Understanding creationism, VI:
An insider’s guide by a former young-Earth creationist

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By David MacMillan.

6. Genetic evidence.

Revised July 4, 2014.

Perhaps one of the clearest and most obvious confirmations of evolution is the convergence between the evolutionary paths of descent determined by fossil evidence and the phylogenetic tree generated by algorithms analyzing genetic information. Because the tree of universal common descent is real, not invented, it leaves the same fingerprint in every part of nature that life touches. Matching trees can be found in global fossil distribution, in analysis of skeletal morphologies, in chromosome length, count, and banding, and in numerous common genetic sequences.

Not every genetic sequence yields a perfect branching tree. Evolutionary theory would not predict perfect branching trees, because random mutations scramble the relationships over time. Even though mutations provide the variation needed for diversification, their accumulation throughout that diversification can eventually obscure the evidence needed to reconstruct those relationships.

Reconstructing phylogenetic relationships is made more difficult because the number of combinations in any given sequence is finite. Every three letters of our DNA codes for only one of twenty different amino acids. Just four or five species with a genetic code as long as our own will have sequences of 60 or 70 base pairs in common – enough to code for simple proteins – simply due to the laws of probability [1]. Such coincidences can also make it more difficult to resolve perfect phylogenetic trees.

It would be a grave mistake, however, to suppose that these difficulties render phylogenetics useless. Just because certain sequences have become corrupted does not mean that a useful tree cannot be constructed. In fact, hopelessly corrupted sequences are the exception, not the norm. When we compare many trees from many different sequences, the accurate phylogeny converges rapidly.

Creationists are fully aware that the match between fossil evidence and genetic evidence is damning. If they match so closely, then common descent must be valid – how else would such agreement be possible? In order to avoid this inevitable conclusion, they seek to invalidate either fossil evidence, genetic evidence, or both, and claim that the apparent convergence is identified only through persistent confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias, of course, takes place when a particular piece of evidence is selected from among many contradictory pieces of evidence because it alone confirms the researcher’s presuppositions. This is almost never a conscious process; someone affected by confirmation bias rarely realizes it. The accusation of bias, then, fits perfectly within the creationist paradigm that mainstream scientists are simply too blinded by their assumptions to see the truth. They don’t even have to accuse scientists of actual dishonesty; it’s all presumed to be part of a nearly innocent, unwitting bias.

Earlier sections have explained how creationists attempt to invalidate the match between the fossil record and the predictions of the evolutionary tree. If they cannot challenge the tree, they will challenge the genetic evidence in whatever way possible.

The most common claim made by creationists unfamiliar with phylogenetics is that the sorting algorithms are somehow “set up using evolutionary assumptions”. This objection reflects a clear lack of understanding. True, the phylogenetic algorithms are set up to produce a branching tree – but the whole purpose of the test is not to establish whether a tree exists but rather to determine whether it is an accurate tree. Creationists imply that there’s some hidden evolutionary guideline built into the algorithm to make it yield the desired result. But that implication is flatly false. The algorithm has no guidance; it has no means of distinguishing between sequences apart from their contents.

Creationists who understand a little more about the subject will instead argue that not all portions of the genome consistently produce the same tree, so researchers are merely picking a tree that just happens to match their expectations. Like many creationist arguments, this simple argument unfortunately makes some intuitive sense. It’s wrong because it doesn’t take statistical probabilities into account.

The more items you have in a given collection, the more ways they can be arranged. Just five items can be arranged in 120 different ways, and ten items can be arranged in a staggering 3.6 million ways. Arranging them in a rooted tree makes the task more complex, so there are many many possible trees; it’s not feasible to simply cherry-pick the one that “happens” to match expectations. In order for any meaningful phylogeny to show up at all, there has to be a legitimate pattern, an actual phylogenetic symbol. If geneticists were just cherry-picking whatever tree matched their expectations, we would never expect to learn anything from phylogenetic analysis. However, phylogenetic analysis does yield new information. Details are often updated or revised due to the results of genetic studies. The science works. Moreover, it’s vital to understand that phylogenetic analysis is not limited to one sequence at a time. Phylogenetic analysis is performed on many different gene sequences, allowing researchers to compare results from multiple sources and weed out corrupted data. Corruption is possible, but it never happens the same way more than once, so when multiple sequences generate the same tree over and over researchers can have a high degree of confidence in the result. All of these essentials details about this scientific process are missing from the creationist understanding.

Once they cannot deny that both the fossil record and the genetic evidence are unassailably valid, creationists unveil one more argument: “common design”.

Common design – that morphological and genetic similarities are the result of a designer re-using the same parts – is the perfect creationist argument because it can apply to absolutely anything. No matter how obvious the path of descent is, creationists can simply claim it was intentional. They may also use it in combination with the other objections. For example: “Common design created genetic similarities in creatures with similar environments, similar diets, or similar appearances. These similarities reduce the number of phylogenetic trees to the point that researchers can simply pick whichever one happens to match their evolutionary assumptions.”

The obvious problem is that common design is unfalsifiable. There’s no limit to what it can explain, no level of commonality it cannot be used with. We recognize that an explanation which can fit literally anything is useless; it doesn’t tell us anything. Unfortunately, creationists don’t care whether their explanations are falsifiable. Their presuppositionalist background tells them that it doesn’t matter whether explanations are falsifiable – it’s just necessary to make sure they have the right presupposition at the outset, and everything else flows from that. As long as their denial of mainstream science seems vaguely plausible, they are okay.

So instead of pointing out the unfalsifiability of common design, it’s better to let them use it, but challenge them to take it to its logical conclusion. If their divine common design can really produce the observed levels of genetic similarity, then it should also produce clear and obvious genetic similarities in species that aren’t anywhere close on the evolutionary tree. Not just small sequences in common, but entire gene suites. If God is in the practice of re-using the exact same gene sequences in creatures that happen to show up close together, then we should see the same thing in distant species. Species identified in mainstream science as examples of convergent evolution – the same traits or abilities having evolved separately – should have perfectly matching gene sequences placed there by the creator. For example, bats and birds evolved echolocation separately using different genes, but the “common design” argument would predict the same exact gene sequences.

Any discovery of this nature would be strong evidence for common design. Evolution can explain convergent abilities or small convergent sequences, but not convergent gene suites. Offering creationists this opportunity to demonstrate what they’re claiming puts the onus on them rather than leaving you to try to falsify an unfalsifiable claim.

Endnote.

[1] As mentioned in an earlier section, we have about 3 billion base pairs comprising 1 billion codons, each of which can code for up to around different 20 amino acids. Only 1-2 % of our genome codes for proteins at any given time, so even though the rest of our DNA can participate in the regulation of certain cell functions, it’s pretty malleable. A simple protein may only be a couple of dozen amino acids long, corresponding to about 66 base pairs of length. There are still just under a billion possible 66-base-pair sequences in a 3-billion base-pair genome, meaning that just five different species will have 1036 chances (1 billion to the 4th power) to have two matching 66-base-pair sequences. Since there are 230 possible 66-base-pair nucleotide sequences, those five species will have hundreds of thousands of 66-base-pair sequences in common.

120 Comments

Uncommon “design” kills the “common design” claim. The latter is falsifiable, in fact, just not to your average creationist for whom arguments are just ways of shoring up presuppositions.

Sharks and dolphins are somewhat similar, but somehow have very different “designs,” with sharks being rather fish-like, and dolphins being air-breathing mammals. Real design as we know it is transferable, while organisms without much horizontal transfer of genes do not have “common design,” save at the level at which the two organisms’ lines diverged.

Common design seems to make sense, until one really notices that uncommon “design” is the rule for organisms that have long diverged (obvious not only because of different morphologies, but also in differences in non-selected DNA sequences).

Glen Davidson

So instead of pointing out the unfalsifiability of common design, it’s better to let them use it, but challenge them to take it to its logical conclusion. If their divine common design can really produce the observed levels of genetic similarity, then it should also produce clear and obvious genetic similarities in species that aren’t anywhere close on the evolutionary tree. Not just small sequences in common, but entire gene suites. If God is in the practice of re-using the exact same gene sequences in creatures that happen to show up close together, then we should see the same thing in distant species.

I have always thought that Darwin’s biogeographical example of blind cave fish is underappreciated and underused by people arguing with creationists. You’ve got fish in caves all over the world, cave environments that are very similar. Yet the fish in those caves do not genetically or morphologically resemble each other; there is no “cave fish” type. Instead, they genetically and morphologically resemble the sighted fish that live in th e waters surrounding their individual cave. There could not be a more obvious example of how the theory of descent with modification is a better fit to the data than the theory of common design.

When dealing with the common design argument, I like to point out how actual “common designers” don’t produce anything like the nested hierarchy arrangement we see in life. I like to use motor vehicles. If cars and trucks were built with the same hierarchical arrangement as life has, then power steering appearing in trucks would have precluded the same mechanism appearing in cars, the same way no bird has bat wings, and no bat has bird wings. Obviously, human designers don’t do anything of the sort.

I have had creationists claim that the hierarchy is a pattern, that patterns come from god, therefore the existence of ANY pattern disproves evolution. Clearly, in an evolved world, there would be no pattern because anything could evolve at random! See? *headdesk*

In order to reconstruct phylogenetic history accurately, it is important to choose characters appropriate to the analysis. This is not only limited to variation in nucleotide sequences, but also to other types of genetic f=data as well. For example, SINE insertions and mitochondrial gene order are types of genetic data that can be used to reconstruct phylogenetic relationships. They have the advantage that the mechanisms of change and the absolute and relative rates of change are known, so they can be applied to appropriate times of divergence. In addition, these types of data cannot be explained by “common design” arguments, since they serve no function and are completely irrelevant to survival.

The fact that these types of data produce a nested hierarchy is significant. The fact that there is congruence between the hierarchy produced by different genetic data sets is significant. The fact that there is congruence between these hierarchies and hierarchies based on fossil evidence and other independent data sets is even more significant. The fact that creationists cannot understand or accept the conclusions of such studies is a testament to their ignorance and dishonesty.

