Hello Fellow Heathens,

Long time no see. I haven't post anything in ages, but I'm back.

So, guys this is going to be a somewhat long post bear with me please. I REALLY want your inputs. From a theist friend I have gotten several complains that when he goes to atheist forums and he's curious about any question he gets insulted and banned from the forum and called a troll. I tried to explained to him that the problem is that we do get lots of trolls and it's a problem to differentiate who has a legitimate question, specially in this medium. He still defended his position saying that it was not fair, he honestly has legit. questions, and I can't deny that he does. In my opinion, this behavior gives us bad reputation, and I believe we are better than that. One thing I can fully grant is that sometimes we get carried away and we insult people needlessly. There are more eloquent, elegant, and productive manners to tell a person something along the lines "please go do some research first," than just calling him/her ignorant and some other unnecessary slang. Now this is where the long part of the post starts, because I got the chance to do just what I stated in Facebook. This whole post started because an acquaintance of mine said, "(my name goes here) does not buy into the whole god thing and not because she knows little, but, because regardless of who was pulling her strings, she found science suited her better… remember even science requires faith as what is still unseen, remains just a calculated theory while the search continues..." So, in response I went in length to explain that there's not such thing a faith based science, and I deconstructed the way the words faith, believe, etc. are used, and the semantics of it. Ok so far so good, nothing related to God just yet. But, this guy jumped into the conversation and geez here we go again.

First: One can see that there are several holes in his argument.Second: My first answer to his post. Bear in mind that I have been talking about faith based science for some time and I'm exhausted and this point. It's quite late. But, again, no insulting.

Third: Next day. His response:

As you can see, I underlined two particular phrases out of his response. The first one: "faith-based," because in my view, and I'm sure in many of you, the moment a person says "faith-based" there's no longer a conversation. The second underline is about educating him. And, this is where I feel where the problem lies when it comes to differentiate 'trollers' and people with legitimate questions.

Lastly my answer,

So far I have not received an answer. I might get one. I might not. Going back to my first point, the legitimate questions, I think this guy really don't know and he is trying to defend his view with the information he has. I have no idea if he's a Christian, I just made an assumption. By the way, if by any chance the blog I spoke of goes through I hope I can get some fellows from TA to back me up. Furthermore, as an agnostic atheist I get frustrated too with repeating the same information over and over and over again. It's tedious, time consuming, and I understand and feel our overall mentality and view, which goes something like that, "the research, and information is already there, if you don't want to read and take the time to educate yourself why on earth I have to do it for you. I'm a person, just like you, and I have other things to do than just sit down in front of my PC for hours on end educating you regarding something that's already been debated over and over again." But, could you we do this in a more civil manner? I know we have had some somewhat similar discussions, but I look forward to your inputs. Feel free to constructively criticize my responses too. If you think I could have used some other arguments or words, please let us all know. I'm sure we can all benefit from brain-storming here together. Feel free to talk of your own experiences also.

Thanks Everyone,


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Well yes, that's the point.

Of course the actual change is gradual.

What I am alluding to is the fact that when we assign an organism to a species we necessarily _artificially_ imply a sharp dividing line where there isn't one.   Some critter 2 million years ago was a) both my ancerstor) and b) clearly an australopithecine.  I am a member of genus homo.  So were my parents, so were their parents, on back.... but at some point, because of modern naming conventions, the organism has to be considered an australopithecine even though it looks just like the genus-homo offspring it had.

It's the purely arbitrary "sharp" dividing line that really isn't that seems to cause a lot of confusion.  You and I know it's an artifact of our need to bucket things into categories even though there's a continuous spread of things, but many theists imagine that every australopithecus afarensis looks like every other one, not realizing that the (artificial) species in fact covers a spread between two individuals that are one generation away from being a species apart.

Dawkins harps on this at length in "Greatest Show On Earth."  It's usually clear, given a frozen slice of time (e.g., look at the world as of today), what the different species are, but go back in time and the dividing lines in the time direction become very arbitrary.

@Steve - I knew what you meant, but I was concerned that someone less knowledgeable might not, and attempt to pass your statement off as fact.

RE: "every australopithecus afarensis looks like every other one" - that would be as absurd as believing that all Homo Sapiens look alike.

And of course there is that classic graphic where the text transitions from red to blue as it explains how evolution is gradual and you don't in fact have sharp dividing lines between species as one evolves into another.

RE: "there is that classic graphic where the text transitions from red to blue as it explains how evolution is gradual and you don't in fact have sharp dividing lines between species"

I guess I haven't seen that - if you have a link to it, I'm sure that many of us could put it to good use.


To parallel the point I was rather clumsily trying to make:

Imagine that instead of life forms, we are dealing with colors and that there was another population of red characters that eventually became yellow by way of orange, and today we see blues and yellows out there.

Creationists would say if evolution is true, then blues came from yellows, rather than the common ancestor, red.  Also they'd demand to know why there are no blullows or yellues out there.  And Richard Dawkins would try to sport a blue-yellow tie instead of his crocoduck tie (but such a color, it turns out, is impossible, so perhaps he'd wear a striped tie).  And we wouldn't have a user farming fronkeys, but rather maybe farming orangutans (which wouldn't mean the ape, but rather orange-tans).

