Friday, 25 December 2015

Why Biologos and similar organisations matter in helping people understand faith in the light of science

I make no secret of my admiration for the Biologos Foundation given its incalculable value in providing Christians with informed, reliable information from respected scholars in both Biblical studies and the life, earth, and physical sciences. Given how YEC is often a stepping stone to unbelief for Christians who unfortunately buy into the false dilemma of evolution OR faith, and lose the latter when they read outside the fundamentalist bubble and recognise the truth of the former, organisations such as Biologos are of vital importance in helping show that evolution is simply the mechanism by which God creates. By doing this, they defuse the destructive "evolution or creation" argument, and reframe the argument into evolution and creation.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

The Twelve Days of Evolution: an excellent series of videos on the evidence for evolution

Evolutionary biologist and science educator Joe Hanson, the person behind the website / YouTube show It's Okay To Be Smart is currently running a twelve part series "The Twelve Days of Evolution" in which he outlines the evidence for evolution and shows how evolutionary biology allows us to understand our natural world. Currently, he is up to day eight. As each episode is released, I will be updating it here. Definitely one to share with those who are time-poor or on the run.

Monday, 21 December 2015

The Open Tree of Life - an interactive way to explore common descent.

The fact of common descent, which shows that all life today has descended from a common ancestral source via a process of descent with modification is arguably one of the greatest discoveries in science. It has considerable explanatory and predictive power, explaining things ranging from the biogeographic distribution of species across space and time to the anatomical quirks of the human body. Sadly, it is also one of the most controverted and misunderstood facts, due largely to organised special creationist opposition to deceive and mislead.

An evolutionary tree of life is best understood intuitively by illustration, which is why the interactive Open Tree of Life is such a brilliant educational concept, showing graphically just how life on earth fits together in one massive interrelated network.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

The Christadelphian magazine and evolution. Part 6g - Andrew Bramhill

7. Fideism and its threat to our community

Of particular concern are his closing paragraphs that evince both fideism and a naked anti-intellectualism and contempt for science, both of which are markedly at odds with the studied respect for scholarship that was characteristic of our community in its early years:
The position of this magazine is unchanged by current evolutionary thinking. In faith we accept the account of Genesis, that God created the heavens and the earth. Adam was formed from the dust and Eve was made from one of his ribs. Adam’s decision to eat of the tree of the knowledge of Good and evil in disobedience resulted in the introduction of death, and only the atoning work of the Lord Jesus provides a remedy to its effects. Where the inspired words appears to be at odds with current thinking, our position is to place trust in scripture and not give the benefit of the doubt to the current (and ever-changing) ‘wisdom of science.
Given that the position he advances – the inherited change of nature – is one that is rejected by many people who are (or were) most definitely not evolutionary creationists, with L.G. Sargent among others being on record as rejecting the existence of any such intermediate ‘very good’ state, and acknowledging that Adam pre-sin was capable of death, the position of the magazine has in fact changed. Even Roberts and Thomas are on record as having expressed their belief that death and decay were part of the original order of things. Bro. Bramhill is indulging in revisionism of the highest order to claim that the position of the magazine has remained unchanged. It has not, and it is telling that this lack of unanimity on the question of a change of nature has been made by Christadelphians who all rejected evolution, so it is disingenuous of bro. Bramhill to claim otherwise.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

The Christadelphian magazine and evolution. Part 6f - Andrew Bramhill

6. Our theology is not contingent on monogenism

The implication of this is that there was no physical change in Adam after his sin, and therefore no altered nature that had to be genetically transmitted to the entire human race. This, as I've said elsewhere is the fundamental reason behind opposition to evolution as it rules out monogenism, the belief that the entire human race descended exclusively from Adam.

The Christadelphian magazine and evolution. Part 6e - Andrew Bramhill

5. Romans 5:12 does not demand monogenesis

Ultimately, the question is answered not by appeal to authority, but appeal to the scriptural evidence, and here it is clear that Romans 5:12, one of the key passages cited as proof that humans genetically inherit the consequence of Adam’s sin does not say what opponents of evolution allege it does. Unfortunately, Romans 5:12, one of the more difficult passages to interpret, not only has suffered more than its share of flawed exegesis, but carries the legacy of Augustine’s deeply flawed reading. Romans 5v12 has traditionally been read as proof that all humanity sinned in Adam, and therefore genetically inherited the consequences of Adam’s sin. 

Friday, 18 December 2015

The Christadelphian magazine and evolution. Part 6d - Andrew Bramhill

4. Death and mortality are not the same thing

One of the most egregious misrepresentations of evolutionary creationism in our community by anti-evolutionists has been to claim that they deny the historicity of Adam, or argue that he was not a special creation, but evolved. Despite repeated corrections, they still persist in making this mistake, as bro. Bramhill’s article confirms:
“Similarly, Genesis tells us that Adam was specially created out of the dust of the ground and that Eve was made from one of his ribs. He was the first man and she was the first woman and the mother of all living. Death entered as a consequence of their sinful actions (Genesis 2:17, 3:19). If this is not accepted and Adam and Eve were simply part of a developing evolutionary chain, death was not introduced as a punishment for sin. The creation-evolution debate confronts us therefore with a critical question: are all men dying today because it is a natural phenomenon, or because it is a consequence of sin?”
Frustrating as this failure to accurately represent evolutionary creationist views on Adam may be, bro. Bramhill’s argument shows one of the fundamental errors made by opponents of evolution in our community with their failure to differentiate between death as a punishment for sin and mortality. Death is not the same thing as mortality. Humans die because they are corruptible creatures, made from the ‘dust of the ground’, not because of their sins. They remain dead after they die if they reject Christ.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

The Christadelphian magazine and evolution. Part 6c - Andrew Bramhill

3. Evolution does not threaten inspiration

Even worse is his assertion that unless one accepts a literal reading of the creation narratives, the inspiration and authority of the entire Bible is at risk:
“Failure to accept the account of Genesis 1-3 as the inspired word of God means that we would be at variance with the clear teaching of scripture that all scripture that all God’s word , including Genesis is inspired.”
Ignoring the tawdry implication that evolutionary creationists (and old earth creationists) do not believe in an inspiration because they reject a literal reading of Genesis 1 that posits recent creation of the entire universe in six literal consecutive twenty-four hour days, bro. Bramhill has conflated interpretation and inspiration; an surprisingly facile exegetical error for the editor of a major magazine to make. One can believe in an inspired Bible without believing that it must be literally true, a point that C.C. Walker made over a century ago when he recognised that “Moses’ testimony is not so “plain” that it cannot be misinterpreted or misunderstood" [1]

A ‘plain’ reading of Genesis 1 as I have pointed out elsewhere teaches the reality of a solid firmament, while a consistent literal reading of the rest of the Bible would teach geocentrism, and even a flat Earth. If bro. Bramhill was truly consistent with his claim that the Bible provides facts about creation, he would champion a flat fixed earth covered with a solid firmament.