Creationists are fully aware that the match between fossil evidence and genetic evidence is damning. If they match so closely, then common descent must be valid – how else would such agreement be possible? In order to avoid this inevitable conclusion, they seek to invalidate either fossil evidence, genetic evidence, or both, and claim that the apparent convergence is identified only through persistent confirmation bias.

It’s pretty rich for creationists who employ a presuppositionalist epistemology to accuse only their opponents of confirmation bias.…

mattdance18 said:

Creationists are fully aware that the match between fossil evidence and genetic evidence is damning. If they match so closely, then common descent must be valid – how else would such agreement be possible? In order to avoid this inevitable conclusion, they seek to invalidate either fossil evidence, genetic evidence, or both, and claim that the apparent convergence is identified only through persistent confirmation bias.

It’s pretty rich for creationists who employ a presuppositionalist epistemology to accuse only their opponents of confirmation bias.…

It is indeed, but it’s characteristic.

Projection is a very common defense mechanism. Again, like addicts or other people who make heavy use of denial, creationists very frequently project the flaws of their own arguments onto others.

They must recognize the problems with their own arguments at some level (but not as a conscious awareness of being deceitful), because they repeatedly falsely project onto science more or less exactly the same flaws that they themselves possess.

They constantly accuse scientists of “starting with an unjustified assumption”, “seeking to promote an agenda”, “refusing to fully consider alternate possibilities”, etc. In all of this projection, they describe themselves perfectly.

harold said:

mattdance18 said:

Creationists are fully aware that the match between fossil evidence and genetic evidence is damning. If they match so closely, then common descent must be valid – how else would such agreement be possible? In order to avoid this inevitable conclusion, they seek to invalidate either fossil evidence, genetic evidence, or both, and claim that the apparent convergence is identified only through persistent confirmation bias.

It’s pretty rich for creationists who employ a presuppositionalist epistemology to accuse only their opponents of confirmation bias.…

It is indeed, but it’s characteristic.

Projection is a very common defense mechanism. Again, like addicts or other people who make heavy use of denial, creationists very frequently project the flaws of their own arguments onto others.

They must recognize the problems with their own arguments at some level (but not as a conscious awareness of being deceitful), because they repeatedly falsely project onto science more or less exactly the same flaws that they themselves possess.

They constantly accuse scientists of “starting with an unjustified assumption”, “seeking to promote an agenda”, “refusing to fully consider alternate possibilities”, etc. In all of this projection, they describe themselves perfectly.

Robert Byers is the perfect example of this. He claims that trees could form rings rapidly under different environmental conditions. This is how he explains the tree ring data that falsifies the hypothesis of a young earth. Of course there is absolutely no biological evidence whatsoever that supports this idea. It is just a faulty line of reasoning that displays an almost unimaginable ignorance of the nature of tree rings and the way in which tree ring data is analyzed. So what does he accuse others of? You got it!

I am convinced that most of them are just too stupid to come up with any original arguments, so they just parrot the arguments they have heard used against them. What they don’t realize is that real scientists are trained to avoid bias and test hypotheses rigorously, so their accusations ring hollow.

I’m not sure where you got your numbers, but for five species there are only 105 branching trees (dichotomous, rooted trees, that is; there are more, but not astronomically more, if we count polytomies). Still, the number goes up pretty fast. (It’s [2n-3]!!, where x!! means the product of all odd integers from 1 to x.)

Also, fossils provide two sorts of data: morphological characters and stratigraphic position. The former should probably not be considered a property of fossil data, and fossils are most often combined in analyses with extant taxa. The latter is an independent source of data to be compared with phylogenetic trees, and the fit of stratigraphy to phylogeny is a fine confirmation of common descent.

I also think your take on phylogenetic analysis is a bit garbled, perhaps partly because you are using “sequence” in two different ways. We commonly test many trees against some criterion of fit to the data and choose the one that has the best fit. But even if the data have no phylogenetic signal it’s likely that there will be one best-fitting tree, purely by chance. The question to ask is whether this fit is better than could be expected by chance, and there are tests for that. Presumably, a fit indistinguishable from chance is the creationist expectation and creationists would have no explanation for a significant fit.

Now, one way to examine signal is agreement: if different data sets give us the same or very similar trees, that’s very unlikely to be due to chance. But there are also ways to test agreement within data sets.

Finally, it should be noted that we expect some disagreement among trees using different DNA sequences because of what’s called incomplete lineage sorting. Alleles bounce around for some time in populations, and a given allele’s true tree may not quite match the true tree of the population.

harold said:

They must recognize the problems with their own arguments at some level (but not as a conscious awareness of being deceitful), because they repeatedly falsely project onto science more or less exactly the same flaws that they themselves possess.

I think that there is very little question that ID/creationists know something is wrong with their “arguments” against science.

Consider those guru wannbes, such as Jason Lisle, or Georgia Purdom, or any of the “fellows” at the DI. Some of them went through secular programs to get their degrees.

For those of us who have been through that process, it is pretty hard to imagine that these characters didn’t know they were gaming the system in some way. At some point it comes down to picking an advisor and a committee to oversee your research and your dissertation.

What goes through the mind of an ID/creationist who is in that process? How does such an individual think through the process of getting, say, a PhD at a secular institution while not having to engage the real science or answering to a dissertation committee or an advisor?

You are going to pick a topic. You are going to be given some responsibility for developing theory or experimental techniques. If you are part of a large group, you are likely to be carrying part of the load on a project that is bigger than what your thesis will cover. There are likely some very competent doctoral candidates in the group who will be carrying most of the more significant parts of the load, with lesser lights doing routine activities like writing computer programs, boring data collection, building a piece of apparatus from someone else’s design, etc.

How do you pick an advisor, a research project or group, and a committee that won’t challenge your preconceived notions about what science is all about? How to you keep your head down and keep from being noticed too much by the advisor or the committee? Your fellow doctoral students will soon find out who can perform even if the advisor is away much of the time.

This all takes effort and thought in order to slip through the cracks.

How about that character at Ohio State a few years ago who put together a dissertation committee that would approve his “research” on teaching creationism in the public schools? He was found out and reported by people, like Brian McEnnis in the Mathematics Department at OSU, Marion, who noticed that the student showed up before the Kansas State Board of Education bragging about his “research.”

Just what exactly is going on when ID/creationist students game the system like this; and we are pretty sure that most of them have done just that. After they get their degree, every one of them is completely helpless in doing any scientific research without having the guidance of their former research advisor and group. They jump right into sectarian apologetics with the “authority” of those shiny new letters after their names. They have achieved their original goal; and that certainly wasn’t to do any scientific research.

It reminds me of those characters responsible for 911 who took flight lessons but didn’t want to learn how to land the plane.

re: your endnote. We may have 3 billion base pairs (in a haploid human genome), but most of them don’t code for anything. Only around 2% of the genome is protein-coding. This is not “at any given time”, whatever you mean by that. It’s all the time; which bits are protein-coding is quite evolutionarily stable. I think your calculation is pretty meaningless, as it supposes protein-coding sequences in an overwhelmingly non-protein-coding genome, and it appears to assume that our null model supposes species to have genome sequences randomized with respect to each other. And though I haven’t worked out the math, I don’t think your calculation is correct even on its own terms.

It also seems to be empirically wrong. Are you saying that a randomly chosen 5 species will have, on average, many millions of bases worth of identical 66-base fragments? I don’t know if anyone has ever tested that (why would you?), but it just doesn’t sound likely. Anyone for a giant dot plot of the human and rice genomes?

DS -

Well, obviously you know that I agree, but I am going to mention a thought I had recently.

I am convinced that most of them are just too stupid to come up with any original arguments, so they just parrot the arguments they have heard used against them.

Not being inclined to serious thinking probably helps people to ignore inconvenient reality, but I think there is actually a “just smart enough” trap.

Without meaning to personally insult Bobby Jindal, I’ll use him as an example (I am making the reasonable assumption that Jindal is a biased ideologue, rather than a consciously deceptive manipulator, secretly laughing at the rubes).

By any standard measure of academic ability or “intelligence”, he’s well above average. I know someone will be bothered that I said that, but he has a science degree from a major research university and has become governor of a state. He does not have any type of defect of intelligence that impeded him from getting an elite education, nor from achieving his ambitious goals.

On the other hand, he’s not exactly Einstein, either.

I think that some people are just smart enough to be really, really good at spinning effective defenses for their biases. But not quite smart enough to understand the evidence easily enough, that the self-delusion becomes impossible.

The people less intelligent than Jindal believe whatever they want to believe, but they can’t make a convincing case. They just can’t really understand the case against what they want to be believe, either, so it doesn’t matter to them. They can believe the BS but they aren’t good at spreading it. They sometimes try as ineffectual street preachers or internet ranters but it isn’t very effective.

The people more intelligent than Jindal can remain creationists, but have a hard time doing so. Some manage, for example, Berlinski may be more intelligent than Jindal.

But I think the hard core active, productive, harmful deniers are in the Jindal valley - not quite smart enough to have a brain that won’t tolerate the BS, but smart enough to be very effective at coming up with rationalizing BS and distortions.

What they don’t realize is that real scientists are trained to avoid bias and test hypotheses rigorously, so their accusations ring hollow.

The irony is pretty rich. A group of the most biased people in history, arguing that the only system in history that actually makes a constant effort to remove bias, is more “biased” than they are.

John Harshman said:

re: your endnote. We may have 3 billion base pairs (in a haploid human genome), but most of them don’t code for anything. Only around 2% of the genome is protein-coding. This is not “at any given time”, whatever you mean by that. It’s all the time; which bits are protein-coding is quite evolutionarily stable. I think your calculation is pretty meaningless, as it supposes protein-coding sequences in an overwhelmingly non-protein-coding genome, and it appears to assume that our null model supposes species to have genome sequences randomized with respect to each other. And though I haven’t worked out the math, I don’t think your calculation is correct even on its own terms.

