Abusing Science

Number 32 of a series

The propaganda campaign against naturalistic explanations continues relentlessly from the Discovery Institute. David Klinghoffer has been getting a lot of air time on their Evolution News Web site. Here is something recent:

On the Origin of Life, Science Uprising Helps Break a Poisonous Spell

If you follow the news, you’ve seen countless headlines like this: “Amazing Discovery May Hold Key to Origins of Life,” “Found: The Origin of Life,” “Scientists May Have Found the Chemical Compound That Started Life,” and on and on. Michael Egnor wrote about just such a story here yesterday.

The origin of life is the deepest mystery imaginable and it sounds like scientists have it all figured out. Or just about. The new episode of Science Uprising, “Origin of Life: Intelligence Required,” firebombs that persistent and influential myth, advanced by scientists themselves and their media helpers. It does so in just seven devastating minutes.

“We See the Human Soul”

It’s crucial to materialism to believe that blind, natural processes alone could have blundered about and generated life from dumb chemical predecessors. Whether it happened on our planet or another, all the wonders of the first living cell must have come into existence with no need for intelligent design. Any hint to the contrary threatens to topple a whole of way of thinking about human beings and about all life, that denies any reality beyond the material. “We are not materialists,” says the masked narrator of Episode 5, “We see the human soul”:

There follows a video.
Getting past Klinghoffer’s prologue, we get around to discussing the human soul. Some discussion is in order.

Science is a human endeavor to obtain knowledge by studying things. Science is generally considered to concern itself with material things, but that is a shortsighted assumption. There are non-material things that need studying, and the scientific approach applies to them. Things that are not material would include politics and economics. Things that are not material and not subject to scientific study would include the concepts of beauty, love, mathematics, and grammar. Although the human concepts of beauty and love can be studied through the science of psychology, it is the manifestation that is studied, not the thing. Mathematics and grammar are not subject to scientific study, first because mathematics is a human creation, today defined by a handful of axioms and possessing no additional  information content, and grammar is a human creation that is subject to the whims of people, floating with passing time, and not something ripe for scientific study.

The soul is a human contrivance and is not a physical thing. To argue that the souls exists as an entity that can be studied scientifically is fruitless, since the soul means whatever an individual decides it is. There is nothing to study.

But getting to Klinghoffer’s pitch: any evidence that life did not come about by natural processes would be devastating to our way of thinking about the natural world. The problem is, Discovery Institute propaganda advocating supernatural origins is just that. Words and no evidence.
When the Intelligent Design people decide to cut loose from these specious arguments, we can begin to take them seriously. Not before.

Abusing Science

Number 31 of a series

 

Science receives no more diligent assault than from creationists. The modern creationism has been labeled Intelligent Design, solidly underwritten by the Discovery Institute. The DI Center for Science and Culture propagandizes relentlessly for a supernatural explanation for the universe and the existence of life on this planet. Their Web site, Evolution News, posts a steady stream of argument against natural causes. Here is a recent sample:

“We Hold These Truths”: On Design of the Cosmos, Science Uprising Updates Thomas Jefferson

David Klinghoffer does not seem to have any academic credentials related to science, but Wikipedia notes this:

David Klinghoffer is an Orthodox Jewish author and essayist, and a proponent of intelligent design. He attended Brown University in the eighties. He is a Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institute, the organization that is the driving force behind the intelligent design movement. He was a frequent contributor to National Review, and a former columnist for the Jewish weekly newspaper The Forward, to which he still contributes occasional essays.

He has this to say in the referenced posting:

On Independence Day, Evolution News traditionally republishes a wonderful post by Stephen Meyer. Dr. Meyer, the author of Signature in the Cell and Darwin’s Doubt, explains how the philosophy of human rights enshrined in the Declaration of Independence is grounded in recognizing intelligent design. Regarding the “sources of our rights as citizens”:

Here is a portion of the Stephen C. Meyer quote:

There is one source that is more basic than any other, yet that receives less than the attention it deserves. I refer to the idea that there is an intelligent creator who can be known by reason from nature, a key tenet underlying the Declaration of Independence — as well as, curiously, the modern theory of intelligent design.

The birth of our republic was announced in the Declaration through the pen of Thomas Jefferson. He and the other Founders based their vision on a belief in an intrinsic human dignity, bestowed by virtue of our having been made according to the design and in the image of a purposeful creator.

As Jefferson wrote in the Declaration, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” If we had received our rights only from the government, then the government could justifiably take them away.

And that is so very odd. The idea is, perhaps, to argue science for Intelligent Design, but what Klinghoffer, through Meyer, falls back on is a political statement by the author of the Declaration of Independence. Actually, science is not supposed to work that way. Science works by examining the thing you want to study, in this case the origin of the universe and life on this planet, and base conclusions on what is learned. I may be an amateur scientist, but the statements of a historical figure have no bearing on this field of scientific study.

Klinghoffer continues:

Truths like the ones Jefferson articulated are truths forever, but we need to update the idiom to suit the times. Dr. Meyer’s work, including his upcoming book, The Return of the God Hypothesis, powerfully details the current scientific evidence that supports what Jefferson called the “conviction of design” in biology and cosmology. A serious volume like that is written to nail down the science conclusively. But a related purpose is served, using a different, punchier idiom, by the new Science Uprising series, and in particular Episode 4. At just 8 minutes in length, it’s concise and provocative:

There follows a link to this video.

Abuse of science does not require misstatement of scientific principles. In many cases it boils down to a drumbeat of propagandizing.

Abusing Science

Number 29 of a series

The Discovery Institute continues its campaign to paint Intelligent Design as a valid scientific enterprise. A recent post to their Evolution News site highlights their approach:

Watch: Stephen Meyer Expertly Punctures the Rule of Methodological Naturalism

Following on chemist Marcos Eberlin’s comments yesterday about intelligent design and the definition of science, watch philosopher Stephen Meyer expertly puncture the idea that science requires an approach of methodological naturalism (MN):

[Link to the video]

The rule, as he explains, is arbitrary. True, the designing agent inferred by ID theory is not directly observable, but neither are the elementary particles. Both are inferred. And the so-called demarcation criteria that would exclude ID as science would, if applied consistently, also exclude Darwinian theory. Most fundamentally, MN shuts down on principle what ought to be the goal of all science: objectively seeking the truth about nature, whatever that truth might be.

Particularly galling is the assertion “True, the designing agent inferred by ID theory is not directly observable, but neither are the elementary particles. Both are inferred.” What may not be obvious to David Klinghoffer is that while the “designing agent” is inferred (conjectured, postulated, imagined), elementary particles are not. Not, that is, unless the definition of the word “inferred” has been changed.

The designing agent, although proponents may be reluctant to admit so, is the god of Abraham. There is no physical evidence for the existence of this entity, and no manner of approach for probing its existence has been proposed.

Fundamental particles include protons, neutrons, electrons, muons, and such, and their properties and their presence are routinely studied. These things have mass, and they can do real damage when flung about. The notion that the fundamental particles of physics are on the same level as an imagined transcendental being speaks to the abysmal level of scientific thinking among fans of Intelligent Design. If you want to see abuse of science done so ineptly, here it is.

