument, Darwin was misled. ... The Origin of Species was not a demonstration but an argument-'one long argument,' Darwin himself said at the end of the book-and natural selection was an idea, not a discovery. ... The British philosopher Herbert Spencer ... used the phrase `the survival of the fittest' for the first time. Darwin then appropriated the phrase in the fifth edition of The Origin of Species, considering it an admirable summation of his argument. This argument was in fact an analogy ... Just as the breeders selected those individuals best suited to the breeders' needs to be the parents of the next generation, so, Darwin argued, nature selected those organisms that were best fitted to survive the struggle for existence. ... For quite some time Darwin's mechanism was not seriously examined, until the renowned geneticist T.H. Morgan, winner of the Nobel Prize for his work in mapping the chromosomes of fruit flies, suggested that the whole thing looked suspiciously like a tautology. `For it may appear little more than a truism' he wrote, `to state that the individuals that are the best adapted to survive have a better chance of surviving than those not so well adapted to survive.' The philosophical debate of the past ten to fifteen years has focused on precisely this point. The survival of the fittest? Any way of identifying the fittest other than by looking at the survivors? The preservatican of favored' races? Any way of identifying them other than by looking at the preserved ones? If not, then Darwin's theory is reduced from the status of scientific theory to that of tautology. ... Darwin, as I say, just assumed that there really were independent criteria of fitness. For instance, it seemed obvious to him that extra speed would be useful for a wolf in an environment where prey was scarce, and only those wolves first on the scene of a kill would get enough to eat and, therefore, survive. ... The riposte has been as follows: A mutation that enables a wolf to run faster than the pack only enables the wolf to survive better if it does, in fact, survive better. But such a mutation could also result in the wolf outrunning the pack a couple of times and getting first crack at the food, and then abruptly dropping dead of a heart attack, because the power in its legs placed an extra strain on its heart. Fitness must be identified with survival, because it is the overall animal that survives, or does not survive, not individual parts of it. ... Darwin made a mistake in proposing his theory of natural selection, and it is fairly easy to detect the mistake. We have seen that what they theory so grievously lacks is a criterion of fitness that is independent of survival. If only there were some way of identifying the fittest beforehand, without always having to wait and see which ones survive, Darwin's theory would be testable rather than tautological. But as almost everyone now seems to agree, fittest inevitably means; `those that survive best.' Why, then, did Darwin assume that there were independent criteria? And the answer is, because in the case of artificial selection, from which he worked by analogy, there really are independent criteria. Darwin went wrong in thinking that this aspect of his analogy was valid. In our sheep example, remember, long wool was the `desirable' featured the independent criterion. ... In nature, on the other hand, the offspring may differ from their parents in any direction whatsoever and be considered `more evolved' than their parents, provided only that they survive and leave offspring themselves. There is, then, no `selection' by nature at all. Nor does nature `act,' as it is so often said to do in biology books. One organism may indeed be `fitter' than another from an evolutionary point of view, but the only event that determines this fitness is death (or infertility). This, of course, is not something which helps create the organism, but is something that terminates it. It occurs at the end, not the beginning of life. Darwin seems to have made the mistake of just assuming that there were independent criteria of fitness because he lived in a society in which change was nearly always perceived as being for the good. " (Bethell, T., "Darwin's Mistake," in "The Electric Windmill: An Inadvertent Autobiography," Regnery Gateway: Washington DC, 1988, pp.186-188, 190. Emphasis original) 1/11/2006 "Darwin's theory of natural selection has been a perennial candidate for burial. Tom Bethell held the most recent wake in a piece called `Darwin's Mistake' (Harper's, February 1976): `Darwin's theory, I believe, is on the verge of collapse.... Natural selection was quietly abandoned, even by his most ardent supporters, some years ago.' News to me, and I, although I wear the Darwinian label with some pride, am not among the most ardent defenders of natural selection. I recall Mark Twain's famous response to a premature obituary: `The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.' Bethell's argument has a curious ring for most practicing scientists. We are always ready to watch a theory fall under the impact of new data, but we do not expect a great and influential theory to collapse from a logical error in its formulation. Virtually every empirical scientist has a touch of the Philistine. Scientists tend to ignore academic philosophy as an empty pursuit. Surely, any intelligent person can think straight by intuition. Yet Bethell cites no data at all in sealing the coffin of natural selection, only an error in Darwin's reasoning: `Darwin made a mistake sufficiently serious to undermine his theory. And that mistake has only recently been recognized as such.... At one point in his argument, Darwin was misled.' Although I will try to refute Bethell, I also deplore the unwillingness of scientists to explore seriously the logical structure of arguments. Much of what passes for evolutionary theory is as vacuous as Bethell claims. Many great theories are held together by chains of dubious metaphor and analogy. Bethell has correctly identified the hogwash surrounding evolutionary theory." (Gould, S.J., "Darwin's Untimely Burial," in "Ever Since Darwin: Reflections in Natural History," , Penguin: London, 1991, reprint, p.39) 1/11/2006 "So then, taking the second argument first, the particulars of evolutionary history, according to Dawkins, do not require the hypothesis of intelligent design because matter, itself, in the right circumstances, is easily persuaded by natural selection's intimations to supply functional parts such as optically graduated lenses. Very well, but we should not leave the matter there so generally stated. In what way, precisely, is the stuff of the universe just right for life and how far does being made of the right stuff suggest design? The same questions are there, just begging to be asked, in relation to a theory once put by J.B.S. Haldane. In a classic article `The Origins of Life', in the long defunct journal New Biology in 1954, he wrote that if we postulate a `Director of our galaxy' then `His or her simplest method of producing a variety of forms of life may be to leave a few hundred million planets near suitable suns for three thousand million years in the confidence that within that time cellular life will have started on 90 per cent of those where the surface temperatures and so on are suitable.' [Haldane, J.B.S., "The Origins of Life," in Johnson, M.L., Abercrombie, M. & Fogg, G. E., eds, "The Origin of Life," New Biology, No. 16, Penguin Books: London, April 1954, p.24] Such a procedure for making life would be the simplest, and the `Director' could be confident of the outcome, only if matter, itself, has the properties apt for it. What, then, are these properties of matter which are so generously provisional on the supply side of biological manufacture? In fact, many years ago this question was asked and answered by the physiologist L.J. Henderson in a work, The Fitness of the Environment (1913), which has been relegated to the margins of biological thought albeit with some respect for its eccentric cleverness. However, the arguments contained in it have been kept flickering with fuel supplied by a number of knowledgeable scientists and now, with Michael J. Denton's recent book Nature's Destiny (1998), we have a well written, detailed and up-to-date attempt to demonstrate just how astonishingly fit the cosmos is for life. ... Remarkable as it is that there was at hand as it were, appropriately transparent stuff of the right consistency to provide material for the evolution of good lenses for camera eyes, marvel piles on marvel as we contemplate just how suitable in general the constituents of the universe are for putting together living things." (Olding, A., "Maker of Heaven and Microbiology," Quadrant, Vol. 44, January - February 2000, pp.62-68, pp.62-63) 1/11/2006 "Try to imagine the phase space ... of the entire universe! Each point in this phase space represents a different possible way that the universe might have started off. We are to picture the Creator, armed with a 'pin' - which is to be placed at some point in the phase space ... Each different positioning of the pin provides a different universe. Now the accuracy that is needed for the Creator's aim depends upon the entropy of the universe that is thereby created. It would be relatively 'easy' to produce a high entropy universe, since then there would be a large volume of the phase space available for the pin to hit. (Recall that the entropy is proportional to the logarithm of the volume of the phase space concerned.) But in order to start off the universe in a state of low entropy - so that there will indeed be a second law of thermodynamics - the Creator must aim for a much tinier volume of the phase space. How tiny would this region be, in order that a universe closely resembling the one in which we actually live would be the result? ... The background radiation entropy is something like 108 for every baryon ... Thus, with 1080 baryons in all, we should have a total entropy of 1088 for the entropy in the background radiation in the universe. ... Rather than populating our galaxies entirely with black holes, let us take them to consist mainly of ordinary stars - some 1 of 1 of them - and each to have a million (i.e. 106) solar-mass black hole at its core (as might be reasonable for our own Milky Way galaxy). Calculation shows that the entropy per baryon would now be actually somewhat larger even than the previous huge figure, namely now 1021, giving a total entropy, in natural units, of 10101 We may anticipate that, after a very long time, a major fraction of the galaxies' masses will be incorporated into the black holes at their centres. When this happens, the entropy per baryon will be 1031, giving a monstrous total of 10111 However, we are considering a closed universe so eventually it should recollapse; and it is not unreasonable to estimate the entropy of the final crunch by using the Bekenstein-Hawking formula as though the whole universe had formed a black hole. This gives an entropy per baryon of 1043, and the absolutely stupendous total, for the entire big crunch would be 10123 This figure will give us an estimate of the total phase-space volume V available to the Creator, since this entropy should represent the logarithm of the volume of the (easily) largest compartment. Since 10123 is the logarithm of the volume, the volume must be the exponential of 10123, i.e. V = 1010^123 in natural units! ... How big was the original phase-space volume W that the Creator had to aim for in order to provide a universe compatible with the second law of thermodynamics and with what we now observe? It does not much matter whether we take the value W=1010^101 or W=1010^88 given by the galactic black holes or by the background radiation, respectively, or a much smaller (and, in fact, more appropriate) figure which would have been the actual figure at the big bang. Either way, the ratio of V to W will be, closely V/W = 1010^123 ... This now tells us how precise the Creator's aim must have been: namely to an accuracy of one part in 1010^123. This is an extraordinary figure. One could not possibly even write the number down in full, in the ordinary denary notation: it would be '1' followed by 10123 successive '0's! Even if we were to write a '0' on each separate proton and on each separate neutron in the entire universe - and we could throw in all the other particles as well for good measure - we should fall far short of writing down the figure needed." (Penrose, R., "The Emperor's New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds and the Laws of Physics," , Vintage: London, 1990, reprint, pp. 441,443-446. Emphasis original) 2/11/2006 "These mysteries are heightened when we reflect how surprising it is that the laws of nature and the initial conditions of the universe should allow for the existence of beings who could observe it. Life as we know it would be impossible if any one of several physical quantities had slightly different values. The best known of these quantities is the energy of one of the excited states of the carbon 12 nucleus. There is an essential step in the chain of nuclear reactions that build up heavy elements in stars. In this step, two helium nuclei join together to form the unstable nucleus of beryllium 8, which sometimes before fissioning absorbs another helium nucleus, forming carbon 12 in this excited state. The carbon 12 nucleus then emits a photon and decays into the stable state of lowest energy. In subsequent nuclear reactions carbon is built up into oxygen and nitrogen and the other heavy elements necessary for life. But the capture of helium by beryllium 8 is a resonant process, whose reaction rate is a sharply peaked function of the energies of the nuclei involved. If the energy of the excited state of carbon 12 were just a little higher, the rate of its formation would be much less, so that almost all the beryllium 8 nuclei would fission into helium nuclei before carbon could be formed. The universe would then consist almost entirely of hydrogen and helium, without the ingredients for life." (Weinberg, S., "Life in the Universe," Scientific American, Vol. 271, No. 4, October 1994, Special Issue, pp.22-27, p.27) 2/11/2006 "But one constant does seem to require an incredible fine-tuning: it is the vacuum energy, or cosmological constant, mentioned in connection with inflationary cosmologies. Although we cannot calculate this quantity, we can calculate some contributions to it (such as the energy of quantum fluctuations in the gravitational field that have wavelengths no shorter than about 10-33 centimeter). These contributions come out about 120 orders of magnitude larger than the maximum value allowed by our observations of the present rate of cosmic expansion. If the various contributions to the vacuum energy did not nearly cancel, then, depending on the value of the total vacuum energy, the universe either would go through a complete cycle of expansion and contraction before life could arise or would expand so rapidly that no galaxies or stars could form. Thus, the existence of life of any kind seems to require a cancellation between different contributions to the vacuum energy, accurate to about 120 decimal places. It is possible that this cancellation will be explained in terms of some future theory. So far, in string theory as well as in quantum field theory, the vacuum energy involves arbitrary constants, which must be carefully adjusted to make the total vacuum energy small enough for life to be possible." (Weinberg, S., "Life in the Universe," Scientific American, Vol. 271, No. 4, October 1994, Special Issue, pp.22-27, p.27) 2/11/2006 "Darwin did wrestle brilliantly and triumphantly with the problem of adaptation, but he had limited success with the issue of diversity-even though he titled his book with reference to his relative failure: the origin of species. Cronin records and admit this irony in the last line of her book `But, in the midst of such success there was one problem that remained just outside his [Darwin's] grasp. It was-poignantly-the problem of the origin of species.'" (Gould, S.J., "The Confusion over Evolution," The New York Review of Books, Vol. 39, No. 19, November 19, 1992, pp.47-54, p.54) 2/11/2006 "He [Darwin] formulated a variety of other ingenious and plausible speculations on how and why the relentless culling of natural selection would actually create species boundaries, but they remain speculations to this day. It has taken a century of further work to replace Darwin's brilliant but inconclusive musings on the mechanisms of speciation with accounts that are to some degree demonstrable. Controversy about the mechanisms and principles of speciation still persists, so in one sense neither Darwin nor any subsequent Darwinian has explained the origin of species. As the geneticist Steve Jones (1993) has remarked, had Darwin published his masterpiece under its existing title today, `he would have been in trouble with the Trades Description Act because if there is one thing which Origin of Species is not about, it is the origin of species." [Jones, J.S., . "A Slower Kind of Bang." Review of E. O. Wilson, "The Diversity of Life,". London Review of Books, April, 1993.p.20] (Dennett D.C., "Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life," Penguin: London, 1995, p.45. Emphasis in original) 3/11/2006 "I have said that in one respect my mind has changed during the last twenty or thirty years. Up to the age of thirty, or beyond it, poetry of many kinds, such as the works of Milton, Gray, Byron, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Shelley, gave me great pleasure, and even as a schoolboy I took intense delight in Shakespeare, especially in the historical plays. I have also said that formerly pictures gave me considerable, and music very great delight. But now for many years I cannot endure to read a line of poetry : I have tried lately to read Shakespeare, and found it so intolerably dull that it nauseated me. I have also almost lost any taste for pictures or music.