Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Be afraid. Or bored. Whatever.

This chap is a biologist. You know he's a biologist because he seems to begin every other sentence with "as a biologist...." He also never fails to identify himself as a professor.

However, he doesn't believe in evolution and he thinks this is a good argument against it.

It isn't. It is based on a strawman which is easily refuted. In fact, I left a comment explaining why.

Theres a bit of confusion in my comment because Professor Dendy (biologist) has two blogs, which seem to have much the same content (other one here). I left a comment on this version of the story first (currently awaiting moderation) and then confused myself when I came across the story by other means. So to avoid confusion, I'll just repost my reply here, but do check out Professor Dendy's blog for some weapons-grade stupid.
There are several misconceptions here. I’ll skip over the ‘pond scum’ comment as a gross oversimplification and head straight to the following:

“If man is the latest and greatest species evolved”

This is not a claim of the theory of evolution. It doesn’t claim that Homo sapiens is either the latest or objectively the greatest species. Many species evolved later than humans. Many are better at lots of things than humans are. It’s hard to believe that anyone who understood the theory of evolution would claim that humans are ‘greater’ than other organisms. Just better at some things, worse at others.

In fact, the statement seems to reveal a fundamental but common misunderstanding of evolution: the assumption that there is some kind of progression over time which inevitably leads to mankind, with that species somehow at the ‘top’ of the evolutionary heap.

This is not the case. There is no direction in evolution, except in the trivial sense that modern organisms are necessarily more complex than the first ones because there was only one direction to go in; and tend to be more complex than earlier ones because evolution works by tinkering with existing organisms rather than starting from scratch each time.

Let me say that again: the theory of evolution categorically does NOT state that Homo sapiens is either the latest or greatest species.

Given that your entire point rests on this claim, I think we can safely ignore it. However, there are some more misconceptions to deal with:

“Isn’t the whole premise of Evolution that new species are better suited than the species from which they evolved? ”

Not at all. It is not true to say that later species are ‘more evolved’ or ‘better adapted’ than earlier ones. Better adapted to what? Humans are adapted to a different environment to the one our common anscestors with chimps were adapted to. This doesn’t make us more evolved or better adapted, just adapted to different things. Indeed, since we share a common anscestor with chimps, we are necessarily just as ‘evolved’ as they are and it’s likely that we are similarly well adapted to our environment (if not a little worse) than chimps are to theirs.

Besides, just because we find violent behaviour abhorrent, that doesn’t mean it is mal-adaptive. I’m not arguing that such behaviour is adaptive in humans (in fact, it seems more likely to be at least partly a symptom of the fact that our current environment is quite different to the one we originally adapted to, due to the large population, close proximity in cities, technology etc.) I’m just saying that the fact that we dislike some behaviour doesn’t necessarily mean that it is mal-adaptive, which you seem to assume.

Finally, you are aware that humans did not evolve from any of the other animals you mention, such as dogs, squirrels, canaries….right? In fact, we share a common anscestor with each of those animals and in almost every case, no modern animal is descended from any other modern animal.

I dread to think what Professor Dendy (biologist) is teaching his students about evolution. It's clear that he (presumably willfully) doesn't understand the first thing about it and has dismissed it without bothering to try. I'm not saying that Professor Dendy (biologist) is misleading his students about evolution, but if he is, then he is shortchanging their education and that ought to be a criminal offence.

By the way, I stumbled across Professor Dendy (biologist) when he left an idiotic comment (and then several more) on this Pharyngula post (just search for "professor dendy").

It's worth having a look at those comments and then looking at what he wrote about it on his own blog here.

Note that he didn't link to pharyngula or the comments, presumably so that his readers couldn't check what was actually said. That's not very honest, is it, Professor Dendy (liar)?

3 comments:

  1. Interesting to see that someone that hides behind a computer screen i.e. doesn't even have a profile or identify himself/herself/itself with a name or what he or she or it does, can slander me so much.

    To Latsot or "whoever" you are and his/her/its readers (if there are any... funny, I think this is the only comment posted on his/her/its blog)I am a Professor of Biology with an earned graduate degree from the University of Maryland.

    I am a marine biologist and although contrary to what Latsot thinks "You know he's a biologist because he seems to begin every other sentence with 'as a biologist....' He also never fails to identify himself as a professor," I mention biologist and professor fewer than a dozen times in over 20,000 words in roughly 70 posts.

    Much of my writing, currently in three blogs, I write for humor, as in the case of "The Biggest Argument Against Evolution." That was meant to be funny, not meant to be literal. I have big guns when it comes to being literal!

    BTW, I have only two duplicate posts on my blogs... and all the material is original. I am not a puppet... you can make whatever you want out of my last statement. Thank you for sharing the worldwideweb space with me Latsot!

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  2. Hi Professor Dendy, thanks for stopping by.

    I notice that you did not address any of my points about evolution. You apparently don't understand it (graduate degree in biology notwithstanding) and you mischaracterise it in public.

    The points you do address are pretty footling ones and have nothing to do with my criticisms. I never accused you of being a puppet(?) and the fact that you have more than one blog with some duplicate content just confused me a bit: it was not a criticism. Your puffed up insistance on reminding everyone that you're a professor and a biologist is amusing, but not something that really concerns me.

    What does concern me is your stance on evolution. For an educator to have such a flawed understanding of the underpinnings of modern biology is deeply worrying and I hope your students, if you have any, do not suffer because of it.

    Since you think I'm slandering you (you might want to look up the definition of that term before you bandy it about, by the way) then this is the perfect opportunity for you to reply. Professor Dendy, why don't you post here with a clear statement about your views on evolution? If your original post didn't represent your greatest argument against evolution, then what *is* your greatest argument against evolution?

    I'm not interested in your little quibbles about whether I have a public profile or exactly how many times you identify yourself as a professor.... I'm interested in a clear statement of how you think evolution works and what you think is wrong with it.

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  3. Professor Dendy:

    You don't seem to have a PhD. In the UK, 'professor' tends to be a badge of rank: it's something you might aspire to if you are a good enough researcher and a good enough teacher.

    There's no way you'd qualify as a professor here, partly because of your lack of education but mostly because it is perfectly clear that you don't understand the first thing about science.

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