It also seems to be empirically wrong. Are you saying that a randomly chosen 5 species will have, on average, many millions of bases worth of identical 66-base fragments? I don’t know if anyone has ever tested that (why would you?), but it just doesn’t sound likely. Anyone for a giant dot plot of the human and rice genomes?

I can’t comment on your earlier point - the formula you provided does indeed yield the answer 105 when n = 5, of course, and the number in DSM’s original post looked very odd, but I’ll wait to see his response. Here, though, I think you may both be right.

Just four or five species with a genetic code as long as our own will have sequences of 60 or 70 base pairs in common – enough to code for simple proteins – simply due to the laws of probability

I’d also have to do the math, or more efficiently look up the reference and see how the math was done, but the phrase “enough to code for simple proteins” doesn’t seem to imply sequences that actually do code for simple proteins. It’s simply a comment on the length of the sequences. “Sequences so long that if they were coding sequences, they could code for a protein”. I’ll grant that it’s mildly confusing.

If you take a four sided die, roll it three billion times, write down your results, and then repeat that process three or four times (to generate four or five total strings), yes, you will likely have some surprisingly long sequences in common between at least two of your three billion character long strings, by random chance alone. I’d be amazed if that wasn’t the case. Three billion is actually a pretty large number, in this context.

harold said: you will likely have some surprisingly long sequences in common

Probably true. But hundreds of thousands of them?

Naive attempt at a calculation*:

# of 60-base sequences in 3 billion bases: 5x10^7. # of potential matches between two such genomes: 2.5x10^15. probability of two random sequences matching: (1/4)^60. probability that there will exist at least one match between the two genomes: 1 - (1-[1/4]^60)^(2.5x10^15).

But I can’t do the arithmetic for that probability.

*It’s naive because it assumes trials can’t overlap, and so underestimates the number of trials.

harold said:

mattdance18 said:

t’s pretty rich for creationists who employ a presuppositionalist epistemology to accuse only their opponents of confirmation bias.…

It is indeed, but it’s characteristic.

Projection is a very common defense mechanism.

Quite right. I wonder in some ways if the best way to challenge creationists is precisely on the presuppostionalist epistemology they’re using. It’s really just a form of naively formulated cognitive relativism, and as such it’s completely self-undermining.

Step 1. Point out that their presuppositionalism undermines their own position. If Darwinism is just the result of Darwinists’ religious presuppositions, then so is creationism a result of creationists’ religious presuppositions.

Step 2. When they then respond that no, no, our presuppositions are the right ones, because word of God blah blah blah, you just point out that this is a form of special pleading. They claim a status for their own presuppositions that they would reject out of hand were anyone else to offer it in defense of a different set of (so-called) presuppositions. Hit ‘em with the hypocrisy charge.

Step 3. And then, when they say no, no, our presuppositions REALLY ARE BETTER, THAT is when you hammer them with testability, and with specific testable hypotheses in particular.

Because unless you can get them to consider the epistemological merits of the presuppositionalist approach in the first place – unless you can get them to concede that not all (so-called) presuppositions are equal from a cognitive standpoint – everything you say is just a result of religious presuppositions. You have to get them to shift from arguing on the basis of presuppositions’ (alleged) religious content to arguing on the basis of presuppositions’ cognitive merit.

And this is especially useful because the epistemology is something that people can share despite religious differences. I don’t want to put words in David’s mouth, but I imagine it was when he started looking at creation and evolution in epistemic rather than religious terms that he abandoned creationism and realized how much evolution had going for it.

Step 1. Point out that their presuppositionalism undermines their own position. If Darwinism is just the result of Darwinists’ religious presuppositions, then so is creationism a result of creationists’ religious presuppositions.

Believe it or not, they love this. Remember, 1) they’re emotional, not rational, and 2) anything that casts any doubt on the scientific case is precious hope for them that their ideology is valid. They often offer a post-modern “all presuppositions are equal so I choose the ones I like” argument on their own. Consistent? Clearly not. One minute the Word of God is absolute, and the next minute, it’s all about choosing arbitrary presuppositions. But they don’t care about consistency, they care about dancing as fast as they can, firing out anything that attacks “Darwinism”.

What I have done, which made creationists uncomfortable, is to list the assumptions that I actually need to make to accept science, and ask them which they disagree with, for example -

1) When not compromised, my senses give me accurate information about the physical universe.

2) The type of thinking we call “logical”, which can be formalized, gives correct answers.

3) Other people exist, experience the same universe with their senses, can think logically, and can provide me with valuable feedback.

4) Humans have a lot of biases but if we make an effort to study the physical universe as objectively as possible, people of different backgrounds can agree.

And so on.

However, I’m not trying to argue creationists out of creationism anyway. It’s their right to be creationists if they want. I’m trying to prevent them from teaching sectarian science denial as “science” in public schools. I’d also like to minimize their impact on public policy altogether, and to try to prevent them from misleading the general lay public about science.

So I’m often satisfied merely to demonstrate that creationism is based on religious presuppositions. Ken Ham is not a big issue for me, except that Kentucky is giving him tax breaks. John Freshwater is a bigger issue for me.

So I often ask them this set of questions, which, incidentally, they often refuse to answer. Ken Ham is an eccentric outsider. Most creationists got the message that they have to deny that “ID” is religious. Again, inconsistent, yes, but they don’t care about consistency. However, their refusal to answer sufficiently destroys their credibility. If they do answer, I just say “fine, so we both agree that the designer is the Christian God, and therefore, we both agree that this can’t be taught as science in public schools.”

Many of these questions were inspired by good comments that others made in this and other forums, and I encourage others to use these questions wherever useful. Obviously not every question always applies in every situation.

1) Could any evidence convince you of the theory of evolution, and if so, what type of evidence is now lacking, that would convince you, if present?

2) The Supreme Court ruled against the direct teaching of Biblical Young Earth Creationism as science in public schools; however, if that ruling were overturned, which would you support more, teaching of ID, or direct teaching of Bible-based YEC?

3) Do you think it is important for opponents of the theory of evolution to fully understand the theory of evolution? If so, can you explain it, and if not, can you explain why not?

4) Who is the designer? How can we test your answer?

5) What did that designer do? How can we test your answer?

6) How did the designer do it? How can we test your answer?

7) When did the designer do it? How can we test your answer?

8) What is an example of something that was not designed by the designer?

(Let’s make it Real Simple.

Here are three stones. They all happen to be tiny rough diamonds, of obviously poor quality and very similar appearance.

One was found in a kimberlite pipe in South Africa and formed by plutonic forces in the deep mantle. It’s ‘natural’.

One was made from uncrystallized carbon in a laboratory–a manmade diamond.

One was designed and created by God, atom by atom, to have precisely the shape, color, weight, flaws, and everything, exactly as he wanted. And he wanted it to look EXACTLY like a ‘natural’ stone – or maybe like a manmade one. And he succeeded.

Now, here are two ‘designed’ stones and one ‘natural’. Explain how to tell the ‘designed’ from the ‘undesigned’. How would your hero Paley do it?)

9) Some parts of the Bible suggest that pi equals exactly three, and that the earth is flat and has four corners. Do you accept these as facts of reality, and if not, why do you deny the theory of evolution on the grounds of Biblical literacy, if it can be symbolic about other scientific issues? If you don’t claim Biblical literalism, simply state so when answering this question. This question is only useful when overt YEC is admitted, of course.

harold said:

Step 1. Point out that their presuppositionalism undermines their own position. If Darwinism is just the result of Darwinists’ religious presuppositions, then so is creationism a result of creationists’ religious presuppositions.

Believe it or not, they love this. … They often offer a post-modern “all presuppositions are equal so I choose the ones I like” argument on their own. Consistent? Clearly not. One minute the Word of God is absolute, and the next minute, it’s all about choosing arbitrary presuppositions. But they don’t care about consistency, they care about dancing as fast as they can, firing out anything that attacks “Darwinism”.

Oh, sure, no arguing with someone who makes that move. And if a creationist really does make it, I wouldn’t suggest moving on to steps 2 or 3. In this case, all that can be done is to prevent them from getting their bilge taught in schools.

But as David has done an admirable job illustrating, some creationists do reason about these issues, or at least some of them are more inclined to reason in general even if they haven’t reasoned very strenuously about creation and evolution. It’s reasoning on the basis of ignorant misconceptions and a paranoiac view of what evolution is really about, granted, and such deeply flawed premises are guaranteed to result in erroneous conclusions. But my question is, how do we disabuse them of these premises? Because these are the ones we can actually reach.

And I think the attempt to reach them is important. You write:

I’m not trying to argue creationists out of creationism anyway. It’s their right to be creationists if they want. I’m trying to prevent them from teaching sectarian science denial as “science” in public schools. I’d also like to minimize their impact on public policy altogether, and to try to prevent them from misleading the general lay public about science.

I agree that it’s their right to be creationists. The freedom of religion is extremely important, and indeed is exactly why I too would not want them teaching a scarcely disguised religious viewpoint in schools, or exerting a sectarian influence over policies of any kind (education, climate change, abortion, gay marriage, whatever) when those policies will affect people who aren’t members of their religion or sect.

That said, I think one of the best long-term ways to achieve exactly that goal is to help people to realize that evolution is true. Stop gaps and preventive measures are necessary. You can’t reach everyone. But where we can reach people, I think it’s best to try.

In any event, your questions are great. I especially liked

4) Who is the designer? How can we test your answer?

and

6) How did the designer do it? How can we test your answer?

because these are the most glaring failures of “intelligent design” as an intellectual pursuit. It has absolutely nothing positive to say about the nature of the designer or the designer’s method. In order to be a viable counter to evolution, it will need to offer such positive theory. But it can’t, because then the religious nature of the whole enterprise is undeniable. Every ID proponent is, in the end, a YEC or OEC. They just can’t admit it in public.

Though Dembski has. Unwisely, but revealingly, on multiple occasions. (“Intelligent design is just the logos theology of John’s Gospel restated in the idiom of information theory.”)