-Music generally sets me thinking too energetically on what I have been at work on, instead of giving me pleasure. I retain some taste for fine scenery, but it does not cause me the exquisite delight which it formerly did. ... This curious and lamentable loss of the higher aesthetic tastes is all the odder, as books on history, biographies and travels (independently of any scientific facts which they may contain), and essays on all sorts of subjects interest me as much as ever they did. My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of facts, but why this should have caused the atrophy of that part of the brain alone, on which the higher tastes depend, I cannot conceive. A man with a mind more highly organised or better constituted than mine, would not I suppose have thus suffered; and if I had to live my life again I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week ; for perhaps the parts of my brain now atrophied could thus have been kept active through use. The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature." (Darwin, C.R., in Barlow N., ed., "The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, 1809-1882: With Original Omissions Restored," , W.W. Norton & Co: New York, 1969, reprint, pp.138-139) 4/11/2006 "Since biblical time takes hold with the appearance of matter, the biblical clock starts at bohu, that instant just after the big bang when stable matter as we know it formed from energy. The age of all matter in the universe dates back to bohu, the moment of quark confinement. We know the temperature and hence the frequency of radiation energy in the universe at quark confinement. It is not a value extrapolated or estimated from conditions in the distant past or far out in space. It is measured right here on Earth in the most advanced physics laboratories and corresponds to a temperature approximately a million million times hotter than the current 3°K black of space. That radiant energy had a frequency a million million times greater than the radiation of today's cosmic background radiation. The radiation from that moment of quark confinement has been stretched a million-millionfold. Its redshift, z, as observed today is 1012. That stretching of the light waves has slowed the frequency of the cosmic clock-expanded the perceived time between ticks of that clock-by a million million. ... To measure the age of the universe, we look back in time. From our perspective using Earth-based clocks running at a rate determined by the conditions of today's Earth, we measure a fifteen-billion-year age. And that is correct for our local view. The Bible adopts this Earthly perspective, but only for times after Adam. The Bible's clock before Adam is not a clock tied to any one location. It is a clock that looks forward in time from the creation, encompassing the entire universe, a universal clock tuned to the cosmic radiation at the moment when matter formed. That cosmic timepiece, as observed today, ticks a million million times more slowly than at its inception. The million millionfold stretching of radiation since bohu caused that million-million-to-one ratio in this perception of time. This cosmic clock records the passage of one minute while we on Earth experience a million million minutes. The dinosaurs ruled the Earth for 120 million years, as measured by our perception of time. Those clocks are set by the decay of radioactive nuclides here on Earth and they are correct for our earthly system. But to know the cosmic time we must divide earth time by a million million. At this million-million-to-one ratio those 120 million Earth years lasted a mere hour.What does all this mean for the age of the universe? In terms of days and years and millennia, this stretching of the cosmic perception of time by a factor of a million million, the division of fifteen billion years by a million million reduces those fifteen billion years to six days!" (Schroeder, G.L., "The Science of God: The Convergence of Scientific and Biblical Wisdom," Broadway Books: New York NY, 1998, pp.57-58. Emphasis original) 4/11/2006 "According to the biblical calendar [i.e. "derived in part by summing the ages of persons mentioned in the Bible" - p.201], Adam's birth occurred within the last six thousand years. Can this be true when museums are filled with humanlooking fossils dating back fifty thousand years? A clue to the answer to this biblical conundrum may be found in events that occurred two thousand years after Adam, in the life and affairs of Abraham. Just as God chose Abraham only after Abraham chose God, so the Eternal's encounter with Adam may have followed Adam's recognition of that transcendent yet immanent omnipotence we refer to as the Eternal God. Adam may have been the first hominid with a divinely created human soul." (Schroeder, G.L., "The Science of God: The Convergence of Scientific and Biblical Wisdom," Broadway Books: New York NY, 1998, p.126) 4/11/2006 "The view of Darwinian thinking presented so far in this book has been challenged, repeatedly, by Stephen Jay Gould, whose influential writings have contributed to a seriously distorted picture of evolutionary biology among both lay people and philosophers and scientists in other fields. Gould has announced several different `revolutionary' abridgments of orthodox Darwinism, but they all turn out to be false alarms. There is a pattern to be discerned in these campaigns: Gould, like eminent evolutionary thinkers before him, has been searching for skyhooks to limit the power of Darwin's dangerous idea." (Dennett, D.C., "Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life," , Penguin: London, 1996, reprint, p.261) 4/11/2006 "Gladstone did not advocate the literal truth of Genesis; science had foreclosed this possibility to any Victorian intellectual. He accepted, for example, the standard argument that the `days' of creation are metaphors for periods of undetermined length separating the major acts of a coherent sequence. But Gladstone then insisted that these major acts conform precisely to the order best specified by modern science-the cosmological events of the first four days (Genesis 1:1-19) to Laplace's `nebular hypothesis' for the origin of the sun and planets, and the biological events of `days' five and six (Genesis 1:20-31) to the geological record of fossils and Darwin's theory of evolution. He placed special emphasis on a fourfold sequence in the appearance of animals: the `water population' followed by the `air population' on the fifth day, and the `land population' and its `consummation in man' on the sixth day ... Gladstone then caps his argument with the claim still echoed by modern reconcilers: This order, too good to be guessed by writers ignorant of geological evidence, must have been revealed by God to the scribes of Genesis: `Then, I ask, how came ... the author of the first chapter of Genesis to know that order, to possess knowledge which natural science has only within the present century for the first time dug out of the bowels of the earth? It is surely impossible to avoid the conclusion, first, that either this writer was gifted with faculties passing all human experience, or else his knowledge was divine.'" (Gould, S.J., "Genesis and Geology," in "Bully for Brontosaurus: Further Reflections in Natural History," , Penguin: London, 1992, pp.404-405) 4/11/2006 "Huxley arranged his critique by citing four arguments against Gladstone's insistence that Genesis specified an accurate `fourfold order' of creation-water population, air population, land population, and man. Huxley wrote: `If I know anything at all about the results attained by the natural sciences of our time, it is a demonstrated conclusion and established fact that the fourfold order given by Mr. Gladstone is not that in which the evidence at our disposal tends to show that the water, air and land populations of the globe have made their appearance... . The facts which demolish his whole argument are of the commonest notoriety. ... He then presents his arguments in sequence: 1. Direct geological evidence shows that land animals arose before flying creatures. This reversal of biblical sequence holds whether we view the Genesis text as referring only to vertebrates (for terrestrial amphibians and reptiles long precede birds) or to all animals (for such terrestrial arthropods as scorpions arise before flying insects). 2. Even if we didn't know, or chose not to trust, the geological sequence, we could deduce on purely anatomical grounds that flying creatures must have evolved from preexisting terrestrial ancestors. Structures used in flight are derived modifications of terrestrial features: Every beginner in the study of animal morphology is aware that the organization of a bat, of a bird, or of a pterodactyle, presupposes that of a terrestrial quadruped, and that it is intelligible only as an extreme modification of the organization of a terrestrial mammal or reptile. In the same way, winged insects (if they are to be counted among the `air-population') presuppose insects which were wingless, and therefore as `creeping things,' which were part of the land-population. 3. Whatever the order of first appearances, new species within all groups-water, air, and land dwellers-have continued to arise throughout subsequent time, whereas Genesis implies that God made all the sea creatures, then all the denizens of the air, and so on. 4. However we may wish to quibble about the order of animals, Gladstone should not so conveniently excise plants from his discussion. Genesis pushes their origin back to the third day, before the origin of any animal. But plants do not precede animals in the fossil record; and the terrestrial flowering plants specifically mentioned in Genesis (grass and fruit tree) arise very late, long after the first mammals." (Gould, S.J., "Genesis and Geology," in "Bully for Brontosaurus: Further Reflections in Natural History," , Penguin: London, 1992, pp.406-408. Emphasis original) 4/11/2006 "But I can't read Genesis 1 as a story about linear addition at all. I think that its essential theme rests upon a different metaphor- differentiation rather than accretion. God creates a chaotic and formless totality at first, and then proceeds to make divisions within-to precipitate islands of stability and growing complexity from the vast, encompassing potential of an initial state. Consider the sequence of `days.' On day one, God makes two primary and orthogonal divisions: He separates heaven from earth, and light from darkness. But each category only represents a diffuse potential, containing no differentiated complexity. The earth is `without form and void'; and no sun, moon, or stars yet concentrate the division of light from darkness. On the second day, God consolidates the separation of heaven and earth by creating the firmament and calling it heaven. The third day is then devoted to differentiating the chaotic earth into its stable parts-land and sea. Land then develops further by bringing forth plants. (Does this indicate that the writer of Genesis treated life under a taxonomy very different from ours? Did he see plants as essentially of the earth and animals as something separate? Would he have held that plants have closer affinity with soil than with animals?) The fourth day does for the firmament what the third day accomplished for earth: heaven differentiates and light becomes concentrated into two great bodies, the sun and moon. The fifth and sixth days are devoted to the creation of animal life, but again the intended metaphor may be differentiation rather than linear addition. On the fifth day, the sea and then the air bring forth their intended complexity of living forms. On the sixth day, the land follows suit. The animals are not simply placed by God in their proper places. Rather, the places themselves `bring forth' or differentiate their appropriate inhabitants at the appointed times. The final result is a candy box of intricately sculpted pieces, with varying degrees of complexity. But how did the box arise? Did the candy maker just add items piece by piece, according to a prefigured planGladstone's model of linear addition? Or did he start with the equivalent of a tray of fudge, and then make smaller and smaller divisions with his knife, decorating each piece as he cut by sculpting wondrous forms from the potential inherent in the original material? I read the story in this second manner. ... ... Consider, for example, the early nineteenth century struggle in German embryology between one of the greatest of all natural scientists, Karl Ernst von Baer, who viewed development as a process of differentiation from general forms to specific structures ... Yes, the coding rules of DNA have not changed, and all of life's history differentiates from a potential inherent from the first. " (Gould, S.J., "Genesis and Geology," in "Bully for Brontosaurus: Further Reflections in Natural History," , Penguin: London, 1992, pp.412-414. Emphasis original) 4/11/2006 "But what of Bryan's first two arguments about the influence of Darwinism on militarism and domestic exploitation? We detect the touch of the Philistine in Bryan's claims, but I think we must also admit that he had identified something deeply troubling-and that the fault does lie partly with scientists and their acolytes. ... Vernon Kellogg was an entomologist and perhaps the leading teacher of evolution in America (he held a professorship at Stanford and wrote a major textbook, Evolution and Animal Life, ... During the First World War, while America maintained official neutrality, Kellogg became a high official in the international, nonpartisan effort for Belgian relief, a cause officially `tolerated' by Germany. In this capacity, he was posted at the headquarters of the German Great General Staff, the only American on the premises. Night after night, he listened to dinner discussions and arguments, sometimes in the presence of the Kaiser himself, among Germany's highest military officers. Headquarters Nights is Kellogg's account of these exchanges. ... Kellogg was appalled, above all, at the justification for war and German supremacy advanced by these officers, many of whom had been university professors before the war. They not only proposed an evolutionary rationale but advocated a particularly crude form of natural selection, defined as inexorable, bloody battle: `Professor von Flussen is Neo-Darwinian, as are most German biologists and natural philosophers. The creed of the Allmacht [`all might' or omnipotence] of a natural selection based on violent and competitive struggle is the gospel of the German intellectuals; all else is illusion and anathema. ... This struggle not only must go on, for that is the natural law, but it should go on so that this natural law may work out in its cruel, inevitable way the salvation of the human 'species.... That human group which is in the most advanced evolutionary stage ... should win in the struggle for existence, and this struggle should occur precisely that the various types may be tested, and the best not only preserved, but put in position to impose its kind of social organization-its Kultur-on the others, or, alternatively, to destroy and replace them. This is the disheartening kind of argument that I faced at Headquarters.... Add the additional assumption that the Germans are the chosen race, and that German social and political organization the chosen type of human community life, and you have a wall of logic and conviction that you can break your head against but can never shatter-by headwork.'" (Gould, S.J., "William Jennings Bryan's Last Campaign," in "Bully for Brontosaurus: Further Reflections in Natural History," , Penguin: London, 1992, pp.422-423) 4/11/2006 "Benjamin Kidd was an English commentator highly respected in both academic and lay circles. His book Social Evolution (1894) was translated into a dozen languages and as widely read as anything ever published on the implications of evolution. In The Science of Power (1918), his posthumous work, Kidd constructs a curious argument that, in a very different way from Kellogg's... Kidd, a philosophical idealist, believed that life must move toward progress by rejecting material struggle and individual benefit. Like the German militarists, but to excoriate rather than to praise, Kidd identified Darwinism with these impediments to progress. In a chapter entitled `The Great Pagan Retrogression,' Kidd presented a summary of his entire thesis: 1. Darwin's doctrine of force rekindled the most dangerous of human tendencies-our pagan soul, previously (but imperfectly) suppressed for centuries by Christianity and its doctrines of love and renunciation: `The hold which the theories of the Origin of Species obtained on the popular mind in the West is one of the most remarkable incidents in the history of human thought.... Everywhere throughout civilization an almost inconceivable influence was given to the doctrine of force as the basis of legal authority ... The pagan heart of the West sang within itself again in atavistic joy.' 2. In England and America, Darwinism's worst influence lay in its justification for industrial exploitation as an expression of natural selection ('social Darwinism' in its pure form): `The prevailing social system, born as it had been in struggle, and resting as it did in the last resort on war and on the toil of an excluded proletariat, appeared to have become clothed with a new and final kind of authority.' 3. In Germany, Darwin's doctrine became a justification for war: `Darwin's theories came to be openly set out in political and military textbooks as the full justification for war and highly organized schemes of national policy in which the doctrine of force became the doctrine of Right.' 4. Civilization can only advance by integration: The essence of Darwinism is division by force for individual advantage. Social progress demands the `subordination of the individual to the universal' via `the iron ethic of Renunciation.' 5. Civilization can only be victorious by suppressing our pagan soul and its Darwinian Justification: `It is the psychic and spiritual forces governing the social integration in which the individual is being subordinated to the universal which have become the winning forces in evolution.'" (Gould, S.J., "William Jennings Bryan's Last Campaign," in "Bully for Brontosaurus: Further Reflections in Natural History," , Penguin: London, 1992, pp.424-428. Emphasis original) 5/11/2006 "There is a growing consensus that it is seriously misleading to regard the various religious traditions of the world as variations on a single theme. `There is no single essence, no one content of enlightenment or revelation, no one way of emancipation or liberation, to be found in all that plurality' (David Tracy). John B. Cobb Jr also notes the enormous difficulties confronting anyone wishing to argue that there is an `essence of religion': `Arguments about what religion truly is are pointless. There is no such thing as religion. There are only traditions, movements, communities, peoples, beliefs, and practices that have features that are associated by many people with what they mean by religion.' [Cobb, J.B. Jr, "Beyond Pluralism," in D'Costa, G., ed., "Christian Uniqueness Reconsidered: The Myth of a Pluralistic Theology of Religions," Orbis: Maryknoll NY, 1990, pp. 81- 84] Cobb stresses that the assumption that religion has an essence has bedeviled and seriously misled recent discussion of the relation of the religious traditions of the world. For example, he points out that both Buddhism and Confucianism have `religious' elements - but that does not necessarily mean that they can be categorized as `religions.' Many `religions' are better understood as cultural movements with religious components.The idea of some universal notion of religion, of which individual religions are subsets, appears to have emerged at the time of the Enlightenment. To use a biological analogy, the assumption that there is a genus of religion, of which individual religions are species, is a very western idea, without any real parallel outside western culture - except on the part of those who have been educated in the west, and uncritically absorbed its presuppositions." (McGrath, A.E., "Christian Theology: An Introduction," , Blackwell: Cambridge MA, Second Edition, 1997, pp.531-532) 6/11/2006 "Until 300 years ago it was generally believed that life was constantly arising from dead matter. When Redi, Spallanzani, and Pasteur showed that there was no evidence for such an event, and when even the smallest organisms were found to be chemically very complicated, the problem of the origin of life became really acute. Most of the suggestions as to its origin can be classified as follows: (1) Life has no origin. Matter and life have always existed. When stars become habitable, they are colonized by `seeds' of life from interstellar space, perhaps spares of bacteria or simple plants. These may have been