Sunday, 21 December 2014

Creationists and science - they do it wrong, sometimes dishonestly so

Creationists and evolutionists use the same evidence,
but evolutionists use all the evidence.

From Boingboing, of all places, comes a tale of an encounter with a creationist at the American Geophysical Union conference.  The author meet a man at the poster section.
A name badge declaring him to be Hugh Miller, the first author on the poster.He asked if I had any questions. I asked if he could just give me a quick summary of the work. He talked about performing mass spectrometry on samples of various dinosaur bones that produced age estimates ranging from 15,000 to 50,000 years. My spidey-sense tingled. I peered over his shoulder, searching for bullet points to figure out what was going on here.
That's when I read it: "humans, neanderthals, and dinosaurs existed together."
The author continues:
Now, here's the thing about Carbon-14 dating. This isotope has a very short half-life (the time necessary for the element to reduce in mass by half) of only 5730 years. Since it decays so quickly, it is useless for dating objects more than about 40-50,000 years old. The background levels of C-14 radiation in the laboratory have to be compensated for. 
The author points out
...often a technique called "bracketing" is used where the igneous rock on either side of the fossil is dated with radioactive isotopes that have half-lives on the order of millions of years. This give scientists a range of time in which the animal could have lived. The poster authors, Hugh included, were basing their attack on one technique in the geological toolkit, and disregarding all other evidence that would have undermined their conclusions.
In Australia there were engineers that were trying to search out about a coal mine, so they drilled down and they found a basalt layer, or lava flow that had woody material in it, branches and twigs and so on, and when Dr. Andrew Snelling, our PhD geologist sent that to a lab in Massachusetts in 1994, they used the potassium-argon dating method and dated it at 45 million years old. Well, we also sent the wood to the radiocarbon section of the same lab, and they dated it at 45,000 years old. 45,000 year old wood in 45 million year old rock. The point is, there is a problem.
Sewell also argued that Darwinism runs afoul of the laws of thermodynamics. Evolution requires a decrease in entropy over time, whereas a cherished principle of physics says that is impossible. Since Sewell recognizes that the second law applies only to closed systems (which the Earth is not), it is unclear what the problem is. His claim that “natural forces do not cause extremely improbable things to happen” is pure gibberish. Does Sewell invoke spuernatural forces to explain the winning numbers in last night’s lottery?The fact is that natural forces routinely lead to local decreases in entropy. Water freezes into ice and fertilized eggs turn into babies. Plants use sunlight to convert carbon dioxide and water into sugar and oxygen, but Sewell does not invoke divine intervention to explain the process.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Historic and Observational Science

