Bad Joke of the Week

One of a Continuing Series

A Priest Was Being Honored At His Retirement Dinner. One Of The Speakers Shocked Everyone.

A Priest was being honored at his retirement dinner after 25 years in the parish. A leading local politician and member of the congregation was chosen to make the presentation and to give a little speech at the dinner.

However, he was delayed, so the Priest decided to say his own few words while they waited: Thank Goodness we Catholics have a wonderful sense of humor! “l got my first impression of the parish from the first confession I heard here. I thought I had been assigned to a terrible place. The very first person who entered my confessional told me he had stolen a television set and, when questioned by the police, was able to lie his way out of it. He had stolen money from his parents; embezzled from his employer; had an affair with his boss’s wife; had sex with his boss’s daughter on numerous occasions, taken illegal drugs; was arrested several times for public nudity and gave VD to his sister
in-law.

I was appalled that one person could do so many awful things. But as the days went on, I learned that my people were not all like that and I had, indeed, come to a fine parish full of good and loving people.’

Just as the Priest finished his talk, the politician arrived full of apologies at being late. He immediately began to make the presentation and gave his talk: “I’ll never forget the first day our parish Priest arrived,’ said the politician. “In fact, I had the honor of being the first person to go to him for confession.”

The Deplorables

Episode 41 In The Further Adventures Of An American Crime Family

I get these, and I absolutely could not live without them. Here is one.

Drake Franklin <contact@team.donaldtrump.com
To: jf_blanton@yahoo.com

Sat, Jul 4 at 10:11 AM

Honestly, John, the Democrats can’t even be patriotic on Independence Day.

You’ve probably heard by now. President Trump celebrated this great, American holiday at Mount Rushmore yesterday in a show of patriotism and American pride. There were fireworks and cheering Americans. It was amazing! Today, he’s in Washington, D.C. for another grand, fireworks celebration!

As President Trump said last year on July 4 from the Lincoln Memorial, “we are part of one of the greatest stories ever told: the story of America. It is the epic tale of a great nation whose people have risked everything for what they know is right, and what they know is true. It is the chronicle of brave citizens who never give up on the dream of a better and brighter future.”

And then Drake asks me for money. But seriously, I quit reading when I got to the graphic at the top.

Yes, you saw it right.

And may Jesus have mercy on our souls.

The Deplorables

Episode 40 In The Further Adventures Of An American Crime Family

The Deplorables comprise a well-known American crime family and those who cater to them. One entity that appears to be in the pocket of the Trump administration is the venerable Heritage Foundation. To illustrate the peculiar nature of this champion of conservatism, consider the thinking of its founders, one being Paul Weyrich.

In the late 1970s a curious combination of religious and political activists assembled to ponder the strategy of a new political movement, sometimes by letter or phone, and sometimes in conference rooms or at a hotel in Lynchburg, Virginia. Some of the more vocal members of the group included Southern Baptist pastor Jerry Falwell; conservative activists Ed McAteer and Paul Weyrich; Nixon appointee Howard Phillips; attorney Alan P. Dye; and Robert J. Billings, an educator and organizer who would later serve as Ronald Reagan’s liaison to the Christian right.

Stewart, Katherine. The Power Worshippers (p. 57). Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Yes, at some time American conservatism became associated with matters other than preservation of democracy and protection of the homeland.

I receive regular mailings from Heritage, and here is one of interest.

Maggy Smith <info@heritage.org>
To: jf_blanton@yahoo.com

Tue, Jun 23 at 11:29 AM

John,

Liberals in Congress have spent years peddling the false stories of Trump’s collusion with Russia, when in reality, the threat to elections was so much closer to home. It’s them.

The first resolution introduced in this Congress was H.R. 1, which would compromise the First Amendment, individual voter integrity, the principle of “federalism,” and other pillars of representative government.

While touted as “reform,” this bill would undermine your home state’s authority to regulate elections, make it easier to commit voter fraud, and cripple your state’s voter ID laws.

Show liberals you will fight to protect fair elections by making a secure gift now.

At the same time, there’s a concerted effort underway in liberal states to end the Electoral College – casting aside the wisdom of the Founding Fathers to ensure that big cities get to pick the President. Your rights are too valuable to be given away by these politicians. They want to trade the wisdom of the Constitution for electoral advantage.

This can do with some inspection. Start with false stories of Trump’s collusion with Russia. It would have been helpful had Maggie Smith cited some examples, because my recollection is special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s team, put together by a Republican administration, spent months investigating whether there was, in fact, collusion. I do recall a lot of speculation concerning the matter, but at the higher levels of the government the charge was never made. Nor did it need to be made. President Trump went to extraordinary lengths to give the appearance of being hand-in-hand with the Russian government.

Last I looked, John Bolton is not a flaming liberal, and he believes Donald Trump is dependent on the good will of the Russian government.

Smith next turns to the Democratic House of Representatives’ H.R. 1. Read it on-line. There is a lot in there, so I am going to ask that anybody who agrees with Smith’s assertion regarding compromise of the First Amendment to please contact me immediately.

Let us agree H.R. 1 does require states make voting by mail universal. That may sound coercive until you become aware that some states already have universal vote by mail. Smith fails to mention the motivation of this imposition, and that motivation is the practice by some states to suppress voting, especially voting by minorities that might oppose their favored candidate. What Smith has done is to turn a voter enabling feature into an assault on states’ autonomy. I am coming to conclude Heritage will be pleased if some people are prevented from voting.

Smith writes of enabling voter fraud and crippling states’ voter ID laws. That sounds encouraging until you realize voter ID laws were recently enacted to suppress voting. The matter of voter fraud seems legitimate until you consider states such as Utah have had voting by mail for years and have not experienced problems with voter fraud. Smith seems to be echoing Donald Trump’s claim that millions of illegal ballots were cast (against him) in the 2016 election. If you buy into this absurdity, then you are ripe to sign up to Smith’s voter fraud bogey man.

Do liberal states want to end the electoral college? This seems odd, considering that liberal states such as Nebraska and Maine effectively discarded the electoral college by portioning out electors to the several candidates. Maggie Smith has a problem with this? And besides, if any state wants to do this there is nothing the federal government has to say about it. The power to allocate electors is retained by the states. A popular plan is to allocate all of a state’s electors to the presidential candidate with a plurality of the popular vote. Suck it up, Smith.

In short, Maggie Smith, for The Heritage Foundation, wants us to throw our allegiance behind an administration soaked in scandal, mismanagement, and corruption, the likes of which we have never seen at this level. Let us hope good people of conscience will not take Heritage to represent our true heritage.

And may Jesus have mercy on our souls.

Abusing Science

Number 75 of a series

I shouldn’t pick on creationist David Rives. He is such an easy target. But I’m in a rush this week and need to get out a Tuesday post. So here it is from my in-box.

David Rives <david@davidrivesministries.org>
To: skeptic75287@yahoo.com

Tue, Jun 16 at 8:01 PM

What made Nikola Tesla believe he was getting a radio signal from this planet?
It takes a solar system record of 243 days for this planet to make one complete rotation…
Why can’t we see the rocky surface of this planet from Earth?

Could we as humans spin a ball forward and backward….at the same time?

The biblical book of Job tells us that God does ‘great things past finding out; yea, and wonders without number.’

To learn more about our Creator’s awesome design in the solar system, watch this educational video.

Yes, please watch the video. Sometimes attacks on science take the form of purified inanity. Where to start?

