Sunday, August 19, 2012

What is the deal with Creationism?

Recently in a post on Reason Being's blog, a creationist popped up in the comments. My first instinct was to say to him that creationism is simply "God did it", but then I realized, I actually don't really know what creationists say. I know what my parents told me as a kid, and I know what my church told me as a kid, they basically said "God did it, evolution is wrong". I also know that the ID people (who are the same people as the creationist people if I am understanding correctly) claim things like irreducible complexity, which is just nonsense. But apart from that, I'm not really sure what the creationist people say.

So today when I stumbled across the institute for creation research, of course I subscribed to their "daily science updates". I figured it would be a fun post to go through a few of their recent articles and see what I see.

What Does It Take to Make a Jellyfish?

This article manages to say something ridiculous right from the start, it begins with
Many jellyfish are transparent, and they have seemingly simple movements and few visible interacting parts. They should, therefore, be easy to synthesize with man-made parts...
Why would "transparent" and "seemingly simple movements" imply easy to synthesize? The article then goes on describe what the scientists tried to do to mimic a jellyfish and how it was not very well done. For the record, it sounds to me like what the scientists were able to accomplish is very cool. Anyway, the article concludes with the following
The implication is clear. Whoever designed real jellyfish was much smarter than ordinary people.
So to sum up, the author of this article makes the rash assumption that since jellyfish are transparent and have seemingly simple movements, they should be easy for people to synthesize. Then when this assumption proves false, he concludes that the only explanation is that jellyfish were designed, and they were designed by someone smarter than the people who tried and "failed" this time. It seems to me that there are a host of other possible conclusions one could draw from this, but why not just stick to the one that he wants to be true?

New African Fossil Confirms Early Human Variations

This article talks about a recent paper from the journal Nature. Apparently, the paper found some new fossils and the scientists talked about trying to fit the fossils into our currently understood evolutionary lineage. This is a topic I am not particularly well versed in, so I'm not sure how much I can contribute, but the author of this article complains that the nature paper is trying to challenge early concepts of the lineage and might change earlier ideas. He uses this to try to argue that evolution is junk because it changes, I guess he doesn't understand that he is pointing out one of the huge advantages of science, it can always challenge earlier ideas and things can always change. He finishes this article with
On the other hand, the Bible's origins account is compatible with discontinuous fossils like these, since it says that God created people to reproduce after their own kind, not between kinds.
So my instinct was correct, the creationist view is simply "God did it"
 It follows from this that no undisputed ape-to-human transition will ever be discovered. 
I agree, these people are basically pledging to dispute everything of this type that shows up, so it is true, there will never be an undisputed ape-to-human transition found.
If these new human-looking fossils really do represent human varieties, then they only reinforce the biblical and scientific observation that humans can and did rapidly express widely differing variations in form and features. 
Is there biblical evidence for humans variation like he is describing? I'd love to see a verse citation.

Useless Search for Evolution of the Human Brain

This article talks about a review article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It apparently talks about a gene FOXP2 which is seems to be important to human speech as there are some people who have a mutation in that gene and have speech defects. Obviously there is the potential that this gene was important in the evolution of speech.
No. The high hope once held for FOXP2 as a key to explain the evolution of speech in the brain was dashed on the rocks of real research.
Oh, I stand corrected. Apparently this guy thinks he has proof that this gene can not be part of the evolution of speech. Care to elaborate?
Analyses of FOXP2 gene activity showed that it was not only used in brain tissues that facilitate speech, but also in various tissues throughout the body with a variety of uses. 
No problem there. Many features of animals have multiple uses, evolution can happen when a population of animals shifts from one use to another.
This represents an overlooked flaw in the evolutionary research approach. Because FOXP2 turned out to be involved in many traits, its evolution by natural selection is highly improbable.
This is just completely wrong. The fact that FOXP2 is involved in many traits makes it all the more likely it was important for the evolution of speech. Suppose for the moment, that FOXP2 is important for speech. The fact that it is useful for other tasks makes it all the more likely that it was present when all of the other things important for speech were there and it was ready to be co-opted for the purpose of speech. [disclaimer: I don't actually know anything about FOXP2, but I have a general idea of how evolution works and this guy's analysis just seems completely wrong to me]

He then complains that the survey article assumes that evolution is true and it didn't consider ID as an alternative. He states:
Preuss and others did not mention—let alone test—the possibility that FOXP2 was purposely placed to serve multiple functions throughout many body tissues in many creatures.
How would you even test such a thing?

