Tag Archives: Biology

Biblical Absurdities: Animal “Kinds” – Follow Up.

This is a follow up to this article on the absurdities of Biblical “kinds”. We are presenting some objections to it given on the Metaphysics of Physics Facebook page.

This is a heavily edited version of that exchange where I expand upon the brief arguments I made in the original thread.

I am not going to name the person I am quoting. Here, I am going to call him Antagonist.

What was Antagonist attempting to argue? Essentially, that it is obvious what the Bible meant by the anti-concept of “kinds”. We shall see that is not the case.

Let us get started with his objections.

Isn’t “kind” just another word for “species”?

Antagonist

What gives you that idea? How could it be? The authors of the Bible had no idea of the concept of species as used today.

Until 1686, the term “species” was simply used as a term for a kind of organism. That is, it had little more meaning that used in the Bible.

In 1686, John Ray introduced the biological concept of species as distinguished by always producing members of the same species.

Carolus Linnaeus then formalized the taxonomic rank of species.

So, again, how could the authors of the Bible have the modern concept of species in mind? They did not know about that concept when the Old Testament was compiled over 2,500 years ago!

If it were a known concept back then, why would the Creationists not point this out, instead of refusing to define the term?

They would not talk about their “cat” kinds or “bear” kinds, since “cat” and “bear” kinds are not species.

If by “kind” the Bible meant species, then why does it talk about the “fowl” kind?

Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive.

Bible, King James, Genesis, 1:25

What is the fowl kind? Who knows what a fowl kind is, whatever the authors of the Bible considered fowls to be?

More importantly, is there a “fowl” species? No there is not. There is no single species that we could logically call a fowl.

Instead, in modern taxonomy, “fowl” is a group consisting of two orders, the Galliformes (gamefowl) and Anseriformes (waterfowl). Each consisting of several species.

So, it seems that the “fowl kind” does not correspond to a “fowl” species.

kinds
Whups, looks like these might be two different species of fowl. So, maybe “fowl” is not a species…

Let us go into a deep dive of the King James Bible and find every time it mentions kinds.

Keep in mind that later, our Antagonist is going to assert that perhaps the Bible authors meant family or genus. Let us see if we can find any use of the word kind that implies species, family or genus.

And Noah went forth, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him: Every beast, every creeping thing, and every fowl, and whatsoever creepeth upon the earth, after their kinds, went forth out of the ark.

Genesis, 8-18-8:19

Nothing about species, family or genus here. Just vague descriptions of “kinds” which could mean almost anything.

And it shall come to pass, that the fishers shall stand upon it from Engedi even unto Eneglaim; they shall be a place to spread forth nets; their fish shall be according to their kinds, as the fish of the great sea, exceeding many.

Ezekiel, 47:10

Again, nothing about species of family or any genus of fish.

15:39 All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds.

Corinthians, 15:39

Here we are talking about kinds of flesh. It is not clear this is the same … um … kind of kinds. But there are certainly more than one “kind” of best, fish or birds.

In any case, nothing about the concepts of species, family or genus.

For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.

James, 3:7-3:8

Yet again, no mention of the concept of species, family or genus. What a surprise!

So, how does any of this suggest that by “kind” that the Bible mean species? Or family? Or genus?

Nothing in the Bible indicates this. So, why would we assume this?

Or what we call “family”. Or “genus”. Using a different word for the same concept doesn’t invalidate the concept.

Antagonist

How could it be referring to either the concept of family or genus? Those concepts, as used in modern taxonomy, did not exist back then.

As used today, we can trace the concept to the late 18th century. The first person to use the modern concept of genus was the French biology Joseph Pitton de Tourefort in 1753.

Joseph Pitton de Tourefort, the first person to use the modern concept of “genus”.

So, again, how could the Bible have had these concepts in mind when they were not known to exist then?

So, no this is not a matter of using a different word for the same concept. There is no indication that the Bible is talking about species, family or genus. It gives no indication it is talking about any of these.

Nor did these concepts exist then, as far as we know!

It seems Antagonist is giving the Bible authors credit for taxonomic concepts that were not known to have existed for almost 2,000 years.

I somehow doubt we should attribute a bunch of goat-herders such advanced knowledge.

You say that but give no evidence as to why it couldn’t mean that other than a semantically irrelevant argument.

