Thursday, April 14, 2011

Forgetting about fundamentalists

So I was skimming over a blog that deals with the history of role playing games.  A uniquely specific field of study.  But I like it because the author, James, writes well and has wonderful historical insights.  Anyhoo, he posted a whimsical post wondering about the physics behind fantasy creatures - like dragons - being able to fly.  Not being a physicist, I thought I would sit that one out, my interests being in other places.

But I decided to have a look at the posts to see if anyone smarter than me could offer insights into this ancient dilemma.  There were actually some fairly decent stabs at it, I must admit.  Then one fellow wrote about a theory of dinosaurs evolving into birds.  He expressed his skepticism of the argument he mentioned.  No links or anything, just light hearted stuff.  So I decided to throw my two cents in and mentioned a physicist I knew who once explained to folks that flight was his big hang up on putting everything into the modern evolutionary basket.  He wasn't trashing evolution per se.  He just mentioned that flight has problems as do most complex interdependent biological systems like the senses, various symbiotic relationships, and flight.  After all everything has to be in place for flight to work or it doesn't.  And there is no evidence to prove that any of the characteristics needed for flight are, in themselves, beneficial for the survival of the species. Hence I suggested if you are going to concede dragons at all, I wouldn't worry about it.  I thought that was fun.

Then BAM!  A fellow posts a response saying nein, Nein, NEIN!  You are wrong, wrong, a thousand times wrong.  And he linked to this article from the University of Berkley.  OK, I went there to read it, and basically concluded that the physics professor I heard those years ago was right.  If you read it, you'll note there is a lot of theory based on guess based on assumption based on theory, but it all starts with birds and bats already able to fly.  There's a significant gap there, which was the point.  So I just mentioned it looks to me that the fellow I heard all those years ago was right, there are some significant gaps and leaps of faith there, but the purpose of the blog is probably more light hearted than a bare knuckle brawl over this issue, so reiterated my own corpus doctrina regarding dragons and flying.

To which he responded, in a not so pleasant tone, that he at least linked to a link.  All I had was 'heresay (a polite way of saying I may have been making it up).'  At that point, I let him know it was just a silly blog post.  I read what a fellow wrote, and that came to my mind.  That was all.  I didn't mean to take on the eternal questions of the universe.  It was no big deal.  And then I realized I had forgotten the main issue.  

There are two types of evolutionary theory.  One is a scientific approach to understanding the development of life on earth, using evidence and data and admitting what do know, don't know, and at least now, may never know.  The other is a religion, a faith, an 'all explaining answer to everything that I can use to make myself feel good about ignoring any other faith tradition and suppose I'm superior since at least mine is based somewhat on science.'  I have a feeling I know which group the fellow falls into. 


  1. very interesting thought. I guess if animals as large as dragons were meant to fly they would fly. I happen to be on the 3rd floor of a building right by a window right now and don't see any large flying creatures. There are some that are rather large, but nothing close to flying dinosaurs and dragons. Hmmm- and if there are any - I have never seen them.

  2. There is science, then there is faith dressed up like science. Too much of what passes for science today is merely another belief. I would like to see this issue unpacked a little more. I understand that you were obviously just having fun. But it seems like you may have had a great chance to get a conversation going. Perhaps consider inviting the reader here for continued debate?



Let me know your thoughts