Monday 30 April 2012

More Rapid Human Evolution

Tibetan Plateau
In Rapid Human Evolution we saw how the Fore people of Papua New Guinea evolved resistance to the prion disease, kuru in as little as 200 years under intense selection pressure, so giving the lie to Creationist claims about evolution. This blog is about an almost as impressive example of recent human evolution, albeit at a somewhat slower rate, but not, like the Fore example involving a single gene, but involving more than 30 genes. Again, the observable facts destroy another Creationist myth.

This example is found in Tibetans who have adapted to live in the high altitude of the Tibetan plateau, over 13,000 feet above sea level, where oxygen levels are 40% lower than at sea level. (To be technical, it's not the ratio of oxygen in the air which is lower but the air-pressure itself. This means the partial pressure of oxygen is 40% lower than at sea level, so it is much harder for it to cross the thin membrane in the lungs into the pulmonary capillaries, where it can be taken up by the haemoglobin in blood.)

Sunday 29 April 2012

Religion And Neurological Disorders

Lobes of the human brain
Neurotheology is a branch of psychiatry which studies the correlation between neural phenomenon and 'spirituality' or religious experience. These 'experiences' can be

  • The perception that time, fear or self-consciousness have dissolved
  • Spiritual awe
  • Oneness with the universe
  • Ecstatic trance
  • Sudden enlightenment
  • Altered states of consciousness

Saturday 28 April 2012

Creationists Don't Have A Leg To Stand On

Creationists really do need to get a grip.

Problem is, they only have two limbs to do this with, unlike all the other modern anthropoid apes, which have four. This is because we've had to adapt one set of limbs for walking upright. For that, we need a rigid foot with an arch to transmit the force our leg muscles are applying from our ankles to our toes, and especially our big toe, so that, as our body moves forward we push on the ground with our toes and so keep the momentum going.

I Have Primitive Ears

Darwin's Tubercle on Homo sapiens and Macaca fascicularis
I'm not one to boast, but I have primitive ears. I have the sort of ears of which my remote ancestors might have been proud, if they had had the cognitive ability to be proud.

I have Darwin's Tubercles and I can wiggle my ears without wrinkling my forehead. Both these things are vestigial fossils of my remote ancestry.

Darwin's Tubercle was described by Charles Darwin in The Descent of Man, although he called it the Woolnerian tip after the sculpture Thomas Woolner who actually first recorded it.

It has no known function in humans, but in our simian and anthropoid cousins it, or rather the point, is probably useful in focussing sound. It is a vestige of the ear point found in many simians and, presumably, in our common ancestors. Mine is larger on the right ear than on the left, where it's a tiny little nodule I can just about feel but the important thing is that I have them. Only about ten percent of us do.

And, I can wiggle my ears!

To quote from Why Evolution Is True by Jerry A. Coyne:

... if you can wiggle your ears, you're demonstrating evolution. We have three muscles under our scalp that attach to our ears. In most people they're useless but some people can use them to wiggle their ears. ... These are the same muscles used by other animals, like cats and horses, to move their ears around, helping them localize sounds. In those species, moving the ears helps them detect predators, locate their young, etc. But in humans the muscles are good only for entertainment.

But, to be fair on the rest of you, it's not just me. We're all walking evidence for Darwinian Evolution. These quaint little vestigial structures merely confirm what the rest of our anatomy, physiology, biochemistry and genetics are all shouting at us so loudly that those who are afraid to hear it have to howl even more loudly to drown it out.

Footnote: you may be able to wiggle your ears if you practice enough. Here's how: How To Wiggle Your Ears.

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Unintelligent Design And Vitamin C Deficiency

Vitamin C is essential for normal health. In fact, if you don't have enough vitamin C in your diet, you will die of an especially nasty disease called scurvy. Vitamin C is a relatively simple organic molecule chemically called ascorbic acid. Fortunately, a normal varied diet usually contains enough vitamin C, especially one containing fresh fruit and vegetables because plants manufacture vitamin C. When the cause of scurvy, which was a major problem amongst sailors on long ocean voyages, was discovered in 1747, simply adding lime juice to their diet cured it almost overnight, hence the British sailors who travelled to and from the New World earned the nickname 'Limeys'.

So, what about animals which don't eat lots of fruit and vegetables, animals like carnivores, or those who eat a fairly plain diet like many herbivores whose diet might or might not contain vitamin C? Not a problem for them because their livers manufacture ascorbic acid. Birds, and many other animals produce it in their kidneys.

Which begs the question: why doesn't our liver produce ascorbic acid if it is so essential for us?

Biochemical pathway for producing ascorbic acid from glucose
The daft thing is that, just like the vast majority of animals which do make their own ascorbic acid, we, along with a small number of other mammals, have the genes to make it, and our liver cells contain three of the four enzymes for making it out of glucose, just like all the others. The only problem is that the fourth (L-gulonolactone oxidase) is missing because the gene for making it is broken! A small copying error millions of years ago effectively turned off something which is essential for many other animals.

But why didn't that get quickly eliminated from the gene pool?

Almost certainly because of the alternative way to get vitamin C, and the one we now use exclusively, by eating food with enough of it. It almost certainly arose in an early ancestor whose diet was rich in fresh fruit and vegetables. Those who didn't make their own vitamin C were now saved from the need to get rid of the excess, so not making it might well have been an advantage in an environment in which their food contained enough of it. Even today, many of the members of our limb of the evolutionary tree have a diet which is mainly or wholly comprised of ripe fruit and leaves.

Chart of the Fossil Record of the Primates with the Occurrence of Active L-Gulonolactone Oxidase in the Livers of Living Primates.
And those other mammals I mentioned earlier? Many of them are primates occupying branches on our limb of the evolutionary tree. If we plot these, together with what we know of their relationship to one another from fossil records and genetic evidence, the pattern is quite striking. All those who occupy one of the two branches which diversified from a common ancestor some 60-63 million years ago have the same genetic defect. The rest still make vitamin C in the perfectly normal way and don't need it in their diets.

All of this is, of course, fully understandable in terms of Darwinian Evolution by Natural Selection and descent with modification, without needing to invoke magic and in which neither intelligence nor design played any part.

Can any Creationist explain why an intelligent designer would provide the mechanism for making vitamin C in our livers, and then break it, and why it would do the same in other species which just happen to look like they share a common ancestor with us which lived some 60-63 million years ago?

Further reading:
The Natural History of Ascorbic Acid in the Evolution of the Mammals and Primates and Its Significance for Present Day Man, By Irwin Stone
Vitamin C Deficiency In Humans: An Issue Of Evolution.