Antagonist

It is not my place to show that it could not mean that. It is your place to that is what the Bible meant. Which you have failed to do. Which everyone that has ever tried to pin down what the Bible meant has failed to do!

Having said that, I managed to show that what the Bible means is not a species.

Please show me any evidence that the Bible authors meant any such thing.

I’m not saying Creationism is right, I’m saying making a semantical argument and acting incredulous towards a plausible explanation is not an argument.

Antagonist

You have yet to provide me with a plausible explanation. I have pointed out that your “plausible explanations” are not relevant.

You have yet to show that they are plausible explanations for what the Bible meant. Since there is no evidence at all to support that is what was meant.

It is not my place to prove that it does mean that. It is the Creationists place to define what they think the concept of “kind” means. Which they seem unable to do.

Instead, they use the word without giving any definition.

It does not mean species, family or genus. The Bible does not use it in a way consistent with species. Creationists do not use it in a sense consistent with any of these concepts.

Creationists decide things that look or act similar are “the same kind”. And this seems to be how the Bible authors were thinking. But whether they were thinking has nothing to do with “species” or “family” or “genus”.

I’m not saying creationism is right, I’m saying making a semantical argument and acting incredulous towards a plausible explanation is not an argument.

Antagonist

Why are you defending the Bible’s use of the word “kind”? This is a lot like trying to argue with a Creationist. Which is funny because I am reasonable sure that you are not one.

And where is this plausible argument you claim to have presented?

Why don’t they define what they mean by a kind? You would think that if you had a point, you would be able to show this.

You are right though, acting incredulous is not an argument. Good thing I presented arguments then and even better arguments now!

bear dog kinds

Biblical Absurdities: Animal “Kinds”.

If you are familiar with the fable of Noah’s Ark, you may recall that the Bible discusses how Noah took two of each kind of animal onto his inadequate Ark. What is all this talk of kinds?

As you would expect, the people that wrote the Old Testament were more than a little lacking when it came to knowledge of taxonomy.

Their knowledge of animals presumably extended to the animals they knew about in their geographic area. As well as, perhaps, some other animals they heard about from those that had travelled to other areas.

They had no way of knowing that there are by some estimates 6.5 million species of land-dwelling animals.

They probably thought that there were only a few hundred, maybe several thousand different species of animals. It seems likely that they had no conception that there might be millions of species of land animals.

So, it is perhaps not surprising that they believed that a giant wooden ark might be able to house two of every species of land animal.

But wait, the Bible does not say species, now does it? No, it does not. It talks of kinds of animals in several places. We will focus on this example of the use of “kinds”:

Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive.”

Genesis 6:20, King James Version.

What is a kind? Good luck figuring that out. Nobody seems to know. Does that stop the Creationists chiming in? No, of course not.

What do they say a kind is? I do not know what they think a kind is. They do not seem to know themselves.

It would help if we appreciated the problem that they think they are solving. Which is what?

The Creationists seem to be aware that we have a lot of land-dwelling species around us (to say nothing of all the countless extinct ones). So many that two of each of these species could not all have fit onto this mythical boat.

Whoops! But God said two of each kind of animal was on the Ark!

plant kinds
Um, what about all the land-dwelling plants? Did they all get destroyed in the flood? Or did Noah take kinds of plants too?

Yes, two of each kind. Who is to say that kind is the same as the concept of species?

Maybe Noah got two of the cat kind and two of the dog kind and two of the bear kind and two of the rabbit kind and so on.

This seems like it might be helpful. Then Noah does not need nearly 6.5 million species of animals. He just needs two of every kind of animal. And how many kinds of animals are there?

Not nearly as many animals right? Well, this does not really help.

You see, Creationists like to use this anti-concept of “kind” to group all sorts of organisms together into undefined and undefinable groups.

They do this based on grouping together things that look and or act similar. Orwhich they arbitrarily decide are related and hence part of the same “kind”.

For instance, they like to pretend that anything they consider to be a cat, must belong to the cat kind.

Lions look like cats, so they are part of the cat kind. Tigers look like cats, so they too are members of the cat kind.

What about the lynx or panthers? Are they members of the cat kind? Presumably.

But let us consider the Carnivora suborder of Feliformia. This includes the taxonomic order Felidae or cats. I would assume Creationists would classify most or all members of Felidae as the cat kind.

But what about some very cat-like members of Feliformia that are not in the order Felidae and therefore not cats?

