Archive for July, 2009

24
Jul
09

More on evolution – some general advice to creationists

So, this post is a sort of a follow up to my recent discussion with Robert Congelliere. It is sort of general advice for creationists (with maybe a couple of specifics).
The first point I want to address is the “This is a huge obvious hole in the theory of evolution… I can’t believe everyone doesn’t see it” issue. There are several examples of this in my discussion with Robert, things, that if true, would make evolution a preposterous theory. Well, the trick is that millions of people have studied this for a living. Maybe some of them were blinded by adherence to the theory, maybe some of them were not that bright, but most of them are intelligent dedicated people with open minds. If your flaw is glaringly obvious, odds are really strong that you have misunderstood something, otherwise at least a few of those millions of people would have seen it, and disproving evolution would not make a given scientist a pariah, it would do the opposite. It would result in instant international fame, pretty much guarantee them the Nobel for biology (and the attendant million dollar prize) and give them first crack at any research chair post in the world. It is an instant massive career builder. A concrete example of this is the issue (that Robert thought would be a show stopper) of transitional forms. He believed that there were no transitional forms in the fossil record because there were no creatures with half an arm, a stub of a wing, etc. His standard for a transitional form ended up being a useless bit that was the beginning of forming a useful bit. In fact, any fossil exhibiting these traits would be a major blow to evolution, as it completely contradicts what evolution predicts, and Robert has misunderstood (lets not even get into the veins thing…). According to the theory of evolution, every part of a creature has to serve some use as it develops. Later, after it has been developed, it may cease to be useful (the appendix) and become vestigial.
To me, the most interesting thing about that part of the conversation was that I had never even considered that someone might think that was what a transitional form meant, so I did learn something useful (and in future when people claim there are no transitional forms, at least I will have some clue how they could believe that – no matter how wrong they might be).
Next is the ex-atheist argument. If you say you used to be an atheist but converted to because you were presented with compelling evidence that you can show me, I will hear you out. If you say that you converted because you “had a religious experience” I will ignore you. Having a feeling is not having evidence of anything, no matter how strong the feeling is.
A third one, and this is huge, is the “Evolutionist” argument. This takes the form of saying that the theory of evolution is wrong because it can’t explain how the universe began or how life started. This just makes rational, educated people angry. The theory of evolution is and explanation of the variety of life on earth, and how they arose from a very limited variety far back in time. That is all it explains, and that is all it is supposed to explain. It is not the story of creation, or the tale of the beginning of the universe. Science works best when you address a specific question and then figure out the mechanism. In this case, the predominant theory of the beginning of the universe is the big bang theory. The primary theory of the beginning of life is abiogenesis (which has received a great deal more supporting evidence recently) and the theory of the diversity of life post-abiogenesis (or whichever theory comes out on top but probably abiogenesis) is the theory of evolution. As a result of this, there is no such thing as an “Evolutionist” or a “Darwinist”, merely people who find the evidence for evolution compelling (and if you understood the science you would too… I can pretty much guarantee it).
Next is the argument that “Evolution is only a theory”. I really don’t want to get into this one because so many people have in the past, but I will short form it. Basically, a scientific theory isn’t the same thing as the layman’s term theory. A scientific theory is a rigorously tested set of principles that have stood up to everything that has come against it. In the case of evolution, it is one of the best established theories in existence. A common statement is that gravity is also a theory, and evolution is as well established, but that is wrong. We don’t know the mechanism behind gravity, meaning that gravity is a less exact theory than evolution. Drop this argument completely, as it fails.
Finally, the bible. Atheists don’t believe in the bible. Any argument that has the bible as it’s source is going to fail to convince an atheist. It’s just that simple. If you can provide a source that establishes the veracity of the bible that stands up to the peer review process, then we can talk, but if your source for the truth of the bible is the bible itself, then you fail.

I also want to add a brief note about morality. I don’t believe that it is impossible to be genuinely moral as a religious person, merely that is much harder to tell who is moral and who is simply acting in what they believe is a moral manner in exchange for a reward and the avoidance of punishment. Basically, the argument that morals break down without religion is very, very hollow since religion stresses a reward/punishment system for moral behaviour meaning that it is impossible to tell what is motivated by the internal beliefs of the individual.

I guess that’s it for now. More to come soon.

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15
Jul
09

Evolution vs. Creationism again

So, my post of the other day got a response from the creationist. I have included both his response and my response to his response. If he comes back again, I will post that as well.

My responses inline below. Again, this will go on my blog unless you write an objection.

Robert Congelliere wrote:
> *(1) Your understanding of what a transitional form is, actually
> represents ignorance. Your examples of transitional forms (flattened
> fins, arms with flaps) are not transitional forms since they are fully
> functional. A true transitional form would have non-functioning parts.
> Your comment that we haven’t dug up the entire planet is really
> stretching things. If evolutionists haven’t found any transitional
> forms in 150 years, what are the odds that they will find thousands of
> such forms in the future? You may be unwilling to admit that no
> transitional forms have been found, but your fellow evolutionists are
> not so reluctant.*
> **
> *Colin Patterson, Senior Paleontologist at the British Museum of Natural
> History, wrote a textbook on paleontology and when someone wrote him
> asking why there were no pictures of transitional forms in his book,
> Patterson wrote, “I fully agree with your comments on the lack of direct
> illustration of evolutionary transitions in my book. If I knew of any,
> fossil or living, I would certainly have included them.”
> Paleontologist Dr. David Kitts wrote, “Evolution requires intermediate
> forms between species and paleontology does not provide them.” Dr.
> Scott Hughes wrote, “We now come to perhaps the most serious of defects
> in the evolutinary theory – the complete absence of transitional
> forms.” What a HUGE embarrassment to evolutionists! With no
> transitional forms, an unbiased person would have to say that evolution
> has never occurred!*
> **