driven out of planetary atmospheres by radiation pressure, as Arrhenius suggested, or even launched into space by intelligent beings. (2) Life originated on our planet by a supernatural event, that is to say an event of a kind incapable of description in the terminology of natural science, and a fortiori incapable of prediction or control by man. (3) Life originated from `ordinary' chemical reactions by a slow evolutionary process. (4) Life originated as the result of a very `improbable' event, which however was almost certain to happen given sufficient time, and sufficient matter of suitable composition in a suitable state. ... If it turns out that hypothesis (3) will not work, and that hypothesis (4) demands an event which had an extremely small chance of happening anywhere on earth in four thousand million years, then hypothesis (1) will have to be considered seriously. Hypothesis (2) ... should not be accepted till (1), (3), and (4) have been disproved or shown to be highly improbable." (Haldane, J.B.S., "The Origins of Life," in Johnson, M.L., Abercrombie, M. & Fogg, G. E., eds, "The Origin of Life," New Biology, No. 16, Penguin Books: London, April 1954, pp.12-13) 6/11/2006 "Can one give a machine an instruction to make another one like itself also provided with a copy of these instructions? If so, as long as the parts needed to construct another such machine are available, the machine will go on reproducing its like, and so will its progeny. Von Neumann (1951) on the basis of a theorem due to Turing, claims to have proved that such a machine can be constructed from a finite number of parts of about twelve different kinds. If he is right, such a machine would have a considerable claim to be alive, even if it had to wander about hunting for ready-made Meccano parts as we have to wander about hunting for ready- made amino-acids and vitamins, as well as foodstuffs which are merely energy sources. Nobody has yet calculated the minimum number of parts of such a machine. This calculation will be of great interest. If, for example, it turned out to be bigger than the number of atoms in a bacillus, the mechanistic theory of life would have been logically disproved." (Haldane, J.B.S., "The Origins of Life," in Johnson, M.L., Abercrombie, M. & Fogg, G. E., eds, "The Origin of Life," New Biology, No. 16, Penguin Books: London, April 1954, p.14) 6/11/2006 "Most of the suggestions as to its origin can be classified as follows: (1) Life has no origin. Matter and life have always existed. When stars become habitable, they are colonized by `seeds' of life from interstellar space, perhaps spares of bacteria or simple plants. These may have been driven out of planetary atmospheres by radiation pressure, as Arrhenius suggested, or even launched into space by intelligent beings. (2) Life originated on our planet by a supernatural event, that is to say an event of a kind incapable of description in the terminology of natural science, and a fortiori incapable of prediction or control by man. (3) Life originated from `ordinary' chemical reactions by a slow evolutionary process. (4) Life originated as the result of a very `improbable' event, which however was almost certain to happen given sufficient time, and sufficient matter of suitable composition in a suitable state. ... I ... think that hypothesis (4) must be taken seriously ... If the parts could be fairly simple molecules of three types of which I shall write later, we shall see that these may have been fairly readily available in the past. If the minimum number of such parts needed turns out to be some smallish number n1, we can accept hypothesis (3). Once the parts were there, they would certainly get put together by chance in the right configuration in a few seconds or centuries, as by mere shuffling you will get the letters ACEHIMN to spell `machine' once in 5040 trials on an average. If the number is a large one n2, it may turn out that, under the probable physical and chemical conditions, `biopoiesis' would only be expected to occur on the earth's surface once in several hundred million years. If it is a still larger one, n3 we shall be able to say that, unless hypothesis (1) or (2) is true, it is excessively improbable that there is any life anywhere except on earth within the range of our best telescopes. The theory that the earth is unique in being an abode of life is of course also compatible with hypothesis (2) though hardly with (1)." (Haldane, J.B.S., "The Origins of Life," in Johnson, M.L., Abercrombie, M. & Fogg, G. E., eds, "The Origin of Life," New Biology, No. 16, Penguin Books: London, April 1954, pp.12,14-15) 6/11/2006 "Most of the suggestions as to its origin can be classified as follows: (1) Life has no origin. Matter and life have always existed. When stars become habitable, they are colonized by `seeds' of life from interstellar space, perhaps spares of bacteria or simple plants. These may have been driven out of planetary atmospheres by radiation pressure, as Arrhenius suggested, or even launched into space by intelligent beings. (2) Life originated on our planet by a supernatural event, that is to say an event of a kind incapable of description in the terminology of natural science, and a fortiori incapable of prediction or control by man. (3) Life originated from `ordinary' chemical reactions by a slow evolutionary process. (4) Life originated as the result of a very `improbable' event, which however was almost certain to happen given sufficient time, and sufficient matter of suitable composition in a suitable state. ... Of course the arrangement of the parts is very relevant to any such calculation. A simple example will show the kind of calculation one can make. Nucleic acids appear to consist of alternate purine and pyrimidine nucleotides arranged in a chain. In deoxyribose nucleic acid the purine is either adenine or guanine, the pyrimidine either cytosine or thymine. The average molecular weight of a link in the chain is about 300. There are clearly 2n possible types of chain n units long. A gram is 6 x 1022 times the mass of an H atom, the sun's mass is 2 x 1033 gm, that of our galaxy is about 1011 times that of the sun. There are at least 106 galaxies within range of the best telescopes (i.e. from which light which started since the early Cambrian has yet had time to reach us). Their mass is about that of 1.2 x 1074, or 2246 H atoms. It follows that if one each of all the sorts of nucleic acid molecule with 245 links in the chain, or molecular weights up to 73,500, could be made, their joint mass would be that of the known part of the universe. Some nucleic acids have molecular weights of at least half a million. If it could be shown that one and only one nucleic acid of molecular weight 100,000, and no smaller one, could reproduce itself, then even if nucleotides and catalysts to condense them were available we should have to abandon hypotheses (3) and (4), and turn to (1) or (2). " (Haldane, J.B.S., "The Origins of Life," in Johnson, M.L., Abercrombie, M. & Fogg, G. E., eds, "The Origin of Life," New Biology, No. 16, Penguin Books: London, April 1954, pp.12, 15) 6/11/2006 "Most of the suggestions as to its origin can be classified as follows: (1) Life has no origin. Matter and life have always existed. When stars become habitable, they are colonized by `seeds' of life from interstellar space, perhaps spares of bacteria or simple plants. These may have been driven out of planetary atmospheres by radiation pressure, as Arrhenius suggested, or even launched into space by intelligent beings. (2) Life originated on our planet by a supernatural event, that is to say an event of a kind incapable of description in the terminology of natural science, and a fortiori incapable of prediction or control by man. (3) Life originated from `ordinary' chemical reactions by a slow evolutionary process. (4) Life originated as the result of a very `improbable' event, which however was almost certain to happen given sufficient time, and sufficient matter of suitable composition in a suitable state. ... The postulation of a rare chance (hypothesis 4) is not even incompatible with that of supernatural creation or guidance. To avoid postulating infinities let us merely postulate a Director of our galaxy. His or her simplest method of producing a variety of forms of life may be to leave a few hundred million planets near suitable suns for three thousand million years, in the confidence that within that time cellular life will have started on 90 per cent of those where the surface temperatures and so on are suitable." (Haldane, J.B.S., "The Origins of Life," in Johnson, M.L., Abercrombie, M. & Fogg, G. E., eds, "The Origin of Life," New Biology, No. 16, Penguin Books: London, April 1954, pp.12,24) 6/11/2006 "Most of the suggestions as to its origin can be classified as follows: (1) Life has no origin. Matter and life have always existed. When stars become habitable, they are colonized by `seeds' of life from interstellar space, perhaps spares of bacteria or simple plants. These may have been driven out of planetary atmospheres by radiation pressure, as Arrhenius suggested, or even launched into space by intelligent beings. (2) Life originated on our planet by a supernatural event, that is to say an event of a kind incapable of description in the terminology of natural science, and a fortiori incapable of prediction or control by man. (3) Life originated from `ordinary' chemical reactions by a slow evolutionary process. (4) Life originated as the result of a very `improbable' event, which however was almost certain to happen given sufficient time, and sufficient matter of suitable composition in a suitable state. ... A good deal more evidence on the whole question should be provided by astronautics. One of the earliest parties to land on the moon should be able to look for astroplankton, that is to say spores and the like, in dust from an area of the moon which is never exposed to sunlight. If any is found, this will support hypothesis (1). If no evidence of present or past life is found on Mars or Venus, though simple terrestrial organisms can live there without an artificial atmosphere, this will be an argument against hypothesis (3). If life is found on Mars with a similar biochemical basis to our own (in which case the explorers may be in danger from Martial bacteria and viruses, and the Martial higher organisms from terrestrial ones) this will tell against hypothesis (1) if, and only if, the Martial organisms are built of `looking glass' sugars and amino-acids. Jupiter is very possibly covered with an ocean of liquid ammonia containing ice and salts in solution, and resting on rocks of ice. There is a whole system of inorganic and organic chemistry in which liquid ammonia takes the place of water (for example, salts crystallize with ammonia of crystallization). Life in which ammonia replaces water may be possible, though in the absence of free oxygen I doubt if Jovial life can have got beyond the plant stage. Our descendants may even find evidence for another type of life in the interior of our earth with a material basis of partly molten silicates and an energy supply from the oxidation of the metallic core; though I think this unlikely." (Haldane, J.B.S., "The Origins of Life," in Johnson, M.L., Abercrombie, M. & Fogg, G. E., eds, "The Origin of Life," New Biology, No. 16, Penguin Books: London, April 1954, pp.12,24) 6/11/2006 "Most of the suggestions as to its origin can be classified as follows: (1) Life has no origin. Matter and life have always existed. When stars become habitable, they are colonized by `seeds' of life from interstellar space, perhaps spares of bacteria or simple plants. These may have been driven out of planetary atmospheres by radiation pressure, as Arrhenius suggested, or even launched into space by intelligent beings. (2) Life originated on our planet by a supernatural event, that is to say an event of a kind incapable of description in the terminology of natural science, and a fortiori incapable of prediction or control by man. (3) Life originated from `ordinary' chemical reactions by a slow evolutionary process. (4) Life originated as the result of a very `improbable' event, which however was almost certain to happen given sufficient time, and sufficient matter of suitable composition in a suitable state. ... Ultimately it should be possible to settle the problem by making synthetic living things, and working out the probability that such a synthesis could have occurred within the time available, on an initially lifeless planet. If such a synthesis is colossally improbable the possibility would remain that our earth was the only abode of life in the known universe. If life were found on Mars this would be ruled out. If it were further found that no spores could survive an interstellar journey the `supernatural' hypothesis (2) would have to be considered seriously once more, whereas at present it seems to be becoming less plausible." (Haldane, J.B.S., "The Origins of Life," in Johnson, M.L., Abercrombie, M. & Fogg, G. E., eds, "The Origin of Life," New Biology, No. 16, Penguin Books: London, April 1954, pp.12,25) 6/11/2006 "The problem of describing the origin of life is curiously like its actual origin. In each case it seems likely that a number of attempts were 'made, and almost all of them did not work. Natural selection eliminated them. But those who, like myself, are speculating on this problem, have one great advantage over our `sub-vital' ancestors. We can learn from the mistakes of others, for example, Virgil and van Helmont, and need not repeat them. " (Haldane, J.B.S., "The Origins of Life," in Johnson, M.L., Abercrombie, M. & Fogg, G. E., eds, "The Origin of Life," New Biology, No. 16, Penguin Books: London, April 1954, pp.26-27) 7/11/2006 "`When you look at a picture or a statue, you recognize that it is a work of art. When you follow from afar the course of a ship, upon the sea, you do not question that its movement is guided by a skilled intelligence. When you see a sundial or a water-clock, you see that it tells the time by design and not by chance. How then can you imagine that the universe as a whole is devoid of purpose and intelligence, when it embraces everything, including these artefacts themselves and their artificers? Our friend Posidonius as you know has recently made a globe which in its revolution shows the movements of the sun and stars and planets, by day and night, just as they appear in the sky. Now if someone were to take this globe and show it to the people of Britain or Scythia would a single one of those barbarians fail to see that it was the product of a conscious intelligence?'" (Cicero, "The Nature of the Gods," Book II, 85-87, , McGregor, H.C.P., transl., Penguin: Harmondsworth UK, 1986, reprint, pp.158-159) 7/11/2006 "`Is it not a wonder that anyone can bring himself to believe that a number of solid and separate particles by their chance collisions and moved only by the force of their own weight could bring into being so marvellous and beautiful a world? If anybody thinks that this is possible, I do not see why he should not think that if an infinite number of examples of the twenty-one letters of the alphabet, made of gold or what you will, were shaken together and poured out on the ground it would be possible for them to fall so as to spell out, say, the whole text of the Annals of Ennius. In fact I doubt whether chance would permit them to spell out a single verse! `So how can these people bring themselves to assert that the universe has been created by the blind and accidental collisions of inanimate particles devoid of colour or any other quality? And even to assert that an infinite number of such worlds are coming into being and passing away all the time. If these chance collisions of atoms can make a world, why cannot they build a porch, or a temple, or a house or a city? A much easier and less laborious task.'" (Cicero, "The Nature of the Gods," Book II, 91-94, , McGregor, H.C.P., transl., Penguin: Harmondsworth UK, 1986, reprint, pp.161-162) 7/11/2006 "There is a faint possibility that at one moment all the molecules might in this way happen to be visiting the one half of the vessel. You will easily calculate that if n is the number of molecules (roughly a quadrillion) the chance of this happening is (1/2)n. The reason why we ignore this chance may be seen by a rather classical illustration. If I let my fingers wander idly over the keys of a typewriter it might happen that my screed made an intelligible sentence. If an army of monkeys were strumming on typewriters they might write all the books in the British Museum. The chance of their doing so is decidedly more favourable than the chance of the molecules returning to one half of the vessel." (Eddington A.S., "The Nature of the Physical World," , The Gifford Lectures 1927, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge UK, 1933, reprint, p.72. Emphasis original) 7/11/2006 "Another point that is often glossed over is the fact that in all of the many-universe theories that derive from real physics (as opposed to simply fantasizing about the existence of other worlds) the laws of physics are the same in all the worlds. The selection of universes on offer is restricted to those that are physically possible, as opposed to those that can be imagined. There will be many more universes that are logically possible, but contradict the laws of physics. So we cannot account for nature's lawfulness this way, unless one extends the many-universes idea to encompass all possible modes of behavior. Imagine a vast stack of alternative realities for which any notion of law, order, or regularity of any kind is absent. Physical processes are entirely random. However, just as a monkey tinkering with a typewriter will eventually type Shakespeare, so somewhere among that vast stack of realities will be worlds that are partially ordered, just by chance. Can anthropic reasoning be used to conclude that any given observer will perceive an ordered world, mind- boggling rare though such a world may be relative to its chaotic competitors? I think the answer is clearly no, because anthropic arguments work only for aspects of nature that are crucial to life. If there is utter lawlessness, then the overwhelming number of randomly selected inhabited worlds will be ordered only in ways that are essential to the preservation of life. There is no reason, for example, why the charge of the electron need remain absolutely fixed, or why different electrons should have exactly the same charge. Minor variations would not be life-threatening. But what else keeps the value fixed-and fixed to such astonishing precision-if it is not a law of physics? One could, perhaps, imagine an ensemble of universes with a selection of laws, so that each universe comes with a complete and fixed set of laws. We could then perhaps use anthropic reasoning to explain why at least some of the laws we observe are what they are. But this theory must still presuppose the concept of law, and begs the question of where those laws come from, and how they `attach' themselves to universes in an `eternal way.'" (Davies, P.C.W., "The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Science," in Templeton, J.M., ed., "Evidence of Purpose: Scientists Discover the Creator," Continuum: New York NY, 1994, p.53) 10/11/2006 "Human Rights ... Amnesty International and other human rights organizations, including the North American Free Speech Association, accuse North Korea