From AIG:
[I]t is useful to divide science into two different areas: operational science and historical (origins) science. Operational science deals with testing and verifying ideas in the present and leads to the production of useful products like computers, cars, and satellites. Historical (origins) science involves interpreting evidence from the past and includes the models of evolution and special creation. Recognizing that everyone has presuppositions that shape the way they interpret the evidence is an important step in realizing that historical science is not equal to operational science. Because no one was there to witness the past (except God), we must interpret it based on a set of starting assumptions. Creationists and evolutionists have the same evidence; they just interpret it within a different framework. Evolution denies the role of God in the universe, and creation accepts His eyewitness account—the Bible—as the foundation for arriving at a correct understanding of the universe.
 The denial of supernatural events limits the depth of understanding that science can have and the types of questions science can ask. We may define naturalism and materialism as:
Naturalism: a belief denying that an event or object has a supernatural significance; specifically, the doctrine that scientific laws are adequate to account for all phenomena.
Materialism: a belief claiming that physical matter is the only or fundamental reality and that all organisms, processes, and phenomena can be explained as manifestations or interactions of matter.
The problem with the above definition of science is that, even though naturalistic science claims to be neutral and unbiased, it starts with a bias. The quote from Dr. Todd on page 19 demonstrates that bias: only matter and energy exist and all explanations and causes must be directly related to the laws that matter and energy follow. Even if the amazingly intricate structure of flagella in bacteria appears so complex that it must have a designer, naturalistic science cannot accept that idea because this idea falls outside the realm of naturalism/materialism. Many scientists have claimed that allowing supernatural explanations into our understanding of the universe would cause us to stop looking for answers and just declare, “God wanted to do it that way.” This is, of course, false.
The ability to study the world around us is only reasonable because there is a Lawgiver who established the laws of nature. Most people do not realize that modern science was founded by men who believed that nature can be studied because it follows the laws given to it by the Lawgiver. Johannes Kepler, one of the founders of astronomy, said that science was “thinking God’s thoughts after Him.” Many founders of scientific disciplines, such as Bacon, Newton, Kepler, Galileo, Pascal, Boyle, Dalton, Linnaeus, Mendel, Maxwell, and Kelvin were Bible-believing Christians.  
... In a biblical worldview, scientific observations are interpreted in light of the truth that is found in the Bible. If conclusions contradict the truth revealed in Scripture, the conclusions are rejected. The same thing happens in naturalistic science. Any conclusion that does not have a naturalistic explanation is rejected.
...Making a distinction between two types of scientific study helps us to understand the limitations of naturalistic presuppositions in science:Operational (Observational) Science: a systematic approach to understanding that uses observable, testable, repeatable, and falsifiable experimentation to understand how nature commonly behaves.
Operational science is the type of science that allows us to understand how DNA codes for proteins in cells. It is the type of science that has allowed us to cure and treat diseases, put a man on the moon, build satellites and telescopes, and make products that are useful to humans. Biblical creationists believe that God has created a universe that uses a set of natural laws that operate consistently in the universe. Understanding how those laws operate is the basis for scientific thinking.
Some events defy natural laws. Christians refer to these things as miracles, but naturalistic science must find a way to explain these occurrences naturally. This approach rejects miracles in the Bible because they cannot be explained using natural laws. Such scientists occasionally try to explain the miracles in the Bible as natural phenomena, but this ultimately undermines the authority of God and His Word.
Historical (Origins) Science: interpreting evidence from past events based on a presupposed philosophical point of view.
The past is not directly observable, testable, repeatable, or falsifiable; so interpretations of past events present greater challenges than interpretations involving operational science. Neither creation nor evolution is directly observable, testable, repeatable, or falsifiable. Each is based on certain philosophical assumptions about how the earth began. Naturalistic evolution assumes that there was no God, and biblical creation assumes that there was a God who created everything in the universe. Starting from two opposite presuppositions and looking at the same evidence, the explanations of the history of the universe are very different. The argument is not over the evidence—the evidence is the same—it is over the way the evidence should be interpreted.
That's a long set of excerpts.  Read more -there is a lot more - at the link.

I feel there are two main themes in the post and in the excerpted above.  The (artificial) distinction between observational and historic science and the inclusion of the supernatural in science. I also want to look at the claim that natural laws require a lawgiver.

This all-in-caps quote demonstrates the perceived difference between observational and historic science."IF AN IDEA IS NOT TESTABLE, REPEATABLE, OBSERVABLE, AND FALSIFIABLE, IT IS NOT CONSIDERED SCIENTIFIC."

I agree with this wholeheartedly.  If only I could find an example of so-called historic science that failed these criteria.
Let's look at the Greenland Ice Cores.  Superficially, looking at the long, thin cylinders and counting backwards through the layers is problematic.  We have not seen the snow fall on that location for more than a few decades and as the layer pile up and squeeze those below, there might be changes in the way those layers look, confusing the observer.
However, there are ways to repeat the tests and falsify them.  Let's look at falsification first.  The original creationist argument mentions "isotopes" once in one sentence and never again.  The method of looking for differences in the isotope ratios is not explored and yet it is a way to test the results.  The article also leaves out the presence of identifiable volcanic dust and ash.  When researchers find dust at 200 years-before-present, they can look for records of volcanic eruptions and compare the dates.  This is the definition of falsification.

Is it repeatable?  Yes.  There is lots of ice out there and researchers can drill more than one core and compare the results of one to another.

