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Sunday, 31 July 2011

Why Species?

First a definition:
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are often used, such as similarity of DNA, morphology or ecological niche.
For our purposes, the second sentence is probably enough. We could get picky and point out that, say, fish, living isolated in a lake somewhere are actually NOT capable of interbreeding with other fish in another isolated lake.

Another important thing to remember about the identification of a 'species' is that this is a purely human concept used for classification and description so that scientists can talk about this or that 'species' and know which biological form they are discussing. Nothing actually happens to the group of organisms being described when human taxonomists decide that this or that group should now be regarded, not as a variety or sub-species, but as a separate species in its own right.

When Creationists claim that evolution can only occur at the 'micro' level, i.e., within a species, but not at the 'macro' level, they, to be charitable, have not grasped this essential piece of basic biology: that classification is a human concept; nature does not read the rule book and is not bound by our conventions.

Now to dispel a common misconception about speciation. Speciation is a result of evolution but it is not the purpose of it. Evolution has no purpose and no pre-determined goals. The scientific Theory of Evolution (TOE) explains speciation but it does not require it to occur and nothing ‘intends’ a new species to arise.

So why does speciation occur at all?

In the standard model, the first essential is that a group of individuals becomes isolated from the main population for long enough for gradual changes to accumulate in response to local environmental factors. These factors may be predation, success at finding food, breeding success, etc. The main population will meanwhile be changing in its own way in response to its own local environment, or not, if the environment is stable.

Eventually these difference may build up in each population so that, if ever they DO come back into contact again the two populations’ genetic make-up will be such that they physically can’t interbreed successfully to produce fertile offspring, even if they can still successfully mate. This is the case with donkeys and horses, lions and tigers and many species of plant.

In this model speciation is merely a passive, incidental result of gradual evolution. There is another model however, in which speciation is itself driven by evolutionary selections. (I’ll use European finches to illustrate this but I could equally have chosen almost anything else; insects, reptiles, plants, fish or frogs, etc.)

Consider Europe either side of the last ice age. Northern Europe, the Alps to the north of Italy and the Pyrenees between Spain and France were all heavily glaciated, driving many species south into Spain, Italy and the Balkans and effectively isolating them there with impassable ice sheets.

Now take a species of finch, adapted to live in Northern Europe with a generalised bill for eating a variety of seeds. This would have been pushed south to form several isolated populations. Each would have evolved and adapted to best use the evolving and changing plant population.

One species in, say, Spain, may have evolved slender bills for picking seeds from thistles and other wild flowers, the more successful ones passing these bills on to their offspring. The other population in, say, Italy, may have evolved stouter bills for cracking harder seeds, also passing these on to their descendants. The two populations would be diversifying according to local conditions.

Now move on to the end of the ice age when the Alps and Pyrenees became free enough of ice for the finches to return, together with their food plants, into an increasingly temperate Europe as the ice retreated:

Suppose these finches had not been isolated for long enough to make interbreeding impossible. What type of bill would their offspring inherit? They would probably inherit an intermediate bill, but an intermediate bill which was no use for either of the favoured food plants of its parents. To all intents and purposes they would be handicapped and incapable of feeding or capable of feeding only with difficulty.

These would be rapidly removed from the gene-pool. Interbreeding would be hugely wasteful as the result of all that effort would be a lost brood, or, at best, a brood of individuals with a greatly reduced chance of themselves producing offspring. Anything which favoured non-interbreeding between the two forms would now be highly favourable. Changes in plumage combined with display mating rituals, territorial and mating song, and, especially, female sex selection would all be favoured.

Gene-pool isolation would be reinforced now, not by geography but by any other means available. A process of speciation which began casually and incidentally in, and because of, isolation, would now be accelerated paradoxically by a lack of the very isolation which initiated it.

And so we have lots of different finches in Europe, each with its own plumage, song, mating rituals and food plants, many of which are actually STILL capable of interbreeding successfully, and do so in captivity, but which rarely do in the wild.

Speciation has occurred because it was in the ‘interests’ of both gene-pools to speciate. An incidental yet inevitable result of evolution and an undirected, yet highly directional, process of natural selection acting as though it were driven by the needs of genes to replicate through time.





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Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Creationists Promise to Lie for Money

Just in case anyone thought I was exaggerating in my blog A Puzzle for Creationists when I said:

“Given a jigsaw of pieces of evidence to put together, a creationist will start with an absolutely unshakeable conviction that it’ll be a picture of a god. This is called ‘faith’. This is the one thing which cannot be, under any conceivable circumstances, wrong. The picture MUST be of a god.”

I’ve reproduced the Institute of Creation Research (ICR) oath below.

The ICR is a source of most creationists ‘facts’ and ‘evidence’ in the form of findings of so-called creation scientists.  Members of the ICR must swear this oath before they can publish through the ICR or receive financial support from it.

Needless to say, no self-respecting genuine scientist, least of all one who wishes to keep the respect of his peers, would ever give an undertaking that his research would produce a required result prior to receiving funding for it or as a condition of having it published. The whole idea of an a priori commitment to a given result is absolutely anathema to science. The merest suspicion of it is sufficient to raise a huge question mark over both the research and the researcher.