Abusing Science

Number 28 of a series

The above meme is supposed to be an argument for Intelligent Design, a modern form of creationism. A similar argument is the one that invokes fine tuning:

The Radio at the Edge of the Universe

Some atheists have been crowing lately about the rise of the “nones.” Many of those “nones” aren’t atheists, and the trend toward atheism is greatly exaggerated. But the way many scientific materialists talk, anyone capable of walking while chewing gum must see the “overwhelming evidence” that “God is dead.” 

Wait. That’s just the intro. Here is the meat of Marcos Eberlin’s argument:

Think of a radio dial that needs to be set at precisely the right frequency — “tuned” — to find the desired station. If the universe were a radio and the desired setting allows for life, it would have dozens of dials for setting the values of the universal constants. Muff even a single of these dial settings at the beginning of the universe, by even a tiny bit, and the result is a universe that can never host life. 

Confronted by this, distinguished physicist Fred Hoyle commented, “A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature.”

Failing to comprehend the circumstances underlying our existence, more so the existence of the Universe, we must fall back on legends perpetrated by Bronze Age tribesmen living on the eastern region of the Mediterranean Sea. I am thinking Eberlin expects too much of me. Here is some background:

Marcos Nogueira Eberlin (born 4 March 1959) is a Brazilian chemist and professor at the Institute of Chemistry of the University of Campinas. He is a member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences and received the Brazilian National Order of Scientific Merit in 2005 and the Thomson Medal in 2016.

Eberlin discovered the Eberlin Reaction during his work on gas phase ion chemistry, and he and his research group introduced EASI (Easy Ambient Sonic-spray Ionization), an ionization technique used in mass spectrometry.

Eberlin is an advocate of intelligent design in Brazil, a pseudoscience on which he also lectures and he has signed the Dissent From Darwinism statement. He is a creationist also, and has said that evolution theory is a fallacy.

There is more. He is the author of Foresight: How the Chemistry of Life Reveals Planning and Purpose. The notion that wacky ideas about science are relegated to back stream advocates such as William Dembski and Stephen C. Meyer needs to be extinguished. Eberlin continues:

But in fact, intelligent design is testable. Also, if the above definition were the proper definition of science, only one worldview would be allowed in science: naturalism. And that biased restriction would mean that evidence of apparent foresight in the universe and life must be ignored or explained away.

He bemoans restricting science to naturalism. The problem is that beyond naturalism we have the supernatural. The supernatural exists in a realm where anything can happen, and by this means anything can be explained by made-up stories. Read his posting.

The Kansas Board of Education has defined science as a human endeavor aimed at explaining the natural world, though they added one sweeping restriction: It can only appeal to natural forces. “Science is restricted to explaining only the natural world, using only natural cause,” the board wrote. “This is because science currently has no tools to test explanations using non-natural (such as supernatural) causes.”

But in fact, intelligent design is testable. Also, if the above definition were the proper definition of science, only one worldview would be allowed in science: naturalism. And that biased restriction would mean that evidence of apparent foresight in the universe and life must be ignored or explained away.

Follow the link to another Evolution New post regarding testability of Intelligent Design. I will cover that in a future item for this series.

Abusing Science

Number 27 of a series

The above image is from an item posted to the Evolution 2.0 site. The page title is “Information Theory and the Trinity.”

Information Theory and the Trinity

Here is a transcription of the Facebook post.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb September 21, 2014

INFORMATION THEORY is the new central discipline. This graph was from 20y ago in the seminal book Cover and Thomas, as the field was starting to be defined. Now Information Theory has been expanded to swallow even more fields.

Born in, of all disciplines, Electrical Engineering, the field has progressively infiltrating probability theory, computer science, statistical physics, data science, gambling theory, ruin problems, complexity, even how one deals with knowledge, epistemology. It defines noise/signal, order/disorder, etc. It studies cellular automata. You can use it in theology (FREE WILL & algorithmic complexity). As I said, it is the MOTHER discipline.

I am certain much of Medicine will naturally grow to be a subset of it, both operationally, and in studying how the human body works: the latter is an information machine. Same with linguistics. Same with political “science”, same with… everything.

I am saying this because I figured out what the long 5th volume of the INCERTO will be. Cannot say now with any precision but it has to do with a variant of entropy as the core natural generator of Antifragility. [Revised to explain that it is not *replacing* other disciplines, just infiltrating them as the point was initially misunderstood…]

And that’s something to digest. You need to read the item, but here is the gist:

All communication systems that we know the origin of are designed. This suggests that consciousness comes first in the universe. Consciousness first, matter second. Not the other way around. (If anyone solves the Evolution 2.0 Prize, and I hope they do, they’ll solve it by starting with consciousness and working from there. My 2 cents.)

You cannot create messages or communication by blind material processes, so far as anyone knows thus far. Information always starts with consciousness. Which is the thesis of my Evolution 2.0 book.

What he is saying—see the diagram above—is that we marvel at the employment of DNA to encode and reproduce life forms, but DNA is merely the telephone line in a communication system. To explain the origin of the message (the structure of novel life forms) you need to invoke outside intelligence.

Perry Marshall is the author of the book and presumably the posting. He wants to stretch the analogy of an information transmission system into the Christian concept of the Trinity. It is a stretch too far.

Abusing Science

Number 25 of a series

Twenty-seven years ago I attended a presentation by health quack Charlotte Gerson. It was an interesting audience. I got into a conversation that came around to homeopathy. Homeopathy, it was explained, works by quantum mechanics. And that was it. Not many people understand quantum mechanics. In fact top physicists remind us that maybe nobody understands quantum mechanics. And that’s the allure. Something this dark and mysterious can be used to explain all manner of questionable proposals. One of these might be transubstantiation.For the uninitiated, transubstantiation is associated with the Eucharist of the Catholic faith. The little wheat wafers, presumably blessed by the church, literally become the body of Christ. How does this work?

According to the Magis Center, quantum mechanics is at the heart. I won’t recap the posting , but the headline catches my attention:

Quantum Mechanics and the Real Presence: What Reality Should We Believe?

After some background we get to the heart of the matter:

First, quantum mechanics is itself a mystery: as the great physicist Richard Feynman remarked, “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.”

Second, the theory gives probabilities for alternative results of experiments, probabilities that are confirmed to a high degree of accuracy (much like actuarial results—one may not know when any given person may die, but one does know that among a large number of 70 year old men, a well-defined percentage will die in the coming year).   Even though quantum mechanics is deterministic in a statistical sense, this probabilistic character bothers many physicists. Einstein himself opposed the probabilistic interpretation of quantum mechanics, insisting that “God does not play dice with the universe.

Third, from the beginning of quantum mechanics, scientists have posited a connection between the conscious mind and the role of the observer in determining quantum mechanical outcomes in experiments. As d’Espagnat puts it, “The doctrine that the world is made up of objects whose existence is independent of human consciousness turns out to be in conflict with quantum mechanics and with facts established by experiment.” The conscious mind of the observer plays a role in making a choice of experiments and what is to be observed.

