Round 2 of: What “hope” do you have being an evolutionist?

herrad2Well, 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.

Ms. Korzeniewski: I can see you have taken my own blogging technique and hoped to use it against me. What can I say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, with that I am flattered!

I am sorry but I really have no idea what you are talking about. I briefly scanned your blogs only really reading the first part of one of your “About” pages and checking your link page regarding “creation science evangelism” to see what sort of antievolutionist you might be. Given this, I have no idea what sort of “blogging technique” you might use and not knowing it cannot be using it against you (at least not purposefully).

Therefore, any flattery that might exist is accidental at best.

Ms. Korzeniewski: Deceived you satan has…

What, are you channeling Yoda now? [I'm sorry, I couldn't resist.]

Seriously though, your talk of this Satan character reminds me of something I witnessed a few years ago. A biologist friend of mine (who is also interested in creationism) was invited by a (Christian) professor at a local Christian college to give a talk for one of his classes on the lies and misinformation that creationists (particularly the people at ICR) peddle, happily was invited to sit in. After my friends talk the professor got up and said—and while I am paraphrasing here it is not by much:

“You have just heard about the lies young Earth creationists are telling and we all know who the father of lies is; it is Satan!”

My jaw was on the floor. I had known that the professor’s theological sympathies were not with the YEC, however I never thought I would hear him telling his class in no uncertain terms that YEC was Satanically inspired. However if someone, like the professor, believes that Satan exists and that he is in fact the “father of lies” then what other conclusion could one come to when confronted with the incontrovertible fact that creationists are spreading lies and misinformation.

So Ms. Korzeniewski, you might want to be very sure about who it is you are serving.

Ms. Korzeniewski: I was Hoping that maybe if I threw out a life preserver you might take it, apparently not. Some people that are drowning would rather not be saved but instead try to pull down their rescuer, I see that is the case with you.

Have you ever nearly drowned Ms. Korzeniewski? I do not mean metaphorically; I mean literally. Have you ever nearly drowned? I ask because I have.

When I was a boy, maybe around six or seven years of age, I was swept off the rocks by a wave while exploring some tide-pools and carried out to sea by the current. Fortunately for me one of my uncles, who was only a teenager at the time, was there and nearly lost his own life while saving mine.

While the ravages of time have dimmed my memory of that event somewhat I can tell you with perfect certainty that people who are drowning do not “pull down” their rescuers because they would “rather not be saved”, quite the opposite in fact. Drowning people are a danger to their would be rescuers because they are frightened and panicked out of their minds, desperate to fight their way up, away from the water, even at the expense of those who are trying to help them.

All this is to say, you might want to work on your metaphors because that one is abysmal.

Ms. Korzeniewski: I won’t sit here and spat about the Creation Science information, you yourself know where to find the truth.

Well, let’s just say I know where not to find it, that would be in the pages of creationist literature. Furthermore, I will take your choice to spew threats of eternal torture at me rather than provide scientific evidence for creationism as a tacit admission that you are unable to do so.

That fact should bother you if the truth was really something in which you were interested.

Ms. Korzeniewski: I see that you fear man more than anything and are scared It will cost you to change your mind about evolution.

What would it cost me Ms. Korzeniewski? I have heard creationists make this sort of slanderous accusation against professional scientists, who could ostensibly lose standing in the scientific community or perhaps even their livelihoods, if they started spouting pseudoscientific nonsense. However I am not a scientist Ms. Korzeniewski, I am a printer. I operate a small printing press, making letterhead and the like. I could become a creationist tomorrow and it would not affect either my income or my status (because I have none) in the scientific community.

Heck, I wouldn’t even have to shell out money for creationist books to replace the ones I have on evolution as I already have a large collection of them.

Would I lose respect from some of my friends? I probably would, but (unfortunately) there would still be about half the population of the U.S. from which I could draw new friends if that were truly a concern.

There was more in this particular comment about pride and hellfire but I think that is enough on that one.

Despite her stating that she would not “spat” about creationism with me, she posted a copy/paste from “Dr.Kent Hovind’s website titled “10 Questions For Evolutionists” and even though comments left by others have addressed these pretty well, I will give my own responses.

Korzeniewski/Hovind: The test of any theory is whether or not it provides answers to basic questions.

