Tuesday, January 03, 2012
Sunday, November 20, 2011
Next post will be the next part of my Kent Hovind analysis, but first, a few words from the YEC who started this mad studying of mine, as well as my response.
Technically I started this incident, on a Facebook message, thusly:
...One other thing, though, seeing as this just happened as I got online. Just one video in on YouTube and I slipped upon and cracked my head open over this one:
I'm rubbing my scalp right now. Hurts like hell, and I wanted to share the pain.
Reason is, it's this guy who is asking Richard Dawkins a question that makes absolutely no sense at all, hence my cranium is still throbbing.
I started to think to myself, though, "[AR] would know what the big deal here is, wouldn't he? I should show him this."
I just wanted you to hear this question and tell me, in two or three sentences, why I would have a facepalm print.
Why I would ask you to do this, I don't know. Maybe because it's the first video I've seen with the word 'creationist' in the title for a long time, and because I was just thinking of you beforehand.
In any case, I'm not trying to belittle you or anything, I really think this is a good question to ask since I know you can do this.
He wrote me back, and I responded, although I needed to post so many additional clarifications and such afterward ("...also, I forgot to mention...") that not long after, I re-edited the entire thing, incorporating all my corrections into the original text.
In doing so, I also copied and pasted his message into my message, and responded to each of his points so that we start with a part of his response, then follow with my answer to it. This is literally my message to him, not modified in any way other than my own text is green:
"Okay, okay, we get that evolutionary theory teaches continual improvement - the idea being, that these complex organs and systems developed in less-evolved creatures, which led to the creatures themselves becoming more and more complex, etc. It's not that we think Darwinists believed the first humans or humanoids were blind - that WOULD be silly, and a blatant misinterpretation of the theory."Indeed! Although what do you mean by 'we'? So many creationism proponents also say things that you wouldn't agree with, and many of them are disparaging towards Intelligent Design for various reasons, so it's not as though 'creationists' are a coherent group.
"So I believe the guy who wrote all the little captions for this video didn't quite understand what this cat was really asking here."Actually, I often have heard some creationists literally say things like, "Evolutionists are so stupid because they think their ancestors were stumbling around without eyes and had to wait millions of years for eyes to evolve. Imagine! People unable to find food or make shelter, and they would have fallen off cliffs! Obviously, since that's impossible, then evolution is impossible, and that's why anyone who believes it is an idiot!"
` I'm not joking -- this is a very prominent view, which is why I would think the interviewer had the same idea.
"What he's asking, in essence, is how creatures were supposed to function WHILE these systems were coming into being in the first place - which, okay, Darwinists have a perfectly feasible explanation for, from their point of view."Well, what do you think their point of view IS? I'm interested to know.
"The idea of irreducibility, simply put, is that these systems are too complex to function with any one part of them missing or incomplete - that these systems must be whole and in proper order to function and sustain the life they are part of."I know the concept; the problem is is that exactly none of the systems ever proposed are actually irreducibly complex; simpler versions exist, which instead of being non-functional have a different function. Also, their various components also have other functions in other structures -- the same parts are used over and over for different things.
It's only a matter of combining components that already exist which can make more complex structures, which are far from irreducible. Which example would you like me to give you?
"An eye may be a bundle of nerves, but it is a very specifically oriented one, unlike any other in the body."Do you think biologists aren't aware of this?
That's not true: When you look all over the animal kingdom, you see eyes of various 'stages' of complexity.
"Moreover, creationists observe patterns - we see that the eye is not really a unique system, and that, though other creatures possess variations on this theme, the eyes of most creatures are quite similar, both in their function and complexity."
That's because some animals have very simple eyes because they don't need, or are not able to use, more complex ones.
For example, the snail-like limpet only needs simple eyes for detecting the shadow of a predator. While it is feeding underwater, it pokes its eyes out from under its shell and turns them upward. When a shadow appears overhead, the limpet clamps down and cannot be pried up. Just seeing the shadow is the difference between life and death, so even crummy vision is a life-saving trait.
The nautilus is a more complex mollusc, also with a spiral shell, although it's more complex than a snail and has a modified foot that we call tentacles. It also has a hollow eye with no lens and seawater actually flows in and out of it. It can make out blurry images at best, and often clunks into things because its eyes don't point forwards as it swims, but this is certainly better than no vision at all.
This also applies to you -- when you take off your glasses, you may not be able to see everything clearly, but surely this is not the same as being blind! This is why only having 'half an eye' is very valuable.
Interestingly, the box jellyfish has many eyes, some simple and others are complex, with a retina, lens, etc. Yet, its complex eyes are out-of-focus because it does not have a brain that can process complex information:
It is a predator of small fish, but if it could see clearly, it would confuse the motion of bits of debris with small animals, so it would be completely confused and perhaps suffer a sensory overload. So, even with complex eyes, clear vision is not always the most beneficial!
Here, this 3-minute video will visually show you what these eyes LOOK LIKE, on the inside, and how they can improve in a fairly straightforward manner to become more effective. It is this that biologists actually see is going on with the evolution of eyes (or any other system you can think of, including immune systems, which are at least as variable as eyes).
So, now you've seen with your OWN eyes -- they are not irreducibly complex!
Some animals, as you've seen, only have an eye that tells them of the presence of light, and the cells of their 'eyes', if you can call them that, are scarcely different from other types of nerve cells, and among other things, allows them to figure out which way is up or down.
If a nerve cell reacts to light, rather than another stimulus, then it can be an enormous advantage. Even the simplest organisms can learn to associate one stimulus with another, such as good food and light.
If the first microorganism with a light-sensitive cell could associate, say, feeding on photosynthesizing organisms floating on the surface of the water with this new stimulus, it wouldn't get lost if it should drift farther underwater where it's darker because it could see light coming from where it needs to go.
So, how do biologists think that OUR complex eyes evolved in the first place?
I'm not an expert, so I can't describe this in great detail, but the gist of it is that since we're vertebrates, our first vertebrate ancestors had rudimentary, very simple 'half'-eyes (which are seen in simple vertebrates and vertebrate relatives).
Our first vertebrate ancestors to have something more like an eyeball were jawless animals that might be called 'fish', for lack of a better term. In modern vertebrate embryos, this is the kind of eye that develops first before going on to develop into the type of eye characteristic of their species.
An octopus, whose eyes are as complex as ours, is on a different branch of life's family tree, one that begins with molluscs that have simple eyes, so it could not have evolved its complex eyes from vertebrates. If you look at an octopus' eye, as it is developing, you can see that it forms in an entirely different way from that of a vertebrate's:
Vertebrate eyes develop from our brains extending to become a retina surrounded by specialized tissues, whereas an octopus' eye develops from a light-sensitive patch of skin that pockets inwards to become a retina and other structures. In other words, similar-functioning complex structures of an octopus' eyes are not homologous to ours.
Even more, the octopus' retina points forwards, whereas our retinae face the backs of our eyes so that incoming light has to pass through networks of nerves and blood vessels with the optical nerve 'in the way', creating a blind spot. This is one of countless things in the human body that biologists can point to as an example of the inefficiency of evolution.
Also unlike vertebrates, the octopus focuses by moving its lens back and forth, rather than changing the shape of the lens. Clearly, their eyes are similar to ours, but these complex structures could not have evolved in the same way; they evolved in parallel, one from an octopus common ancestor (something more like a nautilus), the other from a vertebrate common ancestor (which had a spine and breathed underwater).
The significance is, a vertebrate's eye may be able to become more complex or super-acute in certain ways, but it can never develop like an octopus' eye because our eyes are constrained by the eyes our ancestors had.
Insects, who belong to a completely different branch of the animal 'family tree' all have compound eyes, and why? Because they had a common ancestor that developed a cluster of tiny eyes that evolved into compound eyes, and that's what they have to work with. So on and so forth with different branches.
This same pattern of common ancestry is found for every organ and every gene in every organism ever studied, showing the same relationships no matter what you look at; the eye is just one example out of all examples.
Here's a twist: the same gene that triggers eye development in the first place is the same gene across different branches! Implant this gene from a mouse in a fruit fly and the fruit fly's eyes develop normally. This is one of the many clues that have led biologists to deduce that animals with eyes have a common ancestor that must have had simple eyespots, without the complexities of later eyes.
As different branches on the 'family tree' evolved their own kinds of more complex eyes, they still used the same gene to 'turn on' eye development, even though they use other patterns of genes to make the different forms of eyes.
So, various branches have eyes which are analogous (superficial resemblance), but largely not homologous (using the same corresponding body parts). Molluscs may have a particular homology of eye, although their eyes' level of complexity largely depends on the needs of the species, whether it be scallop, snail or octopus.
