Texans for Better Science Education
|The divine comedy
Texans for Better Science Education is a misleadingly-named creationist organization that wants students in Texas to learn
their "both sides" of the debate between creationism and the theory of evolution. Their website lists apparent "weaknesses" of the theory of evolution (many of which sound suspiciously like creationist arguments), but does not list any of evolutionary theory's strengths (or creationism's multiple weaknesses).
Their work is challenged by Texan Citizens for Science.
Origin of Life Weaknesses
To quote Wikipedia:
The origin of life is a necessary precursor for biological evolution, but understanding that evolution occurred once organisms appeared and investigating how this happens, does not depend on understanding exactly how life began.
But, since you bring it up...
|Given weakness of evolution
|The extreme improbability of obtaining any specific amino acid sequence needed for the proteins of life systems.
|Sure, at any given place at any given moment. But, like the lottery, you're rolling the dice often enough that it's almost certain that some improbable things will happen.
|The high probability of breakdown by hydrolysis of amino acid chains if they were to form in the first place.
|Amides are actually quite difficult to hydrolyze; otherwise, the proteins of a body would "fall apart", which would be a big obstacle to life
|No known way to achieve 100% left-handed amino acids in proteins or the 100% right-handed sugars in RNA and DNA — all of which are universal to life systems.
All natural processes are known to produce a 50-50% mixture of left-handed and right-handed molecules.
|There is no way to account for left-handed amino acids in an "origin of life" theory, but once life evolved, there is no problem with maintaining chirality, especially if amino acids of one organism do not interact with amino acids of another, discrete organism. Again, there is still no mechanism for a designer-creator to design chiral amino acids and no explanation as to why such a designer-creator would want one chirality favored over another.
|Photodissociation of water vapor has been a source of oxygen since the Earth formed, and there is substantial geologic evidence that a significant amount of oxygen existed in the atmosphere prior to the advent of photosynthesis. Oxygen breaks down amino acids and sugars that are postulated to have formed!
|There's a difference between oxide minerals (the geologic evidence) and free, molecular O2 in the atmosphere, and mineral evidence shows that metals that normally form insoluble precipitates in the presence of oxygen were mobile and able to accumulate in large bodies of water (Banded Iron Formations). Furthermore, this is a problem for the designer-creator that is not a problem for evolution, as organisms naturally selected mechanisms to deal with oxidative processes. While the details are not known as to how these processes developed, neither is it known for the creator-designer. Such oxygen as is in the atmosphere is typically the result of photosynthesis that releases oxygen while bonding the hydrogen from liquid water to carbon dioxide. Mineral oxides and even carbon dioxide do not typically break down in biological processes. Very little water vapor ever reaches the upper atmosphere from the lower atmosphere to allow photodissociation.
|There is no known natural source of the information that is present in all life systems. Random processes are never known to produce information.
|That's because nature doesn't deal with information. Random, natural processes cannot create it because it only exists in the perception of the human mind. What nature does produce are random genetic shifts, and those that create useful amino acid sequences get to be preserved and passed on to future generations.
Also, like most cdesign proponentsists making arguments from information theory, the author doesn't specify whether the mystical "information" that's so problematic is Shannon information or Kolmogorov information, which are not interchangeable. It actually doesn't matter which, though, as an information source in information theory is simply a random process that outputs symbols from a fixed alphabet at a given rate with all symbols being equally probable as output. So yes, random processes are known to produce information.
Fossil Record Weaknesses
|Given weakness of evolution
|The Cambrian explosion quickly produced all of the basically different body structures, and some of these have since become extinct. This is very different from the evolutionary tree of life, which suggests a slow and gradual increase in body structures.
|This is a patently false statement. Evolutionary theory has no problem with rapid, episodic change.
Even if it did, the Cambrian explosion appears to have lasted between 70 and 80 million years. This is fast in geologic time, but it's still a mind-bogglingly long time by the standards of any (individual) life form.
|Many life forms persist through large expanses of geologic time with essentially no change. Evolution theory suggests that mutations occur randomly over time and are selected to produce continuing change as the environment continually changes.
|Another false statement. It is entirely possible for an environment to remain relatively stable and not change in any significant way for a relatively long period of time. If there is no environmental pressures for evolution, a species can remain constant.[note 1]
|Most major proposed transitional forms are problematic and controversial. Rarely does the whole organism fit into the proposed developmental path. For example, birds are often said to have transitioned from reptile-hipped dinosaurs like Velociraptor and Deinonychus. But these have a different kind of hip structure than birds. Birds have the same kind of hip structure as the dinosaurs like stegosaurus and the horned dinosaurs.
|Transitional fossils are only controversial if you are a creationist, and many are known.[note 2] Furthermore, DNA/genomic evidence for evolution is quite strong.
