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Evolution, Creationism and Crackpots

I discovered the usenet news groups circa 1983. In those days there was no big 8 hierarchy; everything was net.this and net.that. One of the hot groups was net.origins, now talk.origins, the designated dumping grounds for creationism/evolution flame fests.

Some usenet newsgroups are models of decorum, where specialists in sundry topics urbanely discuss their specialties. Some are havens of nattering wherein recipes and small talk are exchanged. Such newsgroups represent usenet at its best as a civilized expression of the electronic personal free press. How boring.

There are newsgroups which are open cockpits wherein all and sundry engage in electonic eye-gouging, leaving bodies scattered about the floor, bodies which miraculously arise to gouge and rabbit punch in return. Much more entertaining. Unfortunately such entertainments pall after a while. The same things are said by the same people endlessly. When one flamer departs he or she is replaced by a clone, another mindless dweeb screaming invective into the electronic night air. There is no content, merely an exchange of prejudices and emotion.

The talk.origins group is, to my taste, a happy combination of meat and sauce. To be sure there are no end of flames. However there is much content also. It all has to do with the subject matter. Talk.origins is supposed to be the arena where creationism and evolution are debated. That happens. However it is a happy hunting grounds for cranks and crackpots who come to be told that they are idiots. They revel in it for, finally, someone is listening to them.

The nifty thing about talk.origins is that you can get a real education by reading the group — the crackpots are not only told that they are idiots, people cite chapter and verse to show where they are in error. Biologists, archaeologists, paleontologists, and the like post there. There is also a good deal of offbeat humor. For your delectation I have prepared a potpourri of essays and materials drawn from talk.origins.

Essays and oddments from talk.origins

Book Reviews

How to build a dinosaur, a review
The Dechronization of Sam Magruder
The Symbolic Species (review)
Selected Essays by Ernst Mayr (review)
Bonobo, The Forgotten Ape (review)
At The Waters Edge
Night Comes To The Cretaceous
This Is Biology
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
Fashionable Nonsense
The Pattern of Evolution
The Monkey’s Bridge
The methodology of scientific research programmes
The Emergence of Whales (review by James Acker)
The New Evolutionary Timetable
The Cosmic Anthropic Principle
Darwin’s Black Box – a review

Serious Articles

Piltdown Man — his home page
Home Pages For Talk.Origins People
Are mutations harmful?
Science and Speculation
A Note on C-14 Dating (L. Hunter Cassells)
A short note on the size of the genome
What Is Peer Review?
Lamarck Versus Paley
Insight in Science
Evolutionary and non-evolutionary adaptation
Fossilization (by Chris Nedin)
Changing views of the history of the Earth
Hugh Miller – 19th-century creationist geologist (by Andrew MacRae)
Abiogenesis, How Did It Happen?
The Standard Model of Planet Formation (by Ian Musgrave)
Faith and the Oort Cloud
A Scenario for the Evolution of Hemostasis (by Kevin O’Brien)
Accuracy of Radiocarbon Dating (by John Stockwell)
Escape velocities from the Moon
Energy requirements for an interstellar probe
The evidence for evolution
Twenty one Questions
An analogy for the genome
Why believe in evolution?
Macroevolution and accumulated microevolution
Evolution of the chessmover program
A flawed argument
Ways new species originate (by John Wilkins)
Thermodynamics and Evolution
Harter’s precept
Demolishing the modern synthesis

Not So Serious Articles

The Court Martial Of Andreas Benaras
Creationism, An American Disease
A Discussion Of Theology
The Completely Radical Anthropic Principle
A little quiz
A Creationist FAQ
The Sussex Circle of British Paleontology
The Elephant And Cultural Studies
A letter from the Smithsonian
Post Modern Creationism
An argument that life is designed.
The Darwin Awards: Evolution In Action
The True Explanation For The Flood
A Little Quiz In Thermodynamics (John Ling)
Genesis 1 in the light of scientific findings
How I Knew Trilobites Were Brighter Than Sheep
The Small And Stupid Gods
The Small And Stupid Gods – Notes
A note on writing talk.origins FAQ’s
Abusing References
The Bad Santa and the Evil Elves
One night at the forum
The Soul Gene
Marsupials refute evolution
Which Came First?
Mark Twain and the Eiffel Tower
The Macroevolution Scam
Two paradoxes of reproductive fitness
Hyper Design
Evolution and Morality
The Inside Scoop On DNA
Suffering Idiots With Great Enthusiasm
Cicada Lust
How the flood really happened
More Cosmological Evidence
Atheistic Blindtimekeepingism
How Kangaroos Got To Australia
Atheistic creationism
Yet another reason why evolution cannot possibly be true
The Kingdom of The Ants
The entirely unlikely probability of spontaneous life
Monkey Evolution March
Ordering the flood
The skeptic and common descent
Fate of the universe — Revealed
Applying Intelligent Design to the Theory of Pregnancy
On the value of Ancient Wise Ones
The case of the unfortunate plagiarist

Origins Resources On The Web

Larry Moran’s Evolution page – an excellent starting point
Chris Colby’s Introduction to Evolutionary Biology
The talk.origins archive – an amazing source of information
An excellent introduction to radiometric dating
Acanthostega, the fish with feet (and eight little piggies)
The tree of life – life’s family tree on the web
Creation vs. Evolution – a Discussion/Debate Site Especially for Teens
An Introductory Overview of Human Evolution
The Alfred Russel Wallace Page
Mark Isaak’s “Index to Creationist Claims”

Resources For K12 Teaching About Evolution

Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science (on line book)
National Center for Science Education

An on line education in biochemistry and molecular genetics

Primer on molecular genetics.
Reading the message in the genes.
Principles of biochemistry
Human mitochondrial genome

The Zoological Institute of the University of Bergen, maintains a page created by Brage Forland which contains links to some classic papers on evolution from Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace. Here are links to the individual papers.

Charles Darwin

Alfred Russel Wallace

People who are interested in a really excellent overview of evolution should check out the white paper entitled “Evolution, Science, and Society: a “white paper” on behalf of the field of evolutionary biology” from which I quote the following definition of evolution:

Biological evolution consists of change in the hereditary characteristics of groups of organisms over the course of generations. In a long-term perspective, evolution is the descent, with modification, of different lineages from common ancestors. Thus the history of evolution has two major components: branching of lineages and change within lineages. The evidence that all organisms have descended, with modification, from common ancestors is so overwhelming that most biologists consider evolution a fact, not a theory.

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This page was last updated January 9, 2011