Monday, 30 December 2013

When in doubt, shoot the messenger.

Special creationists are notorious for dismissing evidence that argues against their position. Some atheists it seems do the same. John Bedson has attempted a rebuttal of my previous article on the malign influence of sex in the media.
Ken has produced no evidence that "exposure to a sexualised media can influence behaviour in a way that may lead to adverse sexual health outcomes." All he's done is to quote the opinions of others. That is not "Evidence." 
Hmm. I wonder how he would respond to a YEC who argued
John has produced no evidence that "shared identical retroviral elements at identical points in human and ape genomes prove common descent" All he's done is to quote the opinions of others. That is not "Evidence." 
One cannot help but see here the frustration of the atheist when confronted with professional peer reviewed scholarly consensus against his position. He's happy when the literature supports evolution, but when it contradicts his personal opinions? Well, that's another story. 

Sunday, 29 December 2013

A hyper-sexualised media is bad news for women. (Looks like Christians were right after all)

One of the reasons identified by the Barna Group as being responsible for nearly 60% of young people aged 15 years and over leaving Christianity either permanently or for an extended period of time was their belief that the church had a simplistic and judgmental approach to sexuality:
"With unfettered access to digital pornography and immersed in a culture that values hyper-sexuality over wholeness, teen and twentysometing Christians are struggling with how to live meaningful lives in terms of sex and sexuality. One of the significant tensions for many young believers is how to live up to the church's expectations of chastity and sexual purity in this culture, especially as the age of first marriage is now commonly delayed to the late twenties. Research indicates that most young Christians are as sexually active as their non-Christian peers, even though they are more conservative in their attitudes about sexuality. One-sixth of young Christians (17%) said they “have made mistakes and feel judged in church because of them.” The issue of sexuality is particularly salient among 18- to 29-year-old Catholics, among whom two out of five (40%) said the church’s “teachings on sexuality and birth control are out of date.”[1]
There is no doubt that simply badgering young people about the evils of a hyper-sexualised media and the need to avoid premarital and extramarital sex with little more than a series of ‘thou shalt nots’ isn’t going to work. What we need to do is show them that the much-derided traditional Christian approach actually has evidence on its side.

ECACP broadens its scope

While this blog's main purpose is to show that Christadelphian theology is not affected by evolutionary biology, it has at times touched on subjects of a broader apologetic focus. What has been a one-off event will become a regular feature of the blog as it expands its focus. The blog will still however continue to look at evolution, both in criticising poor Christadelphian attacks on evolution, and in examining Christadelphian theology in the light of evolution.

Creative Commons licensing returns to ECACP

The main reason behind my change in policy on the use of original material on this website was to disabuse any Christadelphian reader of the belief that the appearance of my material elsewhere implied that I endorsed the aims of the website on which it was republished. While most people would take this as a given, in the atmosphere of hysteria that some anti-evolutionists are creating in our community, one can assume nothing.

I have noted that ex-Christadelphian John Bedson has made explicit this fact:

A Christadelphian has accused Ken Gilmore of co-operating with us.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Although we enthusiastically agree with Ken's ideas on Evolution and the age of the Earth; he most certainly DOES NOT co-operate with us.

We reproduced his articles because they were covered by an open licence that allowed anyone to take them without needing permission.
I value the free exchange of information, and having to take new material on this site off a Creative Commons Licence was personally quite difficult. Thankfully, this public declaration by John Bedson should have demonstrated to even the most extreme anti-evolutionist in our community that John Bedson's aims are fundamentally different from mine. He aims to encourage young people to leave our community, while my aim is to show that evolution  has zero impact on Christadelphian theology.

Therefore, I am able to return to my original Creative Commons licence. Once again, appearance of my material on any other site does not imply my endorsement of those aims, nor is it a marker of cooperation with anyone else.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Change in terms of use of material on this blog

Posts up to and including December 25th 2013 were licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. From December 26th 2013, those wishing to reproduce in whole any posts will need written permission from the maintainer of this blog. I trust this change will be respected.