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Friday 27 April 2012

Thinking Intuitively

A recent piece of research published in Science suggested a correlation between analytical thinking and disbelief in religion. This article on illustrated the difference between the alanytical and intuitive thinking with a neat example:
Q: If a baseball and bat cost $110, and the bat costs $100 more than the ball, how much does the ball cost?

If you answered $10 you are inclined to believe in religion. If you answered $5 you are inclined to disbelieve.
To be honest, I answered $10, and for several minutes couldn't see what was wrong with that answer until I read the comments - which is rather worrying because I think of myself as an analytical thinker and earn my living at it - and yet, when I knew the right answer, I found it hard to understand why I found it hard to understand, if you follow me.

I've written a few times about how intuition is a poor measure of reality (see Xeno's Religious Paradox). This is particularly true in the realms of quantum mechanics and cosmology where the very small and the very large just seem to be counter-intuitive and yet the analytical tools of observation and mathematics tell us the counter-intuitive answer is actually the right one. A particle is also a wave and can be in several places at the same time; the universe is finite yet unbounded and everything really is nothing.

How does this translate to religious belief versus disbelief?

Thursday 26 April 2012

Rapid Human Evolution

Fore People of Papua New Guinea.
A Novel Protective Prion Protein Variant that Colocalizes with Kuru Exposure, Mead et al, New England Journal of Medicine, Nov 2009.

Humans have been observed to evolve very rapidly in just 200 years, in one of the most clear-cut examples of human evolution.

Until the late 1950s the Fore people of Papua New Guinea had an unusual way of honouring their dead - they ate them, or more particularly, they ate their brains in a funeral ritual. This ritual meant that they caught kuru, a disease of the brain which killed some 2500 Fore before its cause was identified and the practice was stopped.

Lactose Tolerance And Creation 'Science'

You've probably heard of 'lactose intolerance'. It is the term use to describe the inability to digest milk in adulthood. In actual fact the problem is with digesting the sugar found in milk - lactose - hence its name. It is cause by a loss of the ability to produce the enzyme lactase in the digestive tract. It illustrates one of the problems with medical advances being made mostly in the developed world and so 'normal' being defined in terms of what is normal in the prevailing culture.

Lactose intolerance is fairly uncommon in much of Europe and parts of Asia and populations which are mostly Euro-Asian in origin. In these populations, where milk forms an integral part of an adult diet, the problems associated with not being able to digest milk are a problem needing special diet, etc. For that population, it is seen as a medical condition needing treatment.

Monday 23 April 2012

God The Protection Racketeer

Have you found time in your life for Big Ron?

Big Ron saves!

The fool hath said there is no Big Ron... but we still look after his widow.

We've seen how the Christian god resembles an abusive spouse in God The Abusive Spouse. In many ways the tactic of the abusive spouse resemble those of a protection racketeer - the use of violence, or the threat of it, blackmail, intimidation and control - so it's hardly surprising to find that the Christian god closely resembles a protection racketeer too.

The difference is that, unlike a real protection racketeer, the Christian god is just used by the priesthood and the preaching/evangelical industry as though he were real. It's a bit like the small-time hoods who work for the local Godfather have invented a Mr Big. You never see him, nor any sign of him, but they keep telling you what great protection he provides if only you pay your respects, and how he protects you from the misfortune which will befall you as sure as fate, if you don't show him enough respect.

And, of course, exactly what is enough respect is for the hoods... er... priests to decide on the basis of what 'Mr Big' revealed unto them.

So, if you let 'Big Ron' into your lives, and make sure you let Him know how much you appreciate Him by giving His men a reasonable donation - say ten percent of your income - Big Ron will make sure nothing unpleasant happens. Can't say fairer than that gov can I now? It's only money and what use is money if you haven't got yer health and strength? You know how it is around these parts - a decent person can't earn an honest living without someone causing a hurricane to destroy his house or inflicting a fatal illness on his wife and children or causing their car to crash, or shooting him in a drive-by shooting one night on his way home.

And if you just do 'Big Ron' a little service now and again, when He asks, He will try to make sure you get that job you want - or that new car, or house, or a long life - can't guarantee anything mind and 'Big Ron' might just take it into His head that you haven't done enough service yet, or you don't deserve a break. He's like that you know, 'Big Ron'. Heart of gold but He does get some funny ideas at times so you can never tell what he's thinking. Kinda ineffable if you get my drift. He's nice to old ladies and the widows of people who've let Him down in the past, though. Always a bag o'coal or a ham at Christmas!

Anyway, enough about 'Big Ron'. Show Him your appreciation when we pass the plate along the pews and you'll probably be safe for another week. How's that knee doing? Still not able to bend it? Nasty business that. Rough neighbourhood but Big Ron's working on it. Trouble is you see, the local police used to do what Big Ron told 'em, but those pinko commy liberals on County Hall stopped all that so Big Ron has to show 'em who's in charge around here sometimes, or there'd be anarchy and rampant crime. The neighbourhood wouldn't be fit for decent folk any more.

Will you be voting for those decent folk who want to put Big Ron back in charge? He won't like it at all if you don't you know, but it's your choice. Big Ron's a firm believer in letting people make mistakes if they don't know what's good for them. "You tell 'em", He says, "they can do what they like so long as they accepts the consequences..."

Wouldn't hurt a fly, Big Ron... but he knows some people who would...

Come along Knuckles. Time we were going. What have I told you about dropping things? Shake hands with the nice gentleman now - gently. Gently! Oops!

See you in church on Sunday! That hand'll get better in time.

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Seeing Eye To Eye With A Butterfly

Peacock Butterfly
Eyes to die for!

Well, eyes to live for actually.

So, what on Earth is an insect doing with such obviously mammalian 'eyes' on it wings, albeit eyes that can't see? You would think a tasty morsel like that would want to keep hidden and not have bright colours advertising it, wouldn't you? They surely can't be there for us to admire, can they?

But of course, it has nothing to do with us. It has to do with birds!

You see, to find a mate, the butterfly needs to advertise itself, and reproducing is what it is for. But it needs to avoid getting eaten too, so we have a classic tension leading to an equilibrium where finding a mate needs to be balanced against the need to avoid being eaten - at least until after it's found a mate and produced eggs for the next generation.

Enter our predatory bird.

This bird needs to find food for itself and it's chicks and it also needs to avoid being eaten. So again we have another equilibrium resulting from the tension between finding food and being exposed to predators.

Let's see things from a bird's eye view.

An upside down butterfly.

But cover the fore wings and what do you see?

