Basic Evolution Theory for the Uneducated?

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Basic Evolution Theory for the Uneducated?

Postby Bigduggieface » Fri Apr 17, 2009 5:58 pm

I suppose like many of us, my understanding about the theory of evolution was cobbled together piece-by-piece over the years. I was educated here in Canada, and in my high school biology classes we were exposed to Darwin, the mechanism of natural selection, heredity, DNA and chromosomes, etc. On my own, in my early twenties, I read several books and articles about this subject at random. Eventually, I understood more and more and I think I've come to understand evolution and the biological nuts and bolts that drive the process reasonably well having never been formally trained in the subject.

The reason for my post is this: I've got an acquaintance who is a recovering Jehovah's Witness. This 30-ish year old man was not only uneducated about evolution, but was sadly discouraged from any inquiry into the subject ("If man evolved from fish, why are there still fish?" is a real hurdle for this poor fella).

I was about to recommend an introductory book on the subject, and I realized that I could not think of one! My evolution education was patched together from reading all kinds of books and articles over the years, many of which assume that the reader understands natural selection and Darwin's contributions to biology. My library collection contains Dawkins, Gould, Ingram, etc. These books are not suitable for such a layman.

So my ultimate question that I'm hoping that our distinguished forum members can help me with is -- What's the best way to help this guy understand how evolution operates? If anyone knows of a good website, or even better- a good introductory book, please let me know!

I've already directed him to the PBS "Evolution" series of videos. I also suggested some of Potholer54's fine YouTube videos. I'm unaware of any excellent websites or books. The only book that came to mind would be Donald Prothero's "Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters".

Any suggestions about effectively helping to set this guy straight?
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Re: Basic Evolution Theory for the Uneducated?

Postby NH Baritone » Fri Apr 17, 2009 9:11 pm

Let's make certain we know what your question is.

If you mean speciation, i.e., the development of species via natural selection in response to environmental pressures, then the Evolution 101 Podcast is great. Dr. Zachary Moore's presentation series is still available on iTunes. And of course, http://talkorigins.org provides really comprehensive information.

If you're referring instead to the age of the planet and the universe (concepts that are necessary for any discussion of species evolution), then AstronomyCast's episode 122 provides a lot of evidence for an old universe.
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Re: Basic Evolution Theory for the Uneducated?

Postby Bigduggieface » Fri Apr 17, 2009 11:24 pm

NH Baritone wrote:Let's make certain we know what your question is.


To clarify, I'm talking about biological evolution. Speciation. The development of life on Earth from simple, unicellular organisms to the complex diversity of life we see today.

Thanks, NH Baritone for the info on Zach Moore's podcast. This looks to be a valuable resource that I have been unaware of. The TalkOrigins.org website that you mention is popular and can be useful for researching particular questions. However, this site may be daunting to someone who is unsure of what questions to ask.

I'm looking for a resource that takes the person by the hand and guides them step-by-step through the basics of biological evolution. There must be a comprehensive book out there geared towards the uninitiated.
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Re: Basic Evolution Theory for the Uneducated?

Postby Mr. Sluagh » Sat Apr 18, 2009 1:04 am

Bigduggieface wrote:
NH Baritone wrote:Let's make certain we know what your question is.


To clarify, I'm talking about biological evolution. Speciation. The development of life on Earth from simple, unicellular organisms to the complex diversity of life we see today.

Thanks, NH Baritone for the info on Zach Moore's podcast. This looks to be a valuable resource that I have been unaware of. The TalkOrigins.org website that you mention is popular and can be useful for researching particular questions. However, this site may be daunting to someone who is unsure of what questions to ask.

I'm looking for a resource that takes the person by the hand and guides them step-by-step through the basics of biological evolution. There must be a comprehensive book out there geared towards the uninitiated.


Jerry Coyne's Why Evolution Is True has gotten good reviews and is on my reading list. I'll report back.
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Re: Basic Evolution Theory for the Uneducated?

Postby Richard » Sat Apr 18, 2009 2:27 pm

I like the Made Easy series from potholer54.
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Re: Basic Evolution Theory for the Uneducated?

Postby whoosanightowl » Wed Apr 29, 2009 8:19 pm

Richard wrote:I like the Made Easy series from potholer54.

Richard,
Thanks for the info for the Made Easy video series on youtube. They were excellent and easy to understand.
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Re: Basic Evolution Theory for the Uneducated?

Postby Richard » Thu Apr 30, 2009 7:42 pm

You're welcome. I burn the DVD and try to give it to anyone interested in the topic, even evangelists that come to my door.
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Re: Basic Evolution Theory for the Uneducated?

