Tuesday, August 17, 2010

My Case Against God Revisit: Imagine There's No Evolution...

What if the entire scientific community is wrong? What if Darwinian evolution by natural selection, convincing though it has been since the time of Charles Darwin, has not occurred? Indeed, what if, far from modern notions of common descent, all species were specially created—all at once—by a supernatural Creator who personally designed every creature’s form? This Creator would be responsible for Homo sapiens sapiens, of course, but also for Drosophila melanogaster, Apatosaurus excelsus, Ornithorhynchus anatinus and Dendroaspis polylepis, along with every other species of living thing that has ever populated the Earth. Going down this particular rabbit hole is rather difficult; after all, Darwinian evolution by natural selection is scientific fact, a truth as well attested and irrefragable as the germ theory of disease or the heliocentric theory of the solar system. Nevertheless, if we take the enormous leap of faith required to reject Darwinian evolution, we can examine the world as we find it and, I shall argue, discern important qualities of the Creator. These qualities should offer no comfort to the religious.

And so, down the rabbit hole we go, looking at Earth not as an extremely ancient planet whose antiquity is confirmed by several converging lines of evidence but, rather, as a baby planet whose considerable biodiversity can be entirely explained within a several-thousand-year history. Yes, now we must look at Earth as the backyard garden of the Creator. But what kind of a Creator? Looking at the available evidence, I shall explain why we can conclude such a Creator is (1) a devious being, who wishes to trick humans into believing Earth is extremely ancient and the species have an evolutionary history, (2) remarkably odd, because the distribution of species on Earth, if consciously arranged, speaks to an extraordinarily queer mind, (3) peerlessly wasteful, given the presence of nonfunctional pseudogenes, and (4) idiotic, as evidenced by the utterly incompetent design that can be found throughout the creation, in humans as well as other species.

The majority of my material, as well as my initial inspiration, comes from The Greatest Show on Earth, by Richard Dawkins, and Why Evolution is True, by Jerry A. Coyne. When I use either author’s exact words, I shall quote him directly; if, however, I simply summarize a discussion in either text, I might not make a specific citation. Thus, let it be clear that Dawkins and Coyne’s fertile minds contributed invaluably to the whole of this piece.

First, then, surveying the evidence at our disposal, we can be certain that the Creator is devious, deliberately setting out to create a false impression of Earth’s antiquity and evolution’s occurrence. The first way in which this characteristic manifests itself is in the theory of plate tectonics, a geological theory that states the lithosphere of the Earth is divided into a small number of plates that float on and travel independently over the mantle. We now understand that the continents have not always existed as we currently know them. For example, Gondwana was an ancient supercontinent encompassing our present South America, Africa, Arabia, Madagascar, India, Australia and Antarctica. Gondwana broke up gradually, in stages.

Our principal interest is when Africa and South America began breaking apart, which, according to current scientific thinking, was about 140 million years ago. The two continents are now separated by some 3000 miles, with the speed of separation being a couple of inches per year. If, however, Earth is actually quite young—merely several thousand years old—and the product of a Creator, such a snail-like speed would not be nearly enough to separate the continents to their current distance. Indeed, if, as some have proposed, Gondwana broke up during the Noachian flood, the continents would positively have had to hurtle away from each other. Because the speed of separation can be measured, and it is remarkably slow, we can be confident that any Creator who separated the continents at a very quick speed sometime in the last few thousand years is trying to deceive us into believing Earth is ancient. The Creator is deceptive.

The Creator’s trickster tendencies are also apparent in our radioactive clocks. Radioactive isotopes in igneous rocks (rocks formed by magma cooling down and becoming solid) are used for dating purposes, because the isotopes decay at a constant rate. It is important to note that there are several radioactive isotopes scientists use, and they often co-exist within the same rocks. The decay rate used is typically the half-life, that being how long it takes for half of the unstable isotope present to decay to something stable (to go from 100 to 50, 50 to 25 and so forth). Carbon-14 decays to Nitrogen-14; its half-life is 5730 years. Uranium-238 decays to Lead-206; its half-life is 4.5 billion years. Uranium-235 decays to Lead-207; its half-life is 704 million years. Other unstable isotopes include Potassium-40, Thorium-232, Rubidium-87 and Samarium-147. Importantly, as Jerry Coyne writes, “Several radioisotopes usually occur together, so the dates can be cross-checked, and the ages invariably agree.”

