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.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

The history of fossil evidence as a metaphor for ID claims.

The following is a comment I left in a Quora argument. The argument was becoming messy due to the constraints of fitting it in the comments box at Quora (or anywhere) so I will also put it here. Our argument was wide-ranging and getting stuck in minutiae so I felt this overview of my position with occasional short quotes was the clearest way to describe my position.

The history of fossil evidence as a metaphor for ID claims.
In Darwin's day, there was little evidence for (or against) evolution. There was excellent evidence but not a lot of it. In those days without access to molecular data, fossils were considered the best way to support (or not) evolutionary claims.
Very soon after Darwin published his theory, Archaeopteryx was found. Now there are around twelve specimens found. And yet, that was only one example of a transitional fossil. It was reasonable to say, "We have no fish-amphibian fossil and I cannot even picture what one would look like. There is no way a fish could evolve into a land animal." Now, there is a very fine set of transitional fossils showing in detail how such evolution could occur. (List of transitional fossils - Wikipedia)
Now, similar arguments are proposed against evolution using nearly the same wording but dealing with molecular evidence. A century earlier, the claim was, "fish can't evolve arms" and now the claim is, "bacteria can't evolve a flagellum."
One of the ways the claims are similar is in the maturity (or lack) in the field. In the late 1800's, few dinosaurs were known and fossils were not organized or described in ways that could be shared. Now, the human genome has been recorded and others are being recorded but the technology is still in its infancy. Just as with a century ago, "We don't know how this could happen" mostly means "We don't know yet." For the sake of argument, it could mean, "...because a Designer did it" but the argument has the same value as when I cannot find my phone.
Creationists and ID proponents need positive evidence but all they have is negative evidence; "We don't know therefore God/ Designer."
With fossils, many major and minor transitions have been found and more will still be found. We will never find fossils of all the living things that ever existed (We don't yet have skeletal fossils of chimpanzees and we know they exist. All we have, and only found a deade ago, are fossilized chimp teeth.)
With ID, the relevant molecules are even less likely to be preserved. Large bones are more likely than small bones to be fossilized. Moecules are nearly infinitely smaller and have no mechanism for fossilization. Even if one fully accepts that bacterial flagellae evolved, there is no obvous reason to expect to find examples of how parts of it could form independently. The flagellum most often discussed consists of forty or so proteins but a useful part of bacteria is a secretory system that consists of twenty of those proteins so the flagellum by definition is not irreducible. What happens if we cannot find any other transitions or pieces? It means we didn't find them. For ID claims to be accepted, they need positive evidence of their Designer, yet they claim this is impossible. A second best would be to explain why they expect such transitional molecules should be findable.
They do not, so the best evidence ID has is, "We don't know, therefore Designer." It is scientifically vacuous.
All I want, all secular science wants, is a positive claim for ID that can be tested. Evolution has passed this test already.
Brian: "Give evidence that is not "we don't know" for any ID claim. "
Answer: Uh.... sure. We KNOW that codes which transmit complex sophisticated information requiring action alwaya has a code maker.
No we don't. We only know of current examples in the infancy of our understanding of DNA. We only know that we don't know. You are demonstrating "We don't know how it could happen, therefore God."
The superficiality of homology arguments.
Brett:
For example bats and dolphins have VERY sophisticated echolocation systems. I'm thinking evolutionists will claim these systems, although similar arose indepentently... analagous. Likewise with teeth... Your belief they are homologous is based on beliefs in transitionals. (And if memory is correct, archaepteryx teeth are not at all like dino teeth).
At first glance, the evidence appears to support both common ancestry and common designer. Humans and apes have many identical genes: If they evolved from the same ancestor or were created by the same God, this is reasonable. At first glance, homology doesn't get you very far.
But when you go beyond superficialities, you find that common ancestry is much better supported.
As an educator, if I give a multiple chjoice test and two students have identical and correct answers, I cannot determine if one cheated. But if I give an essay question test and the students have idential answers, I do have some reason to suspect cheating. And even more, if they have identical wrong answers, I have even greater support for my claim. In this metaphor, I modestly stand in for a designer, giving the same information to all. But cheating stands in for common ancestry- the information didn't come from a God but from another student and wrong answers could be equivalent to ERVs or poor design choices.
Examples of back design choices include the vertebrate eye wired backward and the laryngeal nerve found in vertebrates. In the former case, the design is unecessarily sloppy and causes a blind spot while in the latter, the design makes great sense in fish but beccomes increasingly awkward as tetrapod necks get longer (Laryngeal nerve - RationalWiki).
Science has found that our eyes have a fibre optic type design and the inverted retina design is superior /optimal.
I am not sure if we argued this in a different thread but someone gave me a link to an article on light transmission through the nerve cords and how there was no or little interference in the signal. It did not at all address the blind spot issue I look forward to your link to an article that states that the vertebrate eye is superior/optimal to the cephalopod eye, in aquatic conditions. That is, fish have the same backward wired eye we do so comparisons need to be shown with them. If our eye is superior to the cephalopod eye in all cases, why do cephalopods not have them? I have seen superficial claims on the subject by creationists that always leave out the fact that fish have the same eye we do.