Start with, “Could we as humans spin a ball forward and backward….at the same time?” That is what passes for discussion of science in some quarters.

Bad Joke of the Week

One of a Continuing Series

R bit of religious humor

An American Jew recognized his son was maturing and decided he needed some world experience. So he sent the son to Israel. to his surprise, when his son returned home he was a Christian.

The man told his friend what happened, and the man said, “That’s odd. The same thing happened with my son. I sent him to Israel, and he came back a Christian.”

They decided to discuss the matter with their rabbi, and the rabbi said, “That’s odd. The same thing happened with my son.”

So the three decided to journey to Israel to check out what was going on. They arrived and went to the Wailing Wall to pray. As they prayed, God spoke to them. “What is your concern, my good  men?”

So they told God what had happened with their sons, and God said, “That’s odd…”

Abusing Science

Number 74 of a series

By the way, the above is good advice.

But to address the topic of this post. Abusing science is not always subtle. All right, it is, but it’s subtle like a drive-by shooting. Take this mail from David Rives:

David Rives <david@davidrivesministries.org
To: skeptic75287@yahoo.com
 
Thu, May 28 at 8:04 PM

At David Rives Ministries we know that you want to evangelize to those around you using scientific evidence to win their hearts to the Lord.

The problem is that those around us are being overwhelmed with scientific rhetoric that is often false. Their hearts are won by compelling arguments founded upon lies, leaving us frustrated by their hard hearts. We don’t want to lose these people…

We believe that it’s our duty to support you in your evangelism efforts by uncovering new scientific findings that support the Bible every day.

For those who do not know:

David Rives – Author, Speaker, Researcher, TV Host

The Creator left a pattern of His fingerprints across each corner of the universe, found in every crevice on earth, and imprinted in every cell of our bodies. A pattern that David Rives has devoted his life to researching, revealing, and sharing… while declaring the glory of God through scientific study.

David’s world travels and research has made him an in-demand speaker with an abundance of knowledge and his powerful and inspirational delivery makes learning about Bible history and science fun and easy for audiences of all ages. His weekly TV show “Creation in the 21st Century” airs to millions globally on TBN. He is a weekly news columnist on science and the Bible, and author of the books “Wonders Without Number” and “Bible Knows Best.” Featured on the History Channel, DirecTV’s NRB Network, WND, TBN, Dr. James Dobson’s FamilyTalk, FaithLife, CBN, ETV, METV, and heard daily on radio, David’s exciting life and world travels are documented on his ministries’ active Facebook page with over 100,000 active followers.

With his energy and enthusiasm, David’s number-one goal is to awe those he meets with the incredible accounts of discovery, Biblical accuracy, and science. He shows us that each person is “wonderfully made” with purpose – a biological miracle from our Designer. He has led dinosaur field trips, safaris to Africa, expeditions into the Grand Canyon, and shared the Gospel to millions along the way.

In the meantime David Rives will, without letup, assure you the Bible is true, and any science that contradicts it is false. That is not what is troubling. What is troubling is an embarrassing number of citizens of this country agree with David Rives.

That should keep you awake nights if nothing else will.

And may Jesus have mercy on our souls.

Bad Joke of the Week

One of a Continuing Series

It’s time for an atheist joke.

As a young boy, a Jew survives the Holocaust. Years pass, and he grows old and dies. He goes to Heaven.

When he gets to Heaven he requests to meet God. So the two meet, and they talk. The Jew tells God, “Let me tell you a joke about the Holocaust.”

And God says OK, and the man tells the joke. God is puzzled, and he says, “That joke’s not funny.”

The man remarks, “Well, I guess you needed to have been there.”

Bad Joke of the Week

One of a Continuing Series

A man died and went to heaven. As he stood in front of St. Peter at the Pearly Gates he saw a huge wall of clocks behind him. He asked, “What are those clocks?”

St. Peter answered, “Those are Lie-Clocks, Everyone on Earth has a Lie-Clock. Every time you lie the hands on your clock will move.”

“Oh,” said the man, “Whose clock is that?”

“That’s Mother Teresa’s. The hands have never moved, indicating that she never told a lie.”

“Incredible,” said the man.

“That’s Abraham Lincoln’s clock The hands have moved twice, telling us that Abe told only two lies in his entire life.”

“Where is Trump’s clock?”

“That clock is in Jesus’ office. He’s using it as a ceiling fan.”

Abusing Science

Number 69 of a series

Philip Kitcher published Abusing Science: The Case Against Creationism in 1983. It was one of the things that got me looking into the modern creationist movement about 30 years ago. Back then creationism was a gaggle of table-thumping preachers and some disaffected scientists advocating for biblical literalism. When that ended in disaster following a number of legal challenges the creationists went modern. Law professor Phillip Johnson wrote Darwin on Trial, inspiring a resurgence of the Intelligent Design movement. This movement involved real scientists with real academic credentials, and the notion about the God of Abraham being the creator of everything was covered by a screen of pseudo research aimed at demonstrating the deficiency of natural processes. Intelligent Design did not mandate biblical literalism.

The primary advocate for Intelligent Design is the Discovery Institute, out of Seattle, Washington. Here is their latest.

Darwinists often point to the whale fossil record as one of the best examples of an evolutionary transition. But is it?

Charles Darwin wrote in The Origin of Species: “I can see no difficulty in a race of bears being rendered, by natural selection, more and more aquatic in their structure and habits, with larger and larger mouths, till a creature was produced as monstrous as a whale.”

Bears turning into whales? Scientists today disagree, instead claiming that other land animals were the real precursors to today’s whales.

And there is a video. Follow the link and watch the video. I will illustrate with pertinent screen shots. Here’s for starters.

We all know bears can’t parallel park. The cartoon video illustrates what would happen if a bear attempted this. It is humorous, but there is not a lot of real science being wasted.

But Charles Darwin thought bears could do much more than parallel park. They could turn into whales.

Look, he stated so in his first edition of The Origin of Species.

Actually, and this is the point a few seconds in when this narrative begins to come off the rails. The cartoon illustrates Darwin’s text as appearing in the first edition of his book. A bit of perusing Amazon’s library, and I obtained a copy of that edition.

In North America the black bear turned into seen by way of Hearne swimming for hours with broadly open mouth, hence catching, like a whale, bugs in the water. Even in so extreme a case as this, if the supply of insects were constant, and if better tailored competition did not already exist inside the United States of America, I can see no difficulty in a race of bears being rendered, by way of herbal selection, increasingly aquatic of their shape and conduct, with larger and larger mouths, till a creature changed into produced as titanic as a whale.

Charles Darwin. On the origin of species . Kindle Edition.

Charles Darwin never wrote that bears could turn into whales, and the video tells us Darwin deleted this assertion in later editions.  Evolution does not work that way, but accuracy requires a lot of explaining. What is claimed—and what certainly happened—is the whales we have today have ancestors that lived on land. But the video asserts Darwin thought bears could turn into whales, so we will go with that.

Next we learn what modern scientists wrongly think, and what they think is whale ancestors were not bears, but something else. Hint: genetic analysis points to the hippopotamus as the whale’s closest living land animal.

The video introduces whale evolution as depicted by Jerry Coyne in his book Why Evolution is True. They show the following, which seems to have been assembled from page 49.

Here is the illustration from that page.

This shows the cladogram related to modern whales. The common ancestor is not known, but Coyne provides the details.

