Wow, OK… One like, no comments, I guess it was just me (and one other person).
Wow, OK… One like, no comments, I guess it was just me (and one other person).
Thanks for reading everyone!
Of course it is probably about time it started pulling its own weight around here. Maybe it could get work as a carrier pigeon or something…
Every little bit helps (especially right now). Many Thanks!
File this under: better late than never.
In the wake of the Bill Nye/Ken Ham creation/evolution debate BuzzFeed writer Matt Stopera had some of the people who attending the debate, and who were creationists, write down questions or comments to those of us who accept evolution.
The following are the questions they wrote down and my quick and dirty responses.
1) Bill Nye, are you influencing the minds of children in a positive way?
Obviously I cannot answer for Bill Nye but I would say yes he is, by helping to popularize science.
2) Are you scared of a Divine Creator?
No. If one exists and is worthy of admiration, let alone worship, it would not want its creations to fear it.
3) Is it completely illogical that the Earth was created mature? i.e. trees created with rings… Adam created as an adult.
Illogical based on everything we think we know about existence via science. However, if an all powerful being existed it is certainly possible it could have done this. Likewise under that scenario the entire universe, including all our memories of the past could have been created last Thursday and there would be no way to know. The evidence all points towards the Earth being 4.5 billion years old (and the rest of the universe more than double that) remains the same, so if it is not actually that old then that would seem to make the creator a cosmic liar.
4) Does not the second law of thermodynamics disprove evolution?
No, in fact life as we know it, which includes the ability to evolve, could not exist without the 2nd Law. You see the 2nd Law is essentially about energy flow from more coherent, usable states, to less coherent, unusable states. The obvious and most relevant example being the flow of energy from the Sun into space, where a tiny fraction of its energy is intercepted by the Earth. Life on Earth is only possible because of this energy flow (with the exception of life that lives off the energy flowing from the interior of the Earth itself at hydrothermal vents).
The effects of the 2nd Law can be seen reflected in the so called ecological pyramid, with each level able to extract less and less usable energy from the environment (and this is simplified of course). At the base we find plants are the most abundant and they absorb energy from the sun (“producers”). Next up there are herbivores that live off the plants (“primary consumers”). Then there are the omnivorous and/or small carnivorous animals (“secondary consumers”). Finally the apex predators (“tertiary consumers”), which are found in the fewest numbers of any ecosystem. Underlying all of these are the decomposers that make a living on the energy left over in dead plants, animals, and animal waste. See: Ecology/Energy in ecosystems
I cannot even imagine what living things or ecosystems would look like without the 2nd Law in operation.
5) How do you explain a sunset if their [sic] is no God?
Seriously? This is a “the tides go in, the tides go out, with never a miscommunication” sort of question. The Earth rotates on its axis every 24 hrs. creating the illusion (from the POV of an Earthbound observer) of the Sun moving across the sky from sunrise to sunset.
6) If the Big Bang Theory is true and taught as science along with evolution, who do the laws of thermodynamics debunk said theories?
No, see answer #4.
7) What about Noetics?
What about it?
8) Where do you derive objective meaning in life?
I don’t know that there is such a thing or that it is even possible. We do have subjective and inter-subjective meaning however and that is good enough for me.
9) If God did not create everything, how did the first single-celled organism originate? By Chance?
It likely did not occur by chance, in the sense of purely random actions of matter, rather it would have happened in accordance with the laws of physics and chemistry.
10) I believe in the Big Bang Theory… God said it and BANG in happened!
Cute, however “god did it” is not a scientific explanation.
11) Why do evolutionists/secularists/humanists/non-God believing people reject the idea of their [sic] being a creator God but embrace the concept of intelligent design from aliens or other extra-terestrial [sic] sources?
First “evolutionist”, i.e. one who accepts evolution, does not equate to being an atheist (“non-God believer”). There are plenty of Christians and other types of theists who accept evolution.
As for evolutionists in general I would say they do not “embrace” any such thing. I can only guess this comes from the disingenuous questions put to Richard Dawkins in the intelligent design creationism propaganda film “Expelled”. Here is a video where Dawkins discusses this and says exactly what his views are on the likelihood of intelligent design by ETs.
12) There is no in between… The only one found has been Lucy and there are only a few pieces of the hundreds neccssary [sic] for an “official proof”.
13) Does metamorphosis help support evolution?
I am not entirely sure what is meant by this question or even what sort of metamorphosis is being asked about. Insect metamorphosis? Amphibian metamorphosis? There is a creationist meme out there that insect metamorphosis (usually in reference to monarch butterflies) is somehow a problem for evolution, however as with most creationist memes, it is based on misinformation.
14) If Evolution is a Theory (like creationism or the Bible) why then is Evolution taught as fact.
