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:: Wednesday, December 07, 2005 ::

Yet Another Novel

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

It took me the better part of a day (or, at least, the free time of a day) to pound it out, but here's my long-ass response to Eric the Young Earth Creationist's previous email. As you can tell from the text, I don't let him get off lightly with his bad arguments this time around, especially since he knows better and can actually look stuff up on TalkOrigins. I am indebted both to Google and to Narc for finding a couple things that weren't on TalkOrigins, but for the most part Eric's "refutations" of this, that, and the other were rather easily dismissed as faulty.

Those of you who read the entirety of Eric's previous missal know that at the end of his letter, after spouting off an amazing load of crap, he had the gall to accuse me of believing a lie. I also let him have it for that one, and followed it up with an admonition to do a much better job next time or have me write him off as a liar.

Before getting to the actual letter at hand, I have to make one strictly editorial comment: I told Eric in the letter that I wasn't going to give him the straight URLs for articles in the Index of Creationst Claims, but rather just give him the numerical citation since he's a big enough boy to look them up himself. However, for my dear blog readers, I will be nicer and actually hyperlink these for you, once I get the actual response posted. (This means I'll be going through the post for a while after posting it to make the hyperlinks. That's what you get for early delivery, though.)

Without any further ado, here it is:
Hello Eric,

I can see that you've already forgotten some of my first letter, namely that you should look things up on TalkOrigins' Index to Creationist Claims before trying them on me. As such, I will, from here on out, merely use the index number (e.g. CB921.1) and not waste space giving you the whole URL. I trust you can find these on your own.

I would also like to remind you that Google is your friend. I've come across at least once instance where the "rebuttal" to a TalkOrigins page which you were obviously using was negated (and, actually, made laughable) by new information. But I'll get there in good time; suffice it to say that I only once had to get off my butt and walk to the library to deal with your rhetoric.

First, though, I'd like to deal with Dr. Menton's response. What mechanic would have parts added and then taken out, with no reflection of them in the final product at all? While this is absurd in industrial manufacturing, it is precisely what happens in development. Cars start out as schematics that are created, in detail, before any piece of metal is riveted to another, meaning that only what is needed for the design goes into the final product. Multicellular eukaryotes, constrained to start off from the single-cell stage, manage to create and then destroy a number of structures that have either no or minimal visual or functional impact on what pops out (or hatches). In mammals, the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th gill arches fall into this category. In fact, all six gill arches are never even present in a human embryo at the same time - by the time the sixth forms, the second has already been destroyed. How is this evidence for intelligent design? Wouldn't it be wiser just to have these structures (and the common carotid, aorta, and pulmonary arteries that form from them) form as is instead of creating all the waste? My question about the 4th arch in birds and humans also stands, along with a new follow-up question: if designing metazoans is like creating a car, why (under Intelligent Design) do molluscs and other protostomes develop ther gut tubes mouth-first while vertebrates and other deuterostomes develop their gut tubes starting with the opposite end? Wouldn't it be wiser to use the same development path for both? Also, molluscs, especially cephalopods, manage to live just fine without the six paired gill arch structure found in vertebrates, even though they're highly intelligent and are in many places near the top of their food chains. For a movement that criticizes the "just-so" stories some evolutionary biologists come up with, your own are incredibly lacking.

The Vatican is merely re-affirming its current position that religion and evidence-based science does not conflict, partly to deal with a wayward Cardinal who said some things that might've been construed to support Intelligent Design. The Church has learned that the findings of science (as opposed to its applications) are not something to be fought, as they will not change under pressure of excommunication or interdiction. Perhaps biblical fundamentalists should learn to do the same.

Personally, I'm more willing to tie both the Protestant Reformation and the beginnings of modern science not to each other but to the invention of the printing press. That's just me, though.

To muse on the nature of quote mining for a moment, it really doesn't surprise me that Intelligent Design supporters (and the scientific creationists that preceded them) seem to think that quotes pulled from someplace that, out of context, support their position, are actually meaningful. Why? Because biblical literalists do the exact same thing to Scripture! Case in point is your quotation of 2 Tim 3:16-17, which in context is preceded by 2 Tim 3:14-15, which lays out the equal yet dependent standing of both Scripture and Tradition. Context is the key, Eric, remember that.

