Sunday, 15 April 2018

"Only a theory" ongoing roundup

This is a developing post I intend to keep adding examples to.
The first come from Jonnie Hutchison, Green Plain church of Christ in the Murray Ledger. He writes:
The very definition of a theory suggests that which is speculative and conjectural. If there is sufficient evidence to prove a theory, then it ceases to be a theory. Some have theorized that earth is being visited by aliens from another planet. Yet, merely advancing such a theory does not make it a fact no matter how many people may believe it. Such is the case with the theory of organic evolution. Where is the evidence that takes it from the realm of theory to fact?
Again, I will be adding more examples of people using, "Only a theory" as an attack on evolution. Here is the rebuttal.
From Wikipedia:
A scientific theory is an explanation of an aspect of the natural world that can be repeatedly tested, in accordance with the scientific method, using a predefined protocol of observation and experiment.[1][2] Established scientific theories have withstood rigorous scrutiny and embody scientific knowledge.[3]
The definition of a scientific theory (often contracted to "theory" for the sake of brevity) as used in the disciplines of science is significantly different from the common vernacular usage of the word "theory".[4][Note 1] In everyday speech, "theory" can imply that something is an unsubstantiated and speculative guess,[4] the opposite of its meaning in science. These different usages are comparable to the opposing usages of "prediction" in science versus everyday speech, where it denotes a mere hope.
Study dot com:
Outside of science, the definition of a theory is a thought that may or may not be true. In the science community, a scientific theory is defined as a hypothesis or a group of hypotheses about some phenomena that have been supported through research using the scientific method.
From Live Science:
"Hypotheses, theories and laws are rather like apples, oranges and kumquats: one cannot grow into another, no matter how much fertilizer and water are offered," according to the University of California. A hypothesis is a limited explanation of a phenomenon; a scientific theory is an in-depth explanation of the observed phenomenon. A law is a statement about an observed phenomenon or a unifying concept, according to Kennesaw State University.

So a theory is a hypothesis or even simple idea that has survived repeated testing. Further, it is an explanation for events, not the event itself. There are a group of theories for evolution including natural selection, sexual selection, founder effect and more. These are explanations for the factual events and things we see. In contrast, there are laws regarding gravity and we all see the fact of it, but there is no well-accepted theory. So the phenomenon is seen and known, but the mechanisms are not understood.

More examples of Creationists using, "Only a theory" as an attack on evolution.

A twitter search for "Only a theory". Some tweets use it sarcastically or in explanation, but many Tweeters think this is a valid attack on evolution.


Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Science can't explain it, therefore...

Creationists often finish this sentence with, "....therefore God did it" which is not a good use of logic. The proper formulation naturally is, "Science can't explain it, therefore we don't know how it happened." "We don't know" obviously does not equal "God". Well, this is obvious to anyone who thinks about it for a moment.

ICR did not think about it in posting this article about new research into the formation of the Earth's Core.
This means that secular scientists cannot, at present, plausibly account for the existence of the Earth’s inner core! So, if naturalistic processes cannot account for the existence of the inner core, then it appears to have been supernaturally created. This is what the Bible teaches and creation scientists strongly affirm.
Obviously this is a form of the God of the Gaps argument. "We don't know how this one thing happened, therefore God did it." And the problem with that argument is that God's reach is ever shortening.  We didn't know how traits were inherited; now we do. We couldn't picture a halfway point between fish and amphibians; now we have examples of what that creature would look like.

Some more examples:
Bill O'reilly telling us (Youtube link, specific quote at 1:45),
"Tide goes in, tide goes out. Never a miscommunication. You! can't explain that."
Nevermind that we can indeed explain it (gravity has been well-understood for a few centuries), if we couldn't, that wouldn't mean god had a hand it in the process.
And since abiogenesis cannot account for the origin of life, you are stuck with a creator God. A God that made mankind in his image and likeness.
Note to Mike; we really aren't stuck with that.


More to come...

Monday, 25 September 2017

"Creationists aren't anti-science"

Well, it depends on what scientific fields we are talking about. Of course on this blog I discuss evolution and also some aspects of physics, but also medicine.

I feel I must immediately add another caveat. This time at least, I am not talking about JWs and their deadly 'no blood transfusions' policy.

No, I'm today offering a link describing the anti-science views of the Southern Baptist Theological Society.
It involves our old friends at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where a long-time professor of pastoral care has just been pushed out following harsh criticism by one of his fellow professors — a “biblical counseling” advocate named Heath Lambert. All but one of the phrases in quotation marks above are things that Lambert has actually said about psychology, which he rejects completely.
The other quotation is from his boss, Southern Seminary’s president, Al Mohler, who shares Lambert’s claim that anything beyond Bible-only counseling involves a rejection of “the wisdom that can come only from God and God’s word.”
Those quotes?