The Christadelphian magazine and evolution. Part 6b - Andrew Bramhill

2. Divine Agency and the mechanism of creation

Over the last year, I have commented on how badly the anti-evolution articles published in The Christadelphian have misrepresented the fact of evolution in their attempted refutations, which makes bro. Bramhill’s assertion that “each article illustrated that everything was made to a plan and for a purpose in a way that cannot be explained by evolutionists” merely a declaration of just how poorly he and other anti-evolutionists in our community actually understand the subject they criticise:

  1. Evolution is a fact, and no amount of poorly-informed argument from laypeople and retired scientists either arguing well outside their professional area of competence, or offering a long-rebutted, fringe view will change that fact.
  2. There is much in the world which makes perfect sense in the light of evolution such as suboptimal design, but is impossible to reconcile with design via direct intervention by an intelligent designer.
  3. The claim that evolution and design are mutually exclusive ignores the fact that selection acting on mutation has been shown to be able to produce design that at times can far exceed that of an intelligent designer.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

The Christadelphian magazine and evolution. Part 6a - Andrew Bramhill

In response to the growing acceptance in our community of evolution as the mechanism of creation, the recognition that it affects no fundamental doctrines, and the desire for a rational, civilised, Christ-like discussion on the subject, the response from militant anti-evolutionists in our community has been sorely lacking.

While the principle of ecclesial autonomy means The Christadelphian has no formal power in our community, it still retains, due to its long history, a position of some influence. Given this, The Christadelphian could have done much towards resolving these issues by allowing an informed, honest discussion in its pages. Instead, it chose to publish a series of articles on Genesis which committed all the usual fallacies. The final article in this series, written by the editor Andrew Bramhill on behalf of the CMPA committee summarises the typical mistakes made by anti-evolutionists in our community. We need intelligent, thoughtful leadership on this issue, but it will not be found within the recently-concluded series of articles by The Christadelphian.

Monday, 14 December 2015

We're all hominins. And hominids. And primates. And mammals. And vertebrates. Once more, clarifying YEC confusion on terminology.

One thing that characterises YEC opposition to evolutionary creationism is their misuse of the term 'hominid'. Certainly, as the following quotes from a recent article would illustrate, it hard to avoid the conclusion that this is done purely to create fear and uncertainty by playing on the layperson's view of the term 'hominid':
  • The assertion that Genesis 1:26,27 relates to the gradual evolution of a hominid species has no Biblical foundation.
  • There is no Biblical evidence for the existence of a hominid race.
  • There is no Biblical proof that the genealogy of Jesus had input from a hominid race.
The term hominid refers simply to humans, great apes, and their ancestors. Likewise, hominin refers to humans, and their ancestors up to the human-ape common ancestor. The only living hominins are humans. The only living hominids are humans and the great apes such as gorillas, orangutans, and chimpanzees. When YECs use 'hominid' as a scare term, they are betraying a considerable lack of understanding of what the word means. We are hominins. We are hominids. We are mammals. We are vertebrates. A few moments reading on taxonomy would help YECs avoid making such mistakes, and help improve the rigour and accuracy of their arguments considerably.

Friday, 4 December 2015

More helpful resources on science and theology for the Christadelphian

As the concluding article to the anti-evolution series that has been running this year in The Christadelphian shows, those seeking informed, reliable, factually accurate material on evolution need to look outside our community. [1] The concluding words of the author, in which he declares that "our position is to place trust in scripture and not give the benefit of the doubt to the current (and ever-changing) 'wisdom' of science" [2] provide absolutely no help to the believer who is well aware of the fact that evolution is indeed a fact, and has been regarded as such for well over a century.

I have made several posts linking to credible, informed sources of information on evolution such as BioLogos and the American Scientific Affiliation. A post by Peter Enns has alerted me to another excellent source of information by B.K. Mitchell, professor emeritus of biological sciences from the University of Alberta, who is also a Christian who is greatly concerned about the infiltration of pseudoscience and obscurantism in Christianity:
Even in this new millennium tens of thousands of university students find little support in their home church, family or community for dealing with the intellectual challenges to their faith that they will encounter in the modern, secular university. Worse, those in Bible schools and Christian colleges will often still find reactionary curricula that want to explain away, debunk or simply ignore established evidence gained by the last hundred years of recognized scholarship. As a lifelong Christian, and an experimental biologist with more than thirty years research and teaching experience in a major secular university, it saddens me to have to acknowledge the truth of the sentences that I have just written.
As the recently-concluded anti-evolution series in The Christadelphian sadly shows, this problem is just as pressing for our community as it is for the conservative Protestant faith tradition. Mitchell's series of essays provided to give assistance to the Christian student navigating these problems also includes a bibliography list which contains many excellent volumes some of which every Christadelphian seriously interested in this subject should read.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

We now know humans set foot in Australia at least 53,000 years ago. Yet again, YEC fails the test

YEC claims that humans are no older than 6000 years are false. The fossil evidence for humans - and by humans I mean Homo sapiens - stretches back 200,000 years at least. In Australia, we now have evidence of human activity that has been reliably dated to at least 53,000 years of age. That's nearly nine times older than the age YECs assign to the entire universe.

An article at Archaeology News Network reports on work at Boodie Cave on Barrow Island, off the cost of the Pilbara coast of Western Australia, which has dated material of unquestioned human origin to 53,000 years. While further evidence for the antiquity of humanity is not needed to demonstrate the utter falsity of the YEC position, not only is it fascinating in its own right, it serves to remind how untenable the variant of YEC which argues that God created the world with the appearance of age actually is. What possible purpose would forging an optically stimulated luminescence age from grains found mixed with the remains of a shellfish meal serve? It is the small incidental features - evidence of human activity with dating stretching back well past the 6000 years YEC allow for the entire universe (and by that fact the human race) - which to the honest, unbiased observer give the ring of truth to the fact that the witness of the earth unambiguously attests to its ancient, evolving state.

Boodie Cave midden on Barrow Island showing discarded kangaroo jaw bones, turtle shell, stone artefacts, baler shell scoops and heating stones [Credit: Peter Veth.  Source]

Boodie Cave midden on Barrow Island showing discarded kangaroo jaw bones, turtle shell, stone artefacts, baler shell scoops and heating stones [Credit: Peter Veth]

Read more at:
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Sunday, 29 November 2015

More young adults are accepting evolution. Here's why.

