Teach The Controversy! (of there being no controversy)

Ever since the intelligent design movement snuck into the world, believers of it have come up with many clever sounding tidbits in order to try to persuade the uneducated that their bullshit has some basis in fact.

(Spoiler: it doesn’t)

They range from the intelligent sounding, but baseless “how could the eye have just evolved”, to my favourite “teach the controversy”.

This tiny line conveys two things. Firstly it implies that there is doubt over the validity of evolution, which there isn’t. At all. The second it suggests that the alternative to evolution is on an equal footing to the great theory itself.

Where to start. Ok, evolution isn’t some idea that was just plucked from nothing and then stated as fact. Since Charles Darwin first penned his idea down, with one of the most gorgeous little sketches I’ve ever seen, the evidence for evolution has skyrocketed.

 

 

Today, it’s not just proven itself as a scientific theory, it’s about as proven as it’s possible to be outside of mathematics.

Evolution happens. This is a 100%, take it to the bank fact. Genetic mutations happen, this is not something that can be disproven because we have seen it happen. We have made it happen. No amount of magic wizardry will change this fact.

The theory of evolution explains how these mutations happen, how they are selected for through natural selection, sexual selection etc and how environmental changes or the introduction of a new predator allow for these mutations to change an organism over hundreds of generations, sometimes taking millions of years.

To say the evidence for evolution is overwhelming is an understatement. If you imagine the evidence for intelligent design could fill a teacup, the evidence for evolution would fill the entire observable universe several times over. That is to say, there is no evidence for intelligent design aside from one fairytale book, while the evidence for evolution encompasses a dozen independent disciplines and has amassed literally hundreds of thousands of pieces of corroborating, verifiable proof.

You can never be sure of a theory in science, because new evidence could be unearthed that could change something, but if you put a gun to my head and asked me to point to a theory that I thought would never, ever be thrown away, it would be evolution. This isn’t born out of faith or a dogmatic desire for it to be kept there, it’s because I have spent years looking over the evidence for evolution and it is simply astonishing just how solid it is.

The alternative to evolution is intelligent design, and it postulates that because the universe looks incredibly ordered and precise, that is must have been designed that way. It suggests that some unknown thing designed and then created everything we see around us.

Hold up a second….this sounds familiar. Where have we heard this before?

Religion! Ahh yes, of course, who else would want to discredit evolution so much that it had to create another name for its bullshit because its original bullshit was banned from being taught as fact in schools.

Intelligent design is a slightly different, but equally dangerous beast. It will use fancy, sciency sounding spin to paint this picture of doubt about evolution.

Can I just take a moment to express just how fucking ridiculous it is that in 2012 I am having to defend logic and reasoning. What are we? Two years fucking old, do we still think Santa brings us presents? Fuck a duck this shit pisses me off.

Anyway, where was I? Ahh yes, intelligent design, or ID for short has managed to rope in some “scientists” to help push their falsehoods. Chief of whom is Michael Behe, or to give him his full title Dr Michael “discredited by his own university because he spouts so much bollocks” Behe.

Pictured: Moron

He says that certain cells, organs bacteria etc, are irreducibly complex, this means that they are so complex that the understanding of evolution cannot explain how they came to be like that, therefore it must be an intelligent designer.

 

This is firstly, wrong.  And secondly, hilarious.

 

It’s a 4 year old’s understanding of the world. “Well, I don’t understand how it works, therefore it cannot be explained and it must be magic”.

It can be, and has been explained, so much so that Behe’s own department at his university released a statement to say they totally disagree with Behe’s views. His. Own. Department.

Think about that, ID’s own headline star was so wrong about his views of science that his own biology department actively sort to tell the world they don’t share them. That’s how wrong he  is.

From the outside the idea of irreducible complexity seems legit, it has a fancy sounding name, it sounds like science, it sounds like people have actually researched this. I can see why people get drawn in.

But really, it’s just a gimmicky way of saying “well it looks designed, so it must have had a designer”. Sound as impressive now? Or just simplistic?

If Behe was as knowledgeable as he makes out to be, he might have done some actual research into his ideas, as his peers did. And his peers ripped the absolute piss out of it.

The flagellum is the often referred to bacterium that Behe deemed too complex to have evolved in gradual steps. Until people showed that’s exactly how it evolved.

See here for a perfect dissection of the flimsiness of Behe’s argument and how wet and limp his attempts to discredit evolution are:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/punctuated-equilibrium/2011/jan/10/2

Just because you don’t understand how something evolved gradually doesn’t actually matter, the evidence tells us that it happens. The evidence speaks for itself.

But why let a metric shit ton of proof stand in the way of a premeditated attack on evolution.

Teach the controversy they cry, proclaiming that their ID deserves to be taught alongside evolution in science classrooms as an alternative.

Ok then, are we going to “teach the controversy” about other things?

Teach alchemy alongside chemistry.

Teach astrology alongside astronomy.

Teach magic alongside physics.

Teach that the earth is flat alongside the theory it’s round.

Teach the theory of cosmic syrup alongside gravity.

Teach tales of mythical creatures alongside zoology.

Teach the earth is 6000 years old alongside that it’s 4.54 billion years.

Teach that storks deliver babies alongside natural birth.

Etcetera, etcetera. There is no more controversy in any of those theories than there is in evolution. If anything, evolution is more proven than most of them.

LET THE KIDS DECIDE!

 

Intelligent design, as well as being deceitful, dangerous, and a woeful attempt to disguise religion, is a pathetic excuse of an explanation of anything. Ok, lets say it’s true. Let’s say that it was designed, what then?

Who designed it? How did they design it? Why did they design it? Who designed them? Do they need a designer? If not, why not? It offers no explanation of anything, it would take everything we know about how the laws of physics work and biological systems operate and replace it with nothing. It doesn’t explain a fucking thing, it doesn’t even explain itself and could never explain itself because it would have to lie outside of the natural laws of physics because they do not allow for giant magic beings that can clap something into existence.

 

 

For something to be an explanation, it has to actually explain something. It has to offer a how to the question posed. It has to show the process of what’s happening, you can’t just go “because it did” and expect that to be enough.

If intelligent design proponents can come forward with some cold, hard evidence to how their idea works, and show us with empirical proof how it works and the processes involved then great, let’s get on that Nobel prize-winning data, because it will be the biggest discovery in all history.

But until then, until you can actually show how it works, please, go back to your religions and stay away from the big kids table, we’re trying to do science here.

 

 

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  1. Very well put. It is an insult to our intelligence to even enter into discourse with the creationists.

  2. I feel like a lot of creationists and believers in ID are just simply mis-informed. There are some statistics (I can dig up the source if needed) showing that some Americans believe in creationism/ID for humans but yet agree with the statement that plants/animals involved from lower organisms.

    We need to make an effort to explain evolution to these mis-informed people. The extreme 10 percent though…they are beyond rationality.

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