The existence of this oath is sufficient to completely and irretrievable discredit the entire body of ICR ‘science’ and of those who contribute to it. Only those who KNOW genuine research won’t produce the required answers would require someone to swear an oath to come up with the required results.

Note: not one single assertion in the statements and oath below is supported with the slightest wisp of physical evidence.  The entire thing hangs on a sky-hook of superstition which makes no contact with reality at any point.

The following is taken from Holysmoke.org:

The Institute for Creation Research began in 1970 as a division of Christian Heritage College, the later established by Henry Morris, Tim LaHaye and Scott Memorial Baptist Church (of San Diego, CA) as "the first college in modern times formed in order to provide a liberal arts education based specifically on strict Biblical creationism and full Biblical controls in all courses." (Henry M. Morris. History of Modern Creationism. Master Books Publishers, 1984; p.222.)

Below is the ICR's statement of faith, written in 1981 when ICR became formally independent of Christian Heritage College and was no longer governed by its statement of faith. This must be signed annually by all ICR staff and by its trustees. According to the ICR's by-laws, it cannot be changed. The statement of faith has two parts -- the "tenets of scientific creationism" and the "tenets of Biblical creationism." Also reproduced is a portion of the "ICR educational philosophy" which appears in the Institute's Graduate School catalog. My source is appendix G of the book cited in the preceding paragraph:
The programs and curricula of the Graduate School, as well as the activities of other ICR divisions, while similar in factual content to those of other graduate colleges, are distinctive in one major respect. The Institute for Creation Research bases its educational philosophy on the foundational truth of a personal Creator-God and His authoritative and unique revelation of truth in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments.

This perspective differs from the evolutionary humanistic philosophy which has dominated most educational institutions for the past century, providing the most satisfying and meaningful structure of a consistently creationist and Biblical framework, and placing the real facts of science and history in the best context for effective future research and application.

More explicitly, the administration and faculty of ICR are committed to the tenets of both scientific creationism and Biblical creationism as formulated below. A clear distinction is drawn between scientific creationism and Biblical creationism but it is the position of the Institute that the two are compatible and that all genuine facts of science support the Bible. ICR maintains that scientific creationism should be taught along with the scientific aspect of evolutionism in tax-supported institutions, and that both scientific and Biblical creationism should be taught in Christian schools.

1) The physical universe of space, time, matter and energy has not always existed, but was supernaturally created by a transcendent personal Creator who alone existed from eternity.

2) The phenomenon of biological life did not develop by natural processes from inanimate systems but was specially and supernaturally created by the Creator.

3) Each of the major kinds of plants and animals was created functionally complete for the beginning and did not evolve from some other kind of organism. Changes in basic kinds since their first creation are limited to "horizontal" changes (variation) within kinds, or "downward" changes (e.g., harmful mutations, extinctions).

4) The first human beings did not evolve from an animal ancestry, but were specially created in fully human form from the start. Furthermore, the "spiritual" nature of man (self-image, moral consciousness, abstract reasoning, language, will, religious nature, etc.) is itself a supernaturally created entity distinct from mere biological life.

5) The record of earth history, as preserved in the earth's crust, especially in the rocks and fossil deposits, is primarily a record of catastrophic intensities of natural processes, operating largely within uniform laws, rather than one of gradualism and relatively uniform process rates. There are many scientific evidences for a relatively recent creation of the earth and the universe, in addition to strong scientific evidence that most of the earth's fossiliferous sedimentary rocks were formed in an even more recent global hydraulic cataclysm.

6) Processes today operate primarily within fixed natural laws and relatively uniform process rates but, since these were themselves originally created and are daily maintained by their Creator, there is always the possibility of miraculous intervention in these laws or processes by their Creator. Evidences for such intervention should be scrutinized critically, however, because there must be clear and adequate reason for any such action on the part of the Creator.

7) The universe and life have somehow been impaired since the completion of creation, so that imperfections in structure, disease, aging, extinctions, and other such phenomena are the result of "negative" changes in properties and processes occurring in an originally-perfect created order.

8) Since the universe and its primary components were created perfect for their purpose in the beginning by a competent and volitional Creator, and since the Creator does remain active in this now-decaying creation, there do exist ultimate purposes and meanings in the universe. Teleological considerations, therefore, are appropriate in scientific studies whenever they are consistent with the actual data of observation, and it is reasonable to assume that the creation presently awaits the consummation of the Creator's purpose.

9) Although people are finite and scientific data concerning origins are always circumstantial and incomplete, the human mind (if open to the possibility of creation) is able to explore the manifestations of that Creator rationally and scientifically, and to reach an intelligent decision regarding one's place in the Creator's plan.

TENETS OF BIBLICAL CREATIONISM

1) The Creator of the universe is a triune God -- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There is only one eternal and transcendent God, the source of all being and meaning, and He exists in three Persons, each of whom participated in the work of creation.

2) The Bible, consisting of the thirty-nine canonical books of the Old Testament and the twenty-seven canonical books of the New Testament, is the divinely-inspired revelation of the Creator to man. Its unique, plenary, verbal inspiration guarantees that these writings, as originally and miraculously given, are infallible and completely authoritative on all matters with which they deal, free from error of any sort, scientific and historical as well as moral and theological.

