Segmentation and Evolution (Watch this if you want to understand how evolution works.)

I’m re blogging this video because I found it clear and interesting. Its 13 minutes long and worth watching. For anyone who has studied evolution, it is unlikely to present anything new, what it does do is explain the basics of body segments in a simply and easy to understand way.

While watching it I kept asking myself the question “Does this prove evolution over creationism?” No, this video doesn’t do that, but it does show that evolution is plausible and should be seriously considered.

The obvious creationist rebuttal is that it doesn’t show that god didn’t use DNA and genes to create all animal life and their ability to adapt within a species. While that is true, I would further ask the question, why would god use a system that so clearly can be used to create multiple species from a single framework and have elements that are interchangeable between radically different species?

This is why I accept evolution as true.

Bios

This is amazing in its sublime simplicity.

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Who do you write like?

This is a little bit of fun that I thought some fellow bloggers might like to play with.

http://iwl.me/

It’s a website that analyses your content and tells you which famous writer you write like. I tried several of my posts and saved literary items that are long term “works in progress”, predictably, the results were varied but some names came up more than once.

I’ll ignore that the first two came up with Dan Brown and list you these people in whose company I am apparently now worthy, David Foster Wallace, Margaret Atwood, J. K. Rowling, Arthur Conan Doyle and Jane Austin.

As you can see, I am clearly a meandering soul with no clear sense of form or direction 😉

enjoy!

More Flood Stuff – part 2, Rocks and Fossils

 

In part 1 I whittle on about Flora and Fauna (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2014/03/24/more-flood-stuff-part-1-flora-and-fauna/)

Geology and the Flood

Moving on from animals and plants, the mechanics and timescales of the flood as described in Genesis requires some very serious geological events. The word cataclysmic hardly seems appropriate; the activity would have been utterly incredible. Creationists will argue that it was the events of the flood that created the mountains we see today and that most of the flood water came from below the ground.

Beyond that, the layers of rocks we see today and the fossils we see in them are all formed from the flood events. Did the rocks before the flood have layers?

Rock layers deposited by a global flood could be believed if they were flat. There is still an issue over how the layers are so easily defined because layers deposited at the same time would have some mixing and the change between layers would be expected to be more blended rather than distinct. Another issue to consider is that today rock layers can be curved or even vertical. Sediment does not settle in stacks or neatly along a curve, rock layers that curve or stand up, but remain uniform, will have been bent after they formed because if the sediment was loose at the time it would have been shifted off its neat and even layers. Considering uplifted rock, this can only be done very slowly over many thousands of years because if rock bends quickly it tends to crack and break, hence earthquakes. This means that non flat rock layers could not have been formed as part of a global flood and the associated mountain upheavals, unless a miracle is invoked to keep the rock intact.

This miracle requirement rather makes a mockery of the whole idea of using geologic study to confirm creationist accounts. When the miraculous is required to complete the explanation then by definition, naturally explainable actions are done away with and cannot be used.

But look at all the fossils

Creationists also point at the flood as the cause of the fossils that we see today because all the animals that died in the flood would have been buried by the subsequent sedimentary layers. This, they say, is why fossils can be found halfway up mountains and it is a better explanation than plate tectonics pushing the sea bed up and creating mountains.

The mechanisms at play here are a problem for creationists. If the creationist explanation were true, I would expect the larger heavier animals to sink faster, along with the heavier sediment and the smaller lighter animals to settle slower, like the smaller lighter sediment. I would also expect the dead animals to drop quicker than most of the sediment and so the resulting layers would show more animals at the bottom and fewer and smaller animals at the top of the sedimentary layers. This is not at all what we see in the fossil and rock layer record. The observed evidence completely contradicts the expected result.

The timing of the flood events are also out of order. The claim is that the mountains were formed at the start of the flood as part of the “waters of the deep” bursting forth and supplementing the rainfall. This would mean that the mountains were formed before the sediment had settled and buried the animals and people. Talking of which, where are the people fossils?

Looking at the fossils in more details we can see that the vast majority of fossils show species that are not alive today and fossils that exactly match species we know and love today and conspicuously rare. The answer is typically that not all the animals which survived the ark also survived to today. For the flood account to be the single source of all (or at least most) fossils then the fossils what we see ought to be representative of the animals that were saved on the ark. Therefore besides dinosaurs, we should also see dogs and rabbits. I would also expect to see a drowned city full of bodies of modern humans fossilised, including evidence of clothes in the fossil. This is an example of a prediction based on creationism that should be possible to confirm but is lacking.