of having one of the worst human rights records of any nation, severely restricting most freedoms, including freedom of speech and freedom of movement, both inside the country and abroad. The State of World Liberty Index ranks North Korea last out of 159 countries in terms of citizens' freedom. North Korean exiles have testified as to the existence of detention camps with an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 inmates, and have reported torture, starvation, rape, murder and forced labour. Japanese television aired what it said was footage of a prison camp. In some of the camps, US officials and former inmates say the annual mortality rate approaches 20% to 25%. An estimated two million civilians have been killed by the government. A former prison guard and army intelligence officer said that in one camp, chemical weapons were tested on prisoners in a gas chamber. According to a former prisoner, pregnant women inside the camps are often forced to have abortions or the newborn child is killed. The government of North Korea refuses to admit independent human rights observers to the state." ("North Korea," Wikipedia. References omitted) 10/11/2006 "Everyone would agree that some religious people do some very disturbing things. But the introduction of that little word `some' to Dawkins' argument immediately dilutes its impact. For it forces a series of critical questions. How many? Under what circumstances? How often? It also forces a comparative question: how many people with anti- religious views also do some very disturbing things? And once we start to ask that question, we move away from cheap and easy sniping at our intellectual opponents, and have to confront some dark and troubling aspects of human nature. Let's explore this one. I used to be anti-religious. In my teens, I was quite convinced that religion was the enemy of humanity, for reasons very similar to those that Dawkins sets out in his popular writings. But not now. And one of the reasons is my dreadful discovery of the dark side of atheism. Let me explain. In my innocence, I assumed that atheism would spread through the sheer genius of its ideas, the compelling nature of its arguments, its liberation from the oppression of religion, and the dazzling brilliance of the world it commended. Who needed to be coerced into such beliefs, when they were so obviously right? ... And yes, atheism liberated people from religious oppression, especially in France in the 1780s. But when atheism ceased to be a private matter and became a state ideology, things suddenly became rather different. The liberator turned oppressor. To the surprise of some, religion became the new liberator from atheist oppression. Unsurprisingly, these developments tend to be airbrushed out of Dawkins' rather selective reading of history. But they need to be taken with immense seriousness if the full story is to be told. The final opening of the Soviet archives in the 1990s led to revelations that ended any notion that atheism was quite as gracious, gentle, and generous a worldview as some of its more idealistic supporters believed. The Black Book of Communism [Courtois S., "The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression," Harvard University Press: Cambridge MA, 1999], based on those archives, created a sensation when first published in France in 1997, not least because it implied that French communism - still a potent force in national life - was irreducibly tainted with the crimes and excesses of Lenin and Stalin. Where, many of its irate readers asked, were the `Nuremberg Trials of Communism'? Communism was a `tragedy of planetary dimensions' with a grand total of victims variously estimated by contributors to the volume at between 85 million and 100 million - far in excess of the excesses committed under Nazism. Now, one must be cautious about such statistics, and equally cautious about rushing to quick and easy conclusions on their basis. Yet the basic point cannot really be overlooked. One of the greatest ironies of the twentieth century is that many of the most deplorable acts of murder, intolerance, and repression were carried out by those who thought that religion was murderous, intolerant, and repressive - and thus sought to remove it from the face of the planet as a humanitarian act. Even his most uncritical readers should be left wondering why Dawkins has curiously failed to mention, let alone engage with, the blood-spattered trail of atheism in the twentieth century - one of the reasons, incidentally, that I eventually concluded that I could -no longer be an atheist." (McGrath, A.E.*, "Dawkins' God: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life," Blackwell: Malden MA, 2005, pp.112-114. Emphasis original) 10/11/2006 "Dawkins is inexhaustibly outraged by the fact that religious opinions lead people to terrible crimes. But what, if there is no God, is so peculiarly shocking about these opinions being specifically religious? The answer he supplies is simple: that when religious people do evil things, they are acting on the promptings of their faith but when atheists do so, it's nothing to do with their atheism. He devotes pages to a discussion of whether Hitler was a Catholic, concluding that `Stalin was an atheist and Hitler probably wasn't, but even if he was the bottom line is very simple. Individual atheists may do evil things but they don't do evil things in the name of atheism.' Yet under Stalin almost the entire Orthodox priesthood was exterminated simply for being priests, as were the clergy of other religions and hundreds of thousands of Baptists. The claim that Stalin's atheism had nothing to do with his actions may be the most disingenuous in the book, but it has competition from a later question, `Why would anyone go to war for the sake of an absence of belief [atheism]?'-as if the armies of the French revolution had marched under icons of the Virgin, or as if a common justification offered for China's invasion of Tibet had not been the awful priest-ridden backwardness of the Dalai Lama's regime. One might argue that a professor of the public understanding of science has no need to concern himself with trivialities outside his field like the French revolution, the Spanish civil war or Stalin's purges when he knows that history is on his side. `With notable exceptions, such as the Afghan Taliban and the American Christian equivalent, most people play lip service to the same broad liberal consensus of ethical principles.' Really? `The majority of us don't cause needless suffering; we believe in free speech and protect it even if we disagree with what is being said.' Do the Chinese believe in free speech? Does Dawkins think that pious Catholics or Muslims are allowed to? Does he believe in it himself? He quotes later in the book approvingly and at length a speech by his friend Nicholas Humphrey which argued that, `We should no more allow parents to teach their children to believe, for example, in the literal truth of the Bible or that planets rule their lives, than we should allow parents to knock their children's teeth out.' But of course, it's not interfering with free speech when atheists do it.' what Dawkins was famous for. It's a shame to see him reduced to one long argument from professorial incredulity. " (Brown, A., "Dawkins the dogmatist." Review of The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins, Bantam. Prospect, October 2006) 10/11/2006 "People are most tempted to engage in special pleading when they are subject to a law or moral rule that they wish to evade. People often attempt to apply a `double standard', which makes an exception to the rule for themselves-or people like them-but applies it to others. They usually do not argue that they, or their group, should be exempt from the rule simply because of who they are; this would be such obvious special pleading that no one would be fooled. Instead, they invoke some characteristic that they have that sets them apart; however, if the characteristic is not a relevant exception to the rule, then they are engaged in special pleading." (Curtis, G.N., "Special Pleading," The Fallacy Files, 10 June 2006) 11/11/2006 "The eruption of a super volcano `sooner or later' will chill the planet and threaten human civilization, British scientists warned ... And now the bad news: There's not much anyone can do about it. Several volcanoes around the world are capable of gigantic eruptions unlike anything witnessed in recorded history, based on geologic evidence of past events, the scientists said. Such eruptions would dwarf those of Mount St. Helens, Krakatoa, Pinatubo and anything else going back dozens of millennia. `Super-eruptions are up to hundreds of times larger than these,' said Stephen Self of the United Kingdom’s (U.K.) Open University. `An area the size of North America can be devastated, and pronounced deterioration of global climate would be expected for a few years following the eruption,' Self said. `They could result in the devastation of world agriculture, severe disruption of food supplies, and mass starvation. These effects could be sufficiently severe to threaten the fabric of civilization.' ... `Although very rare these events are inevitable, and at some point in the future humans will be faced with dealing with and surviving a super eruption,' Stephen Sparks of the University of Bristol told LiveScience ... A super eruption is a scaled up version of a typical volcanic outburst, Sparks explained. Each is caused by a rising and growing chamber of hot molten rock known as magma. `In super eruptions the magma chamber is huge,' Sparks said. The eruption is rapid, occurring in a matter of days. `When the magma erupts the overlying rocks collapse into the chamber, which has reduced its pressure due to the eruption. The collapse forms the huge crater.' The eruption pumps dust and chemicals into the atmosphere for years, screening the Sun and cooling the planet. Earth is plunged into a perpetual winter, some models predict, causing plant and animal species disappear forever. `The whole of a continent might be covered by ash, which might take many years -- possibly decades -- to erode away and for vegetation to recover,' Sparks said. ... The odds of a globally destructive volcano explosion in any given century are extremely low, and no scientist can say when the next one will occur. But the chances are five to 10 times greater than a globally destructive asteroid impact, according to the new British report. The next super eruption, whenever it occurs, might not be the first one humans have dealt with. About 74,000 years ago, in what is now Sumatra, a volcano called Toba blew with a force estimated at 10,000 times that of Mount St. Helens. Ash darkened the sky all around the planet. Temperatures plummeted by up to 21 degrees at higher latitudes, according to research by Michael Rampino, a biologist and geologist at New York University. Rampino has estimated three-quarters of the plant species in the Northern Hemisphere perished. Stanley Ambrose, an anthropologist at the University of Illinois ... has said early humans were perhaps pushed to the edge of extinction after the Toba eruption ... Based on the latest evidence, eruptions the size of the giant Yellowstone and Toba events occur at least every 100,000 years, Sparks said, `and it could be as high as every 50,000 years. There are smaller but nevertheless huge eruptions which would have continental to global consequences every 5,000 years or so.' Unlike other threats to mankind -- asteroids, nuclear attacks and global warming to name a few -- there's little to be done about a super volcano. `While it may in future be possible to deflect asteroids or somehow avoid their impact, even science fiction cannot produce a credible mechanism for averting a super eruption,' the new report states. `No strategies can be envisaged for reducing the power of major volcanic eruptions.' ... `Sooner or later a super eruption will happen on Earth and this issue also demands serious attention,' the report concludes." (Britt, R.R., "Super Volcano Will Challenge Civilization, Geologists Warn," LiveScience, 8 March 2005) 13/11/2006 "THE BOY WHO CRIED WOLF? ... This chapter is about another myth-Stephen Jay Gould, Refuter of Orthodox Darwinism. Over the years, Gould has mounted a series of attacks on aspects of contemporary neo-Darwinism, and although none of these attacks has proven to be more than a mild corrective to orthodoxy at best, their rhetorical impact on the outside world has been immense and distorting. This presents me with a problem that I cannot ignore or ; postpone. In my own work over the years, I have often appealed to evolutionary considerations, and have almost as often run into a curious current of resistance: my appeals to Darwinian reasoning have been bluntly rejected as discredited, out-of-date science by philosophers, psychologists, linguists, anthropologists, and others who have blithely informed me that I have got my biology all wrong-I haven't been doing my homework, because Steve Gould has shown that Darwinism isn't in such good shape after all. Indeed, it is close to extinction. That is a myth, but a very influential myth, even in the halls of science. I have tried in this book to present an accurate account of evolutionary thinking, deflecting the reader from common misunderstandings, and defending the theory against ill-grounded objections. I have had a lot of expert help and advice, and so I am confident that I have succeeded. But the view of Darwinian thinking I have presented is quite at odds with the view made familiar to many by Gould. Surely, then, my view must be mistaken? After all, who knows better about Darwin and Darwinism than Gould?" (Dennett, D.C., "Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life," , Penguin: London, 1996, reprint, pp.262-263. Emphasis original) 13/11/2006 "Americans are notoriously ill-informed about evolution. A recent Gallup poll (June 1993) discovered that 47 percent of adult Americans believe that Homo sapiens is a species created by God less than ten thousand years ago. But insofar as they know anything at all about the subject, it is probably due more to Gould than to anyone else. In the battle over the teaching of "creation science" in the schools, he has been a key witness for the defense of evolution in the court cases that continue to plague American education. For twenty years, his monthly column, "This View of Life," in Natural History, has provided professional and amateur biologists with a steady stream of arresting insights, fascinating facts, and well-needed correctives to their thinking." (Dennett, D.C., "Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life," , Penguin: London, 1996, reprint, p.263) 13/11/2006 "Anybody as prolific and energetic as Gould would surely have an agenda beyond that of simply educating and delighting his fellow human beings about the Darwinian view of life. In fact, he has had numerous agendas. He has fought hard against prejudice, and particularly against the abuse of scientific research (and scientific prestige) by those who would clothe their political ideologies in the potent mantle of scientific respectability. It is important to recognize that Darwinism has always had an unfortunate power to attract the most unwelcome enthusiasts-demagogues and psychopaths and misanthropes and other abusers of Darwin's dangerous idea. Gould has laid this sad story bare in dozens of tales, about the Social Darwinists, about unspeakable racists, and most poignantly about basically good people who got confused-seduced and abandoned, you might say-by one Darwinian siren or another. It is all too easy to run off half cocked with some poorly understood version of Darwinian thinking, and Gould has made it a major part of his life's work to protect his hero from this sort of abuse." (Dennett, D.C., "Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life," , Penguin: London, 1996, reprint, p.264) 13/11/2006 "The irony is that his own strenuous efforts to protect Darwinism have sometimes backfired. Gould has been a defender of his own brand of Darwinism, but an ardent opponent of what he has called `ultra- Darwinism' or `hyper-Darwinism.' What is the difference? The uncompromising `no-skyhooks-allowed' Darwinism I have presented is, by Gould's lights, hyper-Darwinism, an extremist view that needs overthrowing. Since in fact it is, as I have said, quite orthodox neo-Darwinism, Gould's campaigns have had to take the form of calls for revolution. Time and again, Gould has announced from his bully-pulpit to a fascinated world of onlookers that neo-Darwinism is dead, supplanted by a revolutionary new vision-still Darwinian, but overthrowing the establishment view. It hasn't happened. As Simon Conway Morris, one of the heroes of Gould's Wonderful Life, has said, `His views have done much to stir the established orthodoxies, even if, when the dust settles, the edifice of evolutionary theory still looks little changed' (Conway Morris [S., "Rerunning the Tape," " Review of Bully for Brontosaurus," Times Literary Supplement, December 13,] 1991, p.6)" (Dennett, D.C., "Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life," , Penguin: London, 1996, reprint, p.264) 13/11/2006 "Gould is not the only evolutionist to succumb to the urge of overdramatization. ... But ... Gould has gone from revolution to revolution. So far, his declarations of revolution have all been false alarms, but he has kept on trying, defying the moral of Aesop's fable about the boy who cried wolf. This has earned him not just a credibility problem (among scientists), but also the animosity of some of his colleagues, who have felt the sting of what they consider to be undeserved public condemnation in the face of his influential campaigns. As Robert Wright (["The Intelligence Test," Review of "Wonderful Life", New Republic, January 29,] 1990, p. 30) puts it, Gould is "America's evolutionist laureate. If he has been systematically misleading Americans about what evolution is and what it means, that amounts to a lot of intellectual damage." (Dennett, D.C., "Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life," , Penguin: London, 1996, reprint, pp.264-265) 13/11/2006 "I beg to differ, so it falls to me to dismantle the myth. Not an easy job, since I must painstakingly separate the rhetoric from the reality, all the while fending off-by explaining away-the entirely reasonable presumption that an evolutionist of Gould's stature couldn't be that wrong in his verdicts, could he? Yes and no. The real Gould has made major contributions to evolutionary thinking, correcting a variety of serious and widespread misapprehensions, but the mythical Gould has been created out of the yearnings of many Darwin-dreaders, feeding on Gould's highly charged words, and this has encouraged, in turn, his own aspirations to bring down `ultra-Darwinism,' leading him into some misbegotten claims." (Dennett, D.C., "Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life," , Penguin: London, 1996, reprint, pp.265-266. Emphasis original) 13/11/2006 "If Gould has kept crying wolf, why has he done this? ... By following the repetition of theme and variation in Gould's work, I will uncover a pattern: each failed attempt defines a small portion of the shadow of his quarry, until eventually the source of Gould's driving discomfort will be clearly outlined. Gould's ultimate target is Darwin's dangerous idea itself; he is opposed to the very idea that evolution is, in