Looking for the lizard guts story?

Another bit of distortion from Ray Comfort: he claims now that I was asked to present the very best evidence for evolution, and that all I could come up with was some “little infolding of the gut”. If you’ve come here from Comfort’s ignorance zone, here are the details of the evolution of lizards of the genus Podarcis.

What Comfort cannot comprehend is that there is no one absolute make-or-break piece of evidence for evolution — evolution is a conclusion from the totality of the evidence. There are thousands of cases that demonstrate that the principles of evolution work and are useful for understanding the natural world; there are no cases where creationism has improved our understanding.


  1. says

    While I would hope that some of Ray’s readers would come here read that and not only be able to understand it but actually “get it”, I don’t have much hope. That place is a den of ignorance.

  2. El Herring says

    So what’s his alternative explanation, apart from “Goddidit”? And if god did do it, why didn’t god get it right the first time?


  3. says

    Haven’t you learned by now, PZ. When a creationist debates, he/she will always claim victory. No matter how much evidence you present, or how much logic you use, the creationist will always “win”. Even if you walk all over the creationist, he/she “wins”. They have God on thier side, and he never loses, ever. Creationists don’t think, so logic and reason can never enter into their minds. That’s why I don’t want to debate any of them in public. They can not think for themselves.

    However, maybe someone listening can hear and think for himself/herself. Maybe he/she will say, “You know, there’s something a bit fishy about this creationism stuff.” That’s probably the good you’re doing and that’s alot.

  4. Lago says

    This is why you should have debated him directly. This tag you are it version of things is useless.

    When he says, “There are no transitionals” you mention one and ask why it does not represent a transitional form. If he tries to act as if you have so little…mention several more.

    Ask him what a transitional from a basal synapsids should look like on its way to becoming a derived mammal? If he asks what a synapsid is, as him why he does not know? Then keep going and ask him what traits in the osteology would need to be bridged in the gaps between synapsids and mammals, and ask him which ones were not?

    Also, do not mention silly things like the vermiform appendix, as creationists see the usage as just something beyond mans understanding. In other words, when we call it vestigial, they just claim it is our own arrogance.

    What should be asked about. Simple things like, if man was created first, why do all men develop the structures that would become the uterus? Why do all men have nipples? If he says, because man and woman were made of one another, as in Adam and Eve, then ask him how this fits in with all male mammals basically having nipples? Ask him to check his cat, or his dog. Then ask, why do we develop a row of nipples that corresponds to other known positions of nipples in other groups of mammals, only to usually lose all but the ones in our pectoral region? Ask him why chimps and gorillas have this same “problem.”

    It is very easy to unveil a creationists ignorance about evolution and the evidence for such once you stop playing on their ignorant turf. Always bring them to where the evidence is and shove it down their throats until they crack…

  5. says

    Oh, it’s not that he doesn’t realize “evolution is a conclusion from the totality of the evidence”… it’s just classic denial mode because evo ain’t part of the agenda… Of course you knew that.

  6. Matthew says

    “What Comfort cannot comprehend is that there is no one absolute make-or-break piece of evidence for evolution”

    PZ, Comfort *cannot* comprehend this, although I’m quite sure he’s intelligent enough to – most people are. He cannot comprehend because if he does you will break apart his world, his beliefs, his understanding of the world, the universe and everything.

    Just remember that you’re not arguing about a transitional form or a lizard gut, you’re arguing about whether his entire life is devoted to the tooth fairy or the divine creator and guider of the universe.

  7. says

    Hi PZ

    The lizard story is a good piece of “evolution in action”. I think Comfort – from a scan of his webpages – isn’t exactly a deep thinker or overly concerned about truth that can be found in the public domain. He’s a man with a message, a rather familiar one to anyone who has been in evangelical circles (I raise my hand… please don’t excoriate me!) What more can you expect from an evangelist?

    However as he’s not a biologist and he’s trying to tell you how to do your job I think you could be justifiably angry. But that would just make you another “Angry Atheist” that Comfort & co. can tell their faithful to ignore. Not everyone who believes in God – any God – wants to tell evolutionary biologists that they’re idiots. I don’t. Likewise I’d like to extend a hand of friendship to all the geologists, astronomers and nuclear physicists (to name a few disciplines) misrepresented by the Young-earthers and their ID clones. If God is God then the truth dug up, examined under a microscope, or on a dissection table, is no danger to His/Her existence.

    A bigger danger to God’s character is the misbehaviour of His/Her’s self-proclaimed interpreters and guardians… it’s enough to make a person an atheist.

  8. RamblinDude says

    But PZ, your evidence requires thinking and investigation. Bah.

    Creationists want overwhelming absolutes, a “Saul on the road to Damascus” moment, an earth-shaking, emotional epiphany, a blinding light that renders them weeping with joy and contriteness in total obsequiousness. There’s not even any speaking-in-tongues in science, so how true can it be?

  9. BaldApe says

    Comfort is still operating on the “why are there still monkeys?” level of reality denial. He won’t or can’t comprehend the idea that the totality of evidence from unrelated fields provides much more solid support that one little bit of evidence ever could.

    OTOH, this book, called Paradigms on Pilgrimage, which I haven’t yet read, is supposed to include the kinds of evidence that will sway creationists who are willing to look at evidence. For instance, trace fossils in sediments of different ages in the same series can’t have been buried in a single worldwide flood. One of the authors was a creationist and is now curator at the Calvert Marine museum near where I live.

  10. Phentari says

    I’m not at all sure that he can’t comprehend it; I’m sure that, for reasons of pure enlightened self-interest, he will never ADMIT to comprehending it.

    It’s dangerous to assume that, simply because someone takes an utterly asinine position and sounds like an idiot, they’re genuinely stupid. Any number of intelligent and not-too-scrupulous individuals have, in the past, realized the following:

    1. There are a lot of gullible people in the world
    2. These gullible people mistrust what they don’t understand and seek simpler explanations
    3. Therefore, I can make a whole buttload of money by telling these people that they’re right. If I say what they want to hear, it doesn’t matter how implausible it is; they’ll refuse to listen to any evidence to the contrary.

    I don’t know if Comfort’s a true believer in Biblical inerrancy, or in his bank account; in either case, his actions would be identical.

  11. Steve LaBonne says

    This is why you should have debated him directly. This tag you are it version of things is useless.

    Debating them directly is equally useless, I’m afraid. Crass ignorance and stupidity will always sound good to an ignorant and stupid audience. The truth is unavoidably complex and can’t effectively be conveyed in little soundbites.

    There may be ways of actually reaching people capable of being lifted out of their ignorance, but I doubt that any sort of debate format is on the list.

  12. Torbjörn Larsson, OM says

    Comfort’s ignorance zone

    Oh PZ, now I get it! In contrast to Phil Plait’s in your face humor you are pulling your puns: the “Comfort zone”. Very punny.

    Actually, you should make a collaboration post which displays both styles. …, um, the “Bad Pharyngula” … no, that would spell the end of the world as we know it. Never mind.

