Why I'm Bored Of Talking To Creationists
    By Oliver Knevitt | May 29th 2012 05:29 PM | 137 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Oliver

    In a nutshell: I like fossils. But even more than than that, I like arguments about fossils. Which is why my current occupation as a PhD researcher...

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    I forgot my phone charger for the conference I went to last week.

    If this was just a year ago then I would barely have noticed. Mostly because my trusty old Nokia that I had then would have lasted long enough (I mean, the conference was only 2 friggin days long), but also because now, I rely on my phone for everything. Not just making phone calls (which I routinely forget it can do) but reading feeds, checking Twitter, facebook, but most importantly, checking my email.

    Well, the upshot of this was that when I finally turned my phone on after being bereft of it for a sunny couple of days, I was presented with a glut of emails saying that people had been commenting on my blog.

    In most circumstances, of course, I would be chuffed to bits, having an article that attracts interest; as would any blogger. However, when I actually read the notifications to say which article someone has commented on, I ignore, delete, and move on.

    This is because, it has to be said that, over a year later, I have little interest in what is going on in that article now.

    You see, every 3 or 4 months, this article reanimates from the dead, with an almighty moan. My policy in the early days was to whack at this zombie article, hard, with a metaphorical spade. Since then, however, I've instead taken a different tactic. Namely, ignore it; leave it alone to die again, on its own, through starvation.

    Here's how it happened, then. The article in question was on the fallacy of missing links, and specifically why it irritates me when creationists bandy on about them all the time. I started writing it after a particular creationist started posting comments on one of my other posts, more as a reply to one of his comments. It grew from there.

    At first, when it first started attracting comments, it was rather enjoyable. I was fairly new to blogging at the time, and so it was fun getting all of this interest. Something that I didn't expect was the positive feedback that I got, particularly from people that explained that they were formerly undecided about evolution but my article had tipped them over to accepting it. Such as this chap,

    Thank you for writing your article about the 'missing links fallacy' . I am one of the aforementioned people who is on the line between creationism and evolution. I grew up in a household which was not religious, and as such I always believed in evolution, as it was based in science and seemed pretty reasonable. But, the last couple of years I've seen different documentaries, and read some articles, with convincing arguments advocating creationism.

    OK, so, so far so good. After a bit, though, the whole thing started turning a bit sour for me. I think it's when the die hard creationist showed up; the one that I was originally addressing with the post in the first place. In the end, he ended up rather stealing the show, and rather monopolized what was originally a rather civilized discussion.

    So, really, it's partly my fault. My policy since then has been to simply delete creationist comments, of which I've attracted a few since that article. But, at the time, it hardly felt fair to write an article specifically in reply to a creationist and addressing creationism, and them bar them from actually commenting.

    For for whatever reason, though, the article has left one major legacy for me, and it is this:

    Dealing with creationists is really, unbelievably mindnumbingly boring. It is simply tedious.

    And that's why I haven't really been bothered with it since, nor can I imagine myself returning to it ever again. Except with this post of course.

    Many people have sent me emails asking me to write more articles talking to creationists, so every time this article rears it's ugly head I think about writing an article like this to explain why I'm not interested. Then, though, like most of my articles of late it has to be said, I find myself being rather too busy and dropping it.

    So anyway, here goes. This is why talking to creationists is boring, and why the whole thing hasn't interested me since:

    1. They don't friggin' listen

    Most of the time this is the most frustrating thing. It's very difficult to engage in what would be termed "conversation" with creationists. All they really want to do is simply chip in with their point, and then add other point if anybody seems to have listened. They are only really interested in seeing someone reply to their comment purely because it is a guarantee that somebody has actually read it. They'll then reply with something unrelated to what you originally said.

    Most of the comments I delete these days seem to be from people cruising around and dropping some remark like this.

    2. They can be spectacularly rude

    Don't be fooled. No matter how civil they may start off appearing, sooner or later they will think that they have seen a chink in your armour and go in for the kill.

    I'm a nice person, OK? I wouldn't speak to anyone the way some creationists can attack the authors. I'm pretty sure they wouldn't in real life either. Though this probably has more to do with the internet than creationism anyway.

    3. They don't think for themselves

    One of the things that I love about blogging (and something that I have most missed since I began neglecting it a couple of months ago) is people commenting with interesting ideas or thoughts. No matter how well you know a subject, somebody can comment with a completely new insight that you'd never even thought about before. This can be - and in fact is usually - from someone that has no expertise in the subject.

    Whereas creationist comments - oh boy. The same, tired old arguments are hauled up again, and again. Each one has been tirelessly debunked over and over again, yet still, they are presented like we've never heard them before.

    What do they expect? "What's that you're saying? It violates the second law of thermodynamics? Oh, no, dammit, you're right! I'd never even thought about that, but now that I do, I see that it undermines everything that has happened in biology for the past hundred years or so!"

    Seriously, if there's one comment that grates more than anything else it's that. Mostly because they have no idea what it even means themselves. It just sounds clever. To them.

    4. Most "conversations" are simply a desperate grab to be the last word

    I felt tempted to just not give them the oxygen of publicity. The problem is that, leave it too long and they feel like they have scored a mini, rather petty victory. Usually, of course, their stamina is better than mine and I give in.

    We go from this,

    Thank you for your response in this forum. I apologize for taking so long to respond, however my last time posting I experienced some difficulty in getting my post to appear, and I made a note to come back later.
    Please understand that all of my responses are intended to be respectful and honest.

    to this,

    This serves as a perfect example of the fact that evolutionists cannot ever win a debate.

    Oliver has left the premises. After " telling a story " of why transitional fossils don't exist ( natural processess destroy only transitional fossils and don't affect any other types of fossils) and presenting claims which have subsequently been shown to be false, he disappears when confronted with the massive, numerous, and obvious problems with the evolutionary " storyline".

    Please. The last word is not an indication of who is the victor, like Russel Crowe at the end of Gladiator. There is nothing big about keeping an argument going.

    This is why I think that real life debates ultimately aren't very productive either. Like it or not, creationist debaters are well rehearsed and know very well not to get trapped into a logical discussion. Instead, they will be based on firmly ideological and populist notions; much more crowd pleasing strategies. There are few of us that can battle this well.

    After all, evolution is complex. Many people will disagree with me on this one, but I think a lot of people underestimate creationism and creationists. They underestimate actually how difficult and almost intractable the problem is. It's very difficult to convert someone on logic alone.

    5. You will never, ever, not ever, convert a died-in-the-wool creationist

    You are not going to convert a creationist. It's just not going to happen.

    Most creationists are so wrapped up in their own assertions that the mental re-wiring required to abandon the mindset is just impossible.

    As they say, if all you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail, and most creationists will blithely hammer away at even the most incontravertible facts. Most creationists have probably always thought like that, and probably always will.

    Yeugh. See? This is not enjoyable for me. I'm already feeling really worked up.

    And here's the real problem. I get it. I get that there's vast swathes of the US population - not to mention a sizable number in the UK - that are consigned to scientific illiteracy by rejecting one of the most important tenets of science itself.

    These people are lost to us. But, more importantly who knows what else they have lost out on. Because to me, the story of our creation through billions of years of organic evolution is so intoxicating, it makes me shudder to think that, some poor people are being misled into thinking it's not true.

    Russell Garwood has just written a piece for Nature saying that we should take up the fight with creationists. He argues that it's important because we need to present a united front and not allow them any ammunition. Of course, I agree with this, and so, particularly because I blog here at Science 2.0, much more of an outreach base; I feel a tad guilty.

    As if that wasn't enough, though, do you want to know the real reason why I feel a bit guilty for not writing more things to address creationists?

    Because of the simple fact that I know for each shouty, annoying creationist that hogs comment threads, there are many, many more people - a silent majority in fact - that are reading, and not commenting.

    Of these people, I'll bet that there are a sizable number that are undecided about evolution. They simply don't know what to make of things. [This next bit originally appeared unquoted; apologies for any confusion]

    And the point of this post is to tell you to keep writing articles like this, because even though I do believe in a higher power out there, I have an open mind, as I'm sure at least some of your more spiritual readers do. You've put me on the side of evolution, where before I was 'teetering' between. Of course I still have a lot more research that I want to do, because I want to understand evolution thoroughly.

    And it's these people that really we should be reaching out to connect with. These are the people sitting on the sidelines while we battle it on out, intrigued to see who the victor is. The more we appear like we just don't give a toss about creationists, the more they'll feel like the just don't give a toss about us.

    So there you have it. I know I should write articles to creationists. I know it's good for me, it's good for science, it's good for the public - jeez, it's good for the whole blimming world. It's just that it's not enjoyable. I don't have that much time to blog, as evidenced from my recent posting history, and when I do sit down to write something, it's not something I really want to deal with the aftermath of. I don't even really enjoy pointing out bad science papers. Not because there are people that do it much better than me, which there are, but because, in general, it's not fun saying to a whole group of people that they're wrong. Even if they are. In a big way.

    All in all, though, I guess it's a bit like teeth pulled out. It's going to hurt in the short run. But it'll save a lot of hurt in the long run.


    Thor Russell
    I think you are right that conversations with people who are so set in their beliefs are a waste of time. There are always ways to rationalize and twist things. If I say anything its "look at the milky way, those stars are tens of thousands of light years away yet the universe was only created 6 thousand years ago, explain?" Then take some amusement from the gymnastics that result.
    Learning evolutionary principles at a young age is probably the best bet. It doesn't necessarily have to be to do with fossils or even biology.
    Thor Russell
    Hey Thor:

    The 6K age solution is based on the same reason that the universe is wider in light years than it is old. Expansion. No mental gymnastics needed. In case you are wondering, I am a firm creationist, a PhD in chemistry and a tenured university professor. People who are set in their beliefs? That would equally encompass the evolution camp. Except evolutionists resist in spite of the evidence while creationists resist because of the evidence.

    Ed Neeland

    Gerhard Adam
    So, it really is true that even scientists outside their fields can be as ignorant and gullible as the next guy.  Thanks for demonstrating that even PhD's aren't immune from being silly.

    BTW [you can correct me if these links are wrong]

    From the "good doctor":

    Yep ... PhD or not, you're definitely a whackadoodle.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hey Gerhard, you forgot one:

    CREATION 101 with Dr. Ed Neeland


    Maybe I'll pen my own article: "Why I'm Bored Of Talking To Evolutionists", for it doesn't take very long for many of them to start in with the name calling and personal attacks.

    On the PBS documentary In the Beginning: The Creationist Controversy, Phillip Johnson commented: "Darwinian theory is the creation myth of our culture. It’s the officially sponsored, government financed creation myth that the public is supposed to believe in, and that creates the evolutionary scientists as the priesthood…So we have the priesthood of naturalism, which has great cultural authority, and of course has to protect its mystery that gives it that authority. That’s why they’re so vicious towards critics."

    Gerhard Adam
    Maybe I'll pen my own article: "Why I'm Bored Of Talking To Evolutionists"...
    LOL ... that's a good one.  Even in that regard you can't come up with anything original.