There is no need to describe this transition in detail, as the drawings clearly speak—if not shout—of how a land-living animal took to the water. The sequence begins with a recently discovered fossil of a close relative of whales, a raccoon-sized animal called Indohyus. Living 48 million years ago, Indohyus was, as predicted, an artiodactyl. It is clearly closely related to whales because it has special features of the ears and teeth seen only in modern whales and their aquatic ancestors. Although Indohyus appears slightly later than the largely aquatic ancestors of whales, it is probably very close to what the whale ancestor looked like. And it was at least partially aquatic. We know this because its bones were denser than those of fully terrestrial mammals, which kept the creature from bobbing about in the water, and because the isotopes extracted from its teeth show that it absorbed a lot of oxygen from water. It probably waded in shallow streams or lakes to graze on vegetation or escape from its enemies, much like a similar animal, the African water chevrotain, does today. This part-time life in water probably put the ancestor of whales on the road to becoming fully aquatic.

Coyne, Jerry A.. Why Evolution Is True (p. 49). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. [Emphasis added]

I emphasized a critical piece of the text, because this will come up later.

They quote from the book:

Whales happen to have an excellent fossil record, courtesy of their aquatic habits and robust, easily fossilized bones.

Coyne, Jerry A.. Why Evolution Is True (p. 48). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

But they want you to know the proposed ancestry of whales is anachronistic, and they illustrate with a geological cross-section to show so-called ancestral fossils higher in the fossil record than their descendants.

The video employs mockery in place of rational argument to make their point. Here we show a man with a baby, and he announces the baby is his grandfather. This is the definition of anachronism.

They display the abstract of a paper by Rick Durrett and Deena Schmidt, both with the Department of Mathematics at Cornell University. And they highlight the text they want you to consider.

For your reading pleasure, here is the complete abstract.

Results of Nowak and collaborators concerning the onset of cancer due to the inactivation of tumor suppressor genes give the distribution of the time until some individual in a population has experienced two prespecified mutations and the time until this mutant phenotype becomes fixed in the population. In this article we apply these results to obtain insights into regulatory sequence evolution in Drosophila and humans. In particular, we examine the waiting time for a pair of mutations, the first of which inactivates an existing transcription factor binding site and the second of which creates a new one. Consistent with recent experimental observations for Drosophila, we find that a few million years is sufficient, but for humans with a much smaller effective population size, this type of change would take >100 million years. In addition, we use these results to expose flaws in some of Michael Behe’s arguments concerning mathematical limits to Darwinian evolution.

The paper is “Waiting for Two Mutations: With Applications to Regulatory Sequence Evolution and the Limits of Darwinian Evolution,” and you can follow the link to read the entire paper.

The video wants you to be aware of the millions of years required to produce a single beneficial mutation. That way you will have good reason to doubt Darwinian evolution. Beyond this point I am unable to follow, because the subject matter is way above my pay grade. For example:

Yes, I will spare you. What I will not spare you is something the video does not seem worth emphasizing. From the abstract, “In addition, we use these results to expose flaws in some of Michael Behe’s arguments concerning mathematical limits to Darwinian evolution.” Michael Behe is a major proponent of Intelligent Design, and the authors believe they have poked holes in some of Behe’s mathematical arguments.

The video gets into the matter of the giraffe’s neck. Compare the giraffe to a similar animal—one with a shorter neck—the okapi. They show an excerpt from a paper in Nature Communications.

Here is additional detail.

Published: 17 May 2016

Giraffe genome sequence reveals clues to its unique morphology and physiology

Nature Communications volume 7, Article number: 11519 (2016)

Abstract

The origins of giraffe’s imposing stature and associated cardiovascular adaptations are unknown. Okapi, which lacks these unique features, is giraffe’s closest relative and provides a useful comparison, to identify genetic variation underlying giraffe’s long neck and cardiovascular system. The genomes of giraffe and okapi were sequenced, and through comparative analyses genes and pathways were identified that exhibit unique genetic changes and likely contribute to giraffe’s unique features. Some of these genes are in the HOX, NOTCH and FGF signalling pathways, which regulate both skeletal and cardiovascular development, suggesting that giraffe’s stature and cardiovascular adaptations evolved in parallel through changes in a small number of genes. Mitochondrial metabolism and volatile fatty acids transport genes are also evolutionarily diverged in giraffe and may be related to its unusual diet that includes toxic plants. Unexpectedly, substantial evolutionary changes have occurred in giraffe and okapi in double-strand break repair and centrosome functions.

The video emphasizes the number of mutations that separate the giraffe and the okapi. Having previously demonstrated—by their way of thinking—the enormous time required for a fortunate mutation, we are supposed to question whether such evolution occurred.

Also the creationists want to be sure you know those whale fossils are anachronistic. The video exploits a popular misunderstanding, which routinely gets amplified in the creationist community. Specifically, one species does not change into another. A new species branches off from its ancestral lineage, and the two branches go their separate ways. Sometimes both branches are prolonged to the present day. Sometimes one branch will terminate, while the other survives. Sometimes both terminate. The result is you can find a fossil from one branch that is much younger than a fossil that retained features of the branch point. A rude example is this. When I was quite young I escaped an episode involving an explosive detonating device. If I had not escaped, my fossil would have predated that of my grandfather, who survived another ten years.

Here is how the video depicts fossils it considers out of sequence.

The video concludes with a scathing dig at the science of evolution. It’s a “glossy, one-sided story.”

There is considerable irony piled on here. An aspect of Intelligent Design was supposed to be the creationist no longer deny evolution happened. They promise they will demonstrate a transcendental entity has been behind it all along. They initially refused to acknowledge this entity was the God of Abraham, but many have ceased to conceal their real intent. At a conference at SMU in 1992 Jon Buell and Phillip Johnson were present. Buell heads up the Foundation for Thought and Ethics, which produced Of Pandas and People, the notorious book promoting Intelligent Design and aimed at public school science curricula. Both these creationists acknowledged in a private conversation the Earth is billions of years old, and current life forms have common ancestry.

Phillip Johnson addressed the evolution of land animals to whales in an interview many years back. Here are his pertinent comments:

You can imagine this in the sense that—suppose that you got a set of mutations which in themselves might be capable of turning a mouse into a whale. That’s essentially what is deemed to have happened according to the Darwinian theory. Not literally because it’s not literally a mouse, but something like that, a tiny four-legged creature must have changed step by tiny step into a whale. But if you imagine that starting to happen it’s counterfactual because you have to imagine the mutations coming and there’s no evidence that they exist. You can see that somewhere there the mouse started to develop flippers and a big tail and gear for breathing underwater it would become awfully unsatisfactory as a mouse and helpless and it would get eaten or would be unable to survive. But natural selection would weed it out.

What Johnson is saying is, for example, the mutations that would produce a whale species from a mouse species would necessarily involve intermediates that are non-viable. He was likely not thinking deeply on the matter, because chains of viable intermediates easily come to mind, although not real evolutionary chains. Here is one that does not involve a mouse:

  1. ·         Bear
  2. ·         Badger or wolverine
  3. ·         Otter
  4. ·         Sea otter
  5. ·         Sea lion
  6. ·         Seal
  7. ·         Whale

But back to the video. It is easy to conclude this is aimed at a juvenile audience, given the spattering of lame jokes that punctuate the narrative. For example, there is a fossil named Ambulocetus. The term means “walking whale,” but the video makes a joke of the name, showing a cartoon ambulance. What is most frightening is the likelihood adults are viewing this and are gaining the confirmation they have been looking for.