This is important because, with our half-life figures calibrated, we can use radioactive clocks to converge on an approximation of Earth’s age. In fact, scientists have done just that. Richard Dawkins writes, “The currently agreed age of 4.6 billion years is the estimate upon which several different clocks converge.” This fact surely means the Creator—who created Earth merely several thousand years ago—is devious beyond compare. Not only did he change the half-life figures of every radioactive isotope that we use for historical dating, but he also changed them in such a way that each one converges on the same ancient age—4.6 billion years—for Earth! To be sure, for every clock to converge on, say, 6000 years, every half-life would have to be tweaked differently.

Dawkins makes this point: “Bear in mind the huge differences in timescales of the different clocks, and think of the amount of contrived and complicated fiddling with the laws of physics that would be needed in order to make all the clocks agree with each other, across the orders of magnitude, that the Earth is 6000 years old and not 4.6 billion!” To do such fiddling, thus making every radioactive isotope that we use all agree that Earth is 4.6 billion years old, attests to a Creator who deliberately attempts to trick humans undertaking scientific study. The Creator is devious.

This deviousness extends to evolution, which, clearly, the Creator wants scientists to accept; that is the only explanation for the fossil record. When we talk about “dating fossils,” what we nearly always mean is dating the rocks around which the fossils are found. This is where the geologic strata become important. The geologic strata (singular is “stratum”) are layers of rock, one on top of the other, with the oldest rocks the deepest down and the youngest rocks the highest up. The scientific community refers to this layering as the geologic column, and it is extremely well evidenced. The salient point for our purposes here is that, when dating fossils (actually, the rocks around which fossils are found), they appear in a strict evolutionary order. When questioned by a creationist as to what observation could possibly disprove Darwinian evolution, the late J. B. S. Haldane famously answered, “Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian!” On the evolutionary view, the Precambrian spans from Earth’s formation about 4.6 billion years ago to approximately 542 million years ago; rabbits are mammals, and the first mammals do not come onto the scene until about 250 million years ago. As Coyne writes, “Needless to say, no Precambrian rabbits, or any other anachronistic fossils, have ever been found.”

The complete absence of anachronistic fossils lends considerable credence to the evolutionary view. To reconcile it with a Creator, one absolutely must assume a devious trickster. Dawkins writes, “It is a fact that literally nothing that you could remotely call a mammal has ever been found in Devonian rock or in any older stratum. They are not just statistically rarer in Devonian than in later rocks. They literally never occur in rocks older than a certain date.” He continues, “There are literally no trilobites above Permian strata, literally no dinosaurs (except birds) above Cretaceous strata.” At the considerable risk of deceased equine flogging, Dawkins sums it up: “All the fossils that we have, and there are very very many indeed, occur, without a single authenticated exception, in the right temporal sequence.” How many dinosaur fossils have we found in the same rocks as Australopithecine fossils? Zero. How many zebra fossils have we found in the same rocks as trilobite fossils? Zero. How many anachronistic fossils have been authenticated? Zero. The only explanation is that the deceptive Creator is fudging the fossils to make Darwinian evolution an inescapable conclusion.

On creationism, the distribution of species on Earth makes very little sense, attesting to a Creator with an extremely odd mind, bordering on completely inscrutable. Nowhere is this sheer oddness more evident than in island biogeography. With respect to islands, there is an important distinction that is material to our discussion: the difference between continental islands and oceanic islands. Continental islands are those that once were connected to a continent but later became separated. An example would be Madagascar. Oceanic islands, by contrast, are those that never were part of a continent; islands of this variety arose from the seafloor. An example here would be St. Helena.

