Forget Creationism, we should teach _______ in public schools!
September 28, 2008 8:59 PM   Subscribe

Is there an alternative to evolution or intelligent design?

We constantly hear arguments about evolution versus intelligent design, but is there an alternative? I was watching Planet Earth and they were talking about chimpanzees, but I wasn't really paying attention, I was just looking at the chimps and thinking "Wow, they are really similar, but we've looked so hard for a link and haven't found one, really."

So, curiously (because I do believe in evolution,) I was wondering if there were any alternatives. I don't care how hokey or trumped up it sounds, I'd just like to hear different ideas.

Bonus points for interesting articles.
posted by InsanePenguin to Science & Nature (63 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
"Wow, they are really similar, but we've looked so hard for a link and haven't found one, really."

Well, other than the wealth of biological, and (specifically) genetic evidence.

You've been mislead by creationist "missing link" non-understanding of biology and the ebb-and-flow of populations.
posted by D.C. at 9:08 PM on September 28, 2008 [10 favorites]


I'm not sure that anything is going to be wildly different than those two theories... but Raelians are atheists that believe we were designed by aliens.

Hey, you said you didn't care how hokey it was!
posted by Nattie at 9:10 PM on September 28, 2008


The short answer is no. Evolution is science's best understanding of life on Earth and the consensus of virtually all life science researchers. Intelligent design is, for the most part, a pseudo-science movement based on religious beliefs. Though there are some non-religious I.D. theories out there; e.g. the concept of Panspermia, that Earth was seeded (deliberately?) with the building blocks of life.


I'm not sure what you mean with your chimp "question". There are, in fact, "missing links", but the term itself is a bit misleading. Another short answer to that is the world is a big place, and trillions of as-of-yet undiscovered fossils lay under our feet--we just haven't found them yet. Don't be misled with the strawman arguments Creationists throw up to dismiss evolution.
posted by zardoz at 9:12 PM on September 28, 2008 [8 favorites]


unintelligent design: life was created accidentally by cosmic rednecks experimenting with proteins.

steady state: all species have always existed as they are since the big bang, or alternatively, for eternity.

illusion: all species are the same variety of mushroom. They only appear different because of a delusion in our mushroom brains.

extended extreme coincidence: traits are not inherited, but happen randomly, but due to an extraordinary series of coincidences life forms tend to look a lot like their parents.
posted by muddylemon at 9:14 PM on September 28, 2008 [6 favorites]


When we talk about evolution vs. creationism, we're generally talking about macroevolution. I've known people who embraced microevolution, but not macroevolution. So they think humans evolve and monkeys evolve, but one never evolves into the other.
posted by scottreynen at 9:14 PM on September 28, 2008


Agnosticism - "the view that the truth value of certain claims... is unknown or, depending on the form of agnosticism, inherently impossible to prove or disprove."

basically 'meh' applied to the mysteries of the universe.
posted by bilgepump at 9:15 PM on September 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


D.C. has it precisely. Your premise is completely flawed: we have extremely well documented links between chimpanzees and humans. More specifically, we have well documented links to a common ancestor. What makes you believe there aren't links? Perhaps we could help more if we knew where you were coming from.

In any case, I don't see how there could be an alternative besides some form of evolution or intelligent design. Either people came about because something designed us in some fashion, or people came about without a designer. Logically speaking I don't see how any mechanism you care to postulate wouldn't fall under one of those two umbrellas. Aliens uplifted us? A kind of intelligent design. Panspermia? A kind of evolution. And so.

I'm still kind of wondering why you think there is no link between chimps and humans, though. It's like thinking that the whole "humans need oxygen to survive" thing is still rather poorly documented.
posted by Justinian at 9:15 PM on September 28, 2008 [4 favorites]


I was just looking at the chimps and thinking "Wow, they are really similar, but we've looked so hard for a link and haven't found one, really."

You mean other than Sahelanthropus tchadensis and Ardipithecus ramidus?

Your argument is based on a lack of information. Your not knowing something doesn't mean that it's unknown.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:16 PM on September 28, 2008 [7 favorites]


Is there an alternative to evolution or intelligent design?