The Pew Research Center recently released the results of a survey on the attitudes of Americans on politics and science. The survey showed some predictable results, such as anthropogenic climate change being linked with political leaning, with Democrats and Independents more likely to accept that it exists.  What it also showed was that there has been a significant increase in acceptance of evolution among younger people. Palaeoanthropologist John Hawks notes:
This increase among young adults first was noticed in the results of a 2013 Pew Research Center survey, and continued in a 2014 survey. In the more recent survey, a slight majority (51%) of adults ages 18-29 agreed with the statement that humans and other living things have evolved over time by natural processes such as natural selection. A much greater majority, 73%, agreed that humans have evolved over time, and have not been in their present form since the beginning of time.
Unsurprisingly, acceptance of evolution is correlated with increasing scientific knowledge, with 54% of those with a modest amount of scientific knowledge accepting human evolution, while 76% of those with more scientific knowledge accepting this:

For evolution denialists in our community, this news points out the fact that attacking evolution in public lectures is an ill-advised, risky strategy, as our target audience is increasingly educated, and will regard with scorn and disbelief any preaching campaign that attacks what is accepted as a fact.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

No, the Bible does not mention dinosaurs - fire-breathing or otherwise.

YEC assertions that dinosaurs and humans coexisted are of course nonsense. Over sixty million years separate the last non-avian dinosaur from the earliest members of the genus Homo. Claims that both the dragon myths and historical records, artwork, and engravings of other mythological beasts provide 'documented evidence' for human-dinosaur existence do not come from credible sources, and when critically examined not only provide no support for this assertion but merely show how the fundamentalist mind can find support for the most outlandish ideas from the most meagre of evidence.

Where the YEC assertion veers into outright crackpot nonsense comes when YECs claim that the references to fire-breathing dragons reflects historical reality, and appeal to Job 41:20-21 both as evidence for human-dinosaur coexistence, and for their fire-breathing ability. Incredibly, this claim was made in the April 2010 edition of The Bible Magazine which also appealed to a long-discredited claim by notorious YEC Duane Gish that the dinosaur Parasaurolophus could produce jets of fire from its nostrils. Even worse was the use of a risible illustration from a children's creationist book as evidence for this claim. This is not how we present a rational, credible, face of belief to the world. Rather, this is how we fulfill every negative stereotype of Christianity as credulous, foolish, and ignorant. Nonsense such as this causes incredible harm to the reputation of our community.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Yet another transitional fossil: a giraffe-like animal with an intermediate-length neck

We don't need any more evidence for evolution as the evidence for the reality of common descent and large-scale evolutionary change was already compelling a over a century ago. However, new evidence is always welcome, particularly if it casts light on iconic animals. In this case, it is the giraffe and its long neck. We already know how the path of the recurrent laryngeal nerve in giraffes, which makes a pointless detour down its neck, under the aorta, before returning to innervate the larynx - a wasteful detour of several metres - provides evidence for common descent as this same pointless detour is shared by other creatures with which it shares a common ancestor. Now, as , ,

Monday, 23 November 2015

More YEC confusion on Homo naledi from Creation Ministries International

YEC responses to the spectacular Homo naledi find have been predictably hopeless, with ICR and AiG commissioning non-experts (geology and medicine) to hand-wave away the findings. The former claim that the Homo naledi fossils are actually a mosaic of modern animal and modern human, implying that the Homo naledi team are either incompetent or dishonest in making such a mistake, while the latter simply declare them to be non-human animals. That two YEC organisations fails to agree on what these fossils represent is hardly new - YECs have failed to reliably classify hominin skulls in the past, which both attests to the fact that the fossils they were examining are transitional, as well as their incompetence in the field of palaeoanthropology.

Now, Creation Ministries International, the third of the three major YEC apologetics organisations has weighed in with yet another non-expert opinion (neuroscience), claiming that they were human, but with pathological features. Three YEC views. All from non-experts. All failing to agree on what Homo naledi represent. YEC is a broken reed which will pierce the hand of all who lean on it.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

YEC - the worst barrier to preaching the gospel in a scientific age

In a world where the evidence for an ancient Earth has been acknowledged as compelling for well over 150 years, and accessing this evidence can be obtained with a few taps on a phone screen, not only maintaining the demonstrably false belief in a 6000 year old universe, but demanding that it be a first principle of the One True Faith will do far more to destroy Christianity than any number of New Atheist screeds. Tyler Franke, who runs the excellent God of Evolution website gets it in one:

This is not hyperbole - the path from YEC to atheism is well-worn, and while fundamentalists privilege their interpretations of the creation narrative and uninformed dismissal of the scientific evidence over what both books of divine revelation actually say, the decline in our community will continue unabated.

Christians in the life and earth sciences, who are in a position to appreciate the evidence for common descent and an ancient Earth regard this with not a little unease. [1] Recently, three Christian geologists, speaking at a 2009 lecture to the Evangelical Theological Society in New Orleans highlighted this crisis of faith which believers face each time they discover that their YEC is little more than unscientific smoke and mirrors:
A friend (who wishes to remain anonymous) attended conservative churches his entire life – churches that openly push and teach a young-earth position. He has been a teacher and a leader in his local church. He is a strongly logical, thinking person who wants to know God’s truth. He told us recently that he is thinking about giving up on Christianity and becoming an agnostic. Why? As he became more knowledgeable about the scientific evidence regarding the age of the earth, he found increasingly that facts presented by young-earth organizations had been misrepresented. He no longer knows who to believe or who to rely on. He feels that he has believed lies his whole life. [2]
The tendency for the evangelical Christian church to source their information outside of mainstream science [3] tends however to blunt the impact of such scientifically informed Christian warnings both against science denialism and basing first principles on demonstrably false views of the natural world. Deconversion anecdotes such as these, culled from a 2002 TalkOrigins post of the month [4] are representative of the one-way traffic towards unbelief that often results when science and faith are pitted against each other:
I. The fact that, when you consider the available evidence and with our present understanding, evolution makes so much more sense than creationism. It was a matter of intellectual integrity for me. For example the universality of the genetic code. The fact that structurally we are all variations on a theme. Obvious cases of microevolution which can easily be extrapolated out to macroevolution. The age of the earth, etc. Oh, and the lousy, dishonest stories professional creationists have invented to try to explain it all.
There came a point when the contradictions were too obvious to ignore and the answers were lacking. I realized that I would have to leave sooner or later so I decided I might as well go sooner than remain shackled in what I felt to be a lie.
II. I started out really enthusiastic about creationism, and wanted to become a contributor. I thought the place to start was to take creationist quotes, look up the original evolutionist sources, and see what else I could find. What I found was that creationists were being misleading (to put it kindly) with regards to what evolutionists were really saying. That was the beginning…I read some books detailing scientific responses to creationism, and found that, rather than running around worrying about the alleged lack of answers, scientists had quite a lot of rather good answers, backed up by hard data, as well as telling critiques of flaws in creationist arguments.
Finding I couldn't trust what conservative Christians said about Genesis, I began questioning other things as well, which ultimately led to the realization that there was nothing to Christianity that was so much supernatural as it was psychological and social.
III. I was raised in a Southern Baptist church...I had always loved science/learning and especially dinosaurs. I was also very committed to my church. When I was around 12 to 13, I started asking questions about the contradictions between what I read in the Bible…what was preached at my church; and what I was learning in school and personal studies, about science especially. My parents sent me to our preacher to counsel me. Over the period of about a year, our preacher became very frustrated with me because I wouldn't just take his word for what was true or not (He was of the "Dinosaur fossils aren't real; they are fakes either because scientists are lying and/or because the Devil created them to test our faith" school.) He eventually stopped the counseling sessions with the cautionary words (more or less yelled at me) that if I kept questioning, I would be damned to Hell.
Eventually, though, I took a really hard atheistic stand. Some of the reason for that was the initial 'counseling' I got from that Southern Baptist preacher. I was told then that to believe in the 'supernatural' I had to cease to use my brain. I couldn't do that. That early lesson stuck and I was always more skeptical of blind faith after that.
IV. I was raised in a household that was dominated by Grandpa, a Southern Baptist preacher. You might say I was born a creationist. However, by the time I was ten or so, Grandpa made it clear that one could not be a fundamentalist ("bible-believer") and friendly to science. So, naturally, I chose science. 
One could readily multiply such anecdotes, but the point has been made. Any Christian community that bases fundamental doctrines on special creation runs the risk of losing believers who, when they discover evidence against special creation may well end up abandoning not only special creationism but their faith, and that is scandalous.


