Saturday, 8 December 2018

Why defending original sin in the light of evolution is untenable - a former Christian shows why

One common theme in deconversion stories is the loss of faith when the former believer discovered that contrary to what their faith community had dogmatically asserted, the evidence for evolution was in fact overwhelming. Unfortunately, one of the biggest reasons behind the perception that evolution and Christianity are utterly incompatible is the doctrine of Original Sin, in both its Reformed and Catholic forms. The fundamental problem here is of course the fact Original Sin requires every single human being to be exclusively descended from two people in order for the physical change in human nature that adherents of Original Sin believe happened as a result of Adam's sin to be genetically transmitted to the entire human race. Given what we know of the origins of the human race, this is of course impossible as the size of the human population has never been lower than a few thousand people, while humans and chimpanzees share a common ancestor that lived around six million years ago. Original Sin demands a view of human origins that cannot be reconciled with hard facts.

In a recent article [1] at the Recovering from Religion blog Ex-Communications, Suze Ambs writes on how discovering the truth about evolution helped erode her faith. While she states that there were many reasons for her deconversion, in this article she points out how the scientific evidence for human evolution was the "nail in the coffin" for her belief because it directly undermined Original Sin and the atonement theory based on it. Ambs' observation is hardly isolated, with other ex-Christians also pointing out how evolution destroys the anthropology of Original Sin and any atonement theory based on it. As such, it is worth looking at her article in some detail, if only to show just how dangerous to faith evolution denialism and Original Sin are.

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Flat Earth Creationists and Firmament Denialism - Why flat earthers are the only truly consistent biblical literalists.

Flat earthers it seems are everywhere at the moment. A movement that one would imagine would have not survived the launch of space probes has not only managed to survive but thrive. One thing that many overlook however is that most flat earthers are united by their adherence to Biblical literalism. For them, the literal word of the Bible is the ultimate authority, and they are convinced that a literal reading of the Bible teaches a flat earth covered by a solid firmament. One may regard their denial of the last 2500 years of science as beyond insane, but they at least deserve credit for being consistent in their literalism. Conventional YECs and even geocentrists, both of whom also claim to take the literal word of the Bible as their ultimate authority in reality reject a literal reading of the Bible when it conflicts with their belief in a spherical Earth, leaving them rightly open to the charge of selective literalism.

Friday, 26 October 2018

Evolutionary creationism is consistent with scripture in the same way that all science is consistent with scripture

"How is evolutionary creationism consistent with the Bible?" is a question one hears from people who accept the fact of evolution, but wonder how the Biblical statements on creation can be harmonised with the modern scientific understanding on how the diversity of life appeared on this planet over its 4600 million year history. The short answer is that the Bible teaches who created the universe, not how. To that one can add that it is vital to grasp the concept of Divine agency where something is ultimately attributed to God, even though the actual nuts and bolts of how it was achieved can be explained by a secondary process. Finally, it is important to understand that God accommodates pre-modern views on the nature of the universe, rather than try to teach a scientifically accurate (by modern standards) view which would have been incomprehensible to a pre-scientific audience. Ultimately, there is no need to ask how to harmonise any aspect of science with the Bible as that is immaterial to its main purpose.

Monday, 24 September 2018

No, the Bible was not "Ahead of Science" - Debunking a tired creationist meme

Recently, a creationist meme attempting to show that the Bible has always been ahead of science by comparing "Science Then" and "Science Now" with selected statements from the Bible has been circulating around the more fundamentalist parts of the internet.

This meme is a actually a stripped-down and modified version of a meme that has been circulating for at least five years now:

It is frankly depressing that something this risible is taken seriously by a large number of Christians. Just the lack of references for any of the "Science Then" claims should be enough to destroy the credibility of this meme as there is absolutely no way to verify these references. However, despite a number of debunkings, [1-2] fundamentalists still persist in sharing the meme. That past debunkings have not been able to put this ridiculous meme out of its misery suggests that yet another one is hardly likely to be successful, but given that this meme is circulating in our community and 'in-house' debunkings are slightly more likely to be successful, there is some justification in spending time putting this meme once again to the sword.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Hybrid Hominins! An individual with a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father

A letter [1] published 22nd August 2018 in Nature reports on the discovery of a bone fragment from a young female hominin whose mother was Neanderthal and whose father was Denisovan. That hybridisation between hominin species occurred in the past is no longer in question, but this discovery provides evidence of a first-generation cross between two different hominins, something which in itself is remarkable. Studies like this are no longer necessary to falsify creationist assertions about human origins as the evidence against universal human descent from two people living six thousand years ago is overwhelming, but to have evidence of a first-generation cross between two different hominin groups further underscores how human origins is far more amazing and complicated than the special creationist can imagine.

Monday, 13 August 2018

A flat Earth? That's what a literal reading of the Bible reflects...

One common strategy fundamentalists employ is an appeal to a literal reading of the first creation narrative to prove that the universe was really created in six literal consecutive days. [1] Of course, as we've known for quite some time, the universe is nearly 14 billion years old, the Earth is 4.6 billion years old, and the sequence in which life appeared on Earth contradicts the sequence in Genesis 1, so a literal reading is falsified by hard evidence.

Fundamentalists however are determined not to let something as trivial as hard facts get in the way of a literal interpretation of the Bible elevated to the status of dogma, so the usual response is to retreat to hard fideism, and simply ignore the facts. Science is after all merely the 'wisdom of men' and can routinely be ignored when inconvenient. Where things become problematic for the YEC literalist is that they are almost always [2] believers in a spherical earth and a heliocentric cosmology. As has been stated many times, a truly consistent reading of the Biblical references to the nature of the universe would require the fundamentalist to believe in a flat, fixed earth. I have yet to encounter a YEC who is able to defend heliocentrism and a spherical Earth purely from the Bible, which of course means the non-flat earth, non-geocentrist YEC is placing science above the literal word of the Bible. [3]

Sunday, 8 July 2018

The genetic scars of our insect-eating, egg-laying past - the powerful genomic evidence of common descent

The earliest mammals are believed to have been insect-eaters, which means that they would have had the genes for chitinase, an enzyme that digests chitin, the polysaccharide which is the main component of insect exoskeletons. Given this, common descent would predict that non-insectivorous mammals, which no longer need to digest chitin, would no longer have functioning chitinase genes, but instead have chitinase pseudogenes as inherited remnants of their insect-eating past.

Recently, Christopher Emerling, Frédéric Delsuc, and Michael Nachman published a paper in Science Advances in which they showed that in all the carnivorous and herbivorous animals whose genomes they examined, they found not only chitinase pseudogenes, but in animals previously known to share common ancestry, they found exactly the same mutations in some of the chitinase pseudogenes.

Regular readers of the website will be well-aware of the power of this argument; shared identical genomic 'errors', be they pseudogenes, endogenous retroviral elements, or retrotransposons are some of the strongest lines of evidence confirming common descent. Just as shared identical sections in exam papers confirm copying and cheating in students (identical independent errors are of course so unlikely an explanation as to be readily dismissed out of hand), so do shared identical genetic errors confirm the inheritance of a 'broken' genomic elements from a common ancestor of the species examined.

Similar evidence can be found from examples such as broken egg yolk protein genes in placental mammals, broken olfactory receptors in aquatic mammals such as whales, broken tooth-enamel genes in toothless animals, and the broken vitamin C synthesising gene GULO in humans and primates. These previously-mentioned examples made the case for common long ago, but papers such as this are invaluable if only to show the power of evolutionary theory in its ability to make predictions, and explain facts.