    Well, at least with your last link, you and Dr. Neeland are unabashedly demonstrating that your sole aim is religious teaching.  There isn't even the slightest pretense of science in any of this.

    So while biologists are studying lifeforms in an effort to gain a better understanding to deal with diseases, agriculture, species preservation, and a variety of other issues, you lot feel content to waste everyone's time contributing NOTHING except religious preaching.

    What I don't understand is why you folks feel so compelled to lie at every turn?  If you want to preach religion then why pretend that Intelligent Design isn't about God?  Why pretend that you're skeptical about a scientific theory, when you never bothered to study the scientific theory?  Why pretend to be interested in science, when you're accepting the Bible as a literal truth?

    There are many people that believe such things, but they don't feel the need to lie about it, or hide their true beliefs and objectives.  In my view, this simply illustrates that you know that what you're doing is fundamentally wrong and dishonest, but you prefer the subterfuge.  It makes me wonder why you feel so ashamed of your religious belief that you have to lie to try and obtain legitimacy from scientists for it.
    Mundus vult decipi
    What lies have I told?

    Gerhard Adam
    Virtually everything you've posted.  Why not come right out and say you don't accept evolution because you believe in the literal truth of the Bible.  You don't accept science, because you accept the religious teaching as truth.  That, at least, would be honest.

    Instead you have to slink around the edges of the discussion, pretending to be interested in the science, before you finally drag out your agenda.  Do you think this is the first time we've heard this kind of argument?  Do you really think that your links have never been seen before?  They're expressing the same dishonesty, because they refuse to acknowledge their religious origins and instead want to pretend to parity with science.  That is a lie and it will always be a lie.

    Why not admit it's about religion and not science?  After all, it should be pretty obvious that there is no research taking place among the IDers or creationists.  The only type of "research" they lay claim to is in trying to argue against the tenets of evolution.  In short, they are simply pursuing the path of scientific destruction.  They've never researched or developed a single idea beyond that which attempts to advance their own religious agenda.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Actually, you are assuming a fact not in evidence, and that is that religion and science are not compatible. IF, and I know that you cannot see the value of the thought, IF God DID create the world, then His report on the subject just might be valid. You have, like Leowantin, made an a priori decision to reject any possibility of God, therefore you are forced by your artificial circumscribing of science with a "no miracles" restriction, to deny anything non-material. Everything you see in science is forced into your paradigm of evolution whether it fits or not. And the Big Bang, abiogenesis, etc., is stated by many atheistic evolutionists to be a "miracle".

    I'm presuming my other posts are deleted - but you still need to look at the numbers of well qualified biologists (and others) who have deserted the evolutionist ranks in favor of science. Biology text book writers, researchers, and professors that have all in some measure rejected the theory after having been slavish in their devotion to it.

    That is something you cannot explain easily!

    Gerhard Adam
    Actually you are the one that is hopelessly confused.  If God DID create the world, then there is absolutely no evidence that he did so in a way that is inconsistent with scientific principles and discoveries.  Therefore the reasonable explanation would be that science is the best vehicle for discovering God's creation.

    Instead, you and other creationists turn the concept on its head and deny that any knowledge is possible. 
    Biology text book writers, researchers, and professors that have all in some measure rejected the theory after having been slavish in their devotion to it.
    OK, let me say this slowly for the cheap seats.  I DON'T CARE!  NOT ONE LITTLE BIT.

    Unless and until they have an alternative theory that doesn't depend on magic and fairy tales, their opinions are worthless and I couldn't care less what they think or what their rationalization is for their beliefs.  They simply aren't relevant.

    Stop with the "arguments from authority".  If you aren't willing to accept the arguments for evolution from authorities, then stop dragging out the nitwits that have "abandoned" it, as counter-evidence. 

    Evidence ... that's what it takes.  Not your religious opinions, nor those of people that simply are clueless.  Without evidence, you're just another nutcase baying at the moon.
    Mundus vult decipi
    You and I agree completely that it is the evidence that is crucial. But the evidence is only as valid as the presuppositions behind it.

    You have absolutely NO evidence for abiogenesis, yet by faith you believe it happened. NO evidence. Every experiment attempting to imitate the supposed conditions on earth "in the beginning" (which is an assumption itself) have failed to create even a semblance of life, even allowing for the addition of intelligence to the mix. And the assumptions of a reducing atmosphere that MIGHT allow aminos to form in prehistory is itself now being attacked by mainstream science in popular publications. One more evolutionist "fact" going the way of Piltdown man.

    You have no evidence for transitional life forms - those must be taken on faith. The very thought that one life form can become another is faith, for their is no empirical evidence for it. As Gould and others have stated, species show up fully formed and stay that way. That's the evidence.

    I remember being bitterly mocked for my skepticism of "Pakicetus". It was a "fact" of evolution that this was an undeniable intermediary, and I was a fool to retain my creationist position in the face of such evidence. But of course, as you probably know, a more complete skeleton was found than the original ear pieces and some jawbone, and Pakicetus was truly a lot more like a giant rat then a whale. Another "fact" of evolution silently slides off the "evidence" table hoping no one notices. That has been my experience with evolution, and a big reason why I no longer believe the fairy tale.

    Faith can create the neatest drawings. So why were so many of the pillars of evolution - those "facts" that got evolution from one crisis to another - deliberate frauds? Could the theory not stand without them?

    You have no empirical evidence for the big bang, but by faith you accept it. You believe it because it is a philosophical necessity for your faith in evolution to continue.

    You believe that present physical laws were also operating in the same way in history - that is an assumption.

    You believe that science can be explained apart from God, that is an assumption.

    "Unless and until they have an alternative theory that doesn't depend on magic and fairy tales . . ." They have an alternative theory that better fits the observed evidence, you just refuse to allow it. That's not science.

    There is no more magic dust in the creation theory than in the evolutionary theory. Its amazing that you cannot see that. Your exclusion of any theory that involves God is just unreasoned. From a random explosion to man is no more scientific than God made it, and YOU still have to deal with a first cause and all the steps in between.

    It all depends upon your assumptions. And that's not science.

    Gerhard Adam
    You believe that science can be explained apart from God, that is an assumption.
    No, that is decidedly scientific.  Since God is presumably NOT subject to the laws of science, then he cannot be the object of scientific inquiry.  Therefore, anything that would lead to the conclusion of divine intervention is beyond scientific inquiry.

    The fact that you seem to ignore that little tidbit, indicates that you don't understand science.  In addition, it's disingenuous since you aren't prepared to place anything to do with God or divinity on a logic inquiry, nor do you feel compelled to offer evidence of existence.  You simply assume it to be true as an article of faith and proceed from there.

    So, you can claim that science is based on faith all you like, but it's rubbish and you know it.   Yours is the faith-based belief system, and no amount of feigned skepticism is going to change that.

    BTW ... to others following this discussion, it should begin to be clear that the logical conclusion of this "skepticism" is ultimately the rejection of ALL science.  In the end, it reverts to a purely religious position where no alternative view can be tolerated because it violates the basic tenets of biblical teaching.  Note how we've now gone from evolution to the universe and ultimately all the known laws of physics.  The assertion that even the scientific laws working the way they do is an assumption is simply laying the groundwork for the claim that no scientific laws exist and everything is ultimately based on faith.  It's the ultimate rejection of all science.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hey Gerhard

    Given your bias [naturalism] I'm guessing you'd probably say Cornell University's Dr. John Sanford, pioneer of plant genetic engineering and inventor of the gene gun, is a "whackadoodle" as well.

    Sanford writes in "Genetic Entropy & the Mystery of the Genome": "Bergman (2004) has studied the topic of beneficial mutations. Among other things, he did a simple literature search via Biological Abstracts and Medline. He found 453,732 'mutation' hits, but among these only 186 mentioned the word 'beneficial' (about 4 in 10,000). When those 186 references were reviewed, almost all the presumed 'beneficial mutations' were only beneficial in a very narrow sense--but each mutation consistently involved loss of function changes--hence loss of information. While it is almost universally accepted that beneficial (information creating) mutations must occur, this belief seems to be based upon uncritical acceptance of RM/NS, rather than upon any actual evidence. I do not doubt there are beneficial mutations as evidenced by rapid adaptation yet I contest the fact that they build meaningful information in the genome instead of degrade preexisting information in the genome." (pp. 26-27)

    Gerhard Adam
    Yep ... he certainly is.

    From his Wikipedia write-up ... this is sufficient.
    Formerly an atheist since the mid-1980s, Sanford has looked into theistic evolution (1985–late 1990s), old Earth creation (late 1990s), and young Earth creation (2000–present). According to his own words, he did not fully reject Darwinian evolution until the year 2000. An advocate of intelligent design, in 2005 Sanford testified in the Kansas evolution hearings on behalf of intelligent design, during which he denied the principle of common descent and "humbly offered... that we were created by a special creation, by God."
    The guy clearly has no concept of anything scientific, so I don't really give a damn what his opinion about genetic entropy is.  He's a classic example of someone that thinks that conflating their personal philosophical or spiritual quest with science does anything except reduce them to mind-numbingly boring idiots.

    BTW ... word of advice.  Don't come onto a scientific site ranting about how "evolutionists" are conspiring to hide the truth, and then advance these stupid arguments from authority.  If you don't want to accept evolution from PhD's, then don't drag out your idiot PhD's as contrary-evidence.

    It's like Dr. Neeland's presentation where he bases his argument on the idea that 15% of professors don't accept evolution [of course he's disingenuous since he never indicates what their areas of specialty are], but instead he misleads by wanting to argue that because 15% is a large number in his mind, then it negates anything the experts have to say.  Another dishonest smoke and mirrors ploy.
    Mundus vult decipi
    John Sanford is a pioneer of plant genetic engineering and inventor of the gene gun. That you would say Sanford "clearly has no concept of anything scientific" is hilarious!

    Gerhard Adam
    Nope ... it's an assessment of his "scientific" [or lack thereof] position.  Doesn't much matter what he's done in the past.

    Unlike you, I'm not enthralled with arguments from authority.
    Mundus vult decipi

    Thanks! I've never been called a whackadoodle before. I'll add it to the list of names for people who have introduced new ideas that went against the mainstream. Like Marshal/Warren who claimed that ulcers were caused by H pylori and unanimously ridiculed by the medical community until they were shown to be correct or the 17th C peasants who ran to the Royal Academy of Sciences screaming that the sky was falling. Not one scientist went to investigate and so they missed a rare chance of investigating a meteor shower. Or how about the chemist who proposed the benzyne intermediate, was thoroughly disbelieved by the academic community until proven correct. I could go on. Seems like the world is unequally divided into those who interpret the evidence and take an unpopular stand and those who are content to go with the crowd. Am I a creationist for "religious reasons"? Nope. But the "religious" origin account makes a whole lot more sense than the evolution story we currently teach our students.

    Alas, it has been my experience that very few evolutionists are actually open to new ideas. I tried but have failed. I bid you all a happy and productive life.


