Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Demise of Design: A Review of "Edge of Evolution"

About a week ago I picked up Behe's book, in hopes of reading it and reviewing it, and seeing if the arguments were any good. In his book, Behe argues that Common Descent is a fact, and so is Natural Selection, but he's not so sure about Random Mutation. He admits that it happens, but his point in the book is mainly that random mutation cannot account for what we see today. Unfortunately, Behe didn't sell me on intelligent design, and there were quite a few errors that need to be corrected within the book. Forgive me if this review is messy, Behe's book was was almost like a biology book, a bad theology book, a Lee Strobelesque intelligent design book all thrown in together.

The first, and probably by far the dumbest error I want to refute is this:

"Sickle hemoglobin can inarguably be explained by mutation and selection, the bacterial flagellum cannot." (p.104)

No, it's not out of context, he really said it. Ken Miller showed him that the flagellum was not irreducibly complex, but not how it evolved. Did he miss Nick Matzke's Essay on the Evolution of the Flagellum? He must have heard about it somewhere! This sort of thing is common knowledge to people who hold interest in evolution! There's even a video on youtube showing how the flagellum evolved.

He again makes the same mistake with the cilium, saying that Ken Miller "offered no Darwinian explantion for the step by step origin of the cilium" and that [the situtation of] "Missing Darwinian explanations of the cilium is utterly unchanged." (p.95)

Click here to read Panda's thumb talk about this mistake.

Now, onto Behe's main arguments:

1. Mutation and Selection are often destructive, not constructive

The example he gives us is with the evolution of disease and of the immune system. He points out that genes are often times broken so that the organism can survive. What I think he forgets is that the evolution of life in general would not have been like this. You wouldn't expect evolution to be consistently degenerative, obviously developing strong fins like the Tiktaalik did would not be destructive. My article entitled "Evolution cannot add new information" addresses this and shows evolution is not necessarily destructive. Abigail Smith also viciously refuted this point on her blog.

2. "That looks complicated, how could nature do it?"

He doesn't come out and say this, but that is the implication in chapter 5. He throws out descriptions of lots of complex molecular machinery, and then expects the reader to come to the conclusion that "randomness" couldn't have produced such a thing.

3. The Two Binding Site Rule

Basically the argument is that two protein protein binding sites evolving at the same time would be practically impossible, and since most molecular machines are "irreducibly complex", this couldn't happen. Note that he doesn't come out and say "irreducibly complex", but rather he says,"stupendously complex structures such as the cilium, the flagellum, and the machinery that builds them are beyond Darwinian evolution" and in conclusion states that the reason for this is that "most proteins in the cell work as teams of half a dozen or more." Indeed, this is just a thinly veiled irreducible complexity argument. Jerry Coyne refutes this assertion on Talk.Reason:

"Behe's probability calculations, on which his entire argument rests, are flatly wrong because they assume that adaptation cannot occur one mutation at a time. He uses chloroquine resistance of malaria (CQR) as an example, saying that the parasite always must have two mutations arising together to evolve resistance. As Ken Miller shows, this assumption is false, because one of the two mutations that Behe claims are "required" for CQR is not actually required (Chen et al. 2003, reference accidentally omitted from Miller's piece). It is therefore bogus to take the 1/10 to the 20th power number as the estimate of the probability of the evolution of a single binding site for CQR. And it is even more bogus to use this as a generic estimate for the evolutionary probability of getting any protein-protein binding site.

The probability calculations are also wrong because Behe's argument is based on specifying a priori exactly which mutations have to occur to be adaptive: the identical pair of mutations that occur in chloroquine-resistant malaria. He neglects the possibility (indeed, the certainty) that many other mutations that cause interactions between proteins and other molecules can also be adaptive.

Behe argues that the evolution of a single protein-protein binding site requires more than 2 simultaneous mutations -- more like 3-6 of them. He adduces no evidence for this major claim, nor does he give a single example of any case in which two or more binding sites must evolve simultaneously for an adaptation to arise. The reviews by Ken Miller in Nature and Sean Carroll in Science cite several examples of the gradual origin of adaptations via the step-by-step accumulation of point mutations in proteins."

4. Random Intelligent Design Arguments

This is probably the worst, and least thought out, part of the book. Behe argues that the getting a habitable universe, planet, starting life and then it evolving to today's complexity is so improbable that it requires a designer. Let's start out by examining the argument for the fine tuning of the universe. It has been discovered that the constants of our universe (i.e. gravity) are at just the right value to allow life to thrive. If Behe had read The God Delusion or God: The Failed Hypothesis, or even bothered to research the "Theory of Everything" he would have known this argument is wrong since the laws of physics are interrelated. As for a habitable planet, that might be fairly rare. Richard Dawkins had written an estimate of just how many planets in the universe are actually habitable, it was about 1 billion (out of 100 billion or more planets in the universe, not including moons and clouds of gas that can possibly host life). Behe also goes into improbable events that allowed our planet to be habitable. For example, he cites the fact that our moon stabilizes the earth's tilt, which in turn keeps our planet from undergoing life-destroying temperature fluctuations. But take, for example, Europa, one of Jupiter's moons. The tidal tugging that Jupiter exerts on Europa keeps it warm enough to possibly allow water to stay melted, thus making it habitable. I wonder if creatures that live on that planet talk about the exquisite and improbable design it took to position their home close enough the water below the surface wouldn't freeze, but far enough that it wouldn't vaporize. Do you think the IDers of that planet use this as one of their main arguments?