Did I miss something, or did the scientific creationist crowd miss a really good opportunity to propose a falsifiable hypothesis some time in the past 25 years? The sheer quantity of DNA sequence data accumulated over the past 15 years or so dwarfs anything known beforehand. There was no real doubt that this data was on the way, so it would have been a great time to propose an alternative organization of DNA similarity that would refute common descent rather than confirm it.

Of course, it might seem esoteric to the rank and file, but I would think that any cdesign proponentist worth his salt would have appreciated this unique historical episode. As I remember, Dembski seemed to think ID was in top form and poised to replace evolutionary biology as the primary approach to life science. One of his eager young assistants should have been able to come up with something that would not be consistent with common descent, but was predicted by ID. (ID was gonna predict something, wasn’t it.)

Still, there’s lots more data on the way. So it could still happen. Not holding my breath.

This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

harold said:

mattdance18 said:

Creationists are fully aware that the match between fossil evidence and genetic evidence is damning. If they match so closely, then common descent must be valid – how else would such agreement be possible? In order to avoid this inevitable conclusion, they seek to invalidate either fossil evidence, genetic evidence, or both, and claim that the apparent convergence is identified only through persistent confirmation bias.

It’s pretty rich for creationists who employ a presuppositionalist epistemology to accuse only their opponents of confirmation bias.…

It is indeed, but it’s characteristic.

Projection is a very common defense mechanism. Again, like addicts or other people who make heavy use of denial, creationists very frequently project the flaws of their own arguments onto others.

They must recognize the problems with their own arguments at some level (but not as a conscious awareness of being deceitful), because they repeatedly falsely project onto science more or less exactly the same flaws that they themselves possess.

They constantly accuse scientists of “starting with an unjustified assumption”, “seeking to promote an agenda”, “refusing to fully consider alternate possibilities”, etc. In all of this projection, they describe themselves perfectly.

As an example of creationists projecting their own flaws others, here’s a quote I found on the AiG website recently: “In science it’s important that an idea be able to be proved wrong, at least hypothetically. A theory that can explain anything and everything, no matter how contradictory, really isn’t science.”

davidjensen said:

harold said:

mattdance18 said:

Creationists are fully aware that the match between fossil evidence and genetic evidence is damning. If they match so closely, then common descent must be valid – how else would such agreement be possible? In order to avoid this inevitable conclusion, they seek to invalidate either fossil evidence, genetic evidence, or both, and claim that the apparent convergence is identified only through persistent confirmation bias.

It’s pretty rich for creationists who employ a presuppositionalist epistemology to accuse only their opponents of confirmation bias.…

It is indeed, but it’s characteristic.

Projection is a very common defense mechanism. Again, like addicts or other people who make heavy use of denial, creationists very frequently project the flaws of their own arguments onto others.

They must recognize the problems with their own arguments at some level (but not as a conscious awareness of being deceitful), because they repeatedly falsely project onto science more or less exactly the same flaws that they themselves possess.

They constantly accuse scientists of “starting with an unjustified assumption”, “seeking to promote an agenda”, “refusing to fully consider alternate possibilities”, etc. In all of this projection, they describe themselves perfectly.

As an example of creationists projecting their own flaws others, here’s a quote I found on the AiG website recently: “In science it’s important that an idea be able to be proved wrong, at least hypothetically. A theory that can explain anything and everything, no matter how contradictory, really isn’t science.”

“If a theory claims to be able to explain some phenomenon but does not generate even an attempt at an explanation, then it should be banished.”

page 186, Michael Behe, “Darwin’s Black Box”, Free Press, 1996

I agree that it’s their right to be creationists. The freedom of religion is extremely important, and indeed is exactly why I too would not want them teaching a scarcely disguised religious viewpoint in schools, or exerting a sectarian influence over policies of any kind (education, climate change, abortion, gay marriage, whatever) when those policies will affect people who aren’t members of their religion or sect.

That said, I think one of the best long-term ways to achieve exactly that goal is to help people to realize that evolution is true. Stop gaps and preventive measures are necessary. You can’t reach everyone. But where we can reach people, I think it’s best to try.

While this is obviously true, it’s also valuable to understand that some can’t be reached by evidence logical reasoning. In fact a good number could not possibly be reached except by inhumane “deprogramming” methods. And even then they’d just commit to some new rigid, self-serving, authoritarian ideology; you couldn’t turn them into reasonable, self-aware people. (Others can be reached.)

We absolutely should still rebut their mis-statements about science, in a civil and articulate way, but for the benefit of third party observers. And “civil” does NOT mean “obsequious”. It simply means not using threats, epithets, or excessively harsh language that will turn off readers who could be convinced. It does not mean showing “respect” for ridiculous ideas or dishonest tactics.

Why is it critical to realize that some can’t be reached? After all, we’re doing the same thing either way. We’re rebutting them in a civil, articulate manner.

For a couple of reasons. First of all, you have to understand that the unreachable ones will repeat the same false arguments that you have rebutted in a different venue, and so on. You can’t delude yourself that because you have made a convincing argument in a particular forum, that they will change their ways. It’s like shooting vampires with regular bullets. They will soon rise again.

Second of all, and I’ve commonly observed this, it will create intense emotional frustration if you commit to trying to convince an individual hard core denialist. And they’ll manipulate this, pretending to engage, and then tauntingly throwing contradictions and repetition back in your face. This not infrequently causes a meltdown. I don’t blame people for blowing off steam by hurling comical, harmless invective at a creationist, and in an obscure corner of the internet it doesn’t matter much, but if creationists can manipulate frustration to get you yelling “Idiot!” at them, they’ve neutralized your power to convince third party observers. When you look angry and unreasonable, the potentially convinced “soccer mom” third party observer will perceive your arguments as “equally biased”.

There’s also such a thing as keeping too cool - you can’t let them get away with hateful language (here they’re quickly moderated for that, which is appropriate). But usually the challenge is keeping cool and arguing logically.

I’ve also noticed that science supporters sometimes project their positive traits onto creationists, and have a hard time accepting that creationists are mainly blinded by self-serving bias, not the least bit curious, and perceive what you think is a civil discussion as a struggle for dominance.

Although George W. Bush has made pandering but ambiguous statements about evolution, and is not on record as an overt creationist, his general style is a good example of what you are dealing with. Imagine trying to convince George W. Bush of something he doesn’t want to believe. Don’t worry about convincing him. Make good arguments that show the flaws in his.

David MacMillan has characteristics of those who can be convinced. He didn’t turn to creationism as part of deliberately adopting a self-serving authoritarian ideology, he was raised in it. Young people tend to question their parents values during adolescence and young adulthood, and children passively raised in science denial are far more likely to abandon it, than are those who consciously chose it, or at least consciously chose to stay in it, as adults. Second of all, he’s academically gifted, and that is also a trait associated with abandoning creationism. (As I noted above there may be a “valley” of being “just smart enough to use BS effectively, on others and yourself”, but he’s beyond that valley.)

However, in closing, I don’t mean to be cynical or pessimistic. Reality always wins, and reasonable arguments are the way to go. Just remember that not everyone is reasonable.

John Harshman said:

Naive attempt at a calculation*:

# of 60-base sequences in 3 billion bases: 5x10^7. # of potential matches between two such genomes: 2.5x10^15. probability of two random sequences matching: (1/4)^60. probability that there will exist at least one match between the two genomes: 1 - (1-[1/4]^60)^(2.5x10^15).

But I can’t do the arithmetic for that probability.

*It’s naive because it assumes trials can’t overlap, and so underestimates the number of trials.

I think it’s okay to treat each starting point (i.e. each base) as an independent trial. That gives you 3x10^9 targets, or 9x10^18 comparisons. The number of possible 66-bp sequences is 4^66 or 5.4x10^39. If they’re all equally probable (which of course they’re not, if only because AT and GC aren’t 50-50 in the genome), the expected number of random matches would be 1.6x10^-21, which is somewhat smaller than a hundred thousand.

harold said:

I think one of the best long-term ways to achieve exactly that goal [i.e., preventing creationists from influencing policy] is to help people to realize that evolution is true. Stop gaps and preventive measures are necessary. You can’t reach everyone. But where we can reach people, I think it’s best to try.

While this is obviously true, it’s also valuable to understand that some can’t be reached by evidence logical reasoning. In fact a good number could not possibly be reached except by inhumane “deprogramming” methods. And even then they’d just commit to some new rigid, self-serving, authoritarian ideology; you couldn’t turn them into reasonable, self-aware people. (Others can be reached.)

Indeed. I think we’re on the same page. (And we’re obviously on the same side.) We’re differing over our emphasis. I’m emphasizing (in our back-and-forth, anyway) how to reach the reachable. You’re emphasizing (again, in our discussion, at least) how to deal with the unreachable.

I think one of the aspects of David’s series that I find interesting is, it has spurred me to think about how one might crack what initially seems like an unreachable shell. I fully agree with you that not every shell can be cracked – frankly, “not every” is an understatement: most of the presently unreachable will remain so, probably nearly all. I just wouldn’t want to write anyone off too early.

What turned around the opposition to heliocentrism?

What makes geocentrism laughable today?

I suggest that few people can offer good evidence for heliocentrism, and there is another reason for its acceptance. (In the face of the plain support of the Bible for geocentrism.)

TomS said:

What turned around the opposition to heliocentrism?

…I suggest that…there is another reason for its acceptance.

Galileo lived right at the time that the church was getting dissatisfied with the Julian calendar, because Easter was moving increasingly far away from the spring equinox. The western nations shifted to the Gregorian calendar when he was 20 or so. Wierd as this may seem to us today, figuring out an accurate yearly calendar, and what day it was based on where the stars were, was practical concern at that time.* Any model or method that made that calculation easier would have had practical value. We take something as simple as a calendar for granted today, but one possible reason why the heliocentric model was adopted was because it made it easier to answer the question “what day of the year is it?”

*And earlier, obviously. So I should probably say “was still a practical concern…”

This is not off topic for David’s series; it is a very specific example of a YEC bending scientific concepts to fit dogma. I just discovered this one today.