A transitional form is not what you think it is. The idea of a transitional form as you have posited it is impossible, and not part of evolutionary theory. Frankly, I am astounded that you believe this is what a transitional form is. Perhaps that is a large part of the misunderstanding. A transitional form is a form that has elements of two different forms… but since evolution is gradual every stage will have transitional forms with microscopic differences. That is the crux of the theory of evolution, and what you have written is a mischaracterization of it. You are making a straw man argument with this. Go back and read Origins of Species again.

> *(2) The science of paleontology therefore supports creationism.*
> **

Creationism and evolution are not the only options, and the discrediting of evolution does not prove creationism. This is another logical fallacy. Go read an entry level logic textbook for more information on this.

> *(3, 4, 5) I included these questions because virtually all
> evolutionists are atheists, as you undoubtedly are. How convenient for
> you to only answer the questions relating to biological evolution. That
> way, you won’t have to admit you don’t know the origin of life, the
> origin of matter, and the origin of energy. *
> **

The Catholic Church and the Church of England are made up of atheists? Weird, do they know that? As an aside, if you want to debate origins we can do that, but I was content to leave it where most of the worlds religions do, with the idea that evolution could have been the tool god used, but you don’t want to leave it there, then bring it.

> *(6) Why didn’t you just write that evolutionists do not know how life
> started? that would have been an honest answer. Your comments I would
> describe as obfuscation.*
> **

No, I presented you with the name of the theory that is currently given the most credence in this field. See, this is why science and religion mix poorly. Science is about the best available answer given the evidence. At this point abiogenesis is on track to being as accepted a theory as evolution, but it hasn’t stood the test of years the way evolution has, therefore anyone with a scientific background talks about it in less certain terms.

> *(7) Dawkins certainly does not describe where emotions _came from_
> (which is my question). *
> **

Sorry, it’s a stupid question. Emotions are biochemical reactions. They evolved. Dawkins answers how we arrived at them, restating the question to exclude them having evolved is a cop out.

> *(8) Of course evolution is a random process. I question your
> understanding of how evolution occurs.*
> **

Actually, evolution is a rules based system that arises from random mutation. It is a system, and one that creates creatures well suited to their environment. Saying it is random because one piece of it is random is another misunderstanding.

> *(9) You admit that there were times it didn’t happen, therefore the
> odds could not be 100%. *
> **

This shows a lack of understanding of odds. If something has happened, then the odds of it happening are 100%. Seriously, this is not basic math but not far from it. Now, I admit that if I had left this statement there it would have been a cop out, but I also pointed out that in cases where this didn’t happen, there was no species created. You seem to have an issue with scale… this is actually quite common among humans. You don’t understand that for every time it did happen there were literally millions of mutation that didn’t work out.

> *(10) Evasive.

No, truth. You stated that two sexes was part of a design (with no evidence to support your statement by the way) and I pointed out that it is not true across the board, but since most of the larger animals have two sexes we assume it to be the case across the board. This is an anthropocentric error. This is a basic error.

(11) It is NOT the parent that has a mutation, but the
> offspring. Again, basic ignorance on your part. *
> **

In this case you appear to have misread what I wrote. What I was trying to explain is that you don’t need to have two sexes for evolution, merely a parent and an offspring. In most early cases that offspring would not have been the result of sexual reproduction.

> *(12) Boy were you evasive on this one! How did the first animal
> survive with part of a lung, part of a heart, part of a llver, part of a
> stomach. You have NO idea. Tell me how the blood entered the veins of
> the first animal . It could not enter before the veins were complete, or
> it would spill out. Here’s where the whole evolutionary theory goes out
> the window, because it never could have gotten started!*
> **

That doesn’t make sense as a question and shows total ignorance. I don’t mean to be insulting, but you haven’t demonstrated even a high school level of understanding of evolution. A system of fluids would exist in the body, then a mutation would occur that made some of those fluids follow a channel of some sort, that meant more energy got to the extremities. Those channels would increase in complexity over time. Eventually you would have a circulatory system. Now, there would never have been a point where there were a bunch of open veins. In fact, if that existed it would prove the theory of evolution to be incorrect. This is the case of many of these arguments, they are actually the exact opposite of what evolution predicts, and yet you say if they aren’t true then evolution can’t be true.

> *(13) Advanced texts do NOT explain how the first animal survived while
> its organs were developing. That was a dishonest answer and you know it. *
> **

Actually, yes they do. You have misunderstood how evolution claims organs would form. Because of that misunderstanding you keep harping about something meaningless. If what you posit were true, then amoeba’s could not exist.

> *(14) The male has 50%* *X-chromosomes and 50% Y-chromosomes. So God
> had a perfect design for mankind. Too bad you can’t see that.*
> **

Humans are not born 50% male and 50% female. That was the part that didn’t make sense. Oh yeah, a number of species are unbalanced that way.
As to the chromosomes, that is not a perfect design, or even a great one. It is what we are made up of, but most engineers could do a better job on humans than what was done, given infinite power. If God exists he is a fairly inadequate engineer.