Now for the origin of life: Is life extremely improbable? The truth is we don't know. No one's ever demonstrated it in a lab, so all we can do is speculate. However, fossils show that life has been here for 3.8 billion years, and probably longer when you consider:
* The rarity of fossilization
* Older fossils which existed may have been destroyed
* We probably would not have fossils from the first organisms, because it would be unlikely for us to have fossils until the time that a population had grown very large.

I would estimate that the replicating molecule that led to life formed about 4 billion years ago. Consider the fact that our early planet was bombarded by meteorites during its early history (which would have annihilated these molecules if they were near) we can deduce that life shouldn't be astronomically unlikely. After all, if it was, shouldn't it have taken longer to happen?

Was the evolution of life grossly improbable? Well, Behe sure didn't construct any arguments to make me think so. I'd like to call your attention to Sean Carroll's book, The Making of the Fittest. In this book, he calculates that one specific mutation (he uses the example of light colored mice developing a dark coat) in a population of 10,000 would occur and spread between 20-100 times in 1 million years. Of course, Earth's population has probably not been down to 10,000 since shortly after the origin of life, and life has had about 3,800 times more years to evolve. We also have to consider that many mutations would be useful and would arise in this time frame and spread besides this specific one. Is evolution impossible? You be the judge.

In conclusion, this book is the death of intelligent design. There are so many more points I would like to go into, and so many examples of bad logic which I do not have the energy to type. If you want to learn more, read the following reviews, or buy the book, but keep the receipt so you can return it.

One of my favorite (non-famous) reviewers.

Richard Dawkins' review

Jerry Coyne's review

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Noah's Flood is a Fairy Tale Part 2: The History

Well, you may have thought I demolished the flood in my last post, but I'm back with more. And this time we aren't going to look at the scientific evidence against a flood, but historical evidence. First off, I'm going to need your full attention. I am going to explain some historical facts which lead to a monumental proof against the flood.

First off: If you read the genealogy in genesis, you can calculate that the flood began 1,656 years after the beginning of the world. Now, in the Biblical Year 3155, the temple was built (although Josephus recorded it as 3102). Now, the biblical year 3155 corresponds with the year 1000 B.C. Using that, we can trace when the flood happened by our mainstream timeline:

Bible Year: 1656-------------3155
B.C. Year: 2501-------------1000

Now, what could we possibly do to disprove this? Well, if we found cultures that existed before and after 2500 B.C., we can know that there was no global flood. We can know this because Noah and his family would have belonged to a single culture, and cultures springing back up using the same traditions they had before, with the exact same language, would be impossible. So do we have this? Yes. The Egyptian Pyramids were built about 2560 B.C. So apparently, the Egyptians weren't affected by the global flood! Assyria wasn't either, and neither was China or Sumer.

So we have historical documents attesting to the fact that there was no global flood, not to mention the evidence that the flood was borrowed from earlier myths.

[An interesting side note: Robert G. Ingersoll hypothesized that the flood legend originated from a story about how the earth began(See pages 57-58 in the link). The Babylonian creation myth tells of 8 people coming out of the waters and starting humanity. Thus, the story of the world's birth became the story of the world's rebirth.]

In Conclusion, I'd like to rebutt some of the supposed evidences of the Flood, and leave you with a few outstanding questions creation scientists need to answer.

Marine Fossils on Mountains

Fossils that go through millions of years worth of Rock

Noah's Ark has been found!

Fossils that show evidence of Rapid Burial

Questions for Creationists:

* If you were to take two of each kind, what would you do with colonial animals like ants and termites?

* Why doesn't mitochondrial DNA show that our population dwindled down to a few people several thousand years ago?

* How do you explain Plate Tectonics (The current creationist model would boil the ocean off)?

* Why do strata date to different ages?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Noah's Flood is a Fairy Tale Part 1

1. Tree ring dating

The oldest living tree has been dated to over 4,000 years. Now, the creationist might say it began growing after the flood. But wait a minute, we have dead fossilized trees that lived before this one(nearly 9,000 years ago), as well as during its lifespan. How do we know this? The tree ring patterns (controlled largely by the weather, as to how far apart they are, etc.) match up. This poses a MAJOR problem to the flood. If the older fossilized trees had been alive, they managed to survive the flood. That's not possible. They would have drowned, or crushed by the weight of the water.

To break it down:

4,000 year old tree with specific growth ring patterns.

Fossilized trees with same ring patterns plus 5,000 years before 4,000 year old tree.

Keep comparing ring data....

