Friday, January 30, 2009

And Now, A Word from Our Maker

A shameless commercial? Perhaps, but it was so interesting, I thought you might enjoy it. [HT to Uncommon Descent].


  1. Who was it, exactly, who said that thing at the start of the commercial about "nothing but blind pitiless indifference"?

    Yup, these interviews show deep thinking. I think it looks designed, so it's designed. Very deep. But let's consider a specific example. Is a hurricane designed?

    Still, at least you are now listening to and are impressed by people who think that life on Earth is billions of years old and that humans and apes share a common ancestor. That's progress.

  2. Hmmmm...
    Why doesn't surprise me, Joe, that you could spin this that way! ;-)

    I think you're missing which group of folk I find impressive!

  3. You're not impressed by Behe? Wasn't he in the commercial?

    By the way, care to take a crack at the two questions in my previous comment? Let's see just how impressive these folks really are.

  4. ...And while we're at, care to actually test the hypothesis that the Earth is 6000 years old to see how impressive that is?

  5. Joe,
    I do find Behe impressive. I do have a bone of contention with him in that he is not a young earther, which I would think would make him impressive to you. In that regard, neither are some other impressive folks at IBRI, through whom I first became aware of the problem of varves and coral growth.

  6. So why do you suppose that Behe is not a young earther? Why do you suppose he thinks that humans share a common ancestor with chimps? You think maybe he understands the evidence is overwhelming?

    I’d never heard of the IBRI, so I took a quick look at their web site. From what I could see, it offers numerous, specific, concrete reasons why the Earth can’t be 6000 years old. Again and again, they test the hypothesis using the realities of the physical world, and again and again, the hypothesis fails. The evidence against the young earth hypothesis is overwhelming, and the disproofs provided by the IBRI are just the very tip of the iceberg.

    But this doesn’t impress you?

    Instead, you are impressed by a five minute commercial which begins with deception and which consists of little more than bobbing heads saying “it looks designed, so it must be designed?”. But of course, at no point in the commercial does anyone offer a definition of design or explain how one might test for design. All it offers is an argument based on current ignorance and personal incredulity.

    So, let’s test the design hypothesis. Let’s begin with the question “are hurricanes designed”. And while we’re at it, perhaps you can explain why God designed tapeworms (and other parasites) and sharks (and other predators).

    As Darwin said (to cite an actual Darwin quote as opposed to the deception at the start of the commercial):

    “But I own that I cannot see as plainly as others do, and as I should wish to do, evidence of design and beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae [wasps] with the express intention of their [larvae] feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars.”

  7. Joe,
    The only evidence I find credible, and impressive, is a man coming out of the tomb alive. I find the historical case for Jesus doing that very thing incontrovertible. I've put my faith in that occurrence, even though I wasn't there, and it's resulted in a changed life and my personal experience of his living presence. That's where I start and finish in looking for explanations of how I got here and why.

    You start with the seen in the here and now, and use human reason to extrapolate into the unseen past, seeking to build a structure of explanation, exclusive of God, based on your best educated guesses of what led to what you see today. I say your approach, or mine, requires faith to connect the dots. Your faith is in human philosophy, my is in the historic revelation of a God who showed up in the flesh. My case and faith is unimpressive to you, your's are unimpressive to me. I think it's possible to explore this world, in the macro and micro environments, understand cause and effect, and apply science to benefit of mankind without adopting your viewpoint in the least. Obviously, you don't.

    As for Darwin, he clearly did not understand Christian theology, which doesn't look for everything to be bright and beautiful in this current dispensation, but to reveal the wrath of God and the sinfulness of mankind.

  8. What Darwin understood was that Ichneumonid wasps are killing machines. That’s a demonstrable, irrefutable fact. Now, either God designed them as killing machines or there was a great deal of evolution after the humans sinned. Take your pick. The answer to the question has nothing to do with the “wrath of God”. All it takes is a little logic to understand. You use “theology” as a means of avoiding the question.

    I’m amazed at quickly you give up on reasoned argument and fall back on the belief that you possess some absolute divine Truth that allegedly trumps all evidence and all reason. You believe that Jesus is God, and that ends the discussion. Such is the consequence of religious belief.

    Of course, you seem to forget that all of your beliefs are just as much the product of human thought and philosophy as mine are. You believe in a theology created by fallible humans based on a book written by fallible humans. How hard is it to understand that ordinary mortal men wrote the Bible? What you have a particular version of history that you chose to believe as an absolute truth. But it’s hardly “incontrovertible”.

    Humans have a long history of believing the most amazing things, and that’s why independent, objective evidence is essential, especially in the case of extraordinary claims. Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence, but there isn’t a single contemporary record of any kind that dates from the time Jesus was alive that testifies that Jesus rose from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus would have been the mother of all miracles, and Jerusalem would have exploded with the news. But in fact, there was no explosion. There was no report to Rome that an executed rebel had done the most amazing thing in the history of the world. Jesus was executed, and very few people took any notice of the fact. Why not?

    We do not even have so much as a single word written by Jesus himself. Why didn’t God write the New Testament himself when he had the human hands to do it? What an extraordinary failure on God’s part. Why rely on fallible humans when you can write it directly yourself? Maybe if God had written the Bible, it wouldn’t have the errors that it contains, starting with Genesis.

