Thursday, June 23, 2005
My Favorite T.O Quote Mine Entry
I wanted to write a response to my favorite T.O. quote mine project entry. This one the T.O. guys thought was so good that they made an entire page devoted to it. The funny thing is that the page they made gives more credence to the creationist interpretation than even the creationists did!
It is obvious what Lionel's (the quote mine refuter) error was -- it was he was assuming that the creationist quote was saying something it didn't say. This happens quite a bit in my experience. Evolutionists assume that creationists are stupid, backward, disingenuous people, and therefore attribute all sorts of not only bad motives to creationists, but also stupid theories. For example, so many evolutionists believe that creationists believe that there is no species change. This is so obviously ludicrous to anyone who has ever read, listened, or watched anything by any reputable creationist organization, that it's strange that such a myth continues. However, evolutionists seem to always assume they know what creationists think, even without reading what they actually say, or thinking about it. They just assume that it must be stupid, and therefore read it in such a way as to disregard it out-of-hand.
I should assume that most creationists can understand what I find so amusing just by reading the entry. For those of you who take T.O as the carrier of the official evolutionary gospel, I'll explain myself a little more.
Here is the quote:
I fully agree with your comments on the lack of direct illustration of evolutionary transitions in my book. If I knew of any, fossil or living, I would certainly have included them. . .I will lay it on the line, There is not one such fossil for which one might make a watertight argument.
So what is the point of including this? I have not read the book in question, but it seems fairly obvious that the focus on the part that there is no fossil that makes a watertight argument for evolutionary transitions. If the context is different, I hope someone points it out to me so I can correct or retract this page.
Lionel seemed to regard the thrust of the argument being that Colin Patterson didn't believe in transitional fossils. That is just stupid. Of course evolutionists believe that there were transitions, and that some of the fossils are those. Noone is saying that they don't believe such things. What the quote points out is that unlike what evolutionists say, this is not a bulletproof case. In fact, as the quote points out, there is not one such fossil for which one might make a watertight argument.
What's even more amusing is that when Lionel includes the rest of the quote, it does more damage to the dogmatic evolutionary position than the original, abbreviated quote. Here is the continuation of the quote:
... a watertight argument. The reason is that statements about ancestry and descent are not applicable in the fossil record. Is Archaeopteryx the ancestor of all birds? Perhaps yes, perhaps no: there is no way of answering the question. It is easy enough to make up stories of how one form gave rise to another, and to find reasons why the stages should be favoured by natural selection. But such stories are not part of science, for there is no way to put them to the test.
So, not only is the fossil sequence not a watertight argument, it isn't even testable. And, as creationists have always pointed out, It is easy enough to make up stories of how one form gave rise to another, and to find reasons why the stages should be favoured by natural selection. But such stories are not part of science.
But isn't that what evolutionists do all the time? Make up untestable stories, call them "science", and then claim it as an evidence that evolution is right and everyone else is stupid? Here, Colin is being very honest and pointing out that creationists are correct when we criticize how scientific any sort of dogmatic position on origins is. The public part of science just can't say this, it is more based on presuppositions and philosophy than testable hypotheses.
Now, Patterson does add, I think the continuation of the passage shows clearly that your interpretation (at the end of your letter) is correct, and the creationists' is false. I assume this is due to Lionel's having stated to Patterson his own interpretation of the creationist argument.
He then talks about how evolution has done more harm than good to biosystematics, and somehow the fact that a creationist recorded it was problematic. If a creationist had said something damaging about creationism at a creationist conference, would the T.O crowd ignore it if we waved it away as something only addressing serious, concerned creationists?
It is a complete enigma to me how Lionel thinks that this is a win for evolution, and how it shows that creationists are lying. All of Lionel's own research confirms the validity and the context of the quotes. The only thing is that when Lionel uses the creationist negative innuendo, and the professor says, "oh no, I certainly don't want to be considered a friend of them". The only thing the T.O post has is innuendo. Period. He simply attributes negative motives to creationists, and then calls his hypothesis valid even though his own research confirms the creationists, simply because he assumes that creationists must be lying and stupid.
It also points out once again that T.O considers anything a creationist says as "refuted" simply because they post a page about it. It also echoes the theme of "certainly science should be open to criticism, just not from them."
I just noticed that in the top right corner the entry has a now-defunct link to a letter from Patterson to the person I _think_ was the original person who recorded the quote. The site is no longer there, but thanks to The Wayback Machine, I was able to scrounge up the original letter. Here it is:
British Museum (Natural History)
Cromwell Road London SW7 5Bd
Telephone 01-589 6323 ext
Department Of Paleontology
5 Griffin Drive
Apalachin, NY 13732
Date: 10th April 1979
Dear Mr. Sunderland:
Thanks for your letter of 5th March, and your kind words about the museum and my book. I held off answering you for a couple of weeks, in case the artwork you mention in your letter should turn up, but it hasn't.