Carl Zimmer’s excellent book At the Water’s Edge provides a comprehensive narrative on whale evolution. The book describes life in the sea and the development of land animals. Then he follows the development of sea creatures—seals, sea lions, porpoises, and whales. Here is an excerpt discussing Ambulocetus:

Thewissen’s creature, which he called Ambulocetus (“walking whale”), was the closer of the two to the origin of whales. Its four-hundred-pound body—an enormous crocodilelike head, a wide chest, and a long tail—sat on squat legs. It still had the tall projections rising from its neck vertebrae that mesonychids had used to hold up their heavy heads. The width of its chest pushed its hands out to either side like seal flippers, and the giant feet on its crouched hind legs slapped awkwardly on the ground. Ambulocetus could shamble on land if it had to, but the shape of its spine told Thewissen where its gifts lay. It had lost the locking tabs that kept mesonychid spines rigid, and its general geometry was closer to an otter’s than any other animal’s. Although Thewissen did not find Ambulocetus’s hips, the spine strongly suggests that Ambulocetus could have arched its back as it pushed out its giant hind legs and driven the force of its kick out to the end of its tail.

Zimmer, Carl. At the Water’s Edge: Fish with Fingers, Whales with Legs, and How Life Came Ashore but Then Went Back to Sea (pp. 194-196). Atria Books. Kindle Edition.

In April 2002 the Atheist Alliance International Convention hosted a debate with creationist Don Patton. Don is one of the old-school, Bible-thumping creationists, and he got to choose the debate topic: “The fossil record is more compatible with the model of creation than the model of evolution.” The topic of whale evolution came up.

For my part, I assured everybody whales had evolved from land animals. Don insisted they had not. The matter of vestigial legs came up. Whales have forelegs that serve as flippers, but they have no discernible hind legs. However, whale skeletons sometimes show leg bones where hind legs might be expected. Don pointed out these were not leg bones. They served no leg purpose. They were not even attached to the rest of the skeleton. There was a picture showing the bones, and I had to ask, “Then why are they shaped like feet?”

Despite everything the Discovery Institute has poured into this video, the fact remains. Whales descended from land animals.

This seems to be one of a collection produced by the Discovery Institute. Deconstructing these videos is tedious, but this weeks-long lockdown has emptied my excuse bucket. Look for additional reviews to come.

Abusing Science

Number 67 of a series

I receive emails. Here is from another by Perry Marshall, author of Evolution 2.0.

But it’s not just cancer research. My Evolution 2.0 journey has made it abundantly clear to me that the system underlying virtually all science research is tragically flawed.

Now, if you’re thinking, “Why do I care about science being sold out to the highest bidder?” You can just look around you right now.

It’s an invitation to his podcast:

Science for Sale
Ken McCarthy & Perry Marshall
Wednesday April 22, 2:00 PM Eastern

Besides his Wikipedia entry, what I know of Perry Marshall is from his book. An excerpt provides some insight.

This is a science book, provoked by my burning question: If blind evolutionary forces can produce eyes and hands and ears and millions of species, then why don’t engineers use Darwinian evolution to design cars or write software? Why don’t they teach Darwinism in engineering school? Evolution and natural selection, after all, were heralded as all-powerful, to the point of having godlike qualities. If nature needs no engineers, a little evolution knowledge would surely be useful to us engineers who are stuck in cubicles designing cell phones.

Marshall, Perry. Evolution 2.0: Breaking the Deadlock Between Darwin and Design . BenBella Books, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

This is from a section with the title “What You Can Expect from This Book,” so it’s not part of the meat. It does give clue to the intent.

What Marshall wants you to understand is “blind evolutionary forces” are not sufficient. Else, engineers would use them to produce novel designs. I get from this he invokes purpose in seeking to make his case, which is what he intends to prove. Reading selections from the book will reveal Marshall is seeking to sell God. He wants to demonstrate a world created by God, as only a being of some sort can provide purpose.

Engineers developing a novel design do so with a purpose in mind. They want something that flies, so they are sure not to make it too heavy. Engineers would never invoke random choices to create a new and improved design.

Except sometimes they do.

Hybrid Genetic Algorithm and Linear Programming for Bulldozer Emissions and Fuel-Consumption Management Using Continuously Variable Transmission

This paper develops a hybrid optimization approach combining genetic algorithm (GA) and integer linear programming (ILP) to solve the nonlinear optimization problem of managing the fuel consumption and emissions of a tracked bulldozer. Furthermore, the authors propose that a continuously variable transmission (CVT) can better exploit the efficient zones of the engine maps. The original transmission system of the Caterpillar D6T bulldozer consists of a five-gear transmission, whereas the gear ratios of the proposed CVT are continuous and can be assigned according to transmission design. The fuel consumption and three emission items of the engine, unburned hydrocarbons (HC), carbon monoxide (CO), and nitrogen oxides (NOx), are studied. Vehicle-terrain interactions are formulated and the excavation program is characterized by excavation depth and speed. The target of the multiobjective optimization problem is a combination of fuel rate and three emission items. Results show that, for digging depths less than the bulldozer blade maximum digging depth, the target can be improved by more than 31% using CVT incorporated with GA compared to the conventional transmission, obtained by shifting engine operating points from low efficiency zones to optimum points. Finally, integer linear programming is used in a hybrid manner with GA to solve for the optimum combination of excavation steps in tasks of specified digging depths more than the maximum digging depth of the bulldozer blade. Results show that the proposed method can improve the target value up to 18% with the same digging time, and can improve the target value up to 32% using the hybrid optimization approach without time constraint.

The paper describes the development of an improved transmission design. The development employed genetic algorithms toward achieving an optimum design.

Genetic algorithms employ stochastic variation on workable designs to generate new designs, and then they select for those that perform better. To be sure, purpose is invoked here. Nature does not make use of purpose. What engineers achieve in short order using significant computer power, for a natural organism nature requires centuries and longer to instill “improvement.”  And remember, what nature ends up with may not be what we would prefer. The wild horses people domesticated thousands of years ago are the ones produced by nature. What people want, and what they have now, are horses artificially bred for our purposes.

I have no plan to view the pod cast, but readers are invited to search it out and sign up. There may be something significant relating to real abuse of science. The past few weeks have seen egregious abuse of science for political gain, as serious scientists are sometimes mocked (one receiving death threats). We can only hope real science will be taken more seriously when the current crisis is over.

Abusing Science

Number 66 of a series

As promised, I purchased a Kindle edition of Perry Marshall’s Evolution 2.0, and now I will post a few installments of this series based on the book. Glancing through the table of contents, one thing that struck me was a 375-page book ended on page 280. Following are 66 pages of appendices. I had a look.

  • Appendix 1:​All About Randomness
  • Appendix 2:​Genesis 2.0
  • Appendix 3:​Recommended Books
  • Appendix 4:​The Origin of Information: How to Solve It and Win the Evolution 2.0 Prize

I found Appendix 2: Genesis 2.0 most interesting, so I went there first. The core of the book may be revealed here.

We are stardust, billion-year-old carbon,
We are golden, caught in the devil’s bargain,
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden —JONI MITCHELL

Marshall, Perry. Evolution 2.0: Breaking the Deadlock Between Darwin and Design (p. 307). BenBella Books, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

That’s the intro to the appendix. In case you miss the point, all we know from science brings us back to the Garden of Eden. In Appendix 2 Marshall is going to demonstrate what we know from modern science reconciles perfectly with Genesis in the Bible. He recounts a conversation with a very tech guy, a person of obvious intellect, and successful in business.

