The science of antediluvian plushies

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One creationist claim that's commonly laughed at is this idea that 8 people could build a great big boat, big enough to hold all the 'kinds' of animals, and that those same 8 people were an adequate work force to maintain all those beasts for a year in a confined space on a storm-tossed ark. So the creationists have created a whole pseudoscientific field called baraminology which tries to survey all of taxonomy and throw 99% of it out, so they can reduce the necessary number of animals packed into the boat. Literally, that's all it's really about: inventing new taxonomies with the specific goal of lumping as many as possible, in order to minimize the load on their fantasy boat.

In the past, I've seen them argue that a biblical 'kind' is equivalent to a genus; others have claimed it's the Linnaean family. Now, Dr Jean K. Lightner, Independent Scholar (i.e. retired veterinarian), has taken the next step: a kind is equivalent to an order, roughly. Well, she does kind of chicken out at the Rodentia, the largest and most diverse group of mammals, and decides that those ought to be sorted into families, because otherwise she's reducing the number of animals on the ark too much.

Given the characteristics that unite this order and the controversy in suborder classification, one could argue that the obvious cognitum is at the level of the order. Given my personal observations of squirrels and rats, which usually are placed in different suborders (except on the dual suborder scheme where they are both in Sciurognathi), I find this suggestion appealing. However, for the purposes of this project the order is too high for such a diverse group without considerably more evidence. For this reason the level of the kind will be considered to be at the level of the family.

She needs "more evidence" to be able to squish all of the rodents down to one common ancestor 4,000 years ago! You know, there's no evidence given anywhere in the paper: it's just a series of abbreviated descriptions of each order (or, for the rodents, family). She made this determination by looking at photos on the web. That's it. She comes to the conclusion that only 137 kinds of mammals had to be on Noah's Ark (350, if you count extinct species, which of course she should -- Ken Ham is adamant that all kinds were on the ark).

In this paper 137 kinds have been tentatively identified. If the fossil record is taken into consideration, this number could easily double. Beech (2012) listed terrestrial vertebrate families represented in the fossil record. In the list of mammals 210 to 218 families are not recognized here. This suggests that closer to 350 mammal kinds were on the Ark. The large number of extinct families may be partially from a tendency for paleontologists to be splitters. However, much of it reflects the fact that a large amount of the diversity previously found in mammals has been lost.

In this serious attempt to quantify the kinds represented on the Ark, the numbers which resulted are lower than many had anticipated. Previous work had estimated the genus as the level of the kind, knowing this would significantly overestimate the number, in order to emphasize that the Ark had sufficient room for its intended purpose (Woodmorappe 1996). In discussing the results of this study with other creationists, many are surprised at how incredibly spacious the accommodations on the Ark would have been. In any case, this work is a reminder we have a Creator who cares for His creation and, even in judgment, He provides a way of salvation to those who will trust in Him.

Ah, that spacious ark. "Only" 350 mammals had to be cared for by those 8 custodians, and she hasn't considered the birds and reptiles and amphibians yet. Of course, that's still a lot of poop to shovel…except she seems to have solved that problem, too.

Here's the quality of her scholarship: this is one of her kinds, the greater gliding posum. Look carefully at that photo. Notice anything odd about it?

Maybe you'd like a closer look to be really sure. RationalWiki noticed this peculiarity.

Hmmm. It reminds me of the time we found that Harun Yahya was using photos of fishing lures to illustrate modern insects. What great science!

But it does solve a lot of problems if the ark were stuffed full of plushies! It's also a phenomenal marketing opportunity — the museum will be the gift shop!

207 Comments

Just curious: does she do any computation or even speculation on the total number of actual animals on the Ark? Some in pairs; some in sevens; some in a large HERD, because something had to supply all the carnivores with prey for long enough to allow the minimum ark pairs to proliferate to the point where a whole “baramin” couldn’t be extinguished by a single act of predation.

Actually, there would need to many different herds or flocks or whatever of carnivore fodder, since ferrets and owls aren’t going to have much luck bringing down elk; and crocodiles and tigers aren’t going to make it on mice.

That is great. I needed a good laugh today.

I wonder how she well account for “clean” versus “unclean” kinds. Noah had to collect 14 of the clean ones.

Bob, according to Answers in Genesis brand of creationists, there was no meant eating until after the flood was over.

How about the order Coleoptera? Did she consider insects at all? I guess she just figured that they are small enough so it isn’t a problem for the magical ark. Man, over half a million species evolved in just four thousand years! Great.

What about the dinosaurs? Are they a kind? Were they on the magic ark? DId they get left behind? Or did god save them just to wipe them out later?

Man I wish I could claim that my biased opinions are “evidence”. I could certainly publish a lot more.

Gary_Hurd said:

Bob, according to Answers in Genesis brand of creationists, there was no meant eating until after the flood was over.

That’s what I’m getting at: even after leaving the ark, after the flood, how large a herd of antelope, say, would you have to have to keep lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, cougars, jaguars, wolves, hyenas, crocodiles, alligators, pythons, anacondas (and if dinosaurs were arked, tyrannosaurs, ceratosaurs, raptors, etc.) and all other large predators, both currently living and extinct, adequately fed without running out of prey before the prey can proliferate?