It is, or should be, taught as an extremely well substantiated theory, i.e. a rigorously tested, fact-based explanation. Neither creationism nor the Biblical creation account it is based on, even begins to qualify as such.
15) Because science by definition is a “theory” – not testable, observable, nor repeatable why do you object to creationism or intelligent design being taught in school?
Science is not a theory; the development of testable—by observation and experiment—theories are part of doing science. In fact, one could say it is the very aim of science to develop such theories. Creationism—of which intelligent design is a subset—is made up of components which are either untestable or which have already been tested and falsified.
16) What mechanism has science discovered that evidences an increase of genetic information seen in any genetic mutation or evolutionary process?
Part of the answer was in the question; mutation and especially gene duplication.
17) What purpose do you think you are here for if you do not believe in salvation?
Our purpose is whatever purpose we choose for ourselves and frankly, I do not see the how the idea of some supposed purpose imposed from on high is somehow more attractive or fulfilling.
18) Why have we found only 1 “Lucy”, when we have found more than 1 of everything else?
Actually, there are fossil remains representing over 300 individuals of Australopithecus afarensis. “Lucy” is just the most famous specimen of this species. As for more than one of anything else, there is for example Homo erectus, the remains of which have been found in Africa all across Eurasia and into islands in the Pacific (Indonesia). The fun thing about H. erectus is that creationists used to (some may still) argue about whether they were “just apes” or “fully human”.
19) Can you believe in “the big bang” without “faith”?
Yes, as the theory is based on repeatable observations and is testable against further observations.
20) How can you look at the world and not believe someone Created/thought of it? It’s Amazing!!!
You are absolutely right, it is amazing, however there is no compelling evidence that “someone” created it.
21) Relating to the big bang theory… Where did the exploding star come from?
The Big Bang has nothing to do with a star exploding. Strictly speaking, it doesn’t have to do with anything “exploding” in the normal sense of the word. Rather it is about space expanding.
22) If we came from monkeys then why are there still monkeys?
For the same reason that both you and your cousin can exist when you both descend from your grandparents. Humans and the other living apes descend from a common ancestor with the living monkeys. That ancestor was probably more monkey-like than ape-like, but was not one of the current species of monkeys living today.
These questions, at least the ones regarding science—and which were coherent—were not particularly difficult and these people could easily have found the answers with a few Google searches. However, that would require actual curiosity and a willingness to learn. Sadly, these traits are often absent in creationists.
The rest of the questions (philosophical or theological) were simply irrelevant to the accuracy of evolutionary theory (or Big Bang theory) and a unwillingness to grasp this fact is yet another character flaw common amongst creationist.
OK, here is the situation; I do not work for a university, a museum, or any other educational and/or research organization. I am not paid to do the research on and write substantive refutations of creationist propaganda. I do it because I am passionate about science (especially biology and paleontology) and extremely annoyed by people who peddle lies, half-truths and misinformation about it.
It would be nice if more working scientists could take the time to familiarize themselves with the machinations of creationists so as to be better prepared to counter them but I understand that they have more important tasks to do, like actually doing science. And I —as an interested and more knowledgeable than most layperson— am more than happy to stand in for them in the trenches, without remuneration or recognition. All I ask is that I be given the tools, the ammunition if you will, to fight the fight.
In this case, it is free and unencumbered access to the scientific literature!
If I am doing research, working on a rebuttal to some creationist claim, buying copies of the articles myself is simply not an option as I live paycheck to paycheck and the miscellaneous science journals charge outrageous prices for individuals to download their articles, often as much a $25 or $35 dollars each (if they charged $1 a pop, like an mp3 download, I might sometimes spend the money)!
Instead, to get what I need, I have to pester and cajole, via e-mail, working scientists and/or university professors I am acquainted with to send me PDF copies of scientific papers. Alternatively, I have to get in my car (which is currently broken down and I cannot afford to fix it), drive to a local university, plug a flash-drive into one of the computers in their science library, and download them, which is a big hassle and still costs money for gas and parking.
What I would like is to be given some sort of unpaid (though I wouldn’t say no to stipend!), ceremonial position at a university, museum, or other institution that would grant me access to the primary scientific literature to which they are already subscribed (the more the better).
A couple of my university professor friends have tried without success to get me something like this, only to have the “higher up” say no.
So, I am putting out this plea to any scientist, university professor or Dean, or anyone who is sympathetic to my cause and who has influence at their institution, please, please, please, help me to get access to the science I need to do what I can to combat the forces of ignorance that threaten to overwhelm us all.
Thank you for your consideration!
There is a new Evo-T shirt available, this time with a little philosophical humor:
The Men’s version can be found here [note that you can change the shirt color to taste, however if you do you might want to change the text color as well].
