August 13, 2007

More from David Yeagley, The Sermonizer

from the Bad Eagle blog

Who’s your favorite white supremacist pulpitarian? Why, David Yeagley is?! Who else can rely on evolution for his OWN lineage claims (the congenital result of supposed kinship to Águila Negativa in a line of natural selection), and in the same breath totally denounce that which lies at the foundation of his grandiose persona? Few can both seemingly spew and suck simultaneously like David Yeagley, the sermonizer, returning this time with a little ditty about ‘how creationism is better than Comanche evolution’ at explaining where he comes from.

He may be right in one sense, Creationism might better explain where Yeagley originates, but I’ve no doubt most Comanche people would rather cite their own kinship ties as a more plausible explanation of their own roots. Spouting the latest distraction from failed neocon politics (talk about anything other than Rove’s subpoena-induced resignation), Yeagley has chosen to rant on something considered a long-standing burr under the fundamentalist’s saddle: creationism’s attempt to undermine genuine science.

David Yeagley — “In the sociological context of the world in which Darwin lived, it is abundantly clear that that book's primary purpose was to justify the white European Christian dominance in the world. Never before had any ‘species’ of humanity accomplished so much... In a way, Darwin's Origin of Species declared that the white race was simply the ‘fittest,’ and therefore rose to the top, and ‘survived’ most effectively... Be that as it may, the Darwin theory of evolution is so untterly unscientific and disproven at this point it is mentioned only as an example of the bias and prejudice of science as an enterprise” (8-12-07).
First, Darwin’s Origin says nothing about whites being superior, absolutely nothing; on this major point Yeagley is falsely attributing his own white supremacy mindset — incorrectly — to Charles Darwin. Secondly, Darwin’s theory was not about the pop world’s fascination with the phrase “the survival of the fittest.” The science of evolution has never been disproved, and has withstood every challenge time and time again.

Yeagley is simply trying to use Darwin to instigate his own brand of bigotry and white supremacy.

Well, for those who wish to take a closer look at Charles Darwin and see what his discovery was all about, here are some beginning explanations and links. Though Yeagley would have you believe you are not a product of evolution, I think it’s fairly safe to conclude with a high degree of certainty, that Yeagley’s claim only applies to himself. Perhaps, someday, he may evolve too; we can only hope.

What is evolution?
Biological evolution refers to the cumulative changes that occur in a population over time. These changes are produced at the genetic level as organisms' genes mutate and/or recombine in different ways during reproduction and are passed on to future generations. Sometimes, individuals inherit new characteristics that give them a survival and reproductive advantage in their local environments; these characteristics tend to increase in frequency in the population, while those that are disadvantageous decrease in frequency. This process of differential survival and reproduction is known as natural selection. Non-genetic changes that occur during an organism's life span, such as increases in muscle mass due to exercise and diet, cannot be passed on to the next generation and are not examples of evolution.
Isn't evolution just a theory that remains unproven?
In science, a theory is a rigorously tested statement of general principles that explains observable and recorded aspects of the world. A scientific theory therefore describes a higher level of understanding that ties "facts" together. A scientific theory stands until proven wrong -- it is never proven correct. The Darwinian theory of evolution has withstood the test of time and thousands of scientific experiments; nothing has disproved it since Darwin first proposed it more than 150 years ago. Indeed, many scientific advances, in a range of scientific disciplines including physics, geology, chemistry, and molecular biology, have supported, refined, and expanded evolutionary theory far beyond anything Darwin could have imagined.
Are all species related?
Yes. Just as the tree of life illustrates, all organisms, both living and extinct, are related. Every branch of the tree represents a species, and every fork separating one species from another represents the common ancestor shared by these species. While the tree's countless forks and far-reaching branches clearly show that relatedness among species varies greatly, it is also easy to see that every pair of species share a common ancestor from some point in evolutionary history.

For example, scientists estimate that the common ancestor shared by humans and chimpanzees lived some 5 to 8 million years ago. Humans and bacteria obviously share a much more distant common ancestor, but our relationship to these single-celled organisms is no less real. Indeed, DNA analyses show that although humans share far more genetic material with our fellow primates than we do with single-celled organisms, we still have more than 200 genes in common with bacteria.