> *(15) Atheists cannot dismiss this question as you tried to. It is an
> incisive question and you are stupid if you do not see it as such.*
> **

We are going to have to disagree on that. Gravity is a property of matter, period. They are not two separate things, any more than matter and mass are separate things. That is why it is a stupid question. Now, as I stated at the beginning, I was not addressing the origins of the universe because you were asking “evolutionists” (by which I assume you mean people who accept the evidence for evolution as compelling, since no-one I know of views evolution as the answer to all life’s mysteries, merely as the answer to one single question – if on the other hand you mean people who study evolutionary biology as a professions… well, you aren’t qualified to debate them really. I’m an educated layman and I’m arguing well above your level on this subject) and not cosmologists. If you want to talk astrophysics and cosmology, well, I am not as educated on those fields as I am on evolutionary biology, so while I can look up information (the joy of science… all the research is published so you can look it up for yourself) I can’t riff on it to the same degree. Hence, I don’t choose to debate you on those subjects and leave it to those more educated than I.

> *(16) Evasive. You have NO idea where all the energy came from.
> Atheists cannot dismiss this question as unimportant.*
> **

Why is saying a creator did it more reasonable than saying I don’t know? I am completely confused by this. I don’t have an issue with not knowing everything, and I believe that is the purpose of science, to find answers to questions we haven’t already answered. I still haven’t seen a single shred of evidence for a creator and until I see one, I will not believe in a creator. Funny how believing in something with no evidence is called insanity unless it is an organized religion and then it is called faith…

> *(17) I noted that you did not comment on Watson’s admission that the
> real reason evolutionists believe in evolution is because the only
> alternative is creationism, and that they totally reject.*
> **

Because it isn’t accurate or relevant, and it really doesn’t matter that it comes from Watson (appeal to authority, another logical fallacy). I will believe in creationism when it is supported by evidence, until then I won’t. It really isn’t that complicated. What you have done is argued against evolution (using a number of logical fallacies as I have pointed out) and then said that because you “discredited” evolution, god must have done it. Once upon a time we didn’t know how lightning was generated. At that time, we believed it was gods. It was a very long time of us believing it was gods before we learned the real reason. What you are doing is saying that anything we don’t know the answer to has to be God. This is another logical fallacy in the long list.

> *(18) Total cop-out! This again is another incisive question, and you
> have NO answer.*
> **

You state in the question that the 3 main basis of the theory of evolution is the origin of matter, the origin of energy, and the origin of life. Since none of those are addressed in the theory of evolution in any way it makes no sense to try and answer the question. It is a straw man fallacy. In fact the origin of matter and energy are part of the big bang theory and the origin of life is addressed by abiogenesis. The big bang theory actually has slightly less support than evolution, but we do know the state of the universe up to a few seconds after the big bang, which makes it pretty likely. As I said before, abiogenesis is looking like it will have the same kind of acceptance as evolution in the very near future (due to some recent test results from a forty year old experiment). None of these are the theory of evolution. There are people who accept evolution who accept the supernatural, just not when it contradicts the evidence. They tend to believe (as you do) that the origin of matter and energy (and even the first spark of life) were the product of a god, but that the method that life used to acquire its current shape is evolution.

> *(19) No the question is not stupid, but your response is kind of stupid.*
> **

Yes, the question is stupid. Evolution does not posit an explanation for the origin of the universe. That is why the question is stupid. How exactly could evolution provide for something that is entirely outside of its purview (which is purely and entirely within the realm of genetic diversity). You are looking for the scientific equivalent of a creation myth, but that isn’t how science works. You ask how the universe began, and the answer is “Probably the big bang – almost certainly but there is a small chance it could be something else”. If you ask how life began the answer is “Abiogenesis looks like the most likely explanation and fits all of the observed facts. At this point the experimental evidence is quite strong”. See, each question has a different answer, and never with 100% certainty. That having been said, the theory of evolution is better established than the theory of gravity (which fits the category of wrong but useful by the way)

> *(20) Evolution has never been observed, so it is 100% speculation!
> Speculation is NOT science! For you to say that evolution is well
> established is absurd! You are blinded by your rejection of the
> supernatural. Evolution is so absurd, so preposterous, I am astonished
> that anyone can believe in it. Despite your insulting remarks about my
> understanding of evolution, I thoroughly understand evolution. What do
> YOU know about the Bible and creationism?*
>

You don’t even have a basic understanding of the scientific method, let alone the theory of evolution. I am a bit insulting because you spout tautologies with no originality that challenge nothing and you believe you have destroyed evolution. As to evolution not having been observed… did you know that there are antibiotic resistant bacteria now? That is evolution in action. There are thousands of additional cases of evolution being observed, even to the point where generations of fruit flies were bred apart from each other and eventually reached the point (due to differing environmental conditions) that they no longer interbred. That is the scientific definition of speciation. Now, they were both still species of fly, but evolution takes a hell of a lot longer than the lifespan of a single human (longer than the lifespan of any civilisation humans have ever come up with in fact) in most cases, so those results are both compelling and damned near irrefutable proof of the basic tenets of the theory. Now… if you keep going down this road answer me one simple question: What are the basic tenets of the theory of evolution? If you get that wrong, you have lost all grounds for argument because you are arguing against something you don’t know anything at all about.