Or maybe:


You see, the birds who survived were those who didn't stop to think, "Oh! What lovely eyes!", because those would be eyes to die for, but those who were up and away before they even knew what their wings were doing. Those who did it best left more descendants, so a rapid flight response to a mammalian eye evolved in the presence of mammalian predators.

Now what has this got to do with the Peacock Butterfly? We'll, birds with these super-fast reflexes were in their environment and were trying to eat them, so, whilst the butterfly was needing to evolve ways of attracting a mate without being eaten, it happened upon a pattern which looked a bit like the eyes of a fox or a stoat, or some other predatory mammal, which is what the bird's genes needed not to be eaten by.

To begin with, the marks might not have looked very much like mammal eyes just so long as in poor lighting or for birds with poor eyesight, they triggered the flight reflex. As the survivors with these slightly eye-like markings became more numerous it was those on whom natural selection worked, so the eye marks became more eye-like and better at attracting butterfly mates.

Also, the butterflies who carried genes which meant they found the eye-like markings attractive would have left more descendants because those genes would have benefited from the presence of genes for making the eye-like markings, so sex-selection would have reinforced this evolutionary process.

From the bird's genes point of view, it was a better trade off to miss a snack than to be eaten. From the butterfly's genes 'point of view' (it's a metaphor, don't get over-excited) it was better to avoid being eaten and to find a mate. Win:win for the butterfly genes and a powerful driver in favour of greater and greater perfection. But perfection not in looking exactly like mammalian eyes but in triggering the flight reflex in the bird. So, maybe two sets of eyes worked better than one, and additional marks which make it look like the eyes are coming closer were even better.

All it has to do is open it's wings and flash those eyes, and the same mechanism works with a prospective mate too!

So, we have insects with mammalian eye-markings because their predators were preyed on by mammals.

And all the butterfly was trying to do was find a mate and avoid getting eaten. Now, what intelligent designer would have have designed that, unless it was one who loved watching birds get the surprise of their lives and denied a meal with a trick?

Atlas moth

Atlas moth and 'snake'. Not too hard to work out what eats the atlas moth's predators. Go on! You know you can.

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Sunday 22 April 2012

God The Abusive Spouse

Have you ever noticed how closely the god of the Bible resembles an abusive spouse and how often it's believers seem to be in an abusive relationship with it?

Abusers use fear, guilt, shame, and intimidation to wear you down and keep you under his or her thumb. Your abuser may also threaten you, hurt you, or hurt those around you.

This site gives a list of 23 questions to help you decide if you are in an abusive relationship. The more "yes" answers, the more abusive the relationship is. Here are some of them. How many apply to a Christian's relationship with their god?

Do you:
  • feel afraid of your god much of the time? (Psalms 19:9 The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever)
  • avoid certain topics out of fear of angering your god? (Psalms 19:14 Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD)
  • believe that you deserve to be hurt or mistreated? (Ezra 9:13 And after all that is come upon us for our evil deeds, and for our great trespass, seeing that thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and hast given us such deliverance as this;)

Does your god:
  • blame you for their own abusive behavior? (Leviticus 26:14-46)
  • have a bad and unpredictable temper? (2 Chronicles 30:8 ...and serve the LORD your God, that the fierceness of his wrath may turn away from you.)
  • hurt you or threaten to hurt you or kill you? (Deuteronomy 30:19 I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live)
  • threaten to take your children away or harm them? (Exodus 20:5 ..for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me)
  • act excessively jealous and possessive? (Exodus 34:14 For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God)
  • control where you go or what you do? (Deuteronomy 6:2 That thou mightest fear the LORD thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son's son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged.)
  • constantly check up on you? (Psalms 94:11 The LORD knoweth the thoughts of man,)

So, with "yes" to 10 out of 23, I reckon that makes it a fairly abusive relationship.

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Saturday 21 April 2012

How Creationists Lie To Us - 14

Here we are at Chapter 13 of the Creationist 'science' book, It's A Young World After All, by assistant professor of psychology, Dr Paul D. Ackerman, PhD.

In case you are new to this series:

To judge by his writing, Dr Ackerman seems to have no formal qualifications in science subjects nor much in the way of understanding of scientific methodology. There is no record of him publishing any research papers in a peer-reviewed science journal nor of presenting any to an audience of professional scientists. Nevertheless he feels qualified to write about science for a Creationist readership. His academic qualifications appear to be confined to his speciality - psychology.

Chapter 13 - Time: Evolution's Friend or Foe?

This is the last chapter in which Dr Ackerman purports to deal with specific scientific claims. I get the impression that he had a few fallacies left over which he hadn't been able to fit into the preceding chapters, so he created this rag-bag of leftover scraps as somewhere to put them. The simplest approach is probably to deal with them as they come.

The argument of this book is that the universe is quite young. If the universe can be shown to be young, then evolution is ruled out, since all agree that the evolutionary process requires vast numbers of years. Time is often viewed as the great friend of evolution, supposedly performing all the miracles of creation that in the Bible are attributed to God. The famous Harvard professor George Wald has explained the evolutionists' view of the importance of time as follows:

The important point is that since the origin of life belongs in the category of at-least-once phenomena, time is on its side. However improbable we regard this event. . . given enough time it will almost certainly happen at least once. . . . Time is in fact the hero of the plot. . . . Given so much time, the "impossible" becomes possible, the possible probable, and the probable virtually certain. One has only to wait; time itself performs miracles.

Of course this is true and it shows us what Dr Ackerman is concerned about. "If the universe can be shown to be young, then evolution is ruled out..." So, if Dr Ackerman can persuade you to believe the universe is young, he can persuade you that evolution can be ruled out. Something of a give-away that, and it helps explain his extensive use of bad science and fallacies, aimed, as they are, at a largely scientifically unsophisticated and uncritical audience.

No, this is not a Creationist writing another 'science' book.
A better-known form of the evolution-through-limitless-time argument is the monkey-and-typewriter illustration. Physicist William R. Bennett, Jr., has stated it this way: "Nearly everyone knows that if enough monkeys [my emphasis] were allowed to pound away at typewriters for enough time, all the great works of literature would result."

Something about this argument is intuitively persuasive.

Obviously, if the monkeys were to type long enough, one of them would inevitably type the word to, and with just a little more time surely no one would be surprised to find the word two. And if such circumstances produced to and two, then why not eventually four, eight, and finally a complete sentence, paragraph, and so on?

The question of whether or not time is actually on the side of evolution, as Wald and Bennett maintain, is an important one even if, as this book argues, there is very little of it to work with. The fact of the matter is that time is not a friend of evolution. It is evolution's enemy.