Yes, the truth about what really happened. These are both theories (at best) and as such, doomed to revision. But please don't take this encouragement to go fall for the Pleiadians.
posted by philip-random at 9:18 PM on September 28, 2008


Don't fall into the trap that either you believe in God or you believe in evolution. Belief in God is not what is at stake here. All that is at stake is a literal reading of the book of Genesis (or whatever creation myth you favor). So for me the alternative to the problem of "creationism versus intelligent design" would be to drop the "versus."
posted by Crotalus at 9:18 PM on September 28, 2008


One more thing. You might enjoy reading something like this.
posted by Crotalus at 9:19 PM on September 28, 2008


steady state: all species have always existed as they are since the big bang, or alternatively, for eternity.

There are some cultures which hold to this belief as part of their traditional cosmogony--everything, including humans, has always existed and always will exist.

So, yes, I think that's the only alternative to creationism/intelligent design and evolution as belief systems about the variation of species. I doubt that anyone would be inclined to actually teach it in school, though.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:20 PM on September 28, 2008


Many religions (dead and alive) offer creation mythologies that are neither Intelligent Design nor evolution.

But to nitpick your question further: Intelligent Design versus evolution is a false dichotomy. Evolution is a scientific theory; ID is not. Apples and oranges.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 9:24 PM on September 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


I think your question rapidly achieves scientific and theological escape velocity and heads out into Philosophy Land. Some of the sillier outliers among these guys, for instance, came up with the "we're all stuck in a dream" philosophy, which puts evolution and intelligent design into the "nothing is real; my brain is making this up as I go along" camp.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:24 PM on September 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


I should say, though, that I think that evolution as a belief system about the variation of species is an excellent and useful scientific belief system, just as gravity as a belief system about why things fall down when you drop them is an excellent and useful scientific belief system.

Whereas creationism and intelligent design are belief systems which have not one whit of scientific validity, and therefore they should not be taught in science classes.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:25 PM on September 28, 2008


Well, you can always do the (in)famous "let's pull the argument to the metalevel" trick, as in the universe-as-a-computer theories. Then you get to discuss if universe-computers are by need designed, or if they can appear by a set of natural meta-laws (I don't recall the specific reference, but I remember reading some discussion about how something like hyperdimensional membranes could generate universes by colliding, intersecting, or some such ruckus, and the nature of the universes would depend on the geometry of the smash - hence why you can still get the same debate but on a metalevel, though I guess it's random vs designed then. I'd imagine you could get pretty byzantine and figure out a way for the hyperbranes to operate evolutionarily. Me, I get a pretty bad headache already at the level of universe-as-a-computer.)
posted by Iosephus at 9:26 PM on September 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


Don't forget the similarities in the DNA. The phrase "we've looked so hard for a link and haven't found one, really." simply isn't true.
Creationists love to move the evidentiary bar, and especially love to demand evidence that either a: doesn't exist yet, and use that fact to deny conclusions supported by a wealth of evidence they *haven't* asked for, or b: demand evidence that actually does exist (like transition fossils, showing a species in an intermediate phase, like a non-flying dinosaur with feathers) though they pretend it doesn't.

Also: I'd like to point out that your question is dangerous. Evolution and intelligent design have no parity. They are NOT two sides of one coin. ID is NOT an alternative to evolution. One is based on, and repeatedly supported by scientifically gathered evidence, the other was made up and put in a book that also advocates slavery, and killing your neighbor who dares to work on the sabbath (Exodus 31:15). Proponents of taking the book as fact are comfortable cherry picking what they like from it.

Every time I read about another school board wanting to teach ID, I get closer to calling them personally.

I'll let you know how that works out.
posted by asavage at 9:29 PM on September 28, 2008 [25 favorites]


I suppose that spontaneous generation would sort of be an alternative. There's also Lamarckian evolution.

