May 05
  • UPDATE 3a: Edited clip here:

    This clip was changed to a slightly longer version to make sure RP’s full answer was given.

  • UPDATE 2: Ron Paul says “It’s a Theory … I don’t accept it.” (question starts at 2:40) Hat-tip: Ray (from comment 40 below).
  • Update 1 (written when I still understood Paul to believe in Evolution): Much to my surprise this post remains one of the most active on my site. So, I think it is necessary to clarify that Ron Paul’s views on evolution alone do not disqualify him from receiving my vote. I like many of Ron Paul’s comments concerning the Constitutionality of various things. It’s where Rep Paul and I have strong common ground. But this is a campaign and don’t let debate sound-bites override the facts. Investigate. Start with their voting records. Now, on to my original post:

As I investigate for whom I will vote, I found the list got a lot shorter after the first debate.

After seeing the clip after asking “who does not believe in evolution.” I shot off this email to the Ron Paul campaign:

On 5/4/07, Ron Shankwrote:

Dear Ron Paul team:

Does Ron Paul believe in evolution? I didn’t see his hand raised in the debate when asked “who does not believe in evolution.”

Thanks for your quick reply.

Thank you,

Ron Shank

They quickly replied.

——– Original Message ——–
Subject: Re: Didn’t see his hand
Date: Fri, 4 May 2007 16:15:06 -0400
From: Ron Paul 2008 Presidential Campaign Committee
To: Ron Shank


Ron Paul did not raise his hand during that question, it was Tancredo, Huckabee & Brownback who raised their hands. Dr. Paul is physician and believes in evolution.

For me, this narrows it down to these three to further investigate.

Your thoughts?

  • Geoffrey Kidd

    I think Dave makes a great point, Ron. Religionists tell atheists to read the Bible and re-read it until they agree with religionists. Way too many religionists have ignored the vast amount of knowledge that has been painstakingly gleaned from nature through hard work and patient observation. Religionists usually just toss this information out and substitute the far easier-to-grasp “faith” in its place. Anyone who wishes to espouse ideas about nature and origins MUST learn what we already know about these things if they want to arrive at an intelligent conclusion. These days it is not necessary for someone like Dave to find a web site for us; it’s very easy for anyone to find good web sites hosted by good universities that you can trust, such as the one I posted on the other thread. One only has to have an interest in learning.

  • KSH

    Patriot: Evolution must be accepted on faith, and is therefore a belief. It falls into the category of a religious philosophy.
    No, evolution is a theory, based on repeated observation of the natural world. After a small number of observations are made, a scientific hypothesis is created that attempts to account for them After a sufficient number of observations are made that agree with the originals and support the hypothesis, a general scientific theory may be constructed. If the observations are so irrefutable as to suggest they will never be contradicted, a scientific law may be postulated (such as the “law of gravity”). Anyone can make such observations, or research those previously made. It is, as PhysicistDave notes above, laziness that precludes such observation. However, relying on the observations of others does not make these scientific ideas “faith”.

    Items of faith cannot be observed by anyone. They are only to be believed. Like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, God, and Creationism.

  • yellownumberfive

    This is a deal breaker for me, and I hate to say that.

    I’ve been a libertarian for most of my voting life, and I do like a lot of what Paul has to say. I think his positions on economics and the war are very well thought out and realistic.

    But to drop the ball on a matter like this, as a scientist first and a voter second, it sends me running for the hills.

    His misunderstanding and denial of evolution lead me to question his ability and even more importantly his willingness to research topics that may be outside of his expertise. That is not the sort of person I want as a President.

  • Ron Shank

    So Yellownumberfive (and anyone else), what are you thoughts on Bob Barr?

  • Fred

    I’m excited to see how Barr fares in November, mostly because I was a big Paul supporter for the primaries (even though we had disagreements). I think Barr looks a little sketchy though — it’s definitely the mustache :) I wonder if Paul will back him after the RNC?

    But anyway,

    @Ron, I wanted to help answer #150 since Dave seems to have fallen asleep at the wheel after getting off to a great start. Give this serious consideration if you’re interested in getting a good idea of the case for evolution.

