Thursday, February 28, 2008

Bizarre Answers in Genesis Paper

The wackiness of AiG's "peer reviewed" 'journal' has surprised even me. Take a look:

Because one is tangible and the other intangible, the physical and metaphysical are generally treated separately. But this dichotomy is illogical; at the very least it is inconsistent with reality, for the two are inseparable. A basic introduction to the principle issues in quantum physics is provided to stress two points: (1) our physical reality consists mostly of empty space, electromagnetic energy, and information; and (2) the metaphysical implications of nonlocality as evidenced by studies in entanglement, quantum teleportation, and zero-point energy. Then the impossibility of three critical events is addressed: the spontaneous ex nihilo appearance of an exploding mass via its own nonexistent energy, the spontaneous generation of organic life from inorganic nonlife, and the spontaneous generation of a complex metaphysical reality from physical matter. This leads to an apology for the necessity of a creator.

Finally, a theory is set forth that reconciles inorganic, organic, and animated matter with the metaphysical realities of both the creator and the created. By coupling the metaphysical implications of quantum physics with the biblical understanding of God's attributes, the thesis is set forth that our immediate physical reality--consisting of empty space, electromagnetic energy, and information--is basically a hologram depiction of God's intent. God spoke and it was so. Since creation, God's Spirit has continued to energize and interact with the universe in an entangled nature at the quantum level. Similarly, the individual metaphysical reality (the spirit) of each animated being interacts with its individual corporal body via this same entangled nature at the subatomic level.

Man being created in the image of God, freewill, the existence of evil, and redemption are also addressed. And finally, because man is a special creature created in God's image, it follows that man, merely by intent, has within him the ability, at least in a limited capacity, to cause change to his environment, this holographic reality; thus biblical healings and miracles occur. This concept could also provide an explanation for certain other human-generated phenomenon.

And look at this incredibly hypocritical statement:

There currently exist a number of people who believe the Great Pyramids of Egypt were built by aliens to serve as navigational devices--an outlandish claim to be sure, but actually no more unwarranted than is Darwin's evolution. One could argue their evidence and reasoning is as solid as that of Darwinism. What if a group of archaeologists were to take up this hypothesis and say: "Because some ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs seem to speak of bright lights and beings from the sky who taught technology; and because some of the giant stones, perfectly placed hundreds of feet high, weigh as much as 20 tons; we have concluded that the Great Pyramids of Egypt were constructed by aliens; and unless this can be proved incorrect we shall accept it as fact." No one in their right mind would take them seriously. Yet this is exactly what Darwin's proponents have done. From very sparse, selective, and controversial evidence at best, they have set forth the argument of a noncomplex universe in which simple life-forms slowly evolved into more advanced life-forms; and they expect it to be accepted as fact unless it can be proven wrong.

It boggles my mind how hypocritical this writer is. The Alien Theorists have the same evidence that Creationists do: Both argue that something is just too complex to be made by nature (made by man, in the case of the pyramid) therefore they must seek an outlandish explanation. Neither explanation is testable AT ALL; while standard alternatives to these wild ass guesses ARE TESTABLE. Let's give an example: We can't make any predictions or in any way test the alien theory of the pyramids. But the alternative, that the pyramids were built by limestone blocks cast in place, is testable.

Now let's turn it around: Is there any way we can test creationism? We can falsify a global flood, and a young earth/universe, but is there any way that we could possibly falsify creationism? I'd love to hear what the creationists have to say about proving it false, because as far as I know, any time creationism is tested to any extent, it fails.

On the other hand, evolution is definetly falsifiable. For instance: Let's suppose that genetics/biochemistry indicated human beings were more closely related to bullfrogs than African Apes (click the link, Duane Gish actually said this). That would extremely inconsistent with the notion of common descent. In fact, it would falsify common descent altogether. No way around it. On the other hand, that's not what turned out: Humans are more closely related to African Primates, especially the chimpanzee, than any other living thing on earth.

