Archive for the Evolution Category

The Avian Lung

Posted in Evolution on February 7, 2008 by moonflake

A recent comment on this blog, challenged me thus:

If evolution is true then how did the avian lung develop.

That’s right I went there. While you atheists can place your store in purposeless fallacies I choose to hope because hope is all that is left of our ignorant race. And maybe one day as I did, instead of closing your eyes maybe you will open them and see your lies, or even accept the truth as I did, instead of trying to bury it!

—thus spoke mattmitch.

feel free to send a rebuttal

Well, mattmitch, I’d firstly like thank you for bringing this to my attention. I was certainly not aware that the entire field of evolution, and the philosophical position of atheism, were both under threat by the structure of the humble avian lung. Frankly, beyond the knowledge that the avian lung was significantly superior to our mammalian lung, I hadn’t really done much reading on the subject. So I can certainly say that thanks to your comment, I am now more educated on the subjects of how bird lungs work, and baseless arguments made by creationists.

As to a rebuttal, there are a couple of ways we could go with this. Let’s start with the obvious one:

I assume that since your comment is both anti-evolution and anti-atheist, you are yourself a creationist. This implies that your opposing position is that God made the avian lung in all its glory. Assuming this is true, please explain why he chose to short-change his favourite creation, humans, in the lung department? Since the avian lung is considerably superior to ours, is God trying to tell us something by giving us shoddy lungs? Were we, perhaps, too busy standing in the brain line when the good lungs were handed out? I challenge you, in fact, to explain this obvious disparity in any way other than appealing to God moving in mysterious ways.

But as satisfying as that response may be, we don’t really learn anything from it. So here’s the other option, the one that requires some research (that’s when you go look stuff up instead of just making it up for yourself, you might like to try it):

Recent evidence suggests that oxygen levels were suppressed worldwide 175 million to 275 million years ago and fell to precipitously low levels compared with today’s atmosphere, low enough to make breathing the air at sea level feel like respiration at high altitude.

Now, a University of Washington paleontologist theorizes that low oxygen and repeated short but substantial temperature increases because of greenhouse warming sparked two major mass-extinction events, one of which eradicated 90 percent of all species on Earth.

In addition, Peter Ward, a UW professor of biology and Earth and space sciences, believes the conditions spurred the development of an unusual breathing system in some dinosaurs, a group called Saurischian dinosaurs that includes the gigantic brontosaurus. Rather than having a diaphragm to force air in and out of lungs, the Saurischians had lungs attached to a series of thin-walled air sacs that appear to have functioned something like bellows to move air through the body.

“The reason the birds developed these systems is that they arose from dinosaurs halfway through the Jurassic Period. They are how the dinosaurs survived,” he said.

So actually, the ‘avian’ lung came before birds, and evolved in dinosaurs because of selection pressures for survival in low oxygen environments that killed off most of their competitors. It’s the resulting enormous network of airsacs, which extend even to within their bones, that allows their avian ancestors to be so much lighter, and therefore to fly. Without the ‘bird’ lung, we probably wouldn’t have birds in the first place. Which I hadn’t known. So again, mattmitch, thanks to your bizarre, almost Tourettesian outburst, I actually did open my eyes and discover some new truth today. I hope you did likewise.


Richard Dawkins makes Time 100

Posted in Evolution, Pseudoscience, Stupidity on May 9, 2007 by moonflake

Good Idea: include Richard Dawkins in the Time 100, the list of the 100 men and women whose power, talent or moral example is transforming the world.

Bad Idea: get Michael Behe to write the profile.

Of Richard Dawkins’ nine books, none caused as much controversy or sold as well as last year’s The God Delusion. The central idea—popular among readers and deeply unsettling among proponents of intelligent design like myself—is that religion is a so-called virus of the mind, a simple artifact of cultural evolution, no more or less meaningful than eye color or height.

It is a measure of the artful way Dawkins, 66, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Oxford, tells a tale and the rigor he brings to his thinking that even those of us who profoundly disagree with what he has to say can tip our hats to the way he has invigorated the larger debate.

Dawkins had a mild Anglican youth but at 16 discovered Charles Darwin and believed he’d found a pearl of great price. I believe his new book follows much less from his data than from his premises, and yet I admire his determination. Concerning the big questions, the Bible advises us to be hot or cold but not lukewarm. Whatever the merit of his ideas, Richard Dawkins is not lukewarm.

I just… can’t understand it. And this is the highly edited version – here’s what he wanted to say. I can only imagine what the next Time 100 is going to look like:

  • Tony Blair, profiled by Robert Mugabe
  • Sir Ian McKellen, profiled by Fred Phelps
  • Michael J. Fox, profiled by Rush Limbaugh
  • Jon Stewart, profiled by George W. Bush
  • Neil Armstrong, profiled by Bart Sibrel
  • Noam Chomsky, profiled by Paris Hilton

The Ultimate Grudge Match

Posted in Evolution, Humour on November 7, 2006 by moonflake

This work of genius, via Pharyngula, had me laughing out loud:

Darwin vs. God

An Evolutionary Theory Not Proposed Since 1898

Posted in Evolution, Stupidity on October 20, 2006 by moonflake

Some economist is now trying to pontificate on human evolution, and it seems he’s spent more time reading The Time Machine than any text on evolutionary theory. The result? He believes that in the next hundred millennia we will split into Eloi- and Morlock-like subspecies… because of current trends in what is considered attractive.