What about the extinct family known as Barbourofelidae, a family of sabre-toothed “cats” ? They are not in the Felidae family, but they are closely related to this family.

Are they members of the cat kind?

What about members of the extinct family Nimravidae? These are even more distantly related than the family Barbourofelidae and had different bone structures in the ear to extant Feliformia. As well as more low-slung bodies with shorter legs and tails than typically associated with cats.

Are members of the Nimravidae family considered part of the cat kind?

At what point does something stop being in the cat kind? How dissimilar to cats does something have to be to what they consider cats before it is no longer part of the cat kind?

They do not know! They have no answer to this. Because there is no logical answer to this. There is no clear, logical point where you can logically suddenly decide that something closely related to cats is not part of the cat kind.

We can do the same with any kind they care to name. Such as the bear kind.

Bears are animals of the family Ursidae. But what do Creationists consider to be part of the bear kind? Presumably, brown bears, polar bears and giant pandas and other similar bears, such as the sun bear.

But what about sloth bears? They are members of the family Ursidae, are they part of this bear kind? What about spectacled bears?

What about members of the extinct subfamily of Ursidae known as Hemicyoninae or “dog-bears”? They are very bear-like but also very dog-like. Are they in the bear family or the dog family?

bear-dog kinds
Yeah, is this of the bear or dog kind? How would you know? It looks a lot like both a bear and a dog to me…

Yes, remember we know that bears and dogs are very closely related. Both Ursidae, bears and Canidae, dogs are closely related branches of the family Caniformia.

What kind are the members of the Caniformia family? At what point does something leave this family and become either part of the dog family?

What kinds are members of the Arctoidea family that includes both bears, bear-dogs and mustelids?

Are mustelids part of the bear kind? They are closely related and look a lot like small bears? Or do they form their own arbitrary mustelid kind? Or the Arctoidea kind?

At what point does something stop being a bear and become some related kind?

Creationists have no clear or logical answer. Again, because there is none.

What about rabbits? Rabbits are organisms in the family Leporidae

Are pygmy rabbits part of the rabbit kind? What about the Sumatran striped rabbit which looks quite different? Or the Anami rabbit which barely looks like a rabbit at all? Or the tiny Swamp rabbit which I can hold in my hand?

Are these all part of the rabbit kind?

What about hares? They are rabbit-like. But they belong to a different family, the family Lepus. Are they part of the rabbit kind or a separate hare kind?

What about the Pika? They are another family in the Lagomorpha order which includes rabbits and hares. Are they part of the rabbit or hare kind? Or the Pika kind? Even though they look like short-eared rabbits or hares

What about members of the Glire clade? It is the parent clade of the Lagomorpha order. Where do you draw the line between Glires and members of the Lagomorpha order you consider part of the rabbit kind?

At no point is it clear where something closely related to a cat stops being part of the cat kind. Or where something closely related to a bear stops being part of the bear kind. And so on for every other kind you care to name.

There is never any clear and distinct point where you decide something that is closely related to members of one kind is no longer part of that kind.

It is easy to include things that clearly look like “cats”. But at some point, you have no way to clearly decide which closely related species belong to this kind or another kind. And so on.

clades

Phylogeny Tracker: Clades from Biota to Animalia

In this series we trace interesting phylogenetic relationships between clades of organisms. This is mostly a fun exercise in taxonomy, but it also helps demystify the complex relationships between various groups of organisms.

Today we are looking at the path that leads from Biota, the root of life, all the way to animals.

Follow along by using the Phylogeny Explorer. Click along the indicated links in the tree so you can eventually get to Animalia.

We first have to take the Eukaryota clade. All animals consist of multiple cells with a nucleus, so they are eukaryotes.

Animals cells have either one or no flagellum, so they are unikonts. Animals also have a triple-gene fusion only in Unikonta. So therefore, we must now turn down the Unikonta clade.

Next we turn down the Obazoa clade. Not much is known about this understudied clade, but it includes animal and fungi, so down this clade we must go.

The flagellate cells of animals, such as sperm, propel themselves with a single posterior flagellum. This is a common characteristic of the Opisthokont clade. Fungi are in this clade, but some have lost their flagellum.

Next we must go down the Holozoa clade. This includes all animals and their most closely related unicellular sisters (e.g. choanoflagellates). But not fungi. Most unicellular holozoans are parasites.

Animals cells maintain the slender thread-like projections or “tentacles” of the ancestral Opsithokont cell, so now we must head down the Filozoa clade.