The same thing happens when we look at the insertion of viral DNA and how if an this happened to an ancestor all the descendants should have the inserted DNA in the appropriate place.  Researchers in a variety of locations and labs can look at viral DNA and compare that to the DNA in humans and other apes and confirm to deny that the DNA is the same.  Exceptions can be looked for.  No such exceptions have been found.

The Sensuous Curmudgeon covered similar ground in 2012.

Now for whether the supernatural can tested in a scientific way.  No, it can't.  When I teach ESL to young children, I sometimes amuse them by appearing to push a piece of chalk into one ear and pulling it out the other.  If you accept the supernatural, then even if you see that the chalk is hidden in my hand in one performance, you have to accept that the next time I do the trick, real magic occurred.

In my opinion, the best response to the science-testing-the-supernatural claim comes from Richard Hoppe and his look at Behe's suggested bacterial flagellum experiment.  Behe had suggested that bacteria lacking a flagellum be exposed to condition that would favor the evolution of a flagellum to see if one actually evolved.

Hoppe thought about the results of such an experiment.  
But then Hoppe notes that Behe states we can know nothing about the Designer and Its abilities.  He then imagines the experiment runs its course and bacteria flagellum appear...
. Does that mean that evolution works and ID is “disproven”? Not at all. After all, since we know nothing about the skill set and intentions of the putative designer(s), it’s possible that the designer(s) somehow ‘watched’ our culture, and sometime during the course of the generations ‘reached’ in and poofed a flagellum into existence on one of the bacteria.
If a flagellum appears, it means that evolution occurred the bacteria gained the flagellum through evolutionary processes or that The Designer chose to give them a flagellum.  If no flagellum appears, it means evolution did not occur or that it did occur and the bacteria were about to sprout flagella but The Designer chose to remove it. 

 Adding the supernatural to the mix means nothing can be scientifically determined. The argument turns into the brain-in-a-jar-on-a-desk-in-a-lab hypothesis.  If the supernatural is accepted, then nothing is settled.  We see what The Designer wants us to see and nothing else.  I try to keep this a religion-neutral blog but the only rebuttal that I can see Christians make to this point is that the Christian God is always honest and never deceptive.  If that is the case, then we can accept what our senses inform us of and the supernatural is not relevant.

"The ability to study the world around us is only reasonable because there is a Lawgiver who established the laws of nature."
The laws are what is observed, not required.  The quote above makes the same conflation that allows the joke about the judge outlawing gravity to be funny.  The law of universal gravitation has nothing in common with the laws of your country against murder.  The former is a fact of the universe and the latter is a arbitrary rule made by humans.
Further, Ham et al require the 'lawgiver' to mess around with the laws of nature.  In addition to claiming that any change to the laws of nature would destroy us all, they need the speed of light to change so light from distant stars can reach the Earth in six thousand years or less.  They need ice layers in Greenland to pile up so they appear to show one hundred thousand years  after only four thousand years passed.
They simultaneously state that the laws of nature are unchanging and they may have been different in the past.
Henry Morris made this claim - link is to Talk Origins:
Radiometric dating assumes that radioisotope decay rates are constant, but this assumption is not supported. All processes in nature vary according to different factors, and we should not expect radioactivity to be different.Source:
Morris, Henry M. 1985. Scientific Creationism. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, p. 139.
In his debate with Bill Nye, Ham stated that the current diversity of life evolved from the far-fewer animals on the ark, simultaneously arguing against evolution and requiring evolution to occur at far faster rates than ever observed.
Nye argued that there are some 16,000,000 species on the planet today, and that if there was a Flood only 4,000 years ago, and only 7,000 representative species on the Ark to start with, there would have to have been 11 new species evolving every day over the last 4,000 years since the Flood.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Read from Darwin's library on the Beagle.