To put it simply, if a monkey [my emphasis] is going to type a literary work, it will need to get the job done in a hurry. Time will work against the monkey's literary efforts as well as against any similar uphill evolutionary process in the real world. This fact is reflected in what scientists call the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which states that all real processes in the physical universe—when isolated and left to themselves—go irreversibly downhill toward increasing disorder and chaos.

The first thing to notice here is the subtle change from 'enough monkeys' to 'a monkey'. The actual monkey-and-typewriter illustration said that if an infinite number of monkeys could type on an infinite number of typewriters for an infinite amount of time, at least one of them would type the complete works of Shakespeare. It was meant to help understand the nature of infinity and how, when we include it in a calculation, anything is possible, no matter how unlikely it is. It can easily be mathematically proven, but it was never an argument for evolution and, so far as I am aware, it has never been used as an argument for it.

Using a single monkey doesn't change the logic because we are talking about infinite time, but what Dr Ackerman seems to be trying here is the fallacy that evolution depends on a single accumulation of probabilities to result in something pre-defined and specific, hence his subtle change to 'a monkey'. Evolution is, of course, not an explanation for convergence on a single pre-defined outcome; it is an explanation for divergence into many outcomes - as many as there are species, sub-species, varieties and variations in nature. Dr Ackerman's 'argument' is nothing more than a straw man; a ridiculous caricature intended to be easily ridiculed and dismissed. Straw man arguments are usually a sign either of ignorance or deliberate dishonesty.

Evolution by natural selection is emphatically not the kind of process that Dr Ackerman is presenting it as. It is not a process which is trying to produce a specific outcome and it is not a single accumulation event. I went into this in some detain in Why You? Briefly, it's the difference between dealing a specific hand of 13 cards from a pack of 52, and dealing any hand from the same pack.

Dr Ackerman either believes himself, or assumes his readers will believe, that the TOE is trying to explain how evolution dealt a specific hand at every deal. It is not. It explains how, at each generation, some individuals with a particular 'hand' of cards were more successful at dealing copies of their 'hand' and some were less so, and how this filtering process resulted in the next generation having a 'hand' they were more likely to be able to deal in that environment whilst other lines of evolving 'hands' were more successful in other environments, so they tended to deal different 'hands'. And, of course, the 'hands' they were dealing tended to change slightly because the mechanism for producing new cards is not always perfect.

There was never a specific 'hand' which evolution was trying to deal, hence we have diversification and not convergence on a specific type, as in the infinite monkey example. If we are looking for a specific outcome from the process of evolution by natural selection the only possible one is that it produces a next generation which is slightly better at producing the next generation, in that gene line, in that environment.

Another subtle 'error' in Dr Ackerman's argument here is the assumption that an evolving line only has a single ancestor at each preceding generation. This is, after all, the only rationale behind his error in accumulating probabilities to produce a single hugely unlikely improbability. Yet we know that we each have an exponentially expanding number of ancestors, hence the accumulated probabilities tend to be focussed on each generation from many gene lines, after having been filtered for ability to replicate successfully by natural selection.

With a trillion ancestors a thousand years ago, the probability of one of them having a beneficial mutation is extremely high, even if the likelihood of that mutation is one in ten million. If that stands a better chance of being replicated (which it would do it it is beneficial) then that probability of it being inherited is increased in the next generation, until, by the time it reached your generation some thousands of years later, if has become highly probable that you will inherit it.

Meanwhile, other highly improbably beneficial mutations will have occurred in other remote ancestors, and the probability of you inheriting that one is also high. The probability of you inheriting one does not affect the probability of you inheriting the others. So the chances of you inheriting a whole bunch of beneficial mutations together is extremely high, not highly unlikely as Dr Ackerman wants you to believe.

Note that, in all this, the mutation only had to happen once. It does not have to happen in every generation. Once it has happened, if it conveys an advantage, then its occurrence will tend to increase in subsequent generations. If it conveys a disadvantage then it's occurrence will diminish in subsequent generation, if it is not immediately removed.

Yes, okay you couldn't have had a trillion ancestors a thousand years ago because there weren't that many people then. That means you are related to a very large proportion of those who were around then, so you are benefiting from almost all their advantageous mutations and, because natural selection will remove any disadvantageous mutations very quickly, the probability of you inheriting one of those quickly becomes almost zero.

In terms of the typewriting-monkey example, it means that along with the accumulating chance of producing something meaningful as time increases, there must also be a consideration of the more rapidly accumulating chance that the monkey, typewriter, or both will break down. Thus, the longer the monkey types, the greater the chance that its typewriter will break. If it would take a million years for the monkey to accidentally hammer out something as meaningful as a good poem or short story, there is no chance whatsoever that the typewriter would last that long—to mention nothing of the monkey or its paper supply!

I'm beginning to wonder if Karl Pilkington is Dr Ackerman in disguise. I'm certainly beginning to feel like Ricky Gervais in this video.

Evolution does not depend on mechanical typewriters, a supply of paper or longevity of monkeys. This point is so infantile it is scarcely worth commenting upon. All it tells us is either that Dr Ackerman has misunderstood his own straw man or that he is hoping his readers will have. Quite frankly, this passage insults the intelligence even of his target audience of Creationists. To me, it suggests he holds his readers in a contempt far in excess of anything they deserve. If there were such a thing as a Code of Conduct or ethical standards for professional Creationists, this would surely risk him being struck off.

In the real world, any system posited to produce ordered and meaningful outcomes will inevitably be subject to the processes of decay and disordering known to scientists as the law of entropy (Second Law of Thermodynamics). Time is no friend of evolution.

At last our old friend the Second Law of Thermodynamics makes its appearance!

Here is as good a statement of the Second Law of Thermodynamics as you are likely to get:

The entropy of any closed system not in thermal equilibrium almost always increases. Closed systems spontaneously evolve towards thermal equilibrium -- the state of maximum entropy of the system -- in a process known as "thermalization". Equivalently, perpetual motion machines of the second kind are impossible.

Note the words 'closed system'. They are not there just to make the Second Law a bit longer; they are an essential part of it. The only truly closed system is the Universe itself. No localised part of the Universe is closed, and especially not Earth or living systems. The only thing essentially required to overcome the tendency towards increased entropy (in other words, Dr Ackerman's 'processes of decay and disordering') is energy. Given that he spent so long in Chapter 6 talking about the sun, it's difficult to believe he is unaware of it as the major source of energy on Earth. It's also difficult to believe that, as a grown adult, he is unaware that living things take in food as a source of energy and use that energy to drive their metabolism. Maybe, as a non-biologist, he is simply unaware that 'life' is, at it's lowest level, nothing more than anti-entropy machines.

