Friday, October 26, 2007

A Very Low Standard For Decisive Evidence

I guess anything will do:

A news release this week from biologists at the University of Manchester in England reports some world-shattering findings…

St. Bernard Study Shows Human-directed Evolution at Work

They report that by looking at 47 St. Bernard skulls spanning a period of 120 years - since the time that the breed standard for these dogs was first defined - they could see that the skulls steadily conformed to these standards over time. Because the breeders of St. Bernard dogs had bred for those traits.

Whoa. You're telling me that dog breeders can breed toward desired traits? What'll they think of next… breeding black and white spotted milk cows or fast race horses?

Okay, that was admittedly snarky. But it's a little amazing to me what counts for Breaking Science News! these days. Oddly enough, the release doesn't mention the fact that all dogs - Chihuahuas to Great Danes - are the same species. They got their individual good looks by selective breeding. I learned that in the 3rd grade.

Now, humans have been selectively breeding livestock for thousands of years. They have learned a thing or two in all that time about selecting for desired traits. It works, too. We know this. The real *surprise* of this research comes at the end of the release…

"These changes are exactly in those features described as desirable in the breed standards. They are clearly not due to other factors such as general growth and they provide the animal with no physical advantage, so we can be confident that they have evolved purely through the selective considerations of breeders.

"Creationism is the belief that all living organisms were created according to Genesis in six days by 'intelligent design' and rejects the scientific theories of natural selection and evolution.

"But this research once again demonstrates how selection — whether natural or, in this case, artificially influenced by man — is the fundamental driving force behind the evolution of life on the planet."

There you have it, children. The ability of humans to select for desired traits gives us NEW confidence that evolution is true because selection works, and that explains everything. Even better, it proves creationism false. By the way, creationism is Literal Genesis Intelligent Design that rejects the notion that dog and cattle and horse and cat and chicken (et al.) breeds are the result of selective breeding. As well as the 'scientific notion' of evolution altogether.

You know, if you spend any time reading science news releases, you might start to wonder who pays for all this wasted time. And whether these people have real-world skills they might use to become productive members of society someday. Luckily, I'm jaded. Some of this stuff is pure propaganda.

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