3) All things in the universe were created and made by God in the six literal days of creation week described in Genesis 1:1-2:3, and confirmed in Exodus 20:8-11. The creation record is factual, historical, and perspicuous; thus all theories of origins or development which involve evolution in any form are false. All things which now exist are sustained and ordered by God's providential care. However, a part of the spiritual creation, Satan and his angels, rebelled against God after the creation and are attempting to thwart His divine purposes in creation.

4) The first human beings, Adam and Eve, were specially created by God, and all other men and women are their descendants. In Adam, mankind was instructed to exercise "dominion" over all other created organisms, and over the earth itself (an implicit commission for true science, technology, commerce, fine art, and education) but the temptation by Satan and the entrance of sin brought God's curse on that dominion and on mankind, culminating in death and separation from God as the natural and proper consequence.

5) The Biblical record of primeval earth history in Genesis 1-11 is fully historical and perspicuous, including the creation and fall of man, the curse on the creation and its subjection to the bondage of decay, the promised Redeemer, the worldwide cataclysmic deluge in the days of Noah, the post-diluvian renewal of man's commission to subdue the earth (now augmented by the institution of human government) and the origin of nations and languages at the tower of Babel.

6) The alienation of man from his Creator because of sin can only be remedied by the Creator Himself, who became man in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, through miraculous conception and virgin birth. In Christ were indissolubly united perfect sinless humanity and full deity, so that His substitutionary death is the only necessary and sufficient price of man's redemption. That the redemption was completely efficacious is assured by His bodily resurrection from the dead and ascension into heaven; the resurrection of Christ is thus the focal point of history, assuring the consummation of God's purpose in creation.

7) The final restoration of creation's perfection is yet future, but individuals can immediately be restored to fellowship with their Creator, on the basis of His redemptive work on their behalf, receiving forgiveness and eternal life solely through personal trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, accepting Him not only as estranged Creator but also as reconciling Redeemer and coming King. Those who reject Him, however, or who neglect to believe on Him, thereby continue in their state of rebellion and must ultimately be consigned to the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.



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Sunday, 24 July 2011

A Puzzle for Creationists.

In science, you amass the facts, examine them carefully to ensure they’re right and relevant, then you fit them into the bigger picture and so add a little more too it.

You’re never absolutely sure what the picture is going to be and you know it’s always possible that this bit or that could be out of place, or doesn’t belong at all and that, as more and more pieces are added, you may have to re-arrange the pieces and toss some out altogether, even completely rebuilding whole sections.

And always there is the excitement and anticipation of getting closer and closer to the complete picture, never sure quite what it’s going to look like.

And then you realise your picture is just part of a much larger, more complex and astonishing one..

Contrast this with Creationism.

Given a jigsaw of pieces of evidence to put together, a creationist will start with an absolutely unshakeable conviction that it’ll be a picture of a god. This is called ‘faith’. This is the one thing which cannot be, under any conceivable circumstances, wrong. The picture must be of a god.

So, the pieces are first examined to see which must be discarded because they don’t make a god - obviously they are there just to mislead and confuse and were probably planted just to test the ‘faithful’. Not fooling us with wrong facts!

Then the rest are forced into place, being modified and changed to give a more or less acceptable fit, not worrying too much about the gaps and discontinuities. Pieces of sticking plaster can be used when the pieces won’t join up properly. ‘Misleading’ bits can be cut off as required and whole areas can be left blank or coloured in later, because we know what they would be like if they were there. ‘Faith’ you see! The important thing is that they are making a picture of a god. If they do, they're in the right place; if not, they can be moved or thrown out.

Then, with a gleeful pride the Creationist can stand back and see, that, in dim lighting, if you squint hard and look at the right angle, there is that wonderful picture of a god! Only those without the right 'faith' could fail to see it.

Yay! Proof!

Look at those arrogant, elitist scientists over there worrying about where that little piece should go. How many times have they changed their minds?

And they’ve still made the wrong picture! ROFL!


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Friday, 22 July 2011

Religion and Unnatural Sex

Bonobo (Pan paniscus)
One of the appeals of Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Judaism and Islam) seems to be its obsession with sex. It provides an excuse for loudly jubilant condemnation of any sexual activity other than for procreation between people who have been granted permission to procreate by one of their god’s representatives, in a special ceremony called marriage.

Even for these favoured people, sex is supposed to be something of a guilty activity, definitely not for enjoyment, especially for the woman, and not something to be discussed in polite circles.

For a possible explanation of how this sex obsession became a central part of the religion meme, see The Evolution of Gods.

This seems to appeal to fundamentalists in particular, though not exclusively so, because it gives them an excuse to interfere in other people’s lives at the most private and personal level and so ensure that they aren’t getting more fun out of life than the person doing the condemnation.

One of the excuses put forward to justify this sanctimonious condemnation and interference is that sexual activity is in some way degrading; not worthy of an exulted creature like Man who is above such base, ‘animal’ activity. Animals don’t know any better and are driven by base instincts but Mankind is possessed of intelligence and so should know better. Getting pleasure from sex is being like an animal.