Salmon Use Sophisticated Compass Cells

This article talks about how salmon know how to get back to their spawning ground. Apparently some scientists have found some cells that have magnetic properties. Pretty cool. Also, there are many cells that don't have that magnetic property, if there were too many they would interfere with one another. Again, very neat. So then he says this
Would anybody argue that a fully functional compass, complete with a spinning needle, could ever be arranged by accident? Apparently so. [emphasis mine]
 No god dammit! It is not random and it is not by accident. Randomness is part of the process, but natural selection is not random. In fact, in a very real sense it is the opposite of random as traits that are superior win out and spread like crazy.

So, to the author of these articles, I think it is now time for me to ask the question. Are you stupid or are you a liar? Given that you are writing about how evolution is bullshit, I'm assuming you have studied at least the basics of it. If you think evolution is things simply being arranged by accident, you are stupid. If you just say "by accident" because it fits your narrative better and you think it will play better in your target audience, then you are a liar.
These are articles I found largely at random. I also looked around the rest of the website a bit and as far as I can tell, they seem typical. If anyone thinks I have missed some obvious good resources or that I'm being unfair, please point me toward something of higher quality.


  1. I think you summed it up well in three words "God did it". The stuff that comes from Creationists is mind-numbing stupidity at worst and mistaken pseudo-science at best.

    I find it curious to note that many of the Creationists I come into contact with call me "closed minded". I find that to be a bit backwards. They are the ones bending over backwards to hang on to 2-3000 yr old book.

    1. yeah, my impression of creationism was that it was pretty much just "god did it", but I realized last week I hadn't really looked at their stuff much at all. After looking around their sites a bit, it sure seems that my instincts were correct.

      And yeah, I agree, they do try to call us closed minded, they also always seem to point out that there is plenty of science on their side. But when you ask them for an example, as I did on your blog, they don't seem to come up with much.

    2. I think it's ironic as well. As new evidence and things are figured out, science changes. Science has an open mind. Those that follow a holy book, are stuck to that as being an "absolute truth." It's not really flexible if it's considered divinely inspired.

  2. "Stupid or liar" is a question I've taken up too, think I heard it on Carolla's podcast. The creationist sites are among the more dishonest I've ever seen. They are all disguised to look like unbiased technical journals written from a science perspective.

    1. yeah, I got "stupid or liar" from Carolla. I really like the phrase as it says a lot with a little, Adam is good at that.

  3. I would argue that this is the reason the GOP doesn't seem to favor education much. (See the Texas GOP stories earlier this year.) When you have people thinking for themselves and looking at evidence, when it comes to religion, you will probably lose a good number of them. I would assume that the growth of the internet has also contributed to the rise in atheism. People can fact check the stuff their pastors say with much less effort than before.

    Creationists will still bring up the same arguments that have long since been refuted. I still see, sadly, people on the internet pointing to "what good is half an eyeball". It's true, Darwin didn't understand it. I'll give them that. But so what? Newton didn't know the origin of gravity, but that doesn't make it no true. Actually, we still don't really understand it from what I understand. But we've seen the eye develop so many independent times in nature and is in so many different stages. I saw an article in redit that pointed to a on evolution, I then clicked on the counter example to evolution talking about the the flagellum. here.. This has been refuted sooo many times in soo many papers. It's still used I think, because it's easier to keep perpetuating lies that fit to your agenda, than to acknowledge the truth. Someone from reddit actually went in there and edited and refuted all the points they brought up. It sadly got reedited out.

    Another time, I saw a link to an article with quite a few "refutations" to evolution, and then an article with a rebuttal to all of them. I hopped on the site and the guy didn't post my comment because the link was to a "hostile" site to believers or something like that. Then I got the excuse the second time that they don't link to other pages. I just gave up.

    1. I actually don't really think it is accurate to say that Darwin didn't understand it. He seemed to have a pretty good understanding of it. The creationists like to quote something from his book that makes it sound like he can't imagine how the eye evolved, but if you read the next paragraph he explains it. You can actually get it for free if you have a kindle: On the Origin of Species, if you go to location 2349 you can see him explain it. If you go to 2334 you can see what is usually quoted as him claiming the eye couldn't evolve.

      As to the conservapedia stuff, yeah that is a shame, not a surprise though. They went to the trouble to create their version of wikipedia so they could write whatever they wanted on it. Can't be shocked that they would re-edit the thing. I suppose if you really wanted to keep it edited to reality it would be a full time job.


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