From Nature:
The cabin where Darwin worked and slept also housed the ship’s library, which he used for both reference and inspiration in his research. The library was dispersed at the end of the voyage, and its contents have been unknown. Now, 178 years later, science historian John van Wyhe of the National University of Singapore has reconstructed a virtual version of Darwin’s library, by cataloguing all of the printed sources Darwin made reference to in his travel notes.
If the link in the quoted section doesn't work, this should.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Our solar system was optimized for life - or how we can imagine better

Creationists have made much of Earth being in the 'Goldilocks Zone' - just the right distance from the Sun.  In the past, evolution-proponents had discussed how much of the solar system, and the universe at large, was unsuitable for life.

Some bored people at planetplanet have looked at how to fit more usable terrain in the Goldilocks zone and the results look very designed but by no means impossible for a God.
This puts 36 habitable worlds in the Goldilocks Zone.  Not as good as Ringworld, but a definite step in the right direction.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Why the theory of Intelligent Design is so hard to rebut.

It is because there is no clear theory of ID. John Pieret of Thought in a Haystack posted an interesting bit recently. Well, he posted more than a bit, but here is the bare minimum that I that describes his point.  I, on the other hand, am posting only a bit, so you can follow the link for more.

The many interesting examples that dominate the ID discussion—the little tail on the bacterium, our eyes or our blood-clotting mechanism, the explosion of new life-forms in the Cambrian period—are just snapshots of things in nature. They are not "evidence" for anything and won't be until the ID theorists develop a theory of how their "designer" works. Once they provide a well-articulated version of their central claim, we can decide whether or not our eyes—or our tails— support their theory.
Darwin knew this
About thirty years ago there was much talk that geologists ought only to observe and not theorise; and I well remember some one saying that at this rate a man might as well go into a gravel-pit and count the pebbles and describe the colours. How odd it is that anyone should not see that all observation must be for or against some view if it is to be of any service!

Pieret is quoting Karl Giberson who is describing a debate he had with Stephen Meyer.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Bill Nye discusses his debate with Ken Ham

I slowly realized that this was a high-pressure situation. Many of you, by that I mean many of my skeptic and humanist colleagues, expressed deep concern and anger that I would be so foolish as to accept a debate with a creationist, as this would promote him and them more than it would promote me and us. As I often say and sincerely believe, “You may be right.” But, I held strongly to the view that it was an opportunity to expose the well-intending Ken Ham and the support he receives from his followers as being bad for Kentucky, bad for science education, bad for the U.S., and thereby bad for humankind—I do not feel I’m exaggerating when I express it this strongly.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

A real example of 'Expelled'

Bryan College requires its biology professors to sign a form denying the evolution of humans.

 The Dayton, Tenn., school is an accredited undergraduate program. For $28,750, you can enroll there as a student and you can study science. But if you study science at Bryan College, you will be learning from professors who are now required to sign the following “clarification” of the school’s Statement of Faith:
We believe that all humanity is descended from Adam and Eve. They are historical persons created by God in a special formative act, and not from previously existing life forms.
Even worse, you will be learning from professors who have been warned that they are being watched, carefully, and that someone is always looking over their shoulder to ensure that they never say or teach or acknowledge anything that might cast doubt on that statement.
There’s a word for charging students $28,750 for that. It’s called stealing. “The Lord detests differing weights, and dishonest scales do not please him” (Prov. 20:23).
Added later (March 11, 2014)
From Christianity Today:

Bryan College faculty overwhelmingly issued the first no-confidence vote against their president in school history after trustees clarified the creationist nature of the school's Statement of Belief.
The statement, which all faculty and staff (and some student leaders) must sign, includes a point about human origins, which trustees on Feb. 23 clarified to highlight the historical and particular persons of Adam and Eve....
Faculty supported the no-confidence vote against President Stephen Livesay 30–2, with six abstentions. At that Feb. 25 gathering, the faculty also voted 38–1 to ask the board of trustees for a one-year moratorium on signing contracts that include the clarification.
A related student government petition was signed by about half the student body,reports World. 

Saturday, 15 February 2014

reactions from the Nye/Ham debate (split from previous post)

In a recent previous post I had posted my reactions to the debate and reactions from the internet.  The post was becoming too long so I have snipped reactions from other sites and posted them here.  The first half of the post, my own live reactions, are here.