Let’s look at that in some detail.

Of all known non-human species, hardly any use sexual activity socially or for pleasure. Two exceptions to this are bonobos (so-called pygmy chimpanzees, and one of Man’s closest relative) and dolphins. Both these species are amongst the most intelligent of all non-human animals.

Almost without exception, sex between males and females of all other species is for procreation. Even amongst the other great apes sex only occurs during the female’s oestrus period when conception is likely. In these apes, females only become receptive at a particular time in their oestrus cycle when conception is most likely.

On the other hand, sex between humans is possible and frequent outside the female's oestrus period; indeed the oestrus period is only detectable by measurement of body temperature and then not with any certainty. The human female is almost always potentially arousable and sexually receptive regardless of the point in her ovulatory cycle.

Human females cease to be fertile in mid life, yet many women find their sexual appetite actually INCREASES after the menopause and sex becomes more pleasurable, not less. For these couples there can be no possibility of procreation yet sexual activity continues, often in advanced years.

Clearly, sex has evolved in humans for other uses than just procreation. Sex is used socially to maintain pair-bonds between a man and a woman for the long childhood of offspring and to retain this pair-bond into grandparent hood. And, as with our close relative, the bonobo, sex is not restricted to male-female sex; sex is used recreationally and for social bonding between some same gender couples too. This strongly suggests this behaviour has its origins from before divergence of Homo and Pan.

Sex is not purely procreational in humans; sex is recreational and a social activity too, unlike its function in most animals. In short, recreational and social sex is one of the things which distinguishes us from most other species where sex serves an almost entirely procreational function.

Ironically, the very thing which sanctimonious Christians, Jews and Muslims insist mankind should use sex for, is the one thing which almost all other animals use it for. The use of sex for recreational and social purposes which they most decry is one of the basic things which set us apart from almost every other species and is probably due in part to our intelligence.

If censorious religious bigots had their way, sex would not elevate mankind above other animals; it would reduce us to their level. We would truly be behaving like animals when it came to sex.

The tension this produces between the very strong desire for sex and the feelings of guilt it produces in people infected by the religion meme for even feeling these desires, let alone giving in to them, is a very frequent cause of mental health problems. Religion imposes an intolerable burden of unjustified guilt on people who are merely behaving naturally in ways in which millions of years of evolution have prepared them.

And of course, priests, rabbis and imams offer the only 'salvation' from this guilt. Without them and their magic spells and incantations, and above all, their permission or 'blessing', all is lost once you have yielded to the ‘temptations of the flesh’. Please give generously so that we can help other poor ‘sinners’... Yeah, right! Much easier than working for a living.

If Christians, Jews and Muslims truly wanted to celebrate our ‘elevation’ above the level of other animals, they would promote and extol recreational sex. Couples should be exhorted to enjoy sex for the sake of pleasure and to use it for social bonding and group cohesion, the way it has evolved almost uniquely in humans and certainly in ways which are unique to species with a high level of intelligence.

Clearly, they are pursuing some other agenda. Whatever it is, it’s nothing to do with humans being better than other species.


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Friday, 15 July 2011

Middle For Diddle or Shifting The Evidence

One of the more amusing claims of the Abrahamic religions is that their god created the entire universe just for somewhere for its special creation, Man, to live. It’s the same anthropocentric view which the early authors of the Bible took for granted and so told stories of a creation with humans as the only important species on a world around which everything else revolved. A view regarded as ‘common sense’ even some 500 years ago, so much so that to doubt it was a heresy.

Creationists require no more evidence for this view than that these stories were eventually written down in a book. However, some of the more educated Abrahamic theists who know that science shows these stories are just that, still cling to this anthropocentric view.

These people accept the evidence of an expanding universe, that the rate of expansion extrapolated backwards shows an origin as a singularity some 13.5 billion years ago, though they like to place their god in this process as the instigator of the Big Bang. They will readily accept the evidence for expansion in the Red Shift, and of the Big Bang itself in the cosmic background microwave radiation - which is exactly as we would expect it to be if there was a Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago.

They accept that Earth is a small planet orbiting an average star somewhere in an arm of a spiral galaxy; that this star is one of several hundred billion stars which together form just one of several hundred billion similar galaxies in a vast universe.

However, many (though it has to be said, not all) of these educated theists will point to one single fact as evidence that somehow Earth is at the centre of it all.

They will point to the fact that the Red Shift is the same in all directions and is directly proportional to the distance between Earth and the object being observed.

This, they will claim, is proof that everything is moving out from Earth equally in all directions, so Earth must be at the very centre of the Universe. Earth must occupy the very point at which the Big Bang occurred and thus occupies a very special place in creation.

So, let’s look at this claim in some detail.

Firstly, a short explanation of the Red Shift, and why it shows an expanding universe.

[Skip the next five paragraphs on the Doppler Effect if you know it already.]

The Red Shift appears to be a form of the Doppler Effect, something with which everyone will be familiar, even if they didn’t know it had a name. Everyone will be familiar with the phenomenon of the sound of an approaching train or emergency vehicle with sirens, seeming to change in pitch to a lower register as it passes.

