Saturday, October 31, 2009

PZ's Latest Posts

Head over to PZ Myer's blog. PZ has been summarizing some very interesting talks on Evolution and Biology. Among my favorites was this post about Phylogeny (Family Trees).

Friday, October 30, 2009

Should We Teach Creationism in Schools?

If any of you have picked up the latest issue of Skeptic Magazine, you'll notice the article "Its Time To Teach the Controversey" by Christopher Baum. Baum argues that it is time that we start seriously teaching what is wrong with creationism and what is right with evolution in the schools. Although some folks may liken that to mentioning Holocaust Denial in the classroom, Baum makes the point that about half of the U.S. population believes in Creationism, and so spending time talking about it is not like giving air time to a lunatic fringe position like Holocaust Denial.

I think Baum has a point. Public Schools ought to include in the curriculum explanations for what a "theory" is in the scientific context. They ought to include some of the massive amounts of evidence for Evolution, and explain why Evolution is the only known valid explanation for that evidence. They ought to explain what's wrong with creationism. They also ought to have a class or two in "Critical Thinking" which is something that one too many people lack these days.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Mark Your Calenders

Do live near Montgomery, AL? If so, then mark your calendar for November 8th. I will be giving a talk called The Superiority of Naturalism. I'll be discussing what Metaphysical Naturalism is and contrasting it to Supernaturalism. Some topics I'll discuss: How we go about deciding whether Naturalism or Supernaturalism is True, and how we should explain the world around us (naturally or supernaturally). I think it will be interesting, as I'm planning on discussing things like free will and consciousness as well as the origin of life and possible explanations for the origin of the universe.

If you're interested, just join Montgomery Freethought and stay tuned to their website for details on the location and precise time.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Mmm... I'm Hungry for Muffins!

Oh. My. Gawd. Someone has made a calender featuring 12 hot Mormon Moms:

Something about a religion that believes the first man and woman lived in Missouri really makes me hot. I guess looking at so much internet porn now has me craving really weird and specific stuff ; )

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Question For Intelligent Design Proponents

Here's something I posted on one of my favorite internet forums, Is God Imaginary? :

I'd love for someone here to present me with evidence for intelligent design. Intelligent Design, as I understand it, entails that one or more conscious intelligent agents designed life or altered living things in some way after they came into being. ID Theorists generally refrain from commenting on the nature of the designer, so the designer could (potentially) be of any intelligence level, have any number of possible desires, and have any general nature possible (Could be a supernatural God, or Super Evolved Aliens). If anyone commenting wants to discuss a particular ID hypothesis, rather than a general ID hypothesis, then feel free to state the hypothesis.

Now, what I want to know is this: Can someone show me some Arguments-to-the-Best Explanation for Intelligent Design? How about some empirical predictions made by Intelligent Design? Be sure to state the argument(s) and/or prediction(s) entailed by ID, and of course why these predictions follow from ID (or why the Argument leads directly to ID).

One more thing: Before you give an argument to design based on ordered complexity, you should be aware that other theories account for ordered complexity, too. Genetic Algorithms which work on the principles of Natural Selection generate incredibly complex and orderly systems that perform specific functions.

Here's how one member responded:

I was listening to a debate involving Kenneth Miller recently, and his contention was that all the evidence for creationism (I refuse to call it ID as it's the same thing and I never take well to rebranding. I still call "Snickers" bars "Marathon" bars for example) is so called "negative" evidence.He did this very well as the other side of the debate presented what he thought of as evidence and each and every time Miller showed how it fit "negative" evidence.Essentially what "negative" evidence means is that instead of proving theory 'X' you attempt to disprove theory 'Y' as if by doing so, no matter how successfully, you have proved 'X' by default. Essentially then the "evidence" for Creationism is to try and falsify evolution. Not only have they not even come close to doing this, even if they did falsify evolution to the point of literally decimating it entirely, this would not constitute a single scrap of evidence for Creationism.

