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Dana Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist for over 25 years and has covered the online world professionally since 1985. He founded the "Interactive Age Daily" for CMP Media, and has written for the Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age, and dozens of other publications over the years.
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February 26, 2006

Evolution Changes Its Mind (Again)

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Posted by Dana Blankenhorn

ba_evolution.jpgOne of the great absurdities of the “intelligent design” debate is when someone says “science says.”

Scientists say a lot of things. Scientists agree (and sometimes disagree). The consensus among scientists is what science “teaches.” But that consensus can change, and does.

If you’re not accepting of all this, it’s not science. What we teach and what is are different.

This is especially true for evolutionary science. A generation ago there was the great revelation that dinosaurs didn’t die out, per se, in one great disaster 65 million years ago. Many survived. Avian dinosaurs survived. Birds survived.

But what were the mammals’ role in the dinosaurs’ world? Some “Intelligent Design” wahoos posited something like The Flintstones, people and dinosaurs living together. And scientists, who could find no human-like fossils going back nearly that far, ridiculed them for it, positing that mammals existed only on the fringes of the dinosaurs’ world, in tiny niches, the way mice and cockroaches live in our world.

Well, not exactly. Recently Chinese paleontologists have been making some remarkable finds. Most recently we have a platypus-like mammal, 164 million years old, buried among small dinosaurs and fish in Inner Mongolia. Other mammals, with similar age, have been found in Colorado.

fred%20flintstone.jpgMammalian structures, even complex ones, are not that new. There are no really bright lines separating aligators, dinosaurs and birds, not bright lines separating dinosaurs from mammals. All coexisted for a long time, with one group or another being dominant based on conditions. So the idea of New Zealand being dominated by birds until a few thousand years ago isn’t that far-fetched, just like the idea of Tasmania being dominated by marsupials isn’t that far-feteched.

The idea of science is being alive to possibilities. Maybe The Flintstones are there, in some lava field somewhere. When they’re found, and dated, and the find is replicated, scientists will accept them as real.

But science takes nothing on faith. Science is theory based on evidence. Faith is assumption based on imagination.

Those who don’t know the difference are idiots. This includes anyone who claims that you must believe in science, or accept some faith-based substitute for the real glory of God’s creation.

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