Friday, 31 March 2017

How Fundamentalism and YEC fails the next generation - notes from the BioLogos 2017 Conference

Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the 2017 BioLogos Conference in Houston, so Heather Goodman's live blog feed will have to do instead. Certainly, with scholars of the calibre of Tom Wright, John Walton, and Scott McKnight, one hopes that a video or print record of the conference will eventually see the light of the day.

While the live blog gives a taste of some of the highlights of the conference, sadly, it has provided a few reminders of the corrosive effect evolution denialism, virulent opposition to science and a "our way or the highway" approach from fundamentalists / YECs has on the next generation.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Even Answers in Genesis concede the "Cambodian Stegosaurus" is not evidence for human-dinosaur coexistence

Young earth creationist assertions that humans and dinosaurs coexisted are of course nonsense. The last non-avian dinosaurs died out at the end of the Cretaceous around 65 million years ago while the oldest reliably dated Homo sapiens fossils are nearly 200,000 years old. Fossil footprint evidence alleged by YECs to show that humans and dinosaurs coexisted such as the Paluxy River tracks are conceded even by some YECs to be bogus. The claim that 'soft tissue' in dinosaur bones proves the fossils are young is falsified by the securely dated strata in which the fossils were found, confirming their great age, while showing that organic molecules can be preserved for millions of years if the conditions are right. That leaves YECs with nothing other than fanciful interpretations of ancient artwork as evidence for their claims.

One of the more popular examples is a carving at the Ta Prohm temple in Angkor, Cambodia, dated to the 12th / 13th century CE, which some YECs allege is a depiction of a stegosaurus:

Monday, 20 March 2017

"A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject"

One of the accusations made by evolution denialists in our community about both evolutionary creationists and those who do correctly do not regard it as a fellowship issue is that they are being divisive. Given that evolutionary creationists are not insisting on their views being normative for the entire community, have done considerable work behind the scenes in preserving the faith of young people who are struggling to reconcile the fact of evolution with a faithful reading of the Bible, and are asking only that their position be accommodated, this assertion is simply false. More to the point, by seeking to divide the community over this issue, ironically it is the hard-line evolution denialist whose behaviour could well be called divisive, and promoting of factionalism.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

A 400,000 year old Portugese hominin - yet more hard evidence for the antiquity of humanity

My previous post commented on a recent study that showed not only the antiquity of indigenous Australian settlement, but that individual population groups had been present in the same area for tens of thousands of years. This of course falsifies the special creationist assertion that the entire human race descends exclusively from two people who lived six thousand years ago. Now, another paper provides more evidence for the antiquity of the human lineage. Portugese palaeoanthropologist João Zilhão, and his colleagues have published a paper detailing the discovery of a Middle Pleistocene hominin skull from Gruta da Aroeira in Portugal securely dated to around 400,000 years. The skull may well be ancestral to Homo neanderthalensis, and occurs along with stone tools, animal remains and evidence of controlled use of fire.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Adam and the Indigenous Australian genome - yet another line of evidence agaisnt monogenism

The fundamentalist Christian assertion that the entire human race descended from two people who lived six thousand years ago has long been falsified by both the comprehensive hominin fossil record stretching back millions of years into the past, and the evidence from human genetics that shows the human population was never smaller than a few thousand people. Given this, any further evidence demonstrating these points would seem to be overkill, but sometimes, a scientific paper arises that provides an elegant demonstration of this fact. 

A week ago, Nature published an article by Alan Cooper et al which analysed indigenous Australian mitochondrial DNA, showing that after arriving in Australia close to fifty thousand years ago, humans colonised the whole of the continent within a few thousand years. What was particularly fascinating was evidence that some indigenous Australian populations have been living continuously in particular areas for tens of thousands of years. As the authors note:
The long-standing and diverse phylogeographic patterns documented here are remarkable given the timescale involved, and raise the possibility that the central cultural attachment of Aboriginal Australians to ‘country’ may reflect the continuous presence of populations in discrete geographic areas for up to 50 kyr. [1]
Source: Nature (2017) doi:10.1038/nature/21416
Two things are apparent. The first is that the indigenous attachment to the land quite likely is based in the fact particular groups have been living in particular parts of the country for tens of thousands of years. The second, and theologically significant fact is that given particular tribal groups were living continuously in the same part of Australia for tens of thousands of years before Adam, it is clear that the dogmatic assertion that every human alive descended from two people who lived six thousand years ago simply cannot be reconciled with the evidence.


1. Tobler R et al "Aboriginal mitogenomes reveal 50,000 years of regionalism in Australia" Nature (2017) doi:10.1038/nature21416 p 4