Also, as far as interesting articles go, here's a 2-hour Nova documentary that explains why Intelligent Design doesn't really qualify as a science.
posted by XMLicious at 9:30 PM on September 28, 2008


Wow, 3 posts when I start typing, 14 when I finish. You people are fast. This is an intelligently designed site.
posted by asavage at 9:33 PM on September 28, 2008 [4 favorites]


alternative to creationism: the alien swingers theory (i'm coming up with it now)
alternative to evolution: (everything is, right now, exactly the same as it always has been. make that now. no, now.)

the following statement is true: the previous statement is false
it is either raining or it isn't raining. if it isn't raining, then, it must be raining.
posted by punkbitch at 9:36 PM on September 28, 2008


pitting evolution against creationism demeans both.

evolution describes species adaptation over time and draws of the evidence provided by all extant biodiversity, the fossil record and even... say, experiments with fruit flies. that there is a genetic code in every living thing; that we are beginning to understand and even manipulate genes -- says a lot.

and then there are biblical literalists...
posted by punkbitch at 9:38 PM on September 28, 2008


Yes, intelligent design is creationism dressed in pseudo-science, but you could believe that aliens were involved, as both Raelians & Scientologists, but these cults are quite nasty.

You've also got the FSM & IPU for mocking ID. Moreover, many religions don't address the question, or don't take their own stories seriously. In particular, Discordianism is a "real" religion but doesn't have mythology predating the original snub.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:43 PM on September 28, 2008


punkbitch cannot positively assert this sentence...
posted by asavage at 9:43 PM on September 28, 2008


This is an intelligently designed site.

Not really. The 'designers' you refer to aren't really there. 'Jessamyn' generally refers to the ability for all posters to have a varitey of opinions and manners of expressing them, and 'Cortex' is what we call the hostile community that generally prefers some comments over others. 'Matt' is a cataclysmic extinction event (see also: banhammer).

So, over time, users learn which of their many potential comments will be most conducive to the running of the whole site, as their poorer ones are snarked at and as the worst offenders are banned. This creates the present situation, which appears far too complex to have simply arrived by itself but is actually the product of many years of infinitessimal improvements.
posted by twirlypen at 9:45 PM on September 28, 2008 [6 favorites]


Well, if you've sent a creationist to the FSM, but found them not laughing, then you can say "Look church of the FSM is a bunch of nice people having some fun, but belief in ID could also leads people to dangerous exploitive cults like the Raelians & Scientologist." So maybe that's your answer.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:48 PM on September 28, 2008


Okay, sorry for making so many people think that I have no idea what I'm talking about. I know that there's plenty of evidence we evolved from chimpanzees, and that there's no "missing link," so to speak. I only meant that, in all the research I've done and what I've been taught in school, that we can't unequivocally prove that we descended from apes. We have plenty of evidence, but no actual link.

Anyways, zardoz has it about the chimps. I was just using a phrase, admittedly one that I shouldn't have. Sorry, just had to prove that I wasn't an idiot.

-------

I suppose it wasn't a really well thought-out question, I like the answer that Justinian gave, which means that pretty much anything would fall under two categories. I wasn't really looking for something...scientific, really. More like the Flat Earth Society, I just wanted to see what kind of crazy stuff people come up with. I'm not looking for actual theories that would make me change my belief.




...And again, I totally believe in evolution and that we evolved from chimps, I was just saying as part of the question. Nothing's perfect.
posted by InsanePenguin at 9:51 PM on September 28, 2008


I think that what gets lost in the course of the public school debates is the purpose of teaching evolutionary science in school. The reason to teach it isn't because it's some sort of transcendent truth - science doesn't advance those sort of claims, anyways.

The reason to teach it is for the utility of being familiar with evolution and related concepts like an organism's adaptation to its environment - because it's a model that's essential to a complete understanding of modern biology and we want children to have a firm foundation for continuing their scientific education.

In the same way quantum physics isn't "true" (and some physicists will unreservedly say this, even) any more than the Rutherford model of the atom was "true" - but right now, at the beginning of the 21st century, scientists and citizens must be conversant in quantum physics to thoroughly understand chemistry and physics and for science and technology to progress forward, as the Rutherford model was essential for science to progress forward at the end of the Victorian era.

So that's the reason to teach it, not to inculcate children with certain beliefs about history. I think if we could back off from this being a truth / falsehood issue at all some of the issues surrounding the public education debate could be moderated.
posted by XMLicious at 9:52 PM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Okay, sorry for making so many people think that I have no idea what I'm talking about. I know that there's plenty of evidence we evolved from chimpanzees, and that there's no "missing link," so to speak. I only meant that, in all the research I've done and what I've been taught in school, that we can't unequivocally prove that we descended from apes.