Again, until someone can work out the physics from me, I am going to shy away from anyone who says that there are clocks that can measure time in imaginary places where time doesn't exist. AiG's Technical Journal isn't peer-reviewed, in that most scientists who could debunk the contents of the journal are not allowed to be involved because they won't sign AiG's Statement of Faith. The inclusion of religious belief as a prerequisite to involvement disqualifies TJ from being a respectable, scientific peer-reviewed journal. If Humphreys can get himself published in someplace that is actually relevant, I might pay more attention. Until then, the rest of the scientific community ignores his findings, and so shall I.

So, going by what you've said about Christians abandoning Jewish practices, you would be in support of mandating circumcision for all male Christians? I'd suggest you go check your bible (specifically, Acts) before answering that one.

Now, to your attempt to discredit the dating of igneous rock. I did some further poking around TalkOrigins and not only found CD014.1 in the Index, but also a helpful criticism of ICR's Grand Canyon Dating Project. The article outlines how Austin a) screwed up the procedure and b) already knew that the region he sampled from contained features that, while older than the formation itself, had already been explained through geologic processes. The data for Mt. St. Helens, collected and published by the same researcher, also suffers from similar procedural errors. (http://home.austarnet.com.au/stear/mt_st_helens_dacite_kh.htm) Your sample with the trees also doesn't matter, since the known limit of Carbon-14 dating is approximately 50,000 years or so, given a lot of known variables. That the trees in the flow are dated at the very upper range of the limits of that type of dating (probably with a wide range of uncertainty to boot) is not surprising at all, considering the dating of their surroundings. You've yet to leave a scratch on modern absolute dating techniques.

I warned you against quote mining in my previous letter, yet you persisted, saying your quotes needed no context. The problem is that I went and looked them up (hence my library trip) and, unfortunately for you, the quotes don't mean what you want them to in context. Starting with the O'Rourke quote, it is from a paper about which one commenter said "It was rambling, confused, extremely poorly written, more about bad philosophy than about geology, and filled with extreme left-wing vocabulary. I am surprised that it got published in a science journal." Even so, O'Rourke manages, somehow, to make his point that geological uses of stratigraphy are valid - others have since done without the burdensome prose. That O'Rourke's work is crap and is regarded as such means nothing for your argument, though. As for the Raup quote, it comes from an article arguing against the predecessors to Intelligent Design, Scientific Creationism, in a publication for public consumption (i.e. not peer-reviewed). Even so, after the quote you mined Raup goes on to show evidence on his own (not great, mind, but that can be found elsewhere) that stratigraphy may appear circular, but isn't (and it really isn't, you should look it up http://talkorigins.org/faqs/dating.html) and that the Creationist argument is invalid. If you try quote mining again, Eric, and botch it up like you continuously do, I'll deal with the first one, then type "Quote mining, invalid" for all the rest and move on. Our emails are long enough without us wasting electrons on this useless tactic of yours.

Since you have yet to even dent the case for radiometric dating (see previous URL), I have no need to defend anything (beyond a few parries of your tepid thrusts).

As for your citation of an article dealing with the half-life of rhenium-osmium, I leave you in the capable hands of one of my blog readers who goes by the name of Narc:

I actually looked up the PRL paper he cites to claim radiometric dating is invalid. It's a great paper, and it's a very interesting phenomenon it covers.

Eric gets the physics completely wrong. The highly energetic Re-187 (75+) ions the paper discusses are the sort of thing that you'll find at the cores of supergiant stars, and possibly in a supernova. Not the sort of thing you'll find in any natural terrestrial event. I don't think you could this sort of thing in our own Sun. It's just not hot enough.

Let me point out that this paper documents the results of an experiment done to better quantify the 187Re-to-187Os decay rate that was only estimated by another group when they calculated the age of the universe. (It turns out their estimate was a good one, so it doesn't affect their results much.) What is really stunning is that Eric then uses the results of this study to -- not only invalidate the entire field of cosmochronometry -- but any sort of radiometric dating.

He's taking a paper that backs up someone else's work and expands our understanding of the very universe we live in, and claming that it invalidates the very conclusions the paper draws.

Now that takes chuzpah. (Or whatever the Protestant analogue is.)
Moving on, there is no scientific evidence for God. Some people can look at creation and from there surmise that God exists, but there is no _____ ergo Deus anywhere. It does not exist. I mentioned the FSM previously to illustrate this: that the FSM, Judeo-Christian Mythology, and Norse Mythology (http://thepaincomics.com/weekly041229.htm) are all the same in that, scientifically speaking, their explanation is: "Poof." Since science, by nature, can't prove (or deny) "Poof," it leaves "Poof" alone and investigates other avenues of explanation.