In addition to dividing the post in two, I have added further details to this one.

From Zachary Blount at Dr Lenski's blog.

There is a very interesting consequence of how the rnk-citT module originated. While Ham did not make this argument, other creationists have asserted that Cit+ arose simply by a loss of gene regulation, because they have the notion that evolution can only break things.  However, the duplication that gave rise to thernk-citT module caused no such thing.  There is still a copy of citT that is linked to the same adjacent DNA sequence as before, and there is still a copy of rnk that is under the control of its own promoter.  In other words, the cell got something new without losing anything old.When they actually bother to explain all of that, creationists still dismiss Cit+ as being an instance of evolutionary innovation because it involved the rearrangement of existing components.  True, the duplication responsible for Cit+ did rearrange components that were already there, but that rearrangement generated a new association between components that did not previously exist, and it produced a new function that also did not previously exist.  To argue that rearrangements cannot produce innovation is akin to arguing that a novelist has done nothing creative in writing her novels because she only used words that already existed.Ham also made a demand that is common among creationists that betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of evolutionary theory. In the later debate segment [starting at ~2:30], Ham says, “What Bill Nye needs to do for me is to show me example of something…uh, some new function that arose that was not previously possible from the genetic information that was there. And I would claim and challenge you that there is no such example that you can give...
"Last night, it was easy to pick out the smarter man on the stage. Oddly, it was the same man who was arguing that the earth is 6,000 years old. ""Ham had nothing to lose. When you exist on the cultural fringe and make your living by antagonizing established authority, there’s no form of media attention you don’t love. All Ham had to do was sit still for two-and-a-half hours, sound vaguely professional, and pander occasionally to his base. Sure, if you listened closely, what Ham was saying made absolutely no scientific sense. But debate is a format of impressions, not facts. Ham soundedlike a reasonable human being, loosely speaking, and that’s what mattered.""There are those who will claim a victory for Nye. He did have his moments. Near the end of the debate, Nye found his footing, speaking passionately about the joys of scientific discovery. Doing so, he highlighted the degree to which creationism is a decidedly incurious, insular worldview. Ham was at a loss for words only once during the whole debate, when an audience member asked what it would take for him to change his mind. By contrast, Nye seemed most alive when talking about all the things that he couldn’t explain."
I think the Bill Nye-Ken Ham debate (liveblogged by me and Hemant) turned out to be a net-win for science and reason. I know that many of us in the skepto-atheosphere disagree; that the debate put reality on the same plane as nonsense, or thought that Nye wasn’t up to the task of fully enlightening Ham or his audience. I understand and respect those criticisms, but I think they overlook what Nye really did accomplish.
Nye Vs Ham or (Nye v Sham) on Twitter.
And the Top 10 Tweets from the debate.
They seem kinda cranky - although right- at the happy place.
Pharyngula on the debate.
The Friendly Atheist.
Buzzfeed on the debate from a reporter who was there.
Pat Robertson on the debate.
The following two links have (thankfully low volume) autoplay video ads on their sites.
Christian Today's poll says Nye won by a landslide. And Christian Post offers five arguments from the debate.
Business Insider calls the debate for Nye.
22 hand written and photographed questions by creationists at the debate for Nye were answered by Ethan Siegel.
...and by Phil Plait.
World Net Daily has reviewed the debate.  And Dispatches from the culture wars has torn that review apart.
Don Prothero was Nye's coach.
Added Feb 15 but from an email sent on Feb 8:

I find it interesting that Ham is proud of "There is a book" while Nye supporters find it the exemplar of his problems.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Science and Creationism

Penny Higgins at CSICOP looks at whether science can support creationism.  An excerpt:

So, are either Intelligent Design or Scientific Creationism supported by science?
The answer is no.
We can sure present them as science, complete with predictions. But their predictions fail. We do have rocks older than 6000 years old. We do have irreducibly complex structures that are reducible. We do have intermediate forms in the fossil record.
Time and again, science has refuted the predictions made by Intelligent Design and by Scientific Creationism.
And when they fail, both camps of creationism induce the supernatural itself, claiming that where Evolution does not yet have an answer, that’s where the supernatural resides, or contradictory evidence has been placed by the supernatural itself to deceive us.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Reactions to the Ham vs Nye debate

This post is not finished but I don't know when that will be.  I watched the opening of the debate live, then stopped and drove to my in-laws and watched the last hour or so.  Then I began watching again and have made it to one hour, thirty-nine minutes.  I do plan to see the fifteen or twenty minute gap.

