Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Evolution's Head Fake

Basketball coaches teach young players to watch the waist of the opposing player to avoid being faked out of your jock by the dreaded head fake.

“Hold the ball in the triple-threat position. Begin your shooting motion. Simultaneously, straighten from your crouch, jerk your head back a bit, and raise the ball to the height of your sternum. If you do a motion quickly and somewhat jerkily, the defender is more likely to fall for the fake. Sell the move so the defender bites. Shoot the ball or drive to the basket once your defender is out of position.”

If you watch the opponent’s face, a head fake will freeze you in place and its Goodnight Nellie. Dunk! As a vertically challenged player, I can tell you that the head fake was a critical weapon in my limited offensive arsenal.

But is the head fake an entirely learned skill or is there an evolutionary predilection that some are blessed with? Since white men can’t jump, did they evolve a wobbly head gene that compensates their jumping deficit? Was Bob Cousy the first great head faker? Did he need it to beat K.C. Jones in practice? I’ll have to ask Mark Weissman who played with Cousy during summers in the Catskills.

But today I want to discuss the head fakes that occur in biology classes. That’s when the teacher describes Darwinian Evolution, but all the examples are something else. She may inform you that these are examples of “micro-evolution,” just miniature versions of the real thing. She’s lying!

It goes like this. Darwin said in The Origin of Species that innumerable random variations of biological species, acted upon by natural selection, will eventually produce new species. This is the theory of evolution. Never mind that evidence of this theory has never been found in the fossil record. The teacher will ignore this uncomfortable fact (You may never hear it) and will instead use examples of micro-evolution passing it off as the real thing.

But what is this micro-evolution? Well, if you have children, look at them. They are like you, but not exactly. The boys may be larger and taller; the girls too. It’s called descent with modification. It’s the quantum jump of micro-evolution. Their kids may be larger still, smarter too. And on it goes as we grow better and better through our natural response to a richer environment. Fabulouso!!

Earthworms do it too. Baby worms that are better attuned to the environment will preferentially survive (“survival of the fittest”) and have kids themselves who will be better able to thrive in the environment. When we do it with Golden Retrievers to produce lighter coats or bigger heads it’s called selective breeding. What it’s not, is evolution, since your babies are still humans, the worms are still worms and the Goldens are still Goldens. Since evolution, by definition, is supposed to produce new species, it’s a BIG LIE.

The teacher will try the “micro-evolution” head fake, but don’t fall for it. It may be micro-giant-raccoon-farts, but it’s not evolution.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post- will send on to my 16yr old basketball player!!


10:20 PM  
Blogger Mattress said...

Golden's aren't just still golden's, they're still dogs. They are the same species as all other dog breeds. Even after centuries or even millenia of selective breeding of dogs they are all still the same species even though they may look completely different.

I love dogs.

6:24 AM  
Blogger gary daily said...

Whenever I hear a sports analogy being applied in the discussion of a serious question, I know we are leaving the court of reason and trotting onto to some playing field far from reality and significance. A scoreboard in my mind lights up and it says: Get ready for sweat not light.

Case in point: CIA Director George J. Tenet's assurance to the president that it was a "slam dunk" case that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. No, that’s not a good example. This little bit of speculation among the manly sports mined men in the oval office helped lead to blood and bitterness not sweat.

Personally, I feel putting Bob Cousy to work in service to an anti-Darwin screed is low. He’s probably my favorite player of all time and I only saw him play once. I still argue with fans here in Terre Haute that Cousy had moves, made passes, that local hero Larry Bird could only dream of executing. And I’m not being entirely facetious even though I saw every single one of Bird’s amazing at home games.

Science is not about head fakes. Science is about evidence. Senior Bioengineer in the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Allegheny General Hospital Dennis R. Trumble writes, “As long as a theory remains consistent with observed phenomena and yields valid predictions it must be considered a viable explanation regardless of what remains to be discovered.”