"On a side note, think about xenotransplantation - how doctors are able to implant organs from other creatures into humans. While these systems are themselves markedly different from the same systems found in humans, they are often similar enough to use in place of those systems within the human body. I dunno if that really has anything to do with this, I'm just throwing it out there..."Since scientists once predicted that we can use organs from other animals because we share a common ancestor with other species and share similar cell types and functions -- similar to what I've described with the eye example -- I cannot think of why you would say that would contradict evolution in any way. Is there a specific reason?
"Anyway, the idea being, we see these systems as having complexity similar to machines, such as a watch or a computer. Even as you couldn't get a watch to form by leaving a lump of metal lying around, with nothing but the elements and time to work on it, so we believe that a system as complex as the life we see on earth could not have come about by random circumstances, but by design, the action and direction of an intelligent force of will."Of course we do not see watches build themselves -- they are not alive. They are inert material that does nothing on its own. And yet, we built ourselves in nine months, with the help of our parents, and continued to develop into adults. No one put us together.
Thus, comparing things that -- by definition -- eat, grow, repair themselves and build offspring, to something which cannot do any of these things, is a false analogy. Left to themselves, buildings fall apart, but organisms continue taking in energy, which ultimately comes from the sun, and utilize it to continue building new life. (This is how they thwart the second law of thermodynamics, thus organisms as a whole will cheat death until entropy kills the sun.)
Where do we see organisms come from? We don't see anything building them; we see that their parents spawn them. Organisms 'know how to' make offspring -- they are literally a creative force, whereas pieces of metal simply oxidize.
So, if everything today came from its ancestor, and each of those ancestors came from its ancestor, all the way back to the first ancestor, then how did that ancestor come to be? What process created the creative force?
Here's a hint: it has nothing to do with 'lightning striking a mud puddle' or 'spontaneous generation' or other completely whacked-out ideas that nobody believes. This is ridicule, pure and simple; it has nothing to do with anyone's work in abiogenesis.
Luckily, I happen to know a video that I really think is wonderful for visually just showing you what the origin of life could look like, through the the first lipid spheres and nucleic acids to a living thing much simpler than a modern cell.
I do recall trying to give you some idea of this before, but this SHOWS you the kinds of processes that happen in conditions more similar to lifeless planets (such as Venus or Mars, but with a more agreeable climate!):
Also, there are other, partly distinct hypothetical ways that life could originate -- the biggest problem that scientists who study abiogenesis have is figuring out which one is correct. This one is still in the running, however, since it has been experimentally verified to a fairly high degree.
"While we are able to observe similarities in nature, and understand how various systems tend to be similar to one another, we do not interpret this as pointing to a common ancestry - rather, we see a unity in essence, in being, and in function."Well then, are there explanations for the fact that the family tree of common descent is always seen in nature and never broken? In other words, why is it that EVERYTHING can be classified as being some twig or other on one big tree of life, no matter what evidence you look at?
For example, why can't God make a vertebrate with six limbs? Or a vertebrate whose eye (or anything else) develops like that of an octopus? Would God be able to make something that is half bird and half mammal, or any other impossible chimera, by combining two distant twigs into one organism?
It amuses me that some creationism proponents say that the existence of exactly these non-classifiable organisms such as the 'crocoduck' or 'rhinopus' or Hovind's 'banana dragonfly' and 'pine cone man' would prove evolution, when in fact they go against all evolutionary rules and would actually disprove common descent.
What about a fly that uses the mouse version of the gene that 'turns on' eye development instead of the fly version? Such things have never -- I repeat, NEVER -- been found, but if they were, common ancestry wouldn't make sense. If such 'signatures' were found all around us, we'd have reason to believe something besides evolution is going on.
I've also found some great videos which explain this visually, giving many specific examples for illustrations, but as that would take a while, I'll skip it for now.
"We see similarities exist for the sake of life being able to function together in the collective biosphere of the planet; indeed, this collective biosphere, in all its complexity and intricacy, we consider a system far too complex to be left to chance. If everything works together, in such incredible harmony, how are we supposed to believe it simply happened with no one to orchestrate that harmony?"No biologist thinks that the world's ecosystems were left to chance, at least not random chance. Evolution is not up to chance -- the environment is the designer in nature. This also means that organisms sculpt and define one another in complex ways just by interacting, which cannot be avoided. Once you understand how this works, it is easy to see how it can create the harmony in earth's ecosystems.
Sure, mutations are random, and very common, and the individual life path of each life form is partly due to chance, and partly due to genetics. This is only a small part of evolution. What else were you under the impression was left to chance? (There are statistical patterns, yes, but this isn't what you mean by 'chance', is it?)
"In particular, how are we to believe that this came out of a system predicated on the idea of competition, of the weak being trampled under by the strong - particularly when we see that the "weak" and "strong" are co-dependent?"I don't understand what you mean by this: Natural selection can work to increasingly change an organism BECAUSE the "weak" and "strong" are co-dependent. How? Simply put, today's "strong" is tomorrow's "weak": When something that can survive better than the previous 'best' of its species, it's going to raise the bar on survival standards.
Once raised, these standards can only 'ratchet up' because while species can go for a long time without changing much, they also cannot take a step back because the least fit members of each generation are the ones that die off. Organisms with harmful traits don't generally factor into the gene pool.
On the other hand, individuals with better survival traits, for better fighting off a particular disease, better able to outrun predators, better camouflage, etc. will consistently survive and one day be all that is left. With their new traits combined, you have a species that is better adapted to its environment.
Yet, because of the continuous stream of mutations, there will always be some born that have more/enhanced beneficial traits, and thus will have a higher reproductive fitness and replace the ones that were previously the fittest. On and on it goes like this.
When you factor in organism interactions, you can see that species ratchet one another along. Take for example the early cheetahs of North America. Looking at their skeletal structure, they were clearly not as fast as modern species. However, as their pronghorn prey became better at escaping, only the fastest cheetahs could survive.
In turn, only the fastest pronghorns could outrun these faster cheetahs, thus selecting even faster cheetahs for survival. They co-evolved in this way, forcing one another to run faster and faster. This is the reason why modern pronghorns can run as fast as a cheetah, and even keep it up for longer!
The North American cheetahs, however, did not survive past the last ice age and human colonization -- although some of them followed herds across Beringia when sea levels permitted it, and made their home in the Old World. Nevertheless, ancient North American species of antelope-like animals can be seen as 'creating' cheetahs in this way, and vice-versa.
Invoking Lewis Carroll, this concept can be thought of as the Red Queen's dilemma; running as fast as you can to stay in the same place. Although this is just an example, the same kind of thing can be seen happening across all species to this day, not only in competition but also in cooperation and symbiosis.
Does that answer your question?
"Anyway, I dunno if that answers your question or not, or if I missed something you presented that would have addressed my points."I'm not sure it does, but it seems to have raised more questions.
"If I dig up any videos of Darwinists being made to look dumb, I'll kick them your way, but actively pursuing such things just isn't my style."
Thanks, but don't worry about it -- I've seen hundreds of them, it would seem, even without actively pursuing them! ;D
"I try to have a little more respect for my opponents; at the end of the day, they're humans too, and while I may not agree with them, my God still loves them. Hey. He puts up with me... :P"
While it is good to have respect for your opponents, it is not good when someone slams you for holding an argument you don't hold. THEY are the ones who have no respect, and if I've misrepresented what YOU think, just tell me.
Anyway, that's exactly what I wrote, and I even told him, in person, that I'd re-edited my original response to him for orderliness' sake, so that it would be easier for him to respond.
This was at the beginning of November and he's never responded, and probably hasn't read it. And that's why I'm posting it here -- I want SOMEone to read it!
Monday, October 10, 2011
` This time, I'm taking on Chapter 1, in which Hovind officially begins his paranoid ranting and misrepresentation of science, culture, religion and history. My favorite part is where he says that Noah's flood destroyed every living thing on earth during the Fifth Dynasty of Egypt.
` That particular detail, however, will have to wait until Part 2b. As you may have noticed, this post is Part 2a of 5. It seems that Chapter 1 divides nicely into three fairly equal pieces, which I am now working with one at a time. It's much easier, both on me and my readers.
Also, I would like to address some criticisms:
I've been given quite a hard time for wasting my time and talent on shredding apart what is so obviously unworthy of anyone's attention in the first place. After all, attention for being obnoxious is what these young-earth creationist proponents want, and I'm giving it in spades.
Why do I bother to beat this dead horse instead of write about something my readers would actually care about? It's not as though I would expect to convince any of Kent Hovind's fans that there may be something fundamentally wrong with his fundamentalist claims.
