Speaking of NCSE …

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Anthropologist Eric Meikle, NCSE staffer, has started a series of posts on human evolution at Science League of America, NCSE’s new blog. The first two posts in Eric’s series are here (#1) and here (#2).

13 Comments

I’m lukewarm about having to register for another site, especially one that allows “feeding” of Byers. So I’ll leave my comments to Mekle’s posts here.

First I have to object to the common misconception that “the majority of anti-evolutionists in America are young-earthers.” Not do defend the anti-evolution movement one bit, but the fact is that (comparing results of several polls) strict young-earthers are only ~20% of the public, or ~1/2 of those who choose the “humans were created in their present form in the last ~10,000 years” in that obnoxiously-worded poll. Or ~1/4 of those who have some doubts of evolution. The misconception is fueled by the fact that most former and would-be OEC activists sold out to the “don’t ask, don’t tell what happened when” ID scam.

Second, no one is more interested than I am at seeing an alternate explanation for human origins, be it young-earth, old-earth, common descent or not. So much so that I offered a request for proposals on Talk Origins in 2007, making it clear that I (and undoubtedly ~100 other TO regulars) would defend any proposal that would test its ideas on their own merits, and not on long-refuted “weaknesses” of evolution. And even though that was a year before “Expelled” I made it clear that I would blow the whistle on anyone who tries to “expel” them. As you might expect, so far they have only been “expelling” themselves.

Is there somewhere where it is prominently featured that there is no alternative explanation for human origins?

No account for the obvious and undeniable fact that the human body is most similar to the bodies of chimps and other apes, and somewhat less similar to other primates, other mammals, other tetrapods, among all forms of life both living and extinct? There is not, and never has been, even an attempt to explain such things without involving common descent with modification?

I’d like to see such a site.

Frank J said:

I’m lukewarm about having to register for another site, especially one that allows “feeding” of Byers. So I’ll leave my comments to Mekle’s posts here.

First I have to object to the common misconception that “the majority of anti-evolutionists in America are young-earthers.” Not do defend the anti-evolution movement one bit, but the fact is that (comparing results of several polls) strict young-earthers are only ~20% of the public, or ~1/2 of those who choose the “humans were created in their present form in the last ~10,000 years” in that obnoxiously-worded poll. Or ~1/4 of those who have some doubts of evolution. The misconception is fueled by the fact that most former and would-be OEC activists sold out to the “don’t ask, don’t tell what happened when” ID scam.

Second, no one is more interested than I am at seeing an alternate explanation for human origins, be it young-earth, old-earth, common descent or not. So much so that I offered a request for proposals on Talk Origins in 2007, making it clear that I (and undoubtedly ~100 other TO regulars) would defend any proposal that would test its ideas on their own merits, and not on long-refuted “weaknesses” of evolution. And even though that was a year before “Expelled” I made it clear that I would blow the whistle on anyone who tries to “expel” them. As you might expect, so far they have only been “expelling” themselves.

Biased questions about human evolution in polls, setting up a fake conflict with “religion”, get the maximum possible evolution denial response. That tends to run about 45%. Why do pollsters set up such questions? Well, for one thing, polls are paid for, and both creationists and opponents of creationism tend to want a poll that makes creationism seem important. For another thing people are lazy and probably copy many poll questions from older polls.

I’ve seen a poll that asked about plants and microbes (now lost in the internet somewhere). My recollection is that 70% chose the most “pro-evolution” answer.

About 20-30% of the public will deny evolution regardless of example. These are virtually all some variant of YEC. Up to 45% will express doubt about human evolution when given a very biased question.

So right off the bat, the majority of that 45%, or a very large plurality, yes, are essentially YEC.

Furthermore, virtually all political efforts to shove evolution denial into public schools come from people who effectively accept YEC, and their political allies. Kansas school board members, Dover school board members, Texas school board members - appear to be YEC. Freshwater made abundant use of YEC materials.

So I completely agree that age of the earth isn’t a litmus test issue for “movement creationists”. They accept “I don’t know” as an answer.

However, refusal to deny that the earth could be less than 10,000 years old is pretty much a litmust test among them. You don’t have to say it is, winking and saying “I don’t know” is okay, but you certainly can’t say that it’s NOT, without causing a storm.

I recognize that 1% of creationists are elderly theologians who cling to OEC models that were an effort to make peace with science, before DNA was found to be the genetic material, when some dream of denying biological evolution without denying science, broadly defined, was possible.

But OEC is anachronistic.

So yes, of course, you’re right that not all evolution deniers make a big deal about the exact age of the earth all the time.