So what about those gaps in the fossil record? Try evolutionary scientist Richard Dawkins on this one:

“I once introduced a chapter on the so-called Cambrian Explosion with the words: “It is as though the fossils were planted there without any evolutionary history.” Again, this was a rhetorical overture, intended to whet the reader’s appetite for the explanation. Inevitably, my remark was gleefully quoted out of context. Creationists adore “gaps” in the fossil record. . . . The creationists’ fondness for “gaps” in the fossil record is a metaphor for their love of gaps in knowledge generally. Gaps, by default, are filled by God.”

I guess if you’re partial to using sports analogies when you’re discussing science, Darwinists would admit that they cannot as yet explain every detail and nuance of the magic in the game of Magic Johnson; Creationists would say, there you go, long past time to return to the days of the two-handed set shot.

But none of the scientists I know or read talk or think this way. Most Creationists do.

10:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill, how disappointing! Out of the many thousands of scientists in biology and other pertinent fields there may be 0.01% whose religious tenets are so encapsulating that they cannot accept evolution or who do accept evolution but not including homo sapiens. Do they matter? Not a whit, for almost any single thing we can think of, there's some kind of bell curve. Of course in this case the curve has a different shape with negligible departures from the center-top.

And then there are the non-experts such as you and Ann Coulter...I can understand your associates going along with your views on matters political, but this one would be hard to fathom.

Time for another poll, this time asking your readership whether they agree with your protestations about evolution.


3:02 PM  
Blogger Bill Lama said...

Sorry to disappoint you. Now I must burst your bubble!

You say ...."Out of the many thousands of scientists in biology and other pertinent fields there may be 0.01% whose religious tenets are so encapsulating that they cannot accept evolution or who do accept evolution but not including homo sapiens."

Where did you get that statistic? It is absurd, of course, and you must know it.

After the esteemed Richard Dawkins made his "rhetorical overture" about the Cambrian Explosion, what was his explanation? Right, he had nothing, not even a good head fake.

Oh by the way, Dawkins was the same guy who compared Moses to Hitler and religion to child abuse in his BBC special "Root of All Evil." He's not only a bad scientist, he's a hateful excuse for a human being.

ps Cousy was great. I saw him play a few times against my hometown Rochester Royals. But he was eclipsed by the Big O. Not evolution,... revolution.

3:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Remember, Bill, I'm not referring to the Scientific American polls that indicate that scientists maintain a belief in a supernatural to the tune of 40% which declines significantly when you limit it to biologists and then decline more significantly with the top NSF biologists to 5%. But biologists who do not believe in evolution?! What rocks are U turning up here?

Really, would you do a blog poll? I'm fascinated to see whether there are limits to your group's thinking.


3:19 PM  
Blogger Bill Lama said...

So you really mean to stand by your claim: "of scientists in biology and other pertinent fields there may be 0.01% ..... who do accept evolution but not including homo sapiens"??

I could simply say "prove it," but I'll do far better. Stay tuned.

I will also do a poll but the results, however they turn out, won't say anthing about the limits of my reader's thinking. They are some very bright people and probably more open minded than all but 0.01% of all people. (You could say "prove it.")

Skepticism is the essence of science. It's not French.

3:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, we may not have the exact figures, but over 30000 scientists named Steve believe in evolution. This is a silly conversation. Bill, stick with your Iraq War Cheerleading and just revert back to plain old creationism. Let our kids grow up believing in reality, not your fantasies.

8:44 PM  
Blogger gary daily said...

Let me just say this on Dawkins’ comments on Moses and Hitler, religion and child abuse. The guy, a brilliant man whose scientific work cannot be denied, is a thoroughgoing, take no prisoners, atheist. This point of view alarms most people. Everyone is supposed to be tolerant of any and all proclamations coming from the leaders and the sheep of established religions. Each Sunday, somewhere in this great country of ours, individuals dressed in robes of supposed moral authority, are allowed to step into a pulpit and damn non-believers, in detail, to the worst tortures imaginable, for eternity, to a place they call hell.

I read nothing of these cruel and sweeping judge-jury-executioner exercises in hate in the New York Times, the Washington Post, or any other publication. So when I hear about or read about an atheist giving as good as he or she gets every weekend, I don’t stand up and cheer. I do sit back and say to myself, well, that outburst is totally understandable. I also see such outbursts as a waste of time. People with the smarts of Dawkins shouldn’t waste their valuable time beating their heads against concrete myth systems and prayer walls.