Friday, 20 December 2013

A critical response to Nigel Bernard's Dec 2013 response to criticism of his Nov 2013 article

Nigel Bernard, co-author of the YEC cover article in the Nov 2013 issue of The Christadelphian elected not to employ Don Pearce’s ill-fated strategy of trying to attack the science behind radiometric dating. Instead, he elected to criticise those who appealed to the early Christadelphian acceptance of an old earth for not recognising that Thomas’ view of geology differed from modern geology: 
Your correspondents invoke the views of Brother Thomas concerning the age of the earth, but Brother Thomas’s views differ markedly from traditional geology.[1] 
Bernard’s argument fails because he fails to recognise that contemporary Christadelphians raise the old earth creationist views of Thomas, Roberts, and Walker not because they represent a completely accurate account of natural history, but because they recognised that the evidence for an ancient earth, even in the 19th and early 20th centuries was overwhelming. Furthermore, they recognised that the best place to find accurate information on the natural history of Earth was from science: 

“Fragments, however, of the wreck of this pre-Adameral world have been brought to light by geological research, to the records of which we refer the reader, for a detailed account of its discoveries, with this remark, that its organic remains, coal fields, and strata, belong to the ages before the formation of man, rather than to the era of the creation, or the Noachic flood.” (Emphasis mine)[2]

Monday, 16 December 2013

"20 scientific facts seldom taught to students" critically reviewed #10 "There is no evidence for the evolution of multicellularity"

Collyer’s tenth claim was that “while single-celled creatures are numerous, there are none with two, three, four, or even twenty cells. Thus there is no evolutionary sequence from single-celled to multi-celled creatures.”

In short, we have:

  • Argument from personal incredulity
  • Ignorance of the fact thatone would not reasonably expect tiny, soft-bodied multicellular life to be found in the fossil record. (We do have some evidence however which allows us to make some inferences)
  • Failure to acknowledge that single celled animals can be induced to form multicellular forms of life in the laboratory.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

A critical response to Don Pearce's Dec 2013 response to criticism of his Nov 2013 article - 3

My second post examining Don Pearce’s response to critics of the November 2013 article in The Christadelphian which used the island of Surtsey to advance YEC views detailed the intellectual poverty of his arguments against an old Earth, and showed that like too many YECs, he is incapable of separating an ancient Earth from evolution.

Even more frustrating however than the sight of yet another scientifically uninformed Christadelphian writer trying to rebut an ancient Earth was the advancement of the view that Adam’s sin introduced physical death into the entire world. Not only is this view flatly ruled out by a fossil record of death stretching back billions of years into the past, it runs counter both to a careful analysis of the Bible, and to a strong Christadelphian exegetical tradition on this subject.

The real tragedy of Pearce’s views is that he is inadvertently sowing the seeds of unbelief by linking an orthodox Christadelphian faith with rejection of the fact of an ancient, evolving earth. Too many young people – contrary to Pearce’s allegations – lose their faith once they realise that the evidence for evolution and an old earth are beyond dispute. While I certainly do not advocate preaching evolution from the platform, any more than I would preach biochemistry, astrophysics, general relativity or any other science, actively preaching flood geology, young earth creationism and other pseudoscientific views is something I sincerely hope stops, before it does any more harm to our credibility.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

"20 scientific facts seldom taught to students" critically reviewed #9 "Sophisticated animal equipment cannot evolve"

John Collyer’s ninth point was his assertion that “Many animals possess sophisticated equipment that science has been unable to replicate: the radar system of bats, the sonar of whales and dolphins, the electro-detection system of the platypus, the aerodynamics of hummingbirds, the navigation systems of many birds, and the amazing self-repair system of most forms of life. Such sophisticated facilities required a superintelligence to install.”

Yet again, we have:
  • An argument from personal incredulity
  • God of the gaps reasoning
  • A failure to recognise that evolutionary algorithms are being used by engineers to evolve solutions to complex problems that are far more efficient than those created by humans. Random mutation and natural selection have been shown to be able to design complex structures.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

A critical response to Don Pearce's Dec 2013 response to criticism of his Nov 2013 article - 2

My first post examining Don Pearce’s response pointed out mistakes such as his conflation of evolution with an ancient Earth, his use of the argument increasingly common among YECs that viewpoints colour interpretation of evidence, his failure to justify the literal hermeneutic he used to interpret Genesis, as well as the lack of any attempt to examine the creation narratives in light of their ancient Near Eastern background. This alone is enough to undermine his credibility on this subject.

The second half of Pearce’s response included a frankly pathetic attempt to rebut the evidence for an old earth which consisted simply of long-rebutted special creationist talking points, an assertion made without any supporting evidence that the “assumptions on which long ages are built are being constantly challenged by more recent findings which throw strong doubts on their validity” and ended by making the claim common to evangelical Christians that God’s plan of redemption becomes meaningless if physical death predated Adam. Pearce’s response serves to show just how deep-rooted YEC idiocy has become in parts of our community.