Just Bob said:

Gary_Hurd said:

Bob, according to Answers in Genesis brand of creationists, there was no meant eating until after the flood was over.

That’s what I’m getting at: even after leaving the ark, after the flood, how large a herd of antelope, say, would you have to have to keep lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, cougars, jaguars, wolves, hyenas, crocodiles, alligators, pythons, anacondas (and if dinosaurs were arked, tyrannosaurs, ceratosaurs, raptors, etc.) and all other large predators, both currently living and extinct, adequately fed without running out of prey before the prey can proliferate?

It’s even worse than that. Remember, all terrestrial plants are also wiped out, so nothing for herbivores to eat either. Guess no one thought to take plans on the ark. But they did apparently think clearly enough to take every known parasite and pathogen with them. Smart!

I love the plushie photo.

Since they suggest a common designer as an explanation for genomic similarity, I don’t see how they can be sure that ‘cognitum’, the similar appearance of animals, can allow them to differentiate between kinds.

She says she bases some of her decisions on whether the animals can hybridize. If an embryo can get to the blastocyst stage she counts that as the ability to have hybridized in the past. This allows her to add together some similar-looking animals together as kinds even though they can’t actually hybridize. (Of course mutations since the Flood could have added those reproductive barriers to hybridization after the initial post-flood population growth.) But if the designer used a similar design, at what point were the barriers to reproduction put in? If two species do not reproduce because of behavioral differences that inhibit mating, as opposed to differences in fertilization, maybe those were the very barriers the designer intended to differentiate the kinds.

As far as I can tell, the mammalian 137 kinds is a minimum number but doesn’t address the idea that all the genera and species within those kinds that do not hybridize could actually be the kinds created by the designer, giving a much larger number. I don’t see any discussion of a biblical justification for choosing her hypothetical minimum number, except their concern for getting as few animals on the Ark as possible.

Lightner’s essay and Ken Ham’s approval of it are interesting because they set a framework for using genomic differences such as pseudogenes as arguments against their position. A common pseudogene between lions and tigers would not be a useful argument since they assume that lions and tigers micro-evolved from the original cat kind pair after the flood. You would need something like a common pseudogene between dogs and cats. (It also seems like it would limit the types of interesting mammals that they can display in their Noah’s Ark park - no lions and tigers both - but I suppose they can use artistic license to get around that if they want to.)

BTW, the photo has been changed. I had downloaded the original essay when it came out, and it does have the plushie photo. But on their website now there is a different photo of that animal.

Gary_Hurd said:

Bob, according to Answers in Genesis brand of creationists, there was no meant eating until after the flood was over.

I thought meat-eating commenced immediately after the Fall.

In the Garden tyrannosaurs ate flowers, and black widows used their webs to catch berries, then envenomed them until they quit struggling. Isn’t that the creationist boilerplate?

Did all the carnivores revert to vegetarianism for the year on the Ark? Or for several year after until there were enough prey animals that they wouldn’t go extinct when the tiger had his lunch?

Considering that Noah et al. had no idea how to care for the animals, and they’d have all died, plus all of the other problems, this actually solves a lot of issues.

Just sew up a bunch of animals. It’s as good as any creationist/ID “science.” If nothing else, you can pretty much prove that the possum in the picture certainly was designed.

Glen Davidson

Well, I suspect that individual depicted in this photo can glide very well, having developed the useful adaptation of lightweight fiber filling instead of heavy, liguid-filled, organs.

Just Bob said:

Gary_Hurd said:

Bob, according to Answers in Genesis brand of creationists, there was no meat eating until after the flood was over.

That’s what I’m getting at: even after leaving the ark, after the flood, how large a herd of antelope, say, would you have to have to keep lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, cougars, jaguars, wolves, hyenas, crocodiles, alligators, pythons, anacondas (and if dinosaurs were arked, tyrannosaurs, ceratosaurs, raptors, etc.) and all other large predators, both currently living and extinct, adequately fed without running out of prey before the prey can proliferate?

Why a miracle, upon a miracle, upon a miracle, of course. All the carnivores simply didn’t need to eat until the herbivores replenished. The herbivores didn’t need to eat plants until the plants replenished.

Don’t you know anything?

DS said:

How about the order Coleoptera?

Forget that, how about the order Cestoda,our friends the parasitic flatworms?

Well, on the plus side, I suppose at least Noah and family had readily available vessels for transporting and feeding those.…

I think she used ‘cognita’ and possible hybridization in grouping familiar animals like cats or pigs, but for the less familiar small families she went with standard taxonomy. I wish there were some interesting example in her essay of where she chose a\ to create a baramin based on cognitum that was wildly different from taxonomy. Maybe there are; I didn’t read most of it. But it seems that she stays as close to standard taxonomy as she can, while creating her Ark-friendly kinds.

Remember, all terrestrial plants are also wiped out, so nothing for herbivores to eat either

Also most aquatic life.

Aquatic life is mainly adapted to particular levels of salinity.

Pushing all freshwater and saltwater life into an environment that’s salty, but a fraction as salty as today’s oceans, would be devastating.

P.Z. Sez

…and that those same 8 people were an adequate work force to maintain all those beasts for a year in a confined space on a storm-tossed ark.

I’m always surprised that while creationists tally up the work of caring for the animals, nobody ever considers the labor involved with maintaining the ark itself.