IF there was a world wide flood, the trees would be killed off and there would be no overlap in ring growth at some point.

This is not what we see... So the trees continued to grow through a continuous period of time.

Carbon 14 dating is also in agreement with the ages.

Click here for some refutations to common creationist claims about tree rings.

2. Animal Burrows in the geologic column

Shrimp, insect, and other animals' burrows have been found throughout the geologic column. If there was a catastrophic flood dumping all the sediment at once, then how could animals have possibly burrowed through every single layer in the geologic column (which is about 15,000 feet deep or around 3 miles). All those sediments being dumped at once would have surely killed these creatures, and if not, it is grossly implausibe to think of them climbing through so much sediment! It fits much better with the idea of the sediments being laid down very slowly. Long before the sediments hardened into rock, the creatures would have had lots of time to burrow through the ground.

3. Fossilized Mudcracks

Fossilized mudcracks have been found in the geologic column, indicating it had time to dry out before being fossilized. Would a violent flood have preserved these? NO!

4. Plant Fossils

Plants have no way of "running for higher ground" or escaping in any way as creationists have suggested other animals did. So why did flowering plants not appear until the cretaceous period? Why didn't seeded plants appear until the devonian?

5. The Order of The Fossil Record

This one is a real doozy for creationists. Just why are sedentary, bottom dwelling fish found in higher strata? (Kitchins, "Living with Darwin") Why aren't flightless birds like the ostrich and emu found with dinosaurs? Why aren't human beings found with Australopithicenes? They have proposed several methods by which to explain why fossils just look like they have evolved, all of which have been refuted. Just listen to what Stephen Jay Gould said about this at the Arkansas Creation Trial,

"Another good example is in the evolution of single-celled creatures. It is a unicellular calcite called foraminifera. Many of the foraminifera are planktonic; that is, they are floating organisms. They all live in the same lake floating at the top or the upper waters of the oceans, they don't differ in hydrodynamic properties. They live in the same ecological zone, and they certainly don't differ in intelligence and mobility. They don't even have a nervous system.

And yet for the last twenty years there has been a worldwide program to collect deep sea cores from all the oceans of the earth. And in those cores, the sequence of planktonic foraminifera species are invariably the same. Each species is recognizable and lives in only a small part of the column; some at the bottom of the column, some at the top of the column. Those at the bottom do not differ from those at the top, either in intelligence, ecological examination, or hydrodynamic properties."

To be continued...

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Evolution of the Whale Ear

Answers in Genesis states this in their article on Pakicetus:

"The ‘whale’ status of Pakicetus received another potentially fatal blow. This came from a recent study of the semicircular canal systems in both living and fossil cetaceans (whales and dolphins).1 The semicircular canal system is a set of tubes connected to the inner ear that provides information on head (and therefore also body) movements. The tubes are filled with small, solid particles suspended in liquid. The inner surfaces of the tubes are covered with sensors that show which way the contents are flowing. This organ gives us our sense of balance.

To the surprise of the international team of scientists, the cetaceans, both living and fossil, all had the same ‘unique’ small canal size—about three times smaller than all other mammals, when corrected for body size.1 The researchers suggested that the canal system had to be small to reduce the sensitivity, thus preventing information overload as the animals rolled around.1 They concluded that the early whales had semicircular canals unlike those of any non-cetacean mammal. This, they said, shows that even the ‘earliest’ whales had unique behaviour, suited to aquatic life.

But while the paper defended whale evolution, the detailed analysis demonstrated a sharp gap in relative sizes between whales and non-whales, including the pakicetid Ichthyolestes (creationists would probably group it into the same created kind as Pakicetus). There were no examples of slow and gradual shrinking of the canals—they were either one relative size or the other.2 In fact, the paper affirms that the alleged change in canal structure happened ‘instantaneously’ and produced a ‘unique’ apparatus."

So the shrinking of the semicircular canals happened "instantaneously"; and it of course follows from this that evolution is wrong. Right? Uh-Uh. You see, the fact that the evolution of the canals happened rapidly while the evolution of the rest of the body happened more slowly is not evidence against evolution. These canals are used for maintaining balance. Movement in the water, and balance in the water, would be very different from movement and balance on land. These canals would be a very important step in evolution, and therefore this adaption would spread much quicker than other adaptions might. The Science Blog Afarensis has a good article on this.

The same type of claims about semicircular canals have been made before, except with Apes and humans instead of whales. The man that AiG references, Fred Spoor, has admitted that "Any link between the characteristic dimensions of the human canals and locomotion will be more complex than a simple association with the broad categories of quadrupedal vs. bipedal behavior." So the inner ears are just not enough to draw any simple conclusions from.

