This is an encore post, a repeat post from about four years ago, back in 2008. For some reason the post got a couple hundred hits one day this past week, probably from a reference at another blog that I could not track. I reread it — still true, still good stuff. In this campaign year of 2012, I am dismayed at how anti-science and the denial of reality haunts election discussions, especially on-line, but also in the newspapers and magazines, on television and radio, in diners and drugstore fountains, in churches and PTA meetings. Denial of reality may or may not be a genuine ailment to humans. When it becomes a core belief of a significant number of people, denial can cripple our nation, our states, cities and towns. We need to ask deep questions. We need to have real answers, not fantasies nor dangerous delusions.
Denying reality plagues us as an actual political response to several problems. Denialists wander so far down paths of disreality, they argue that we should ignore serious problems, and that the problems will then go away.
Should we teach the science of evolution to our children, or should we pretend fairy tales will substitute? This has deep meaning to those who understand that Charles Darwin’s greatest contribution to science probably was his strict methodology, which required observation of things in nature before writing about them as if authoritative.
Early in his life Darwin recognized that the natural world he saw, in Brazil, in the Galapagos Islands, in Australia and Tasmania, in South Africa, bore little resemblance to the world portrayed as authoritative by the great William Paley in his Natural Theology. Throughout his science career Darwin observed real things in real time. For his monograph on coral atolls, Darwin extensively observed the volcanic island phenomena throughout the South Pacific. To write about barnacles, Darwin raised them in tanks in his study. Looking at the mystery of exactly how the ivy twines, Darwin put a plant before him, and watched it, unraveling the secrets of how tendrils “knew” what to latch onto for support of the vine. To write about leaf moulds, Darwin observed worms at work, in his lab and in his gardens. To show the variation existing in what we now call the genome of a species, Darwin made extensive interviews and correspondence with animal husbanders of pigs, sheep and cattle, and he raised pigeons for generations himself, demonstrating how variations can be expressed that drive populations of one species to split into two through natural, everyday processes familiar to anyone who observed nature, and accessible by anyone who made methodical notes.
This familiarity with reality made Darwin a great scientist. The methodology proved extendable into other areas when he carefully observed the mediums to whom his brother had cast great credence. Charles revealed to Erasmus that spirit knocking on the tables at the séances did not occur so long as they held the hands of the mediums, who were then unable to feign the knocking.
Ultimately it provided some despair to Darwin, too: In the face of criticism from William Thompson, Lord Kelvin, that the Earth was not old enough to allow for evolution as Darwin suggested it must have occurred, Darwin had no answer. Lord Kelvin calculated the ages of the Earth and Sun to be no more than 200 million years. This was shown by the present temperatures and color of the Earth and the Sun, and calculated by Lord Kelvin from how long it would take the Earth, known to be composed of much iron and nickel, to cool from white hot to current temperatures. Lord Kelvin ventured deep into coal mines to measure the temperatures of the Earth deep underground, to confirm his calculations. At his death, though he defended his own observations of fossils and breeding of live animals, Darwin had no response for those arguments. Darwin thought there must be other forces at play. Only some years later did Ernest Rutherford find the secret of the Earth’s heat: Radioactive decay in the mantle and core of the planet keeps it warm. Measures of heat loss for such a large body had not accounted for continuous heating from within. A short while later astronomers and physicists discovered problems with Lord Kelvin’s calculations of the age of the Sun: The Sun is not composed of iron, cooling from white hot temperatures, but instead is hydrogen, fusing into helium, and making its own heat.
Darwin’s calculations of the age of the Earth were more accurate than Lord Kelvin’s, based on Darwin’s crude calculations of how long it might take animals and plants to have evolved from much more primitive forms. History demonstrated by easily observable things provided greater accuracy than history devised without benefit of grounding in reality.