    Gerhard Adam
    Ah yes ... the infamous Galileo argument.  Trust me ... you're not in that class.
    Mundus vult decipi
    You see the same kind of people defending alternative medicine and 9-11 truthers. What I find interesting is people with schizophrenia have fixed beliefs that are immune to reason, which can lead to cult followings. There are psychological process involved in religion that we don't really understand.

    Gerhard Adam
    I'm not fully convinced that creationism has that much to do with religion.  On the surface it would appear so, but there are far too many religious people that don't have any problem with evolution and science for that to be the only explanation.

    I expect that there are other anti-scientific sentiments at work here, and religion simply provides a convenient excuse for their persistence.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Oliver Knevitt
    This is exactly the problem. Creationism has little to do with religion and much more to do with culture. It's part of a culture that associates modern scientists and evolutionists as part of an elite group that are intent on destroying religion. And it has to be said that a lot of prominent atheist scientists actually are. The real way to tackle the problem is to shake off this notion that evolutionism is tantamount to atheism. That way people won't feel so threatened by it. 
    If you wonder why creationists sometimes get their hackles up, you have just provided a great example. Your generalization is a great example of a strawman - and totally unlike the mainstream of creationism. There may be intersecting groups of 911 Truthers of creationists, but by far the majority, including Michael Moore and his minions, are evolutionists. And I have never met a 911 Truther who was a creationist.

    We have a large chain of health food stores in my area who support alternative medicine, and their corporate philosophy seems to be Buddhist, and evolutionist. Again there may be some overlap, but you cannot statistically state that it is a phenomenon of creationism.

    Your assumption that religion is a psychological condition seems a bit strained. Many creationists are leaders in their fields. Dr John Sanford, for example, invented the Gene Gun and has written what may be the definitive book on genetic entropy. I have had supper with him, and he's certainly a very normal individual.

    There are also processes in the anti-religious mind that WE don't truly understand. How can so much vitriol be focused on one group just because they interpret inconclusive observations differently than you do? For their creationist interpretations, creationists have been denied the Nobel Prize, been refused graduation, tenure and employment (see Slaughter of the Dissidents) and been refused even the courtesy of a published rebuttal in scientific journals.

    And what is the basis for this animosity? We do not accept your interpretations of events that happened so long ago that it is impossible to do any scientific factual evaluation on them - we cannot repeat, measure or observe them, and therefore must use indirect methods to arrive at conclusions. Both creationists and evolutionists therefore have assumptions as a basis, not facts. We just happen not to accept your seven assumptions as reliable, or even plausable.

    In fact, many of the sciences are founded on the work of the creationists you disparage. Newton's 300 year old riddle was just solved last week - a riddle thought up by an extraordinary mind. And a mind that spent far more time writing hymns than doing science. He would be barred from a Nobel prize today for that.

    I was an evolutionist. I found it impossible to keep up with the revolving door of unfounded speculation that makes up the bulk of evolutionary evidence. Like Gould and Patterson, I see no actual evidence of any transitional fossils. Those that were evolutionary pillars have all gone into oblivion - the land of embarrassing mistakes you would rather not have anyone remember.

    If you wonder why creationists sometimes get their hackles up, you have just provided a great example. 
    I wish creationists would get their hackles up and stomp off in a huff never to return!

    Just in case you are wondering, I am a committed Christian and all my Christian life (I was an adult convert) my "witness" has been plagued by the fact that other Christians, many of whom are good friends of mine and in every other respect seem to be as sane as anyone else (and a lot saner than the average contributor to Science20), lose it completely over creationism. Of course traditional churchianity remains fairly aloof to the creationism issue but the fact remains that fundamentalist groups, aided and abetted by the likes of Andrew McIntosh (yes there's a mistake in the article), have attempted to infiltrate education in both the US and the UK, ramming their religious nonsense down vulnerable kids' throats and annoying the hell out of educationalists, Christian, atheist, Muslim and anything else alike. This is the main reason we have seen such a backlash against Christianity led by people like Richard Dawkins. Well done thou good and faithful servants.

    Now I appreciate that you have deliberately widened the scope of "creationism" to include all sorts of religious positions not just fundie xians. Good move! It means that creationism is not confined to Biblical literalists, therefore it has merits of its own, right?  Yup, we heard this when xian creationists rebranded their Watchmaker Argument as Intelligent Design. Let me make one thing quite clear - if a load of religions want to believe that the Creator suspended the Laws of His own creation to poke around in the mud and make new species instead of letting His creation do it naturally, nobody here would have a problem - they might be a tad puzzled as to why anyone should have such an odd belief but no more than that. It is the fact that this, a science site, is regularly invaded by banner-waving fundamentalist troublemakers that gets us annoyed. They appear to have read the same books - all five are available from any good xian bookshop and the price is deductable from your tithe.
    As one contributor here recently pointed out: there are genuine scientists on this site; people who take pot-shots at "evolution" are just making themselves look foolish. The height of arrogance is unbelievable - that someone who has read a couple of paperbacks and listened to a crazy preacher should know more about a subject than people who have studied it for years - how mad is that? Or that tedious repetition of the same old cliches should come as something new and paradigm-breaking to experts in the field? Do me a favour!
    Now as to this thread, it is, as so many are here, dominated by our very own Saint Gerhard, he of the Big White Hat. Whether you agree with him or not, one thing is certain, you will die of exhaustion before he gives up. It is like playing table tennis against a stone-waller. The solution is simple, stop responding to him.  Take your victory away to whatever Fundy School you go to and tell your friends that you have defeated some of the best scientists in the world. Tell them about the latecomer to the debate (that's me) who refused to comment on any of the important issues and just mocked the Holy Truth. Do whatever you like but, please, do it somewhere else. 
    Disclaimer. These comments may not reflect the views of the site owner, blogger, nor any other contributor to Science20. In fact they may not reflect mine. If you have read through the comment you have just wasted your time, rather as the creationist pests waste everyone else's time with their own vacuous verbiage.

    There is tea and biscuits available by the desk on the way out and a box for donations. Goodbye.
    Your claim of being a Christian is interesting, especially in the light of Jesus teaching that Adam and Eve were created in the Beginning, and many similar thoughts found throughout the Bible. Maybe your Bible is different than mine - just a guess! The other thought is that God really had nothing to do with the Bible, and its just the rantings of a few horny goat-ropers. When you get to heaven you can tell God what edits you think he should have made in His report on His creation!

    I suppose all those former evolutionists who have been deep in biology their entire lives suddenly went from being rational to wackadoodles?

    I suppose Dr. Sanford isn't a genuine scientist, what with all his patents and inventions etc. Last summer I attended the Creation Superconference with some 20 odd scientists speaking - one I think had 8 degrees. Almost were former evolutionists convinced BY THE EVIDENCE.

    Science has never gotten anywhere when it was intransigent. It was those pesky creationists after who founded most of these disciplines in science, but again, I guess the are all wackadoodles. Like the guy who invented MRI, he mumbles as he leaves . . .

    Your logic smacks more of circle the wagons than reason from facts.

    And the one with the Hat seems to also control the delete button.

    Gerhard Adam I think had 8 degrees...
    Strong evidence that advanced degrees are not an inoculation against stupidity.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Your claim of being a Christian is interesting, especially in the light of Jesus teaching that Adam and Eve were created in the Beginning, and many similar thoughts found throughout the Bible. Maybe your Bible is different than mine - just a guess! The other thought is that God really had nothing to do with the Bible, and its just the rantings of a few horny goat-ropers. When you get to heaven you can tell God what edits you think he should have made in His report on His creation!
    I suppose all those former evolutionists who have been deep in biology their entire lives suddenly went from being rational to wackadoodles?
    I suppose Dr. Sanford isn't a genuine scientist, what with all his patents and inventions etc. Last summer I attended the Creation Superconference with some 20 odd scientists speaking - one I think had 8 degrees. Almost were former evolutionists convinced BY THE EVIDENCE.
    Science has never gotten anywhere when it was intransigent. It was those pesky creationists after who founded most of these disciplines in science, but again, I guess the are all wackadoodles. Like the guy who invented MRI, he mumbles as he leaves . . .
    Your logic smacks more of circle the wagons than reason from facts.
    And the one with the Hat seems to also control the delete button.
    Would you like another biscuit?  
    "all five are available from any good xian bookshop and the price is deductable from your tithe." This statement of course, is untrue! It seems mocking creationists with false statements is in vogue! Sry for being nitpicky but this site is supposedly about evidence!

    Gerhard Adam
    Sry for being nitpicky but this site is supposedly about evidence!
    Now THAT's funny coming from you.
    Mundus vult decipi
    all five are available from any good xian bookshop and the price is deductable from your tithe." This statement of course, is untrue!
    I stand corrected. The price is not deductible from your tithe.
    Please, take the whole packet.
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Great article Oliver as usual! You are sadly missed here :(
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at
    Pseudo-sceptics can be a problem. They sucker you in with an appearance of curiosity, and sometimes ask some challenging questions. You want to answer their questions, and you feel like you can convince them of your position. But it's all a show, and in the end you're just building a better pseudo-sceptic. It's evolution in action :)

    Gerhard Adam
    Actually I'm waiting to see how long it takes for the creationist fringe to show up here and begin blasting away at the assertion that they're tedious to talk with.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Gerhard Adam
    Well that didn't take long. 

    Now I expect we'll hear how tyrannical science is because it doesn't want to promote an open dialogue.  Then we'll hear about how persecuted these individuals are for their beliefs, because no one is willing to consider that science "doesn't know everything", so why are they being denied their right to skeptically inquire into evolution.

    Mundus vult decipi
    Why is evolution the one subject that skeptics aren't skeptical about?

    I wonder how many students in schools, colleges and universities would say they have the academic freedom to critique evolution in their science classes? There should be school district and state polls of high-school and college/university students studying evolution, asking two questions:

    In this class:
    a) Is evolution taught as fact, theory, or both fact and theory?
    b) Do you have the academic freedom to critique evolution?
    [Students should answer anonymously.]

    The same questions should be asked of their instructors.

    Evolutionists say, "We continually revise our theories and welcome critical examination and evaluation." They may revise aspects of their theories, but because evolution is so incredibly malleable, no amount of contrary evidence will convince them otherwise. But how much contrary evidence must accumulate before a theory is discarded?

    Today evolution survives, not so much as a theory of science, but as a philosophical necessity. Good science is always tentative and self-correcting, but this never really happens in the case of evolution. Regardless of the scientific data, the idea of evolution as a valid concept is not open to debate. Students are allowed to ask "HOW did evolution occur?", but never "DID evolution occur?".

    Which is a more objective question: "What were the ape-like creatures that led to man?" or "Did man evolve from ape-like creatures?"

    Gerhard Adam
    I'm really not interested in your opinion about evolution, or to listen to you talk about all the things you don't understand.  If you have an alternate theory then let's hear it.  If not, then go away.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Oliver Knevitt
    Hahaha, that had me chuckling for a bit. You really couldn't make it up. They even beat me to commenting on my own post. 
    Seriously though, unless people have something constructive to bring to the discussion they'll probably find their comment deleted. 

    Unless it proves my point in a very funny way like that last comment did, however. 
    Wow, I'm impressed by your spectacularly rude "rebuttal"!