And Here's How I Responded:

I don't think negative evidence is necessarily a problem. Perhaps if they showed that ID could explain more than Evolution they would have an argument. But it can't: ID can explain complexity in general, as Evolution can, but they haven't come up with any mechanisms the designer might have used that would predict anything more than the existence of complex structures (Which Evolution already predicts). And they also do not attempt to explain exactly how the designer thought of/designed any particular structure. Which means that they are in no position to criticize Evolutionists who haven't come up with a why and how for the evolution of certain biological structures.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Natural Selection Made SUPER EASY!

I think I've found a really good way to explain natural selection to kids, or their intellectual inferiors, the creationists (Just kidding, just kidding). Take a look at this site. Go to the game in which you can play as a bird eating the pretty peppered moths. Start gobbling them down! As you'll notice, at the end of the simulation, there are a lot more moths which match their backround (in the light forrest you end up with mostly light moths, in the dark forrest you end up with mostly dark moths). Think about how this applies in real life: In real life, the moths that had a survival advantage (matching their backround) would also have a higher chance of making baby moths, since you have to be alive to make baby moths (duh!). In the dark forrest, the dark moths (on average) will leave behind more offspring because the dark type survives more often than the light type. The children of the dark moths will usually inherit the coloring of their parents. Since the dark type is constantly becoming a bigger part of the population, eventually the whole moth population is dark. The takeaway lesson: A genetic change that helps an organism survive longer will usually be reproduced more until it is present in the entire population.

Now, creationists may scoff at this, calling the original peppered moth experiment flawed. But the moth experiment was redone, and with the results expected.

Nor can creationists say that mutation and selection don't produce complexity (or 'information'). I've debunked that claim numerous times, Just search my blog. Or watch this video that explains the evolution of the eye. And remember: At each stage of the evolution of the eye, the new stage (accomplished by mutations in the genome) becomes common because it gives the organism a better chance at survival. As we saw earlier: A genetic change that helps an organism survive longer will usually be reproduced more until it is present in the entire population.

Incidentally, the peppered moth evolution is also a good teaching tool for when someone asks, "If we came from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?" Of course, we didn't come from any species that's alive today, but we do share a common ancestor with chimps, gorillas, orangutangs, and so on. But humans did evolve from a creature I think we could call a monkey: We evolved from a primate that walked on all fours and was very hairy. So why are chimps and humans different? They were in different environments with different selective pressures (The selective pressure is the environmental condition that favors certain genetic changes over others). Go back to the moth simulation: Try out both versions. Go to the light forrest and then the dark forrest. Notice that in the light forrest you usually end up with mostly light moths. In the dark forrest you usually end up with dark moths. The populations are different because the selectve pressures are different: In the light forrest, the selection pressure is for light moths, and in the dark forrest, it is for dark moths. Back to humans and chimps: Human ancestors lived in different environments with different selective pressures than the chimp's ancestors. That is why they are different.

Now, if one wants to see the actual evidence that all living things evolved from one (or a few) original species, here's some material on the web that you can look at, and here are some books you can read.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Interesting News

PZ Myers will be debating a creationist on the subject "Should ID be taught in schools" on Nov. 16. Read about it here.

Joe Thornton wrote a response to Michael Behe's ramblings about his work here (this is good. Read it!).

Baptist Standard published a wonderful article on Christian inclinations to spread rumors.

Also, I found a wonderful website called The Conversational Atheist. It is worth exploring because it is so clever and so fresh. Especially his articles "The Resurrection of Zeus" and "Who Would Die for a Lie?" Both are very funny but are also completely valid, at least as far as I can see.

Friday, October 16, 2009

ShwaNerd and Infidel Guy

Hi guys,

Check out the latest episode of The Infidel Guy, which features youtuber ShwaNerd talking about his experience in an evangelical summer camp.

Also, because of my financial situation, I have decided to get a credit card and use it for things like gas and food until I graduate from college (should be December of this year). I haven't got it yet, but if you want to donate, please do so. Send paypal payments to:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Books on Evolution

Here's a list of books I recommend about evolution:

On the Evidence for Evolution

Books that show why Evolution is true.

1. Why Evolution Is True by Jerry Coyne. This is a magnificent book that gives several highly convincing lines of evidence to show that Evolution is true.

2. The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution by Richard Dawkins. Another excellent work that presents the evidence for evolution (albeit with some different evidences than the last book). Especially interesting is Dawkins' replies to creationist canards about the lack of transitional fossils.