In what other realms might grounding in reality produce answers different from what some expect, even producing better questions that many ask? Should we consider the migratory pattern changes of birds, fish and mammals, as indicators of a warming climate, over rebuttals provided by untested claims that measuring stations might not be placed correctly? Can we actually “cool” atoms with lasers, and use individual atoms to store information, no matter how counterintuitive that might sound? Can it be true that teaching people about contraception, and about sex, actually prompts teenagers (and others) to reduce sexual activity and look for love, rather than just sex? Does extending medical coverage to an entire population actually decrease total health care costs as observed in all other nations where that solution has been tried, or will it increase costs because the only way to reduce medical costs is to ration it, either with a bureaucracy, or by cutting off access by backdoor, death panel means testing (no money, no health care)? Is there any place Arthur Laffer‘s “curve” of increasing tax revenues by cutting tax rates, actually does not work — or any place it actually works? Has any society in history ever gotten rich by showering riches on the rich, and ignoring the poor, the merchants, and the working class?
In short, how does reality we know, inform us about reality yet to be? Which is the more potent predictor, observed reality, or hoped-for results to the contrary?
Our future hangs on how we answer the question, probably more than what the answer actually is.
I believe Christians, the largest faith group in the U.S., have a duty to stand for reality, and truth discovered by observation. That was the issue in 2008, too.
Here is my post of four years ago. I noticed a few of the links no longer work; I’ll replace them with working links as I can. If you find a bad link, please note it in comments; and if you have a better link, note that, too.
Several weeks ago [in 2008] I responded to a lengthy thread at Unreasonable Faith. The original post was Garry Trudeau’s “Doonesbury” cartoon of the guy in a doctor’s office, just diagnosed with an infection. The physician asks the guy if he’s a creationist, explaining that if he is, the doc will treat him with old antibiotics in honor of his belief that evolution of bacteria doesn’t occur.
Point being, of course, that evolution occurs in the real world. Creationists rarely exhibit the faith of their claims when their life, or just nagging pain, is on the line. They’ll choose the evolution-based medical treatment almost every time. There are no creationists in the cancer or infectious disease wards.
At one point I responded to a comment loaded with typical creationist error. It was a long post. It covered some ground that I’ve not written about on this blog. And partly because it took some time to assemble, I’m reposting my comments here. Of course, without the Trudeau cartoon, it won’t get nearly the comments here.
I’ll add links here when I get a chance, which I lacked the time to do earlier. See my post, below the fold.
The interesting thing to me is that this debate has turned into one of science vs. religion – but hello – has anyone even noticed that the creationists or the IDists are simply proposing a different theory about the development of the earth? They are not talking about religion but about scientific theories that demonstrate a different conclusion to the observable data – it just so happens that they begin with God as the starting point.
But creationists (including intelligent design advocates, who are a branch of creationism) quickly depart from “God as the starting point.” This is known as the “Oomphalos Fallacy” after the book Oomphalos published in the 19th century, arguing that evolution and most of the rest of science was wrong — God simply created life to appear old, even faking the fossils to make it appear as if life had existed previously when it hadn’t. Several Christians noted that the book claims, at heart, that God is deceptive. Of course, that is heresy to Christians. But it remains the heart of creationism today.
In Darwin’s day, many of the great naturalists of the world, the precursor’s to today’s Ph.D. biologists, were preachers. Preaching on Sunday, meeting with members of the congregation and studying nature the rest of the week. This was almost expected: God created nature, it was assumed by Christians, and therefore what nature exhibits must be from the Hand of God, truthful and accurate. Creationists have departed from that view, choosing instead to stick with the small god, the deceiver god who manufactures stars that lie about their ages and distance and speed, rocks that lie about their ages and how they got there, life that lies about its relatedness and origins, and more.
It’s okay to claim that creationism once was with the rest of Western science, claiming God as the starting point. Please understand that creationism has left that position. That is why so many of us Christians are concerned about the harmful moral effects of creationism, especially on innocent children. Creationism advocates seem to lose their ability to distinguish reality from falsehood, natural science fact from outright lie. That’s dangerous.
[Rachvdg said] I don’t hear them talking about “religion” which happens to be VERY different than simply acknowledging that an intelligent being may have created something – religion is full of rules and regulations etc…which are man made efforts to try and worship/follow a certain being…so lets at least argue the same points….
Science and faith are two different issues and you can’t debate them against each other because its not in the same playing field. If you want to discredit the creationists or ID’ists at least know what they are talking about and not talking about and debate on those specific issues – have any of you who swear by evolution ever even read through some of the scientific evidence and theories that they put forth? (i’m not just talking about the overall theory that God created the earth etc…but specifics of specific events, natural laws as a result, etc…)
Yes, I’ve read all of it. I was shocked to discover, as I staffed the U.S. Senate and dealt with science policy, that creationism was still alive; that was more than 30 years ago. It was a problem for good science policy then, and creationism has only gone farther off the moral rails since then.