What is happening is that sound waves are being compressed as the train or emergency vehicle is moving towards you and being stretched out as it moves away. The pitch of a sound is a measure of the wave length so peaks closer together are heard as a higher pitch than those further apart.

This is the same phenomenon by which police radar traps can measure the speed of a car by bouncing radio waves off it and measuring the change in wave length. The change in wave length is directly related to the speed of the car relative to the radar gun.

The same phenomenon is observed with all moving objects which emit or reflect electromagnetic waves, like radio waves, microwaves or light. The light emitted by an object like a star which is moving away from the observer, will have its light shifted to a lower wave length than would be the case if it were stationary relative to the observer. If it were moving toward the observer the light would be shifted toward a higher frequency.

In colour terms, a higher wave length means the light is bluer; a lower wave length means it is redder. This is the ‘Red Shift’ and how we know that, on a large scale, objects are moving away from us.

Now, on first sight this appears to confirm the anthropocentric view that we are at the centre of things since the Red Shift is the same in all directions.

However, there is one little inconvenient fact for this theory:

All the evidence shows that the Red Shift is the same for all points in the universe. It matters not where you place the observer.

So, what’s going on?

The universe is expanding, just as the Red Shift shows, but it is expanding not by all objects moving away from one another, but by the space between them increasing. This is a small but subtle difference. In fact, the Red Shift is not a true Doppler effect. The Red Shift is caused by the light having further to travel as each peak is transmitted because the space through which it is travelling has increased.

To understand this, consider dots drawn on the outside of a balloon as it is being inflated. The dots are not moving across the surface of the balloon out from some central point; rather, they are moving away from one another because the rubber between them is being stretched. And this holds true for every point on the surface of the balloon. An observer on any one spot would appear to see all point moving away at a rate which is directly proportional to their distance from the observer.

Earth is at the centre of the universe but so is everything else, because the singularity was the centre and the singularity is expanding as space is created.

The centre of the universe is all of the universe, just as it was in the singularity.





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Thursday, 14 July 2011

Show Me The Transitional Forms

In any debate with Creationists one phrase is bound to come up, either as an opening gambit, or, when you’ve answered just about every other misconception, falsehood and fallacy about evolution. That is the Creationist ‘killer argument’, “Show me the transitional forms”.

Any Creationist worth his or her salt will have used this phrase ad nauseum, in almost every debate and will have been told ad nauseum, that the Theory of Evolution neither predicts nor requires a complete set of transitional forms either extant or in the fossil record in the geological columns, for any evolutionary chain, and there are very good reasons for this.

Fossilisation is an extremely unlikely event for any species other than those, like some marine species, which inhabit specific fossilisation-friendly environments or whose dead bodies fall into such environments fairly frequently. Even so, the probability of being swiftly eaten by a scavenger is hugely greater than the probability of an intact body settling down undisturbed for the time needed for fossilisation to occur.

Even rarer is the possibility of soft body parts becoming fossilised, so we are almost always left with only the hard parts like bones, teeth and shells. It is no coincidence that most fossils are of molluscs, hard-bodied species like trilobites, skeletons and teeth and that the overwhelming majority of them are of marine species found in sedimentary rocks, or in gravel beds formed in river flood-plains where even the scavengers didn’t eat the teeth.

Another reason we should not expect a complete transitional series in the same geological column is also quite simple to understand. Frequently the picture appears to be that a species which had existed for a long period in the same location suddenly changed into a different species.

This is because frequently during the course of evolution, one more successful species will replace another in a given location. The picture we are seeing is not one of sudden evolution but of replacement.

I'll illustrate this with a recent known piece of biological history.

At some point in the past, squirrels spread across the northern hemisphere. In Europe they became the red squirrel, very common in our woodland and a familiar animal in children’s stories. In North America they became the slightly larger, more robust, grey squirrel.

Then, in 1876 grey squirrels were introduced to Britain. 100 years later, red squirrels were almost unknown over much of the mainland. They were still fairly common even in the 1950s but 20 years later they were restricted to a few off-shore islands and some remote parts of the Scottish Highlands where today they maintain a precarious toe-hold.

In the space of 150 years, for all practical purposes throughout most of Britain, the grey squirrel has replaced the red. Quite why this happened is still uncertain but it could be a combination of competition for food and habitat, predation on red squirrel babies by greys (which are known to take young birds from nests, unlike the wholly vegetarian reds) and because the greys are vectors for a virus, squirrel parapox virus which is relatively mild to them but fatal to reds.

But, however it happened, greys have now replaced reds. Any squirrel fossils being laid down in the geological column today would almost certainly be those of greys. Before 1876 it would certainly have been red.

To the slow process of geological strata formation, 150 years is almost nothing; a mere blink. A unit of time too small to be measured by even the most sensitive of geological dating methods with any certainty. An examination of the geological column for any part of Britain by some future palaeontologist, if he or she were fortunate enough to come across two fossilised squirrel remains from 1900 and 2000 respectively, would appear to show that red squirrels suddenly became grey squirrels overnight.

