Creation Bits

This blog has been superceded, and is only here for archive purposes. The latest blog posts, depending on topic, can be found at one of the blogs at the new location!

These are very uneditted and underthought ideas that I get while debating the creation/evolution debate. This is the more-often-updated but less-thought-out version of the crevo blog.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Advice for ID/Creation researchers

Found this on Telic Thoughts. Thought it might be helpful to those of you thinking about persuing ID or Creation-oriented research.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

How is ID doing in the scientific community?

Many people say things such as "ID has been refuted by the scientific community". Unfortunately, lay people have very little ability to confirm or refute such pronouncements, and basically have to take them or reject them on authority or faith. The fact is, science journals do not have articles like "is ID true or not" or "lets bury neo-Darwinism". For example, the best anti-neo-Darwinistic paper I've ever read is On the Roles of Repetitive DNA Elements in the Context of A Unified Genomic-Epigenetic System. And the abstract discusses how the paper will analyze the functioning of repetitive DNA in genomes. Of course, if you actually read the paper, it includes about a 6-page destruction of neo-Darwinism buried within it. So, short of reading the scientific journals themselves, there is very little a lay person can do except to take the word of self-appointed science publicizers on how well Darwinism or ID is doing in the scientific field.

Anyway, for you, my reader, I've put together some of the papers that I'm familiar with that deal with some aspect of ID in a favorable way, or is specifically against neo-Darwinism in a way that is open to ID interpretations.

In addition, there are a number of papers that are highly suggestive of design, including the ability of microbes to modify their genome intelligently and regulate the process, the ability of animals to sense predators and change the phenotype of their progeny, and the ability of organisms to alter their DNA to turn on specific sets of genes in response to environmental conditions all indicate that there is a system that is designed for environmentally-induced adaptations.

So, ID is alive and well, and is getting more attention in journals, not less. The only thing is that those publishing in those journals tend to keep quiet about actually using the _word_ Intelligent Design for fear of Sternberg-esque backlash. While still a minority viewpoint, it is present and growing, and has not, as many assert, been refuted by science.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Secondhand Lions and Big Fish

There are two great movies about people who hear fantastic stories as children and don't know what to do with them -- Secondhand Lions and Big Fish. While they both officially come down on the side of "it doesn't really matter if it's true", I think there is a huge lesson to be learned by examining and comparing the two.

[Boy] "Those stories about aftrica, about you, they're true aren't they?"

[Man] "Doesn't matter."

[Boy] "It does, too. Around my mom all I hear is lies, I don't know what to believe."

[Man] "If you want to believe in something, believe in it. Just because something isn't true doesn't mean you can't believe in it. Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things that a man needs to believe in the most. That peoplare basically good. That honor, courage, and virtue mean everyhitng. power and money, money and power mean nothing. That good always triumphs over evil. And I want you to remember this that love, true love never dies. Remember that, boy. Doesn't matter if its true or not. A man should believe in those things, because those things are worth believing in."

This is the question that each of us brings to the Bible. Are the stories true? Unfortunately, in this exchange, the final word seems to be that of Stephen Gould's Non-overlapping Magisteria (or NOMA). The problem with NOMA is that it says that, for belief, facts don't matter. But that is in fact the sole purpose of belief -- to believe the facts. It is quite useless to believe something else. So, if what you believe in isn't factual, there isn't much use in believing in it.

The boy in this story, however, is searching for what is true. Having been next to the lie his whole life, he is DESPERATE for the truth. A good morality tale isn't what he is looking for. This is the same drive that was within the man in Big Fish. His Dad had told so many fantastic stories, that he was no longer able to separate the truth from the lie.

In Big Fish, it culminates with the man joining his father in constructing interesting morality stories. Ultimately, it seems that Big Fish concludes that what is truth does not matter, so long as you live the moment to its fullest.

Secondhand Lions, however, shows that knowing what is true really does matter. Ultimately, the question of what is true or false was a pivot of the boy's life. He was being told that his uncle's were bankrobbers, while they had told him that they won their money from a middle-easter shiek in a series of swordfights. The pivotal conversation went like this:

[Boy] They couldn't have robbed any banks, they were in africa!

[Mom] Here Dan's got actual evidence and you believe in that africa crap?

[Boy] Yes, yes I do.

The Mom's boyfriend had fabricated some evidence about where they had been. In that moment the truth really mattered, and the evidence appeared to be on the side of the Mom's boyfriend. But, ultimately, he decided to trust his uncles. While being ridiculed by those in positions of authority and power, he held on to his belief. And, unlike what his uncle said, it did matter greatly which was true.