1. Organisation such as the BioLogos Foundation were formed in order to disabuse the lay Christian of the belief that Christianity and evolutionary biology are in opposition.

2. Wolgenmuth K, Bennett GS, Davidson G “Theologians Need to Hear From Christian Geologists About Noah’s Flood” Lecture given to the Evangelical Theological Society, New Orleans, Louisiana November 18th 2009. Solid Rock Lectures.

3. Giberson K “Why Evangelicals Are Fooled Into Accepting PseudoscienceHuffington Post 23rd September 2011

Monday, 16 November 2015

Bat guano, bird breath, and limestone cave formation -another argument against 'creation with appearance of age'

The only thing more incredible than denying the avalanche of evidence confirming the reality of an ancient Earth is the attempt to hand wave it away by decreeing that all this evidence was deliberately created by God to give the Earth the appearance of age. Ignoring the fundamental moral problems of a creator God writing a 'superfluous lie' into the very atoms of the Earth itself by creating it with the appearance of age and evidence of a history that never happened, adherents of this 'Omphalos YEC' view appear to be unaware of the scope and nature of the evidence for an ancient Earth, and the absolute lack of any valid reason for God to fake this history. 

Proponents of this view argue that just as Adam was created mature, the Earth likewise was necessarily created with the appearance of a history that did not exist. However, apart from being impossible to falsify, and therefore unscientific, this argument ignores the fact that many markers of age are simply not needed to provide a 'necessarily mature' appearance. Examples include not just the radiometric age of rocks - the ratio of radionuclides having zero impact on any 'necessarily mature' appearance, but the consonance between relative ages and absolute ages as seen by the older radiometric dates in lower strata and younger radiometric dates in higher strata (in areas where the strata are undisturbed). Add to that the evaporite varves and ice cores with hundreds of thousands of layers consistent with an annual process. This barely begins to scratch the surface, but should suffice to show just how untenable Omphalos YEC is.

Joel Duff, writing at Naturalis Historia provides another example which both attests to an Earth much older than 6000 years, and the folly of the Omphalos YEC view. Limestone caves are generally formed by the dissolving of rock as water trickles through. In the absence of this source of water, the humidity from guano and exhaled air can suffice, and as he argues, the known rate of cave formation from this source and the radiometric dates for the guano are in good agreement. The problems for the Omphalos YEC view are not trivial.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Yet another YEC lie is exposed - Henry Morris and case of the missing meteorite potassium

Anyone who has spent enough time in the evolution-creation debate quickly realises that with precious few exceptions, the main figures in the YEC community lie. Irrespective of whether it is Duane Gish and his 'bullfrog proteins' or David Menton and his blatantly false claims about Tiktaalik, it is safe to assume that a YEC when making any claim about evolutionary biology, geology, or astronomy is always wrong, unless theit claims can be independently verified by experts in the areas in which those claims are made.

Geologist Jonathan Baker, writing at Age of Rocks has given us yet another example of YEC mendacity. This one comes from one of the founding figures of the YEC movement, Henry Morris. Over forty years ago, he claimed that as much as 8)% of the potassium in a small iron meteorite sample could be removed in around 4.5 hours by soaking in distilled water. The implicit claim here was that one could never guarantee that samples were not contaminated, and as such, radiometric dating was worthless. Trouble is, as Baker points out, Morris was lying. Here's why.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Ben Carson: an example of why smart people sometimes say stupid things

Retired paediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson provides an excellent example of what happens when someone steps outside of their narrow area of professional expertise and pontificates on subjects on which they are not qualified to offer an authoritative opinion. While professionals from all backgrounds are prone to this problem - the Nobel Prize effect humorously describes how some Nobel Laureates can verge into crank territory post-award - medicine appears uniquely susceptible to this problem. Blogging at Respectful Insolence, the surgical oncologist who goes by the pseudonym Orac gets to the heart of this problem of how sometimes extremely bright people can go off the rails and endorse rank pseudoscience, and be resistant to correction. The parallel with Christian communities where special creationists with backgrounds unrelated to evolutionary biology are feted by laypeople as 'experts' is particularly relevant. Special creationism is wrong, no matter who touts it.

Science Meets Religion - another excellent resource for the Christadelphian

As I have pointed out repeatedly, the Christadelphian seeking reliable, authoritative, credible information on evolution and the age of the Earth must look outside our community (apart from websites such as this and others) given the depth to which YEC has compromised our community. There is no such thing as too much information, so I am delighted to provide a link to computational mathematician David Bailey's 26 point list "Evolution, Creationism, and Intelligent Design." His list covers subjects from scientific epistemology to geology to biology, is impeccably referenced, and in contrast to the  belligerent, intolerant nature of most YEC websites maintains an irenic tone. Definitely another to add to the list of must-read resources for the intellectually honest Christadelphian seeking the truth on evolution and creation.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

No, Exodus 20:11 is not proof for creation in six literal days. Here's why.

Like any interpretive option, literalism is a choice, not the default option. That comes down to something as basic as assuming that 'create' refers to material origins. As a number of Old Testament scholars note, in the ancient world, functional origins were more important than material origins, and YECs make a major mistake by assuming that the ancient world shared our obsession with material origins. That is not the case.

The literalism YECs espouse here is inconsistent, as if they were entirely consistent, they would take the references in Genesis 1 to a solid firmament separating waters above from waters below, in which the sun, moon, and stars were embedded literally. Their failure to be consistent suggests that their reading of the creation narratives and Old Testament references to cosmology and creation is motivated more by the need to preserve a particular reading rather than to be guided by the text.

Fundamentalists in our community would be well advised to take seriously the advice of C.C. Walker, second editor of The Christadelphian, who recognised that "Moses’ testimony is not so “plain” that it cannot be misinterpreted or misunderstood" [1] and refrain from uncritically embracing views sourced from the fundamentalist wing of the evangelical Christian world.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Contrary to what YECs claim, Michael Denton no longer believes evolution is a theory in crisis.

