Monday, 31 August 2015

Cain and Abel - asking the wrong questions of the text.

The special creationist claim that Cain and Seth married their sisters not only is a classic example of how fundamentalists forces the Bible into conflict with scientific facts (in this case the fact that the human race never was any smaller than several thousand people), but more importantly, as Biblical scholar Tim Bulkeley notes, the fundamentalist assumption that the narratives are mean to be read in a flat, literal manner as if written by 21st century historians for 21st century readers are asking the wrong question of the narratives.

Scientific resources for the Christadelphian. Part 1 - The American Scientific Affiliation

Part of the reason behind this website and its companion Facebook page is the pressing need to provide a resource for those who are well aware that our community's anti-evolution stance is made in defiance both of the scientific evidence, and contemporary Biblical scholarship which demonstrates that a literal reading of the creation narratives is untenable. Based on feedback I have received, it has been of great help in assisting a number of people, and this alone more than justifies enduring the occasional criticism, both moderate and splenetic.

However, while I appreciate that an in-house distillation of such information will always be of use to some Christadelphians who are reluctant to trust non-Christadelphian sources, [1] providing a list of reputable organisations [2] will help many people find quality information on evolution and creation which cannot be found in our community's mainstream print journals.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

YEC's Colossal Failure - yet another YEC exposes the intellectual dishonesty of YEC

It's one thing to show why YEC is scientific and theological nonsense - this website is replete with more than enough information to make that point several times over. However, the most potent arguments against it come from former YECs, particularly the earnest, eager, zealous members, whose faith in YEC failed when they found evidence that undermined it. Even more damning is the usual response of the YEC hierarchy, which invariably is to belittle, insult, and demonise the YEC with doubts. 

Former YEC Samantha Field, in an article at Homeschoolers Anonymous notes how she was a dedicated, loyal YEC, doing her best to read all the YEC arguments at Answers in Genesis in order to be 'current with all the creationist arguments'. One can hardly call her a half-hearted YEC. Things changed when she began discussing the subject with others, and encountered the killer argument of shared identical endogenous retroviral elements. Field continues:

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

A criticism of Stephen Palmer's talks at the Coventry Creation Day - 14

Shooting the messenger, demonising biology, and the failure of fundamentalism

Stephen Palmer’s series of anti-evolution lectures break no new ground in Christadelphian evolution denialism. They show:

  • A complete misrepresentation of what evolutionary creationists in our community believe
  • A poor understanding of evolutionary biology, particularly in the failure to differentiate between evolution as fact and evolution as theory
  • The use of long-refuted special creationist distortions of the evidence for evolution
  • A naïve view of the creation narratives based on a literal reading which not only results in contradictions between Genesis 1 and 2, but contradictions between the sequence as shown in the fossil record, and a literal reading of Genesis 1.
  • A failure to appreciate that as Genesis 1 accommodates a pre-modern cosmogeography, as shown by the clear references to a solid firmament, Genesis 1 is ancient cosmology, not modern science, and needs to be interpreted accordingly.[1]
  • A world-view which owes little to the Bible, and much to evangelical fundamentalist views on Genesis 1-11 which infiltrated our community in the mid-20th century when  books such as The Genesis Flood regrettably became popular
To see leading figures in our community give credence to a nonsensical view such as YEC is disturbing, given that this position was clearly seen as false by our community prior to the mid-20th century.

A criticism of Stephen Palmer's talks at the Coventry Creation Day - 13

Australopithecus and onwards

The previous length discussion examined the fossil evidence close to the time of the human-chimpanzee common ancestor, and has been enough to show that the fossil evidence is not just a handful of teeth, and furthermore shows the existence of creatures that are not human, not ape, but have characteristics reminiscent of both. In other words, they are transitional. Space precludes an in-depth examination of the Australopithecus and Homo evidence[1], but the representative sample that follows will suffice to show that the fossil evidence for human evidence is substantial, and shows unarguable evidence of our evolutionary origins.