  13. says

    Ewww… Speaking of Ray Comfort – I just went over to AtheistCentral for the first time ever. Bleh! But here’s something fun that I saw…

    “The first communication I received that the debate was off, was ten minutes before I was due to go on air, and therefore wondered if Dr. Myers had chickened out (I have had that happen with atheists).”

    What an A-hole Liar.

  14. Tony Sidaway says


    When he says, “There are no transitionals” you mention one and ask why it does not represent a transitional form.

    Have you learned nothing? For every transitional you evilutionists make up, God creates two gaps. Take that you infidels!

  15. raven says

    Another bit of distortion from Ray Comfort: he claims now that I was asked to present the very best evidence for evolution, and that all I could come up with was some “little infolding of the gut”.

    Saw that. A Big Lie of course. The evidence for evolution fills multistory libraries after 150 years.

    The cecal valves of lizards is a good example of macroevolution in real time. There aren’t many (Tasmanian facial tumor is another) because most macroevolution occurs on 1000’s to millions of years time scales. And no one wants to stay up for a million years.

    The creos pay a big price for their cognitive dissonance. Since their theory is an obvious lie, they can only defend it by lying. So lying becomes automatic and seems to spill over into other parts of their lives. Despite a transcript, recordings, and the fact that PZ is still alive, Ray Comfort just lies about what he said a week ago.

    Lying is evil. Creos are evil.

  16. says

    When asked for evidence of your position, you provided it. When asked for evidence of his, he’d repeat the magic words “I LIKE CANDY” like all great and amazing creationist theory boils down to.

  17. raven says

    Comfort is still operating on the “why are there still monkeys?” level of reality denial.

    Not even that. “We are voluntarily ignorant and lie a lot so god exists.”

    For some of these guys, it is just a way to make a living without working. Ken Ham makes 175,000 bucks a year plus a huge expense account. He would otherwise have been a not very competent science teacher in Queensland.

    Ray Comfort would have otherwise been a janitor or burger flipper in NZ. Instead he gets to pander to religious extremists in the Big City in the USA.

  18. Sigmund says

    I actually find people like Ray Comfort useful in exposing the sorts of things that many non scientists can be taken in by – a genuine ‘useful idiot’ that we should make more us of. I suspect his banana video has been responsible for turning more christians into atheists than anything short of The God Delusion.
    I automatically thought of the Lizard point too as soon as PZ was asked for a good piece of evidence but I also thought that this would be far above the heads of the sort of individuals who thing evolution actually involves species morphing – in real time – into totally unrelated lifeforms (the ‘no dog from chicken’ argument).
    The opportunity that these sorts of debates offers is not to discuss points of evidence (which they wont understand) but to show how the scientific method works – make them understand the value of prediction and testing and the fact that ID and the like, don’t allow for any predictions (what does ID offer antibiotic research for instance).

  19. Frank Lovell says

    Some suggestions for possibly appropriate replies to young-earth creationist Ray Comfort’s expressed “assessment” of PZ’s presented case:

    Debating creationists on the topic of
    evolution is rather like trying to play
    chess with a pigeon — it knocks the
    pieces over, craps on the board, and
    flies back to its flock to claim victory.

    ——————— S. D. Weitzenhoffer —–

    It’s a wearying business, arguing with
    Creationists. Basically, it is a game of
    Whack-a-Mole. They make an argument,
    you whack it down. They make a second,
    you whack it down. They make a third,
    you whack it down. So they make the
    first argument again.

    ——————————- John Derbyshire —-

    You can lead a horse to water,
    but you can’t make him drink;
    you can lead a YEC to facts,
    but you can’t make him think.

    ——————– Burma-Shave —-

    You can NOT be SERIOUS!!
    ————- John McEnroe —

  20. WhenDanSaysJump says

    The pigeon/chessboard analogy is one of my firm favourites. The “hugely economical with the truth” stylings of Monsieur Comfort will never cease to be amaze me with their predictability.

  21. QrazyQat says

    “What’s the most important piece of metal in the Golden Gate Bridge?”

    That’s the equivalent of the very common creationist question “what’s the best evidence for evolution?”.

  22. hje says

    The creos pay a big price for their cognitive dissonance. Since their theory is an obvious lie, they can only defend it by lying. So lying becomes automatic and seems to spill over into other parts of their lives.

    So true. Is it just a matter of time before Ray C. has his Ted Haggard/Jim Bakker/Jimmy Swaggart moment? I remember watching the video of the supercilious Haggard dismissing Dawkins (before ordering him off his premises)–just before the big fall. Instant karma.

    He’s big on accusing atheists of the sin of lust. He talks about this–a lot. Makes you wonder what’s going on inside.

  23. Benjamin Franklin says

    I think that Ray Comfort might be in a great deal of discomfort over this endeavor.

    His blog today says-

    “I think we really are giving him too much attention. It is our constant reaction that helps some Christians think that Ray is really getting to us, or that he has something. If we ignored him he’d be less successful.” From an atheist website.

    This person is right. Why don’t you atheists quietly back off? It’s not helping your cause. Stay on the atheist sites.

    Funny how he now wants atheists to stay away from a site called “Atheist Central”, but I disagree with the comment that he used. It is getting him more attention, but I think that he is coming out on the bottom with his lies, distortions, lack of knowledge, and constantly playing the only card in his deck, “You’re all sinners & you’re going to suffer forever in Hell”, unless of course, you accept my mythology.

    Comfort said in a cheap shot at PZ “I smell chicken”, but it seems that the egg which is Comfort, is cracking, and on his face.

    Which came first, the smell of chicken, or the eggs that hatch puppies? and, was it good for you?

  24. says

    PZ, you might be interested to find out that a new episode of the stupidity-filled Monster Quest that’s airing on the 13th will be hunting enormous octopi.

  25. Stjuuv says

    Hello everyone. I have been reading the pharyngula blog for quite some time, but I have never yet posted any comments for the articles (mainly because most times the comments pile up with intimidating speed). Also, this is not the most relevant article in which to post it, but it is the most recent, so I am going to post here. Also, I am aware that this is also not the most relevant blog to post this in either, but here I see a collection of one of the most open-minded and intelligent people I see on the web, so I am going to leave it here.
    For those of you from the US, I would like to ask you to influence your representatives in the legislative or executive offices to support Georgia, who is under attack by the Russian Federation as we speak. That support could either be to call up Russia to enter peace talks instead of bombing Georgian cities hundreds of miles away from the conflict zone, or to call up for the US military to provide transportation for Georgian troops (who are the third largest member of the coalition forces there) so that they could defend their homeland in what seems to be a long-planned attempt to annex a part of Georgian territory and throw down their west-leaning government. As a citizen of a country bordering Russia and a formerly occupied by the Soviet Union, I can tell you that no matter what you read from the news from Russian sources, they will always spread outright lies just to confuse the international community and delay the appropriate reaction until it is too late. I don’t know how much good, if at all, this will do, but at least I have tried. It just hurts me to see a fresh democracy being stomped on by people who only wish that the Soviet Union could be rebuilt and the Russian Empire restored under authoritarian rule. Thank you for your time and attention everybody.

