Luskin vs. Science (and Scientific American)

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Today, John Rennie, Editor-in-Chief of Scientific American, put up on the SciAm blog his thoughts on the Kansas election situation. See: Kansas, Undo the Damage. Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute issued an immediate reply in the comments, linking to his longer blog reply…but it was mostly just long quotes of his reply last week to my PT post showing that the current Kansas Science Standards are (a) wrong and (b) creationism/”intelligent design” in a very thin disguise.

So, I can just kill two birds with one stone by posting my reply to Luskin, which I also just put into the comments on Rennie’s blog. Here it is (short and sweet, plus a few edits):

Luskin’s reply to Rennie basically just quotes his reply to my Panda’s Thumb post, which everyone should read before reading Luskin’s reply to Rennie. Look at what the science standards say, and then look at my links to the TalkOrigins Index of Creationist Claims. The changes to the science standards are all long-standing, long-refuted creationist claims.

My post: “No one here but us Critical Analysis-ists”: http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives[…]ere_but.html

I won’t accuse Luskin of “plain old fabricated lies”, as he does KCFS and Rennie – because it is clear that Luskin genuinely (incredibly) believes all of the ridiculous stuff he says, even if it contradicts stuff he and his allies have said at other points when it was convenient.

As for the scientists Luskin quotes – imagine if the Kansas science standards were challenged in court in a Kitzmiller-like case. Would Douglas Futuyma, WF Doolittle, Carl Woese, Niles Eldredge, Robert Caroll, and Eors Szathmary get up on the witness stand and affirm that the Kansas Science Standards accurately represented their views on the relevant science? Would any of them agree that common ancestry is in doubt? That the origin of new genes is unknown? That there are no transitional fossils? That molecular phylogenies of, say, metazoans do not show a statistically strong tree-like pattern? That evolution cannot proceed beyond “microevolution”? That irreducible complexity works as an argument against evolution? Would Eors Szathmary, of all people, say (a) the evolutionary origin of the genetic code is hopeless, which is what students will learn from the Kansas Science Standards, or (b) scientists have made massive progress in this field, by working with the plentiful evidence indicating that the genetic code evolved in a stepwise fashion? We all know he would say (b), and he could prove it with hundreds of peer-reviewed research papers by him and others, and like in Kitzmiller, the ID guys would have no mildly comparable expert to challenge him.

Let’s get real. The Kansas Science Standards would be destroyed by the very authorities Luskin cites (he cites some other people also, who are definitely not authorities). Using quote mining and ambiguous phrasing to make it appear to a casual observer that your scientifically ludicrous position is supported by serious people may work with the gullible, but it will only enrage anyone who does a serious study of these issues and thinks that truth is more important than creationist wishful thinking, and that establishing someone’s specific religious view in public schools is even more insidious when you attempt to hide it. Which is why scientists and teachers are so annoyed at the Kansas Science Standards…

PS: It won’t be out for a few more weeks yet, but should “Evolution War II” persist in Kansas, I highly recommend this book chapter in this book:

Matzke, Nicholas J., and Gross, Paul R. (2006). “Analyzing Critical Analysis: The Fallback Antievolutionist Strategy.” Chapter 2, pp. 28-56 of Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design is Wrong for Our Schools. Edited by Eugenie C Scott and Glenn Branch. Foreword by: Barry W. Lynn.

86 Comments

imagine if the Kansas science standards were challenged in court in a Kitzmiller-like case

What are the chances of this coming to pass, anyway?

Has the ACLU or AUSCS indicated that if the creationist school board is reelected, they would consider attempting Kitzmiller II: This Time It’s In Kansas? Would anything have to happen before this would be possible– for example, would a school board have to implement the new KBOE standards before a lawsuit would be possible? Have any school boards yet implemented the new KBOE standards?

Is there any substantive difference, from a court’s perspective, between the Kansas situation and the Dover situation?

I believe the standards have not yet been implemented – everyone is waiting for the election results, I expect, and everyone is on summer break right now. Some school boards have already declared they will not adopt the standards, so that presumably means it is voluntary. All else is speculation, which a lawyer could do better than I.

John Rennie has a reply to Luskin, which includes this description of the DI:

where Intelligent Design goes to rest after a long day of snookering the gullible

Bob

Nick Matzke Wrote:

I won’t accuse Luskin of “plain old fabricated lies”, as he does KCFS and Rennie — because it is clear that Luskin genuinely (incredibly) believes all of the ridiculous stuff he says, even if it contradicts stuff he and his allies have said at other points when it was convenient.

All due respect, what does that mean?

Are you saying that he genuinely believes A on Thursday and no longer genuinely believes the “Not A” that he genuinely believed on Wednesday? Or do you mean that he genuinely believes that both A and “Not A” can be true at the same time?

Frank J Wrote:

Are you saying that he genuinely believes A on Thursday and no longer genuinely believes the “Not A” that he genuinely believed on Wednesday? Or do you mean that he genuinely believes that both A and “Not A” can be true at the same time?

I won’t claim to speak for Mr. Matzke, but both are typical of the mindset.

For years (though they eventually corrected it), “Answers” in Genesis had an article on Archaeopteryx which stated at one point in it’s diatribe that Archaeopteryx was probably a fake, a dinosaur with false feathers added. Later, in the same article, it claimed that even if it wasn’t a fake, it was just a full bird, with no dinosaur features at all!

Do I think the author was lying? No. Despite the fact that he said it was probably a dinosaur and then claimed it had no dinosaur features, I don’t think he was intentionally lying. Rather, he hasn’t thought through the ramifications of everything he’s read.

Let’s face it, logic isn’t the first thing that pops into the head when you’re thinking of diagnostic features of creation “science”. He had read creationist arguments about how Archy was a fake, then read arguments that it was a full bird with no dinosaur features. He himself has no understanding of Archaeopteryx and can’t be bothered to assimilate things he reads into a worldview. He’s just looking for things that debunk EVILution. Well, both of those statements debunk EVILution, so yay! He then regurgitates what he’s read. He thinks they both sound true. He never thought about it long enough to realize there was a problem.