And right of the bat I have to take issue with this. The test of a scientific theory is not merely that it provides answers. Any wild ass story pulled from your nether regions could provide what might sound like answers to questions about how the world around us came to be. That is why there are literally scores of creation stories from cultures both ancient and recent. The question is, does a theory provide testable answers? Does it unify facts from independent lines of research in a coherent manner? Does it point toward further lines of research? Evolutionary theory does all of these.

Korzeniewski/Hovind: Some well-meaning, but misguided people think evolution is a reasonable theory to explain man’s questions about the universe. Evolution is not a good theory—it is just a pagan religion masquerading as science.

The above is a much more apt description of creationism than evolutionary theory. This is another example of the psychological projection that creationists often engage in.

Korzeniewski/Hovind: Where did the space for the universe come from?

This is a question about cosmology not evolution. Like many YE creationists Ms. Korzeniewski and “Dr.” Hovind do not seem to know the difference. Still, their confusion does make it quite clear that their argument is not merely with evolutionary theory but pretty much the entirety of modern science.

As for the question, I am not a cosmology/astronomy buff but I believe the current answer is, “we don’t know”. Now, while this is a perfectly reasonable answer in science, I am sure seeing those words will warm the hearts of creationists. However, they should bear in mind that the ignorance of science is not their evidence. The fact that science has not yet provided an answer to any particular question does not lend credence to their creation story any more than it does for those of the Australian aborigines or the Vikings of ancient Europe. If they wish their story to be taken any more seriously than the others, they have to do so by framing it as a testable hypothesis and showing that experiment and/or observations logically derived from their hypothesis tend to support it.  However, “the Bible says X” or “God did it”, does not meet those requirements.

The “others ignorance is not your evidence” rule holds doubly here, due to the fact that I am, as I said, not a cosmology buff, so feeling vindicated by my ignorance would be doubly mistaken.

For details I would suggest consulting a cosmologist, a textbook on cosmology or at the very least a reputable, mainstream, cosmology website (cautionary note: the internet should only be considered a beginning point, not the final word when looking to gain knowledge on any subject).

Here are a few internet sources to get you started:

Specifically regarding the Big Bang theory:

What happened before the Big Bang?, by Phil Plait

The Big Bang – Common Misconceptions, by Jon Voisey

Astronomy & cosmology in general:

Universe Today (search this blog for the Big Bang for lots of entries on the subject).

Cambridge Cosmology

Korzeniewski/Hovind: Where did matter come from?

This is another question about cosmology not evolution, so all of what I said in response to the first question applies here as well.

As for the origin of matter my understanding would be that it originated during the Big Bang. Of course it might depend what exactly you mean by the term “matter” and if you are confused by the need for more specificity then you likely don’t know enough about the subject to judge any answer that would be given and again as I am not a cosmology person I would not be the best person to ask.

Korzeniewski/Hovind: Where did the laws of the universe come from (gravity, inertia, etc.)?

This is another question about cosmology not evolution (see response to first question).

Korzeniewski/Hovind: How did matter get so perfectly organized?

This is yet another question not about evolutionary theory. Moreover, I would take issue with idea that any matter is “perfectly” organized. That qualifier seems laden with unspoken assumptions and value judgments.

As for how matter became organized since the Big Bang, you would, again, need to be more specific about what matter you are asking about.

These all have different sets of answers.

Korzeniewski/Hovind: Where did the energy come from to do all the organizing?

Again, not about evolutionary theory and again, it depends.

Korzeniewski/Hovind: When, where, why, and how did life come from non-living matter?

This is a question regarding abiogenesis (the origin of life from non-life), which is related to but separate from how life evolved after it originated —by whatever process.

When: Life on Earth originated sometime around four billion years ago.

Where: Exactly? There is no way to know this and expecting to know is unreasonable. Where, generally (in a warm pond, near a deep-sea hydrothermal vent, etc.), would depend on the processes involved.

Why: Why does any chemical process occur in nature? Presumably because the conditions were such that it could.

How: The current answer is we do not know, however it is an ongoing research project. We have bits and pieces but no complete theory yet as to how life first originated, stay tuned. Remember also to see what I said about “we do not know” in response to the first question with emphasis on how “God did it” is not a scientific explanation. It is scientifically uninteresting and sterile.

See: The Abiogenesis FAQs on the Talk Origins Archive.

Korzeniewski/Hovind: When, where, why, and how did life learn to reproduce itself?

Given that the ability to reproduce is one of the defining characteristics of life, see the answers to the last question.

Korzeniewski/Hovind: With what did the first cell capable of sexual reproduction reproduce?

