I agree with Glenn Beck

Evolution is just like global warming. In two weeks you can vote for knowledge, or for ignorance. There’s no third choice on the ballot.

Evolution is just like global warming: each has such overwhelming scientific evidence behind it that denial of either one is strong evidence that the speaker is either ot-nay oo-tay ight-bray or blinded by some prejudice. The difference is that evolution doesn’t generate many controversial policy implications: ExxonMobil and other polluters don’t stand to lose tens of billions if people believe in it, and therefore aren’t spending tens of millions ginning up a bogus “scientific controversy.” So evolution-deniers tend to be Biblical fundamentalists while global-warming deniers tend to be market fundamentalists. (The two groups overlap in the Tea Party mishegas.)

Voting Republican this year, or anytime soon, means empowering both groups of ignorant boobs. And the connection between their folly and (e.g.) their support of torture is not accidental; as Voltaire said, the step is short from believing absurdities to committing atrocities.

Footnote If Beck really wants to see a half-man, half-ape, he should look in the mirror. But of course he’s not the “missing link”: he seems to be moving in the wrong direction.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

44 thoughts on “I agree with Glenn Beck”

  1. Where is this overwhelming evidence for global warming and evolution (specifics please)? To even make a statement like that is misleading in the first place, because there are distinctions among both. Sure there is evidence of micro-evolution; not too many people are denying that. And yes if you look over the right timeframe you will observe a modest to small degree of global warming, but isn't it man-made global warming that liberals would have us to believe exists. So depending on what is meant, sure I believe in global warming and evolution. If we're talking about what I presume is meant (man-made global warming and macro-evolution), then again where is the overwhelming evidence? I love the late Joe Sobran's quote on evolution: "if our furry and scaly friends were still evolving, none of them appeared to be gaining on us".

  2. Bux, neither you nor I have ever seen an atom. Where's the evidence that the world is made of them?


  3. Really, Bux? You're one of the micro-evolution only guys ?

    I honestly had thought better of you.

    > Where is this overwhelming evidence for … evolution (specifics please)?

    see Biology, late 20th century, foundations of, unifying concepts

    all of it. it all hangs together like a knitted garment

    start anywhere; you'll find evolution

    given what we know about genetics and reproduction,

    it would be almost impossible for evolution

    not to happen

    Damn, I'm feeding a troll.

    Old howler monkeys never die; they just lose their Usenet feeds

    Semper Alouatta!

  4. Joel, if it's so easy to start anywhere then start somewhere. Go ahead, point me to just one specific study that convincingly rules out alternatives to macro-evolution. I'm not even saying that macro-evolution couldn't have occured. I just have not seen the overwhelming evidence to convince me, and every single time without failure when I raise the question I get the same general response that you just gave without any specifics (because apparently specifics aren't needed since I'm just suppose to believe that the evidence does exist and since it's undeniable). This kind of response just further raises a red flag to me.

    And elaborate on the statement that given what we know about genetics and reproduction it would be almost impossible for evolution not to happen. Again, I find evidence from genetics and reproduction for micro-evolution but fail to see where you're going in terms of macro-evolution.

  5. Bux, if you tell me how you know the world is made of atoms, that might give Joel a clue about the kind of "study" you would accept as evidence for "macro-evolution".


  6. Bux,

    people who seriously doubt that natural selection drives (virtually all adaptive) evolution and that evolution explains the diversity of all life don't do so for lack of evidence. They do so because denying these facts serves an emotional need. That need is almost always a personal commitment to a body of legends whose truth the fact of evolution makes unlikely.

    You want "evidence for macroevolution"? Well, then, I refer you to, for example, the entire corpus of modern systematics, molecular biology, biogeography, paleontology and developmental biology, passim. You have a lot of reading ahead of you.

    On the other hand, no evidence, no matter how strong, can do anything against willed ignorance. So you're probably better off sticking with your Michael Behe and your Jack Chick "Big Daddy" comics.

    * (Don't look to the qualifiers "virtually all" and "adaptive" for your salvation. Their inclusion isn't for you, Bux. It's for readers who know some biology and are thus aware of drift and of neutral evolution, and also of why those two concepts are not relevant to this discussion.)