One last thing: AiG claims that Pakicetus is a fully terrestrial mammal, and not aquatic. The Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine has a different story to tell:

"The skulls of pakicetids have an ear region that is highly unusual in shape, and only resembles that of modern and fossil whales. These features are diagnostic for cetaceans, they are found in all cetaceans, and in no other animals. These features are main why pakicetids are considered whales. In many other features, pakicetids are also similar to some whales, but those features are not shared by all whales. An example of the latter is the dentition. Pakiceid teeth look a lot like those of fossil whales, but are unlike those of modern whales. Pakicetids did not live in the sea. The rocks in which their fossils are preserved indicate that the bones were buried in a shallow stream, and that the climate was hot and dry. It is likely that pakicetids waded in these streams. Their bones are unusually thick, possibly an adaptation to make the animal heavier counteracting the buoyancy of the water."

So there are many indications that they are ancestors of whales, and that they were semi aquatic.

It's sad that AiG does absolutely no research to back up their claims. They make blind and bold assertions that simply have no basis in science. This is such a very clear cut case of evolution, too. Pakicetus was found in the early Eocene strata, Ambulocetus was found in the early to middle Eocene, and Rodhocetus was found in the mid to late Eocene. It's very sequential.

For more on the evolution of whales visit:

The Evolution of the Whale Ear

The Evolution of Echolocation

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

ICR gets owned!! Experiments that Verfiy Evolution

In ICR's article "Just How Well is Evolution Proven?" John Morris stated a challenge: "Now devise an experiment to verify evolution. Keep trying. There must be one. I suspect even Dr. Rusewould be unable to propose an experiment to verify evolution like we verified our mathematical equation. Even if both statements are facts, obviously they are not the same kind of facts."

I emailed ICR a list of experiments that verify evolution. My words are in plain letters, ICR's response is in italics (A lady by the name of Cynthia Carlson responded to me), and my final response is in bold. After two weeks they have not emailed me back, but if they do I will post their follow up.

Experiments that verify evolution

1) The first is one that anyone can observe. Think of viruses. Think of how they spread. They go around and around in the population, affecting it over and over.
We know that people become immune to viruses, but they keep spreading. Why is this? It is because viruses mutate and evolve over time, making it possible for
the virus to become something new by the time it goes around again.

Yes viruses mutate, but what is the nature of mutations? The virus
causes a new form of disease but the virus isn't "something else," it is
still a virus. Creationists understand that things change--the argument
is over the nature of that change. New viruses creating new diseases is
not evolution.

What this shows is that DNA can change within a population. Evolution is a shift in gene frequency of a population, so this does illustrate evolution. Creationists argue that an organism cannot change "kind"; but just exactly why not? DNA can change, so where is the limit to stop it from changing even more? Why can't it change a good deal over a long period of time?

2) Experiments showing that unicellular organisms can evolve into multicellular organisms. Shikano, et al. (1990) reported that an unidentified bacterium underwent a major morphological change when grown in the presence of a ciliate predator. This
bacterium's normal morphology is a short (1.5 um) rod. After 8 - 10 weeks of growing with the predator it assumed the form of long (20 um) cells. These cells have no cross walls. Filaments of this type have also been produced under circumstances similar to Boraas' induction of multicellularity in Chlorella.
Microscopic examination of these filaments is described in Gillott et al. (1993). Multicellularity has also been produced in unicellular bacterial by predation (Nakajima and Kurihara 1994). In this study, growth in the presence of protozoal grazers resulted in the production of chains of bacterial cells.

There are organisms that live both as colonies and as individuals such
as the different forms of chlamydomonas. These colonies act like a
single organism but they can still live as single individuals if the
colony breaks up. They are not becoming another life form, they are just
working together. The next step for a bacterium is to obtain a nucleus
and the endosymbiotic theory also has its problems. Again, it has never
been observed.

Here is what I was talking about from Talk Origins: "Shikano, et al. (1990) reported that an unidentified bacterium underwent a major morphological change when
grown in the presence of a ciliate predator. This bacterium's normal morphology is a short (1.5 um) rod. After 8 - 10 weeks of growing with the predator it
assumed the form of long (20 um) cells. These cells have no cross walls. Filaments of this type have also been produced under circumstances similar to Boraas'
induction of multicellularity in Chlorella. Microscopic examination of these filaments is described in Gillott et al. (1993). Multicellularity has also been produced in unicellular bacterial by predation (Nakajima and Kurihara 1994). In this study, growth in the presence of protozoal grazers resulted in the production of chains of bacterial cells."

This bacteria became multicellular. Of course, you argue it could go back to unicellularity, but so what? It still shows how multicellularity can evolve, and
just because all cells are not dependant on one another means nothing, this is what you would expect.

3. Observing the genome of the 'Nylon Bug' Bacteria
before and after it adapted the function to consume

Example 3: Nylon eating bacteria. This is an interesting adaptation but
hardly evolution.

It is evolution. A mutation occured that added a nucleotide to the genome which was useful and allowed the bacteria to survive better. The mutation spread through the population. It is a perfect example of evolution.

This website features a refutation of aig:

4. Observing the order of the fossil record from simple to complex. Also note the thousands of transitional fossils like Pakicetus, Ambulocetus, Australopithecus Afarensis, Homo Habilis, Homo Erectus, etc.