A friend described those who found Nye the clear winner to be displaying confirmation bias.  I had made similar, but less eloquent, statements so I was pleased to see my own conclusion reinforced.  Still, Nye did a lot right.

I guess I need to give some specifics at the start.  On Feb 4, Ken Ham defended the proposition that Creation is the most viable model of origins in today's modern, scientific era against Bill Nye, who defended evolution.  The video is available at a few locations but I don't know for how long: try here, here and here.

My own impressions:
Ham is getting mileage from his previous debate -at Harvard in the '90s.
Ham has a degree in applied science -emphasis in environmental biology.

five minute intro: Ham begins the attack and offers scientists who accept creationism but do science. Of course, they don't appear to use creation science in their work. Then, he gets into his personal division of science into observational and historic focuses.

Nye takes his time to gain some acceptance by telling a pretty good, but long, joke.  Then he uses the example of CSI to tear down the idea of two kinds of science.  
Billions of people are religious but not creationists.

thirty minute talks.
Ham: More professional scientist claiming they are creationists without any appearance of using creationism in their work.
Ham and one of his scientist discusses Lenski's work: The ability to grow on citrate is not complex new ability.
Andrew Fabich: E-coli supposably evolving.  The information is already there - it's just a switch that's turned on and off.  There's nothing new. ... Later, Dr Lenski and his student read Fabich's claim in horror and have responded 1, 2, 3.  I have excerpted a few paragraphs from the third link below in my notes of reactions to the debate. (More about Dr Lenski.)

"Darwin was racist." From a book -not necessarily by Darwin - "The highest race of all, the Caucasians..." Everyone from the 1800's would appear racist to us today. Australians, Ham's own nationality, had some racist image problems even just a few decades ago.

I just remembered how to do screen shots: 

In discussing the difference between observational and historic science, Ham showed a video of Nye talking about creationists accepting many scientific wonders -including smoke detectors - while yet not accepting evolution.  Ham emphasized a few such wonders -including smoke detectors - and called then observational science.  And yet, I think smoke detectors use the half-life of radioactive elements and this must remain unchanged through history or the detector's results would be meaningless.

Deep time. - ice cores.

Nine thousand year old tree.

"Your claim, for me, is not satisfactory." An elegant statement but not a thrilling one.

Nye on Ham's need for incredible speed in evolution to suit creationism's short time line:

Noah's ark and modern shipbuilding.

Around 1:20, Nye talks about the Big Bang Theory. This is important stuff and you need to explain the small details, but it takes a lot of time and comes off as a little dry at a debate.  I hope creationists were listening.

First 5:00 minute rebuttal
"You can't observe the age of the Earth"
Radioactive decay - Uranium to lead, etc.
"The point is, there's a problem." - Yes, there is. The radiocarbon dating used on the wood can only give results up to around 50,000 years so a result in that range is equal to a pegged needle.  To suggest otherwise is dishonest. This claim can also be found at  and the original source, 'research' by Andrew Snelling is at the same site.   Gondwana Research looks into a similar claim here.

The more I think about this, the more impressed I am with Ham's daring, with his cajones (it seems less crude in a foreign language).  If Nye had understood how radiometric dating worked -and why didn't he, this was an obvious direction for a Young Earther to go? -he could have exposed clear dishonesty on Ham's part.

Dr Steve Austin used Potassium-Argon dating on a lava flow from Mt St. Helens.  The results varied greatly.