This last part, “… scientists have posited a connection between the conscious mind and the role of the observer in determining quantum mechanical outcomes in experiments,” is problematic. While it is literally true that observation of an outcome, especially one involving quantum-level activity, does make the outcome irreversible, the notion that the observation must be human is imaginary. A classic case is the thought experiment involving “Schrödinger’s cat.” The experiment goes like this.

Put the cat in a closed box. Nobody can see in. Inside the box is a deadly poison, set to be released by a quantum event, e.g., alpha decay. Did the decay occur? If it did, then the cat is dead. If not, then the cat is alive. But until we open the box (as the protocol describes) the cat is in an undecided state. Until we observe the dead/alive cat, the alpha decay happened/did not happen.

The problem with this description is the requirement for human observation. Until we open the box, we may not know whether the alpha decay happened. But the cat does. Actually, any number of irreversible conditions can remove the alpha decay from the undecided state. The alpha decay happens, the alpha particle exits the nucleus. No matter how many cats are involved, the alpha particle is not going back into the nucleus. The outcome becomes final before any cat dies.

Religious hard cases become distressed at the failure of faith to accomplish anything material, anything of substance. Others perceive what is called science envy. If science can be invoked to substantiate religious conjectures, then wanderers can be coaxed back to the faith. Science is having none of that. The claims of the supernatural posited by religious zealots are never going to pass any sensible evaluation for merit. This kind of stuff is, at its base, an abuse of science.

The Magis Center post references the late French physicist Bernard d’Espagnat, who made contributions to this subject. An item I posted back in my college days commented on the so-called EPR paradox and referenced d’Espagnat’s work. Here is a link to a page that’s all about the mysteries of quantum mechanics. John Gribbin’s book In Search of Schrödinger’s Cat is a comprehensive read on the subject.

Breathtaking Inanity

Number 14 of a continuing series

This is shocking news. How much lower can people go?

Pence Warns Liberty University Graduates: Prepare To Be Shunned And Ridiculed For Being Christians [VIDEO]

May 12, 2019

Pence, who has been facing criticisms of his own religious views recently, warned graduates that they have to stay strong against the challenges they’ll get from Hollywood, the media and the secular left. “Some of the loudest voices for tolerance today have little tolerance for traditional Christian beliefs,” Pence said. “Be ready.”

“Throughout most of American history, it’s been pretty easy to call yourself Christian,” Pence said. “It didn’t even occur to people that you might be shunned or ridiculed for defending the teachings of the Bible. But things are different now.”

 Imagine the level of humiliation these graduates from arguably the most Christian of all universities will face. Consider the degree of derision that will confront them when future co-workers learn of their deep commitment to our Lord Jesus Christ. What if…

Wait! Additional breaking news has just landed on my desk. Without digging deeper into it, I’m going to put it out for you now. There is no time to waste. Here it is.

College President Deke Jorgensen Cautions Graduating Class

Dr. Deke Jorgensen, president of Fordlee Clown School, spoke to the graduating class today, and he gave them an urgent warning. “Be prepared to be laughed at,” he cautioned students.

See what I mean? It’s a heartless world out there.

Abusing Science

Number 23 of a series

On Sunday, 19 May, Liam Feldman will host a reading/review of Why Intelligent Design Fails by Matt Young and Taner Edis. The meeting will be at Barnes & Noble 321 NW Loop 410 #104 in San Antonio, starting at 3 p.m. Feel free to come out and join the discussion.

With that in mind, the topic of this post is a book by the Discovery Institute, the leading promoter of Intelligent Design. It’s Science and Human Origins, compiled by Ann Gauger, Douglas Axe, and Casey Luskin. They are all associated with the Discovery Institute. From Amazon:

Evidence for a purely Darwinian account of human origins is supposed to be overwhelming. But is it? In this provocative book, three scientists challenge the claim that undirected natural selection is capable of building a human being, critically assess fossil and genetic evidence that human beings share a common ancestor with apes, and debunk recent claims that the human race could not have started from an original couple.

This is an interesting stance for Intelligent Design, because the philosophy was resurrected 30 years ago to pull the creationist movement away from biblical  origins and to disguise it as a science-based endeavor. Intelligent Design and the Discovery Institute Center for Science and Culture were supposed to acknowledge inescapable science and get people to thinking an unknown creator is behind this science. UC Berkeley law professor (now  retired) Phillip E. Johnson is credited with giving Intelligent Design new life and is considered the godfather of the modern movement. Jon Buell is president of the Richardson, Texas, based Foundation for Thought and Ethics. FTE is publisher of the creationist book Of Pandas and People, made famous in the Kitzmiller court case. Both attended a symposium titled ” Darwinism: Scientific Inference or Philosophical Preference?” at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas, March 26-28, 1992.

It was an opportunity to ask the pivotal question, and I did. Did these two educated men agree the earth is billions of years old and that humans share a common ancestry with other life forms? Both agreed. The ground may have shifted since then, because outpourings from the DI seem to have dropped the facade of scientific literacy. The book that is today’s topic bears that out.

Reviewing books such as this and picking them apart on inconsistencies and obvious wrong facts is a bunch of fun, but I have no experience in the related science, so it’s best if I fall back on others who do. Someone who seems to have given this book a close look is Paul McBride. From a post by Richard P. Hoppe on the Panda’s Thumb site:

Fortunately for me, I’m spared the chore of reading and critiquing the book. Paul McBride, a Ph.D. candidate in vertebrate macroecology/evolution in New Zealand who writes Still Monkeys, bit the bullet and did a chapter by chapter (all five chapters) review of the book. The book doesn’t come out looking good (is anyone surprised?). I’m going to shamelessly piggyback on McBride’s review. I’ll link to his individual chapter reviews, adding some commentary, below the fold.

The book has five chapters, and the one I appear to have found most interesting is chapter 5, “The Science of Adam and Eve.” I am guessing by he title that all pretense of scientific rigor has been discarded. We are back to Genesis with a bang.

My copy of the book is a Kindle edition, and one thing you can do with these is highlight sections of text. I notice I highlighted entire paragraphs when I first went through the book. Here is one section.

Using population genetics, some scientists have argued that there is too much genetic diversity to have passed through a bottleneck of just two individuals. But that turns out not to be true.

Gauger, Ann. Science and Human Origins . Discovery Institute Press. Kindle Edition.

Here is another.

Now, I am a scientist, and not a theologian, but I feel obligated to speak. The challenge being posed to two first parents is a scientific one, so it deserves a scientific response. My purpose in this chapter is not to engage in Biblical interpretation or to pass judgment on the various views Christians hold about Adam and Eve. Instead, I propose to focus on the scientific argument and its validity.

Gauger, Ann. Science and Human Origins . Discovery Institute Press. Kindle Edition.

And there it is. Genesis is true, and Adam and Eve were real people, and we all sprang from this single pair.