Monday, 3 August 2015

A criticism of Stephen Palmer's talks at the Coventry Creation Day - 12

Palaeoanthropology – more than just a few fossilised teeth

As with any attack on the fossil record for evolution, the special creationist attack on palaeoanthropology fails to comprehend what palaeontologists mean by transitional fossils. Arguments referring to or implying the lack of ‘missing links’ betray completely flawed ‘ladder view’ of evolution with bacteria at the bottom, humans at the top, with millions of ‘links’ connecting bacteria to human in an evolutionary ‘chain of progress’. This view is completely inaccurate, failing as it does to recognise that evolution is not a ladder, but a tree, and that what evolutionary biologists are looking for are not ‘missing links’ but fossils that allow them to infer the underlying pattern of descent with modification by virtue of the transitional features that they display. As Louise Mead reminds us:
The concept of a “missing link” is an “archaic expression” tracing back to the Great Chain of Being, a view of the physical and metaphysical world as an unbroken chain. It was later temporalized by the evolutionary thought of the eighteenth and nineteenth century to the idea of evolution as a progressive climb up a ladder. These views of evolution create the false expectation that there should be fossil evidence showing “a complete chain of life from simple to complex. Creationists rely on such views to support their arguments against macroevolution, in particular by pointing out the “conspicuous” absence of “large numbers of intermediate fossil organisms”, using what is still unknown to question whether evolution has occurred.[1]

A criticism of Stephen Palmer's talks at the Coventry Creation Day - 11

Puncturing the ENCODE hype

In 2012, some scientists made hyperbolic claims that the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements Project (ENCODE) had shown that 80% of our genome was functional. Unsurprisingly, special creationists latched onto this now-refuted claim as if it somehow invalidated common descent. It did not. Apart from the fact that those with the ENCODE project did not declare that their research rebutted evolution, special creationists ignored two points:

  1. Functional does not mean essential. Actively transposing retrotransposons writing over essential DNA are functional, but are definitely harmful
  2. Once again, the evidence from consonant phylogenetic trees and shared genomic 'errors' is independent of any claim about 'functionality'
Unfortunately, almost all special creationists peddling the ENCODE claim have not caught up with the refutation of the hyperbolic '80% is functional' claim so a detailed rebuttal is needed, particularly since YECs in our community have fallen for the ENCODE hype.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

A criticism of Stephen Palmer's talks at the Coventry Creation Day - 10

Correcting Creationist Abuse of Probability

The special creationist abuse of the probability argument likewise is one that has been debunked ages ago. As molecular pharmacologist Ian Musgrave notes, special creationists who make this claim make the following major errors:
1) They calculate the probability of the formation of a "modern" protein, or even a complete bacterium with all "modern" proteins, by random events. This is not the abiogenesis theory at all. 
2) They assume that there is a fixed number of proteins, with fixed sequences for each protein, that are required for life.  
3) They calculate the probability of sequential trials, rather than simultaneous trials. 
4) They misunderstand what is meant by a probability calculation.. 
5) They seriously underestimate the number of functional enzymes/ribozymes present in a group of random sequences[1]
In short, they make the mistake of thinking that the first living cell emerged by pure random association of amino acids forming, something which as Musgrave reminds the creationists, ignores both the fact that the processes involved are not random, and the first living creatures would be far simpler than a modern cell, making the naïve creationist probability calculations meaningless.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

A criticism of Stephen Palmer's talks at the Coventry Creation Day - 9

Common descent, not common design

When confronted with the considerable evidence for common descent, special creationists often appeal to the concept of common design to explain away the evidence for common descent. This argument is deeply flawed for two reasons.

The first is that it is essentially an ad-hoc argument with no explanatory or predictive power. The vertebrate limb is one of the classic examples of how comparative anatomy provides support for common descent. Vertebrates share a common ancestor if common descent is true. Therefore, we'd expect a process of descent with modification to have altered the ancestral vertebrate limb to perform different functions. Conversely, an intelligent designer would not be constrained by history, but be able to design each forelimb independently to maximise its function. There would be no need to use the same underlying pentadactyl limb theme and modify it for structures as different as horse limbs and bat wings. In fact, by using fundamentally different designs for all tetrapod limbs, a special creator could readily provide unambiguous evidence against common descent.

A criticism of Stephen Palmer's talks at the Coventry Creation Day - 8

Peppered moths, speciation, and mechanisms of evolutionary change

We’ve seen that the evidence for common descent just from comparative genomics is beyond reasonable doubt. Evolution as fact is no longer a question in science, any more than heliocentrism is. The mechanism of evolutionary change, evolution as theory, is however a separate issue and one that is still an area of active research. This does not mean that we are in the dark on how evolution occurs. Even though selection acting on random mutation is not the sole mechanism of evolutionary change,[1] its utility and power can hardly be underestimated.[2]