How long does it take to form a fossil?

The process of creating a fossil requires significant timescale because a chemical process is required to replace minerals in the dead body with the minerals from the surrounding material. It seems this process typically requires water and pressure. (http://www.discoveringfossils.co.uk/whatisafossil.htm) these mineralisation processes occur at rates that can be measured, which is how ages can be determined. Note the following AiG article on the subject spends precious little time talking about the actual fossilisation process (http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/nab2/do-rock-record-fossils-favor-long-ages).

If fossils could be formed in just four thousand years, then scientists would be able to show that by burying an animal in the right conditions and showing that the process had started in only a few decades. This is a simple experiment that creationists can do to show the world how right they are.

Too many holes

The flood story is a very dramatic story but simply doesn’t hold water as an historical event. The bible account is vague and leaves way too much open for the readers to insert their own facts. This is what creationists do constantly and they should be honest about what they are doing and they should be even more honest about how critically they view the evidence of the world against what the bible says because none of it matches.

More Flood Stuff – part 1, Flora and Fauna

More Flood Stuff – part 1, Flora and Fauna

In my researching for my last flood post (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2014/03/06/animal-evolution-post-flood/) I found much more that I wanted to comment on and so left the bits that were not specific to animal evolution for another post.

The more I look at creationist claims, the more I see a dependence on the flood story. The flood account is crucial to the creationist because of the evolutionary argument and how it dictates global geology. Every discussion on the age of the world and animal evolution will at some point include the story of Noah, his ark and the flood that saved them. As such, the flood account is of huge importance to the creationist and so it shouldn’t be surprising that there are a lot of words dedicated to the subject.

With that out of the way, let’s hit the myth some more.

Oh look a dinosaur

AiG takes a stab at the dinosaur issue (http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/nab/what-happened-to-the-dinosaurs) and brushes off their fate as little more than ‘oh dear they, they failed to survivce’. Of all the different species of dinosaur, are we supposed to simply accept that not one managed to live long enough after the flood to be described by later generations? The AiG article criticises scientists for being curious over their fate and for admitting that we don’t yet know the full story and for continuing to try to solve those mysteries. To AiG its simple, they existed but they don’t now and that’s because the world is sinful and man isn’t perfect so those the flood didn’t kill died anyway. Who needs curiosity when there is a simple answer? I’m guessing lions, crocodiles and eagles were luckier in the lottery of God’s judgement.

I find the AiG explanation both dismissive and depressing. Are they not at all curious over where the post flood dinosaurs went and how they died out?

It is precisely because of suggestions like that, that secular scientists point at creationists and accuse them of not doing any science. Those accusations are justified because all AiG does is critique scientific results and frame their objections in a creationist tone. In the AiG article I have linked to above, there is actually no scientific study, just conjecture, objection and bible references.

Oh the Plants, what of the plants

Recently there has been a lot of rainfall in my part of the UK; rainfall to such a level that many farms in the area have been underwater for 2 months or more. Near my house there is some open land that was underwater for months last winter and then again this winter. As I write this the standing water has almost all gone and some areas are now dry enough to walk on again. There are patches of rotten grass and shrubs. Plants do not do well when underwater for months at a time.

The idea that, after a year under a global sea, trees would be able to blossom again to the point a bird could take a leafy branch only weeks after being exposed to air again is simply impossible. For that to work the tree could have only been fully submerged for a few weeks, certainly not months. A tree submerged for that period of time would have died and been unable to grow again. This is the same for pretty much all plants. The land near me will survive and grass and shrubs will grow again quickly, that’s because there are plants close by which have not been submerged and, being spring, there will be seeds and pollen in the air to take up the place of the dead plants. Also, the water on this land is fresh, not salty. A global ocean would still be a salty ocean and that is even more devastating to submerged plants.

