Evolution News and Views (ENV) provides original reporting and analysis about the debate over intelligent design and evolution, including breaking news about scientific research.

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Thank Goodness for Richard Dawkins


The staff of Evolution News & Views are grateful for many things: not least for our beloved country, the primary theme of Thanksgiving, but of course also for family, friends, stimulating colleagues and the opportunity to think and write about challenging, important ideas. Beyond these obvious sources of blessing, we're also grateful for guys like Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne who provide a rich source of unintended comedy. See, for example, our colleague Dr. Michael Egnor's always entertaining mining of Coyne's writings.*

The other day Dr. Dawkins went on reddit to answer questions from its online audience. Coyne was excited, encouraging his readers to "Ask Dawkins anything":

I'm just told by the reddit people that "we are live" and the link to "Ask Richard Anything" is here. Even if you don't have anything to ask, go on over and watch the fun!

Unfortunately we missed the opportunity to participate, though I doubt that Dawkins would take our questions anyway since, like Darwinian evolution's American defender Dr. Coyne, he refuses to engage with serious challenges to Darwin's theory. But one can always dream.

Ask Dawkins anything, you say? The Richard Dawkins Foundation provides its list of the "Top 10 Questions from Richard's Live Chat on Reddit," including tough ones like "What is your greatest achievement?" and "What is your favorite type of soup?"

This got me thinking. If you did have a chance to pose any brief question to Dawkins or Coyne, what would it be? Send me your thoughts at the link at the top of the page. They might be questions, too, that a subversive student could innocently ask in biology class when evolution comes up.

In the meantime, to get your creative juices flowing while you're digesting what we hope will be a delicious Thanksgiving meal, here are ten good questions from the website for Jonathan Wells's Icons of Evolutions, intended to be directed at unsuspecting biology teachers ("Ten questions to ask your biology teacher about evolution"):

  1. ORIGIN OF LIFE. Why do textbooks claim that the 1953 Miller-Urey experiment shows how life's building blocks may have formed on the early Earth -- when conditions on the early Earth were probably nothing like those used in the experiment, and the origin of life remains a mystery? ?

  2. DARWIN'S TREE OF LIFE. Why don't textbooks discuss the "Cambrian explosion," in which all major animal groups appear together in the fossil record fully formed instead of branching from a common ancestor -- thus contradicting the evolutionary tree of life? ?

  3. HOMOLOGY. Why do textbooks define homology as similarity due to common ancestry, then claim that it is evidence for common ancestry -- a circular argument masquerading as scientific evidence? ?

  4. VERTEBRATE EMBRYOS. Why do textbooks use drawings of similarities in vertebrate embryos as evidence for their common ancestry -- even though biologists have known for over a century that vertebrate embryos are not most similar in their early stages, and the drawings are faked? ?

  5. ARCHAEOPTERYX. Why do textbooks portray this fossil as the missing link between dinosaurs and modern birds -- even though modern birds are probably not descended from it, and its supposed ancestors do not appear until millions of years after it? ?

  6. PEPPERED MOTHS. Why do textbooks use pictures of peppered moths camouflaged on tree trunks as evidence for natural selection -- when biologists have known since the 1980s that the moths don't normally rest on tree trunks, and all the pictures have been staged? ?

  7. DARWIN'S FINCHES. Why do textbooks claim that beak changes in Galapagos finches during a severe drought can explain the origin of species by natural selection -- even though the changes were reversed after the drought ended, and no net evolution occurred? ?

  8. MUTANT FRUIT FLIES. Why do textbooks use fruit flies with an extra pair of wings as evidence that DNA mutations can supply raw materials for evolution -- even though the extra wings have no muscles and these disabled mutants cannot survive outside the laboratory? ?

  9. HUMAN ORIGINS. Why are artists' drawings of ape-like humans used to justify materialistic claims that we are just animals and our existence is a mere accident -- when fossil experts cannot even agree on who our supposed ancestors were or what they looked like? ?

  10. EVOLUTION A FACT? Why are we told that Darwin's theory of evolution is a scientific fact -- even though many of its claims are based on misrepresentations of the facts?

*Admittedly we'd be even more pleased to have a worthy opponent on the Darwin side of the debate who did not run from a fight every time but answered our best arguments and evidence in a lucid, trenchant and informative style.

Photo credit: Alan Vernon/Flickr.