There is a big problem.  From Wikipedia: "Due to the long half-life, the technique is most applicable for dating minerals and rocks more than 100,000 years old. For shorter timescales, it is likely that not enough Argon 40 will have had time to accumulate in order to be accurately measurable."

slides from 1:32:00 - get them while on Windows computer.

Didn't understand about radiocarbon dating - dang it!!! Attempted a rebuttal and moved on.
"Were the fish sinners?"
On Ham's claim that you cannot see the past, "but that's what astronomers do."

2nd rebuttal
"What is a kind? ...  Predicted less than a thousand kinds on Noah's ark."
1:42 - planes in the ice on Greenland. Wow!  and Wow!
Bears have teeth very much like a lion or tiger.  Look at a panda's teeth - it looks like it should be a savage carnivore.
      Okay, I just searched with Google images for lion, bear, panda bear and Australian fruit bat teeth.  All have big scary canines.  The bears and bat all have grinding molars and the lion has only cutting teeth.  I guess he figures Nye can't do the search in time for his next turn to talk.

"The Chinese and the Egyptians built big boats. Research shows some had three layers interlocking so they wouldn't twist like that (like the Nye discussed a giant American wooden ship had twisted and leaked)."  Right, except the only place i can find news of three interlocking layers is at Creationist websites and there is substantial disagreement about whether the giant Chinese ships were actually built (some claim they were and did sail to India and elsewhere, others say they only floated in a sheltered lake, others say they may have existed on land and finally some say they were never built).

Horizon problem. Light and the expanding universe.

1000 kinds makes Nye's criticism even stronger - instead of needing 11 new species to appear every day, now we need 35!
Nye claims some knowledge of shipbuilding and is skeptical that Noah could build the Ark with seven others.
"...explain to us why we should accept your word for it that natural law changed 4000 years ago, completely, and there's no record of it.  You know, there are pyramids that are older than that."
It is not reasonable to me to believe that everything changed 4000 years ago: species, the surface of the Earth, the stars in the sky and the relationships of all the other things on Earth to humans.

Evolution is not exclusively atheistic.

We need scientists and engineers.

Questions from the audience
1st question - Nye asks ham if he can predict something
2nd What was before the Big Bang?  Nye: I don't know - it is wonderful!
Ham: "There is a book..."
3rd dating techniques
Ham:....appendix is very important to the immune system -
...I did make race, God made kinds
4th question - how did consciousness come from matter
Nye: "Don't know.  It's a great mystery. ...The joy of discovery."
Ham: There is a book" .. debaters both beyond debate subject....  Ham: after you die, you are gone, why bother with discovery?
5th question "What would change your mind?"
Ham:  long answer  "No one's ever going to convince me that the word of God is not true."
The model of the flood is subject to change but the fact of the flood is not subject to change.
Nye: We would need evidence. Bring on any of those things and you would change me immediately.
6th question: radiometric dating
Nye the science is strong on radiometric dating
Ham: showed slide from before "Hundreds of physical processes..."
This is a form of the Gish Gallop.  I know the coral reef claim is wrong and I'm pretty sure the meteor dust one is, too.  Note that Ham doesn't even try to defend any of them so what is Nye to do, attack 50+ in his next turn.  And even if he did, from the little info Ham offered, Ham could say, "No, I meant a different form of meteor dust buildup" or the like.

7th Question for Ham: Compare the rate of continental plates today to the rate 6000 years ago.
Ham: There was a catastrophic breakup.  Historic V observational science.
Nye: It must have been easier for you to explain this a hundred years ago.  The evidence of reversed magnetic fields supports old age slow plate movement evidence.

8th:  Favorite colour

9th: 2nd law of thermodynamics
Nye: Earth is not a closed system.We receive energy from the sun.
Ham: Energy or matter will never produce life.

10th: Could you be convinced the world is older than c10,000 years.
Ham: No
Nye: You want us all to take your claim based on nothing.  What can you predict?

11th: Is there room for God in science?
Nye: yes.
Ham: God is necessary for science.  observational v historic science. We assume laws of logic, nature the uniformity of nature. Where does that (as I've written it, "Where do they come from) come from?