We made fun of AIG for this article for years before they corrected it. Let’s face it, the dinosaur without any dinosaur features is worth a laugh or two.

As far as Luskin is concerned, “intelligent design” is a conclusion you reach after examining the *cough* evidence against EVILution. He wants this “evidence” taught. That’s just teaching facts, no the “logical” conclusion “goddunit”. That’s just the way the blinders on his brain works.

The fact that all his evidence is nonsense, well, that’s neither here nor there.

Frank J wrote:

Are you saying that he genuinely believes A on Thursday and no longer genuinely believes the “Not A” that he genuinely believed on Wednesday? Or do you mean that he genuinely believes that both A and “Not A” can be true at the same time?

Its called “doublethink”. If you don’t know what that means, you should immediately read George Orwell’s “1984”.

This in Luskin’s piece is just about the height of disingenuousness:

Finally, the Kansas Science Standards explain that “[w]hether microevolution (change within a species) can be extrapolated to explain macroevolutionary changes (such as new complex organs or body plans and new biochemical systems which appear irreducibly complex) is controversial” (pg. 76). Excepting the segment on irreducible complexity, this indicator resembles a statement by Robert Carroll, who asked, “[c]an changes in individual characters, such as the relative frequency of genes for light and dark wing color in moths adapting to industrial pollution, simply be multiplied over time to account for the origin of moths and butterflies within insects, the origin of insects from primitive arthropods, or the origin of arthropods from among primitive multicellular organisms?” (Carroll, 1997). Questions about the sufficiency of microevolution to explain macroevolution have been raised in mainstream scientific literature (e.g. see Simons, 2002; Carroll, 1997), as has support for the notion of irreducible complexity (e.g. see Lönnig & Saedler, 2002). In fact, over 600 doctoral scientists from around the world have signed a statement explaining they are “skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life.” They state that “[c]areful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.” This may not constitute a majority position, but it certainly validates consideration by students in Kansas.

He conflates the question that some have of whether or not macroevolution is simply microevolution occurring over much longer periods of time, with “skepticism” (religious apologetics in the case of most of the 600) regarding the mechanisms of RM + NS. Carroll didn’t question RM + NS, did he Luskin? Same old quite-mining, same old dishonesty.

And that’s his excuse for the KSS’s claims that evolutionary mechanisms are in question, his own improper conflation of questions about macroevolution (which largely means speciation to real scientists) which are posed within the RM + NS framework, with the completely opposite notion that RM + NS (plus the other mechanisms) is insufficient as the mechanism of evolution.

Perhaps Matzke is right not to accuse the ignorant Luskin of “plain fabricated lies,” but Luskin’s carelessness with the truth is not obviously morally superioir to “plain fabricated lies”.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

As for the scientists Luskin quotes — imagine if the Kansas science standards were challenged in court in a Kitzmiller-like case. Would Douglas Futuyma, WF Doolittle, Carl Woese, Niles Eldredge, Robert Caroll, and Eors Szathmary get up on the witness stand

It occurs to me that John Rennie of SciAm probably has a lot more connections and clout than I do. Without waiting for a trial, maybe he could drop a line to a few of those people and ask them to state their opinions, for publication, on Luskin’s interpretation of their work.

Hello, Nick. I’d like to comment on whether “Critical Analysis” is logically distinct from teaching Creationism or Intelligent Design. I would like to argue that it is, because instead of contrasting evolution with a scientifically unpopular model, critical analysis seeks to expose Darwinistic concepts to the crucible of skeptical scrutiny. The validity of Darwinism does not rest on the putative failure of its competitors. I constantly bring up Berlinski’s response to the Nilsson/Pelger paper as an example of a complaint that is consistently ignored in the scientific community, but that might not be relevant here. Instead, let’s look at an earlier exchange between you and Luskin as an example of how a skeptical viewpoint may enrich students. The subject involved the prebiotic atmosphere.

Nick Matzke Wrote:

Prebiotic Oxygen. A key question in origin-of-life research is the oxidation state of the prebiotic atmosphere (the current best guess is that the origin of life occurred somewhere around 4.0-3.7 bya (billion years ago)). Wells wants you to think that there is good evidence for significant amounts free oxygen in the prebiotic atmosphere (significant amounts of free oxygen make the atmosphere oxidizing and make Miller-Urey-type experiments fail). He spends several pages (14-19) on a pseudo-discussion of the oxygen issue, citing sources from the 1970’s and writing that (p. 17) “the controversy has never been resolved”, that “Evidence from early rocks has been inconclusive,” and concluding that the current geological consensus – that oxygen was merely a trace gas before approximately 2.5 bya and only began rising after this point – was due to “Dogma [taking] the place of empirical evidence” (p. 18). None of this is true (see e.g. Copley, 2001).

Certain minerals, such as uraninite, cannot form under significant exposure to oxygen. Thick deposits of these rocks are found in rocks older than 2.5 bya years ago, indicating that essentially no oxygen (only trace amounts) was present. On page 17 Wells notes that uraninite deposits have been found in more recent rocks, but neglects to mention to his readers that these only occur under rapid-burial conditions, whereas ancient deposits of uraninite occur in slow deposition conditions, for example in sediments laid down by rivers, so that the minerals were exposed to atmospheric gases for significant periods of time before burial.

‘Red beds’ are geologic features containing highly oxidized iron (rust) indicative of high amounts of oxygen. Wells (p. 17) notes that red beds are found before 2 bya, but fails to mention that the temporal limit of red beds is just a few hundred million years before 2 bya.

Wells doesn’t even mention the evidence that banded iron formations (incompletely oxidized iron indicative of ultralow-oxygen conditions) are very common prior to 2.3 bya and very rare afterwards.

Wells also doesn’t mention that early paleosols (fossil soils) from about ~2.5 bya contain unoxidized cerium, impossible in an oxygenic atmosphere (e.g., Murakami et al., 2001).

Finally, Wells doesn’t mention to his readers that pyrite, a mineral even more vulnerable to oxidation than uraninite, is found unoxidized in pre-2.5 bya rocks, and with significant evidence of long surface exposure (i.e. grains weathered by water erosion; e.g. Rasmussen and Buick, 1999).