Paul said to me, “My conviction is that the Bible teaches a young Earth. I believe the Earth is 6,000 years old. I take this position because I feel it is necessary for me to be intellectually honest as a Christian.” He leaned back in his chair and continued, with a perplexed look on his face. “But Perry, I will readily admit to you that I cannot defend that with empirical science; I’ve never been able to see any way to work it out.”

Marshall, Perry. Evolution 2.0: Breaking the Deadlock Between Darwin and Design (p. 307). BenBella Books, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Marshall proceeds to inform Paul the Earth really is something like 4.5 billion years old, but that’s OK. Genesis tells the true story, if you squint like this. Another excerpt:

I prefer the reading of Genesis 1 and 2 that follows, because it matches modern cosmology, geology, and the fossil record nicely. In this chapter, I’m going to share with you what I said to my friend Paul, the chemical engineer turned high-tech company president.

As we read Genesis together, let’s make two assumptions:

1.​The writer is describing events as they appear from the surface of the Earth starting with verse 2, which establishes the point of view for the remainder of the chapter.

2.​“Day” is a period of time, not 24 hours. The Hebrew word for day (yom) has a variety of meanings in Genesis. A day can be a moment, an era, or a thousand or even a billion years (949). In Genesis 2:4, for example, the word day is used to refer to the entire Creation sequence!*

Marshall, Perry. Evolution 2.0: Breaking the Deadlock Between Darwin and Design (p. 310). BenBella Books, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

And there you have it. If “day” is interpreted to mean “billions of years,” then Genesis is spot on. By extension, if “created” is interpreted as meaning “imagined by some people in a Bronze Age tribe living in the Eastern Mediterranean about 3000 years ago, then the God of Abraham is real, and he is a man (not a woman), and he really is his own son, and really did (not) die by crucifixion and later ascend into the outer reaches of space so he can watch over all of us in the minutest of detail, and we can all do as we please while alive—committing any number of heinous acts—but if we accept Jesus as our savior, then when we die we will live happily ever after, along with the innocent children we have raped and murdered.” Also if your grandmother had knobs and an antenna she would be a 1950s TV set, but now I am allowing my mind to wander aimlessly.

This is science from a religious point of view. You don’t want to buy the book—$9.99 plus tax for the Kindle edition—but you want to see more, shoot me an email, and I will send you a few pages.

And may Jesus have mercy on our souls.

People Unclear

This is number 93 of a series

I get mail, and I do love it so. Here is one I received today.

Dr. Robert Jeffress <drrobertjeffress@ptv.org>
To: jf_blanton@yahoo.com
Tue, Apr 7 at 11:06 AM

I’ve got six words for you today …

Six words that — with God’s help, no matter what you are facing — will fill your life with genuine hope:

Change Your Attitude, Change Your Life!

In the book of Philippians, the Apostle Paul has much to say about right attitudes. When you understand Paul’s circumstances when he penned these words, you can better appreciate his optimistic approach.

Paul was not sunbathing on the Riviera, sipping a cold drink, while he wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4).

Instead, he was in a Roman prison, awaiting his possible execution! Yet Paul was able to say, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (4:11).

You can, too.

As you give a ministry donation of $75 or more, I will thank you by sending you my brand-new hardcover book, Choose Your Attitudes, Change Your Life plus the outstanding personal and group study guide (filled with thought-provoking questions and biblical insights to further your study) and the complete 12-message series.

That’s from Robert Jeffress, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, with Sunday attendance close to 3700. The worship center building completed in 2013 cost $130 million. And Pastor Jeffress wants me to send $75. You will forgive the comparison, but this enterprise appears to be a shade of gray away from the Robert Tilton ministry of 30 years ago. Also this. I swear, if I ever see Steve Martin up there delivering a sermon I will absolutely go ape shit. And love it.

Abusing Science

Number 65 of a series

I get email from Perry Marshall:

Perry Sink Marshall is an American online marketing consultant, and author of books on internet marketing. He is a Christian proponent of continuationism and evolutionary creation, and has lectured and written on these topics.

I’m guessing he is not a scientist, but the stuff I receive from him lays claim to outlandish claims about what is good science. From a recent mail:

John,In my book Evolution 2.0, I skewered Richard Dawkins for saying life was a “happy chemical accident” on National Public Radio.

A reader of my blog (a smart, well educated guy) rushed to Dawkins’ defense.

I demanded he explain how “happy chemical accident” qualifies as science.

And it goes on from there. He mentions his blog. Follow the link and read the full story.

Full confession: I did not purchase a copy of his book, and I have not read it. So I may be flying blind here, and in places I will guess at what has gone before. But start with his saying about Dawkins and the “happy chemical accident.” The cruel fact is life is a happy chemical accident, and we are all manifestations of a chemical process that got started on this planet about 3.8 billion years ago. Anybody who thinks life needs more explanation than some very deep chemistry will need to take up the discussion with me, the person who had to repeat Physical Chemistry 55 years ago in order to get my B.E.S. degree.

To add some meat to this discussion, here is another excerpt from his posting:

Wanna have a pointless shouting match with a bunch of mannerless name-callers who make up just-so stories about warm ponds and lucky lightning strikes and think they’re doing science?

Sit down with guys who read Krauss, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris. Walk into a roomful of Dawkins fans.

For illumination:

None of these speak warmly of any gods, nor do they embrace the odd notion of creationism. You can call them Dawkins fans or not, but they all look down on the bunch of foolishness Marshall espouses.

And speaking of “mannerless name-callers,” what does Marshall mean by that? If he means people who refuse to kowtow to the creationists and speak of them in warm terms, then that is a new definition of “mannerless.” If calling creationists fools and liars, then count them in. And count me in while you are at it.

All that said and done, I leave with little of worth to say of the likes of Perry Marshall and his disdain for scientific rigor. To redeem myself I have purchased a copy of his book and will do a review later this year—before this quarantine slacks off. I promise.

Keep reading, and may Jesus have mercy on your soul.

Abusing Science

Number 64 of a series

The title was enough to get me interested. First of all, the statement is blatantly false, and it is one that has grown thin from wear. The Discovery Institute Center for Science and Culture made the link available through their Evolution News site.

It’s an item posted by Michael Egnor:

Michael Egnor is a pediatric neurosurgeon and intelligent design supporter who writes for the Discovery Institute blog. He is a professor at the Department of Neurological Surgery at Stony Brook University, a position held since 1991.

The item caries the title “Arguments for God’s existence can be demonstrated by the ordinary method of scientific inference.”

MICHAEL EGNOR MARCH 22, 2020

Atheist Jerry Coyne has replied to my post last Sunday about prayer and the coronavirus pandemic. I argued that prayer makes sense because God exists, and His existence is demonstrable via the ordinary method of scientific inference. There’s a name for this demonstration—natural theology, which is the science of demonstrating God’s existence using evidence and logic. Natural theology may be contrasted with revealed theology, which is the study of God via revelation in Scripture.

Natural theology has a massive history—it goes back at least to the ancient philosopher Aristotle (384–322 BCE) (the Prime Mover argument). A high point in natural theology was Thomas Aquinas’s Five Ways, which are scientific (i.e. evidence-based) arguments for God’s existence. In fact, the cornerstone of Aquinas’ metaphysics is that essence (what a thing is) is utterly distinct from existence (that a thing is).