As to what I know about the bible: I have read it, the entire thing (King James version) and have looked up a great deal of details in other translations. I have also read The Way of Zen, part of the Koran, part of the book of Mormon and a huge amount of Greek, Egyptian and Norse myths. The bible really wasn’t any more compelling to me than the Egyptian myths (the Greeks though, they knew how to tell a creation myth! lots of compelling characters, action, adventure, lust, romance. A much better read).

13
Jul
09

More creationist pwnage.

Below is a series of question asked by a creationist. They are, as usual, kind of dumb (at least most of them are)… but I decided to answer them anyway.

“The test of any theory is whether or not it provides answers to basic questions. Some well-meaning, but misguided, people think evolution is a reasonable theory to explain man’s questions about the universe. Evolution is not a good theory—it is just a pagan religion masquerading as science. The following questions were distributed to the 750-plus people who attended my debate at Winona State University in Winona, Minnesota, on January 9, 1993. (The videotaped debate is #6, $9.95.) Questions added since the debate remarked with an asterisk (*).”
This is not the test of a theory. The test of a theory is whether it fits the available evidence, and whether it makes falsifiable predictions. From this perspective, evolution is a good theory. God did it is not a good theory (doesn’t mean it isn’t true, just means it is not a valid scientific theory – it can never be tested)

1. Where did the space for the universe come from?
A: Space is what you have when you have nothing. Space just is.

2. Where did matter come from?
A: Okay, now we have a decent question. Mind you, it has nothing to do with evolution at all. It is cosmology or physics, but not evolution which is strictly concerned with biological life

3. Where did the laws of the universe come from (gravity, inertia, etc.)?
A: Don’t know. Again not part of evolution. Also, they are probably just inherent properties of having matter and energy as we know it.

4. How did matter get so perfectly organized?
A: What? Perfectly organized? I don’t think so. The universe is really pretty haphazard in its organization, and getting less organized every day (second law of thermodynamics… isn’t that one of your type’s favourite laws?)

5. Where did the energy come from to do all the organizing?
A: Same place as the matter, as they are interchangeable. Basically, we don’t know yet, and we may never know, but that doesn’t make a creator the logical choice as there is no evidence to support a creator and you still have the same logical issues with positing a creator that you do with the original question, just one level removed. Still nothing to do with evolution.

6. When, where, why, and how did life come from non-living matter?
A: Over billions of years various chemicals were swirling around on the surface of the earth, in a kind of ooze. That ooze was highly energized periodically (lightning strikes). Eventually various of those chemicals formed nucleic acids (this has been recreated in a lab) and those nucleic acids combined in a certain way that allowed them to reproduce by bonding with other nucleic acids. That was RNA. Mutation of the RNA strand caused assembly of DNA. This is the theory of abiogenesis. Again, nothing to do with evolution.

7. When, where, why, and how did life learn to reproduce itself?
A: It didn’t. Life that didn’t reproduce died out. Reproduction is an inherent quality of life.
Read my answer to question 6. If you can understand it, it answers this question quite handily.

8. With what did the first cell capable of sexual reproduction reproduce?
A: The second cell capable of sexual reproduction. See, they were probably both bacteria, and bacteria can swap DNA. There are other options, like a mutation in a parent that caused its children to be capable of sexual reproduction (and then the parent had multiple children), or a mutation that occurred in more than one creature at around the same time.

9. Why would any plant or animal want to reproduce more of its kind since this would only make more mouths to feed and decrease the chances of survival? (Does the individual have a drive to survive, or the species? How do you explain this?)
A: Read “The Selfish Gene” by Richard Dawkins for a very well argued (and long) answer to this. The short answer? It is in our nature to reproduce. Whenever you have a creature that doesn’t, it becomes extinct quickly.

10. How can mutations (recombining of the genetic code) create any new, improved varieties? (Recombining English letters will never produce Chinese books.)
A: That is a stupid analogy. Take the alphabet, now set it to create copies of itself, only with each copy each letter can create a copy of itself, and the order can change. Now, add in a rule that says combinations with English words will create more copies. How long before you come up with the entire works of Shakespeare? It will take a long time, but eventually it will happen.

11. Is it possible that similarities in design between different animals prove a common Creator instead of a common ancestor?
A: Sure, but there is no reason to think so. A common ancestor fits the facts better than a common designer (when a designer makes something they generally only copy the bits that work well…)