Why does Wells leave out the converging independent lines of geological evidence pointing to an anoxic early (pre ~2.5 bya) atmosphere?

Was the prebiotic atmosphere reducing? Are the Miller-Urey experiments “irrelevant”? The famous Miller-Urey experiments used a strongly reducing atmosphere to produce amino acids. It is important to realize that the original experiment is famous not so much for the exact mixture used, but for the unexpected discovery that such a simple experiment could indeed produce crucial biological compounds; this discovery instigated a huge amount of related research that continues today.

Now, current geochemical opinion is that the prebiotic atmosphere was not so strongly reducing as the original Miller-Urey atmosphere, but opinion varies widely from moderately reducing to neutral. Completely neutral atmospheres would be bad for Miller-Urey-type experiments, but even a weakly reducing atmosphere will produce lower but significant amounts of amino acids. In the approximately two pages of text where Wells actually discusses the reducing atmosphere question (p. 20-22), Wells cites some more 1970’s sources and then asserts that the irrelevance of the Miller-Urey experiment has become a “near-consensus among geochemists” (p. 21).

This statement is misleading. What geochemists agree on is that if the early earth’s mantle was of the same composition as the modern mantle and if only terrestrial volcanic sources are considered as contributing to the atmosphere, and if the temperature profile of the early atmosphere was the same as modern earth (this is relevant to rates of hydrogen escape) then there will be much less hydrogen compared to Miller’s first atmosphere (20% total atm.). Even if this worst-case scenario is accepted, hydrogen will not be completely absent, in fact there is a long list of geochemists that consider hydrogen to have been present (although in lower amounts, roughly 0.1-1% of the total atmosphere). At these levels of H2 there is still significant (although much lower) amino acid production.

Also, many geochemists think that these conditions do not represent the early earth, contrary to the impression given by Wells. For example, on p. 20, Wells mentions terrestrial volcanos emitting neutral gases (H2O, CO2, N2, and only trace H2), but he fails to mention that mid-ocean ridge vents could have been significant sources of reduced gases – they are important sources of reduced atmospheric gases even today, emitting about 1% methane (Kasting and Brown, 1998) and producing reduced hydrogen and hydrogen sulfide (e.g. Kelley et al., 2001; Perkins, 2001; Von Damm, 2001) and potentially ammonia prebiotically (Brandes et al., 1998; Chyba, 1998). Why does Wells exclude oceanic vents from consideration?

Another strange omission is that Wells completely fails to mention the extraterrestrial evidence, which is the only direct evidence we have of the kinds of chemical reactions that might have occurred in the early solar system. For example he neglects to mention the famous Murchison meteorite, which contains mixtures of organic compounds much like those produced in Miller-Urey style experiments, and which constitutes direct evidence that just the right kind of prebiotic chemistry was occurring at least somewhere in the early solar system, and that some of those products found their way to earth (see e.g. Engel and Macko, 2001 for a recent review).

Wells asserts that since the 1970’s, non-reducing atmospheres have become the “near-consensus.” The latest article that Wells cites supporting this view, however, is a 1995 nontechnical news article in Science (Cohen, 1995). Why doesn’t he quote Kral et al. (1998), who write,

The standard theory for the origin of life postulates that life arose from an abiotically produced soup of organic material (e.g., Miller, 1953; Miller, 1992). The first organism would have therefore been a heterotroph deriving energy from this existing pool of nutrients. This theory for the origin of life is not without competitors (for a review of theories for the origins of life see Davis and McKay, 1996), but has received considerable support from laboratory experiments in which it has been demonstrated that biologically relevant organic materials can be easily synthesized from mildly reducing mixtures of gases (e.g., Chang et al., 1983). The discovery of organics in comets (e.g., Kissel and Kruger, 1987), on Titan (e.g., Sagan et al., 1984), elsewhere in the outer solar system (e.g., Encrenaz, 1986), as well as in the interstellar medium (e.g., Irvine and Knacke, 1989) has further strengthened the notion that organic material was abundant prior to the origin of life.

None of this is meant to convey the impression that no controversies exist (both Cohen (1995) and the Davis and McKay (1996) article cited by the above-quoted Kral et al. (1998) are about the various competing hypotheses about the origin of life). But textbooks generally mention some of these hypotheses (briefly of course, as there is only space for a page or two on this topic in an introductory textbook), and furthermore generally mention that the original atmosphere was likely more weakly reducing than the original Miller-Urey experiment hypothesized, but that many variations with mildly reducing conditions still produce satisfactory results. This is exactly what is written in the most popular college biology textbook, Campbell et al.’s (1999) Biology, for instance. In other words, the textbooks basically summarize what the recent literature is saying. The original Miller-Urey experiment, despite its limitations, is also repeatedly cited in modern scientific literature as a landmark experiment. So why does Wells have a problem with the textbooks following the literature? Wells wants textbooks to follow the experts, and it appears that they are.

A very devastating critique, or so it seems. Had this been a classroom, the matter would have ended there. In this case, however, a creationist was allowed to respond:

Casey Luskin Wrote:

Miller-Urey Experiment:

The Atmosphere:

Tamzek is correct to assert that, “a key issue in the origin-of-life research is the oxidation state of the prebiotic atmosphere”, for the presence of any free oxygen on the early earth would cause a non-reducing atmosphere, rendering origins of life experiments moot. Tamzek asserts that there is strong evidence for a reducing atmosphere on the early Earth, and that Wells provides an incomplete and out-of-date discussion of the issue.