    Gerhard Adam
    Rude?  What's rude is someone presuming to engage in a scientific discussion without a shred of scientific information.  Claiming all kinds of nonsense, without ever once actually submitting an idea of their own. 

    As I said ... I couldn't care less what creationists believe.  However if they want to discuss something, then they need to present their theory.  I couldn't care less what they think of evolution.
    Mundus vult decipi
    And you think the world cares what you think? You make excuses for your rudeness. Dismissed. NEXT!

    Gerhard Adam
    No excuses.  People that peddle this anti-evolution agenda simply piss me off.  I'm so tired of the faux skepticism. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    No scientists believe in evolution any more. It was disproved last year and we are now searching for the Intelligent Designer instead.

    So let us forget our past differences and move on together.

    No scientists believe in evolution any more. It was disproved last year and we are now searching for the Intelligent Designer instead.
    Actually, Derek, a friend of mine found her yesterday. A true goddess, apparently, she has now moved on to designing clothes. :)
    An Intelligent Clothes Designer...

    Are you quite sure about that?

    On the other hand, you may be right...

    This is what I had in mind:

    That’s a really improved version of the image!
    “Anna, I told you NOT to wash those socks!  I’m going back to Feozva!"
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Wow, I've only just seen it. It's a benzene ring! (Half close your eyes!).
    This lends a whole new meaning to "aromatic socks".

    I am open to students critiquing evolution in my classes. But they don't and the reason for this is that I will critique their critique. And that is something that many students are not prepared to risk. You see I have an unfair advantage on my side. It is more than a century of evidence that completely corroborates the theory of evolution as an undeniable reality of the world in which we live. All the students I have ever had are intelligent enough to be aware of this giant advantage and know to keep quiet on the issue of whether evolution is true. If there was a bone of contention in the field then serious scientists would be up for debating it. They love debate. But no serious scientist is and the only ones who challenge it do so on religious grounds while showing barely any credentials in the field itself (i.e. they can seldom claim to be experts in natural history or pure biology).

    Right, arguing about whether or not the sun will come up tomorrow is for philosophy students, not science ones.  Bringing up talking points about what some aspect of science does not yet know is not science, it is sophistry. There is literally no field of science that can survive if the only criteria to be debunked is not knowing something.   The semiconductor industry and the computer I am writing on is part of a $500 billion business yet no physicist can define a magnetic field rigorously enough to defend electromagnetic physics against the same type of silliness thrown at biologists.
    The semiconductor industry and the computer I am writing on is part of a $500 billion business yet no physicist can define a magnetic field rigorously enough to defend electromagnetic physics against the same type of silliness thrown at biologists.
    If there was a bone of contention in the field then serious scientists would be up for debating it. They love debate
    "mere appearence of debate"
    A more successful approach with creationists would be to focus on other misconceptions in biology. Then maybe eventually for a few, they will be able to make some kind of transfer and realize that creationism doesn't hold up to the evidence.

    Many of us go through similar experiences. I stopped discussing with crackpots too, however, let us be fair: Humans are pretty much all the same. Why should creationists behave any better than the establishment?

    I personally tried a solution; I always do this silly mistake of trying to solve a problem instead of just participating in the most successful way of exploiting the topic. I designed the Quantum Randi Challenge specifically so that it avoids giving crackpots a platform without giving the appearance of establishment conspiracy. Guess what? Convincing established people that in-fucking-deed the QRC is not about fighting with crackpots is just as bad as trying to convince those "realists by common sense" that there are no hidden variables in quantum mechanics.

    If established people can get away with it, like in anonymous peer review, you see how 'friendly' they actually are! "Skeptics" and established scientists are the most insulting folk out there, especially in very hurtful around the back ways so that simpler minds do not get it. I have rather a creationist be honestly calling you a motherfucker than TD doing one of his deeply patronizing and arrogant dismissals of scientists he cannot comprehend in ways so that people not familiar with the topic do not even get.

    So, lets be honest and do not blame the creationists too much. They just do like we teach them to. They have every right to try do the same we do effectively all day.
    Oliver Knevitt
    I agree. Treat people like idiots and you're going to find yourself getting nowhere. 
    When comments appear months afterwards, they often turn out to be commercial spam.
    However, I think from your British perspective you will appreciate the following:
    Two groups of different hominin species are engaged in a fight.

    It seems to be going in favour of group A, when suddenly a red-haired female from group B grabs a bone, hits the leader of group A and fractures his skull.
    “You’re not the Missing Link — goodbye!”
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Oliver Knevitt
    Haha - very good! It is sadly true that if I had my way we wouldn't be able to make jokes like that. "You are not transitional" or "You belong in a stem group not a crown group" don't work nearly as well. 
    If you say "transitional fossil" you already are showing your ignorance. The theory of evolution isn't some disjoint or undefined or abstract part of biology; it *is* biology. Every generation of all biological species are different from the next in some important way, so reverse time and imagine what happens. Dealing with creationists is often dealing with peoplenwho have a problem of scale, in this case both geological and of time. They don't have the capacity to deal with too much time (seems 6000 years is the limit :) )or the want to give it some consideration, and so reject the model they don't understand for a different model they don't *have* to understand.

    Oliver Knevitt
    If you say "transitional fossil" you already are showing your ignorance.

    Well, unfortunately there's a great deal of truth to this; if you *understand* biology you know that it *is* evolution. I think there is something to be said for taxonomy being the "wrong" approach, or at least it should be pointed out that it represents a snapshot of evolution through time rather than a rigid classification of it. People in general don't even know there's different species of zebra, and yet they feel compelled to ask for a transitional fossil between a zebra and, say, Equus simpliciden. The correct reply is, of course, to ask which specie of zebra would you like to track the ancestry of? And to point out that there is no specific point between this "transitional fossil" and the zebra that the name "zebra" is more valid. Zebra is the name of a point in time - most of the time right now! - from which we can track backwards in time to find common ancestors of some other points in time. We humans - homo sapiens sapiens - are just a point on a timeline with a name; we are not *human* as much as we are a thing that has the name "human" that means something on this big timeline of biology.

    I think most of the problems with understanding this is our languages which have evolved to treat objects as somewhat final, and we haven't got a generic language for the complexities involved, except, perhaps, in science! Science has spent a long time coming up with their own language *because* we need better means of talking about these complexities. The translation from one language to the other - especially when they sound somewhat similar - is rife with error and linguistic certainty about stuff we epistemologically have no friggin' clue about.

    And now for something completely different. :)

    I've recently changed my beliefs and now currently believe in evolution. It's nice to read articals sucha as this and it's sad that I had ever believed in creationism. I mean, thinking that some supreme being randomly decided he was lonely and managed to create all this makes you sound kind of insane.
    The only thing that really changed for me was what my ideas on the meaning of life are. Still contemplating that one.
    Anyway, great article! (: Keep up the good work.

    It's difficult to reason people out of notions they were never reasoned into. I can't call myself all that knowledgeable about biology, but I can't stand people like creationists who knowingly misrepresent the facts.

    My 14 year daughter feigns boredom too. Its usually because she doesn't want her thinking to be challenged, no matter the subject. She uses the act of boredom as an obvious indicator that shes in over her head. I call it the... "whatever"... syndrome. Lots of that here.

    Gerhard Adam
    No.  Sometimes boredom really is boredom.  Actually one thing that's really boring is listening to ignorant people claiming that informed individuals are "in over their heads". 

    The "whatever" syndrome definitely applies to those that like to make shit up [like creationists] and then claim to be profound thinkers.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Gosh, you really sound like a 14 year old girl! Good imitation! You even keep engaging in this subject to show how bored your are. YOu got me.

    Gerhard Adam
    Sorry, there's nothing to engage.  This is a science site, unlike the trolling you seem to enjoy.
    Mundus vult decipi
    I'm wondering what evidence would convince Gerhard (or other evolutionists) that macroevolution (information-building evolution) is false?

    And if you think no such evidence exists, or indeed could exist, then how can macroevolution be testable?

    Gerhard Adam
    Don't strain yourself.  You're not remotely qualified to even posit the question, let alone engage in a scientific discussion about the topic.  The mere fact that you could even ask "what evidence" indicates how little you know.  That's another rhetorical ploy to feign "seriousness" or even "skepticism".  It sounds so scientific to phrase the question in such a way;  "what evidence would it take to convince you the Earth is round?",  "what evidence would it take to convince you the sky is blue?"

    Again, this demonstrates just how disingenuous your posts are.  Such a question implies that there is such an abundance of evidence laying around, simply being ignored by the scientific establishment, for no better reason than to annoy creationists.  However, it should be clear that the only dishonesty is that of the creationist/IDer that first has to pretend to be a skeptic and then engage in various arguments, before they finally come out and admit what their agenda is. 

    I'm done with you.  You're no different than every other ignorant lout that thinks they're going to overturn centuries of scientific work because they read a few internet links.

    The simple truth is that you aren't interested in any real science.  You're proud in your ignorance and won't be swayed.  Any evidence that is presented will be deemed inadequate because it doesn't satisfy your requirements for how bacteria evolved into humans.

    In any case, if someone is reading this that truly is interested, here's an example of such macroevolutionary changes.  Also here.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Gerhard's second link was to Douglas H. Erwin's 2000 paper:

    Macroevolution is more than repeated rounds of microevolution

    ....which creationist John Mackay referenced in his online debate with Dan Ryder:

    See also:

    Erwin recalled the long-standing “tension between microevolutionists and macroevolutionists” – the former looking for processes they can tweak in the lab, the latter looking at the fossils. It’s a tension that has lasted for over a century. Even though Erwin grinned like a hungry flashlight salesman that “Several recent papers now shed new light on macroevolutionary processes,” his light was lacking batteries in the body of his Dispatch.

    Oh dear. Back up a bit, and explain what you mean by "tension."

    And please just stop with the snarkiness; it doesn't look good on you, *especially* not in light of what this original post was about, and here amongst a lot of people who understand the subjects involved. You seem to have missed that bit of it.

    Gerhard Adam
    ...and thus we finish with the full frontal assault of ID and creationism against science.  At least there's no longer any pretense of anything except an ID agenda.

    See ... it saves so much more time when you just begin peddling your bullshit right from the beginning.
    Mundus vult decipi
    While I agree with most of the article. I would suggest being careful is treating anyone like the Other. And I see a lot of that here. "If only 'those people' would listen" 'Rewire them "right"'

    This is not a healthy way of thinking because it causes us to treat each other badly. I believe you when you say your frustrated with this argument but there when we start acting like we are Betters of society trouble can only follow.

    Gerhard Adam
    Trouble already follows.  It's like vandals.  No matter what you do, or what you say, they insist on finding your spot and screwing it up.  Since they aren't interested in actual discussion, then their only purpose is to disrupt or be destructive.
    Mundus vult decipi
    I agree with Gerhard here, but also note one thing; every single point made in the original post at the top has been fulfilled by creationists in this thread. It's painful to watch, it's like they are completely detached from reality, or - at best - some elaborate hoax to tick all the stupid boxes in order to piss off the author. But I'm certain it's the former; The many years I've engaged with creationists (or worse) have taught me one thing; there truly is a "them", a rather unique kind of people who think assertions and opinions and blind faith is more important than, well, facts and testability and rigour and other things "us" work hard towards. And it's not like it's creationists vs. scientists here, it's more of a creationists vs. reality thing; They seem so disconnected from reality that even normal religious people think them nutty and a bit weird.

