Tuesday, 26 July 2016

A response to Tovrose regarding entropy

Tovrose feels that evolution and the second law of thermodynamics cannot both be true. Below is a comment I left at that blog post.

You are wrong and I will try to explain why that is. The second law of thermodynamics describes a tendency. A tendency is not an effect that occurs 100% of the time. Although men tend to be taller than women, this is not always the case. Let me attempt an example. When I was conceived I was much less than a gram in mass. That single cell had amazing potential. That single cell had potential but comparatively little complexity. When I was a university student, let's say 23 years old, my body was at its physical peak and probably my mind was too. My body and mind were both much more complex than that single cell. I massed around 65 kg or around 65,000 times more than when I was conceived. And yet the second law was not broken for this to occur. Although I personally became more complex, I was making the world around me more disordered. For those twenty-three years and nine months, I was radiating 37 degrees Celsius. although I massed 65 kg, I ate far more than that in my twenty-three plus years. Indeed, I ate more 65 kg in a single year for most of those years. I exhaled lots of CO2 and expelled other wastes. As this increase in complexity shows, the second law does not forbid such increases. Another example: A block of stone has potential: it can be sculpted into remarkable shapes or it can be melted down with the ores used to make interesting things. In both these cases, the potential is not the same thing as complexity. Yet the tools needed to work the stone release energy and dust in disordered forms so even as complexity increases locally, so does disorder universally. I have not proven that evolution occurs, only that the second law does not prove it cannot. You specifically mention mutations. Do note that duplication mutations have been observed, with changes to one of the copies adding new functions to the lifeform. As a practical matter, information and new functions are known to occur and the process is understood. Again, I have not proven that evolution occurs, only that the second law is not a deal breaker. Finally, you wrote ". You’ll be surprised, for example, how many people have accepted the myth that ‘science has shown there is no God. Of course, evolution is the kingpin of modern atheism and world communism." I have to add some sarcasm here: You’ll be surprised, for example, how many people have accepted the myth that acceptance of evolution = atheism. In the US and Canada -and probably other places - most evolution proponents are religious and most of those are Christian. The Catholic Church is entirely fine with evolution as is the Anglican Church. There is no THE Lutheran Church, but at least some sects of Lutherans accept evolution. The church I grew up in, The United Church of Canada, is fully accepting of evolution. Intelligent Design proponents claim (I feel dishonestly) that their position is secular and I suppose that means that atheists could accept ID rather than evolution. Yes, most atheists are evolution proponents but most evolution proponents are Christian.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

The odds of life beginning

Sci Am has an article describing an equation measuring the odd of life beginning on a planet.  Considering there is only a sample size of one, I am sure there are a lot of variables with no values offered.

I am about to move house, so read the rest at the link.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

I had some fun answering this Quora question on evolution

This is not meant to be a serious response, but then the questions can't be said to be all that serious either.

Read Brian Dean's answer to
on Quora

Top ten things to say to someone that says all that Darwin said is nonsense:
10 “Goodbye.”
9 “Quote or read two full continuous paragraphs that Darwin wrote.”
8 “Tell me three things that Darwin wrote about.”
7 “Ha, ha, ha, ha”
6 “Which is untrue or nonsense in the following three premises?
  1. Offspring show variation and this variation is at least partially hereditary.
  2. More offspring are born than can survive
  3. Different characteristics will show different rates of reproductive success.”
5 “Are you aware that there are many feathered dinosaurs (Top 10 Feathered Dinosaurs)?” Don’t actually say the link - that’d be weird in conversation.
4 “Are you aware of the fine grained transitional fossils between fish and amphibians (List of transitional fossils)?” Don’t actually say the link - that’d be weird in conversation.
3 “Were you home schooled?”
2 “Here is The Origin of Species. It is not the most exciting writing but it is entirely readable for a layperson. (http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2...)”
1 “If Darwin bothers you, read the work of any of the thousands of scientists since then who have confirmed and expanded his theory into one of the best supported theories in all of science.”

