Friday, September 02, 2005

All-in-One Creationist Debunking

You know I'm a big fan of Orac and PZ Meyers, who patiently explain the hard-thinky bio-science. I just got an ... er, kind of e-mail, kind of screed about how evolution makes no sense. As we must keep our science kung fu strong here, we cannot dismiss such things out of hand (although I would dearly love to.) But where does one go for one place where all the answers to ID and anti-evolutionist questions?

An Index to Creationist Claims

Spend the day. It's actually quite fascinating. Oh, and you could do worse than hanging out at Pharyngula on a regular basis.

Interstingly, one of the recurring issues ID or Creationists have is with intermediate fosils. Where are the fossils showing the steps between species. Then, when you point them at the flightless dinosaurs with feathers, they ask for an even THINNER slice of the pie for the next step up.

I don't know if most biologists are familiar with this (probably, as it's covered in the first year physics classes most must take at University) but there seems to be a parallel in math/physics argument in this vein called Zeno's Paradox. Just struck me as odd to see the same issue pop up in a different field. Too deep for me on a Friday, but feel free to chat amongst yourselves.

On a serious note, I would like to remind everyone that there's nothing about evolution which precludes belief in God, just as there's nothing in atomic theory which does either. It is simply not the job of science to discusss His Pasta Holiness in any context.

On an even more serious note: if someone at a party asks "If we're evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?", you are now allowed to punch them in the throat. No, honest. It's a law.


Emily said...

I would like to remind everyone that there's nothing about evolution which precludes belief in God, just as there's nothing in atomic theory which does either. It is simply not the job of science to discusss His Pasta Holiness in any context.

Ramen, brother. Ramen. =)

No, seriously? I personally find it kinda cool that we all might be one Holy lab experiment. Most of my friends find it a little creepy. Either way, I agree with you 100% and will be using that particular line in the future, if you don't mind.

SPG said...

Fun blog! Thanks for the laughs.

moses said...

Ditto emily. And I've never been to comfortable with the fist pumping either/or crowd. Chill out dude, I'm pretty sure you don't hold all the answers to the universe. So I'm going with Intelligent Design via evolution, like maybe someday evolution may lead to Intelligent Design. Until then we have ample proof we're not there yet.

Rick Jones, really said...

I can punch them in the throat now? Legally?


Um, is this retroactive?

Rogers said...

arrrrggg, Intelligent Design as a "science"movement is not the same as believing in an intelligent designer. This is part of the very clever "teach the difference" bullshit. "Intelligent Design"is not just about the concept of an intelligence behind the universe -- which is where you go with your "intelligent design via evolution". It is an attack on the idea of evolution as the process by which life adapts and changes on this planet. By making you think that evolution somehow negates or casts doubt on God or some other entity, it frames things as an either/or choice. The fact that several prominent evolutionary scientists are vocal atheists hasn't helped with this framing. But again -- what you're saying your open to, is not what they're really pushing to be taught in classrooms.

Intelligent Design the "science", not the PR version, undermines and attacks the way we examine the available physical evidence. It is not even science by the basic definition of science. It has no hypothesis, it cannot be tested or found fallible or confirmed. That's it, guys, the beauty of the scientific method, all in one sentence. And ID fails it. Period. Do not pass go, do not get to be a science, never mind compared to other sciences. We have "ample proof" as you put it, whether evolution is correct. We will never have "ample proof" as to whether intelligent design is correct, as its basic tenet is about unexplainable irreducibility.

No, I don't have all the answers in the universe. But I know the difference between science and not-science with the same certainty that 2+2=4. They have disguised crock-pottery as the "being reasonable" alternative. Nice framing, but nothing more.

I applaud your open-mindedness about the idea of "designer", and respect your beliefs. But that is not the same as "Intelligent Design". Sowing such confusion is one of the reasons these folk created that highly effective obfuscating name. Talk about ID all you want, but it is not science; it does not belong in science class; and presenting something which is not science as science helps confuse a population whose understanding of small-s science is already unpleasantly low at best.

Anonymous said...

my newest tack on this creationist bullshit trying to masquerade as science is that it's totally useless to argue the facts. a better "strategery" (to use our favorite creationist's phrase) is to do what you're doing, which is to illuminate the tactics they use and show how manipulative they are. like when they make some absurd claim about their beliefs, and a local newspaper picks it up without understanding the science, and then a honest-to-goodness biologist gets too fed up to take it anymore and publishes a rant about how wrong they were and then they say "see! there's a controversy! teach the controversy!"

tactics like that. and others. you gotta point out how unfair they are because there's no way to argue with someone who truly believes that if any scientific data contradicts the bible, then we must have misinterpreted the data. the factual arguments are useless.

Anonymous said...

ummm, somehow your comment page isn't quite working and that last comment isn't showing my name...i'm polymath from if it matters to anyone.

moses said...

Rogers -- Sometimes words don't convey the sentiment behind them especially when you're not very clear, ahem, me. So, not that it's the biggest deal in the world, but let me clarify my earlier comment. My "chill out dude" wasn't direct at you but the hypothetical fist pumping religious dude yelling "ID or bust" I imagined while writing that particular sentence.

And I'm totally with you on the ID. I was making a lame, muddy joke about the whole thing. And I get your point, my idea of an Intelligent Designer, Creator, God, Flying Spaghetti Monster, what have you, is not what the pseudo-science ID anti-evolutionist are about, not what they're selling, pretty wrapping and all. I'd no more want my beliefs in a classroom than theirs. Well, I'm a lot less caustic but still.

Reading your comment I gotta say you're a force to be reckoned with and that's praise.