On a creationist theory positing a Creator who is not a weirdo, there is little reason to suppose there would be much difference vis-à-vis biogeography between continental and oceanic islands. However, the differences are dramatic, which has led many scientists to accept evolution and, in our case, for us to conclude the Creator is simply an odd duck. Coyne writes, “Oceanic islands are missing many types of native species that we see on both continents and continental islands. Take Hawaii, a tropical archipelago whose islands occupy about 6400 square miles, only slightly smaller than the state of Massachusetts. While the islands are well stocked with native birds, plants, and insects, they completely lack native freshwater fish, amphibians, reptiles, and land mammals. Napoleon’s island of St. Helena and the archipelago of Juan Fernández lack these same groups, but still have plenty of endemic plants, birds, and insects. The Galápagos Islands do have a few native reptiles (land and marine iguanas, as well as the famous giant tortoises), but they too are missing native mammals, amphibians, and freshwater fish. Over and over again, on the oceanic islands that dot the Pacific, the South Atlantic, and the Indian Ocean, one sees a pattern of missing groups—more to the point, the same missing groups.”

It takes only a moment of thought to recognize that plants, birds, and insects and other arthropods “can colonize an oceanic island through long-distance dispersal.” By contrast, land mammals, reptiles, amphibians and freshwater fish would have extreme difficulty colonizing an oceanic island unless, for example, some reptiles made it onto a log that happened to “raft” onto one. The topic of island biogeography is rich, and a great deal more could be said, but it exceeds the scope of this paper. Suffice it to note that, on creationism, with anything but an extraordinarily queer Creator, we would not expect such differential biodiversity on continental versus oceanic islands.

The peculiarity with which the species are dispersed cannot be overstated, and Dawkins asks the questions as well as anyone does. He writes, “Why would all those marsupials—ranging from tiny pouched mice through koalas and bilbys to giant kangaroos and Diprotodonts—why would all those marsupials, but no placentals at all, have migrated en masse from Mount Ararat to Australia? Which route did they take? And why did not a single member of their straggling caravan pause on the way, and settle—in India, perhaps, or China, or some haven along the Great Silk Road? Why did the entire order Edentata (all twenty species of armadillo, including the extinct giant armadillo, all six species of sloth, including extinct giant sloths, and all four species of anteater) troop off unerringly for South America, leaving not a rack behind, leaving no hide nor hair nor armour plate of settlers somewhere along the way? Why were they joined by the entire infraorder of caviomorph rodents, including guinea pigs, agoutis, pacas, maras, capybaras, chinchillas and lots of others, a large group of characteristically South American rodents found nowhere else?” Dawkins notes that lemurs are endemic to Madagascar, and thus continues, “Did all thirty-seven and more species of lemur troop in a body down Noah’s gangplank and hightail it (literally in the case of the ringtail) for Madagascar, leaving not a single straggler by the wayside, anywhere throughout the length and breadth of Africa?” Once again, then, we have no choice but to conclude the Creator is profoundly odd.

The next two Creator characteristics can be discerned more briefly, and I shall do so to keep the information easily digestible. The third characteristic of a Creator is that he is peerlessly wasteful, and this fact is never more clear than in examining the pseudogene, which is defined as a sequence of DNA that is very similar to a normal gene but that has been altered slightly so that it is not expressed; by definition, they are incapable of producing a protein product. Coyne writes, “Virtually every species harbors dead genes, many of them still active in its relatives. This implies that those genes were also active in a common ancestor, and were killed off in some descendants but not in others. Out of about thirty thousand genes, for example, we humans carry more than two thousand pseudogenes. Our genome—and that of other species—are truly well populated graveyards of dead genes.” For what possible reason would the Creator litter the genome with pseudogenes—a gene that, by definition, does entirely nothing? Because, as I say, the Creator must be prodigal in the extreme. Perhaps shameless wastefulness is a virtue.

Finally, the evidence clearly shows that the Creator, far from being a designer of formidable intelligence, is rather idiotic. In so declaring, I am not referencing the mindless wastefulness of pseudogenes; rather, I refer to the shoddy engineering and craftsmanship of the species themselves. A classic example—indeed, it has been well mined by Darwinians—is the recurrent laryngeal nerve of mammals. Coyne writes, “Running from the brain to the larynx, this nerve helps us speak and swallow. The curious thing is that it is much longer than it needs to be. Rather than taking a direct route from the brain to the larynx, a distance of about a foot in humans, the nerve runs down into our chest, loops around the aorta and a ligament derived from an artery, and then travels back up (‘recurs’) to connect to the larynx. It winds up being three feet long. In giraffes the nerve takes a similar path, but one that runs all the way down that long neck and back up again: a distance fifteen feet longer than the direct route!” Of course, on an evolutionary view, this presents some evidence of common mammalian descent; on our creationist view, it simply reveals a Creator whose stupidity is reliable.

