Why Evolution Matters

Because evolution proves that God does not exist. Except when it doesn’t.

In June 2004, the science historian Frank Sulloway and I began a month-long expedition to retrace Charles Darwin’s footsteps in the Galápagos Islands. It turned out to be one of the most physically grueling experiences of my life…

– Shermer, Michael. Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design.

Just like taking a pilgrimage. All hail Darwin.

Any other Darwin worshipers here who have taken the Darwin pilgrimage?

What motivated you to try to retrace the footsteps of your master?

50 thoughts on “Why Evolution Matters

  1. This is , as I see it , a waste of time to retrace darwins physical steps. tHis because his ideas were intellectual steps.
    I can’t remember if i saw this or I read it from stephen goulds big paper on darwin.
    i think the former but its murky now.
    The actual intellectual steps for dArwin were not from his fathe/Grandfather? and observation of creatures he saw on his trip.
    it actually came from his observation of coral islands. he realized that glorious coral islands had been created by tiny creatures acting all together.
    Eureka. this must be a theme in nature.
    so when he saw the biological segregation of creatures in islands/areas with like differences in bodyplans he SIMPLY examined if it waasfrom small steps.
    Small actions leading to great results.
    He did this in many subjects unrelated to evolution.
    His last subject, as gould pointed out, was hopw worms, acting in small actions, were the creators of the english soil composition and depth.

    darwins has been misunderstood in how he figured out his idea on evolution.
    it was just concluding small steps could do everything. So BANG create the biology world.!
    its been a error to see him sparked by these islands.
    They only provided , some more, raw data.
    the idea was simply from looking at coral creations.
    biology was just another thing he used the equation for.

  2. Entropy: Evolution matters because we care about our origins and those of the life we see around us.

    Religion matters because we care about our origins and those of the life we see around us.

  3. With 210 of the world’s leading evolutionary biologists in attendance, the conference illuminated the greatest unsolved mysteries of evolution.

    – Shermer, Michael. Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design (p. 140). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.

    Oh good. Thank God for the illumination.

  4. In the Common Descent thread it has been pointed out (a zillion times) that the evidence that there is a genealogical tree is the congruence of trees from different parts of the anatomy or of the genome. That immediately lets us see why working out this genealogy is important — it casts light on the patterns of similarity and difference in many parts of the genome and many aspects of morphology and behavior.

    Basically, you need to know about the evolution of a group of organisms if you want to understand the similarities and differences of different species. That is true whatever views you hold on religion; I know that for me, it fascinated me for reasons totally unconnected with any arguments I might have with anyone about religion.

    I will not expect any good discussion of this in this thread, given how the comments have started out.

  5. Mung: Religion matters because we care about our origins and those of the life we see around us.

    Nobody has to think of the person’s history they are retracing as their “master”. Or what? I guess you’re revealing something about yourself there.

    Anyway. I think you’ll have a hard time finding people who think religion doesn’t matter.

    There are many things with which I disagree that I fully acknowledge matter because of the effect it has on people and society. Political and economic viewpoint, philosophies, historical events and so on.

    I can understand why, often times formerly deeply religious people like Shermer (who I understand used to be a “born again” christian), can find that in leaving their religious life it can feel like they are missing something in their experience that used to be there. The gathering, the participation in ritual, having the feeling that they’ve found “true purpose” and all those thing. I know religion gives people a sense of belonging, community, purpose and so on. None of which I believe is intrinsicly objectionable.

    And it certainly can be a moving experience to retrace a past historical figure’s steps and thinking about how they have walked in the same place, what thoughts they might have had in the moment and all that. How it has affected many generations later.

    I’ve tried that, not related to evolution, but visiting some famous ancient stone age and and viking burial sites in Denmark. It’s all part of the big picture of who we are.

  6. John Harshman:
    Is there a way to put a person’s OPs on “ignore”?

    Yes. First you put your hand over your face. Then you click on TSZ. Then you ever so slowly separate your fingers just enough to peak at a few words on the screen. Slowly slowy see if your eyes see any words that begin with an “M” followed by a “u”. If you do, quickly slam your fingers back together, while at the same time clicking the back button, and run the fuck away.