Brian: "You believe there was a ‘super-cat, one with all the genetic information needed for all known (living and extinct) 42 species of felines. And their genes were broken until they fit their current niches. This is testable . Alright, show me the broken ‘tiger’ genes in bobcats and the broken ‘bobcat’ genes in tigers. Heck, show me how a cat with every single one of its genes operational could survive. The ones for thick coats and thin coats. The ones for strength like a tiger and speed like a cheetah. This is all testable so I look forward to your answer."
Answer: No, it is not testable. We don't know what the genome was like thousands of years ago. And all genes in an animal are not operational. ... and what I said is that it MAY be correct (as does the article). Both secular and Biblical scientists hypothesize ancestry...for example, that all dogs may be descendants of a dog similar to wolf.
So to start with, you are immediately claiming that your earlier claim is not testable. Okay, it is then not science. I should be done here. Then you bring up dogs for no good reason and repeat that we are discussing the amount of common ancestry. I know that; that was my point. In fact, none of your protests have any value. We don't have to know what the genome was like thousands (or millions or billions) of years ago. All we need to do is look at what genes have been conserved and even more, what broken genes are still being carried. Because, yes, not all genes are operational, they are broken, and the fact that they are still around strongly supports common ancestry.
And why isn't your claim testable? It might not be now as I don't know what genomes have been recorded but if they are recorded, it should be simple to show -as you say - non-operational genes. That is precisely what I am asking for.
ERV's are consistent with evolutionary hierarchies...except when they aren't.
Okay, what ERVs are not consistent with evolutionary hierarchies?
Science is in the process of discovering these short strands (ERV's) have function (almost as if by design).
This might or might not be true but it is not relevant. ERVs are delivered by viruses. If we carry viral DNA that matches viral DNA in other apes, that is support for evolution no matter how useful or not it is.
Another example of common ancestry vs common designer is found in anti-freeze fish near the two poles. Evolutionists would argue that the two species of fish, so far apart, could not share their DNA and so the anti-freeze genes must be different. The common designer claim is that organisms in identical situations will have identical solutions. In fact, the two fish have different genes for combatting the cold environment. Perhaps God is giving one species a tougher time than the other?
Archaeopteryx and dinosuar teeth.
First off, we need to keep in mind that according to evolutionary history, from the first dinosaur to now, we have had three times more time with dinosaur existing than not. That is, dinosaurs existed from 240 million years ago to 65 million years ago so that is 180 millions with dinosaurs compared to 65 without. There is good reason to expect dinosaur teeth to be quite varied. I would not expect Archae's teeth to match those of herbivores, for example.
I can find nothing to support your claim. Support, please.
Bat and dolphin echolocation.
I am not sure what you expect to find here. The two animals live in very different environments. If the two sonar arrangements are not the same, it would prove nothing. How similar would they need to be to demonstrate common designer?
Some differences here, supporting neither side in the abstract: Echolocation in dolphins with a dolphin-bat comparison
This article describes the similarities and differences between the two types of animals while also pointing out that we, in addition to many other animals, can manage at least a simple form of echolocation -this point is important in considering how different is different enough to support a position. If bats and dolphins are great at it but also many other species are capable of it, then common ancestry and design claims are weak or complicated. Engineering Acoustics/Echolocation in Bats and Dolphins
Bryan: "As the Ham-Nye debate illustrated, when asked if something would ever change their mind, Nye said, "Evidence" while Ham said, "Nothing".
Answer: I think what that shows is some dishonesty from Nye. From the little I know of him, I have never heard him say he is willing to honestly consider the Creator God of tbe Bible.
Your point is irrelevant because many religious people accept evolution. And do you really think that people are are free to choose what they believe are less open-minded than people forced to sign a statement of belief on the subject? A statement required for their job? Individuals are going to be as biased or not but only creationism requires such bias.
If he is like most evolutionists, he interprets evidence only within his worldview of materialism.
I think you mean "scientists" rather than 'evolutionists' because evidence can only be interpreted by assuming naturalism. Otherwise, you get the whole "Did or Why did Adam have a belly button?" or Last Thursdayism problems. If you don't want to accept science, don't. But science cannot show supernatural action. This is why we accept gravity and do not claim, except satirically, Intelligent falling - Wikipedia
So Brian...if your best arguments for common ancestry are proved false by science, are you ready to consider... the evidence is consistent with and helps support the truth of Biblical creation?
Well, I'm still waiting for even more claim is for common design that is more than superficial. Note that showing evolution is false (except for micro-evolution, which is no different from evolution and a convoluted creationist way) is not support for creationism. We haven’t even looked at how ridiculous creationist claims for their side are. And of course, we would have to look at which creationist you want to believe as there are many competing - but equally stupid - claims for how the Earth was flooded and where the water went afterwards.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Transitional fossils Sci Am wants us to find

