Monday, 29 June 2015

An overview of how YECs deceive themselves

My previous blog post looked at how the ultra-conservative Fox News acts as an echo chamber for conservative science denialists who by watching it exclusively ensure that nothing challenges their right wing view of reality, whether it be related to politics or to science. The parallels with extremist YEC Facebook pages which act as echo chambers for scientifically uninformed fundamentalists seeking to avoid evidence that challenges their worldview are clear and obvious.

While fundamentalist dogma is clearly the underlying motivation for Christadelphian science denialism, the cognitive biases involved in distorting reality so that it does not threaten their fundamentalist view of reality are not found exclusively among Christians, and are not a function of intelligence. Some YECs are highly intelligent people, so it is misleading to perpetuate the stereotype of YECs as unintelligent and credulous. The problem lies not with intelligence, but disorders of thinking and reasoning.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Fox News, the conservative mind, and echo chambers - or how YECs avoid reality

Given the sheer volume of material readily available today on the subject of evolution and the age of the Earth, it's fair to conclude that YECs are actively working hard to remain ignorant and preserve their distorted view of both Bible and science. That's not in doubt. As to how the YECs maintain that ignorance, science writer Chris Mooney, in a 2014 Alternet article looking into why viewers of the ultra-conservative Fox News are some of the most misinformed on issues ranging from politics to science argues that conservative, authoritarian people seek out environments like Fox News which acts both as a source for validation of their views, and a safe haven where they will find no challenge to their beliefs. In other words, they resolve the cognitive dissonance experienced when reality challenges their worldview by avoiding reality altogether and hiding in an echo chamber. The parallels to evolution denialism in our community are obvious.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Five Reasons Why Interpreting Genesis 1 Literally is Impossible

I've pointed out that YEC cannot be honestly reconciled with both the scientific and the Biblical data as a literal reading of both creation narratives contradict each other in the length and duration of creation, the sequence of creation events in Gen 1 does not harmonise with what we actually know from science, and Genesis 1 when taken literally teaches the existence of a solid firmament. I've made these points repeatedly, but for the benefit of those needing a summary of why a literal reading is untenable, I've gathered together five of the main points. Read on.

Monday, 22 June 2015

The difference between peer-reviewed literature and uninformed argument from YEC websites

One of the tactics used by Christadelphian evolution denialists is the appeal to irrelevant authority, with the two most common variants of that approach being the appeal to an evolution denialist with a technical qualifications in areas completely irrelevant to evolutionary biology such as engineering or nuclear physics or mathematics, or the uncritical citation of material from pseudoscientific websites maintained by science denialists whose arguments have never been scrutinised by experts in the field to check for basic flaws and errors. 

I have lost count of the amount of times I have seen videos or articles by laypeople with absolutely no relevant scientific training confidently asserting that command descent and large-scale evolutionary change are false. In every case, it is painfully clear that almost all of these people would be flat-out reading the primary literature, let alone designing a scientific experiment to test their anti-evolution hypotheses, or have the knowledge required to act as a referee for such papers. The simple truth that evolution denialists in our community refuse to acknowledge, is that unless you know what you are talking about, have the expertise to test your anti-evolution arguments, get them written up and published, and have those arguments positively cited by the scientific community, no one will take your anti-evolution rants seriously. It's that simple, and no amount of appealing to fundamentalist distortions of the Bible, or verbal abuse of evolutionary creationists is ever going to make the scientific facts confirming the reality of evolution go away.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

The special creationist burden of proof - and how they always evade it.

One of the more obvious examples of special creationist intellectual dishonesty can be seen when they attack evolutionary creationists who point out the flaws, blunders, logical fallacies, and scientific errors in the special creationist position. The special creationist argument - that evolutionary creationists are not 'qualified' to talk about evolution is more than a little bizarre when the evolutionary creationists appeal not to their own opinion or expertise (except when directly relevant such as the impact evolution has on medicine for example), but to the relevant scientific authorities.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

We Don't Need No Education? Oh yes we do.

Young Earth creationism, while a major problem in our community, is ultimately a symptom of a far bigger problem, namely fundamentalism and an overweening anti-intellectualism which regards mainstream scholarship with contempt, and maintains the delusion that a layperson armed with nothing more than Strong's lexical definitions and the Authorised Version does not need to consult mainstream scholarship. 