Postby Bigduggieface » Sat May 02, 2009 11:45 am

Did I not initially mention the potholer54 videos in my original post?

You guys are no help at all! :roll:
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Re: Basic Evolution Theory for the Uneducated?

Postby Brad » Sat Jun 20, 2009 3:06 pm

FWIW, I know of two books that might be of use to you, and possibly to your ex-JW friend if he really has enough interest to read an entire book on the subject. I confess that as of this moment I've read neither, although both are on my list to read and one is in my "next up" pile. Maybe a trip to a good bookstore or library to peruse the shelves would help you decide which among many would be most helpful?

Anyway, the two I know are:

Why Evolution is True (as mentioned by someone above, too) - Jerry Coyne

Evolution for Everyone (includes use of the term "evolution" in areas beyond biological natural selection) - David Sloan Wilson.

Good Luck.
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Re: Basic Evolution Theory for the Uneducated?

Postby Carico » Mon Jun 29, 2009 8:19 pm

Bigduggieface wrote:I suppose like many of us, my understanding about the theory of evolution was cobbled together piece-by-piece over the years. I was educated here in Canada, and in my high school biology classes we were exposed to Darwin, the mechanism of natural selection, heredity, DNA and chromosomes, etc. On my own, in my early twenties, I read several books and articles about this subject at random. Eventually, I understood more and more and I think I've come to understand evolution and the biological nuts and bolts that drive the process reasonably well having never been formally trained in the subject.

The reason for my post is this: I've got an acquaintance who is a recovering Jehovah's Witness. This 30-ish year old man was not only uneducated about evolution, but was sadly discouraged from any inquiry into the subject ("If man evolved from fish, why are there still fish?" is a real hurdle for this poor fella).

I was about to recommend an introductory book on the subject, and I realized that I could not think of one! My evolution education was patched together from reading all kinds of books and articles over the years, many of which assume that the reader understands natural selection and Darwin's contributions to biology. My library collection contains Dawkins, Gould, Ingram, etc. These books are not suitable for such a layman.

So my ultimate question that I'm hoping that our distinguished forum members can help me with is -- What's the best way to help this guy understand how evolution operates? If anyone knows of a good website, or even better- a good introductory book, please let me know!

I've already directed him to the PBS "Evolution" series of videos. I also suggested some of Potholer54's fine YouTube videos. I'm unaware of any excellent websites or books. The only book that came to mind would be Donald Prothero's "Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters".

Any suggestions about effectively helping to set this guy straight?


The problem is, since the story of evolution is as imaginary as each individual imagination, then of course no one can know what it states. :wink: Since Darwin never described his main characters, (the common ancestors) then of course he can't know what they were capable of breeding and neither can his readers. :wink: I've heard (from evolutionary scientists, no less)that the common ancestor is anything from apes to aliens. :lol:

But what makes the story of evolution a delusion is that Darwin actually believed that the characters he conjured up in his imagination actually existed! :shock: It's bad enough when an author believes his characters are real, but when he believes that characters he can't even describe are real, then he is even more delusional. :lol: :lol:

So needless to say, a badly written fiction story cannot make a good true story. :wink:
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Re: Basic Evolution Theory for the Uneducated?

Postby tirtlegrrl » Tue Jun 30, 2009 12:04 am

Carico wrote: The problem is, since the story of evolution is as imaginary as each individual imagination, then of course no one can know what it states. :wink: Since Darwin never described his main characters, (the common ancestors) then of course he can't know what they were capable of breeding and neither can his readers. :wink: I've heard (from evolutionary scientists, no less)that the common ancestor is anything from apes to aliens. :lol:

But what makes the story of evolution a delusion is that Darwin actually believed that the characters he conjured up in his imagination actually existed! :shock: It's bad enough when an author believes his characters are real, but when he believes that characters he can't even describe are real, then he is even more delusional. :lol: :lol:

So needless to say, a badly written fiction story cannot make a good true story. :wink:


You are aware that evolutionary theory is not limited to Darwin's "On the Origin of Species", right? Also that we have a much larger amount of data available to us now than we did in the mid-19th century, including a much wider array of fossils. Darwin was fully aware that more study was necessary to see if his ideas were sound. He was NOT delusional.

Speaking of imagination, how about those four-faced flying buggers that the book of Ezekiel claims the prophet saw? Now THAT takes imagination. Or hallucinogenic plant compounds. From Ezekiel 1:

4 I looked, and I saw a windstorm coming out of the north—an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light. The center of the fire looked like glowing metal, 5 and in the fire was what looked like four living creatures. In appearance their form was that of a man, 6 but each of them had four faces and four wings. 7 Their legs were straight; their feet were like those of a calf and gleamed like burnished bronze. 8 Under their wings on their four sides they had the hands of a man. All four of them had faces and wings, 9 and their wings touched one another. Each one went straight ahead; they did not turn as they moved.