I gather you have read some of the more sciency claims of creationism – but I’ll wager you’ve not read any of the great works in science that support evolution.
I think you’ll find many, many scientists and others interested in this issue are very, very familiar with the sciency works of creationists. They are not science. Most of them are dishonest or otherwise just shoddy scholarship. They frequently constitute academic fraud.
[Rachvdg said] have any of you read through some of the really technical scientific documents for the tectonic plates shifting or the separating of the continents as a result of a giant worldwide flood or the effect of a pre-flood higher oxygen level on the ability of dinosours to survive on dense vegetation and with such tiny nostrils (which would by the way make it impossible for them to have existed in our atmosphere as it is now, or even as evolutionists propose that it was – much higher in other gases – not oxygen)?
Yes. It’s quackery. Crank science at best. Agassiz falsified the worldwide flood claim in the early 19th century. To start from a false premise is one form of fraud.
Tell us: Do you also believe Kent Hovind’s bizarre claim that dinosaurs used flatulence gases to breathe fire from those “tiny nostrils,” thereby giving rise to the stories of fire-breathing dragons? Just how much of the crankery do you accept without question?
[Rachvdg said] Have any of you considered how the coal and oil deposits manage to be so vast across the world? These would be impossible without a major catastrophic flood compressing the vegetation (which would have been incredibly dense given the preflood conditions of higher oxygen levels, canopy layer of water and higher humidity)
[ I replied] You’ve never had a course in petroleum geology, I take it. Oil and gas deposits tend to be in rocks above ancient, shallow oceans, where organic matter was deposited for millions of years, not quickly in a flood.
You’re using a brief period of higher oxygen content in the atmosphere to answer questions that arise from other periods, and you’re assuming claims from that oxygen that do not stand scrutiny. Among other things, had oxygen been so high through that entire period, much of that organic material would have combusted, quickly or slowly.
I recommend you spend a year or so chasing oil deposits. You’ll see that floods [generally] do not bury organic material in a way it could become fossil fuels. If you study coal, you’ll quickly learn it was not deposited by a flood — could not be.
I have noted in this forum already that flood geology was falsified in the 19th century. The search for petroleum [and coal] would be absolutely impossible under an assumption that there had been a worldwide flood that scrambled continents, a short while ago.
Check the stock market today. There is no company there that operates on a creationist paradigm. In the real world, creationism doesn’t work.
Have any of you even heard of the fact that the moon has been slowly moving away from the earth (and that the earth is moving farther from the sun) and that given the calculations by even scientists who believe in evolution and a REALLY old earth that it would have meant the moon/ sun was pretty much directly in the earth (not possible) only a few million/ years ago – which totally blows the theory of an older earth, and billions of years of evolution as it would not be possible given the calculations of where it should be now or was then…
Yes, we’ve heard the claim that it’s a new discovery, though serious scientists have been aware of the motion for years. We’re also aware of the crank claims that the Moon’s moving away means it’s very young. Have you bothered to look at the serious astronomers’ and physicists’ explanations for the speed of the separation?
You are aware, of course, that the origin of this argument with creationists comes from a distortion of the final sentence in a 1963 paper that does not support your claim, I’m sure. In short, the creationist argument depends on a classic creationist “quote mining” of a real paper in astronomy (Slichter, Louis B., “Secular Effects of Tidal Friction upon the Earth’s Rotation,” Journal of Geophysical Research 68(14), July 15, 1963). That the entire argument arises from a dishonest practice of creationists is troubling to us Christians (and should be troubling to creationists as well, but as I noted, creationism seems to poison the ethical detectors of creationists somehow).