Both animals and choanoflagellates are able to form multicellular units. Animals are permanently multicellular, while choanoflagellates can form multicellular colonies. So now we head down the Apoikozoa (“Colony Animals) clade.

clades
Sponges are animals too, albeit primitive ones that are sessile for most of their life cycle.

Finally we reach Metazoa, or Animalia. What are the characteristics of animals? Many. We will cover over some of the more readily grasped ones.

They are eukaryotic and multicellular. Unlike plants and algae, which produce their own nutrients, animals are heterotrophic, that is they cannot produce their own food and must ingest it from an external source.

With few exceptions, they respire aerobically. That is they require oxygen in order for cells to produce oxygen.

All animals are motile at some stage of their life-cycle, including the sponge. That is, at some stage of their life cycle, they are mobile. Although, later in life they may become sessile (unable to move by their own power).

Alright, that will do for our brief coverage of the key characteristics of animals. We have seen that to get to Animalia, we have to pass through several basic clades.

Next time we will start off in the Animalia clade and see how long it takes to get to Thelodonti, that is a clade of jawless “fish” with distinct scales, rather than large armor plates. We will have to pass through more than ten clades to reach this point.

It will take us a few just to get to Chordata (animals with a notochord), which include the vertebrates!

Stay tuned.

The Primitive Non-Argument Against Reality, Part One

Today we are looking at this article, “The Evolutionary Argument Against Reality”.

In the words of the article:

The cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman uses evolutionary game theory to show that our perceptions of an independent reality must be illusions.

We shall see this is impossible. This is a gross misuse of mathematics. And is based on distorted view of natural selection.

We will get started with the first paragraph of the article.

As we go about our daily lives, we tend to assume that our perceptions — sights, sounds, textures, tastes — are an accurate portrayal of the real world.

We do not need to “assume” that. Our sensory organs passively perceive reality as it is. They have no means of distorting reality and showing us things as they are not.

Our visual cortex and other parts of our brain process the input of the senses. But they do not distort that input. They simply present the input of our senses to our consciousness. They do not fabricate or distort their inputs.

Everything we experience is an accurate portrayal of the real world, according to our mode of perception. There are different modes of perception. But that does not mean our senses are subjective or that we do not see reality as it is.

For example, we see things in color. Other organisms do not. Does that mean the senses of those organisms are invalid? Or that they do not see reality as it is?

No. It simply means that those other organisms have a different mode of perception. They observe the same facts of reality. But their senses present those facts differently.

Different modes of perception are not an argument for the subjectivity of those modes of perception. They simply mean that different organisms perceive the same facts of reality in different ways.

Do black and white photos invalidate our senses? No more than the fact that some organisms do not see color. Which is to say, not at all.

Nor does it prove that there is any distortion occurring. Different modes of perception are not kinds of sensory distortion.

Sure, when we stop and think about it — or when we find ourselves fooled by a perceptual illusion — we realize with a jolt that what we perceive is never the world directly, but rather our brain’s best guess at what that world is like, a kind of internal simulation of an external reality.

No. Our senses are not some kind of distorting lens that gives us a false view of reality.

Nor is what we perceive “our brain’s best guess at what the world is like”. It is an accurate representation of reality according to our mode of perception.

Indeed, we do not perceive everything that exists. We only perceive those things that are detectable by our senses. We will return to this a little later.

Episode sixteen of the podcast covers the topic of optical illusions.

In short, optical illusions are not an argument against the validity of the senses. When we observe an optical illusion, our senses are giving us valid data.

Neither our senses nor our brains are distorting the data. We are seeing things as they are. When we see bent straws in water, that is not our senses tricking us. That is how we observe light rays bent by water.

But if we want to better understand what we are observing, we must think and “see past” the illusion. We must understand that we need to process what we are seeing, which is real.

We need to more closely understand how it is consistent with reality. And then abstract away that optical illusion so that we can understand things better.

This does not invalidate our senses either.

The world presented to us by our perceptions is nothing like reality. What’s more, he says, we have evolution itself to thank for this magnificent illusion, as it maximizes evolutionary fitness by driving truth to extinction.

This obviously cannot be true. As we have seen, there is no false dichotomy between the world as we see it and as it is. We see what is. There is no alternative. We cannot see things as they are not.

Furthermore, evolution could not make any of this true. Evolution is a process whereby the gene pools of populations change. According to changes in the environment and other factors.