The ending of Secondhand Lions is fantastic. I will leave you to watch it, but suffice it to say that the boy's trust in his uncles is vindicated.

Of course, it is easy enough to view a movie and pretend that the question is easy.

The problem with Christianity is that there is no option to hedge your bets, as many in the liberal wing of Christianity are trying to do. What Paul said was that if Christ has not risen from the dead, then we Christians should be the most pitied of all people -- he is quite correct! To live your life for something that is a fantasy is the ultimate waste. As Christians, we can't hope for a second savior if Christ isn't the real thing. Some people have represented Christianity as the "safe" option -- you should at least believe in case it is true. But in fact the opposite is true. Christianity is unsafe in the sense that it requires a total commitment. It doesn't work at all as a fallback option. And if it is false, then all of us who have committed our lives to the cause are fools, and should be pitied more than anyone else.

While I don't think that Creationism is a prerequisite for salvation, I think that trusting in God about what He said occurred is a part of being a Christian. We have to trust that Christ really resurrected. Why would we trust Him for that and not on how He said He created the world?

Unfortunately, there are also some who go too far in this. Not in trusting God, but in what trusting God means. Trusting God does not mean giving counterfactual reports on what you observe. It means dealing honestly with the facts as they are presented. When you believe something on faith -- say so. If the facts as you know them contradict what you believe on faith, there is no harm in saying so. In fact we must. We should be as Kurt Wise, who said:

Although there are scientific reasons for accepting a young earth, I am a young-age creationist because that is my understanding of the Scripture. As I shared with my professors years ago when I was in college, if all the evidence in the universe turned against creationism, I would be the first to admit it, but I would still be a creationist because that is what the Word of God seems to indicate.

When we are honest fully with God, ourselves, and others, God will honor that. He will not honor any deceit in His name.

Anyway, I'm sorry for being rambly, but ultimately what I wanted to get across are:

1) Truth does matter. If Christianity is factually incorrect, it is fully incorrect. NOMA need not apply.
2) Truth also involves separating out what we believe by faith and by observation. There is no problem with taking faith over observation, provided one is honest with this. However, as creation research advances, there has been less and less reason to need to do this.
3) See both movies. They are worthwhile. Be warned -- Secondhand Lions contains lots of moderately foul language and Big Fish has some foul language and some brief nudity. Don't view either if these are things you struggle with.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Misreporting and selective facts about Sternberg

Another blogger has written a set of "facts" about the Sternberg case. I've posted this response in a few other places, but before I do, I do want to make sure two things are clear:

1) It is not clear what Sternberg's religious beliefs are. He may in fact believe in special creation. He has only said that he is not a Young-Earth Creationist. He also may be a young-earth creationist religiously but not scientifically (i.e. -- believing it personally but not thinking that the science currently supports it). Sternberg has been quiet on his religious beliefs. However, shouldn't they be irrelevant in determining his scientific ability? Or should creationists complain every time an atheist makes a publication on evolution or peer-reviews an evolutionary paper? Some creationists are too quick to list Sternberg as being secular, and, while this may be true, we simply do not have the facts.

2) It is not clear what persecution Sternberg was subjected to. Some of Sternberg's claims have been denied, other's have not, but it is not clear from an independent source what happened.

Anyway, here is my response to the article:

It's basically slandering Sternberg on his association with creationists. The underlying assumption of that post is that legitimate scientists cannot be creationists. Therefore, while legitimate scientists can disagree with each other, if the disagreement is over creationism, the creationist cannot be a legitimate scientist by definition.

Most of the numbered facts on that post are fairly irrelevant, and are not disputed by any post I've ever read on the Sternberg issue.

Why does fact 1 end with an exclamation point? Is there anything even remotely interesting in fact 1?

Why is fact 2 interesting?

What do you mean by the paper was "held" in fact 3? That's a pretty normal delay in peer review. It seems the evolutionists have gone from saying it was "rushed through" to it was "held" trying to find something that will stick.

Fact 4 only exists for the purpose of injecting speculation.

Fact 5 is simply a smear by association, pretending that associating with creationists is some sort of biological crime, and that you can't legitimately be a scientists and a creationist.

