Vegetarian Carnivores

One element of creationist theology that I never made my mind up about was the idea that there was no death before the fall and all animals lived in harmony together. The conclusion from this is that predator animals, like Lions, did not eat meat. Instead all animals ate the available fruit and vegetable matter. I guess that eating an apple or grass doesn’t count as death.

Would a tree being felled not have counted as death either? I have yet to see a creationist comment on vegetation dying counting as death in this context. One would guess not and so since they ignore it, I will too.

I do know that in my creationist days I did ponder about animals eating animals before the fall and how fitted in with what we read of the pre fall world. It is a challenge on which the bible says nothing. What creationists believe on the matter is inferred, something that should be done very cautiously.
Answers in Genesis has a post on subject where they confidently state that animals where vegetarians before the fall (http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/nab/origin-of-attack-defense-structures). One example this article suggests is:

chameleon tongues could have been used to reach out and grab vegetarian foods

This strikes me as a very inefficient method of getting food that literally hangs there waiting for a passing animal to pick and eat. Some fruit can also be stubbornly difficult to pull off the stalk. Sadly, like all pre fall animals behaviours, there is simply nothing that can be pointed at as evidence to inform this, or any other, suggestion. The creationist throws it out there as a possibility, maybe even a belief. It is almost as if they are challenging the faithful to contradict them.

I can’t find the post now, but on another creationist blog I read, the writer postulated that plants may have had the right nutrients that today’s carnivores didn’t need to eat meat because their dietary needs were satisfied by these plants. Quite why the animals and plant kingdoms had to change so much as a result of the fall is never properly explained.

The justification behind this idea is that Genesis says that there was no death before the fall. Yet, on another literalist blog I see that this idea is called into question (http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/2009/06/04/was-there-death-before-adam/). If creationists want to maintain that pre fall animals did not eat meat then the need to come up with something that is more substantial than a loose and questionable reading of Genesis.

This would be a great time for them to take a leaf out of the science handbook and propose a method by which this mechanism can happen and what, if any, evidence might indicate it. When that is done, the evidence can be looked for and the idea tested. Until that happens the suggestion of vegetarian lions is not and can not be taken seriously.

This is another example of how creationism is not only not scientific, it is simply interpreted guess work.

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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.

In Defence of Ken Ham

Yes, you read that right.

I’ve not yet watched the whole of the debate video on YouTube, but I have read a fair bit of commentary in the last day. Predictably, creationist sources say their man did good and science still starts with the rejection of god, while science sources are pulling apart the creationist claims as they have done for years.

One part that seems to me to have gained the greatest notoriety is the responses to the question “What would make you change your mind?”

Many have jumped on Ham’s response that he’s a Christian and so basically nothing could persuade him that is wrong. While it is fully understandable that a science mind would see that as closed minded, mocking it for what it seems misses the big picture behind that statement.

In my Christian days, I would have answered similar. To the Christian, the salvation that God provides is the whole point of life and it shapes everything. Christianity is not just a belief, it’s a lifestyle. The whole point of the Christian faith is that the effects permeate the whole of your being and shape your whole life and, through the Holy Spirit, one becomes a different person. With that level of immersion, it is simply not possible to answer a the question posed with a glib, “If someone showed me the evidence.” This is especially so if you believe that the devil is involved in misdirection and that he will tempt you with doubts and lies.

So Ken Ham’s response to that question is exactly what one should expect from someone who takes their faith seriously and wants to guard themselves from what is perceived as bad and spiritually unhealthy. Scoffing at the answer reveals a lack of willing to understand the subject.

Of course that doesn’t mean his arguments are right, they’re not. He is however being genuine and honest in his response and it shows how deeply seriously he takes his Christianity and how much it means to him.

To Ken Ham, his creationism is part of the package of his Christianity and the two can not be separated. Show him that creationism is wrong and you challenge the very core of his Christianity. That is not an easy ask and it will never happen in a single conversation or even a single piece of evidence. For me it took years, lots of evidence and it was a major head fuck.

 

But what about the Christians who don’t accept literal creation?

