Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Evolving Simple Complexity.

Airbus A320
Sitting inside a plane a few months ago I was struck by the similarity between aeroplanes and segmented animals. On a typical short-haul plane, once you're inside and looking down the plane you see a central aisle with rows of three seats on either side. Overhead is a row of lockers. There are rows of windows spaced evenly along the sides, with a few modified as emergency exits, etc.

If we could see the wiring for lights, in-flight entertainment, pipes for fresh air supply, emergency oxygen and so on, we would see this segmentation repeated. No doubt the same basic segmentation is repeated in the construction of the body of the plane itself, with superstructure, panels, etc. Running the length of the plane will be cables and wire for flight control, warning lights, etc, etc.

Compare this with an internal view of the skeleton of a python. See the basic similarity?

Python skeleton from the inside
The reason for this similarity is not a coincidence. It is easier to construct a series of identical or slightly modified modules and join them together to make a larger structure. In python embryology, where this process happens, the same genes with the same set of controls in the form of hox genes only needs to be repeated at each segment; to make a plane you only need to design a single row of seats, one set of overhead lockers, one window pane, one unit of lighting, fresh air supply, emergency oxygen, etc, then make a lot of them and fit them together.

So, this brings me in a roundabout way to the idea of complexity. Very generally speaking, as the so-called 'higher' animals evolved and more functionality was added so they apparently became more complex. But, this is largely illusory and in many cases actually false.

For example, does it add complexity to add an addition body segment to a python? One might as well argue that two pythons are more complex than one. Would it be a more complex aeroplane if an additional row of seats were to be added to the body, complete with all the accessory structures, leaving aside that it might need bigger wings or more powerful engines? Are two Airbus A320s more complex than one?

So, it should be fairly easy to see that, apart from a more complex (or is it just larger?) brain, there is no increase in complexity as humans evolved from the early hominids to modern Homo sapiens. There is no additional complexity to explain and certainly our DNA is no more complex and has no more information in it that that of Pan troglodytes (common chimpanzee), with whom we share 98.5% of our DNA anyway.

But, there are many examples of evolution evolving a loss of complexity. Indeed, the python itself lost complexity when it's ancestors lost their legs and shoulder and pelvic girdles with them.

Very many parasites have lost complexity during their evolution, especially parasitic worms, some of which have even lost their digestive systems and have become little more than machines for making more worms. See my blog "Intelligently Designed By A Loving God?" for examples of parasites.

And now here comes a bit that will really annoy creationists: humans, and all warm-blooded animals, are less complex than many cold-blooded animals. For example, some salamanders have vastly more DNA than we do. Some up to 30 times as much per cell.

The reasons for this are disputed, but one explanation, I think, makes a great deal of sense. A salamander needs its body to function over a wide range of ambient temperatures; warm-bodied creature have no such problem. All metabolic processes are essentially enzyme-controlled chemical reactions. It's a characteristic of enzyme-controlled reactions that they are optimal only over a very narrow temperature range, so salamanders need several different enzyme systems for the same basic process where mammals and birds only need one. So, salamanders need lots more DNA to produce all those different sets of enzymes.

Once our early ancestor, probably a small mammal-like reptile living between 30 and 70 million years ago, had evolved the ability to regulate their body temperature they could dispense with all those unnecessary enzyme systems which were now free to evolve into other systems or atrophy and the DNA could be lost or co-opted or become just junk, free to mutate away with no loss of function. But the main thing was that, with warm-bloodedness, our ancestors had become genetically less complex.

Here's an interesting database with comparative genome sizes for all sorts of animals. As you can see, in terms of genome size, the human genome at just over 3 million base pairs (Mbp) is nothing out of the ordinary for a mammal so, on the basis so beloved of information theorist creationists of 'increasing DNA complexity' being synonymous with evolution, humans are far from being the most complex and mammals are less evolved than many other orders.

Would an information theorist creationist care to explain how the second law of thermodynamics renders this evolution impossible, please? Preferably one who hasn't taken the Creationist Oath and so may not be trying to mislead us for money or political power.

Of course, this isn't a problem for the Theory of Evolution which is the scientific model for explaining the fact of evolution, because increasing complexity and relative genome size are not and never were part of the theory. Genes, and with them the species which carries them, evolve by differences in them carrying differential advantages in the given environment. Evolution by natural selection can explain the differences in the genome without resorting to magic. By contrast, creationists are left once again attacking a straw man which has only a tangential bearing on evolution and which is based, through ignorance or by deliberation, on a fundamental misunderstanding of the subject they are purporting to refute.

submit to reddit

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Science vs Religion - A Relative Difference

Whilst reading the excellent "A Universe From Nothing" by Lawrence M. Krauss, I was struck by the following example of the different approaches to truth of religion and science.

The first person to propose the Big Bang was Georges Lemaïtre, a Belgian cleric. A former engineer, he had taken up mathematics when studying for the priesthood and had then studied cosmology under the British cosmologist Sir Arthur Eddington and later at Harvard.

Lemaïtre solved Albert Einstein's equation for General Relativity and concluded that the universe was expanding, not static as just about everyone, including Einstein, had assumed. He concluded that the universe must have begun as a 'primordial atom'.

Einstein himself had realised an earlier form of his equation had 'predicted' an expanding universe and, so ingrained was the assumption of a static, eternal and small universe, he assumed his equation was incomplete and had included a 'cosmological constant' to correct the 'error'. He later called this the biggest mistake of his life and removed it, otherwise Einstein would have been credited with having predicted the Big Bang simultaneously with having explained gravity far more accurately than Newton had, all with the Theory of General Relativity.

It should be remembered that, with the limited power of telescopes in the early twentieth century, it was generally assumed that the universe was very much smaller than we now know and consisted only of the Milky Way galaxy in an otherwise empty void. We now know there are some 400 million other galaxies, each with about 500 million stars of course.

As it was, the credit for discovering the Big Bang rightly goes to Lemaïtre. It was later confirmed by Hubble's discovery of the red shift and by Nobel Prize-winners Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson of the the microwave background radiation which is exactly as it should be if the universe came into being at the time predicted from it's known rate of expansion.

But interesting though that little piece of science history may be, it's what happened next which is interesting from the point of view of the different approaches to truth of religion and science.

Pope Pius XII
In 1951 Pope Pius XII recognised the Big Bang and claimed it as evidence for the biblical account of Creation in Genesis. In a moment of triumphal excitement he threw caution to the wind and, more than slightly over-egging his pudding, said:

It would seem that present-day science, with one sweep back across the centuries, has succeeded in bearing witness to the august instant of the primordial Fiat Lux [Let there be Light], when along with matter, there burst forth from nothing a sea of light and radiation, and the elements split and churned and formed into millions of galaxies. Thus, with that concreteness which is characteristic of physical proofs, [science] has confirmed the contingency of the universe and also the well-founded deduction as to the epoch when the world came forth from the hands of the Creator. Hence Creation took place. We say: "Therefore, there is a Creator. Therefore God exists!"