` Even more, there's nothing at all challenging about this task other than putting a lot of time and effort into keeping myself busy with it. If I want to impress someone with my writing, then I should pick a topic that actually requires work in order to figure it out.
So, why am I doing this? Because really, I just need the exercise. It's straightforward and not intimidating, and I think it's good practice for me to go through the motions without the pressure of having to make a difference in the world.
` In other words, I'm too lazy to be creative, original, or helpful to anyone but the very few who actually care about how mentally ill Hovind may be.
Most of all, one might think that if I am doing this for the benefit of my Arch-Rival in Taking Over the World, then I'm only shooting myself in the foot. I disagree:
` While I'm taking all this trouble to write this series, he will probably conclude that this immense sea of writing only demonstrates that Hovind is somehow a formidable opponent and that therefore he instead must have some intellectual worth.
After all, Kent Hovind -- while he is in federal prison at present -- has nevertheless gotten rich and successful, unlike me. Who's actually 'made it' in life -- someone who has a career, or some random blogger?
` Furthermore, who am I to criticize someone who makes a living off of telling outrageous lies so he can get attention like some spoiled brat? Never mind about his fake degree -- what credentials do I have?
To answer that, I'm currently working on my transfer degree to get to a four-year university, and that will be more qualification than Kent Hovind has ever earned, as I have previously mentioned.
` I've taken classes in biology, oceanography, and other sciences, and have read a great deal about evolution and other topics of whose principles Hovind has never demonstrated having even the most basic grasp.
So really, is this all just to make myself feel superior to some rich person who acts like an idiot? Is writing this series actually about how ignorant or dishonest I can expose someone else to be in order to stroke my own ego?
` Not really -- to me, this is a way that I can share my laughter at such utter mental retardation to anyone who cares to hear it. It's genuinely a form of (depressing) entertainment for me, so why not show the world how funny/sad Kent Hovind's ravings are?
` The best part is, it requires that I reserve my effort for where it really matters in life right now -- working and studying hard. Priorities, you know?
Of course, writing something more timely and important may also further my career, so what is my excuse for playing silly games instead of working?
` I admit that I don't have one, other than to develop my mad debunking skillz, as well as to invoke the Sunk Cost Fallacy by saying I spent so much time in May working on it that I'd really just love to finish maiming/glorifying Hovind's paranoid ranting.
If this lame excuse is not satisfactory to my readers, especially if you're the type who is so traumatized by the pain of listening to Hovind's abject nonsense that you never want to hear his name again (this isn't hypothetical, I know such people), just know that I'm only going to do this once and only once. And I'm gonna do it good.
So, I should really be getting on with Part 2a already, and I would like to point out first that throughout this dissertation, Hovind shows signs of insecurity by frequently using words such as 'clearly', 'definitely' and 'obviously' in almost every point he makes.
` It seems to imply that if you can't 'clearly' see it, then you're 'obviously' stupid. I can 'clearly' see why Hovind would have to resort to this form of bullying, because in the very first sentence, he demonstrates that he seems to have no clue about what evolutionary theory is:
(Section A: Bastardizing Science)
This is really the first sentence:
Where in the world did the idea come from that things left to themselves can improve with time? Who would start a crazy idea like that?Oh, I know! Creationists would! In this way, they make those who accept evolution look 'crazy'! In reality, of course, biological evolution is quite different:
` The theory of evolution is based on the idea that species adapt to their habitat at the time they are alive. As evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould phrased it, evolution is not a watchmaker, but a short-order cook.
` Because of this, there is no clear 'progress' toward any specific goal, but rather only change through allele frequencies. Unlike wine and cheese, species are not expected to 'improve' over time according to some subjective criterion or human taste.
It sure would be 'crazy' if people who study evolution thought it to be progressive -- now, wouldn't it? -- and that's why Hovind claims they do.
The theory of evolution only predicts that species will adapt, which is the only thing a lineage can do to keep itself from going extinct in the face of any environmental challenge. Evolution does not plan ahead, nor strive for any particular goal; in general, changes occur because they are necessary in the immediate environment.
` This concept is as basic to evolution as the concept that 'molecules are made up of atoms' is to chemistry, so right here it is obvious that Hovind is not displaying any actual knowledge of what evolutionary theory actually is. And it goes on and on this way:
This idea is the opposite of everything that we observe in the world today.Darn right it is, and 'evolutionists' completely agree on that point.
For instance, all the highways in our nation today left to themselves decay, deteriorate, and fall apart. A house left to itself will become a wreck. It takes work and constant planning to make anything improve. Everything tends toward disorder. The first and second laws of thermodynamics are well established scientific laws that have never been observed in the universe to be broken.I've explained to my Arch-Rival before, in some detail, why this makes zero sense -- it is a false analogy. To reiterate here, the sun is constantly adding energy to the earth, which allows the level of entropy to decrease in the earth's ecosystems.
` Although life forms can reliably grow, develop, organize and create new individuals without breaking the second law of thermodynamics, billions of years from now the sun will be so hot that it will boil the oceans from the earth and eventually explode, destroying the only planet we've ever lived on (so far).
` In other words, entropy is still the ultimate result, but until then, life will continue to grow and decay in roughly equal amounts.
Living things are not like highways or houses because they can repair themselves, increase in size, eat each other and produce many more individuals. These individuals can only do their best at competing/cooperating in the world because, as the earth turns, the sun is ceaselessly and evenly replenishing the ecosystems.
` This continuing input of energy is the only requirement necessary for evolution: as long as organisms can keep living and reproducing, their genes will continue to change -- occasionally at a very noticeable rate (i.e. new species evolving before our eyes), which I may get into later in this series.
As I've also mentioned to the Arch-Rival, genomes can increase the number of genes they contain, as in gene duplication yes, there is such a thing, which can cause new genes to evolve; one noteable example is the gene that codes for the antifreeze protein in the Antarctic eelpout. The gene has a new function, yet it comes from a frame-shift mutation in an un-needed copy of another gene with a different job.
` In other words, genomes don't degenerate. They can lose genes, but they also make new genes. I'd go on with other examples, but it seems most appropriate to stick with Kent's insanity about the laws of thermodynamics:
The first law says that matter cannot be created nor destroyed by ordinary means.Actually, it doesn't. It states only that energy is conserved, and as we know today, matter and energy are interchangeable. The "by ordinary means" bit is also not a part of this law.
` Scientists don't say, "this happens, but only without God!", which is what Hovind seems to be suggesting. Physicists actually say, "this happens", and whether or not God is involved is left out because that is unanswerable by science.
` This comment rather seems to reveal Hovind's belief that there is indeed a way around physical laws, similar to his belief that there is a way around tax laws.
We do not see anything being created today, and yet we do see an entire universe of created material. This clearly indicates a Creator.Clearly? Or perhaps this is all semantics; first, he's saying the universe was 'created', in order to imply such creation was deliberate. Just as easily, we could use another word, like 'formed', which doesn't imply the universe came about on purpose.
So, what caused the universe? We may be led to expect an answer to this question because we exist inside of time. Time began when our universe began, so our familiar concept of cause and effect would not apply.
` In other words, cause-and-effect can only work if there's already something to work with. If there isn't anything to work with, then it happened another way, and that's a way no one knows about.
All that physicists know is that the galaxies are flying away from one another because space is expanding, and if you turn back the clock 13.7 billion years, all of space would have been a singularity.
` Although the Big Bang is understood in minute detail only fractions of a second after its occurrence, the gist of it is that early on, all of space was filled with white-hot luminous matter before it cooled and the light 'turned off'.
` This same light is still streaming through the universe, although it's thinned a lot because the universe continues to expand. It's not visible to human eyes, however, because the expansion of space has stretched it from the visible spectrum into longer-wave light.
This universe-wide flash near the beginning of our universe was accidentally discovered in 1964 by Penzias and Wilson, a physicist and astronomer pair who had just built the then-most sensitive radio antenna/receiver system in the world.
` Although this radiation was predicted in 1948, Penzias and Wilson did not think of it when their machine picked up some 'noise' they did not expect. After ruling out all other sources of radiation, such as New York City -- as well as shooting some pigeons who had been depositing 'white dielectric material' in the horn antenna -- they concluded that it must be coming from somewhere else.
The echoes of this flash -- called the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation because it is strongest in the microwave spectrum -- is being mapped in great detail by progressively more advanced satellites. For example, here's what the WMAP shows us:
Just how that expanding singularity 'happened' in the first place is still a mystery, but it may not always be as long as scientists don't throw up their hands and say, "I give up, therefore Goddidit!"