the end, just an algorithmic process. It would be interesting to ask the further question of why Gould is so set against this idea, but that is really a task for another occasion, and perhaps for another writer. ... What hidden agendas- moral, political, religious have driven Gould himself? Fascinating though this question is, I am going to resist the temptation to try to answer it, though in due course I will briefly consider, as I must, the rival hypotheses that have been suggested. I have enough to do just defending the admittedly startling claim that the pattern in Gould's failed revolutions reveals that America's evolutionist laureate has always been uncomfortable with the fundamental core of Darwinism." " (Dennett, D.C., "Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life," , Penguin: London, 1996, reprint, p.266) 13/11/2006 "For years I was genuinely baffled by the ill-defined hostility to Darwinism that I encountered among many of my fellow academics, and although they cited Gould as their authority, I figured they were just wishfully misreading him, with a little help from the mass media, always eager to obliterate subtlety and fan the flames of every minor controversy. It really didn't occur to me that Gould was often fighting on the other side. He himself has been victimized so often by this hostility. Maynard Smith mentions just one example: `One cannot spend a lifetime working on evolutionary theory without becoming aware that most people who do not work in the field, and some who do, have a strong wish to believe that the Darwinian theory is false. This was most recently brought home to me when my friend Stephen Gould, who is as convinced a Darwinist as I am, found himself the occasion of an editorial in the Guardian announcing the death of Darwinism, followed by an extensive correspondence on the same theme, merely because he had pointed out some difficulties the theory still faces. [Maynard Smith 1981, p.221, as reprinted in Maynard Smith 1988.] Why should such a "convinced Darwinist" as Gould keep getting himself in trouble by contributing to the public misconception that Darwinism is dead? There is no more committed or brilliant adaptationist than John Maynard Smith, but here I think we see the master napping: he doesn't ask himself this "why" question. After I began to notice that many of the most important contributions to evolutionary theory have been made by thinkers who were fundamentally ill-at-ease with Darwin's great insight, I could begin to take seriously the hypothesis that Gould himself is one of these." (Dennett, D.C., "Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life," , Penguin: London, 1996, reprint, pp.266-267) 13/11/2006 "`THERE is a grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the creator into a few forms or into one: and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed laws of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.' When one considers the agnosticism of his autobiography and his notebooks, these words of Darwin's, the closing words of the Origin of Species, can only be seen as a sop to the Cerberus of orthodoxy. The origin of life was, in Darwin's day, inaccessible to scientific study-so why not credit it to the Creator? Today the problem of the origin of life, although far from being solved, is being actively studied, both experimentally and theoretically; we can no longer leave things to the breath of the Creator." (Maynard Smith, J., ed., "Evolution Now: A Century After Darwin," , W.H. Freeman & Co: San Francisco CA, 1983, reprint, p.7) 13/11/2006 "It turns out that although Darwin did not think seriously about the problem, his theory of evolution provides us with the only satisfactory definition of 'life', and hence with the only clear way of formulating the problem of its origins. Entities which have the properties of multiplication, variation and heredity are alive, and those which lack one or more of those properties are not. This definition is not arbitrary, because once entities arise which have these properties, populations of such entities will evolve by natural selection, and will acquire the other features of wholeness, self-maintenance, complexity, adaptation to the environment, and so on, which are associated with living organisms. According to this definition, the RNA molecules which evolved in test tubes, as described in the paper by Eigen et al., were alive: they had heredity, multiplication and variation, and consequently they evolved adaptations to the environment of the test tube. However, these experiments do not solve the problem of the origin of life, because it was necessary to supply a complex enzyme, Qß replicase, which could not have been present in the primitive oceans: the molecules could only evolve in an environment which was informationally more complex than themselves." (Maynard Smith, J., ed., "Evolution Now: A Century After Darwin," , W.H. Freeman & Co: San Francisco CA, 1983, reprint, pp.6-7) 13/11/2006 "Pandas are peculiar bears, which spend much of their days munching bamboo. To do this, they strip off the bamboo leaves by passing the stalks between their flexible thumb and the remaining fingers. But how can a panda have an opposable thumb, when in bears the thumb lies parallel to the fingers, and inseparable from them? In fact, the panda does not have a proper thumb at all: it has five parallel digits just like other bears. The apparent `thumb' is a modification and extension of a small bone in the wrist. For Stephen Gould, this is a particular and fascinating fact, but it is also an illustration of a general principle. The principle is that evolution proceeds by tinkering with what is already there, and not by following the canons of optimal design. Had the panda been designed by the Great Artificer, He would not have been constrained to make its hand by modifying the hand of a bear and would doubtless have come up with a more elegant, if less entertaining solution to the problem of stripping bamboo." (Maynard Smith, J., "Did Darwin Get it Right?: Essays on Games, Sex and Evolution," , Penguin: London, 1993, p.93) 13/11/2006 "It is a striking fact that, although Darwin and Wallace arrived independently at the idea of evolution by natural selection, Wallace never followed Darwin in taking the further step of asserting that the human mind was also a product of evolution. Gould has an interesting explanation of this difference. It arose, he suggests, because Wallace had a too simplistic view of selection, according to which every feature of every organism is the product of selection, whereas Darwin was more flexible, and recognised that many characteristics are historical accidents or the unselected corollaries of something that has been selected. Now there are features of the human mind which it is hard to explain as the products of natural selection: few people have had more children because they could solve differential equations or play chess blindfold. Wallace, therefore, was driven to the view that the human mind required some different kind of explanation, whereas Darwin found no difficulty in thinking that a mind which evolved because it could cope with the complexity of life in primitive human societies would show unpredictable and unselected properties." (Maynard Smith, J., "Did Darwin Get it Right?: Essays on Games, Sex and Evolution," , Penguin: London, 1993, pp.94-95) 13/11/2006 "Darwin, as soon as he had become convinced that evolution had occurred, and before he had conceived of the theory of natural selection, opened a note book concerned with questions of psychology and metaphysics. The only explanation of this is that he felt at once that his theory must apply to man, and knew that this required that he develop a materialist theory of psychology. I do not know why Darwin so readily made the extension to man (although it was characteristic of him to push ideas to their conclusions), but I do not think it could have had anything to do with his views on selection, which had hardly been formulated at the time." (Maynard Smith, J., "Did Darwin Get it Right?: Essays on Games, Sex and Evolution," , Penguin: London, 1993, p.95) 13/11/2006 "I hope it will be obvious that my wish to argue with Gould is a compliment, not a criticism. Popular science should reflect science as it is practised: this means that it should reflect controversy and uncertainty. Anyone familiar with current debates in evolutionary biology will have noticed that my disagreements about Wallace and about Quahogs reflect a disagreement between Gould and myself about evolutionary theory. ... Gould's idiosyncracies are a passion for the quirks of history, and a conviction that a man's science is part of his humanity, and not infrequently influenced by his political, sexual and racial prejudices. He also holds sadly misguided views about the mechanisms of evolution, and fails to share my prejudice that an ounce of algebra is worth a ton of words. These views, whether or not I share them, are an essential ingredient of his success as a writer." (Maynard Smith, J., "Did Darwin Get it Right?: Essays on Games, Sex and Evolution," , Penguin: London, 1993, pp.96-97) 14/11/2006 "However, there is evidence on every hand that the conflict seems to be disappearing. There are a great number of biologists who at least tentatively believe in evolution, but who nevertheless are active members of Christian churches and find no problem at all. The general attitude is that even if evolution were proved to be true, instead of making God unnecessary, it would merely show that this was the method God used." (Jauncey, J.H.*, "Science Returns to God," , Zondervan: Grand Rapids MI, 1962, Second Printing, p.20) 14/11/2006 "Johnson, however, glimpsed something that others had missed. To borrow a metaphor from biological classification, we can say that Johnson discovered the popular taxonomy of theories of origins was wrong. In that classification those who accepted creation held the view of six-day special creation and a young earth, while others accepted `evolution,' a 4.5 billion-year-old earth and an even older universe. ... But Johnson's analysis in Darwin on Trial begins by jettisoning this familiar polarity. Setting aside the usual diagnostic markers, Johnson dissects creation and evolution by first inspecting what might be called their epistemological anatomy. ` `Evolution' contradicts `creation,' ` he wrote, `only when it is explicitly or tacitly defined as fully naturalistic evolution-meaning evolution that is not directed by any purposeful intelligence.' [Johnson, P.E., "Darwin on Trial," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, Second Edition, 1993, p.4] The fundamental differences between the two theories, Johnson argued, did not stem from any particular historical narrative but rather from what kinds of causes would be allowed in scientific explanation and what would count as evidence. Epistemology-namely, what can be known empirically, and what counts as a scientific explanation-is what truly cuts the origins issue at its joints. At first glance this analysis seems to get it all wrong. Theistic evolutionists-those who accept a 4.5 billionyear-old earth and relatedness of all organisms in a tree of life (through divine purpose)-are sorted into the same group as young-earth creationists, with whom they appear to share only the theological premise of `divine purpose.' But Johnson presses on: `Persons who believe that the earth is billions of years old, and that simple forms of life evolved gradually to become more complex forms including humans, are `creationists' if they believe that a supernatural Creator not only initiated this process but in some meaningful sense controls it in furtherance of a purpose. As we shall see, `evolution' (in contemporary scientific usage) excludes not just creation-science but creationism in the broad sense. [Ibid.] ... The consequences of this reframing of the origins controversy, from a choice between two very different narratives to the question of which epistemology science should adopt, are still unfolding. But already, many years after Darwin on Trial, Johnson's approach has revolutionized the debate. ... This was one of Phillip Johnson's key insights, and it stemmed from his discovery that naturalism-that is, not the detailed narrative of evolution, but its underlying epistemology-had become the strongest commitment of modern science since Darwin's time. The evolutionary narrative changed from one year to the next, sometimes wildly so, depending on the latest discoveries or academic fashions; the naturalistic commitment was a constant, so deep that in most cases it was entirely tacit." (Ross, M. & Nelson, P., "A Taxonomy of Teleology," in Dembski, W.A., ed., "Darwin's Nemesis: Phillip Johnson and the Intelligent Design Movement," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 2000, pp.262-264. Emphasis original) 14/11/2006 "I cannot end without commenting on one other aspect of the conflict between the symbolic and the random. One cannot spend a lifetime working on evolution theory without becoming aware that most people who do not work in the field, and some who do, have a strong wish to believe that the Darwinian theory is false. This was most recently brought home to me when my friend Stephen Gould, who is as convinced a Darwinist as I am, found himself the occasion of an editorial in the Guardian announcing the death of Darwinism, followed by an extensive correspondence on the same theme, merely because he had pointed out some difficulties the theory still faces. " (Maynard Smith, J., "Did Darwin Get it Right?: Essays on Games, Sex and Evolution," , Penguin: London, 1993, pp.20-21) 14/11/2006 "This brings me to what I see as the greatest impact that palaeontology is having on the way we see the mechanisms of evolution. We have been familiar for a long time with the dramatic disappearance of the Dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous. It is now apparent that massive extinctions, involving many different taxa, have been a repeated feature of evolution. ... In addition to the problem of their causation ... these extinctions raise questions for evolutionary biologists. Is it possible that evolutionary change would slow down and stop in the absence of changes in the physical environment? As Manfred Eigen has pointed out, the simplest evolving systems (populations of RNA molecules in test tubes) reach a global optimum and then stop. Are extinctions, then, a necessary motive force of evolution? A second question concerns the relation between extinction and radiation. Ecologists tend to see nature as dominated by competition. They would therefore expect the extinction of one species, or group of species, to be caused by competition from another taxon. Most palaeontologists read the fossil record differently. The Dinosaurs, they believe, became extinct for reasons that had little to do with competition from the mammals. Only subsequently did the mammals, which had been around for as long as the Dinosaurs, radiate to fill the empty space. The same general pattern, they think, has held for other major taxonomic replacements. Not all palaeontologists would agree, but I think this is the majority view. I find it surprising: I would have expected a major cause of extinction to be competition from other taxa." (Maynard Smith, J., "Did Darwin Get it Right?: Essays on Games, Sex and Evolution," , Penguin: London, 1993, pp.129-130) 14/11/2006 "Evolutionary biologists are arguing about many things - how and why sex evolved, whether some DNA is `selfish', how eukaryotes arose, why some animals live socially, and so on. These problems are, in the main, debated within the shared assumptions of `neo-Darwinism' or `the modern synthesis'. Recently, however, a group of palaeontologists, of whom Gould, Eldredge and Stanley have been the most prominent, have announced that the modern synthesis is soon to be swept away, to be replaced by the new paradigm of stasis and punctuation. In science, a theory is not abandoned unless an alternative theory already exists, ready to replace it. My object in this essay is to identify this alternative, and to explain why I do not find it particularly persuasive." (Maynard Smith, J., "Did Darwin Get it Right?: Essays on Games, Sex and Evolution," , Penguin: London, 1993, p.131) 14/11/2006 "The punctuationist position consists of a minor and a major claim. The minor claim is that the typical pattern of the evolution of species, as revealed by the fossil record, is one of long periods of stasis during which little significant change occurs, interrupted by brief periods of rapid change associated with the splitting of species into two. The major claim is that it is a consequence of this observation, together with a study of development, that the large-scale features of evolution are not the result of the accumulation of changes occurring in populations because of natural selection, together with the processes of speciation as understood by the proponents of the modern synthesis. In brief, macroevolution can be uncoupled from micro-evolution." (Maynard Smith, J., "Did Darwin Get it Right?: Essays on Games, Sex and Evolution," , Penguin: London, 1993, pp.131-132) 15/11/2006 "It is hard to be a revolutionary if the establishment keeps co-opting you. Gould has often complained that his target, neo-Darwinism, recognizes the very exceptions he wants to turn into objections, "and this imposes a great frustration upon anyone who would characterize the modern synthesis in order to criticize it" (Gould, 1980b, p. 130). [Gould, S.J., "Is a new and general theory of evolution emerging?", Paleobiology, Vol. 6, No. 1, January 1980, pp.119-130, p.120] The modern synthesis has sometimes been so broadly construed, usually by defenders who wish to see it as fully adequate to meet and encompass , current critiques, that it loses all meaning by including everything.... Stebbins and Ayala [two eminent defenders] have tried to win an argument by redefinition. The essence of the modern synthesis must be its Darwinian core. [Gould 1982a, p. 382.] [Gould, S.J., "Darwinism and the Expansion of Evolutionary Theory," Science, Vol. 216, 23 April 1982, pp.380-87, p.382] It is surprising to see a Darwinian give anything an essence, but we can take Gould's point, if not his language: there is something about the modern synthesis that he wants to overthrow, and before you can overthrow something you must pin it down. He has sometimes claimed (e.g., 1983a [Gould, S.J., "The Hardening of the Modern Synthesis," in Grene, M., ed., "Dimensions of Darwinism,"Cambridge University Press. Cambridge, pp. 71-93]) he could see the modern synthesis doing his work for him, "hardening" into a brittle orthodoxy that would be easier to attack. If only! In fact, no sooner has he gone into battle than the modern synthesis has shown its flexibility, readily absorbing his punches, to his frustration. I think he is right; however, that the modern synthesis has a "Darwinian core," and I think he is right that it is his target; he just hasn't yet put his finger on it himself." (Dennett, D.C., "Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life," , Penguin: London, 1996, reprint, p.281) 15/11/2006 "Darwin's critical theory of functional shift, usually (and most unfortunately) called the principle of `preadaptation,' has been with us for a century. I believe that this principle has made so little headway not only because the basic formulation seems paradoxical and