No transitional forms would ever be found because there never were any. Transition between reds and greys never occurred. What occurred was diversification over time due to geographical separation of gene pools, followed by almost instantaneous replacement of one species by another when events conspired to bring them together.

No doubt the debate would rage about whether evolution proceeds by a gradual process, or by a process of ‘punctuated equilibrium’ with the ‘red-grey transformation’ being held up as an example of the latter.

No doubt too that some future Creationist will demand to see the transitional form and crow loudly, and to the amusement of anyone who understood the subject, about how its absence proves some god or other created grey squirrels, fully formed, in Britain.

And no doubt too, charlatan creation pseudo-scientists would rush into print to sell their 'conclusive proof of the final destruction of the Theory of Evolution' to the delight of those eager to have their favourite myth seemingly confirmed once again by a 'brilliant' scientist, and who have assiduously ignored all contradictory science, safe in the sure and certain knowledge that science is all bunkum. No transitional forms and just look at how they got squirrel evolution wrong!

Later note: Of course none of the above is arguing that there are no transitional fossils, since all fossils are transitional, nor that there are no series of fossils showing gradual change over time, only that there is a very clear reason why we don't often see them and why what can look like an evolutionary change was actually a replacement of one species by another so no transitional forms are to be expected in the local geological column. For a short list of some very good examples of transitional series, see Gradual Fossil Sequence.





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Thursday, 7 July 2011

Proving Your God Should Be Simple

Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, in fact all theists have a very simple task if they want to convince us their god did something. Having decided on your evidence, there are only two steps:
  1. Show beyond a reasonable doubt that a natural explanation for it is impossible. If it’s not, there is no reason to invoke a supernatural one.
  2. Having so shown the only explanation is a supernatural one, show beyond a reasonable doubt that the only supernatural explanation is whichever god you are trying to show did it.
And that’s it. Easy-peasy.

So simple, it’s the work of a few minutes, especially since you must have gone through this process yourself to arrive at your belief... didn’t you?

In fact, it’s so simple, I’m puzzled that no one has ever done it.

[Later note: It seems many Creationists are struggling with the concept of evidence and so imagine quotes from a book of dubious provenance constitutes evidence. The following links provide useful information on this subject;

http://anotheratheist.tumblr.com/post/4050923890
http://anotheratheist.tumblr.com/post/5524880161

(Thanks to @kaimatai on Twitter for providing these helpful link)]


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Sunday, 3 July 2011

The Darwin Creationist Award.

Introducing The Darwin Creationist Award.

A Darwin Creationist award candidate is a tweet from a creationist so spectacularly stupid it reduces the influence of creationism in the cultural meme pool, so advancing human cultural evolution.

Please enter suitable candidates as a comment below, including:

Tweeter’s account name
Date and time
Full Tweet

I'll add them to the blog in due course.

The following are candidates so far:


1. 03-Jul-2011 22:09 @WhySoloWhy:
 Even satan know God is real #atheist


2. 04-July-2011 20:59 @laserlytinmyeye
@chummy4life @RosaRubicondior @freethinkgeek nne m ur on point...don't mind dem goofers...d big bang is still keeping dem alive....hahahaha



3. 27-June-2011 @05212011
OCTOBER 21, 2011 IS THE END OF THE WORLD/UNIVERSE!. GOD SHALL BRING EARTHQUAKE, RAPTURE, & ANNIHILATION FIRE...IN A SINGLE DAY!
GOD SAID SO!



4. @imhOme 
obviously evolution is garbage because rocks are not conscious,


5. 07-July-2011 08:53 @davidknight63
@FlyingFree333 So how come apes at the zoo dont become human? Maybe they have 2 be jungle apes. But wait, they ain't turn'in into man either



6. 08-July-2011 13:02 @CasReeves
If we only share our faith with #Christian people how will the #atheist, #Buddist, #Muslim, #Pagan, #Evolutionist, etc hear about #Jesus?



7. 08-July-2011 22:16 @WhySoloWhy
Dear #Atheist Explain The Baby in China that falled from an 10 Story BUILDING in a Woman Arm? Yes, the Baby is still ALIVE!



8. 09-July-2011 14:38 @MissRaissa
#Fact 95% of #Atheists on twitter are racists. #Atheism



9. 09-July-2011 17??:39 @PepperGOP
@RosaRubicondior So you think the earth spontaneously combusted? Let's just start at the beginning. This is my feeble attempt to understand



10. 10-July-2011 15:47 @ChicoZoe
Fuck u and I hope u watch ur mom and grandma get raped today u piece of shit CRACKA RT @DavetheAtheist @ChicoZoe ... http://tmi.me/cOAtv



11. 13-July-2011 06:25 @erichovind (In reply to my blog "Eric Hovind's Very Silly Questions")
@RosaRubicondior LOL, I can't stop Laughing! You call those answers? Wow, trying super hard to suppress the truth that you really know!



Although not strictly within rules, I feel this example from WND.com justifies a special award all of it's own:

12. TESTING THE FAITH
Evangelist drowns trying to walk on water
Pastor reportedly told congregation he could repeat miracle of Jesus
Posted: August 30, 2006
6:14 pm Eastern

An evangelist who tried replicating Jesus' miracle of walking on water has reportedly drowned off the western coast of Africa.