While, there is no doubt that Stanley Miller obtained amino acids through certain reactive gaseous mixtures, it should be noted that Miller-Urey experiments were designed and conducted without considering the actual chemical composition of the atmosphere. Miller himself admits that “[i]t is assumed that amino acids more complex than glycene were required for the origin of life, then these results indicate a need for CH4 (methane) in the atmosphere”1 and “[w]e believe that there must have been a period when the earth’s atmosphere was reducing, because the synthesis of compounds of biological interest takes place only under reducing conditions.”18 Yet Abelson found that, “geologists favor … that genesis of air and oceans is a result to of planetary outgassing … and … produce and atmosphere consisting of CO2, N2, and H2”2. Though Abelson wrote this in 1966, it has remained orthodox theory as Rode (1999) wrote, “modern geochemistry assumes that the secondary atmosphere of the primitive earth (i.e. after diffusion of hydrogen and helium into space) had been formed by outgassing of volcanoes and therefore that it mainly consisted of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, water, sulfur dioxide and even small amounts of oxygen.”16

Though Tamzek suggests the Earth’s early mantle may have had a different composition than it does today, this claim goes against much modern geological thought. The basis many geologists use for dating the Earth rests on the assumption that chondritic meteorites are very representative of a “bulk Earth composition”, the composition of the early Earth. These allegedly ancient chondrite “snapshots” of the mantle are in many respects similar to modern xenoliths from deep mantle. Canil (2002) actually found that vanadium redox states in peridotite-bearing mantle xenoliths and Archean cratons imply that Earth’s mantle was just as oxidized in the Archean as it is today109. The paper concluded that, “such reduced [atmospheric] components [CO and H2] are not supported by results of this and many other studies, which imply a scenario of Archean mantle redox not unlike that of today”109 The paper retains a naturalistic origin of life by saying, “[l]ife may have found its origins in other environments or by other mechanisms”109. Wells is not at odds with modern geochemical thought or the scientific data to assert that primitive Earth volcanoes would have contributed to an oxygenic atmosphere.

Abelson goes on to say that there is “no evidence for … but much against” an ammonia-methane atmosphere, noting that, “[a] quantity of ammonia equivalent to present atmospheric nitrogen would be destroyed [by ultraviolet radiation] in ~30,000 years.”2 He, and Lasaga et. al. found that methane gas would have left a signature of organic carbon in ancient sedimentary rocks, perhaps even due to a 1 to 10 m thick “primordial oil slick”15 (after all, Miller-Urey experiments produced by far more tar than anything else, and if many prebiotics were produced, then tar should have covered the early earth), for which there is no geological evidence. Schopf notes that the Swaziland Supergroup (~3.2 Ga) contains inorganic carbon, “indicating that carbon dioxide, and not methane, may have been the dominant form of atmospheric carbon at this point in time”16. This challenges the importance of undersea thermal vents as a contributor of methane, which Tamzek says Wells “exclude[s]” wrongly.

Tamzek claims that hydrogen would have been contributed by undersea vents making the atmosphere more reducing, however hydrogen is so light that most researchers recognize it would easily float to the top of Earth’s atmosphere where it would be lost into space. Regardless, Miller found that without methane, hydrogen based H2 - N2 - CO / CO2 atmospheres produce nothing more than the amino acid glycine1, and that this is most effective when hydrogen / carbon ratios are high > 2, very unlikely on the early earth. Without methane or ammonia, origins of life experiments are generally useless.

These facts alone are enough to justify Wells’ assertion that the methane and ammonia-using Miller-Urey experiment “continues to be used as an icon” saying “we are given the misleading impression that scientists have empirically demonstrated the first step in the origin of life”. In agreement with Wells would probably be origins of life researcher Robert Shapiro who said, “[w]e have reached a situation where a theory has been accepted as fact by some, and possible contrary evidence is shunted aside.”17 However, beyond Miller-Urey, Tamzek spends most of his rebuttal trying achieve the difficult task of using geological evidence to prove anything about the Earth’s early atmosphere–much less that the atmosphere was reducing.

The Geological Evidence–Reducing, Oxic, or Inconclusive?

Tamzek gives geological evidence showing the lack of oxygen in the Earth’s early atmosphere while Wells also provides a variety of mainstream lines of evidence pointing towards an oxygenic early atmosphere, a view shared by many other scientists. Regardless of one’s perspective on this issue, this discussion will be prefaced with the words of Nasa Astrobiology Institute researcher Hiroshi Ohtomo who recently said, “[I]t will take many different lines of evidence to prove this [oxygen level on early Earth] one way or the other”10, as this is a very difficult issue to asses with many lines of evidence often apparently in opposition.

A prime example of conflicting lines of evidence is Tamzek’s implication that the presence of unoxidized cerium in paleosols (fossil soils) from 2.5 Ga35 settle the case, even though red beds, admitted by Tamzek as “indicative of high amounts of oxygen”, are found from the exact same period–2.5 Ga19. What are we to do in these situations? The bottom line is that geochemistry doesn’t always take place in the presence of the atmosphere–both oxic and anoxic conditions can be simulated in environments removed from exposure to the atmosphere. For this reason, it is difficult to make any strong statements either way from geology. Using biological methods, however, we can make a better approximation. The earliest estimate is that there are signs of life on earth about 3.8 Ga11 (courtesy of our friends at Scripps Institution for Oceanography), with the earliest fossil bacteria are from about 3.5 Ga20, which look like modern photosynthetic oxygen-producing cyanobacteria. Scientists who have conducted computer modeling of early oxygen production from bacteria have concluded that the atmosphere could reach near present-day levels within 30 Ma, despite what geological evidences seem to say! Thus, it is likely that from at least 3.5 Ga on, life on earth was indeed raising oxygen levels, countering Tamzek’s claim that 2.5 Ga unoxidized cerium in paleosols is indicative of an oxygen-free atmosphere. Evidence for an early Archean atmosphere which was either reducing or oxidizing seems equivocal.