An early synapsid with extensive soft tissue preservation. At the risk of seeming like someone obsessed with soft tissues and life appearance (read on and you’ll get what I’m saying), high on my list is the discovery of an early synapsid – a stem-mammal – that provides us with good information on integument. It looks likely at the moment that hair, whiskers and so on evolved in cynodonts prior to the origin of mammals (or mammaliaforms if you prefer), but were these features present any earlier than this?
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A little pterosaur in amber. The idea that we might discover intact Mesozoic animals preserved in amber once seemed like a pipe dream. But no more: we now have large numbers of Cretaceous lizards in amber, a partial tail from a small non-bird theropod, and assorted archaic birds, including the better part of a baby enantiornithine.
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More of the wish list at the link.


Sunday, 16 July 2017

Creationist in Peterborough doesn't know what he's talking about.

The Peterborough Examiner has a letter to the editor that anyone halfway educated on the subject would be embarrassed by.

Here are the relevant bits interspersed with my commentary:
However, my concern centres on his treatment of the theory of evolution. It is only a theory. He tells it as a fact. Never have the concepts largely developed by Charles Darwin in the mid-19th century been proven by "hard " science.
Sigh. Only a theory. Poor Dr Dyer is unaware that science, hard or "hard" or otherwise, has proven nothing.
From Sci Am (quotes from sources other than Dr Dyer's letter are in red):
Part of the problem is that the word "theory" means something very different in lay language than it does in science: A scientific theory is an explanation of some aspect of the natural world that has been substantiated through repeated experiments or testing. But to the average Jane or Joe, a theory is just an idea that lives in someone's head, rather than an explanation rooted in experiment and testing.
The thing is, there is plenty of support for evolution, from fossils to the nested hierarchies of the Linnaeus classification system, to ERVS to replicated errors demonstrating a common ancestor.

In 1989 the mighty Soviet Union crashed into rubble. Soon the Deputy Minister of Education for all of Russia travelled to California to attend a conference of Christian educators. He spoke to the assembly, and I quote, "For 70 years we have shut God out of our country and it has done us great harm.
Blindly equating evolution with atheism, Dyer imagines that shutting God out of Russia is relevant to the discussion of evolution. Obviously, he is unaware of Lysenkoism, a pseudoscientific belief about biology that Russians followed instead of evolution. From the Wikipedia link above:
The pseudo-scientific ideas of Lysenkoism assumed the heritability of acquired characteristics.[1] Lysenko's theory rejected Mendelian inheritance and the concept of the "gene"; it departed from Darwinian evolutionary theory by rejecting natural selection.[2] Proponents falsely claimed to have discovered, among many other things, that rye could transform into wheat and wheat into barley, that weeds could spontaneously transmute into food grains, and that "natural cooperation" was observed in nature as opposed to "natural selection".[2] Lysenkoism promised extraordinary advances in breeding and in agriculture that never came about.
Joseph Stalin supported the campaign. More than 3,000 mainstream biologists were sent to prison, fired,[3] and others were executed as part of a campaign instigated by Lysenko to suppress his scientific opponents
He is also unaware that many Christians accept evolution as the explanation for the diversity of life on Earth. The Clergy Project Letter has more than 13,000 signatures of American active Christian clergyfolk who accept evolution.