As always the (small) proceeds from the sale of Evo-T’s go towards supporting me and by extension my efforts in defending science education. So you can buy out of the goodness of your heart and help support a worthy cause, or we can do this the hard way…
Well, Ms. Korzeniewski has made a couple of responses and I will give her one more spot in the PCwP limelight, however after this the discussion, if there is one, will probably stay in the comments.
Her first response was basically a second-hand threat of exquisite mind flailing torture of infinite duration at the hands of her all loving deity, apparently for the unpardonable crime of daring to use the brain that her deity supposedly gave me.
Needless to say I do not find this a terribly compelling argument in favor of creationism.
Ms. Korzeniewski, once again, please try to understand such threats cause just as much concern for the non-believer as say, the threat of hell from the Islamic version of God, probably causes you. That is none at all.
If you want to make any impression on someone who does not already share your beliefs, you are going to have to use evidence, logic and reason, not threats from what they consider an imaginary being.
We shall now proceed to the non-threat potions of her comments.
This one is from an e-mail sent to me via my neglected website over at commondescent.net regarding a page I have there that is mostly a bunch of quote from Charles Darwin on the subject of race and slavery. The point of the page (that I originally created over a decade ago) was to counterbalance creationists’ never-ending demonization of Darwin as some sort of rabid racist—who was somehow responsible for racism and genocide—by the use of selective quotation of his writings (for example, Bergman 1997).
Anyway, someone going by “ML” writes:
ML: Why do Atheists get so upset when a Theist speaks about Darwin being Racist?
Atheism or theism does not enter into this, at least not inherently. I would think that anyone, theist or atheist, who interested in science and history would be upset by how professional creationists use invalid reasoning and false or misleading historical narratives to attack both evolutionary theory and historical figures involved in its development.
In the case of the claims that Darwin was somehow particularly racist, creationists are attempting to poison the well against evolution by claiming that the founder of evolutionary biology had some objectionable and/or erroneous views. They are arguing, in essence, that since Darwin was a racist evolutionary theory is suspect. This is form of an ad hominem fallacy*.
Whether or not Darwin was a racist is completely irrelevant to the question of evolutionary theory’s validity. It stands or falls on its own merits regardless of what Darwin thought—for example, Isaac Newton believed in alchemy but this in and of itself does nothing to cast doubt on his laws of motion.
Logical fallacies aside the creationists’ treatment of Darwin on the subject it is also simplistic and disingenuous in both the way they exaggerate Darwin’s supposed racism relative to his peers—well-to-do white men of the early to mid-nineteenth century—and in how they conveniently ignore clear cases of racism in their own camp (more on this shortly).
[*Side note: creationists typically go further and attempt to argue that evolutionary theory itself is inherently racist or must logically lead to racism. That however that topic is for another time.]
ML: Racism is simply thinking you are superior to another race. One does not have to wish another race harm to be a Racist.
Why don’t you stop confusing the issue and trying to downplay the reality that Darwin was in fact racist. He thought that whites were superior in many ways to blacks. That is RACISM.
I am not attempting to downplay the reality of anything. I am trying to be both factually and historically accurate. My personal opinion is that from a modern perspective Darwin probably was somewhat racist; however this is judgment that has to be inferred from a number of conflicting things he wrote on the subject. Some things he wrote—especially if they are taken out context of both history and his larger writings—seem to be racist in nature. However, he also wrote many things about race that was very egalitarian particularly in comparison with views of many of his contemporaries.
Given this, I think it is unfair and dishonest to single Darwin out for special criticism in this regard, especially if those doing so leave out evidence of more clear-cut racism on the part of their own intellectual predecessors.
ML: One also does not have to believe slavery is right or wrong to be a Racist.
That is true, one would have to look at the reasons an individual gives for why they condemned slavery. Some opposed slavery on the basis that the institution of slavery had negative effects on slave owners and white society in general. Others did so out of a concern for those enslaved (and of course many opposed slavery for both reasons).
I think it is fair to say that while someone who opposed slavery largely out of concern for those enslaved might still be a racist, they are probably not as racist as someone who either opposed it primarily out of concern for slaver owners or who did not oppose it at all (even arguing its favor).
ML: Your article is so biased its pathetic.
Insults, that’s nice. You are going to have to do better than that ML. However, I will admit that the page could probably do with some expansion and updating.
ML: Quoting Louis Agassiz in a letter to his mother (1846), quoted in Gould, Stephen The Mismeasure of Man (1981) p. 44-45,
Stephen Gould IS AN EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGIST AND AN ATHEIST!! What a source you got there!
A Letter that no one knows it really existed because it just so happens the only person who ever heard of it happens to be an ATHEIST.
Here we have yet another ad hominem fallacy, i.e., the source is an evolutionary biologist and an atheist, therefore it cannot be trusted.