Until recently, life on Earth was thought to be entirely dependent on solar energy, however, with the discovery of the deep ocean volcanic vents, particularly in the Pacific, we now know that geothermal energy can also be used by some specialised organisms. In both those systems, an increase in entropy in the energy source results ultimately in a decrease in entropy in the living organisms, but the total result is increased entropy so the system as a whole obeys the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

And that is just about that so far as Dr Paul D. Ackerman, PhD.'s substantive claims go. Not a single one of them has proved to be based on real science, or supported by science, or to disprove science in ways in which he either thinks it does or wants his readers to think it does. Most of his 'evidence' is equally fanciful nonsense from other Creationists, some of which is frankly, made up.

If anything, this singularly inept attempt to falsify Darwinian Evolution with bad science serves only to emphasis just how well supported the TOE is by the other sciences. Just as with the Laws of Thermodynamics, where we can say with as close to certainty as science ever gets, that if a theory seems to falsify the Laws of Thermodynamics then the theory is wrong, so we are close to being able to say that if science seems to falsify the TOE, then the science is wrong.

Dr Ackerman fails to falsify the TOE because his science is quite laughably wrong.

Had this book been subjected to peer review by proper scientists every chapter would have been struck out. The final chapter is simply a statement of 'faith', that is, unsubstantiated assertions, and little bits of motivational gibberish designed to make his readers feel smugly superior to those crazy know-nothing scientists and that gang of evolutionists who are trying to trick them into losing their faith and think they are descended from monkeys.

To show the world you know you need to lie for your 'faith' is to show the world you know your faith is a lie.

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How Creationists Lie To Us - 13

We have now arrived at Chapter 12 of the Creationist book, It's A Young World After All by assistant professor of psychology, Dr Paul D. Ackerman, PhD. Only two more of these frankly dreadful chapters to go and this one is again a mercifully short one. It concentrates entirely on the claims of another Creationists which are, of course, presented as established fact.

Chapter 12 - Creation Stopwatches.

Dr Ackerman seems unable to resist a rather silly swipe at 'evolutionists' (i.e. people who accept that the Darwinian Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection explains the observable fact of evolution of life on Earth) with this:

If the Genesis account is regarded as historical narrative, then Adam and Eve are seen as sudden and "mature" creations. They are also seen as inhabiting a mature world that is finished and waiting for them. From a creationist viewpoint, it would be very misleading to try to estimate the age of the world by examining the developmental level of Adam and such other primary features of the creation as size of trees, amount of foliage, and so on.

On the other hand, with the passage of time, certain secondary features would come into existence as a result of interactions taking place between primary aspects of creation. For instance, Adam might carve "Adam loves Eve" inside a heart on a tree. This carving would be a secondary feature, and if it could be dated by some scientific process, a creationist would have a relatively high degree of confidence in the outcome. Such dating would not, of course, tell us how old the world is, but it would tell us that it must be at least as old as the tree carving. In contrast, the evolutionist would maintain that everything existing in the universe had to come about through a regular developmental process. Since no distinction between primary and secondary features is recognized, the developmental age of Adam would be given equal weight with the tree carving.

Um... well, I can't see any sane person not accepting that Adam would need to exist before he could carve his name on a tree actually, so I'm not sure what Dr Ackerman's point is here. Maybe it speaks to his target customers who probably like to comfort themselves with the thought that they are a lot cleverer than those stupid scientists but need to be given simplistic ideas to toy with.

Anyway, having got that off his chest he spends the rest of the chapter explaining the claims of fellow Creationist Robert V. Gentry and, in a style we've become used to now, he presents this as accepted, mainstream scientific fact.

Briefly, Gentry claimed to have found examples of coal from the Colorado Plateau which had, in the course of their submersion as water-logged trees, become impregnated with tiny particles of radioactive uranium which then became locked when the wood became fossilised as coal. As these tiny radioactive particles decay they leave a distinct coloured 'halo' around themselves as the radiation they emit affects the adjacent material. As the uranium undergoes radioactive decay it becomes an isotope of lead, so, if we know the rate of radioactive decay of uranium, by measuring the ratio of lead to uranium we can get a fairly good estimate of how long ago the uranium became locked in the coal.

Gentry claimed this showed the coal was only a few thousand years old.

In addition, Gentry also claimed to have found similar radiohalos caused by radioactive polonium, also from the Colorado Plateau which gave similar results. Quite a problem for mainstream science, you might think. How can we account for coal measures being only a few thousand years old?

Well, that's what you're supposed to be asking yourself, of course and Dr Ackerman certainly does nothing to correct that error. In fact, it's an essential part of his argument.

But actually, the presence of radiohalos merely tells us how long the isotopes causing them have been in the coal, not how old the coal is.

What any real scientist would have done would have been to look at other samples gathered from other sites around the world, or compared his findings with those of other researchers in other locations using different samples. He would also have taken pains to ensure his samples had not been contaminated in recent geological times with younger material.

But of course, as a Creationist, Gentry had the required result - the one he had started with - and would not have been allowed to publish these results in the normal Creationist journals had they not supported a literal interpretation of the Christian Bible, so what would have been the point of risking a lucrative book and all those guest speaker invitations on the Creationist lecture circuit by actually making sure your findings were valid?

This article by J. Richard Wakefield, entitled The Geology Of Gentry's "Tiny Mystery", originally published in 1988, comprehensively refutes Gentry's claims. Gentry has been invited to respond to these criticisms but has not yet done so.

Thomas A. Baillieul of has also published a detailed refutation of Gentry's claims in Polonium Haloes Refuted (2001, updated April 2005)

So here again we find Dr Ackerman citing a Creationist source which is not only not accepted as valid by real scientists but has been comprehensively refuted by them, yet Ackerman sees no reason to mention these serious shortcomings in his one and only source but instead presents them as established scientific facts. It's becoming quite noticeable how much Dr Ackerman relied on other Creationists for his material and how he has not seen fit to check with real science. His obvious disdain for real science and real scientists is puzzling considering his claim to be writing about science. Of course, one of the great things about being a creation 'science' writer when you have no professional scientific reputation to protect is that you don't need to worry about things like accuracy, professional integrity and objectivity. You're free to chase the money.

As I said about the previous chapter, Creationists quoting Creationists and so constructing a world with only an incidental connection with the real one.

But this is good enough for the largely ignorant and credulous market they are catering for and for whom the least of their requirements is good science, critically and objectively presented.