12: Mr Ham, do you take everything in the Bible literally? Should we stone pig-touchers? Should men marry many wives?
Ham: Define literally.  If it's history, like Genesis, take it as literal.  The Bible shows marriage to multiple women causes trouble.
Nye: You pick and choose what to take literally.
stopped at 2:28

Friday, 3 January 2014

Poop and Flood Geology

Naturalis Historia discusses how the existence of poop in the sediment column is a big problem for Young Earth Creationists.  It is a long post so I don't feel too bad in offering this extended quote:

Young earth creationists propose an alternative history. In their history a massive global flood deposited 10s of thousands of feet of sediments in this area over a period of a few days to maybe a few months. In the past 4000 year erosion has then sculpted the rocks into these mountains and hills.  Therefore, these flood geology theories of YECs would undoubtedly view the rock formations from which these fossils were found as having formed right in the middle of a chaotic global flood only 4-6 thousand years ago.
So how does a group of strange-looking 8-foot long reptiles survive the initial stages of a cataclysmic global flood in which 15,000 feet of sediments have already been deposited below where they gathered together? Even if they were running or swimming around during the flood and managed to find their way onto a small piece of land between waves how come these feces appear to have aged before being preserved (many show desiccation cracks as if they dried out before they were preserved)?  Also, how does a pile of loose digested plant material survive the next huge wave of water bringing sediments in to cover them up.  In this case these piles of feces look to have been preserved by a layer of volcanic ash being dumped on them. How does that happen in the middle of a global flood? 
Naturalis Historia had previously discussed animal feces during the flood here.  The blogger described dinosaur, bird and fish feces as well as the action of dung beetles.  Here is an excerpt from the dung beetle portion:
Dung beetles take dung from large dung piles of herbivores like elephants and roll pieces up into balls, roll them away and bury them for safe keeping like a squirrel buries nuts.   The presence of these in the fossil record is yet another evidence that where they are preserved represents a place were the normal ecology of the world was working rather than a large global catastrophe.  For dung balls to be found in burrows, now only did there have to be fresh dung around but it had to be there long enough for beetles to do their work.  Again, in the young earth creationists view these beetles were living near the end of a global catastrophe after 20,000 feet of sediments had suddenly been laid down and yet they were still alive managed to find fresh dung and had time to roll it up and bury it before being covered by the next giant wave of water that would then cover them with many new layers of sediments that would become rock. 
The Rocks Don't Lie is my favorite book on the subject.  As I read the book, I understood what the author was writing about but now, around a year later, the clearest and simplest evidence I remember from the book for an ancient Earth rather than a global flood was in discussion of Grand Canyon sediment.  Montgomery points out that the layers include sediment, then shale, then sediment, then shale, then sediment.  Sediment and shale require different processes to form so at least five different events had to have occurred.  He also points out the 'discontinuities' - parts where the column had built up, then been worn away, creating gaps of millions of years.  Silvestru had claimed that such discontinuities were simply guesses by secular scientists and chose to ignore any evidence to the contrary.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Fascinating human evolution discoveries of 2013

From Scientific American.  A few excerpts.
  • Analysis of the shape of the braincase of seven-million-year-old Sahelanthropus tchadensis from Chad supports the claim that it is the oldest human ancestor on record.
  • The femur of Orrorin tugenensis, a putative human ancestor that lived six million years ago in Kenya, has a shape that is intermediate between that of fossil apes and early members of the human lineage—a finding that confirms previous claims thatthe creature walked upright.
  • Tiny, rarely preserved middle-ear bones from two of our ancient relatives that lived millions of years ago exhibit modern features, which may indicate an early shift in hearing ability.
  • The latest round of studies of Australopithecus sediba, a nearly two-million-year-old relative of ours from South Africa, reveals a previously unknown form of upright walking and decidedly humanlike jaws and teeth. But is it the ancestor of our genus, Homo? Not so fast.
Not really related: American political parties and evolution/creation, a takedown.