  9. ...And I see that you don't really want to discuss "design", despite your posting of the commercial.

  10. But in fact, there was no explosion

    Acts 2:1-41!

  11. Yes, there was no explosion (did you mis-type?). Why no explosion?

    There is no objective, non-Christian (i.e., Roman, etc.) account of the kind of explosion that one would perdict, given the historical circumstances. The messiah the Jews have been waiting for has arrived, the prophesies about the man who is to occupy the throne of David have been fulfilled, he's come back to life after the hated Romans executed him, he can not be stopped by any mortal man...and there is essentially no mark left on the contemporaneous historical record. Nothing happens. No uprising, no Pilate looking to find and execute Jesus again, no Roman armies pouring in to quell disturbances, nothing.

    Just as there is no record of a census during the time of Herod the Great, just as there is no record of a slaughter of the innocents, just as we lack a single word written by Jesus himself…there is no indication that the execution of Jesus was noticed by more than a handful of followers. Look, you can obviously believe what you want, but calling the resurrection an "incontrovertible historical fact" is an unsupportable conclusion.

    And using the Bible as a reference obviously doesn't solve the problem of the lack of external, impartial historical evidence. The bias of the writers is obvious. According to Mormons writers, Joseph Smith found golden tablets with another book of the Bible written on them. So, it must be the truth, right?

    Design? Want to talk about design?

  12. Joe,
    I'm surprised you would bank your eternal soul on an argument from silence. I would wager you have no problem relying on a fossil record that is silent with regard to transitional forms. Hmmm.

    Your litany of complaints against the records of the gospel is a house of cards. There can be no more objective evidence than that from the actual eyewitnesses, but you've tossed that out (because you don't like what they had to say?). They were willing to die for their testimony, what are you willing to do for yours? The record is about as incontrovertible as ancient history gets.

    Your expectation of a Roman hullabaloo or a Jewish revolt is pure air, and to equate the quality of multiplied witnesses of Christ's resurrection to the sole testimony of Joseph Smith isn't worthy of comment.

  13. The fossil record is full of transitional forms. Read a paleontology book, for crying out loud, instead of depending on YEC websites. Please. I’d be glad to recommend a few titles if you’re interested. I’d be glad to discuss transitional forms. I’d be glad to discuss design. Just say the word.

    It’s not that I don’t like what the “eyewitnesses” are saying. My point about eyewitness testimony is that it's biased and fallible. Any attorney knows that. Don’t you know this as well? The statement that there is nothing more objective than eyewitness testimony is absurd. Look at the number of people sent to death row by eyewitness testimony, only to be later freed by truly objective DNA evidence. You can say eyewitnesses are objective, but that’s simply false, and I can prove it that it’s false.

    The historical record is jam-packed with discredited eyewitness accounts. That’s why independent conformation is critical. But we have no independent evidence to support the extraordinary claim, and without that, there is little to separate this particular story from the thousands of other tales told by humans over the years. That’s why my point about the hullabaloo is not air. Looking for evidence of revolt is a means by which we can test the hypothesis of the resurrection. I notice that you offer no reasoned refutation, just words. You say “house of cards”, but offer no explanation as to why this is so. You can say it, but it doesn’t make it so. I need to know why something is “air” or a “house of cards”.

    In any event, we don’t know that the documents that have come down to us were even written by the alleged eyewitnesses. We don’t know exactly when they were written, we have no means by which to test the veracity of the document’s claims, we don’t how many conflicting accounts have been lost. We just don’t know. Saying “the record is about as incontrovertible as ancient history gets” carries little weight, because there is nothing in ancient history that is “incontrovertible”. While there are some things about which we have a higher degree of confidence, I doubt if there’s anything in ancient history textbooks that’s genuinely “incontrovertible”. It’s just not in the nature of the game. Ask any historian if you don’t believe me.

    "They were willing to die for their testimony". So were the Mormons. Joseph Smith died for his beliefs in golden tablets. Why isn’t his testimony “quality”, too? Countless others have also died for beliefs different from the early Christians. It’s doesn’t mean that they were right about what they believed. Dying for one’s beliefs appears to be a poor test of truth. If everyone who has died for a delusion was right, then we’ve quite a philosophical and theological muddle to sort through.

    Ah, yes, “bank my eternal soul”. When all else fails, use fear and terror. This is one of the more disgusting aspects of Christianity. Those who think and question must be eternally tortured. God is love.

  14. Joe,
    Yeah, I'll bite on the paleontology sources. What do you suggest? Hopefully, it will be more than the cock and bull story Kenneth Miller tried to foist in one of his presentations I saw. I don't think it holds much promise though.

    You are right about eyewitnesses-- in the midst of a traffic accident, or an assault or attack. Not so much, in fact not at all, when it comes to multiple sightings for extended periods of time over many days. The accounts of the eyewitnesses were not of the, "ooh, did you see that, was it a ghost?" variety which would be suspect. Their witness is what any historian would call a primary source, of the type and reliability that would demand credence without debate, if it wasn't supernatural. I have faith in their veracity and have no problem with the supernatural, you are free to disbelieve.

    If you're right, I've wasted my inconsequential, purposeless life on a fantasy; if those witnesses and myself are right, you will die without Christ, without the cleansing of his vicariously spilled blood, facing a God of perfect knowledge and inescapable judgment with nothing but your own record. I can understand why I make the effort to turn you to my point of view, I'm not quite so sure why you display such dogged determination to turn me to yours. Don't get me wrong, it's always nice to talk with you.