This, to my mind, is clear and convincing evidence that ark advocates do not, as a group, tend to own sailboats.

And especially, none of them own old, wooden boats.

Modern sailors have the advantage of contemporary materials, power tools, and drydocks as they build and maintain their boats, but even given that wooden sailboats are monstrously labor intensive.

The Modern HMS Bounty needed a crew of about 12.

Now, granted, the Bounty was a finer vessel, maintained to a higher standard than the rough-hewn and utilitarian ark, which is basically a cargo barge, but the ark has it’s own problems.

The Bounty was built in a modern shipyard, by men with the advantage of a thousand years of maritime tradition and knowledge behind them. They knew how to build strong boats and had power tools.

It’s reasonable to assume their frames were solid and their joinery was tight. It’s reasonable to assume that the modern fasteners used in the Bounty kept everything together and kept those tight joints from working loose. it’s reasonable to assume that the modern coatings and sealants for the most part kept the water out of the hull and protected the wood.

And yet Bounty, a modern vessel of proven seaworthiness, still took water, floundered, and sank in Sandy, a very large, but not especially violent, storm.

Noah’s ark was maybe 10 times heavier and had maybe 5 times as much submerged hull.

Noah didn’t come from a long line of shipwrights. He had never even seen a large wooden hull because in the year -2000 nobody had seen a large wooden hull.

Noah had no power tools, sawmills, silicone sealants, or marine varnish. His joints were cut with copper axes and lashed together with simple rope and sealed with pitch or asphaltum, materials that don’t adhere to saturated wood all that well.

And he would sail his barge through the worst storm in planetary history.

Screw feeding the animals - Noah would have needed a small army of carpenters working around the clock just to stop the rain. The rain inside the ark.

And don’t even get me started on how hard it is to patch a crack 20 feet below the waterline.

Mike Elzinga can probably chime in on damage control drills in the Navy and how difficult it is for 8 young, strong, men using modern materials to control a small hole below the waterline.

Imagine fixing a wooden Liberty Ship being tossed in the biggest storm ever when your technology is ropes and rocks and candles in a methane-soaked atmosphere and the average age of your crew is north of 100 years.

I suspect that feeding the animals would be the least of their problems.

DS said: How about the order Coleoptera? Did she consider insects at all? I guess she just figured that they are small enough so it isn’t a problem for the magical ark. Man, over half a million species evolved in just four thousand years! Great.

Many creationists say that the Bible specifies animals “wherein is the breath of life” were taken on the Ark, and, so they say, that excludes invertebrates. Insects could, they say, be carried on debris.

What strikes me is that nowhere do we get a description of what a “kind” is, to justify whether “kinds” are species, genera, families, or orders. They can say whatever they want. They can put cows together with turtles in one kind, or they can put white goats in one kind and spotted goats in another kind, whatever suits their fancy, with no disputing it. There is nothing in the Bible which says that a given animal always belongs to one and only one kind. Does a caterpillar change its kind when it becomes a butterfly?

In the Bible, in the time of Abraham, there are distinctions made between sheep and goats, so that seems to indicate that there has been that much differentiation since the Flood. And that much “microevolution” would have taken place in something like 300 years.

I did a post on this a while back ago and how the YECs need evolution to work faster than any biologist thinks it actually works. Here; http://skepticink.com/smilodonsretr[…]n-evolution/

TomS said: Many creationists say that the Bible specifies animals “wherein is the breath of life” were taken on the Ark, and, so they say, that excludes invertebrates. Insects could, they say, be carried on debris.

It’s been a while since I had to dissect grasshoppers and earthworms, but I’m pretty sure they “breathe the breath of life” by any reasonable definition.

You can easily demonstrate this by putting them in an environment where they can’t “breathe” (like, say under an inch of turbid floodwater) and watch just how quickly “life” proceeds to elude them.

stevaroni said:

It’s been a while since I had to dissect grasshoppers and earthworms, but I’m pretty sure they “breathe the breath of life” by any reasonable definition.

Genesis 7:22 “All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died.”

Insects don’t have ‘nostrils’. That is the rationale.

I look forward to Lightner’s next essay on the non-mammals. I wish she were doing fish too, but since they didn’t go on the Ark I don’t think she will. I’d like to know how many fish kinds she’d come up since they’re all fish.

sorry, poor formatting

My previous comment should look like this, below (I don’t know how to edit or delete on this site):

stevaroni said:

It’s been a while since I had to dissect grasshoppers and earthworms, but I’m pretty sure they “breathe the breath of life” by any reasonable definition.

Genesis 7:22 “All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died.”

Insects don’t have ‘nostrils’. That is the rationale.

I look forward to Lightner’s next essay on the non-mammals. I wish she were doing fish too, but since they didn’t go on the Ark I don’t think she will. I’d like to know how many fish kinds she’d come up since they’re all fish.

What I always find fascinating is the effort to rationalize the ark, and the flud, while minimizing the number and scope of miracles. Sure, the flud itself was a miracle, we’re told that directly. But all this stuff about logistics, rapid evolution, shipbuilding, etc. ultimately requires an entire library of miracles.