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Friday 20 April 2012

How Creationists Lie To Us - 12

The continuing story of the Creationist bad science book, It's A Young World After All, by assistant professor of psychology, Dr Paul D. Ackerman, PhD., who is not a scientists although he writes with the confidence of someone who thinks he is, only to prove beyond any doubt that he quite definitely isn't.

Chapter 11 - The Top That Reeled.

This is a strange chapter in which Dr Ackerman seems to have abandoned his plan to convince us that Earth is only 6000 years old and is now trying to convince us that Noah's Ark was real. He starts of with:

Biblical creationists consider the Genesis account of the flood in the time of Noah to be genuine history. According to the Genesis record, the flood was worldwide in its impact and occurred around 2200 to 2300 B.C.

Christians have traditionally pointed to the extensive sedimentary-rock layers with their numerous fossil remains as being the principal evidence for the flood. Another line of verification that has been put forward is the reports over the centuries by explorers and adventurers who claim to have sighted the remains of the great ark still at rest on Mount Ararat. The present chapter reports on some exciting discoveries by an Australian astronomer that provide new evidence for the Genesis flood.

And then he launches into a convoluted account of different pieces of creation 'science' which looks as though he's trying to convince us that Earth's axis has a wobble - something which is known about and explained by conventional science and which has nothing whatever to do with the age of Earth or the observable fact of evolution. You can read all about it here and here. It is called 'Precession'.

Ackerman seems to be trying to convince us that Earth suddenly tilted on it's axis and expects us to conclude that that must have been the biblical flood, then. However, to arrive at that conclusion he cites an Australian creationist called George Dodwell who claimed to have plotted various shadow measurements from ancient times and shown that 'the curve had a point of origin dating at about 2345 B.C.'.

Er... well yes of course it did. It also had a 'point of origin' in about 50,000 BCE, 10,000,000 BCE, 13.7 billion BCE and 1950 CE. If you plot any system known to fluctuate back to an arbitrary origin it will have that arbitrary origin.

All Dodwell showed is that he knew the traditional date given to the biblical creation by Bible literalists. Interestingly, one of the Australian creationists pushing George Dodwell's 'findings' is one Barry Setterfield whom we met in Chapter 8. He was the one who carefully selected measurements of the speed of light from history and plotted them on a curve which appeared to curve up to infinity in about 4300 BCE. Had he included the excluded measurements he would have shown that the most plausible explanation is that, whilst the speed of light has been constant, our ability to measure it accurately improved hugely between 1675 and 1960 - something we knew already, thank you very much!

So, we are dealing with a team who know well how to produce graphs and charts which meet the requirements of the creation industry and in particular the requirements of the ICR which requires its employees and those whose work it publishes, to take an annual oath to, in effect, never reach a conclusion which isn't in full accord with a literal interpretation of the Christian Bible.

The basic claim is that Dodwell obtained a list of measurements of shadow length on the winter and summer solstice carried out by astronomers as long ago as 3000 years. Quite how he obtained this list, and how he translated the different measuring systems used and assessed their accuracy, remains a mystery.

It must have presented particular difficulties because, for example, we know the Egyptians used cubits and spans based on the distance between an elbow and the finger-tips or between the fingertips of out-stretched arms, we do not know whose elbow and finger-tips and known attempts to standardise them gave different lengths at different times. Moreover, other peoples also used similar anthropometric measures, all of which were different. In England, the length of the inch, upon which all other units of length are based was defined after 1066 as "Equal to 3 barleycorn". In 1324 the legal definition of the inch was set out in a statute of Edward II of England, defining it as "three grains of barley, dry and round, placed end to end, lengthwise".

In Scotland King David I is said to have defined an inch in his Assize of Weights and Measures (c. 1150) as "the width of an average man's thumb at the base of the nail". It is not recorded how they estimated this average nor the basis used to measure the sample. Goodness only knows what we were using before then.

But I expect George Dodwell overcame all these problems. At least, Dr Ackerman doesn't seem to think it worth considering so it must have been something simple. Or maybe he didn't want us to be too concerned with mere details.

Anyway, all of that is irrelevant to the age of Earth, but Creationists seem to think it's somehow relevant to the occurrence of Noah's flood, apparently for no other reason than that you can plot a cyclical curve back to 4300 BCE.

For reasons which remain unclear, Dr Ackerman then sets out to persuade us that George Dodwell was right to ascribe this wobble in Earth's axis to an asteroid hitting the Pacific Ocean. He tries this:
A preserved mammoth from Siberia. Note the appetizing appearance of all that fresh meat. Yummy!
Among the most curious of archaeological mysteries are the vast beds of perfectly preserved fossils frozen in the northern tundras. Buried beneath the northern tundras of Siberia and Alaska lie the remains of thousands of frozen animals, including the now-extinct mammoth. In some cases the carcasses are preserved to such a degree that their flesh is still edible, usually only by bears and wolves but in a few reported instances by men. Today these northern tundras are cold and barren wastelands, but we know that in the past the climate was much warmer. Fossil evidence has been found of plants that grow today as far south as Mexico. At one time these tundras were covered with lush vegetation.

It is a mystery how so many mammoths and other animals could have been rapidly buried and preserved in cold storage, for the climate was warm at the time they were living. One such perfectly preserved carcass was found near the Beresovka River in Siberia in 1901. Well-preserved plant fragments were found in the mouth and between the teeth of the mammal, indicating the suddenness with which it met its death. Inside the mammoth's stomach, twenty-four pounds of excellently preserved vegetation was recovered. The mammoth's remarkably preserved state indicates that at the time of death there was a cataclysmic occurrence that produced both a rapid burial of the creature and a sudden and permanent drop in the temperature. Recent studies of the temperature parameters required to account for the state of preservation of the Beresovka mammoth reveal that 'the animal must have frozen to death in mid-summer by being suddenly overcome by an outside temperature below —150° F.'

His 'authority' for the Beresova River mammoth claim is... you've guessed it... a fellow Creationist, Jody Dillow, who published her 'findings' in [drum-roll, please...] The Creation Research Society Quarterly (June 1977). You may recall at this point the oath that people who publish through the Institute for Creation Research are required to take.

Not surprisingly, Dr Ackerman did not cite any genuine scientific sources and seems to imagine frozen meat is a fossil - a measure of his palaeontological knowledge and understanding.

The truth, as we've come to expect, is something completely different. In fact, frozen mammoths with soft body-parts preserved to any degree are not common; they are rare. There are no authentic records of any of them being edible. Sudden death with food in the mouth and stomach is easy to explain for a large mammal which lived in tundra where lakes and ponds froze over in winter and thawed out in summer. Mammoths falling through ice as it thinned would have been a fairly frequent occurrence. It would be surprising if we did not find these remains.