I was invited into a `history classroom and met the older professor. He commented, " I understand you are a Christian." When I affirmed that I was, he pointed to his desk, and declared, "That is one of my text books. It was the Bible! In a Russian public high school the teacher held to the truths of the Bible as authoritative for his history lesson!
I will now step away from exclusively discussing evolution and dip into politics.  Russia is not a good place. It was not before 1989 and it is not now. I would not want to associate Christianity with the way Russia currently works.
I am saddened that such unproven assumptions are given to our generation and labelling as Truth. In the words of the Russian educator, "We must bring God back, and we must begin with our youth."
Dr. Stanley R. Dyer
Peterborough
It sure seems like we should first start with educating Dr Dyer on the subject he tries to argue so he doesn't make himself and all Creationists look foolish.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Evolution means fish to bird?

These people don't know what the word 'evolution' means. I will add to this post but I wanted to share the examples I have collected so far.

Added Mar 11. Bacteria to rodent.

----Original Post --------

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A comment to an answer I gave on Quora.

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and from the same argument, in photo form rather than a full list of embedded tweets:

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From Quora a comment to the linked answer:
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Added hours after posting:
A Quora answer to a question regarding creationists' concept of fossils defending the theory of evolution. T-rex to chicken, wolf to insect...



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In the field of physics and ICR (I have bolded the word 'evolutionists'; other bolding is original):
The observed rotation speeds are so fast that if our galaxy were more than a few hundred million years old, it would be a featureless disc of stars instead of its present spiral shape.1 Yet our galaxy is supposed to be at least 10 billion years old. Evolutionists call this "the winding-up dilemma," which they have known about for fifty years.
...
Many comets have typical ages of less than 10,000 years.4 Evolutionists explain this discrepancy by assuming that (a) comets come from an unobserved spherical "Oort cloud" well beyond the orbit of Pluto, ...
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And a new, very recent one:

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Fossils and Faith


Do you see a neck on this Tiktaalik fossil? Image from


Do you see arms and paws or hands?





Fish hands diagram from here.












Tiktaalik wrist and hand

Do these artist's renderings really show the details of the fossil? Or are they merely what the paleontologist and artist want to be there?


Fossil debunking video.
Under the title “Dinosaur Hoax,” this unnamed young debunker of evolution triumphantly proves in a three-minute video that so-called dinosaur fossils are no more significant than random pieces of smashed-up plaster. You can spackle the bits back together any way you choose, she says; therefore, dinosaurs are a fabrication.
This woman almost has a point. The following images are from Georgia Life Traces. and have been shrunk (but will be somewhat larger if you click on them). Follow the link to see them full size. The first image is captioned, "A rare piece of dinosaur bone that actually looks like a bone..." while the next one is, "You probably spotted the big chunk right away, but how about the smaller ones that tend to blend in with the non-dinosaur-bone rocks around them?" and the third one is of  a negative cast of a dinosaur track. For this latter, I can kind of see it, if I squint right.




How much of paleontology is based on faith? How much, as the speaker on the video asks, is based on the millions of dollars the paleontologists receive*?

I visited Drumheller, Alberta (link to their museum) almost twenty years ago. A paleontology/tourism group was offering to take people into the hills to look for dinosaur fossils. I joined them, had a great time but found  nothing in the ground. We did pass a huge claw that the guide told us was aT-rex foot-claw fossil. The mineral that had replaced the bone was iron and the guide told us such fossils were so delicate that there was no point in carrying it away - it would crumble at the touch. This is nearly the sum total of my personal experience with fossils. Wait. I also have spent time at Craig Leith Provincial Park. There are many fossils from 400+ million years ago there.

So I am certain that fossils are real, which puts me ahead of the woman in the video.

But are those tiny details correct?