    (Offensive names alert) Two great YouTube series:

    “Why Do People Laugh at Creationists?” by Thunderf00t
    “Foundational Falsehoods of Creationism” by AronRa

    You can definitely extract a load of useful information from these (you might want to ignore some of the witty comments).

    Otherwise, making an informed decision requires at least year each of university-level physics, chemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry, and biology.

    I’ll go ahead and assume that YouTube videos are not enough to convince you (and they shouldn’t be!). Majoring in evolutionary biology at a university _will_ convince you, however at the expense of time. Years and years.

    The scientific method does not require ‘faith.’ Topics like evolution, abiogenesis and creation of the universe are based on hundreds of years of questioning, research, revision, and _evidence_. The latter two (abiogenesis and ‘big bang’) have a ways to go yet. However, evolution is (nearly) unanimously agreed upon. If evolution was a falsehood, it would have been eviscerated by the scientific community a long time ago.

    Also, accepting evolution does not necessitate disbelief in a god. Even the last 3 popes (for the Catholics out there) support evolution. But this is a whole other topic.

    Let me know what you think.

  • Giles

    Lets define some terms here.

    Gravity is a fact. We can observe it, therefore it exists. The *theory* of gravity is an attempt to explain it. First we had newton’s laws and gallileo, then came einstein’s theory of relativity. Einstein’s theory isn’t completely provable, as there may be factors not taken into account, but it’s the most accurate theory we have.

    The process of evolution is fact. It is beyond all doubt that animals are evolving, and this process is what explains genetic diversity. The *theory* of evolution is what tries to explain it, and it is incomplete. Natural selection is listed as an obvious factor. Further research has gone into genetics and environmental factors. It will never be possible to prove the theory of evolution, but it is without any doubt that evolution has, is, and will continue to shape the earth’s species. There’s vast mountains of evidence for it.

  • Joe

    This is pandering to a vocal majority in the GOP. Ron Paul may believe in evolution and scientific fact–he is doctor–but he is forced to deny it due to political expediency. His anti-abortion record makes him suspect in my eyes due to his being an obstetrician who serves women. His social libertarianism would take a backseat if were he to become President to the economic libertarianism of the GOP.

    I do not blame Ron Paul for pandering. All politicians do it and it is a part of politics whether we like it or not. But I do blame his supporters who think he is an independent mind transcending left and right wing ideology. As President he would not be able to put in effect his social libertarian policies. Like Obama there are powerful members of his own party that would block his own initiatives–like Lieberman with the public option. Any attempt to decriminalize marijuana or prostitution would be blocked and filibustered by social conservatives in his own party.

    The truth of the matter is that Objectivists need Christian conservatives like Romney and Palin to put in place their economic agenda. Which means their social agenda has to be scrapped.

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  • Charles

    The question was, “Do you believe the theory to be true?”

    That is a very specific question, wihich reaches beyond believing it is a valid theory.

    Ron Paul correctly stated, as any reasonable person would, that he can’t know for sure whether or not it is true.

    I believe these comments are taken out of the context of the very specific question that was asked of him.

  • B. W.

    An example of microevolution (a.k.a the precursor to macroevolution/speciation if the conditions are right): I

    I am honestly surprised that the work done by the Grants on the Galapagos Islands in never mentioned in these debates. They have made some truly powerful discoveries that will likely go on being ignored by the masses (but they are stars in the biology community). There are, of course, plenty of other examples, such as plants adapting to live in serpentine soils, but the finches are just plain cool.

    That said, comments like this: “Also, I strongly agree with your argument that evolutionary teaching leads to the view that life is expendable” makes me very sad and a tad bit angry. I am a student of evolution and do not find life expendable for any living being, let alone humans.

    That said, having my character attacked because I find the evidence for evolution irrefutable is, in my humblest opinion, completely inappropriate and illogical. The Theory of Evolution doesn’t involve any kind of moral component, good or bad. Morality is a construct of culture and theology. What is does involve in an explanation for how organisms adapt to their environment (via natural selection) and, potentially, speciate due to reproductive isolation (behavioral, genetic or geographic to name a few situations).