    Look at the last few posts; saying something off the cuff, then listing a bunch of links (what, in order to drive traffic? It's intelligent design spambots) and demands of proof for negatives and somesuch. It's just so detached from what you'd expect normal people to do, although didn't I hear somewhere that certain evangelical school has as part of the curriculum ways to gain extra points by "engaging" in atheists / skeptic blogs and such? "In order to pass this course you must demonstrate 5 posts in an atheist blog" or somesuch. Biola? Trinity? Calvin? I bet there are templates for easy cut and paste, too, because they seem eerily similar. (Maybe someone with more time could spider for such comments and find collation in the links and the language?)

    Anyhow, I think the bottom line is this;

    If creationists actually engaged with the arguments and held a civil tone throughout, we would *love* to talk it through. But they don't. And, possibly, they can't. But the proof is in the pudding, and it's not sweet at all.

    Alex - You nailed it. Maybe this thread will die a natural death and poor Gerhard can take a breather now. Gerhard - I really appreciate that you are willing to expend time and energy jousting with trolls. It was fun to read as you brought one of them out from under his bridge so we could see what he looked like in the light of day.

    Gerhard Adam
    I can't help believing that it would've just been easier to hit the "delete" tab.  However, since this is Oliver's blog, I don't like to impose such actions in someone else's sandbox.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Oliver Knevitt
    I had every intention of deleting comments like these, it just turns out that I haven't had the frigging chance to get to them before everyone else has commented in reply making my nice pretty blog a big mess. I've gone through and unpublished some of the most irksome posts. But Gerhard or anyone that has the authority to is welcome to delete any obnoxious comments.  Its acting as a perfect reinforcer not to do creationism stuff again anyway. 

    Talking to creationists always ends up reminding me of the Thomas Paine quote: Arguing with people who have lost all sense of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.

    Tony Fleming
    It may appear this is a recent debate but in fact it has been around a long, long time.  Augustine of Hippo (St. Augustine to my fellow catholics) wrote (ca 400 AD) extensively on the ancient debate about 'creationism' in terms of how much time had elapsed since the creation of man.

    In a book titled City of God he included a quick genealogical reckoning from Scripture of 6000 years for the time since the creation of man. He went on to suggest alternative estimates 5,000, 6,000, 60,000, 600,000, 60 x 600,000, 600 x 600,000 and finally 600,000 x600,000 years. Creationists have considered 6000 years to be an estimate of time since the creation of man, even though Augustine specifically advised against any such a literal-based interpretation. In summary Augustine’s view was 5 ka to 360 Ma. This can be compared with modern estimates from studying hominids. Homo sapiens is currently thought to have migrated out of Africa around 50,000 to 100,000 years ago, replacing populations of Homo erectus in Asia and Homo neanderthalensis in Europe. St Augustine’s view thus encompasses both the creationist small-time opinion and the large-time opinion of evolution.

    He was thus a diplomat who knew the faithful at that time consisted both 'creationists' and 'evolutionists'. Probably a bit like today's more polyglot Churches. It is our role as modern scientists who know about cosmological time-scales, to hold to the evidence, that evolution did occur on long-time scales.

    City of God Book XiiChapter 12:
    “How These Persons are toBe Answered, Who Find Fault with the Creation of Man on the Score of Its RecentDate.
    As to those who are always asking why man was not created during thesecountless ages of the infinitely extended past, and came into being so latelythat, according to Scripture, less than 6000 years have elapsed since he beganto be, I would reply to them regarding the creation of man, just as I repliedregarding the origin of the world to those who will not believe that it is noteternal, but had a beginning, which even Plato himself most plainly declares,though some think his statement was not consistent with his real opinion. If itoffends them that the time that has elapsed since the creation of man is soshort, and his years so few according to our authorities, let them take thisinto consideration, that nothing that has a limit is long, and that all theages of time being finite, are very little, or indeed nothing at all, whencompared to the interminable eternity. Consequently, if there had elapsed sincethe creation of man, I do not say five or six, but even sixty or six hundredthousand years, or sixty times as many, or six hundred or six hundred thousandtimes as many, or this sum multiplied until it could no longer be expressed innumbers, the same question could still be put, Why was he not made before? 
    Tony Fleming Biophotonics Research Institute
    Tony Fleming

    Sorry for the lengthy quote by Augustine below but it seems completely pertinent to the present discussion and adds to what I said earlier. I note that some of us in this discussion are Christians and scientists who hold that biological evolution is a correct interpretation of the evidence before us as at 2012. I found this on Augustine's views by Davis A. Young Dept. of Geology, Geography&Environmental Studies, Calvin College Grand Rapids, Ml 49506  and can be found at the link 


    From:  Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 40.1:42-45 (3/1988)

    ..... "Deeper insight is now possible for a wide audience with the recent publication of a fresh English translation of his (Augustine's) great work, On the Literal Meaning of Genesis.' The few studies of Augustine's view of creation that are based on the Latin text are not widely accessible. It is my judgment that anyone seriously interested in the Genesis-science discussion should take the time to study this new translation. It is full of surprises" .....

    "4. Augustine is particularly emphatic that we ought not to make absurd statements about what the Bible says when such statements flatly contradict what people already know from other reliable sources. We ought not to rigidly and dogmatically commit Scripture to interpretations that can easily be shown to be false on the basis of physical evidence."

    "It seems to me  that the following lengthy quotation cannot be heard enough because it is so terribly relevant to the present discussion about Genesis and earth history. Augustine says:"

    Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of the faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men.... Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by these who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion. (pp. 42-43)

    What impresses me (Tony) greatly about Augustine and his intellect is that he appears to have changed his mind in his latter years about Genesis. This is a good sign of a modern scientific mind, one that uses all the arms of a scientist (intellect and observation, not just intuition as was the way of early science) at a time when the early Church was still emerging within the Roman Empire. In other writings, and he was prolific, he also pointed to a time in the future when the (scientific) truth about Genesis might be known.  While that time might be close it is still emergent. 

    Tony Fleming Biophotonics Research Institute
    I've found that creationists aren't looking for debates. They're looking for props for their evangelism. And they conflate skepticism with denial. When hearing a claim, skeptics will ask for evidence, and if the evidence passes muster, they accept the claim. A denier will ignore the answers to their questions, sticking with their original "conclusion". Creationists, vaccine deniers, conspiracy theorists, and even Zeitgeist fans, none of those are sincere skeptics.

    And nobody should feel any obligation to patronize insincere deniers, to be a prop for the same old claims. As soon as any of them have actual evidence that falsifies a scientific model, then we should be all ears. But hoaxes, superstitions, fallacies, and faux controversies don't cut it.

    (I suppose after all these comments not many people are going to read this, plus it's possible what I'm saying here has already been mentioned (sorry if that's the case)...)

    What we need are not just people willing to engage in lengthy debates with creationists, bringing arguments to try and destroy theirs, citing papers, pointing at data etc.

    What we really need is people, not especially experts in the field (though a strong knowledge of the subject helps), but who are used to talk to crowds, used to talk to the media, who are willing to campaign against creationism, not particularly by explaining over and over again all the arguments for evolution (which, as you said, creationists don't listen to), but who are gifted in the ways of turning one's arguments into ridiculous. People trained to defend their idea the same way creationists are, even if it needs oversimplifying the matter.

    A few short, funny phrases can be much more effective in making a point for evolution and possibly convincing undecided people than all the long arguments in the world.

    Such a gift is rare, for example take Christopher Hitchens... He's sadly not among us anymore, and we need people like him!
    r2DToo (which is sacrilege in itself) is sounding like a spambot. Isn't there some comment policy about such nonsense?

    Oliver Knevitt
    Whoaaah, ok, just finally found the time to check on this article again and there is a veritable shitstorm of comments going on. Creationists and evolutionists, play nice! I've just unpublished a comment or two that are completely nothing to do with the article. I would have unpublished more but Gerhard gets there so friggin quickly to demolish them and I wouldn't want to remove the context of your rebuttals lest you look like you're shouting at the world in general!  So apologies for the lax admin there.
    Look, there are enough creationism vs evolution things on the web already. So for goodness sake don't bother posting it here. 
    To clarify, we're discussing how intractable the problem is that we need to reach out to creationists but that's it's a pain in the backside to do so. I'll welcome things from creationists if they can contribute to a level headed discussion but if they're general run of the mill "check out these links" then I'll get rid of them. I'm going to be away for a bit now (it's the jubilee, you've got to give me that) so I don't want a flood of pointless comments when I get back. 

    Gerhard Adam

    Feel free to delete.  I always post my comments as replies, so that if the original goes away, so does my reply.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Oliver Knevitt
    Ok, will do. As it is, I'm doing this on my phone in rural south Wales waiting to check into a hotel, so I'll see how far I get!
    Gerhard Adam
    I'm deleting them as fast as you unpublish them :)
    Mundus vult decipi
    As it is, I'm doing this on my phone in rural south Wales waiting to check into a hotel, so I'll see how far I get!

    Along with my colleagues at the University of Leicester, UK, I look at bits of dead fish in various states of decay to see if our preconceptions of what fossil animals look like is really true. Interesting, but decidedly smelly.
    The original "sgod y sclod"!  But don't be fooled by the road signs, you'll have to speak in English if you want to be understood round here.  Os gwelwch yn dda.
    Tony Fleming
    the day of the triffids no less
    Tony Fleming Biophotonics Research Institute
    Has anyone any experience with Mendel's Accountant?

    I played with it but don't know how to interpret the results realistically.

    Tony Fleming
    Give us a quick burst Derek. Does it find against evolutionary dynamics for certain parameters?
    Tony Fleming Biophotonics Research Institute
    It *seems* to model all sorts of real-world stuff. 

    Beneficial/deleterious mutation ratio
    Beneficial/deleterious effect ratio
    Effect distribution
    Fraction recessive
    Selection function
    Self-fertile proportion

    The program uses a Monte Carlo method so some apparently redundant parameters may not be. 

    However, many of the defaults and sanity-check limits are very skewed - reflecting the belief that "most mutations are harmful".  It uses a single parameter called "fitness" to determine the likelihood of reproduction - I'm not sure that this is valid.  Also, it appears to renormalize the population downwards but not upwards! So I have some doubts whether it is a fair test-bed, and if so whether I am using it right; an over-simplistic tool being used outside of its area of application; or simply a spoof to fool the gullible.

    One thing - it is a kludge of a local HTML server, what looks like a Java app and a DOS application ported from Linux... It crashes if you enter an invalid file name or one that is in use - like your previous run - and forgets your "advanced" settings. So I have no reason to assume it's good code.  