  26. jagannath says

    Or perhaps you could condemn Georgia about attacking the independent South Ossetia without provocation.

    You could also ask UN to officially admit the independence of South Ossetia which has been de-facto separate from Georgia from 1990’s.

    Perhaps you could also for example condemn the murdering of russian peacekeepers instead of allowing medical attention to be given to them.

    What about the wishes of South Ossetians for independence and hope of not being attacked by conquering army?

  27. Rey Fox says

    “evolution is a conclusion from the totality of the evidence.”

    Perhaps someone needs to compile this evidence somewhere. Or, you know, a helpful summary of it, at least. Call it “Evidence for Evolution”, have a boatload of articles on “such-and-such is evidence for evolution because of such-and-such.” No claims of creationists would be addressed there, just all positive evolution evidence. It wouldn’t be useful for middle school toadies like Comfort, but for the genuinely curious, it would be a good resource, especially since that “Evolve” series on the History Channel (or wait, it’s just “History” now) is a bit thin on the way stuff actually evolves, particularly in the crucial earlier stages. Or does something like this exist, in web or book form?

  28. Jim Gleason says

    This is off topic, but I’m not sure where to post it, and I seem to remember that your email addresses have become non-functional after … well l’ll just skip that. I wanted to say you did a great job of selecting guest bloggers, or maybe I should say your guest bloggers are very enjoyable. Thanks for introducing them to us.

  29. rufustfirefly says

    Sometime ago on his blog, Ray Comfort spoke the truth. He said he could never believe evolution because it would make his God a liar. It’s that simple. If Jesus came down and told Ray that evolution was real, Ray would simply call Jesus a false convert.

  30. MB says

    Isn’t Ray Comfort a pretty good example of evolution? He doesn’t get it (see @35), but there’s his evidence staring him in the face in the mirror every day.

  31. AndrewC says

    I think Human Chromosome 2 is a great thing to bring up when they push for that single piece of evolution. Obviously, I’m not for pretending like it isn’t the totality that matters, but if they ask the question I usually bring that up.

  32. IceFarmer says


    We’ve already established that Ray is diluding himself and shuts off anything other than his “truth.” It would be nice if we could educate him as to the allegorical nature of the good book and the lies of many that propogate it’s “teachings.”

  33. allkom says

    For what it worths:
    In debating with creationists I always felt like talking to a door. No answers, no valid arguments, always evading or refuting with aged arguments. And you can not kick them as you would do with a stubborn door. Nevertheless I keep on trying , for the sake my self esteem. Shesh!, a waste of time.

  34. Sondra says

    I read the following articles last night and realized that the level of the attack on science is much deeper and more dedicated than I had thought. Much to my surprise it has as much to do with neo-conservative politics than I ever imagined.

    Intelligent Design: Opiate of the Dummies- this is from James Woolcott’s blog in Vanity Fair
    Wielding a sword of truth and a surgical scalpel of reason (he’s quite ambidextrous), NRO’s John Derbyshire pierces the fatty deposits of bad faith in the postures of religious piety by certain conservative eggheads.
    His takeoff point is a recent essay-review by Gertrude Himmelfarb of Darwin in The New Republic, about which he has incisive things to say, particularly regarding her scientific illiteracy. But the chief item of interest is the attitude toward religion by Himmelfarb’s husband and the co-godfather of neoconservatism (coequal with Norman Podhoretz), Irving Kristol.
    Citing and quoting from an excellent article by Ronald Bailey on the neocon campaign to discredit Darwinish (I remember being puzzled when such pieces began popping up in Commentary amid the usual battle cries and attacks of gout), Derbyshire writes:
    “BOOB BAIT FOR THE BUBBAS [John Derbyshire]
    A colleague referred me to this piece in Reason magazine as background to Gertrude Himmelfarb’s position. It is… enlightening.
    “We seem to be in Straussian ‘noble lie’ territory here. Sample:
    “‘Kristol [Himmelfarb’s hubby] agrees with this view. “There are different kinds of truths for different kinds of people,” he says in an interview. “There are truths appropriate for children; truths that are appropriate for students; truths that are appropriate for educated adults; and truths that are appropriate for highly educated adults, and the notion that there should be one set of truths available to everyone is a modern democratic fallacy. It doesn’t work.”‘
    “Translation: ‘We cognitive elites know religion is a crock, but it helps keep the bubbas in line, so we must pretend to be in sympathy with it.’
    “This line of thinking seems to me to be unspeakably horrible and inhuman, though, yes, I am aware that it has a long pedigree. If that’s conservatism, I want out.
    Posted at 07:41 PM”
    After resident idiot Cliff May sticks in his two cents, Derbyshire retorts:
    “BOOB BAIT [John Derbyshire]
    Cliff: No, don’t buy that.
    “Look through that Bailey piece again:
    “‘A year ago, I asked Kristol after a lecture whether he believed in God or not. He got a twinkle in his eye and responded, “I don’t believe in God, I have faith in God.” Well, faith, as it says in Hebrews 11:1, “is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” But at the recent AEI lecture, journalist Ben Wattenberg asked him the same thing. Kristol responded that “that is a stupid question,” and crisply restated his belief that religion is essential for maintaining social discipline. A much younger (and perhaps less circumspect) Kristol asserted in a 1949 essay that in order to prevent the social disarray that would occur if ordinary people lost their religious faith, “it would indeed become the duty of the wise publicly to defend and support religion.”‘
    “Here we have a guy who plainly doesn’t believe in God, but who thinks that well-padded intellectual elitists like himself ought to evade the issue in public for fear of demoralizing the proles and perhaps jeopardizing some padding thereby. I can’t think of anything nice to say about that; and in fact, the only things I CAN think of to say would not be suitable for a family website…
    “These are the people who are pushing ‘intelligent design’ in the conservative movement. Not only am I glad and proud to have spoken out against this preposterous hoax, I wish I had done so more forthrightly. These are people filled up to their meritocratic nose-holes with contempt for ordinary people. That’s conservatism? Ptui, I spit.”
    On a more vulgar level, I think the same dynamic is at play in the entire “War on Christmas” sham perpetrated by Fox News and rightwing talkshow hosts. They rant on and on about how Christianity is the kick-toy of the Hollywood left and snobby liberals and the ACLU, how Nativity displays are being vandalized by Nation readers disguised as wild raccoons, pound the anchor desk to demand prayer be restored to public schools. And yet how religiously observant are most of these blowhards? How often does Rush Limbaugh attend services? Or does he spend every Sunday on the golf course? Would John Gibson or O’Reilly mouth off to any of their Jewish friends (assuming they’ve accumulated some over the years), “Look, pal, I have no problem with Hanukah, just remember this is a Christian country, we’re the majority, the majority makes the rules, what we say goes, so don’t get bent out of shape when someone wishes you a Merry Christmas–and tell George Soros that goes double for him”? It’s easy to swagger in front of a microphone, and I suspect most conservative demagogues practice a strange form of hypocrisy: talking shit in public that they would be wary to do in private. (Most hypocrites do the opposite, talking trash one on one that they would never say over the sanctity of the airwaves.)
    Mind you, I have no proof, but I imagine that the Fox Newsers, like Kristol and co., profess and promote religious faith must more than they practice it. They caricature liberal elites for “looking down” on religion while they themselves only pretend to look up to it, like Noel Coward imagining himself a nun. They approve of religion in part because, you know, it gives the little people something to do and makes them more manageable.
    Here is the link;