But wait! Real scientists hold a similar view. Richard Dawkins, no friend of the Bible, agrees that today’s human population sprang from one woman, exact identity unknown.

The second conclusion of the Berkeley group is less controversial. No matter where Mitochondrial Eve lived, they were able to estimate when. It is known how fast mitochondrial DNA evolves; you can therefore put an approximate date on each of the branch points on the tree of divergence of mitochondrial DNA. And the branch point that unites all womankind—the birth date of Mitochondrial Eve—is between a hundred fifty thousand and a quarter of a million years ago.

Dawkins, Richard. River Out of Eden (Science Masters Series) (pp. 52-53). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

The difference is Mitochondrial Eve was not the first woman. Some elementary mathematical analysis will demonstrate to you that, given the branching inherent in sexual reproduction, any two people alive today should be able to trace their lineage back to a point the paths intersect. Dawkins goes further. He uses the rate of mitochondrial mutation to compute an approximate date of our common ancestry, in the female line of descent.

On the matter of common descent, I first noticed a divergence in thinking among the new creationists at a conference in Dallas in November 2003. Ray Bohlin was there, along with creationist Ide Trotter. Bohlin holds a  Ph.D. in molecular and cell biology from the University of Texas at Dallas, and he is also a key person at Probe Ministries in Richardson, Texas:.

Raymond G. Bohlin is Vice President of Vision Outreach with Probe Ministries.

A plenum session gave participants the opportunity to ask questions and to make statements. Ray Bohlin announced to those present he believed all life forms on this planets have a common ancestry. Except humans. People have a different line of descent.

Creationists Ide Trotter and Ray Bohlin in 2003

I yield the remainder of your time to reading Paul McBride’s more thorough examination of this creationist book. Get a copy for yourself if you are interested. It’s a grand exemplar of the abuse of science.

Abusing Science

Number 22 of a series

The Acámbaro dinosaurs

This is being reposted from the North Texas Skeptics newsletter.

Dinosaurs went missing about 65 million year ago. Or did they?

What if they really didn’t. What if dinosaurs were still around as late as 6500 years ago. And if people and dinosaurs lived contemporaneously? That would shoot holes in a lot of modern science. Paleontology would be badly wounded. Evolution would be DOA. So the thinking goes.

If you could find a human fossil in the same stone with a dinosaur fossil you would have some nice ammunition to shoot down evolution. Even better if the fossil showed a dinosaur eating a human. If all you had were something that looked like human footprint alongside dinosaur footprints you might be inclined to shop further. Enter the Acámbaro dinosaurs.

A paper titled “Archeological cover-ups” by David Hatcher Childress describes the discovery of the Acámbaro dinosaur figurines.1

In 1944 an accidental discovery of an even more controversial nature was made by Waldemar Julsrud at Acámbaro, Mexico. Acámbaro is in the state of Guanajuato, 175 miles northwest of Mexico City. The strange archaeological site there yielded over 33,500 objects of ceramic, stone, including jade, and knives of obsidian (sharper than steel and still used today in heart surgery). Julsrud, a prominent local German merchant, also found statues ranging from less than an inch to six feet in length depicting great reptiles, some of them in ACTIVE ASSOCIATION with humans, generally eating them, but in some bizarre statuettes an erotic association was indicated. To observers, many of these creatures resembled dinosaurs.

Childress further mentions that radio-carbon dating in the laboratories of the University of Pennsylvania and additional tests using thermoluminescence indicated the objects were made 6500 years ago.

In “Atlantis Rising,” David Lewis has explained the implications for modern science.2

The Acámbaro figurines, discovered in the 1940s in Acámbaro, Mexico, depict fantastic creatures that resemble dinosaurs, as well as African and European men. If verified as authentic and dated to a time before modern science’s discovery of the dinosaurs, the existence of the figurines would dismantle the major presumptions of modern evolutionary theory, and, in fact, much of the scientific and academic establishment.

Young-Earth creationist Don Patton discussed the subject of the Acámbaro dinosaurs at September’s meeting of the Metroplex Institute of Origin Science (MIOS). He has journeyed to Acámbaro to view and photograph some of the artifacts, and he agrees with Lewis that this spells doom for evolution. Most of those attending the meeting concurred.

Don was gracious enough to provide me with copies of some of his photos, which we reproduce here. His printed brochure compares one of the figurines with a drawing from Robert Bakker’s book Dinosaur Heresies (1986). The figurine so resembles the dinosaurs in Bakker’s illustration that the ancient artist must have seen one in the flesh.

Figure 1.
Photo courtesy of Don Patton

Figure 2.
Dinosaur drawing from Robert Bakker’s book Dinosaur Heresies

Of course, modern science is not going to take this lying down, as both Patton and Childress have pointed out. Childress explains the situation in his report:3

A team of experts at another university, shown Julsrud’s half-dozen samples but unaware of their origin, ruled out the possibility that they could have been modern reproductions.

However, they fell silent when told of their controversial source. In 1952, in an effort to debunk this weird collection which was gaining a certain amount of fame, American archaeologist Charles C. DiPeso claimed to have minutely examined the then 32,000 pieces within not more than four hours spent at the home of Julsrud. In a forthcoming book, long delayed by continuing developments in his investigation, archaeological investigator John H. Tierney, who has lectured on the case for decades, points out that to have done that DiPeso would have had to have inspected 133 pieces per minute steadily for four hours, whereas in actuality, it would have required weeks merely to have separated the massive jumble of exhibits and arranged them properly for a valid evaluation.

Tierney, who collaborated with the later Professor Hapgood, the late William N. Russell, and others in the investigation, charges that the Smithsonian Institution and other archaeological authorities conducted a campaign of disinformation against the discoveries. The Smithsonian had, early in the controversy, dismissed the entire Acámbaro collection as an elaborate hoax. Also, utilising the freedom of Information Act, Tierney discovered that practically the entirety of the Smithsonian’s Julsrud case files are missing.

After two expeditions to the site in 1955 and 1968, Professor Charles Hapgood, a professor of history and anthropology at the University of New Hampshire, recorded the results of his 18-year investigation of Acámbaro in a privately printed book entitled MYSTERY IN ACÁMBARO. Hapgood was initially an open-minded skeptic concerning the collection but became a believer after his first visit in 1955, at which time he witnessed some of the figures being excavated and even dictated to the diggers where he wanted them to dig.

Adding to the mind-boggling aspects of this controversy is the fact that the Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia, through the late Director of PreHispanic Monuments, Dr. Eduardo Noguera, (who, as head of an official investigating team at the site, issued a report which Tierney will be publishing), admitted  “[T]he apparent scientific legality with which these objects were found.” Despite evidence of their own eyes, however, officials declared that because of the objects  “fantastic” nature, they had to have been a hoax played on Julsrud!

Whether Julsrud was hoaxed is something Patton intends to pursue, although he thinks not. He says he plans to excavate under the kitchen floor of the former Julsrud home in Acámbaro. This floor is original from before the time Julsrud move in, and finding similar figurines there will rule out their being recent forgeries.