Pastor Franck Kabele, 35, told his congregation he could repeat the biblical miracle, and he attempted it from a beach in Gabon's capital of Libreville.

"He told churchgoers he'd had a revelation that if he had enough faith, he could walk on water like Jesus," an eyewitness told the Glasgow Daily Record.

"He took his congregation to the beach saying he would walk across the Komo estuary, which takes 20 minutes by boat. He walked into the water, which soon passed over his head and he never came back."

© 2011 WND


13. @AngryUScivilian 16-July-2011 08:14 (Included for the sheer profundity of it's ignorant stupidity)
 #Atheist worship Allah and admit to wanting Christians dead, they are all for Sharia Law! #tcot


14. @simplyBNreal 1 July 2011 (Submitted by @GodsDontExist)
Why do atheist want proof there is a God when they can't prove there isn't a God?


15. 17-July-2011 14:52 @Weirdodo
@RosaRubicondior No, just looks like #Atheist are Muslim in disguise, trying to undermine Christianity, live in America, live by OUR rules!

[As my bio points out, I live in the UK]


16. @schicagos 18-July-2011 22:30
@GodsDontExist so one last time: Good and evil are distinguished by distinction. and youre a moron if you dont think so. #god #atheist



17. @Steveufc 22-July-2011 05:04
@RosaRubicondior You're a socialist piece of shit, go die the world doesn't need people like you, fucking athiest loser
[Note the inability to spell atheist making this an especially strong contender]



18. @schmoollala 20-July 2011 00:30
God only makes happy endings. If it's not happy it's not the end. If it is happy, just remember, you're gonna die really soon.
[So, live a miserable life if you want it to be a long one and never be happy or you're done for, eh?]



19. 22-July-2011 18:38 @AshtonBrit93
@RosaRubicondior you have fun burning in hell. Just because you're too stupid to believe the truth doesn't mean we care about your opinion.



20. 23-July-1845 @TheFloodsCame
@RosaRubicondior Well I guess I'm just not an idiot then. Sorry to disappoint you. Only an idiot would think that a universe creates itself.
[Has to be said though that this one had to be coached and this was the best it came up with after several abysmal efforts.]



21. 23-July-2011 22:03 @Thessaly
@RosaRubicondior Every scientific "fact" about the beginning of time is a theory cause no one saw #!@%*#. So I'll leave you to your atheism. Bless



22. 28-July-2011 21:00 @lauramzy
@RosaRubicondior i havent been judgmental. I'll defend my religion and beliefs from ignorants such as you.

[Oh! Sweet irony!]


23. @IslamNotMuslims 30-July-2011 21:00
@TroyBeast @RosaRubicondior Evidence?! Evidence doesn't prove anything, only suggests. I have proof!
[So, proof without evidence!]



24. @IslamNotMuslims 30-July-211 20:41
@RosaRubicondior "All the others"?! You silly little atheist! There's only One God! If there were more, they'd all be fighting!



25. 31-July-2011 10:03 @OhDengItsColy
Your gay for being athiest.
[Illiteracy and ignorance in so few words]



26. 31-July-2011 20:49 RT @kramerassman:
@RosaRubicondior cool lets see how far being a pentadactyls gets you when your burning in hell sinner #darwinhadsexwithmonkeys
[This in reply to my answer to his question about why humans have five fingers, which he apparently believes is a killer knock-down question for Atheism]


27. 05-August-2011 19:15 RT @American_NazBol
why is the hatred of God called "a theism"? because it requires more faith to be an atheist than a theist. #atheism


28. 09-August-2011 20:30 @gemimms
 @RosaRubicondior if atheists believed that all Christians should be put to death, would you worship them?#idiots

29. 20-Aug-2911 10:20 @jesslansdowne
 I teach my students that 9/11 was done by #atheists because true followers of "Allah" (the Muslim name for God) wouldnt kill people #atheism
[Note: the 'No True Scotsmen' fallacy, a lie and no moral qualms about blaming innocent people, all to defend religion.  And all in under 140 characters]



30. September 4th, 2011 at 11:33 PM @Frankfurt4
ATTN. all evolutionist think they came from rocks or dirt or dust or a hot steamy turd on the edge of a lake>LOL

[Note the unashamed display of crass ignorance so showing how Creationism thrives in the presence of the stupid arrogance which comes from proud ignorance].


