Spock was the Worst Wookiee

Most people enjoy lively conversations about topics that they are knowledgable and passionate about. An attentive conversant to whom you’re introducing ideas and experiences can reignite one’s own spark. Finding someone who shares your passion on the same level is invigorating.

The best stimulation can be a person who has a differing, but equally-knowledgeable, take on the subject. I’ll take informed disagreement any time.

But for me, the least enjoyable conversation is with someone who is ill-informed on the fundamentals of a topic, yet speaks authoritatively with misconceptions. Escape or topic change is the only way out. “Toronto is the capital of Canada.” “The director just tells the computer to put dinosaurs in the movie.” “Someone decided who would win this game before the season even started.” “The whole internet was down.” (All things that have been said to me.)

One of my current passions is physical science of all kinds, with the model of biological evolution at the forefront of my curiosity. While I welcome significant conversations about the diversity of life, I have found that many who would like to engage haven’t taken the time to understand the tenets of the claim in order to evaluate it.

10702094_719679078148476_3565313758563080008_nSomeone of significant intellect, whom I admire greatly, linked to this “if the theory of evolution were true” meme image on Facebook last night, affirming its wisdom. I wanted to reply in frustration, but simply couldn’t. The last time I saw so many things wrong in one image, it was an observation game on the back of a cereal box. The Theory of Evolution that is being questioned here, simply doesn’t exist anywhere in science.

While I am nothing more than an enthusiastic student, here are a non-comprehensive handful of statements shared with me recently that indicated that the speaker was mistaken about the claims made by the Unified Theory of Biology (aka Evolution). My brief clarifications are even less comprehensive.

“If we evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?”

It is actually apes with whom humans have a claimed common ancestor, in the same way that cousins share a common grandparent. My children did not cease to exist when my nieces were born. Europe did not cease to exist when the Americas were colonized.

“There are no transitional fossils.”

Every organism that has ever lived was a transitional form between one generation and the next. (Well, individuals that die before reproducing would technically be a node.) Every fossil ever found is a transitional fossil. Whether such transitions are compelling to you is a matter of taste, but they all exist. (Side note… check out the plucky tiktaalik, if you’re not familiar. He’s cool.)

“Evolution is only a theory.”

It is unfortunate that the common use of the word theory conflates it with an unproven guess or uncertain hypothesis. In science, a theory is a set of principles that has repeatedly-proven power to explain and predict a class of observed phenomena. A theory is the highest title a scientific idea can achieve. If it were a Saturday morning cartoon, a scientific law would be sitting on the stairs of a university singing about how it hoped to one day be a theory.

“Evolution can’t add genetic information.”

Mutations demonstrably add, remove or scramble genes. As a terrible analogy, let’s start with CAT. With mutation, we might get ACT, TAC, TACT or AT. Which of those have less information? More?

“A female cat and a male cat just happened to have evolved at the same time and found each other?”

The populations that descend from ancestors who reproduced sexually would contain a mix of sexes.

“You expect me to believe that after enough gusts of wind blow through a junk yard that eventually a fully-equipped 747 will appear?”

Evolution does not predict spontaneous appearance due to chance. It describes the incredibly slow process of natural selection of genes in an reproducing population. Airplanes do not reproduce.

I know it’s a lot of fun to express opinions, and that knowing about things is difficult. I have my own inventory of ill-informed opinions on many topics — soccer, lipstick, disorders, computing platform, the merits of multilingualism, and the Oxford comma, to name a few.

But whether I’d like to agree with, disagree with, affirm or question a claim, it seems reasonable that the only effective way to do any of those is to accurately represent the claim. Otherwise, it’s just me telling you that Spock was the worst Wookiee.

There are countless great resources to learn more about the claims of the Theory of Evolution. One of the clearest introductions is Undeniable by Bill Nye (the science guy). Despite his inability to use twitter in a constructive manner, Richard Dawkins has exceptional skill in communicating complex biology in all his books. The Greatest Show on Earth is a good start.

3 thoughts on “Spock was the Worst Wookiee

  1. Hey Paul,
    Fortunately for me, it’s not either/or as far as faith and science go. My favourite 12-gallon word pair is from a quote from that old heretic, Pope John Paul II, where he affirmed the reality of evolution and God’s creation of Adam and Eve by invoking a ‘teleological discontinuity.’
    Also, see Francis Collins, the director of the NIH and an unapologetic Christian.


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