Answering questions following his MIOS talk, Don explained that the figurines in question appeared to have been deliberately buried. They were found in collections of twenty to thirty and packed in sand, and they are made from local clay, which is decayed feldspar. Only ten percent of the figurines resemble dinosaurs.

So, what does all of this have to do with Albert Einstein, Perry Mason, and The Mysterious Origins of Man? Glad you asked.

Patton notes4

In the forward to the book, Earth’s Shifting Crust, Albert Einstein said Hapgood’s concept could be of a “great importance to everything that is related to the Earth’s surface.”

Earth’s Shifting Crust was the original title of Hapgood’s book, which is now The Path of the Pole. His idea was that all the ice at the poles represented a spinning mass that exerted a horizontal force on the Earth’s crust. In the mid 1950s, before the modern idea of plate tectonics was developed, but while Wegener’s ideas of continental drift were being floated around, Hapgood proposed that this off-center force occasionally shifted the crust, putting the poles at the equator and causing other nasty results. Hapgood corresponded with Einstein on this topic and received encouragement. Einstein recommended that Hapgood obtain “geological and paleontological facts.”

NBC first broadcast The Mysterious Origins of Man (MOM) in February 1996. Host Charlton Heston explained to the audience how a lot of standard science, such as evolution, paleontology, archaeology, and anthropology got it all wrong. Young-Earth creationist Carl Baugh helped out by explaining the Paluxy River “man tracks.”

Hapgood was there to explain the evidence of sudden Earth crustal displacement. The “fact” that thousands of animals were frozen in short order (in geologic time) and that ancient maps showed an ice-free Antarctica (which was then frozen over very quickly) was given as evidence for this crustal shift. Paul Heinrich has posted a review of these claims at

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/mom/atlantis.html.

The creator of MOM, Bill Cote, has since produced a third program along similar lines. This latest is Jurassic Art, which deals with two topics, the Acámbaro figurines and the Ica stones.

So now we are back to where we started, as James Burke would say. A great fan of the Ica stones is Don Patton, who has presented talks on them at MIOS meetings. The deal about the Ica (not Inca) stones is that they are black stones with serpentine figures carved into them. Don Patton contends these are depictions of real dinosaurs done from life. David Lewis had this to say about them:5

The Ica stones are a collection of thousands of inscribed stones found near the mysterious Nasca Lines in Peru. Many of the stones depict Pterodactyls, T-Rexes, and humans cavorting with Stegosaurs. Who carved these mysterious stones? Some ancient artist who somehow knew about dinosaurs, or a modern prankster? The answer to those questions remains a mystery. Except to you, of course. Dating both the Acámbaro figurines and Ica stones has proved inconclusive. Unfortunately, both the stones and figurines have been removed from their original settings, making reliable dating difficult, if not impossible. In the Peruvian case, the curator and discoverer of the artifacts, Javier Cabrera, a medical doctor, refuses to reveal the location of a cave where he allegedly found the stones, leading archeologist Neil Steede, who investigates both cases on Cote’s Jurassic Art, to question the doctor’s story.

So, we come to the end of the tale, and we still don’t know what’s behind the Acámbaro dinosaurs.

Are the figurines really 6500 years old? Don Patton, who appears to finally accept radio-carbon dating, would only give the “dinosaurs” 1500 years in his talk. A human figure he allowed 4000 years.

Are they even authentic? If they are 1500 years old and more, then it’s likely they are. That was way before people found sport in fooling archaeologists.

If they are authentic, do they represent dinosaurs? Some of the ones exhibited are dead ringers for dinosaurs, but they were culled from a reported cache of over 30,000 items. Many of the figurines presented as dinosaurs required a bit of a stretch to make the resemblance. It’s possible we are just seeing some selective sampling. Given the amount of variation apparent in the collection there was bound to be a dinosaur in there somewhere.

Figure 3.
While there were many figurines that resembled four-legged dinosaurs, a number of them resembled dinosaurs no better than this.
Photo courtesy of Don Patton

Research into the mystery of the figurines since the MIOS lecture has not provided further explanation, so for the time being we will have to leave it at that. Some stories just don’t have neat endings.

Oh wait. I forgot to tell about Perry Mason, although it has absolutely no significance to the story. Accompanying Hapgood in his 1955 investigation of the figurines was prolific detective fiction writer Earl Stanley Gardner. The Acámbaro dinosaurs, it would seem, had something for everybody.

Refrences

  1. Childress, David Hatcher. “Archeological Coverups” Posted by the World Explorers Club at http://www.keelynet.com/unclass/canyon.txt. In the quoted excerpt I have fixed some of the inconsistencies in spelling and punctuation. The capitalization has been left intact.
  2. Lewis, David. “Jurassic Art” At http://atlantisrising.com/issue11/ar11jurassic.html
  3. Childress
  4. From Don Patton’s untitled brochure on the Acámbaro figurines.
  5. Lewis

Graham

Number 5 of a Continuing Saga

Stuff like this takes some getting used to:

Franklin Graham to Buttigieg: Homosexuality ‘sin’ to be ‘repentant of’ not ‘flaunted’

The evangelical preacher Franklin Graham has taken aim at presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg for being a self-described gay Christian.

Specifically:

Presidential candidate & South Bend Mayor is right—God doesn’t have a political party. But God does have commandments, laws & standards He gives us to live by. God doesn’t change. His Word is the same yesterday, today & forever. 1/3

Mayor Buttigieg says he’s a gay Christian. As a Christian I believe the Bible which defines homosexuality as sin, something to be repentant of, not something to be flaunted, praised or politicized. The Bible says marriage is between a man & a woman—not two men, not two women. 2/3

The core of the Christian faith is believing and following Jesus Christ, who God sent to be the Savior of the world—to save us from sin, to save us from hell, to save us from eternal damnation. 3/3

The Reverend Franklin Graham has some history. For example:

I appreciate Reverend Graham’s observation concerning “numerous instances from the Bible where people turned the tide of history by prayer.” Here’s one from Ezekiel 9:

Which refers to:

Ezekiel 9:4-6 King James Version (KJV)

And the Lord said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.

And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity:

Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house.

“God does have commandments, laws & standards He gives us to live by….” The god that commanded, “Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women …” Yes, this is the god we should follow. I’m feeling more comfortable already.

It’s also the same god, according to Franklin Graham, that “says marriage is between a man & a woman—not two men, not two women.” Actually, that god does not say any such thing.

2 Samuel 5:13 King James Version (KJV)

13 And David took him more concubines and wives out of Jerusalem, after he was come from Hebron: and there were yet sons and daughters born to David.

But that’s the Old Testament. Graham is a follower of Jesus, who was decidedly against homosexuality. Here is what Jesus had to say about homosexuality.

