Neil Shubin should be a household name. The fact that he isn’t is just another example of the pitiful science education (both formal and continuing) in the US. Dr. Shubin found an organism that, for all intents and purposes, is the perfect transitional organism between fish and amphibians.
Further it is an amazing example of the predictive power of science in general and evolutionary theory in particular. But I’m going too quickly.
This weekend, I had occasion to take a stack of books to the local buy-back bookstore. While there I picked up some books for the boy and found Your Inner Fish by Dr. Shubin. I started reading it and I must say that Shubin is an excellent writer. He does tend to transition between topics quickly and without much of a segue. Still, he is entertaining to read and the story flows quite smoothly.
I got to chapter 2 and thought, dang, I wish all those creationists would read this and understand it. Then I thought, oh wait, I have a blog.
I have little hope that creationists will read this and understand, but I do want to take this opportunity to go over the things we know, understand, and don’t know about the idea of common descent, which is what this book is really about. I’m sure that creationists will be able to handwave away all of the details that will be presented individually, but let’s see what happens when they are all presented simultaneously.
That is the biggest thing about science and one that creationists and others of their ilk (global warming deniers, anti-vaccines, etc) can never deal with. Sure, they can create enough confusion that a point or two can be lost. But a science like evolutionary thory (or global warming or evidence based medicine) are not based on one point. They are based on dozens of concepts that each have thousands to millions of supporting data points.
It’s not, ‘we found this fossil, therefore common descent is correct’.
It is, “look here’s another fossil to go with the hundreds of thousands, plus all the other things we have, that support the idea of common descent’.
It’s a subtle difference and often mistaken in the popular writing (which goes back to my original points about the poor quality of science education in the US.
With all of that in mind, I’m going to undertake a chapter-by-chapter review of Your Inner Fish.
Chapter 1 – Your Inner Fish – Finding Your Inner FIsh