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Three types of creationist arguments

These types of arguments might be common in many fields but creationist/evolutionist discussion is where I spend my leisure time so that's where I know they are.

"Find a few pieces of evidence that fit your argument
and ignore all the others."
I've seen this image many times.  I saved the above from Twitter but when I searched for "the data how scientists see it how creationists see it", this was the first result. No idea who to properly attribute it to.
The best example of this type of argument for me is Carl Wielands's Glacier Girl article that shows how snow falls rapidly on the coast of Greenland so inland Greenland's ice sheets are young. In doing so, he ignores - and does not offer locations -the fact that the two locations are hundreds of kilometers apart and in different climatic zones.  He also ignores all the ways the ice core layer ages are confirmed - two layers=one year, volcanic ash deposits match historic eruptions, isotope ratios...
"We can't trust the experts!"
This argument definitely crosses borders.  I was reminded of it on Twitter by arguments over Brexit.

The link goes to: Britain's greatest enemy, the experts
In creationism circles, this argument often displays itself in strawmen arguments. but it also a common place to find lists of supposedly unanswerable questions.
This claim is made about the eye in various forms (the claim is given in various forms, the different forms of eyes is usually ignored). From Harun Yunha
For an eye to be able to see, the 40 or so basic components which make it up need to be present at the same time and work together perfectly. The lens is only one of these. If all the other components, such as the cornea, iris, pupil, retina, and eye muscles, are all present and functioning properly, but just the eyelid is missing, then the eye will shortly incur serious damage and cease to carry out its function. In the same way, if all the subsystems exist but tear production ceases, then the eye will dry up and go blind within a few hours.
The theory of evolution's claim of "reducibility" loses all meaning in the face of the complex structure of the eye. The reason is that, in order for the eye to function, all its parts need to be present at the same time. It is impossible, of course, for the mechanisms of natural selection and mutation to give rise to the eye's dozens of different subsystems when they can confer no advantage right up until the last stage.
An expert, even an interesed bystander, will see the problem. Fish, some amphibians and some reptiles don't have eyelids.  Clearly the specific example given is one of poor research and eyes are not irreducibly complex.

I spent ten minutes looking for this argument in the form of a list of fifteen or so questions for students to ask their biology teachers.  The question about eyes had, probably not 40 parts, but ten or so. It went something like, "5 Eyes need to be fully formed to work. a) When did the nerve to the eye form? b) When did the eyelids form? c) When did the cornea form?.... x)What did the animal with half formed eyes do?"  Couldn't find it.

I guess the "Why are there still apes?" attempt at a stumper question fits here, too.
We don't know, therefore Creationism
Or in this case, therefore Intelligent Design:
...none of them have the slightest clue as to how it actually happened, and (B) The obvious and most significant conclusion that can be drawn from all their splendid work in the lab is that the only reasonable explanation for the emergence of life is Intelligent Design!

Are there arguments that fall outside these categories?

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Something for all those creationists to remember!

Hey, you stupid creationists, the 'Other Side' isn't dumb!

When will those frickin' idiots learn?

Alright, on the off chance you didn't follow the link, it goes to a general article describing 'the other' in any argument and so the lessons it offers are presumably just as applicable to evolutionists.

As any debate club veteran knows, if you can’t make your opponent’s point for them, you don’t truly grasp the issue. We can bemoan political gridlock and a divisive media all we want. But we won’t truly progress as individuals until we make an honest effort to understand those that are not like us. And you won’t convince anyone to feel the way you do if you don’t respect their position and opinions.
I think this paragraph makes a big jump from "understand" to "respect".  I try to understand various arguments for creationism and to respect the individual but I don't see that every argument automatically deserves respect. As a blogger who has deliberately focused on creationism's worst (but common) arguments, I see the ones displaying the least amount of research.

*Image is shrunk a little. More of Tom Gauld's work can be found here.