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Skeletor

Evolution for Beginners - Book Recommendations

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So, I believe in both evolution and Christianity, and I'm trying to get a better understanding of the details of evolution to understand it better. I've only ever taken a biology class in high school and at the time I didn't pay much attention. It's only in my genetics class that I really started to seriously question whether evolution was true. It wasn't until years later where I really had to question what the church had told me about science and religion (ex. creationism). I did go through a short period of atheism but I found that my personal history had moved me towards trying to reconcile the two.

I do believe that evolution is more than just a theory (as in, someones "idea"), but I need a better grasp of it to explain it to friends when the discussion ever comes up.

Any book recommendations that do justice to the subject for beginners? I was thinking of Dawkins' "The Greatest Show on Earth" but I'd rather avoid a book that uses ignoramuses and insane in every sentence :)

But, if anyone has read the book, and it does do a good job of explaining it I'd be more than willing to read it.

Book recommendations please. It's not my intention to turn this into a science vs. religion thread.

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The selfish gene is one of the best books I ever read. The only thing you'll learn in a high school biology class (or any high school class) is some easily forgettable mnemonics. Basically religion gets you when you're young because.. evolution.. programmed you to sponge up information adults feed you at that age apparently (don't eat these berries, they're poisonous... oh and god is a cracker that you eat). These kids grow up with the meme programmed in their brain and teach it again and the cycle continues. Along the way charlatans take a slice of the pie. I was never indoctrinated but can see how being brain washed with fear of eternal torture (hell) might tend to stick in the mind even while looking at contradicting evidence. Its all a big virally replicating human brain exploit.
Replication is the simple mechanism at the heart of all the complexity of evolution. Ideas replicate from mind to mind somewhat analogously to genes, though a lot more messy and fluidly apparently. That's why hula hoops and pet rocks virally catch on, same with religion, only hammered in with repeated rituals and intertwined with culture. You can say bla bla religion makes people good and do good things, but I'm referring to the information claims, like 'god is a cracker' and 'the earth was made in 7 days' (or whatever they are as I tend to ignore them). Hell, the information's attempt to attach itself to 'goodness' is part of its selectable fitness.
An easy way to reason about it is to ask, why christianity in particular (because your parents were christian or at least that's the "strain" of the meme that you caught). If you were in north korea you might think kim jong il is god. Or zeus, or scientology if you happened to get conned by one of their e-meter audits, etc. They can't all be right and there's no particular reason to give christianity's information particular likelihood of being correct, other than being made to fear hell unless you do. Everything that isn't christianity is satan; that's part of how the brain exploit works. Evolution is satan, so ignore it/despise it, etc. You can see how religion starts by looking at chain letters ("if you copy/send this letter to 10 other people a girl you like will kiss you".. ugh, exploiting human desire to genetically reproduce to replicate a letter.. again replication, the heart of evolution.
I guess I dislike religion because its dangerous (never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups). Burning witches, hating homosexuals, stoning alleged adulterer women to death using power to slow science. It gives power to idiots and charlatans. I mean the whole bible is mere paper ink. Some stupid factory probably churns out a batch right after steven king and harry potter books. There's nothing magical about it, watch: "fuck jesus" "mary is a whore" "i gggmork dare god to strike me with lightening right after I post this". Oh noes, I used strings of alphabetic letters in a language only humans can read. A sea horse can't read english and if the milky way is somehow the equivalent of a single molecule in an enourmous living entity, it almost sure as hell can't read english either, let alone see it written on a tiny screen on a tiny planet speck.. let alone read my "prayers"/thoughts which have no external manifestation at all unlike writing.

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Skeletor said:

I do believe that evolution is more than just a theory and it is fact

It is a scientific theory. To appreciate what that means, you need to bear in mind that the casual use of "theory" to mean "someone's random brainfart" is totally different from what constitutes a scientific theory.

A scientific theory is based on observation, experiment and conjecture. In order to be a scientific theory, it needs to explain some observations, and ideally to make predictions that are testable. If these testable predictions are borne out by further observation and experiment, then this bolsters the theory. If the theory does not match observations, then it needs to be modified or abandoned.

A scientific theory is not a fact, no matter how much evidence there is to support it. The scientific method always leaves scope for some new observation to cause a theory to need revision or replacement. But the statement "that's just a theory", which is so often thrown around by would-be deniers, ignores the fact that even to be (and remain) a scientific theory, it requires more justification and rigorous testing than many matters that are often regarded as proven fact.