In any case, the claim rests on no serious proposal from any one in astronomy, and it depends on serious misunderstandings of Newtonian physics dealing with gravitational effects on orbiting bodies, and a transfer of energy in that process. There’s a good, lay explanation here:
Let it suffice for this forum to say that scientists are well aware of the crank claim from creationists that the Moon’s acceleration “proves” the Earth and Moon are young, contrary to the radioisotope dating and geological evidence God left us (according to Christian theology, that is, that God left accurate evidence). It’s a crank argument, a dishonest claim that spreads ignorance to innocent children. Study the science, come back if you find a serious problem.
or the fact that given the millions of years that evolutionists claim have passed since the evolution of man there should be mountains and mountains of fossils all around the earth given the calculations (even very very very conservative calculations) of the reproduction rate of the humans in order to arrive at the population today. Even figuring in a number of potential catastrophic events in order to eliminate a few million here and there there is no way to account for why there are no bones…except for the fact that maybe people haven’t actually been around that long and the bones haven’t been able to pile up? Of course there will be tons in the oil deposits, but that still doesnt account for them all…so where are all the fossils of the transitional humans or the transitional apes for that matter.
So, here you bring up the crank science, false claim that there are no fossils, no transitionals. I don’t mean to insult you, but have you ever bothered to check whether paleontologists agree with this wacky claim?
Who told you there were no “mountains” of fossils? Are you always so gullible? Do you always allow people to tell you such whopping lies — and do you let them repeat the offense? If your excrement detector wasn’t screaming when that guy told you that, you need a new one.
Four points: First, the Himalayan Mountains have layers of fossils from the ancient, now gone, Tethys Sea. Marine fossils are extremely common here. The existence of these fossils gives rise to the dishonest creationist claim that fossils from the flood can be found on the highest mountains (the fossils are in the mountains, not on them — floods don’t do that). In the Himalayas, some of the sediments are more than 3,000 feet thick. Because of the difficulty of getting to those deposits, they are largely unexplored. Still, they falsify the claim that millions of years of fossils don’t exist.
Second, consider the Karoo Formation in southern Africa. From the Karoo we get an astounding set of transitional fossils that show the transitions from reptile to mammal — a key transitional set in the history of life, certainly, and a transition that creationists often lie about, claiming it does not exist. The Karoo itself is a massive rock formation, several thousands of feet thick, several cubic miles of fossils. There are enough fossil life forms in that one formation to populate every acre of land above the sea with teeming life. That’s just one formation, in one small part of the world.
Also, who in their right mind would believe that it is possible for evolution to evolve apes into humans but still have apes around today?
Oh, sane people, people who recognize that it’s possible for Americans to be descended from Europeans, Africans and Asians, but for Europeans, Africans and Asians to still be around today.
That’s one of the stupidest and most dishonest claims from creationism. Evolution theory does not suggest that all ancestral species would go extinct. Worse, you assume that modern humans are descended from modern apes. That’s bizarrely dumb. Modern humans — great apes, in the classification of that great Christian, Carl Linne — share a common ancestor with other great apes, especially the chimpanzee group.
Your question can be restated like this: “Who in their right mind would believe that it is possible for evolution to evolve Smiths into Joneses but still have Smiths around today?” Why does your birth not erase your cousins from existence? I’ll wager you can figure that out.
We are cousins with the other great apes — very close cousins in the case of the chimp group — Jared Diamond’s book, The Third Chimpanzee makes the case that we are so closely related that we might accurately be classed as just another, though naked, chimp (Diamond’s book predated the discovery of another chimp species in the forests of Africa — we’d be the “fourth chimp” today). DNA confirms it. DNA is the most accurate form of evidence we have ever developed, so spectacularly accurate that we allow convicted murderers on death row to go free when the DNA contradicts the conviction. Evidence that solid demonstrates our shared ancestry with chimps. [For more on human origins, you would do well to look here, “On Becoming Human” from Donald Johansen’s Institute of Human Origins;
You may wish to deny ancestry with your cousin for any number of reasons, but the fact of shared ancestry remains.
For that matter any other species from which we were supposed to have evolved from. If the theory of evolution were really correct then they should have all died out becuase the transitional forms would have been “weaker” and less evolved and only the strong ones that had mutated the extra bits to survive through the supposedly really really long periods when those survival things would have been necessary would have made it – so why are these creatures still here then and how did they manage to “survive” all the changes that would have made it necessary for the “stronger” ones to have mutated etc…
You lack major clues about how evolution works. Look up “allopatric evolution” and “sympatric evolution.” It’s difficult to untangle your errors, when you make so many. No offense, but you need more clues.