Anyhow, true Christians know marriage is between one man and one woman:

“When the Christian Church came into being, polygamy was still practiced by the Jews. It is true that we find no references to it in the New Testament; and from this some have inferred that it must have fallen into disuse, and that at the time of our Lord the Jewish people had become monogamous. But the conclusion appears to be unwarranted. Josephus in two places speaks of polygamy as a recognized institution: and Justin Martyr makes it a matter of reproach to Trypho that the Jewish teachers permitted a man to have several wives. Indeed when in 212 A.D. the lex Antoniana de civitate gave the rights of Roman Citizenship to great numbers of Jews, it was found necessary to tolerate polygamy among them, even though it was against Roman law for a citizen to have more than one wife. In 285 A.D. a constitution of Diocletian and Maximian interdicted polygamy to all subjects of the empire without exception. But with the Jews, at least, the enactment failed of its effect; and in 393 A.D. a special law was issued by Theodosius to compel the Jews to relinquish this national custom. Even so they were not induced to conform.

If you think Reverend Graham is making stuff up, you are in good company.

And the horse you rode in on.

Political Humor

Number 2  Of An Infinite Series

I give up. I started posting humorous pieces on Fridays with the title “Friday Funny,” and along these lines I started collecting bits of humor to pass along. After doing this for more times than I can count I had to admit that the stuff was piling up faster than I could dish it out. My solution is to post something every day, but not in the hope that I will run out of humorous stuff. Trust me, with the help of President Donald J. Trump, I’m never going to pump this well dry. Here’s the first:

Enjoy. And keep reading.

Dying to Believe

Number 135 in a series

In celebration of Charles Darwin’s birthday, here is a post celebrating those who remove themselves from the gene pool:

Horrific moment shaman who said his supernatural powers would protect him in crocodile-infested lake… is suddenly dragged beneath the waters as shocked onlookers gasp

This is the moment a man claiming to have supernatural control over crocodiles died after one of the reptiles appeared to drag the shaman under water.

The man, named Suprianto, died after the suspected crocodile attack in Kutai Kartanegara, Indonesia, despite his supposed powers.

In the shocking video, he is seen swimming into the waters to look for the body of a teenager, called Arjuna, who was attacked the previous day.

Horrifying video of shaman dragged under water by crocodile.
Byron, if you are reading this, please caution everybody you meet. Some crocodiles have not read the memo.

Wacko Right Wing Religious Fanatics Say The Darndest Things

Number 24 of a continuing series

This is about right wing religious fanatic Mike Huckabee, but that’s not Mike Huckabee in the photo above. That’s Sarah Sanders, daughter of the former Arkansas governor and further proof that the nut does not fall far from the tree.

We have met Governor Huckabee before, unadulterated:

One Nation Underpaid

Anyhow, here is what Governor Huckabee informed us recently:

Mike Huckabee to “Fox & Friends”: Trump juggles responsibilities like chef at five-star restaurant

Mike Huckabee insists that it only looks like the White House is chaotic, and argued instead that President Donald Trump was juggling responsibilities like the chef at a five-star restaurant.

The former Arkansas governor and father of White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders appeared Tuesday morning on “Fox & Friends” to deliver a folksy rebuke to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who said “chaos and incompetence” prevented the administration from carrying out its duties.

This is breaking news. This is critical. This is telling us what what we are seeing with our eyes is not what we are seeing with our eyes. Which leads me to consider, “Maybe what you are reading right now is not what you are reading right now.” Anyhow, that’s question for the existentialists. For now we might want to review what it is we are not seeing with our eyes:

North Korea, under the leadership of Kim Jong Un, will become a great Economic Powerhouse. He may surprise some but he won’t surprise me, because I have gotten to know him & fully understand how capable he is. North Korea will become a different kind of Rocket – an Economic one!

Brings a whole new meaning to the term “five-star.” Would anybody like to take a look at one-star? Anyhow, here is more:

Strictly five-star:

Five-star:

Governor, let’s not dine there.

Abusing Science

Number 10 of a series

It never lets up, and for this I am thankful. Nothing exposes the shallowness of the Intelligent Design argument so much as the continued efforts of its people to discredit legitimate science. Let’s recapitulate:

The Discovery Institute‘s Center for Science and Culture (CSC) is the leading organization promoting Intelligent Design in this country, perhaps in the world. On Monday they posted this on Evolution News, a site sponsored by the CSC.

Skepticism About Darwinian Evolution Grows as 1,000+ Scientists Share Their Doubts

Over 1,000 doctoral scientists from around the world have signed a statement publicly expressing their skepticism about the contemporary theory of Darwinian evolution. The statement, located online at dissentfromdarwin.orgreads: “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.”

“Because no scientist can show how Darwin’s mechanism can produce the complexity of life, every scientist should be skeptical,” said biologist Douglas Axe, director of Biologic Institute. “The fact that most won’t admit to this exposes the unhealthy effect of peer pressure on scientific discourse.”

On the surface that would appear to be devastating to any science suffering some kind of weakness. This kind of argument has a lot of appeal to people who don’t dig too deeply, especially when confirmation bias weighs in. The story goes back to 2002 and maybe before. When I debated creationist Don Patton in April that year, the creationists who showed up were crowing over The 100. Time has passed, and the list has grown to 1000 (and more). It would be fun to peruse that list and write up details on each of the scientists, most I am sure are serious, who have signed up as dissenting from Darwin. It turns out I can save myself the trouble this morning, this morning after the day I was supposed to have posted this entry. That’s because years ago I went down this rabbit hole on the shorter list, so I am going to recapitulate what I wrote back then. First, here is an excerpt of the new, expanded list:

Charles Edward Norman Ph.D. Electrical Engineering                                                     Carleton University (Canada)

Dewey Hodges          Professor, Aerospace Engineering                                                Georgia Institute of Technology

James P. Russum      Ph.D. Chemical Engineering                                                        Georgia Institute of Technology

Marko Horb               Ph.D. Cell & Developmental Biology                                             State University of New York

Here is what I had to say, from the August 2005 issue of The North Texas Skeptic:

The Christian Post mentioned that the DI CSC has compiled a list “of over 350 scientists” who have signed onto their “Scientific Dissent from Darwinism.” I did a quick check on DI’s Web site and noticed the list is now “[m]ore than 400.” The list doesn’t seem to include any of the luminaries of biological science, and I didn’t notice any Nobel winners, although there have been Nobel laureates in the past who oppose evolutionary theory.

Taking a sample of one from DI’s list, I checked out “Marko Horb,” who is listed as a Ph.D. in cell and developmental biology at the State University of New York. An Internet check turned up numerous references to Dr. Horb, of SUNY at Stony Brook. Looking further, I was unable to locate Dr. Horb through SUNY Stony Brook’s Web site.

In the past we have noticed that a creationist’s link to a famous university has lingered long past its shelf life. In critiquing the DI-sponsored video “Unlocking the Mystery of Life,” Andrea Bottaro, Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center noted the peculiar circumstances of Jed Macosko. In the video Macosko is listed as one of these scientists who oppose Darwinism and, presumably, someone who supports Intelligent Design. However, as we reported in our February issue of this scandal sheet last year, Macosko’s credentials were considerably laundered. See the link above to the newsletter item:

Macosko is described in UML as “Molecular Biologist, UC Berkeley,” but his association with Berkeley seems to be limited to his UC Berkeley degree and his work there as a postdoctoral trainee. He has never been listed on the UC Berkeley faculty and is not currently at the University. Some ID Web sites show him teaching chemistry at the religious La Sierra University in California, though at the time Dr. Bottaro wrote to WNYE Macosko was not listed on that university’s faculty.