There are many more liberal Christians who don’t accept literal creation than there are creationists. That’s a good thing. However, ask them the question of what would cause them to change their mind about their faith and you’ll get similar answers. Accepting evolution does not change the value of their faith to them and some will simply choose not to consider that they might be wrong.

 

What question should be asked?

I think the question was too simple and was not the right one to ask. Instead I would seek to separate Christianity from a literal creation and ask a question such as, “How would it affect your Christianity if you were shown that evolution was true.”

If I had asked that question I am not sure how I would have answered but I think I would answer that it would cause be to question my faith. In the end, that’s exactly what happened.

The Validity of Debating Creationists

I’m very intrigued about tonight’s debate between Ham and Nye. The news and publicity that I am seeing about it is has been almost non-stop for the last couple of weeks. Though the mainstream media here in limeyland doesn’t appear to have picked up on it. I’m keen to see if it is reported at all tomorrow. I expect to see something in the morning news and later in the papers, I guess I’ll find out tomorrow. I’ll not be watching it live though, since it’ll be midnight here when it starts and goodness knows what time when it’s over. I expect I’ll check YouTube for videos tomorrow to see how it went. No doubt my feedly stream will be full of comment in the morning as well.

One of the hottest questions on the subject of the debate seems to be the validity of the debate rather than what the content is likely to be. The opinions here are almost as polarised as the subject itself.

I fully get the objections that vocal naysayers are raising. Debating Creationists does give undue validity to their opinions and making it this public, especially so. The Ham publicity machine has clearly been working very hard. The important point is, scientific truth is not decided by debate; it is dictated through evidence. Debating the validity of Creationism gives a platform to ideas which should have died out a long time ago and the debate format simply gives them life through the method of slippery rhetoric. Clever words do not truth make, regardless of how much the speaker believes it.

However, this does also give an opportunity for those creationists who are prepared to pay attention to the science to actually hear a science description from someone who is not trying to peddle religion off the back of it. When I look back at the science I read about in my creationist days, I can see how it was always shaped in a way that led to god. Creationists talking about science invariably frame the discussion to guide a god agenda and this is dishonest. When I read creationist comment on science now, I can see that clearly and it alarms me. Creationists who have relied on the likes of Ham and AiG to feed them these twisted versions of science now have a chance to hear it more clearly, if only they will have ears to hear.

I hope that Nye will rise to the challenge and give many creationists something serious and honest to think about and investigate. I hope he has good advisors and has had enough time to prepare because getting through to a creationist is not the same as explaining science to the secular layperson. If a scientific argument is seen as threatening to a Creationist, then it’ll be rejected. The science needs to be phrased in a way that invites (temps?) them to look deeper.

This event always springs to mind when thinking about discussions such as this: https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/when-friends-are-unkind/

 

Evolution vs God

Thanks to this link at Evolution is True (http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2013/08/11/odious-ray-comfort-movie-watch-it-below-to-be-distributed-in-public-schools/) I have been able to watch the much talked about Ray Comfort movie; Evolution vs God. I found the whole thing painful to watch and, having been a creationist for most of my life, I could see the thinking behind most of the questions, which made it all the more agonising. Odious is certainly a good word to describe it.

Elsewhere on the web I have seen the movie described as confrontational. There certainly are some confrontational elements to the questioning, but that doesn’t adequately describe the whole movie.

The movie basically takes the form of a question and answer session, with Comfort asking the same questions of several people and stitching it all together so that it forms a basic narrative. That narrative being, first challenge evolution, then imply a creator, then condemn the person and then offer salvation. It’s a basic evangelical tactic. As is usual for this form of product, there is no way for the viewer to know what was omitted and what the exact questions were that are being answered by the participants; the questioning appears to be a post edit voice over. It is clearly edited together with a specific end result in mind. Not unusual for most movies of this style really.

There are a couple of things that stood out for me.

Kinds

The creationist adherence to the word ‘kinds’ is as meaningless as it is annoying. Biologically, it has no definition and that gives Comfort infinite weasel room. At one point he asks for an observable example of one animal changing. A few examples of speciation are given. PZ Myers gives the best one, which is a fish type in a lake in Africa (http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ijeb/2012/349485/). The predictable response is ‘but they are still fish’.