Tamzek asserts that the mineral uraninite, present on the early Earth, cannot form under “significant exposure to oxygen”, however a recent publication from the Nasa Astrobiology Institute stated that its P.I. had observed the, “survival of uraninite … under an oxic atmosphere” and instability of uraninite under an oxygen-poor atmosphere, which was said to be “supporting … evidence for … an oxic Archaean atmosphere.”7 Regardless, the origin of uraninite has also been a subject of controversy. Some researchers have found that the uranium conglomerates bearing uraninite have a texture and mineralogical makeup (uraninite, pyrite, molybdenite, and sulfides) one would expect if they were deposited by hydrothermal solutions, indicating that the uranium was deposited deep in the earth, far removed from the atmosphere, similar to what is observed happening in the origin of modern and more recently formed uraninite deposits9 (which obviously occurred in an oxygenic atmosphere). Furthermore the uraninites occur at the bottom of basins, often near uncomformities, below uranium bearing rocks, where we would expect such hydrothermal deposits to be found. This led Davidson9 to conclude that the uraninite bearing rocks are not placer (riverine) deposits, as is suggested by Tamzek. Wells is very justified in asserting that with regards to the atmospheric composition, “[e]vidence from the ancient rocks has been inconclusive”.

Red beds, which first occur around 2.5 Ga19, can also be used as an indicator of atmospheric content, for as Tamzek says, they are “indicative of high amounts of oxygen”. However, “high amounts of oxygen” aren’t necessary to inhibit pre-biotic chemistry–even a slightly oxidizing atmosphere, which would oxidize some rocks, such as “banded iron formations (BIFs),” could prevent pre-biotic synthesis chemistry. Early Pre-Cambrian (Archean) BIFs contain fully oxidized minerals grains of hematite and magnetite which were laid down in the primary strata21, 22. Tamzek claims that banded iron formations point towards a reducing atmosphere, but the question remains, how did these “incompletely oxidized” BIFs get “incompletely oxidized?” These could be evidence for oxygen on the early earth, simply because they show oxidation, and at least point away from a reducing atmosphere. Regardless, the thin poorly oxidized laminae of BIFs are reminiscent of those found in modern lake sediments, which form today even though our atmosphere is oxic. BIFs only require anoxic conditions to form and do not necessarily tell anything about the atmospheric composition. In fact, BIFs from about 2.0 Ga, when the atmosphere was supposedly becoming more oxygenic, look the same as BIFs from earlier pre-Cambrian BIFs19. Given that red beds–supposedly evidence of an oxic atmosphere, have been found contemporary with banded iron formations, it seems difficult to determine if the atmosphere strongly affects either of their formation, it is likely that neither are good indicators of atmospheric composition.

Not only is there weak evidence against an oxidizing atmosphere, but there is no evidence that the methane-ammonia atmosphere necessary for prebiotic synthesis ever existed2, 3. Tamzek’s claims that the early earth had a reducing atmosphere contradicts admissions from the rebuttal to Jonathan Wells posted by the NCSE4 and publicly stated by NCSE director Eugenie Scott5 in a public lecture critiquing “Icons of Evolution”. The NCSE acknowledges that the early atmosphere might have had oxygen and says that modern scientists have “changed the experimental conditions to reflect better knowledge of the Earth’s early atmosphere”4, which is why both NCSE director Eugenie Scott5 and NCSE President Kevin Padian23 have publicly stated that the early Earth’s atmosphere probably contained oxygen.

Tamzek also suggests that enough pre-biotic monomers could have been delivered via meteorite impacts. While some organics have been found in meteorites in quantities similar to those expected from Miller-Urey type experiments24, Anders noted that it is unlikely that many organic molecules would survive the shock of impact on meteorites with a mass of more than 10-8 gram, only which could be gently decelerated by the atmosphere such as not to heat up so much and destroy the monomers13. Anders concluded that meteorites are a poor vehicle for bringing organic carbon to earth, leaving the hopes of origins of life researchers in “cometary dust”13.

Wells is not the only one to doubt scenarios of pre-biotic synthesis. So drastic is the evidence against pre-biotic synthesis, that in 1990 the Space Studies Board of the National Research Council recommended to scientists a “reexamination of biological monomer synthesis under primitive Earthlike environments, as revealed in current models of the early Earth”3. However, as for the soup itself, even if pre-biotic synthesis had occurred, the primordial soup is thought to have been extremely dilute24, and this says nothing about its components, which would have degraded extremely quickly and most likely been destroyed less than every million years during sterilizing impact events common on the early Earth25. And of course once you get the soup, you’re only a few steps out of countless needed for the origins of life.

In conclusion, Tamzek is justified in presenting his side of the issue with regards to the oxidation state of the Earth’s early atmosphere. However, it seems clear that these are difficult issues to examine, and that it is perhaps better to go along with Jonathan Wells’ statement that, “[e]vidence from the ancient rocks has been inconclusive” making Tamzek’s charge that Wells provides a “psuedo-discussion” innocuous. Regardless, Wells is correct in finding that the textbooks do inappropriately claim strong evidence for pre-biotic synthesis.

And how do the evolutionists reply? Only with:

Ian Musgrave Wrote:

Miller-Urey Experiment Abelson goes on to say that there is “no evidence for … but much against” an ammonia-methane atmosphere, noting that, “[a] quantity of ammonia equivalent to present atmospheric nitrogen would be destroyed [by ultraviolet radiation] in ~30,000 years.”2 He, and Lasaga et. al. found that methane gas would have left a signature of organic carbon in ancient sedimentary rocks, perhaps even due to a 1 to 10 m thick “primordial oil slick”15 (after all, Miller-Urey experiments produced by far more tar than anything else, and if many prebiotics were produced, then tar should have covered the early earth), for which there is no geological evidence. Schopf notes that the Swaziland Supergroup (~3.2 Ga) contains inorganic carbon, “indicating that carbon dioxide, and not methane, may have been the dominant form of atmospheric carbon at this point in time”16. This challenges the importance of undersea thermal vents as a contributor of methane, which Tamzek says Wells “exclude[s]” wrongly.

As this is around 300 million years after the first known bacterial fossils, and well after the time frame of the origin of life (4.2-3.8 Bya), is anyone surprised. Furthermore, in Kastings model, methane is a minor (around 20 ppm) not dominant form in the atmosphere, so this is doubly irrelevant to the hydrothermal vent model.

Ian ignores most of Luskin’s response, which is unfortunate, because Luskin clearly demonstrates that Nick’s converging lines of evidence are capable of being dismantled. Of course, Matzke does present many excellent points, but that is not the issue. One can never get the truth from one side; other viewpoints are necessary to paint an accurate portrait.