12. Natural selection only works with the genetic information available and tends only to keep a species stable. How would you explain the increasing complexity in the genetic code that must have occurred if evolution were true?
A: This is simply wrong. Evolution through natural selection tends to create stable life forms in stable environments. When there is a change in the environment it changes the life forms. Also, stability is only reached when no better state of adaptation can be achieved. Until then it can go through slow periods, but it is an ongoing process. I don’t think this state has ever been achieved.
13. When, where, why, and how did:
* Single-celled plants become multi-celled? (Where are the two and three-celled intermediates?)
A:Two and three celled intermediates are not necessary or logical. Once the creature is capable of being multi-celled it is likely that it becomes many celled.
* Single-celled animals evolve?
A:There is no difference in single celled plants and single celled animals, those distinctions only exist for multi-celled creatures.
* Fish change to amphibians?
A:Over millions of years in slow, incremental steps.
* Amphibians change to reptiles
A:See above
* Reptiles change to birds? (The lungs, bones, eyes, reproductive organs, heart, method of locomotion, body covering, etc., are all very different!)
A:See above.
* How did the intermediate forms live?
A:Depends on the intermediate form really. For example, there are many fish now that can survive some period of time on land (note, not amphibians… they can’t breathe). A reptile that changed to a bird is a bit of a misnomer, as dinosaurs are the common ancestor of both, and birds may actually be closer to dinosaurs than reptiles are. Likely the ancestors of the birds at one point developed a good jump, then a slight glide, then a longer glide, etc.
14. When, where, why, how, and from what did:
* Whales evolve?
A:Whales evolved from a shore based mammal.
* Sea horses evolve?
A:Don’t know all of the details, many, many possibilities
* Bats evolve?
A:A jumping rodent with webbed feet.
* Eyes evolve?
A:Eyes evolved in small pieces, first the ability to tell light from darkness, then directionality of the light, then detail in gradually increasing amounts, then colour in gradually increasing amounts. This has been discussed ad-nauseum on many forums and is so well addressed that it just makes me sad now.
* Ears evolve?
A:First with the ability to detect vibrations, then frequency of vibrations, then directionality of vibrations, then differentiation of vibrations. See my answer for eyes.
* Hair, skin, feathers, scales, nails, claws, etc., evolve?
A:First you get a hard nub that protects the end of an appendage, then that nub mutates and becomes sharper, or more flexible, etc. First you get a membrane that protects inner parts, allowing for more complexity. There are answers for all of these questions and very little research is needed.
15. Which evolved first (how, and how long; did it work without the others)?
A: I am going to hit all of these at once. They all developed in fits and starts. More detail after the points I felt needed addressing the most.
* The digestive system, the food to be digested, the appetite, the ability to find and eat the food, the digestive juices, or the body’s resistance to its own digestive juice (stomach, intestines, etc.)?
A: A creature was born with a slightly more acid stomach. It allowed that creature to absorb more nutrients from their food, so they were stronger. However, they might have lived a slightly shorter life as an individual because of ulcers, so a descendant of theirs who had a more acid resistant lining in the stomach survived better than its generation, leading to the propogation of that trait, then another generation had a slightly more acid stomach so it got more nutrients out of the same food, lather, rinse, repeat for several million years…
* The drive to reproduce or the ability to reproduce?
A:The ability and the drive are inseparable.
* The lungs, the mucus lining to protect them, the throat, or the perfect mixture of gases to be breathed into the lungs?
A:What perfect mixture? Evolution means that the gases were there and life evolved to match them, then changed them, then evolved some more.
* DNA or RNA to carry the DNA message to cell parts?
A:RNA – See my answer to question 6
* The termite or the flagella in its intestines that actually digest the cellulose?
A:Mutually evololved in fits and starts.
* The plants or the insects that live on and pollinate the plants?
A: Again, this is fits and starts. Probably insects developed, and then some plants developed the ability to take advantage of the existence of the insects, but not in one go like that.
* The bones, ligaments, tendons, blood supply, or muscles to move the bones?
A: Muscles probably, since amoeba’s have a rough analogue of them.
* The nervous system, repair system, or hormone system?
A: Most likely the an early precursor of the hormone system, though again, development is in fits and starts, its not a case of a creature being born one day with a modern nervous system.
* The immune system or the need for it?
A: The immune system and the need for it developed in pieces.

16.There are many thousands of examples of symbiosis that defy an evolutionary explanation. Why must we teach students that evolution is the only explanation for these relationships?
A: Name a single example. I have never heard of one.

16. How would evolution explain mimicry? Did the plants and animals develop mimicry by chance, by their intelligent choice, or by design?
A: Not by chance, by natural selection. Natural selection is not chance, it is a rules based system. Chance meant the mockingbird developed the desire to leave it’s eggs in another nest, ongoing survival meant it kept happening. Chance made a species of snake (I believe the coral snake) look like a poisonous snake (I believe the king snake), ongoing survival meant there were more coral snakes. This isn’t actually that hard to figure out.

17. When, where, why, and how did man evolve feelings? Love, mercy, guilt, etc. would never evolve in the theory of evolution.
A:Yes, yes they would. Love is a form of enforced pair bonding that benefits the offspring. Since the theory of evolution simply posits that the behaviour that leads to the most living offspring will tend to persist, of course love would exist. Mercy? Tends to evolve because (believe it or not) socialization tends to result in more living offspring… make sense?

18. *How did photosynthesis evolve?
A: A creature evolved the ability to take energy directly from light, probably in very small amounts… that made it

19. *How did thought evolve?
A: In bits and pieces. The first animal that was able to figure out that eating that thing made it not die might be the first example of thought. Again, this is not even slightly difficult to figure out

20. *How did flowering plants evolve, and from that?
A: In bits and pieces. A possible path: after the evolution of the eye (covered earlier) a type of plant may have had a random mutation that put a purple fringe on the top of its seeds. Because animals were attracted to the purple fringe they checked it out, which spread the seeds, meaning more purple fringe plants. A few million years and mutations later, you have a clover.

21. *What kind of evolutionist are you? Why are you not one of the other eight or ten kinds?
A: There are not kinds of evolutionists. Not eight, not ten, not one. There is no such thing as an evolutionist. It isn’t a religion, it is just the answer to one question.