I fully agree with your comments on the lack of direct illustration of evolutionary transitions in my book. If I knew of any, fossil or living, I would certainly have included them. You suggest that an artist should be asked to visualize such transformations, but where would he get the information from? I could not, honestly, provide it, and if I were to leave it to artistic licence, would that not mislead the reader?
I wrote the text of my book four years ago. If I were to write it now, I think the book would be rather different. Gradualism is a concept I believe in, not just because of Darwin's authority, but because my understanding of genetics seems to demand it. Yet Gould and the American Museum people are hard to contradict when they say that there are no transitional fossils. As a paleontologist myself, I am much occupied with the philosophical problems of identfying ancestral forms in the fossil record. You say that I should at least ‘show a photo of the fossil from which each type organism was derived.' I will lay it on the line - there is not one such fossil for which one could make a watertight argument. The reason is that statements about ancestry and descent are not applicable in the fossil record. Is Archeopteryx the ancestor of all birds? Perhaps yes, perhaps no: there is no way of answering the question. It is easy enough to make up stories of how one form gave rise to another, and to find reasons why the stages should be favored by natural selection. But such stories are not part of science, for there is no way of putting them to the test. So, much as I should like to oblige you by jumping to the defence of gradualism, and fleshing out the transitions betweeen the major types of animals and plants, I find myself a bit short of the intellectual justification necessary for the job.
Thanks again for the writing.
Monday, June 20, 2005
Philosophy of Science Part 1
One system requires no proof and accepts things on faith [regarding faith]. The other system accepts nothing on faith and requires proof for all it's beliefs [regarding science].
My understanding of good science it that it is not only able to make use of inference, conjecture, and leaps of faith, but must do so in order to reach out into the unknown. My understanding of faith is that is rests on evidence and is not merely a fabrication of the imagination.
Sunday, June 19, 2005
Book Review: Icons of Evolution
It is not a book about whether or not evolution is true or not, but whether the presentation of evolution as normally done is more propoganda than reality. If you read the book with this in mind, it does an excellent job of proving its point. If you read it as an anti-evolution book (which it isn't, really), then it fails.
What I appreciated in the book was how it showed how many of the controversies within science over certain experiments are largely smoothed over in textbooks and presentations to make the appearance that everything is thought of and agreed upon, when in fact it isn't.
The chapters on the tree of life and vertebrate homology were my favorite, though I don't think he went as far with the homology argument as he could have (perhaps because he is writing for a non-science audience).
The NCSE has criticized his work and Wells has responded. However, I do think the NCSE is correct in criticizing Well's giving of a D for using photographs instead of Haeckel's embryo drawings. Since the main problem with the evidence was that it was a faked drawing, using real photographs should rate you much higher than a D (this probably comes from Wells being an embryologist, and knowing the problems of embryonic recapitulation better than others).
The book looks like it was put together fairly rushed. It needed a better editor, and occasionally Wells needed to put some more time into rounding out his arguments a little more thoroughly. They were mostly correct, but you can usually find them stated in a much better fashion on the web.
Anyway, it's worth the read, but only if you do so in the context it is offered in, and not as a creation-vs-evolution book.
Book Review: Origins: Linking Science and Scripture
I especially like books written by practicing scientists, as they generally do much better justice to the opposing side. Reading a book that has not respect at all for the evolutionary position is a waste of time, as the writer rarely sees the need to justify claims that seem evident to him/her, but perhaps not to the audience.
On recommendation from someone else, I purchased a copy of Origins: Linking Scienceand Scripture. This is a really good book for the fact that it treats origins as it should -- as a unified research proposition, rather than a lot of independent lines of research. Therefore, Roth follows a path of a holistic view of origins issues, and tries to weigh the matter as honestly as he can from the position of scripture or secular science. He is very honest with his preconceptions, as well as the fact that his preconceptions may cause him to draw different conclusions than his reader.
As I mentioned, Roth is a practicing scientist, including research into the effects of light and pigment on the rate of coral reef growth, as mentioned in the about the author section. He is published both secularly and in the journal Origins, whose character I was unable to ascertain.
Roth begins his book with an excellent list of paradigms that have shaped certain sciences which eventually were discarded entirely. He shows that because of this, we should not discard a theory simply because current science is founded on a different principle.