This is not really a good assessment of the fossil record. For one
thing, the fossil record begins with complexity in the Cambrian
Explosion (even if you start with the Ediacaran, there is no transition
forms between the algae and bacteria found there to the complex marine
life in the Cambrian). Secondly, very few fossils can be discovered in a series (especially hominid fossils, their existence in the fossil record
all overlap). Thirdly, the fossil record doesn't show evolution, it
shows death. You have to assume uniformitarian ages and evolution to
"see" evolution in the fossil record.

You will find that the so-called transition fossils fall apart on close
examination. The transition is usually based on one transition bone, or
trait. There are countless thousands of things that need to change to
turn one basic kind into another. 90% of those things cannot be seen in
a fossil because only the structural parts fossilize.

"The Late Precambrian and Early Cambrian fossil record of the metazoan phyla shows the same pattern as that of class- and order-level taxa in the Phanerozoic. Near the origin of these higher-level taxonomic categories, the boundaries between the taxa become blurred and fossils become difficult to classify. Moving back in time toward their presumed point of diversion from a common ancestor, organisms belonging to separate phyla converge in morphology. Several Early Cambrian organisms possess morphologies that bear similarities to more than one phylum, making their placement in existing phyla a matter of dispute. This classification problem is resolved either by erecting new phyla or by broadening definitions to include the new forms.

Some Late Precambrian Ediacaran fossils (~580-560 Mya) bear strong resemblances to colonial coelenterates called pennatulids, or sea pens. Others appear to have been solitary coelenterate medusoids attached to the sea floor. Some of these medusoid fossils show clear impressions of tentacles around their margins. There are also sack-shaped organisms interpreted as sea anemones. Although Seilacher has questioned the placement of many Ediacaran fossil forms in living phyla, he also recognizes the presence of a group of sand-filled cnidarian coelenterates he has called the
Psammocorallia. The fossil record thus indicates that the Late Precambrian was dominated by solitary
and colonial coelenterates that may have included all four living cnidarian classes.18 Recently spicules from sponges of the class Hexactinellida have been
identified in Ediacaran age rocks.19 There is also evidence for the presence of arthropods as well as echinoderms before the beginning of the Cambrian."

Secondly, very few fossils can be discovered in a series (especially hominid fossils, their existence in the fossil record all overlap).

There are many series. Horses, Whales, Hominids, etc. and their are plenty of them. Over 4,000 hominid fossils according to Talk Origins. Most reputable websites will tell you that the fossil hominids are at least in the hundreds. Overlapping is not a problem, I don't see why it would be. If you understand Punctuated Equilibrium, the problem is solved.

"Thirdly, the fossil record doesn't show evolution, it
shows death. You have to assume uniformitarian ages and evolution to "see" evolution in the fossil record."

Uniformitarianism is a reasonable assumption. Processes working now worked in a similar way in the past. The fossil record does show evolution, I don't see how anyone can deny it. The first fossils are unicellular, and an increase in complexity is seen from there. There aren't any humans buried with dinosaurs, there aren't any fossil rabbits in the precambrian. Life changed over time.

"You will find that the so-called transition fossils
fall apart on close examination. The transition is usually based on one transition bone, or trait. There are countless thousands of things that need to change to turn one basic kind into another. 90% of those
things cannot be seen in a fossil because only the structural parts fossilize."

No. I've looked into the transitional forms extensively, and even listened to the criticisms. I found they did not hold up. (NOTE: This website examines many of the creationist claims about transitional fossils, and their criticisms do NOT hold up. Almost all of the transitionals are based on near complete skeletons, and many times more than one fossil of the species).

5. Observing Retroviruses in action and how they can be inserted into the genome at random. Verify for yourself that the process is random. Once you are done, observe the genomes of primates and humans and note the ERV's which are in the very same places. This is a surefire indicator of common descent.

The evolutionary assumption is two organisms share the same trait (or
gene) because they have a common ancestor. This is still assumed and
observed such as 2 + 2 = 4. Creationists would expect organisms to
traits, cells, genes, energy pathways, etc. because God made them that
way-a common designer instead of common ancestor.

We think the arguments for creation-design, complexity (especially of information, DNA), beauty, stasis in the fossil record, living fossils and many others trump the evidence for evolution. Thanks for writing.

Complexity can be produced by evolution. Computer models have shown this. After billions of years of Natural Selection, what wouldn't be complex?
You are right that Our world is beautiful, but it's broken and needs patching up in a lot of places. Stasis in the fossil record is predicted by Punctuated Equilibrium. I have an article about living fossils here:

Sunday, September 16, 2007

We declare shenanigans on Kent Hovind

UPDATE: RabidApe and RRS are back on youtube, so for now, the best thing to do is to upload the videos from RRS's website and post them on your account:

Kent Hovind may be in prison, but his organization, Creation Science Evangelism, is still operating. They have filed false copyright claims with youtube in order to remove videos criticizing Kent Hovind. They are using illegal means to cover up the truth and censor free speech. This needs to make media news so that they can be exposed once and for all. I am asking my readers to join me in emailing the following organizations about this:


On a side note, Kent's quarter-million dollar offer to prove evolution was recently accepted. Evolution was proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and the article written by Adam Kisby was published in Skeptic magazine.