Let's take another example: What if we changes in the fossil record were way faster than observable changes today? That would be an excellent way to prove evolution false. Fortunately, rates of change have been observed that can account for even the fastest fossil record transitions.

These are just a few examples, for more, see the 29 Evidences for Macroevolution.


Monday, February 25, 2008

The Darwin Papers Fraud

I stumbled across a very intersting web page today called "The Darwin Papers". It was about the supposed fraud of Kathleen Hunt in her Transitional Vertebrates FAQ. I was going to quote the author, but when I left clicked, an alert popped up that said "Jesus Loves You". Very Bizarre. Anyway, toward the end of his essay he states that Dr. Hunt listed "Purgatorius" as a transitional fossil, even going so far as to describe them as "pointy-faced, small early mammals with mostly primitive teeth, and claws instead of nails. But they show the first signs of primate-like teeth; lost an incisor and a premolar, and had relatively blunt-cusped, squarish molars. " The Darwin Paper Author goes on to state how ridiculous he thinks this is, as Purgatorius, according to him, is based on only two teeth. I decided to check up on this claim. If you look at the primate fossils of her FAQ, you will see that she lists "Palaechthon, Purgatorius," before her description. Now as far as I have searched, Purgatorius is known mainly by its teeth, save one specimen that included a jawbone. But what about Palaechthon? Well, that's a different story. There's a fairly complete skull that was found (click here to see a Nature entry on it). Here is a website that contains information on several Palaechthons, and three different Purgatorius fossils.

Describing a fossil transition from a skeleton, skull, jawbones, and dozens of teeth (these being from many individuals) is a far cry from creating an in depth description based on two teeth. It may not seem like much, but the evidence of transition was made only from what we have, the dentation. Personally, I was much more impressed with the partial skeleton of Cantius Trigonodus, a so called "primitive lemur" as a transitional fossil.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Missing Link Feather Fossils

Make that three transitional fossils we have found this month.
(Click here to see the first and here to see the second).

Found Via Telegraph

As long as scientists have studied birds, they have puzzled over that most intricate of avian features - the feather.

Because it is a marvellous feat of biological engineering, it has been siezed on by creationists trying to find evidence of designs that lie beyond the abilities of evolution. Scientists themselves have squabbled over whether they first emerged to keep warm, to enable the first airborne creatures to fly from the ground, or so they could glide from bough to bough in trees.

The new fossils were found in a quarry in Charente-Maritime, western France, by Vincent Perrichot of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, with Dr Loïc Marion and Dr Didier Neraudeau of the University of Rennes, France. The designs display a flattened primary shaft which has branches, called barbs, which have not yet been fused by sub branches called barbules, marking a step towards the flattened shape of modern feathers.

With Dr Paul Tafforeau, from the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, Grenoble, they conclude that structure represents "an intermediate and critical stage" in the evolution of feathers that had been predicted but was hitherto undocumented by evidence from the fossil record.

They report the work in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, Biological Sciences.

"What is very important in our discovery is that we have found a new clear example of the gradual trend of the evolution in general and in particular in the case of the transition between a primitive filamentous down and a modern feather," says Dr Neraudeau. "Moreover, it shows that in many cases, when an evolutionary stage is predicted by the theory, it can often be found in the fossil record. It is a question of time.

"Thus, it does not really change our picture of evolution but it gives for the first time a proof of the gradual evolution of feathers from the primitive filaments of some theropod dinosaurs to the modern feathers of Archaeopteryx and Cretaceous birds," he says.

Since these kinds of feathers occur in both early birds and some dinosaurs, the fossils could have come from either, though the site does contain the teeth of a known feathered dinosaur.

The widely accepted idea that birds evolved from dinosaurs is based on the idea that small, specialised theropod - two-legged - dinosaurs and carnivorous, bipedal dinosaurs with three-toed feet gained an advantage by growing feathers leading to three highly contentious theories.

First, that feathers developed from a novel protofeather, rather than scales; second, that they originated for retaining heat, with the implications that body heat was generated internally in reptiles; and third, that such feathers, primarily unconnected with flight, eventually enabled the ancestor of birds to fly from the ground up, defying gravity.