22. What would you have said fifty years ago if I told you I had a living coelacanth in my aquarium?
A: Not much, I wasn’t born yet. However, science accommodates new data, that is the basis of science.

23. *Is there one clear prediction of macroevolution that has proved true?
A: That is not really a valid question. There is no theory of macroevolution, just as the boundary between species much looser than you believe. Macroevolution is a term for the cumulative effect of evolution over time. That having been said, speciation has been observed many times now.

24. *What is so scientific about the idea of hydrogen as becoming human?
A: The fact that it is based on observable, falsifiable evidence.

25. *Do you honestly believe that everything came from nothing?
A: No, I just don’t claim to know what the universe (meaning the matter and energy within the universe) came from. I do tend to subscribe to the big bang theory, but I don’t know what came before. Neither do you. There is nothing I have ever seen that makes god a likely answer.

After you have answered the preceding questions, please look carefully at your answers and thoughtfully consider the following questions.
26. Are you sure your answers are reasonable, right, and scientifically provable, or do you just believe that it may have happened the way you have answered? (Do these answers reflect your religion or your science?)
A: Yes, I am sure. I have done research.

27. Do your answers show more or less faith than the person who says, “God must have designed it”?
A: Far, far less.

28. Is it possible that an unseen Creator designed this universe? If God is excluded at the beginning of the discussion by your definition of science, how could it be shown that He did create the universe if He did?
A: I do not say it is not possible, merely that there is no reason at all to assume it over any other explanation.

29. Is it wise and fair to present the theory of evolution to students as fact?
A: Yes, although they should be taught the scientific method and critical thinking skills so they can examine the evidence themselves.

30. What is the end result of a belief in evolution (lifestyle, society, attitude about others, eternal destiny, etc.)?
More people who believe the evidence, a higher level of morality (after all, are you really a moral person if you do good to avoid being punished?) and more rationality, less persecution of minorities, lower rates of disease, lower rates of crime.

31. Do people accept evolution because of the following factors?
* It is all they have been taught.
* They like the freedom from God (no moral absolutes, etc.).
* They are bound to support the theory for fear of losing their job or status or grade point average.
* They are too proud to admit they are wrong.
* Evolution is the only philosophy that can be used to justify their political agenda.
No, they accept evolution because it makes sense.

32. Should we continue to use outdated, disproved, questionable, or inconclusive evidences to support the theory of evolution because we don’t have a suitable substitute (Piltdown man, recapitulation, archaeopteryx, Lucy, Java man, Neanderthal man, horse evolution, vestigial organs, etc.)?
A: No, you should never use disproved data for any theory. The only parts of this that fall into that category are Piltdown man and Java man. Neither of those is used in the establishment of evolution at this time.

33. Should parents be allowed to require that evolution not be taught as fact in their school system unless equal time is given to other theories of origins (like divine creation)?
A: No, because those are not theories, they are stuff someone says. You need to back theories up with evidence to get them accepted. As soon as you can back up divine creation with evidence it can get time in school, of course if that happens evolution may still be the accepted theory of method… and I aint holding my breath for you folks to come up with your first ever piece of evidence.

34. What are you risking if you are wrong? As one of my debate opponents said, “Either there is a God or there is not. Both possibilities are frightening.”
A: Nothing more than you are. What if Zeus is a jealous god and he wants you to be punished forever in the pits of Tartarus for your worship of the odd Jewish carpenter zombie.

35. Why are many evolutionists afraid of the idea of creationism being presented in public schools? If we are not supposed to teach religion in schools, then why not get evolution out of the textbooks? It is just a religious worldview.
A: Evolution is not a world view at all. Teaching it in text books is reasonable because it is the answer to a question, and it is well established. Teaching religion in school is fine, but teach it in a comparative religion class (without any claims of truth). I allowed my own child to decide on his own if religion made sense. He is a more militant atheist than I am.

36. Aren’t you tired of faith in a system that cannot be true? Wouldn’t it be great to know the God who made you, and to accept His love and forgiveness?
A: So, now that we have examined the facile, moronic attempts to mischaracterize science and the theory of evolution we move into the emotional manipulation. Predictable, but very, very low. Even hypocritical.

37. Would you be interested, if I showed you from the Bible, how to have your sins forgiven and how to know for sure that you are going to Heaven? If so, call me.

No, I would not be interested in anything you have to show me from the bible.

13
Jul
09

Evolution vs. creationism

I recently ran into a post on a creationist site asking a bunch of questions of evolutionists. As usual, these questions were moronic – so I answered them. Many of them, the answer was “that has no connection to evolution”. I e-mailed my answers to the author, with the note that I would be reproducing them here. I just sent them a couple of minutes ago, so I have no answer as of yet. I just posted the questions, most of which have pre-amble, so I am linking the site as well: original post

(1) Where are the trillions of fossils of such true transitional forms?

A: Your definition of transitional form actually represents ignorance. A creature with half an arm is unlikely, a creature with a limb that function as a rudimentary leg and as a fin is likely, and such have existed. Now, the fossil record is woefully incomplete for a number of reasons (we have not dug up the entire planet just for starters) but there are many creatures that have shown up that have flattened fins for gliding, or arms with flaps of skin for the same purpose. These transitional forms are so common as to not be worth commenting on.

(2) Is this scientific evidence for creationism, or isn’t it?