After several fruitless minutes, I have given up on trying to find a long video of a glass-walled beehive. I wanted to demonstrate the 'expert's eye'. At university I was required to spend something like ten hours studying such a bee hive. For the first half hour I only saw a squirming mess. In the second half hour I saw one waggle dance (the dance bees use to communicate where a pollen source is). In the second hour, I saw ten waggle dances and in the following hours I saw them every time I looked. We upper year students would sometimes call a freshman student over and ask them to point out a waggle dance. They saw none. Then we would point out the dances one after another that they had missed entirely.

In my home district of Muskoka, there are many beautiful lakes and it is the perfect distance from Toronto so many wealthy families from Toronto and points south have cottages there. I grew up on those lakes and for many summers as a high school and university student, I worked as a carpenter's assistant on the lakes. I remember being out one summer day with another university student, this one from a drier part of Ontario. He asked me about a recurring whine or high pitched hum we heard through the day. Without needing to think about it, I told him that was the hydraulics of a boat's Inboard/Outboard motor adjusting the trim. This was natural and obvious to me and completely new to him.

I do take the pronouncements of paleontologists on faith to an extent. I have difficulty seeing the various bones described in Tiktaalik's neck and fin. And yet, the people who criticize their claims usually haven't spent time with that specific fossil nor can claim to have spent enough time studying fossils in general to have an 'expert's eye'.
A good example of this is mathematician Fred Hoyle's description of archaeopteryx as a fake. He had no background in paleontology and appears to have misidentified modelling rubber as a suspicious chemical that pointed to fraud. The best counter argument for his claim is that at this time, a total of nine archaeopteryx fossils have been found, some with even better feather impressions than the one he examined. There is more at the link.

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* The question of whether the speaker on the video is sincere or satirical is still open. If anyone cares, paleontologists do not make millions of dollars, ever.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

How much of our genome is functional?

This video explains why most of our genome must be non-functional.
Let's see if I can summarise it.
If most of our genome is functional  and even a tiny number of mutations occur and some of those are deleterious, then we must have many offspring to maintain a population.

If 100% of our genome is functional and necessary (the two words seem to be equivalent in this situation) and there is a mutation, it is around even odds (I am paraphrasing and simplifying) that it will be neutral or bad. If it is bad, the offspring is likely to die. So much so that a couple would need to have many children - hundreds- so that two would make it to reproduce to create the next generation and maintain a stable population.

If the genome is less than 10% functional, most or all mutations will be neutral - changing a non-functional section means there is likely no change to the organism. Parents in this scenario need to have around 2.1 offspring who reach adulthood to maintain a stable population.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