Again, it depends on what you are defining as sex. Prokaryotes (archaea and bacteria) are the first living things to appear in the fossil record (at least 3 b.y. ago) and normally reproduce asexually by fission, dividing into two new, more or less, identical cells. However, many prokaryotes do have ways of exchanging genetic material which might be considered a form of sex but it is a separate process from reproduction. One process is called transformation wherein the prokaryote absorbs bits of genetic material (largely from other prokaryotes) from their environment and incorporate the material into their own genomes. Some types of bacteria do something called conjunction wherein bacterial cells physically connect to others living in their colony and swap genetic material (and I understand that some archaea do something similar) usually in the form of plasmids —these however are not typically incorporated into the main genetic material of the bacteria. 

Eukaryotic protists, which appear in the fossil record about 1.5 billion years ago, reproduce in a variety of ways. Some reproduce exclusively through asexual fission and others through cycles of both fission and sexual reproduction closer in form to the way more derived eukaryotes like plants and animals do it (with haploid and diploid phases for example).

See: The Evolution of Developmental Patterns in Unicellular Protists

Yet again, I am going to suggest that anyone truly interested in the subject seek out textbooks on microbiology for all the, ah, “ins and outs” of this subject, which I am certainly not doing justice to in these short comments.

Remember evolution takes place within populations, not individuals. The evolutionary changes leading to the capability to make these genetic exchanges would have first been passed on through asexual reproduction forming colonies of similar organisms. For example the first “species” of prokaryotic cells capable of a sort of sex would therefore have “done the deed” with other similar members their “species” in their immediate surroundings (colony).

The other thing to note here is that you are asking about something that originally took place billions of years ago and didn’t leave much the way of fossils for us to study. In fact, I believe these are the very reasons that professional creationists like to use things like the origin of life and sexual reproduction in their arguments. In other words, it is precisely because they deal things that are extremely distant from us in time, are microscopic and soft-bodied, thus leaving little direct evidence for us to work with, that creationists choose to base many of their arguments upon them. After all, it is much less likely we will dig up an Archaeopteryx or Tiktaalik in response to these sorts of questions.

The odds against any particular microorganism living billions years ago being fossilized, surviving geological destruction to the present, and being found and studied by paleontologists is astronomical. It should go without saying that the odds of the biochemical changes that led to the evolution of behaviors like transformation or conjunction are probably less than zero. 

This being the case we can only draw inferences about how these thing may have happen based on the genotype and phenotypes (including behavior) of currently living microorganisms.

Korzeniewski/HovindWhy would any plant or animal want to reproduce more of its kind since this would only make more mouths to feed and decrease the chances of survival?

This is evolutionary biology 101, and if the answer is truly a mystery to you then you have no business making pronouncements about the supposed inadequacies of evolution.

1) Evolution is not about organisms “wanting” anything. It is a process which occurs irrespective of any organism desires (save perhaps species capable of advanced technology like our own, but that is a side issue).

2) Evolution is not really about individual survival it is about the survival of genes. Organisms that merely live the longest as individuals are not who win the evolutionary “race”; rather it is organisms that are the most successful at passing on their genes to future generations that win.

In other words, “Dr.” Hovind’s hypothetical life form that decreased its competition, by not reproducing, thus supposedly increasing the likelihood of its individual survival would be an evolutionary dead end. Some day a rock would fall on it or a predator would eat it and its genetic line would end.

Meanwhile the genes of its neighbor, which cranked out as many offspring as it could, would continue on in its progeny even if it gets killed.

As I said this is real basic stuff.

Korzeniewski/Hovind(Does the individual have a drive to survive, or the species? How do you explain the origin of reproduction?)

The individual has the drive to survive, so that it can reproduce, passing on its genes. Anyone who has given the living world even the most perfunctory examination would quickly note that all of life is engaged in a monomaniacal effort to reproduce.

I suspect, however, that neither Ms. Korzeniewski nor “Dr.” Hovind has bothered to do this. 

Korzeniewski/HovindHow can mutations (recombining of the genetic code) create any new, improved varieties? (Recombining English letters will never produce Chinese books.)

This is more ‘evolutionary biology 101′, and once again, if you do not already know it, then you do not know enough to be criticizing evolutionary theory. 

First, mutation and recombination are two different things. Mutations creates new alleles (variations of a gene) while recombination creates new combinations of alleles (at least in sexually reproducing species).

