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Origin of Species

Evolution of the human species

I've been spending a great deal of time lately thinking about anti-intellectualism in all its various forms, after I read a conversation thread about evolution on a different forum in which one poster summed up the "arguments" (if they could be called that) in the creationist crowd by saying something along the lines of "Evolution is just another way that evil scientists try to rob humanity of its specialness."

That's a telling idea, and its something I've talked about before, but it's been pressing in on my consciousness again these days. I don't really have time to write another in-depth post at the moment, but it was fun putting this pic together. :)


( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 31st, 2008 06:53 pm (UTC)
I have a post brewing around in my head about athiesm and "morality" or ethics as we speak. Hopefully I'll get it all out soon, but the basic idea is, since we have no "back door" for our sins and we have to pay for them immediately and in this life, we have the potential to be *more* ethical and responsible as humans than religious people with their afterlife. And I think that contributes to our "specialness", since we have the ability to recognize our mortality and consequence-based actions. My pets behave because they will be punished if they don't or rewarded when they do. I can't see how the idea of a sky-daddy who does that to us makes us more special than any other animal. I think our ability to self-regulate ourselves, to understand our own mortality and the consequences to our actions is what makes us "special" - and it's evolution that gave us that "specialness". So it's amusing to me that you post this today.

And I like the pic :-D
Jan. 31st, 2008 07:48 pm (UTC)
The picture is full of win, though you undoubtedly already knew that I was going to say that.

It seems that we've been following similar paths of late, as I've also been spending an inordinate amount of time following and participating in debates regarding anti-intellectualism in its various forms. Like joreth, I've had a post on the subject brewing for some time, though honestly mine isn't likely to see the light of day anytime soon.
Jan. 31st, 2008 10:07 pm (UTC)
Mine will have to sometime, or I will begin to obsess about it and not be able to focus on other topics until I get it out in writing. It may not ever make it to a public post, but I will have to write it all down sooner or later :-D
Feb. 1st, 2008 12:16 am (UTC)
Back thee, satan's minion! Your picture should send you straight to the bowels of Hell!


The robot is being immodest by not having its right leg stepped out so as to hide its robot genitals! Now my co-workers are scarred for life for having glimpsed metalic robotty bits!

Feb. 1st, 2008 03:13 am (UTC)
Pah! That robot doesn't NEED genitals. Only MEAT reproduces sexually.
Feb. 1st, 2008 03:09 pm (UTC)
You know, a few weeks ago I would have totally agreed with you (yay fires of hell!), but it has recently been brought to my attention that Terminators have no sex organs, and any suggestion they do is something akin to blasphemy.

So I have apparently evaded eternal damnation on this one.
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 1st, 2008 03:10 pm (UTC)
None whatsoever!
Feb. 1st, 2008 02:13 am (UTC)
Like the picture, but it could be better. May I suggest you go from homo-sapien to old-cylon, to new-cylon, to "Number 6"? ;-)
Feb. 1st, 2008 03:10 pm (UTC)
That's an alternate path on the branching evolutionary tree. Besides, you know how hard it is to find pics of Cylons in profile?
Feb. 1st, 2008 06:10 pm (UTC)
Yes. That's why I didn't just do it myself. ;-)
Feb. 1st, 2008 03:12 am (UTC)
"Evolution is just another way that evil scientists try to rob humanity of its specialness."

Well duh. I work inside the ivory tower. It's all one vast conspiracy to undermine God and morality and the preciousness of liiiiiiiiiife.

Feb. 1st, 2008 03:11 pm (UTC)
Do you guys have, like, meeting and stuff? Where you get together to invent phony theories for the purpose of making folks feel bad about themselves and driving wedges between man and God?
Feb. 1st, 2008 04:38 pm (UTC)
Oh of course. It's lots of fun. Usually afterwards we have a big orgy.

I'm a science writer here, which means I help put a good face on the grand conspiracy for the general public. I make the scientists sound really respectable and hard-working and even describe complicated-sounding techniques they use to come to their conclusions. In reality, however, they just sit around in a bar somewhere and make this stuff up and take bets on who can piss off the Christian right more.

Edited at 2008-02-01 04:40 pm (UTC)
Feb. 1st, 2008 05:27 am (UTC)
I'd like to share two thoughts with you erudite folk:

1) Quite a while ago, I was student-teaching an intro. astronomy course, and one of my students approached me regarding the "specialness" of humanity. Her husband was a pastor, and she was concerned about how the professor had summarized all complex life on Earth as being "jellyfish and above."

Now, this raised an interesting quandary for me. Should I discuss in more detail with her the sheer time scales of development of life (i.e. evolution) on Earth with her? Or should I go into a philosophical (philosophy being my other academic major) discussion with her on the metaphysical implications of what it means to be self-aware, human, or both? Well, I ended up going in to the more contentious and more personal discussion of what it means to be human. Granted, it didn't drive home the point of the vast time scales we're dealing with that most Creationists prefer to either overlook or downright dispute, but I was able to speak with her on her own ground, and still make a point for us scientists.

My primary point that I believe (hope!) she heard and agreed with was that science and evolution doesn't take anything away from the "specialness" of being human. Nor does it deny that any other species may feel that they, also, are special. Perhaps God doesn't exist, and perhaps if God exists, God didn't make all of Creation for us humans to use and husband as we will. That being said, we can still acknowledge our own existence and marvel at our thought processes. That, in and of itself, is humbling and worthy of grateful acknowledgment.


2) A pet peeve of mine: Evolution as most biologists think of it is not linear, as expressed by the common "ascent of man" diagram we often see (our dear franklin's diagram above is a perfect example - saved by the lovely cyborg as the final evolutionary step) but brachial - so that many branches shoot off of of a "simpler" form, and one or more of these branches have the possibility of developing into their own species.
Feb. 1st, 2008 03:23 pm (UTC)
Evolution as most biologists think of it is not linear, as expressed by the common "ascent of man" diagram we often see (our dear franklin's diagram above is a perfect example - saved by the lovely cyborg as the final evolutionary step) but brachial - so that many branches shoot off of of a "simpler" form...

True that. Just a couple of days ago, I saw one particularly benighted person write that evolution says cows can turn into horses, which is clearly ridiculous as we see no half-cow, half-horse creatures running around.

It's hard to know where to begin with that. No reasonable person thinks that a cow is going to change into a horse (much less do it in only a couple of generations, so that cow-horse hybrids will be seen roaming the countryside); the idea is that a population of cows, geographically isolated and subjected to the right adaptive pressure, would over a long period of time change so that they no longer particularly resembled cows in different geographically isolated places. Wait long enough, and they might not much resemble the original population of cows at all. Eventually, given the proper environment and environmental challenges, they might adapt to fill the ecological niche currently occupied by horses, assuming nothing beat them to it, but they still wouldn't be horses, any more than hyenas are wolves.

The picture is equal parts tongue-in-cheek poke at misconceptions about evolution, and observation that for the first time in the planet's history, life has arisen which can intentionally and proactively alter its own evolutionary path.

While we're on the subject, though, other pet peeves of mine regarding misconceptions about evolution are the evolution is "random" (selective adaptation is a most decidedly unrandom process), that evolution is goal-directed (human beings are the end result of evolutionary processes, so we win!), and that humans are more "highly evolved" than other species (each species on the planet is subject to constant selective processes, no matter how complex or simple the species is; one could make an argument that the human immunodeficiency is, in fact, more "highly evolved" than we are, as it adapts more quickly to selective pressure).
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