A whole mess of Flood-splaining

I have to start by pointing out the tortured grammar of this question on Quora.
"Surely the story of Noah's Ark is possibly the most ludicrous story in history?
If thought about logically the idea that a man built a ship to house hundreds of thousands of species is clearly impossible?"
Why do I have to point this out? Because the response from Mark Hunter doesn't really fit as an answer. The question has question marks but isn't obviously a question - perhaps it is form of trolling - and the response immediately jumps into Bible quotes and scientific claims with no scaffolding of explanation. The question is not good but the answer feels as if someone were to ask me, "Where is Bracebridge, Canada?" and I simply gave that person a map. Bracebridge might be on it, depending on the sale and whim of the cartographer but it's a small town in a big country.
For this reason, it is difficult to attack a theme in Hunter's argument. There aren't many obvious themes.
I'll try to share my problems with it.
" ago there were heavens and an earth standing firmly out of water and in the midst of water" - I think this is Day one of creation and the claim seems to be that the universe is water and Earth sticks out of it the the heavens are above it. Again Hunter does not explain the relevance of this quote so in my first reading I thought it was an attack on the Noah's Flood story. After all, we know the universe is not entirely water, if the Earth sticks out of the water as described then the Earth is flat and Heaven being above Earth doesn't work for a round Earth nor in a time of space exploration.
hunter next offers a quote on the materials and construction of the Ark. It starts, "Make for yourself an ark from resinous wood." He follows this quote up with a discussion of naval architecture which includes:
"same timber particularly favored for shipbuilding by the Phoenicians and by Alexander the Great"
The problem is, although Hunter's quote uses the word 'resinous', other translations of the Bible use 'cypress'* and 'gopherwood'. At Bible Gateway passage: Genesis 6:14-16 - New International Version the asterisk on cypress states, "The meaning of the Hebrew for this word is uncertain." And Gopherwood is the Bible's version of Star Trek's Dilithium Crystals - it sounds specific but means nothing. This clearly means that we can’t make such a statement about other maritime builders or materials.
The following is not a comment on the Ark but on watertight construction. Hunter quotes "You should put the entrance of the ark in its side... ". This is a terrible idea if you want watertight seals. You don't make a door that will be even partially underwater.
Included in his naval architecture points is this:
"only about 290 species of land mammals larger than sheep and about 1,360 smaller than rats" - this suggests to me that I am putting more effort critiquing the argument than he was in making it. It doesn't belong in a architecture list and also there are 1,200 species of bats alone so his numbers don't make sense. Further, it is irrelevant because he needs to look at all species of animal alive and extinct.
In his list of, I don't know, animal facts? He writes:
“10,000 are birds, 9,000 are reptiles and amphibians, many of which could have survived outside the ark”
There are a few birds who could fly for a year but there are a lot that cannot and also cannot land on water and take off again. I don't know of any bird that could live unsheltered through 40 days of rain falling around a meter per hour. They couldn't fly through it and a meter per hour of rainfall would break their wings and necks. There is no reason to imagine that chameleons could live a year in the water. Amphibians? Forget it. The water would be too salty.
"Where Did the Floodwaters Go?
Evidently they are right here on earth. Today there is about 1.4 billion cu km (326 million cu mi) of water on the earth. It covers more than 70 percent of the globe’s surface. The average depth of the oceans is 4 km (2.5 mi); average elevation of the land is only 0.8 km (0.5 mi) above sea level. If the earth’s surface was smoothed out, it would all be covered with water to a depth of 2,400 m (8,000 ft)"
All this seems to require massive earthquakes. Hunter's needs such Earthquakes to flatten and flood the world. This also suggests that more Earthquakes will be needed after a year to make the planet lumpy again and drain some of the lands. Such earthquakes would mostly flatten but not dig trenches or quickly raise tall mountains. This reads like a non-geologist hoping that the magic of the word ‘earthquake’ will fix all credibility problems.
This next point might be the craziest:
"a frozen mammoth was uncovered in Siberia in 1901. After thousands of years, vegetation was still in its mouth. Some see in this, as well as in such other things as marine fossils found on high mountains, deserts, convincing evidence of a sudden, catastrophic global flood"
He thinks something frozen would be evidence of the globes covered in liquid water. If the water is liquid, things won't freeze.
To finish things off:
"floodgates of the heavens were opened." - again, he seems to think the universe is full of water. That might be reasonable for person a few thousand years ago ignorant of the water cycle, but it has to be seen as crazy now, right? right?
Hunter goes on with a list of flood myths around the world. The thing is, I've read the Korean one mentioned in such lists and it describes a flood on a mountain rather than a large one. We might as well look at myths around the world that claim their tribe's founder was born of an animal. In Korea, Dang-gun was born of a god and a Bear who lived in a cave for a year to become human ( Dangun - Wikipedia ). Around the world, similar myths are offered. All are ridiculous.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

The evolution of language

Via The Sensuous Curmudgeon, I read a letter to the editor that was typically terrible but also a good analogy for other arguments against the theory of evolution.
I began the study of linguistics in the autumn of 1968.
After nearly 50 years I can tell you, I still love linguistics. One day as an adult I read an article by a linguist who proposed a theory I had never considered. He suggested if Darwin were true, then language must have evolved from a grunt and a groan into the extraordinarily complex system of syntax, grammar and vocabulary which we speak today.
And if that were true, he continued, logically there must be evidence that somewhere, at sometime, in some place there once was a primitive language. After 50 years in linguistics I can tell you, for certain, there is no such evidence.
First, the claim it is a metaphor for. One thing this article at CreationToday gets right is that there are no simple life forms today.
Any living organism, even a single-celled amoeba, is more complex than the space shuttle!...Most biology textbooks these days teach that all life-forms evolved from “simple, single-celled life-forms.”
There are several things to consider here:
There are no “simple life-forms.” If it is alive—it is extremely complex.
Many single-celled creatures have been observed for thousands of generations with no significant change.
Single-celled creatures still exist and reproduce. Why aren’t any of them evolving?
There are no examples living or fossilized of two-, three-, or four-celled creatures.
After one-celled creatures, the “simplest” animals have about one hundred cells. How did the single-celled creatures become multi-celled? Be sure to ask for specific evidence, not just theories.