We don’t claim this is the case with Dr. Horb or any of the other 400 dissenters listed by DI. Except for Dr. Jed Macosko. On DI’s list of “[m]ore than 400” Dr. Macosko is still listed as “Ph.D. Chemistry University of California (Berkeley).” DI is probably still working to bring the list up to date.

DI’s list provides skeptics a marvelous opportunity to practice their investigative skills. Go to DI’s Web site, navigate down to the section on the Center for Science and Culture. Get the list of 400 and have a go at it. If the file has moved or is no longer available, send me an e-mail, and I will forward a copy to you.

In the meantime, the Berkeley, California, based National Center for Science Education has compiled a similar list. Similar in the sense that NCSE’s list is of scientists who support evolutionary theory. Dissimilar in the sense that their list is larger, and NCSE has tried to keep it small enough to fit on most people’s computer hard drive. They kept the list small by restricted the list to scientists named Steve. Supporters of Evolution named Steve, Stephen, Steven, even Stephanie are listed, but all the Toms, Dicks, and Harrys are excluded. Maybe later when computer drives get larger. In the mean time, you can get the condensed list from NCSE’s Web site. See the link above.

And, yes, Jed Macosko is still on the list, and I assume his status has not since improved. That said, I am pleased the CSC and all the other creationists out there have not improved on their methods after being at it these past decades. Keep at it, people. We love to watch you work.

Wacko Right Wing Religious Fanatics Say The Darndest Things

Number 23 of a continuing series

I previously posted an item detailing what people of faith hold dear, all credited to their favorite president, Donald J. Trump. According to President Trump’s press secretary, the deeply-religious Sarah Huckabee Sanders, people of faith are fans of all kinds of malodorous conduct. Lying seems to be conduct they are most comfortable with.

Now we right wing religious fanatic Franklin Graham telling us it is not necessary for people of faith to sanction lying in their support for President Trump, and that is because the president does no such thing. No such thing, that is, that the Reverend Graham is aware of. My guess is that Reverend Graham has just returned from the back side of the moon and has missed a boat load of what the president has been dishing out these past two years. The Friendly Atheist has the story:

Franklin Graham Refuses to Acknowledge Any of Donald Trump’s 8,158 Lies (So Far)

BY HEMANT MEHTA

 JANUARY 30, 2019

MELVIN: But you can acknowledge that the president has said things that are not true?

GRAHAMI don’t think the president is sitting there, behind the desk, trying to make up lies. I don’t believe that for a second. Has he misspoken on something? Sure. All of us do that. You do it and I do it. And sometimes we get the facts wrong and we say something that later on we realize, we could’ve said it better, or it was misrepresented. And so, uh, I think the president is trying to do the best that he can under very difficult circumstances.

There is more. Read the entire article. From other sources:

I have to stop there. That’s January of this year. The PolitiFact listing goes back years. Any sentient carbon life form cannot escape that our president is a congenital liar, and Reverend Franklin Graham cannot see that?

There is an obvious explanation for Graham’s inability to see, and that explanation is that he can see, but he denies what he sees. The obvious conclusion is that Franklin Graham is, himself, a congenital liar.

The Government You Paid For

Number 56 of a Series

Jesus Christ! Now I know for sure we are getting the government we paid for. Want evidence? Here it is, brother, here it is:

Sarah Sanders: God ‘wanted Donald Trump to become president’

(CNN) — White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said she believes God wanted President Donald Trump to win the 2016 election, the Christian Broadcasting Network reported on Wednesday.

“I think God calls all of us to fill different roles at different times and I think that he wanted Donald Trump to become president, and that’s why he’s there,” Sanders told CBN’s David Brody and Jennifer Wishon, according to a transcript of the interview provided by CBN.

“I think he has done a tremendous job in supporting a lot of the things that people of faith really care about,” Sanders added.

On the surface this may appear to reveal how Donald Trump managed to become president. A deeper understanding is this shows what people of faith really care about. For that point I will provide additional clarification:

If there is one thing we have gained from the election of Donald Trump it is that we now know what people of faith care about.

Abusing Science

Number 9 of a series

Creationist David Shormann testifies at the textbook hearings, Austin 17 September 2018

This has some history. Years ago, before Facebook, I was having a discussion on an Internet group. The matter of John Templeton came up, and I responded that he was a creationist. Why did I say that, I was asked. Because his foundation, the John Templeton Foundation, contributed money to the Discovery Institute (DI), the primary group supporting creationism, particularly Intelligent Design (ID), in this country. And that was that.

Except Templeton has since died, but his foundation continues to fund efforts to reconcile science with religion. Another regression: I am auditing a college course on philosophy of atheism, and some of the assigned reading is related:

As the Templeton-prize-winning physicist Paul Davies points out at the end of his book The Goldilocks Enigma, even putting aside all the other difficulties:

The other main problem with intelligent design is that identity of the designer need bear no relation at all to the God of traditional monotheism. The ‘designing agency’ can be a committee of gods, for example. The designer can be a natural being or beings, such as an evolved super-mind or super-civilization existing in a previous universe, or in another section of our universe, which made our universe using super-technology. The designer can also be some sort of superdupercomputer simulating this universe. So invoking a super-intellect… is fraught with problems.

Law, Stephen. Humanism: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (p. 47). OUP Oxford. Kindle Edition.

Yeah, Templeton continues to haunt me from the grave. What the Templeton Foundation does, in part, is to fund research into whether religious faith can be reconciled with modern science.

On that we pause again:

Is the Government Buying Science or Support? A Framework Analysis of Federal Funding-induced Biases

The purpose of this report is to provide a framework for doing research on the problem of bias in science, especially bias induced by Federal funding of research. In recent years the issue of bias in science has come under increasing scrutiny, including within the scientific community. Much of this scrutiny is focused on the potential for bias induced by the commercial funding of research. However, relatively little attention has been given to the potential role of Federal funding in fostering bias. The research question is clear: does biased funding skew research in a preferred direction, one that supports an agency mission, policy or paradigm?

That’s from the Cato Institute, a libertarian entity that opposed to scientific findings that would lead to the need for corrective government action. Libertarians want less government, but biological science is not one of their prime targets.

So, there is this accusation that scientists do research and produce fundings that favor their sponsors—particularly government sponsors. Take another look. If you want to see publication bias, consider funding that asks researchers to search for (confirm?) a religious-based interpretation of evolution, particularly human evolution. Anything that leaves room for a biblical narrative.