Questions for Creationists

Here are some questions I have for creationists. I am not trying to be mean or malicious, but I feel these questions must be answered before creation can be considered anything like a valid scientific proposal.

1. What about the 'missing links'? Creationists write them off as either completely human or completely primate, but how can this be? We have archaic forms of homo sapiens with primitive traits, and we have upright apes with large craniums (Australopithicus Afarensis). What were all these subhuman creatures doing walking the earth?

2. What about atavisms?

3. What about ERVs?

4. What about the order of the fossil record? Why aren't dinosaurs and man found together? Three main mechanisms were proposed, but Stephen Jay Gould set you straight on that in the Arkansas trial. So just why does the fossil record appear to show evolution?

5. What would falsify creation?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Humphreys' Fourteen Evidences for a Young World Gets Ripped

In this post, I am going to go through Answers in Genesis' "Evidences for a Young World" and dispel each and every one of them. I rely heavily on Talk Origins, but plenty of the links on more interesting topics are from other websites, so check em out!

1. Galaxies Wind Up too Fast
According to Dr. Ray Carlberg of the University of Toronto:
"There is observational evidence that nearby companion galaxies or an asymmetric, bar-shaped concentration of mass can drive a spiral wave in the disk of the galaxy."

2. Too few supernova remnants
Our universe is estimated to be 13.7 billion years old, and stars formed at an indefinite time after that. Most stars have a lifespan of about 10 billion years, and many are so far away (millions of light years) that we would not see their supernova until long after it happened. Lastly, supernova remnants have been observed (about 167,000 light years away), which contradicts the idea of a young universe.

3. Comets disintegrate too quickly.

It is true that comets have a lifespan of about 10,000 years; it is also true that the Kuiper belt contains them, thus it is not a problem for them to be less than 10,000 years old.

4. Not enough mud on the sea floor.
Apparently Mr. Humphreys is unaware that Erosion and Plate Tectonics can remove mud. Research your claims next time buddy!

5. Not enough sodium in the sea

Apparently Mr. Humphreys figured this up this up without properly estimating the amount of sodium lost in the alteration of basalt. They omit sodium lost in the formation of diatomaceous earth, and they omit numerous others mechanisms which are minor individually but collectively account for a significant fraction of salt. He was contacted about this, yet he has not corrected it.

6. The earth’s magnetic field is decaying too fast.
No, it doesn't decay, the earth's magnetic field has weakened, strengthened, and changed polarity many times in earth's history, and real, testable evidence for this exists.

7. Many strata are too tightly bent.

Actually, if these strata were bent quickly, they probably would have fractured. Take a piece of silly putty, for instance, and try to pull it apart quickly. Try this again, but this time slowly. You will find that the quicker you pull it apart, the less it stretches. The principal behind rocks bending over long periods of time rather than instantaneously is the same.

8. Biological material decays too fast.
Two claims are made here that should be addressed:
a)Mitochondrial Eve is 6,000 years old

She's no younger than 120,000 years old.

b) Soft tissue and blood cells from a dinosaur have astonished experts
New York Times reported:
Earlier hopes of finding cells in the dinosaur bone have been dashed. Dr. Schweitzer said she could see no direct sign of cells, although a chemical stain that recognizes DNA picked up something in the holes where the bone cells would have rested. But she said she had been unable to retrieve DNA that could be identified as originating in a dinosaur. She and her colleagues had better luck in looking for heme, the oxygen carrying part of the hemoglobin molecule of the blood.

9. Fossil radioactivity shortens geologic “ages” to a few years. (Radiohalos)

Amateur scientist John Brawley investigated Gentry's claims directly by studying local rock samples, and concluded that there is no good evidence that these "polonium" haloes are actually produced by polonium at all, as opposed to longer-lived radionuclides such as radon or uranium.

10. Too much helium in minerals.

The helium results could easily be due to an aberrant sample. They could be an artifact of the experimental or collecting method (e.g., defects in the zircons caused by rapid cooling) or from just plain sloppiness.

Helium deposits are common in New Mexico, and excess helium has been found just a few miles from where the sample was taken. Source:

11. Too much carbon 14 in deep geologic strata.

New C14 is formed from background radiation, such as radioactivity in the surrounding rocks. In some cases, C14 from the atmosphere can contaminate a sample. Some things that can contaminate the sample: Sulfur bacteria, which commonly grow in coal, Secondary carbonates from groundwater that form on fracture surfaces, and Whewellite, a carbon-containing mineral, that often forms as coal weathers.


12. Not enough Stone Age skeletons.
Estimates that there should be 8 billion buried dead from the stone age, yet only a few thousand are found.

I wonder if he ever considered that over thousands of years the bodies might decay so badly that we wouldn’t have anything to find? Or perhaps some people were cremated (who knows?); or perhaps the grave markers wore away and the bodies are buried some place as of yet undiscovered. In any case, the number of bodies found does not prove the stone age was short.