Pharyngula has already responded to this one as ‘utter nonsense’. Aside from his comments, I would also add that there’s no way to know that what is attractive today is still going to be attractive in one, ten, or a hundred millennia. The stick-thin, praying mantis view of female beauty that we hold today is not one that was held in Rueben’s time, and there’s no reason it can be expected to still be held in the future. Never mind that human beings are not peacocks, attracted solely by another’s plumage, but are thinking, emotional creatures that are sometimes attracted purely to people who make us laugh, or make us feel safe, or are wonderful people.

Bollocks. This guy should stick to bean counting.

The Blind Watchmaker

Posted in Books, Evolution, Science on October 17, 2006 by moonflake

I’ve just finished reading The Blind Watchmaker, by Richard Dawkins (amazon | take2 | site). Dawkins, an outspoken atheist and first class scientist, puts forward in great detail “why the evidence of evolution reveals a universe without design”.

The title of the book stems from a statement made by 18th century theologian William Paley, to the effect that if one were to happen across a watch, one would assume from its complexity that it was designed, that there was a watchmaker responsible. Similarly, from the complexity of life on earth we must assume the existence of a creator. Dawkins parallels the analogy with the idea of natural selection as the blind watchmaker – it is non-random, but there is no purpose to its design, no final desired outcome. Along the way, he pulls apart many misconceptions about the theory of evolution, slowly piecing together a picture that is stunning in its simplicity. All along, he emphasises not only how the illusion of design comes about, but also how it is merely that: an illusion.

Although the book is written for the layman, to use Dawkins’ own expression, you need to have your mental running shoes on. It helps to have some passing familiarity with the ideas of evolution before you start reading, so I would not consider this book to be a primer for evolutionary theory. Rather, it seeks to explain how natural selection, in combination with mutation, is in fact a non-random process that elegantly, inarguably results in the complexity that we incorrectly interpret as evidence for design. To truly appreciate not just the book but the theory, i would go so far as to say one requires more than a passing familiarity with some other scientific fields. Because to me, my experience in physics has taught me that an enormity of complexity can be expressed in the simplest of terms. General relativity and electromagnetic theory are together responsible for an incredible range of phenomena, yet are each expressed in a single equation. To me, a similar sense of compactness, of efficiency, is illustrated by evolution. It just feels right. This is the way the universe works.

Dawkins puts across a number of compelling arguments against rival theories, and indulges in surprising voyages of revelation, all of which i will leave for the reader to discover on their own. But to get an idea of his razor-edged intelligence, here are a few quotes from the man (not all from this book):

Evolution has no long-term goal. There is no long-distance target, no final perfection to serve as a criterion for selection, although human vanity cherishes the absurd notion that our species is the final goal of evolution.

It is raining DNA outside. On the bank of the Oxford canal at the bottom of my garden is a large willow tree, and it is pumping downy seeds into the air… The whole performance, cotton wool, catkins, tree and all, is in aid of one thing and one thing only, the spreading of DNA around the countryside. Not just any DNA, but DNA whose coded characters spell out specific instructions for building willow trees that will shed a new generation of downy seeds. Those fluffy specks are, literally, spreading instructions for making themselves. They are there because their ancestors succeeded in doing the same. It is raining instructions out there; it’s raining programs; it’s raining tree-growing, fluff-spreading, algorithms. That is not a metaphor, it is the plain truth. It couldn’t be any plainer if it were raining floppy discs.

…it seems that it would take less than half a million years to evolve a good camera eye … It’s no wonder ‘the’ eye has evolved at least 40 times independently around the animal kingdom … It is a geological blink.

Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.

I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world.

Richard Dawkins takes the fight to the creationists, and he doesn’t pull any punches. He is a champion of science, of rational, logical thought. I guess I’m just going to have to buy more of his books.

He loves it so!

Posted in Evolution, Stupidity on October 9, 2006 by moonflake

It appears John A. Davison is desperate for the last word. He came back to my blog, after i posted about him commenting here, and his only response to my comment was his catch phrase:

I love it so!

Seriously, is that supposed to mean something? Am I meant to feel chastised, or convinced of his superiority? Is it meant to be some sort of zen mantra? He says it all the time, so it must be important.

And then I realised, maybe it’s code. Let’s rearrange the letters and see what we get:



My god! It all becomes clear! John is secretly a muslim terrorist agent who is going to use a van to blow up a soviet oil refinery as part of the worldwide jihad! The clues are all there!

Quick, someone report him to homeland security.

Amish slaying: out come the loonies

Posted in Evolution, Religion on October 6, 2006 by moonflake

So by now i’m sure the entire world knows that on Monday this week, milkman Charles Carl Roberts IV walked into the  one room schoolhouse in West Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, with a variety of weapons and an intention of violence. After letting all the adults and boys go, he shot 10 little girls (killing 5, leaving 5 in critical condition) and then shot himself.

The event was a tragedy, and like most highly publicised tragedies it has prompted all the loonies to crawl out of the woodworks.

First up was our dear friend Fred Phelps, who threatened to picket the little girls’ funeral and had to be ordered not to by the governor. You remember Fred, a former midweek cuckoo and loon of note. Fred and his church usually picket funerals to point out that god is killing people because he hates gays. Nice piece of work, that guy.

Then Brian Rohrbough, father of one of the children killed in the Columbine High School shooting, comes forward to claim that all this violence is the fault of God being taken out of the schools:

This country is in a moral free-fall. For over two generations, the public school system has taught in a moral vacuum, expelling God from the school and from the government, replacing him with evolution, where the strong kill the weak, without moral consequences and life has no inherent value.

Naturally, Answers in Genesis agreed with him. So, violence in today’s society is all the fault of the move away from religion, and if everyone were christian we’d all be moral and peaceful? Well, let’s look at some facts:

Go on, pull the other leg, it’s got bells on.

(hat tips to butch, red state rabble)