Living organisms undergo countless genetic changes in every generation. You have several such genetic mutations. Although most of them do not impact your life in any noticeable way.

Those mutations that are harmful to the survival of an organism tend to be less likely to be passed down to future generations.  Survival can be  tough enough as it is. Those with a genetic disadvantage are less likely to survive to have offspring.

Natural selection is the process by which genetic changes that are beneficial to survival tend to be passed on. It favors those changes which help increase the chances of survival. While tending to weed out many of the changes that would negatively impact survival chances.

Suppose an organism was less able to perceive the world as it is. That would make it harder for that organism to deal with reality. And thus, seriously impact its chances of survival.

Such unfortunate specimens are very unlikely to have offspring. Let alone offspring that survive to have offspring.

There is no way that being unable to see reality as it is could maximize evolutionary fitness. Only those with the greatest chances of survival maximize their evolutionary fitness. Not those with pathetic to zero chances of survival.

As for evolution driving truth to extinction, that is utter nonsense. The truth is what the facts are.

Natural selection is an extremely brutal and merciless process. Those changes which objectively enhance an organism’s chances of survival are likely to be passed on.

Those which are not in line with the brutal reality of nature tend not to be passed on. Life in the wild is hard and those changes which are not in accordance with the objective needs of the organism are less likely to be passed on.

In a sense, this makes natural selection and evolution itself, heavily subservient to the truth. To the objective requirements of an organism’s survival. Not something which somehow obliterates truth.

Episode Twenty Five – Fragment and Pandemonium Interview with Warren Fahy (No Spoilers)

Play

Today we have an interview with Warren Fahy, author of the books Fragment and Pandemonium. We are going to talk about these books as well as about some biology stuff. Should be fun!

Some of you may not know what these books are. Well, Warren is going to tell us all about them in a little bit. But they are science thrillers something along the lines of Jurassic Park.

You can probably gather by the fact that I am interviewing him about these books, that I have read them and probably enjoy them.

Yes, I have read them and I do enjoy them. Fragment and the sequel are amazingly interesting books with some extremely compelling biological theories.

There are some truly terrifying, nightmare creatures in both of them. They make the dinosaurs and monsters in other books seem tame. Dragons? T-Rexes? The critters in these books, such as spigers are much deadlier and scarier.

I also quite like the main cast of characters, but I cannot talk about that very much without spoilers. But two of them are biologists and they may or may not have some fascinating biological ideas, new and old.

Highly recommended. But more than that and as entertaining as the scary monsters are, you might also learn something reading this.

You can find out more about and buy both of these books here:

Fragment
Buy from Amazon

Pandemonium
Buy from Amazon

This is the non-spoiler version of this episode. If you have read these books, you might want to go to the other version of the podcast here. It has a lot of the same stuff, but without spoiler content removed.

Please note that we cannot be 100% sure that there is not some spoiler we missed in here. It might be best to read the books before listening to this podcast!

We have not presented the transcript of this in web page form. Instead, you can listen to the audio or download the PDF transcript.

However, there may be mistakes in the transcript. Any mistakes in transcription represent our own errors or a transcription error we missed.

Click here to download the PDF transcript.

Episode Twenty Five – Fragment and Pandemonium Interview with Warren Fahy

Play

Today we have an interview with Warren Fahy, author of the books Fragment and Pandemonium. We are going to talk about these books as well as about some biology stuff. Should be fun!

Some of you may not know what these books are. Well, Warren is going to tell us all about them in a little bit. But they are science thrillers something along the lines of Jurassic Park.

You can probably gather by the fact that I am interviewing him about these books, that I have read them and probably enjoy them.

Yes, I have read them and I do enjoy them. Fragment and the sequel are amazingly interesting books with some extremely compelling biological theories.

There are some truly terrifying, nightmare creatures in both of them. They make the dinosaurs and monsters in other books seem tame. Dragons? T-Rexes? The critters in these books, such as spigers are much deadlier and scarier.

I also quite like the main cast of characters, but I cannot talk about that very much without spoilers. But two of them are biologists and they may or may not have some fascinating biological ideas, new and old.

Highly recommended. But more than that and as entertaining as the scary monsters are, you might also learn something reading this.

You can find out more about and buy both of these books here:

Fragment
Buy from Amazon

 

Pandemonium
Buy from Amazon

 

If you have not read these books, you might want to go to the non-spoiler version of the podcast here. It has a lot of the same stuff, but with some spoiler content removed.

