One of the strategies of denying established science is to “just ask questions” (affectionately known as JAQing off). The point is to undermine the science by probing for things that don’t appear to make sense, but not in a sincere attempt to understand. Rather, the idea is to ask questions that have already been answered, or that are based upon false assumptions or straw-man distortions of the science.
Recently I was sent this article by Fred Reed in which he asks questions about evolution. He writes:
To this end, I submit a few questions which have strained my admittedly paltry understanding for some time. They are not new questions, but could use answers. I agree in advance to accept his answers (if any be given) as canonical.
The “his” refers to John Derbyshire, who is an author and journalist. I am not sure why Reed directs his questions toward him or would consider his answers “canonical.”
I don’t know how sincere Reed is in his questions, but I would suggest if they are sincere that he read a few books by biologists. Answers to all his questions are out there, or at least the information necessary to determine why his questions are naive.
Since I like answering questions as a format for explaining complex science, I thought I would take up Reed’s questions myself.
(1) In evolutionary principle, traits that lead to more surviving children proliferate. In practice, when people learn how to have fewer or no children, they do. Whole industries exist to provide condoms, diaphragms, IUDs, vasectomies, and abortions, attesting to great enthusiasm for non-reproduction. Many advanced countries are declining in population. How does having fewer surviving children lead to having more surviving children? Less cutely, what selective pressures lead to a desire not to reproduce, and how does this fit into a Darwinian framework?
Reed’s first question illustrates what I mean. There is no direct answer to his question, because the question itself contains false premises. His question cannot be answered, only deconstructed.
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