Moving on, Hovind also implies in this passage that it's impossible for anything at all to create matter, with only one possible exception; God, and presumably not any other deities, either.
` Of course, human beings use particle accelerators to hurl particles around and smash them into one another, which can create matter through the ordinary rules of cause-and-effect -- it's called pair production.
` Thus, their energy level is the same as the level before they were formed. However, antimatter is rare (although enough of it orbits the earth to be used as fuel according to this Astrophysics Journal article) because most types of antimatter tend to annihilate one another.
` Although annihilation produces a lot of energy, it leaves behind the same total amount of energy because one is positive and one is equally and oppositely negative. I've always pictured this as sort of like taking a string (energy) and tying it into a knot (particles) and then untying the string again.
So, while this doesn't break any laws of physics, it does demonstrate that unlike what Hovind asserts, matter is ordinarily created every day.
The particle accelerator experiments help physicists figure out how matter was formed in the Big Bang, although they don't tell us where this energy that turned into matter came about to begin with, or why more matter hasn't been annihilated by antimatter.
` That mystery (and perhaps the missing antimatter) lies outside the universe and its laws of cause-and-effect, and remains to be solved.
` It is this mystery, and not cause and effect, that Hovind seems to be referring to -- the universe is here and no one knows why.
Scientists who ask this question do experiments to try to figure it out; they want to learn the answer because they don't know. It should be fairly obvious to anyone that not knowing the answer means that you don't know the answer -- therefore you still don't know!
` To say you have the answer when you really don't is a logical fallacy called Argument From Ignorance. So, if someone says, "I don't know how to explain that, therefore it's evidence of ghosts/aliens/Goddiddit" the only thing that tells you is that individual's personal beliefs.
And one more important point (yes, there's more); figuring out where the universe comes from is the realm of physicists and cosmologists, not biologists. The origin of the universe has nothing to do with biological evolution, although there are concepts which use the name 'evolution', such as 'stellar evolution', which describes how stars change over time.
Stellar evolution is the process of gravity causing gases and dust to collapse into stars and planets, which explains why they are round, and why they move the way they do. Later, when all the star's fuel is spent, it no longer has the energy to prevent its further compression and blows itself apart into a different phase, such as a red dwarf or neutron star.
` If it is massive enough, it becomes a singularity, called a black hole, which can be seen like a cosmic version of the Tasmanian Devil character from Looney Tunes, occasionally tearing apart other objects in a very bright and violent mess.
` Stellar physics has nothing to do with biological evolution because stars are not living things and are not subject to genetic variability and natural selection. In this case, the word 'evolution' refers to the changes of a single star over its 'lifetime', in the same way that 'lifetime' here means 'as long as it lasts' rather than 'as long as it is alive'.
I think that's more than enough of my interjections -- let's move on to Hovind's next paragraph:
There are people in the world today who wish to avoid the concept of God. They do not like the idea of a God telling them what to do. Therefore, they have come up with the most dangerous, damnable doctrine every [sic] imagined, evolution.It is easy to see why there is literally no logic to this statement: If somebody already doesn't believe in a certain deity, then why would they care if that deity wants them to behave a certain way, any more than a believer in that deity would take a different one seriously?
` There's no more empirical evidence for Zeus or Thor than there is for the Christian concept of God, so why would atheists (or deists, for that matter) be compelled to believe it exists, much less 'wish to avoid' it? (I suppose there are some rebels out there, but they seem to be in the minority of atheists.)
Also, something I recall from my Philosophy of Religion class (taught by a devout Christian): If biblical morality is moral because God says it is -- as in "Thou shalt not kill" -- then God can say that killing is immoral one day and moral the next. In other words, whatever God says is moral becomes moral and there are no objective moral standards!
` Although the bible is filled with instances of God (and even Jesus) telling the Israelites to kill others, this is not because the rules are being changed, but rather because "Thou shalt not kill" only applies to other Israelites, and everyone else is fair game. Either way, this is not what anyone today would consider as 'enlightened' thinking.
My Arch-Rival has defended the example of God telling Moses to commit genocide, sparing only the virgins for the purpose of raping, as being moral because it was a necessary step in spreading God's love. And why do the ends justify the means?
` Because Whatever God Commands Is Good, Even If It's An Unspeakable Atrocity. Do I need to go into why exactly this is Very Bad Logic?
I should expect that if there's a God who actually told my Arch-Rival to do something so incredibly heinous, he wouldn't be able to bring himself to do it, thus putting his own moral standards above God's.
` However, if he were able to obey, then what would that say about him? Would that make him a religious terrorist? Would it show the strength of his faith or the tragedy of being a pawn to his belief that God Is Always Right?
There are, however, examples of changing morality in the bible, as when God decrees slavery, and commands people to stone those who insulted him, even when they hadn't harmed anyone. In the modern world, such things are considered barbaric, so does that mean that God was a barbarian?
` Were those things right back then? Were they never right to begin with? How can there possibly be objective moral standards if those standards can change?
` The idea that God is benevolent is only believable when one has faith that everything he is said to have done is Right. If that belief is at the base of one's answer, then anything else can be justified in that light.
Regarding scientists, they must avoid the concept of God in their methods, whether they believe in God or not. This is because it is not possible to include something you can't test, or to explain some unexplained phenomenon by saying "Goddidit!" because if there is a naturalistic explanation, you can't afford to be cynical and say there can't possibly be one.
Charles Darwin himself was studying to become an Anglican minister before he became a naturalist, and according to all his writings, he himself believed all the tenants of the Church, including the literal six-day creation, until he was convinced by all the geological processes and fossils that the earth was millions of years old, and that such things as the pattern of species distribution showed that species arise mainly through natural selection.
` As I recall, Darwin described admitting his proposal "like confessing a murder" because of the reaction it would get, but it was no doctrine: He put his theory out there to be trounced upon by the entire scientific community, and they did, which led to it being taken apart, revised, refined and expanded enormously, which continues to this day.
So, what is evolution through natural selection, anyway? Hovind clearly has no clue:
The technical definition of evolution means “change.”Whoa, Kent, that's so technical! In all seriousness, what he's trying to do is make the definition of biological evolution so vague that it can apply to any sort of change.
` As I've said, biological evolution is about the genetic changes in populations, nothing more.
As the Understanding Evolution website puts it: "Biological evolution is not simply a matter of change over time. Lots of things change over time: trees lose their leaves, mountain ranges rise and erode, but they aren't examples of biological evolution because they don't involve descent through genetic inheritance."
` I recommended Understanding Evolution to the Arch-Rival, so that he could learn more about what he doesn't know about evolution, such as what it is and how it works, as well as its history.
` It's very basic, but it doesn't take a braniac to understand the concepts -- and then realize that people like Kent Hovind are giving it fictional definitions that are ripe for mockery!
Hovind quite deliberately likes to confuse biological evolution with the idea of any other kind of change, including ideologies promoting progress. (No surprise, he's conservative to the point of wanting to bring back public executions by stoning, but that's another story.) He says:
There is no question thatthings [sic] do change. All change is directed either downward toward less order if left to themselves, or upward with a master-mind behind it.I would like to point out that crystals do build themselves, and there's no master-mind needed to explain them. This is why crystal formation has been suggested in the past as one way that living things could have come into being (this is not part of evolutionary theory, but rather, the theory of biogenesis).
The cities that we live in have ‘evolved’ over the years. ... Not one of the buildings in your city built itself by the material rising up out of the ground.I would also like to point out that living things build themselves -- thanks to our parents, we've all done it ourselves in nine months, and then continued growing and developing.
` Under the best conditions, a small number of trees can "build a whole city" of trees, with new trees literally springing up from the ground, thanks to the natural creative force of the plants' reproductive organs.
` These are some of the reasons that materials used for making buildings are not considered life forms, and this is why they cannot build themselves. Is this not 'obvious'?
A college professor told me that cities 'evolve' with time.This is true, provided that we acknowledge that the word in quotes does not refer to biological evolution.
I said to him, "I agree. If you use this as your definition of 'evolved' then you are including a design, a designer, and lots of work -- planned intelligent progress, not chaos ordered by self. Not one of the buildings in your city built itself by the material rising up out of the ground."True -- if we use this as our definition! However, we're not talking about genetic distribution in a population because buildings don't make baby buildings.
` When biologists speak of evolution, they are referring to the minor changes in allele frequencies that naturally occur in plants, animals, fungi, bacteria, archaea, etc. in order to adapt to their local environment. Unfortunately for Hovind:
When I speak of evolution, I am not referring to small minor changes that naturally occur as animals have to make some adjustments to their environment.So, in other words, he is spelling out that when he is referring to evolution, he actually isn't referring to biological evolution at all! What brilliant double-talk! How does he do it?