The alternative theory of the evolution of flight, bearing in mind that the structures associated with flight would have been very poorly developed at first, was that birds took to the trees for safety.

From there, it was a relatively small step to developing gliding skills and then the ability to fly.

The first known bird is Archaeopteryx, which lived around 150 million years ago.

Photos of the feathers:

Friday, February 22, 2008

An Essay on Skepticism

This is an essay I wrote for English class, which I thought I'd share with my readers:

The Late Astronomer Carl Sagan once said, “Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence.” Yet millions believe in UFO’s, Monsters, Magic, Creationism, etc., with little or no positive evidence for these things. As far as I am aware, every time tangible evidence has been presented for any of these things, they have proven false. There must be an objective standard of proof that all of us keep in order to avoid being fooled by claims of pseudo-scientists and charlatans. The objective standard is skepticism. Skepticism is the position of suspending your belief in any claim which is made until evidence is presented for it. It also recognizes that science is tentative and subject to change. Therefore a skeptic should always know just what evidence would change his/her mind about something. This brings us to the question: What kind of evidence is good enough? If something tangible is presented to document the claim, and examined by experts of a relevant scientific field, then it is safe to say that it may be believed. For instance, if a live specimen of the Loch Ness monster were captured and confirmed by Zoologists*, we could be fairly certain that it was real. If an alien spacecraft were recovered and confirmed by Aeronauts, we could be fairly certain that it was real. In order to go about proving the paranormal, one has to rule out all natural explanations, and try very hard to prevent the subject from having any ability to pull any tricks. Skeptic James Randi offers to test those who claim supernatural abilities, and has even caught many alleged psychics like Uri Geller cheating while performing their “magic” (See his column in Skeptic, “’Twas Brillig…”). To date no one has passed Randi’s tests.

But alas, much of the public does not hold such skeptical standards. For example, many people believe in Lake Monsters such as the Loch Ness. But what evidence is there for these monsters? All they have to show is a few blurry photographs and grainy video recordings. In a review of the book “Lake Monster Mysteries” by Benjamin Radford and Joe Nickell, Daniel Loxton recounts how one video of ‘monster’ turned out to be an otter! Of course, many of the monster videos and photographs have been discovered to be hoaxes. There are still a few videos and photos which remain mysterious, keeping monster enthusiasts believing. What they fail to realize is that lack of a normal explanation does not constitute evidence that a paranormal one is correct.
Yet another example of this logic (or lack thereof) is found amongst those who believe extra-terrestrials have visited earth. In a special section of Skeptic Magazine called “Junior Skeptic” (Number 29) Daniel Loxton describes how an author named Erich Von Daniken claimed the pyramids to be such a technological leap for the Egyptians that it pointed to alien architecture. Von Daniken claimed that the Pyramids were too complex for even modern architects to construct, and that there were no primitive predecessors to the pyramids. Both of these claims are false. Recently scientists have figured out how the Egyptians built the pyramids, and it was by casting the blocks in place (they were made out of a kind of limestone cement). To answer their second argument: it has long been known that there were prototype pyramids; the ziggaruts for example.

It is going to take much more and much better evidence than has been presented so far to prove the existence of anything paranormal. Until then, we should disbelieve or reserve judgment concerning these things.

*How is it we can trust the scientists? As long as they had nothing to gain (like fame or money) from reporting a paranormal event, and assuming they were well respected (not fringe crackpots) in their field, we could be reasonably certain that their report was accurate.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Sadly, An Honest Creationist

Richard Dawkins wrote an excellent article about Dr. Kurt Wise. If you don't know already, Dr. Wise is a creation geologist who studied under the late, great Stephen Jay Gould. If anyone can make the case for creation, it would have to be him. Unfortunately, he can't. His Answers in Genesis article about his "favorite evidence for creation" is just another lame talk about the complexity of the eye. Wise discusses the Trilobite eye, which he says "far exceed the needs of the trilobite" (How could we know that about an organism that has been extinct for millions of years?). Another Aig Article states,

"'Every scientist has a set of presuppositions and assumptions that he never questions.' For evolutionists, he says, one of these is the conventional evolutionary assumption that all living things are descended from a common ancestor."