Instead of basking in the credit for his discovery which, according to Pius XII had proved God exists, Lemaïtre, who had by now been elected the Vatican's Pontifical Academy, was horrified by the Pope's naive blunder. As a scientist he realised that the Big Bang theory was subject to falsification and had avoided linking it too closely to theology for that reason. He had in fact removed a paragraph which did just that from the first draught of his 1931 paper for that very reason.

He realised that the Pope had committed the crass blunder of tying Christian theology in general and Genesis in particular, and even the very existence of the Christian god itself, to a scientific theory which could be falsified and which contained an inbuilt uncertainty not permitted in Christian theology. If this ever happened, the Genesis account of Creation and the existence of a god would be called into question, and with it the entire Christian faith.


And so, following 'advice', the Pope never referred to the subject again.

How different to the approach of science. Science has no hesitation to say, "This is what the facts seem to show and here is the evidence - but we could be wrong". If that overthrows an earlier theory, or is itself later overthrown by better information, or if a new understanding of the evidence shows the earlier conclusion to be wrong, then so be it. This is progress. The sum total of human knowledge has increased and science has moved a little closer to the truth of the matter. Science embraces and welcomes uncertainty and doubt.

To the Vatican of 1951, after wiser council had prevailed, the theory of the Big Bang was seen as a potential threat; like riding a tiger - all very well if it gets you to where you want to be but woe betide you if you fall off or the tiger decides to roll over or go some place else. And just how do you intend to get off it later?

Best to stay clear of tigers.

And NEVER EVER make a claim which can be tested and falsified. Religion demands certainty, even when none is possible, and refuses to acknowledge the possibility of error.

submit to reddit

Friday, 24 February 2012

Much Ado About Nothing

The trouble with nothing is that you can't say what it is because it's er... nothing, so there is nothing to describe or define, well nothing you can put your finger on exactly.

You see, the problem with explaining how something came from nothing is that it couldn't have done. Not because it's impossible but because it's impossible for there to be nothing.

It's a bit like trying to explain what is outside the universe. It can't be nothing because there is no time or space outside the universe for nothing to be in. In fact, there can't be an outside to the universe because there is no where for an outside to be in.

In some ways, it's a bit like asking what is north of the North Pole. The question SEEMS like a logical one because we think of north as being a direction and of course, you can always move a little bit further in the same direction even when you've arrived at the first destination. The problem is that NORTH itself stops at the north pole, just as space-time stops at the 'edge' of the universe, or at least our concept of it, because with no outside there IS no 'edge'.

And so does existence because existence itself needs space and time to exist in. In fact, it could be said that existence IS space-time.

The problem isn't with science; the problem is with human psychology and how it's evolved to help us survive on Earth where answers to questions like "What is nothing?" and, "What is outside the universe?", or even, "What is north of the North Pole?", don't really help us catch lunch, find a mate or rear children, or avoid being something else's lunch or food for their children, or food for a prospective mate.

So, to ask how everything came from nothing might SEEM like a sensible question but it's no more sensible than asking what's north of the North Pole. In fact, the notion that the default state of existence is non-existence is just that - a notion. It's merely a product of human psychology. There is of course no reason; no fundamental law; no rule which says 'nothing' should be assumed and not 'something'.

You only need consider what the question implies. "What caused something to come from nothing?", or, "How did something arise?", all imply not nothing but something to cause whatever it was. This is true whether you do what theists and religious apologists do and assume there was something and define this as a god or some force, or even a set of rules of some kind which 'caused' something to exist, or if you do what theoretical physics does and try to explain how matter arose in a quantum vacuum, which is about as close to defining 'nothing' as science can get.

Clearly, none of those things are 'nothing', not even a quantum vacuum, so they aren't 'explaining' how something came from nothing but how something came from something else; and they are no closer to explaining where this something else came from than they were to explaining where something came from in the first place.

To avoid the absurd logical regress of invoking an assumed something to explain another something, the logical thing to do is to turn the question on its head and ask why we are assuming a 'nothing' in the first place. Where did 'nothing' come from and in what sense can 'nothing' exist?

The hypocrisy of religious apologetics in demanding science explain how something came from nothing, when they are hopelessly devoid of an answer to the same question and have to define their something as nothing to try to get round it, and then being unable to explain how magic created everything from nothing, is too obvious to avoid mentioning here. There is absolutely no reason to assume the default state of existence is non-existence other than our limited human psychology which has evolved fit for purpose, but not the purpose which we are now expecting of it.

The basic problem is with trying to use human intuition to arrive at answers to these questions which are outside our experience and not what our intuition evolved for. Human intuition is a very poor measuring device for the very small, the very large, and the very strange - and quantum events are nothing if not very strange. It takes humility to accept that the answer might not be what seems intuitively obvious and this is where science as a methodology scores against religion. Science demands that you explain things in terms of what can be shown to be so, and not in terms of what seems right to you. Personal incredulity is not a scientific argument.

Remember Xeno's paradox where it seemed obvious that Achilles couldn't overtake a tortoise when looked at one way, and yet obvious that he could when looked at another? A 'paradox' which taxed the best philosophers for centuries until science gave them the right mathematical tools to show why what seemed like the right mathematical model wasn't. It was intuition which had failed, not science.

One of the ways in which apologetics gets away with it of course is that they aim their 'arguments' at those who neither have nor want the humility to think their intuition isn't the best available measure of reality. This is basically the same reason why these same people lack the humility to believe science no matter how compelling the evidence and have no hesitation in condemning it based on nothing more substantial than personal incredulity.

Slicing gods, and magic, and absurdly infinite regresses away with Occam's trusty razor leaves us with the most parsimonious answer - nothing came from nothing because there never was nothing in the first place. There is absolutely no reason to assume there ever was, intuitive though that may seem. Your personal incredulity really is not the ultimate measure of reality.

submit to reddit

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Religion And The History Of Blood Sacrifice

There seems to be something in the human psyche which assumes sacrifice in general and blood sacrifice in particular is somehow magical and has the power to change the universe. In particular, those cultures which worship a malicious or angry god seem to assume it is mollified, even pleased by the sacrifice of an animal rather than a plant and especially if it involves blood.

Cultures in which sexual activity is regarded as sinful or frowned upon by one of more of their gods often include virginity in the ritual so the best and most powerful effect is obtained by the blood sacrifice of a virgin, and best of all a human virgin.

This has lead to the notion that a god made angry by transgressing one of it's rules, or simply by not worshipping it enough, or in exactly the right way, or even by just being born and existing, can be persuaded to forgive that 'sin' by a blood sacrifice.