Although, seriously, if a Creator really did just go "Poof" and that was it, why go through the trouble of planting all the evidence that consistently leads someplace other than "Poof?"

Continuing to your statements about Miller's work, it would help if you were actually familiar with the experiments and its results. Last I checked, Glycine, Alanine, Aspartic Acid, and Glutamic Acid are all quite usable amino acids (as in, they're part of the 20 "canonical" amino acids and you'd die without them), and all four of those are present in significant quantities in the results of Miller's experiment. I'd also like to know what your source considers a "poisonous mixture," seeing as you and/or it are working under the delusion that anything less than cellular life is inviable (more on that later). Since we're only talking about abiotic synthesis of organic chemicals at this particular point, and since we know that the earliest organisms were anaerobic and also likely thermophiles, "poisonous" has a different meaning for such primitive organisms than for modern-day critters.

As for the atmosphere on early earth, that a reducing atmosphere existed is known at this point. The lack of banded iron deposits until 2.2 billion years ago is one bit of evidence I can cite easily, others are in the Index at CB035.1. Moving on to synthesis, you also overlook the ramifications of the RNA World hypothesis, which in its current state states that RNA oligonucleotides were the first organically active "catalysts", and ribozymes have demonstrated amino acid polymerization activity - see ribosomes. RNA came first, and then assembled the first proteins, which likely had no catalytic ability at all.

As an editorial note, outright lying to me about the results of Miller's experiment after

one of my classes this semester spent a full week going over said experiment was not the smartest thing to do.

"Evolutionists" are very open about the fact that naturally occurring amino acids are formed in racemic mixtures, you just haven't spent enough time around any of us. However, this is not a problem, as is demonstrated in the Index at CB040.

As for Glycine, it is most assuredly NOT speculation - what part of "readily detectable via radio spectroscopy" did you not understand? Its there, we can see it (http://physicsweb.org/articles/news/7/8/7 with citation), this is not up for debate, nor is the presence of amino acids and other organically relevant molecules in recovered meteorites. That "spontaneous generation of life is impossible" is something you have far from established.

Anyone actually familiar with Pasteur's work knows that the reason why his gooseneck experiment has not been refuted is because it doesn't conflict with modern theories of abiogenesis. Since you're apparently not familiar with his work, some reading is apparently in order (http://talkorigins.org/faqs/abioprob/spontaneous-generation.html).

As for there not being "the slightest evidence of any kind that would indicate that even one step of abiogenesis could be possible," please see my earlier comments on the RNA World hypothesis. You are unwilling to deal with the possibility that organic activity and molecular evolution occurred before the creation of whole cells - this is apparently a common problem among creationists. This same misunderstanding is also the origin of the argument that abiogenesis is statistically improbable, which - just like your assertion - is a load of complete garbage. Talk Origins has a wonderful essay demonstrating this (http://talkorigins.org/faqs/abioprob/abioprob.html). As such, the timelines proposed by Woese and others still stand, unaffected by your hand-waving.

While you say that you did some digging and found that "not a shred of evidence can prove the earth is over roughly 6,000 years old," you don't provide the fruits of your digging. If it's merely the arguments I've discredited above, then you are quite wrong. If not, I suggest that you go read up on the science involved (http://talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-age-of-earth.html) and then lay out your evidence.

As for eugenics, it is not supported by evolution (see Index CA006), so its evils bear as much reflection upon evolution as the Crusades do upon all Western Christianity, in that they don't. Furthermore, your equation of eugenics with Gnostic heresy is itself faulty, as Gnosticism didn't involve killing "undesirables," merely the persuit of enlightenment.

I would like to point out that it was not God who wrote the scriptures, but God working through "errant humans." I also would like to ask what was guiding the Church before the Scriptures were compiled into the New Testament we have today.

About the "evolutionary bias of the translators," I think it more likely that, hmm, dinosaurs didn't exist when Job was written. If they did, one would think that there'd be a greater presence of megafauna like dinosaurs in the Scriptures, both old and new, than there actually are. There'd also be dinosaur fossils that were young enough to be dated with Carbon-14, which there aren't.

As for Homology, your argument about phylogeny confuses it with cladistics. Go take IB 150 before returning to this topic.