    Origin of the Specious
    Why do neoconservatives doubt Darwin?
    Ronald Bailey | July 1997 Print Edition

    Darwinism is on the way out. At least, that’s what Irving Kristol announced to a gathering at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington not long ago. Darwinian evolution, according to the godfather of neoconservatism, “is really no longer accepted so easily by [many] biologists and scientists.” Why? Because, Kristol explained, scientifically minded Darwin doubters are once again focusing on “the old-fashioned argument from design.” That is to say, life in all its apparently ordered complexity cannot be understood in terms of chance mutation and the competition for survival. There must, after all, be a designer. So, exit Darwin; enter–or re-enter–God.
    This may seem to some readers to be a personal quirk of Kristol’s. Perhaps as he approaches Eternity (he’s 77), he may want some grand company there. But Kristol’s friend and colleague Robert Bork is claiming the same thing: Charles Darwin and his theories are finished. In his new work, Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline, Bork pins his own anti-evolutionary attack on Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, a recent book by biochemist Michael Behe. Bork declares that Behe “has shown that Darwinism cannot explain life as we know it.” He adds approvingly that the book “may be read as the modern, scientific version of the argument from design to the existence of a designer.” Bork triumphantly concludes: “Religion will no longer have to fight scientific atheism with unsupported faith. The presumption has shifted, and naturalist atheism and secular humanism are on the defensive.”
    Are these merely two isolated intellectual voices preaching that old-time design? Hardly. Last summer, the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a think tank devoted to studying the role of religion in public policy, and now headed by neoconservative Elliott Abrams, called together a group of conservative intellectuals, including Kristol, his wife, Gertrude Himmelfarb, and Hoover Institution fellow Tom Bethell, to listen to anti-Darwin presentations by Behe and Michael Denton, author of Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. Himmelfarb has told at least one colleague that she, too, thinks the Behe book “excellent.”
    There’s yet more. The neoconservative journal Commentary, of all periodicals, joined this attack last June with a cover essay, “The Deniable Darwin,” written by mathematician David Berlinski.
    “An act of intelligence is required to bring even a thimble into being,” wrote Berlinski, “why should the artifacts of life be different?” Berlinski warmly endorsed Behe’s book, praising it as “an extraordinary piece of work that will come to be regarded as one of the most important books ever written about Darwinian theory. No one can propose to defend Darwin without meeting the challenges set out in this superbly written and compelling book.” Commentary Editor Neal Kozodoy says he was “delighted” that his magazine served as a “forum for airing this issue.” Berlinski “hit a nerve,” according to Kozodoy, not only among the scientists he criticized, but “out there, among general readers, many of whom seem preoccupied with the issues he raised.”
    What’s going on here? Opponents of Darwin traditionally have been led by biblical literalists, whose “arguments” on the subject have been generated mostly by the Book of Genesis. Now their camp includes some of the most prominent thinkers in the conservative intellectual movement.
    As a matter of historical curiosity, this new turning of neocon eyes toward heaven comes just as Pope John Paul II has officially recognized that “the theory of evolution is more than an hypothesis.” Indeed, it comes as evolutionary thinking itself is shedding considerable light on an array of questions and problems, from brain growth to the development of immune systems, from sociobiology to economics, from ecology to software design. Such research is yielding anti-designer results. F.A. Hayek long ago recognized the phenomenon of “spontaneous order” and described how it arose in markets, families, and other social institutions. Now, ingenious computer models are confirming Hayek’s insights. It is increasingly obvious that social systems, from commerce to language, evolve and adapt without the need for top-down planning and organization. Order in markets is generated through processes analogous to Darwinian natural selection in biology. In other words, we can indeed have apparent design without a designer; the world is demonstrably brimming with just such phenomena.
    But the neocon assault on Darwinism may not be based on either science or spirituality so much as on politics and political philosophy. That is the view of Paul Gross, a biologist and self-described conservative. Gross is much concerned with the interplay of science and politics–he is the co-author of the 1994 book, Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels with Science–and is puzzled by the attacks on evolutionary biology by people whose political views he largely shares. Regarding Commentary’s anti-Darwin article, he says he is mystified that the magazine “would publish the damned thing without at least passing it by a few scientists first.”
    Gross believes that the conservative attack on Darwin may be a case of tactical politics. Some conservative intellectuals think religious fundamentalists are “essential to the political program of the right,” says Gross. As a gesture of solidarity, he says, these intellectuals are publicly embracing arguments that appear to “keep God in the picture.”
    The end of the Cold War may also be a factor. Marx fell with the Soviet Union; Freud has been discredited by modern psychology and neuroscience. The last standing member of the 19th century’s unholy materialist trinity is Darwin. Berkeley law professor Phillip Johnson, author of Darwin on Trial, makes the connection clear: “Darwinism is the most important of the materialist ideologies–Marxism, Freudianism, and behaviorism are others–which have done so much damage to science and society in the 20th century.” Kristol agrees. “All I want to do,” he told his AEI audience, “is break the bonds of Darwinian materialism which at the moment restrict our imagination. For the moment that’s enough.”
    But something deeper seems to be going on, and the key to it can be found in Bork’s assertion in his book that religious “belief is probably essential to a civilized future.” These otherwise largely secular intellectuals may well have turned on Darwin because they have concluded that his theory of evolution undermines religious faith in society at large. Of course, this is not a novel thought. Many others have arrived at the same conclusion. Conservative activist Beverly LaHaye, a biblical literalist who is president of Concerned Women for America, puts the matter directly: “If the biblical account of creation in Genesis isn’t true, how can we trust the rest of the Bible?”
    Kristol and his colleagues may worry that once this one thread is pulled from the fabric of religious belief, perhaps the whole will become unraveled, with grave social consequences. Without the strictures and traditions imposed by a religion that promises to punish sinners, the moral controls that moderate our base desires will lose their validity, leading ultimately to moral chaos. Ironically, today many modern conservatives fervently agree with Karl Marx that religion is “the opium of the people”; they add a heartfelt, “Thank God!”
    It is no secret that many neocons are in a deep funk over the state of American society. (For an especially glum assessment, dip into Bork’s best-seller.) In the 1960s, many of them advocated federal programs to ameliorate such social ills as poverty, crime, racial discrimination, illegitimacy, and drug abuse. But as one social welfare program after another succumbed to its unintended consequences, they recognized the limits of governmental intervention. Having suffered a crisis of faith in the efficacy of social science, they now believe that only the restoration of religious belief among the masses can re-establish order in American society. As David Brooks recently wrote in the conservative journal The Weekly Standard, policy intellectuals used to sound like economists; now they sound like ministers. He’s right. At conservative confabs today, the longing for yet one more Great Awakening of religious fervor is palpable.