The earliest accounts of human sacrifice cannot be distinguished from myth with any certainty but the existence of those myths in the first place with their assumption that human sacrifice to appease or simply to please gods, is indicative of a cultural assumption and a vestigial belief.

The Hindu Vedas refer to purushamedha, a symbolic human sacrifice which is clearly derivative of an earlier actual sacrificial ritual. Actual human sacrifice was probably practised in Bengal until the late 19th century and by the Khond tribe in Orissa and Andhra Pradesh as late as 1835. The Thuggee cult dedicated to the Hindu god of death and destruction, Khali, probably accounted for some 2 million deaths.

According to Roman historians, the Celts of Europe, including the British Isles practised human sacrifice. This is supported by archaeological evidence. It has also been suggested that the 'sacred groves' of Druids, rather than places of natural beauty where one could be as one with nature, as is romantically assumed, may have been fearful places of human sacrifice where human body parts were hung up as offerings; a grotesque tradition which may have an echo in dressing the Christmas tree. See Kingdom Of The Celts by John King.

There is evidence of human sacrifice during early Greco-Roman times. The god Artemis saving Iphigeneia, who was about to be sacrificed by her father Agamemnon, by replacing her with a deer, may be a version of the Abraham and Isaac myth of the Hebrews where the deer has become a ram.

Hawaii Human Sacrifice
One form of human sacrifice, the retainer sacrifice, where a powerful person's servants were killed and buried with him, was common across Euro-asia from earliest times and was in some areas, an integral part of the comitatus system by which a ruler gathered a trusted band of supporters, often tied with blood rituals and oaths of personal loyalty. The comitatus system found it's way into early Islam following Islam's expansion into Central Asia. The stories of the putative Christian founder, Jesus, having a small band of loyal disciples may also be a form of this.

James Cook Witnessing Human Sacrifice, Tahiti
Human blood sacrifice was certainly praticed in the Pacific islands, notably in Hawaii where luakini temples were constructed specifically for human sacrifice, and in Tahiti where it was witness by James Cook.

In pre-Columban America Mixtec, Aztec, Maya and Inca people all practiced human sacrifice.

All three Abrahamic religions trace their origins back to a legendary Bronze Age nomadic tribal leader, Abraham, who according to tradition, seems to have accepted that it was perfectly natural for a god to demand a human sacrifice, albeit one which is stopped at the last moment. There is nothing in the legend to suggest that Abraham found the idea strange, or grounds for doubting the divinity of the voice he was hearing, so very clearly the culture in which the legend arose saw human blood sacrifice as a normal way to appease gods,

Later on, as the Hebrew legends develop there are accounts of the slaughter of defeated enemies being ordered by their god and of its demands that anyone who transgresses the more important of its 'laws' were to be killed to appease it or its wrath would be visited on those who had allowed the sin to go un-punished. This is still to be found in the religions which have evolved out of this primitive Bronze Age legend.

And of course there is the Hebrew scapegoat tradition where the sins of a people can somehow be transferred to an animal which is then ritually sacrificed to the god who then forgives the people for their 'sins'.

And finally, we see the blood sacrifice represented by the death of the legendary Jesus of Nazareth, an act which even today followers of that tradition believe somehow 'saved' them from the wrath of the very god of whom the sacrificial victim was supposedly a manifestation. What sacrifice could possibly better the blood sacrifice of a mere mortal other than the blood sacrifice of a god itself, and a virginal one at that? You will still even hear people today claiming their 'sins' have been 'washed away' by the blood of Jesus as here and here.

In 1099 when Crusaders captured Jerusalem after a long siege, they ritually slaughtered all the Moslems and Jews who had defended the city, so the the city was said to be 'knee-deep in blood'. When Saladin re-took Jerusalem for Islam in 1187, in order to contrast Islam with Christianity, the inhabitants were spared and the former Moslem holy sites were restored and 'cleansed', not by washing them with sacrificial blood as the Christians had done, but with rose water.

A more recent example of the blood sacrifice can be found in Irish history. It is said of the Irish patriot Patrick Pearce:

For Pearse, the idea of a blood sacrifice had additional appeal. Even as a child, he had unusual fantasies of self-sacrifice for his country, derived from Celtic myths and religious writings. He later fused together his nationalism and his Catholic faith. His Christian devotion had always centred on Christ’s Passion and Crucifixion, and he gradually developed a consuming yearning for martyrdom, in conscious emulation of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. He wrote: ‘One man can free a people, as one man redeemed the world’.

Pearse was also influenced by a mystical belief in the assumed benefit to mankind of blood spilt in violent conflict. He wrote in 1913: ‘Bloodshed is a cleansing and sanctifying thing'.

Pearce led the 'Easter Rising', the timing of which was probably deliberate, and was executed for his part in it, as were thirteen others, in an act by the British authorities which resembled ritual sacrifice and which turned Irish popular opinion even more solidly behind the revolutionaries. The 'blood sacrifice' had worked, but not in some magical, mystical way, but by public revulsion at those who had carried it out.

Strangely, in all of this there is never any explanation of just how a blood sacrifice works. It seems to be something buried so deeply in the primordial human psyche that some people just assume it's so obviously true that it requires no explanation. It has been said that the frequent calls for the death penalty for particularly heinous crimes may be a demand for a blood sacrifice and that the burning of heretics and witches were forms of it.

Obviously our memes have picked up some strange mutations during their long evolution, and, as one would expect of a parasitic memeplex, it's component parts serve the needs of the meme, not their host. Possibly these demonstrations of power by a ruling and priestly class came to be accepted as having power in their own right; that rather than being demonstrations of power, the acts of human blood sacrifice was actually the source of their power.

Clearly there are people who are still infected with a memeplex which includes the acceptance of the magical power of blood sacrifice, although they will usually recoil in horror at the thought of followers of other gods, or people from earlier, less civilised times, practising it and yet their religion would not have gained any traction in a society in which the idea of human blood sacrifice was unknown or abhorrent.

submit to reddit

Monday, 20 February 2012

How A Pig Destroyed Darwin.

Inspired by the powerful arguments made by B. H. Shadduck, Ph.D. in his devastating polemic against Darwin published in 1925, and which is still obtainable from www.creation.org (albeit they have to give it away) I thought I would dip once more into this seminal tome. I have previously blogged about how inspired I was by this monumental work at "Oh Dear Me! How Did Darwin Get It SO Wrong?".

So, with some eagerness I looked for more inspiration in Chaper 3, entitled The Tale Of A Pail. This is what I found:

"My neighbor tells a pig story in four chapters.

(1) He bought a half starved runt of a pig.
(2) He fed it a bucket of slop and it squealed for more.
(3) He fed it a second bucket of slop and it asked for more.
(4) He put the pig in the bucket and the bucket was not nearly full.

I can believe either end of the story by itself.

My neighbor seems to believe all of it because when he tells one part he isn't thinking of the other parts.