Monday, 9 December 2013

A critical response to Don Pearce's Dec 2013 response to criticism of his Nov 2013 article - 1

The December 2013 edition of The Christadelphian included not only a number of letters critical of Don Pearce and Nigel Bernard’s appalling YEC article, but defences from both authors. Predictably, these responses were less than convincing, and indicated the depth of scientific illiteracy of the authors. Over the next few posts, I will show why these defences are scientifically and theologically flawed.

Don Pearce opened with a variant on the presuppositional argument that YEC groups such as AiG are increasingly using; it’s not about the evidence but how one examines the evidence:

One’s viewpoint colours one’s interpretation of the evidence presented. Obviously those who believe in evolution look for long ages, as evolution necessitates this. Those whose viewpoint is to accept the literality of the Genesis account, interpret the evidence within that framework. Both viewpoints demand faith.[1]

Pearce simply assumes without justification that the correct view is a literal view. Such a view however causes far more problems than it solves:

  • It forces Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 into conflict as the sequence of creation events differs between both
  • It forces the believer into a needless, pointless conflict with hard evidence from the physical and natural sciences
 The literal reading that Pearce advocates simply assumes that the creation narratives were intended to be read as written, but this makes the unwarranted assumption that the ancient Israelites were interested in material accounts of creation. As C.C. Walker observed:

Moses’ testimony is not so “plain” that it cannot be misinterpreted or misunderstood…Moses’ testimony was given to Israel in what might be called the infancy of the world, when men did not know the extent of the earth, let alone that of the sun, moon, and stars. And, as we believe, it was given (by God through Moses), not so much to instruct Israel in cosmogony in detail, as to impress upon them the idea that The Most High God is the Possessor of Heaven and Earth (Gen. 14:22). And this against the claims of the gods of the nations, as was abundantly proved in Israel’s history. [2]

Terms of use of material on this blog

All of my posts are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 3.0 Unported licence, which means provided that material is attributed to Evolutionary Creationism: A Christadelphian Perspective and you don't try to make money from it, you can reproduce it without permission. However, use of my material does not mean endorsement by me of anything else on the site where my articles appear, or approval of the aims of the website on which my posts appear.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

"20 scientific facts seldom taught to students" critically reviewed #8 The evolution of the brain

Collyer’s 8th ‘fact’ is the claim that “each human brain contains about one hundred thousand billion electrical connections (more than can be found in all the world's electrical appliances), a complexity that could not possibly have been produced by chance.” Once again, his ‘fact’ is yet another reflection of his ignorance of practically every facet of the subjects on which he comments:

  • Yet again it is an argument from personal incredulity
  • It shows a considerable ignorance of neurophysiology and neuroscience as these synaptic connections are not ‘programmed’ into the genome, as there are not enough genes in the human genome to specify the formation of the brain down to the last synapse. Synapse formation in fact is being modelled in a Darwinian manner by some neuroscientists.
  • More broadly, Collyer once again forgets that scientists do not believe that complex structures evolved in one step, but did so incrementally over millions of years. Comparative neuroanatomy shows a plausible sequence of simpler brains leading up to the human brain.

Young Earth Creationism in the November 2013 edition of The Christadelphian

I’ve already commented on how The Testimony has sunk to a new low with the publication in the November 2013 edition of an anti-evolution article that employed the intellectually and morally dishonest practice of quote mining in its attacks on evolutionary biology. Unfortunately, our flagship magazine The Christadelphian has also badly tarnished its reputation with its November 2013 cover article which claimed that the rapid appearance of mature-looking geological formations on the island of Surtsey provides evidence that the Earth could be young.

While our community has always rejected evolution, it has however traditionally rejected flood geology and young earth creationism, regarding the evidence for an ancient Earth as compelling. Robert Roberts, the first editor of The Christadelphian recognised that:
It is a demonstrable fact that the earth has existed for ages. To adopt a view that appears to make it begin only 6,000 years ago would create a difficulty. There is no need for adopting such a view.[1]
while his successor C.C. Walker acknowledged that:
The conclusions of geology, and the undoubted existence of fossil remains of incalculable antiquity are quite in harmony with this view, whereas the view that the earth itself was created some 6,000 years ago is hopelessly irreconcilable with facts.[2]
Over a century has passed since then, and the evidence for an ancient Earth which was regarded as compelling then has become unassailable.[3] Just the remarkable agreement between the relative ages of geological strata and the absolute ages as given by radiometric dating alone falsifies the assertion that the Earth is young.  Given this, the decision by current editor Andrew Bramhill not only to publish an article endorsing pseudoscience, but to give it cover status is reckless at best.