So begins the argument. Readers are invited to go to the link and read the entire thing. The essentials are here:

Here’s Aquinas’ First Way:

1) Change exists in nature (evidence)
2) Change is the actuation of potentiality and an essential chain of actuations cannot go to infinite regress. A fully actual Prime Mover is necessary (logic)
3) That Prime Mover is what all men call God (conclusion)

I may be dense, but this appears to be the Argument from First Cause rehashed.

  • Everything has a cause.
  • The Universe is finite—there was a time when the Universe did not exist.
  • Therefore the Universe had a cause before it existed.
  • That cause must be God

There are some things wrong with this, the first being the statement “Everything has a cause.” We can demonstrate events that do not have a cause, but that is minor objection. Another objection is Egnor takes the supposition that the Universe had a beginning as a fact, when it really is a supposition upon which a bunch of scientific theory is based. To complete his argument Egnor will need to prove the Universe had a beginning, and that is something which appears to be true, but for which there is no factual evidence. He is saying supposing what some very reputable scientists hold to be true really is true, then it follows that God exists.

There is more. Read Egnor’s complete argument. “3) That Prime Mover is what all men call God (conclusion).” Notice “call God.” Dude, just because some people call the prime mover God does not lead directly to their actually being a God.  Calling a stick a snake does not make it a snake. It is still a stick, and specifically it is not a snake.

Michael Egnor does not seem to do any real science, nor do any of those shilling for Intelligent Design at the Discovery Institute.

Your Friend The Handgun

Number 209 of a Series

0Observing the series number posted above, it appears I have been doing this column for four years. Here is a recent story, one with a religious theme:

Alabama pastor shot wife at church, killed himself after she preached powerful message, friends say

The Mobile Police Department said in a statement that at approximately 11:23 p.m. on Friday, they responded to the church on Halls Mill Road after receiving a report about a person being shot. When they got there, they saw a woman on the ground who had been shot.

The suspect involved reportedly fled the scene as police arrived. He was pursued by authorities and subsequently returned to the church. As officers approached his vehicle, however, the suspect shot himself. His car then crashed into the church. He was pronounced dead at the scene while his wife was taken to a local hospital where she is recovering.

The Lord works in mysterious ways, often requiring some help from the Second Amendment. If you ever wondered what gun Jesus would use, you missed your chance to ask.

Abusing Science

Number 62 of a series

I would let you borrow my copy, but it’s a Kindle edition, and I’m not sure how that would work out. I bought the book. It’s Undeniable by creationist Douglas Axe.

Douglas Axe is the Maxwell Professor of Molecular Biology at Biola University, the founding Director of Biologic Institute, the founding Editor of BIO-Complexity, and the author of Undeniable: How Biology Confirms Our Intuition That Life Is Designed. After completing his PhD at Caltech, he held postdoctoral and research scientist positions at the University of Cambridge and the Cambridge Medical Research Council Centre. His research, which examines the functional and structural constraints on the evolution of proteins and protein systems, has been featured in many scientific journals, including the Journal of Molecular Biology, the Proceedings of the National Academy of SciencesBIO-Complexity, and Nature, and in such books as Signature in the Cell and Darwin’s Doubt by Stephen Meyer and Life’s Solution by Simon Conway Morris.

Some elaboration for those not up on the creationism scene: BIOLA stands for Bible Institute of Los Angeles. Despite the reference, there appears to be a branch in Thousand Oaks. Besides his association with Biola, you need to also note his association with the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, a prime mover for creationism. Anyhow, this book may be a lesson on how science and religion can reconcile. Or not.

I have not read the entire book, but a few excerpts will give you the flavor. Axe relates how he moved from being addicted to science and reason to accepting the obvious—none of this stuff can exist without the intervention of an intelligent designer. Start here:

I recall a question on a final exam near the beginning of my graduate studies at Caltech: Which of the biological macromolecules is apt to have been the first “living” molecule, and why? If that sounds like Greek to you, relax. I promise to write in plain English. All you need to know is that the question is about how life began, posed with the unstated assumption that it began by ordinary molecular processes. That assumption had been ingrained in biological thinking for so long that it went without saying. Every student in the class understood this, but I understood it more critically than most did. I knew the expected response to the test question, but through my critical lens, that response seemed scientifically questionable. So I had a choice: Do I go with the flow, or do I push against it?

Axe, Douglas. Undeniable (p. 2). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

Axe elaborates on his chain of thought.

Of all the controversial ideas to come from modern science, none has brought more awkwardness than Darwin’s idea of evolution through natural selection. We know natural selection means “survival of the fittest,” which in one sense isn’t at all controversial. Indeed, Darwin’s observation that fitter individuals are apt to have more offspring is so obvious it hardly needs to be stated. But how can something with so little content—a truism—possibly explain the astounding richness of life?

The biggest question on everyone’s minds has never been the question of survival but rather the question of origin—our origin in particular. How did we get here?

Axe, Douglas. Undeniable (p. 3). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

Note the italicized piece at the end. “How did we get here?” This is a sticking point for many, and not just for the religious. At the base may be the human need for purpose. People live by purpose, and they naturally look for purpose, especially in things they do not understand. The problem with this way of thinking is it’s circular—ignoring that purpose is not a feature of nature.

Peer pressure exists in science as in most aspects of human society. Axe exploits this recognition and attempts to lay it at the feet of scientists who have accepted natural causes as a basis for human existence.

But if science itself wasn’t the cause of the change, then what was?

Whether he intended to or not, Darwin reveals here that peer pressure is a part of science, happening behind the scenes as the various scientific interests compete against one another for influence.

Axe, Douglas. Undeniable (p. 5). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

Allow me to loosely define materialism as the notion that we live in a material world, absent of spiritual entities hovering about and tweaking that world. Axe displays his disdain for materialism.

By way of background, the flag that has flown for many generations over the academy of higher education is that of a broad school of thought known as materialism.5 The meaning here isn’t the common one (an obsession with flashy cars or expensive clothes) but rather the view that matter—the stuff of physics—underlies everything real. Even if they don’t use this term, atheists tend to subscribe to the materialist view of reality, believing God to be a product of the human imagination, which they believe to be a product of material evolution. Theists, on the other hand, believe the reverse—that the material universe was brought into existence by God, who is not material. Both views accept the reality of the physical world, but one sees this as the only reality whereas the other doesn’t.

Axe, Douglas. Undeniable (pp. 6-7). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

He inserts this sidebar, which is worth a look:

TWO -ISMS WORTH REMEMBERING materialism: the belief that physical stuff underlies everything real scientism: the belief that science is the only reliable source of truth

Axe, Douglas. Undeniable (p. 7). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

The hard fact is physical stuff does underlie everything real, and science, or something strongly resembling science, is the only reliable source of truth. I will explain that last. Science is a rigorous approach to looking at what is going on and figuring out 1) what is going on and 2) rational explanations for what is observed and how this fits into the remainder of what we know. Absent science, we must ask what other means we would suggest for discovering truth. Some options:

  • Do not examine further, but sit quietly and concoct a story that fits our fancy.
  • Read an ancient text and make it into an explanation of how the world works.
  • Listen to a strident voice and accept what is said, ignoring other sources.

Yeah, we used to do that, and human progress stagnated for centuries until people started getting serious about solving real problems.