difficult, but mainly because we have so little firm, direct evidence for such functional shifts. Our technical literature contains many facile verbal argumentslittle more than plausible `just-so' stories. The fossil record also presents some excellent examples of sequential development through intermediary stages that could not work as modern organs do-but we lack a rigorous mechanical analysis of function at the various stages. ... This dreadful name has made a difficult principle even harder to grasp and understand. Preadaptation seems to imply that the protowing, while doing something else in its incipient stages, knew where it was going-predestined for a later conversion to flight. Textbooks usually introduce the word and then quickly disclaim any odor of foreordination. (But a name is obviously ill-chosen if it cannot be used without denying its literal meaning.) Of course, by `preadaptation' we only mean that some structures are fortuitously suited to other roles if elaborated, not that they arise with a different future use in view-now there I go with the standard disclaimer. As another important limitation, preadaptation does not cover the important class of features that arise without functions (as developmental consequences of other primary adaptations, for example) but remain available for later co- optation. I suspect, for example, that many important functions of the human brain are coopted consequences of building such a large computer for a limited set of adaptive uses. For these reasons, Elizabeth Vrba and I have proposed that the restrictive and confusing word `preadaptation' be dropped in favor of the more inclusive term `exaptation'-for any organ not evolved under natural selection for its current use-either because it performed a different function in ancestors (classical preadaptation) or because it represented a nonfunctional part available for later co-optation. See our technical article, `Exaptation: A Missing Term in the Science of Form,' Palaeobiology, 1981.'" (Gould, S.J., "Not Necessarily a Wing," in "Bully for Brontosaurus: Further Reflections in Natural History," , Penguin: London, 1992, reprint, p.144) 15/11/2006 "The modern synthesis has sometimes been so broadly construed, usually by defenders who wish to see it as fully adequate to meet and encompass current critiques, that it loses all meaning by including everything. If, as Stebbins and Ayala claim, `'selectionist' and 'neutralist' views of molecular evolution are competing hypotheses within the framework of the synthetic theory of evolution' [Stebbins, G.L. & Ayala, F.J., "Is a New Evolutionary Synthesis Necessary?," Science, Vol. 213, 28 August 1981, pp.967-971, p.967] then what serious views are excluded? King and Jukes, authors of the neutralist theory, named it `non-Darwinian evolution' in the title of their famous paper [King, J.L. & Jukes, T.H., "Non-Darwinian Evolution," Science, Vol. 164, 16 May 1969, p.788]. Stebbins and Ayala have tried to win an argument by redefinition. The essence of the modern synthesis must be its Darwinian core. If most evolutionary change is neutral, the synthesis is severely compromised." (Gould, S.J., "Darwinism and the Expansion of Evolutionary Theory," Science, Vol. 216, 23 April 1982, pp.380-87, p.382) 15/11/2006 "Ironically, however, Darwin put just one diagram in Origin, and it happens to show steadily sloping ramps. Steven Stanley, another major exponent of punctuated equilibrium, reprints this diagram in his book (Stanley [, S.M., "The New Evolutionary Timetable," Basic Books: New York,] 1981, p. 36) and makes the inference explicit in his caption. One effect of such claims is that today there is undoubtedly a tradition imputing constant speedism either to Darwin himself or to neo-Darwinian orthodoxy. For instance, Colin Tudge, a good science journalist, writing about Elizabeth Vrba's recent claims concerning the pulse of evolution, points to the presumed implications for orthodoxy of current research on the evolution of impalas and leopards: `Traditional Darwinism would predict a steady modification of the impala over 3 million years, even without climatic change, because it still needs to outrun leopards. But, in fact, neither impalas nor leopards have changed very much. They are both too versatile to be worried by climatic change, and competition between them and with their own kind does not-as Darwin supposed-provide sufficient selective pressure to cause them to alter.' [Tudge, C., "Taking the pulse of evolution," New Scientist, 24 July 1993, p.35] Tudge's presumption that the discovery of three million years of stasis in the impala and leopard would confound Darwin is a familiar one, but it is an artifact, direct or indirect, of a particular forced reading of the `ramps' in Darwin's (and other orthodox) diagrams. Gould has proclaimed the death of gradualism, but is he himself, then, a gradualist (but not a constant speedist) after all? His denial that his theory proposes any `violent mechanism' suggests that he is, but it is hard to tell. for on the very same page he says that, according to the theory of punctuated equilibrium, `change does not usually occur by imperceptibly gradual alteration of entire species but rather [emphasis added] by isolation of small populations and their geologically instantaneous transformation into new species.' [Gould 1992a, ["The Confusion over Evolution." New York Review of Books, November 19, pp. 47-54] p.12.] this passage invites us to believe that evolutionary change could not be both `geologically instantaneous' and `imperceptibly gradual' at the same time But that is just what evolutionary change must be when there are no saltations." (Dennett, D.C., "Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life," , Penguin: London, 1996, reprint, pp.290-291. Emphasis original) 15/11/2006 "This past Tuesday, Richard Dawkins spoke at DC's famous Politics & Prose bookstore, reading from his new book `The God Delusion.' One philosophically astute questioner, American Enterprise Institute's Joe Manzari, had the following exchange with Dr. Dawkins: Manzari: Dr. Dawkins thank you for your comments. The thing I have appreciated most about your comments is your consistency in the things I've seen you've written. One of the areas that I wanted to ask you about, and the place where I think there is an inconsistency, and I hoped you would clarify, is that in what I've read you seem to take a position of a strong determinist who says that what we see around us is the product of physical laws playing themselves out; but on the other hand it would seem that you would do things like taking credit for writing this book and things like that. But it would seem, and this isn't to be funny, that the consistent position would be that necessarily the authoring of this book, from the initial conditions of the big bang, it was set that this would be the product of what we see today. I would take it that that would be the consistent position but I wanted to know what you thought about that. Dawkins: The philosophical question of determinism is a very difficult question. It's not one I discuss in this book, indeed in any other book that I've ever talked about. Now an extreme determinist, as the questioner says, might say that everything we do, everything we think, everything that we write has been determined from the beginning of time in which case the very idea of taking credit for anything doesn't seem to make any sense. Now I don't actually know what I actually think about that, I haven't taken up a position about that, it's not part of my remit to talk about the philosophical issue of determinism. What I do know is that what it feels like to me, and I think to all of us, we don't feel determined. We feel like blaming people for what they do or giving people the credit for what they do. We feel like admiring people for what they do. None of us ever actually as a matter of fact says, `Oh well he couldn't help doing it, he was determined by his molecules.' Maybe we should I sometimes Um You probably remember many of you would have seen Fawlty Towers. The episode where Basil where his car won't start and he gives it fair warning, counts up to three, and then gets out of the car and picks up a tree branch and thrashes it within an edge of his life. Maybe that's what we all ought to... Maybe the way we laugh at Basil Fawlty, we ought to laugh in the same way at people who blame humans. I mean when we punish people for doing the most horrible murders, maybe the attitude we should take is `Oh they were just determined by their molecules.' It's stupid to punish them. What we should do is say `This unit has a faulty motherboard which needs to be replaced.' I can't bring myself to do that. I actually do respond in an emotional way and I blame people, I give people credit, or I might be more charitable and say this individual who has committed murders or child abuse of whatever it is was really abused in his own childhood. And so again I might take a Manzari: But do you personally see that as an inconsistency in your views? Dawkins: I sort of do. Yes. But it is an inconsistency that we sort of have to live with otherwise life would be intolerable. But it has nothing to do with my views on religion it is an entirely separate issue. Manzari: Thank you." (Dawkins, R. & Manzari, J., in Gage, L., "Who wrote Richard Dawkins's new book?," Evolution News & Views,October 28, 2006) 16/11/2006 "Exhibit F: The crystal halos that arise from radioactive Polonium (218Po) decay indicate that the earth is young. Polonium-218 is a radioactive isotope with a half-life 38 of only three minutes. Yet granite crystal `halos' (ring-shaped configurations in the crystals) apparently produced by polonium-218 decay show up in what seem to be `basement,' or primordial, rock deposits. If these halos arise from primordial polonium decay, how did the surrounding rocks crystallize so rapidly? Young-earth creationist Robert Gentry, among others, claims geologists are wrong in their understanding of the processes shaping Earth's crust shortly after its formation. He proposes that God imposed Earth's geological structures instantaneously. If He did this for all structures, then perhaps geological measurements do not prove Earth is old. Reply: If the granite crystal halo evidence proves reliable, it simply indicates rapid formation of certain rocks, not the entire planet. Old-earth proponents freely acknowledge that some geological processes occur rap idly. Asteroid collisions, volcanic eruptions, and extraterrestrial radiation bursts, for example, cause sudden geologic effects, and these events occurred much more frequently in Earth's past than they do today. Gentry remains vague about where he obtained his granite crystal samples. However, phone conversations with Gentry helped geologist Jeffrey Wakefield pinpoint each of the sample sites. Wakefield then visited each location, accompanied by Gentry at one site. Wakefield discovered that Gentry's samples came not from primordial granite, as claimed, but rather from young `dikes' (igneous rock infusions into vertical fissures) that crosscut older igneous and sedimentary rocks. These dikes would have formed much more rapidly (though probably not rapidly enough to explain polonium-218 halos) than the primordial granite. Even if Gentry's granite crystal halos do result from polonium-218 decay (a possibility most geologists question), Gentry has merely exposed a phenomenon that requires further study, a phenomenon that geologists' current understanding does not explain. He has not proven that polonium-218 decay in rocks is a `miracle,' a phenomenon outside the laws of physics. Further, Gentry focuses on only one kind of halo. As young-earth creationists admit, polonium-218 halos in rocks occur very rarely. Far more common are uranium-238 and thorium-232 halos. These halos require long time periods to form (over 100 million years) since both have radiometric half-lives in the billions of years. Some young-earth creationist leaders admit that data on uranium-238 and thorium-232 halos really does appear to establish an old earth. They suggest, however, that radiometric decay rates may have been greatly accelerated during the 13-month Genesis Flood. The problem with this hypothesis is that such an acceleration would have destroyed all life on Earth and devastated both Earth and the universe.... Squeezing several billion years' worth of radiometric decay into the 13-month duration of the Genesis Flood would have generated a pulse of energy intense enough to destroy the ark and all its passengers. Either all of Earth's water would have turned to steam and its rocks into a molten mass and/or Earth's crustal plates would have been subjected to sudden movements many hundreds of miles in extent. No life would have survived. Not even a hint of such an event appears in Genesis. Astronomers see no evidence of this event. As they look back in time at the light from stars thousands of light-years away, they see no discontinuity in radiometric isotope abundances. Further, the hypothesis cannot explain why radiometric decay measurements show Earth to be only one-third the age of the universe. If God miraculously accelerated radiometric decay during the Genesis Flood, the same number of billions of years would have been added to the apparent age of all bodies in the universe. If, then, Earth and the universe are only thousands of years old, and hyperaccelerated radiometric decay took place during the Genesis Flood, no object in the universe would measure as significantly older than Earth." (Ross, H.N.*, "A Matter of Days: Resolving a Creation Controversy," NavPress: Colorado Springs CO, 2004, pp.194-195. Emphasis original) 16/11/2006 "Did you know that scientific evidence abounds to support the biblical accounts of creation and the flood? Were you aware that reports outlining this evidence passed peer review, and were published in the open scientific literature? Have you heard that, decades later, this evidence still stands unrefuted by the scientific community? An Overview Etched within Earth's foundation rocks - the granites - are beautiful microspheres of coloration, halos, produced by the radioactive decay of primordial polonium, which is known to have only a fleeting existence. The following simple analogy will show how these polonium microspheres - or halos - contradict the evolutionary belief that granites formed as hot magma slowly cooled over millions of years. To the contrary, this analogy demonstrates how these halos provide unambiguous evidence of both an almost instantaneous creation of granites and the young age of the earth. A speck of polonium in molten rock can be compared to an Alka- Seltzer dropped into a glass of water. The beginning of effervescence is equated to the moment that polonium atoms began to emit radiactive particles. In molten rock the traces of those radioactive particles would disappear as quickly as the Alka-Seltzer bubbles in water. But if the water were instantly frozen, the bubbles would be preserved. Likewise, polonium halos could have formed only if the rapidly "effervescing" specks of polonium had been instantly encased in solid rock. An exceedingly large number of polonium halos are embedded in granites around the world. Just as frozen Alka-Seltzer bubbles would be clear evidence of the quick-freezing of the water, so are these many polonium halos undeniable evidence that a sea of primordial matter quickly "froze" into solid granite. The occurrence of these polonium halos, then, distinctly implies that our earth was formed in a very short time, in complete harmony with the biblical record of creation." (Gentry, R.V.*, "Fingerprints of Creation: Polonium Halos: Unrefuted Evidence for Earth's Instant Creation!," Earth Science Associates, 2005) 16/11/2006 "Radiohalos are microscopic, spherical shells of discoloration in rocks, such as granite, or wood caused by the inclusion of radioactive grains in the rock or by deposition of radioactive material in them. The discoloration is caused by alpha particles emitted by the nuclei; the radius of the concentric shells are proportional to the particle's energy. They have been studied in detail by geologists since the early 1970s, but wider interest was prompted by the claims of creationist Robert V. Gentry that radiohalos in biotite are evidence for a young earth. The claims are contested by the mainstream scientific community as an example of creationist pseudoscience. ... The final characteristics of the radiohalos occur depend upon the initial isotope. The U-234 and Ra-226 rings coincide, with the Th-230 ring merely thickening it, so it is hard to tell which one of those isotopes started the halo, but it is easy to tell a polonium halo from a uranium halo. A radiohalo formed from U-238 has eight concentric rings while a radiohalo formed from Po-210 only has one. ... Robert V. Gentry studied these halos and concluded that the rock must have formed within three minutes if the halo was formed by Po-218. This is taken by creationists as evidence that the earth was formed instantaneously. Critics of Gentry have pointed out that Po- 218 is a decay product of radon, which as a gas can be given off by a grain of uranium in one part of the rock and collected in another part of the rock to form a uraniumless halo. Gentry's examples rely on a radon ring that is close to the Po-210 ring and it is a bit difficult to tell them apart, and it is not certain whether the rings can be positively associated with polonium." ("Radiohalo," Wikipedia. ) 17/11/2006 "YOUNG-EARTH DARWINISM ... Young-earth creationist leaders' views on the Fall (Adam and Eve's original sin) and on the Genesis Flood drive them-knowingly or not-into the surprising corner of belief in ultraefficient biological evolution. Since the first chapter of Genesis (supported by other Bible passages) says that after the sixth creation day God ceased to introduce new life-forms on Earth, young-earth creationists need an explanation for the huge number of new species of animals they say appeared suddenly, after the Fall, and proliferated again in the short span since the Flood of Noah's day. How did these creatures get here, since God didn't create them? According to young-earth teaching, animals ate only plants until the moment Adam and Eve rebelled against God's authority ... Carnivorous activity (considered evil because it involves animal death), they assumed, would have been one of the consequences of human sin. Based on this perspective, all meat-eating creatures alive now and evident in the fossil record must have evolved rapidly (in several hundred years or less) from the plant-eating creatures God made during the creation week. And since God is no longer `creating,' they must have evolved strictly by natural processes. A young-earth interpretation of the Genesis Flood exacerbates this speculated speciation problem. According to this interpretation, a global deluge wiped out all land-dwelling, air-breathing life on Earth, except those pairs on board Noah's ark, and all Earth's fossils and geological features resulted from this one relatively recent cataclysmic event. Even if all the animals aboard Noah's boat hibernated and did not drink or urinate for the duration and recession of the Flood, the ark's maximum carrying capacity (by young-earth leaders' estimates) would have been about 30,000 pairs of land animals. However, the fossil record documents the existence of a half billion species or more. At least 5 million species are alive on Earth today, and at least 7 million lived in the era immediately after the Flood, as young-earth interpreters date it. The speciation problem intensifies from that point. Shortly after the Flood, according to a young-earth perspective, many or most of the 30,000 species on board-dinosaurs, trilobites [sic], and others-went extinct. So the remaining few thousand species must have evolved by extremely rapid, hyperefficient natural processes into millions of species. This efficiency of natural speciation exceeds by many orders of magnitude the most optimistic Darwinist estimate ever proposed." (Ross, H.N.