    Kristol has been quite candid about his belief that religion is essential for inculcating and sustaining morality in culture. He wrote in a 1991 essay, “If there is one indisputable fact about the human condition it is that no community can survive if it is persuaded–or even if it suspects–that its members are leading meaningless lives in a meaningless universe.”
    Another prominent neoconservative, Leon Kass, author of Toward a More Natural Science (1985), and a member of the University of Chicago’s prestigious Committee on Social Thought, also believes that evolutionary theory poses a threat to social order: “[T]he creationists and their fundamentalist patrons…sense that orthodox evolutionary theory cannot support any notions we might have regarding human dignity or man’s special place in the whole. And they see that Western moral teaching, so closely tied to Scripture, is also in peril if any major part of Scripture can be shown to be false.”
    At the heart of the neoconservative attack on Darwinism lies the political philosophy of Leo Strauss. Strauss was a German political philosopher who fled the Nazis in 1938 and began teaching at the University of Chicago in 1949. In an intellectual revolt against modernity, Strauss focused his work on interpreting such classics as Plato’s Republic and Machiavelli’s The Prince.
    Kristol has acknowledged his intellectual debt to Strauss in a recent autobiographical essay. “What made him so controversial within the academic community was his disbelief in the Enlightenment dogma that `the truth will make men free.'” Kristol adds that “Strauss was an intellectual aristocrat who thought that the truth could make some [emphasis Kristol’s] minds free, but he was convinced that there was an inherent conflict between philosophic truth and political order, and that the popularization and vulgarization of these truths might import unease, turmoil and the release of popular passions hitherto held in check by tradition and religion with utterly unpredictable, but mostly negative, consequences.”
    Kristol agrees with this view. “There are different kinds of truths for different kinds of people,” he says in an interview. “There are truths appropriate for children; truths that are appropriate for students; truths that are appropriate for educated adults; and truths that are appropriate for highly educated adults, and the notion that there should be one set of truths available to everyone is a modern democratic fallacy. It doesn’t work.”
    In crude terms, some critics of Strauss argue that he interpreted the ancient philosophers as offering two different teachings, an esoteric one which is available only to those who read the ancient texts closely, and an exoteric one accessible to naive readers. The exoteric interpretations were aimed at the mass of people, the vulgar, while the esoteric teachings–the hidden meanings–were vouchsafed to the few, the philosophers. Philosophers know the truth, but must keep it hidden from the vulgar, lest it upset them. What is the hidden truth known to philosophers? That there is no God and there is no ultimate foundation for morality. As Kristol suggests, it is necessary to keep this truth from the vulgar because such knowledge would only engender despair in them and lead to social breakdown. In his book, On Tyranny: An Interpretation of Xenophon’s Hiero, Strauss asserts with unusual clarity that Socratic dialogues are “based on the premise that there is a disproportion between the intransigent quest for truth and the requirements of society, or that not all truths are always harmless.”
    Political scientist Shadia Drury, a passionate critic of Strauss, puts it this way: “For Strauss, the ills of modernity have their source in the foolish belief that there are no harmless truths, and that belief in God and in rewards and punishments is not necessary for political order….[H]e is convinced that religion is necessary for the well-being of society. But to state publicly that religion is a necessary fiction would destroy any salutary effect it might have. The latter depends on its being believed to be true….If the vulgar discovered, as the philosophers have always known, that God is dead, they might behave as if all is permitted.”
    Thus, to preserve society, wise people must publicly support the traditions and myths that sustain the political order and that encourage ordinary people to obey the laws and live justly. People will do so only if they believe that moral rules are divinely decreed or were set up by men who were inspired by the Divine.
    Kristol restated this insight nearly five decades ago in an essay in Commentary dealing with Freud: “If God does not exist, and if religion is an illusion that the majority of men cannot live without…let men believe in the lies of religion since they cannot do without them, and let then a handful of sages, who know the truth and can live with it, keep it among themselves. Men are then divided into the wise and the foolish, the philosophers and the common men, and atheism becomes a guarded, esoteric doctrine–for if the illusions of religion were to be discredited, there is no telling with what madness men would be seized, with what uncontrollable anguish.”
    Thus, following the lead of Strauss and Kristol, those who support the attacks on evolutionary biology may be reasonably suspected of practicing a high-minded hypocrisy. They want to bolster popular morality and preserve social order. Attacking Darwin helps to sustain what Plato regarded as a “Noble Lie”– in this case preserving the faith of the common people in Genesis, and thus the social order.
    But perhaps this analysis is too cynical. Perhaps Darwinism really is being challenged by new scientific evidence. In that case, the neoconservative intellectuals would be on the cutting edge of a reassessment of evolutionary biology. Kristol certainly seems to think that Behe’s and Berlinski’s attacks on Darwin have “fractured the dogmatism of the neo-Darwinian synthesis,” and he believes that as a consequence “there is room for metaphysical and theological speculation.” Let’s take a look.
    Mathematician David Berlinski’s Commentary article, “The Deniable Darwin,” has been warmly embraced by conservative intellectuals. The magazine published a voluminous correspondence concerning the piece in a subsequent issue, including letters from both critics and supporters. Hoover Institution fellow and longtime anti-Darwinian Tom Bethell, for example, commended Commentary. “Now we no longer believe in the idea of progress,” he wrote, “and faith in biological evolution may be jeopardized as a result.” Rabbi Daniel Lapin, head of the politically conservative Jewish organization Toward Tradition, hailed the Berlinski article as “a shot in what is becoming a great moral revolution.” He added, “Discovering that Darwin is deniable might tell us a little of how primitive life began. It would tell us everything about how modern life should continue. Today’s greatest question is whether humans have been touched by the divine and thus possess moral judgment or whether we are just sophisticated animals.”
    But Berlinski stoutly declares in Commentary that he is no creationist. He claims merely to be engaged in critiquing the failures of Darwinism. Berlinski is particularly savage about what he regards as Darwinism’s tautological character. “Time and again, biologists do explain the survival of an organism by reference to its fitness and the fitness of an organism by reference to its survival, the friction between the two concepts kindling nothing more than the observation that some creatures have been around for a very long time.”
    In Berlinski’s view, evolutionary theory simply says that the ones that survive are the ones that survive. But that is not quite right. Darwinian natural selection sifts for useful variations among mutations, thus natural selection generates increased fitness, not just preserving the fittest. This process generates new species, species B being the descendant of earlier species A. This claim is clearly more than a tautology.
    Berlinski also contrasts geological theory with evolutionary theory. He argues that geological theory offers general rules that, for example, exclude the possibility of “a mountain arranging itself in the shape of the letter `A’.” He then grandly proclaims that “the theory of evolution, by contrast, is incapable of ruling anything out of court [emphasis his].”