  7. "the connection between their folly and (e.g.) their support of torture is not accidental . . . the step is short from believing absurdities to committing atrocities."

    This is a dubious bit of bigotry, to claim that the ignorant are also the cruel — a fact really not in evidence — and, then to apply it in a partisan context, to libel Republicans as a class.

    Sadly, neither ignorance nor cruelty are now, or ever have been, a monopoly of one Party. And, however extreme and ridiculous the Republican Right may appear, it does nothing to redeem or reform the corrupt, complacent center of American politics. When we cannot vote for one Party, all accountability is lost in the other Party, and this is occuring at a time, when the absence of accountability is delivering perpetual and pointless war, pervasive business corruption, and economic stagnation.

    I'm not ambivalent about voting against Meg Whitman or Carly Fiorina. My visceral revulsion to their images on television is sufficient argument to motivate to vote against them. I wish I had some confidence that voting for Barbara Boxer or Jerry Brown is not a continued folly, of a different, but no less cruel, kind.

  8. Maybe we could reform the ballot. Instead of voting for someone, we could vote either "no" or "hell no" for any named individual. I see it offering a great outlet for political expression, even if it would leave the matter of who would hold office between elections somewhat vague.

  9. If you actually care about understanding some of the evidence for evolution, you could start here or here. Both cite their sources, if they don't contain enough specifics for you, and they contain plenty of straightforward examples like whales. Whales share all sorts of characteristics with land mammals (breathe air, warm-blooded, etc.) which make more sense on land than in the water, they have useless little bones right where legs would go on a land mammal, and some mutant whales have been found with a full grown leg right where those useless little bones normally are.

  10. Bux, you've got a lot of biology to catch up on; it's awfully difficult to know where to start. But I'll use an easy example: the idea that the remarkable variety of life we see arose through evolution makes a strong and verifiable prediction: if there's a common ancestor, then there should be remnants of a shared inheritance, once you know how to look. And sure enough, now that we have sequenced the genomes of many organisms, we can see this was true: as you'd expect, we share a lot of our genes with our pets, and rather fewer but still some with our houseplants. If you look at our close relatives, you can even see some of the events that have happened, such as the chromosome fusion event someplace in our past that explains why we gave only 23 chromosome pairs, while chimps have 24. People have written whole books popularizing our knowledge of various things related to this question; you might want to take a look.

    Look: if you want to say God did it, there is no way to disprove it. But evolution is core to understanding of biology, and so far it all hangs together: our theories work. Could still be God, fooling us – but by the same token, maybe Newton got gravity wrong, and things fall with a predictable acceration because that's how God wants them to move when God sends hordes of invisible angels to push the items around.

    Now, on anthropogenic global warming, I'm less familiar with the primary evidence. But either it's real, or thousands of dedicated, hardworking scientists are inexplicably unitedly mistaken, or they're in a conspiracy to defraud us all. Would be the weirdest conspiracy on record, what with so little opportunity for financial or social-status gain, and the massive corporations eager to pay native sums to expose the cabal's schemes.

  11. You know, as much as I hate to even come close to agreeing with that pathetic lunatic Beck…not to mention the rest of the anti-evolution bunch…there's kind of kernel of truth in what he says–or there may be. First, folks like him really don't have much reason to believe evolution is real–nothing beyond the testimony of experts, anyway. You could blame them for being ignorant, but that leads to other questions. Second, there IS some sense in which biologists "ram evolution down our throats." One of my bio instructors was so dogmatic, pushy and condescending to the skeptics in the class–insisting, for example, that no one say 'the theory of evolution,' but, rather, 'the fact of evolution'–that even I spoke up at one point. I got out no more than "Well, I agree with Darwin, but…" when he screamed "HAVE YOU READ THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES?" I allowed that I hadn't, though I'd read lots of more contemporary stuff on evolution, and he cut me off, saying that I had no right to speak on the subject. Anyway–that's just one story of one guy; I could tell others. So, yeah, partisans of evolution can be dogmatic a-holes, and that's particular significant to the folks aforementioned who don't understand the evidence.