3. The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution by Sean Carroll. A fascinating book on genetics and Evolution. I think it does a better job of explaining Natural Selection than the other two books, as well.

Defending Evolution from Creationist Attacks.

1. The Counter-Creationism Handbook by Mark Isaak. An excellent book that provides brief (and well researched) responses to nearly every creationist claim ever made.

2. Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction by Eugenie Scott. This book presents creationist arguments (usually in their own words from their own writings) followed by a scientific response.
3. Finding Darwin's God by Ken Miller. This is a very good and very unique response to classic creationism as well as the ID movement.

4. Intelligent Thought: Science versus the Intelligent Design Movement Edited by John Brockman. An intriguing collection of articles that will teach you a lot about evolution and more generally how to respond to intelligent design.

Learning About Evolution

Once you've seen that evolution is true and that creationism is false, you'll probably discover that evolution is fascinating and want to learn more about it. Here are some books to help you out there:

1. The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins. A classic book with lucid chapters on the origin of life, the evolution of altruism, and "memes".

2. Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution by Nick Lane. I'll be honest: A couple of chapters are boring. Still, this is an excellent read explaining how several complicated and very cool things evolved. And yes, creationists, there is a chapter on the eye.

3. At the Water's Edge : Fish with Fingers, Whales with Legs, and How Life Came Ashore but Then Went Back to Sea by Carl Zimmer. Look at the title of the book and tell me you don't want to read it.

4. The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution by Richard Dawkins. A massive book that treks through the entire evolution of life, from modern man all the way back to the primordial soup.

BONUS: Material on the Web that supports evolution.

The Origin of Genes

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

God the Creator?

The following article is from the Telegraph:

The notion of God as the Creator is wrong, claims a top academic, who believes the Bible has been wrongly translated for thousands of years. The Earth was already there when God created humans and animals, says academic.

Professor Ellen van Wolde, a respected Old Testament scholar and author, claims the first sentence of Genesis "in the beginning God created the Heaven and the Earth" is not a true translation of the Hebrew. She claims she has carried out fresh textual analysis that suggests the writers of the great book never intended to suggest that God created the world -- and in fact the Earth was already there when he created humans and animals. Prof Van Wolde, 54, who will present a thesis on the subject at Radboud University in The Netherlands where she studies, said she had re-analysed the original Hebrew text and placed it in the context of the Bible as a whole, and in the context of other creation stories from ancient Mesopotamia. She said she eventually concluded the Hebrew verb "bara", which is used in the first sentence of the book of Genesis, does not mean "to create" but to "spatially separate". The first sentence should now read "in the beginning God separated the Heaven and the Earth" According to Judeo-Christian tradition, God created the Earth out of nothing.

Prof Van Wolde, who once worked with the Italian academic and novelist Umberto Eco, said her new analysis showed that the beginning of the Bible was not the beginning of time, but the beginning of a narration. She said: "It meant to say that God did create humans and animals, but not the Earth itself." She writes in her thesis that the new translation fits in with ancient texts.

According to them there used to be an enormous body of water in which monsters were living, covered in darkness, she said. She said technically "bara" does mean "create" but added: "Something was wrong with the verb. "God was the subject (God created), followed by two or more objects. Why did God not create just one thing or animal, but always more?" She concluded that God did not create, he separated: the Earth from the Heaven, the land from the sea, the sea monsters from the birds and the swarming at the ground. "There was already water," she said. "There were sea monsters. God did create some things, but not the Heaven and Earth. The usual idea of creating-out-of-nothing, creatio ex nihilo, is a big misunderstanding."

God came later and made the earth livable, separating the water from the land and brought light into the darkness. She said she hoped that her conclusions would spark "a robust debate", since her finds are not only new, but would also touch the hearts of many religious people. She said: "Maybe I am even hurting myself. I consider myself to be religious and the Creator used to be very special, as a notion of trust. I want to keep that trust."