    The comparison between geology and evolutionary biology is particularly apt, but not in the way Berlinski thinks. Geology, like evolutionary biology, is to a considerable extent a historical science which tries to analyze unrepeatable events that happened in the distant past. Events in geology, like those in evolution, are compounded of myriad facts, contingencies, and details that simply cannot be completely accounted for. Despite geology’s general and well-understood principles–the operation of faults, plate tectonics, upthrust, etc.–geologists are still unable to predict an earthquake’s strength, time, or location. But Berlinski certainly never says that geology is not a science.
    Berlinski is simply wrong when he claims that evolutionary biology “is incapable of ruling anything out of court.” Two examples: Darwinians would confidently predict that fossilized human skeletons will never be found among undisturbed Jurassic fossils. Also, biologists agree that a general principle of evolutionary biology rules out the possibility that there are organisms that will sacrifice their own reproductive success in order to enhance the reproductive success of some other species.
    Berlinski also argues that mathematical calculation shows it is absurdly improbable that life could have arisen by a chance combination of chemicals in the primordial soup. Berlinski asserts that randomness overwhelms any other process if we try to maintain the perspective of naturalism. Therefore we are treated to calculations that show the number of all possible proteins is far greater than the number of atoms in the universe or the number of seconds that have passed since the Big Bang. These calculations are supposed to overwhelm our capacity to believe that life could arise spontaneously. But is life really so improbable? Investigations into complexity theory by Stuart Kauffman and other scientists at the Santa Fe Institute indicate otherwise: that spontaneous order may be part and parcel of the universe.
    The other new anti-Darwin champion is Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe. In Darwin’s Black Box, Behe argues that many cellular systems are “irreducibly complex.” An irreducibly complex “system needs several components before it can work properly.” He uses the humble mousetrap as an example–one cannot catch mice with only a platform, then catch more with the addition of a spring–all the pieces must be there for it to work. Behe then proceeds to describe in great detail examples of what he thinks are irreducibly complex biological systems, e.g., bacterial flagella, the cascade required for blood to clot, and the chemical chain that must fire in order to for us to see. ln each case, he asserts that there is no way that such a complex structure could have arisen gradually–all the links must be there in order for the systems to operate properly.
    Behe, in a letter to The Wall Street Journal, frankly acknowledges that his is “a distinctly minority view among scientists on the question of what caused evolution.” But Behe wants it clearly understood that he is no biblical literalist: “In the book I specifically say I am not a creationist, agree that the universe is billions of years old, [and] believe in descent of life from a common ancestor.”
    Unlike Berlinski, Behe more or less concedes that Darwinian evolution occurred once the biochemical systems operating inside of cells were “designed.” In his view, the flowering of the various species we find in the fossil record and in the world today were potential in the original “designed” cells that came into existence 3.5 billion years or so ago.
    Behe is addressing the origins problem–how did the whole show get started in the first place? It is true that no satisfactory answer for the question of how life began has yet been devised; it is a question that scientists are only beginning to address in an organized manner. Richard Dawkins, the arch-Darwinist author of The Selfish Gene (1976) and last year’s Climbing Mount Improbable, accuses Behe of intellectual laziness on the question. “The role of a biochemist is to work on problems,” he says, “not just throw up his hands and say that since it’s not obvious how some biochemical cascade may have evolved, then it must therefore be the result of design.”
    Among those working on the origins question is biologist and Nobel laureate Christian De Duve, who has outlined a theory of how life might have arisen. He dubs his theory the “thioester-iron world,” after the chemicals he thinks could have reacted together to create “protometabolisms” that could evolve. He admits his theory is very speculative, but believes that one day biologists may find traces of the prior existence of these protometabolisms in the biochemistry of contemporary organisms.
    Another promising approach is complexity theory. Scientists at the Santa Fe Institute argue that life is practically the inevitable result of the laws of physics and chemistry. According to Stuart Kauffman, life bootstrapped itself into existence through autocatalytic sets of chemicals that were in the primordial soup. Kauffman postulates that if a chemical soup has enough different types of compounds, they will begin to act in metabolic ways and be able to reproduce and evolve. (See “Who Ordered That?” February 1996.)
    Robert Shapiro, a professor of chemistry at New York University and author of Origins: A Skeptic’s Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth (1986), explains how Kauffman’s theory might be checked out: “You take what you think are a nice set of chemicals and you put them together. You decide what the appropriate energy source is and you just follow it. If a network of reactions à la Kauffman sets itself up–A catalyzes B, B catalyzes C, C catalyzes D–and you don’t get all tar or an equilibrium mixture where nothing changes, but energy is being used productively …with certain chemicals taking over the mixture and others disappearing,” then you will have established a base from which to proceed. “Now you play with initial ingredients and see how broad the base is of chemicals which will support this pre-biotic simulation.” If the chemical reaction networks remain open-ended, then biochemists may have developed a plausible example of how such networks began to evolve into living things.
    In fact, a German scientist, Günter Wächtershäuser, has recently published a paper in Science magazine describing his efforts to uncover such plausible protometabolisms. He has found an open-ended chemical cycle that produces an active form of acetic acid, thought to mirror an ancient metabolic pathway in bacteria. Such a protometabolism, he argues, could have existed billions of years ago on metal sulfide surfaces found at hot deep ocean vents, and could have been one of the first steps in the evolution of life.
    Kauffmanesque spontaneous self-organization would be a different source of order from that yielded by the process of Darwinian natural selection. Of course, Kauffman’s work needs to be validated, but it is the kind of scientific theory that could make Behe’s claims moot and undermine Berlinski’s mathematical improbability argument. Berlinski’s counterargument against the work of the Santa Fe Institute, by the way, is simple denial. “I find nothing of value in various theories of self-organization,” he wrote in his reply to the Commentary correspondence, “the very idea is to my mind incoherent; but I leave it to others to make the case.” Why not him? Berlinski thinks life’s too short. “[S]oon the night comes, as Dr. Johnson reminds us, wherein no man can work.”
    So if Darwinian evolutionary biology is still a viable scientific theory, is it nevertheless a “harmful truth” in the Straussian sense? Does it necessarily undermine the moral order? Is it necessarily in conflict with religion? Kristol thinks so. According to him, it undermines even “the belief that there is such a thing as a moral code.”
    Last summer, the Divine Action Conference, held biannually at the pope’s summer palace near Rome, brought together a group of scientists and theologians to address the issue of what science and religion may have in common. The conference topic was evolution.