    You will miss a few threads about the best mustards, but that’s the risk you take.

    Good luck.

  7. Rumraket: And it certainly can be a moving experience to retrace a past historical figure’s steps and thinking about how they have walked in the same place, what thoughts they might have had in the moment and all that. How it has affected many generations later.

    I’ve tried that, not related to evolution, but visiting some famous ancient stone age and and viking burial sites in Denmark. It’s all part of the big picture of who we are.

    That gels with me. La Hougue Bie evoked that response in me. The sheer manual labour involved in building a mound from limestone fragments 6,000 or so years ago (when some would like to belief the Heavens and Earth were first created) is hard to imagine and one wonders why some medieval lord or bishop decided to erect a Christian chapel on top. Perhaps to lay to rest old folk superstitions that persisted among the local populace.

  8. Because evolution proves that God does not exist. Except when it doesn’t.

    This fucking shit again?

    Evolution has nothing to do with the existence or non-existence of God.

    And Mung knows that, too.

  9. Kantian Naturalist,

    No, I don’t buy that at all KN. Evolution is the only paradigm humans can realistically think of, which eliminates the need for any plan in life. Without it, the only obvious fallback is that all of life was planned to be the way it is.

    No other ideas would ever make sense practically speaking. I think pretty much everyone, aside from a few far out hippie outliers, knows that proposing some design-lite, a type of plan but without a planner, is just irrational avoidance of the obvious.

  10. I wanna testify!

    As a kid I was a keen birdwatcher and nature lover. My books had the Linnaean nomenclature, and I could clearly see the pattern of hierarchic arrangement. One magazine I got my mum to buy for me while still at primary school (that would be 6th grade I suppose) built week-by-week into a 6-volume encyclopedia (Purnell’s Encyclopedia of Animal Life). I could barely wait for each issue. Roughly about the same time, a similar publication, Birds of the World, came out, which I have most of. The first was arranged alphabetically, the second taxonomically.

    Free with the first issue of PEoAL was a very high-level wall chart of evolutionary relationships. To my 11 year old self, this made perfect sense of Linnaeus. Creationism being an extreme niche view in this part of the world, and making little sense anyway, I was ripe for indoctrination into the Ways of Darwin. A degree course in molecular biology, with its exposure to the nuts and bolts of the whole thing, made further sense of the patterns.

    Religion, meanwhile, never entered my head, except once I prayed for a hamster.

    Evolution is certainly not my alternative to religion. It stands on its own two feet, as a powerful arena of explanation of the patterns I am aware of, in the natural world and in the molecules. Why does it matter? I’m curious. I like explanations that make sense.

    Here endeth …

  11. I’ll say this again: religious fundies attacking evolution for being a religion implies a tacit admission of defeat and denotes a huge inferiority complex on their part.

    …suggesting we’re into male ass is a much stronger argument. hahahaha, I’m sorry I just can’t stop laughing about that

  12. Kantian Naturalist:
    Because evolution proves that God does not exist. Except when it doesn’t.

    This fucking shit again?

    Evolution has nothing to do with the existence or non-existence of God.

    And Mung knows that, too.

    What, isn’t science all about getting rid of God?

    Why else physics? Why else linguistics?

    You can’t expect creationists/IDists to be driven by curiosity and evidence.

    Glen Davidson

  13. In terms of ‘retracing steps’, I was once in the vicinity of the Burgess Shale quarry at Field, so I took a day hike up there (illicitly; tell no-one). Fascinating, and beautiful, spot, a chance intersection of the current surface with a giant ‘killing bottle’ preserving a tiny fragment of Cambrian fauna. Deeply buried a few million years ago; it’ll be gone in a few million more. It’s just a few hundred feet down to the left of the saddle in the picture.