Second mutation and recombination, by themselves, do not create “new” or “improved” varieties. Natural selection is required to accomplish this. Mutation and recombination create new phenotypes upon which natural selection can act.

In addition, the English letters/Chinese books analogy is a very poor one. Because unlike English and Chinese books, all life uses the same “letters”, the G A C T of DNA. A better analogy, which I borrow from biologist Richard Dawkins, is that DNA is something like a recipe, which, when it is run through the “kitchen” of embryological development, produces “dishes” (organisms).  

Change the letters, you change the recipe; change the recipe and you change the dish.

One could continue the analogy and say that the environment acts as a food critic rejecting some dishes and ordering more of others, i.e. natural selection.

Now I know Ms. Korzeniewski said she would not “spat” with me about creation science however, I feel it is only fair that since I answered her questions that I be able to ask her at least one in return.

The following are a few examples of basic factual errors made by so called “creation scientists” which I have blogged about here (my question follows):

  • Dr. John Morris, president of the Institute for Creation Research stated that sea squirts are echinoderms. This is false; they are chordates.
  •  Morris stated that echinoderms have a notochord. This is false; this is rather a characteristic of chordates.
  •  Morris claims that starfish (sea stars) can be found in Cambrian rocks. This is false; the earliest sea stars (Class Asteroidea) fossils appear in the Ordovician rocks.

Follow this link for documentation.

  •  Dr. Morris claimed that fossil equid Merychippus was single toed. This is false; Merychippus had three toes (the illustration Morris used even showed this!).
  •  Dr. Morris stated that elephants supposedly evolved from Hyracotherium. This is false; no one has ever claimed this.

Follow this link for documentation.

  • Dr. Morris claimed that the famous Burgess Shale was discovered in 1940. This is false; it was discovered in 1909.

Follow this link for documentation.

  • ICR’s “Senior Science Lecturer” Frank Sherwin stated that birds and dinosaurs (same thing) supposedly evolved “backwards” from Synapsids (the group mammals belong to). This is false; dinosaurs were/are, diapsids not synapsids.

Follow this link for documentation.

  • Sherwin claimed that theropod dinosaurs lacked fused clavicles (a furcula or “wishbone”). This is false; the most bird-like theropod dinosaurs had furcula almost identical to the earliest birds (like Archaeopteryx).

Follow this link for documentation.                                                                          

  • David Menton of Answers in Genesis claimed that sauropod dinosaurs are ornithischians. This is false; they are in fact saurischians (something more children could tell you).

Follow this link for documentation.

  • Menton claimed that theropod dinosaurs like Deinonychus have three toes this is false. They actually have four (just like birds).  He also claimed that the large sickle-like claw, that gives Deinonychus its name, resides on its middle, or third toe. This is also false, it is actually on its second toe.

Follow this link for documentation.  

  • Drs. Elisabeth & Tommy Mitchell of AiG claimed that the pharyngeal clefts of vertebrate embryos are merely the folds in the neck due to flexing. This is false; the pharyngeal apparatus of vertebrate embryos are complex anatomical structures, involving nerves, blood vessels, muscle and cartilage the development of which is controlled by homologous Hox & Dix genes in all vertebrates.  

Follow this link for documentation.

Given these errors of fact (and if I went outside of my personal blog, I could no doubt list thousands more), why would you or anyone take these people seriously when they make pronouncements about more complex subjects such as the validity of evolutionary theory?

If you cannot give me a credible answer to that question, I would say we are done.

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5 thoughts on “Round 2 of: What “hope” do you have being an evolutionist?

  1. I especially liked your response to her claim: “The test of any theory is whether or not it provides answers to basic questions.” I am reminded of this article: “God” Has No Explanatory Power…….”A catchall explanation is one which could account for a hypothesis while simultaneously accounting for the denial of the same hypothesis. There is literally no limit to what God can be invoked to explain, including the “truth” of all falsehoods. Of course, people do not invoke God to explain “truths” that they a priori know are false. But the fact remains that God can invariably be so invoked without internal logical inconsistency. God is an intrinsically vacuous, magical, catch-all explanation that provides the superficial appearance of providing explanation by avoiding the necessary constraints of proper reason and logic. God explains nothing”

  2. I saw something on the internet the other day that may only be internet-clever, but seems apt in this case: Threatening an atheist with hell is like a hippy threatening to punch you in the aura.

  3. If you ever need more detailed images of fossil or modern horse leg bones, I have some (articulated and disarticulated). Merychippus definitely has 3 toes.

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