Evolution does not consist solely of “RM & NS” (random mutation and natural selection). A cowardly DI type statement like “We are skeptical of the ability of RM & NS to account for the history of life” is a non-statement. Biologists are beyond skeptical of that. Genetic drift, the high frequency of nearly neutral mutations, extinction, and meteors are a few other major factors. Disco can’t find people other than their own Fellows and a few sycophants to support their alternative so they run a fake statement instead.

Personally, I think that when folk do what would, in the intelligent and informed, be put down as lying, they should be allowed to make for themselves the argument they are not lying but instead are stupid as a bag of hammers.

The literal meaning of “critical analysis” is distinct from I.D. (aka the conjecture that life was deliberately engineered). But the I.D. pushers aren’t using it to mean what it literally means.

Henry

GoP said:

The validity of Darwinism does not rest on the putative failure of its competitors.

Does anyone else find it strange that IDiots generally gauge the validity of their “theory” on the failure of ToE? What gives, Paley?

Are you saying that we should only evaluate theories using evidence? If so, great. I’m sure you can link me to reams of positive evidence for ID?

Evolution does not consist solely of “RM & NS” (random mutation and natural selection). A cowardly DI type statement like “We are skeptical of the ability of RM & NS to account for the history of life” is a non-statement. Biologists are beyond skeptical of that. Genetic drift, the high frequency of nearly neutral mutations, extinction, and meteors are a few other major factors. Disco can’t find people other than their own Fellows and a few sycophants to support their alternative so they run a fake statement instead.

Evolution does not consist solely of “RM & NS” (random mutation and natural selection). A cowardly DI type statement like “We are skeptical of the ability of RM & NS to account for the history of life” is a non-statement. Biologists are beyond skeptical of that. Genetic drift, the high frequency of nearly neutral mutations, extinction, and meteors are a few other major factors. Disco can’t find people other than their own Fellows and a few sycophants to support their alternative so they run a fake statement instead.

Is there an echo in here? ;)

“Are you saying that he genuinely believes A on Thursday and no longer genuinely believes the “Not A” that he genuinely believed on Wednesday? Or do you mean that he genuinely believes that both A and “Not A” can be true at the same time?”

Why certainly.

Holding mutually contradicting ideas simultaneously is one of the hallmarks of creationists.

Consistency is irrelevant. Only evolution is wrong is what matters.

Apologies for the repeated comment. I kept getting timed out trying to post, then suddenly…

blipey Wrote:

Does anyone else find it strange that IDiots generally gauge the validity of their “theory” on the failure of ToE? What gives, Paley?

Are you saying that we should only evaluate theories using evidence? If so, great. I’m sure you can link me to reams of positive evidence for ID?

Well, I gave you a perfect example of a creationist taking an evolutionary claim allegedly supported by reams of interlocking, reinforcing evidence and then refuting it without too much trouble. What happens when other claims are put under the microscope? The bird/theropod link becomes unraveled, the “molecular phylogenies support trees drawn from morphology” assertion collapses, even the unitary pseudogene evidence totters a bit. Edward Max still hasn’t refuted John Woodmorappe’s essay, which has since been published in a creationist journal.

Before complaining about our model, perhaps you should work on your own.

the Kansas Science Standards explain that “whether microevolution … can be extrapolated to explain macroevolutionary changes … is controversial”

Not just evolution. I’ve always found that micro math as taught in the schools, does not extrapolate to real world macro math situations, such as actually using it to fill out tax forms.

the Kansas Science Standards explain that “whether microevolution … can be extrapolated to explain macroevolutionary changes … is controversial”

Not just evolution. I’ve always found that micro math as taught in the schools, does not extrapolate well to real world macro math situations, such as actually using it to fill out tax forms.

Re “that micro math as taught in the schools, does not extrapolate well to real world macro math situations, such as actually using it to fill out tax forms.”

Well of course not, cause tax forms involve reactions with atoms of elements governmentium and bereaucratium, which aren’t accounted for in basic math.

The Ghost of Paley Wrote:

Ian ignores most of Luskin’s response…

Because it was nonsense, I just had to show how one segment was nonsense, the rest was fairly obvious. Letting people like Luskin set nonsense as “education” for our students is a very bad educational strategy.

The evidence was and is that early O2 was practically nil:

The oxygenation of the atmosphere and oceans Heinrich D. Holland

Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B (2006) 361, 903—915 doi:10.1098/rstb.2006.1838 Published online 19 May 2006

“These measurements indicate that the O2 content of the Archaean atmosphere was generally less than ca 10K (-)5 present atmospheric level (PAL) (2 p.p.m.v.; Kasting et al. 2001; Pavlov & Kasting 2002). At the time of writing, there is no defensible alternative to this interpretation of the pre-2.45 Gyr MIF-S signals.”

Even today much of the biosphere is anoxic. There may be more organisms living without free oxygen than with it. And life did not start in the air. A warm little crack of percolating sulphides is more likely.

Miller-Urey was a great discovery and breakthrough in prebiotic chemistry. Yields of biochemicals may be less in other atmospheres, but remember Miller-Urey got massive results in one week! In scientific accounts life had more time than that to get going. We are still finding more “biological” molecules in unexpected places, even the cold reaches or outer space.

Now then. Paley has used the creationist method: distract! and often distract by changing the subject to OOL.

Remember the real topic here: The Kansas suspects have laced the state science standards with creationism aka ID, and have the gall to deny this.

Henry:

The literal meaning of “critical analysis” is distinct from I.D. (aka the conjecture that life was deliberately engineered). But the I.D. pushers aren’t using it to mean what it literally means.

Cue Inigo Montoya…

Before complaining about our model

You, uh, don’t HAVE any model. Remember?

Only have a few minutes…

P.D. Wrote:

The evidence was and is that early O2 was practically nil:[snip]

Except for the disturbing V/Sc ratios in Archean basalts, which suggest little evolution of upper mantle fO2 throughout most of the earth’s “history”, which forces the authors to embrace the spanking-new fallback hypothesis advanced in reference 37. In other words, Canil’s work has been replicated by recent research, validating Luskin’s claim.