31. 06 September 2011 21:37 @_nataleigh
I know he is the right one. Many of the other gods were just regular people who couldn't do any of the things God has done. There
(Submitted by @JoeUnseen)



32. 10 Sept 2011 04:47  @ITSDEEJAYBITCH
If your an #atheist go fuck your self you life is pointless and your dumb as hell.
[Illiteracy, condescension, impure thoughts  and hypocritical judgementalism all in one short sentence]


33. 19 Sep 2011 21:48  @shotglass49
@RosaRubicondior  perhaps if you studyed a little more U would know.  he knew U would doubt him, yet U where created..
[Illiteracy and condescension yet again]


34. 20 Sept 2011 01:02 @JeffreyHarkins
 @RosaRubicondior You know your an atheist when you kill your brother because he looks to much like a ape.
[Difficult to know where to start with this one.  Illiteracy, lies, ignorance and stupidity all in one. ]


35. (Undated) @yprimachenko
 @JoeUnseen Secondly... Every other religion their god died and has a grave... But when you go to Israel you will find His grave is empty...
(Submitted by Joe Unseen)


36. (Undated) @ImH0me
@JoeUnseen Believing stupidly w/out knowing, that ur Origin are Unconscious Dead Stones over Conscious GOD, is also an exercise of freewill.
(Submitted by Joe Unseen)


37. 26 Sep 2011 22:17  @That_0ne
 @LionheartOF Well, I hope you know Evolutionists control censorship in America so you honestly can't see good books on science.
(Submitted by @vinctee)
[A good example of one paranoid delusiona phobia, theophobia, giving rise to another paranoid delusion]


38. 26 Sep 2011 22:25 @Frankfurt4The common evolutionist probably has pictures of female monkeys playing in swamp water making poop castles. WE Still Dont Understand this
(Submitted by  @vinctee)



Saturday, 2 July 2011

Just Imagine if Science Was a Religion

Chairman: Fellows of the Academy of Science, Ladies and Gentlemen. Without further ado, please welcome our guest speaker, Professor Alphie Omega who is to present a paper entitled “Evidence for the Multiverse – Refuting the Doubters”.

Professor...

Professor Omega: Good morning fellow Academicians, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Many people doubt the existence of the multiverse. They are wrong. The multiverse exists. There is no doubt about it.

Fact.

Copies of my paper are available in the foyer.

Thank you.


[Nervous applause]

Chairman: Thank you Professor.

Firstly, I would like to thank you for the commendable er... brevity of your paper [laughter] but I had rather hoped you might present us with some supporting evidence for your... um... conclusion.

I’m sure the audience would have welcomed... er... a little more detail and maybe the opportunity to ask some questions and contribute to the discussion...

[Applause]

Professor Omega: There is no doubt at all that the multiverse exists. Only those who choose to ignore it can’t see it.

[Nervous laughter]

Chairman: I was rather hoping you might explain what evidence you have discovered and why it led you to reach that conclusion, as I’m sure were the audience...

[Applause]

Professor Omega: There is masses of evidence for those who want to see it.

Chairman: I want to see it. Please would you tell me where it may be found?

Professor Omega: Why do you hate the multiverse? Do you feel let down by it?

Chairman: Sorry?

Um... perhaps I just worded my question badly. Let me restate it:

You say there is a mass of evidence for the multiverse (a proposition about which I am entirely neutral, by the way as I understand there are several conflicting pieces of research both for and against it).

I would dearly love to see this evidence and maybe discuss its validity with you.

Please would you tell me what this evidence is and where I (and members of the audience) may see it for ourselves, so that we may draw our own conclusions?

[Loud applause]

Professor Omega: I have masses of evidence but it’s clear from your hostile questioning that you would refuse to look at it.

I’ll show you my evidence, but first you tell me what proof you have that the multiverse doesn’t exist.


[Incredulous shouts of “What?”]

By the way, I said there “is masses” of evidence, not “a mass”. Why are you misrepresenting what I’ve said? You are showing your bias.

Chairman: I apologise if I misrepresented what you said. Now, where may we see this evidence for the multiverse, please?

Professor Omega: So you admit misrepresenting and persecuting me!

And you have failed to answer my question – where is your proof that the multiverse doesn’t exist?


Chairman: I apologise once again if I inadvertently misrepresented you, but frankly, my dear fellow, I’m beginning to wonder if you actually have the evidence you claim to have.

[Laughter]

I really don’t see what the problem is; either you have it and can produce it, or you don’t and can’t.

Now, can you produce it or not?

Professor Omega: I have the evidence and I’ll show it to you as soon as you have answered my question. Your proof that the multiverse doesn’t exist, please...

Chairman: [Sigh] You know very well that a negative cannot be proven and that the burden of proof lies with the person making the positive claim.

Look! I really think we’ve reached the end here.

[Applause]

It’s now becoming quite clear that you aren’t going to produce any evidence for your assertion. Unkind people might be concluding that this is because you don’t actually have any.

[Shouts of “YES!”]

What do you say to them?

Professor Omega: I’m obviously wasting my time here. I’ve given you the evidence but you’ve all made up your minds and are refusing to see it. You can’t refute my claim therefore it is irrefutable.

You’re all in denial!


[Walks to the exit]

Call yourself scientists? You wouldn’t know the truth if it bit you.

End of.

Bye, dumb asses!


Chairman: Can someone go after Professor Omega and arrange a car to run him home, please? I’ll telephone his wife myself shortly.

I do apologise, ladies and gentleman. Clearly something is fundamentally [laughter] wrong with Professor Omega and we will be doing all we can to make sure he gets appropriate care to see him through what hopefully is a temporary problem. Over-work no doubt.

I think it would be a good time to break for what's going to be an early and rather extended lunch at this point...


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