A: If your first supposition was true, this still would not be evidence of creationism. It would be evidence against evolution, but since it is wrong this is nothing.

(3)Where did all the 90-plus elements come from (iron, barium, calcium, silver, nickel, neon, chlorine, etc)?

(4) How do you explain the precision in the design of the elements, with increasing numbers of electrons in orbit around the nucleus?

(5) Where did the thousands of compounds we find in the world come from: carbon dioxide, sodium chloride, calcium hydroxide, hydrochloric acid, oxalic acid, chlorophyll, sucrose, hydrogen sulfide, benzene, aluminum silicate, mercaptans, propane, silicon dioxide, boric acid, etc.?

A: Because the theory of evolution is completely unrelated to the formation of the universe. Seriously, the two are completely unconnected. I was trying to come up with a metaphor for this, and the best one I can come up with is that you might as well ask why the theory of quantum entanglement doesn’t explain why we tend to buy frothy espresso based beverages. Actually those two might be more related. The theory of evolution specifically explains the proliferation of different forms of life. It explains why there are so many forms of life and what they are like, nothing else.

(6) How did life develop from non-life?

A: Nothing to do with evolution, but there is a theory called abiogenesis that explains this. Recently scientists tried to replicate the conditions that abiogenesis posits. They developed self replicating RNA from base chemicals in a remarkably short time. Now, no scientist worth the name would claim this proves abiogenesis but it does increase the likelihood of it being true by a huge margin.

(7) Where did the human emotions, such as love, hate, and jealousy come from?

A: Read “The Selfish Gene” by Richard Dawkins. He actually does a great job explaining this, but the upshot of it is that it useful to the survival of the species.

(8) What are the odds that the evolutionary process, proceeding by random changes, would produce human beings, plus millions of species of animals, birds, fish, and insects, all with symmetrical features, i.e., one side being a mirror image of the other? We take symmetry in all these creatures for granted, but is that a reasonable outcome for a random process?

A: Evolution is not a random process, although random mutation is a piece of it. It is a rules based system that creates certain outcomes most frequently. Most of the non-symmetrical species didn’t survive to reproduce.

(9) What are the odds that of the millions of species of animals, birds, fish, and insects, a male of each species developed at the same time and in the same place as a female of the same species, so that the species could propagate?

A: 100%. Every time it didn’t happen, there was no species. Now, it happened a whole lot of times, but those creatures didn’t have descendants.

(10) Why are there 2 sexes anyhow? This is not foreordained in the evolutionary framework. Is there some sort of plan here?

A: Because that is a very efficient method of DNA transfer. However, asexual reproduction is more common on earth than sexual reproduction.

(11) If the first generation of mating species didn’t have parents, how did the mating pair get to that point anyhow? Isn’t evolution supposed to progress when an offspring of a mating pair has a beneficial mutation?

A: No, that is not the case and represents basic ignorance. Evolution occurs when a descendant of a parent (this can be through simply cell division as in the amoeba) has a mutation. When that mutation is better adapted to the environment it is likely (although not certain) to continue to future generations, who will have a survival advantage. One such mutation was the ability to have offspring who have half of the DNA from one creature, and half from another. The mechanism for this was not sexual reproduction as you understand it, but simple combination and division.

(12) How did the heart, lungs, brain, stomach, veins, blood, kidneys, etc. develop in the first animal by slow, minute steps and the animal survive while these changes were occurring?

A: By developing rudimentary forms of the final objects slowly over time. A little bit of processing of toxins is better than none, and confers a survival advantage. Same with a little bit of though, a little bit of extra energy to the extremities, etc.

(13) Why do books on evolution, including biology textbooks, always start with a fully developed animal when attempting to explain how one species developed into another species? Why don’t evolutionists first explain how the first animal developed? (An animal with a heart, lungs, brain, stomach, etc.)

A: Advanced texts don’t. You have probably only read (very) introductory texts on the subject if you think this is the case. If you ever get into more advanced books they talk at great length about how single celled life developed into multi-celled life, and all the way to mammals.

(14) What are the odds that the evolutionary process, proceeding by random changes, would produce a system in human reproduction whereby exactly 50% of offspring are male and 50% are female (based on 50% X-chromosomes and 50% Y-chromosomes)? Again is there some sort of a plan here?

A: 0%. The human race is slightly biased towards females. Having said that, environmental conditions can change the bias towards males. Other species tend other ways. Now, if the numbers weren’t reasonably close, then the human race would not exist. You are confusing cause and effect (again I might add)

(15) Where did the law of gravity come from? Did it have a beginning? Isn’t it reasonable to assume that when matter was created, the law of gravity was established at the same time to regulate matter?

A: This has nothing to do with evolution, also, it is stupid. Gravity is a property of matter. When you have matter, you have gravity.

(16) Where did this energy come from? Isn’t the only reasonable answer that it was the result of a creative act by an almighty designer/creator?

A: There is no evidence to support this, literally none. Not only is this the not the only reasonable answer, it is not a reasonable answer. That doesn’t mean it isn’t the case, but there is no reason to support this answer over any other, and it is worse than saying “I don’t know” (which is actually what science does until something better comes along)

(17) Why do evolutionists summarily dismiss the evidence from design without any serious consideration?

A: What evidence? There has never been any evidence of design submitted for consideration so it can’t be dismissed. Perhaps you need to rethink what you mean by evidence.