Well, of course they’re still freaking fish you moron!

The fish species given in the example have changed to a different fish with different attributes and characteristics and don’t inter mate. Comfort knows this is how Evolution works and is simply pandering to something that requires such a long period of time that it is only possible for us to show the smaller step of a species changing into a different sub-species.

You’re a sinner

He asks many of the responders if they have ever lied or stolen. He then extrapolates that into making those people admit to being liars and thieves. I’d love to know if anyone turned that back on him. Getting people to admit that at some point in their life they did do something insignificantly wrong and then making that out to be a defining characteristic is a low blow tactic. Worse than that it is devious and manipulative, not something I consider fitting for someone who represents an evangelistic organisation.

Defensive Looks

At several points several of the respondents looked like they were in very defensive poses. This tells me that the questioner was taking a line that irritated them and they could see what was happening and were doing their best to keep cool. My respect to them because I found myself getting quite cross with the directions and daft logic leaps that were being displayed.

Summary

I am actually quite shocked by this movie. It is a despicable example of manipulation. I was going to say it also displays poor understanding of Evolution, but I think Comfort is more intelligent than that, I think he understand it better than he shows. He understands it well enough to frame his questions from a specific position that he knows will not give a good enough answer to satisfy his requirements and he uses that knowledge to build a straw man for easy bashing.

I have seen Ken Ham praising Comfort and this movie and frankly, having watched it, both have sunk in my estimation. It does not show the supporting Christians in a loving light.

If you must watch the movie, don’t have a drink nearby, you will end up spraying it out. Also do not watch it just before going to bed, you’ll be tossing and turning for hours trying to get the stupid out of your head.

 

Ken Ham’s Big Fat Lie

Ken Ham’s book, The Lie, is apparently 25 years old now. Somehow I’d managed to miss out this book during my creationist years and so I have not read it. A page about the book on the AiG website did make me sit up and pay attention though (http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/au/what-is-the-lie).

Leaving aside the mountain of scientific evidence that soundly refutes creationism, Ken Ham does at least have one very good point to make. That is that if you accept evolution, there is some compromise to be taken when believing the Bible. Many people have made this point over the years. Some argue that compromise and the Bible do not mix and any compromise you make when reading it effectively means you are following a flawed faith.  This was certainly a view I held for a long time and reading some of what Ken Ham writes, it would seem he has a similar perspective.

I’m not that black and white about it anymore. I do find significant difficulty matching Genesis with known Evolutionary facts and historical evidence. The Biblical narrative simply does not fit and those are the reasons for my eventual leaving Christianity.

There is a certain honesty in the literal creationist belief system. That is the uncompromising acceptance of the Biblical accounts as absolute fact. Yet this position does have its issues, especially when faced with the weight of science. It is such a shame that we now know that the early Genesis chapters are not factual events and are simply amalgamated stories. This reveals literal Biblical belief to be founded on untruth (or a Lie even).

Pauls Words

At the start of his page, Ken Ham quotes 2 Thessalonians 2:11 (And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie.) Reading that page I get the impression the whole of the AiG ministry hinges around this verse. The implication being that the lie being referred to is evolution.

Being curious about the context I read around the verse. This chapter opens with Paul talking about an apparent false teaching to the Thessalonians to do with the Lord having already come back (vs 2). This false teaching apparently came from a misunderstanding of something Paul said and he attempts to put that right in this letter. He goes on to talk about the “man of lawlessness”, which commentators seem to indicate referrers to the anti-Christ. I wondered at first if Paul was referring to the person behind the false teaching, but the next reference (vs 9) does seem to indicate the anti-Christ, or at least someone close to him.

Whatever it is Paul is referring to, he goes on to talk about end times and then makes the statement that Ken Ham quotes.