I want to say this in the nicest possible way: you have pretty much no idea what you're talking about. Humans did not "evolve from chimpanzees." Humans and chimpanzees have a common ancestor. That is not the same thing.

To say "we can't unequivocally prove that we descended from apes" demonstrates that you don't know how the concept of scientific proof works in the observational sciences.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:54 PM on September 28, 2008 [10 favorites]


...And again, I totally believe in evolution and that we evolved from chimps

We didn't, though. We share a common ancestor, but humans did not evolve from chimps, or from any other existing ape.
posted by rtha at 9:55 PM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Reading further, I know that you can't compare ID and evolution. However, they are two different versions (yes, I know that they could be compatible!) that explain how humans came about. I'm looking for different ones.

Some of you act like I'm trying to disprove something. I'm not. I'm an atheist (Buddhist) that believes in evolution. I'm just curious about what other people think. My question was not very well thought out.

I should have said: What are other people's theories on how humans came into existence?
posted by InsanePenguin at 9:55 PM on September 28, 2008


preview is my friend
posted by rtha at 9:56 PM on September 28, 2008


We didn't, though. We share a common ancestor, but humans did not evolve from chimps, or from any other existing ape.

I'm not thinking enough before I respond, am I? I know, I know, but thanks for pointing it out. I also hate the question "If we evolved from chimpanzees, how come there are chimpanzees?" Because we didn't.
posted by InsanePenguin at 9:57 PM on September 28, 2008


preview is my friend

The scary part is, I did preview. I just have no filter sometimes, haha!
posted by InsanePenguin at 9:58 PM on September 28, 2008


What are other people's theories on how humans came into existence?

Australia's indigenous Aboriginies traditionally believe in the dreamtime, which was when the earth and the people on it were created. It's a bit like a mixture of creation story and moral tale, as certain aspects of the landscape have certain creation stories that have a moral message behind them.
posted by twirlypen at 10:05 PM on September 28, 2008


I want to say this in the nicest possible way: you have pretty much no idea what you're talking about. Humans did not "evolve from chimpanzees." Humans and chimpanzees have a common ancestor. That is not the same thing.

And again, I should have known better than to have said it. Biology class was not lost on me, it's just really late and I've had a few. It wasn't the question I meant to ask anyways. See above bold text for what I meant to ask.

Sorry to everyone for all the confusion!
posted by InsanePenguin at 10:05 PM on September 28, 2008


All the animals and plants living today are classified by group and sub-group. Observant people continue to compare the anatomy of living things to refine this classification system. Newly discovered plants and animals are studied and incorporated into this classification system. Sometimes new discoveries challenge the structure of the system. Exploring the fossil record brings to light new animals and often new challenges. It's the only sensible way of looking at things.

I.D. on the other hand, supposes that all avenues of exploration eventually bump into the face of god. You can't study any further....and you can't teach any further. That's not science.

People who push I.D. can't accept that all the life in the universe could evolve without the guiding hand of an intelligent creator but believe this same universe could produce a higher consciousness that exists outside of space and time.
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:06 PM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Can we stop the ID/evolution thing? It wasn't the focus of the question.
posted by InsanePenguin at 10:06 PM on September 28, 2008


MORE
posted by Electrius at 10:11 PM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Evolution itself has lots of different competing interpretations that you might want to look into. There is the question of causality, is it right to say that natural selection caused a certain trait to arise or should we say it was just the result of a random process in a specific situation and not get into the issue of causality at all. Then you have a divide about how much of evolution happens through selection and how much happens through other processes like genetic drift working on pre existing "forms". Another dispute is about what is the correct "unit" of selection, the two major candidates being an individual organism or a gene, though some people also claim that selection can work on larger levels up to species.
posted by afu at 10:14 PM on September 28, 2008


>I know that there's plenty of evidence we evolved from chimpanzees, and that there's no "missing link," so to speak.