For getting a look inside the mind of an ID/creationist “scientist,” it is harder to find biology “papers” by creationists that contain as much mind-numbingly stupid details about a single concept as do their papers in the areas of the physical sciences. And I don’t think this is because I am just a physicist reporting on their “physics.”

I have often said that ID/creationists, even their PhDs, lack understanding of basic science at even the high school and middle school level.

It is well known in the educational community that the processes involved in learning biology are very different from those involved in learning physics. Physicists who teach courses for biology majors are quite aware of the differences between the way biology students and physics students think and learn. Biology students have better memories for many details and for thinking in broad metaphorical terms. Physics students like fewer concepts with tight, logical and mathematical links connecting them.

Biology is more complex than basic physics and chemistry because it deals with far more complicated systems. There are more words and definitions to know, more concepts to assimilate, and more details that require specialized knowledge; much more so than in physics. The medical professions are divided into specialties for a good reason; each specialty is complicated enough to require full-time concentration by a physician. Physician specialization is also safer for the patient.

All this complexity and diversity in biology requires a good memory for words and definitions and metaphors; and this also leaves plenty of room for arguing and word gaming by ID/creationists seeking to “debate” why evolution is wrong.

But the physical sciences – physics, chemistry, and geology, in increasing order of complexity – don’t leave anywhere nearly as much room for word gaming.

So how can one spend so many words obfuscating a single concept in, say, physics?

Well, in the above link, “Dr” Danny Faulkner of AiG does precisely that; and it is a hoot. Furthermore, as do all these creationist “papers,” it ends inconclusively (maybe this is true; or not) with a call for further discussion.

I personally find that these “gems” give interesting insights into the machinations of ID/creationists attempting to bend and break science concepts to fit preconceived sectarian dogma while trying to instruct their followers how to do the same.

All the tradition of hermeneutics, exegesis, and word-gaming that ID/creationists are raised with and taught are brought to bear on trying to understand a science concept; and this is precisely the wrong way to learn science.

Yikes…it seems I mistook the double factorial x!! for the iterated factorial (x!)!. Thanks to John Harshman for pointing that out; I’ll have to add an errata.

John Harshman said:

Fossils provide two sorts of data: morphological characters and stratigraphic position. The former should probably not be considered a property of fossil data, and fossils are most often combined in analyses with extant taxa. The latter is an independent source of data to be compared with phylogenetic trees, and the fit of stratigraphy to phylogeny is a fine confirmation of common descent.

Exactly. This, as I pointed out in my last installment, is a point that’s wholly missed by creationists. The stratigraphic data of fossils is independent of the morphological phylogeny because strata distribution was established prior to the formulation of universal common descent.

I also think your take on phylogenetic analysis is a bit garbled, perhaps partly because you are using “sequence” in two different ways. We commonly test many trees against some criterion of fit to the data and choose the one that has the best fit. But even if the data have no phylogenetic signal it’s likely that there will be one best-fitting tree, purely by chance.

Now, one way to examine signal is agreement: if different data sets give us the same or very similar trees, that’s very unlikely to be due to chance. But there are also ways to test agreement within data sets.

Yes, and I tried to explain this, but I may have been unclear. The means of testing agreement within a dataset may not be as easily understood by laypeople as the concept of testing separate sequences to see if they yield (roughly) the same tree.

eric said:

I have always thought that Darwin’s biogeographical example of blind cave fish is underappreciated and underused by people arguing with creationists. You’ve got fish in caves all over the world, cave environments that are very similar. Yet the fish in those caves do not genetically or morphologically resemble each other; there is no “cave fish” type. Instead, they genetically and morphologically resemble the sighted fish that live in th e waters surrounding their individual cave. There could not be a more obvious example of how the theory of descent with modification is a better fit to the data than the theory of common design.

The problem here is that the emergence of cave fish will be accepted as evolutionary descent without question, because the creationist will claim that cave fish have “lost” abilities that their ancestors had, and so it’s microevolutionary speciation.

harold said:

John Harshman said:

re: your endnote. We may have 3 billion base pairs (in a haploid human genome), but most of them don’t code for anything. Only around 2% of the genome is protein-coding. This is not “at any given time”, whatever you mean by that. It’s all the time; which bits are protein-coding is quite evolutionarily stable. I think your calculation is pretty meaningless, as it supposes protein-coding sequences in an overwhelmingly non-protein-coding genome, and it appears to assume that our null model supposes species to have genome sequences randomized with respect to each other. And though I haven’t worked out the math, I don’t think your calculation is correct even on its own terms.

It also seems to be empirically wrong. Are you saying that a randomly chosen 5 species will have, on average, many millions of bases worth of identical 66-base fragments? I don’t know if anyone has ever tested that (why would you?), but it just doesn’t sound likely. Anyone for a giant dot plot of the human and rice genomes?

David said:

Just four or five species with a genetic code as long as our own will have sequences of 60 or 70 base pairs in common – enough to code for simple proteins – simply due to the laws of probability

I’d also have to do the math, or more efficiently look up the reference and see how the math was done, but the phrase “enough to code for simple proteins” doesn’t seem to imply sequences that actually do code for simple proteins. It’s simply a comment on the length of the sequences. “Sequences so long that if they were coding sequences, they could code for a protein”. I’ll grant that it’s mildly confusing.

If you take a four sided die, roll it three billion times, write down your results, and then repeat that process three or four times (to generate four or five total strings), yes, you will likely have some surprisingly long sequences in common between at least two of your three billion character long strings, by random chance alone. I’d be amazed if that wasn’t the case. Three billion is actually a pretty large number, in this context.

Indeed. I didn’t mean to imply that we had that many actual protein-coding sequences in common, only that the approximate length of a simple protein is not prohibitively high and could arise even by purely random chance due to the size of a genome.

The creationist objection here is that proteins are too long and too complicated to arise by chance. But 22 codons is enough for a simple protein, and there are ~0.98 billion non-coding codons in our genome, which means there are a LOT of possibilities.

It does seem counterintuitive that only 5 organisms would share hundreds of thousands of short sequences in common. But this is an example of the birthday paradox. If you’re in a room with a few dozen people, the chances of one of them having the same birthday as you isn’t very high…but the chance of someone having the same birthday as any other person is quite good.

We have 22 amino acids to work with. By the pigeonhole principle, there are 22^20 or 7.1e26 possible 20-codon sequences (leaving out the start and stop codons), meaning that a genome of 0.98 billion non-coding codons will only have a 1.4e-16% chance of hitting any specified sequence. But evolution doesn’t require a specified sequence; adaptation can take innumerable paths. That’s why I thought it better to give the example of coincidence between separate genomes. The chance of at least one 20-codon sequence in at least one genome matching at least one other 20-codon sequence among four other genomes is quite good.

Rather than thinking in terms of the five genomes, think in terms of the number of possible pairings. You have five sets, each containing 980 million test sequences. That’s a lot of distinct possible pairings. Any of the sequences from genome A can be paired with any of the sequences from genome B…that’s 9.6e17 pairings right there. And you still have genomes C, D, and E: a total of 3.8e18 pairings involving A. Then you have 2.8e18 pairings involving B and either C, D, and E, plus 1.9e18 pairings involving C/D or C/E, and finally 9.6e17 more pairings between D and E. All told, that’s roughly 1e20 possible pairings. If any single pair has a 1.4e-16% chance of matching, then 1e20 pairings will most certainly have tens if not hundreds of thousands of matches.

This version of the math used codons so I could limit the complexity by amino acids. Using base pairs would be a much bigger challenge…but of course the base pairs themselves are not as important to evolution. I’ll have to take a closer look at my notes to see how I did the math using base pairs.

mattdance18 said:

I wonder in some ways if the best way to challenge creationists is precisely on the presuppostionalist epistemology they’re using. It’s really just a form of naively formulated cognitive relativism, and as such it’s completely self-undermining.

Step 1. Point out that their presuppositionalism undermines their own position. If Darwinism is just the result of Darwinists’ religious presuppositions, then so is creationism a result of creationists’ religious presuppositions.

Step 2. When they then respond that no, no, our presuppositions are the right ones, because word of God blah blah blah, you just point out that this is a form of special pleading. They claim a status for their own presuppositions that they would reject out of hand were anyone else to offer it in defense of a different set of (so-called) presuppositions. Hit ‘em with the hypocrisy charge.

Oh, but they’ll say, “I have a personal experience with Jesus, which confirms the accuracy of my presuppositions beyond question.”

I don’t want to put words in David’s mouth, but I imagine it was when he started looking at creation and evolution in epistemic rather than religious terms that he abandoned creationism and realized how much evolution had going for it.

Once I no longer felt the need to make origins into a religious issue, I was free to look at origins in epistemic terms.

harold said:

9) Some parts of the Bible suggest that pi equals exactly three…

This won’t really ever be a useful argument. The intellectual YECs you encounter will easily recognize that the Bible doesn’t actually suggest this – it rather suggests that there was, at one time, a bronze basin of unspecified shape and decoration which measured approximately ten units from rim to rim and approximately thirty units at some circumference. No indication is given whether the measured rim corresponds to the diameter of the measured circumference, and any YEC worth his salt will understand this. The “pi=3” bit may be of use as a curio in dealing with the KJV-only literalist types, but they aren’t going to be able to understand ratios anyway.

callahanpb said:

Did I miss something, or did the scientific creationist crowd miss a really good opportunity to propose a falsifiable hypothesis some time in the past 25 years? The sheer quantity of DNA sequence data accumulated over the past 15 years or so dwarfs anything known beforehand. There was no real doubt that this data was on the way, so it would have been a great time to propose an alternative organization of DNA similarity that would refute common descent rather than confirm it.