No one tried to twist our reliance on medical doctors into an accusation that we lacked faith in the sufficiency of such “biblical therapy,” telling us that “In this therapeutic age, it is really important that we think as Christians … that we employ authentically Christian thinking, biblical thinking, to human life, and that we do this in a way that, without apology, confronts and critiques the wisdom of the age and seeks the wisdom that can come only from God and God’s word.”
The blog post author, Fred Clark, was describing the difference in opinions over treatment for tennis elbow and psychiatric care. To add the obvious snark, mental problems are obviously demons and should only be treated with Bible.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Fine tuning, the constant, unchanging laws of physics and Christian Creationists

Fine tuning,
the constant, unchanging laws of physics
and the Christian Creationists who don't understand what those words mean.
PZ Myers looked recently at a Tweet by AiG's Ken Ham that was quoted in a Kentucky newspaper.

Reporting on Ken Ham's tweet about hurricanes.
"Devastating Hurricanes-reminder we live in a fallen groaning world as a result of our sin against a Holy God-it's our fault not God's fault" 

So the clear problem is, as described in Myer's response (the first link); "What causes hurricanes? If you asked me that question, I’d mumble something about rising water vapor in equatorial waters condensing and releasing latent heat, pumping energy into the air. A hurricane starts as hot, moist air rising into the atmosphere."

The physics of weather is well-understood. It sure looks like Ham is saying that before Eve bit the apple, the physics of the world was entirely different.

Ham, and other creationists, make a similar claim in saying that rainbows did not exist before Noah's Ark. So before these events, temperature related changes between liquid phase and gas phase did not occur? Winds were not generated by temperature changes in oceans? And gases in our atmosphere did not reflect and refract light the way they do now?

Remember, a common Creationist claim is about fine-tuning. If we changed one little thing about the laws of physics, the world would not be possible. But changing how light works is not trivial. Changing how temperature affects atoms and molecules to create weather is not trivial. According to the fine-tuning argument, if the laws of physics cannot be changed even a little then sin cannot be the cause of hurricanes. If sin is the cause of hurricanes, then the laws of physics are hugely malleable.

I'll finish with a pair of comments from the Myer's blog post:

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Ken Ham on Humans and "Survival of the Fittest"

In a post titled, Did Humans Domesticate Ourselves, AiG's Ken Ham demonstrates why I started this blog in the first place.

So it’s survival of the fittest, except when, according to a different study, it’s survival of the prettiest, survival of the most moral, or the survival of the least aggressive (according to these studies). It’s a constantly changing story because it’s just that—a story.
Survival of the Fittest. The phrase that Darwin didn't really like and which can appear a tautology is a shorthand for how natural selection works. Honestly, it is such a shorthand, like a too-long acronym, that it is only understood if you study the subject long enough.

One would think that Ham, founder of Answers in Genesis, would have spent that long, and more, studying evolution and its jargon. Apparently AiG started in 2007 but Ham has been involved in promoting creationism since the late seventies. Nearly forty years and he still doesn't understand the terms he attacks. Or, more sinisterly, he does but also understands the rubes do not.

So survival of the fittest: Google Search has this definition open in a window on the results page: "the continued existence of organisms that are best adapted to their environment, with the extinction of others, as a concept in the Darwinian theory of evolution."

Hmm. Collins Dictionary has a usage close to what Ham seems to think it means:
You can use the survival of the fittest to refer to a situation in which only the strongest people or things continue to live or be successful, while the others die or fail.
The thing is, 'fit' does not mean most physically fit, nor does it mean strongest or the best fighter.  Rabbits are overwhelming Australia but fights between them and kangaroos would involve the latter kicking the former into space. Clearly physical power is not the only measure here. For rabbits, it would be the ability to burrow and hide and the large litters they produce.

'Fitness' in humans can indeed be measured in ability to cooperate and a group that cooperates will more likely survive than a similar number of individuals.
...why are there still so many bullies? If “those who got along, got ahead,” how do you explain the many brutal dictators (such as Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini) and others throughout history who got ahead by killing people? Human history is not a story of increasing peace and harmony as we have supposedly learned to get along. It’s a story littered with evil and bullies...
Statistically, humans do get along better than in the past. Human history is indeed a story of increasing peace and harmony - Ham gets this wrong. Basically all forms of violence around the world have declined. Again, this is statistical, there are horrible acts of violence in many places and on many occasions, but the total number and number of victims is declining. See The Better Angels for details and many, many graphs.

Perhaps the most horrifying sentence:
This item was written with the assistance of AiG’s research team.
So it is not merely Ham's poor understanding but that of the entire organization.

Added later: At The Sensuous Curmudgeon, a commenter reminded me that AiG staff are required to believe this stuff. THey've signed a statement that they will do so.