If we take the flood story at face value and assume that the earth was fully flooded at the end of the 40 days of rain and then it slowly began to drain away, then the draining needed to happen rapidly for the world to not be utterly devoid of useable vegetation. However, many creationists accept that the ark would have been afloat for about a year. This means that in order for high up vegetation to survive, the water would have had to keep rising after the rain stopped in order for the submerged time to be drastically reduced. This requires interpretation of the events because there is not enough detail in the story to know for sure. AiG are shameless in their adding of detail where it suits them (http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/aid/v7/n1/how-did-plants-survive-flood). You will see in the article that they confidently state that plants must have had built in survival mechanisms, more incredulously they roll out the tautology that of course plants survived because we see plants today. Neither of these are satisfactory explanations.

To address the salt water issue, the AiG article above posits that the seas were less salty at the time of the flood and became more salty post flood. I’m not sure if they also mean they were less salty before the flood. This might have had an effect on the ability of plants to survive a prolonged period underwater, but the period of time is still far too long, even for fresh water. As already stated, plants today don’t last more than a few weeks under water.

Have they since evolved to become less tolerant of being submerged?

The other problem for the salinity argument is that today we see fish that live in salty water and fish that live in fresh water. Both types can be sensitive to changes in the levels of salinity which means the mildly salty water of the global flood would have killed both types of fish. Presumably those fish have evolved since the flood and are now less able to live in water with those salinity levels and require either fresh water or more salty water.

The arguments for the flood are deeply flawed and simply do not hold together either logically or scientifically.

Stand by for part 2, geology and fossils.

Series Review – The Bible

This week, I watched the TV series The Bible (http://www.channel5.com/shows/the-bible) which was aired in the UK some months ago. To be honest, I am not at all sure what I was supposed to get from it because my overwhelming feeling, having gone through all 8-ish hours in 5 nights is, to shrug my shoulders and say “meh”.

Halfway through my wife (the good Mrs Limey is still a Christian) was ready to give up on it for the same reasons, but it was me who said I would carry on, and so she continued to watch it with me.

The series opens with the Ark afloat and Noah telling the story of creation, and then it romps through the old testament at quite a lick and hits the birth of Jesus at the mid-point. From that point on its basically the story of Jesus’ life with a conversion of Paul and John’s imprisonment thrown in in the final minutes. One could say far more about what was left out and there were many times when my wife and I would comment on how another skip had been made and such and such an event had been left out.

To be fair, it is impossible to do a series called The Bible that is less than ten hours and cover all the important or critical parts. You could double the length of the Series and I would probably still say “they left some crucial bits out”.

There were also quite a few blatant changes to the biblical text, several I thought odd, but in the context of artistic license., I didn’t think any were unforgiveable. The problem here is that when you show a program like this, people who know the source will notice little things and criticise as a result. Noticing things like that distracts the viewer from the drama and so I would say that the places where drama has been added at the cost of accuracy, distracted me from the story and since I was struggling to stay engaged anyway, it made those issues far worse. If I was riveted to the narrative, I dare say that many of the changes would not have irked so much, or maybe even not been noticed.

The biggest issue for me, and my wife feels the same, is that the series didn’t feel strung together. When the bible is laid out like that in drama form it gets revealed to be a hotch-potch of stories and events and not much of a thread holding it all together. There is a narrator to the program, who did his best to serve the purpose of joining the fragments. Where there was an arc of story, it was when it featured the nation of Israel and their battles with their neighbours. That gets spoilt when Jesus is born because then it all becomes about him and less about the nation. This could be a symptom of rushing through the bible or it could just be that the bible doesn’t hang together as a narrative anyway, in which case, to do a series on the bible a more radical approach needs to be taken.

In summary, nothing worth shouting about, certainly not worth spending money on, I really don’t see what joy a Christian would get from it and I certainly don’t see how it could an effective evangelistic tool.

Happy to hear other thoughts, especially if you disagree with me 🙂

 

Animal Evolution Post Flood

 

I have previously commented on the flood story and how it featured in my deconversion process (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/08/04/noah%E2%80%99s-ark-gilgamesh-or-just-a-story/).

However, a recent exchange on Bruce’s blog has prompted me to comment on the curious case of animal evolution post flood (http://brucegerencser.net/2014/02/creationism-atheism-science-trumps-biblical-literalism/). The original post on Bruce’s blog is my own guest post which he kindly put up for me, and part the conversation that followed centred on what happened to the animals after the flood. This is what I want to specifically comment on now.