    Another tale (like all these tales, I’ve told it before) … there’s a series of limestone beds down by our river. A series of sea beds, neatly overlain. In low summer conditions there’s one particular bed with a fine collection of coral and shells oriented as if in life. I took my daughter down when she was about 10, explaining it was over 300 million years old, that our valley was down below the equator then, and how we know these things. She gazed into the middle distance and said … ‘the world is such a cool place’. That. That’s why it matters.

  14. Rumraket: Nobody has to think of the person’s history they are retracing as their “master”. Or what? I guess you’re revealing something about yourself there.

    I could not have said that better.

  15. Joe Felsenstein:
    In the Common Descent thread it has been pointed out (a zillion times) that the evidence that there is a genealogical tree is the congruence of trees from different parts of the anatomy or of the genome.That immediately lets us see why working out this genealogy is important — it casts light on the patterns of similarity and difference in many parts of the genome and many aspects of morphology and behavior.

    Basically, you need to know about the evolution of a group of organisms if you want to understand the similarities and differences of different species.That is true whatever views you hold on religion; I know that for me, it fascinated me for reasons totally unconnected with any arguments I might have with anyone about religion.

    I will not expect any good discussion of this in this thread, given how the comments have started out.

    Agreed on all counts – especially your last point!

    As mentioned earlier, Gould said it earlier and said it best. Mung’s deliberate intellectual dishonesty by refusing to acknowledge his previous concessions of defeat belies the futility of adding a background acapella harmony to the echo-chamber that is the interior of his cranium.

    http://www.blc.arizona.edu/courses/schaffer/449/Gould%20Nonoverlapping%20Magisteria.htm

  16. Apologies for the double-posting

    I finally discern the Mung’s problem here
    Apparently some creationists present (Mung especially)have reading comprehension problems by deliberately misconstruing previous posts and then repeatedly resurrecting previously rebutted objections … As a parting gift and to sum up the cogency of my detractors in a sound bite… I now take my leave

    Special thanks to Entropy for his assistance to my efforts on previous threads.

  17. Allan Miller: ‘the world is such a cool place’.

    Allan – how did you evade the security cameras at the Burgess Shale? I ask because I too would like to visit…

  18. TomMueller:
    Apologies for the double-posting

    I finally discern the Mung’s problem here
    Apparently some creationists present (Mung especially)have reading comprehension problems by deliberately misconstruing previous posts and then repeatedly resurrecting previously rebutted objections …As a parting gift and to sum up the cogency of my detractors in a sound bite…I now take my leave

    Special thanks to Entropy for his assistance to my efforts on previous threads.

    That site is hilarious. Wish I could grab one of those genital free salvation turkeys XD

  19. Alan Fox,

    Yeah, there’s a nice dolmen above Arles-sur-Tech too. Chortle!

    Just got back from the Orkneys – being relatively undeveloped, there’s a wealth of old stuff dating back up to 5,000 years. One neolithic burial chamber has extensive Viking graffiti from a party overtaken by winter storm. The engineering of the original structure is remarkable – stones and fire being all they had to work with to create well-faced slabs bigger than me.

  20. dazz: That site is hilarious. Wish I could grab one of those genital free salvation turkeys XD

    there exist two incarnations of that site

    one is .org

    the other .net

    Enjoy yourself while reveling in Poe’s Law

  21. TomMueller,

    Allan – how did you evade the security cameras at the Burgess Shale? I ask because I too would like to visit…

    I could tell you but then I’d have to kill you … 🙂

    There are actually guided hikes daily, that would be the legit way. I didn’t get on one – didn’t try, needed to book in advance. I saw a group set off, and was surprised to see that one of the cars had Tennessee plates. Means nothing by itself of course, and one shouldn’t stereotype!

    As you can see from the picture, the place is several thousand feet up the mountain, above the treeline, so its remoteness is its main protection. There are signs nearby insisting one go no further. There are fossil beds, with trilobites, outside the perimeter marked by these signs (no fence). I took nothing but pictures!