If Paul is referring to end times, the context of this quote is clearly related to that and the delusion that God sends is directly related to the lies told in relation to falsehoods spread during end times. This makes me wonder what this has to do with evolution. Unless we’re already in end times, evolution is completely out of scope here. So now Ken Ham needs to show that the prophesy and global wickedness associated with end times and all the tribulation that follows it are happening now. He also needs to show why that verse should be referring to evolution, especially difficult because nowhere in the bible is evolution or the processes that lead to it, mentioned.

There is also the not so small and highly inconvenient issue that he is accusing his god of intentionally making people believe a lie which will result in their condemnation. Actually, that issue exists even if the verse is not talking about evolution. To be honest, I’m far more interested in how a perfect god explains that than I am about the semantics of what the lie is actually referring to.

I think tying this specific verse to evolution is a blatant deception, or at least a risky strategy. Of course, having not read The Lie, it is possible I’ve jumped the gun here and he’s referring to wider end times nastiness. If that’s the case, then he still needs to show how we are in end times and that evolution is wrong, which it isn’t.

Ken Ham’s whole ministry is based on the lie of creationism. It’s a lie that fooled me for many years and it’s a lie that continues to fool many more. I’m glad I’m out from under it.

 

Questioning Evolution!

Apparently tomorrow is Charles Darwin’s birthday and there are people who choose to celebrate it as Darwin Day. Personally that doesn’t excite me. That’s not because I have anything against Darwin, quite the opposite, his contribution to science is extraordinary and his dedication over many years to meticulous and sometimes boring experiments brought significant understanding and knowledge.

I just don’t get the need elevate a single man in this way. He will forever be a science legend, there is no need to name a day for him. Its arguable that he would shun such elevation himself. His work is testament to his status and stands on its own as a timeless statue. What gets to me is that this stinks of idolatry, the worshiping of a person. I would rather see an Evolution Day or a Scientific Endeavour Day, put the focus on what it was that he achieved and how it was achieved, not the man himself because that distracts from the result of his lifelong work. It’s the geek equivalent of a pinup, it grates on me and my default response is to reject it.

Stick to the Subject!

Rant over, now the subject of this post is taken from a creationist item I’ve just read (http://biblescienceguy.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/question-evolution-day/). Its stinks of the sort of nonsense I used to believe so I figured it would be fun to put up a response to it.

Firstly, yes we should question evolution. Everything we hold dear should be questioned honestly and with integrity (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2011/07/20/there-is-nothing-to-fear-in-doubt/).

The problem here is that the poster isn’t questioning evolution, he’s denying evolution, there is a very critical difference. I denied evolution for over 20 years, it wasn’t until I questioned evolution critically and honestly that I realised what a fool I had been.

On the post are 15 questions for Evolutionists, they’re not new questions; they’ve done the rounds and been rebutted and rebutted back. As someone who has been on both sides of the line I figured I’d look at them with my own perspective and comment on each one.

1.      How did life originate just by chemistry without a Designer?

That’s not known yet and is still being worked on. As a creationist I would have loved this argument. Now I am wiser I am interested in the work being done and am hopeful that I’ll live to see a breakthrough, sadly I doubt it.

This is a classic case of creationists being critical from a distance. They point at something that’s not got an answer and then claim that scientists don’t know therefore God! This level of poor judgement is embarrassing. If creationists want to see God being invoked for this then rather than mocking from a distance they should come up with a form of experimentation that can show a result.

2.      How did the DNA code originate?

I don’t know enough about the details here to really answer and I imagine few creationists do either. What I will address here is the assertion that DNA is exactly like code. Aparently untangling what DNA does leaves those who know with the impression that it looks just like computer code and there has never been anything else that looks like code that hasn’t come from an intelligent source. Well I know computer code and I do it for a living and have done it for fun too. If DNA looks like and acts like computer code and there has never been an occurrence of code like stuff from something that’s not intelligent then surely the conclusion must be that DNA came from humans, after all its them who created computer code and nothing else has ever created computer code.

Why should this imply God?

Also, if God is so great and intelligent, why did he create DNA in a way that looks like computer code? I am sure someone so clever could come up with a better way, I find it somewhere disappointing that the best way an intelligent creator can come up with to build life is to do it in a way that looks like the product of one of his creations. There’s something crazy silly about that.