    Joseph Smith did not die for his testimony, he died for his politics. To face what the eyewitnesses of Christ faced, he would have had to face bodily harm, imprisonment and loss that could be avoided simply by recanting.

    Dying for one's faith is a perfect test of veracity, not necessarily about the objective truth of the testimony, but certainly about the witnesses commitment to it's veracity. No one dies for what he knows to be a lie (other than spies and soldiers). The Apostles believed they saw Jesus alive after his death, they saw him multiple times over 40 days, they ate with him, they talked with him, they touched him, they saw him in groups of one, two, twelve and even 500. They sealed their testimony with their own blood. As I said, that's about as incontrovertible as it gets.

  15. Glad to see that you’ll bite on the paleontology sources. The first book I’d suggest is “Your Inner Fish” by Shubin. I’ll look up a couple of more tomorrow at work that cover a much broader range of fossils. I have several on my shelf, but I can’t remember them all off the top of my head.

    In the meantime, I’m curious; what exactly did Miller say that was “cock and bull”? Also, could you please define the term “transitional form” for me? How can we know if something does or does not exist if we don’t know what we are looking for. We need to define our terms first, and then we’ll see how quiet the fossil record really is.

    Joe Smith and the other Mormons did face harm, imprisonment and loss of life for their beliefs. If Smith had recanted his claims about golden tablets, said it was all a joke, and disbanded his religiously-motivated followers, all would have been well. But he didn’t recant, and he was murdered for it. To the extent that “politics” was involved, the politics were a product of the belief system. I’ve always wondered if Smith knew he was lying, but just couldn’t figure a way out after things went too far.

    Yes, the key point is that the claims are supernatural. That requires far more than the statements of biased “eyewitnesses” to back up. “Extraordinary claims require …” and in this case, the extraordinary evidence is non-existent. I would agree that dying for one’s beliefs certainly indicates a very strong commitment to that belief. But as you say, it is not a test of the objective veracity of that belief. And we do know that people die for delusional beliefs.

    Of course, we don’t actually know if any of the Apostles died for their beliefs, because there are no independent records of this. We don’t even know for sure that the gospels were written by those who saw Jesus executed, because again, there is no independent verification of who the authors were. Remarkably, much of the New Testament is attributed to a man who never met Jesus, and so obviously, did not see Jesus rise from the dead. He never heard Jesus speak, and yet his words are taken as absolute divine Truth. And as previously noted, even more remarkably, Jesus left no written record of his own. You can choose to believe that stories that began to emerge in the middle of the first century, but there is no way to verify the stories or declare them incontrovertible.

    I understand that the New Testament claims that Jesus hung around for 40 day after pulling off the mother of all miracles and that he was seen by as many as 500 people. But that just re-digs the hole you’re in. That just takes us right back to the original question…why no revolt, why no explosion and why no independent contemporaneous record of this? We can both agree that this would have been the most extraordinary event in the history of humanity, and yet…all was quiet on the Middle Eastern front. Why?

    As to why I display such dogged determination, well, I guess I just find it hard to believe that anyone could claim that the Earth is 6000 years old and that dinos and humans lived together. This is mostly what fascinates me. This side trip into first century history is a product of the fact that you defend YEC by claiming that God/Jesus is your witness, and on this basis, you reject vast swaths of modern science. It’s your use of Jesus as a witness that’s drawn us into the tangential Jesus thing. But really, it’s the YEC claims that I find oddly fascinating. Remember, the initial posting was about evolution and design.

  16. Here are a couple more titles. For a good overview of human and hominid fossils, try "The Last Human" by Sawyer, et al. But problably the best book to start with is "Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters" by Prothero, because Prothero is a geologist and he provides the broadest coverage of the transitional fossil issue of all the books I've listed.

    By the way, I figured out the eyewitness thing. Yes, people saw Jesus rise from the dead. But what they didn't know was that Jesus was demon-possessed or even Satan himself. You see, this is all a satanic plot to turn people away from the one true religion, Judaism and away from the commandment to only have one God. The high priests were right, Jesus was committing blasphemy. Any reason why the Enemy couldn't pull this off?

  17. Oh, and I really am curious about the Miller thing, and don't forget the definition for transitional fossils.

  18. Joe,
    Sorry for the late response, I haven't been able to mind the blog for a little while. Thanks for the suggested reading, I'll see if I can get the Prothero book at the KU library and let you know what I think once I lay hands on it (it probably needs a healing ;-0). I hope I can get by without buying it!

    I do not remember the specific Kenneth Miller vids I saw. There were two, one at a university, I think, in Ohio, in debate format, the other was a lecture I don't remember where. Two points irritated me: on the subject at hand, his characterization of whale evolution and recent fossil finds in Pakistan; and on a different matter, his presentation of the supposed "mutation" of bacteria in Japan that enabled digestion of nylon.

    From what I have been able to piece together on my own, I see no benefit at all from Ambulocetus or Pakicetus in filling the gaps in the cetacean evolutionary tale. It's the same old grasping at air macroevolutionists posit in the place of hard evidence in the fossil record-- a fanciful use of the imagination rather than the conclusive result of logic and fact. Evil Knieval would applaud that jump across the canyon from a higher than usual nostril to a blowhole in the skull. Certainly this is no where near the done deal Miller made it out to be.

