Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Creation or Evolution: Does it Really Matter What You Believe?

The first of the pamphlets I've picked up is the one on Creation or Evolution: Does it Really Matter What You Believe?.

The first section is entitled “Society's Dramatic Shift”. It laments the time when, “[o]nly a few generations ago laws prevented the teaching of the theory of evolution”. It complains that, “[t]he Bible is banned from classrooms in American schools, and serious discussion of the biblical view of the creation of our universe and our human origins is forbidden.”

The juxtaposition of these two quotes is amusing: They claim to want a fair discussion, but prefer laws to prevent evolution from being taught. Yeah. Real fair.

The second quote is an outright lie: Bibles are allowed in schools. There's numerous Bible history classes across the nation. This certainly permits the discussion of the biblical creation story. However, whether or not it will be taken seriously is unclear.

They then claim that there's a growing number of critics speaking out against evolution citing the “current intelligent design debate” which posits a “Creator” because they don't like “random chance”. Man, three buzz words in a single sentence. Not bad. They even manage to conflate ID with a Creator. Oh well. I guess they're bound to get something right. Even a broken clock still gets the time right twice a day.

Next up, they appeal to an argument from authority from Wernher von Braun where he waffles about design in the universe and even brings up nonsense about “random chance” producing the “human eye”. To be sure, von Braun was a very religious man. Not trusting rocket technology to what he considered to be a godless regime, but instead wanting it to only be held by a nation which largely expressed his favored religious morals. However, such design quotes are a dime a dozen and without the evidence, they're worthless.

From there, they go on to invoke some arguments from ignorance based on reproduction:
How does evolution account for sexual reproduction
Why do babies need care for so long?

Darwin even gets a quote saying, “I was a young man with unformed ideas. I threw out queries, suggestions, wondering all the time over everything: and to my astonishment the ideas took like wildfire. People made a religion of them. (Emphasis added by Creationists).”

What's not mentioned is that the supposed “quote” wasn't directly from Darwin. It came from the Lady Hope story of Darwin's deathbed recantation which was rejected by his children. In other words, it's entirely false.

The next paragraph is again lying about how court decisions are “effectively banning public expression of religious beliefs”. Again, an outright lie. Public is fine. Government sponsored and endorsed is not. They attempt to justify this as being bad saying that it causes “languish[ing] in the sorrow and suffering that results from rejecting absolute moral standards.” My my. What a slippery slope. A leads to B even if the evidence suggests otherwise. But of course, they claim this is what evolution predicts: a bunch of greedy, backstabbing bastards. Shame that group cooperation works so nicely to increase survivability.

On the next page it's more Evolution = Religion. "Evolution teaches us that man created God." Err... no.

It then quotes someone named Louis Bounoure who they claim was "Director of France's Strasbourg Zoological Museum and professor of Biology at the University of Strsbourg". The quote is:
volution is a fairy tale for grown-ups. This theory has helped nothing in the progress of science. It is useless.
Want to take a guess where this quote really came from? I'll give you a hint: It's not who it's attributed to. Rather, it's from a renowned liar.

Hm. I guess that's too general. Let's narrow it down a bit: He's in jail for tax fraud.

Guess that made it obvious: Kent Hovind made it up. Doh!

The next section is titled "Science, the Bible and Wrong Assumptions". It begins claiming that many scientists are fleeing from evolution because the "scientific knowledge has increased, [and] researchers have not been able to confirm the basic assumptions of the evolutionary theory". LOL! That's completely backwards: Evolution, like all science, was accepted into the mainstream precisely because the basic assumptions and more have been confirmed!

The supposed wisdom of "some states' educational boards" is invoked, claiming that they're somehow better informed than "scientists and educators".

There's a few quotes from Phillip Johnson predicting the demise of evolution, likening it to a battleship whose "sides are heavily armored with philosophical barriers to criticism". I'll agree that the USS Evolution is well armored. Not with supposed barriers to criticism, but rather, with barriers to BS via the scientific methodology which defends against false criticism.

The authors discuss how "science has refuted some religious notions about nature and the universe that religious leaders mistakenly attributed to the Bible." What sorts of things? Dunno. It's not mentioned. But I can think of at least one: the notion of a 6,000 year old Earth. Oh wait.... That really is in the bible if you buy it wholesale like these people do which is highlighted in their rant on Catholics for the next few paragraphs in which they reprimand them saying, "taking the Bible literally has not been a hallmark among Catholics through much of the 20th century."

Finally, after their diversion on Catholics, they try to get back to the claim that the ideas that science has debunked weren't really in the bible. It brings up the idea that the Earth floats through space. It claims the bible got it right saying in Job 26:7 that the Earth "hangs on nothing". Guess they're trying to ignore Job 9:6, Psalm 75:3, and I Samuel 2:8 which say the Earth rests on "pillars".

There's an entire section devoted to "Darwinism and Morality" where, for 8 paragraphs they invoke the slippery slope of "without religion there is no good".