(18) Other than rejection of the supernatural, how else can one explain the steadfast adherence of evolutionists to this theory even though they do not know the origin of the 3 main bases of evolution: the origin of matter, the origin of energy, and the origin of life?

A: The origin of matter, the origin of energy, and the origin of life are not part of the theory of evolution and never have been. Evolution is not a panacea like religion is. It is the answer to a very, very specific question.

(19) Can you give us just one coercive proof of evolution, i.e., a proof that absolutely eliminates any other possible explanation for the origin of the universe, the material world, and human life?

No, I can’t. That is not what the theory of evolution is concerned with and anyone who did come up with such a proof would be an idiot. Also, this question is kind of stupid.

(20) Isn’t it true that rather than proofs of evolution, all that evolutionists can come up with are evidences for evolution to someone who already believes in evolution?

Science works by taking a look at the evidence, trying to figure out what could have caused it, and then testing it. If the hypothesis fails the test you modify it to match the evidence you have now gained or you abandon it (if it can’t fit the evidence). Evolution has changed somewhat over the years, as new facts have become available, and it will probably change more over time. However, the basic tenets of it have survived hundreds of years of challenge. No-one has come up with a test that destroys the basic tenets. If you think you have come up with such a test, by all means publish it. If you are right (and it is a valid test, not a piece of sophistry) then you will probably with the Nobel prize (it comes with a million dollars, so a lot of people have tried)

In conclusion, you haven’t really presented a single thing that challenges evolutionary theory, you have simply proven that you don’t have even a high school level of understanding of evolutionary theory. I suggest you do some reading before trying to challenge this incredibly well established theory. Start with “The Origins of Species” by Darwin. Move on to the works of Dawkins, as most of his early stuff was evolutionary theory designed to be understood by laymen. Howard Bloom has some interesting counter theories in “Global Brain” (to give you some idea of how science is actually a competition between ideas, with the best ones usually winning over the long term). Steven Jay Gould is another good resource, as is Christopher Hitchins (although I find him arrogant and a bit grating in interviews). No, these people don’t agree on all the fine points, but they do agree on the large points. Scientists are actually able to build entire careers off of refuting or altering the small points, and they would be much better know and rewarded if they disproved the large ones, so the argument of bias simply fails.

10
Jul
09

Oil prices are a leading indicator

A lot of people I know think I am a bit daft for my insistence on an economic doom and gloom perspective. They were more convinced of it before the credit crunch and now are starting to think so again since I am still saying that things are going to crash horribly while others are talking about green shoots and the worst being over. Of course, they are ignoring certain fundamentals. One key is my oft repeated phrase “Physics trumps economics every time”. What this means, is that in order to increase the wealth of a society, that wealth has to come from somewhere. You can create the illusion of wealth with credit, but that can only last for a little while. Credit means you can buy more DVD players and flat screen TV’s and even food, but without increasing the amount of raw materials a society has access to you haven’t really increased wealth, just an illusion of wealth.
In fact, what has happened is that the store of raw materials has pretty much hit stagnation but at the same time consumption keeps going up, meaning that there is less of everything to go around. When that happens, your economy is bound to fall apart eventually.
A little thought experiment: There is a group of people and they all smoke cigarettes. Now, that group consists of ten people, and a hundred cigarettes come in a day. For a while, they are all smoking nine cigarettes a day, then a couple of them increase the amount they smoke. Not a big deal at this point – the couple of people have only gone up to 11 cigarettes. Sure, the groups surplus is a little bit lower, but they are doing fine, steadily accumulating a surplus, and since they are rotating the surplus nothing is going bad. Now, a new guy joins the group. Now you have a hundred cigarettes a day, divided 11 ways. In a fair world each would get 9.090909091 per day. They could take the excess and store it. Now, with a couple of people taking more you have a deficit, so you have to start drawing down from the stores. At this point you could either have the couple of guys smoking 11 cigarettes cut down, or you could see your stores shrink to nothing over time, or you could have some of the people who only smoke nine cut down. Now, you add a twelfth person… things are getting bad for the stores, but no-one has cut down. Eventually, the stores are empty. Now, the guys who smoke 11 are pretty well liked, and they swear they will cut down, but they need to keep smoking 11 for now… they will cut down soon. So, they keep getting 11 and the rest of the group starts cutting down. Eventually, if you keep adding people the supply will be so low that everyone who isn’t one of the two guys who smoke 11 gets pissed off and cranky, in a constant state of withdrawl (because if they quit they are out of the group… or if you replace cigarettes with food – dead) and things start to break down, fast.
This is pretty much how things have gone with us. The west has been taking more than our fair share for decades, even as the overall pool of resources has not increased and the number of hands reaching into that pool has gotten much larger. Now, we have been buying our lifestyle on credit, basically promising that we will start dropping more into the pool later, but now people have started to figure out that there just isn’t more that can go into the pool.
The big thing that ran the pool was oil. Oil is the single most important thing in the pool, because you can decrease almost anything else in the pool in a given area, and increase the amount of oil and it balances. Once the oil starts to stagnate, you just can’t substitute the shortages any more. You need to have fertile soil or oil based fertiliser. You need to have local food production or oil to transport remote goods to your location. Interestingly, you can see that the price of oil leads the stock market. It has the same permutations, but they are exaggerated in the market as a whole (each bump in the price of oil is massively larger in the overall market). This is simple and logical given the role oil plays in our society.