10 Their faces looked like this: Each of the four had the face of a man, and on the right side each had the face of a lion, and on the left the face of an ox; each also had the face of an eagle. 11 Such were their faces. Their wings were spread out upward; each had two wings, one touching the wing of another creature on either side, and two wings covering its body. 12 Each one went straight ahead. Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, without turning as they went. 13 The appearance of the living creatures was like burning coals of fire or like torches. Fire moved back and forth among the creatures; it was bright, and lightning flashed out of it. 14 The creatures sped back and forth like flashes of lightning.


Never mind the myriad interpretations of Genesis that have been espoused by various Christian theologians throughout the centuries. The problem is, since interpretation of the Bible and Christian doctrine is as imaginary as each individual imagination, then of course no one can know what the Bible really states. :wink: :wink: :wink: :wink: :wink:
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Re: Basic Evolution Theory for the Uneducated?

Postby Carico » Tue Jun 30, 2009 6:53 am

Sorry, but interpreting fossils is as subjective as speculating what shapes leaves on a tree form. :wink: So the old adage "archeologists always find what they're looking for" rings true in the story of evolution as well. :wink:

So no, you have no evidence either in history or biologically that monkeys, apes of better yet, imaginary animals can turn into people. :lol: So no, you have no evidence in history or biology that the story of evolution is true. That makes it a fairy tale which is why it's a popular myth. :-)

I grant you that many people who call themselves Christians don't believe the bible so they add and subtract to God's words. But God's words in the bible are crystal clear as written and will always stay the same , unlike the Darwin Delusion. So we're not talking about what people do to God's word, we're talking about what the bible actually says. And since the flesh and bones of man decay back into dust when he dies, that proves we are composed of dust. So reality always confirms the bible, unlike the story of evolution. :wink:
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Re: Basic Evolution Theory for the Uneducated?

Postby tirtlegrrl » Tue Jun 30, 2009 10:32 am

Carico wrote: Sorry, but interpreting fossils is as subjective as speculating what shapes leaves on a tree form. :wink: So the old adage "archeologists always find what they're looking for" rings true in the story of evolution as well. :wink:

So no, you have no evidence either in history or biologically that monkeys, apes of better yet, imaginary animals can turn into people. :lol: So no, you have no evidence in history or biology that the story of evolution is true. That makes it a fairy tale which is why it's a popular myth. :-)


In this post you seem to be saying:

1) Everyone interprets evidence in a way that confirms what they already want to believe
2) This is the same as having no evidence confirming your hypothesis.

In the case of 1), this sometimes happens but scientists usually try to avoid it.
In the case of 2), you just contradicted 1).

We have what we have. If you don't find evolutionary theory plausible (and somehow I don't think you've read much about it besides young-earth creationist publications) that's your call, but engaging in ad hominems against people who both love Jesus and interpret Genesis in a way different from you is bad form. I could claim that you cling to your literalist interpretation of Genesis because it gives you an excuse to avoid studying what the theory of evolution actually says or how the scientific method works and stick to publications that confirm what you already believe.

The creation story in Genesis certainly looks like a myth to me, especially the part that explains why humans hate snakes (remember Rudyard Kiplings "Just So" stories like "How the Camel Got His Hump"). Snakes are poorly equipped biologically for talking. And while you're taking the Bible literally, how about this scientific fact: snakes don't literally "eat dust".
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Re: Basic Evolution Theory for the Uneducated?

Postby Carico » Tue Jun 30, 2009 10:50 am

Sorry, but all you have to do is look at the latest "missing link" which looks more like a lizard than a human being. :lol: If that were found before the Darwin Delusion, there is no possible way to claim it was in any way, human, much less a missing link between humans and...of course they don't know what's on the other side of the chain since Darwin didn't describe his main characters (the common ancestor). So they can't know what any links in the middle of the chain are supposed to look like. They can thus find any animal and make up any story they want about it that can't be verified by anyone in history. That's the definition of a fairy tale. :wink:

But it's funny how easy it is for so many people to believe anything scientists say. Agaon, that's how myths become popular. :wink:
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Re: Basic Evolution Theory for the Uneducated?

Postby NH Baritone » Tue Jun 30, 2009 3:47 pm

CAN WE PLEASE MOVE THIS THREAD TO THE GENERAL DISCUSSION FORUM?
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