*, "A Matter of Days: Resolving a Creation Controversy," NavPress: Colorado Springs CO, 2004, pp.121-123. Emphasis original) 18/11/2006 "LONG before having arrived at this part of my work, a crowd of difficulties will have occurred to the reader. Some of them are so grave that to this day I can never reflect on them without being staggered; but, to the best of my judgment, the greater number are only apparent, and those that are real are not, I think, fatal to my theory." (Darwin, C.R., "The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection: Or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life," , Penguin: London, First edition, 1985, reprint, p.205. Emphasis original) 19/11/2006 "Four out of 10 people in the UK think that religious alternatives to Darwin's theory of evolution should be taught as science in schools, according to a BBC poll. ... When asked what should be taught in science classes, 69% said evolution, 44% said creationism and 41% said ID. When given the option of three explanations of the origin of life, 48% of the 2,112 adults polled by Ipsos Mori between January 5 and 10 opted for evolution without God, 22% chose creationism and 17% chose ID. The Oxford University evolutionist Professor Richard Dawkins dismissed the results as `of very little interest'. `If somebody professes disbelief in evolution, it is highly probable that they know nothing about it," he added. "These ignorant people would probably welcome enlightenment. It is up to scientists to get out of their labs, from time to time, and enlighten.'" (Randerson, J., "Four out of 10 say science classes should include intelligent design," The Guardian, January 26, 2006) 21/11/2006 "My purpose here is not to take sides between Dawkins and Gould. Indeed, I would say that these two eminent Darwinists were dealing with different subjects, although both called the subject `evolution.' Gould was writing about the changes that scientists actually observe, either in the living world of today or in the fossil record of the past. Their observations do include instances of Darwinian evolution by natural selection, but they observe it only at the relatively modest level of the finch-beak example. In biochemistry laboratories they observe molecules accumulating variations by chance, with natural selection so rarely a factor of importance that a `neutral theory of molecular evolution' has taken center stage. In the fossil record, paleontologists observe mass extinctions and the subsequent sudden appearance of new kinds of organisms. They do not observe new organs like bat wings in the process of gradual formation, and they do not observe one kind of organism changing into something fundamentally different through a step-by-step process." (Johnson, P.E.*, "Reason in the Balance: The Case Against Naturalism in Science, Law, and Education," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 1995, p.86) 21/11/2006 "If the fossil record is a reliable guide, `evolution' seems to be a process in which new forms of life appeared abruptly, remained fundamentally unchanged throughout their tenure on the earth and then often became extinct-not because they were gradually supplanted by improved descendants, but because they were in the wrong ecological niche at the time of a mass extinction. That is evolution Gould-style. Because it is derived primarily from observation, rather than the more abstract theoretical need to account for complex adaptations, I call it `empirical evolution' to distinguish it from `blind watchmaker evolution.' The advantage of empirical evolution is that it squares pretty well with observations. The disadvantage is that it does not explain the main point that a theory of evolution needs to explain which is the origin of adaptive complexity. Living organisms are packed with complex parts that have to work together, and the genetic information required to keep those parts working properly to serve the needs of the organism must be enormous. Where did it come from? To stick with Dawkins's chosen example, how did the bat get its wings, or its echolocation (bat sonar) system, or its breathing apparatus, or any of the myriad other complex things that bats need to have? Extinctions might clear the way for surviving organisms to occupy new environmental niches, but extinction events only kill, they do not create. Neutral evolution by definition does not explain the growth of adaptive complexity. If adaptive complexity is to be explained at all, it must be by a model like that provided by Dawkins. Gould can discard that model only at the cost of leaving adaptive complexity unexplained. Probably that is why Gould is evasive about whether he is rejecting the Dawkins model or merely supplementing it with other kinds of evolution." (Johnson, P.E.*, "Reason in the Balance: The Case Against Naturalism in Science, Law, and Education," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 1995, pp.86-87) 24/11/2006 "Regarding the first question, recent reports of bodies circling other stars confirm the suspicion that planets probably are common in the universe. The evidence is indirect but quite robust, and we can now guess that a billion trillion families of planets - give or take a few powers of 10-exist within the universe. The book then turns to the question of life's origin: What is the probability that life has arisen out of inanimate matter on the trillions of these inferred planets? Opinions diverge widely. Dick cites an estimate by physicist Harold Morowitz that the probability of creating a bacterium - the simplest living organism through random molecular collisions is 1 in 10100,000,000,000. Fred Hoyle raises this chance to a more optimistic 1 in 1040,000. Biochemist Robert Shapiro estimates. that the probability of chance formation of a short strand of self-replicating RNA is considerably greater - as `large' as 1 in 10992. All these numbers are so small that, even when multiplied by the vast number of planets probably present in the universe, they force us to conclude that the Earth must be the only planet, bearing life." (Jastrow, R., "What Are the Chances for Life?" Review of The Biological Universe by Steven J. Dick, Cambridge University Press, 1996. Sky & Telescope, Vol. 93, No.6, June 1997, pp.62-63, p.62). 24/11/2006 "But some astronomers argue that astrophysical findings on the cosmic distribution of the elements suggest a very different answer. They base their conclusion on the aptly named Principle of Mediocrity: The Earth is an ordinary planet made of common materials that must be found in many solar systems. Why Would the Earth alone - an undistinguished body among trillions of similar ones chosen by nature or the deity as the only planet on whose soil the seeds of life have taken root? They conclude that many - perhaps nearly all - Earth-like planets circling Sun-like stars bear life." (Jastrow, R., "What Are the Chances for Life?" Review of The Biological Universe by Steven J. Dick, Cambridge University Press, 1996. Sky & Telescope, Vol. 93, No.6, June 1997, pp.62-63, pp.62-63). 24/11/2006 "What, then, can science say about the probability of life arising on other planets? Apparently not much, since scientific estimates of the number of inhabited planets vary from one (the Earth) to trillions. Now we see why the recently reported and still-tentative evidence for fossilized life on Mars is so important. The fact that life appeared on our planet does not tell us whether this event is rare or commonplace; a probability cannot be estimated on the basis of a sample size of one. However, if independently evolved life or the remains of life are indeed found on Mars, we will know immediately that the creation of life out of nonlife is not an event of vanishingly low probability. If it were, we would certainty not find two of these very rare objects - a planet on which life has evolved - in one solar system. Confirmation of the Mars report will demonstrate that the universe is teeming with life." (Jastrow, R., "What Are the Chances for Life?" Review of The Biological Universe by Steven J. Dick, Cambridge University Press, 1996. Sky & Telescope, Vol. 93, No.6, June 1997, pp.62-63, p.63). 24/11/2006 "Particularly intriguing are the discussions of the probable consequences of contact with intelligent extraterrestrials. Most thinking on this subject assumes implicitly that ET's have roughly a human level of intelligence, but perhaps we should expect something quite different. Astronomy sets the age of the universe at roughly 10 to 15 billion years, and planetary science sets the age of the solar system at 4.6 billion years. These two numbers tell us that somewhat more than half the intelligent beings in the universe are a billion or more years older than we are. Presumably they are correspondingly more evolved than Homo sapiens What is the significance of a separation of a billion years of evolution? A hint of the answer comes from the fossil record, which reveals that a billion years ago the highest forms of life on Earth were wormlike creatures. What stands in relation to humans as we stand in relation to the worm? The human imagination fails in its attempt to grapple with this question." (Jastrow, R., "What Are the Chances for Life?" Review of The Biological Universe by Steven J. Dick, Cambridge University Press, 1996. Sky & Telescope, Vol. 93, No.6, June 1997, pp.62-63, p.63). 24/11/2006 "And while many people look forward with pleasurable anticipation to contact with these presumably marvelous creatures, experience suggests that the outcome may not be pleasant at all .... On this planet, contact between scientifically advanced civilizations and a primitive society - and `primitive' is the description we must apply to humans as they prepare to join the older residents of the cosmic community - typically results in the destruction of the less-developed culture. Regardless of whether the intent of the technically advanced civilization is destructive or benign. the powerful forces at its command tear apart the fabric of the primitive society. Such was the fate of early Native Americans, Australian aborigines, and Polynesians. These have been the consequences of contact between two civilizations separated by only some tens of thousands of years of cultural evolution. What may be expected of a meeting between civilizations separated by a billion years? Will we survive the encounter? I see no grounds for optimism." (Jastrow, R., "What Are the Chances for Life?" Review of The Biological Universe by Steven J. Dick, Cambridge University Press, 1996. Sky & Telescope, Vol. 93, No.6, June 1997, pp.62-63, p.63). 24/11/2006 "In the last few decades, a growing number of astronomers have promulgated the view that alien civilizations are likely to be scattered among the stars like grains of sand, isolated from one another by the emptiness of interstellar space. Just for Earth's own galaxy, the Milky Way, experts have estimated that there might be up to one million advanced societies. This extraterrestrial credo has fueled not only countless books, movies and television shows -- not to mention hosts of Klingons, Wookies and Romulans -- but a long scientific hunt that uses huge dish antennas to scan the sky for faint radio signals from intelligent aliens. Now, two prominent scientists say the conventional wisdom is wrong. The alien search, they add, is likely to fail. Drawing on new findings in astronomy, geology and paleontology, the two argue that humans might be alone, at least in the stellar neighborhood, and perhaps in the entire cosmos. They say modern science is showing that Earth's composition and stability are extraordinarily rare. Most everywhere else, the radiation levels are too high, the right chemical elements too rare in abundance, the hospitable planets too few in number and the rain of killer rocks too intense for life ever to have evolved into advanced communities. Alien microbes may survive in many places as a kind of cosmic shower scum, they say, but not extraterrestrials civilized enough to be awash in technology. Their book, "Rare Earth" (Springer-Verlag), out last month, is producing whoops of criticism and praise, with some detractors saying that the authors have made their own simplistic assumptions about the adaptability of life forms while others call it `brilliant' and `courageous.' `We have finally said out loud what so many have thought for so long -- that complex life, at least, is rare,' said Dr. Peter D. Ward of the University of Washington, a paleontologist who specializes in mass extinctions and whose previous works include "The Call of Distant Mammoths" (Springer-Verlag, 1997). `And to us, complex life may be a flatworm.' The book's other author is Dr. Donald C. Brownlee of the University of Washington, a noted astronomer, member of the National Academy of Sciences and chief scientist of NASA's $166 million Stardust mission to capture interplanetary and interstellar dust. `People say the Sun is a typical star,' he remarked in an interview. `That's not true.' Dr. Brownlee added: `Almost all environments in the universe are terrible for life. It's only Garden of Eden places like Earth where it can exist.'" (Broad, W.J., "Maybe We Are Alone in the Universe, After All," The New York Times, February 8, 2000) 25/11/2006 "First, our planet was ousted from the center of the universe, then our sun was found to be only one of many suns in an immense galaxy; next came the discovery that our galaxy is just one of countless stellar systems in the cosmos. Following upon these findings, one of the longstanding assumptions of modern science has been that, given the billions of stars in our galaxy and the billions of galaxies in the universe, there must be countless other planets out there teeming not just with life, but intelligent life at that. Human beings, on this assumption, would be nothing special. Carl Sagan once conjectured that, in our own humble galaxy alone, there must be a million civilizations of creatures intelligent enough for interstellar communication. This conjectured plurality of worlds and intelligent creatures seemed to threaten the central Christian doctrine of the Incarnation. If God himself is united to human nature in our world, how is he dealing with other intelligent creatures elsewhere in the cosmos? Does the Incarnation apply to them? ... Now along come Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee to upset scientific orthodoxy and reinvigorate us monotheists. Earth, they claim, is no run-of-the-mill planet. We are `not so ordinary as Western science has made us out to be .... Our global inferiority complex may be unwarranted.' Against the common view that we are all too common, they offer the rare-earth hypothesis - the paradox that life may be nearly everywhere in the universe, but complex life almost nowhere. By `complex,' they mean anything above the microbe. Furthermore, since the rarity increases as the complexity increases, `intelligent animal life must be rarer still.' Earth, then, is not ordinary at all; indeed, it is quite extraordinary, and even more exceptional is the existence of intelligent life. If the rare-earth hypothesis is right, human beings may be the most unlikely phenomenon in the universe. `If some god-like being could be given the opportunity to plan a sequence of events with the express goal of duplicating our 'Garden of Eden,' that power would face a formidable task,' declare Ward and Brownlee. `With the best intentions, but limited by natural laws and materials, it is unlikely that Earth could ever be truly replicated. Too many processes in its formation involved sheer luck . ... [T]he physical events that led to the formation and evolution of the physical Earth ... required an intricate set of nearly irreproducible circumstances.' How so? Well, if you want any kind of life on a planet, you've got to have a sun, and not just any sun will do. It has to be the right distance from the center of the galaxy. If it's too close to the star-dense center, it will likely be sterilized by a supernova, an exploding star. If it's too far away, it will be too poor in heavy elements, the building blocks of a habitable planet. Your sun will also have to have the just right mass; otherwise, the planets orbiting it will be too close or too far away to sustain life. For these and other reasons, Ward and Brownlee declare, our rare earth required a rare sun. Shall we add the presence of Jupiter? If you don't want your planet to be bombarded by comets and asteroids, you'd better have a `sweeper.' Because of its great mass, Jupiter cleans interstellar debris from our solar system. Without it, the Earth would likely be continually pummeled - and therefore lifeless. Let's also add that, if Jupiter were any closer to its sun, as other Jovian-type planets generally are, it would have crushed the Earth. Another happy accident! We have a glimpse of how rare the conditions surrounding our planet are, but the conditions of Earth itself are rarer still. According to the authors, getting life, microbial life, might be relatively easy. Therefore, such non-complex life may very well be abundant in the universe. But complex life is both difficult to attain and maintain. To begin with, you need an atmosphere, surface water and a constant but narrow range of temperature. Attaining and maintaining these require an immensely complex dance of factors - the right amount of initial carbon available, a molten core of the right elements and temperature, the presence of a sufficient magnetic field and other factors too numerous to mention. In addition, if you want to maintain the conditions of life over sufficiently long periods of time, say, multiple millions of years, you have to avoid all kinds of catastrophes all too common on other planets. Earth, unlike many other planets, has managed to escape such destruction. On top of all this, we, the Earth, actually have complex life, the existence of which is far, far more unlikely than the conditions which allow it. When we string together the list of all these improbable conditions and events, the authors claim, the probability of creating a planet with complex life approaches zero. The actual presence of Earth, given the extremely complex and interrelated conditions which allowed its birth and continuation, is near miraculous. Science, it would seem, is leaning back toward faith: We really may be the only rational animal in the universe after all. In regard to Christian theology, the most helpful thing about the arguments of Ward and Brownlee is that they are not trying to be helpful at all. They show no evidence of being Christian, or even being vaguely theistic, but argue from the perspective of evolutionary-based scientific materialism. No one can accuse them of stacking the deck in our favor. The cards are dealt by nature itself." (Wiker, B.D., " Billions of Planets, But Only One Earth." Review of "Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe," by Peter Ward and Donald C. Brownlee, Copernicus: New York, 2000. National Catholic Register, September 10-16, 2000) 25/11/2006 "In their final chapter, `Messengers from the Stars,' Ward and Brownlee try to put their hypothesis within a broader historical and philosophical context. They rightly note that the rare Earth hypothesis goes directly against the Copernican Principle. The Copernican Principle had its origin in the simple hypothesis put forth by Nicholas Copernicus that the structure of the solar system is heliocentric as opposed to geocentric. This physical understanding of the universe, in which the Earth is not the center of anything, has been extrapolated and inflated into a general metaphysical doctrine that asserts a complete lack of "specialness" for the Earth or its inhabitants. True, the physical form of the Copernican Principle has been proven true, as we have been moved into an average-looking place in the universe, but at the same time, Earth has been shown to be quite special in its ability to support living things. This first became evident in 1973 with the introduction of the Anthropic Principle into cosmological discussions by Brandon Carter, and it was reinforced by the publication of The Anthropic Cosmological Principle by John Barrow and Frank Tipler in 1986. Barrow and Tipler amassed a huge collection of examples from astrophysics and chemistry showing just how finely tuned many constants of nature have to be for us to exist. It appears the universe was designed with the goal of producing us. This is the central theme of the Anthropic Principle, and it goes directly against the philosophical form of the Copernican Principle. Surprisingly, most popular science writers and many professional astronomers have continued to interpret new discoveries in astronomy within the Copernican framework. For example, over the last four years many magazine articles and over half a dozen books have been written about the new extrasolar planet discoveries, all interpreting them as furthering the Copernican revolution. But any open-minded person looking at the new discoveries objectively will see that they demonstrate just the opposite-the solar system is far from typical. Ward and Brownlee are among the first secular scientists to admit to this obvious fact. Their hypothesis also goes directly against the religious dogma of the SETI Institute, which has enjoyed a love-fest with the public during the last decade or two. The movie Contact was a masterpiece of propaganda, which most of the public seems to have accepted. Even astronomers have been suckered into swallowing the SETI misinformation. Ward and Brownlee are to be thanked for going against such a powerful opinion-setting institution. Theirs is the first significant critique of the SETI position since Frank Tipler opined against SETI and openly criticized Carl Sagan in the early 1980s." (Gonzalez, G., "No Other Eden." Review of Rare Earth: Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe, by Peter D. Ward and Donald Brownlee, Copernicus: New York, 2000) 25/11/2006 "In recent months, a spate of atheist books have argued that religion represents, as `End of Faith' author Sam Harris puts it, `the most potent source of human conflict, past and present.' Columnist Robert Kuttner gives the familiar litany. `The Crusades slaughtered millions in the name of Jesus. The Inquisition brought the torture and murder of millions more. After Martin Luther, Christians did bloody battle with other Christians for another three centuries.' In his bestseller `The God Delusion,' Richard Dawkins contends that most of the world's recent conflicts in the Middle East, in the Balkans, in Northern Ireland, in Kashmir, and in Sri Lanka - show the vitality of religion's murderous impulse. The problem with this critique is that it exaggerates the crimes attributed to religion, while ignoring the greater crimes of secular fanaticism. The best example of religious persecution in America is the Salem witch trials. How many people were killed in those trials? Thousands? Hundreds? Actually, fewer than 25. Yet the event still haunts the liberal imagination. It is strange to witness the passion with which some secular figures rail against the misdeeds of the Crusaders and Inquisitors more than 500 years ago. The number sentenced to death by the Spanish Inquisition appears to be about 10,000. Some historians contend that an additional 100,000 died in jail due to malnutrition or illness. These figures are tragic, and of course population levels were much lower at the time. But even so, they are minuscule compared with the death tolls produced by the atheist despotisms of the 20th century. In the name of creating their version of a religion-free utopia, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Mao Zedong produced the kind of mass slaughter that no Inquisitor could possibly match. Collectively these atheist tyrants murdered more than 100 million people." (D'Souza, D., "Atheism, not religion, is the real force behind the mass murders of history," Christian Science Monitor, November 21, 2006) 25/11/2006 "Moreover, many of the conflicts that are counted as `religious wars' were not fought over religion. They were mainly fought over rival claims to territory and power. Can the wars between England and France be called religious wars because the English were Protestants and the French were Catholics? Hardly. The same is true today. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not, at its core, a religious one. It arises out of a dispute over self-determination and land. Hamas and the extreme orthodox parties in Israel may advance theological claims - `God gave us this land' and so forth - but the conflict would remain essentially the same even without these religious motives. Ethnic rivalry, not religion, is the source of the tension in Northern Ireland and the Balkans." (D'Souza, D., "Atheism, not religion, is the real force behind the mass murders of history," Christian Science Monitor, November 21, 2006) 25/11/2006 "Yet today's atheists insist on making religion the culprit. Consider Mr. Harris's analysis of the conflict in Sri Lanka. `While the motivations of the Tamil Tigers are not explicitly religious,' he informs us, `they are Hindus who undoubtedly believe many improbable things about the nature of life and death.' In other words, while the Tigers see themselves as combatants in a secular political struggle, Harris detects a religious motive because these people happen to be Hindu and surely there must be some underlying religious craziness that explains their fanaticism. Harris can go on forever in this vein. Seeking to exonerate secularism and atheism from the horrors perpetrated in their name, he argues that Stalinism and Maoism were in reality `little more than a political religion.' As for Nazism, `while the hatred of Jews in Germany expressed itself in a predominantly secular way, it was a direct inheritance from medieval Christianity.' Indeed, `The holocaust marked the culmination of ... two thousand years of Christian fulminating against the Jews.' One finds the same inanities in Mr. Dawkins's work. Don't be fooled by this rhetorical legerdemain. Dawkins and Harris cannot explain why, if Nazism was directly descended from medieval Christianity, medieval Christianity did not produce a Hitler. How can a self-proclaimed atheist ideology, advanced by Hitler as a repudiation of Christianity, be a `culmination' of 2,000 years of Christianity? Dawkins and Harris are employing a transparent sleight of hand that holds Christianity responsible for the crimes committed in its name, while exonerating secularism and atheism for the greater crimes committed in their name." (D'Souza, D., "Atheism, not religion, is the real force behind the mass murders of history," Christian Science Monitor, November 21, 2006) 25/11/2006 "Religious fanatics have done things that are impossible to defend, and some of them, mostly in the Muslim world, are still performing horrors in the name of their creed. But if religion sometimes disposes people to self-righteousness and absolutism, it also provides a moral code that condemns the slaughter of innocents. In particular, the moral teachings of Jesus provide no support for - indeed they stand as a stern rebuke to the historical injustices perpetrated in the name of Christianity." (D'Souza, D., "Atheism, not religion, is the real force behind the mass murders of history," Christian Science Monitor, November 21, 2006) 25/11/2006 "The crimes of atheism have generally been perpetrated through a hubristic ideology that sees man, not God, as the creator of values. Using the latest techniques of science and technology, man seeks to displace God and create a secular utopia here on earth. Of course if some people - the Jews, the landowners, the unfit, or the handicapped - have to be eliminated in order to achieve this utopia, this is a price the atheist tyrants and their apologists have shown themselves quite willing to pay. Thus they confirm the truth of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's dictum, `If God is not, everything is permitted.'" (D'Souza, D., "Atheism, not religion, is the real force behind the mass murders of history," Christian Science Monitor, November 21, 2006) 25/11/2006 "Whatever the motives for atheist bloodthirstiness, the indisputable fact is that all the religions of the world put together have in 2,000 years not managed to kill as many people as have been killed in the name of atheism in the past few decades. It's time to abandon the mindlessly repeated mantra that religious belief has been the greatest source of human conflict and violence. Atheism, not religion, is the real force behind the mass murders of history." (D'Souza, D., "Atheism, not religion, is the real force behind the mass murders of history," Christian Science Monitor, November 21, 2006) 27/11/2006 "If the universe was created only recently, how has light travelled so many millions of light years from the furthest stars? New and exciting research from Australia provides the clue. Since the year 1675 over 50 measurements have been made of the speed of light [c] which show that light appears to be slowing down from 187,200 mps (301,300 km/sec.) to today's speed of 186,234.71 mps (299,792.45 km/sec.) Analysis of all the data on the Flinders University computer [Adelaide Australia] shows that there is a regular pattern in the way light is slowing down which can be graphed. Interpretation of the graph brings to light the interesting information that not only did light begin to slow down roughly 6,000 years ago [which fits well with the literal Biblical picture of the age of creation] but more importantly light was travelling 5 x 10^11 times faster then, than it is now. Which means that in 6,000 years it could therefore have travelled 12 x 10^9 light years, a distance far greater than the currently known universe [7-9 x 10^9 lt. yrs]." (Setterfield, B., "The Velocity of Light and the Age of the Universe," Extract from Ex Nihilo Creation Science Magazine, Vol. 1, Nos. 1-3, 1982, Creation Science Publishing: Sunnybank Qld, Australia, 1981, reprint, p.1) 27/11/2006 "Most people are unaware that the rate at which uranium and other radioactive materials decay is affected by the speed of light. Therefore if light travelled faster in the past, radioactive materials decayed faster in the past. Recalculating the present radioactive dates on the basis that c was faster in the past shows that the oldest dates [the basic elements of the universe] have an age of 6,000 years or less. This change in the value of c shows up in at least 1 dozen other well known scientific quantities such as Planks [sic] constant and the rest mass of atomic particles. " (Setterfield, B.*, "The Velocity of Light and the Age of the Universe," Extract from Ex Nihilo Creation Science Magazine, Vol. 1, Nos. 1-3, 1982, Creation Science Publishing: Sunnybank Qld, Australia, 1981, reprint, p.1) 27/11/2006 "ABSTRACT: Much modern research in astronomy and physics is based on the assumption that the velocity of light, c, is one of the few values that is truly constant. However, since the Danish astronomer Roemer first measured this quantity in 1675, over 50 other determinations of c have been made which show a definite decay patterning. An analysis on the DEC 10 computer at Flinders University, South Australia, revealed that the most satisfactory fit to all the observational data had the form Log10c = A B [Log10sine T]. This function gives a value of r^2 = 0.99 indicating a very close fit to the data. An excellent approximation to this curve is given by c = A' cosec^2 T. This analysis points to a beginning, a creation of light, which subsequently slowed down. The date of this commencement supports, a short Biblical chronology rather than the evolutionary timescale. The decay curve shows that light would travel some 12 billion light years in 6,000 years." (Setterfield, B.*, "The Velocity of Light and the Age of the Universe," Extract from Ex Nihilo Creation Science Magazine, Vol. 1, Nos. 1-3, 1982, Creation Science Publishing: Sunnybank Qld, Australia, 1981, reprint, p.2. Emphasis original) 27/11/2006 "INTRODUCTION: One of the most difficult questions that Creationists are called upon to answer, assuming that the Universe and all that is in it is the product of an act of Creation only 6-7,000 years ago, is `How is it that objects millions of light years away can be seen? Surely such light would have taken millions of years to reach us.' The question is a valid one and several types of answers have been proposed in the past with only limited success. Some have proposed that both a star and the light from the star were created at the same time. so that a star was visible instantaneously throughout the whole universe. This view is unable to resolve several problems which exist with respect to exploding stars. It results in the apparent problem of having to believe that we are seeing some things that exist only in the form of light and never really happened. Others have proposed that light does not travel through space in straight lines but along curved surfaces [Riemannian Space concept], so that in reality light can reach anywhere throughout the universe in approximately 16 earth years. However, while the mathematics of Riemannian space is fascinating, confirmation of the idea is lacking, particularly in the area of experimental proof. There is a third alternative which to date has not been fully explored, but which seems to solve not only many of the observational problems of astronomy and Genesis creation, but also the related questions that are often asked concerning radiometric dates and ages. The basic postulate of these articles, which has wide-ranging implications for the whole of the physical sciences, is that light has slowed down in a form of exponential decay since the time of creation. This suggestion seems radical and at first looks outside of confirmation. However, there are at least 45 observations of the speed of light since 1675 which support this suggestion." (Setterfield, B.*, "The Velocity of Light and the Age of the Universe," Extract from Ex Nihilo Creation Science Magazine, Vol. 1, Nos. 1-3, 1982, Creation Science Publishing: Sunnybank Qld, Australia, 1981, reprint, p.2. Emphasis original) 29/11/2006 "Kauffman is a confessed devotee of the arguments (largely due to Per Bak) of the critical behaviour of self- organized systems, as in the formation of avalanches on the sides of a sandpile to which grains are added one at a time. The sandpile of self-organized living creatures must have reached a critical condition in the early Cambrian, spawning avalanches on its sides, each a new species or a genus. ... Meanwhile, it is clear that Maynard Smith is not a devotee of Per Bak and his sandpiles. Among other things, he wondered what could be the correlate in the real world of the stream of sand-grains that eventually make the pile unstable. ... That concerns numerical simulations of evolutionary models in which the fitness of coevolving species is determined by random-number generators under particular rules. One conclusion is that it is possible to write the rules so that the initial state of the assemblage of species does not affect the outcome; another is that there can be circumstances when the system becomes unstable and several independent species emerge. Of this simulation and the sandpiles (as a model for real biology), Maynard Smith says: `I just find the whole enterprise contemptible'. What last week's audience made of the exchange is anybody's guess. Many beers later, the two protagonists did agree to try to define what their disagreement really is. After careful thought, Maynard Smith announced, `You see, Stu, I don't find it interesting'. And that, of course, is what the argument should have been about. What is the place of modelling in biology? Can a model be heuristically valuable even when it entails only a sketchy correspondence with the real world?" (Maddox, J., "Polite row about models in biology," Nature Vol.373, 16 February 1995, p.555) 29/11/2006 "One justification for the primacy of thermophiles, sometimes cited, is the thought that if massive impacts heated the oceans, any but thermophiles would have perished. Thus, it is said, hot spring organisms would have repopulated the world. Even so, this does not necessarily mean that they represent the last common ancestor. The last common ancestor originated long before the thermophiles now extant. Over the millions of years of development (before the fossil record begins) there was time to diversify. And, subsequent to the moon-forming impact, we have no information on how hot things got. Some authors suggest that a number of sterilizing events occurred during the first half billion years of Earth history, but there is no direct evidence. The big Phanerozoic impacts did not boil the entire ocean. On the other hand, if the greenhouse effect did not keep the ocean from freezing, maybe the hot impacts were necessary to keep the ocean liquid (Bada et al., 1995), eliminating any need for thermophiles." (McClendon, J.H., "The origin of life," Earth- Science Reviews, Vol. 47, Issue 1-2, 1 July 1999, pp.86-87) 29/11/2006 "I tend to agree with those who have viewed natural selection as a tautology rather than a true theory (see review by Peters, 1976). It is essentially a description of what has happened, with only weak powers of prediction, in that the kinds of individuals that are favored can often be recognized only in retrospect. The doctrine of natural selection states that the fittest succeed, but we define the fittest as those that succeed. This circularity in no way impugns the heuristic value of natural selection as a generation-by-generation description of evolutionary change." (Stanley, S.M., "Macroevolution: Pattern and Process," , The Johns Hopkins University Press: Baltimore MD, Revised, 1998, pp.192-193)
* Authors with an asterisk against their name are believed not to be evolutionists. However, lack of an
asterisk does not necessarily mean that an author is an evolutionist.
Copyright © 2006-2008, by Stephen E. Jones. All rights reserved. These my quotes may be used
for non-commercial purposes only and may not be used in a book, ebook, CD, DVD, or any other
medium except the Internet, without my written permission. If used on the Internet, a link back
to this page would be appreciated.
Created: 30 March, 2006. Updated: 10 April, 2010.