Re-enter the Discovery Institute. From their Evolution News site:

Intelligent Design Aside, from Templeton Foundation to the Royal Society, Darwinism Is Under Siege

Don’t let anyone tell you the evolutionary paradigm isn’t in serious turmoil. Science Magazine announces an $8.7 million project by the Templeton Foundation seeking an “evolution rethink.” I’m trying to think of the last time I heard Science reporting on support for a “gravity rethink,” or a “heliocentrism rethink.” The gist of it:

For many evolutionary biologists, nothing gets their dander up faster than proposing that evolution is anything other than the process of natural selection, acting on random mutations. Suggestions that something is missing from that picture — for example, that evolution is somehow directed or that genetic changes can’t fully explain it — play into the hands of creationists, who leap on them as evidence against evolution itself.

It took some searching. The email from Discovery Institute showed up on my Facebook feed a day or two ago, but the link is to an item published on Evolution News 22 April 2016. Full disclosure: I belong to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, (AAAS), which publishes Science Magazine, and I dug into their on-line back issues to find the referenced article. It’s on pages 394-395 of the 22 April 2016 issue. Obviously David Klinghoffer was quick off the mark to post his response. Here is somebody who doesn’t allow grass to grow under his feet.

I blinked hard a few times, but I was never able to figure out why Klinghoffer did not provide a complete citation to the Science article, but I consider the possibility he wanted to give me a workout to keep me occupied during my retirement. Anyhow, I snapshotted the article and saved the text, which I am posting along with a link. Read for yourself to get the complete story.

Significant in the Science article are references to research into ways traits are acquired by organisms. The lead photo above shows creationist David Shormann testifying at the school book hearings in Austin six years ago. Shormann markets a line of educational materials for home-schooling, and he operates a religious school in the Houston area. The desire to protect children from secular influences is a prime motivator for home-schooling in this country.

Anyhow, in his testimony before the board, Shormann emphasized the matter of epigenetics.

Epigenetics is the study of heritable phenotype changes that do not involve alterations in the DNA sequence. The Greek prefix epi- (ἐπι- “over, outside of, around”) in epigenetics implies features that are “on top of” or “in addition to” the traditional genetic basis for inheritance. Epigenetics most often denotes changes that affect gene activity and expression, but can also be used to describe any heritable phenotypic change. Such effects on cellular and physiological phenotypic traits may result from external or environmental factors, or be part of normal developmental program. The standard definition of epigenetics requires these alterations to be heritable, either in the progeny of cells or of organisms.

He contended that his school curriculum includes epigenetics, while the text books being proposed for adoption at the time did not. For this reason he recommended that none of the proposed biology books be adopted. From the Science article:

Advocates stress that animals, plants, and even microbes modify their environments, exhibit plasticity in their physical traits, and behave differently depending on the conditions they face. Chemical modifications of the DNA that affect gene activity—so-called epigenetic changes—seem to explain some of this flexibility. These and other factors suggest to some biologists that an organism’s development is not simply programmed by the genetic sequences it inherits. For them, such plasticity implies that parents can influence offspring not just through their DNA but by passing on the microorganisms they host or by transmitting epigenetic marks to subsequent generations. “Innovation may be a developmental response that becomes stabilized through genetic changes;’ explains Armin Moczek, an evolutionary developmental biologist at Indiana University, Bloomington. [emphasis added]

Obviously Charles Darwin knew nothing about epigenetics, nor even genetics, but creationists of all stripes continue to attack the Darwinian construct with the idea that bringing down modern science will leave the religiously-inclined gazing more toward the God of Abraham. It’s classic abuse of science. Please read the entire Klinghoffer post. I will allow him to have the last word, since it reinforces my view of what is going on here:

ID, obviously, is one source of the current challenge to Darwinism, but it’s only one source. You could erase ID advocates entirely from the battle map, and Darwinian theory would still be under siege. Evolution’s smug cultists are in denial about that, but it’s true.

Plato Revisited

A short series

On 12 August 1994 I turned in my final assignment in Mathematics of Physics and walked out of a classroom for the last time in my life. So I thought.

Last fall I had a meeting with Oak DeBerg at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). He’s a former Air Force officer who subsequently went over to the dark side and became a professor of philosophy. He told me that this year he would be teaching a course titled Minus Bible. It’s about the philosophy of non-religion—non-belief in God. I could audit the course, and because I’m over 65 the university would waive fees. Except parking.

So, Tuesday I started showing up weekly to learn and to philosophize about atheism. What I have to offer here are some gleanings from the course and excerpts from the reading assignments. Start with Christopher Hitchens.

Christopher Hitchens (now deceased) has written God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. I have not read the book. I need to clear some stuff off my plate before I can take on another review. However, others have read it, and some of the remarks are interesting. Some even object.

No surprise—I already read the book. Here is something from next week’s reading assignment:

I wrote earlier that we would never again have to confront the impressive faith of an Aquinas or a Maimonides (as contrasted with the blind faith of millennial or absolutist sects, of which we have an apparently unlimited and infinitely renewable supply). This is for a simple reason. Faith of that sort— the sort that can stand up at least for a while in a confrontation with reason— is now plainly impossible.

Hitchens, Christopher. God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (p. 107). Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition.

The Hitchens assignment I find interesting, because, although this is a philosophy course, Hitchens did not approach religion as a philosopher. Rather he was like a witness in a criminal trial—accusing and  naming names. For the pure approach we have been assigned readings from others, including the ancients.

Some Internet searching revealed to me that the works of Greek philosopher Plato have largely survived intact. Rather than read the assigned item on-line, I purchased the complete works of Plato, the Kindle edition, for $0.99 (plus tax). Here is an excerpt from Socrates’ dialogue with Euthyphro. So this is not strictly Plato talking, but supposedly quoting from his teacher, Socrates.

SOCRATES: And what is piety, and what is impiety?

EUTHYPHRO: Piety is doing as I am doing; that is to say, prosecuting any one who is guilty of murder, sacrilege, or of any similar crime—whether he be your father or mother, or whoever he may be—that makes no difference; and not to prosecute them is impiety. And please to consider, Socrates, what a notable proof I will give you of the truth of my words, a proof which I have already given to others:—of the principle, I mean, that the impious, whoever he may be, ought not to go unpunished. For do not men regard Zeus as the best and most righteous of the gods?—and yet they admit that he bound his father (Cronos) because he wickedly devoured his sons, and that he too had punished his own father (Uranus) for a similar reason, in a nameless manner. And yet when I proceed against my father, they are angry with me. So inconsistent are they in their way of talking when the gods are concerned, and when I am concerned.

Plato. Plato: The Complete Works . Pandora’s Box. Kindle Edition. [location 2044]

For me this is going to be the fun part of studying philosophy, because a lot of stuff that philosophers do is like this. Plato constructed these extended arguments, using immaculate reasoning and logic, but based on a vacuous premise. Here his premise is the existence of the deities. Many philosophic constructions, especially those of the ancients, are like this. They will presuppose something not in evidence and proceed from there to develop marvelous arguments leading to shimmering conclusions, meaning nothing.

This is going to be fun. The class comprises deep-rooted believers, convinced atheists, and some in between. For the record, Oak DeBerg declares for atheism.

Keep reading. There will be more to follow.