Of course, I haven't really answered your main question, as that is for you. I think it is possible to accept a rational, science-based view of the world around you, while still retaining spiritual beliefs. I don't myself (I simply don't see the need or relevance), but it's a personal thing. And oh yeah, sorry, I don't have any book recommendations either.

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Point taken and agreed. By fact I meant to say it's more than just an "idea" of someone's. Very bad use of the word fact on my part.

Book recommendations? For people new to evolution?

If I'm not mistaken, The Selfish Gene leans more towards people who have a deeper than shallow background on evolution.

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Almost any college level evolutionary biology 101 text book. All meat and potatoes. Once you learn that, it's open field to the vast evolution library.

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Actually, I do have a book suggestion. "Wonderful Life" by Stephen Jay Gould. Not a textbook, but a very thought-provoking account of work by researchers trying to work out how evolution works in practice. The book is technically about little creepy crawlies from 600 million years ago, but its core topic is much more philosophical than you'd expect. And it tackles some aspects of the Theory that greatly troubled Darwin, who was a deeply religious man.

It's especially interesting that the author views the conclusions of the work described as showing that there is no grand plan behind evolution - that it is just random, and that we are a chance result of it. But one of his "heroes", whose work helped him reach that conclusion, is a religious man who views the whole topic very differently.

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Grazza said:

Actually, I do have a book suggestion. "Wonderful Life" by Stephen Jay Gould. ...

Thanks, Grazza. I'll definitely check that out.

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Skeletor said:

Any book recommendations that do justice to the subject for beginners? I was thinking of Dawkins' "The Greatest Show on Earth" but I'd rather avoid a book that uses ignoramuses and insane in every sentence :)

From his public image I think it's easy to get a negative stereotype of Dawkins as someone who spends all his time ranting about religion but he has written quite a lot of science stuff as well and it's not all like that. I read a bit of The Blind Watchmaker a while ago and it was interesting but I never got around to reading the rest of it.

You say you're a Christian, but that term covers quite a wide range of beliefs. It sounds like you're sane enough to realise that the Earth isn't 6000 years old. I'm curious - What do you believe exactly, and why?

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I don't have any specific book recommendations, but if I may suggest an author, I've always found Stephen Jay Gould's material to be the most objective and non-preachy material I've read (as opposed to, say, Dawkins). I've also found his writings quite easy to follow, though I tend to read articles and journals rather than full books, but I would assume his books are of equal quality.

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Skeletor said:

So, I believe in both evolution and Christianity,


Are those mutually exclusive? AFAIK Christianity != Creationism, at least not for most churches.

Some like the Catholic or Orthodox keep a very neutral or even mildly pro-Evolution stance on this matter.


It seems to me that Creationism vs Evolution is mostly a "problem" of those -almost exclusively US-centric- reformed and born-again confessions. The rest of the world with its vastly more adhered-to religions frankly don't seem to give a shit.

TL; DR: this whole "Creationism" debacle is merely a provincial US-centric squabble.

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You can read Darwin’s books, even if they are a bit outdated, they should be a good introduction.

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Fundamentalist Muslims are vehemently creationist, because like all fundamentalists, they believe their chosen holy book is the inerrant, complete description of the nature of reality, to the exclusion of all other facts or ideologies.

There are regular TV programs on Iranian national television which espouse the exact same kind of creationist bullshit you'd expect to see on the 700 Club here in the US, except phrased in terms of Islamic objections rather than Christian ones (these are largely the same, of course, both being Abrahamic religions).

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ducon said:

You can read Darwin’s books, even if they are a bit outdated, they should be a good introduction.

This is what I was thinking. Darwin's writings are a great place to start, even though they might seem a bit dense. You sort of just have to break it down as you read and you'll get a good idea of what he is saying.

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Most Christians I know either think the beginning of Genesis was open to interpretation (it wasn't 7 days, but rather 7 epochs...it got lost in translation somewhere along the line), or they think the OT is just a bunch of back story and Jesus's teachings are the important part.

Also, a Catholic priest came up with the Big Bang Theory. It's perfectly logical to think that God saying "let there be light" was in practicality the universe exploding into existence in a big blast of energy.