Evolution denialists tend to recycle the same arguments and appeal to the same books long after they are debunked. One of the most commonly cited is the 1985 book by the New Zealand biochemist and medical doctor Michael Denton Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. Denton's thesis has been thoroughly refuted by mainstream scientists. Typical of those refutations was that by geneticist Philip Spieth who noted that
[a]s a serious piece of biology, however, the book could not pass the most sympathetic peer review. In its approach, methods, and style it is straight out of the creation science mold. Abuses typical of creation science literature abound: evolutionary theory is misrepresented and distorted; spurious arguments are advanced as disproof of topics to which the arguments are, at best, tangentially relevant; evolutionary biologists are quoted out of context; large portions of relevant scientific literature are ignored; dubious or inaccurate statements appear as bald assertions accompanied, more often than not, with scorn.
Fifteen years later, Denton wrote another book Nature's Destiny. How the Laws of Biology reveal Purpose in the Universe in which he radically changes his views about evolution being a 'theory in crisis'. The Dutch biologist Gert Kortoff's review makes that clear in its opening paragraph where it is clear that Denton now accepts the fact of evolution

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Early Christian and Rabbinic Views on the Firmament

Given the interest on this subject elsewhere, I have elected to lightly edit two previous posts of mine into a single document for any who may be interested.
Nothing demonstrates the fact that Genesis 1 is ancient cosmology and not modern science more effectively than its declaration that the firmament was solid, separating waters above from waters below. It is this one fact more than anything else that destroys both literal and strong concordist readings of the Genesis 1 that seek to read it as a scientifically accurate account of origins. It also shows that contemporary special creationists - both YEC and OEC - not only fail to interpret Genesis 1 properly on this point but are also ignorant of how early Christian and Jewish expositors interpreted Genesis 1. On this point we find that many accepted the solidity of the firmament.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Reasons to be sceptical of the seven thousand year plan

One of the strangest reasons used to deny evolution and insist that creation in six literal consecutive 24 hours days six thousand years ago is a non-negotiable first principle is the seven thousand year plan. This idea, with its roots firmly in dispensational Christianity, argues that just as the entire universe was created in six days, followed by a seventh day of Divine rest, human history stretches over six thousand years, to be followed by a one thousand year kingdom period.

The seven thousand year plan is of course theological nonsense. There is no unambiguous scriptural evidence for it, being at most a strained argument from analogy. In addition, given that the genealogies simply cannot be used to arrive at an exact date for Adam, a point the conservative Christian scholar W.H. Green noted in the 19th century, one simply cannot declare that Adam was created 6000 years ago. Finally, the analogy falls apart because apart from a rough correspondence between the birth of Christ approximately 2000 years ago and the inauguration of the united kingdom of Israel under David approximately 3000 years ago, there are no significant events corresponding to 1000 CE and 3000 BCE. The scientific evidence against the 7000 year plan is definitive, but the Biblical and theological ones are even more compelling.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

The 500th Post Anniversary at ECACP

While blog anniversary posts - particularly for obscure blogs like ECACP - can be self-indulgent, when you reach a milestone of significance like the 500th post, a few reflective comments are not out of order. One of the main reasons I started both the website and the Facebook page was to provide a resource for those who like me have realised that the evidence for evolution is overwhelming and has not been seriously disputed in credible scientific circles for well over a century. Sadly, informed, open, rational discussion of this subject is still prohibited in many parts of our community, so there is a critical need to show the young believer that it is possible to maintain faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and accept the reality of an ancient, evolving earth. I made the journey from YEC to EC over 14 years in which I suffered two crises of faith. It it not an experience I would wish on any believer, and given the warm feedback I have received over the years, it is clear that ECACP has played a positive role in the faith journey of people.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Contradictory or complementary? Correcting YEC views on the two creation narratives

The contradictions that emerge as a result of reading Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 as literal sequential accounts of the same creation event are well known both to Biblical scholars and any intellectually honest layperson who is not willing to sacrifice logic to dogma. When you read them literally, they contradict each other in the order and duration of creation, and have completely different views of God role in creation.

Critical to resolving this contradiction is of course recognising that both literal and strong concordist readings of Genesis 1 are untenable, and reading it as a polemic against ANE creation myths which accommodates ANE cosmogeography. Once Genesis 1 is decoupled from the science of how the universe began and the diversity of life appeared, we can interpret the first creation account on its own terms.

Even to the casual reader, Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 differ markedly in style and structure, clues that should be enough to remind the perceptive reader of a genre change. Is Genesis 2 referring to the same events as Genesis 1? Hardly. Just the reference to the creation of male and female humans alone in Genesis 1 should be enough to remind us that even when factoring in genre,  the two chapters are referring to different events. The first refers to the creation of the entire universe, while the second refers to the beginning of covenant history with the creation of the first two people with whom God entered into a covenant relationship. The absence and presence of the covenant name in Genesis 1 and 2, respectively, comports with this argument nicely.

In short:
1. Rejecting a reading of Gen 1 as a literal account of creation in six literal consecutive days and rejecting and attempt to harmonise it with Gen 2 because of the resultant contradictions AND...

 2. Reading Gen 1 as a non-literal account of functional origins and Gen 2 as a sequel describing the creation of two people in a garden - a separate event to Gen 1 
is a coherent reading of the creation narratives.

How to quickly appraise anti-evolutionist arguments

Given that the fact of evolution has not been doubted by the scientific community for well over a century, as a rule, any special creationist paper you read that claims otherwise is false. As the renown NT scholar Larry Hurtado has said, when analysing bold claims made by laypeople or non-experts in a field in which they are not qualified:
...when I’m shown something that hasn’t been through the rigorous scholarly review process (often, it appears, peer-review deliberately avoided), and comes from someone with no prior reputation for valid contributions in the subject, I’m more than a bit skeptical.  If the work is really soundly based, then why not present it for competent critique before making such claims?
Exactly. You can guarantee that every anti-evolution claim made in our community has been made by people with zero expertise in evolutionary biology or palaeontology who has not had their argument critically examined by genuine experts in the field, which makes them worthless. However, the tools of critical appraisal provide another way to demonstrate why such anti-evolution arguments are worthless.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Life on Earth is not 6000 years old. How multiple independent lines of evidence falsify YEC and OEYC

As I've pointed out more than once, even though the evidence against YEC (or its close relation old earth young life creationism) is overwhelming, the fact that many Christadelphians still persist in denying reality in order to preserve human dogma means that there is a strong imperative to present as much information as possible in order to show to the rational, intellectually honest, open-minded Christadelphian why YEC / OEYC are untenable viewpoints.