    • Ron Shank

      From the link you referenced: “Now the next step: evolution. The Grants found that the offspring of the birds that survived the 1977 drought tended to be larger, with bigger beaks. So the adaptation to a changed environment led to a larger-beaked finch population in the following generation. ”

      That is microevolution (or adaptation). No one here argues that. What you don’t see are birds becoming fish or vice-versa. Macro-evolution. The finches remained finches the entire time. They didn’t even become ducks.

  • B. W.

    That would be because evolution doesn’t operate that way nor does the theory evolution claim that. Microevolution (adaptation) is evolution. Microevolution is the primary way that species evolve over time (usually thousands if not millions of years). Macroevolution can occur if, say, two populations of the same species become reproductively isolated from one another for a few thousand years. After that time, you may not even be able to tell that they came from the same parent population due to physical differences. Obviously the finches remained finches… a duck (or a a finch that has more of a bill to compare apples to apples) would be selected against because bills are not very useful in cracking open seeds. What I am trying to get at is instant speciation (such as the example of a finch producing a duck) is incredibly rare. If that was, in fact, what evolutionary theory claimed, then I would be inclined to agree with you that evolution is a load of bunk. But, again, that is not what Darwin or Wallace wrote and is not what evolutionary biologist assert.

    Another example is snakes (commonly constrictors such as boas) that still have vestigial hipbone remnants that call back to when snakes evolved from a lizard like ancestor. Additionally, fossils of snakes in an intermediary stage of evolution have been discovered. These snakes still had leg remnants. A similar story plays out for whales going from land animals to sea creatures.
    (boa hip structure: and snake with legs discovery: ).

    But, I guess I got sidetracked in my original post and I have to ask: What about any of this leads you to believe that I,or anyone with similar beliefs as me, do not value life as much as those that do not believe in evolutionary theory?

    Some notes:
    I use the term “you” loosely and do not intend to direct such a comment at any single person anybody. Also, the picture comparing the snake hip structure to humans is not implying that humans come from snakes. It is simply trying to demonstrate that the snake has a vestigial hipbone structure.

    • Ron Shank

      To keep from digressing down the snake rabbit trail. I’ll refer you to this page. Scroll down to the legless lizard section. But I have to concur with that site, “Loss of information cannot explain how evolution ‘from amoeba to man’ could occur.”

      Back to your main point: “What about any of this leads you to believe that I,or anyone with similar beliefs as me, do not value life as much as those that do not believe in evolutionary theory?” I’d like to change the question just a bit to clarify my position. “What about any of this leads you to believe that I,or anyone with similar beliefs as me, do not value life as much as those that [believe man is created by the God of the Bible]” That question would more accurately project my position.

      First neither of us can truly know the thoughts of another man and the depth to that which he cares for someone else. However we can make some good assumptions based on logic.

      The Bible teaches that man is created in the image of God.
      Evolution teaches survival of the fittest.

      It’s really easy to see why someone true to your beliefs would see life as less valuable.

  • B. W.

    None of the sources supporting what that article has to say are peer reviewed (or that the “classic examples” have been disproved). It may be narrow minded of me, but I cannot base any facts off of it.

    I see you assume that I am of the same belief system as you, for which I am not.

    Survival of the fittest is not a term used by evolutionary biologists. It was a term coined by an economist ( Evolution, in its most basic terms, simply says that those who have more offspring will pass on more of their genes (I don’t know if you could even argue that). Therefore, those genes (adaptations) that result in the most offspring should be more present in subsequent generations. Sometimes these genes are visible in a phenotype (physical appearance) sometimes they are not. So, another way of looking at it is: A lion that lives to be 20 but has no offspring is less fit (his genes will not be passed on) than a lion that lives to 10 but has 100 offspring. I’m not really sure how that makes me value life less than the next person. I do remember a particular line in the bible that commends those who kill the babies of their enemies. I do know that is not the greater message of the Bible or the New Testament, but it is by far worse than anything you will find in “On the Origin of Species.”

    I will refrain any further from commenting on the Bible as I have not read it cover to cover and likely never will. Therefore, I do not have the understanding required to rightly judge, comment or otherwise use it in defense or against a scientific theory. Clearly, from the amount of reading I have been doing lately, there is a fundamental misunderstanding of evolution from the creationist side, probably a result from those who have never stepped foot in a classroom teaching evolution or read an evolution text book (please note that I am not saying anyone in particular because, in reality I don’t know anyone’s background).