Too Many Animals

The most obvious criticism of the ark story is the sheer number of different animals we see about us today. An ark of the dimensions described in Genesis simply could not hold a pair of every animal species alive today. In addition to that there are those that have gone extinct, both recently and those we see in the fossil record. There are also unknown animal species for which there is no record that we know of. Then there are some species of animal for which more than one pair is required, according to the Genesis account.

On top all those animals being squashed into the ark, there is the delicate matter of food, water and waste. All those animals needed to eat and drink and defecate. Many of them would have been carnivores and so animals as food would have been needed to be brought on to the ark, as well as food for the food animals.

The Genesis flood account does not give an indication in advance of how long the flood was to last. In fact the preparation details are quite vague. The dimensions for the ark are given but nothing about how many decks, how much open air space how far up the side the door should be, how to manage storage and other practicalities. The door shutting account though does imply that once the rain started, there was no going outside until the ark was grounded. That’s a long time to be cooped up indoors.

Talking of time, about one year is the generally accepted length of time that the ark was afloat. I am surprised I haven’t seen a claim for a miraculous draining, in the same way that there is a miraculous claim for the water appearing. Such a claim would allow the time in the ark to be reduced and therefore many of the storage issues countered.

One year cooped up with not much of an outside view and a whole load of animals is a serious challenge. Who’d want to be a vet in those circumstances? Noah and his extended family would have had to work full time feeding and cleaning the animals and attending to any other needs. Would they have been able to get round all the animals needs each and every day? Personally, I doubt that very much.

I wonder how many generations of fruit flies they had to nurture during the voyage, and who was the poor soul who had to carry the tape worms?

The number and variety of animals to care for is simply too great for a boat that size. Even if we ignore the arguments over dinosaurs being on the ark and just stick to animals that are alive today, the ark simply is not big enough to hold a representative pair of every animal.

Kinds vs Species

The most obvious creationist rebuttal to this is that animals in the ark were split into kinds, not species. Kinds are typically described as a family type that includes multiple related species. The most obvious example would be a pair of wolves, from which all dogs have descended. I wonder if creationists will would include foxes and jackals in that group, which would have been the pair on the ark? This can only work if all species families break down that easily. The argument might work for dogs or cats; but what about Elephants, Giraffes Rhinoceros, Hippopotamus and numerous other animals which are very distinct and don’t easily fit into this creationist model? In fact, the kinds argument is so vague that is simply not enough detail in it for there to be any scientific test. It is hardly surprising then that this language is solely used by creationists and there is no biologist that actually recognises it as fitting within the species hierarchy.

If this creationist suggestion were true, there would be a prediction we could make from it that could be tested. For example; if all species alive today were descended from representative kinds that were on the ark, then we should be able to break animal species into groups that match those kinds and DNA evidence would show a familial link. These species groups would show distinct DNA similarities within the groups and distinct differences between groups and when mapped into a tree there would be multiple roots and evidence leading back to the ark resident pair.

However, this is not what we see. DNA evidence shows that all species are related, to varying degrees, and that the tree has multiple branches and there is no single bottle neck to which multiple strands lead. The creationist prediction fails.

Evolution or not evolution?

The craziest irony about the creationist kinds into species suggestion is that it flies in the face of the creationist belief that evolution has not occurred and that all species were created during creation week. The idea that all living creatures alive today have evolved from previous forms is denied by creationists. They simply do not accept that along the way separated groups of one species have each evolved into different and separate species. Yet, in order to get from a parent kind to multiple descendent species it is precisely this form of evolution that is required and suggested.

No doubt the creationist will object to that and claim it’s not the really same thing and probably roll out the standard micro / macro defence; a defence that I used many times myself in the past. The trouble with this argument is that minor changes across generations are all we ever see. Major changes never happen, they only become apparent after many generations and many minor changes. The creationist objection simply doesn’t follow for another reason, that is that to get from a parent kind into multiple child species, there needs to be a speciation event, something that creationists continue to deny ever happens, yet to get multiple species from a single pair this is exactly what is required.

Creationists who argue that animal kinds came off the ark and became the many species we see today need to ask themselves, what animals it was that came off the ark what processes changed one pair of animals into multiple different species. Species that will be visually and genetically different today to their ark bound brethren. They also need to ask themselves what animals actually went onto the ark, would we be able to recognise them if we saw them today if the kinds into species argument is correct?

On top of all that, the creationist then has to explain how those changes happened in only a few thousand years, there are simply not enough generations to produce the species variety we see today.