The examples I could mine in the vein of the Creator’s idiocy would fill a book—perhaps several. The vas deferens takes a similar nonsensical detour in its route from testis to penis. In his inimitable way, Dawkins writes, “It takes a ridiculous detour around the ureter, the pipe that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder. If this were designed, nobody could seriously deny that the designer had made a bad error.” Yet another example of idiocy comes in the form of goose bumps. In species with a full coat of hair, piloerection makes sense. If the creature is cold, it results in the erect hairs trapping air to create a layer of insulation. Additionally, if the creature is threatened, “puffing up” its body hair can create the impression that the animal is larger. In short, then, piloerection, though completely sensible for hair-covered animals, is utterly senseless in humans—the naked ape. It is as though the Creator, in a fit of idiocy, attached a steering wheel to a refrigerator. Thus, we can be assured that the Creator, responsible for humans and bats, dandelions and plesiosaurs, is formidably moronic.

Is this really what creationists seek? Do they really want a Creator who is devious, weird, wasteful and idiotic? We must go where the evidence takes us; we must look at the simple facts and draw our conclusions directly from them—we must never let the conclusion dictate the facts we choose to recognize. The facts that we find as we examine and analyze the natural order all lead directly to Darwinian evolution by natural selection. To make any creationism hypothesis work, we must (a) endow the Creator with numerous negative attributes that fundamentally contradict the holy books from which creationists lift their science and (b) flagrantly violate the principle of parsimony. Is the simplest, most parsimonious explanation for the recurrent laryngeal nerve of mammals really that the Creator’s idiocy was in full force when designing, for example, humans and giraffes? What about the geologic strata and the complete absence of anachronistic fossils? What about the radioactive clocks? Did the Creator really tinker with all the half-life values, making them all converge on a fictitious ancient age for Earth?

Some creationist worries are legitimate. On evolution, humans indeed are just another species of animal. Knowing our place in the single tree of life robs us of our specialness, to some considerable extent. It also undermines objective morality. A polar bear might eat its own young. Do concepts of “moral” or “immoral” apply to that situation? If not, why would such concepts apply to humans, who are a twig on the tree of life just as much as polar bears are? Natural selection might have favored “moral instincts,” but such inclinations are hardly objective or prescriptive in any conventional sense. Evolution provides no morality-oriented “ought to” or “ought not to” as far as behavior.

More than anything else, evolution puts us in our place. We are just another species of animal. One day we shall go extinct. Our universe shall not miss us—at least, not any more than it misses trilobites or the giant armadillo. The significance we attach to…well, everything…is overdone when one looks from a grand, cosmic perspective.

There is no devious, weird, wasteful and idiotic Creator. There is no Creator of any variety. There is only nature, of which we are a sliver. We can be happy—and, really, this is enough—that evolution has granted us brains that are sufficiently large and complex to understand from where we came, along with constitutions strong enough to accept, in the last analysis, our species’—indeed, our world’s—final destination.

18 Comments:

Blogger Lui said...

Superb analysis.

5:47 AM EDT  
Blogger The Jolly Nihilist said...

Thank you, Lui.

Given the respect that I have for your scientific knowledge, your compliment means all the more to me.

Glad you enjoyed the paper.

1:18 PM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...

This is cracking me up. I don't have inclination for a full rebuttal, but here's a medium sized one.


Creator is devious

Um, He told you exactly how it all went down in the Bible.
But you, in your intentional blindness and using pitifully limited methods, are looking for ways to prove Him wrong. You're deceiving yourself. Don't project your guilt onto others. Didn't your mother teach you that's not nice?

Let's see.
Assume uniformitarianism without argument? Check.
-With respect to tectonics. Check.
-With respect to half-lives. Check.

Assume you have any useful info about the quantity of decay at the time of creation. Check.