No. Humans have a common ancestor with modern chimps. Also, the idea that a "missing link" exists is a falsehood by the religious right. There's as enough evidence for humans as any other animal, yet we dont hear about hedgehog or panda missing links

I think your question is just flawed. There is no legitimate debate between evolution and intelligent design. ID is a religious position not a scientific one. So if you want more "alternatives" then just pick any religious cosmology's origin story and put that vs. evolution.

> What are other people's theories on how humans came into existence?

Previous to Darwinian evolution there was Lamarckian evolution. The soviet staste biology was called Lysenkoism. There's something called Orthogenesis too. The wikipedia has good entries for all of these items.

The rest, as I said, are creation myths and serious modern crackpottery like metagenetics, maternal impression, telegony, or "racial memory."
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:15 PM on September 28, 2008


I guess nobody reads past the first question, then? Because you're all saying the same things over and over. I should have left out evolution and ID, they're not comparable, we get that. Thanks for contributing.

My question was flawed.
posted by InsanePenguin at 10:17 PM on September 28, 2008


Well for a debate between the "selectionist" and the non "selectionist" on how human evolution, specifiacally the evolution of language, check out this exchange between Pinker and Gould.
posted by afu at 10:23 PM on September 28, 2008


Every now and then I become convinced that the world came into being exactly this way yesterday and we were all given false memories. of the past No intelligent design, no evolution, just a random occurance of a lot of subatomic quantum tunneling. Straight up statisticial coincidence which is about to disappear at any...
posted by allen.spaulding at 10:38 PM on September 28, 2008


Alternative what? Science? Not at this time. Belief? All sorts.
posted by Neiltupper at 10:53 PM on September 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Your question isn't about believe but education. Educated people know about evolution. Uneducated people have various creation stories that may or may play any formal role in their religion.

Afaik, most educated followers of the "jealous sun god" religions, including Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, believe in evolution guided by god either actively or by following his rules, depending on their natural tendency towards an interventionist god (take the Catholic church for example).

Now non-monotheistic religions are often much more accepting of different ideas, and need not take their creation stories literally, but surely no one has even heard of evolution in many poor Buddhist & Hindu villages. Among these some "educated" sects have adopted langauge like "evolution from god and back to god", possibly to mollify the philosophical impact of natural selection (see memetics below).

No one has mentioned the "crazy" evolution theories like the Omega Point, which propose that humanity is evolving into "god", preferably by replacing ourselves by strong AI. Some sci-fi stories have some future post technological singularity god being our creator, say by choosing the fundamental constants. Oh, read Last Question by Isaac Asimov.

You've also got memetics where ideas are viewed as competing vaguely like genes. Dennett's Breaking the Spell talks about how religions themselves have evolved. But you should probably read The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins first. He gives a fairly clear account of the mathematical part of evolution, i.e. the "law" part.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:27 PM on September 28, 2008


Origins, animated explorations.
posted by hortense at 11:30 PM on September 28, 2008


I guess nobody reads past the first question, then?

Which was

Is there an alternative to evolution or intelligent design?

I've seen answers to this question. It's kind of an unanswerable one, though, but Justinian nailed a pretty good response. Perhaps if we explained it like this: there's science (evolution), and then there are alternative theories (Creation as told in the Bible, panspermia, aliens, we're software in a big computer, etc.). I don't see how any other theory fits this question.
posted by zardoz at 11:31 PM on September 28, 2008


...and 'Cortex' is what we call the hostile community that generally prefers some comments over others.

One man's selective pressure is another man's...wait, what thread is this?
posted by davejay at 11:36 PM on September 28, 2008




The Maori creation myth isn't really about intelligent design, it's more about a chaotic battle between gods & their parents than about some omnipotent being lording it over all of our lives. We start with the familiar void, then the sky father & the earth mother kind of magically appear, joined tightly together in a lovers embrace. Which naturally leads to children, who are unfortunate enough to be born in the darkness between these heavenly bodies, eventually the children want more light and space to live and breathe, and after a series of failures manage to push their parents apart, which finally allows light into the world.

The children tend to be pretty similar to the familiar gods/spirits from European myths - land / sea / wind / war and so on. And it's one of the children (Tane, the god of the forest, the one that finally managed to seperate his parents) that decides his father needs adornment, and finds the stars, moon & sun and throws them up into the sky from the Earth.