    As for the bacteria mutation, that appears, at least to my novice eyes, as a case of pre-existing capacity-- plasmids already in the bacteria providing a "forseen" capacity to adapt rather than an actual change in the creature. I have to wonder how long it would take the nylon eating bacteria to adapt to a non-nylon environment. I bet they likely would quickly, and end up still being the same old bacteria we've always known before they "learned" to produce nylonase. But alas, I'm waaaaaaaay out of my field of expertise (if I even have one) and stepping all over yours. Sorry about that.

    As far as Joseph Smith goes, I'd never agree to characterize his "suffering" as validating his witness because it was about maintaining his following and seeking power. He got shot when he decided to make a play for political power.

    A transitional form would be a fossilized species which shows almost no variation, except for one or two characteristics, from a supposedly earlier fossilized species (which would have had to exist in the evolutionary schema). A series of such forms would be necessary to truly verify any particular species' place in the progression. If this definition is not satisfactory to you, I'm willing to be educated and to discuss.

  19. If necessary, the Prothero book is well worth the money.

    Let me do Mormons first.

    You really don’t want to give Smith and the other Mormons their due as religious martyrs. The problem with your argument is that you think you can separate politics from religion in this matter. You know, one could easily argue that the early Christian martyrs died for political reasons, too. From the Romans point of view, their crime was a political one. They were challenging the authority of the state, they were committing acts of treason and rebellion, and thus, they were seeking more political power. They were executed because they represented a political threat. In the case of these martyrs, you can not separate the religious from the political.

    Similarity, you can’t separate Smith’s politics and/or political actions from his beliefs. You have to forget for the moment that Mormonism is absurd and see things as Smith saw them. Smith had a religious vision, a revelation, a set of golden tablets delivered by an angel. He was following and acting upon the direct commands of God. He was spreading the word of this revelation, just as the early Christians did. He gathered followers who were convinced that Smith had a direct line to heaven. And when he attempts to lead his people to a promised land, he’s killed for his religiously motivated actions. As I said before (and you didn’t actually address this point), if Smith recants his religious beliefs, there are no Mormon martyrs.

    Even if you don’t want to give Smith credit for dying for his religious beliefs, what about his followers? These people did not see themselves as seeking political power any more than the early Christians did. They simply believed that Smith had a divine revelation and they acted out of religious belief. They thought they were following God’s will. And they were harmed, imprisoned and killed for their beliefs…just like the early Christians. No religious belief, nobody dies. The only reason for denying them their martyr’s badges is that you think that their beliefs are wrong.

    Ken Miller.

    First, you need to do more than watch a few videos. Such thing have a low information content compared with book due to the very limited amount of time one has to transmit information. This is especially true with debates. Read Miller’s Finding Darwin’s God.

    Since the Prothero book addresses whale fossils, I leave that for the book. Prothero discusses the issue in far more detail than I can and with far more knowledge of the subject than I have. But I think that the bottom line is that the known whale fossils demonstrate that creatures with intermediate traits can and did exist. Supposedly, you can’t turn a terrestrial mammal into a whale, because half-terrestrial mammal, half-whale won’t work. But the fossils show that such creatures do work. In addition, recent work in developmental genetics is showing that relatively small genetic changes can indeed to things such as move blowholes to the top of heads.

    Nylonase gene.

    Simply put, in the context of why the nylonase gene is significant, it doesn’t matter if the gene is on a plasmid. Plasmids do not provide a “forseen capacity” for new genes anymore than chromosomal DNA does. There is no “pre-existing capacity” for this gene, other than the fact that the bacteria had DNA and the fact that DNA can undergo mutation. That’s it, as far as pre-existing capacity goes. In the end, the gene still had to come from somewhere, and in this case, evidence points to mutations as the mechanism that created the gene. These mutations appear to have occurred in a stretch of DNA that didn’t code for anything before the mutation occurred. That is, the mutations turned nonsense into something beneficial. And the important thing is that that it’s very, very unlikely that this gene existed before the 20th century, because nylon oligomers are a 20th century invention. The gene would have no benefit in a pre-20th century world, and in the absence of a useful function, the gene would have quickly mutated into nonsense. So here is a new, beneficial gene and/or an increase in the information content of DNA coming into existence before our eyes, something that many creationist say can’t happen.

    I appreciate your efforts to define transitional forms, and it does give us a place to start. But I’m afraid this may prove to be a little too vague in practice. How much variation are we allowed under the banner of “no variation”? How do we define “characteristics”, and how close do later fossils have to be to earlier fossils before you claim that we have an unbridgeable gap. There’s an old joke in paleontology that every gap-filling fossil discovery turns one gap into two gaps, because now creationists will claim that there are gaps on either side of the new, gap-filling species. I don’t mean these criticisms in a mean-spirited way, I just have a suspicion that I know how this is going to go. Past experience and all that.

    But let’s give it a try. Suppose I show you a fossil creature that in almost every respect is an “ape”. In fact, essentially all young earth creationists who look at this fossil call it an ape. It’s about three tall, it has a 400 to 500 CC brain or a brain that is the same size as an ape of the same body size, it has big canines, a jutting jaw and arms that are about as long as it’s legs. However, when we look at the pelvis and knee joint, it’s clear that this creature is far more bipedal than any ape. In all other respects, it falls within the variation associated with apes. But it walks on two legs. Does this count?