It is important to realize that describing organisms as relatives does not mean that one of those organisms is an ancestor of the other, or, for that matter, that any living species is the ancestor of any other living species. A person may be related to blood relatives, such as cousins, aunts, and uncles, because she shares with them one or more common ancestors, such as a grandparent, or great-grandparent. But those cousins, aunts, and uncles are not her ancestors. In the same way, humans and other living primates are related, but none of these living relatives is a human ancestor.
Is evolution a random process?
Evolution is not a random process. The genetic variation on which natural selection acts may occur randomly, but natural selection itself is not random at all. The survival and reproductive success of an individual is directly related to the ways its inherited traits function in the context of its local environment. Whether or not an individual survives and reproduces depends on whether it has genes that produce traits that are well adapted to its environment.
Are evolution and "survival of the fittest" the same thing?
Evolution and "survival of the fittest" are not the same thing. Evolution refers to the cumulative changes in a population or species through time. "Survival of the fittest" is a popular term that refers to the process of natural selection, a mechanism that drives evolutionary change. Natural selection works by giving individuals who are better adapted to a given set of environmental conditions an advantage over those that are not as well adapted. Survival of the fittest usually makes one think of the biggest, strongest, or smartest individuals being the winners, but in a biological sense, evolutionary fitness refers to the ability to survive and reproduce in a particular environment. Popular interpretations of "survival of the fittest" typically ignore the importance of both reproduction and cooperation. To survive but not pass on one's genes to the next generation is to be biologically unfit. And many organisms are the "fittest" because they cooperate with other organisms, rather than competing with them.
How does natural selection work?
In the process of natural selection, individuals in a population who are well-adapted to a particular set of environmental conditions have an advantage over those who are not so well adapted. The advantage comes in the form of survival and reproductive success. For example, those individuals who are better able to find and use a food resource will, on average, live longer and produce more offspring than those who are less successful at finding food. Inherited traits that increase individuals' fitness are then passed to their offspring, thus giving the offspring the same advantages.
How do organisms evolve?
Individual organisms don't evolve. Populations evolve. Because individuals in a population vary, some in the population are better able to survive and reproduce given a particular set of environmental conditions. These individuals generally survive and produce more offspring, thus passing their advantageous traits on to the next generation. Over time, the population changes.
Does evolution prove there is no God?
No. Many people, from evolutionary biologists to important religious figures like Pope John Paul II, contend that the time-tested theory of evolution does not refute the presence of God. They acknowledge that evolution is the description of a process that governs the development of life on Earth. Like other scientific theories, including Copernican theory, atomic theory, and the germ theory of disease, evolution deals only with objects, events, and processes in the material world. Science has nothing to say one way or the other about the existence of God or about people's spiritual beliefs.
Recommended Book
Evolution happened, and the theory describing it is one of the most well founded in all of science. Then why do half of all Americans reject it? There are religious reasons, such as the fear of atheism and the perceived loss of ultimate meaning; there are psychological reasons, such as the ego-deflating realization that we are mere animals; and there are political reasons, such as the equation of evolution with moral relativism on the right, and the connection of evolution to eugenics and social Darwinism on the left.

In Why Darwin Matters, historian of science and bestselling author Michael Shermer diffuses these fears by examining what evolution really is, how we know it happened, and how to test it. Shermer then discusses what science is through a brief history of the evolution-creation controversy from the Scopes “Monkey” trial of 1925, through the U.S. Supreme Court case of 1987, to the ongoing trials today, demonstrating clearly how and why creationism and Intelligent Design theory are not science.

Dr. Shermer also builds a powerful case for evolution as the scientific theory that most closely parallels the Christian model of human nature and the conservative model of free market economics.
The most common reason people give for why they believe in God is the good design of the world and the life in it. The question is: who or what is the designer?

Why Darwin Matters examines the difference between supernatural design (creationism) v. natural design (evolution) and how evolution can explain complex design.
Dr. Shermer was once an evangelical Christian and a creationist, and is now one of the best-known public intellectuals defending evolutionary theory, so Why Darwin Matters provides readers with an insiders’ guide to the evolution-creation debate, in which he shows why creationism and Intelligent Design are not only bad science, they are bad theology, and why science should be embraced by people of all beliefs.