People always ask the question – who did Cain marry if the bible is really true or stuff like that (by the way he could have easily married his sister or another relative becuase there would have been plenty of time for his parents to have other kids etc.) but hello…has anyone even though of the probability of a little evolved lunged fish finding another evolved lunged fish that just “happened” to have evolved those lungs at exactly the same time as it did – during its tiny short lifespan and they just “happened” to both be male and female and reproduce?
We ask the question of Cain’s marriage because you must contradict a strict, literal interpretation of the Bible to come up with an answer. We ask it in some humor, but also in the hope that you’ll take the hint that there is much more going on in evolution than you have given thought to, and much more in scripture than you have given thought to.
I regret you haven’t taken the hint.
Yes, lungfish adaptations have been thoroughly thought out. Evolution happens to populations, not to individuals. Evolution occurs when a beneficial combination of mutations spreads through a population. How can a tall man find a mate among shorter members of his tribe? Do we really need to spell this one out to you? How can a darker skinned individual find a mate among lighter skinned tribe members?
Let me ask this another way: How can reality-denying creationists ever find a mate, among peoples who have developed antibiotics and red grapefruit, not to mention modern beef? How long will it take for stupidity to die out?
No offense — present company excepted, of course.
Come on, anyone who thinks it requires more “faith” to believe that people could find another person who was born to someone rather than a little fish with no conscious awareness finding another fish and mating in the millions of years it would have taken for it to develop is really reaching for something to knock.
You’re really reaching, yes.
or have any of you heard of the fact that the oceans are increasing in salinity every year and that given the calculations of how much per year it is impossible that the oceans are more than a few thousand years old…
Did you take chemistry in school? Do you know what happens when a liquid is saturated? Do you know what equilibrium means with regard to a liquid? Are you aware that the oceans are NOT increasing in salinity every year, since salt comes out of the oceans?
I’ve noted before that you should be wary of what creationists tell you. Let me upgrade that warning. Don’t believe anything a creationist tells you.
How many whoppers do you have to be hit with before you figure that out on your own?
these are just some of the points off the top of my head that I could remember – excuse me if the details aren’t perfect (i’m sure they aren’t because i didn’t reference them but remembered them – I can send you article links if you like) but my point is that unless you have examined the details of the scientific points that creationists are trying to make – don’t bash their theories on the basis that they are somehow connected to someone/people who believe in a God and therefore somehow less scientific or valid. They make a lot of good scientific points based on observable data that even evolutionists hold to.
Do not send article links. I have enough manure composting in my garden already. Please check a few of the links I’ve suggested, do not take my word for anything I’ve said here, but check it out yourself. For the sake of God and Jesus, do not take the word of creationists at face value, either. Your failure to vette their claims has led you into a mire of ignorance. You can find your way out, but it’s going to be difficult, and it will require a good compass, a great map, and a powerful light. Creationists cannot offer you any of that.
There are far more unanswered questions surrounding the theory of evolution than there are with the theory of intelligent design and I think you have to take a GIANT leap of faith if you are going to believe in evolution with so many gaps in the thinking and so much of the logic looping in on itself in order to explain how it works.
But there is this: Evolution theory works. It’s the basis of modern medicine. It’s the basis of the Green Revolution. It cures diseases and feeds millions.
There is not even a hypothesis for intelligent design, and despite efforts to argue to the contrary, in federal court, in fair argument, intelligent design was found to be religiously-based dogma, not science. Don’t take my word for it — that’s what the creationists said, under oath. Were they lying to the judge, or were they lying to you? Did you put them under oath and threaten to jail them for perjury? You decide when they told the truth.
ie. fossils are often dated based on the geological layers they are found in, based on people’s assumptions of the time frame that it took to deposit those layers, but the layers are often determined based on the fossils that are found in them…uhhhh does anyone see the flaw in that thinking???
Fossils are dated comparatively based on layers — based on the assumption that God doesn’t shoot dice with the Earth, much, and that gravity is constant. If gravity is constant, the oldest stuff gets laid down first, in the deepest layers.