We can't prove common ancestry? Wanna Bet?

Anyway, check out Dawkins' article, it is very revealing.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Good Science Posts and News

This post is only going to consist of three links, two of them from Pharyngula, and a national geographic article I thought was neat.

PZ Meyers explains "Junk DNA" - A must read. I considered the Pseudogene argument as a kind of argument from ignorance ("I can't think of what it does, so it must be useless"), pardon the fact that experiment has shown some of it really is nonfunctional, but after reading this I now think of the pseudogenes we share with apes as being good evidence we share a common ancestor.

Deep Homology in the Pharyngeal Arches - "Fish have gills to regulate calcium, and we have parathyroid/thyroid glands to regulate calcium. Do they have anything else in common? One minor thing seems to be location: gills are in the fish's 'neck', and the parathyroid glands are located at roughly the same place, in your neck—and that's interestingly coincidental, since there's no particular need for these glands to be in that particular location."

Are Habitable Planets Common? - A really cool NatGeo article discussing a new study that suggests habitable planets are more common than we thought. Keep in mind that we still don't know how many of these planets may develop life (No one knows in full the odds of abiogenesis), and out of the planets that do develop life, only a few, or perhaps only us, have intelligent life.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Rabbi, Rabbi

Atheist Christopher Hitchens and Rabbi Schmuley Boteach (You may know him from Shalom in the Home) recently had a debate on (what else?) the existence of God. To be perfectly clear, I like the Rabbi. The work he does in bringing families together and counselng those in need is very admirable. However, during the debate, Rabbi Boteach made some outrageous claims about the theory of evolution. He says he believes in evolution, only with guidance by God, but firmly rejects the notion that our existence can be explained naturally. One of the most outrageous claims made is that Stephen Jay Gould did not believe in Evolution (but rather, "punctuated equilibrium"). That is demonstratably FALSE. See Gould's essay, "Evolution as a Fact and Theory". This essay gives a brief summary of Punc. Equ.; as well as several examples of transitional forms which Rabbi Boteach demanded. I might also mention the two new transitional forms discovered recently, one of a bat and another of an alligator. Something else well worth mentioning is the brute fact that Puncutated Equilibrium is not needed to explain the gaps of the fossil record, as we have directly observed change above the fastest known fossil transitions (See Kenneth Miller's book Finding Darwin's God).

Yet another error the Rabbi made was in quoting Julian Huxley as stating that the evolution of a horse is so astronomically improbable that it would never happen. Richard Carrier has dealt with this claim before, and as it turns out, Julian calculated the odds of a horse evolving without Natural Selection. As it happens, this is an excellent way we could falsify evolution. If current rates of genetic change could not be used to account for the theoretical genetic change of the past, evolution would be in big trouble. As it turns out, the rates of change we observe today fit nicely with the rates of change needed in the past (in order for evolution to occur).

Finally, I'm going to conclude with an explanation of Punctuated Equilibrium:

Punctuated Equilibrium basically means that species originate in small, isolated populations. They may be disconnected from the main population by a river, mountain range, or anything else. Over the course of several hundred to several thousand generations, this isolated population evolves into a new species. They are guaranteed to be a distinct species because of genetic drift. When the barrier that separates the new species from the old is no more, the two species will meet again. When they meet, they will no longer interbreed, but compete. Sometimes the new species will drive the old one into extinction.Now, if you were to examine the fossils from the large population, it would look as though a new species had originated suddenly. The new species may not have left behind any fossils in its small area, and it would come in and replace the old species without leaving any intermediates. This explains the pattern seen in the fossil record. Keep in mind that this would not explain major transitions, like that of reptiles to birds, just small ones, like between two species of conodont (see page 124 of Gould's paper). Now, all this may seem theoretical, but everything that has just been described has been observed before (save the part about fossilization). See Gould's papers on Punctuated Equilibria, or Richard Dawkins' chapter about it in his book The Blind Watchmaker.