Is it really illegitimate to have Todd Wood review your paper? Fasting forward to fact 10, first of all, you should be more careful who you quote from. He did not talk about Wood et al on O'Reilly. That was in the acknowledgements of his paper. Second, it is not clear (though it is irrelevant), that these were his peer-reviewers. I don't know what the peer-review policies for tha Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences is (I have tried to look, but to no avail), but I would be highly surprised if you got to pick your own reviewers.

However, how does Todd Wood not qualify as a legitimate reviewer? He is actively published on various issues about the genome, was part of the team that sequenced the rice genome, and has written chapters in two different fairly standard textbooks on genetics. So what, other than labelling, disqualifies him as a legitimate scientist that should not be peer-reviewing?

Since we're on rule #10, there is no real contradiction. First of all, I've read the paper you were referring to, and he was _very_ careful to not criticize neo-Darwinism itself but only its relationship to transposable elements. Second, the existance of a journal or two that doesn't exhibit this problem does not mean that it doesn't exist. But Sternberg was quite careful to avoid criticizing Darwinism in its entirety. Even more so, Sternberg did not suggest a non-material explanation, which is a double-whammy.

Fact 6 is not in dispute. However, you left out two important facts:

1) Sternberg discussed the paper with a member of the council, who agreed it should be published.

2) After-the-fact, the President of the BSW examined the peer-review file, and agreed that, scientifically, the paper was good to publish, but was a bad move politically:

"Finally, I got the [peer] reviews and agree that they are in support of your decision [to publish the article]."

Also, according to Sternberg:

"At no time during my nearly three years as managing editor did I ever ask the Council as a body for its input on any editorial decision regarding any particular paper. Nor did the Council itself or anyone on the Council intimate to me that the Council ought to be in any way involved in editorial decision-making with regard to particular papers."

This "fact" also manages to leave out the important fact that Sternberg HAD IN FACT DONE THIS BEFORE:

"I had previously chosen on several occasions to handle certain papers directly and that was accepted as a normal practice by everyone involved with the Proceedings."

In fact, this fact is counter-factual, implying the opposite:

"he does not say is whether or not that gives the managing editor the right to solely review a paper, without involving the associate editors or anyone else in the journal's editorial board"

He DOES say that (the quote above) and on the SAME WEB PAGE! For "facts" these are getting awfully disingenuous.

Fact 7 is irrelevant. The ISCID is part of the ID movement, but is not solely about Intelligent Design.

Fact 8 simply is a restatement of the fact that the investigation was not allowed to be completed.

I find it interesting that in fact 9 you automatically choose the side of the smithsonian as "fact" over Sternberg's. How is this distinguished as fact, especially when the information from the OSC is considered with much questioning? I don't know the truth, but to say that FACT resides with one or the other indicates that the author has independent knowledge of the situation.

In addition, Fact 10 fails to address many of the accusations Sternberg himself made.

Anyway, the idea that this is a listing of "facts" is rediculous -- it is deceptive and manipulative treatment of the facts to smear Dr. Sternberg.

The truth is, I don't know for sure what the final truth is as far as Sternberg's beliefs or his persecution. But this list of "facts" does the word "facts" a disservice.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Interesting email about religion, science, and evolution

On an email discussion, a friend of mine made the following post:

"You only want your religion accepted."

No, as I pointed out, I'm not the one who is pushing only one religious view, you are. You are so busy with your crusade, you've become what you fear others are; and you are so proud of yourself that you can't see it.

I'm quite knowledgeable about science (well, more so than the average non-scientist), and especially evolution...What you are talking about, however, is not science itself but the common *philosophy* of science which says scientific investigations can be carried out without regard to the existence of God. This is quite correct when properly applied. No experiment or observation of natural forces does, or even could, limit or define a concept of deity.

However, when schools teach as fact that the universe began with the "Big Bang," that life formed by natural forces alone from inanimate matter, and that all living things, including humans, evolved by random mutations from that first simple form of life -- that is not the sort of science that says nothing about God. It also can't be demonstrated to be true, in contrast with all the practical, reliable aspects of science which have been both frequently demonstrated and commonly applied.

Unlike art, "science" claims to have "proved" that the entire history of the entire universe can be accounted for by nothing more than chance interactions of energy/matter. The only "god" left to believe in if all that is true is a god who apparently is incapable or unwilling to take an active role in our universe.

You can keep lying to yourself and others that you are simply defending science or even freedom of religion, but I hope someday soon you will realize that you are really helping to establish a government-sanctioned limitation of religion based on the philosophy of materialism.

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