Two recent articles from the always brilliant blogs Naturalis Historia and Age of Rocks provide two more lines of evidence that highlight the folly of YEC / OEYC. Joel Duff, writing at Naturalis Historia shows how the distribution of diatoms in the fossil record completely falsifies what we would expect to see if the entire fossil record had been deposited by the flood. Geologist Jonathan Baker, writing at Age of Rocks shows how multiple independent dating methods, including one that indirectly depends on living creatures, provide a date that exceeds the age that YECs and OEYCs posit for the earliest living creature (and for YECs the age of the Earth itself).

Friday, 23 October 2015

Yet another YEC organisation makes a hopelessly wrong attack on the Homo naledi discover.

I've already commented on AiG's laughably inaccurate claim that Homo naledi was a non-human animal. Now,  the Institute for Creation Research is attempting to explain away Homo naledi. Their argument? The fossils are actually a mix of human and non-human bones washed into the cave system that have been assembled together according to an 'evolutionary  bias' to create a hominin that never existed. This claim is even more risible than the AiG argument, as it ignores the fact that the researchers specifically ruled out water transport of the bones. Clearly, the ICR writers have not even read the Homo naledi papers, or if they did, they failed to understand it. Yet again, the YEC community are showing why they can never be trusted to comment on science, and why Christadelphians who uncritically recycle their arguments are bringing our community into disrepute.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

BioLogos: the 2015 Evolution and Christian Faith Conference

Sometimes, you have to stop and look at Christadelphian science denialism in context to see how tragic it is. We're living well in the 21st century, in a time when whole genome sequencing has become passe, when we can manipulate matter at the level of individual atoms, when we can send a probe to Pluto with pinpoint accuracy and receive back images of startling clarity. Our telescopes can peer back into time to see the earliest galaxies, while the phones we carry have far more computing power than large computers did less than a generation ago. Despite the fact that science very much has the runs on the board in that it can explain phenomena, make predictions, and improve our life, our community has closed its eyes to this remarkable success, and retreated so far into science denialism that it has gone backwards from its mid-19th century origins where belief in an old Earth was entirely uncontroversial, into the madness of young earth creationism, which represents a complete denial of almost all of the physical, earth, and life sciences. Sadly, when any Christadelphian publicly speaks on a science-related matter, it is now safe to assume that they are going to be completely uninformed on the subject, and fundamentally in error.

That of course means the believer looking for credible information on the Bible-science subject as I have pointed out before will need to look outside official Christadelphian sources. I have previously pointed out that resources such as The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, Christians in Science, the BioLogos Foundation, and the American Scientific Affiliation should be on every Christadelphian's list of recommended resources. BioLogos in particular has in the short time it has existed managed to punch well above its weight. Recently, it hosted the Evolution and Christian Faith conference, featuring a number of highly respected Biblical scholars and scientists. Some of the presentations are now online, so for those wanting material that unlike almost all of the science-related videos on Christadelphian channels are informed, accurate, and reliable, these videos come highly recommended.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Positive testimony from students who know that evolution and Christianity are not in opposition

If testimonies from ex-Christians whose loss of faith directly stems from discovering that their faith community had lied to them about evolution being allegedly 'a theory in crisis' remind us of the need to avoid creating crises of faith by dogmatically asserting that evolution and Christianity are mutually exclusive, then testimonies from those who recognise that science and faith are complementary are invaluable, if only to serve as a direct refutation of the militant anti-evolutionists who seek to make their science denialism normative for all Christianity.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Ten special creationist myths about evolution debunked

Despite the fact that evolution has not been seriously doubted by mainstream biologists for over a century, and the considerable amount of high-quality information on the subject that is freely available, special creationists in our community still falsely claim that evolution is false. While sadly those who have grounded their theology on evolution denialism and have a considerable reputation invested in publicly attacking evolution have too much too lose from accepting that they were completely wrong, it is possible that some of those they have been misleading may be saved by providing them with definitive refutations of special creationist myths. While this website has a wealth of material on the subject for the curious reader, there is no substitute for a short refutation of the most common myths, ranging from evolution is 'only a theory' to evolution is an 'atheist conspiracy.' Read on.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Why the 'Benedict Option' won't keep your children YECs forever.

The 'Benedict Option' refers to a strategy advanced by some conservative evangelical Christians who believe they have lost the Culture Wars to withdraw from society and build their own Christian cocoon in which to live free from the world. It's unlikely to work, for as atheist and ex-conservative Christian Libby Anne points out, her community and others similar to it have been effectively living the Benedict Option for years, but have nonetheless seen many people leave the faith, or embrace values diametrically opposed to those which the groups were careful to inculcate in their members. The ultimate problem with the 'Benedict Option' is that eventually, people need to leave the cocoon, and outside that environment, the conservative church simply has no way of controlling what their members can see, hear and learn:

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Genesis through Ancient Eyes - A video series from The 3rd Choice

Apart from the presentations from their Genesis Recast conference, The 3rd Choice have a number of video presentations on the subject of origins. Bracketed under the theme 'Genesis Through Ancient Eyes', this video series provides an informed overview into how one can properly understand Genesis as it was originally understood by its ancient audience. For those who are looking for information rather than invective, look no further:

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Genesis Recast: Genesis as ancient cosmology and how it changes the conversation with science.

One of the accusations made by militant anti-evolutionists against evolutionary creationists is that they are seeking an audience or following. I admit to getting a wry smile out of that claim as if I was the sort of person who wanted fame, fortune, glory, and a following, I'd have chosen a far less controversial subject. I have gone public for one simple reason: intellectual honesty. W.F. Barling put it beautifully in his 1965 letter to The Christadelphian:
What is not generally realized is that this section of our community is not an organized, self-confident group bent on converting the remainder to a new opinion, but a number of perplexed individuals, deeply loyal to the community, desperately anxious not to offend those who do not share their anguish—let alone transfer it to their minds—but who feel that they must be intellectually honest. What they ask of their brethren and sisters is not a change of viewpoint but a change of attitude.
Unfortunately, when rational discussion of the subject is prohibited under pain of excommunication, those who are well aware of the overwhelming evidence for evolution are in the intolerable situation of not being able to even voice their concerns without being ridiculed, or threatened, making pages such as this a sad necessity.

One cannot help but note that other faith traditions are handling this question in a far more intelligent, rational, and informed manner. Recently, the evangelical apologetics organisation The 3rd Choice presented a seminar Genesis Recast in which the origins issues were discussed:
Session 1: Dr. John Walton “The Lost World of Genesis One”: Presenting Genesis 1 as a temple text speaking of order and function. Laying out an interpretive framework, and addressing both the Bible and Science

Session 2: Dr. John Walton “The Lost World of Adam & Eve”. Backlighting the significance of Genesis 2 with the ancient world of the Bible. Walton gives us the context, insights and clarity to reset the discussion and move forward.

Session 3: Dr. Craig Evans: “Origins in Second Temple Judaism and the New Testament”. Evans will examine the creation story and origins from the viewpoint of the New Testament.

Session 4: Dr. Stephen Schaffner: “The scientific case for Common Descent from the fossil record and genetics.” Dr. Schaffner will present us with indelible scientific evidence.