The first section is on biology, and, while it is well worth reading and has many additional insights you might not otherwise know, it is basically the same types of arguments as other creationists give. However, his attention to the complexity of the cells complexity in regards to error correction is very good, as well as his list of books by non-creationists who are questioning the validity of current origin-of-life research.
He has a chapter on fossils, but its way too short. On the other hand, it does give a good overview of the geologic column from an evolutionary view for those who don't have secular science books available.
He continues on in other chapters to talk of the geologic column, and this is where his book does a really good job. It is difficult to grasp the main creationist positions about the flood and its impact on the geologic column from most creation/evolution books. He does an excellent job of summarizing them. Some of the points from these chapter include:
- The fossil sequence is too orderly to not demand an explanation. Therefore, no creationist account of the fossils is sufficient unless it accounts for the fossil sequence.
- The fossil record is much more complete than many say, given that 98% of terrestrial vertebrates are present within that record (most are not as well-represented as terrestrial vertebrates, but still well-represented). Therefore, any evolutionary account must take this into consideration when discussing transitional forms.
For the flood he gives the three major models of why the fossil sequence is ordered: motility, ecologic zonation, and buyancy. He clearly favors ecologic zonation. For the evolutionists, he points to both the gradualistic and punctuated equilibrium models of evolutions as the mechanisms for producing the fossil succession.
He also points to evidences for a worldwide flood, including:
- abundant underwater activity on the continents
- widespread sedimentary deposits -- evidences of a vast sea covering vast expanses of land
- incomplete ecosystem fossilization -- animals are often found fossilized separate from any vegetation for them to live off of
- gaps in the sedimentary layers -- specifically he mentions that where there are hundreds of millions of years of "gaps", there is virtually no evidence for millions of years of erosion
He then mentions several other things about rocks, but I must have slept through that part, because looking back over the book I really don't remember reading it.
He then proposes several questions about geologic time, showing that any number of geologic processes can lead to any number of ideas for the age of the earth and specific rock formations, and that saying that we definitively know the age of the earth only means that we are selective in what evidences we are choosing to include.
He ends with a pretty good discussion of science and scripture and their interplay, and ultimately sums up what he believes the evidence points to (I'll let you guess where that is :] ).
Just for the record, as some people I've talked to have been confused, Ariel Roth's conception of a young-earth creationist does not rely on a specific age for the physical rock that is the earth, but for the geologic column, which is the record of life on earth. It is the age of the geologic column which he finds important.
I was a little disappointed that the book had nothing on astronomy, which could be linked to either (a) the author thinking that astronomy is a winning argument for evolutionists, (b) that the author, being a biologist, is not qualified to write on astronomy, or (c) the author does not believe that the age of the universe is a worthwhile question to ask. He points to (c) within the book, but I was still a little sad that he decided not to go down that road.
Anyway, all-in-all it was a great book. While it did not give as thorough of a treatment as I'd wished to several subjects (understandable due to the length and subjects covered), it was very good.
Friday, June 17, 2005
Likewise, whenever creationists revise the mechanism (not the basic biblically-recorded historical facts of creation), evolutionists call foul, even though they themselves believe that for science to be valid it must be revisable with future evidence.
On the whole, I see three major problems:
1) People unable to see their own presuppositions, or even recognize the role of presuppositions in logic, reason, and science, and therefore assuming they do not have any
2) A gigantic double-standard for how much and what kind of evidence must be used for creation to be a plausible theory.
3) A misunderstanding of the nature of historical inquiry, and how it differs from observational/experimental science.
One of the funniest things I've seen said is this:
1) because creationism includes an all-powerful God, it cannot be tested, and is therefore not scientific
2) everywhere that creationism has been tested it has been proven wrong
Not only are both of these extremely inaccurate, the sequence of thought is nothing short of hilarious.
(1) is untrue because (a) we have a historical document, and therefore cannot propose anything we want, (b) our historical document says that the heavens declare that there is a God, and (c) it is reasonable to assume that the events recorded in the Bible left its mark on creation.
(2) is untrue because there are many areas where creation has been tested and proven right. It is only proven wrong on the _assumption_ of long ages of evolution. Just a few places where science shows theology off the top of my head:
- The pre-adaptation of many organisms to environments they have not been in yet (they often have dormant genes that are available for alternate environments)
- The existence of continental-wide evidence of water flow
- The ability to definitely prove heredity to the levels of biblical kinds where supposed, and the difficulty of proving it beyond that.
- The fact that much of recorded ancient history, even through pagan countries, trace their lineages back to Noah, and that there are many cultures whose date of creation and the flood are almost exactly what the Bible suggests.