But Meikle is also right. The ID/creationism movement panders to YEC. YEC is the mainstream of ID/creationism. There aren’t any OEC creation museums. There aren’t any OEC protests against the Ark Project boondoggle. There aren’t any major creationist web sites or well-funded creationist organizations that argue against a young earth. And by the numbers, even if we absurdly take 45% as a number representing a percentage of Americans who deny all biological evolution, a majority or near majority of that 45% would appear to profess YEC/literal Noah’s ark type beliefs.

Now, in reality, it’s just a post-modern religious justification for a right wing political ideology, but YEC is still always pandered to.

Let us recall that YEC was effectively dead before it was popularized by Whitcomb and Morris, “The Genesis Flood”, in 1961.

Reasons to Believe has a fairly prominent website that argues against a young earth.

Steve Schaffner said:

Reasons to Believe has a fairly prominent website that argues against a young earth.

Yes, no-one is denying the existence of some non-YEC evolution deniers.

In the end, it’s something of a detail. As I noted above, they all prioritize evolution denial. They might or might not kill each other over the age of the earth if they could completely eliminate the teaching of biological evolution, but until such time they won’t, and they’ll support one another’s attacks on science.

However, I do defend Meikle’s statement that MOST political ID/creationism is related to YEC. The YEC sites have far more traffic, and refusal to contradict YEC is nearly universal among professional ID/creationist types and politicians who pander to science denial. Let’s clarify what I just said. I said refusal to contradict YEC; some politician claiming that he “doesn’t know” how old the earth is is pandering to YEC. I said “nearly” all, so a single exception, such as Behe, is not relevant to my point.

As I demonstrated above, I actually infer from poll numbers that at least a very large plurality of those who ever contradict human evolution seem to be YEC.

Lastly, I restate my own original point, which is that OEC is anachronisitc. It was once proto-theistic evolution. It was an effort to make fundamentalist beliefs compatible with science. It was originally invented before nucleic acid genomes were understood (William Jennings Bryan was a big OEC type). Therefore it was felt at that time, pre-WWII, that one could still deny biological evolution while broadly accepting science. You can’t anymore, because nucleic acid replication is understood, and life has to evolve. If genomes are replicating nucleic acid, then life evolves. If they aren’t, then molecular biology, biochemistry, chemistry, and physics must all be wrong.

If you want to deny evolution, you have to deny it all. OEC is a relic of a time when that wasn’t as true.

Furthermore, major originators and drivers of massively politically active post-modern creationism were obviously Morris, Gish, and Kenyon. Not only are they strongly YEC, much more extreme figures than the likes of William Jennings Bryan on multiple levels, but original “creation science” of the “space age” 1960’s focused at least as much, OR MORE, on physics and geology denial and defense of a global flood.

This is all a detail, but it’s worth getting right. Frank is 100% correct that there is substantial disagreement between creationists, which they attempt to ignore or disguise, but Meikle is also right that YEC attitudes are predominant.

harold said: If you want to deny evolution, you have to deny it all. OEC is a relic of a time when that wasn’t as true.

This observation does account for the paradox that the conflict with science has become more extreme as the understanding of, and evidence for, evolution and the age of the Earth has dramatically increased.

In the 1920s, one didn’t have to be irrational in order to deny the reality of evolution or “deep time”.

TomS said:

This observation does account for the paradox that the conflict with science has become more extreme as the understanding of, and evidence for, evolution and the age of the Earth has dramatically increased.

In the 1920s, one didn’t have to be irrational in order to deny the reality of evolution or “deep time”.

I disagree. I’ve read creationist books of the 1920’s. Those people were ignoramuses, and just as dishonest and creationists today. I especially include William Jennings Bryan in the list of ignoramuses. A lot of creationists today, like at the DI, have tried to rehabilitate Bryan and say we shouldn’t believe the stereotype from “Inherit the Wind.” But the real Bryan, seen in his own writing, was even more extreme and more ignorant than the flawed character in the movie.

What Morris changed in the 1960’s was five things.

First, Morris synthesized many different crank complaints about geology, the geological column, biology, the starlight problem, and thermodynamics all into one big fat book. Before then, there would be one creationist book on “Variation within a Kind” and another one about something else.

Second, Morris systematically aped the process of scholarship, using superscripted numbers to footnoted references. Of course Morris lied about the actual content of what his scientific references said, quote-mining them dishonestly– but non-scientists are hypnotized by the use of superscripts pointing to a referenced paper. Much of the hypnotic power of modern creationism derives from their use of superscripts. Church audiences think that a number printed in a superscripted font makes the writer a real scientist.