He invokes Thomas Nagel, getting around to:

As a first-rate philosopher of the mind, Nagel actually changes the debate with this candid version of atheism. In light of his example, thoughtful atheists no longer have the luxury of assuming their worldview just works somehow—that dead molecules somehow formed simple life, and that simple life somehow formed us, despite all the apparent difficulties.

Axe, Douglas. Undeniable (p. 8). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

Axe cites “dead molecules” and “apparent difficulties,” exposing his inclination for resorting to emotionalism. He seems to do a lot of that in this book. Another sidebar:

THE BIG QUESTION To what or to whom do we owe our existence?

Axe, Douglas. Undeniable (p. 9). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

“To whom.” And that’s going to be what’s at the bottom of Axe’s argument. We are supposed to consider not merely a what but a who. There has to be a person, assumed transcendental, behind all of this. We have entered Axe’s world, and it is not the world of science and reason. He mocks natural causes, likening them to “oracle soup.”

1.​Fill a large pot with oracle soup.
2.​Cover the pot, and bring the soup to a boil.
3.​Remove the pot from the heat, and let the soup cool.
4.​Lift the lid to reveal complete instructions for building something new and useful, worthy of a patent—all spelled out in pasta letters.
5.​Repeat from step 2 as often as desired.

Axe, Douglas. Undeniable (p. 16). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

The allusion is to obtaining information from a source that contains less information. Creationist William Dembski previously invoked Kolmogorov complexity to argue life (complex chemistry) cannot be derived from non-life (not complex chemistry), because that would invoke the creation of information, in violation of the Kolmogorov complexity principle.

From all observation, life sprang from non-life without the introduction of information derived from an outside (intelligent) source.

As his book starts out, Axe is doing nothing more than to argue for the existence of the God of Abraham. If you doubt that you need only ask him.

Abusing Science

Number 59 of a series

Something from 1999

While modern creationists sponsored by Discovery Institute are making most of the news, the young Earth creationists continue to preach their own interpretation of science.

At the time, Wayne Spencer presented some of the arguments to demonstrate the Earth cannot be 4.5 billion years old. He has a degree in physics and is a former high school science teacher. His manuscript How We Know the World Is Young [1] is written to show that the young Earth conjecture is a reasonable alternative to the standard evolutionary timetable. Following is a breakdown of some of his arguments:

Probably the hottest controversy related to creation and evolution is the question of the age of the Earth and the universe. Evolutionists believe the Earth and Solar System are about 4.5 billion years old and the universe about 13 billion years old. Young Earth Creationists usually say the Earth is 6-10,000 years old. Though many scientifically trained people have turned from evolution to creation, the idea of a 10,000 year old Earth and universe is the hardest part of creation for many to accept. Some Christians will say, “What matters to me is the Rock of Ages, not the ages of rocks,” thinking the issue to be unimportant. But the age of the Earth (keep in mind, as viewed by creationists) is a spiritual issue because, 1) evolution absolutely requires billions of years, 2) the Bible implies things are only thousands of years old, and 3) being honest with the scientific evidence points to everything being young. Although no one can really prove the Earth to be young or old, thousands of years is more reasonable or plausible than billions. And if things are only thousands of years old, there could not possibly be time for evolution. [2]

For many creationists, this is the crux of the matter. Evolution requires a very long time span, and if this deep history can be denied, then evolution is effectively falsified. There is a temptation to point out that a long history of the Earth also directly contradicts Genesis, but that does not seem to be the big bugbear for creationists. What really sticks in their craw is the common ancestry of man and other animals and the lack of a divine purpose. Evolution through random mutation and natural selection is the big deal for them.

Shortly after radioactive decay was discovered about 100 years ago, scientists began to use the decay process as a clock to measure very long time spans. They soon reached the amazing conclusion that some Earth clocks had been ticking for billions of years. At last the science of biology had the long time span required to Darwinian evolution to succeed. Ever since, the practice of radiometric dating has been under attack by the creationists. Spencer notes the argument from radiometric dating and points out some popular counter arguments. However, refuting radiometric dating alone will not deny an ancient Earth. The young-Earth creationists (YECs) must establish positive arguments. Wayne’s manuscript goes on to summarize the most popular arguments the YECs invoke to deny an ancient universe:

Helium Escape

The argument is this: helium is a light, inert gas. It is produced constantly through decay of radioactive elements within the Earth. An alpha particle is just a helium nucleus stripped of its electrons, and many radioactive isotopes undergo alpha decay. So, where is all the helium?

To be sure, the atmosphere contains a measurable amount of helium—less than 1%. There should be a lot more. No chemical process takes it out of the atmosphere, because it’s inert. Also, it dissolves hardly at all in water. So, where’s it going?

Spencer and other YECs contend that, absent a means for removing helium from the atmosphere, it would take the atmospheric helium only 2 million years after creation to reach its present concentration. Spencer cites research done Dr. Larry Vardiman, which “includes documentation from the standard scientific literature.” [3]

Science explains how helium leaves the atmosphere—it escapes out into space. Helium molecules (single atoms of atomic weight 4) can achieve very high velocities when heated by the Sun high in the atmosphere. There is a statistical probability that any given helium atom can even achieve escape velocity (about 7 miles per second) through this process, but the probability is very low. Creationists contend this probability is too low, and they either ignore or discount the factor of the solar wind, which constantly sweeps away the upper reaches of the Earth’s atmosphere. It’s a nice exercise to determine just what is the helium depletion rate, and it will not be solved here. In the meantime the creationists continue to get mileage out of it.

Changes in the Earth’s Magnetic Field

This may be the strongest argument for the Earth being young. It may also have implications for the planets. This is original work from a practicing physicist, Dr. D. Russell Humphreys. He says the Earth must be less than 9,000 years old based on how the Earth’s magnetic field has lost energy since creation. [4] The Earth is an electromagnet—electrical currents in the Earth’s liquid iron core produce a field with a north and a south pole like the Earth has today. Evolutionists (scientists) believe the Earth’s magnet has reversed polarity many times throughout the supposed 4.6 billion years of Earth history. This means the north pole would become the south pole and vice versa. Evolutionists (scientists) think of the Earth as a kind of generator, called a dynamo, continually generating magnetic energy as it maintains itself for billions of years through cycles of reversals. [5]

This may be the most scientifically worthless argument the YECs have advanced recently. D. Russell Humphreys is a real Ph.D. in physics who works for the Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico. Besides Humphreys, Thomas G. Barnes, who is with the Institute for Creation Research, has advocated geomagnetism as proof of a young Earth. Barnes’ own hypothesis is that the Earth’s magnetic field started out at the physical limit and has decayed exponentially since the day of creation, giving us both the currently-observed field strength and the observed rate of change. Barnes’ hypothesis seems to ignore Humphreys’ acknowledgement that the field reverses from time to time.

In the meantime, real geophysicists are studying geomagnetism and are learning more about it. They are not finding anything that vindicates either Barnes or Humphreys.

Star Clusters and Galaxies

Stars exist in organized groupings. Small groups of stars are called clusters while large groups of millions or billions of stars are called galaxies. Our galaxy is the Milky Way and is estimated to contain about 100 billion stars. Some clusters do not have their stars close enough together for them to be held together by gravity, so the stars are drifting apart. There are other effects which tend to break up galaxies and clusters over time, as well. If the universe were 16-20 billion years old as the Big Bangers say, some star clusters should have broken up a long time ago. [6]

Spencer goes on to mention spiral galaxies, which YECs contend should have wound themselves up into featureless disks a long time ago, because the interior part of the spiral should rotate faster than the outer part. Neither the star cluster argument nor the spiral galaxy argument seem to be based on any legitimate scientific research. Scientists studying star clusters and spiral galaxies are not reporting evidence for a young universe.