This is actually why I started studying genetics in depth: to try and come up with testable predictions that the YEC/ID models could generate.

harold said:

David MacMillan has characteristics of those who can be convinced. He didn’t turn to creationism as part of deliberately adopting a self-serving authoritarian ideology, he was raised in it. Young people tend to question their parents values during adolescence and young adulthood, and children passively raised in science denial are far more likely to abandon it, than are those who consciously chose it, or at least consciously chose to stay in it, as adults. Second of all, he’s academically gifted, and that is also a trait associated with abandoning creationism. (As I noted above there may be a “valley” of being “just smart enough to use BS effectively, on others and yourself”, but he’s beyond that valley.)

It was a hard climb out of that valley.

TomS said:

What turned around the opposition to heliocentrism?

What makes geocentrism laughable today?

I suggest that few people can offer good evidence for heliocentrism, and there is another reason for its acceptance. (In the face of the plain support of the Bible for geocentrism.)

I would argue that an interpretation of the Bible which finds “plain support” of geocentrism is nearly as literarily vacuous as an interpretation which finds “plain support” of YEC.

harold said:

I agree that it’s their right to be creationists. The freedom of religion is extremely important, and indeed is exactly why I too would not want them teaching a scarcely disguised religious viewpoint in schools, or exerting a sectarian influence over policies of any kind (education, climate change, abortion, gay marriage, whatever) when those policies will affect people who aren’t members of their religion or sect.

That said, I think one of the best long-term ways to achieve exactly that goal is to help people to realize that evolution is true. Stop gaps and preventive measures are necessary. You can’t reach everyone. But where we can reach people, I think it’s best to try.

While this is obviously true, it’s also valuable to understand that some can’t be reached by evidence logical reasoning. In fact a good number could not possibly be reached except by inhumane “deprogramming” methods. And even then they’d just commit to some new rigid, self-serving, authoritarian ideology; you couldn’t turn them into reasonable, self-aware people. (Others can be reached.)

We absolutely should still rebut their mis-statements about science, in a civil and articulate way, but for the benefit of third party observers. And “civil” does NOT mean “obsequious”. It simply means not using threats, epithets, or excessively harsh language that will turn off readers who could be convinced. It does not mean showing “respect” for ridiculous ideas or dishonest tactics.

Why is it critical to realize that some can’t be reached? After all, we’re doing the same thing either way. We’re rebutting them in a civil, articulate manner.

For a couple of reasons. First of all, you have to understand that the unreachable ones will repeat the same false arguments that you have rebutted in a different venue, and so on. You can’t delude yourself that because you have made a convincing argument in a particular forum, that they will change their ways. It’s like shooting vampires with regular bullets. They will soon rise again.

Second of all, and I’ve commonly observed this, it will create intense emotional frustration if you commit to trying to convince an individual hard core denialist. And they’ll manipulate this, pretending to engage, and then tauntingly throwing contradictions and repetition back in your face. This not infrequently causes a meltdown. I don’t blame people for blowing off steam by hurling comical, harmless invective at a creationist, and in an obscure corner of the internet it doesn’t matter much, but if creationists can manipulate frustration to get you yelling “Idiot!” at them, they’ve neutralized your power to convince third party observers. When you look angry and unreasonable, the potentially convinced “soccer mom” third party observer will perceive your arguments as “equally biased”.

There’s also such a thing as keeping too cool - you can’t let them get away with hateful language (here they’re quickly moderated for that, which is appropriate). But usually the challenge is keeping cool and arguing logically.

I’ve also noticed that science supporters sometimes project their positive traits onto creationists, and have a hard time accepting that creationists are mainly blinded by self-serving bias, not the least bit curious, and perceive what you think is a civil discussion as a struggle for dominance.

Although George W. Bush has made pandering but ambiguous statements about evolution, and is not on record as an overt creationist, his general style is a good example of what you are dealing with. Imagine trying to convince George W. Bush of something he doesn’t want to believe. Don’t worry about convincing him. Make good arguments that show the flaws in his.

David MacMillan has characteristics of those who can be convinced. He didn’t turn to creationism as part of deliberately adopting a self-serving authoritarian ideology, he was raised in it. Young people tend to question their parents values during adolescence and young adulthood, and children passively raised in science denial are far more likely to abandon it, than are those who consciously chose it, or at least consciously chose to stay in it, as adults. Second of all, he’s academically gifted, and that is also a trait associated with abandoning creationism. (As I noted above there may be a “valley” of being “just smart enough to use BS effectively, on others and yourself”, but he’s beyond that valley.)

However, in closing, I don’t mean to be cynical or pessimistic. Reality always wins, and reasonable arguments are the way to go. Just remember that not everyone is reasonable.

As someone who is still dealing with the fallout of losing my fundamentalism I think I can offer some insight into the problems of the process. For one thing, the fear of hell is a powerful and ever-present part of life as a fundamentalist. Whether you grew up in it or converted you are told that thinking a certain way is essential to avoid eternal torture and isolation. I think that most science deniers base their beliefs on some version of Pascal’s wager. They think that it is not that big of a deal if they understand science so it is not worth risking hell in order understand many of those concepts. They would rather believe something that makes them safe if hell theology ends up being true. This would describe the earliest stages of my life and faith.

During high-school and college my reason for continuing my faith changed a great deal. First my politics swung from right to left as I studied and understood history in a more complete way (One key aspect to this was my AP History teacher at my small Christian school who was politically extremely liberal while being a deeply conservative five-point Calvinist when it came to religion- people are quite complex!) During this time I found my faith renewed and greatly enriched by the progressive wing of Christianity which focused on social justice. My spiritual emphasis shifted to such beautiful pictures of love, justice and reconciliation that can be found in Isaiah, Amos, Jesus’ parables, etc. I became quite adept at re-interpreting the Bible to support and emphasize income equality, feminism, and racial reconciliation, among other issues. I was also able to accept (though not really understand) evolution and climate change. Although it took a while I even came around to doubting the sinfulness of homosexuality (the church does a pretty good job of making this one of the last dominoes to fall). I no longer gave reverence to the Bible out of fear of hell but because it had become the source of many life-giving beliefs that had become central to my life. I also had several spiritual experiences while practicing social justice that confirmed my feelings about God.

It took me many years before I was able to question if the Bible was really the divinely revealed Word of God. This was probably the most fundamental aspect of the Christian faith that is simply not questioned. It was so ingrained I literally didn’t ever think to challenge it. When I started studying the ancient history of Judaism and Christianity is when things really started to fall apart for me. Everything in the Bible made so much more sense as a primary document just like all the other primary documents I had learned how to use. But now I get to perhaps the hardest part of this entire process: community.

I’ve spent my entire life in Christian communities. It is my culture and what I know. My friends and family are all more or less a part of the fundamentalist Christian tradition. In American culture community can be extremely hard to find which makes it very scary to give up. I am comfortable around Christians and know how to act, make jokes, etc. in a way that people relate to. However, I am now in a limbo because it is hard to find real community with a group of people who think you are going to hell and are scared of many of your questions and beliefs. It is hard to be open and vulnerable in that environment. However, it is also difficult to know how to find a new community.

I think that a lot of people avoid this loss of community by not following their questions to their extremes. I know many people who have been troubled by the same sorts of questions as me but stopped short before taking them to their conclusions because of a mixture of the motivations I presented above. 1) People are scared of hell 2) People are scared of losing their spiritual (and moral) source 3) people are scared of losing their community

My intellectual curiosity has pushed me past all three of those boundaries but it has been a long and difficult process. Keep in mind when talking to science deniers that for many of them their spiritual, emotional, and social lives are at stake. They are not simply having an intellectual discussion, they are trying to hold their world together. Plus, they have been warned that studying “human knowledge” will lead them away from God. So the Bible seems to predict and protect against secular arguments! (The Bible also says to test everything and keep only that which is good… which can be read as fairly secular and scientific.)

For me, fundamentalist religion defeated itself with its own ridiculous arguments but it took time and many stages. I remember when I was very young, one of my home-school textbooks said that God sent the fog that helped Washington escape the British on Long Island. Even as a young and patriotic fundamentalist it seemed like a bizarre claim. Over time I noticed that the fundamentalist worldview lends itself to these kinds of stretches of credulity and that secular academics in all fields actually presented a fairly consistent and evidence-based outlook on the world. However I am still dealing with issues 2 and 3 that I listed above. For anyone else who is or knows someone who is I highly recommend the books of John Shelby Spong and Philip Gulley. In fact I think most of the readers here would find their approach to Christianity to be interesting.

This ended up being quite a bit longer than I thought it would be… I hope that it is interesting or helpful for some of you.

andrewdburnett said:

For one thing, the fear of hell is a powerful and ever-present part of life as a fundamentalist. Whether you grew up in it or converted you are told that thinking a certain way is essential to avoid eternal torture and isolation.

It is this aspect of fundamentalist religion which I find most offensive: the coercion of belief through threats of torture. Why should anyone worship a being who rules through a tyranny of fear? To call such a being “loving” and “just” is such a perversion of language that it is horribly laughable.

Good luck with your escape from that tyranny.

Henry J said:

A heliosynchronous planet (actually a problematic hypothetical, since the sun’s poles rotate with lower angular velocity than does the equator, but whatever) wouldn’t see the sun rotate. I suppose a planet could be heliosynchronous, more or less, plus tidally locked, which could make understanding orbital dynamics difficult for its inhabitants.

At what distance from the sun would an orbit be (equatoral) heliosynchronous? Would that be closer than Mercury?

I managed to locate a reference to this phenomenon involving the Solar Observer spacecraft, when it was for a time orbiting over the same location on the Sun’s surface. This article does not seem to give the details of how far it was when doing this, but does call it “quasi-heliosynchronous” - I’m guessing “quasi” because it was not a permanent orbit.

“The solar orbiter mission” Advances in Space Research, Volume 32, Issue 12, 2003, Pages 2699-2704 R.G. Marsden, B. Fleck doi:10.1016/j.asr.2003.01.003

TomS said:

Scott F said:

I almost forgot. Isn’t the Foucault pendulum direct evidence of a rotating Earth?