    The Divine Action Conference is jointly sponsored by the Vatican and the Center for Theology and Natural Science. The head of CTNS, Robert Russell, is both a physicist and an ordained minister in the Church of Christ. Asked about evolution, Russell said, “As a Christian, I believe in God as creator….All of nature articulates God’s grace as creator and redeemer. So evolution, which we discover through science, is in fact the way God goes about being creator.” Another conference participant, the Christian philosopher Nancey Murphy from the Fuller Theological Seminary, said: “I think it is a terrible misconception to see evolutionary biology and Christian theology as in competition. Ever since the rise of modern science, Christians have had to come to terms with some understanding of God working through natural processes. And God’s action in natural biological processes should not be an exception to that.”
    These views are called “compatibilism.” They see no necessary contradiction between evolutionary theory and belief in a divine creator. Russell and Murphy are “theistic evolutionists.” In fact, during his lecture at AEI, Irving Kristol revealed that he is probably a compatibilist: “I accept evolution. Something like that happened.” Compatibilism is scorned by some scientists; Richard Dawkins, for example, wonders, “Why deliberately set [life] up in the one way that makes it look like you don’t exist?”
    Still, it received a big boost in October when Pope John Paul II issued a statement that said, “fresh knowledge leads to recognition of the theory of evolution as more than just an hypothesis.” The pope even suggested that humans arose from animal ancestors but added that, “If the human body has its origin in living material which pre-exists it, the spiritual soul is immediately created by God.” The pope’s statement added, “The convergence, neither sought nor provoked, of results of studies undertaken independently from each other constitutes in itself a significant argument in favor of this theory.”
    The pope certainly knows what he is talking about–the findings of paleontology and genetics have converged. Today, biologists can construct nearly identical family trees of organisms using independently derived information from systematic biological classifications, the fossil record, and molecular data from the genomes of organisms.
    Taxonomists classify organisms into familiar groups of kingdoms, families, genera, down to species by comparing their similarities and differences. The process of classifying reveals relationships, e.g., horses and hogs are more similar to each other than they are to hawks or hornbills. This implies that horses and hogs descended from some earlier mammal species rather than from some earlier bird species.
    The fossil record supports the findings of the taxonomists by providing insights into the ancestral species of mammals and birds. The mammalian and the avian branches on the tree of life clearly derived from different types of reptiles that lived tens of millions of years ago.
    Molecular biology traces how genes have changed over time. ln fact, some research suggests that mutations can act like a molecular clock that shows how long ago the last common ancestor of two different lineages lived. The more differences in the genes, the longer ago the common ancestor lived. For example, genetic changes show that horses and hogs shared a last common ancestor far more recently than either shared one with hawks or hornbills.
    Despite the strong scientific support for evolutionary biology, there is no denying at least some of the force of the neoconservative arguments about the role religion has played in sustaining civil society. Even Herbert Spencer, that champion of individualism, concluded in his autobiography that “the control exercised over men’s conduct by theological beliefs and priestly agency, has been indispensable.” There is an eerie sort of agreement between Darwinist Dawkins, Leo Strauss, and Irving Kristol. All three believe that religion’s role in society may be to bolster social cohesion. Religious belief can persuade people, especially young men, to sacrifice themselves for the good of the community. Perhaps religion functions as a type of group selection device–it might be bad for individual members of society, but it is good for the whole and enhances the success of a group in its competition with other groups. Even Hayek argued in The Fatal Conceit (1988) that groups that evolved better institutions would outcompete and replace groups with less effec-tive institutions. Could Western religions be such institutions?
    For Robert Russell, Nancey Murphy, and the pope, evolutionary biology doesn’t undermine the authority of Christianity in the moral sphere, but their views are quite sophisticated. University of Florida historian of science Frederick Gregory has a point when he writes that people–such as many of the intellectuals at the Divine Action Conference–“who have felt forced by Darwin to admit that God has no reference to nature have made theology unrecognizable as theology to the majority of believers for whom a demythologized Christianity is no real Christianity at all.”
    Now, Irving Kristol, Leon Kass, and Robert Bork are smart men. They would certainly qualify as Straussian “philosophers.” Perhaps they know the philosopher’s “hidden knowledge.” If so, what do they think they should do? A hint of how they may be responding can be found in Darwin and the Darwinian Revolution, written by Gertrude Himmelfarb. “So solicitous of morality were the Victorian agnostics,” she wrote in 1959, “that they were even willing to make concessions to religion in the interests of public morality. They were willing to suspend their own disbelief in order to bolster up other people’s morals–not their own, for of their own they had no doubt.”
    In 1995, Kristol acknowledged that some of his colleagues are emulating these Victorian agnostics when he wrote that many “neo-conservatives are not themselves religiously observant–though more and more are coming to be. This leads to accusations by liberal intellectuals of hypocrisy or cold-blooded political instrumentalism. But such accusations miss the point. All political philosophers prior to the twentieth century, regardless of their personal piety or lack thereof, understood the importance of religion in the life of the political community. Neo-conservatives, because of their interest in and attachment to classical (as distinct from contemporary) political philosophy, share this understanding.”
    A year ago, I asked Kristol after a lecture whether he believed in God or not. He got a twinkle in his eye and responded, “I don’t believe in God, I have faith in God.” Well, faith, as it says in Hebrews 11:1, “is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
    But at the recent AEI lec-ture, journalist Ben Wattenberg asked him the same thing. Kristol responded that “that is a stupid question,” and crisply restated his belief that religion
    is essential for maintaining social discipline. A much younger (and perhaps less circumspect) Kristol asserted in a 1949 essay that in order to prevent the
    social disarray that would occur if ordinary people lost their religious faith, “it would indeed become the duty of the wise publicly to defend and support religion.”
    We cannot know the innermost secrets of their hearts, but if these conservative intellectuals are indeed carrying out “the duty of the wise,” then they have less faith in their fellow citizens than does the pope. The Vatican, after all, has had occasion to absorb a truth succinctly stated by biologist Paul Gross: “Everybody who has undertaken in the last 300 years to stand against the growth of scientific knowledge has lost.” That lesson has a moral: If Darwinian evolution is scientifically true, then we have no choice but to go forward and build as good a society as we can in the light of this truth.
    The Vatican also brings to bear the wisdom of St. Augustine, whose confessed life may be understood as an inquiry into nature and grace. “If we come to read anything in Holy Scripture,” he wrote 16 centuries ago, “that is in keeping with the faith in which we are steeped, capable of several meanings, we must not by obstinately rushing in, so commit ourselves to any one of them that, when perhaps the truth is more thoroughly investigated, it rightly falls to the ground and we with it.”