“I’d like to comment on whether “Critical Analysis” is logically distinct from teaching Creationism or Intelligent Design.”

Aside from that there is no such thing, such misdirected criticism is what Luskin, and indeed ID, bases most efforts on.

But criticism by peers is part and parcel of all science, it can’t be selected out of the usual process, and no area requires to be singled out as having special need for it.

Deal with it! And stop using terms that are confused with existing ones. ( http://www2.selu.edu/Academics/Facu[…]critique.htm , http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critic[…]rse_analysis ) Inigo Montoya will have his revenge.

blipey wrote:

Does anyone else find it strange that IDiots generally gauge the validity of their “theory” on the failure of ToE? What gives, Paley?

Are you saying that we should only evaluate theories using evidence? If so, great. I’m sure you can link me to reams of positive evidence for ID?

You totally ignored this objection, Paley. You responded by changing the subject, which admittedly shouldn’t surprise us anymore.

Blipey pointed out that all ID really does is attempt to validate itself solely based on supposed failures of evolution. Except for the most brainless forms of Young Earth Creationism, it offers nothing of its own, and HAS NO MODEL of its own.

These guys are great! :-)

I guess that also means the earth is flat, resting on the back of a giant turtle and anyone who’s got GPS should demand their money back.

Oh, and the T-Rex ate daisies.

Please forgive this question if it has already been asked, but if M. Ghost does not accept the heliocentric model of the solar system (I can only assume he then believes in the geocentric model), which is driven in part by universal gravitation, wouldn’t that imply that M. Ghost does not accept the laws of gravity? Am I in the presence of a true-life proponent of Intelligent Falling?

The Ghost of Paley Wrote:

I just want some class time devoted to the problems with Darwinism, Heliocentrism, Old Earthism, etc.

What the hell are you talking about?

All proper science classes in the world TODAY are ALREADY devoting the required amount of time to cover the problems with Darwinism, Heliocentrism, Old Earthism, etc in their ENTIRETY.

I suspect the kids will wonder why Darwins consider court decisions supporting evidence for their side, though.

That’s strange.

Considering how no one on your side has considered researching proper evidence for support of your side, instead devoting a lot of time to gather public support and trying to win through court decisions.

If I recall correctly, anti-evolutionists like the IDiots were treating the initial ruling to place disclaimers on textbooks as evidence for their side.

What’s worse, I actually talked to a fundie who believed it was the “evolutionists” who started all the trouble, conveniently and continually refusing to recognise the whole sticker debacle as an aggressive act.

GoP wrote:

I just want some class time devoted to the problems with … Heliocentrism

Really? I’m fascinated (and I mean that honestly); you seriously don’t think that the earth is round and it goes around the sun?

Evolution I can kinda understand, it’s difficult to directly observe since it’s largely hidden on a human timescale. But a round earth, that’s so easy to prove all by yourself. All you need is a telephone.

Paley’s catalog of Geocentric drivel can be found here: http://www.antievolution.org/cgi-bi[…];f=14;t=2111

I’m not sure if Paley seriously believes what he says or not, but that hasn’t stopped him from posting 15 pages of nonsense.

Yeah, Stevaroni, he’s not kidding. He’s spent all damn year trying, and failing, to come up with a heliocentric model of the universe.

Pete Dunkelberg Wrote:

From start to finish [the paper] agrees with very low oxygen in the early atmosphere.

This reminds me of a debate I got into with another P’s Thumber: I cited a paper and demonstrated how the data and conclusions supported my side, but all he cared about was the evidence-free spin, and accused me of irresponsibly “neglecting” said spin throughout our argument. Dunkelberg makes the same mistake. The paper tests for chemical traces in the early mantle that should be apparent if the early atmosphere was mildly reducing, as many OOL scenarios demand: i.e. different V/Sc ratios resulting from a vulcanism-based oxygen sink. They find no such evidence. This suggests either a much higher level of volcanic activity in the Archean, mysterious sinks, or lower oxygen production. But since the O2 transition at about 2.3 Gya doesn’t show up in the mantle, that leaves the first two explanations, which renders the Darwinian hypothesis without a mechanism.

By the way, I realise that the Archean is assumed to have two to three times as much volcanic activity as the Proterozoic; it’s not enough to explain the fO2 constancy, however.

Darwinism rests on a shaky foundation. That’s why it always focuses on its opponent’s model. Critical analysis will remove that crutch.

I realise that the Archean is assumed to have two to three times as much volcanic activity as the Proterozoic…

That’s typical castles in the air theorising. That’s why no one takes neoCreationists seriously. GoP you and your fellow deluded at the disco institute are in deep denial. That’s why BillD is busy trashing his credentials, Wells is publishing cheap pamphlets, and Behe has decided to become an entertainer. Kitzmiller has raised the bar far above the reach of Pseudobiology V.3. Just get used to it. You can still make a living out of pseudobiology AiG/ICR/CRS style - there’s always enough deludeds going around interested in DVDs, T-Shirts, bumper stickers (strained flat humor notwithstanding) and cheap paperbacks.

Darwinism rests on a shaky foundation.

Whereas ID and Creationism has no foundation. Odd that you seem to think that’s preferable.

That’s why it always focuses on its opponent’s model.

Um, no, you HAVE no model. Haven’t been paying attention?

And if you were more educated, you’d know that pointing out the flaws in other theories is a normal procedure in science.

Besides, all IDC does is point out supposed flaws in evolution. And complain about the wickedness of atheists.

Critical analysis will remove that crutch.

May we subject your Young Earth geocentrism to ‘critical analysis’?

GoP Wrote:

This suggests either a much higher level of volcanic activity in the Archean, mysterious sinks, or lower oxygen production. But since the O2 transition at about 2.3 Gya doesn’t show up in the mantle, that leaves the first two explanations, which renders the Darwinian hypothesis without a mechanism.

From your the paper you cited:

If, on the other hand, the uncertainty in the O2 inputs or volcanic degassing rates is considered, it can be seen from Fig. 5C that it easy to come up with a particular combination of O2 inputs and volcanic degassing rates that allows for the crossover to occur at 0.3 log unit below the present day fO2 of the mantle.