Third, Morris benefited from the fact that the quote mines of scientists challenging evolution, the fossil record, etc. had finally reached a “critical mass” where it would appear irrefutable to non-scientists that there was a real controversy. Creationists had spent decades doing NO research except sitting in libraries skimming huge amounts of literature trying to find that one expert quote which, properly edited, appears to show that experts doubt evolution, transitional fossils, etc. The quote mines of creationists, I must emphasize, are the products of decades of fanatical, determined labor that eventually paid off, not in scientific discoveries but in popular support.

Fourth, Morris introduced two new epistemological philosophies. His most obvious philosophical innovation is that he lied about the definition of “Uniformitarianism”, and essentially defined “Uniformitarianism” not as a rejected geological assumption, but as INDUCTION itself. In its place Morris advanced “Creation with an Appearance of Age” as an explanation for everything he couldn’t hand-wave away: for example, he couldn’t hand-wave away the starlight problem, so OK, God created the starlight in transit between us and the stars. He couldn’t hand-wave away all of radiometric dating, so God did a miracle somehow, somewhere to super-accelerate nuclear decay, or increase the amount of daughter radiogenic isotopes. Induction would tell you that radioactive decays are constant and that light comes from a light source, so induction had to go. This was a radical philosophical break with all scientists. Although Morris falsely portrayed creationists as merely challenging “Uniformitarianism”, I want to emphasize that he was in fact rejecting induction based on previously-discovered scientific laws and principles, whenever such induction was used in a dating process which yielded an old age for the Earth. The key phrase here is that Morris falsely used the word “Uniformitarianism” whenever induction was involved in producing a result Morris didn’t like– a dirty sleight of hand, typical of Morris.

His less obvious epistemological innovation was Circular Geology, aka Flood Geology– for Morris, Flood Geology was not just a hypothesis but was a radically different epistemology based on circular logic rather than falsifiability. For example: creationists know that the sedimentary layers over continents are kilometers thick, on average; and have multiple unconformities where massive erosion took place between depositional events. Since Noah’s Flood lasted one year, the Flood Geologist invents a “Biblical Implication” based on this data: the Bible is rewritten the fly to say that Noah’s Flood had to act unlike any flood ever observed– this Flood would put down sedimentary layers that are kilometers-thick and that would be interspersed by massive erosional events, and sort fossils into a particular order, and fossilized all creatures at super-fast speed, etc. He then tells the church audience that it was a prediction of creationism that there should be kilometers-thick sedimentary layers and unconformities caused by massive erosion: and this matches the data exactly. That’s obviously circular logic– he’s passing off ideas that were derived from observations as matching the observations from which they were derived.

The key dirty phrase is “Biblical Implications.” The Flood Geologist assumes that the Bible is true, looks at some observable data and then imagines a physics-defying process to alter (usually super-accelerate) some known or imagined physical processes, so that the imaginary process produced something like the observations. The imaginary super-accelerated or altered process is called a “Biblical Implication”, even though it is not mentioned anywhere in the Bible, but it is required in order for the Bible to be true. The Flood Geologist tells the church audience that observed facts are predictions of “Biblical Implications”– however, that’s a lie because the “Biblical Implications” were derived from the observations against which they’re compared.

Morris’ fifth innovation was a moral one: rationalization of dishonesty. Henry Morris’ book represented a quantum leap in the dishonesty of creationists– after The Genesis Flood creationists would never again admit they had made mistakes, never admit they got facts wrong. Every bad thing they did was rationalized on the grounds that evolutionists supposedly did worse things. Did creationists promote a dozen different fraudulent fossils? So what, evolutionists had Piltdown Man. Did creationists make up fake quotes from authorities? So what, everyone knows atheists have no moral code. Did creationists use circular logic? So what, scientists are sexually promiscuous and degenerate.

TomS said:

Let us recall that YEC was effectively dead before it was popularized by Whitcomb and Morris, “The Genesis Flood”, in 1961.

Exactly. And that’s where “creationism” completed its evolution from honest, if misguided belief to full-blown pseudoscience. From there, it further speciated, whereby one branch, ID, has essentially become the “central pseudoscience,” accommodating the results of everything from “Darwinism” (as Dembski himself famously admitted in 2001) to aliens, flat-earthism, and even (as Behe virtually admitted at Dover in 2005) astrology.

For most of the rank and file, it’s still about honest belief. As such they are almost completely “speciated” from the activists. That’s why I hate the word “creationists,” which unfairly lump those 2 groups together (1). Most of the rank-and-file Biblical literalists concede old earth, often even old life, if forced to give it a few minutes’ thought. Even most of the ~20% that choose the YEC answers would eventually concede OEC if my personal experience is any indication. What complicates it is that most of the rank-and-file, including those who accept evolution, have no interest in the distant past, and dismiss it all as “a long time ago.” And thus miss the devastating fact that YEC and OEC by definition can’t both be true. And the ID scam – too often with our unwitting help - exploits that to the fullest.