Jerry Coyne writes, “Several radioisotopes usually occur together, so the dates can be cross-checked, and the ages invariably agree.”

Circular self-reference as argument? Check.

Failure to interact with Henry Gee's _In Search of Deep Time_ and mindlessly repeat old canards about the utility of the fossil record? Check.

Failure to interact with Cambrian explosion? Check.


By contrast, land mammals, reptiles, amphibians and freshwater fish would have extreme difficulty colonizing an oceanic island

Assume that it is definite that they were NEVER there and NEVER went extinct and that we just haven't yet found their fossils? Check.



Wasteful

Failure to take sin into account, even though it's at the very heart of the Christian conception of redemptive history? Check and double-check. Atheists virtually never do this, and it's amazing.
Advance the conversation! Please! We're begging you.


Creator is idiotic

Presume to correct Him on sthg that you've never even gotten close to accomplishing yourself? Check.
Forget sin (again)? Check.


recurrent laryngeal nerve of mammals

Argument from ignorance.
Here it is:
P1) Recurrent laryngeal nerve of mammals exists.
P2) I don't know why a creator would do it that way/I wouldn't've.

Ergo,
C) Stupid.
WOW! I'm bowled over by this forceful argumentation from Dick Dawk.

Finally, failure to interact with the EAAN? Check.

Not too impressed. Thanks for saving me the trouble of reading Dick Dawk's latest blather, though.

Peace,
Rhology

9:56 AM EDT  
Blogger The Jolly Nihilist said...

**RESPONSE ONE**

Um, He told you exactly how it all went down in the Bible.
But you, in your intentional blindness and using pitifully limited methods, are looking for ways to prove Him wrong. You're deceiving yourself. Don't project your guilt onto others. Didn't your mother teach you that's not nice?


Science is not about proving the Bible wrong; it is about interrogating nature and attempting to discover truths about the world in which we find ourselves. Charles Darwin was not a raving atheist, looking to formulate a theory to kill off Christianity. He examined the actual evidence and let that evidence dictate his conclusions.


Let's see.
Assume uniformitarianism without argument? Check.
-With respect to tectonics. Check.
-With respect to half-lives. Check.


Why would the rate of separation between Africa and South America change? What is the evidence you possess to go against the observed, recorded separation rate?

Why would the radioactive decay rates change? What is the evidence you possess to go against the observed, recorded radioactive decay rates? Please note, as I did in the paper, that every half-life (across the orders of magnitude) would have to change differently for all the historical radioactive dating to converge on 6000 years as Earth’s age, as it currently converges on 4.6 billion years. The laws of physics just…changed? In all the radioisotopes? Differently?


Assume you have any useful info about the quantity of decay at the time of creation. Check.

You do know, in addition to radioactive dating, we have dendrochronological records stretching back about 11,500 years, right? A young Earth is disproved with daisy-chained tree rings.


Circular self-reference as argument? Check.

Circularity? How does cross-checking radioactive dates, across the orders of magnitude, when different radioisotopes exist in a single hunk of igneous rock, count as circular? The half-life values are known and applied. Radioactive isotopes’ half-lives differ, so the calculations differ. When compared, the dating invariably agrees. This does not necessarily have to be so. But, it is.


Failure to interact with Henry Gee's _In Search of Deep Time_ and mindlessly repeat old canards about the utility of the fossil record? Check.
Failure to interact with Cambrian explosion? Check.


Creationists seem to think the fossil record is a weak link in the Darwinian case; creationists are wrong. If there was no evolutionary progression, dinosaurs would be found in the same rocks as Australopithecines. They are not. Zebras would be found in the same rocks as trilobites. They are not. On creationism, the absence of one single anachronistic fossil makes no sense.


Assume that it is definite that they were NEVER there and NEVER went extinct and that we just haven't yet found their fossils? Check.

We have found the fossils on continental islands. Is it not awfully strange that, just by coincidence, only oceanic islands would have such difficult-to-find fossils? It almost seems like a creator that is being...devious!


Failure to take sin into account, even though it's at the very heart of the Christian conception of redemptive history? Check and double-check. Atheists virtually never do this, and it's amazing.
Advance the conversation! Please! We're begging you.