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God said, let there be light, and lit one of his farts during a party at his frat house and then our universe was bourne.

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kristus said:

God said, let there be light, and lit one of his farts during a party at his frat house and then our universe was bourne.


Hm, this sounds logical to me.

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Radon said:

Couldn't "Let there be light" be a metaphor for the big bang.

Perhaps, although according to the current prevailing model the universe was supposedly effectively a plasma for the first ~400K years of its existence and due to this, there really wasn't any light to speak of - any photons emitted during said period would have been immediately absorbed by other matter.

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Radon said:

Couldn't "Let there be light" be a metaphor for the big bang.

You could choose to see it that way, although as a statement it is of course an inaccurate and incorrect description of the Big Bang. However, if you do this you're effectively cherry-picking the part that you can make sense of, and disregarding all the rest that doesn't make any sense. Here are the first few verses of Genesis 1:

1:1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
1:2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
1:3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
1:4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
1:5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
1:6 And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
1:7 And God made the firmament and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
1:8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
1:9 And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
1:10 And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.
1:11 And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.
1:12 And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
1:13 And the evening and the morning were the third day.
1:14 And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:
1:15 And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.
1:16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.
1:17 And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth,
1:18 And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.

The conclusions are, if you read the passages -

  • The Earth was apparently created before the Big Bang ("in the beginning..."), which contradicts the theory of the Big Bang.
  • God creates night and day before he creates the Sun, which doesn't make any sense.
  • The Earth is apparently created before the Sun and all the stars in the sky, which we know isn't true.
  • "The evening and morning" occur three times before the Sun is even created, which makes no sense.
  • The moon is described as a "light" when we know it only reflects light from the sun.
  • Plants and trees are created before the Sun, contradicting Evolution (there would be no sunlight for them to photosynthesise)
So you can pick that one quote and argue that it reflects reality ... sort of. But when you look at the context in which it's found, I think it's rather difficult to argue that this is all some kind of elaborate metaphor.

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The Earth created before the Big Bang makes sense. You create the level before you load it in the game. Night and day before the sun also makes sense, ambient sector brightness is simpler to program than directional light sources. So in the first day, God laid down some vertices and set up light levels. In the second day, God added a nifty skybox. In the third day, he added some decoration. On the fourth day, he completely rewrote the lighting system. On the fifth day, he put some monster spawn points, on the sixth he added the player starts, and on the seventh he sent it to his playtesters.

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And when God (aka ALF) saw that everything was good ("it's aaallll good" -God), he got a firmament in his pants (after he created slave labor to make the pants).
And He created tapeworms and saw that they were good, and gave them big lumbering hosts upon which to dine.
God was all like, you know what.. I don't really like the name "light", that shit's gonna have TWO NAMES.
And God created IN-N-OUT and narcissistically spread the word of himself on the bottom of the cups. I wonder if God likes pepsi or coke more. Lol, in religious text, each chapter is one sentence.
He's using a really really high level programming language.

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I think God is guiding evolution as he sees fit. Having an argument about it is like...the unstoppable force meets the immovable object. Get out of the way!

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Why in Chris' name does every religion/evolution debate collide with the big-bang theory? I can't see a topic any less about biodiversity.

Mr. T said:

I think God is guiding evolution as he sees fit. Having an argument about it is like...the unstoppable force meets the immovable object. Get out of the way!

Creating a mechanism to adapt to environmental changes is ingenious. Creating said system for a planned outcome is retarded.

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Gez said:

The Earth created before the Big Bang makes sense. You create the level before you load it in the game. Night and day before the sun also makes sense, ambient sector brightness is simpler to program than directional light sources. So in the first day, God laid down some vertices and set up light levels. In the second day, God added a nifty skybox. In the third day, he added some decoration. On the fourth day, he completely rewrote the lighting system. On the fifth day, he put some monster spawn points, on the sixth he added the player starts, and on the seventh he sent it to his playtesters.

So basically, this is still the beta?

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kristus said:

I met a creationist in sweden. He was a muslim though.


Everyone has a creation belief. (Techinaclly, Evolution is a theory for creation. It supposedly talks about how animals were created and shit. Even though how they think the earth began is beyond me)

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Clonehunter said:

(Techinaclly, Evolution is a theory for creation.

No.

The theory of evolution does not cover abiogenesis.

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