Anonymous said...

Surely ID can be proven false.

Applying the Scientific principle it's difficult to "prove" a negative if the negative is all about a lack of evidence. It is of course nigh impossible to prove there isn't a god or gods or bowl of pasta.

But there is PLENTY of evidence to take on the ID folks and prove their own theory fails on one simple fact.

The only way the popular ID theory works is if WE have no intelligence.

I'm sure if there is any
"Intelligent Designer" out there he/she/it is right now concerned that they might have left too much evidence to prove themselves out of a job. While there might have been a design - producing idiots who don't want to think, sort of points to there being no designed "intelligence" involved at all.

davis said...

Wait... WHY are there still monkeys?

Anonymous said...

Because monkeys are intrinsically hilarious, and who else will throw shit at some creationist standing outside his/her cage saying, "I ain't no damn monkey."

No you're not, you're an ape, you moron. With monkey shit on you.

Polymath said...

there are still monkeys because of this:

the pre-monkeys living in one part of africa were just like the pre-monkeys living in other parts of africa. but some parts of africa were subjected to climate change, causing the creation (over many, many years) of plains that disfavored pre-monkey-like traits and favored pre-human-like traits. in the still-jungle parts of africa, the pre-monkeys became even more like monkeys as they became better adapted to their environment, while pre-humans evolved on the plains and eventually spread out to other parts of the globe.

if some real biologist wants to correct me on the details, please feel free. this is the sketch as i understand it. the point is not that all species get "better" over time, which would mean that monkeys should be so millions-of-years-ago. rather, species become better adapted to changing environments, and the changes depend on the environment.

that, i think, is why there are still monkeys.

ZenPupDog said...

My lame blog on evolution contains the WikiPedia article on Evolution.

Why monkeys still exist is that they are adapted to the environments they live in. Humans and apes share a common ancestor; And as evolution is not a static process - all animals and plants continue to evolve. So monkeys are as advanced as people.

I think all Creationists need to have their medical needs attended by witch doctors if they're serious about denying evolution as it informs the medicine we use today. - ZPD

Anonymous said...

The link to this on Noah's Ark is always a great way to get Creationists to zip their lips.

To be fair - it isn't an anti-diety stance but anti-stupid one - though GOD doesn't belong in any discussion on science.

Hadyn said...

Hi, mathematician here.

I like the use of Zeno's Paradox. Mathematics has all kinds of fun things to use against Creationists, but it also has some nasties that they like to use back. Albeit incorrectly.

Complexity theory is one, certain aspects of Group Theory. They may even try to go with Chaos (just coz it's trendy).

Zeno's Paradox is used quite well in this instance, but I urge caution. Zeno came up with his paradox in order to show the idea of infinite division was flawed. Infinite division was used to determine formula for the volume of objects like pyramids and cones. Today we use calculus and don’t think about it.

In terms of evolution Zeno would argue: before Australopithecus Afarensis can get to Homo Sapiens he first has to evolve half way there and then half way to that point ad infinitum. Creationists would then say “exactly”.

But the thing about Zeno’s Paradoxes is that they aren’t there to be solved or even to show anything (it is obvious that Achilles will pass the tortoise). They were there to challenge the idea of infinite division and create debate (I’m sure Zeno believed that he could reach out and touch a wall). As such I would be loathe to use the paradoxes for “real world” examples at all (as much as Creationism sits in the real world).

Instead show that their argument is flawed. For example:

Creationist: “The incompleteness of the fossil record shows gapping holes in the idea of evolution”
Me: “Please show me evidence that you grew up”
Creationist: “Sorry?”
Me: “Show me some evidence that you grew up to be X years old”
Creationist: “Ok, here is my birth certificate, and photos of me… and some other papers…”
Me: “I’m afraid that’s not enough, I can only see you at these age-instances. The incompleteness of the record of your life shows gapping holes in the idea of you growing up”

Follow up with a nice big throat punch as is required by law. (Hooray for that law change. Is it just in the US or was this a worldwide treaty thing?)

PamB said...

What about those of us too short to throw a decent throat punch? Kick them in the shins? Knee them in the balls?

Alby said...

The whole argument of intermediate fossils is total bunkum. Say you're looking for C, an intermediate fossil between A and B. Now you have to find two more intermediate fossils to go between A & C and between C & B. You could continue on forever!

As for why there are still monkeys? BECAUSE WE DIDN'T EVOLVE FROM MONKEYS! Both humans and monkeys evolved from the same shared ancestor!

Strange Forces said...

Amusingly enough, when I chuckled here at work about punching ID'ers in the throat, one of my co-workers asked what I was reading. I read him only the bit about legal throat-punching. "Well," he said. "There _is_ a gap in the fossil record."

Verily, I was able to lay the smack down, in the form of feathered, flightless dinosaurs.

Luke Barnett said...

not sure of the ID argument much or aware of its manipulations (not saying it doesn't happen, i'm sure you guys have plenty of examples :), ) but isn't one of the key points of evolutionist theory the point that there was NO being that decided to create this, and that it was all an accident( a general non-scientific term).

TimB said...

Not exactly, Luke. Evolutionary theory says that genetic mutations happen and that the most successful ones survive to pass those changes on. It's generally assumed and accepted that those mutations have been random because we have evidence of that process happening, but there's nothing specifically saying that God didn't cause certain mutations intentionally. The point is that we have no scientific evidence of God's intervention. You can believe in it or not but without objective evidence it doesn't belong in the science class.

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we-according-to-me said...

About 'The Second Law of Thermodynamics' resulting in Life.

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