It is easy to give mental assent to conflicting ideas, if you keep them so far apart that they do not bump each other. All I ask of students of evolution is to bring its contrary theories into focus at the same time."

So remember now, if you are ever tempted to believe in evolution, think of that neighbour and his not nearly full bucket of pig! How can science compete against this stuff, eh?

Let's see what else the wise doctor has for us.

"There are some sincere souls who think they believe in the Bible and evolution and the more they believe in one, the less they believe in the other."

What? You mean you can't believe in the Bible AND evolution?

Well, I suppose that's true! So, those deluded souls who tell you they are Christians AND evolutionists can't have read the Bible properly.

"Others think they have effected a working compromise, but the compromise is usually all on one side."

Hmm... a compromise that's not a compromise, eh? Moving on...

"I want no harmony that will back the Bible in on a switch to let the circus train go by."

Er... eh?

"... I am not unmindful of those students who would like to believe the Bible, but have had evolution-ism dinned into them till their minds follow the beaten path. If such students will try to undo the dinning long enough to consider all that is missing, misapplied or contradictory in the testimony, I have no fears for the Bible."

Only someone without the dinning could fail to agree with that, obviously. I certainly have no fear of the Bible so the dinning must be completely undone.

"If you have reached the place where you look for contradictions in the Bible and connected truth in evolution, isn't it time to reverse the process in the interest of fair play?"

Well quite! How could any rational, fair-minded and fully un-dinned person connect truth in evolution with contradictions in the Bible without reversing the process and... er... connecting contradictions in the Bible with the truth in evolution?

How can anyone fail to be convinced by the pig in a pail story? So obvious now why Darwin's Theory of Evolution didn't survive this devastating onslaught.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

How To Spot A Militant Secularist

With all the dire warnings now in the media on the dangers of militant secularists and the imminent threat they pose to the fabric of society, law and order and life on this planet as we know it, I thought I would produce a handy print-out-and-keep list to help people recognise these individuals and show why it's important to resist their perverted ways.

The first thing to remember is that most militant secularists try to look like perfectly ordinary people. They wear the same sorts of clothes and may not even look particularly scruffy. They may have a proper job, even a well-paid one. They may even live in your street and drive around in cars or use public transport just like normal people.

Are you sure your neighbours or even members of your family aren't militant secularists? What about aunts and uncles, even cousins or the mailman or school bus driver, even that friendly neighbourhood policeman? They do not have green or purple skin and very rarely have red eyes. In fact, in most respects they look just like you or me and are not easy to pick out in a crowd - unless you know the signs.

It is important to remember that, just like socialists, they may look like perfectly respectable, ordinary people!

However, there are a few tell-tale signs that, try as they may, militant secularists are not able to keep hidden for long. If you learn these they can become fairly easy to spot even across a crowded room.
  1. Militant secularists say things like "Um... well, I'm not sure I agree with you on that point", and other stuff intended to destroy your self-confidence. This is because they hate you.
  2. Militant secularists often say other people have a right to their opinions too, so showing they are anarchists and communists.
  3. Militant secularists say people are free to believe what they want to believe. This is to undermine the foundations of society, cause moral decay and destroy your faith in God and his Church.
  4. Militant secularists even disagree with your religion as well as all the others. This is proof that they are Satanists and Marxists.
  5. Militant secularists may not even send their children to Sunday School or Bible classes. This is because they don't want their children to learn right from wrong.
  6. Militant secularists even admit publicly they believe in evolution. This is because they want you to think you are a monkey and don't have a soul so you will behave like an animal.
  7. Militant secularists say religion should be kept out of politics. This is because they want to tax churches, make euthanasia and homosexuality compulsory and outlaw marriage.
  8. Militant secularists may even say they believe in god. This proves they tell lies.
  9. Militant secularists may be seen reading science books and magazines, even in public. This is because they are elitists who want to take over the government and abolish democracy.
  10. Militant secularists are often opposed to wars. This is because they are traitors who hate the flag and want to take our freedom away.
  11. Militant secularists are often educated and sometimes even scientists. This shows they are probably mad and think they are better than ordinary people.
  12. Militant secularists don't use guns or even shout abuse at people they disagree with or even threaten them. This is to make you think they are moderate and not at all militant. Do not be fooled! Just because they don't look militant this doesn't prove they aren't!

Remember these twelve points so you can recognise these dangerous individuals at a glance and can be ever ready to stand up to their sneaky attempts to destroy civilisation as we know it.

God needs your help with this one. Don't let Satan win!

submit to reddit

Friday, 17 February 2012

A History Of Bizarre Belief

Disbelief in evolution is but one of a long line of religiously inspired disbelief in scientific ideas and principle now taken for granted by anyone with even a rudimentary education and normal intellectual faculties.

There is a very familiar pattern of fallacious arguments attempting to prove a primitive religious notion from a holy book associated with each one. The holy text is always asserted to be correct and all the contrary evidence is dismissed as false, misleading, or deliberately falsified by evil scientists or thinkers to entice you away from your faith.

Leading proponents of it have invariably had a vested, often pecuniary interest in promulgating it, just as with creationism.

The Flat Earth.

Flat Earth Drawn by Orlando Ferguson 1893. Note the biblical references.

When they assert that the earth is round, Ptolemy and Pliny do not add to the evidence, collected on the spot, they simply make a conjecture based solely on reasoning

Cannon Zacharia Lilio of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, Rome, 1496

That was written four years after Columbus had sailed to the New World, not, as many people wrongly believe, to prove that Earth was a globe, but to prove that going west was the quickest route to China.

In 1849, Samuel Rowbotham writing as 'Parallax' produced two pamphlets entitled, Zetetic Astronomy and The inconsistency of Modern Astronomy and its Opposition to the Scripture in which he argued for a flat earth. He also produced the results of studies purporting to show that the illusion of ships disappearing over the horizon was due to the laws of perspective. In 1883 he founded the Zetetic Society and published a challenge in the New York Daily Graphic which offered a donation of $10,000 to charity if anyone could prove the earth rotated on an axis, to his standards, naturally.

Foremost amongst his arguments were:
  • There are rivers that flow for hundreds of miles towards the level of the sea without falling more than a few feet — notably, the Nile, which, in a thousand miles, falls but a foot. A level expanse of this extent is quite incompatible with the idea of the Earth's convexity. It is, therefore, a reasonable proof that Earth is not a globe.
  • If the Earth were a globe, a small model globe would be the very best - because the truest - thing for the navigator to take to sea with him. But such a thing as that is not known: with such a toy as a guide, the mariner would wreck his ship, of a certainty!, This is a proof that Earth is not a globe.

In 1906, a Pentecostal church leader and flat earther, Wilbur Glenn Voliva, established a community in Zion, Illinois and preached a flat earth from 1915. Teaching a globular earth was banned in its schools and its radio station WCBD preached a flat earth. In 1928 he announced that the lost airship Italia had sailed over the edge.