  22. Because evolution proves that God does not exist. Except when it doesn’t.“

    Evolution doesn’t prove that god doesn’t exist. Just that the personal flavour of god taught by most priests, pastors, rabbis and imams doesn’t exist.

  23. Acartia:
    Because evolution proves that God does not exist. Except when it doesn’t.“

    Evolution doesn’t prove that god doesn’t exist. Just that the personal flavour of god taught by most priests, pastors, rabbis and imams doesn’t exist.

    I don’t think it even does that. The conflict between evolutionary theory and theism arises only when theism is taken to have entailments with empirical content. Evolutionary theory by itself has no entailments for metaphysics.

  24. phoodoo: Evolution is the only paradigm humans can realistically think of, which eliminates the need for any plan in life.

    Only if you take the word evolution to be synonymous with “unplanned change”. But there are many religious believers who think evolution is all part of some great plan. Ironically, the biggest christian denomination in the world purports to accept the reality of biological evolution.

  25. It depends on what EVOLUTION means… It means different things to different people…
    Each time I put my Canadian Goose Ski jacket into the dryer, it evolves due the entropy it loses feathers ..Is that considered evolution?

  26. Rumraket,

    Its irrelevant if Christians believe in evolution (although you should inform Arcatia). What’s relevant is what other theory could propose the development of life without an intelligent design?

    There could be no realistic one.

  27. phoodoo: What’s relevant is what other theory could propose the development of life without an intelligent design?

    There could be no realistic one.

    Proposing is not hard, showing evidence for proposition is the hard part. It is not realistic until you do that.

  28. newton: Proposing is not hard, showing evidence for proposition is the hard part. It is not realistic until you do that.

    This sounds backwards. People generally (outside religion, of course) do not devise proposals, and then go about finding supporting evidence. Instead, people are faced with raw observations that seem somehow related, and seek unifying explanations for their cause(s).

    And so showing the evidence for a proposal is the EASY part, the proposal being extracted from the evidence, which came first. The hard part is making the proposal fit the evidence.

  29. Joe Felsenstein:
    In the Common Descent thread it has been pointed out (a zillion times) that the evidence that there is a genealogical tree is the congruence of trees from different parts of the anatomy or of the genome.That immediately lets us see why working out this genealogy is important — it casts light on the patterns of similarity and difference in many parts of the genome and many aspects of morphology and behavior.

    Basically, you need to know about the evolution of a group of organisms if you want to understand the similarities and differences of different species.That is true whatever views you hold on religion; I know that for me, it fascinated me for reasons totally unconnected with any arguments I might have with anyone about religion.

    I will not expect any good discussion of this in this thread, given how the comments have started out.

  30. Joe Felsenstein:
    In the Common Descent thread it has been pointed out (a zillion times) that the evidence that there is a genealogical tree is the congruence of trees from different parts of the anatomy or of the genome.That immediately lets us see why working out this genealogy is important — it casts light on the patterns of similarity and difference in many parts of the genome and many aspects of morphology and behavior.

    Basically, you need to know about the evolution of a group of organisms if you want to understand the similarities and differences of different species.That is true whatever views you hold on religion; I know that for me, it fascinated me for reasons totally unconnected with any arguments I might have with anyone about religion.

    I will not expect any good discussion of this in this thread, given how the comments have started out.

    It has in YEC/iD creationism been shown(a percentage of a zillion)
    that the congruence of trees from parts of anatomy/genes IS not evidence of a genealogical tree.
    Why do evolutionists continue to say this.
    Its, at best, a option. Yet there is another, better, option.
    That biology, like physics, is based on finished conclusions .
    there is a blueprint to biology and parts of anatomy are not independent but completly a part of this blueprint.
    on creation week a creator must be allowed to make eyeballs for creatures, themselves created out of dust, without someone accusing him of having created one eyeballed critter and the present ones are just in a common descent from thie original eyeballed critter.
    there is a fundamental logical error in the tree concept of old time evolutionism.
    Its not scientific investigation if it ignores other options.
    there easily would be likeness in biology parts from a creator and then later, within the genetic ability of biology, the ability of biology to adapt to survive and so make the same conclusions.
    organized creationism points out the convergence in unrelated creatures one finds and increasingly more.
    (“Darwin’s God” blog by Cornelius Hunter documents this a lot.
    Evolutionists must invoke convergent evolution to explain this likeness.
    something that must shake the branches on claimed trees.
    Saying bodyplans likeness proves common descent is really just showing a line of reasoning from a presumption that rejects other presumptions WHICH work just as well to predict any biological result.
    Creationists are right on this and can persuade a thinking public.
    in fact I don’t see how evolutionism can keep ignoring it as a option or even deal with it well.