I think sin is a rather poor explanation for our genomes being littered with pseudogenes incapable of producing a protein product, as a gene is meant to do. Because we are sinful by nature, god junked up our genome with nonfunctional genes?

2:52 PM EDT  
Blogger The Jolly Nihilist said...

**RESPONSE TWO**

Presume to correct Him on sthg that you've never even gotten close to accomplishing yourself? Check.
Forget sin (again)? Check.


I also do not think man’s sinful nature really suffices as an explanation for goofy bodily design. And, yes, it is true I have never accomplished the construction of a human body, or a body of any kind. However, an analogy might be to plan a freeway. If the purpose is to connect New York to Minneapolis, there is no reason to dip to Atlanta along the way.


Argument from ignorance.
Here it is:
P1) Recurrent laryngeal nerve of mammals exists.
P2) I don't know why a creator would do it that way/I wouldn't've.
Ergo,
C) Stupid.
WOW! I'm bowled over by this forceful argumentation from Dick Dawk.


Again, we can analogize to reach our conclusions. Humans might not build bodies, but we make roadway systems. The recurrent laryngeal nerve takes a senseless, actively maladaptive detour akin to my New York-to-Minneapolis-by-way-of-Atlanta example. The Creator should not be stupider than we are.

2:54 PM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...

So what you're saying is, you've got nothing.
Unless you have an answer to the problem of induction, it is just as reasonable for me to say the laws of physics did change as for you to say they didn't.
You ignore the obvious answer to your tree rings and isotopes' presence - appearance of age. Remember how Adam was created at an adult age?
Before you go yelling "devious" again, interact with the first point, that God told you how it went down. Your trying to prove Him wrong is your problem. You're looking for your glasses under the streetlamp even though you dropped them 100 meters away.
No interaction with Gee. Wonder why that is.
No fossils found on oceanic islands. ERGO, you're right. Darwinism of the gaps.
No understanding of the Christian doctrine of the Fall. Read Romans 8:18-29.
Your analogy falls fall short - freeways are far easier than nerves. This is no response.
Plus, you have no idea whether there's another function to be accomplished by looping those things all around. You just don't, but you assume there must not be. Darwinism of the gaps. Again.

I'm very satisfied with how this has gone. Please feel free to continue to not-answer my challenges.

Peace,
Rhology

10:03 AM EDT  
Blogger The Jolly Nihilist said...

Please Note: I have reposted my latest responses. When I was writing yesterday, I was working on three hours sleep and, this morning, noticed a couple of typos and instances of clumsy phrasing. The substance has not changed; I merely have cleaned up a few sentences.


**RESPONSE ONE**

So what you're saying is, you've got nothing.

Actually, to be frank, I am not sure this particular avenue of interaction will be especially fruitful. This is not because the subject matter—Darwinian evolution by natural selection—is not fascinating; clearly, it is. This is because—not to be unkind—young Earth creationism is patently ludicrous. Among scientists working in the field, prevalence of young-Earth belief is essentially zero—not because they are rebelling against god but, rather, because every sliver of evidence that is available contradicts the notion Earth is merely several thousand years old. Without bias or condescension, young Earthism is no more defensible than flat Earthism or geocentrism.


Unless you have an answer to the problem of induction, it is just as reasonable for me to say the laws of physics did change as for you to say they didn't.

Of course it is not “just as reasonable.” Throughout the time during which scientists have studied the natural order, the laws of physics have been intact. Of course, when we say “laws of physics,” we do not mean rules that have been imposed upon the universe in the sense of governance; rather, we mean general principles we have formalized to describe how the universe operates. You have no science-based reason whatsoever to think the laws of physics have changed; it is not equally likely they have as they have not. (The Noachian flood certainly would not change the laws of physics, given that they appear to be uniform throughout the universe, which means nothing about our planet could be considered their root.) With respect to radioactive dating in particular, the tinkering necessary to make all the radioisotopes, across the orders of magnitude, converge on a several-thousand-year age for Earth (as opposed to 4.6 billion years—the age at which they currently converge) beggars belief. You seem to attest to god the mischievous twiddler.