Alright, time to look at the letter to the editor and the claim that "[T]here must be evidence that somewhere, at sometime, in some place there once was a primitive language."

Why does the letter writer think that? Do the words from his mouth solidify and exist without human intervention for more than a few seconds? If you are curious about the 'few seconds' bit, I will do him the favour of imagining he speaks in an echo chamber and the words do carry and bounce for some time. But not a minute. Not an hour.

If there was a primitive language, if evolutionists and linguists were right, what does he think we would find? Here are some 'Unattested languages' from North American native peoples -"Several languages are only known by mention in historical documents or from only a few names or words. It cannot be determined that these languages actually existed or that the few recorded words are actually of known or unknown languages."

The key phrase for me is "cannot be determined that these languages actually existed". These names for possible languages can only be a few hundred years old as the words were recorded - possibly in error - by Europeans.

There is no reason to expect any evidence for ancient languages.
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Alright. On to the Creation Today article and these statements and questions:
1 There are no “simple life-forms.” If it is alive—it is extremely complex.
2 Many single-celled creatures have been observed for thousands of generations with no significant change.
3 Single-celled creatures still exist and reproduce. Why aren’t any of them evolving?
4 There are no examples living or fossilized of two-, three-, or four-celled creatures.
After one-celled creatures, the “simplest” animals have about one hundred cells.
4 There are no examples living of fossilized of two-, three-, or four-celled creatures.  I don't know if this is true. Let's accept that it is. For now. There are also no examples of fossilized passenger pigeons. Fossils are formed when an object is surrounded by a material, typically silt or mud. With time, the object degrades and disappears and other material fills in the gap. This is obvious when looking at fossils of large dinosaur bones. But a dinosaur bone is much larger than a speck of silt. A creature of less than ten cells size is not much bigger than the silt surrounding it. Normally, the resolution is too poor to see an object that size. For another analogy, look at the beach in this satellite photo. Point out anything that you 100% certain is a human being. I can see the beach umbrellas and spots that might be anything. The satellite cannot zoom in sufficiently to see humans. And the silt is usually too coarse to show details of microscopic life.
Regarding the next point, the number of cells in the "simplest" animals. When we look at sponges, which can be quite large, were are looking at millions of cells but they are nearly identical in shape. If you were to break up a sponge and separate it into individual cells, it will reform into a new sponge. It does not have blood or organs; it is simply a large group of single cells working together. See here for some details. It has many cells but they are not differentiated cells.

3 Single-celled creatures still exist and reproduce. Why aren't any of them evolving?  The article writer imagines that diseases are not evolving. S/he needs penicillin the next time s/he is sick. Elsewhere I compared canoes to aircraft carriers. Canoes are like single-celled creatures and carriers are more complex. Both exist. An aircraft carrier, whatever other cool things it can do, cannot travel through Algonquin Park. Canoes are still canoes but are also very different from their origins.

2 Many single-celled creatures have been observed for thousands of generations with no significant change. Many, but I note not all. What is a 'significant change'? Bacteria are now capable of digesting nylon. The Long-Term Experiment has run for around twenty or thirty years and the E coli bacteria there can now digest citrate, something that no other E coli bacteria can do.

And now the reason I  have done this in reverse order: 1 There are no “simple life-forms.” If it is alive—it is extremely complex.
I think analogies fail at this level. We don't know how life began. There is no reason to expect evidence of the first life forms - see the first several paragraphs of this post. Anything alive today that we see and study or experience must be able to live in modern conditions.

One possibility for the first cell was that it formed in a microscopic gap in porous rock near a volcanic vent. It would not have needed much as it was both constrained by the space it lived in and was supplied with diffusing nutrients by the rock around it. There is no evidence to support or disprove this idea so it cannot be a theory, only a hypothesis. The point is, we don't expect evidence and there are workarounds for most objections.

Why do evolution proponents continue to claim there was a Universal Common Ancestor? Because of shared similarities across all domains of life that are best explained by one.

Don't say Darwin when you mean Evolution

Don't say Darwin unless you mean it. Don't say theory when you mean historical fact. And don't say you believe in evolution, when you mean you accept it on the basis of the evidence.