A spokesman for the Radboud University said: "The new interpretation is a complete shake up of the story of the Creation as we know it." Prof Van Wolde added: "The traditional view of God the Creator is untenable now."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Kent Hovind vs. Infidel Guy

Here's a very good (and rather old) call-in interview with creationist Kent Hovind from the Infidel Guy show. Several important points for debating creationists may be gleaned from this:

1. Setting up a format similar to a conversation is a good idea. With some debates, one guy gets 20 minutes to speak, the next guy 20 minutes, and so on. This is a bad idea, because creationists can throw out more baloney in 20 minutes uninterrupted than an Oscar Meyer factory in overtime. But if you can stop and discuss the issue, and pursue it to the conclusion, then one can see that creationism does not hold up. Listen to the way Hovind gets backed into corners in several instances.

2. If you debate a creationist, know your topic. Think of every possible objection the creationist could make (Be familiar with your opponent's views and look at your arguments through an opponents eyes). You can see that Hovind's opponents have done this, especially the guy who called in about Carbon Dating.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Reggie Asks for Help

I found the following video on youtube with this description:

A loving father asks for everyone's help in signing a petition for the gubment to change the legitimation laws in Georgia.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Still in Need of Help

Hi Everyone,

About a week ago I asked for financial help on my blog. Unfortunately, I'm in need of help again. Some of you were kind enough to open your hearts last time, and I'm hoping I can see the same again this time. If you like, you can send paypal payments to (or use the paypal donation button to your right).

PZ Myers Gives a Lecture on Complexity and ID

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Misunderstanding from Uncommon Descent

Uncommon Descent now has a dialogue up between Michael Behe and some guy named John McWhorter. Here's something McWhorter said that I found interesting:

I’ve always seen a certain kink in the whole natural selection argument. And I’ve always asked people this basic question, it’s about skunks. So if the idea is that there is this random mutation, and that certain random mutations end up spreading throughout a population because they convey some sort of fitness, then you have to go step by step by step. And this is something that I learned in particular from your book Darwin’s Black Box, that all these things have to happen incrementally. And I always thought to myself with the skunk, the skunk has this gland and this procedure where it shoots out this mist or this fluid that, you know, makes things run away. Okay. But what were the intermediate steps? Presumably there was some weasel-like creature that did not have that ability. And it’s easy to see evolutionarily how it would be advantageous to have that gland and to be able to squirt it at people. But, what were the intermediate steps? How was it that there was some sort of proto-skunk, where presumably it produced some tiny amount of malodorous chemical in its sweat in that part? And maybe just a hint of muscular tissue, and somehow this non functioning proto-version of the scent-squirter somehow helped that thing to propagate. What are the intermediate steps?

First of all, the fact that McWhorter can't think of intermediate step does not mean that they do not or can not exist. If that argument counted, then I could just as well ask McWhorter how the Intelligent Designer thought of the skunk and created it.

Second of all, According to Wikipedia, nearly all Mustelidae (the Family that skunks belong to) have anal scent glands, which they use for other functions, like marking territory and sexual signaling. There's an intermediate right there.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Review: The Greatest Show on Earth

The Greatest Show on Earthconstitutes must-read material for both evolutionists and creationists. If you care at all about how life came to be so complex and diverse, you should read this book. If you're an evolutionist, it will do you good to see the evidence of evolution and learn some good come-backs to creationist arguments. If you're a creationist, you ought to read this book so that you can take a look at the other side of things and fully understand the opposite view. If you want to argue against evolution, why not look at one of the best presentations of the evidence for it? Although it's not the perfect book on evolution, it's still a great (if lengthy) introduction.

What follows is a chapter-by-chapter analysis of the book:

Chapter 1 Only a Theory?

This is just a general introduction to the book which discusses the meaning of the word 'theory', how human beings can know things about the world, etc.

Chapter 2 Dogs, Cows, and Cabbages

Dawkins discusses the amazing wonders humans have wrought through selective breeding or 'artificial selection'.