You ignore the obvious answer to your tree rings and isotopes' presence - appearance of age. Remember how Adam was created at an adult age?
Before you go yelling "devious" again, interact with the first point, that God told you how it went down. Your trying to prove Him wrong is your problem. You're looking for your glasses under the streetlamp even though you dropped them 100 meters away.


So, did god the mischievous twiddler fiddle around with the laws of physics vis-à-vis the radioisotopes or did he not? Originally, you seemed to be holding that all the radioisotopes’ half-lives did, in fact, change at some point. Now, you seem to hold that all our radioactive dating points to 4.6 billion years as Earth’s age because god wanted to create the (misleading) appearance of age. Which is your position, or would you rather straddle?

Second—and this relates to my first comment—it is clear that, whatever facts I present about the natural order, you will appeal to the Bible and attempt to harmonize them. This, of course, is fruitless, though. The Bible was written during the bawling infancy of our civilization. Its writers, whoever they were, were unfortunate enough to live in a time of lamentable pre-scientific ignorance that left them in a perpetual stupor. In ancient times, people believed stormy weather was portentous. People believed illness might be brought on by spirits or demonic infestation. There can be no science in the Bible because, at the time of its writing, modern science was still centuries away. This is why those serious scientists who are deeply devout, such as Francis Collins and Kenneth R. Miller, explicitly reject young Earth ideas. (Actually, those two reject creationism as an explanation for biodiversity, period.)

2:11 PM EDT  
Blogger The Jolly Nihilist said...

**RESPONSE TWO**

No interaction with Gee. Wonder why that is.

Gee is not a creationist. Darwinian evolution by natural selection is accepted as a given in “In Search of Deep Time.” Gee has described creationists’ use of his book as “misrepresentative, mischievous and sectarian, not to say unscientific.” Because my paper, ultimately, was about Darwinian evolution’s truth and creationism’s falsity, nothing in the Gee text could be seen as contradictory to my general thesis. Gee agrees with me; he disagrees with you (and, very probably, thinks the reading of his text that you promote is misrepresentative, mischievous and sectarian, by his own words).


No fossils found on oceanic islands. ERGO, you're right. Darwinism of the gaps.

Posit a good, science-rooted explanation for why fossils would reliably be found on one type of island (continental) and not on another type of island (oceanic). The uniformity of the observation is too strong to be explained by pure chance, is it not? Must not the pattern be significant? (Do not let your harmonization tendencies blind you.)


Your analogy falls fall short - freeways are far easier than nerves. This is no response.
Plus, you have no idea whether there's another function to be accomplished by looping those things all around. You just don't, but you assume there must not be. Darwinism of the gaps. Again.


Posit a good, science-rooted explanation for why a maladaptive detour would be valuable in the case of the recurrent laryngeal nerve of mammals. As I say, the “design” exhibited here is actively, understandably maladaptive (and, since you read Coyne, you already know how). Even if you were able to conjure a reason why the designer would use such a design, the explanation you confected would not compare favorably to the well-understood explanation afforded by common mammalian descent. Because of your position’s constant need to harmonize the natural order with the Bible, all traces of parsimony disappear.


I'm very satisfied with how this has gone. Please feel free to continue to not-answer my challenges.

I, too, am very satisfied, inasmuch as I think, in your responses, you have made manifest your need to mold the evidence to your unchangeable, pre-existing conclusion.

2:11 PM EDT  
Blogger Tommykey said...

Um, He told you exactly how it all went down in the Bible.

Um, no it didn't. You just choose to believe that to maintain your edifice of belief. If Genesis reall describes "how it all went down" then you should be able to find corroborating evidence.

Like I wrote on ERV's site, if the Tower of Babel story was true, then you should find evidence of human migration some 4,500 years ago from Mesopotamia into Egypt and thence throughout the African continent. Instead, we find Egypt settled from the Sahara, which is to the west of Egypt, as the wet phase in the Sahara came to an end.

Tower of Babel story = allegory.

1:17 PM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...

TK,

Argument from silence.
Ppl used to say that about the Hittite civilisation: "If the Bible were true, we'd find evidence that the Hittites existed! Nya nya!"

Don't be so naïve. Get a better argument.

1:19 PM EDT  
Blogger Tommykey said...