Biological evolution works like this: Unlike what Hovind would say, we always expect the offspring of organisms to be the same species as their parents, although each one has their own unique mutations that even the parents don't have.
` Over time, genetic changes accumulate more and more so that, while their DNA is compatible with their contemporaries in their own population, over time it loses its compatibility with their ancestors of many thousands of generations before.
` The line between species is always a fuzzy line. The lineage at Time A may be genetically compatible with the same lineage living at Time B; and the lineage at Time B may be compatible with this lineage at Time C, and so on.
` However, if the population of the lineage at Time A could try to produce fertile offspring with the population at Time E, their genetic divergence may no longer allow this.
We also see this in species that share a recent common ancestor, yet have been isolated from one another for thousands of generations. Some examples of mammals crossbreeding include donkeys with horses (mules/hinneys), lions with tigers (ligers/tiglons), dromedary camels with llamas (camas), and bottlenose dolphins with orcas (wholphins).
` Genetic markers and fossils show that these close relatives were once the same species, and as evidence of this, their genes still allow them to produce offspring, although it may be difficult.
` In some cases, the offspring are commonly fertile, as with wholphins, camas, and hybrids of various types of big cats, although in others, such as mules/hinnies, the offspring are usually sterile.
This is also why I have pointed out to the Arch Rival the existence of ring species -- contemporary species which are only blurrily separated by space -- which is exactly what evolution predicts we'll find:
` Species A can breed with neighboring Species B, and Species B can breed with neighboring Species C and so on, but by the time you get to Species E, it cannot breed with Species A!
` There are only subtle differences between the neighboring species, but if the middle 'links' in the ring go extinct, then you have a successful separation of two distinct species which will never again be considered part of the same species and continue to differentiate as orcas and dolphins have, or camels and llamas.
` The Arch-Rival's response, if my memory is correct, was basically, "That's still micro-evolution." Or in other words, it wasn't 'macro-evolution' which, as we'll see just ahead, includes speciation in its definition. In other words, I described one way that new species evolve, and then he said this isn't what is happening.
` Well, what is happening? Hovind cannot tell us:
For instance, if we released hundreds of rabbits in an area with cold winters, only the animls [sic] with the heavier fur would survive. So within a few years, the population would have a little heavier fur than the earlier populations. These small minor population shifts brought about by environment are referred to as ‘micro-evolution.’ There has been no change in the genetic material of the rabbit.Except, the way he has described it, there has been a change in their genetic material in that certain variants have become dominant.
There has only been a change in the ratio of the population.No, actually it's a ratio of the genes in the population, genius.
You still have the same kind of animal. If that climate were to change back to a milder climate, the population of animals would change back to having a lighter fur.It might, although it might not, depending on whether that's particularly beneficial to change back.
Macro-evolution would be defined as changing into a different kind of animal. There is no similarity between micro-evolution and macro-evolution. Many evolutionists will use micro-evolution to try to prove that macro-evolution is true. We must guard ourselves not to fall for this false logic.This 'micro-evolution' is a good description of biological evolution through natural selection, and this is not false logic, as there is in fact no solid distinction between these concepts. As such, many biologists don't even use them.
` If we are going to use these terms, it's like the same sort of relationship that microeconomics -- the economic activity of individual households and businesses -- has with macroeconomics, which is the collective sum of microeconomics and how it determines economics on a societal or global scale.
In biology, these 'micro' and 'macro' terms are not always useful, because no matter what aspect of evolution one is describing, it is all based on this incremental type of change.
` Some biologists do call certain areas of study -- such as population genetics and ecological genetics -- 'microevolution', whereas paleontology, evolutionary developmental biology, genomic phylostratigraphy and comparative genomics constitute 'macroevolution'.
These terms were coined in 1927 by Iuri'i Filipchenko, in his work, Variabilität und Variation, in which he sought to reconcile Darwin's theory with Mendelian genetics.
` One of his students, Theodosius Dobzhansky, introduced them in his 1937 founding Modern Synthesis work Genetics and the Origin of Species: "we are compelled at the present level of knowledge reluctantly to put a sign of equality between the mechanisms of macro- and microevolution".
` This was the first time anyone had heard these terms in the English-speaking biology community, although they are still not used by most biologists in the English-speaking world. While definitions vary, here's the general idea:
Microevolution -- changes below the level of speciation, referring to the frequencies of alleles (i.e. alternative genes) within the species or population, as well as other changes which are not even genetic.
Macroevolution -- can be anagenetic speciation, which is the change of one species to another over time, and cladogenesis, which is the splitting of one species into two, as ring species have imperfectly done.
` It can also apply to more specific and dramatic instances, as in Levinton's definition from his 2001 Genetics, Paleontology and Macroevolution: "I define the process of macroevolution to be "the sum of those processes that explain the character-state transitions that diagnose evolutionary differences of major taxonomic rank".
So, when variations in gene ratios change in favor of heavier fur, that can be called 'microevolution'. When this same thing happens with more traits, which accumulate over thousands of generations until a distinct species emerges, that can be called 'macroevolution'.
` Although creationists love to load these terms with great meaning, there is actually no solid line to be drawn between such abstract concepts as different aspects and degrees of evolution. You can no more draw a line between them than you could draw a line between colors in one continuous spectrum.
` Go ahead, try. You really can't, can you? Even so, as with colors, labels can still be handy.
Let's go back to the rabbits: What if all the deer in one area went extinct? One could conceive of a population of rabbits taking advantage of all the food that the now-gone deer aren't eating. To adapt to this new way of life, they would become larger and taller to reach higher branches.
` Over thousands of generations of this happening a little bit more, and a little bit more, these rabbits could become another species altogether. A species of unusual-looking rabbit, yes, but eventually one would be tempted to give it another name. Dougal Dixon, help me out, here!
Ah, yes, why not 'rabbuck'? Notice, however, that they will always be based on rabbits -- or, you can say, 'basically rabbits' -- no matter how much they change. No one claims that they wouldn't be, except for Hovind in his inane lectures, as I've addressed elsewhere.
Similarly, lizards can only give rise to other lizards -- for example, there are modern lizards which are adapted to marine environments, including monitor lizards.
` A point of interest with this is, at one point in the earth's history, the sea was home to fully-aquatic, whale-sized monitor lizards called Mosasaurs, which looked like this:
Also, unlike what Hovind will tell you, lizards are different types of reptiles from dinosaurs, in the same way as turtles are different from mammals. It amuses me, then, that Hovind suggests (in his lectures) that the gigantic browsing ornithopod, reminiscent of a rhinoceros, Triceratops, has evolved (but he doesn't call it that!) into a tiny predatory chameleon.
Now, chameleons have prehensile tails and feet, which they use to slowly move through tree branches while swaying back and forth like a leaf, eyes that look in different directions independently for finding insects, and a sticky, spring-loaded tongue for catching prey.
` It isn't an insane proposition to suggest that one animal could evolve into one that is so different, but the basic skeletal structure of dinosaurs have different derived characteristics than those of lizards, such as different openings in the skull, not to mention their limbs, joints and torsos are built quite differently from one another because of their different postures (e.g. splayed vs. upright).
` In other words, they are both reptiles which share a common reptile ancestor, but they took different paths in evolution -- they've diverged to begin with -- so one did not evolve into the other!
` Hilariously, though, Hovind has actually stated that dinosaurs are merely large versions of today's lizards, but this is as absurd as saying that dinosaurs are merely large versions of today's marsupials. They really are that different, although describing why would take a really long time.
And while I'm on the subject of lizards, I'd like to bring up one (of many) instances of visible lizard evolution -- one which shows just how fast an animal can evolve in response to its environment:
` Only 36 years after biologists moved five adult pairs of Italian wall lizards from their habitat in Pod Kopiste to the island of Pod Mrcaru, the population was noticeably different:
` Since they had adapted from eating insects to plants, their heads were much larger and deeper for chewing, their teeth were flatter, and they had even developed cecal valves in their guts for digesting plants, which is a rare trait among lizards.
` Their social structure had also changed, as plants are so plentiful that the lizards no longer needed to defend a territory. This whole thing did not even take four decades. It happened literally before the biologists' eyes, as they had been watching the whole time. Given another few thousand years, what else could happen?
Kent has refused to acknowledge the fact that biologists expect that lizards can only give rise to lizards, and, in one of Kent's "debates" I've discussed with the Arch-Rival, that plants can only give rise to plants and animals can only give rise to animals, but just what type of plant or animal it can evolve into depends on what branch on the family tree it derives from.