Session 5: Skye Jethani: “Where is the Church Going? How can the Church think about these issues? How can progress be made?” The practical points of contact between the Bible and life.
The video for session three isn't available, but thankfully, the remaining videos are present, and are included below. For those seeking an informed, intelligent, rational discussion of the Bible-science question, this series is definitely worth watching.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Evidence of catastrophe is not evidence for a young Earth. Here's why.

Young Earth creationism is notorious for peddling gross distortions of mainstream science, then claiming problems with that parody of science automatically mean YEC is true. One example is the science of geology, which is parodied as a process characterised exclusively by slow, uniform change. Any evidence for catastrophe is then interpreted as evidence for a global flood and against an old Earth. The fundamental flaw in this argument is of course the assumption that geological catastrophe automatically falsifies mainstream geology. It does not, as mainstream geology has for some time accepted the reality of catastrophic events punctuating the record of an ancient Earth.

One example of a catastrophic event can be inferred from the presence of large boulders on the Cape Verde islands to the west of Africa, whose presence can only be explained by something like a tsunami hurling these large rocks uphill far from their source. As Joel Duff, writing at Naturalis Historia notes, careful investigation allows geologists to postulate how and when this occurred:

The fact of evolution as confirmed by genetics and genomics

As I point out on a regular basis, the evidence for human-ape common ancestry is overwhelming. The evidence in a nutshell comes from shared genetic errors - genetic plagiarism - which make perfect sense when you realise that a genetic error in two more species at the same place in their genomes is evidence for this error occurring in an ancestral species. Special creation has absolutely no answer for this, and it is telling that this fact is either ignored, or hand-waved away with risible explanations such as God cursing humans and apes in the same way after the fall. While the evidence for common descent was already overwhelming well before the genomics revolution began, the genomics data has underlined this fact emphatically.

To be honest, this blog has more than enough information to convince the intellectually honest, open-minded reader of the fact of evolution, so further material would appear to be redundant, but I have found that some respond better to video presentations. Computational geneticist Stephen Schaffner spoke at the recent Genesis Recast conference, outlining the genetic evidence for human evolution. 

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Now there is definitely no excuse not to be properly informed on evolution.

As I have said many times, there is simply no honest reason for our community not to be properly informed on the fact of evolution given the considerable amount of quality information on the subject available in print, online and in electronic media. In fact, one has to work hard at maintaining evolution denialism in the face of the overwhelming evidence for common descent and large scale evolutionary change. Sadly, for those who privilege human dogma over the witness of the natural world, there is little one can do for them while they maintain committed to defending fundamentalist distortions of the Bible above the dual revelation of nature and Bible. However, for those who value truth over dogma, there has never been a better time to understand more about our ancient, evolving creation.

The journal Current Biology has a special issue on the history of life on Earth, and features a number of articles and reviews written by some of the leading experts in each field:

James Kidder criticises Casey Luskin's poor article on Homo naledi. (More reasons to distrust the Discovery Institute)

Earlier, I commented on developmental biologist P.Z. Myers' criticism of Casey Luskin's article on Homo naledi. Needless to say, Luskin's article was not a peer-review piece appearing in a respected palaaeoanthropological journal by a professional palaeoanthropologist but an intellectually dishonest and misleading attack on the subject by a laywer with no formal training in palaeoanthropology. 

The palaeoanthropologist James Kidder has now commented on Luskin's article, and combines specific expertise in palaeoanthropology with a more irenic tone to provide yet another voice pointing out why Luskin cannot be trusted to provide an accurate, disinterested, informed comment on this subject.  In short, Luskin's article deliberately aims to mislead and misrepresent. As Kidder points out, "[t]he problem is that he uses selective passages and slanted wording to imply that the case for it having "human" traits is overblown." In other words, he resorts to the tried and tested special creationist practice of quote mining.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Piltdown man - the story is somewhat different to what the evolution denialists allege

It's been well over sixty years since Piltdown Man was exposed as a fraud, but that doesn't stop desperate evolution denialists from appealing to it as if it somehow invalidated the entire field of palaeoanthropology. It doesn't. The fossil evidence for human evolution is robust, shows the reality of both an increase in cranial capacity and a trend towards obligate bipedality over time, and is definitely more than a few chipped teeth and bones on a billiard table.

Furthermore, what evolution denialists fail to point out is that not only was Piltdown exposed by scientists, there were considerable doubts about its authenticity from the very beginning. Darren Naish makes this point in a recent post in his blog Tetrapod Zoology:
What’s discussed rather less frequently is that early 20th century views on Piltdown man were far more complex than popularly portrayed. Acceptance of Eoanthropus as a valid proto-human might have been the ‘mainstream’ view that made it into textbooks and encyclopedias, but it certainly wasn’t the only one, nor was this acceptance wholesale or uncontroversial.
 Arthur Keith (middle). Back (L to R): Barlow, Elliot Smith, Dawson, Woodward. Seated at left: Underwood. Seated at right (L-R): Lankester, Pycraft. Painting by John Cooke (1915)

In fact, as Naish continues, some raised significant doubts about Piltdown within a few years after its discovery:
Long prior to 1953 however, certain other anthropologists, primatologists and mammalogists were of the opinion that the cranium and jaw of Piltdown I did not go together, and that while the cranium was human, the jaw was from a chimpanzee or some other non-human ape. In fact, some workers voiced doubts about the authenticity of Woodward’s reconstruction within just two or three years of 1912. We might even go as far as saying that quite a few anthropologists and mammalogists of the early 1900s would not have been surprised on learning that it was a hoax, and some might even have suspected that this is exactly what it was.
Given the absolutely atrocious record special creationists have when it comes to commenting in an informed, accurate, intellectually honest way on palaeoanthropology, the best thing they could do to begin restoring their credibility is to stop peddling their tendentious Piltdown narrative.

Full article is here

Monday, 28 September 2015

Evolution is a lie? Try telling that to the thousands of scientists who use it every day

One of the main reasons I accept the fact of evolution is that in my professional life as a doctor, the evidence for it is overwhelming. Comparative genomics declares the truth of human-ape common ancestry. Population genetics confirms that it is impossible for the entire human race to descend exclusively from two people living 6000 years ago. The human genome, far from being an elegant model of design precision is a sub-optimal structure that causes disease and which bears the hallmarks of its evolutionary origin. Furthermore, evolutionary principles are of increasing utility to medicine, from casting light on the frankly bizarre and sub-optimal nature of human anatomy and developmental biology to the emerging science of evolutionary medicine. I can no more deny the fact of evolution than I can deny the atomic structure of matter or any other uncontroversial fact of nature.