If baraminology is nothing but the effort to keep the population of the ark feasible without miracles, it fails hopelessly because it needs miracles to patch miracles to patch miracles wherever it looks. So why not propose more practical miracles. God could have telescoped whole large clades together to be unrolled later, and then miniaturized them as part of loading them onto a magic boat.

Then after miracling away all that excess water and miracling global geology to look extremely ancient without any flood, God could have taken all these bundles and unrolled them into perfect environments He miracled up on top of all the geology.

Granted, this sequence of miracles would seem to have the disadvantage of leaving not a trace of evidence of the ark or the flud, but when has evidence mattered? Certainly Lightner doesn’t worry about such stuff.

stevaroni said:

I suspect that feeding the animals would be the least of their problems.

Indeed; a fine understatement.

Fire aboard a ship, especially a submarine, is a very serious problem that must be contained very quickly.

Firefighting is one of the more common drills aboard ship. Sailors, beginning in boot camp, train to fight fires and learn how to walk into them with a fire hose or chemical spray beating down the fire as they go.

We never hear from creationists how this safety issue was handled on the ark; with all that methane and bombardier beetles to set it off, even if the animals below deck were not all suffocated first.

Ventilation problems in the holds of ships are serious issues not only because of the buildup of explosive gases, but also because of the dangers of suffocation. All ships, large and small, including submarines, have equipment to remove dangerous gases from their holds and from their engine and battery compartments.

We had a discussion about this issue of ventilation on another thread a while back. Never mind the issue of lumping “kinds” together to reduce the animal count. If it eats, it defecates. Microbes (how many species of those were on the ark?) generate the flammable gases that their deity should have foreseen.

Why don’t we read of the most dramatic kind of fire fighting training required of sailors in preparation for forty days and nights of being tossed around on the ocean? Surely some of those thousands of non-human passengers would have defecated during that entire trauma.

And how about the build-up of ammonia? After about a week, a cat litter box needs to be changed just because ammonia starts driving the cats out of the box. What would they do with ammonia in the ark? What happens to ammonia that becomes mixed with water? Did anybody think of all the corrosive problems and wood rot problems that would come with all that urine and manure?

Even if the ark could take all that pounding from the billions upon billions of megatons of energy per square mile being dumped on the planet by all that water, imagine all those animals being tossed around, urinating, defecating, and vomiting inside what must have been far worse than a power paint can shaker. What fun!

ogremk5 said:

I did a post on this a while back ago and how the YECs need evolution to work faster than any biologist thinks it actually works. Here; http://skepticink.com/smilodonsretr[…]n-evolution/

There used to be an audio recording of Kurt Wise speaking at some Bible college in which he said something like in the couple of centuries after the Flud new species were popping up every day. It’s no longer on the web, but I downloaded it and it’s on the hard disk in an old computer whose motherboard fried. I’m going to have to recover that one of these days.

forty days and nights of being tossed around on the ocean?

I’ve made this mistake before, too.

It rained for forty days and forty nights. They were on the ark much longer.

In the austere and traditional, but tolerant and humane, non-Southern Baptist church I grew up in, Noah’s Ark was treated as a children’t story. A rather inappropriate children’s story, in retrospect, but no more inappropriate than a vast amount of stuff at the time (1970’s) that was considered “children’s” because it was too simplistic for adults, or because it was in the form of a comic strip, or even simply because children seemed to be interested in it. The drowning sinners aspect was brushed over and the image of a grandfatherly Noah with animals was emphasized*. An adult who thought the story was literally true would have been treated with kindness as a simpleton. I don’t recall ever thinking it was literally true. It isn’t written as if it were intended to be interpreted literally. *It was usually presented in bowdlerized “Bible stories”, but children were permitted to read the actual KJV Bible if they wanted, even though that was actually recognized as containing “adult” themes.

I don’t want to get into the endless battle of who reads creationist minds best, but I do doubt the sincerity of “literal Noah’s Ark” believers. Well, maybe not all believers. But for the most part, it seems as if they protest too much.

Slogan for the Ark: No kind left behind!

As for clean vs unclean - hey, just give the unclean ones a bath (maybe a shower?), then they’ll all be clean!

But to be slightly more serious for a moment, why would “kind” have to mean a particular rank of biological classification? After all, the rank associated with any given clade is really for the convenience of those doing the classifying, i.e., it’s a subjective judgment.

Pushing all freshwater and saltwater life into an environment that’s salty, but a fraction as salty as today’s oceans, would be devastating.

Not to mention dependencies on having a sea floor close enough to the surface to get light and oxygen, and without the added pressure of being under kilometers of water.

Screw feeding the animals - Noah would have needed a small army of carpenters working around the clock just to stop the rain. The rain inside the ark.

Maybe he had carpenter ants?

prongs said:

Why a miracle, upon a miracle, upon a miracle, of course. All the carnivores simply didn’t need to eat until the herbivores replenished. The herbivores didn’t need to eat plants until the plants replenished.

Don’t you know anything?

But if we can pile up multiple layers of miracles, then I have to wonder why Yah needed a flood and an ark, anyway. Why didn’t he just miracle away all the evil people, and leave the animals and innocent children alone? And how well did that flood work in teaching humanity not to displease Yah?

The god of Genesis is severely limited in omniscience, omnipotence, imagination, and apparently intelligence.