` This is why molluscs can only evolve into other species of molluscs, although we may call them clams, snails, or squid, for example. They have the same basic body plan, and genetics, but seem much different from one another. In the same vein, vertebrates will always be vertebrates, although they range in form from sharks to elephants.
Reptiles include groups as diverse as snakes, mammals and birds, which share an even more ancient common reptilian ancestor. Those on the mammal branch can only give rise to other mammals, be they whales, bats, naked mole rats, or possibly rabbucks.
` Monkeys can only give rise to other monkeys, including apes, and apes can only give rise to other apes -- even if they're bald, big-brained and bipedal, they're still 'savannah apes'.
The idea that evolutionists try to get across today is that there is a continual upward progression. They claim that everything is getting better, improving, all by itself as if there is an inner-drive toward more perfection and order.Again, this statement merely demonstrates that the 'evolutionists' haven't gotten anything across to him, because evolution has got nothing to do with progress, much less an inner drive toward it.
I should add that, the word 'evolutionists' is used to make people who accept evolution seem somehow on par with 'creationists', or 'Marxists'. In other words, this word is used to make it seem as though biological evolution is merely an ideology or belief.
` Now, Aristotle argued that such upward progression must exist, from lower to higher forms, and so did Lamarck in his now-discredited not-even-theory of Lamarckian evolution -- both because of their spiritual views. However, no biologist today would make such a ridiculous claim of progress because a) it doesn't make sense and b) all the evidence is against it.
This is totally opposite of the first and second law of thermodynamics.Actually, it seems that this 'progress' idea would only go against the second law, but that is more than enough for it to be wrong. And, as Hovind's idea of evolution is wrong, it's good that no biologist believes it.
It goes against all scientific evidence that has been accumulated.Yes it does -- he's right! But that's the idea of 'evolution' that he's peddling and not the theory that biologists use!
Yet, this lie is what many men believe today.This could only apply to men who don't understand how evolution works, and this lack of understanding is one good reason why it needs to be taught better in schools -- the last thing we need is more people like him!
We don't see any evidence of this in the fossil record.Indeed, there is no evidence of direction in the fossil record because species must adapt from one habitat to another, even if that means becoming less complex. That's evolution.
Even so, I'm pretty sure that what's going on here is that he is using his knowledge of the fact that, the more times you repeat something, the more likely your audience will think it's true, and the more difficulty others will have with correcting these distortions.
Well, I've come to the end of Section 2a, but next up in the queue is Section 2b of Hovind's thesis: Bastardizing the World's History and Religions.
` If any of my science-minded friends have any suggestions or would like to correct me on anything, please leave me a comment so that I can fix it. After all, I did not so deeply research this section because most of what I wrote is ubiquitous in any text about evolution to the point where it seems to have become hard-wired into my brain.
` Also, if any fans of Hovind would like to correct me about Hovind's position on anything, do let me know.
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Back in February, the Arch-Rival brought up the subject of Intelligent Design and claimed that the evil atheists were suppressing its acceptance as real science. Having studied the subject extensively on and off since the late 90's, I of course argued otherwise, but as he was about to leave for work, he recommended that I watch the 'documentary' with Ben Stein called Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.
` He also asked me how scientists explained how life was supposed to have begun, and that the theory of spontaneous generation had been debunked long ago. I started off by telling him that the theory of abiogenesis (beginning of life) has nothing to do with the theory of evolution (change of life), nor the completely wrong concept of spontaneous generation, and that it's quite a large and complex area of study, which I could tell him more about if he didn't have to leave just then.
` On his way out the door, smirking, he winked and said something like "I think you'll be surprised" or "impressed" or something like that, as though he expected that I would be stunned by what the movie 'reveals'. I immediately went to my computer and found Expelled for Instant Download on Netflix.
I watched it no fewer than three times, becoming less impressed with each viewing, let's just say.
On one level, I became so deeply offended by its childish demonization and Nazification of evolution and the people involved in its study that I actually started to get angry and teary-eyed. On another level, I vowed to clear up this distortion, so I wrote down each of the movie's claims, and, over the next few months, I managed to use the power of facts to debunk every last one of them.
` Within the next few days after viewing, however, I did manage to write up about fifteen pages of criticism and gave it to him to read. To my surprise, he conceded that I had indeed exposed some actual 'yellow journalism', and I'll have to type that up for this blog.
` However, as that would take way too long, and because I already have a massive project going here, I should probably just wait until I post that.
As a teaser, though, just after I wrote those fifteen pages shredding Expelled, I remembered a rather good documentary that my biology teacher (years ago) had assigned for us to watch because she was terrified that some of the students would think that trying to teach them evolution was some attempt to subvert their religious beliefs.
` (And she was terrified -- shaking in fact -- because she's probably had to deal with such people!)
` This documentary was a PBS Nova special called Judgment Day: Intelligent Design On Trial, and I had thought it was such a good choice that I actually began to write up a blog post about what the other students had to say about it. As was common at the time, I didn't publish it, although someday I will dredge it up for all to see.
This documentary, I thought, might at least impress the Arch-Rival in the fact that it contains lengthy commentary from both 'sides', rather than sound bites which are taken out of context to make one 'side' look bad -- as I saw in Expelled. Also, its informativeness and its utter lack of Lord Privy Seals might also give him some idea of its level of quality.
` I told him that if he was interested in seeing a documentary that I would regard as accurate, that he should watch Judgment Day, and he agreed to the next time he went to the library.
` To help him out, I wrote him up five pages of notes of my narration/commentary of what I thought was most important, for his own reference, and his own use in formulating a response.
To my knowledge, he still hasn't watched this documentary, even though I've sent him a link two separate times to the online video, last spring after he had gotten himself a computer!
` If you want to beat him to it, you can watch it at this link, and there's also another one at the bottom of the post.
I am not sure if he has read the notes I've given him, but as I have them back now, I can transcribe them here for my loyal readers (assuming I have any) so that at least someone can really appreciate this!
` Plus, I've added just a few more bits and pieces for your own enjoyment -- including a video demonstrating the evolution of a bacterial flagellum!
One Dover high school student did a very well-done mural of human evolution, which mysteriously disappeared one day. This seems to have to do with the fact that many Doverians were angry that only Darwin's theory was taught in exclusion to anything else, and suggested Intelligent Design as an alternative, which they claim is based in science, not religion.
` They wanted a statement read in class, informing the students of its existence, and that there is a textbook called Of Pandas and People in the library explaining what it is.
I am not suggesting that a court of law should settle scientific matters, because the evidence should -- but that is another issue. The issue here is whether or not "ID" is even based on scientific research, and, failing that, whether or not it is based in scripture.
The Dover residents talk about "creationism" versus evolution. Is ID based on biblical creationism? We go back to earlier court cases of evolution and creationism -- Scopes losing his trial, and evolution removed from textbooks so as to prevent any more trouble from creationists.
` When Sputnik sparked new interest in science, evolution started going back into the textbooks, and creationists spoke out again. Since creationism is bible-based, it violates our Constitution's Establishment Clause if taught as a fact of the world in government-run schools, and was banned in 1987.
Creationist Bill Buckingham was appointed by creationist Adam Bonsell to review Dover's textbooks. Buckingham did not like the 9th-grade biology textbook by Ken Miller and Joe Levine because it was "laced with Darwinism," and said he did not feel comfortable approving it. The book was put on hold.
` Then, we have a very brief overview of the discovery that broke the back of Darwin's proverbial camel: When finding help in classifying Galápagos' various birds, which looked like woodpeckers, mockingbirds, etc., he found that they were all different species of finches.
` Instead of different types of birds having been separately created on different islands, it seemed that the most likely explanation was that they were all made by one species of finch having spread to different habitats and adapting to different niches.
` Whoa, that one finch has a more than 'slightly' larger beak! There were, of course, many more different types of finch beaks than the ones shown. We see a simplistic explanation of natural selection and descent with modification. Nevertheless, all this is based on the observation of countless species and not some religious text.
Some people feel that this idea takes God out of the picture, including Bill Buckingham, who was allegedly the one who had destroyed the evolution mural, and enjoyed watching it burn.
` In looking for a way to mitigate evolution's being taught in school, the Thomas More law firm directed him to websites about Intelligent Design and the Discovery Institute, which was consistent with his creationism views.
` He and Adam Bonsell wanted to add Of Pandas and People to the curriculum, but it didn't happen. A few weeks later, 60 copies of Pandas turned up at the school, with a statement to be read to students about 'problems' with evolution, and pointing to the textbooks.
