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:: Thursday, November 24, 2005 ::

Turkey Science

::This post is part of the Evolution/Young Earth Creationism Correspondence Series::

I spent the last few hours writing this (and reading a bunch of pro-creationist stuff that really didn't leave me that enlightened) after posting Eric's most recent response. For added coherency, I suggest having this post and the previous one open in two windows simultaneously to make it easy to go back and forth between the two. Otherwise, have fun keeping track of what I'm referring to.

I apologize for taking so long in responding; I've been enjoying my week off of classes. As you may have noticed, my letter to the editor made it into Friday's Daily Illini, but since I've addressed most of that already, I'm merely bringing it to your attention.

As you noted, I did intend to limit our discussion to a discussion of Intelligent Design's scientific merits (or, more appropriately, lack thereof). However, I'll briefly deal with your scripture references, and do what I can with your young-earth creationism argument before moving on.

First off, no matter what Yahweh said, what we have in the Bible is what was written down by humans, who are notoriously unreliable transmitters of information. Remember, history is the lie that everyone's agreed upon. Not only do we have a human (and male) bias in what was actually written in the Bible, but in the case of Genesis and the other early books, there was a long time where what we know today as scripture was instead oral tradition, which is in and of itself highly mutable over time. Also, not only are the two stories of Genesis conflicting, literary analysis reveals them to be written by two different authors/traditions. Those facts, compared with my rejection of Sola Scriptura, lead me to not care about your quibbling over exact words and phrases in the Genesis narrative.

Humphrey's model is mildly interesting intellectually, until you read some of the back and forth between himself and some other physicists (on the site which you so helpfully provided), which force him into the corner of claiming that there are clocks which exist "timeless" space, and that the Earth was in this "timeless" space until the fourth day of creation from Genesis 1. While I am a calculus-challenged biology major who really cannot follow the theoretical physics involved, the concept of clocks, devices which measure time, measuring time in a space where there is no time is patently absurd to me. That's just my opinion on it, though. Someone able to take about two months to walk me through the math and physics might be able to convince me otherwise, but I doubt it.

This Craig Winn guy you cite not only appears to call the Catholic church statanic (a good way to get on my bad side real fast), but is also a millenialist - predicting the second coming in 2033. Starting off from such a horrid theological standpoint, I'm not going to bother reading his stuff any further since his foundation is horrid at best.

I'll agree on a personal (but not scientific) level that Yahweh was indeed the creator. However, to channel Carl Sagan, my position is that any given universe with our physical constants will contain "billions and billions" of galaxies, themselves with large numbers of stars, leading to a high probability of any number of rocky planets falling in the "Goldilocks zone" where life is nearly impossible to prevent and that in at least one known instance intelligent life resulted. Basically, if you create a universe like ours, you'll get us somewhere in it, and no "guided formation" of anything besides the universe itself is necessary.

I also disagree with you in that I support pre-biotic evolution, including abiosynthesis. Abiosynthetic conditions have been created in the laboratory both in early-Earth environments (Miller, 1953) and later in cosmic environments. Field data also supports this. Glycine, the simplest Amino Acid, is readily detectable via radio spectroscopy in interstellar clouds. Also, a type of meteorite called carbonaceous chondrites have organic components that are often quite similar to Miller's results. That this occurred is accepted within the scientific community, with the only real discussion hinging on exactly when, by what mechanisms, and how much was created (and, as applicable, delivered to Earth) by each mechanism.

Pasteur's goosenecked-flask experiment disproved the de novo creation of microbial life in a short time frame in the the absence of an energy source, which was the prevailing view of his day. It's a basic experiment which anyone who has taken high-school biology should (note qualifier) be aware of. His experiment said absolutely nothing about abiosynthesis itself, as disproved the later work of Miller and others. This should prove to you the hazards of quote mining, which I will also address later.