- The fossil record is ordered _beyond_ what it should be given known natural history, indicated that the ordering process is physical, not biological. For example, there are many "living fossils" that are alive today, but whose last appearance in the fossil record is, by evolutionary timescales, hundreds of millions of years old. Is it reasonable to have a so-ordered fossil record if natural history itself is not so ordered? I think that this shows that the ordering of much of the fossil record is based on a physical ordering process, not a historical one.
- The existence of DNA, and the fact that it is a carrier for an independent message is one of the most revealing proofs of a creator. Nowhere else except by creative agency is there such a coding system.
- The fact that most dangerous aspects of life are simply good things out-of-control is evidence of a good world followed by a fall (many venoms, for example, also have healing and other good properties in lower concentrations, and many pathogenic viruses and bacteria are actually degenerate adaptations of otherwise helpful organisms).
- The existence of both perfect and imperfect adaptations is also evidence of a good world followed by a fall.
Anyway, the funniest part of all of it is not just the fact that both of these points are wrong, but that they are completely logically meaningless when combined.
Friday, June 03, 2005
Interesting Article on Physics Myopathy
In the April lecture, he explained that Newton’s law of gravity is considered to be a fundamental law, but it is impossible to observe this force in objects on a nanoscale.
“When you get up close and take it apart to see how the law works, you discover it’s not there,” he said.
Heat laws are also thought to be fundamental, he explained, but the smallest particles do not obey them.
“Heat, conceptually, is like a painting of Monet; when you get up close to see its parts, to see how the parts work, you discover nothing but a lot of meaningless dots,” he said.
The distinction between fundamental and emergent laws then becomes nonexistent and even basic assumptions become mysterious. Because laws like those regulating heat and gravity are only true for some matter, the foundations of physics are becoming weak, he said.
“Physics is now in the midst of a crisis, an ideological battle,” he said. “The most fundamental things you know may not be fundamental.”
Laughlin also argued that, for mysteries like why atoms are so uniform throughout the galaxy, physicists form creation myths to explain away these quandaries. Inflationary cosmology, he said, is the “myth” created to solve this problem by saying that during the expansion after the big bang, matter became uniform.
“That, on the face of it, is a pretty far-fetched theory, but the reason we take this theory so seriously is the depth of the crisis. In other words, we really need to have an explanation for why this stuff is so uniform, and we don’t have it,” he said. “I like to say that the emergentist nature of the theories of the universe are really an act of desperation.”
The best chance at solving some of these mysteries of the universe, Laughlin suggests in A Different Universe, is to avoid the reductionist approach of studying particles too minute to measure, and to look at the basic realities of the natural world.
I'm very excited that physicists have figured out that reductionism isn't all it's cracked up to be. I'm not against reductionism, but I do think that the trend toward reductionism to the exclusion of other principles is damaging both to science and to other human endeavors. Specifically, the trend toward reductionism is damaging towards morality, because ultimately you can reduce bad actions to non-bad parts. "I didn't kill him with a gun, I just moved my finger a little toward my body. It's not normally illegal for me to move my finger in this way, is it?" Reductionism doesn't work in life, nor does it really work in science. There is validity in searching for reductionism, because some things in fact can be reduced. However, every once in a while, you need to back up, take a breath, and say "is this really right?"
I'm very glad such a prominent physicist is doing this. Very encouraging.
The Nike Metaphor and Other Thoughts
The Nike Metaphor
Is macro evolution just micro-evolution carried out for 3.5 billion years? Personally, I don't like using terms like micro- and macro-evolution, because there's some much confusion about what they mean. I prefer using things just as gaining complex information or just lateral or downward change. Gaining complex information in the creationist perspective is the result of creation, and lateral or downward change is the result of evolution. I like to illustrate this with an example from Nike:
It's like buying a shoe at the shoestore. If I buy a shoe, when I first get it is fairly stiff and rigid. However, as I walk in my shoe, it will "break in" and become more comfortable. However, the breaking-in process tells me nothing about how my shoe originally got here nor why there are differences between a Reebok and a Nike. It won't get me air pumps in a shoe that doesn't have them, and it won't generate new kinds of material.
Likewise, creationists believe that complex systems do not originate by chance alone. There are small changes, but they are more akin to "breaking in" (whether good or bad changes -- note that good changes are not increases in complexity) than to creating. Now, creationists believe that the "breaking in" process is much more complicated than my description of shoes (which includes modular genomic elements that can rearrange as a result of environment), but ultimately, complex systems are not built from the result of chance and law, but need a designing agent. ID'ers call this the Law of Conservation of Information.