I wonder if countries with less widely accepted creation myths are more likely to be secular, or to have more atheists & agnostics than countries where the original myths & legends have been more thoroughly supplanted by Christianity? I mean, according to native myths and legends the islands of my country are a giant fish and a canoe. We have a larger land mass than the United Kingdom, so we're talking about a really big fish here (and a bigger boat).

(Which all makes it pretty easy to have an understanding from a very young age that "this is complete bullshit" - which, I have a hunch, tends to innoculate one against other, even where marginally more compelling, creation myths. Only about half of my countrymen identify with a religion. Our current prime minister is an atheist. And everything is kept pretty healthily secular.)

Can we stop the ID/evolution thing? It wasn't the focus of the question.

[...]

My question was flawed.


So, yeah. Unfortunately the "flaw" made it read like you were doing some rough equivalent of push-polling. With your stated assumptions, the easiest answer was "what you think you know is utter bullshit and you should really learn about that stuff before we can talk about this other thing." Maybe I'm the only one that thought you had other (pro-ID, or whatever) motives, but if I'm not then I'm not surprised others leapt right on that. How I read it your question was really awkward.
posted by The Monkey at 12:00 AM on September 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


See also: History of evolutionary thought

All the interesting theories were made by scientists.
And then debunked by scientists.
posted by kisch mokusch at 12:09 AM on September 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


The other alternative is the doctrine that we literally create the world with our thoughts, words and deeds - and destroy it - i.e. create suffering with same.
posted by watercarrier at 1:51 AM on September 29, 2008


According to a recent New Yorker article, Buckminster Fuller believed we came here fully formed from outer space. There aren't really that many different fundamental answers to the question. Either we were created, or we evoved, or we came here from somewhere else (which sort of avoids the question). There's also the Boltzmann brain idea, which you may or may not consider a valid answer to the question.
posted by DarkForest at 4:17 AM on September 29, 2008


Some people argue that we are all part of a computer simulation. Which would then lead to the question, how were our creators created? And you'd be back where you started, perhaps.

Maybe if you investigated the positions of Darwin's contemporaries, you'd see some alternate evolution ideas. I don't think there are a bunch of other theories to evolution, but there are several different ideas of how evolution works (like one fellow who thought that traits acquired over an animal's lifetime, like muscles, would pass on to its offspring, and that giraffe ancestors stretching necks is how giraffes have long necks today.)
posted by Solon and Thanks at 5:41 AM on September 29, 2008


One perspective Americans never fail to overlook is Islamic creationism.

It's not a scientific theory, but it is actually closer to scientific reality than any of the ideologies currently at odds in the American intellectual stage: literal Christian creationism, materialist anti-creationism, or crypto-Christian anti-anti-creationism (aka Intelligent Design).

Most people who believe in evolution actually believe in some kind of gradual descent. Punctuated equilibrium is an alternative to that, I guess.
posted by Laugh_track at 6:53 AM on September 29, 2008


any of the ideologies currently at odds in the American intellectual stage: literal Christian creationism, materialist anti-creationism, or crypto-Christian anti-anti-creationism (aka Intelligent Design)

You appear to be overlooking the US's millions of Catholics here--at least some of them, and I'd suggest most of them, must believe in the official Catholic position, that evolution is the best scientific explanation of the variation of species, the Genesis accounts are metaphorical and/or reflections of the lack of scientific information of the folks who wrote them down, but that humans have a soul which is given to them by God.*

Most of the "mainline Protestant" denominations--Episcopal, Presbyterian, etc.--teach similar points of view.


*And yes, I'm sure someone reading this encountered a Catholic priest who said he didn't believe in evolution. He was misinformed as to what his church's official position was on the issue.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:38 AM on September 29, 2008


Panspermia?

Gaia hypothesis?
posted by muscat at 9:45 AM on September 29, 2008


Respectfully, isn't this a bit like asking whether there's an alternative way to understand gravity without all that mass nonsense?