An excellent essay highlighting both this endemic anti-intellectualism, and how it represents a marked deviation from an original Christadelphian position that respected scholarship and would regard the anti-intellectualism that infests our community today with dismay and contempt, found at the Facebook page Science and Scripture follows.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Why Christian fundamentalists deny the reality of evolution

Any intellectually honest person who has read even a fraction of the articles on this website summarising the evidence for common descent and large-scale evolutionary change would acknowledge that common descent and large-scale evolutionary change are facts, and can be no more denied than the atomic theory of matter, the germ theory of disease, or the reality that the Earth is not a fixed flat disc around which the universe revolves. Therefore, when any Christadelphian claims that they have looked at the evidence for evolution and claim that is is not convincing, the only possible explanations for this failure to recognise the fact of evolution are:
  • The Christadelphian science denialist has not examined the evidence for evolution, but looked merely at the usual YEC distortions, and deluded himself into thinking that he has examined the evidence
  • The Christadelphian science denialist is simply lying when he claims to have examined the evidence
  • The Christadelphian science denialist has examined the evidence for evolution, but his fundamentalist dogma prevents him from accepting the evidence.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Setting the next generation up for failure - the Hall Green Young People's Creation Day 2015

In James 3:1, the writer reminded his audience that those who who teach will be judged with greater strictness, something that makes sense when one considers the responsibility that a teacher has to ensure what she or he has to say is accurate. This becomes even more important when one teaches young people, for obvious reasons. It is bad enough seeing fundamentalism and science denialism being served up in The Christadelphian, but when a younger generation is fed science denialism, as was the case when the Hall Green ecclesia in Birmingham presented their Young People's Creation Day recently, it is hard not to get deeply concerned at the potential for harm that exists when pseudoscience is inextricably linked with our faith. As the former YEC Gordon Hudson (someone who once promoted the early UK tours of the YEC extremist Ken Ham) noted in a blog post:
My own faith was shipwrecked by this issue because I had been told time and again that belief in a young earth and creation of the species as they currently are without evolution was essential to being a proper, soundly converted, bible believing Christian. When I started to doubt creationism I also began to question all the other things I had been told about God. I felt lied to, and ultimately I found I no longer believed in God.
By inculcating science denialism in a young generation, we are setting them up for a loss of faith when they eventually read outside our community and discover that everything they were taught about evolution and creation was false. It is hard not to get infuriated when one sees such reckless, counter-productive behaviour by senior people in our community.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

A Christadelphian special creationist gets himself into a bind on the question of Adam and genomics

While the wholesale denial of the fact of human evolution alone is enough to destroy the credibility of the evolution denialists in our community, sometimes it is the abysmal reasoning seen in their arguments that is alone is enough to confirm that they have nothing to contribute to the discussion. This is particularly damning when such examples come from those with a background in philosophy, such as the person behind the soon to be mothballed page "Special Creationism - A Christadelphian Perspective".

In a post from the 22nd May, the author declares:
The special creation of Adam and Eve is the Achilles-heel of theistic evolution/evolutionary creationism. If they deny this, they reject Genesis and drive a coach and horses through the biblical doctrine of sin, death and salvation. If they affirm it, they face the inconsistency of having evolution for the tree of life and all the primates except Adam, Eve and their descendants. They exclude the empirical evidence of common descent from applying to Adam and Eve but without justification. They are in a bind.

"Once the special creation of Adam and Eve is admitted, the only logical harmonisation of the Bible and Science is that of Old Earth Creationism which allows progressive creationism to co-exist with evolution in the natural history of life on earth."
One sees bald assertions, and ignorance of the evidence for human evolution, but nothing approximating a sound argument. Take the claim that the special creation of Adam and Eve is allegedly an Achilees heel for evolutionary creationism. Why? SCACP claims that if we reject this, we reject Genesis and destroy the Biblical doctrine of sin, death, and salvation. Well, we don't reject the special creation of Adam. What we do reject is the mistaken belief that he was the sole ancestor of the entire human race. Adam was not only a special creation, but the first person to whom God revealed himself. Prior to this, the concept of sin was meaningless and pre-Adamic humans lived and died as the beasts that perish. Genesis 1, while not a literal account of creation (clearly shown by its allusion to a pre-scientific cosmogeography in its reference to a solid firmament [1-3], a view denied only by a tiny, irrelevant,  fundamentalist rump of modern scholarship) nonetheless alludes strongly to more than two people in verses 26-28, whereas Gen 2 clearly refers to the creation of two people. In other words, the creation accounts are sequential, rather than concurrent.

Monday, 1 June 2015

A Christadelphian special creationist comments on John Morris' article - and destroys my irony meter

I've been active in combatting Christadelphian special creationist attacks on evolutionary biology for many years, so nothing really surprises me anymore. Occasionally however, the chutzpah of such attacks can be amazing. A classic example comes from a post by Andrew Perry, a Christadelphian old earth creationist with a background in philosophy who offers his assessment on the June 2015 article by John Morris which has been recently refuted at ECACP. Perry writes:
The June issue of the Christadelphian Magazine has an article by John Morris entitled 'The Way God Works'. It puts some basic points against theistic evolution/evolutionary creationism and quotes Francis Collins' definition of theistic evolution as a representative evolutionary creationist. It doesn't therefore fall into the trap of setting up a straw man as it doesn't (wisely) quote Christadelphian evolutionary creationists. It's simple but reasonably accurate.
Given the numerous errors and outright blunders that have characterised this article by Morris, not to mention his 2009 article Darwin and the Gospel, to call it reasonably accurate not only is a mistake, but confirms that Perry is simply out of his depth on the science.