Chapter 3 The Primrose Path to MacroEvolution

Artificial selection is discussed further, Sexual Selection is introduced, and finally Natural Selection is introduced. Dawkins discusses a fascinating experiment in Russia in which wild foxes were bred selectively for tameness until the breeders ended up with foxes that were very much like domesticated dogs. Dawkins closes by asking us to imagine: If so much progress and diversity can be achieved through selective breeding in a human lifetime, what if we had natural selection acting for eons upon species? This makes it very plausible that evolution can account for the diversity of life. Plausible, but not proven. Dawkins insists that we first confirm that the earth is very, very old, and so he devotes the next chapter to this.

Chapter 4 Silence and Slow Time

Dawkins explains elementary geology and radiometric dating. He also tackles a creationist explanation of the order in which we find fossils: Creationists, who believe that all of our fossils come from Noah's flood, have a problem with the fossil record. Instead of the fossils showing that all life has existed, essentially unchanged, from the very beginning, we see instead that life apparently changed over time: The earliest fossils are single celled organisms, later invertebrates, then vertebrates, then fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, etc. Creationists have sought to explain this by saying that marine invertebrates, like sea urchins, would not move very fast and so would have been buried first in the flood. Amphibians would have been buried next, since they are closest to the sea, and so on and so on. I was rather disappointed by Dawkins response: He only pointed out that this hypothesis just predicts a statistical tendency for some animals to be buried before others: Amphibians would, under this hypothesis, be less likely to be buried first. Dawkins points out that Darwinism predicts that there absolutely cannot be (for instance) a human skeleton buried very early in the fossil record. Darwinism gives a more precise prediction about the fossil record, and since we observe it to hold true, Darwinism is to be preferred.

It's not that this is a bad point. But creationists could attempt to say that we have so few fossils that we only see what's statistically likely. They are still not making a prediction as precise as Darwin's, but it's a little too close for comfort. What I would point out is that, first of all, the creationist theory, if it were true, predicts the following fossil record:






And there is something important to keep in mind: If fossils were buried in this order based on their ability to escape from flood waters, then we ought to find some strata with nothing but fish (few or no other animals). On top of that should lie strata with mostly or completely amphibian fossils, followed by strata with mostly or completely reptilian fossils, and so on. But we don't find this. What we find is that fish make their first appearance in the lower strata, but they don't disappear in later strata. We find fish throughout the fossil record. Ditto for the other groups of animals. The fossil record we have is one we would expect from Darwinism, not Creationism.

Later Dawkins attempts to dispel a creationist myth about radiometric dating: That the rate of radioactive decay may not be constant. Dawkins ask to imagine the complicated and improbable fiddling God would have had to do with the laws of physics in order to make each and every dating method inaccurate, and even worse: To make all the dating methods inaccurate but in total agreement with each other! It's an excellent point, but remember creationists do make other arguments against radiometric dating: Like that parent or daughter isotopes could be added, removed, etc. to the rock over time. However, one could adjust Dawkins' reply to this argument as well: It is still implausible to assume that numerous dating methods all reveal the same false age by means of random additions of daughter isotopes or random loss of parent isotopes.

Chapter 5 Before Our Very Eyes

Dawkins recounts several fascinating examples of evolution that have taken place within human lifetimes. Through these examples, Dawkins demonstrates that new genetic information can be produced by mutation, and enlightens us to the awesome power of evolution, which we are lucky enough to catch glimpses of.

Chapters 6 & 7

These chapters are essentially the same. One is devoted to transitional fossils of other animals, one is devoted to transitional fossils of humans.

Chapter 8 You Did It Yourself in Nine Months

A Fascinating Digression into embryology. I learned quite a bit from this chapter, but won't attempt to summarize it or what it has to do with the book's main point. You'll have to read the book yourself to find out!

Chapter 9 Ark of the Continents

Discusses the evidence that Biogeography provides for Evolution, and the problems it poses for creationists. Frank Zindler makes points very similar to Dawkins:

"Consider the mammalian fauna of Australia... The marsupial population of Australia contains animal families, genera, and species found nowhere else on earth - not even in fossil form. We are to suppose that each species of marsupial managed to get from Mt. Ararat to Australia, but couldn't find its way to any other part of the world - including those regions located between Turkey and Australia. Despite the fact that most marsupial species seem to be out-gunned when they are forced to compete with placental mammals (hence the extinction of so many marsupial species after the introduction of European mammals), we are to suppose that wombats and wallabies, bandicoots and koalas, kept ahead of lions-'n-tigers-'n-bears all the way to Indonesia, and then - although the superior placental predators couldn't manage it - continued on to Australia. As if this were not mind-boggling enough, after all this implausible world travel, and after all the dust had settled, it turns out that the types of marsupials that made it to Australia just happened to form an ensemble able to fill all the ecological niches available!"