  35. says

    The most amazing thing, to me, is that in the post he quotes the question and answer entirely, and then misinterprets it as the “best” evidence for evolution. Clearly you were only answering the question of hands-on evidence for evolution. And you gave two whole examples.

    Apparently the man cannot even read the sentences he posts to his own blog.

  36. Frank Lovell says

    ALLKOM wrote: “For what it worths: In debating with creationists I always felt like talking to a door. No answers, no valid arguments, always evading or refuting with aged arguments. And you can not kick them as you would do with a stubborn door. Nevertheless I keep on trying , for the sake my self esteem. Shesh!, a waste of time.”

    I agree; as Thomas Paine once put it:

    “To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.”

    Nonetheless, I also keep trying, but only publicly (rarely in private dialogue any more) and not for the benefit of my correspondent/disputant (Young Earth Creationists in particular have minds like iron traps — which have rusted tightly shut), but hopefully for the benefit of third parties who may read/hear the dialogue and possibly find in it some crucial insight supporting evolution and opposing supernatural creation in time to think (or rethink) on it before their minds rust shut.

    That is to say, I agree it is a waste of time to try to dissuade a YEC from his or her deeply cherished notions, but it may not be a waste of time to participate in dialogue with one if the dialogue is conducted publicly where fence-sitters, undecided folks, and the occasional neophyte YEC whose mind has not yet rusted quite shut might benefit from the dialogue.

    In short: It is the epitome of thankless tasks to argue with a YEC, but SOMEbody’s gotta do it!

  37. Stjuuv says

    “Or perhaps you could condemn Georgia about attacking the independent South Ossetia without provocation.
    You could also ask UN to officially admit the independence of South Ossetia which has been de-facto separate from Georgia from 1990’s.”

    Or perhaps I could say the same about Chechnya, that has all the same characteristics, and whose independence struggles were extinguished by Russia on numerous false accusations and finally military intervention. I walk to lectures every day and I pass a house that has a sign on it that says that the first president of the Chechen Republic once lived in there in exile. As far as I know, that president was shot and killed by Russian troops. Also, I could say the same about the parts of Finland that were annexed by Russia after the winter war, that had several independent cultures living there with their own distinct languages that were kept safe during the time that they were part of the Finland, and that were repressed during the soviet occupation and are continuously being repressed by the Russian Federation. Or I could say the same about the parts of Estonia that were declared to be part of the Estonian Republic by the Russian Empire in the Tartu peace treaty, but that are still a part of Russia 18 years after the re-independence of Estonia, and that are now inhibited by Russian nationals. Georgia has been a country struggling towards the Western world and Europe for the last several years, and to join NATO as has been their goal in that time, they have worked as hard as they can to solve their internal conflict, which Russia would like to be solved by giving up a part of their sovereign nation that would immediately join the Russian Federation, without military intervention. In fact, the reason that Russia is so concerned about this, is that Georgia would like to join NATO and the EU as soon as possible, to advance the democracy and the economy of their country, and Russia sees this as “invasion in their sphere of influence” – a statement that is in direct connection with the cold war and the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.

    “Perhaps you could also for example condemn the murdering of russian peacekeepers instead of allowing medical attention to be given to them.”

    Yes, I condemn the murder of all innocent people, but in this context, all Russian troops that are killed in South-Ossetia at this point are counted as “peacekeepers” by the Russian officials, even though most of them have been brought over the border outside of the peacekeeping mission in the last few days to wage war with Georgia. And I am very well aware of the fact that Russia will spread most outrageous lies, that pale even next to the excuses brought by the US government to invade Iraq, just to add confusion to the situation and make it harder for Georgia to reach out for help from the Western world.

    “What about the wishes of South Ossetians for independence and hope of not being attacked by conquering army?”

    There have been peacekeeping troops from Russia and Georgia in there for the whole duration of the de-facto autonomy of South-Ossetia, and the region has been flooded with growing Russian influence for the whole time, with attacks from rebels and “freedom fighters” reaching out to other parts of Georgia as well. If the region is de-jure Georgian soil, then it is no business of Russian troops to unlawfully enter there even if the Russian president and prime-minister claim that they are protecting the “lives and honor” of Russian citizens. Most of the South-Ossetian inhabitants have been given Russian citizenship only recently as part of Russian plan to increase influence in the region, and in fact very few of them are actually of Russian nationality.

    You, in the comfort of your home, may not be aware of the fact that Russia has been actively seeking to restore the Soviet empire for the entire time after its collapse, but with the wealth it has amassed with the rising oil and gas prices, of which only very little has actually reached its citizens, the efforts have grown stronger every year. With only a few months apart, there have been campaigns against Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Ukraine and now Georgia, that have been looking for weak spots and smallest of miscalculations, that would allow to take aggressive action against said countries. With the growing energy-dependence of EU and US being tied up in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, there is very little that could be done against Russia, but if even that very little is not done, Georgia will not be the last war-zone in Eastern-Europe or further.

  38. says

    Hi again

    The latest line from the YECs about old starlight and a young Earth is interesting. John Hartnet is an Australian physicist and a YEC, who has the guts to admit that all the evidence points to an OLD Universe. So what does he do? He theorises that the Earth was held in a temporal “go slow” state for the first 4 days of Creation – roughly time ran 10 trillion times slower for the Earth – and then God brought it back up to speed once the Universe had “matured” to the right age.

    Don’t get his position wrong though – he doesn’t believe in the Big Bang, and praises Harlton Arp and similar Big Bang denialists. He uses a twisted version of an alternative cosmology to explain the red shift. But the interesting thing is that he just thinks all the “Young Universe” arguments are so utterly inaccurate that they have to be dumped. The Solar System may (or may not) have been part of the “go slow” as he thinks there’s evidence the Sun might be young (he’s wrong, but then he’s not a solar physicist.)

    So how do we hammer the truth into people’s heads when it’s full of memes as cleverly constructed as such an appearance-saving concoction as Hartnet’s slow-time idea?

  39. arachnophilia says

    pz, you got played by a professional.

    there is no good answer to his question. providing a single instance of evolution only gives him an excuse to pretend that this is the ONLY evidence and that it’s insignificant. try to give him the big picture, and he’ll bust you for not giving specifics. it’s the creationist run around.

  40. Brian Macker says

    I’m betting that it’s the preexisting lizard populations symbiotic relationship with the nematodes that is the key to this.

    In fact, I would additionally bet it’s the nematodes that learned how to secrete some growth factor that causes the wall of the lizard intestine to fold more deeply.

  41. raven says

    He theorises that the Earth was held in a temporal “go slow” state for the first 4 days of Creation – roughly time ran 10 trillion times slower for the Earth – and then God brought it back up to speed once the Universe had “matured” to the right age.

    He is just a lunatic fringer. If one explains things by ad hoc events caused by a supernatural and very powerful magician, anything is possible.

    The entire universe could have been created an hour ago with us and all our memories. If that is the case, it could end in 15 minutes.

    There is as much proof for that as there is that the earth spent 13.7 billion years in a time bubble.

    And why would anyone bother worshipping such an arbitrary supermagician?

  42. DaveG says

    One of the most obvious examples: our best friend, Canis lupus familiaris. The one that guards our houses, licks our faces, and poops on our neighbors’ lawns.

  43. says

    I think Ray Comfort is trying his damn’dest to become the new Kent Hovind. He sees the job is open, and he’s really been tossing out some vapid statements lately. The guy is really gunning to be the world’s number one creationist crack pot.

    Did you happen to see Ray’s “Atheist Starter Kit”? I wrote a response, which I have dubbed “The Christian Comfort Zone”…


  44. GirBoBytons says

    It’s the never ending story but no luck dragon. We are just going to have to accept that Comfort is an IDiot and so are his followers. Now watch if PZ actually challanged him again to a face to face debate he will back down from it. Hey Ray Im’m here…this is my proof….where is yours? (Ps. Thanks for accepting my friend request on myspace!!)