Nice dodge Rhology. Find the evidence of human migration from Mesopotamia into Africa 4,500 years ago. Dig boy, dig!

1:23 PM EDT  
Blogger Rhology said...

What about "argument from silence" don't you understand, TK? You seem to revel in your embracing of fallacious arguments. Is it living in NY that does that to a man?

1:25 PM EDT  
Blogger The Jolly Nihilist said...

On scientific thinking, hypotheses are meritorious only to the extent that they (a) make predictions, (b) enable those predictions to be tested and (c) find that, upon testing, the predictions are confirmed. The Christian hypothesis, to its detriment, is very bad at having what predictions it makes be confirmed.

Take Genesis, for example. The creation chronology presented in Genesis represents a testable prediction. In recent times, science has been able to test that prediction. Rather than being confirmed, the prediction failed, because Genesis’ creation chronology is wrong. This is a strike against the god hypothesis.

Take the Mosaic myth and the Israelites wandering around the desert. That presents a testable archeological prediction. In recent times, intrepid archeologists have been able to test that prediction. Rather than being confirmed, the prediction failed, because the archeological record is bereft of any trace of their wanderings. This, too, is a strike against the god hypothesis.

Tommy, I think, is appealing to this mode of thinking.

7:06 PM EDT  
Blogger Tommykey said...

Tommy, I think, is appealing to this mode of thinking.

Exactly!

In many ways, the Bible is historical. Just because I am an atheist does not mean that I assume everything in the Bible is not true.

At the same time, just because the Bible's mention of Pharaoh Sheshonk's invasion of Israel is confirmed by Egyptian records does not mean that therefore all humans today are the descendants of an outmigration from one city in Mesopotamia some 4,500 years ago.

8:27 PM EDT  
Blogger Luis said...

The chronology one would expect from a geological record consistent with Noah's flood is utterly lacking. Creationists claim that the slower, less agile animals were left behind and were drowned more quickly as the flood engulfed everything, while the more agile creatures made it to higher ground before they too succumbed. They claim this is the reason that we see something that is akin to evolution in the fossil record. This is patent nonsense. There were plenty of agile creatures like Velociratpors and other theropod dinosaurs that could easily have outrun more recent animals like Diprotondonts (a giant wombat-like marsupial that lived in Australia). Pterodactyls flew; why do we find no pterodactyls contemporaneous with human beings? Answer: because they weren't contemporaries. They became extinct millions of years before the advent of Homo sapiens. Dipropotodonts are found in strata indicating that they and humans were contemporaries. Theropods were more agile than these lumbering animals, yet no theropods. We find not a blending effect where there are progressively fewer and fewer creatures of a species through the strata as we would expect on the creation model; we literally find NO Velociraptors, no pterodactyls after a certain strata level. Not one or a few, but none at all. This makes perfect in light of the extinction of these fauna in eons past; it makes no sense whatsoever if we suppose that all these fauna were around at the same time and succumbed to a flash flood. The latter hypothesis can be dismissed without further comment.

Simple as that. Get over it.

As Dick Dawks has so eloquently said, fossils are actually a wonderful bonus. Without them, we would still have abundant, massively convergent evidence for evolution from genetics, the distribution of living things, the hierarchical pattern of life, changes in populations through natural selection, and clues from embryology. As it happens, we also have beautiful transitional forms and abundant evidence of change through the history of life.

6:13 AM EST  
Blogger Luis said...

Wasteful

Failure to take sin into account, even though it's at the very heart of the Christian conception of redemptive history? Check and double-check. Atheists virtually never do this, and it's amazing.
Advance the conversation! Please! We're begging you.


Ahem...sin. What's amazing is that grown men can entertain notions not more respectable than Sumerian mythology.

6:21 AM EST  
Blogger Mars Michigan said...

I don't have the faith needed to be an atheist...

http://sliverofgod.blogspot.com/2013/11/i-dont-have-faith-needed-to-be-atheist_5.html

9:05 PM EST  
Blogger The Jolly Nihilist said...

Mars Michigan,

First things first: Since you posted your link under "Imagine There's No Evolution," it seems more than germane to ask whether you deny the truth of Darwinian evolution by natural selection as the origin of biodiversity on this planet.

1:28 PM EST  

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