Maybe I’m missing something, but I think that answers your objection. Those pesky details:

However, it has been recently suggested that disproportionation of FeO to Fe0 and Fe3+ at high pressures followed by segregation of the metal phase to the core could lead to a net increase in the amount of oxygen, and hence fO2, of the mantle early in Earth’s history

So, because an oxygen producing phenomenon using elements found in a young earth has been noted to exist makes it an ad hoc change. Not that the mechanism might be applicable or pertinent.

Ghost of Paley

Casey Luskin is a dual expert in the law and geology

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It doesn’t get any stupider than that, Ghost. Thank you for setting the bar so very low.

Syntax Error: mismatched tag at line 3, column 285, byte 472 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.12.3/mach/XML/Parser.pm line 187

Hey Paley, you are, uh, blithering again.

Please stop drooling into everyone’s mailbox.

Thanks.

Syntax Error: mismatched tag at line 1, column 54, byte 54 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.12.3/mach/XML/Parser.pm line 187

GoP wrote:

“By the way, Casey Luskin is a dual expert in the law and geology, so evos can’t dismiss him without cause.”

Out of (possibly drunken) curiosity I looked up Casey Luskin on google. I now feel ashamed to be a Star Wars geek, because apparently he is too. :-(

But what I found strange is that GoP seems to be a YECer, yet a couple of links that Luskin’s homepage link to are desertusaDOTcom and the Scripps Institution for Oceanography. Both these sites seem to agree with an old Earth and global warming.

Not that I think that makes Luskin smart - the links to cruxmag and salvomag are just a weeeeeee bit scary.

Darwinism rests on a shaky foundation. That’s why it always focuses on its opponent’s model.

Please check the majority of biology papers.

Most of them don’t contain phrases along the lines of “unlike ID theory, blah blah…”

Whereas ALL ID papers make a case by inventing problems of evolutionary theory.

This guy reminds me of a fundie I used to argue with.

They attack science. We respond. They take the act of our responding and say “you focus on us too much!” neglecting the fact that they continue to base their arguments on ignorant and prejudiced comparisons against evolution theory.

I haven’t read Origin of Species yet, but maybe someone who has read this definitive work can tell us exactly how much of the text contains references to holes in Creationism?

Is Luskey still citing Schwabe’s relaxin work as he did here, here and here to argue for uncommon descent? He should note that Schwabe’s paper on Ciona relaxin is at least as questionable Schwabe’s Genomic Potential Hypothesis as such as Gert Korthof and myself have shown in a recent FASEB Journal comment.

creeky Wrote:

From your the paper you cited:

If, on the other hand, the uncertainty in the O2 inputs or volcanic degassing rates is considered, it can be seen from Fig. 5C that it easy to come up with a particular combination of O2 inputs and volcanic degassing rates that allows for the crossover to occur at 0.3 log unit below the present day fO2 of the mantle.

Maybe I’m missing something, but I think that answers your objection.

Except the authors proceed to caution:

However, based on the range of V/Sc data in MORBs and thermobarometrically determined fO2s of abyssal peridotites and MORB glasses, the fO2 of the modern upper mantle probably varies at least between FMQ and FMQ-1. If only a 0.3 log unit difference in mantle fO2 is required to switch the atmosphere from O2-poor to O2-rich, the present day mantle would straddle this transition point, possibly making atmospheric O2 levels extremely sensitive to small perturbations in mantle fO2. Other than the 2.3 Gy GOE, changes of similar magnitude in atmospheric O2 levels have not been observed. We thus conclude that the near constancy of upper mantle fO2 since 3.5 Gy ago indicates that mantle fO2 was probably not the dominant influence on atmospheric O2 levels, consistent with the conclusions of Delano [4]. [my emphasis]

Creeky Wrote:

So, because an oxygen producing phenomenon using elements found in a young earth has been noted to exist makes it an ad hoc change. Not that the mechanism might be applicable or pertinent.

We’ll have to see, won’t we? It’s just a shame that it all hinges on an recently-proposed hypothesis.

We’ll have to see, won’t we? It’s just a shame that it all hinges on an recently-proposed hypothesis.

That’s the mistake.

To think that “it all hinges” on one small detail.

One basic thing you should learn is that if you perceive one small detail to unravel a theory, then the chances are more likely that you have misunderstood this small detail.

You have to remember about the thousands or so other not-so-small details that support the basic tenet of evolution.

“That’s the mistake.

To think that “it all hinges” on one small detail.

Yep, that’s what they keep missing: a theory is based on patterns formed across all the relevant data, not one any one (or any few) pieces of it. Yet people who dislike the notion of evolution frequently focus on some few details at a time, and act like it means something.

Henry

Of course, a single piece of evidence, persuasive enough, could shatter any standing theory. That’s science for you!

That having been said, we don’t usually start refering to ideas as “theories” if they’re really vulnerable to this, so it’s not very likely. It took a consistent pattern of failure in precision of predicting planetary orbits before people started looking for something to replace Newtonian Mechanics.

What creationists really don’t get is that it wouldn’t help them anyway. If “evolution” were debunked tomorrow (by which we really mean the theory of common descent and/or abiogenesis), there isn’t a scientist alive who would respond, “Oh, well, that’s done with, back to creationism!” Creationism would still be dead and buried under a ton of evidence that it cannot deal with.

Of course, a single piece of evidence, persuasive enough, could shatter any standing theory. That’s science for you!

I would not be surprised if some Creationist quotemines this.

In my time dealing with creationists, I’ve had creationists forge posts from me to racist groups championing hate crimes in evolution’s name as well as try to email family members to inform them of all the horrible things I’m doing. (They only managed to get my other email addresses. Not that it matters, my family’s response would have been “Good!”)

A little quote mining wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest.

Re “Of course, a single piece of evidence, persuasive enough, could shatter any standing theory.”

Or limit its scope.

Henry

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Nick Matzke published on July 26, 2006 7:51 PM.

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