Q: How many things can a creationist get wrong in a single article?

| 10 Comments

A: All of them.

R. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has a long article on Meyer's publication, titled Panicked Evolutionists. He gets everything wrong, right from the title onwards.

The theory of evolution is a tottering house of ideological cards that is more about cherished mythology than honest intellectual endeavor. Evolutionists treat their cherished theory like a fragile object of veneration and worship--and so it is. Panic is a sure sign of intellectual insecurity, and evolutionists have every reason to be insecure, for their theory is falling apart.

It's always a bit discombobulating to find a creationist damning evolution as a "mythology" and "object of veneration and worship", as if those are terms of scorn to a Southern Baptist. That really is no fair. We academics are so finely attuned to irony that it sidetracks us somethin' terrible.

But to force myself to address his point rather than the subtext, he's wrong on all counts: biologists aren't panicking over creationism, nor is the theory of evolution showing any signs of weakness. Rather, we're mostly disgusted at the fact that a strongly supported scientific principle is being attacked by political creatures who are misrepresenting the theory. Mohler gives us an excellent example of using bad logic and bad science to pretend that an ideological cartoon has a legitimate scientific foundation.

Continue reading "Q: How many things can a creationist get wrong in a single article?" (on Pharyngula)

10 Comments

I dunno. I’m awful panicky. I might have an anxiety attack right here.

~DS~ wrote:

CW it’s not clear to me if you accept common descent and merely question the mechanism(s) proposed to date to explain how speciation/diversification from common ancestors may have happened, or if you reject common descent altogether. Please elaborate if you could, TY.

P. S. I’m talking about change in species after the formation of life and I’ll be happy to stipulate for this discussion that science has no tightly constrained theory of abiogenesis

My position on this is consistent with the facts. All living things are closely related. The same parts, the same genes turn up again and again in a wide variety of organisms. It’s clear that we’re all cut from the same cloth, we’re all part of the same web and I consider that to be an understanding of the most profound significance. The words “species”, “speciation”, and “descent” have no meaning to me. They are terms that have never been adequately defined and they are concepts that have never been observed, and are still the subject of disgreement among scientists therefore they are not scientific. We also observe that change has occurred over time. In the very broadest sense of the word, this could be called “evolution”. But there is no hint as to what mechanism is responsible for this. Because of the fact that all living organisms are so closely related by process and structure, it seems like an obvious conclusion that they had a common origin. It also seems likely, based on the transcendent ingenuity displayed in the organization of living systems and the integration of structure and process necessary to achieve the living state that this could not have occurred without some form of intelligent input from outside and that it is not an incidental quirk of nature or a random, purposeless event.

Common descent means simply that there is an unbroken chain of parent-child biological relationships that stretch backwards from present organisms to other organisms hundreds of million years ago.

So, Charlie, without passing judgment on whether aspects of this chain have been guided by intelligent input or not, do you think common descent in this sense is true? can you answer this question straightforwardedly?

Jack Krebs wrote:

Common descent means simply that there is an unbroken chain of parent-child biological relationships that stretch backwards from present organisms to other organisms hundreds of million years ago.

So, Charlie, without passing judgment on whether aspects of this chain have been guided by intelligent input or not, do you think common descent in this sense is true? can you answer this question straightforwardedly?

Unfortunately, that is not the definition of common descent. All humans are descended from other humans going back millions of years. This is not common descent. Common descent implies phylogeny, the notion that all of the different phyla and other taxa descended from common ancestors by some evolutionary process. Common descent is not about humans descending from other humans, or chimpanzees descending from other chimpanzees, it’s about humans and chimpanzees having a common ancestor. While humans and chimpanzees are very closely related, the phylogenies and the mechanisms have yet to be determined

Charlie Wrote:

While humans and chimpanzees are very closely related, the phylogenies and the mechanisms have yet to be determined

But the data clearly support common ancestry and the lack of ANY scientifically relevant ID hypothesis places it at a certain disadvantage when compared with the potential of the simple mechanisms of variation and selection.

My wife has been dealing with a torn miniscus for the better part of two years as well as a bad back, so when someone talks about the “transcendent ingenuity” of natural systems, I’d like to say that, as natural systems go, human bipedalism really sucks. It’s like calling a car with egg-shaped wheels and head rests half way down the seat an example of “transcendent ingenuity”.

Living systems, while they can be quite phenomonal and efficient, just as often show inefficiencies and downright delerious traits. Human bipedalism is an excellent example. Our knees and our spines, while adequate, are certainly not resounding examples of any sort of bipedal design. Certainly birds do it much better. If this is an example of any kind of intelligent design (to coin a phrase ;-) then the designer must either be a complete idiot or a very nasty individual.

Evolutionary theory, of course, neatly explains that our spines and knees, evolved for movement on all fours, then, due to the pressures put on all living populations, were put to use in bipedal stance. It works reasonably well, but certainly dooms a lot of people to joint and back problems. I wouldn’t call merely adequate construction to be “transcendent ingenuity”.

CW all I’m asking is; Irrespective of disagreement over how it happens that diversification/speciation occurs, do you suspect, accept, advocate, etc, that … say … humans and chimps share a common ancestor? Or rats and dogs? Or reptiles and birds? That kind of thing. It appears from your response that you may well accept that concept, but your response is not clear.

This isn’t a trick. I’m not trying to set you up. I just happened to notice that you implied at this thread under the comments that you didn’t accept evolution without intelligent input; but it sounded like you were talking about the mechanism(s) of change.

A. Clausen, your post is good. Evolution is much more parsimonious than the creationist tale of magic. But I don’t expect it to be any more effective an argument against creationists than science has been.

~DS~ wrote:

do you suspect, accept, advocate, etc, that … say … humans and chimps share a common ancestor?

I suspect it’s a very strong possibility.

Or rats and dogs?

I suspect it’s a strong possibility.

Or reptiles and birds?

I suspect it’s a possibility.

This is not an evasion. I just don’t know.

Charlie, then how would you rank this claim?:

“Humans and chimps descend from two populations that arose from separate abiogenesis events.”

Possibility? Strong? Very Strong?

As usual, “arose” and “abiogenesis” do not imply that intelligence was or was not involved.

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This page contains a single entry by PZ Myers published on September 21, 2004 9:54 AM.

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