    Now, my guess is that what Beck things is pushy I don't–like, e.g., insisting that creationism not be taught in science classes. and, of course, I do understand how frequent interactions with ignorant dogmatists on the anti-evolution side can drive biologists to get a little crazy on the subject. And Beck certainly doesn't deserve to be cut much slack on anything given his loathsomeness. But there is some sense in which what he says is non-crazy, FWIW.

  12. Bux is propounding classic Tobacco denialism – "You don't know how many cigarettes its takes to kill a person, therefore it is ok to smoke until you do".

    This has really caught among the professional climate denialists – focus repeatedly on the things we don't know, furrow the brow, look puzzled and throw out specious possibilities. All the while proclaiming how much you believe in "sound science".

    At moment, physicists do not know if "dark matter" exists, or is the galaxies are accelerating due to some mysterious force. Do we then stop using Newton's Laws or Einstein's Relativity until they do?

    Science is an inductive process, an "inference to the best explanation". We are well past the point where the uncertainties of science should stop us believing in evolution or global warming.

  13. "Macro-evolution" and "micro-evolution" are not scientific concepts, nor are they anything that arose from the study of biology. They're concepts that creationists made up to allow themselves an out when presented with antibiotic-resistant microbes and dog breeds. Descent with modification via natural selection is what it is. Ain't no "micro" or "macro" to it.

  14. Quote from great biology Theodosius Dhobzansky:

    "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution"

  15. The problem that today’s movement conservatives have with evolution is that it is a part of science, and science is elitist. One man’s theory is not just as good as another man’s theory, and the strong feelings of millions of people carry no weight when the question to be resolved is decided by evidence and logic. Science takes effort to learn, and several years are required to achieve any kind of competence in any of the sciences.

    Everywhere in the world, trilobite fossils are found lower down than the fossils of bony fish. There are no horse fossils in Cambrian strata. Whales have rudimentary limbs that make sense only under a theory that traces their descent from land animals. The recurrent laryngeal nerve in humans follows a course that no competent engineer would design from scratch, but which does make sense in terms of embryology of the branchial arches, themselves descended from early fish ancestors. The panda’s thumb is an adapted and modified sesamoid bone which functions adequately, but a better design could be fashioned by any bright engineering student.

    All this stuff requires an investment of time and an exertion of mind to grasp. People who spend years learning it have better opinions than people who repeat slogans from the radio. This “elitism” provokes resentment in today’s weak-minded and confused movement conservatives, but would have been familiar and taken for granted by classical conservatives whose principles they have abandoned, flung down, and danced upon.

    The tea party is “angry.” They are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. These are emotions, not qualifications to govern. Making this distinction is “elitist” as well. Making it is also crucial to our survival.

  16. Now, on anthropogenic global warming, I’m less familiar with the primary evidence. But either it’s real, or thousands of dedicated, hardworking scientists are inexplicably unitedly mistaken, or they’re in a conspiracy to defraud us all. Would be the weirdest conspiracy on record, what with so little opportunity for financial or social-status gain, and the massive corporations eager to pay native sums to expose the cabal’s schemes.

    But I would argue that it really doesn't matter whether the warming is anthropogenic or not because, given the belief that growth is absolutely necessary for a healthy economy (from which derives the "grow the economy" mantra of politicians) and given that growing the economy implies a growth in population, any measures that might be employed to reduce carbon emissions will be canceled out by the consequences of population increase.

  17. Bux:

    does evidence that today's whales are descended

    from creatures with legs count as evidence for macroevolution ?

    I ask because science makes no distinction between micro-evolution

    and macro-evolution (and the use of these terms nearly always

    signals that the speaker seeks to discredit the idea of

    the common origin of all life), so micro-evolution tends to

    mean whatever amount of evolution that the speaker

    feels is undeniable …

    At any rate, here's Ambulocetis)


    But if you want to read the evolutionary science

    response to almost all the objections raised against common descent,

    you might do well to visit the talk.origins archive


    Joel Hanes

    tenured grad student, University of Ediacara

    Go fighting Anomalocarids!