All the various forms of evolutionary models in biology share one common trait: that the engine of change is selection (environmental, behavioural, sexual, et al.). The foundation idea is that complex systems can emerge from simple interacting components. It is a very deep idea, and once grokked generally gives clever people the cognitive equivalent of an orgasm.

The core contention of intelligent design is that selection alone is not sufficiently powerful to generate complex systems. Basically, grokking did not occur.

So we are forced to rephrase the question: is there any alternative to either understanding the concept of natural selection, or missing the point? Answer: no, not really. If you haven't yet digested the idea, it is possibly that any amount of education may be lost on you up until the point when you "get it." It is a continuum of degrees of ignorance, not a whole new path.

Also, for the record, it should be clearly stated that God believes in evolution.
posted by CheeseburgerBrown at 10:30 AM on September 29, 2008


must believe in the official Catholic position, that evolution is the best scientific explanation

Actually, Catholicism does not endorse natural selection or any scientific explanation for evolution, but some ambitious "guided evolution."

Evolution states that natural processes explain why animals change over time. Catholic evolution states that the mechanics are a divine matter. This is closer to ID than Darwinian evolution. They reject a materialist explanation for this, just like the ID crowd.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:32 AM on September 29, 2008


I should also link to the entry on Theistic Evolution.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:38 AM on September 29, 2008


What are other people's theories on how humans came into existence?

surprised no one mentioned this classic yet. it may be a little old but it's still funny...

We have evidence that a Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe.
posted by bilgepump at 12:19 PM on September 29, 2008


Creation Myths.
posted by hot soup girl at 2:58 PM on September 29, 2008


I see a lot of people are equating evolution with natural selection. They are not the same thing!!

Evolution is the heritable change in populations over time and a fact. There are creationists who deny this and insist that all species that exist now are the same species that were created by God.

If you want to know an alternative to the fact of evolution, then examine creation myths. A good book for this is 'Parallel Myths" by Bierlein. There are many fascinating ones from a variety of cultures.

Then there is the theory of evolution which explains how those changes occur. This part is heavily debated by scientists. If you are interested in debates over the theory of evolution, I'll give you a brief run down of some papers I've recently read on this topic:

Natural selection has been equated with evolution for so long that many people consider them to be one and the same. However, natural selection is merely one process among many. Most people would say natural selection is the biggest force involved in evolution due to its popularity among scientists and lots of supporting evidence but there are scientists who argue that other factors are more important.

In 'The new mutation theory of phenotypic evolution' Nei (2007) argues that mutation is a primary ‘driving force’ behind evolution while natural selection occurs as an after effect. He concedes that natural selection causes these mutations to be incorporated into the genotype, but suggests that there other equally important processes which are random such as ‘genetic and genomic drift.’

Wagner and Alternberg , 'Complex adaptations and the evolution of evolvability' (1996) agree somewhat with Nei, but argue that rather than mutation; genotype-phenotype map, evolvability, modularity, and variability are the influential forces.

genotype-phenotype map - this is how genetic variation in the genotype can produce different effects on the phenotype

Evolvability - the genotype-phenotype map’s ability to constrain and direct the adaptive phenotypic variants produced by genetic variation. A comparison would be to ask a small child to draw a tree and then give him only green and brown crayons. It is more likely that the child will eventually produce something tree-like with the limited colors than with the full pack.

modularity - involves chunks of interconnected genes that limit the effect of changing one gene to within that group. For example, a change in a gene that influences eye development is unlikely to have any effect on the digestive system

variability - the rate of genetic mutation and the effects of those mutations

In contrast, in 'The fraility of adaptive hypotheses for the origins of organismal complexity. ' Lynch (2007) argues that these factors are mere byproducts and there is no evidence they are selected through natural selection which he regards to often be a constraining force. His paper is a great one if you want to read an attack on the heavy reliance on natural selection. In his belief, it prevents populations from diverging more often than aiding them.

For a great paper on more of these processes which cause and direct evolution (most of which we know little about) read 'The processes of evolution: Toward a newer synthesis'. by Endler and McLellan (1988).

If you are interested in this subject, I can send you tons of links but I'm not sure if this is what you are looking for so I'll end here.
posted by avagoyle at 8:38 PM on September 29, 2008


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