Presently Observed Nature Weaknesses
|Given weakness of evolution
|Selective breeding has produced only very limited change with no new structures occurring over thousands of years and multitudes of generations of selection. This clearly demonstrates that there are natural limits to biological change. Examples: dogs, cattle, pigeons...
|The teosintes are an example of new structures occurring over a relatively short time span.
|Induced mutations followed by selection in laboratory experiments have not produced any beneficial structural changes.
|Talk to Richard Lenski. Before then, please define the word "beneficial".
|Most all mutations are detrimental, a few are neutral, and extremely few if any are clearly beneficial.
|Most mutations are neutral, not detrimental. We'll give the author the benefit of the doubt here and assume he was misinformed on this point. Furthermore, natural selection works perfectly fine with detrimental mutations: they are selected against and soon disappear. That's sort of the whole idea.
The fact is that beneficial mutations do happen and are selected for, regardless of how frequently. Also, the effect of a mutation is not necessarily an "on-off switch".
|Small changes resulting from natural selection are observed, but are not observed to accumulate to produce structural changes.
|This is likely an ID argument — an irreducible complexity argument — that has been debunked before. Languages evolve in much the same way as populations, just (usually) much faster. Small changes in speech eventually add up to big changes until there's enough difference between, say, two dialects to classify them as separate languages — which is analogous to the process of speciation.[note 3]
|It is extremely difficult for scientists to propose in detail how the structural or biochemical systems of life could change from a more simple form that was functional.
|It is flat-out impossible for creationists to propose a mechanism for their creator. Also, just because a part of science is in its infancy does not mean it is incorrect — the argument from ignorance is especially poor here, given the tremendous amount of evidence for evolution.[note 4]
General practice to avoid
|Given weakness of evolution
|When fossils are illustrated, the illustration should indicate which parts of the skeleton are actually present in the fossil material and which parts are inferred. This may be done for example by color, shading, or outline weight.
|There is no weakness with evolution here. Many texts already do this. Maybe they should have included a dotted-line creator-designer as well.
|Fossil abundance versus geologic period diagrams should be shown for all life forms discussed in the text or presented in tree of life or cladogram interpretations. One large diagram might be presented at an early point in the discussion of fossils. Where little intact fossil material is known, fine lines or dotted lines should be used to indicate inferred or hypothesized connections or relationships.
|Again, many texts deal quite well with this. If many examples are given, one uber-diagram will be hard to digest. This is a stylistic difference that does not deal with a weakness to evolution.
|If evolution is compared to the change over time of the product of any human endeavor, then the role of intelligence and purpose in that human endeavor must also be clearly recognized and discussed.
|Few books use this sort of comparison, as real examples of evolution are much more concrete. In fact, we'd advocate that books rid themselves of this sort of analogy because it is incorrect and misinterpreted by IDers and creationists.
Actual strengths of creationism
- While it is possible for a random mutation to occur that makes a species better suited for its current environment, natural selection is not guaranteed to capitalize on it; otherwise-capable individuals get killed by happening to be in the wrong place at the wrong time quite regularly.
- And that's the politest way we could say that. It would be more accurate to say that "Transitional fossils are only "controversial" if you're a blithering moron who's desperately grasping at straws to continue believing that an over-2,000-year-old collection of books written by people who were extremely fond of allegories and metaphors, had a very different definition of "history" and "truth" than modern historians, and were making wild guesses about existence due to lacking the means to empirically examine it is literal historical truth as people living today would understand the terms "history" and "truth"."
- Speaking of which, societies as a whole also evolve. Religion is ultimately just an extension of society and a tool for society to ensure its survival and prosperity. If religion refuses to evolve, it will alienate itself from society, and its odds of surviving to the next millennium will be, to put it bluntly, extremely close to zero. Dropping bigotry in all forms would be a good start.
- And, no, the evidence is not going to be "refuted" by closing your eyes, sticking your fingers in your ears, and claiming that it isn't real.