Scientists would today name two species, call them Chromus aureus and Chromus azure.  Undeniably different species.

Species distinctions work OK until you try to plot their histories, and classify all of the critters into discrete species "buckets."  Colorologists dig up fossils that look purple and red, and correctly infer that there must have been Chromus violet and a Chromus rose species.  Then the creationists step in and demand to see transitional forms, and of course we know that even if someone were to find a blue-purple fossil, they'd want us to produce the blue-blue-purple and the purple-blue-purple fossils.

A lot of the confusion (on the part of creationists) and frustration (on our parts, trying to deal with confused creationists) stems from our habit of trying to "bucket" and "classify" things, which is an entirely good habit to have, actually.  It becomes problematic when you are dealing with a gradation, which you get when looking backwards in time.  There are hominid fossils that anthropologists argue over, which species is it?  There are species, in fact, recognized by some anthropologists but not by others, who consider those fossils to belong to some other species instead.  The real argument is where to draw the boundary line between two species, and returning to the color example, that means between blue and purple, or purple and red.  The way things are right now, a character on the graphic will be classified as either blue, purple, or red.  Though some biologists will try to declare blue-purple or purple-red to be a newly discovered species when one of them is found--but that just pushes the dilemma down further.

I begin to think biology needs to come up with a new classification scheme when dealing with paleontology, allow for calling something a name that indicates it's a transitional form, rather than forcing it to one side of an arbitrary line or the other.  Some fossil could be classified as a Homo sapiens/rhodesiensis when it looks midway between the two.

(Homo rhodesiensis is a new one on me, I found it here: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/3a/Humanevol...)  Those darn scientists should make up their minds and quit making shit up just to confuse good bible believing Xians.  (*barf*)

I begin to think biology needs to come up with a new classification scheme when dealing with paleontology, allow for calling something a name that indicates it's a transitional form, rather than forcing it to one side of an arbitrary line or the other.  Some fossil could be classified as a Homo sapiens/rhodesiensis when it looks midway between the two.

Given the several extinct species of homo, aren't we doing that already? Consider this from Wikipedia:

Genus - Homo [or humans; specific and specialized development of memory/learning/teaching/learning application (learning driven ethology)]

Species - Homo habilis [refined stone technology; earliest fire control]
Species - Homo ergaster [extensive language, complex articulate language]
Species - Homo erectus [fire control, cooking; aesthetic/artistic refinement of tools]
Species - Homo heidelbergensis [possible earliest sanitary burial of deads, accompanied with symbolic/formal supplement]

Species - Homo sapiens [further development and specialization of learning application; active environment transformation, acclimatization and control; infrastructures and advanced technology]

Subspecies - Homo sapiens idaltu
Subspecies - Homo sapiens sapiens

Well yes, that has happened.  But there will _always_, no matter how much you subdivide, be something kind of in between that could be found, until you get two "species" so close together that there's no point in considering them separate species (and when it's paleontology you can't crossbreed them to see if they are indeed separate species).

But sometimes you can check in other ways.

There's already evidence we crossbred with neanderthals (we have some of their DNA in our gene pool but only in European-descended people) and clearly the crossbreed was able to reproduce, so Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis aren't separate species.  (I generally see them treated as subspecies:  Homo sapiens sapiens (us) and Homo sapiens neanderthalensis. 

It stands to reason that their common ancestor, Homo rhodesiensis, can't have been a separate species either, a rhodesiensis alive today would be closer to us genetically than a neanderthal.

So perhaps we've already over-divided the fossil record?  But even over-divided there will be demands from creationists to produce the transitional forms....

Steve, RE: "we crossbred with neanderthals (we have some of their DNA in our gene pool but only in European-descended people)"

In an article I read recently, but didn't save a link to, it was reported that there was surprisingly little Neanderthal DNA found in Europeans, despite the fact that that's where most N. fossils have been found. It was most prevalent among Asians and Native Americans, who of course, are descended from Asians. I'm sure the article is still out there somewhere, it was just a couple of weeks ago.


If true, interesting.  Does it mean I misremembered the range of Neanderthals?  Or that the people who crossbred in Europe later migrated to Asia?  Either way, it doesn't disprove my main point--we crossbred with Neanderthals, and the offspring were able to pass that inherited DNA on.  So they can't have been a separate species.

What did you think of the graphic?  I posted the link like you asked for.

TA member Suzanne Olsen-Hyde and I discussed the article, and she postulated that possibly H. Sapiens ran them out of Europe and into Asia, but since the majority of fossils were found in Europe, either there are fossils in Asia that haven't yet been discovered, or they visited Asia for a considerable period before moving on to Europe and extinction.

"Europeans carry somewhat fewer genes from Neandertals than do East Asians and Native Americans."


@Steve - RE: "What did you think of the graphic?  I posted the link like you asked for."

At first, I missed it, then went back and found it. Excellent analogy! That gradient must have taken a lot of work.

For any who may have missed it too, here's the link again - DEFinitely worth a look --


(PS - I figured it out - it's not typed, it's a JPEG - it was typed in Photoshop, then a gradient tool was applied. Clever!)

I always wonder why the anti-evolutionists get hung up on monkeys. If you take evolution seriously, our ancestors include fish and single-cell organisms as well.




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