Chapter 10 The Tree of Cousinship

Dawkins reviews the anatomical evidence for common descent: The commonalities in bone structure shared by all vertebrates. Also discussed are the patterns of life that reflect common descent, such as the fact that one can find almost identical degrees of relationships in different genes.

Chapter 11 History Written All Over Us

This is mostly vestigial organs and bad design seen in living things.

Chapter 12 Arms Races and 'Evolutionary Theodicy'

Dawkins develops an argument for evolution based on the fact that evolution predicts that arms races must have occurred in the past: Predators getting better and better at finding and killing prey, prey getting steadily better at getting away from the predators. The evidence for past arms races is overwhelming, and it is what we expect from evolution but we do not expect from design.

Chapter 13 There is Grandeur in this View of Life

The closing chapter which goes over the origin of life and various other loose ends.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Monday, October 5, 2009

Jesus: Neither God Nor Man

Earl Doherty, the infamous Jesus mythicist, just released an updated version of his book "The Jesus Puzzle" retitled "Jesus: Neither God Nor Man". It's over 800 pages and it is $39.95. One of these days I'm going to either read this book or "The Jesus Puzzle". Either seems fascinating. Richard Carrier reviewed Earl's book here.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


This makes me sad, because I know people who fit the fundamentalist idiot description:

Saturday, October 3, 2009

New Fossil

A New Hominid Fossil has been discovered that predates the infamous 'Lucy' fossil:

The Discovery Channel is going to air a show on it October 11. Click here for more details on that.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Is Michael Moore Honest?

I came across an interesting article on Yahoo! that discussed documentary film maker Michael Moore's movie making practices, with criticisms and his responses.

I watched a film about Moore about a year ago, and I cannot remember the title of it, but I do recall that it did show some highly questionable tactics in Moore's editing. Also, if you read the linked article, you'll see that Moore claimed that Cubans have a higher life expectancy than Americans-- Which is true, but it is only a difference of one tenth of a year. So Moore did engage in sensationalism there. My advice is: Never trust a movie. Always find the original peer reviewed articles and read them yourself.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Need Help

Hi Everyone,

I try not to do this too much on my blog, but here goes: I'm in college right now, and have been unemployed for quite a while. I've looked for a job, but have not found one, probably due to the fact that the economy is in the toilet. Anyway, I'm going through hard times right now, and if anyone donates I would be very, very appreciative. You should see a paypal 'donate' button on the right side of the blog near the top, but if it isn't showing up, just send paypal payments to

Also, The Infidel Guy Show will be on live at 8/7 Central. Here's the show description:

Show 500! Fighting Against "The Gay Agenda". Atheist Rapper Charlie Check'm reappears but in a different capacity this time. Chuck can now add Anti-Gay to his repertoire. Check'm says he doesn't hate gays but believes that "homos" have brain malfunctions and that they shouldn't be allowed to marry. He makes an appearance to defend his stance and also explains why he thinks any rational person, especially atheists and agnostics, should also be against the "gay agenda".

Atheism: A Brief Insight

This afternoon I read a little 150 page book called Atheism: A Brief Insight by Julian Baggini. I have to say it's a very good introduction to Atheism. Baggini does little to address the classic arguments for God (only covering a few like the argument from design and the cosmological argument) but he explains this by saying that it really isn't intellectual arguments that cause people to believe in God, and I agree with him. He does an excellent job on showing that meaning and morality can exist under the atheistic worldview, and clears up many misconceptions held by both atheists and believers along the way (for instance, explaining that atheism is not simply a lack of belief in god, it is saying that belief in god is not the best explanation for the evidence because, for example, it is not the simplest explanation for the data, atheism is). I think most atheists would agree with that point if they would just reflect on it.

I also managed to find one of the best chapters of Baggini's book posted online.