10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I know what's going on here. Bill finally had to acknowledge that global warming is real. Ah, how painful it must have been, to admit when confronted with ACTUAL REALITY that the SCIENTISTS WERE RIGHT. So what does he do? He gets right back on the "bash the scientists" show even more vehemently, using Andy Coulter's scientic perspective as his guide! How embarassing it must be! It really is weird in the 21st century that we are still debating this stuff in the most technologically advanced country on earth. Actually, it's embarassing. It's embarassing that we have a large segment of the population that would like to tear down our most precious tool for understanding the world so that they can feel comfortable with their "faith". They would destroy the best hope of humanity so that their "feelings" won't get hurt. While the rest of the world is racing to educate their children to be scientists and engineers, we are stuck in the mud worrying about gay marriage and intelligent design. How embarassing.

12:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My last post on this subject was censored. Presumably my somewhat strident language was deemed "insulting". I just can't help it if this stuff makes me angry. I'm going to try again.

To be fair to Bill, he's been blowing the ID horn for some time, so I don't think his position is a reaction to his final capitulation on Global Warming. It's simply another example of an untenable position held in defiance of an overwhelming consensus in the scientific community. The question for Bill's readers is who to believe on the subject to biology - the vast majority of the internationally renowned university biology departments or Anne Coulter/Bill Lama. You take your choice. This would all be a sick joke, except it has the capacity to influence what our kids are taught in school.

Bill at least owes his audience a discussion of the vast and growing fossil record, all of which is consistent with evolutionary theory and principles of common ancestory. In particular, the fossil record of primate development of the past few million years is compelling. The is no major scientific theory with more supporting evidence than evolution.

He also owes his audience a discussion of the huge weaknesses of ID, including the complete absence of any supporting evidence. The existence of any transitionary life-form fossils (and there are plenty) directly disproves ID, and the concept of Irreducible Complexity is simply a red herring. Even intuitively it's hard to view the human body as the design of a supreme being. Why the guy designed the remnants of a tail (coccyx), a device for digesting grass (appendix) and plenty of body hair into our design, all of which are totally redundant, is a little hard to fathom. Our heads are too big for birth through our females' pelvises, and our back-bones are appaulingly inadequate for our upright bipedal behavior. If we were designed, it was by an engineering incompetent.

As to the brilliant Dawkins, of course we know he's an atheist. You have to ask, what, logically, does any atheist think of Moses? At the minimum, he thinks he's a fictional character in an old book, with grand delusions about conversing with an imaginary deity and an intense belief in the complete superiority of his own race. Sound familiar? Dawkins is merely following the logic of his belief system. The guy's guilty only of letting the logic of his beliefs irritate some of the skeptics of his science.

Unfortunately, we live in the only developed country in the world where this stuff even gets air-time. I agree with Anon that it's embarrassing. Personally, I think we should collectively hang our heads in shame that we allow our scientists to be subjected to this irresponsible nonsense.


9:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Great comments. However, if you peruse the ID literature and the "Wedge Document", it's clear that the Discovery Institute and the Christianists who are behind it are using a different strategy. They understand very well that there is absolutely no scientific evidence for supernatural causation when it comes to evolution of life. Realizing this, they simply attack "holes' in evolutionary theory, manipulating the facts and sometimes downright distorting the theory to sow doubts. Because science is by it's very nature tentative, it is relatively easy to do this. All the ID people get their talking points from the same "think tanks". They don't want to talk too much about their theory, simply because there really isn't any evidence, and they know it. How do you test for the supernatural? The answer, in the sciences, you can't....that is the essence of methodological naturalism. Science must assume natural explanations for phenomena. So instead of showing us all of the peer reviewed literature on Intelligent Design (which is non-existent, but Bill won't tell his audience that), he simply attacks a theory that is the foundation of modern biology. My question is, does Bill really understand what he's doing, or is he simply going to the Discovery Institute website and cutting and pasting?

6:01 PM  

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