The founder of the fanatical fundamentalist Nigerian Islamic sect, Boko Haram, Mohammed Yusuf is a flat-earther and some Islamic sects in Mauritius also still adhere to the belief.

More examples of 'Flat Earth' arguments can be seen here.


Geocentric System. Bartolomeu Velho, 1568 (Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris)
The persecution of Galileo Galilei for promulgating a heliocentric view of the solar system is well known and has been extensively written about.

Accounts of modern geocentrism can be read here.

Between 1870 and 1920 various members of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod published articles disparaging Copernican astronomy, and geocentrism was widely taught within the synod. In 1967, Dutch-Canadian schoolmaster Walter van der Kamp (1913–1998) circulated a geocentric paper entitled "The Heart of the Matter" to about 50 Christian individuals and institutions and founded the Tychonian Society.

Modern geocentrists hold that a literal reading of the Bible is an accurate account of creation and so requires a geocentric world view. They are, of course, also creationists. They point to passages in the Bible:

The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.

Ecclesiastes 1:5

Then spake Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon. And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day.

Joshua 10:12–13

[Needless to say, modern biblical geocentrists never explain why only the Hebrews seem to have noticed this momentous event which would have been visible to a world-wide audience.]

Fear before him, all the earth: the world also shall be stable, that it be not moved.

Ecclesiastes 16:30

Astoundingly, a 1990 Gallup poll found that 16% of Germans, 18% of Americans and 19% of Britons hold that the Sun revolves around the Earth. In 2005, Dr. Jon D. Miller of Northwestern University, found that about 20% of adult Americans thinks the Sun revolves around the Earth.

Demonic Possession.

The superstitious belief that illness, and especially mental illness is cause by possession by demons was once common. The author of both the New Testament of the Christian Bible and of the Qur'an certainly believed in them.
  • The demon possessed Gerasene(s): Matthew 8:28-34; Mark 5:2-20; Luke 8:26-39
  • A demon possessed mute man: Matthew 9:32-34; Luke 11:14-26
  • A demon possessed blind and mute man: Matthew 12:22-28
  • The Canaanite or Syro-Phoenician woman's daughter: Matthew 15:22-28; Mark 7:25-30
  • An epileptic boy: Matthew 17:15-21; Mark 9:14-29; Luke 9:38-43
  • The man in the synagogue at Capernaum: Mark 1:21-28; Luke 4:33-36

An interesting account of this belief in Islam and how it has hindered progress in mental health care can be read here. Mental Health & Jinn Possession Amongst Muslims.

Now one of the major misconceptions those working in mental health need to battle is this association with mental illness and demonic possession, with all its undertones of moral weakness which 'allowed the demon to take over' in the first place. This gives rise both to shame and resistance to acceptance of the problem on the part of the victim and to the social stigma which accompanies mental illness which so inhibits rehabilitation in particular

In former times in the more enlightened parts of the world, and still today in some of the less enlightened areas, this lead to the large Victorian institutions into which mental health victims were cast and kept away from public view and where the care more closely resembled the penal regimes of prisons than the medical care of a hospital. In the UK even in fairly recent history, 'moral weakness', which for many young women meant having a sexual relationship outside marriage or, even worse, becoming pregnant whilst unmarried, was often sufficient reason for them to be confined to a mental hospital for life.

And still today, medical conditions like cancer are spoken of in hushed tones and professional 'faith healers' make a living casting out demons. One recent report even tells of Pope John Paul II carrying out an 'exorcism' in the Vatican.

Recently the Archdiocese of Chicago appointed a full time exorcist!


There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch. Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee.

Deuteronomy 18:10-12

Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.

Exodus 22:18

Say: I seek refuge with the Lord of the Dawn From the mischief of created things; From the mischief of Darkness as it overspreads; From the mischief of those who practise secret arts; And from the mischief of the envious one as he practises envy.

Qur'an 113:1–5

And they follow that which the devils falsely related against the kingdom of Solomon. Solomon disbelieved not; but the devils disbelieved, teaching mankind sorcery and that which was revealed to the two angels in Babel, Harut and Marut ... And surely they do know that he who trafficketh therein will have no (happy) portion in the Hereafter; and surely evil is the price for which they sell their souls, if they but knew.

Qur'an 2:102

And persons from among men used to seek refuge with persons from among the jinn, so they increased them in evil doing.

Qur'an 72:6

Allah created the angels from light, created the jinn from the pure flame of fire, and Adam from that which was described to you (i.e., the clay.).

Imam Muslim, author of the second Hadith, quoting Mohammed.

Belief in witches or witchcraft is a form of the belief in demonic possession but here the possessed person is assumed to be a willing agent or even a demon incarnate. It has been used through the ages to persecute especially women and to give clerics and politicians power through hysteria and paranoia. A defence to the charge of being a witch was almost non-existent since any protestations of innocence were to be expected and even confirmation of guilt.

Witches were (are) believed to cast spells in the belief that somehow words have magical power and can bring about change. The same belief is behind praying and especially organised recitation of 'sacred' prayers where exactly the right words need to be said for the desired effect.

Witches were often portrayed as being close to nature and natural forces and to work through a 'familiar' such as a cat or a toad. They were sometimes said to feed their familiar via a special nipple, so a wart, mole or other blemish was often 'proof' of being a witch.

Witch hysteria reached a peak in Europe in the 14th & 15th centuries when 12,000 people, overwhelmingly women, are known to have been burned for witchcraft. Some estimates put the actual number of executions at between 40,000 and 100,000.

Hanging the Pendle Witches
In 1484 Pope Innocent VIII issued his notorious Papal bull: Summis Desiderates. It was used as a preface to the book Malleus Maleficarum (The Hammer of Witches), published by two German Catholic Inquisitors in 1486. In it, it described in detail ritual satanic and sexual aberrations as practiced by witches - women in particular.

In England in 1612, twelve people who lived in the area around Pendle Hill in Lancashire, were charged with the murders of ten people by the use of witchcraft and tried along with the Samlesbury witches and others, in a series of trials that have become known as the Lancashire witch trials. Of the eleven individuals who went to trial—nine women and two men—ten were found guilty and executed by hanging; one was found not guilty.

The notorious 'Witchfinder General' Matthew Hopkins, operated in England from 1645-1647 during which some 200 people are thought to have been executed for witchcraft.

Salem Witch Trial
In 1645, in Springfield, Massachusetts Bay, then an English Colony, experienced America's first witchcraft trial when Hugh and Mary Parsons accused each other of witchcraft. Hugh was acquitted, while Mary was acquitted of witchcraft but sentenced to be hanged for the death of her child. She died in prison.