Henry J said:

But to be slightly more serious for a moment, why would “kind” have to mean a particular rank of biological classification? After all, the rank associated with any given clade is really for the convenience of those doing the classifying, i.e., it’s a subjective judgment.

I haven’t seen an explanation for why ‘kind’ has to be above the species level. In normal usage, ‘kind’ would just mean each type of animal, not some special larger classification.

Mike Elzinga said:

…forty days and nights of being tossed around on the ocean? Surely some of those thousands of non-human passengers would have defecated during that entire trauma.

Yo, Mike. Forty days was just the shake-down cruise. They were trapped in that stinking deathtrap for damn near a year before they walked down the gangplank into a world that had been submerged in brackish water for a year.

Think about how suitable for farming land would be that had lain under a flood devastating enough to lay down the whole geologic column, for a whole year.

Marilyn said:

DS said:

Marilyn doesn’t want to believe in evolution. She doesn’t want it to be true. She wants to believe in god, she wants that to be true. She is willing to ignore the last two hundred years of scientific discovery in order to cling to her superstitions and myths. She is willing to have a double standard and accept any meager amount of personal experience as proof that she is right, but she rejects and even refuses to examine the mountains of evidence in peer reviewed journals that demonstrates conclusively that evolution is true. She mistakenly believes that if she believes in evolution that will somehow mean that she can’t believe in god, She even goes so far as to accuse anyone who dares to tell her the age of the earth that they are trying to prove that god doesn’t exist. Of course she knows nothing about the beliefs of those who attempt to persuade her with evidence.

Unfortunately, Marilyn and her black an white perspective are all too common. It’s worthless to try to convince her of anything because she just takes it as an attack on her inviolate religious beliefs. SInce she is not apparently trying to convert anyone, her presence here seems to indicate that she realizes that she needs to learn something, she just seems confused as to what that might be. If she doesn’t have the courage to examine the evidence she will just wallow in ignorance forever.

Your good at twisting the bread sticks for the dip DS

And you are4 very good at obfuscation.

Dave Luckett said:

Marilyn, I’ve had exactly that same experience. It’s something tour guides in caves and deep mines do as a sort of party trick. In my case, I was in a deep cave. The guide told us that there are glowing patches on the walls of the cave, very faint, but if we let our eyes grow used to the darkness for long enough, we’d see them. And after a while, yes, we did! I saw them. I’ll swear to it. Everyone else said they’d seen them, too.

But when the guide switched the lights back on again, he told us that it was a lie. There are no glowing patches on the walls of the cave. They’d had the most sensitive equipment into that cave and there’s not a lumen of light there, nothing, no visible light at all. The “lights” are chance retinal nerves firing randomly, reinterpreted as lights by the visual cortex because it was getting no other nerve impulses. That is, the lights were only in our heads. We saw something that wasn’t there.

When human minds don’t have data, they fill the void with stuff they make up. That makes me think that we should rely on evidence, not the other stuff.

One should be forgiven in wondering which story was the lie, thinking “Fool me once …” Although I’m predisposed to believe the basic part of the second story, I do have my doubts about the elaboration “They’d had the most sensitive equipment into that cave and there’s not a lumen of light there”.

Marilyn said:

phhht said:

But what makes you think the stories in the Bible are not fictitious?

I ask because I, personally, cannot say what distinguishes the Biblical stories from Harry Potter, or, say, The Avengers.

I‘ll tell you this story it’s a true story it happened to me so I would call it an account of the event. I was on holiday and full of all the sun and scenery and having a nice time, I decided I would visit the copper mine I’d never been in a mine or cave for that matter didn’t totally know what to expect. So off the group of people and me went into the mine with the tour guide. All very nice as caves go climbed the metal steps listened to the commentary, I thought to think they sent little children into the tin mines, coal mines etc. Then the tour guide said I’m going to turn all the lights off I thought OK. Then he did and I was quite shocked at the experience I had never before been in complete total blackness. I was stood away from the wall and not with in touching range of a person and it had gone silent, I felt completely alone in a way as never before. I could feel my hand but it was as though it wasn’t there I reached and felt the wall and it was just something stopping my hand and then I started to feel so alone there was no light in me, all there was anywhere was just my thoughts with absolutely no container at all. I thought and what if they go too, absolutely nothing, the lights came on then I slowly started to feel alive again. On the way out the tour guide gave me a piece of copper stone. A personal experience that someone else could experience but you don’t know for sure till it happens to you.

I don’t get your point.

I too have been underground with the lights out. That experience had no effect, as far as I can tell, on my ability to distinguish factual narratives from fictional ones. As Dave Luckett points out, there are often clear markers in the stories, and I can recognize them now as well as I could before the cave visit.

I don’t intend to harass you, so I will ask one last time: What makes you think the Bible stories are true, while the Harry Potter stories are not?

I don’t intend to harass you, so I will ask one last time: What makes you think the Bible stories are true, while the Harry Potter stories are not?

That’s what she was taught?

Henry J said:

I don’t intend to harass you, so I will ask one last time: What makes you think the Bible stories are true, while the Harry Potter stories are not?

That’s what she was taught?

No I wasn’t taught to believe the Bible. I am free to believe it or not.

phhht said:

I don’t intend to harass you, so I will ask one last time: What makes you think the Bible stories are true, while the Harry Potter stories are not?