  18. Bux: no living thing has been found that doesn't use some form of DNA/RNA. It's a useful molecule but there are alternatives. One explanation is god had one tool and used it over and over; another is that every living thing shares a common ancestor.

  19. Mobius, true but Beck's audience doesn't know and doesn't care. It is the message, not the details in it. Just saying.

    A supporter once called out, "Governor Stevenson, all thinking people are for you!" And Adlai Stevenson answered, "That's not enough. I need a majority."

  20. Bux: how do you know where the boundary between “micro-evolution” and “macro-evolution” is? Since you grant that “micro-evolution” is possible, what is your proof that its effects are limited?

    Put another way: Given any two life forms, how can you tell whether or not they have a common ancestor? The theory of evolution says that the answer will always be yes (at least, until we discover extraterrestrial life). What is your alternative?

  21. "…; another is that every living thing shares a common ancestor."

    Not everything. There's some bacteria that has a different DNA code base than everything else.

  22. Um, CharlesWT, would you care to elaborate? That's the first I've heard of it!! You may be on your way to Sweden if it turns out to be true

  23. "Macroevolution" entails common ancestry, descent with modification, speciation, the genealogical relatedness of all life, transformation of species, and large scale functional and structural changes of populations through time, all at or above the species level. Macroevolution is supported by multiple, independent lines of evidence. Here's a summary of some of that evidence: 29+ Evidences for Macroevolution. Also, we have witnessed speciation, both in the lab and in the wild.

  24. Paul, Charles is refreshing to, and overstating, the fact that in one type of bacteria (mycoplasma, the type Craig Venter recently made a synthetic genome for, because it's got an unusually small number of genes) one of the three codons that in most life is read as a stop codon is instead read as an amino acid (tryptophan, if I recall). Similarly, the opportunistic pathogenic yeast Candida albicans reads one codon differently from most life. These aren't examples of a radically different genetic code, they're examples. If the generation of diversity. And if you look at the genomes of Mycoplasma or Candida, there's plenty of evidence of common descent.

  25. Er, the ". If" above should be "of". And "native" in my earlier comment should be "massive", as I recall. iOS's keyboard and (especially) spellcheck have a long way to go.

  26. http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=11876

    "In the book Science, Evolution, and Creationism, a group of experts assembled by the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine explain the fundamental methods of science, document the overwhelming evidence in support of biological evolution, and evaluate the alternative perspectives offered by advocates of various kinds of creationism, including "intelligent design." The book explores the many fascinating inquiries being pursued that put the science of evolution to work in preventing and treating human disease, developing new agricultural products, and fostering industrial innovations. The book also presents the scientific and legal reasons for not teaching creationist ideas in public school science classes."

  27. Stop! Stop this insane argument!!!

    Here is how macro-evolution has been established:

    1) Complex multi-cellular organisms only come from other multi-cellular organisms. (This is the key assertion.)

    2) We observe multi-cellular organisms today (humans, horses, flowering plants).

    3) They did not exist in the past. They are not found in deposits formed millions of years ago.

    4) Similar, but definitely different organisms did exist in the past.

    5) From (1), we conclude that today's complex multi-cellular organisms (2) are the result of changes from the earlier forms (4).

  28. Well, Quiddity, strictly speaking, that chain of 1-5 does not prove that evolution (as survival of the fittest) caused the changes.

    For example, some alien race could have come down and artificially selected certain breeds of animals for extinction.

    Or tinkered with the genome of existing species to create new ones.

    Finding ancient fossils of aliens in their labs would be a big blow against evolution.

    The fact that there are so many species would require a very active and persistent interference by those aliens. Visiting every few thousand years to tweak the genomes of species and all, splitting of new species, and so on.

  29. Warren,

    thanks for filling me in. this is absolutely irrelevant to the question. first, it's not using a different base in the genetic code, it's different codon usage, which has been known for a long time (e. coli has a codon for selenocysteine, which isn't used by animals or humans, as well as formyl-methionine). This whole issue reminds me that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Life is more complex than biology 101 classes suggest, but nothing in all of that complexity threatens the theory of evolution. Rather it buttresses it at every turn.