About eighty people throughout England's Massachusetts Bay Colony were accused of practicing witchcraft, thirteen women and two men were executed in a witch-hunt that lasted throughout New England from 1645-1663. Probably the best known example of a witch hysteria in America is the Salem Witch Trials held between February 1692 and May 1693.

In Islamic fundamentalist Saudi Arabia the death penalty for sorcery is still in use. Fawza Falih Muhammad Ali was condemned to death for practicing witchcraft in 2006. In 2007 an Egyptian pharmacist working there was accused, convicted, and executed. Saudi authorities also pronounced the death penalty on a Lebanese television presenter, Ali Sabat, while he was performing the hajj (Islamic pilgrimage) in the country. In April 2009, a Saudi woman, Amina Bint Abdulhalim Nassar, was arrested and later sentenced to death for practicing witchcraft and sorcery. She was beheaded in December 2011.

In the UK in 2012, the authorities were unable to bring charges again a Christian Pastor, Dieudonne Tukala, for accusing children of witchcraft and praying for children to die because this is not illegal in England.

Today, in Nigeria and in other parts of Africa, Christian priests often participate in ritual abuse of children accused of witchcraft as can be seen in this Guardian video. As this New York Times articles shows, they are not without support in America. Needless to say, Pentecostal preacher, Helen Ukpabio, draws thousands to her revival meetings. Last August, when she had herself consecrated Christendom’s first "lady apostle", Nigerian politicians and Nollywood actors attended the ceremony. She has of course written books and produced DVDs which explain how Satan possesses children, and which she sells to those credulous enough to buy them.

Just as with the flat earth, geocentrism, demonic possession and witchcraft, so creationism is a remnant of superstitious belief which almost certainly pre-dated the writing of the holy book into which it became incorporated and which is now, or was until recently, used to justify its persistent belief in the face of scientific evidence to the contrary.

They have also all been used by individuals and authorities to gain power or to make money out of the credulous, ignorant and superstitious just as creationism is being used today by Christian and Islamic apologists in league with right-wing politicians as can be seen most noticeable today in the USA where creationism, Christian fundamentalism and Bible literalism are all being used to promote the religious right and heirs to what in former times had been the preserve of white supremacists and segregationists.

submit to reddit

Monday, 13 February 2012

Mass for Creationists

According to the Bible, God once flooded the earth to a depth which covered the highest mountains (Genesis 7:20 Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered).  I expect a cubit was pretty big in those days because Everest's peak is 30,000 feet above sea level, so a cubit must have been 2,000 feet.

Moving on...

Now, let's assume an average depth of 15,000 feet of additional water above the former sea level.

Obviously that additional mass of water would have given Earth additional mass, which would have affected at least four or five things in the Sun-Earth-Moon system and to the inner planets.

BTW, I'm not a physicist so I'm happy to be corrected by someone who is. Hopefully, someone can do the sums and fill in the detail for me.

  • To conserve angular momentum, the speed of rotation of the Earth would have needed to slow down so days would have lengthened.
  • Similarly to conserve angular momentum in earth's orbit around the Sun, Earth would have needed to move away from the sun into a larger orbit to give a longer year.
  • As Earth moved out towards the orbit of Mars and away from Venus these would have been disturbed in their orbits which would need to adjust accordingly.
  • The additional mass of Earth would have pulled the Moon into a closer orbit.

So, to all you creationists who believe the science supports a literal interpretation of the Bible and the inerrancy of the Noah's Ark story, complete with global flood, and who keep telling us how you've all studied science and are experts in stuff like physics, these questions should all be answerable with ease.

Real physicists might like to have a go at this too, please. I'd love to know the answers myself. "A magic man did it by magic" seems such an unsatisfactory answer somehow.

  1. By how much would Earth's rotation have slowed down and how long would the days have been?
  2. How far out from the Sun would Earth have moved and how long would a year have lasted?
  3. How would the orbits of Mars, Venus, and maybe Mercury and Jupiter have been changed by the change in Earth's orbit?
  4. How much closer to Earth would the Moon have moved and why did it not get pulled into Earth to destroy both bodies in a catastrophic collision?
  5. By how much would the temperature have fallen on Earth as it moved away from the Sun and how did the water remain liquid at this low temperature so the Ark could float about?

Or would it be easier to conclude that the story is one of the least plausible in all mythology and could only have been made up by people completely ignorant of basic physics and astronomy?

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Oh Dear Me! How Did Darwin Get It SO Wrong?

Having nothing better to do, I thought I would browse a creationist website just to see what devastating rebuttals of science they are selling to their credulous audience nowadays. I stumbled upon Creationism.org which is surely worth five minutes of anyone's time, though not more. At least the laughs are free, though not most of the books, though a few are - presumably those which even creationist won't buy

I randomly picked an 'absolutely free to download and copy' creationist book from 1925 (no, don't laugh!) which is STILL being pushed as science. It was written by one B. H. Shadduck, Ph.D about whom more may be found with this Google search (Don't say I don't do anything for you!)

It starts off well:
If you will read with this impression, you will think for yourself instead of nursing theories left on your doorstep while you were overawed with scholarship.

No doctrine worth while is beyond the reach of the world's burden bearers--the common people. Only error needs to hide in a fog of words. My effort will be to translate the hocus-pocus of evolution into simple words, believing that the contradictions of this "science," if held up to the light, will not make much of a bluff.

In speaking of the Bible, I mean the Holy Scriptures accepted by Christ and the Apostolic Church.

If these pages are read by any POLITE person who has been unfortunate in the choice of ancestors, I regret that I must discuss the family's unhappy past. I would do anything to help you forget it.

I use the words "evoluter" and "evolution-ism" because they fit the mail and the propaganda of the man who musses up his own ancestry with beasts that crawl and bark and gibber and then, to avoid shame, slanders the parentage of everyone else.


Evolution means survival by claw and fang and ambush and treachery. They have fixed up another goody-goody kind for the Sunday School. If they believe the brute kind was good TO GET US HERE, LET THEM PRACTICE WHAT THEY PREACH! EVOLUTION HAS NOT ONE LAW FOR FOUR LEGS AND ANOTHER FOR TWO.
Well quite! That convinced me, I don't know about you. No more one law for four leg and another for two for me! I've never mussed up my ancestry with beasts that crawl and bark and gibber. The very idea!

Moving on...

Let's see what else Mr Sadduck, PhD has to help me understand my new enlightenment:
Right now, I ought to have feathers on my arms.

As a boy, I longed for wings--soaring wings, Happing wings, bat-like wings, any kind of wings that would afford deliverance from plodding journeys.

According to the constitution and by-laws of evolution, I ought to have wings.

Do I talk like a fool?

No. I talk like a man who really thinks evolution will work right here and now--if there is one such.
Um... no. Actually, you talk like a fool. Sorry!
If the Bible contained such folly, how evoluters would mock"!

The snakes that could not get feathers started did not die ; they ate birds. Evolution often feeds its "survivors" to those that have been THEORETICALLY survived. I have been survived a great many times in the same way, because I did not have wings.