  • B. W.

    I apologize and recant my first sentence to a point, as some of the articles were peer reviewed in that the experimentation was flawed (insert foot in mouth). The article does have some flawed definitions/understandings in regards to vestigial organs, however.

    Anyway, this is my last post… I should be spending more time on my thesis. Take care!

    • Ron Shank

      I wish you the best on your thesis. I can see you are very concerned about truth. Which is refreshing. I’d encourage you to read the Bible. IF it’s claims are true (and I believe they are – I only say if to make my point) IF they are true, then they worth investigating. We will all face the judgment one day when we die. Even if there is a remote chance this might be true, you need to be prepared. So I implore you to read the Bible (at least the book of John) and know what is expected. If you have questions, I’m happy to help answer them. Again, I wish you the best on your thesis. Take care.

  • Kevin

    Dear Ron,

    It’s refreshing to read a cordial, professional, but lively discussion over the theory of evolution, one that doesn’t come to ad hominem attacks. You are obviously one who has read widely, and I thank you for your attempts to understand beliefs outside of those you may have inherited through your cultural identity. This alone is noteworthy, as all too many adherents to certain systems of beliefs (yes, scientists included–from personal experience, some scientists can be surprisingly narrow-minded about interpretations of empirical evidence, especially when it contradicts their own work) are unwilling to even look at other lines of reasoning to explain why we see the world as we do. For the record, while I understand PhysicistDave’s point about formal scientific training being essential for understanding how to determine the validity of and how to interpret real-world evidence (in the form of data), I don’t subscribe to the idea that science shouldn’t be made accessible to non-scientists. Science is just a profession that seeks to listen to what the world is trying to tell us. Every rock, every gene sequence, every disease, has a story to tell; we’re just trying to translate what they’re saying into English, if you will.

    That being said, I wish to point out a minor, but perhaps significant, premise that I think you may have incorrectly applied to this discussion. You note that there is no evidence pointing to an increase in genetic information through the ages, only a decrease (I have not read enough of the literature to be able to draw my own conclusions on this, so I’ll leave this point be). I think there is a major, and unjustified, premise that you have not explicitly stated when you brought up that point. The premise is this: That humans (and dogs, iguanas, jellyfish, and so on) are more information-dense (and more sophisticated?) than for example, a single-celled phytoplankter. By accepting this linear increase in information-richness from unicellular organisms to “higher” species implicitly, you then are able to question whether there is an increase in “information” through the phylogenetic tree up to humans. I think this is a misguided view of biological information. I can’t particularly think of why humans are more sophisticated than the smaller critters that share our Earth. Sure, we’re able to manipulate our landscape and bend natural resources to our will (to an extent–we still haven’t managed to conquer natural disasters yet), but from a biochemical standpoint, we’re actually pretty simple organisms. We lack many of the basic metabolisms that allow “primitive” organisms to live in different environments. For example, we can’t perform nitrogen fixation. All of the nitrogen we require (as nitrates and ammonium) comes from consumption of other organisms (which have obtained nitrogen from their prey or symbionts), and so on until we arrive at the nitrogen fixers–fungi and bacteria, for the most part–that fuel our nitrogen economy at high energetic cost to themselves. We’re lacking a nitrogen-fixing metabolism for good reason–we don’t need it. Animals have evolved (for over 500 million years) to essentially be big storage tanks of nitrogen (in proteins) (that’s why meat has a lot of protein!), because (most) animals are mobile and can extract nitrogen from their prey. However, if you look at the biomolecular composition of plants, which are not mobile are thus often stressed for nitrogen (which is why we provide N through fertilizers … see the connection?), plants contain far less protein (as a percentage of total biomass) than animals (like humans). This is because many of the structural functions that are provided by proteins in animals (e.g., keratin in your hair and collagen in your cartilage) are replaced by carbohydrates (which do not contain nitrogen) in plants. In this way, plants can conserve their scarce nitrogen reserves for use in the most essential functions, e.g., for catalysis (building protein-based enzymes). It’s through exercises in logic and data analysis like the example I’ve just outlined that I believe that humans and other animals are not especially sophisticated or information-rich; we just have an ecological niche that allows us to take advantage of organisms at other trophic levels. (By the way, eukaryotic genomes may be big, but they’re also very redundant–there are multiple copies of many genes in the genome, a feature that’s not seen in most all prokaryotes–again, a matter of energetic trade-offs (time vs. energy reserves).)