This harder to argue with because it involves physics as well as geometry. There are four possible answers, of which I’ve only seen the first used:

1. Mach’s Principle which says that the effect of the rotating universe, of the fixed stars, on a non-rotating object is the same as a rotating object in a non-rotating universe.

2. Lagrangian formulation classical mechanics allows one to write down equations in any (well-behaved) coordinate system. These would include coordinate systems in which there is a non-rotating Earth fixed at the center, as well as a straightforward heliocentric one - or, for that matter, a Plutocentric system.

3. Mention the General Theory of Relativity.

4. Point out that someone who is rejecting heliocentrism is not going to be impressed by Newton, who assumed heliocentrism, and his theories. (If you are arguing the existence of atoms, a non-atomist is not going to accept an argument from Quantum Mechanics.)

What if we place the Foucault pendulum on Mars (for example). Hard geocentrism would say that Mars is spinning around the Earth faster than it is itself spinning. Yet the pendulum exhibits the same behavior on Mars relative to the Martian day, not to the Earth’s day.

No?

Surely, if the universe rotates about the Earth, then almost everything in it is not only required to travel faster than light, but also must respond to every change in the rate of rotation. Objects 10s of billions of light years must endure immense and immediate acceleration when an earthquake shortens the length of a day.

Dave Lovell said:

Surely, if the universe rotates about the Earth, then almost everything in it is not only required to travel faster than light, but also must respond to every change in the rate of rotation. Objects 10s of billions of light years must endure immense and immediate acceleration when an earthquake shortens the length of a day.

Neptune is almost at the boundary: depending on where it is in its orbit, etc., it is about 4 light-hours from Earth which means that its “orbit” about the Earth is about 2xpix4 ~ 24 light-hours long.

Now, do you think that someone who rejects heliocentrism is going to by shy about rejecting relativity?

But, let’s try this response: What is happening is that space itself is moving. Just as in the case of Inflationary Big Bang, where space is expanding far faster than the speed of light. Neptune is carried along with this faster-than-light rotation of space.

Has the effect of earthquakes on the Earth’s motion been measured? This is a serious question: the last I looked the effect is, so far, too small for our current technology? Now, back to geocentrist mode: We do not know the causes of earthquakes. Is it not possible that a wave from a disruption in the rotation in the cosmos is the trigger for earthquakes?

The distances to the stars is determined by a ladder of overlapping methods, which mostly are founded on the parallaxes to near-by stars. Parallaxes are based on the assumption of the orbital motion of the Earth.

But, again, back into serious mode, I think that the changes in the rotation of the Earth (as detected by changes to the directions to the stars) is a chink in geocentrism. Think about the complicated synchronization in the motions of the stars (and the planets, too) - it just tires me out to think of what would be involved - such as the same changes taking place at different times according to the time their light reaches the Earth. (One doesn’t need billions of light-years difference - just a few light-month distances makes it incredibly complicated to describe the synchronization.)

If this is so, however, it only establishes the daily rotation of the Earth about its axis. The annual orbital revolution about the Sun is another case.

If the universe was designed, why are we stuck with a yellow dwarf star that will eventually (1) use up its hydrogen, (2) has no way of removing the generated nuclei from He up to Fe, (3) will subsequently fuse those nuclei from He up to Fe, and (4) at some point in there it puts out so much heat that it bloats into a red giant before it has fused everything that generates enough heat for a self-sustaining process, and (5) then collapses again into some other kind of dwarf “star” made mostly of iron (a yellow dwarf doesn’t do the explosion thing that some bigger stars do).

Henry

Henry J said:

If the universe was designed, why are we stuck with a yellow dwarf star that will eventually (1) use up its hydrogen, (2) has no way of removing the generated nuclei from He up to Fe, (3) will subsequently fuse those nuclei from He up to Fe, and (4) at some point in there it puts out so much heat that it bloats into a red giant before it has fused everything that generates enough heat for a self-sustaining process, and (5) then collapses again into some other kind of dwarf “star” made mostly of iron (a yellow dwarf doesn’t do the explosion thing that some bigger stars do).

Henry

Do you think that ID is in the business of explaining things?

You see, whatever happens, ID is consistent with it. That’s the standard that ID aspires to.

“Bad design” also design. If you knew what are the long-range purposes of ID, or what problems it has to face, …

Henry J said:

If the universe was designed, why are we stuck with a yellow dwarf star that will eventually (1) use up its hydrogen, (2) has no way of removing the generated nuclei from He up to Fe, (3) will subsequently fuse those nuclei from He up to Fe, and (4) at some point in there it puts out so much heat that it bloats into a red giant before it has fused everything that generates enough heat for a self-sustaining process, and (5) then collapses again into some other kind of dwarf “star” made mostly of iron (a yellow dwarf doesn’t do the explosion thing that some bigger stars do).

Henry

It’ll fuse He into carbon and oxygen and some nitrogen, and end up as a white dwarf composed principally of those elements.

That is why, if the resulting white dwarf were part of a close binary system, it could suck up enough matter from the other star to hit the Chandrasekhar limit, then blow up by fusing carbon and oxygen into iron and elements nearby (some heavier), plus those between oxygen and the iron region. Iron doesn’t have the energy to fuel a supernova 1a explosion.

Glen Davidson

Oh, so a yellow dwarf doesn’t get up to iron before it runs out of steam (so to speak).

Toms said:

Has the effect of earthquakes on the Earth’s motion been measured? This is a serious question: the last I looked the effect is, so far, too small for our current technology?

IIRC, I’ve read somewhere that the Fukushima quake made a small impact on the lenght of the day. I suppose some googling might be useful. Wouldn’t the magnitude of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake also have ben sufficient?

Maybe what I’ve read is just speculation and the effect has not been measured?

Rolf said:

Toms said:

Has the effect of earthquakes on the Earth’s motion been measured? This is a serious question: the last I looked the effect is, so far, too small for our current technology?

IIRC, I’ve read somewhere that the Fukushima quake made a small impact on the lenght of the day. I suppose some googling might be useful. Wouldn’t the magnitude of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake also have ben sufficient?

Maybe what I’ve read is just speculation and the effect has not been measured?

To small. The Tohoku Japan earthquake (as it is actually known in geophysics land) was pretty close in magnitude (9.1) to the Sumatra 2004 quake (9.2).

I’d say its more than speculation. Earthquakes cause a redistribution in the earth’s mass, but a change of a few microseconds in LOD might not be measurable. They were hoping to have better luck measuring the change in the wobble.

TomS said:

Dave Lovell said:

Surely, if the universe rotates about the Earth, then almost everything in it is not only required to travel faster than light, but also must respond to every change in the rate of rotation. Objects 10s of billions of light years must endure immense and immediate acceleration when an earthquake shortens the length of a day.

But, let’s try this response: What is happening is that space itself is moving. Just as in the case of Inflationary Big Bang, where space is expanding far faster than the speed of light. Neptune is carried along with this faster-than-light rotation of space.

Has the effect of earthquakes on the Earth’s motion been measured? This is a serious question: the last I looked the effect is, so far, too small for our current technology? Now, back to geocentrist mode: We do not know the causes of earthquakes. Is it not possible that a wave from a disruption in the rotation in the cosmos is the trigger for earthquakes?

“Moving Space” provides an explanation of sorts for the problem, but creates another. The Earth is not a point, so either everything out to at least the surface has to have an angular velocity equal and opposite that of the Moving Space (bye-bye geocentrism), or the space within and around the Earth is not moving. Either way, somewhere there must be a shear zone between the stationary space near us and the revolving space in which the Universe is “fixed”. (Cue some interesting Physics).

I confess I assumed the effects of earthquakes have been measured, but reading around it does seem they are inferred from measurements of geological shifts. They should be big enough to measure, but are swamped by noise. What we call “Earth” is its crust. Any exchange of angular momentum between the crust and either the atmosphere or the oceans or the molten core affects day length. Annual variations are of the order of milliseconds when the earthquake produces only microseconds. Human activity must also have changed the Earth’s moment of inertia by mining materials to build skyscrapers. Much too small to measure, but with revolving space eliminated as an explanation, is it reasonable to have to a theory that requires 99.9% (4.5 billion year old earth in a 45 billion light year diameter universe) of the mass in the universe to begin responding to the anticipated effect of human activity before the earth was even formed.

TomS said:

Is it not possible that a wave from a disruption in the rotation in the cosmos is the trigger for earthquakes?

Astrology anyone? :-)

Scott F said: I think a more compelling argument for teaching Science is that Science does not require a personal religious experience. Scientific thought and progress does not require divine revelation. Science is open to anyone, of any faith, at any time.

I think your first two sentences are good, but the third still implies that science is ‘personal’ or individual. In my mind that leaves the reader with the wrong emphasis. The advantage of science is that it allows groups of people of different faiths (or none) to come to common understanding, because the methods and rules of science rely on data and techniques that are available to all humans. Much of the usefullness in science has to do with its problem solving value to heterogeneous groups of humans, not individual humans.

Someone like FL or IBIG can point out that we may be unnecessarily limiting ourselves to a subset of all possible reliable data, because there might be reliable data which is not available to all people (i.e., Christian revelation, only available to Christians). That’s philosophically possible, but in practice no group of humans has ever demonstrated any “special” source of data that has turned out to be reliable. So it’s sort of like worrying that half my atoms might QMically teleport across the room; possible, but inductively so remote that it’s not worth spending any mental energy worrying about it.

Matt Young said:

Oh, but they’ll say, “I have a personal experience with Jesus, which confirms the accuracy of my presuppositions beyond question.”

True – but then I’ll just claim that I have personal experience with atheism, which confirms the accuracy of my presuppositions beyond question …

I do not think that is a very effective response – you can’t really say that you had a mystical experience that tells you that there are no truly mystical experiences. My response is to ask, “How can you distinguish your ‘personal experience’ from a hallucination?”