You don't understand how a reptile could grow feathers?

It isn't supposed to be understood. It has been spread out over such vast periods of time and the mystery has been so thinned out with gradual changes that it is supposed to soak through the cracks of your mind without being understood.

And yet, a feather is such a delicate, complicated, wonderful structure that one wonders how a feather machine could make itself, set itself up in the right place and push feathers out in exactly the right way. You see, if it got them wrong end to or wrong side out or didn't lap them just right, they would be only trouble makers. You wonder just what a feather was ten years before it was a feather.
Let's see if there is a better freebee on offer, maybe written by a sane person. (I'm all for freebees)...

Nope. No more books. Maybe we should be thankful for small mercies, eh?

But, here are some nice pictures which obviously prove creationism:

And what could be more degenerate than an Eskimo, eh? Whew! And to think I nearly fell for all that rational stuff based on evidence and things.
So there! Take that science! If you don't believe in evolution you'll live to the age of 38! Can't top that, eh?
And if you follow the Bible NO WAY will you ever mistake an onion for a bird on a nest like an evolutionist would! Just think of the disgrace! Social death or what?!
AND Job is TWICE as tall as Darwin!

Bible 1: Science 0

How ever did Darwin get it so wrong?

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Christians Are Not Above The Law

Lord Carey
Former Archbishop of Canterbury
One thing I found interesting and very revealing in today's BBC Radio 4 Today interview with former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey was not the expected winging about 'persecution' of Christians, by which he meant that Christians were unfairly being made to obey the law of the land and were being deprived of their 'right' to impose their superstition on the non-Christian majority.

What I thought was particularly revealing was his response to the point about how Christianity is still flourishing in the USA where there is a clear separation of church and state and how separation of church and state seems to work in favour of religions. His response, rather than to accept that position and even advocate it as showing that an established church actually reduces church-going and the level of following, he sought to dismiss it and wave it aside (about 4.3 minutes into the interview which can be heard here).

I have previously blogged about the decline in religion and Christian influence in the UK to the point where they are in a minority with non-believers forming 50% or more of the population.

Clearly, to Carey, and I suspect a large number of senior Anglican clerics, power is the important thing. The inconvenience of an established church leading to reduced congregations and a growing rejection of his religion is a secondary consideration. Keep the established church and bugger the results, so long as I get power, a seat in the House of Lords, a job for life and an income independent of performance.

Carey also showed his 'democratic' principles by stating that Britain was not a secular country but a Christian one. This might be the legal position but anyone with a commitment to democracy would find that intolerable when only 44% of the population even identify themselves as Christian and less than 33% of those are actually practising Christians.

For those outside the UK, this interview came at the end of a disastrous week for the Christian church in the UK with two major successes for secularists. Firstly, the High Court has ruled that it is illegal for Bideford Town Council to require councillor to say Christian prayers before each council session. This action was brought by an atheist councillor with the backing of the National Secular Society. The Court ruled that Bideford Council was acting outside the powers given it under the 1972 Local Government Act. Given the way English Law works, this case effectively makes it illegal for ANY council established under that Act, and maybe any other elected assembly in England and Wales, to have this requirement unless specifically empowered to do so.

Secondly, a Christian couple who had refused a room in their guesthouse in Marazion, Cornwall, to a gay couple and had been convicted of having acted unlawfully, lost their appeal in the Court Of Appeal and were ordered to pay damages. The gay couple had had the backing of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. This case establishes that religious belief cannot be used as an excuse for denying goods and services to others or for discriminating against them. It also established the general point that Christians, or followers of any other religion, are subject to the law of the land and are not free to disregard it as they wish.

submit to reddit

Thursday, 9 February 2012

How Creationists Lie To Us

This parody of human evolution was brought to my attention by @PlasmaEngineer. It was republished from a 1972 reworking of a 1960's version with the addition only of 'Lucy' by 'Big Daddy', Chick Publications.

I'll go through it in detail below but it's worth asking at this point why the author couldn't find a diagram like this from real scientific publication but had to make one up. The answer, of course, is because there is no such thing appearing in any scientific publication or textbook on human evolution written by a palaeoanthropologist. The simple explanation is that no such scientific theory of human evolution has ever been proposed by any serious human evolutionist.

What creationists are using is an invented parody of science designed to mislead and misinform. There can only be one reason for this, and it's not an accident.

Now, the detailed claims made in this cartoon:


Lucy is the popular name given to a fossil hominid found in the Afar region of Ethiopia which has been classified as Australopithicus afarensis. (The name 'Lucy' was taken from 'Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds' by the Beatles).

The place of this specimen in human ancestry has not been settled and, apart from it's age, estimated to be about 3.2 million years, its significance is that it shows bipedalism in combination with a cranial capacity close to that of other non-human apes, so showing that bipedalism preceded an increase in cranial capacity.

In 1992 other fragments of an earlier hominid, Ardipithicus ramidus had been found in Ethiopia but these were not published until 2009. These have been dated to 4.4 million years ago. They also show feet modified for bipedalism.

Incidentally, the entirely fanciful depiction of Lucy as a somewhat deformed chimpanzee is hilarious. Lucy was of course a chimpanzee only in the sense that all hominids are, ancient or modern. Homo sapiens is undoubtedly a chimpanzee just as much so as are the other two, Pan troglodytes and Pan paniscus. However, no scientist has ever claimed that Australopithecus afarensis is a member of the Pan genus. Some taxonomists however have proposed that it would be more correct to re-classify the Pans, and maybe Gorilla, as Homo.

Homo heidelbergensis

Heidelberg Man.

Far from being 'built from a jawbone', very many fossil remains have been found of Homo heidelbergensis from Europe and Africa, including a collection of 28 skeletons from a single site in Atapuerca, Spain.

Homo heidelbergensis may be the ancestor of Homo neanderthalensis (Neanderthals) and Homo sapiens (modern man). It appears to be a descendant of Homo ergaster and is close to Homo erectus.

You may wish to speculate on why someone would describe Heidelberg man as being 'built from a jawbone' when the facts are so much at variance with that claim...

Nebraska Man.

I have previously blogged about what amounts to a creationist hoax so I'll not go into detail again here. Since Dawson, who described 'Hesperopithecus haroldcookii', withdrew that claim in 1927, some 47 years before 'Lucy' was discovered, only anyone either seriously ignorant of the facts, or who was deliberately lying about them, would include both in any sequence leading to the evolution of modern humans.

Incidentally, Dawson never claimed 'Hesperopithecus haroldcookii' as an hominid but always referred to it as an anthropoid ape. The confusion about its putative hominid status, and the term 'Nebraska Man' were coined not by any scientist but by a popular magazine 'The London Illustrated News' and the depiction of it as hominid was made by an illustrator basing her illustration on 'Java man' despite Dawson's protests and complaint that the illustration was "a figment of the imagination of no scientific value, and undoubtedly inaccurate".