13. Agriculture is too recent.
Um…. No. Anyone who studies civilization will know that we went through a hunter-and-gatherer period in which there was no agriculture. There is evidence of agriculture from 11,000 years ago, which is a little too ancient for Humphreys’ 6,000 year old earth. There is DNA Evidence that dogs were domesticated 100,000 years ago.

14. History is too short.

You don’t suppose maybe writing had not evolved? Apparently he doesn’t. Australian rock art has been discovered dating from 40,000 years old, which ties in to the DNA evidence that shows Australian Aboriginals diverged from an Asian population 40,000-70,000 years ago.

Also, there is an ancient Sanskrit manuscript that tells of a lake that existed in Kashmir. According to modern geological reporting, about 40,000 years ago Kashmir was indeed a lake in the valley of Kashmir in northern India. It was covered by a huge lake and it was blocked on the southern end by a little range of mountains. And at a certain point, something happened and it broke open and the lake drained out. And if it is to be taken literally, then it means that somebody must have seen this lake as it existed 50,000 years ago and wrote about it.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Lucy, You got some 'splaining to do!

*Sigh*, They just can't leave us alone about the transitional fossils, can they? Dr. David Menton has done a video series down at Answers in Genesis, called "Lucy- She's No Lady!" In this video he leaves his specialty of cell biology and dives right in to paleontology. It attempts vigorously to destroy the famous fossil as a human ancestor, and does so mainly by deceit. I'm not going to address every fallacy this man makes, but I will address the most important ones. First of all, we should know that this man is dishonest because in one segment of the film he claims that "Human evolution is imagination rich and data poor"; while in discussing Lucy he admits that all the Australopithicus specimens found do give us a good idea of what she looked like. He then proceeds to give us his opinion that all "Ape-Men" are either exaggerated Apes or 'down-played' humans. This statement is made in spite of the fact that Lucy is 40% complete; and in spite of the fact that other fairly complete homind fossils exist. Now, the first substantial charge he makes against Lucy is that her pelvis was 'doctored' to make it appear more human-like. Talk Origins wrote a refutation to this claim (though they addressed another creationist):

"This is based on the first episode of the NOVA series In Search of Human Origins, where Johanson does make statements that could, for those of a conspiratorial turn of mind, be interpreted as an admission of having doctored the bones. Reading the transcript carefully, however, it is clear that the bones had been originally been broken and the pieces fused together during fossilization. As scientist Owen Lovejoy explained on the show, the bones were originally in an 'anatomically impossible position', so he broke a cast of the fossil (not the original!) in an attempt to reverse the damage which occurred during fossilization."

So the bones were broken and fused together during fossilization, making them impossible to fit together. Those pieces were removed, and Lucy was reconstructed the way she would have been. No deception there, eh?

Moving on, Menton quotes Dr. David Pilbeam from his review of Leakey's Origins (In the May-June 1978 issue of American Scientist) as saying:

"My reservations concern not so much this book but the whole subject and methodology of paleoanthropology…Perhaps generations of students of human evolution, including myself, have been flailing about in the dark; that our data base is too sparse, too slippery, for it to be able to mold our theories. Rather the theories are more statements about us and ideology than about the past. Paleoanthropology reveals more about how humans view themselves than it does about how humans came about."

It appears as if Dr. Pilbeam is admitting a horrible truth about evolution: It's all based on your "world view" and there isn't enough evidence to say for sure. But did he really say that? A trip to American Scientist shows that no review for Leakey's book was written in the May-June 1978 issue. Not only that, but there is no article by Dr. Pilbeam in that issue. A google search for the quote only turned up creationist sites, so I am inclined to be suspicious, especially knowing creationists' long track record of misquoting.

All in all, he hasn't presented any objections which are both correct and verifiable; and it is safe to say he poses no threat to Lucy.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Flipping AiG the Bird

I came across an article on Answers in Genesis which had a rather outrageous claim. It quoted Evolutionary Biologist Alan Feduccia saying, "Paleontologists have tried to turn Archaeopteryx into an earth-bound, feathered dinosaur. But it's not. It is a bird, a perching bird. And no amount of 'paleobabble' is going to change that." I emailed Feduccia about this, and he responded,

"Hi, Ryan,

Yes, of course this is preposterous. I was the person who coined the
phrase in 1980 that, "Archaeopteryx is a Rosetta Stone of evolution!"

Archaeopteryx is clearly transitory between reptiles and birds; the
question is: what group of reptiles. The current dogma is that birds
are directly derived from theropod dinosaurs, but there are numerous
serious problems with this proposal, namely,

-the time line is all wrong.
-requires a ground-up origin of flight.
-many characters don't match, especially the digits.
-requires that all sophisticated flight architecture be evolved in an
earth-bound, flightless dinosaur!!