3.      How could copying errors (mutations) create 3 billion letters of DNA instructions to change a microbe into a microbiologist?

Duplication, deletion and insertion. Things that work do better. I agree it’s a mind boggling concept. Just because I don’t understand it, doesn’t make it wrong.

4.      Why is natural selection taught as ‘evolution’ as if it explains the origin of the diversity of life?

It’s not and it doesn’t. Natural selection and evolution describe the mutation of one form to another. The origin is something entirely different.

5.      How did new biochemical pathways, which involve multiple enzymes working together in sequence, originate?

This touches on the irreducible complexity argument. It’s an assumption that all the required components mutated at the same time. This needs to be demonstrated as true if it’s to be used as an argument. Mutations could have happened over time, some might have been useful elsewhere while others did nothing, a later mutation could have joined them up into another function.

6.      Living things look like they were designed, so how do evolutionists know that they were not designed?

They do? The laryngeal nerve doesn’t look designed (http://old.richarddawkins.net/videos/646660-the-laryngeal-nerve-of-the-giraffe-is-proof-of-natural-selection)  to name just one example.

7.      How did multi-cellular life originate?

Good question, I am sure the answer is being worked on by scientists who also want to know the answer. I guess it’s likely that cells clumped together and found being in a group benefitted the whole.

This is another case of Creationists jumping onto something that is not yet known and assuming that means God. How about rolling up sleeves and working on it. Remote criticism is boring.

8.      How did sex originate?

For fun?

Genetic variation is critical to a healthy population and sex seem to be the most direct and efficient way of getting the reproductive bits together. Relying on wind or insects to move the bits about, like plants do, is very wasteful.

No doubt creationists want the technical details of the how rather than a rational explanation as to why it may have happened. This is a familiar tactic to me as I used to employ it too. The technical details and the first animals to employ it may never be identified, but so what, why does the exact details matter? The creationists will always say ‘yeah but … ‘ to every answer given regardless of what the scientists come up with. This is not about being critical or asking honest questions, its about objecting to science because of a belief in god.

9.      Why are the (expected) countless millions of transitional fossils missing?

Fossils are hard to form, the vast majority of animals that die do not fossilise. Often animals are preserved to fossilise as the result of a tragedy, say a mudslide or a volcano (or yes, even a flood). Normal death in the open is not guaranteed to create a fossil due to scavengers and rot. The expectation is that there will not be all the fossils required.

The challenge is that every animal is a member of a species. We only see different species because of the present diversity. Looking back, how does one tell a transitional fossil from a species? All you would see is different species. That said, there are steps that are found which show animals with different configurations of the same bones. The conclusion of change over time is a valid conclusion from that evidence, this exactly what Darwin did when he examined the evidence. He also wasn’t the only one.

10. How do ‘living fossils’ remain unchanged over supposed hundreds of millions of years?

Animals find a niche and so there is no need to change. Understanding evolution means knowing that a species will change according to its environment, they don’t just change to the sake of it. This is another question from ignorance which attempts to create a problem where one does not exist.

11. How did blind chemistry create mind/intelligence, meaning, altruism and morality?

Living in a group requires rules to govern and benefit the group. Study groups of animals and you’ll see the same there.

12. Why is evolutionary ‘just-so’ story-telling tolerated as ‘science’?

This bugs me too. Scientists will create a story around a proposal to anthropomorphise the subject. I hate that too. It annoys me intensely. I think it is to try and make the science to bite-size for the common man.

That’s said, it is not a valid criticism of the science behind the conclusions. It’s a complaint about presentation.

13. Where are the scientific breakthroughs due to evolution?

Huh?

I don’t get what is being asked here.

14. Why is evolution, a theory about history, taught as if it is the same as operational science?

Huh?

Evolution is a scientific theory about how species develop. Claiming its history seems to be intentionally misleading in the question. I don’t get what is meant by operational science. Evolution is tested through investigation and discovery. Can’t get much more operational than that.

Gravity is a theory too you know.

15. Why is a fundamentally religious idea, a dogmatic belief system that fails to explain the evidence, taught in science classes?