Punctuated Equilibrium does NOT call on anything unobserved. In fact, Many people argue it is merely a form of gradualism, since nothing truly sudden occurs.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Cool New Fossil

Have you ever heard a creationist bring up the "sudden appearance" of bats in the fossil record, and complain about how there are no "transitional" forms between bats and small mammals? Evolutionists usually have to chalk the lack of bat fossils up to the poor preservation of the fragile animals or the incompleteness of the fossil record as a whole. That's beginning to change. Recently a 52 million year old bat fossil was found which lacked the ability to echolocate. The article states that it was probably an "agile climber" due to its long hind limbs. That is another sign that this is a transitional fossil. I can picture a small, mouse-like mammal scurrying up trees, and later evolving skin flaps and long limbs to glide down from the them. We will have to wait and see if fossils like that are found.

For more, see:
How to Make a Bat

Thursday, February 7, 2008

New Missing Link Found

Crocodilian 'Missing Link'

Paleontologist Felipe Mesquita de Vasconcellos presented the 80-million-year-old predator, dubbed Montealtosuchus arrudacamposi, during a news conference at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

The 5.5-foot-long (1.6-meter-long) Montealtosuchus was a long-limbed and extremely agile animal that roamed arid terrain in what is now the Brazilian countryside, de Vasconcellos said.
"As a missing link to prehistoric crocodiles, it offers us an excellent opportunity to study the evolutionary transition of these animals," de Vasconcellos said.

"It has a mix of morphological traits common in prehistoric crocodiles and in the ones that exist today."

Click Here To View.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Did Life Begin in Ice?

Remember my post about an icy origin of life? Well, I just found the full article over at Discover Magazine's website. Be sure to check it out, and read the whole thing (it is four pages but worth it).

Some Quotes:

"Miller had filled the vial in 1972 with a mixture of ammonia and cyanide, chemicals that scientists believe existed on early Earth and may have contributed to the rise of life. He had then cooled the mix to the temperature of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa—too cold, most scientists had assumed, for much of anything to happen. Miller disagreed. Examining the vial in his laboratory at the University of California at San Diego, he was about to see who was right.

As Miller and his former student Jeffrey Bada brushed the frost from the vial that morning, they could see that something had happened. The mixture of ammonia and cyanide, normally colorless, had deepened to amber, highlighting a web of cracks in the ice. Miller nodded calmly, but Bada exclaimed in shock. It was a color that both men knew well—the color of complex polymers made up of organic molecules. Tests later confirmed Miller's and Bada’s hunch. Over a quarter-century, the frozen ammonia-cyanide blend had coalesced into the molecules of life: nucleobases, the building blocks of RNA and DNA, and amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. The vial’s contents would support a new account of how life began on Earth and would arouse both surprise and skepticism around the world."

"Biebricher sealed small amounts of RNA nucleobases—adenine, cytosine, guanine—with artificial seawater into thumb-size plastic tubes and froze them. After a year, he thawed the tubes and analyzed them for chains of RNA.
For decades researchers had tried to coax RNA chains to form under all sorts of conditions without using enzymes; the longest chain formed, which Orgel accomplished in 1982, consisted of about 40 nucleobases. So when Biebricher analyzed his own samples, he was amazed to see RNA molecules up to 400 bases long. In newer, unpublished experiments he says he has observed RNA molecules 700 bases long. Biebricher’s results are so fantastic that some colleagues have wondered whether accidental contamination played a role. Orgel defended the work. “It’s a remarkable result,” he said. “It’s so remarkable that everyone wants better evidence than they would for an unremarkable result. But I think it’s right.”"

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Go, PZ, Go!

PZ Meyers displayed a lot of courage when he decided to go on a Christian radio program and debate an I.D. Proponent. He did a great job of pointing out the bait and switch tactics of the creationists, as well as showing how the opposition was not prepared to defend design. I highly recommend that anyone who supports creationism or I.D. listen to this debate and get an idea of what these issues are really about.