     There's plenty of stuff on the web about all this.  Even so, I was hoping someone who knows about these things might have given it a fair trial. After all, John Sanford, the guy who wrote it, is a retired professor (UK usage = highest honoured academic) and something of a trophy for the creationists, as mentioned in some of the comments here.

    It would be nice to have forensic - not merely tautological - proof that he's a fruit-loop. 

    Gerhard Adam
    It *seems* to model all sorts of real-world stuff.
    From what I understand it seems to start with a small population and limits it to 1000 or less.  In any case, there's nothing worth looking at, nor worth examining.

    In effect, we have a guy that purports to model populations to demonstrate that genetics doesn't work nor that it exists, and yet believes that all the present populations are derived from 1 or 7 breeding pairs out of Noah's Ark.  I don't see much basis for thinking that there's any reasonable assumptions occurring here.
    Mundus vult decipi
    No, it can deal with huge populations but it slows to a crawl. Actually if it does what it says it does then it's a very good emulator - but what of? I suspect it does something far too simplistic. Unfortunately as it's the product of a retired professor, and toiuted as proof - it needs to be de-fanged. 
    Gerhard Adam
    Well, it seems that unless the algorithm being used is actually published, then it's just more nonsense. needs to be de-fanged...
    That won't happen because those that believe will continue to do so. 

    As for "proof" in a simulation program?  That's a pretty optimistic claim, and, as I said, it's even more suspect when the algorithm and coding aren't public.  Even then, where are the papers that demonstrate the relationship between the published algorithm and real world population observations?
    Mundus vult decipi
    Tony Fleming
    Having written monte-carlo simulators in my time (dipolar, or 'polarizable' protein diffusion within the plasma membrane of cells) there is nothing wrong with what you have described. As you say however, the parameters need careful checking to see if they mirror reality or are chosen with some prior aim in mind.  Any chance of letting us know where you got your copy so we might investigate? sounds interesting.
    Tony Fleming Biophotonics Research Institute
    I just googled Mendel's Accountant :)
    It does occur to me that Monte-Carlo is probably at its worst in this sort of area as it doesn't stand a chance of "averaging out" all the unknowns. On the contrary, self-replicating systems with unknowable interactions are, I would have thought, liable to discover all sorts of strange survival mechanisms. Unless the simulation is really good, how on earth can it all be contained in a single notion of fitness? 

    Gerhard Adam
    Well, we already know its wrong at some level because populations don't crash in that manner.  So, clearly there are assumptions being made that don't fit [which is what the agenda of the creationists is based on].

    It seems that one of the major problems occurs in simply assuming "deleterious mutations" without actually defining what that means within the context of the environment in which they occur.
    Mundus vult decipi
    I read this entire mess ... and there is absolutely nothing worth remarking about EXCEPT that it is all so unremarkable. I won't reply to anything that results from this post. Don't waste your time ... just keep in mind that all of you are a bunch of idiots with a lot of time to waste. Worse, you spend your time pretending to know the unknowable. Personally I think the whole bit about god (I prefer the 'flying spaghetti monster' version) is very good pre-agricultural revolution bull shit that made some sense at the time. All of the gods deemed extant were fabrications ... including that poor sap jesus (Chuey is the nickname for the name Jesus in spanish) ... who if the poor bastard really existed has been distorted all out of any semblance to reality. I tend to attempt to understand science ... at least it doesn't pretend to know all of the answers and leaves itself open to being falsifiable ... that I can deal with. 'Speerits' and other fairy tales are just so much twaddle.

    Call me G ... others do.

    Tony Fleming
    Tony Fleming Biophotonics Research Institute
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Very funny Tony! :)
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at
    Tony Fleming
    I'm glad my dry humor tickled you Helen!
    Tony Fleming Biophotonics Research Institute
    Richard King
    In general the points made are equally applicable to those of an atheistic, materialistic, scientistic, disposition.

    There is a level of knowledge and understanding at which both the evolutionist and creationist viewpoints are correct, certainly in principle if not detail.

    On the other hand I am well aware that there are those on either “side” who must be “right” to the exclusion of the others.
    Tony Fleming

    Richard, well put; certainly about the level of this discussion; it has been either BLACK or WHITE (those any shade of creationist that have been allowed to partake). I guess the whole point of this discussion was predicated on a single point of view. BTW I can understand this view in part because of the obduracy of creationists in the face of the evidence which demonstrates conclusively that Evolution happened. 

    But is it a complete theory? 

    We have not discussed 'accelerated'evolution for instance whichin my opinion is pertinent to a creationist viewpoint. 

    For instance see

    Especially in view of Genesis 1:1-31 which sounds very much like cosmological evolution combined with biological evolution (details may be incorrect or missing at times but at other times there is a distinct correspondence). 

    So while a literal translation of Genesis in terms of 'days' is not right according to the evidence of evolution, this passage may have been a 'traditional' form of knowledge passed down from prehistory which would have been told to childrenand teenagers, as well as adults around the campfires. This may have been atime when language was not as sophisticated as it is today hence words like'day' and 'eon' were very similar in the vocabulary used. 

    In summary is there a case for a half-way house just like the following scientific concepts?:

    (1) Matter - wave AND/OR particle ? We STILL argue whether matter is a wave or aparticle even though there is strong indication that a combination of BOTH is amore complete understanding.
    (2) colour - a combination of 'opposites' (in terms of graphics, rather thanfrequency)
    (3) Yin and Yang - the Chinese philosophy of the Universe and everything in it
    (4) negative and positive - charge, spin, energy, motion, field, etc.

    and many other instances where COMPLEMENTARY concepts give a more COMPLETE version of understanding

    So in terms of biology do we have a combination of BIG BANG AND EVOLUTION? ('mini-bangs' within evolution) just like cosmological evolution

    For instance we see that in particle physics there have been times when particles or forms of matter 'burst into existence' as the Big Bang receded and the energy density in the universe dropped below quantum levels such as when hydrogen and helium formed around 100 -1000 seconds following the Big Bang. Similar forms of nucleosynthesis occurred later on, as stars galaxies and stars evolved to bring higher elemental forms of chemistry into existence.

    Have there been other such 'explosions'(coming into being) within biological evolution? Yes, there appears to be a series of such 'flowerings' like for instance trees with leaves coming into being after root systems evolved on Earth; how they formed leaf systems to increase oxygen.

    In the same way as there was a blossoming in the Cambrian period, did mankind evolve from the primates via some 'mini bang' of consciousness and intelligence early in the evolution of hominids? 

    Science is reaching a point where it may be soon able to allow us to TEST this hypothesis via various fields of endeavour within mainstream evolutionary biology. 

    As Richard implies, I suggest everyone, including the scientists partaking in this discussion, keep an open mind.

    Tony Fleming Biophotonics Research Institute
    Gerhard Adam
    As Richard implies, I suggest everyone, including the scientists partaking in this discussion, keep an open mind.
    What is that supposed to mean?  That we should be prepared to examine the evidence and make the jump between science and magic when it suits us?

    There is no "open mind" about it.  By definition, any idea of a God is beyond science, so to behave as if the two have anything in common in such a discussion is naive.  This is not an argument that the only perspective is an atheistic one, but rather that any question of divine intervention has no meaning.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Humans Oliver and Gerhard, 

    Perhaps you could take a hint from a recent article by Derek Potter, and see if Creationists can be placed in one-to-one correspondence with Turtles?
    Yup, that's the trouble with ID. It's creationists all the way down! 
    Someone tweeted me the following. Notice that creationist numbers are steady. Among evolutionists, there's only been a 6% shift from those who think God had a role in it to those who don't.

    Gerhard Adam
    This kind of a survey question is misleading because it creates a false conflict.  The real question is simply whether one considers that humans evolved or they didn't.  There's really no reason to ask the question of whether God is or isn't involved. 

    Mundus vult decipi
    Tony Fleming
    Gerhard You keep on suggesting evolution and God are mutually exclusive, but that's the kind of closed mind thinking I talked about before. I'm sorry but atheists don't have exclusivity over evolution. Remember, God may have had a bit to do with it. Why couldn't He have had a role? What science is there to give you that impression?
    But here' I agree with your end point, God's actual role in evolution cannot be determined by any human poll. Nevertheless interesting. 
    Tony Fleming Biophotonics Research Institute
    Gerhard Adam
    Why do you [and others] keep insisting that God can somehow be made a scientific question?  A matter of personal belief has no place in a scientific query.

    Evolution is scientific.  If you choose to believe something over and above what the science shows that that's certainly your prerogative.  What isn't up for discussion is to attempt to include God as if that represents a scientific perspective or worse ... scientific evidence.
    Remember, God may have had a bit to do with it. Why couldn't He have had a role?
    Your question has no meaning, because to even include it in a scientific discussion you need to meed the rules of scientific evidence by proving that God is an entity that warrants consideration in that discussion.

    As a matter of personal belief, there's no such requirement.  To include it as a presumption does require it, which is precisely why I'm so adamant about leaving it out.  People with such religious views don't get a free pass by making all manner of assumptions and then using that as a jumping off point for their "conclusions".

    You want to include God?  Then prove his existence.  Similarly with Intelligent Design.  Prove that there's a designer and then there's a basis for discussion.  Until that little bit is resolved, you cannot introduce another entity into the discussion without a theoretical framework that proposes why its an useful addition to the theory.  NOTE:  Your personal point of view doesn't count as evidence.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Tony, just to be clear; the theory of evolution has nothing to do with your god, including his tampering with it. If you want to add your god to it, then it is no longer evolution, but some kind of guided process that needs a different name. Let me repeat this, as it is important; the theory of evolution is guidance free. If you think it *is* guided, make a new name for it, like guidation, or evoguiding or whatever. You're hijacking a scientific term that has a specific meaning, and "intelligent guiding" is not part of it.

    I hope I made this point quite clear. There might be the possibility that evolution as science knows it *is* indeed guided by something other than predeterministic processes with a smidgen of randomness, but the theory as it stands haven't got that. So evolution and your god is *indeed* mutually exclusive until anyone brings forth evidence of the opposite.

    Tony Fleming
    Alex, that's not the case we see. It's up to YOU to prove God WASN'T involved in evolution, otherwise the matter is unknowable as Gerhard admits. As I asked Gerhard, why couldn't God have been involved? What science do you have? It's certainly not evolution; even Darwin's early version (slow adaptation) doesn't go against Genesis 1. But we are moving on in science. Like other areas of science the arguments are not fossilized at Darwin's theory.
    Why couldn't God use apes and other primates to form intelligent life as we find in humans? What's your evidence? I see my brothers and sisters when I look at animals as did Francis of Assisi. My best little buddy is Sally, a Papillon. She tells me when she wants to go outside for a pee, and sleeps down the bottom of the bed in winter. She's a smart little cookie. She's the most faithful little friend who trusts me to feed her, keep her warm, and protect her (from being eaten by much bigger dogs she insists on barking at).