    Now, let’s take this species and compare it with another species that has almost all of the same traits we see in our bipedal ape. The face is not quite as ape-like, but no one would confuse it with a human face. This creature is a little taller, but not much. However, this second creature has a brain that’s about 700 CC in size. Does this count?

    How about the graphs found at this website? See any transitions?

  20. Joe,
    I'm not buying the Mormon argument at all. The difference between Joseph Smith's experience and the Apostles is night and day. The Mormon followers fit the bill for veracity that I covered earlier in this regard: no one dies for what they know to be a lie. They were not privy, however, to the event in question: their actions arose out of faith in Smith, not personal testimony.

    I will read the Prothero book, if for nothing else than you highly recommend it, but I disagree with your assessment of whale evolution entirely. What I have pieced together (but as you've said, Prothero will give me a fuller accounting) comes nowhere close to demonstrating intermediates could and did live. Again, that's extrapolation sprung far from the evidence.

    As for transitional forms and the ape intermediates you mentioned, my first assumption upon finding such things would be, "wow, two new creatures." The evolutionists reaction is, "wow, two more jumps in the evolutionary tree." This just points out what I've said before, creationists have their religious presuppositions, Darwinists have their's. It's one's presuppositions which determine his or her interpretation of forensic data. Yes, every intermediate does, in effect, create two gaps, but there are good reasons creationists shoot down these transitional forms-- they don't look like such to us. It's only an interpretive grid that makes them so to others.

    Though I'd much rather defer to you on issues of involving biochemistry and genetics, I have to point out once again, that even your explanation of nylonase capacity hinges on the pre-existing. Whether within a plasmid, or from unmasking unexpressed DNA, or some technical term unkown to me, the fundamental truth is still true-- the building blocks were already in the organism, despite nylon being modern.

    As much as I've been enjoying our interaction on this subject, I can't promise I'll engage much more if at all, at least before I have a chance to read Prothero. I'm sure we'll have opportunities to interact on other subjects and other posts. Thanks Joe, it really has been enjoyable.

  21. Yeah, I figured you'd reject the evidence, no matter how good it is. By the way, you failed to explain why my examples failed to might the criteria laid out in your definition. You just rejected the evidence.

    I realize that want to read the Prothero book before making futher comments, but let me ask just one basic, fundamental question.

    How can we know anything at all about the world around us?

    How can we know anything at all, let alone make statements about absolute truths? If it's all a matter of "interpretive grids" and pre-suppositions, isn't all knowledge subjective and relative? That's ALL knowledge, including religious belief. You have your views, I have my views, and any view is just as good as any other, right? If it's all a matter of "grids", then there really is no point in doing any science, right? Data can be interpreted any way you'd like, right? I can see the Sun rise in the east and set in the west, and my interpretive grid says that I'm at the center of the universe and that view is as good as any other, right? I see transitions, you see two completely separate species, and there is absolutely no way to determine which view is correct, right?

    Nice job. You've managed to demonstrate why there is no such thing as Truth.

    You know, on second thought, don't bother reading the Prothero book. Since all knowledge is subjective, and since there is nothing we can no about the natural world, and since one grid is as good as any other, you can just stick to the view that makes you happy.

  22. Oops, again.

    Sentence in the first paragraph should read:

    "By the way, you failed to explain why my examples failed to *meet* the criteria laid out in your definition."

    Too much sniffing glue.

  23. ...And the last sentence should read:

    "Since all knowledge is subjective, and since there is nothing we can *know* about the natural world, and since one grid is as good as any other, you can just stick to the view that makes you happy."

    I'll say this, it's been an educational interaction.

    (A footnote: About ten people signed affidavits stating that they saw the golden tablets. I believe that's called "personal testimony".)

  24. Joe,
    Now you're the one doing the jumping. I said forensic data (i.e. that which is debatable, after the fact, circumstatial) is subject to interpretive grids. Gravity is gravity, the speed of light is the speed of light, and chemicals react in certain ways. When we don't understand why, different theories compete and are tested, until one proves itself out. What I'm saying is that evolutionists have jumped the gun, and want to squeeze any other players from the field before having proved themselves out. The only reason I can see for this is a spiritual one-- they want to proceed in life and discovery without the onus of God. The fossil record is far, far, far from certain. Genetics is still in its infancy. Though no one ever will or ever could prove there is a God, evolutionists are no where near proving there isn't. I don't think scientists should reject evolutionary research out of hand (or stop it from further investigation) anymore than I think they should do so for creation research or intelligent design (not the same thing). The complexity of life at its simplest is an astonishing reality, breath-taking. It requires astonishing evidence to show that it started from nothing, by chance, and proceeded in development by happenstance to its current level of wonder. I have not seen such astonishing evidence.

  25. "When we don't understand why, different theories compete and are tested, until one proves itself out."

    Yes and no. Different theories compete and bad theories are eliminated when their predictions fail again and again and again and again. Such is the case with young earth creationism. What is left is never "proved", instead, what is left is just those theories whose testable predictions have been confirmed for the moment. It's the repeated failure to disprove that leads to widespread acceptance.