You also need to go read up about eyes at TalkOrigins (Index, CB921.1), since there are many uses of partial eyes, starting with simple eyespots detecting light, to the cups possessed by starfish, to the eyes possessed by molluscs and vertebrates. In fact, our own eyes are missing quite a few things other animals have, yet we get by just fine. It is on the subject of eyes that we truely reach the importance of evolution, in that it provides a framework for the rest of biology. If we were to consider, as you want to, each species' eye separately, then yes there are many "unique" eyes out there. The thing is, in an evolutionary context, these "unique" eyes can be and are related to each other. In fact, using this evolutionary background, scientists have swapped a certain gene early in the eye production pathways of both cephalopods and humans (previously thought to have arisen completely independently) and obtained wholly viable eyes, establishing homology via genetic techniques. Without evolution as a framework, such tests wouldn't even have been conceived, even though they do work.

And, finally, to your "refutation" of whale transitional fossils. I truly think that your source material is geared towards the un- or undereducated, since I can deal with it quite easily:

Pakicetus' place in the transition is based solely on the extant fossil data. No claims are made about locomotion for the Pakicetus fossil, merely about dentition and skull morphology. If you'd actually read the TalkOrigins article (http://talkorigins.org/features/whales/), you'd know this.

AiG's refutation of Ambulocetus is based on a quote from before more complete remains of the species were found, (http://members.cox.net/ardipithecus/evol/lies/lie030.html) that include the hip articulation. Your dating claim is also baseless, since Ambulocetus is dated to 50 million years ago while the group likely to be directly ancestral to modern whales appear about 40 million years ago (still lacking echolocation, though).

The current understanding of the transition, as presented on the TalkOrigins site, places Basilosaurus outside the direct line of ancestors to modern whales - it most likely represented a terminal branch. It is presented because side branches often share charateristics present in a "main branch" at the time, not as part of the direct lineage. If you'd actually read the article, you'd know this. The fossil record is there and does

support the existence of the transition - as do the existence of many other transitional fossils (http://talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/section1.html#morphological_intermediates). Your refutation" again didn't leave a scratch on the real science.

At last we come to the end of your email, where you try to get off telling me that what I've been believing is a lie. However, I think it quite instructive to look at your track record so far. You claimed Technical Journal was peer-reviewed, when its mandatory compliance with its Statement of Faith precludes that. You cited two cases of bad procedures causing erroneous radiocarbon dating, one instance of which was almost certainly intentionally caused. Your claim about the basalt was disingenuous in that it was made despite the known limitations of Carbon dating. You engaged in a second instance of quote mining, even though you had good reason to suspect that I would call you on the context of the quotes. You misrepresented the findings of an academic article, as demonstrated by one of my blog readers. You lied outright about the findings of Miller's experiment and then proceeded to ignore the evidence for a reducing atmosphere on the early Earth. Your ramblings about the impossibility of abiogenesis (which you confuse with spontaneous generation) completely ignore the RNA World hypothesis, let alone the current understanding of the biochemistry of the early earth. You falsely conflated evolution with both eugenics and Gnosticism. You ignore plenty of animals that are evolutionarily related to organisms with complete eyes, yet make do with less than a whole eye. And, finally, you "refuted" the series of whale transitional fossils with quotes that are either completely extraneous or superseded by current data. Looking at this summary of your "scientific" arguments, I'm not the one who needs to worry about being lied to. You are the one being lied to, and are propagating said lies. As one Christian to another, I feel that I have some small duty to make this blatantly apparent to you, and so help you turn away from your sin. Also, as one student to another, I must also remind you about the importance of academic honesty, and the effects that dishonesty in the outside world can have upon one's academic reputation. Most of your arguments and "refutations" are pitiful in their intellectual bankruptcy. It not only makes me concerned for the levels to which you will sink to maintain your adherence to these lies, but also makes me worried about the others less educated about such things than I that your poor arguments might snare.

Now, if you can find some decent, genuine, and honest arguments against evolution, I will have no problems continuing this discussion with you. However, if you continue to resort to such disingenuous means, I fear that no rational discussion can continue between us. Whether or not our correspondence continues much further is up to you. Good luck on you upcoming finals. I hope that when you can get around to replying, we can continue this dialogue rationally and honestly.
What with finals comming up and all, it might be a while before Eric gets around to responding. Also, he may not take well to my calling him on his crap, so his response may be interesting. How someone can get to be a doctoral student in math and believe the lies Eric does is beyond me, though.

:: The Squire 9:26 PM :: email this post :: ::


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