The claim that they must have gone from summer temperatures to —150° F. in half an hour to retain their fresh and edible condition is nonsense, of course. It 'solves' a non-existent problem. Ackerman's 'authority' is the same 1977 Creation Research Society Quarterly article by Jody Dillow. Again, no genuine science source is cited.

Dr Ackerman then goes on to explain how George Dodwell's hypothetical asteroid accounts for plate tectonic. No! Honestly!

When we get to the end of the chapter we discover that Dr Ackerman seems to have realised that trying to explain the well-know precessionary wobble in Earth's tilt in novel and entertaining ways and relating fanciful stories of fresh mammoth steaks in Siberia does not really prove there was once a world-wide flood. In a 2002 update he has added an equally fanciful section called 'Putting It All Together: The Great Flood' which can best be describes as speculative, though unkind people might use a different adjective. This, and the rest of the chapter, shows very nicely how Creationists use articles by other Creationists as though they are evidence, and so have built up a picture of the world in which any contact with reality is merely incidental.

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How Creationists Lie To Us - 11

Continuing my series on the Creationist book, It's a Young World After All, by assistant professor of psychology Dr Paul D. Ackerman, PhD. Having seen the previous chapter and how the entire argument in it is based on two hoaxes which could easily have been checked, you might expect a little better from Chapter 10. Alas, it was not to be so.

Chapter 10 - Forests In Stone.

This chapter was inserted in 2002 apparently, so any excuse of ignorance of science before that date can be discounted. Ackerman turns his attention to Yellowstone National Forest, an area of national parkland adjacent to Yellowstone National Park which is mostly in Wyoming, USA.

The Yellowstone area is known for it's interesting geology, being seismically active and containing one of the largest known volcanic caldera on Earth, the remains of a massive super-volcano. Not surprisingly then, much of the geology can be accounted for in terms of volcanic activity.

As Dr Ackerman puts it:

Among the amazing wonders of Yellowstone is an apparent series of 27 distinct forests entombed within the mountains. ... At numerous points in the mountainous area around Specimen Ridge, petrified trees jut up out of the ground. Embedded in the stony layers are innumerable fossilized tree trunks, many of them entombed in an upright position as though they had been buried in place as they grew.

The U.S. Park Service has adopted an evolution-based scenario for explaining the entombed trees, and this scenario is explained on tourist plaques and in information brochures found around the park area. According to this evolutionist interpretation, Specimen Ridge records events that occurred about 50 million years ago.

For 'evolution-based scenario', read 'scenario different to the Christian Bible account of Creation in Genesis'. The Darwinian Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection (TOE) has nothing whatever to say about the process of fossilisation, which lays firmly in the domain of geology, but Ackerman is showing us he realises that these fossils support the TOE by showing how old Earth really is, therefore he has to find a way to discredit the account of their formation.

Remember his words, "innumerable fossilized tree trunks, many of them entombed in an upright position as though they had been buried in place as they grew."

Here is his best effort:

The fossilized tree trunks at Specimen Ridge do not have developed root systems. Rather the roots terminate abruptly about three feet from the base of the trunk forming a root ball as is found when trees are forcibly ripped out of the ground. Also, there is little evidence of 27 fossilized forest floors with leaves and twigs, worm and insect burrows, etc. The appearance of the fossil tree trunks is consistent with having been uprooted from some other location and transported in along with the sediments that make up Specimen Ridge.

Why on Earth he would expect to see leaves, twigs and burrows under volcanic ash is not explained but there's that interesting 'absence of evidence is evidence of absence' again which, for some reason Creationists seem to think should not apply to their favourite god.

That minor point aside, however, the more revealing one is his astounding suggestion that a better way to account for these petrified trees standing upright and looking for all the world as though they were buried under a sudden out-pouring of volcanic ash, is that they were all uprooted in a cataclysmic flood and transported there in sediment to form the ridge.

Here is a picture of trees uprooted and carried away in a recent flood. See all the trees standing upright, roots downward, as though growing from a forest floor? Me neither.

So, for Ackerman's explanation to be right, all these trees would have to have been deposited upright, roots down and not forming the higgledy-piggledy jumble we see with any other flood where trees get uprooted and carried away to be deposited elsewhere.

And he presents this as serious science? Can it get any worse?

He says, without even the slightest hint of irony:

The Specimen Ridge fossilized tree trunks are reminiscent of the enigmatic polystrate fossils discussed in the previous chapter.

That would be the whale lie based on an easily discredited single account. Quite so! This feeble effort is indeed reminiscent of that laughable hoax.

Although he doesn't mention the sheer impossibility of trees being deposited in a flood all standing upright, he does seem to be aware of it, and even of the possibility of his credulous readers thinking of it all by themselves, so he tries to cover that base with this account of what happened after the Mount St Helens eruption, and promptly shoots himself in the foot:

Spirit Lake clogged with tree debris following the last eruption of Mount St Helens
After the eruption the surface of Spirit Lake, located about 3 miles north of the volcano, was covered with a two-square-mile floating carpet of uprooted trees. In the years following the eruption, research on these floating trees helped unlock the mystery of Specimen Ridge.

Over time, the floating trees become waterlogged and sink to the lake bottom. The surprising discovery was the way in which many of the logs sank. At first, all the logs were floating in the expected prone position. However, as they became saturated, some absorbed water more quickly into the root portion making it heavier such that they rotated into an upright floating position. Then, with further saturation, these trees would sink to the bottom and “plant” themselves into the soft lake sediment. New sediments washing in with each rain would bury the upright trees ever more deeply into the lake bottom. Trees that would sink at a later time would be buried higher in the sediment as though comprising a later forest. Though occurring on a much smaller scale, these observations are suggestive of what is observed at Specimen Ridge. Sonar readings and other data gathered by scuba divers revealed that 20 to 40 thousand upright trunks were planted at the bottom of Spirit Lake by 1985. Scientists estimate that at least ten percent of the tree trunks at the bottom of Spirit Lake have been deposited in the upright position.

Eureka! The only slight problem though is that the petrified trees on Specimen Ridge are not embedded in the alluvial deposits of a lake bed; they are embedded in volcanic ash.

But even if it could be shown that the petrified trees ended up in a lake which was then showered in volcanic ash, it doesn't solve his problem. He still needs to account for the evidence that this occurred 27 times about 50 million years ago and was not all the result of one flood a few thousand years ago. Although he could have solved one of the mysteries of Specimen Ridge - why weren't the trees destroyed by hot volcanic ash? However, he still needs to explain how the rest of the debris - the branches, the broken trunks, etc, just spirited away to leave just the trunks and roots and the volcanic ash...