    This is true for gravity and chemistry and the speed of light and the age of the earth. I’m not “jumping”. You are creating an artificial and non-existent difference between the testing of evolution and old earth geology and the testing of anything else in science. This difference does not exist. All science is done the same way, hypothesis testing is hypothesis testing, data are data, and using phrases like “forensic data” doesn’t change that.

    Nothing is ever proven with absolute certainty. All theories could be disproved tomorrow by new evidence or by new observations, including the theory of gravity (and don’t YECers already claim that the speed of light is changeable?). But after awhile, we often come to have a very high degree of confidence in a theory that has survived repeated testing. Scientists use the "grid" of evolution and old earth geology, because these ideas have survived repeated attempts to disprove them, and not because they all want to dismiss God. There are plenty of Christian evolutionary biologists and old earth geologists. What about them? There is no religion of "Darwinism", there just the scientific method, and using that method, and after testing and testing and more testing, we’ve arrived at a high degree of confidence in evolution and an old earth. (There’s plenty of “astonishing evidence”, evolution is decidedly not all "happenstance", but you need to read a lot of books and/or take a lot of courses just to begin to get all of the information that's available; there are no shortcuts to understanding.)

    You want to insist on the validity of your “grid”. But your “grid” has failed again and again and again. YEC has had its chance, in fact, it was the dominant theory of the 18th century. But it was repeatedly contradicted by observation. It failed to explain the geological data, whether you want to call that data “forensic” or not. In short, it’s a really bad grid. And so if we’re to have any hope at all of understanding the history of life on Earth, we have no choice but to toss it out. It would have been nice if the Earth’s geology turned out to match the stories in Genesis, but it didn’t. It just didn’t. The natural world is the way that it is. It doesn’t care about how we want it to be.

  26. Joe,
    Whereas I can see your point about geology (and astronomy for that matter), it still doesn't equate with evolution being valid.

  27. And are you saying that you understand that young earth geology is a "bad grid"?

  28. Joe,
    YEC provides a "difficult" grid for both astronomy and geology (for aging reasons more than anything else). That's just being honest. But like the Darwinist who can pass off objections with "we don't know now, but I'm confident we will discover that at some time," so to I say, "I may not know now but it will all come to light eventually."

  29. YEC has difficulties?! Yeah, you could say that. Maybe you should pay more attention to those difficulties. They’re trying to tell you something.

    There are "difficulties" and then there are "impossibilities". There are things that are unexplained and then there is the inexplicable. All theories may have their difficulties, but if we're to know anything, we have to distinguish between theories with a few bugs and theories that were long ago eaten down to the bone by cockroaches. We must judge the quality of ideas, and while some ideas may not be perfect, other ideas are clearly much, much worse. You continue to seek a kind of equivalency based on the fact that no theory answers all of the questions, and therefore, all theories are equally valid. One grid is as good as another grid. But not all "difficulties" are even close to being equal. By your standards, we would still be using the geocentric model of the universe while waiting for “future light”.

    Remember, the key is the number of times and number of different ways a theory can be or has been disproved by direct testing. There is an endless, endless list of disproofs of the proposition that the Earth is young, etc. The YEC "grid" leads to very bad predictions; it produces complete nonsense when we try to apply it to the natural world.

    By contrast, how has evolution and/or an old Earth been disproved? Lack of transitional forms? You gave me a definition, I met the criteria of that definition. But you still refuse to see the evidence, and I’ll bet you would still claim that there are no transitional forms.

    And in the case of evolution, what would those "we don't know now” cases be? I would add that that one might have a certain amount of confidence when saying "things will come to light later" when, in fact, in very large number of cases, the evidence and/or explanations have indeed come to light with further research. A large number of evolutionary "mysteries" have been solved just in my lifetime. That's because real scientists do research and expand our knowledge base with each passing day. How many young earth "mysteries" or “difficulties” have been solved? Any of them?

    Here's the thing about science. It may not always produce a perfectly correct description of how the world works. But it's really, really good at identifying and discarding really bad descriptions of how the world works. It we can't discard the garbage, we'll never get anywhere. Let’s start by eliminating the wrong answers, and then we’ll see what’s left.

  30. Maybe you'll listen to Glenn Morton.

    If you don't want to read the whole thing, here's the money shot:

    "But eventually, by 1994 I was through with young-earth creationISM. Nothing that young-earth creationists had taught me about geology turned out to be true. I took a poll of my ICR graduate friends who have worked in the oil industry. I asked them one question.

    "From your oil industry experience, did any fact that you were taught at ICR, which challenged current geological thinking, turn out in the long run to be true? ,"

    That is a very simple question. One man, Steve Robertson, who worked for Shell grew real silent on the phone, sighed and softly said 'No!' A very close friend that I had hired at Arco, after hearing the question, exclaimed, "Wait a minute. There has to be one!" But he could not name one. I can not name one. No one else could either."

  31. I just have to ask, because I don't think this was previously addressed...

    Take a look at the hominin cranial capacity graphs at:

    Can you explain to me how or why this fails to fit your definition of transitional forms? Why does this fail to constitute a series of transitional fossils?

  32. Joe,
    Welcome back to the song that never ends... ;-)

    Your description of cranial capacity was not a minor change, but quite a significant one (over 50% using the midrange). I understand why the scenario is considered transitional from your grid, but it's not probative from mine. The graph at Panda's Thumb was interesting, but it provides no context: where are gorillas, orangutans, chipanzees in the mix. The graph sang to the choir, but I'm passing by out on the street. For someone like me to accept such purported connections I'd have to see why they don't point another species if they point at anything at all.