Please note that we cannot be 100% sure that there is not some spoiler we missed. It might be best to read the books before listening to this podcast!

We have not presented the transcript of this in web page form. Instead, you can listen to the audio or download the PDF transcript.

However, there may be mistakes in the transcript. Any mistakes in transcription represent our own errors or a transcription error we missed.

Click here to download the PDF transcript.

Episode Twenty One: Homeopathy, Lies About Magic Potions

Play

Today we are talking about homeopathy. We will show that it is nonsense, how it is typically sold in a dishonest fashion and what should be done about it.

[Note: Please note that this transcript may not exactly match the audio. However, there should be no significant differences.]

Click here to download the PDF transcript.

Intro

Metaphysics of Physics is the much needed and crucial voice of reason in the philosophy of science, rarely found anywhere else in the world today. We are equipped with the fundamental principles of a rational philosophy that gives us the edge, may make us misfits in the mainstream sciences but also attracts rational minds to our community.

With this show, we are fighting for a more rational world, mostly by looking through the lens of the philosophy of science. We raise awareness of issues within the philosophy of science and present alternative and rational approaches.

We are your hosts and guides through the hallowed halls of the philosophy of science. Dwayne Davies, my husband, is the founder, primary content creator and voice for Metaphysics of Physics. I am Ashna and I help out however I can. You can find out more about us on the About page of the website.

You can also find all the episodes, transcripts, subscription options and more on the website at metaphysicsofphysics.com.

Hi everyone! This is episode twenty-one of the Metaphysics of Physics podcast. Today we are talking about homeopathy, how it is fraudulently sold and what should be done about it.

What is Homeopathy?

Homeopathy is based on the principle of “like cures like”. That is, you treat an ailment with something that causes the symptoms of the ailment. So, if you want a homeopathic “treatment” for watery eyes, you start with onion juice. Or, if you want to treat the flu you can apparently use belladonna.

homeopathy
Homeopathy is pseudoscience quackery. It was created by Samuel Hahnemann in 1796.

What homeopaths do is consider the symptoms of a disease. And then try to find natural remedies which cause reactions which look like symptoms of the disease. Things which also seem to cause reactions like the symptoms of the ailment in question. Which they then pretend is the same thing as finding a treatment for the disease.

When asked, a homeopath recently said that what they do is look at a picture of the affected body part and look at the symptoms. And then use stuff which would replicate those symptoms.

So, if a patient has a bee-sting, they might look at a picture of the patient’s foot. And then find something that causes inflammation. They then proceed to try to treat the bee sting with that. And possibly some other things that cause other visible symptoms.

We are not making this up, this is what an actual homeopath has said!

This is clearly non-scientific. Even if belladonna causes some flu-like symptoms, that does not mean that it has any effect against the flu itself or its symptoms.

They are trying to treat an ailment with something that also causes some of the same symptoms.

It does not matter since we know that “like cures like” is nonsense. You do not treat an ailment by exposing patients to the causes of the symptoms of ailment.

Ah, but homeopaths claim that what this does is build up the patient’s immunity to the ailment, or at least its symptoms. In the words of one such charlatan: “Homeopathic remedies aim to stimulate your body to respond to symptoms being experienced”.

No, not really. This is not vaccination we are talking about. This building up of resistance would not work.

But there is one major issue which makes all this invalid. Even if “like for like” cures worked. Even if we bought this nonsense about the remedies stimulating natural responses to symptoms.

What is this issue? It is that the ailment causing substance is not present in the so-called treatment!

Now, some of you may be scratching your head at this. Why did I tell you any of this if the substance in question is not in the treatment? If it is not there, how does the treatment work? What IS in the treatment?

They will use almost anything they think helps. Such as arsenic trioxide Yes, I said arsenic trioxide! About now you are probably wondering whether these people are out to poison people. Or at least make them sick.

Well, apparently, they figured out that giving someone ailment causing substances might be a bad idea. Oddly enough, people do not want to be treated with arsenic compounds!

As we shall see, instead of buying homeopathic nonsense, it is just easier to drink a glass of water.

In that case, how does the medicine work? This is where it becomes completely stupid and devolves into entirely magical, woolly thinking.

What you do is you dilute the substance in a vial of water in a 1:100 ratio. So that for every part of the substance there are 100 parts of water. Or, there is 100 times as much water in the vial as the “active ingredient”.