This is a bullshit question. Its (not intelligently) designed to push the motion that evolution is on a par with religion in that it’s a belief system with no evidence. This ignores the fact that evolution came out of a whole butt load of scientific and investigative work and years of compiling the results to come up with ideas that explained the observed facts. Those facts have been subjected to many years of scrutiny since and continue to. If there was a way to scientifically prove evolution false, someone would have done this by now. Instead we have agreement across multiple disciplines of science.

Book Review – Creation or Evolution: Do We Have To Choose?

Cover of "Creation or Evolution: Do We Ha...

Cover via Amazon

More than a year ago I was lent this book by the pastor and I have eventually finished it (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Creation-Evolution-Do-Have-Choose/dp/1854247468). The book is held up by some as a refreshing view on the relationship between Christianity and Evolution.

I found the book mixed and ultimately disappointing, but there are some good bits in it.

On first handling the book it is clear that the intent is going to be to show how acceptance of evolution does not have to be at the expense of religious belief, specifically Christianity. This aspect interested me, given my journey, so I started the book specifically looking for how it would answer that specific challenge.

Evolution

Most of the book is devoted to explanations of various bits of evolution. By necessity they have to contain a certain amount of technical language. However, I found on the whole that the passages on evolution are lay friendly and do a good job of explaining why evolution is not only a valid theory, but an accurate description of observed fact as best we know it.

The book explains well how evolution is a naturalised process and our knowledge of it has no pre-requisite of any god. The processes we understand are fully explained and there are no missing bits that require the invocation of the supernatural.

Creationism and ID

Creationism and ID are also dealt with effectively, albeit with far fewer pages. They are accurately shown to be scientifically deficient and their need to have a god directly be involved to ‘push the process along’ is shown to be a limiting factor for which there is nothing to show.

One good point that is made in the book is the argument for beauty. Many creationists will look at the world we see now and argue that the beauty there can only have been put there directly by god. I once made precisely those arguments. The book counters by saying that the processes that made us and all we see around us are no less beautiful and they too came from god. When a creationist views the world and sees beauty and says it must come from god, they are by implication saying that the long processes that made the beauty they see can not be beautiful because they don’t believe god did it that way.

This is a dangerous way of thinking because it creates a closed mind and stops that believer from fully appreciating the glory of their god’s creation.

The book explains well why creationism and ID are not valid.

Tying Evolution and Christianity

So the big question I wanted to book to answer was, given the above, how does the author, who professes his faith at several points throughout the book, demonstrate that belief in god is consistent with evolution and, more specifically, show that there is a logical reason to hold that view. Sadly, the answer just doesn’t come.

No matter how much I wanted to see an argument for god, it just didn’t happen.

Conclusion

The book successfully argues for the science of evolution and against the god of creationism. As a result it has confirmed my position as an atheist and done nothing at all to tempt me back to faith. I suspect the author would be disappointed, but he should not be surprised.

Creationist Nonsense: Were You There?

It seems that a previous post of mine caught the eye of Ken Ham (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2012/11/18/conspiracy-against-creationism-and-ken-hams-intollerance/) and he felt the need to comment on it. I should feel honoured that one as humble as me has caught the attention of such a high profile Creationist.

One commenter on my post kindly copied Ken’s Facebook comment to my blog post, otherwise I may never have known.

Ken’s final paragraph gave me cause to chuckle:

Well this person wouldn’t like our Starting Points Room at the Creation museum now would they!! This person has no concept of the difference between historical science and observational science. Your kids will they–particularly those who were taught to ask ‘Were you There?’

The “Were you there?” question is one that I’ve known about for some time. Children are encouraged to ask prominent evolutionary scientists this question in response to their assertions about how we know certain facts. The implication behind it is that if you didn’t see it happen, how can you be so sure? I imagine that Creationist preachers taking this line can then go on to explain that we know the Bible to be accurate because its written down for us by eye witnesses to these events and so if they ask themselves the same question the answer is “no, but I know a man who was.”

This line of logic may work on children, but it doesn’t survive the critical examination of intelligent adults. So to see an intelligent adult actually using it in this way genuinely makes me sad.