` Six school board members resigned in protest, and their reason was that it's creationism. In September of 2004, eleven parents filed suit against the school board, saying it was violating their Constitutional Rights -- the government should not endorse/discourage the practice of any religion. They were represented by the ACLU.
[This fact doesn't win any Brownie Points with the Arch-Rival, because according to him, the ACLU is atheistic, evil and communistic, which was especially amusing when I started to do my own investigation into the matter -- but, I digress.]
Teachers refused to read the statement, so it was read for them. As we'll see a tiny hint of, ID is far from being a scientific theory because scientific processes are what decide valid and useful theories, not interference with the school board, just so we're clear on that.
` After all, when was the last time you heard of scientists trying to force unaccepted theories on kids, for any reason? There's a reason for that; bypassing the scientific community doesn't prove a thing -- but evidence does!
` ACLU was to find evidence that ID is a clever way to disguise creationism as science so that creationists could use it to get creationism in a science classroom, skipping the scientific process. Thomas Moore was to show that ID is to "make students aware of another scientific theory" and that "it is not religion."
This was what President G.W. Bush and Senator Santorum had thought too, evidently, so they made sure that the conservative Judge Jones would be presiding over the case. The first thing he would examine was whether or not ID was science. ACLU assembled some science expert witnesses. (Pay attention to the way they word their explanations.)
Tiktaalik, an even more dramatic transitional fish-tetrapod fossil than Acanthostega, Ichthyostega, etc., had been discovered too late to be used in the trial as one of the transitional fossils, a few of which we see in this documentary.
` What is a theory? The ID proponents complain that evolution's not a fact, but in science, the word 'theory' means something much greater than a fact, as is explained.
` Also, the word 'law' means something quite different from a theory -- laws are simple descriptions, like the law of gravity. A theory is a complex explanation, like gravitational theory, which is meant to explain why the law of gravity exists.
` So, to review; law = description of a very simple natural phenomenon; theory = complex explanation for described phenomena. It's like apples and oranges.
` Though evolution through natural selection and other processes has been described, there is no 'law' of evolution because the number of variables (i.e. type of organism, type of niche, environment, what changes could happen, what DNA is available and what mutations occur, etc.) make it impossible to predict with complete accuracy as to what the next 'move' will be.
Genetics was an enormous test to Darwin's theory -- it could have contradicted this explanation, but instead confirmed it. (The "great details" are left out of this documentary, presumably for simplification's and time's sake.)
` A simple example is shown -- why humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes whereas our closest genetic relatives have 24. It turns out that we all have the same chromosomes, except that two of these in chimps correspond to one large human chromosome that has been found to be made up of two chromosomes fused together.
Darwin proposed his theory in 1859, and his basic ideas have been built upon and used for practical purposes (which depend on his theory being true), including medical research and even self-designing technology (through selection), as well as understanding virtually any given detail of the living world.
` What understanding does ID give us? What predictions does it make? What practical purposes does it have?
` Its proponents say that looking at nature as if it were designed is supposed to be a practical value unique to ID, but it is not; looking at the 'machinery' of nature as though it should be put together in a semi-orderly way -- by evolution's somewhat sloppy processes -- has always been helpful in figuring out how it works.
When you think about it, Intelligent Design doesn't have anything new to offer because it is almost entirely based on (unsubstantiated) claims that evolution doesn't make sense, and not on positive arguments for what one should expect in nature.
` So, even if evolutionary theory were overturned, we would then have no theory to explain all of biology, only that "something somehow designed species and it isn't evolution." It doesn't tell us what the designer is, how it designed or when. If you can't even define what it is you're arguing for, then how can you possibly test this idea?
See how that's a negative argument and not an independent concept that explains facts? It's not even a scientific hypothesis because it doesn't actually try to explain anything at all!
` And, because it isn't testable, as any scientist would explain -- even my Oceanography teacher, come to think of it -- it isn't science. How can you determine if something is true or not if you can't even check the idea against the real world?
By now, 8 of 9 seats on the school board were empty, including Buckingham's, and the situation for the people in Dover is getting very hairy -- as in death threat-hairy -- for the people who are trying to keep ID out of schools.
` What do the ID advocates in court have to say? Five of their witnesses dropped out. The remaining ones were asked whether there was a valid reason for teaching ID other than religious purposes.
` So, Michael Behe explains that design is the inference that parts which look designed are actually designed, and the most 'visually striking' example is the bacterial flagellum, which has parts he claims are ordered for a purpose. He asserts that if any of the parts are missing, then it can't function, thus there would be nothing for natural selection to act upon.
` He cites a 1998 paper by Dr. Daniel DeRosier, who studies such flagella, saying that this type of flagellum "resembles a machine designed by a human." So, De Rosier himself is asked and he says that he doesn't think it actually is designed, because it is clearly an evolved system, built up gradually by the messy process of natural selection.
So, does a 'half-formed' flagellum have anything for natural selection to act upon? Yes.
Just one example is the one they showed here, a 'half-formed flagellum', which is actually a 'syringe' that Yersinia pestis uses to inject poison into human calls -- it functions just fine as evidenced by the historical success of the bubonic plague.
` There are also other examples not included in the documentary, including a version that uses even fewer parts. Importantly, the proteins making up the flagellum are used in other structures in the cell, so it isn't as though they would have to appear just for the purpose of making the flagellum, as Behe would have you think.
* In one of my reams of Expelled-analysis, I drew a full-page illustration explaining how the flagellum could have plausibly evolved, and which has been backed up by actual biological experiments.
` Since it's on notebook paper and would have to be shrunk to show on screen, it would look very hazy and undecipherable, so I found a YouTube video that shows a somewhat informative animation of the same thing:
Also, the genetic evolution of each of these proteins is now understood. Cell biologists can see that the gene for one protein has been duplicated, that is, an extra copy was made, and this is seen to occur in nature. Because only one gene is all that is necessary to make a certain protein, one of these genes was now free to mutate without disrupting the production of that protein.
` A beneficial mutation caused one of the genes to make a different protein with a different job. This kind of thing has happened again and again, for each of the proteins, splitting and changing into new versions as different beneficial mutations accumulated in different lineages, creating new and different proteins:
` (Ignore the white dots -- they're supposed to be black but I can't get them to be!)
. .\ . /. . . . . . . . . (mutation) . . . . . . . . . . .(subsequent mutations)
. . .V. . . . . . . . . . . . . . V. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .V. . . . . . . . . .V
TAAACGTGA -- TAACCGTGA -- TAACCGTGT -- TAACCGGGT
` \\ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . \\
` . --TACACGTGA -- TACACGTGC . . . . . . .-- TAACCCTGT -- TAACCCTTT
` . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .\\
` . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . -- GACACGTGC -- GCCACGTGC
...and so on.
[My original illustration was more extensive and didn't use short strings of letters, but I hope you get the idea. As this text-illustration is off the top of my head, it does not represent an actual genetic sequence, but rather represents the basic explanation for the patterns that are seen to occur in actual genomes over longer stretches of DNA.]
This pattern of genetic diversification is also seen in the genes coding for the proteins in our immune system and our blood-clotting factors. Let me emphasize that this is one way that new information arises in our DNA, from which natural selection can work with.
` Another way is when retroviruses insert their genomes into their host's DNA, adding all their genes! When this happens in a germ cell, the retrovirus can be passed on to the offspring, and host cells have even been observed to use retroviral DNA for their own purposes!
` I mention this, of course, because one of the claims of creationists and ID proponents is that no new information can be naturally created. Since it actually does happen, that claim is disproved.
In the court reenactment (from the transcript), we see how Michael Behe testified that we have no sufficient answers for the evolution of the immune system. He says he hasn't ever read the stacks of books and scholarly articles on the subject that the lawyer presents to him, yet confidently (enough) maintains that there are no sufficient answers.
` But... if he hasn't even examined the research, then how can he judge that for himself?
After weeks of 'science class' in the courtroom, ID is not deemed any sort of science -- although, that does not mean it is religion. So, they ask, is it?
` According to a catalog in the bottom of one of the boxes of donated books, Of Pandas and People is listed under 'Creation Science' (i.e. biblical creationism). Since Pandas is the manner in which ID has been presented in the school, the question is: Is Pandas, and by extension Intelligent Design, actually just 'creation science'?
An old newspaper article was found, about a biology book which 'presents both evolution and creation' by Charles Thaxton. This article was published just before the 1987 trial where creationism was banned in schools for violating the constitution.
` Charles Thaxton is also the editor of Pandas. Was this 'creation and evolution' textbook the same as Pandas? An investigation into earlier drafts shows that this is the case. (Also, the documentary doesn't mention that the original title was Creation Biology! Really!)