Piltdown Man.

I have recently blogged about Piltdown Man and how it was far from the embarrassment for science that creationists like to pretend.

About the only thing worth commenting on here is to ask why a hoax which was famously proven to be so by palaeoanthropologists in 1953, is portrayed as forming part of a scientific account of human evolution 19 years later in 1972.

Peking Man.

'Peking man' was a subspecies of Homo erectus of which 15 partial craniums, 11 lower jaws, many teeth and some skeletal fragments were found from a site at Zhoukoudian near Beijing, China between 1929 and 1937.

Several casts of the originals remain and some teeth at Upsala University, Sweden, however, the original fossils themselves went missing in 1941 somewhere in Northern China which was then under Japanese occupation, whilst en route to the USA. A substantial reward for their recovery has been offered by the Chinese Government. In 1966 however, more fragments were found at the same site.

Quite where Homo erectus pekinensis fits into the evolution of modern humans is still uncertain. Some authorities suggest it may be ancestral, at least partially, to modern Chinese, maybe with interbreeding with early Homo sapiens, however genetic studies show that modern Chinese fall within the range of diversity of all modern humans, suggesting there was little if any interbreeding between modern humans and Home erectus.

No one has ever suggested that Homo erectus pekinensis somehow fits in between 'Piltdown Man' and Neanderthals in the scientific account of human evolution as the above drawing shows.

Neaderthal Man.

Far from being described from a single specimen which has been dismissed as a modern human with arthritis, as the above fraud claims, remains of Neanderthal are plentiful and have provided DNA for genetic analysis. Quite where Neanderthals should be placed however is uncertain. They could either be classified as a species in their own right - Homo neanderthalensis, or as a subspecies of Homo sapiens, Homo sapiens neanderthalensis. (I have previously blogged about how fitting an archaic form into a taxonomic system designed for existing species can be problematic).

There is recent evidence that Neaderthals contributed 1-4% of modern human genes by interbreeding and a skeleton from a site at Lagar Velho, Portugal show intermediate characteristics, suggesting interbreeding in a mixed population.

Few authorities doubt that Neanderthals were a European form of Homo, the only question is to what extent they were ancestral to modern humans. Placing them between 'Peking Man' and a supposed 'New Guinea Man' is perverse and not based on scientific claims, as we have now come to expect of this creationist fraud.

New Guinea Man.

This appears to be a figment of Jack Chick's imagination. There is no record in the scientific literature of anything resembling a 'New Guinea Man' other than modern New Guineans. No one has ever proposed a 'New Guinea Man' as a different species or as being intermediate between Neanderthals and early modern Europeans. Indeed, no one with even a modicum of knowledge of geography would be that stupid. One wonders if this creationist fraud is aimed at those who lack a knowledge of even basic geography. It could be that he included it in support of some covert racist agenda which we see later.

The first Cro-Magnon

Cro-Magnon Man.

Hillariously, our fraudster has posed the question, "One of the earliest and best established fossils is at least equal in physique and brain capacity to modern man... so what's the difference?".

Well... er... there IS no major difference because Cro-Magnon was modern man. No palaeoanthropologist has ever suggested anything other than that Cro-Magnon was an early European Homo sapiens. The term describes a culture, not a species. The name comes from the Abri de Cro-Magnon (French: rock shelter of Cro-Magnon, the big cave in Occitan) near Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil in southwestern France, where the first specimen was found. Cro-Magnon are associated with the Aurignacian culture and with the cave paintings at Lascaux in France.

In fact, though the term Cro-Magnon is often, and incorrectly, applied to any early Homo sapiens the earliest known fully modern Homo remains have been found in Romania at Peștera cu Oase near the Danube, which may be the route taken by early modern humans into Europe.

Lascaux cave painting
The last fallacy shown in Jack Chick's parody is a little more subtle. Note that the 'Modern Man' is a European. The clear implication here is that science claims that Europeans are the endpoint of human evolution (so pandering to social 'Darwinism' which inspired Fascism and which was used to justify segregation and racial discrimination in the USA and elsewhere).

There has never been any doubt in serious evolutionary science that all living humans are Homo sapiens. In fact, even if this were not so, the idea that one living species is somehow more evolved than another living species is biologically nonsensical since they have all been evolving for precisely the same length of time.

How the various hominids are related, and where they fit on the Homo branch of the 'tree of life' is still being worked out as more and more information is added to the sum total of scientific knowedge. One example of a possible structure is shown here. Note the Australopithecus afarensis is placed at the origin of this particular branch. This may be revised in due course because, like all science, conclusions are alway provisional and subject to revision. It may well be that Lucy was not our distant grandmother but maybe only a grand aunt.

Note the absence of 'Nebraska Man', 'Piltdown Man', 'Peking Man', 'New Guinea Man' and 'Cro-Magnon Man' and how the only hominids who may have been ancestral to modern man mentioned by Chick are 'Lucy' and 'Heidelberg Man'. The simple reason for this is that Chick was lying.

So, now a few questions for creationists.

Were you fooled by the ludicrous Jack Chick parody of human evolution and his deliberate misrepresentation of the science, or are you one of those determined to fool others with it?

Why do you think creationism can only be supported by lies, parody and misinformation? If it was a description of reality wouldn't you expect reality to provide supporting evidence?

Do you think there may be a clue to Jack Chick's motive for trying to mislead people about the science behind human evolution by the name at the end of the wording at the bottom of the top panel - that of 'Dr' Kent Hovind, the Young Earth Creationist currently serving a ten-year prison sentence for fraud?

And why do creationists lie to us? Because they've taken an oath to do so. No! Honestly!

submit to reddit

Income from ads will be donated to charities such as moderate centre-left groups, humanist, humanitarian and wildlife protection and welfare organisations.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

"Most fish in the sea evolved on land" - New Scientist

This article appeared in the on-line version of New Scientist today. I find the headline disturbingly misleading. Even cursory reading of the article shows that Varga and Weins' findings point to the possibility that ray-finned fish may all share a common ancestor which evolved in fresh water.

If true, this is interesting but nothing really surprising. After all, why should a founder species for a major group NOT evolve in fresh water rather than the sea, and why should it not then expand into a salt-water environment and radiate there into the many species we have today?

But, the idea that a founder species evolved in fresh-water (note, NOT on land as the headline says, but in water) and then radiated, is a far cry from the idea conveyed in the headline that 'most' fish evolved that way. And nowhere is it suggested that ANY fish evolved on land as most people would understand the term 'land'.

I'm surprised and disappointed to see this over-simplification and misleading approach to science in a respected science magazine.

Most fish in the sea evolved on land - life - 08 February 2012 - New Scientist:

'via Blog this'
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Web Analytics