Sorry but the fact that someone has delusional beliefs regarding the relative honesty of either evolutionary biologists (a category that includes a number of Christians btw) or atheists, does not constitute Prima facie evidence that there is any reason to doubt the veracity of the quote as given by Gould.
What’s more, while many—including myself—have taken issue with Gould on any number of subjects, I am unaware of any serious critic ever having suggested that Gould fabricated evidence whole cloth to support his views. So even on an individual level, there is no reason to take seriously the suggestion that Gould was in the habit of perpetrating fraud.
Of course, anyone who knows me knows that I cannot leave it at that (let’s see, where did I leave my BFG 9000).
These accusations of fraud ML is making regard a quote from the 19th century paleontologist Louis Agassiz that I gave as an example of unambiguous racism on the part of one of Darwin’s creationist contemporaries. Here is the quote in question, which comes from a letter Agassiz wrote to his mother:
It was in Philadelphia that I first found myself in prolonged contact with Negroes; all the domestics in my hotel were men of color. I can scarcely express to you the painful impression that I received, especially since the feeling that they inspired in me is contrary to all our ideas about the confraternity of the human type (genre) and the unique origin of our species. But truth before all. Nevertheless, I experienced pity at the sight of this degraded and degenerate race, and their lot inspired compassion in me in thinking that they were really men. Nonetheless, it is impossible for me to repress the feeling that they are not of the same blood as us. In seeing their black faces with their thick lips and grimacing teeth, the wool on their head, their bent knees, their elongated hands, I could not take my eyes off their face in order to tell them to stay far away. And when they advanced that hideous hand towards my plate in order to serve me, I wished I were able to depart in order to eat a piece of bread elsewhere, rather than dine with such service. What unhappiness for the white race ―to have tied their existence so closely with that of Negroes in certain countries! God preserve us from such a contact.” (Agassiz, 1846, Emphasis mine)
ML states that no one knows if the letter Gould claims to be quoting from even exists, implying that Gould may have made this quote up. Is there anyway for us to discern whether or not this might be the case, or are we forever lost in perpetual doubt?
Well we could start by seeing what Gould says about the source of this quote:
Agassiz had never seen a black person in Europe. When he first met blacks as servants at his Philadelphia hotel in 1846, he experienced a pronounced visceral revulsion. This jarring experience, coupled with his sexual fears about miscegenation, apparently established his conviction that blacks are a separate species. In a remarkably candid passage, he wrote to his mother from America: [...quote given above - TB...] The standard Life and Letters, compiled by Agassiz wife, omits these lines in presenting an expurgated version of this famous letter. Other historians have paraphrased them or passed them by. I recovered this passage from the original manuscript in Harvard’s Houghton Library and have translated it, verbatim, for the first time so far as I know. (Gould 1981, p. 44-45)
Uh oh, “other historians”, “original manuscripts” at Harvard; it is starting to look bad for ML’s fraud hypothesis.
OK, let’s take a look at what historian Edward Lurie’s biography of Agassiz might contain:
After observing Negroes for the first time during a visit to Philadelphia late in 1846, Agassiz confided to his mother:
I hardly dare to tell you the painful impression I received, so much are the feelings they [Negroes] gave me contrary to all our ideas of the brotherhood of man and unique origin of our species. But truth before all. The more pity I felt at the sight of this degraded and degenerate race, the more . . . impossible it becomes for me to repress the feeling that they are not of the same blood as we are. (Lurie 1960, pp. 256-257)
While not identical, it seems clear that this quote, by Lurie given in 1960, is from the same source as Gould’s twenty-one years later.
Lurie give as a source as: “Agassiz to Rose Agassiz, December 2, 1846, Agassiz Papers, Houghton Library”, which means that both he and Gould claim their source is an 1846 letter from Agassiz to his mother.
Now at this point I figured I would have to stop and argue that this was sufficient evidence to refute ML’s insinuation since I do not live in the vicinity of Harvard and so could not go there and check their collection for the letter.
However, this is the age of the internet and after some poking around I discovered that Harvard’s Houghton Library not only lists the material in their Agassiz collection they also have scans of the original documents including…
Wait for it…
Now the scans aren’t great and the letter is in French (differing interpretations of which accounts for the minor differences between Lurie and Gould’s quotations) but they are there for anyone, ML included, to read for themselves.
Given this, I am sure we can expect a retraction from ML regarding this libel against Gould.
Agassiz, Louis (1846) A letter to Rose M. Agassiz, quoted in Gould, Stephen (1981) The Mismeasure of Man, W.W. Norton & Company, NY, p. 44-45
Bergman, Jerry (1997) “Evolution and the Origins of the Biological Race Theory“, Journal of Creation, 7(2):155–168
Gould, Stephen Jay (1981) The Mismeasure of Man, W.W. Norton & Company, NY
Lurie, Edward (1960) Louis Agassiz: A life in science, Johns Hopkins University Press (1988)