I have no further answer for your question.

Marilyn said:

phhht said:

I don’t intend to harass you, so I will ask one last time: What makes you think the Bible stories are true, while the Harry Potter stories are not?

I have no further answer for your question.

I have no problem with those who accept the Bible on faith*, I just don’t like it when they confuse “Faith” with “Science.”

Marilyn, these are two different things.

*1. strong or unshakeable belief in something, esp without proof or evidence

Marilyn said:

Henry J said:

I don’t intend to harass you, so I will ask one last time: What makes you think the Bible stories are true, while the Harry Potter stories are not?

That’s what she was taught?

No I wasn’t taught to believe the Bible. I am free to believe it or not.

So you have no excuse for making the wrong choice.

Marilyn said:

phhht said:

I don’t intend to harass you, so I will ask one last time: What makes you think the Bible stories are true, while the Harry Potter stories are not?

I have no further answer for your question.

It seems such incapacity is common among religious believers. They believe - often fervently - but they cannot say why. All they can say is that they do.

I’d find that predicament to be very uncomfortable. I want to try to understand why I believe what I do. I feel that if I don’t understand that, I will be vulnerable to hucksters and liars of every stripe, from advertisers to politicians to preachers. I want to know that what I believe is, in fact, correct.

And I have a way to check. I appeal to objective reality.

Of course, that won’t work for everything, so there are things I just cannot know, and even those things which check out must be subject to revision. It looks to me like certainty is very rarely justified.

In the question of gods, I see no reason to suppose that they are anything more than campfire superhero stories from the early iron age. I don’t understand why anyone would claim that such preposterous, self-contradictory, counter-factual stories are true.

And indeed, religious believers like you can’t give any such reasons. They have no answers. All they have is baffled silence and baseless faith.

Yes, it would seem that we are dealing with the most dishonest aspect of religion: Faith. Faith is the reason people believe even when we can prove the assorted fables of their respective holy book are wrong. Faith is the reason they will still believe even when they have no evidence to back them up. They can’t tell us why they have faith, they just do. No other aspect of their lives are taken on faith. Everything else must have a reasonable aspect of proof to be believed, but not religion. Everything else in the faithfuls lives are analyzed with a critical inquiry, there’s a thought process behind every decision they make, except one, and that is god. In any other situation, if you could demonstrate that what you said was true, they would accept it, but that element doesn’t apply to god. Faith is a stoic conviction, defended against reason, and protected from all reason, and that is why it’s dishonest. You can get proof of this dishonesty by simply asking them, what other element of their lives do they take solely on faith? What other element of their lives do they believe is true without reason, facts, or evidence?

Tell us Marilyn, what else in your life do you defend this way?

Marilyn, I just wanted to say it’s great to see you here asking questions. No one ever changed their mind overnight, nor should they. But a person should try to seek out the best arguments they can find and consider everything carefully.

Evolution is a simple idea with mind-blowing implications. I do not believe a human being can truly understand themselves without understanding where we came from. Evolution is the story of us. It’s worth appreciating.

TomS said:

Dave Luckett said:

Marilyn, I’ve had exactly that same experience. It’s something tour guides in caves and deep mines do as a sort of party trick. In my case, I was in a deep cave. The guide told us that there are glowing patches on the walls of the cave, very faint, but if we let our eyes grow used to the darkness for long enough, we’d see them. And after a while, yes, we did! I saw them. I’ll swear to it. Everyone else said they’d seen them, too.

But when the guide switched the lights back on again, he told us that it was a lie. There are no glowing patches on the walls of the cave. They’d had the most sensitive equipment into that cave and there’s not a lumen of light there, nothing, no visible light at all. The “lights” are chance retinal nerves firing randomly, reinterpreted as lights by the visual cortex because it was getting no other nerve impulses. That is, the lights were only in our heads. We saw something that wasn’t there.

When human minds don’t have data, they fill the void with stuff they make up. That makes me think that we should rely on evidence, not the other stuff.

One should be forgiven in wondering which story was the lie, thinking “Fool me once …” Although I’m predisposed to believe the basic part of the second story, I do have my doubts about the elaboration “They’d had the most sensitive equipment into that cave and there’s not a lumen of light there”.

TomS, you are observing here one of the crucial elements of narrative. I reported this as I remember it. But how much of it is objective fact? Is there an elaboration, a trick of memory, going on here? How many memories has it been through? Mine, at least. The tour guide’s? Whoever told the tour guide that this had been done? Others? Who knows?

I did try going on the net to investigate the phenomenon, and I found interesting material, but no direct confirmation as fact of the statement that there is absolutely no light in that situation. Cosmic rays can penetrate that deep, and who knows but that they may cause a retinal nerve to “fire”? There is a psychological phenomenon known as the “Ganzfeld effect”, from the German “a blank”, and it can be and has been the subject of experiment. Still, I can tell you, from reading history, that there’s an awful lot of what we think we know that has no better attestation than the incident I reported. Mostly - a horrifying thought - it’s a good deal worse.

We are the ape that tells stories. “What is truth?” asked jesting Pilate.

I replied to Rando here at the Bathroom Wall.

