Wednesday, 17 February 2016

YECs: being corrected or contradicted does not mean you are being persecuted.

Many special creationists in our community need to take to heart Ralph Waldo Emerson's comment, “Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.”A related sentiment that pops up in online debate is, "when one is used to privilege, equality seems like oppression." Over the years that I have been involved in the creation-evolution debate, I have seen more than enough of special creationist behaviour to realise that too many of them confuse persecution with losing their privileged status as the sole arbiters of how the creation narratives are interpreted, or with having those interpretations challenged or refuted. In short, rather than accept that their views have been shown to be false, these special creationists are quick to claim victim status.

I saw a particularly egregious example of this recently in an online debate, where a special creationist seriously claimed to be persecuted by evolutionary creationists. The special creationist was quickly corrected by another commenter who noted that persecution was being killed for one's faith, and not having someone disagree with views expressed in debate. It would be harder to find a clearer example of Emerson's adage than the piteous lament made by the YEC. More to the point, the fact that evolutionary creationists in our community are being harassed and even excommunicated makes the claim by that special creationist of persecution frankly offensive.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Neanderthal ancestry and depression risk - why nothing in medicine makes sense except in the light of evolution

Evolutionary biology, as I have pointed out repeatedly is of practical utility for medicine in areas ranging from the classics such as rational antibiotic prescription, tumour biology, and epidemiology, through to understanding the many design flaws and quirks in our anatomy and genetics which make sense only when seen as a result of our evolutionary origins. These facts readily explain both the trend towards making evolutionary biology a basic clinical science for medical students, and the growth in the new field of evolutionary medicine.

They also go a long way to pointing out why intellectually honest, informed doctors are incredulous when people tell them that evolution is 'science falsely so-called'. It's impossible to deny evolution when you can see bacteria evolving drug resistance, have a knowledge of the multiple design flaws in our anatomy that can be explained only by evolution, know from clinical genetics that many genes have coalescent times stretching back hundreds of thousands of years, or are aware of the multiple retrotransposon fragments in identical places in human and ape genomes.  In fact, we've moved beyond the novelty of seeing the indelible hand of evolution anywhere from gross anatomy down to the genomic, and are now building on the fact of evolution to see whether Neanderthal ancestry is linked with the risk of disease. It's not only game, set and match for evolution. We've moved onto the next round of the competition.

Friday, 12 February 2016

How fossilised clam shrimps falsify a global flood

When you critically examine anti-evolution arguments made in our community, not only are they all false, but these arguments show all the signs of being made by those who have never worked in the relevant scientific disciplines and are therefore not speaking from experience or expertise. Conversely, when you listen to arguments made by those who have worked in those disciplines, the expertise is readily apparent. It's not hard to tell which source has credibility, and it isn't the YEC one.

Joel Duff's latest post reflects on his experience sitting in on a PhD student's defence in which he quizzed the doctoral student about the technical details of clam shrimp fossilisation, and whether a global flood could account for it. There are no surprises for guessing that there are no credible ways in which this could occur according to the young scientist who worked on this problem. Now, who are you going to believe? A YEC with zero training in the discipline whose arguments come from an uninspired fundamentalist reading of the Bible, or someone who has actually studied the problem? That we even need to pose this question shows how deeply fundamentalism has taken root in our community.

Monday, 8 February 2016

The Christadelphian website "Life's Big Questions" gets it wrong on science and the Bible. Part 5

As I've previously noted, one of the fundamental flaws in the attacks on evolution and cosmology made by the Christadelphian website Life's Big Questions is the confused understanding of fact and theory in science. Given its inaccurate attack on Big Bang cosmology, it is hardly surprising that its attack on evolutionary biology likewise completely misses its target. As none of its attacks on evolution are new, I will not address them in detail, but refer to previous articles where I address the same special creationist claims about evolution. Where I will direct the majority of my time is in a particularly bad case of quote mining, where LBQ take out of context a quotation from a popular book by geneticist Steve Jones, where a comment about the fossil record is distorted by omission of an opening sentence and the immediately following paragraphs. Either the people behind LBQ have deliberately omitted these sentences and paragraphs, or they have copied - without attempting to verify the reference - an attack from another creationist website. Both alternatives reflect poorly on LBQ, and given that this is an apologetics website, such a blatant example of quote mining is hardly going to make the scientifically literate reader warm to our community.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

The Christadelphian website "Life's Big Questions" gets it wrong on science and the Bible. Part 4

Last time, I pointed out why LBQ was wrong when declaring that scientists claim without justification that "nothing has ever happened to change the physical laws that we know today". In fact, their claim that the ''Big Bang' must remain an interesting theory, and cannot be regarded as a fact" is false. As the cosmologist Jim Peebles has pointed out, "[t]hat the universe is expanding and cooling is the essence of the big bang theory" [1] and there is no serious doubt that the universe has expanded from an initial condition characterised by both high temperature and high density.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Fundamentalist atheism? Does it exist?

My previous post has triggered a Twitter exchange on the concept of fundamentalist atheism, and whether it really exists. Given that Twitter is not a medium for detailed comments, I've elected to do this here. Certainly, given that atheism is simply a lack of belief in a supernatural being, there is no atheist scripture which is read in a stark, literal manner by 'atheist fundamentalists', or atheist dogma which 'atheist fundamentalists' believe represent the true, original basis of atheism and has been ignored or watered down by 'liberal atheists'. If we maintain the original sense of fundamentalism, then the term 'atheist fundamentalist' is meaningless. However, language is not static, and for better or for worse, the term fundamentalism has acquired a broader semantic range, one which allows its meaningful use when applied to some atheists.

Monday, 1 February 2016

James McGrath on Fundamentalism

It's definitely something you see when you look at both fundamentalist Christians and the noisy embittered anti-theists from a fundamentalist Christian background. You can take a man out of fundamentalism, but it's very hard to take fundamentalism out of a man.