It's not just medicine in which evolutionary principles are of considerable utility. Agriculture is another area in which recognising the fact of evolution pays considerable real-world dividends, as Andrew Hendry et al pointed out in a 2011 review article in the journal Evolutionary Applications:
Evolutionary principles are now routinely incorporated into medicine and agriculture. Examples include the design of treatments that slow the evolution of resistance by weeds, pests, and pathogens, and the design of breeding programs that maximize crop yield or quality. Evolutionary principles are also increasingly incorporated into conservation biology, natural resource management, and environmental science. Examples include the protection of small and isolated populations from inbreeding depression, the identification of key traits involved in adaptation to climate change, the design of harvesting regimes that minimize unwanted life-history evolution, and the setting of conservation priorities based on populations, species, or communities that harbor the greatest evolutionary diversity and potential. The adoption of evolutionary principles has proceeded somewhat independently in these different fields, even though the underlying fundamental concepts are the same. We explore these fundamental concepts under four main themes: variation, selection, connectivity, and eco-evolutionary dynamics. Within each theme, we present several key evolutionary principles and illustrate their use in addressing applied problems. We hope that the resulting primer of evolutionary concepts and their practical utility helps to advance a unified multidisciplinary field of applied evolutionary biology.
That of course puts the evolution denialists in our community - particularly those who are laypeople with zero professional qualifications in evolutionary biology who do not understand the subject well enough to comment on it, let alone offer an authoritative opinion on it - in the curious position of making outlandish claims about evolution being 'science falsely so-called' which are flatly refuted by the fact that this 'science so-called' has real-world, tangible applications. Ours is an age in which the ability to critically evaluate claims made in lectures is as simple as checking mainstream scientific sites via smart phones and other devices, a fact which should remind evolution denialists in our community to exercise caution and intelligence before making claims that can readily be debunked. Credibility once lost is never regained, even if frantic attempts to substitute intimidation and misrepresentation for factuality are employed.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Casey Luskin and the Discovery Institute get it wrong on Homo naledi

The reaction to the magnificent Homo naledi discovery from the YEC community as my previous posts on the subject have shown not only show their complete and profound ignorance of the subject, but have betrayed how hopelessly divided the YEC response is. When one YEC organisation claims the fossils are non-human animals, while another claims they are fully human, it is readily evident that YEC comments on palaeoanthropology are worthless.

Predictably, the militant YEC elements in our community have uncritically taken their lead from the YEC charlatans, as well as seizing on any contrarian view they can find from mainstream palaeoanthropologists in order to give a semblance of scientific credibility to their position. [1] The fact that these contrarian views have been ably refuted by members of the Homo naledi team neatly destroys the anti-Homo naledi arguments that have emerged in our community.

Apart from the usual YEC pseudoscientific organisations such as AiG, CMI, and ICR, the intelligent design special creationist group The Discovery Institute is another pseudoscientific organisation to which YECs in our community uncritically appeal in order to find pre-packaged responses to the evidence for evolution. Given the odium in which the DI is held  by mainstream scientists, its history of censorship of dissenting views, and its pitiful small and scientifically vacuous body of 'papers' which it claims support ID, its credibility, and that of the arguments it makes is non-existent.

One of its leading spokespeople is the lawyer (not scientist) Casey Luskin, who does not let his complete lack of expertise, qualifications, and research in palaeoanthropology and evolutionary biology from pontificating on Homo naledi. Given how poorly the mainstream scientific community received his book on human evolution, (co-authored with two non-palaeoanthropologists Douglas Axe and Ann Gauger whose anti-evolution arguments are likewise not taken seriously by the mainstream scientific community) one would not expect his ramblings on Homo naledi (non-peer reviewed and appearing not in the scientific literature but the highly controlled environment of an intelligent design website) to be anything other than poorly informed nonsense. That, as developmental biologist P.Z. Myers ably notes, is very much the case.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Alan Eyre: Should Christadelphians reject the sciences, become biblical literalists, or teach YEC?

Bro. Alan Eyre needs no introduction to any Christadelphian who has read his book "The Protesters", or who is aware of his long and distinguished scientific career.  Bro Alan is an old earth creationist who does not share the evolutionary creationist views advanced on this website, but is dismayed by the impact young earth creationism, biblical literalism, and attacks on science are having in our community. He has written an article expressing these views eloquently, and is more than happy for this article to be shared.

Should Christadelphians reject the sciences, become biblical literalists, or teach ‘young earth creationism’?

Alan Eyre

20 September 2015

In July 2015 a series of professionally made “science” videos was shown at an ecclesia in the Birmingham area (UK) which purported to demonstrate that modern, recent, scientific astronomy had “proven” that the solar system and the entire known Universe were only approximately six thousand years old, thus supporting the “young earth creation” concept.

When visiting Australia recently I was given to understand by certain prominent brothers that unless I believe, and agree to teach, that every word in Genesis chapter one is absolutely literal, and that therefore life on earth and the sun, moon, stars and galaxies in the sky did not exist before 4004 BC, I cannot be considered a genuine Christadelphian.

Except for a few individuals, Christadelphians have never been committed to a literalist interpretation of Scripture; in fact, quite the opposite. We have strongly resisted literalism, with its doctrines of the heavens and earth being burned up when Jesus returns, possession by literal devils or demons, and enigmatic codes based on numbers and letters supposedly traceable throughout the Bible.

I have been a Christadelphian for seventy years, and published more in our Brotherhood’s literature than any other living writer. I have also been a professional earth and space scientist at a world class university for sixty years, with a curriculum vitae of thousands of pages of peer-reviewed books and articles.

You can see my dilemma. I am being told that the facts on which I base my faith and my understanding of God’s word, and the facts on which I base my university research, and on which my livelihood depends, are totally incompatible. One or other – my science or my religion - must be false (or both).

This is a relatively new dilemma for sincere Christadelphians. It was not a dilemma for Islip Collyer and Louis Sargent, who were two of my early mentors in faith. Islip Collyer personally encouraged me to be both a brother in Christ and a scientist. He suggested that if Job and Solomon had been living today they would both have been active scientists (Job 28:1-11; I Kings 4:33).

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Bible in the News completely gets the Homo naledi story wrong. (Yet another reason why YECs cannot be trusted on science)

It has not taken long for the extreme YEC section of our community to respond to the magnificent Homo naledi fossil discover, as one can see in the latest Bible in the News podcast [1] where one can see the usual YEC techniques of uncritical appeal to YEC charlatans who lack any expertise in palaeoanthropology, reliance on secondary sources rather than read the freely available primary literature, and missing the central point by focusing on side issues.

On this point alone, the team behind BitN lose all credibility as they fail to provide a cogent, reasoned answer to the central fact: the richest ever discovery (> 1500 fossils) of fossils in Africa provide unambiguous evidence for the existence of a small-brained hominin species with a mix of primitive and modern features, whose remains were deliberately placed underground. Hand-waving the evidence away will not make this disappear, and all this does is confirm that the mililtant YEC wing of our community privileges human dogma over the unambiguous witness of the natural world. If YECs wonder why Christianity is increasingly being held in contempt by a younger generation, then they should look at their intellectually dishonest approach to science, and how it both alienates potential converts (and scientifically literate younger members) and brands our community as fundamentalist extremists.