Dave Luckett said:

Marilyn, I’ve had exactly that same experience. It’s something tour guides in caves and deep mines do as a sort of party trick. In my case, I was in a deep cave. The guide told us that there are glowing patches on the walls of the cave, very faint, but if we let our eyes grow used to the darkness for long enough, we’d see them. And after a while, yes, we did! I saw them. I’ll swear to it. Everyone else said they’d seen them, too.

But when the guide switched the lights back on again, he told us that it was a lie. There are no glowing patches on the walls of the cave. They’d had the most sensitive equipment into that cave and there’s not a lumen of light there, nothing, no visible light at all. The “lights” are chance retinal nerves firing randomly, reinterpreted as lights by the visual cortex because it was getting no other nerve impulses. That is, the lights were only in our heads. We saw something that wasn’t there.

When human minds don’t have data, they fill the void with stuff they make up. That makes me think that we should rely on evidence, not the other stuff.

Oliver Sacks says in his latest book that similar hallucinations are near-universal and are associated with sensory deprivation.

It looks like the rod of the human eye can detect a single photon (see here) - but the conscious self needs on the order of ten photons in 100 milliseconds.

phhht said:

Oliver Sacks says in his latest book that similar hallucinations are near-universal and are associated with sensory deprivation.

It looks like the rod of the human eye can detect a single photon (see here) - but the conscious self needs on the order of ten photons in 100 milliseconds.

Such phenomena are real; but they depend a great deal on individual sensitivities to stimuli.

It is a well-known fact of all sensors, whether biological or technological, that they are sensitive to random noise just due to the fact that they are at some finite temperature.

The eye is fairly sensitive to noise; and in subdued light or in complete blackness they will fire and produce electrical impulses that the brain will interpret as flashes of light. But one has to be in total darkness for at least a period of about a half hour or more for most people. It is a phenomenon that one becomes aware of during watches at night or when one is on a submarine, for example. One learns to look out into the darkness by trying to place the images on various parts of the retina in order to verify that the source of the light is an objective source rather than something due to impulses within the eye.

Older individuals who have had the lenses replaced in their eyes are more sensitive to ultraviolet light. Some blood pressure medications or cholesterol medications or other drugs make the eye more sensitive to light and therefore to thermal noise when in complete darkness.

There is a fairly common phenomenon that occurs in people as they get older; namely, when the vitreous humor in the eye becomes detached from the retina, one sees flashes in the eye. One discovers when this happens when, in subdued light, one sees flashes of light in the eye when the loosened vitreous humor collides with the retina due to motion of the head. My ophthalmologist recognized this instantly when I described what I was experiencing.

There are some related phenomena due to noise that are well-known. In hearing, for example, when one is in complete quietness – something that is very hard to achieve in our noisy modern world – one has the illusion of hearing “voices” which one can’t quite make out what they are saying. This again is due to noise in the inner ear that the brain tries to interpret as something familiar; hence subtle voices.

The same occurs with smells and with touch. One can get “illusions” that the brain tries to interpret as something familiar. All sensors have this issue.

In fact, there is a way to enhance one’s hearing, for example, by what has become referred to as “stochastic enhancement.” If one wants to pick up a very weak sound in a very quiet environment, one adds a small amount of white noise. When properly adjusted, this has the effect of setting an already sensitive organ on a more hair-triggered edge in which sounds that are nearly imperceptible are then clearly heard. This same trick is used in technological sensing devices as well.

All this stuff is well known to people who work with image and signal processing while trying to extract tiny signals from a background of thermal noise. I have had considerable experience with this, and I have even had the fun of experimenting with the “illusions” created by my own sensory organs. Once one understands the underlying physics, it is easy to reproduce these phenomena.

I suspect that the reason that most people don’t recognize this is because their senses are generally overwhelmed by stimuli in our modern society. It is uncommon in our environment to get into situations in which are senses are operating at their extreme limits of sensitivity. The reason is because of feedback within our sensory systems that have the effect of reducing sensitivity as stimuli increase. That is why our sensitivities to stimuli follow a somewhat logarithmic curve.

Marylin,

Think about the ark situation for a minute. If there were just two of each “kind “ (seven of a few, but the extras were sacrificed), then what did predators like tigers and wolves eat for the whole YEAR on the ark, then for the first year or so after the ark? If there were just a pair of, say, the deer “kind” then just one lion’s lunch would destroy an entire “kind” and eliminate all the descendant species that creationists think it evolved into!

Think about it. There could NOT have been just two of each “kind”, or the meat-eaters would have destroyed most of the plant-eating “kinds”, either in the year on the ark or within the first few months afterwards. They wouldn’t even have to kill both of the pair.

So either something very important was left out of the ark story, or… maybe the whole thing is just an ancient myth, with little or no connection to any real events.

HOMEWORK : look up how many kills a beast of the large-cat “kind” has to make in a year to stay healthy.

Just Bob said:

Marylin,

Think about the ark situation for a minute. If there were just two of each “kind “ (seven of a few, but the extras were sacrificed), then what did predators like tigers and wolves eat for the whole YEAR on the ark, then for the first year or so after the ark? If there were just a pair of, say, the deer “kind” then just one lion’s lunch would destroy an entire “kind” and eliminate all the descendant species that creationists think it evolved into!