    On your point of semantics, whether evolution is just the slow adaptation of Darwin's initial work (of genius), we find what you say is not the case. In cosmological evolution for instance we have the Big Bang and we also see a number of 'mini-bangs' when various particles emerged out of the milieu (I call this milieu a 'field' from which macroscopic and other matter formed. You may wish to differ, but to me this was just a quantum series of levels as energy density fell following the Big Bang).  This process of mini-bang within evolution is seen within biology.  There's current studies in 'accelerated' evolution of humans and the various other 'flowerings' including the Cambrian period and the way leaves formed to allow oxygen uptake. To me the evidence AGAINST any action of God is just not there.  

    I see acceleration(s) within human evolution as another type of mini-bang of consciousness and intelligence.  We may be going through another one right now as we lurch towards another economic crisis and civilization is (hopefully) adapting to the changed circumstances. There is a  need for a lowering of xenophobia within the human race in order to survive. Not to mention the imminent extinction of many species. God may be forming us into another being right now as we speak.
    Tony Fleming Biophotonics Research Institute
    Gerhard Adam
    Whoa ... where do you come up with the notion that you can make up anything you like and its up to others to prove that it isn't true?

    Your comments are meaningless because you failed to define what you mean by a "theory of God".  You ask "why God couldn't have been involved". yet from a scientific perspective such a statement makes no sense since you haven't defined what you mean by "God".  What is this "God" that he/she/it/ should be involved in anything.  What do you mean by "involved"?  What does "God" lend to your theory that normal scientific processes don't?

    What is your evidence that such a thing as "God" exists and is capable of being "involved"?

    If you aren't prepared to answer such questions, then take your belief and keep it private or out of scientific discussions.  If you want to include it, then you need to start providing some answers.

    For those that think I'm being unreasonable, consider that the word "God" could just as readily be replaced by "Gandalf and the Ring of Power".  So every time you use "God" replace it with "Gandalf and the Ring of Power" and demonstrate why my use isn't just as legitimate as yours. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    Gerhard Adam
    It's up to YOU to prove God WASN'T involved in evolution, otherwise the matter is unknowable as Gerhard admits.
    It's only unknowable because I'm trying to cut you and others some slack for your religious belief.  Let's remember that something may be "unknowable" in the sense of this discussion, but it certainly isn't beyond investigation.  As I said in my other post, it seems that you religious folk just can't understand when someone's doing you a favor and not calling you out on your unsubstantiated claims.

    As I said, the belief in "God" is an act of faith, therefore if you wish to use that term in a scientific discussion, then you will have to demonstrate that it is a legitimate component of a scientific theory.  That means that minimally you must describe what traits you're assigning to "God" that would warrant inclusion in a scientific theory.

    Bear in mind that your assertions will need to be backed by evidence, or you can certainly expect them to be challenged and/or falsified.

    Mundus vult decipi
    Tony, you are slowly becoming evidence for just why it is so futile to engage with creationists; they don't understand anything outside their own biased field of vision, and are not willing to explore things in a reasonable manner. As soon as they venture outside their preferred model of thought, they appear batshit crazy. Let me explain.

    *You* need to come up with evidence for your god, not the other way around. Evolution - cosmic, biological, small or big - does *not* have a guiding intelligence behind them. In fact, it's even worse for you than that; evolution - in all its forms - only works as an explanation because there is *no* intelligent guidance there. This is exactly *why* the theory of evolution haven't got it in it; it explains everything we observe through natural selection and random mutation (or, laws of physics and quantum mechanics if you want to be more inclusive). Randomness (or, at least, determined processes so complex we cannot tell the difference) with laws of conservation, physics, quantum mechanics - and on a larger scale, natural selection - explains almost absolutely all of it. Every single little thing you can think of, and the scientific models explain them, *without* your imaginary guiding force in there to help it along. Everything.

    So, if you next say that there is some other mechanism at play, then *you* must explain how natural selection and random mutations do *not* explain everything we see, explain how the lawys of physics would resulted in some other universe, and explain and define what your theory really is, and lay down some tests to demonstrate why that is a *better* model of explanation.

    Otherwise, you're just a kook. Demanding that *others* needs to prove that your unprovable thing that isn't needed in the theories that explains stuff doesn't exists is batshit crazy. Please understand that; it is batshit crazy. Demanding that your imaginary being is part of evolution is batshit crazy. Demanding that others prove your unneeded imaginary thing can't be done (not because we don't want to, but because it cannot be done; it's not there to be tested), and demanding it to be so is batshit crazy.

    Batshit crazy.

    Please take this to heart; I'm not say you are batshit crazy, because, frankly, I don't know you. You seem to be able to hold complex ideas in your head, write long sentences without spelling mistakes, you can operate a computer, and seem to understand a lot of stuff. By this I conclude that you're a sane normal person. That is, until you demand that others prove that your unprovable thing exists or interferes. Because, you know, that's batshit crazy.

    Tony Fleming
    I'm somewhat surprised you don't see the oxymoronic nature of your stance: Me asking YOU to show God is NOT in evolution is exactly the same as YOU wanting ME to prove God is part of evolution. Let's just get this straight: they're the SAME!!! 

    So careful YOU don't get hoisted on your own slightly smelly petard Alex; keep an open mind. YOU can't say any more than I can. 

    So, if you next say that there is some other mechanism at play, then *you* must explain how natural selection and random mutations do *not* explain everything we see, explain how the lawys of physics would resulted in some other universe, and explain and define what your theory really is, and lay down some tests to demonstrate why that is a *better* model of explanation.
    For a start see  cycles within marine fossil record various studies at Kansas University 

    This looks deterministic to me Alex

    OK gotta go! Sally is ordering me to go for a walk down to the beach! Lots of prancing and doggy swearing. "get up off your arse (ass to you lot across the pond) big guy!!
    Tony Fleming Biophotonics Research Institute
    Tony, you are certainly crossing some batshit crazy border here. Let me explain this to you in terms that also Gerhard has tried ;

    Biological evolution is explained by random mutation and natural selection. We don't need anything else to the model (apart from various clarifications and sub-categories within) to explain all that we see. That's it. The only people who needs adjustments to it are people who don't like its implication. That's you and your ilk.

    Again; the model is complete, and filled to the brim with evidence and rigour. So when you say "no, there's more to the model" *you* need to explain yourself, and if you can't then you're just batshit crazy. Again; the model is complete. It doesn't need your god, or any god, or any other supernatural implication, so when *you* claim it is there, *you* need to show evidence for it. Your god is *not* needed in the model, so you're saying that something not needed is in there. If you then can't point to it, then you're batshit crazy.

    You seem to have a very disturbing understanding of epistemology; you can't prove a negative, but you can demonstrate truthiness through evidence and testability, towards fact. This is *why* we ask you for evidence, because without it you're on par with unicorns and garden gnomes and any of the thousands of other gods man have invented over time; opinion and imagination. Your god is without evidence just an idea in your head. If you know your god to have actual implications in this world, then friggin' prove it. I don't know why this is just so damn hard for creationists (in particular) to understand.

    If science has a model which all scientists agree on, and they all agree that all they see is random mutations and natural selection, then there is no god in there. The model is complete. Demanding that, no, there is something more in there, called god, then for all of us who don't see it nor its necessity, will deem you batshit crazy, unless you've got evidence. You haven't got evidence nor a need in the model, hence you're batshit crazy.

    Lastly, that there are cycles in nature .... I'm just shaking my head at the sheer stupidity in claiming patters in nature for deterministic processes (where the implication is intelligence and / or your god). Is the pattern in a snowflake your god? Is the ebb and flow of the tides your god? Is the life-cycle of a star your god? Is the distribution of matter along the broad patterns of the cosmological background microwave radiation your god? Is the tilt of the earth which creates the seasons your god? Is the reversal of the magnetic poles your god? Is the deep patterns in the climate your god?

    Because for scientists, all we see is physics.

    To be honest, you sound like a beefed-up version of god-of-the-gaps at this point; all that we don't understand yet, that's god. See those patterns in the fossil record? The gap is that some people don't understand what's causing it, and so people like you jump on it, claiming it to be your god or some intelligent manipulation of sorts. The funny part is that the page you linked to even offer up an explanation (linked to the cycle of the sun and its position in our galaxy, which makes sense; more energy into a system heats it up, causing more reproduction but also more mutations with the higher degree of radiation)

    It has been said before, and needs repeating; all through the history of mankind, even through the history of science, has that gap been pushed further and further away from anything that is being claimed of godly fantasies. The more we learn about nature, the more that gap is pushed into crazy complex tiny gaps. You know the Higgs boson - the god particle - right? It was named "the god particle" as a pun because it has been very, very tricky to find, hence pushing the border of our knowledge down to this particle (which, by preliminary results from the Large Hadron Collider, seems to have been found, but we're awaiting the formal paper). Creationists are chasing all these god-of-the-gaps, all the time, it's all they do. See that thing over there that we don't fully understand yet? God!! What a crock of nonsense, and if you don't understand why that is a crock of nonsense, then you need to understand what science is and how it has grown and evolved, especially the last 150 years.

    I'm so tired of these arguments. Every time we engage with creationists, they come to a certain point where they leap off a cliff into the abyss of batshit crazy, and I'd truly, truly wish that you had some decent, actual evidence and points to make, instead of tired old god-of-the-gaps stuff that is not only not needed, but most highly probably dead wrong. Bring the evidence. Or shut up.

    Tony Fleming

    _cycles within marine fossil record various studies at Kansas University 

    "Cycles in Fossil Biodiversity

    There have long been discussions of apparent periodicity in the fossil record, but in 2004 there appeared a study which showed high statistical significance for a 62 million year periodicity going back about 500 million years. We have re-examined and verified this result, which is dominated by low-frequency components, and among these the 62 My cycle strongly dominates.

    Since that time, our time series analysis of fossil biodiversity has greatly expanded. We have examined two additional independent compendia of fossil biodiversity history, as well as the timing of mass extinctions, in the first and second of a three-paper series. A simple visual summary of the main idea can be seen below. "

    Yes, as you say Alex, there are cycles across physics even EVOLUTION. And guess what, this is deterministic!! Darwin knew nothing of these cycles. He spoke about randomness and arbitrariness. This has been the dominant psychological picture given by Darwinian evolution over the 20th century (e.g. H.G. Wells with his 'War of the Worlds', a fiction about evolution and the struggle for survival between superior, more evolved, Martian beings and Earthlings; Wells had studied under Huxley a well-known proponent of Darwin's theory of evolution.) And this view is centred on arbitrariness and uncertainty. 

    But there's no randomness here, no uncertainty; does this fit the Darwinian theory of evolution? No. We are moving on from 1859, even 1959, probably even 1999, so keep an open mind. Don't get trapped into 'fossilized' thinking on evolution. Same as physics, maths, and many other fields of science; we move on, we keep on adapting 'mutating', finding better ways to explain things. That's right; evolution is evolving as a scientific theory.

    If there are those who wish to hide their heads under the sand of a thousand well-worn words, let them ignore the evidence before their eyes.