  30. MobiusKlein: My point 1, using the word "only", was meant to exclude things like alien races or deities. If you want to bring alien racest into the picture, the burden is on you to provide evidence. Also, I made no argument about "survival of the fittest". Could be "survival of the lucky" – which is not entirely out of the question. The point to be established is that present life forms are the result of reproduction of previous life forms in the distant past, and which were different in structure and appearance.

    Proof of evolution cannot be done with DNA sequence similarities or intermediate forms. Evolution, absent a video showing the direct lineage from one form to another, must be established by inference. The critical element is that complex multi-cellular organisms come from complex multi-cellular organisms*. That is the essence of the evolutionary claim. DNA and skeletal similarities and intermediate forms are consequences of evolution, not proof.

    * – why "complex multi-cellular"? Because we cannot rule out a single-cell organism being created from a soup of ingredients, although it's extremely unlikely in today's environment.

  31. Monkey and ape distinctions notwithstanding, the first chapter of Darwin's Descent of Man discusses baboons confined and plied with spiritous liquors:

    "On the following morning they were very cross and dismal; they held their aching heads with both hands, and wore a most pitiable expression: when beer or wine was offered them, they turned away with disgust, but relished the juice of lemons. An American monkey, an Ateles, after getting drunk on brandy, would never touch it again, and thus was wiser than many men. These trifling facts prove how similar the nerves of taste must be in monkeys and man, and how similarly their whole nervous system is affected."

  32. CharlesWT, I am still confused by what you were trying to say before – are you saying that there are lots of possibilities for different codon usages? This doesn't make sense in light of your more recent comment. In any event, there is no evidence of completely different codes (by the way, be careful how you use "code" and "base", because they have several meanings in biology and information science), although there is some variation at the margin. Scientists have even forced E. coli to make unnatural amino acids

  33. Paul, I made the original comment thinking I had read an article years ago about researchers finding some obscure bacteria deep underground/in an ocean trench that had a significantly different genetic code from everything else.

    My layman's impression is that the genetic code is largely arbitrary. That there are potentially other codes that would accomplish the same ends. Sort of like ASCII and EBCDIC.

  34. By the way, if anyone is interested in learning about the origins of modern biology, Horace Freeland Judson's The Eighth Day Of Creation is a classic and is very accessible. It includes an excellent section on how they figured out the triplet code.

  35. @fred, mostly in cheek. It is hard to rule out all outside interference – but Occam's Razor usually takes care of that. If evolution is good for micro evolution, and there are no E.T. footprints around, we pretty much can conclude it's evolution from root to twig.

  36. Hours before its special news conference today, the cat is out of the bag: NASA has discovered a completely new life form that doesn’t share the biological building blocks of anything currently living on planet Earth. This changes everything.

    At its conference today, NASA scientist Felisa Wolfe Simon will announce that NASA has found a bacteria whose DNA is completely alien to what we know today. Instead of using phosphorus, the bacteria uses arsenic. All life on Earth is made of six components: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur. Every being, from the smallest amoeba to the largest whale, shares the same life stream. Our DNA blocks are all the same.


    NASA Finds New Life Form

  37. CharlesWT was right to bring in the news of the "completely new life form".

    But sadly missed the big opportunity to get at the truth by giving us the best link.

    The "source" CharlesWT gives is an account of something that came about in a very different way than you might think from reading it.

    Glenn might have been proud of Gizmodo because some of him was, apparently, rubbing off.

    But then the article went on to refer to another Wired article… this time, from Science News, which does enlighten the readers in a less Beckian way.

    What you'll find is that bacteria, found in an arsenic-rich environment, were taken back to the lab. Some were gradually weaned off of phosphates and on to arsenates… and they survived.

    The bacteria that were kept on their natural phosphates fared much better, though. No surprise there.

    To suggest that the bacteria was discovered to be using arsenic instead of phosphorus is entirely incorrect.

    Not only that, but to claim that it "doesn’t share the biological building blocks of anything currently living on planet Earth. " is the stuff of science fantasy, not science fact.

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