As stated earlier, my view is that given the size and physical nature of our current universe, intelligent life was inevitable and that whatever creator you posit (be it Yahweh through Jesus Christ or the Flying Spaghetti Monster with his Noodly Appendage http://www.venganza.org/ ) knew that it was ahead of time. How we were imbued with souls, I personally do not know as such things are supernatural and not really able to be investigated. But, assuming that my personal religious views are true, it happened, because all humans have them now.

Seeing that Humphrey's model requires a physical impossibility takes place, and has yet to be presented in a major peer-reviewed journal (and I refuse to count publications of Answers in Genesis as peer-reviewed), the argument for the age of the earth being just over 4.5 billion years old is still stronger. Woese and company's current hypotheses (still needing some data, but they have a history of being right) describe the last common ancestor between the three domains of life having been 3 billion years ago. Photosynthesis crops up by 2.7 billion years ago, and oxygen is a major atmospheric component as of 2.2 billion years ago. You're going to have to go up against those and many other milestones if you want to disprove evolution in any context.

We can discuss the "philosophical ramifications" of evolution if you want, but just so you know any sort of argumentum ad Nazium will cause you to lose the argument. Many common arguments are discussed on the TalkOrigins site, so (again) I'd suggest checking there first.

As to what scriptures I take literally or not, I follow the Church and its nearly two-thousand year Tradition. If you want to know more about that, you can walk over to the Newman Center on Sixth and Armory and ask one of the priests there. They'll be especially happy to talk to you about that, though they may want to schedule an exact time so that the subject can be properly addressed.

You ask what I would do if I were God, creation wise. Seeing as I am not Him, I have no frame of reference from which to answer that. As an anthropocentric product of this universe, my prejudice would likely be to maintain the status quo (free will, etc.). Its kinda hard to answer this question while being, by nature, incapable of weighing the options.

I am interested to hear what Dr. Menton said. My follow-up question to him, if he had answered coherently, would've been "State a purposeful reason for the adult aortic arches of mammals being derived from the left 4th aortic arch and those of birds being derived from the right 4th aortic arch."

About your quibble with the TalkOrigins refutation of the Job Behemoth/Dinosaur thing (http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CH/CH711.html): the second response states that the KJV terminology is a euphemism, so your resorting to KJV as authoritative does not hold much water for this instance. The Hebrew would be the only source to go back to on this question. However, the New American Bible translation also uses a similar phrase (http://www.usccb.org/nab/bible/job/job40.htm#v17). However, the provided footnote identifies the behemoth as a crocodile, not a dinosaur (http://www.usccb.org/nab/bible/job/job40.htm#foot1), so your nitpick merely shows a need to include the crocodile interpretation.

I took a very quick gander at the "TrueOrigins" site, but anyplace that touts homology as an argument against evolution is probably not worth my time (http://www.trueorigin.org/homology.asp). Not only are the examples in that specific paper poor (homology has been demonstrated between mamallian and mollusc eyes as both are descended from a common ancestor with a means of sensing light and dark), but the arguments used demonstrate a poor understanding of how homology is established and used in modern biology. If TrueOrigins sets the bar for submission that low, then I'm not impressed at all.

And now we reach your other attempts at quotemining. This is a common tactic of many people who argue against evolution, as it is not an appeal to facts (which would require familiarity with current peer-reviewed literature). Instead, it takes quotes out of context, both literally from its surrounding text, but also from the context of then-current scientific understanding. Sometimes, as appears to have happened with your earlier quote-mine, comes from scientists speaking on a subject where they may or may not have any authority. Normally I'd either challenge you to provide the context for the quotes that you mined, or else ignore them entirely. In fact, besides pointing you back to the Index (http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CC/CC200.html), that's what I'm going to do.

For the Gould quote, though, I will instead be nice, go out on a limb, and guess that rather than disproving evolution or anything you would like his quote to mean, he was instead arguing for Punctuated Equilibrium, which is opposition to gradualism within evolution, and has come to be largely accepted as a better model. You'll have to do better than that if you want to mine quotes (which again I discourage).

Until next, Happy Thanksgiving. Have fun sleeping off all that Tryptophan.


Eric responded about a week later. You can read his response here.

:: The Squire 2:02 AM :: email this post :: ::


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