Has anyone else noticed that you often only need to read the first sentence of anything written at Uncommon Descent to see them screw up royally? Especially, lately, if the author is Denyse O’Leary. Take this, for example.
Textbooks often don’t discuss extinction — the death of all members of a species — in any detail.
That’s news to me. I opened up my intro biology text, which is more a philosophy and history of biology book, and found 23 pages dedicated to discussing extinctions. It’s been my experience that most textbooks will mention at least the Permian and K/T extinctions; they’ll include quite a bit of material on modern extinctions; and they’ll always discuss mechanisms of extinctions. It’s as if these people have never even cracked a biology book, yet feel perfectly comfortable in declaring precisely what’s inside.
Even weirder, O’Leary goes on to quote a section from David Raup’s excellent book, Extinction (damn those evilutionists: they’re always trying to hide the facts by writing books with titles that say exactly what they’re about. Douglas Erwin also has a book titled Extinction — we’re trying so hard to avoid discussing in any detail these subjects, you see.) Raup wrote a book in which he documented the importance of chance events in evolutionary history, arguing that some major events, such as extinction in the face of overwhelming environmental trauma, are not something that any lineage can adapt itself to — some events really are just unpreventable accidents. He also carefully explained that because many major processes are driven entirely by chance, that does not mean that selection is false or doesn’t occur. Evolution has a plurality of mechanisms. O’Leary quoted a paragraph of that, and here’s her take.
In his day, Raup was taking a big risk by even suggesting that Darwinism might not be true, so he wisely merely provides facts that dispute it — and then covers his tracks with a resounding promotion of Darwinism in areas of study that he does not actually address in his book in any detail.
Wha…? That’s simply insane. David Raup was most definitely not suggesting that evolution by natural selection (which is what I presume she means by “Darwinism”) was not true, nor did any of the facts he describe in the book in any way dispute the role of selection. Raup is not in any way on O’Leary’s side. He is not a cunning stealth creationist writing a book to rebut evolution, and hiding his motives in a few false testimonials — he’s an evolutionary biologist, his book supports evolution, and the reason he’s explaining that extinctions don’t refute natural selection is because they don’t, as anyone with a sliver of reading comprehension would be able to tell you after reading his book.
Here’s the other amazing thing about the creationists’ output. The first sentence is stupid and patently wrong, but they always manage to get even stupider as you read deeper.