Nice one, Dr Ackerman. It's beginning to look more and more as though it's an old world after all. Perhaps just a little more joined-up thinking next time, or is that too close to real science for comfort?

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Thursday 19 April 2012

How Creationists Lie To Us - 10

This is the ninth in the series looking at the creationist book, It's A Young World After All, by creationist assistant professor of psychology, Dr Paul D. Ackerman, PhD. As readers of my earlier blogs will know, Dr Ackerman writes about science; a subject about which he seems to be singularly unqualified to write. Consequently his book is littered with school-boy howlers, bad science and falsehoods which he could easily have checked but apparently did not think fit to do so. He also shows a remarkable propensity to be taken in by obvious deceptions. Chapter 9 is no exception.

Chapter 9 - Back Down To Earth.

This chapter starts off badly and just gets worse. By the end of it you are left wondering if there is anything Dr Paul D. Ackerman, PhD., won't believe if it supports his creationist agenda. There is no evidence whatsoever of any critical thinking. The bait is just swallowed and regurgitated as 'science' to be served up to his credulous readership who seem to buy this stuff under the mistaken impression that it is science written by a scientist.

Take this:

The Problems with Radioactive Clocks

As was seen in the previous chapter, however, the startling discovery that the speed of light has been slowing down through history changes the whole picture regarding radioactive clocks. It can now be seen that they do not indicate vast ages as formerly thought, since—as physicists well know— the speed at which a radioactive decay clock runs is directly related to the speed at which light travels.

Er... except that the 'startling discovery that the speed of light has been slowing down' was a piece of creationist nonsense as we saw in Chapter 8 and which any real physicist would have seen through in an instant. So, this plank of the edifice Ackerman is trying to erect has no support.

Having blundered into the trap of using bad science to build yet more bad science, Dr Ackerman turns his attention to a curious tale from California. He calls it A Whale On Its Tail.

Briefly, he tells the story of the fossilised skeleton of a baleen whale being found standing on its tail in a sedimentary deposit in a quarry in Lompoc, California and says that this could only happen if the sediment and the whale had all been deposited quickly in a catastrophic event like a flood.

Here is a picture of what Dr Ackerman seems to think the skeleton of such a baleen whale would look like in a quarry. Note the depth of his knowledge of the process of fossilisation and of baleen whale anatomy. (Don't laugh. It's not nice!)

Yes, indeed. Such a find would indeed be a problem for geologists because it is difficult to imagine how else a whale could stand on it's tail for the thousands or millions of years it would take for the sediment to build up around them although Dr Ackerman seems to have over-looked the little fact that catastrophic floods do occur frequently in coastal areas; they're called tsunami.

But there is an even bigger problem with this story - it is not true. In fact, it's a lie.

Here is how deals with it:

Had anybody taken the time and trouble to check the facts, they would have found that the story by Russel (1976) took some liberty with the facts and lacked very important information. First, the skeleton was not found in a vertical position, but was lying at an angle 50 to 40 degrees from horizontal. Finally, although at this angle, the whale skeleton lay parallel to the bedding of strata which at one time was the sea floor on which the dead whale fell after its death. These facts were confirmed by inquiring with the people at the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History who excavated the whale. Although nothing had been published on the whale, Russel (1976) clearly identified the staff who excavated the skeleton and they could have been easily called at the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History in Los Angeles, California.

The strata containing the whale consists of diatomites that accumulated within deep bays and basins that lay along the Pacific coastline during Miocene times. As a result of folding and tectonics associated with the formation of the Transverse Ranges, the strata containing the enclosed skeleton has been tilted into a less-than vertical position. These sediments lack any sedimentary structures that would indicate catastrophic deposition. Rather, the strata exhibit laminations indicative of slow accumulation on an anoxic bay bottom. Within the adjacent strata, several hardgrounds occurs. A hardground is a distinctive cemented layer of sedimentary rock that forms when the lack of sediments being deposited over a very long period of time on the sea bottom allows the surface sediments to become cemented (Isaac 1981, Garrison and Foellmi 1988). In fact, identical sediments are currently accumulating without the involvement of a Noachian-like flood within parts of the Gulf of California (Curray et al. 1992; Schrader et al. 1982).

Furthermore, a partially buried, articulated whale skeleton slowly being covered by sedimentation in the deep ocean off the coast of California was observed by oceanographers diving in submersibles. It is an excellent modern analogue of how this particular whale fossil was created without the need of a Noachian Flood (Allison et al. 1990; Smith et al. 1989).

The geology of these quarries is documented by publications of the California Division of Mines and Geology (Dibblee 1950, 1982) United States Geological Survey geological maps (Dibblee, 1988a, 1988b), graduate students at University of California, Los Angeles (Grivetti 1982), and field trip guidebooks (Isaacs 1981). The other whale skeletons which have been found in these quarries lie parallel to the bedding and owe their modern attitude to tectonics rather then some mythical catastrophe. The written documentation for the attitude of the whale skeletons is contained within field notes and locality records of the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History in Los Angeles, California.

As Darby South of says:

It appears the creationists repeating this whale-of-a-tale, (including the editors of Creation Ex Nihilo) either failed to check their facts or didn't want a good story to be ruined by the facts. In either case, none of these people apparently took the time and trouble to find out what the facts were before putting pen to paper. What they claim to be God's truth is nothing more than an urban folktale used to validate personal religious beliefs.

What was found to be most disturbing was the tendency for creationists to deliberately omit specific locational data and references. Thus, they made it as difficult as possible for a person to independently confirm the data on which they offered as proof of a Biblical world-wide flood. As a result, only someone who had come across Corliss (1980) and Mr. Ginenthal's article could track down Russel (1976) and by comparing descriptions of this fossil whale to Anonymous (1988) and other places where it was used evidence by creationists determine the source of the claims about a 80-ft fossil whale having been found in California buried in a vertical position. It almost seems that the people making the claims about this whale being evidence for a catastrophic or Noachian Flood wanted the reader take their claims taken as a matter of faith as being true and make it impossible for anybody to check the veracity of the story. This is propaganda, not science in the form of paragraph- to page-size versions of media sound-bites.

Curious indeed that creationists should be so coy about this astounding piece of evidence for creationism. You would have thought they would have been advertising it world-wide and arranging for millions of visitors to come and see their evidence.

I think that just about says everything that needs to be said about this chapter. Let's hope subsequent chapters are not quite so obviously scraping the bottom of the barrel to find something to fill the pages as was this sorry effort.

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