    Just looking at the illogical patchwork of genes, regulatory networks, catalytic biomolecular machines, and information flow within a cell (and within the human body), I’m inclined to believe that life was not designed by an intelligent, logical Creator. If we compare computer systems–which I hope we can agree are designed to be functionally efficient and to have minimal redundancy & internal conflicts–to any biological system (pick your favorite scale–ecosystem-level, organ-level, cellular, or signalling cascade-level), we can pretty easily see that biological systems are very much dynamic and fundamentally imperfect. I’d go as far as saying that it looks very much like a careless cosmic experimenter went through a pile of biomolecular parts and cobbled together whatever seemed to work. Needed a source of energy? Use the Sun! Need electricity to power cellular processes? Let’s strip electrons out of water and dump them into carbon dioxide to make biomass (and spitting out oxygen as a waste product in the meantime). If we look at all closely at any of the reactions and enzymes involved in this metabolic sequence (just one of many thousands known (see the KEGG atlas if you’re interested)), we’ll immediately see that many of these reactions are downright terrible in terms of design. These enzymes are not something a bioengineer would intentionally design today, because they’re just so inefficient. (RuBisCO is a well-studied example, if you’re interested in reading about its poisoning by molecular oxygen.) That’s what our current understanding of what biology is–it’s a mess. That is why we spend so much time trying to understand it and predict the responses to external perturbations of biological systems (e.g., the human body).


    P.S. Also, keep in mind that just because it’s published, doesn’t mean it’s true! This goes for Youtube videos and Bibles as well as articles in the scientific literature. It takes many years of training in a particular field and closely following the conversations of a particular community of scholars to really understand what findings are scientifically sound, and what is just bogus.

  • Kevin

    Oh, forgot to mention, the degree of difference between species is entirely arbitrary and operationally defined. The community of researchers currently defines bacterial species (by gene sequences) differently from eukaryotic species (the ability to interbreed sexually). If you’d like, you could expand or restrict the scope of what qualifies as a species to your liking. I’d be equally happy to say that we (every living thing on this planet) are all one big (happy?) species/family, or that every individual human (excepting identical twins) are different species. All this is to say that what qualifies as a species is irrelevant. The idea of a “species” is just a convenient construct for understanding the divergence of populations of organisms (and over time (we’re talking millions or billions of years here–try putting >10^5 zeroes after your average human lifespan)) as an abstract concept. Whether or not there is a physical manifestation for the basis of species boundaries (there isn’t) is not really important at all.


  • A1rh3ad

    I believe in evolution and I support Ron Paul. Ron Paul doesn’t believe religion is a federal issue!

  • William Baranowski

    If God did not create the universe, who, or what did? Did it create itself? Out of what? Nothing? If God did not create man, but man evolved from a molecule of animate slime that God did create in a universe that God did create, then, how does that lessen God? If it does not lessen God, then perhaps a book should be written about it. One that people would read part of for over 7,000 years and another part for over 2,000 years. Oh, wait a minute. The Book is there, already. It’s bottom line is that there is but one God, He created everything and He wants each of us to be with Him forever. How he did it is irrelevant, unless you are a recipient of a fat, government or private enterprise research grant. And when you start to put the puzzle pieces together, all you can do is attribute it to chance. Don’t bother to rip my rant apart, because, I don’t give a hoot what you think. I’ve got it all figured out.

  • Jerry

    I think Ron Paul needs to start showing him self in contrast with Obama if he wants to win.

  • john

    “As I investigate whom I will vote for”

    **For whom I will vote

    • Ron Shank

      Thanks John. I need all the help I can get. :-) And I’m not being sarcastic. I really do need help in the grammar and proof-reading departments. Hit me up anytime. However, I should warn you, it could become a full time job.