  31. Robert Byers: It has in YEC/iD creationism been shown(a percentage of a zillion)
    that the congruence of trees from parts of anatomy/genes IS not evidence of a genealogical tree.
    Why do evolutionists continue to say this.

    This is addressed to me, so I will answer. Why do I generally not comment on statements by Byers? Because they draw lots of conclusions, but do not present any argument at all. Just conclusions.

    And if one disagrees with Byers and presents some argument what does one get back? More conclusions.

    This thread is now thousands of comments long, and these issues have been addressed many times here. Stating more conclusions without an argument is a waste of time.

  32. Darwin matters because evolution matters. Evolution matters because science matters. Science matters because it is the preeminent story of our age, an epic saga about who we are, where we came from, and where we are going.

    – Shermer, Michael. Why Darwin Matters

    So without Darwin there would be no theory of evolution, no science, and no “preeminent story of our age” to take the place of the Bible.

    That’s pretty sad. Really.

  33. Mung: So without Darwin there would be no theory of evolution, no science, and no “preeminent story of our age” to take the place of the Bible.

    That’s pretty sad. Really.

    And the moons of Jupiter matter, because astronomy matters. Without those moons, there would obviously be no astronomy. We’d probably invent it anyway, though.

  34. Mung: So without Darwin there would be no theory of evolution, no science, and no “preeminent story of our age” to take the place of the Bible.

    I expect that we would still have a theory of evolution. It would have arrived somewhat later.

  35. Neil Rickert: I expect that we would still have a theory of evolution. It would have arrived somewhat later.

    Neil, there were theories of evolution before Darwin. And Darwin wasn’t even unique in his own theory, sharing his most important contribution with Alfred Wallace.

    This is simply the cult of Darwin in action.

  36. Mung: Neil, there were theories of evolution before Darwin. And Darwin wasn’t even unique in his own theory, sharing his most important contribution with Alfred Wallace.

    This is simply the cult of Darwin in action.

    Do you suppose, if Darwin had never lived, you’d be ranting about the “cult of Wallace” instead? I agree with Neil that the body of relevant evidence is enormous enough that it wouldn’t have taken too long for a full theory to be formulated. Most likely, someone would have been given much of the credit. Perhaps evolution would be like calculus, where the British credit Newton, and the Germans credit Liebniz. Then you could rant about TWO cults.

  37. Joe Felsenstein: This is addressed to me, so I will answer.Why do I generally not comment on statements by Byers?Because they draw lots of conclusions, but do not present any argument at all.Just conclusions.

    And if one disagrees with Byers and presents some argument what does one get back?More conclusions.

    This thread is now thousands of comments long, and these issues have been addressed many times here.Stating more conclusions without an argument is a waste of time.

    I don’t understand. i made a good case, on behalf of creationists everywhere, about how seeming connections based on anatomy/genetics easily would be explained from a blueprint and that unrelated to a evolution path and so no common descent concepts are needed.
    i have never seen a answer to this anywhere.
    I don’t see evolutionists bring up this other option EVEN to debunk it.
    In fact, even if evolution trees were true, STILL creationists could always say they are the result of a blueprint/common design and then add that this design allowed for changes to allow survival.

    yes conclusions is everything in science but arguments are made here. I think i would win a vote on that.
    I don’t reject arguments, i take them on, and I offer them always besides conclusions.
    sure i do.

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