But we also have lake varves, ocean sediment layers, a dozen different radioactive isotopes, ice cores, erosion, thrusting up, DNA, and dendrochronology, to date fossils and rocks. Interestingly, all of these sources corroborate what the geologists, paleontologists and biologists say. Several different kinds of science, all of them corroborating evolution independently, all of them denying creationism independently.
You asked about a mountain of fossils, which I pointed you towards — what about mountains of evidence? Such mountains exist for evolution, not for creationism. Christians assume that these mountains of evidence, as a second testament of God, are accurate.
Will you deny the mountains God made, yes or no?
I’m sorry but I consider myself to be very open minded and I have a great desire to be rational and logical (although I know I am not always, but I certainly strive to see the holes in my thinking) and I have looked into evolution and creationism a lot and I see a lot more rational arguments in the creationist argument than in the evolution one. (of course it depends what sources you go to, just like anything – there are a lot of people spouting all kinds of stuff that discredit themselves, because of their desire to “convert” people or something…but I don’t agree with that.
No, the authority of the source is not the deciding criterion. Look at the evidence. You’re not looking at the evidence.
I look at it on the merit of the scientific data and plausibility.
If a scientist came up with a theory of something that explained something very well and it just happened to be the same things creationists would say, but they didn’t have any connections to a religion or used the word God or anything like that they would be much more acceptable in the eyes of the media or pretty much everyone who thinks that those who believe in God are somehow irrational or using a crutch and that it somehow discredits them.
It’s not a bias against Christianity. It’s a bias against irrationality and abuse of evidence. Scientists and Christians put high value on the truth, on verifiable physical facts, on theories that do not require magical interventions against the laws of nature — that is, against the laws of nature God made — in order to work. Creationists don’t appear to value evidence, or God’s creation, that way, and pose magical models that cannot be supported instead.
Magic or reality? Which is it?
I think that is ridiculous that anyone would think that way because basically whether you like it or not or are willing to admit it or not, in one way or another EVERYONE believes in a god – be it GOD, Muslim God, Jewish God, gods as in animism or tribalism, or yourself – when you believe you determine your own destiny (that is playing God, or at least in some way believing yourself to be godlike in some way) so I have no tolerance for people who bash others who believe in a God of some kind because they themselves are blinded to their own “religious beliefs” and their own dogma which they hold to so strongly.
Excuse me, but as a lifelong, practicing and active Christian, I have little tolerance for people who tell whopping lies like creationism to other Christians (you shouldn’t have been abused that way, and I’m sorry you were so abused, for example). Especially I think we need to stand up for honesty and ethics in teaching things to innocent children.
Stick to the evidence, do not make up stories that cannot be corroborated or supported by the evidence. That’s not too much to ask. It’s more than most creationists can offer.
i never get involved in debates like this online cause I think they are mostly pointless because the people who are debating aren’t usually going to change their mind based on what someone else has written(like me now for instance), they just want to be heard or something…but i had time on my hands and felt like putting in my two cents worth…so this is my opinion…take it or leave it but I hope at least someone will think about what I have said and be willing to look at the research from both sides with a rational and open mindset becuase they might be surprised by what they find. I was.
They are only pointless if you cannot be persuaded by reason and evidence. Are you close-minded, deluded by lying creationists? Or can you look at the evidence fairly?
Do Christians favor the falsehoods, or the accurate observations that are in the light for all to see?
Is that a difficult decision?
(Please join in the discussion in comments — am I on a right track?)
- Five Myths (?) About Inteligent Design Creationism (sandwalk.blogspot.com)
- “Creation Evidence Expo” Exposed (skepticalteacher.wordpress.com)
- Answers in Genesis vs EvoAnth #1 (evoanth.wordpress.com)
- Conspiracy road trip with creationists: Noah’s Ark and other LOLz (whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com)
- Creationist Wisdom #271: Bill Nye Is Dangerous (sensuouscurmudgeon.wordpress.com)
- Ken Ham: “Why Won’t Anyone Debate Me?” (sensuouscurmudgeon.wordpress.com)
- Darwin: Portrait of A Genius: A Book Review (tufts.uloop.com)
- Fungi wrapped by Darwin in newspaper found in Cambridge (news.bioscholar.com)
- You’re a Strange Man, Charlie Darwin (elodieunderglass.wordpress.com)