The worst part of this line of reasoning is that it actually misses the point of the scientific study of evolution. I wonder if that’s intentional.

The scientific study of evolution is about the physical evidence and the corroboration of that evidence across different disciplines. People and their testimonies are neither sought nor trusted. A man might lie, rock strata, tree rings, varying fossil shapes and genetic relationship maps do not lie. These are there for people to examine and draw their conclusions from. If someone gets it wrong, there will be someone else along to spot it. When different interpretations come up, there is a healthy scientific discussion about it. People get impassioned and eventually the more accurate descriptions survive. Occasionally, when further evidence pops up, long held ideas get to be overturned.

This is good science; and it means that if your radical idea is to be accepted by anyone other than yourself, it has to survive immense scrutiny.

Asking “were you there?” is neither good science, nor intellectually sound. It’s the equivalent of sticking out your tongue, putting your thumbs in your ears and waving your fingers while blowing a raspberry. It serves no useful purpose.

The temptation is great to ask back, “were you there in the garden of Eden? Or on Mount Ararat? Or at the battle of Jericho?”. I’ve already given the hint as to what the answer will be. “I didn’t need to be, those who were there wrote it down, see.”

Poorer is the Creationist who takes that line and considers it weightier than the history we see in world around us.

Creationists like Ken Ham will mock the use of evidence taken from the physical world, calling it “observational science” and “garbage”. I wonder how much of this observational science is utilised at the creation museum. Does he only use physical evidence that the Bible specifically mentions? Surely he wouldn’t use fossils with an interpretation of his own that’s not mentioned in the Bible would he? What about a description of erosion that contradicts science but is not found in the Bible? I don’t know the certain answers to those questions, but given the creationist stance on evolution and the global flood, I think I can safely say that the Creation museum interprets observed science and uses an explanation that doesn’t match the prevailing understanding.

Dare I label this hypocrisy? I think I do!

Todd, you are asking the wrong question

I was directed to the following post (http://toddcwood.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/what-would-convince-me-part-1.html) from another creationist blog.

Being a humble limey, I know nothing of Todd Wood, but it does seem that he is a reasonably well connected creationist with a ministry and therefore there are many who follow what he says.

The comment and post that sent me Todd’s way said that he would be examining over a series of posts what would make him accept evolution. This piqued my interest and so I followed the link and was immediately disappointed.

The question that Todd is actually answering and investigating is this

 

if someone could show that evolution and Christian theology were indeed compatible, would that be enough to convince me that evolution was correct?

 

Oh how my heart fell when I read that.

Apart from the complete absence of what would constitute a satisfactory theological argument; the thing that screamed out me is that evolution is not determined by theology, but by science. One simply does not decide to believe evolution on the basis of clever philosophy. One accepts evolution due to the weight of evidence and experimental demonstration over the past 100+ years.

I think I get what Todd is trying to do though. In my creationist days I was very much of the opinion that the only right conclusion for the Christian was creation. My viewpoint was (and to a certain extent still is) that evolution creates too many problems at the root of Christian theology that the two are at least problematic roommates. In that respect I certainly sympathise with Todd’s question and can see that he at least believes he is trying to engage in an honest bit of soul searching.

The base problem with his question is that it starts from the point of view that there is a factual truth behind Christian theology. Regardless of where he goes with his answers, he will not at any point ask the question, “is it possible there is no God and no literal creation?” If anything of the kind is entertained, it will be rhetorical only and not for a second considered seriously.

This is what held me back for many years. My view of evolution was dictated by my adherence to Christianity. This is a scientifically unhealthy place to be.

Thankfully, I wasn’t so jaded that I would reject Christians who accepted evolution. In that regards I held a view that differences in opinion about evolution were not worth losing friends over.

I have added Todd’s blog to my reader and I will be interested in what posts he comes up with on the subject. I want to see where he goes with this and I want to see if there are any old and familiar misunderstandings.

Above all though, I want to see Todd face the question of what would he do if he honestly and critically, without bias, examined the evidence of evolution and used that same scientific integrity to equally question creationism.