Rapid Formation of Rock Strata

The May 18, 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens had great significance for geology. It demonstrated how rapidly geological forces can work in catastrophic conditions. Creationist geologists have studied the area surrounding Mt. St. Helens for several years and have learned some very interesting lessons. These lessons include 1) rapidly formed stratification, 2) rapid erosion, 3) upright deposited logs, and 4) coal and coal-precursor formation. [7]

Spencer cites the work of ICR scientist Steven A. Austin, one of the few ICR scientists doing real science. Austin has also published a paper arguing the possibility of rapid formation of coal. To summarize the whole argument, Austin and others seek to demonstrate that millions of years are not required to form the minerals and structures we see on Earth today. They would like us to believe the Earth’s formation could have taken only a few days or years.

Conclusion

Creationists put forward many other arguments for a young Earth, solar system, and universe which imply God created all things less than about 10,000 years ago and also that God sent a world-wide Flood about 4,000-5,000 years ago. Interpreting the data in terms of things being young sometimes greatly simplifies the process of explaining how the various features of the earth and universe formed. As time goes on creationists keep discovering additional processes they purport to show the world is young. In April of 1978 there was a conference of scientists addressing the age of the universe and the earth. The following quote is by John A. Eddy who at that time worked at the High Altitude Observatory in Boulder, Colorado. The quote mentions a date by Bishop Ussher. Ussher was the archbishop of Armaugh in Ireland in the 17th century. He published a date for God’s creation of 4004 B.C., a date even few creationists completely accept today. [8]

Spencer makes a good point in his last sentence. Even Don Patton of the Metroplex Institute of Origin Science (MIOS) will not step up to Ussher’s date. He and other YECs know full well that recorded history goes back prior to -4004. When really pressed for a date, Patton will hedge endlessly. Ten thousand years? Well, not exactly. More? Less? Can’t really say. It’s wise for the YECs to waffle on an exact date for the creation. Science is working relentless on the puzzles of the universe, and any speculations made by the YECs today can become the laughing stock of tomorrow.

References

[1] Spencer, Wayne, How We Know The World Is Young. URLs for Wayne Spencer’s Web site are no longer active at:
http://www.cyberhighway.net/~wspencer/
http://www.eaze.net/~wspencer/

[2] Ibid.

[3] Vardiman, Larry, The Age of the Earth’s Atmosphere, El Cajon, CA: ICR, 1990. [cited by Spencer]

[4] Humphreys, D. R., Physical Mechanism for Reversals of Earth’s Magnetic Field During the Flood. Proceedings Of The Second International Conference On Creationism, Vol. 2, Creation Science Fellowship, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1991, pp. 129-142. [cited by Spencer]

[5] Spencer.

[6] Spencer.

[7] Spencer.

[8] Spencer.

Abusing Science

Number 58 of a series

Discovery Institute to the rescue again. When I need to illustrate the abuse of science, their creationist Center for Science and Culture will reliably come through. Here is a recent posting on the Evolution News site:

“Safe to Question” — Another Graduate of Summer Seminars on Intelligent Design Shares Her Story

Behind every Iron Curtain is a private network of dissenters, who come out into the light when the curtain falls. That was the case with the old Soviet Union. And so it is in the tightly policed world of evolutionary biology with its “great evolutionary firewall,” guarding against expressions of fundamental doubt about neo-Darwinian theory.

Discovery Institute is populating a community of dissenters in academia with the annual all-expenses-paid Summer Seminars on Intelligent Design, to be held this year from July 10 to 18 in Seattle. The application deadline is March 4. Intended for current undergraduate and graduate students plus a few teachers and professors, the Seminars run on two parallel tracks: 

From this you readily get DI conducts a series of seminars aimed at reassuring religious believers they can feel safe contradicting scientific evidence. The propaganda value of David Klinghoffer’s efforts are here in full display. Starting with the third word he is likening modern science to the iron curtain of the former Soviet Union. This barricade against outside influence was named by Winston Churchill shortly after the conclusion of the defeat of the German Nazi regime. DI wants you to know the modern scientific consensus regarding biological evolution is like an iron curtain, erected to keep free thought from intruding.

Klinghoffer relates the story of a student who attended one of the seminars.

I attended the Summer Seminar for Intelligent Design my last summer in grad school. It was life changing.

Before that summer, I had never met another scientist who thought intelligent design was anything more than a joke, let alone a powerful explanation for the observations we make in biology. I was fearful of being ridiculed by my colleagues and never said a single word about it throughout grad school, even when the topic came up.

But at the seminar, I’m in a room full of not just students, but also MDs and PhDs. Folks who run their own labs at prestigious institutes around the world. Biologists of every flavor, physicists, mathematicians, engineers, physicians, philosophers, and more. Many of them are silent too. And suddenly, oh the conversations we’re having! I felt so alive! We’re diving into science, engineering, and philosophy! Arguing, debating, pitching research ideas, asking questions, and critiquing ID research and ideas that have already been published. There was never a moment when the room was not wildly animated. I don’t think anyone else had met other scientists who hold to ID either. I think we were all starving for a sense of community. At least I was. I’m still in touch with many of the folks I met that week.

Best of all, I felt safe to QUESTION. I didn’t have to simply accept what I was being told as “fact.” ID is young and still underdeveloped as a framework of thought. You better believe that I threw out many questions as the speakers had time for. Others did too. I wanted to explore these ideas as widely as possible before the week was up.

Being a part of a community where it was safe to question and share ideas about design and engineering in biology transformed my life. I don’t know why, but I felt less anxious after that week. My life long struggle with social anxiety seemed to disintegrate. I was suddenly confident in myself, not just in beginning to speak out about ID, but in all areas of social life. Every year, I wish I could go back. Summer Seminar friends, I miss you all and hope to see you at some conference or event sometime soon! Thank you for the massive influence you all had on my life.

Here is a student, possibly by religious motivation but not necessarily so, who had doubts of biological evolution absent any supernatural element. Apparently she had been in a position of thinking, “There is no way,” but she feared speaking out, lest she be tagged as a crank. Klinghoffer and DI want to assure us this is much the case with those who look for supernatural causes.

I keep injecting the word “supernatural,” because that is the distinction between the scientific consensus and its opponents. The opponents entertain one or more of the following:

  • My religious belief is that the God of Abraham created us or else guided the process by bending nature to his (her) will.
  • I’m not a believer in the GoA, but this notion that only natural processes can accomplish this borders on the absurd.

The problem with this way of thinking is it runs hard up against basic fact.

  • Science involves itself only with matters of nature, excluding what is commonly termed the supernatural.
  • The supernatural does not exist, almost by definition.
  • In all of human history nobody has ever demonstrated a supernatural event. All attempts in modern times to invoke the supernatural have failed.

The student in Klinghoffer’s story can now go into the world confident there are highly accomplished others who reject the need for natural explanations. She has the choice of keeping silent and smiling inward, when discussing matters of human origins for example. Or she can speak her mind and face the objections of others. It’s a world we all live in. However, if it is the world of science she wants to live in, she will need to start by arming herself with facts, because scientific theories derive from facts and not from personal preference.