Now, I say water, but sometimes alcohol is used. And if you are taking pills, then probably most of what you are taking is sugar. But, for now lets just talk about water. You will see that it does not make much difference.

That might not sound that bad. There is still some of the ingredient left. It is just in minute quantities. We are not done yet, not by a long shot. This kind of dilution is not nearly dilute enough to be truly homeopathic!

Evolution: Why It Matters

This is part three of a series covering the evidence of evolution and why it matters. In this article, we cover the immense importance of evolution. If you like, you might want to read part one and part two discussing the evidence.

We cannot hope to touch on all the reasons why evolution is important. We will cover many of the most interesting or important reasons. Obviously, we cannot do the subject full justice. Nonetheless, this article will amply demonstrate that evolution is of immense importance.

Evolution is undoubtedly true. We saw that in the previous two parts of this series. It answers hugely important scientific mysteries largely unanswered before the advent of The Origin of Species.

It is a theory with almost unparalleled explanative power. Without evolution, much of biology would not make sense or be knowable. And so, it should not be surprising that it has the greatest abundance of evidence one could hope for.

Few theories could ever hope to have the abundance of evidence evolution has. The evidence is the natural world outside your window. It is also in your own body.

It is thus a paragon of science with applications that often seem almost as abundant as the evidence for it. Our knowledge of evolution has greatly enriched our lives. It has also saved many lives.

Evolution As a Cure for Religiosity

And on top of all of that, for a time it helped many people overcome or diminish their religious convictions. To this day the facts of evolution help people overcome religion. There are many reasons why religious people overcome their religion.

It would be a mistake to say that evolution is the primary reason. But, for many, understanding biodiversity and how biology works serve to weaken the hold religion has on them. As it has since it was first proposed.

It should be noted that all of science is a good candidate to help people shake off the last vestiges of their religious conviction. For those who have embraced faith but are still open to reason, scientific study is very often a cure to religion. Evolution is an area of science with easy to grasp evidence. And that evidence is extremely convincing.

That is why few educated people deny that evolution took place. Only the most ardently religious and ignorant Creationists deny that evolution happened. Only the most evasive and ignorant can allow themselves to embrace the delusion that it did not happen.

Even Lord Kelvin, a very religious person, eventually accepted that evolution is “not unscientific”.

The rest of us are free to marvel at the wonder of evolution and its many amazing applications. So, for that reason alone, we can say evolution is important.

Let us look at some more all the same.

Evolution is the Cornerstone of Biology

It is only through our understanding of the theory of evolution that we can make any sense of much of the field of biology. If we did not understand evolution, we would not have made most of the remarkable progress we have made in this field.

If we did not understand evolution, the remarkable biodiversity we have observed would make no sense. By some estimates, over 1.5 million species have been identified. Why are there over 5,000 identified mammal species? And why are there over 81,000 mollusc species? There are more than 1 million insect species. Including over 400,000 species of beetles!

Consider that some experts believe that 80% or more of species remain unidentified. It has been estimated that we might have 8.7 million or more species on Earth. So, the remarkable biodiversity of Earth is more astounding still.

Without evolution, we cannot understand this remarkable biodiversity or how it came about.

We cannot understand how most of these organisms came to be. Without evolution, we cannot understand why these organisms have the relationships that they seem to. Why do Homo sapiens seem to be related to apes? Why do humans look so similar to juvenile apes?

Without evolution, we cannot understand why animals have many of the features and behaviours which they do. Why, for instance, do whales have vestiges of what appear to be hind legs?

Why do human ears have tiny muscles that seem to try to turn our ears towards sounds? Even though these muscles are too weak to do so. And why do birds have several dinosaurian features?

Why do humans and other apes have such similar genes? Why do all living humans have shared mitochondrial DNA?

How did eukaryotic life forms arise for that matter?

evolution of cells
Animals and plants both have complex cells which have incorporated simpler forms of life. How this happened is not difficult to grasp in the light of evolution.

How did any of the various groups of life that we know about now arise?

There would be a great deal about species we would not be able to understand without evolution, including the countless analogous features found among many seemingly very different creatures.

We cannot answer any of these key questions without understanding evolution. It is not a stretch to say that without a grasp of evolution a great deal of the natural world would make no sense.

If we did not understand evolution, we would not properly understand the importance of genes. We would not be able to understand the countless genetic similarities between species and groups of organisms.