Think about it. There could NOT have been just two of each “kind”, or the meat-eaters would have destroyed most of the plant-eating “kinds”, either in the year on the ark or within the first few months afterwards. They wouldn’t even have to kill both of the pair.

So either something very important was left out of the ark story, or… maybe the whole thing is just an ancient myth, with little or no connection to any real events.

HOMEWORK : look up how many kills a beast of the large-cat “kind” has to make in a year to stay healthy.

Or should we assume that there was only one “cat-kind,” that Noah stowed in the Ark, from which all cats, from tigers to tabbies, are descended from?

sfink888 said:

Just Bob said:

Marylin,

Think about the ark situation for a minute. If there were just two of each “kind “ (seven of a few, but the extras were sacrificed), then what did predators like tigers and wolves eat for the whole YEAR on the ark, then for the first year or so after the ark? If there were just a pair of, say, the deer “kind” then just one lion’s lunch would destroy an entire “kind” and eliminate all the descendant species that creationists think it evolved into!

Think about it. There could NOT have been just two of each “kind”, or the meat-eaters would have destroyed most of the plant-eating “kinds”, either in the year on the ark or within the first few months afterwards. They wouldn’t even have to kill both of the pair.

So either something very important was left out of the ark story, or… maybe the whole thing is just an ancient myth, with little or no connection to any real events.

HOMEWORK : look up how many kills a beast of the large-cat “kind” has to make in a year to stay healthy.

Or should we assume that there was only one “cat-kind,” that Noah stowed in the Ark, from which all cats, from tigers to tabbies, are descended from?

Well, if you’ve ever been to the Creation Museum, you would know the answer is yes. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5mPPnN1c0jk

GIve it up guys. Marilyn has the answer. She believes the bible because of sensory depravation and induced hallucinations. She was blind and now refuses to see. Facts don’t matter. Logic doesn’t matter. All that matters is that she wants to believe and she has found an excuse to believe.

Just wondering… has anyone tried to put together a biblical ark story that DOESN’T require an endless stream of miracles to rescue it from physical impossibilities? IOW, the only miracle was the magic flood. Everything else was perfectly possible, under the same laws of physics and biology that obtain today: no magic animal collection from all over the world, no hibernation for a year, keeplng the ark afloat, feeding, sanitation, supercharged evolution and global dispersal, a livable post -flood world, etc.

Does anybody try to put together the whole thing without resorting to endless magic?

DS said:

GIve it up guys. Marilyn has the answer. She believes the bible because of sensory depravation and induced hallucinations. She was blind and now refuses to see. Facts don’t matter. Logic doesn’t matter. All that matters is that she wants to believe and she has found an excuse to believe.

Your assumptions are not true.

The best attempt that I’ve seen for putting together a plausible flood story is this book:

Robert M. Best Noah’s Ark and the Ziusudra Epic: Sumerian Origins of the Flood Myth Fort Myers, Florida: Enlil Press, 1999

It doesn’t follow the Bible story at all closely. And it didn’t convince me. But I think that it comes the closest.

Marilyn said:

Your assumptions are not true.

His assumption is supported by a significant body of evidence.

TomS said:

The best attempt that I’ve seen for putting together a plausible flood story is this book:

Robert M. Best Noah’s Ark and the Ziusudra Epic: Sumerian Origins of the Flood Myth Fort Myers, Florida: Enlil Press, 1999

It doesn’t follow the Bible story at all closely. And it didn’t convince me. But I think that it comes the closest.

And how much did they have to add to the supposed inerrant bible to make it make sense?

Marilyn said:

DS said:

GIve it up guys. Marilyn has the answer. She believes the bible because of sensory depravation and induced hallucinations. She was blind and now refuses to see. Facts don’t matter. Logic doesn’t matter. All that matters is that she wants to believe and she has found an excuse to believe.

Your assumptions are not true.

Your denials ring hollow.

Rando said:

TomS said:

The best attempt that I’ve seen for putting together a plausible flood story is this book:

Robert M. Best Noah’s Ark and the Ziusudra Epic: Sumerian Origins of the Flood Myth Fort Myers, Florida: Enlil Press, 1999

It doesn’t follow the Bible story at all closely. And it didn’t convince me. But I think that it comes the closest.

And how much did they have to add to the supposed inerrant bible to make it make sense?

It’s been a long time since I read the book, but as I recall, he is highly dependent upon the Sumerian version of the Flood. It was definitely a local flood, and while some Biblical literalists would accept a local flood, there were enough other changes that I am confident that a Biblical literalist would not be pleased by the result.

Marilyn seems to accept an old earth- why does acceptance of evolution as the best expalaination for the diversity of life (to her?) means that she can’t believe in God?- I don’t know - There are plenty of scientists, laypeople, religious people, and at least one Pope that are able to reconcile thier faith with acceptance of science/evolution. Science is a secular persuit not an athiestic one (God is irrelevant - not generally denied)

does every detail in the Bible need to be “lierally true word for word” in order for it to be a “true stoty” for the faithful? again, no - Plenty of religious authorities, biblical scholars etc (some who were later canonized!) recognize that the Bible is not to be taken as scientifc source material - Extremists (like FL) arr the only ones (that I know of) that insist the “Christianity” (as they define it) is not compatible with evolution

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This page contains a single entry by PZ Myers published on November 18, 2012 8:21 AM.

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