Saturday, 29 November 2014

Chamber of Secrets Has Creationists in Denial Again

Phote credit: John Hawks
Bone bonanza: Chamber of secrets yields human remains - life - 28 November 2014 - New Scientist

One of the things which illustrates the difference between religion and science is how science continually looks for new information and adjusts its thinking accordingly, whereas religion constantly looks for excuses not to change in any way, and this includes actively ignoring, or finding ways to dismiss, new information.

Take for example the buzz of excitement in the field of palaeoanthropology at the moment at news that a team of archaeologists working in a cave system in South Africa have discovered and excavated the skeletal remains of about twelve, so far not publicly identified, hominids found together in a single chamber some 30 metres below the surface. The entrance to the chamber is via a small crack just wide enough for very slim cavers to get through, which appears to be the only entrance.

There are no signs that they were dragged into the chamber by predators since none of the bones have bite mark so the chances are that the bones have remained undisturbed until their recent discovery. One hypothesis is that fossils may have been embedded in rock formed from sediment in an earlier cave and that that rock is now being dissolved and eroded in this wet cave, exposing the fossilised bones. This could explain why they are on the surface and not covered in silt and raises the possibility of yet more fossils embedded in the floor and walls of the cave. The chamber hasn't yet yielded up all its secrets by any means.

Photo credit: Reuters
Very many sites yield as few as one fossil; maybe an incomplete skull, a piece of jaw or cranium or, in the case of the Denisovans, a single finger-bone. There were so many fossils in this chamber in the Rising Star cave system, 30 kilometres north-west of Johannesburg in an area often referred to as the cradle of humankind because of all the hominid fossils found there already, that the team emptied the local shops of all plastic food containers for something to store each bubble-wrapped fossil in - over 1200 fossils in all. New fossils were being discovered so quickly it was a challenge to catalogue them all.

The team plan to make a major announcement early in the new year. Watch this space...

This immediately raises lots of questions, not the least of which is how these 12 (or more) individuals all came to be in the chamber in the first place. Did they all go in together? Did they all meet the same sort of accident over a period of time - in which case are we looking at a time-series and over what time scale? Are they, in fact, all the same species? If they are all the same age, what will they tell us about the range of variability in the population at that time and how will this affect our present classification of the Australopithecines?

But the most important question is how do they fit in with the present picture of the evolution of the hominids, including modern humans, and what changes will need to be made? Are they directly ancestral to us or from a side branch? What will they tell us about how and when the Australopithecines diversified from the chimpanzees and gorilla and where and when did bipedalism evolve?

Lots of questions, which is why there is so much excitement. Science loves questions because the answers improve our understanding and take us closer to the truth.

Biology for Christian Schools is a textbook for Bible-believing high-school students. Those who do not believe that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God will find many points in this book puzzling. This book was not written for them.... If the conclusions contradict the Word of God, the conclusions are wrong, no matter how many scientific facts may appear to back them.

Biology For Christian Schools - William S Pinkston
Bob Jones University Press, 1991
Is there the same anticipation to be seen in creationism? Is Ken Ham or Ray Comfort talking about this discovery and how creationists are going to have to rewrite the creationist text books? Are Michael Behe and William Dembski or other Discovery Institute loons going onto television to explain how God obviously experimented with lots of different intelligently designed humans and left us these fossils during the six days of creation, or that the Discovery Institute is going to rewrite its Wedge Strategy and campaign for human evolution to be taught in American public school science classes?

Of course not. There will be no rewriting of anything because either the discovery will be ignored, or dismissed on some flimsy pretext which will do for the scientifically illiterate target audience. What will never happen is that creationist pseudoscientists will change their minds. This is the only way a primitive, simplistic, evidence-free superstition has survived intact and unmodified by new knowledge since the pre-technological, pre-scientific infancy of the human species.

Creationism is the art of ignoring information whilst presenting yourself as more knowledgeable than people who study the subject and actively seek out new knowledge. Consequently, unlike science, creationism has contributed precisely nothing to human knowledge, to human progress or to the betterment of humanity and the planet we all depend on. If we had listened to creationists and adopted their methods we would still be nomadic goat-herders, if we hadn't exterminated ourselves to prove who has the best imaginary friend.

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1 comment :

  1. THIS!

    "Creationism is the art of ignoring information whilst presenting yourself as more knowledgeable than people who study the subject and actively seek out new knowledge."

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