Looking at two drafts of this book, one just before the 1987 verdict and one just after, they show that the texts are very similar, except that in the former draft, language such as 'God' and 'creation' are used, and in the latter, these words are changed to 'Intelligent agent' and 'design' (and references to the bible are also omitted).
` According to the former draft, 'creation' is defined as 'various forms of life began abruptly through the agency of an intelligent creator, with their distinctive features already intact -- fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks and wings, etc."
` In the latter draft, the same definition is given for Intelligent Design except that it's through an 'intelligent agency.' In making this transition, one of the editors mistakenly replaced 'creationists' with 'design proponents', resulting in a 'transitional fossil' of sorts -- 'cdesignproponentsists.'
Another good question comes; does ID offer only a critique of evolution, or does it offer something more? ID proponent and leader Paul Nelson, was asked this question, and here was his response:
"Easily, the biggest challenge facing the ID community is to develop a full-fledged theory of biological design. We don't have such a theory right now, and that's a real problem. Without a theory, it's very hard to know where to direct your research focus. Right now, we've got a bag of powerful intuitions, and a handful of notions such as "irreducible complexity" and "specified complexity" -- but as yet, no general theory of biological design."(BTW, even to this day they haven't reported making progress on this objective.)
In other words, ID is not a scientific theory and Nelson presumably knows this. Or, is it scientific? Michael Behe, whose definition of a scientific theory includes supernatural (i.e. non-testable) phenomena, says that astrology would be considered a scientific theory under his definition.
` Science is known as 'science' because it is based on empirical evidence, which astrology has none of, other than evidence against. Which reminds me, I remember a bill being proposed to re-define what kids are taught that science is, that it doesn't need empirical evidence.
` The point of this bill was to allow ID to be taught in government-run schools. Of course, lying to our kids that about science being something other than science only serves to keep them from understanding how science actually works and how it actually requires evidence.
The Wedge Document, which highlights the ID Movement's strategy, reveals their motives and ideals. It starts out, "The proposition that human beings are created in the image of God is one of the bedrock principles on which Western civilization was built..."
` Wait... what about the Ancient Greeks? Their philosophy, arts, mathematics, architecture, science, etc. were instrumental in the development of Western civilization. What happened when Christianity took over? The Dark Ages -- that is, the decline of civilization and the spread of ignorance!
` And what happened when people started paying more attention to the Greeks' and others' ancient texts, and rediscovered all that literature and critical thinking and science? The Renaissance -- that is, the flourishing of Western culture!
` If it weren't for people who didn't believe that we're created in God's image, Western civilization might still be floundering in superstition and oppression, and wouldn't have modern technology and medicine unless another civilization invented it!
The Wedge Document also argues that the idea that we come from nature causes people to give up objective moral standards -- as though nature could possibly command us to do so!
` I can't think of anything more ludicrous -- the more-or-less objective portion of my morality certainly dictates that mass-murder is wrong, but if I thought a deity which created me wanted me to go on a suicide bombing mission, or a crusade, or kill all the Jews, or go to war in Iraq, and that anything this deity told me to do was right regardless of my compassion and concern for others, then I would have to abandon my objective moral standards in order to do it!
` It is is difficult to get people to do things they generally know not to do -- the aforementioned atrocities, excommunicating family members, genital mutilation, etc. -- unless they believe that it's for the best. This is true of any ideology, of course, not just religions -- however:
` If it's based on a 'crazy ideology' of 'mere humans', there's a small chance they could bring themselves to question it. But; what if they think that an action is being proposed by something that is supposed to be looking out for them, is all-knowing, all-good, and who promises them an eternal reward for believing, obeying, and loving -- and an eternal punishment for not doing so? It would be much more difficult to back out.
Additionally, this idea that we either come from nature or from God is a false dichotomy -- most Christians in the world also accept evolution, and in this country, because there are so many Christians, most Americans who accept evolution are Christians.
` In other words, these people think that God made them through evolution, that both things are true. How would accepting evolution mean that God wasn't responsible? Most people have a way around such black-and-white thinking.
But, back to the point -- is there religious motivation behind ID? The documentary does not mention this, but there is plenty of other documentation, including records from church meetings and public religious forums, which are hard to interpret in any other way.
` An example I can recall from the top of my head was a 1999 article for Church and State magazine entitled Missionary Man, which is about the scarily-fanatical speakers at a Right-Wing Christian conference:
I can't picture this as being quote-mining, due to other, more direct sources I've seen, but if you'd like to challenge me on that, go ahead.
Johnson calls his movement "The Wedge." The objective, he said, is to convince people that Darwinism is inherently atheistic, thus shifting the debate from creationism vs. evolution to the existence of God vs. the non-existence of God. From there people are introduced to "the truth" of the Bible and then "the question of sin" and finally "introduced to Jesus."
"You must unify your own side and divide the other side," Johnson said. He added that he wants to temporarily suspend the debate between young-Earth creationists, who insist that the planet is only 6,000 years old, and old-Earth creationists, who accept that the Earth is ancient. This debate, he said, can be resumed once Darwinism is overthrown. (Johnson, himself an old-Earth creationist, did not explain how the two camps would reconcile this tremendous gap.)
` Also, the second paragraph is important, because a big part of the object of Intelligent Design is to get rid of the details of which creation story one goes by. Did it occur over a long time? Just how much of Genesis do you have to take literally?
` These details are deliberately left out in order to garner maximum support. At the same time, without these details, there can be no hypotheses in order to test how this thing is supposed to have happened -- automatically making it not science!
The other thing is that the goal is to get evolution out of our culture, which one can only do if one has sufficient reason. If the entire object of your operation is to put forth a conclusion and then find supposed evidence to rationalize it, that's the opposite of science!
Continuing on with the documentary, the Wedge strategy's twenty-year goals include "to see intelligent design theory as the dominant perspective in science." and "To see design theory permeate our religious, cultural, moral and political life."
` In order to do that, they would need to do scientific research that supports their claims of ID as valid -- and they haven't! Phillip Johnson explains that the goal is to reverse cultural changes. This is their motivation, but where is their evidence of ID, and of supposed 'cultural changes'?
Now, Judge Jones must find the motivations of the Dover School board members, who proposed the teaching of ID. In the courtroom re-enactment, they show the tape of William Buckingham suggesting that evolution should be balanced with "creationism", but he says the meant to say "intelligent design."
` Also, Buckingham and Bonsell had sworn in their depositions that they did not know who had donated the books to the high school. In the trial, Buckingham admitted that he had given the check he had written for buying these books to Alan Bonsell, and that the 'unknown businessman' who had bought the books was Bonsell's father. Alan Bonsell must have known who this 'unknown businessman' was, yet he claimed that he hadn't! Accused of lying under oath, Bonsell claimed he misspoke.
Dover's local school board election was national news -- all eight elected opposed ID. December 2005, Jones' decision -- ID is not science, and was introduced for religious reasons, and thus is unconstitutional to teach in Dover science classes.
` Jones says, "Both defendants and many of the leading proponents of Intelligent Design make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being, and to religion in general. To be sure, Darwin's theory of evolution is imperfect, however, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis, grounded in religion, into the science classroom, or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions. The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the board who voted for the Intelligent Design policy."
` "The crushing weight of the evidence indicates that the board set out to get creationism into the science classrooms, and intelligent design was simply the vehicle that they utilized to do that."
` "In an era where we're trying to cure cancer, where we're trying to prevent pandemics, where we're trying to keep science and math education on the cutting edge in the United States, to introduce and teach bad science to ninth-grade students makes very little sense to me. You know, garbage in, garbage out, and it doesn't benefit any of us. We benefit daily from scientific discoveries."
` Of course, Buckingham and Bonsell disagree, as did the ID proponents, and were somewhat appalled. Even Jones received death threats, and he and his family needed police protection. Although the trial is over, he's right -- this issue isn't settled!
Assuming you, my reader, have read all these annotations/additions to Judgment Day, I hope you have appreciated it! To watch the actual documentary, now with the information I've provided in mind as a background reference, click here.
As for my Arch-Rival, I am not really surprised that he apparently hasn't seen this documentary, despite repeatedly assuring me that he would. I guess that when you think you're right about something, it's not worth taking a good look at your opposition.
` Which reminds me, in order to tie up the abiogenesis conversation we'd had, I later did try to show him a science magazine article about the various different studies that show how life could have arisen, and handed him the magazine, but he literally rolled his eyes and did not even look at the article!
Well, I hope at least someone out there has enjoyed my annotation -- now back to destroying Hovind's dissertation!