(1)note that treating them as separate “kinds” is just as much “creationist thinking” as treating them as a single “kind.” There are “transitional fossils” like those who write letters-to-the-editor. When shown their errors they either go away or learn how to better misrepresent evolution, becoming full-fledged activists.

@harold:

Certainly the great majority of evolution-deniers, rank and file or activist, are politically sympathetic to YEC. In fact the ID scammers are more sympathetic to YEC than to OEC, even when they make it clear that they fully accept old earth, old life, and sometimes even common descent. That’s because when YECs criticize OEC, IDers can spin it as evidence against “Darwinism,” if necessary, but when OECs return the favor they can’t. Conceding any ground to science by the rank-and-file is a potential “slippery slope” that’s not good for the big tent. So in that sense - and only that sense - I agree that “YEC attitudes” are predominant among activists.

As for “If you want to deny evolution, you have to deny it all,” I agree that many activists want their audience to think that way, at least as a desperate last resort to prevent them backsliding into “theistic evolution,” which they despise even more than atheism. But then why stop at heliocentric YEC? Why not geocentricm? Some polls suggest that even more people believe that the sun orbits the earth than believe that both are only 1000s of years old. But it’s easier to convince even the most science-challenged that geocentrism is nonsense than to get them to imagine geologic time. That’s what I have been referring to for 10 years as a “Goldilocks” phenomenon. As a strategy to fool the masses geocentrism was “too hot,” OEC “too cold,” but heliocentric YEC “just right.” At least until ID’s hyper-evasive “big tent” scam came along.

even when they make it clear that they fully accept old earth, old life, and sometimes even common descent.

We don’t disagree, but I would like to point out that those of us who express ourselves honestly tend to project that onto others. You will actually find precious few ID/creationism activists who make it clear that they favor these things over YEC. Remember, weasel words like “I accept the possibility of an ancient earth” are just code for “But I didn’t say it might not be 6000 years old, either, by which I signal that I still support ‘equal time for creation science’ or similar things”.

Remember, if they don’t state unequivocally that the evidence definitively shows an earth that is billions of years old and clear common descent, they are being deceptive and pandering to YEC. There is no possible other reason not to accept obvious scientific reality. There is no reason to refer to the most strongly supported findings of science as “possible”, or say that you “don’t know” whether you “agree” with them, or do the like, except to pander to those who deny them.

As for the rank and file, it depends on who you mean by the rank and file. I define the rank and file as the people who might buy DI products or pay to go to the Creation Museum. I’m not counting people who are passively creationist due to tradition, willing to think about it, able to control rage if their ideas are challenged, and uninterested in violating anyone’s rights, as the rank and file. The rank and file are part of the movement, know the codes, and provide financial support. They may be the pawns but they’re part of the team.

Meikle makes this statement in the second essay:”

Because their interpretation of the Bible leads them to the conclusion that life, the earth, and the universe as a whole cannot be more than about 10,000 years old, young-earthers are forced to deny that radioactive or other scientific techniques which demonstrate a universal time frame in the billions of years are correct. And to do this they must deny that physicists, chemists, and geologists, as well as biologists and anthropologists, are correct about much of anything, because the concepts and principles which underlie radiometric dating techniques are the same ones basic to all of science. Young-earth creationists have a bedrock conclusion, the young earth, and any data, evidence, or interpretation that contradicts it is ignored, denied, or waved away. Science is ready to change its conclusions when necessary; creationism is ready only to remain unchanged.

In terms of the age of the earth the ICR has changed over time. It was before the Arkansas decision in 1981 that the ICR was claiming that the earth was less than 10,000 years old. By the end of the 1980’s I saw Gish state that the earth was less than 20,000 years old. By the turn of the century I saw articles by the ICR claiming that the earth was less than 50,000 years old and that all pleistocene sediments (over 2 million actual years worth) were post flood and not flood sediments. So the earth is slowly getting older for the scientific creationists, and they acknowledge that there are such things as pleistocene sediments. My guess is that the ICR estimate is even older than 50,000 by now. By the jump from 20,000 to 50,000 I’d guess it could be around 100,000 by now. If the estimate keeps doubling about every 10 years they could be arriving at a credible estimate in a couple centuries.

By the jump from 20,000 to 50,000 I’d guess it could be around 100,000 by now.

That would allow for the last known genetic bottleneck of our species, wouldn’t it? Or at least come close to allowing for it?

Henry

But OEC is anachronistic.

Bwahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah hahah hahah haha

:) Really good one.

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This page contains a single entry by Richard B. Hoppe published on September 27, 2013 2:09 PM.

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