Sunday, February 15, 2009

Darwin's birthday slid past uncelebrated

Charles Darwin is my homeboy...

I found this a couple days ago while trolling the news sites.

A new poll released just in time for Charles Darwin's 200th birthday found that only 39 percent of Americans say they "believe in the theory of evolution," and just 24 percent of those who attend church weekly believe in that explanation for the development of life on Earth.

The Gallup survey, released Wednesday, found a quarter of those polled do not believe in evolution, and 36 percent said they don't have an opinion either way.

The Gallup poll of 1,018 American adults found strong ties between education level and belief in the theory of evolution.

"Among those with high-school educations or less who have an opinion on Darwin's theory, more say they do not believe in evolution than say they believe in it," Gallup found. "For all other groups, and in particular those who have at least a college degree, belief is significantly higher than nonbelief."

Just 21 percent of respondents who had up to a high school level of education believe in evolution, compared with 74 percent of those with postgraduate degrees.

So, it’s safe to say, the more educated you are, the more you believe Darwin?

Believe what you want, but I’m pretty damned convinced that evolution happens. Things grow & evolve.

Case in point: the dead bird in front of my office.

One Friday morning I came in to work and found a dead bird in the parking lot. It was a woodcock, and it looked like it had just fallen out of the sky and landed with a flop, with no visible signs of trauma. I left it there for the local turkey vulture, since buzzards gotta eat too. Over the ensuing weekend, the ants and the buzzard made short work of he remains, and I actually forgot about it until a week or two later when I found the skull bleached in the sun. All I could think about was how much it looked like the skull of a dinosaur, most notably a pterosaur.

Lots of scientific study has shown just how birdlike the later dinosaurs were. It’s pretty much accepted in the paleontological community that today’s birds evolved from dinosaurs. A light film of down first kept them warm, and light hollow bones allowed them to later fly with actual feathers. The so-called “terror birds” were the T-rex of the post-dino prehistoric days. They more or less became today’s ostriches.

Look at an ostrich skeleton. Now add a tail. Dude, that’s a dino…like a Gallimimus or Struthiomimus. A leggy, running dino that became a leggy running bird.

Why do whales have vestigial hip bones from where their rear legs used to be? Whale front flippers have fingers in them too. I’m sure you already knew that, right? Whales started off as something that was like a primitive cow or elephant, and started swimming, and went from there. If we didn’t derive from some monkey offshoot, why do chimps have 98% of our DNA?

Look, I’m not saying that there wasn’t some form of Creation. But please don’t deny that things evolve based on environment and natural selection, either.


WomanHonorThyself said...

aw nice post..the last graphic is cute dude...and in the blogosphere actually , many pple wrote about this extensively!..thanks for the reminder though.:)

Brooke said...

I can't say I celebrated...

Have you seen Ben Stein's movie? He has quite a few good points to make about Darwin...

Sjors said...

As paleontoligist and neodarwinist I would like to comment on your sentence "All I could think about was how much it looked like the skull of a dinosaur, most notably a pterosaur."
I would like to point out that pterosaurs are not dinosaurs, but another reptile class (dinosaurs are land-living reptiles which stand on straight legs, flying reptiles and sea reptiles do not belong to the dinosaurs).
Therefore, birds did not evolve from pterosaurs. Maybe this is already clear to you, but it does not come up in your blog. The dead bird in your parking lot is (unfortunately) no evidence for evolution because of its similarity to pterosaurs, as these are not related. It is just an analogy.

Sjors from the Netherlands.

Unknown said...

Two years later, I'm adding to Sjors comment to say that the bird in the left panel of this image is an emu, not an ostrich.The picture was taken by someone named Aron Ra, as explained here in his lecture about pterosaur phylogeny.