At any rate count on the creationists to misquote people to foster

Best wishes, alan"

These two articles, one from AiG and the other from another creationist site both contain the following sentence:
"Dr. Alan Feduccia, a world authority on birds at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an evolutionist himself, said" Followed by Feduccia quoted out of context. Coincidence?

Update: The science blog Pharyngula has made a post concerning Jonathan Sarfati's article on bird evolution, and the objection to dinosaur/bird evolution based on dino and bird digit differences, I highly recommend it:

Icons of Evolution?

Remember Jonathan Well's book "Icons of Evolution"? It listed 10 supposed evidences for evolution and then attempted to debunk them. It also made a huge deal out of the fact that these were used in textbooks and thus, scientists were lying to school children about the facts. Of course, Wells was debunked himself countless times, shown as dishonest, and of course exposed as a religiously fanatic mooney. Anyway, my seventh grade brother brought home his science text book today and I took a look at it. I was caught by
surprise when I found that only one of these so called "Icons" was listed in his book. The "Icon" which was listed was Homology. Wells' argument is that
"textbooks define homology as similarity due to common ancestry, then claim that it is evidence for common ancestry -- a circular argument masquerading as scientific evidence."

So, is the argument really circular? No. Homology is evidence of evolution because it could only be due to evolution. Similarity is what you would expect if organisms had evolved and adapted the same structure for different functions. On the other hand, if it was specially created then each organism could have been completely different from the other. A whale could reproduce like a fish does instead of having tiny leg
bone remanants it uses to reproduce, just like land mammals. A bird might have a biological jet pack to propel it through the air instead of having to flap its wings. Those things would be evidence of
design, and punch a hole in the concept of common descent. Nick
Matzke has given his take on this here. In closing, I recommend that textbook writers abandon the supposed "Icons" rather than defend them.
Reusing these examples only opens you up to attack from ignorant fundamentalists. Besides, it is very easy to find examples of Natural Selection other than the Peppered Moths, so substitutions for all of these icons can easily be found.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

AiG and ICR team up to bash Dawkins... But it backfires!

Remember the video which allegedly showed Richard Dawkins unable to answer a simple question? Well, according to this article on Stephen Jay Gould's website, it was a hoax. Not only that, but a hoax formulated by the two leading creationist groups in America, Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research. This need to hoax illustrates how desperate these organizations are to discredit Dawkins when they have to stoop to such low levels to manufacture negative publicity in this way.
He was asked to produce an example of an "increase in information to the genome". It's unthinkable that Dawkins would not know the answer to the question, a zoologist with as much experience as him knows of insertion mutation, Gene Duplication, and Polyploidy. All of these have been observed to add to the genome in a positive way, which is what I interpret 'information' to mean. Let me say it again, these people are NOT TO BE TRUSTED. For anything. This blog alone has caught AiG in several examples of outright deception. And as for ICR, I will just leave you with Frank Zindler's account of dealing with them, and the cases of Duane Gish's deception.

As a Final note, the youtuber who uploaded this video claimed in the description that Dawkins no longer debates creationists because he was sorely beaten in a 1986 debate. If this is true, then why does Dawkins have the debate posted on his website?

Living Fossils

Today I came across a page on AiG called "Living Fossils Enigma". It lists several living fossils an then tries to use them to refute evolution. First off, I'm going to refute the reason he gives for living fossils challenging evolution:

"[Evolutionists think] the key to success is to ‘be abundant and live everywhere’,1 i.e. to be an opportunistic generalist, not fussy about food and habitat. However, many ‘living fossils’ are in fact highly specialised, such as the coelacanth, superbly suited to living in deep-sea caves."

I wonder how much deep sea caves have changed over the past 400 million years? I'm thinking not much. Deep Sea caves could, and probably would, remain unaffected by things like meteor strikes and climate changes.

Next, let's talk about the coelacanth. Marine Bio lists the modern day Coelacanth in a different genus and species than the fossil coelacanth.

So it's not just in a different species, it's in a different genus than the fossil fish. Answers in Genesis should have known that, but they continue with their deceptive implication that this is just like the fossil pulled out of the ground.

In another article AiG claims the Wollemi Pine as a living fossil. They use this to cast doubt on the fossil record as recording time as it was. Well, first of the bat, we need to note that these Wollemi Pines are very, very rare. The article even says that there are less than 40 known specimens. That would account for it not showing up in the fossil record. Another thing is the fact that these trees are very diverse. Brooklyn Botanic Garden had this to say:
"The Wollemi pine, the ultimate survivor, is proving to be hardy and versatile in cultivation. It is not only attractive and striking in appearance, it is easy to grow and low maintenance.

It will adapt to a diverse range of climatic zones, thriving in full sun to semishaded outdoor positions."

So it's not unthinkable that such a diverse tree would last so long.

They also use the examples of Horseshoe crabs, cock roaches, etc. They're forgetting some changes, like that of the immune system, can't be recorded. And again, if selective pressures don't change signifigantly, neither does the organism. They are setting up a false caricature version of evolution in which organisms must always change drastically no matter what. And anyone who has studied evolution at a proper university should know that's not the case.