Nor would we understand the various functions of many genes and how they came to exist as they do. Nor would we understand the many important effects of changes or duplication in these genes.

Much of genetic engineering and biotechnology would be a mystery to us since we would lack a proper understanding of genes. Genetic engineering would not be as well understood as it is. As a result, many forms of genetic engineering would be impossible. And many forms of biotechnology would be unknown to us.

It is not an exaggeration to say that evolution is the cornerstone of modern biology. Without it, much of our modern knowledge of biology would be impossible.

Evolution: The Abundant Evidence – Part One

What is Evolution?

There are many misunderstandings about evolution. Let’s make sure we know what it is before covering some misunderstandings.

What is evolution? Wikipedia defines evolution as:

[The] change in the heritable characteristics of biological populations over successive generations.

What does this mean? What are heritable characteristics?

Heritable characteristics are the characteristics of an organism that are passed on from generation to generation by means of an organism’s genes.

When an organism receives its genes from its parents, it will not receive perfect copies of these genes. Its genes will be slightly different than the genes it inherits from its parents. It will have its own unique mutations.

There are many possible reasons why an organism’s genes may change. But, in any case, it is these gene mutations which lead to changes in heritable traits, which can spread through populations.

This is assuming that species reproduce sexually. Some species reproduce asexually and make copies of themselves. Here we are talking about sexual reproduction. But, evolution of asexual species also occurs by gene mutations.

When these changes in heritable characteristics spread throughout a population, then evolution has occurred. In other words, evolution is the widespread change in the characteristics of a population caused by genetic variations.

The key word here is population. Evolution is not about genetic changes in individuals. It refers to changes that are widespread among individuals in a population. And not simply changes experienced by an isolated individual.

What might an example of evolution be?

Take a population of finches. Suppose some of them undergo genetic changes. And these changes mean that those finches have beaks more suitable for eating the food available in its environment. They pass the genes for this better beak to their offspring.

Those offspring pass their genes to their own offspring. Eventually, the other finches in the population will have inherited genes for this better beak.

evolution
Darwin’s Finches. The same finches Darwin studied when developing the theory of evolution.

As we shall see in the second part of this series, we have seen such examples of evolution happen. Within very short periods of time!

These are beneficial changes. Which increase the chances of survival. These are the mutations which tend to be more likely to be passed on. Ones that increase the chances of surviving to breed. And are thus more likely to be passed on and to spread among populations.

But not all evolutionary changes are good. Some are neutral and have no real effect either way. They are passed on and spread through a population anyway.

Evolution is simply the accumulation of changes in heritable characteristics in a population. Nothing about that says that those changes must be beneficial to the species. Or that they cannot be harmful.

However, beneficial changes mean that the affected organisms are more likely to survive and pass down these genetic changes. Which means that beneficial changes are more likely to spread throughout the population.

Is evolution the same as speciation? No. Speciation is the process by which new species arise as a result of an accumulation of evolutionary changes.

Speciation occurs when a population has accumulated sufficient genetic changes that it can no longer breed with populations of its parent species.

At this point they have branched off into their own species and speciation has occurred. This typically happens as a result of populations becoming geographically isolated.

Evolution is the process by which speciation occurs. But it is not the same thing as speciation. Which is simply one result of the accumulation of evolutionary changes under certain conditions.

Natural selection is not the only known means by which evolution occurs. No. It was the mechanism Darwin proposed in the Origin of Species.

We now know that there are several other important mechanisms by which evolution occurs. Other methods include genetic drift, genetic hitchhiking and gene flow.

The great Charles Darwin, from a painting by John Collier.

We are not here to discuss how evolution happens. That is a very complicated topic which could take up another article or several. Today we will simply provide evidence that evolution does happen.

Now that we have some idea of what evolution is and what it is not, is there any evidence for evolution?

Yes! There is an abundance of extremely compelling evidence for evolution. So much that it would be absurd to contend that it is not proven far beyond any reasonable doubt.

The evidence is so good that it would be absurd to contend that evolution did not happen. It would be about as absurd as if someone alleged that gravity does not exist!

The evidence is diverse. Many areas of biology have an amazing gluttony of evidence! Practically every major branch of biology contains lots of evidence for it!

We will look at evidence from a few sub-fields of biology and find some truly remarkable further evidence.

What are these fields? Here are some of them.