  33. Yes, the song never ends, but perhaps by focusing on a particular data set, the discussion can be more productive. So, I thank you for looking at this.

    First, why would there be chimps, gorillas and orangs in the mix? Chimps, et al., are not our direct ancestor, so there won’t be any transitional forms between, say, chimps and humans. Chimps and humans share a common ancestor, and since the time of that ancestor, the chimp and human lineages have gone their own way. So the relationship between humans and chimps is more like the relationship between cousins. Cousins share grandparents, but there are no direct ancestor-descendant links between cousins. At least, we hope not. But for the record, I believe that chimp brains are about the same size as small australopithecine brains.

    I suggested that you look at this data, because you said that the whale fossils didn’t impress you due the size of the “jumps”. And you said that “a transitional form would be a fossilized species which shows almost no variation, except for one or two characteristics, from a supposedly earlier fossilized species”. A bit vague, but ok, it’s a place to start. So, I figured that the hominin data set would give you what you wanted.

    Yes, the total change in brain size is over 50%. Over time, evolution can produce large changes; that’s what the theory predicts. But look at how we get there. Is it in one big jump? No. Instead, it’s by steady, small change over about 2.5 million years. That’s pretty much what Darwin predicted. We start with australopithecines at a mean brain size of about 450 CC. But just as important, there is variation in brain size of about 200 CC on either side of the mean. And then we have a set of Homo habilis fossil with a mean brain size of about 600 to 650 CC, and with a range of sizes such that the smallest H. habilis brains are actually smaller than some of the biggest australopithecine brains. It’s a change, but it’s not a big jump, instead, the australopithecine brain sizes grade into the H. habilis brain sizes. The pattern repeats for the transition from habilis to erectus and so on.

    Honestly, seriously, what more do you want? We’re varying one or two characteristics, the change from immediate ancestor to immediate descendent is small, but over time, the change adds up to a 50 % or more increase in brain size. These are not hypothetical intermediates. You said the fossil record was “silent” with respect to transitional forms, but there they are. We’re not filling the gaps with imaginary species. These creatures actually existed. They were successful and well adapted and survived as species for hundreds of thousands of years.

    Here’s the best part. Darwin predicted that these fossils would exist and he predicted where we would find them. Darwin figured that chimps were our closest living cousins, and so he figured that the shared ancestoral species would have lived in Africa and that most of the evolutionary changes from ape-like creature to Homo sapiens would have occurred in Africa. About 100 years after the Origin of Species was published, paleontologists finally began to focus their search in Africa, and since then we’ve found evidence of as many as a dozen hominin species exactly where Darwin said to look. Now, if Darwin was wrong, if the history of life on Earth is very different from what evolutionary scientists think it is, there is no reason why these hominin fossils should exist, and there’s certainly no reason why they should have the geographic distribution that they do. This graph doesn’t “sing to the choir”, instead, it offers a very specific test of the theory.

    By contrast, what does your grid predict that we would find in the fossils record? What would your theory predict about what existence and distribution of hominin fossils? What about dinosaurs and humans of dinosaurs and any other living mammal species? How about angiosperm fossils? Where would we expect to find flowering plant fossils in the geographic record? How good is your grid, really, at predicting what we’ll find when we dig into the ground?

    Is one grid really as good as another? It seems to me that this is the key question. As I’ve said, unless we can determine which grids are of high quality and which are of poor quality, we’ll never know anything. One can create an infinite number of grids, but once a grid fails the test, we really should get rid of it. How can we test your grid to see if it’s as good as mine? You can reject my grid if you’d like, but if yours does a very poor job at prediction, then you should abandon yours as well.

    (By the way, I can’t figure out what you mean by “for someone like me to accept such purported connections I'd have to see why they don't point another species if they point at anything at all”. I’m sorry, but this has me baffled)

  34. Joe,
    Honestly, I'm not trying to be difficult about this, the fact is, I just don't buy the premise. Evolutionists don't have a reasonable, credible step over the threshold from chemical to life, let alone the development of the whole host of life, past and present, by means of Darwin's theory. It's easy enough to forgive Darwin, he didn't know what we know about chemistry and microbiology. But smart, educated people today positing a leapfrog game from soup to sapiens by chance devoid of directing intelligence insults mine. In all truth, panspermia is more credible than Darwinism given the physical evidence.

    Putting myself in your shoes, I can actually see why you conclude what you do from the evidence. It's not a bad spin at all if your premise is soup to sapiens sans God. Without Him, where else are you going to go? I don't find it in the least convincing, but that's my predisposition.

    The evolutionist does have a glaring problem with beginnings, however. Where did it all come from? It all sprang from nothing and led to intelligence-- now that truly would be a miracle! How did soup animate into life. Life which at it's simplest is so incredibly complex, chemically and physically, as to beggar the imagination. Left-handed proteins, right handed sugars, chemical "libraries" and molecular machines-- Behe was right, when you look inside the cell you find a nanofactory.