I wasn’t necessarily taking it as a “mystical” experience, per se – I doubt many creationists would describe themselves as “mystics.” But many would say exactly what David said, that it’s an “experience,” a “personal” experience. And that’s where I’d come in (even on “mystical” experience, as a subset of the personal). If they want to make it all subjective, I’ll call them on it: either they extend the same value to everyone else’s experiences or admit that they don’t give a damn about anyone’s experiences but their own.

I agree that consistency is not foremost among their concerns, of course.

TomS said:

https://me.yahoo.com/a/JxVN0eQFqtmg[…]X_Zhn8#57cad said: As for comparing evolution denial and heliocentrism (today, of the solar system) denial, I think we have to remember that many US (largely Abrahamic) religionists see creation as being rather more central to their religion than are the few geocentrist (or flat earth) sounding texts in the Bible, and that creationists are digging in their heels against the, arguably, last large gap to be filled by science, evolution. …

As I understand what you are saying is that there is a deep-seated denial going on when it comes to evolution, which there wasn’t with regard to heliocentrism. I will agree with that. And the relative flexibility of the opinion about heliocentrism allowed people to modify their interpretation of the Bilbical geocentrist passages when confronted with scientific assuredness about heliocentrism. I will agree with that. And that there is an inflexibility about evolution which does not allow modification of interpretation about the Biblical proof-texts for anti-evolution. And I agree with that. …

It’s also important to remember that heliocentrism was developed and disputed, and ultimately was successful, largely out of view of the public. Literacy and education were both much lower than in Darwin’s day, and maybe more importantly, literature was much more difficult to distribute and disseminate until the Industrial Revolution. Yes, the printing press had been around for nearly two centuries by the time Galileo was getting into trouble with the pope, but there just wasn’t wide availability of the information or a widespread audience for this kind of thing yet. And by the time the IR helped enable these widenings, the debate over heliocentrism was essentially over.

Evolution developed after the IR, however, with literacy and education much more widespread, with cheap books and pamphlets ever more available. It’s not a surprise that this time around, there was not just an authority reaction against it, there was a popular reaction, too (stoked by the relevant authorities, to be sure). And look at the situation now: any creationist ignoramus with a webcam can use YouTube or his blog to let us all see what a theological and scientific genius he thinks he is. This sort of popular and even self-published denials were simply not possible during the era when heliocentrism was disputed.

Dave Lovell said:

TomS said:

Dave Lovell said:

Surely, if the universe rotates about the Earth, then almost everything in it is not only required to travel faster than light, but also must respond to every change in the rate of rotation. Objects 10s of billions of light years must endure immense and immediate acceleration when an earthquake shortens the length of a day.

But, let’s try this response: What is happening is that space itself is moving. Just as in the case of Inflationary Big Bang, where space is expanding far faster than the speed of light. Neptune is carried along with this faster-than-light rotation of space.

Has the effect of earthquakes on the Earth’s motion been measured? This is a serious question: the last I looked the effect is, so far, too small for our current technology? Now, back to geocentrist mode: We do not know the causes of earthquakes. Is it not possible that a wave from a disruption in the rotation in the cosmos is the trigger for earthquakes?

“Moving Space” provides an explanation of sorts for the problem, but creates another. The Earth is not a point, so either everything out to at least the surface has to have an angular velocity equal and opposite that of the Moving Space (bye-bye geocentrism), or the space within and around the Earth is not moving. Either way, somewhere there must be a shear zone between the stationary space near us and the revolving space in which the Universe is “fixed”. (Cue some interesting Physics).

I think that there is a problem with geocentrism with what you call a “shear zone” between the stationary space and the revolving space. But I think that it requires going into some depth in the theory of geocentrism. More than any serious person can spend the time and effort in understanding it.

I confess I assumed the effects of earthquakes have been measured, but reading around it does seem they are inferred from measurements of geological shifts. They should be big enough to measure, but are swamped by noise. What we call “Earth” is its crust. Any exchange of angular momentum between the crust and either the atmosphere or the oceans or the molten core affects day length. Annual variations are of the order of milliseconds when the earthquake produces only microseconds. Human activity must also have changed the Earth’s moment of inertia by mining materials to build skyscrapers. Much too small to measure, but with revolving space eliminated as an explanation, is it reasonable to have to a theory that requires 99.9% (4.5 billion year old earth in a 45 billion light year diameter universe) of the mass in the universe to begin responding to the anticipated effect of human activity before the earth was even formed.

TomS said:

Is it not possible that a wave from a disruption in the rotation in the cosmos is the trigger for earthquakes?

Astrology anyone? :-)

And notice that all that this manages to do is to establish the daily rotation of the Earth, and does not touch the orbital motion.

I wonder whether there could be a semi-geocentrist out there who would admit the rotation as long as the Earth has no change of position (from its center).

TomS said:

I wonder whether there could be a semi-geocentrist out there who would admit the rotation as long as the Earth has no change of position (from its center).

Well, that rather messes up the whole “sun stand still” basis of everything.

Just Bob said:

Jon Fleming said:

TomS said:

BTW, the Foucault pendulum may be considered as special application of the Coriolis effect, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coriolis_effect. One demonstration of this is the rotation of large storm systems, like hurricanes.

Let me add to this that there is the “urban legend” that draining water will circulate in opposite directions in the northern and southern hemispheres, and I understand that there are people who will “demonstrate” this effect to tourists who are crossing the equator.

The effect exists. Professor Shapiro demonstrated it at MIT in the 60’s, and someone demonstrated it in Australia. It requires *absolutely* still water and a perfectly round tub.

But if you start the water going the ‘wrong’ way by, say, swirling it with your hand, it will continue the ‘wrong’ way. You can even disrupt an already-swirling gyre and reverse it, and it will stay reversed. So the effect must be pretty small, and easily overcome by initial conditions.

Yes… I thought I made that clear. But the effect exists and can be demonstrated.

Just Bob said:

Jon Fleming said:

TomS said:

BTW, the Foucault pendulum may be considered as special application of the Coriolis effect, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coriolis_effect. One demonstration of this is the rotation of large storm systems, like hurricanes.

Let me add to this that there is the “urban legend” that draining water will circulate in opposite directions in the northern and southern hemispheres, and I understand that there are people who will “demonstrate” this effect to tourists who are crossing the equator.

The effect exists. Professor Shapiro demonstrated it at MIT in the 60’s, and someone demonstrated it in Australia. It requires *absolutely* still water and a perfectly round tub.

But if you start the water going the ‘wrong’ way by, say, swirling it with your hand, it will continue the ‘wrong’ way. You can even disrupt an already-swirling gyre and reverse it, and it will stay reversed. So the effect must be pretty small, and easily overcome by initial conditions.

There are tornadoes that spin the wrong way, although they are rare:

How Tornadoes Form

The Rossby number of a system indicates the relative importance of the Coriolis force versus centrifugal/inertial forces. It shows why hurricanes never spin the wrong way (tropical cyclones are simply bigger than tornadoes). The Rossby number explains how entertainers at the equator can begin the fluid rotation in either direction with a surreptitious swirl of the bowl.

This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

Ray Martinez said:

David MacMillan’s explication of evidence in favor of evolution and common descent is defeated as false based on the fact that design is seen in each species. The observation of design means that species did not originate or evolve from a previously living species, but was created by an invisible Designer. This fact overrides or trumps the evolutionary explanation.

Do you have any more comedy routines, Ray?

Ray Martinez said:

David MacMillan’s explication of evidence in favor of evolution and common descent is defeated as false based on the fact that design is seen in each species. The observation of design means that species did not originate or evolve from a previously living species, but was created by an invisible Designer. This fact overrides or trumps the evolutionary explanation.

But nobody can see design except you, Ray.

Tell us how we may detect it for ourselves.

This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

phhht said:

Ray Martinez said:

David MacMillan’s explication of evidence in favor of evolution and common descent is defeated as false based on the fact that design is seen in each species. The observation of design means that species did not originate or evolve from a previously living species, but was created by an invisible Designer. This fact overrides or trumps the evolutionary explanation.

But nobody can see design except you, Ray.

Tell us how we may detect it for ourselves.

Inability to answer noted.

Ray Martinez said:

phhht said:

Ray Martinez said:

David MacMillan’s explication of evidence in favor of evolution and common descent is defeated as false based on the fact that design is seen in each species. The observation of design means that species did not originate or evolve from a previously living species, but was created by an invisible Designer. This fact overrides or trumps the evolutionary explanation.

But nobody can see design except you, Ray.

Tell us how we may detect it for ourselves.

Creationists agree unanimously: design in nature/species clearly seen.

But creationists are notorious liars, Ray, just like you. Nobody can really see design. That’s just bullshit.

Ray Martinez said:

phhht said:

Ray Martinez said:

David MacMillan’s explication of evidence in favor of evolution and common descent is defeated as false based on the fact that design is seen in each species. The observation of design means that species did not originate or evolve from a previously living species, but was created by an invisible Designer. This fact overrides or trumps the evolutionary explanation.

But nobody can see design except you, Ray.

Tell us how we may detect it for ourselves.

Creationists agree unanimously: design in nature/species clearly seen.

Inability to answer noted again.

phhht said:

Inability to answer noted again.

You know, Ray, this goes beyond inability to answer. It’s disability.

[Jeopardy! theme music playing in background… ]

Ray Martinez said:

Keelyn said:

Ray Martinez said:

David MacMillan’s explication of evidence in favor of evolution and common descent is defeated as false based on the fact that design is seen in each species. The observation of design means that species did not originate or evolve from a previously living species, but was created by an invisible Designer. This fact overrides or trumps the evolutionary explanation.

Do you have any more comedy routines, Ray?

Inability to answer noted.

Inability to provide any empirical evidence for your notions and assertions noted.

In order for the claim about “seeing design in nature” to have any meaning something needs to be added! The act of merely seeing with one’s eyes doesn’t mean than one understand or make any conscious, intellectual observation; attaching any quality to what one sees.

So what intellectual process is Ray using to sublimate a scientific fact out of merely looking?

It is obvious Ray is merely making things up, at t.o. he even claims that everything is designed - even gravity is a design by God. How he can “see” that is beyond my comprehension.

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