Finally, on page 19, they start addressing "evidence" in a section on "What Does the Fossil Record Show?" What's the first sentence of this section? The old "Evolution is just a theory, not a law" shtick. *YAWN* Been there. Heard that. Got the T-shirt.

The rest of the section is a gaps fallacy claiming there's no transitional fossils, even invoking some quotes over 25 years old to support this. There's also a pretty obvious quote mine from Niles Eldridge regarding the uniformitarian view of evolution. The bit they quote obviously argues against that, but I strongly suspect that immediately following the end of the quote, it argues for Punctuated Equilibria. They even go so far as to quote Gould describing the reasoning for PuncEq, but completely remove any discussion of what it is until a page later at which point they call it "inherently unprovable". Yet, a simple search for "Evidence of Punctuated Equilibrium" turns up #1 as an article from 2006 on tracing Punc Eq through genetics.

Later on, they claim "the only logical place to find proof for evolutionary theory is in the fossil record." I guess genetics and homology don't count as science.

Another amusing claim comes on page 29 where they claim that "[t]he deceptive, smoke-and-mirror language of evolution revolves largely around the classification of living species." Right.... We have trouble defining species.... So can you please define a "kind"?

On page 32 we find a confused definition of how science (although they're only discussing evolution) works. They claim that "evolutionists" only look at similarities (and then claim that's evidence of common descent). I guess they never read Origin of Species which the entire foundation of evolution is based in why there are differeces. The truth is, we look both ways.

Regardless, they claim that any similarities are the result of a "common Designer", as if they aren't also two-facedly arguing the differences imply a creator too.

There's another quote from Gould in which he says "In any local area, a species does not arise gradually by the steady transformation of its ancestors: it appears all at once and 'fully formed'." They key word the Creationists ignore in this quote is "local area". It should go without saying that, when you look at too localized an area, you get the wrong picture. If you only look at your local surroundings, the Earth is flat. It's only when you step back that you see the large picture.

The picture the authors are obviously trying to ignore is that Punc Eq is a real force and even in its absence, species migrate!

Next up is Behe invoking the complexity of the cell. There's then the standard fare on the Cambrian Explosion and the "life from non-life is impossible" without explaining why and it's the end of the section. Thank goodness.

But the next section doesn't look much better: Can Evolution Explain Life's Complexity?

It claims that evolution is impossible because all features must "be in harmony and synchronized with other bodily modifications, or the changes would be of no benefit". It gives the example of a wolf that could run faster, but claims that it would have to also have a stronger heart to keep up with the additional exertion.

What a stupid example. Small steps don't put an appreciable strain on the other features such that it will be of "no benefit." Rather, it's a small benefit that will be bounded shortly thereafter if the other features don't catch up. But by no means must all features be in lockstep as the authors claim.

On the next page, they're true to the form I predicted earlier about waffling over "kinds". They claim that evolution produces nothing new because it only produces "certain kinds of individuals."

Ironically, the quote they used to support this came from Tom Bethell who they then quote as claiming evolution was "on the verge of collapse." This was nearly 80 years ago.

Next up: There's no such thing as a beneficial mutation and species are fixed around a point via "invisible but firmly fixed boundaries that mutations can never cross."

The next section ("The wondrous cell") is a list of Behe talking points:
- Mousetrap
- Irreducible Complexity
- The Eye
- Blood Clotting

"Oddities in Nature That Defy Evolution" is the next section. It's again, a list of arguments from ignorance. The first one is a Hovind favorite: The bombardier beetle. Then bird migration, salmon's cycle of returning to the location of birth, the camouflage of certain fish; They're all chalked up to "I don't know how this could form via evolution, so it didn't thus God." *SIGH*

The final section is "The World Before Man: The Biblical Explanation". In here, it flits through the biblical narrative as it applies to Earth: God created some stuff, there were some angles, there were some people. It even argues that the Earth could be old. But it still argues that God is magically popping all species into existence. I'm with Miller that such a God not only contradicts the evidence, but is theologically worthless.

The only evidence they claim for this is the previous 60 pages of lies and distortions about evolution that, even if they were true, would still only amount to a God of the Gaps argument. In other words, that was 71 pages of typical Creationism.


Chet Twarog said...

It is just going to get worst.
Isn't it odd that as we get more technologically sophistigated, the "dumber" the population actually gets?
Anyways, the Old Testament does not specify 6K year old Earth. 6k years actually quite nearly matches the Hebrew calendar-- Fri, 21 August 2009 = 1st of Elul, 5769 (
"Noah" and prior biblical persons ages were based on the Lunar Year; post "Noah" on the Solar Year. "Noah" dies at age 950. In Lunar calendar "950", that's actually 73.077 Solar years old: 950/13. "Methuselah" dies at 969 Lunar years = 74.54 Solar years old. So, if they used the correct calendar ages, Earth/Universe would not even be 6K years old.
Go figure.

RBH said...

Hm. Looks like they missed the Second Law of Thermodynamics. What a disappointment!

And Chet, the reason that appears to be the case is that if they're standing still with respect to understanding science, the boundary of the area of what we know is receding from them.