    I don't deny I look at things through the lens of faith, but the truth is, that is what makes sense to me. My (I don't know what other Creationists would say about this) model or grid starts with a biblical premise: nature reveals the attributes of its maker. My model would predict that the cosmos would be infinite in space/time (for all intents and purposes); that all life should reveal a common design that would appear incredibly wise the closer one looked at it; that the stars, galaxies, planets, mountains, rivers and lifeforms would exist in such variety as to show almost a playfulness in creativity. Furthermore, I would anticipate that life would have shown more variety in the past than the present and that lots of dead things would be buried in lots and lots of sediment. I would anticipate that we would find evidence for almost any and all combinations of morphology within types of creatures and plants, and that life would fill the earth. And my model would predict, that if that creator ever did deign to come and speak to us, he would do it as the epitome of his living creatures and that he would overcome our greatest and most unconquerable foe (death).

  35. I know that I’ve reached the last wall of the creationist fortress when the individual in question plays the abiogenesis card.

    First, what is the title of Darwin’s book. Is it “The Origin of Life”. No, it’s the “Origin of Species”. Evolutionary biology and paleontology deals with the question of what has happened and how it’s happened since life came to exist on Earth. Abiogenesis is a separate question. Conflating evolution and abiogenesis is an old creationist trick. If you’d like, in the absence of a current explanation, we can say that God created the first cell. That still leaves all of evolutionary theory intact.

    Now, we would certainly like to understand how life got started, and there is a lot of research into the question. I happen to be personally acquainted with some of those in the field. There’s no answer yet, but there is considerable progress. There’s no guarantee that an answer will be found, because we don’t know what we’re going to know until we know it. But betting that our current ignorance will remain unchanged is a fool’s wager.

    By the way, Behe was wrong. He’s been proven wrong in numerous ways. And I can list a dozen critically important ways in which cells are very different from human-created machines and factories. It’s easy enough to wave your arms and say “complexity” and “design”, but how do you actually define these terms. For example, can you answer the question “are hurricanes designed and/or complex”? Easy to say the words, but what do they mean?

    Finally, on the question of abiogensis, what is your testable hypothesis? When did the first cell come into existence? How did it come into existence? How can we test your hypothesis? Easy enough to say that I can’t answer the question, but what is your answer. Be specific and include tests of the explanations.

    As far as how things develop without “intelligence” after cells exist, I don’t think you have the faintest idea of just how much evidence there is that supports evolutionary biology. Not a clue. Ignorance is no excuse for saying “I I don't find it in the least convincing”. I think that you need to read a lot of books before you can decide that I’ve insulted your intelligence. Once we get to cells, there’s little “leapfrogging” required. The series of hominin fossils is just one example of the mountains of evidence available.

    What about your predictions?

    Why should life reveal a common design? Is God incapable of creating very different forms of life, forms that lack a common design? Does He lack imagination? Can’t He create whatever He wants, however he want to create it? Isn’t this position directly contradicted by your prediction of “playfulness in nature?

    Life reveals a “wise design”? Really. What about external testicles? Wise design? Tapeworms? Tapeworms are “wise”?

    Lots of dead things would be buried in lots and lots sediment? A little vague, isn’t it? How much sediment? Can you explain how and why these sediments are five to ten MILES deep in places? And why are these ten mile-deep deposits found in the form of continental deposits instead under oceans? Why do the rocks found in these miles of sediments show clear evidence of having been formed under very different conditions and in very different environments? And in what order would these dead things be buried, assuming that they all lived at the same time?

    Does life show more variety in the past than in the present? No, it does not. In the lowest layers with evidence of life, we find no multicelled organisms of any kind. In the oldest layers with mutlticelled animal life, we find no amphibians, reptiles, dinosaurs, birds or mammals. In the lowest layers with plant life, we find no angiosperms, a plant group today that accounts for 90 % of all plant species. Prediction contradicted.

    “I would anticipate that we would find evidence for almost any and all combinations of morphology within types of creatures and plants, and that life would fill the earth.” And in what order would all of these combination appear in the geological record? Would all types be present from the beginning? Needless to say, this is very, very clear that all types were not present from the start. And could you please define the word “type”? This is another creationist weasel word.

    Why did our creator come to us in human form and then fail to leave a single written word behind?

  36. Joe,
    Wow, your willing to give God credit for the first cell! Does that make you a theistic evolutionist?

    Darwinism is a non-sequitur if it cannot get from chemicals to life. Research all you want, that is never going to happen apart from intelligence. So you can have your faith in what you never will be able to see, and I'll keep my faith in what I cannot see, but I can experience.

  37. By the way, you can "experience" geology, too. And that "experience" contradicts everything you predicted.

    I don't have faith in that which I will never be able to see (and how do you know I won't ever be able to see it?). I have confidence in the methods used to test the things that I most definitely can see. You keep using that word "faith". I don't think that word means what you think it means, atleast when it comes to science. You keep throwing out words like "design" and "faith" as if this answers questions and solves problems. But what do these words mean?

  38. Joe,
    I don't think this is getting anywhere. I'm not going to cede to the points you have made, nor do I see the failures in mine. We can lob disagreement back and forth forever. In the end, the swaying point will be what we believe in. You believe in "science", I believe in God.

    I don't see where Darwinian theory even matters in any discovery of hard science that actually produces something replicable or practical. It's the musing of those who dig in dirt and name things. I am making this the last word on this posting, I think I've been fair to you and allowed you to express yourself freely, but it's time to move on to other things. Thank you for your input.