    PS I cannot say enough for Darwin and his brilliant insights into nature, he was a genius to see what he saw in the data in the 1830's while sailing around the Pacific on the Beagle. I have another 'hero' of this period, Michael Faraday. But, like Isaac Newton, like Galileo, like many other giants of science we move on to new insights and theories. I maintain I am an evolutionist. Yes I'm a theist, but that does not detract from my ability to understand evolution. I am certainly no creationist, not in the strict meaning of the word, even though I do hold that God created the Universe and all life within it. My reading of Genesis is very different to a creationist who believes in a short-term (one day) creation which I see as ludicrous.  I hold, like the poll above, that God was (and is) involved in evolution. This is not 'crazy' as Alex considers, it is in fact the majority view if you have a 'coalition of the faithful' (creationists and theist evolutionists) 48% to 47% atheist.

    Similarly Stephen Hawking recently stated that God ‘is not necessary’ to explain the Big Bang. Shown in Table 1 is a poll conducted by the Guardian newspaper in Britain asking the public to decide if Hawking was correct in his view.   

    Is physicist Stephen Hawking right that physics, not God, created the *universe?


    Yes. I believe in gravity, not divinity


    No. God: Hawking 'not necessary'


    Table Poll in the GuardianNewspaper (UK) Thursday 2 September 2010

    Tony Fleming Biophotonics Research Institute
    Gerhard Adam
    A poll?
     I hold, like the poll above, that God was (and is) involved in evolution.
    OK ... that's just a meaningless assertion.  As I said previously,
    " I hold, like the poll above, that Gandalf and the Ring of Power was (and is) involved in evolution."

    Looks like we're at an impasse.
    Mundus vult decipi
    It always seems to me the "faithful", have no faith, so they keep trying to make proof when there isn't any nor is it needed. It's baffling on so many levels.

    Tony, God wants you to believe in him by Faith, why would he give you proof?
    Never is a long time.
    Tony: "But there's no randomness here, no uncertainty"

    Sorry, say what? There seems to be no randomness in this big pattern, therefore there is no randomness in it? WTF? I'm shocked to hear such blatant stupidity coming from somewhat science-oriented people. Of course there doesn't seem like there's anything random in those smooth lines, because they're smoothed and averaged for easy view. Show me the real data, and I'll show you plenty of friggin' random signals all over the place.

    But furthermore, what the friggin' Osiris has a large scale cycle got to do with small scale randomness? If the sun heats and cools in cycles, it does not follow that the randomness of processes on Earth aren't still random! I'm sorry to say this, bot seem very short-sighted about basic understandings of cosmology and evolution per se. Please correct my impression by explaining why large-scale cycles makes low-scale magically take the randomness away.

    As was suggested in the paper (and which you have conventionally forgotten to paste [and why paste this? You already linked to it] in as well) these cycles fits well within the rotation of our galaxy and our sun's position within it. A turning galaxy is a system of steady cycles, but that in no way prohibits randomness on any lower scale, all the way from the solar systems within it to the quantum mechanical level.

    You're just pointing to a pattern, and because there *is* a pattern, you want that pattern to have a certain meaning. You're anthropomorphing that pattern to fit your model of thought, giving something "meaning" (and at the same time trying to hide what "meaning" is supposed to mean in that context) instead of accepting that a pattern is a pattern that may have more (and better) explanations than your own favourite. You're projecting your bias onto patterns you don't seem to understand, which is a handy crutch for religious people but make them look stupid in front of people who understand those other explanations as non-controversial, trivial, fits with other scientific theories, and fits with the evidence.

    You have totally glossed over most of what I wrote, so again I ask; where does a naturally occurring pattern based on physics stop being good enough for you to inject your biased opinion on those patterns? Is the cycles of each of our planets also deterministic cycles with meaning? And do you seriously think that the cyclic orbit of Enceladus around Saturn which cyclical orbits our sun somehow is deterministic and meaningful, and make the random spray of its geysirs non-random? Please look at this last question a few times, try to understand what is being said, before you humbly reply, because you're falling faster and faster into the abyss of creationist batshit crazy.

    "Yes I'm a theist, but that does not detract from my ability to understand evolution."

    So far you've not convinced me this is true in any meaningful way.

    Tony Fleming

    So Charles knew that the data was 'smooth' then? No, he didn't.  That’s why science is moving on from an understanding of arbitrariness and randomness to a more inclusive picture where previously the 'smoothing' wasn't known.  We now have a model for the picture from a 'God's eye view' rather than a human view. This in itself is a groundbreaking insight into evolution. We’ve long known that evolution is linked to catastrophe theory.

    DarwinCollege Lectures #04: Understanding Catastrophe

    We see in the cyclicnature of the fossilized marine record that we not only have an association between evolution and catastrophe, we find we have a closed form mathematical relationship.  Thus as we see the random ergodic picture we thought we knew at earth level is not correct.

    If Alex had bothered to go to the link I’ve given on a couple of occasions now ( he would have seen that the researchers talk about the Earth having a ‘beating heart’ which beats at around 62 Million years. They surmise one outcome of this periodicity is a ‘mantle plume’ able to cause the cycles seen within marine species.  

    To me it appears utterly reprehensible how callous Alex’s various replies have become. He is now being ‘ignorant’ of the advances we see in evolution.

    But there are several categories of ignorance. Some of them have more culpability than others.

    First we have ignorance in the uneducated which obviously in children and perhaps adults who don’t get the opportunities carries no blame.

    Then we have ignorance among the educated. This can be equally without culpability if someone is just unknowing about a discipline of knowledge.

    Then there’s the most culpable of all, those who have knowedge in a field but choose deliberately to ‘ignore’ the knowledge.

    Either Alex just doesn’t know about catastrophe theory or he is being obdurate.

     I suggest, like those strict creationists who drive us all mental, he’s of the same ilk.  He is just obdurate. He has shown all the evidence of a closed mind and a narrow point of view. In brief he’s a hypocrite. He’s no better than those creationists he says he so detests.    

    I just ask him one final question: “What are you going to say to all the tsunami victims, the 400,000 or so who died on New Years Eve 2004? If humankind now has a knowledge that might lead to an understanding of how earthquakes and tsunamis originate why wouldn’tyou jump up and down for joy at this breakthrough in understanding?”

    Knowledge and not ignorance in science is what we must strive for. Keep your antennae open.

    Tony Fleming Biophotonics Research Institute
    Gerhard Adam
    Overstating ideas and theories doesn't help very much.  In the first place, "catastrophe" theory isn't the only game in town, so don't pretend as if it's the definitive view regarding evolution.

    In the second place, your periodicity has nothing to do with anything, beyond trying to make some kind of mystical or metaphysical claim which simply isn't relevant.  The point remains; you have made no case that there is any need for "God" in evolution.  You neither defined what you mean, nor the purported role that is to be played.

    Your claim of determinism is irrelevant, since everyone already knows that the macro world we experience behaves as if it were deterministic, so you haven't exactly provided any insight there.  In short, you've made a wide range of claims that sound like they might be meaningful, but you haven't connected them to anything, except as a vague "hand-waving" type of argument that somehow the universe [or evolution] behave differently. 

    Mundus vult decipi
    I would like to know why anyone would believe that the universe is only 6 thousand years old when the Earth itself is 4.5 billion years old. Do you know how large the universe is? Do you have any idea how fast objects in our universe are moving, let alone our galaxy, solar system, and home planet? Seriously? I really hope that was a joke...

    Why can't people agree to disagree? What if "god" created the big bang and all of the universe? What if the Bible that was written by man was wrong? Seriously, if your life is governed by faith, you should listen to what your god is telling you, not a book that has been rewritten so many times. Maybe "god" created evolution. It doesn't have to be all black and white, people. Besides you are a tiny speck on Earth, which is a tiny speck in our solar system, a tiny speck in our galaxy, a microscopic speck in our universe that coincides next to other infinite numbers of universes, and so on. Think about that, and then try to tell me that your problems and feelings are important cos I have news for you, you're nothing to the universe, your life is small and insignificant. thousands of light years away, no one is celebrating the fact that you won an agreement. So shut up already, you're just disgracing the name of humankind by focusing on something like this when you could be doing something to better yourself and humankind. Our petty arguments about religion had caused countless wars and cost millions of lives, you think that's what your god wants? Grow up. You're all like a bunch of little children whining because they didn't get their way. Why don't you go outside and enjoy your miniscule miracle of a life that your god granted you cos it'll be gone in a blink of an eye, and I guarantee NO ONE will remember you for your riveting arguments on an online blog comment section.

    It amuses me that people think its either Evolution or Creationism
    Neither are credible theories. One is just silly and the other has gaping holes in it that can't be bridged.

    I hope there are scientists searching elsewhere or the solution will be delayed for a long time yet.

    Gerhard Adam
    Oh yes Oh Wise One.  Perhaps one day we shall attain the wisdom to garner such insights for ourselves.  How kind that you should give such a mission for lowly scientists to discover and I only hope that the delay in a solution isn't too long for your nobleness.

    You twit
    Mundus vult decipi
    well, that response gives me some insight into why the field is stagnant.

    Gerhard Adam
    It's hardly stagnant, but then I wouldn't expect you to know that from your comments.  Apparently you think the last think that happened in biology was Darwin publishing a book.
    Mundus vult decipi
    you have a lot of faith that science will one-day make evolution work.
    I'm somewhat more skeptical and so am looking elsewhere for a workable theory.
    I'm sorry that that offends your belief system.

    Gerhard Adam
    Not at all, but it does demonstrate why you "don't get it".  Scientists don't need to make "evolution work".  It does that all by itself.  What is necessary is more understanding, which is what science attempts to do.  While you are certainly free to look for alternative theories, in the end, they will all be subject to having to explain the same phenomenon.

    Sooooo .... if you think you're on to something clever, then by all means pursue it.  However to behave as if this is some sort of contest, simply indicates that you don't know what you're talking about.

    Apparently you think that there are alternative avenues of exploration outside of science, and this is precisely why the article indicates that such discussions are a waste of time. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    where did you read 'outside of science'? I think you see what you want to see.

    Science is not limited to evolution and evolution does not define the boundaries of science. Evolution is merely a single scientific theory that has a large amount of corroborating evidence, but also has some very significant holes in it that prevent it from being a fully credible theory. Science is capable of supporting several contradictory theories at once, until one can be 'proven through reproducible tests' to be correct. Even then, science is always open to be proven wrong.

    Like thinking that light was a wave or a particle, but then eventually realising that neither theory was a correct representation for light.

    Currently there are known credible alternative theories to evolution, at least none that I know of. This does not, in any way, mean 'therefore evolution is true'. That must be proven on its own merit.

    You guys can keep banging away at evolution all you want but it will never "just do that all by itself" because it doesn't work. The best you will find is adaptive breeding, which turns a Dog into, well, a very different looking Dog.

    Gerhard Adam
    Did you not say:
    "you have a lot of faith that science will one-day make evolution work."
    I believe the "science" in that sentence was quite specific, therefore if you are looking for a theory elsewhere, then it must be outside of science.
    Even then, science is always open to be proven wrong.
    Wrong again.  Science is not wrong, although a particular hypothesis or theory might be.  Then again, perhaps it simply needs to be extended or confined to particular boundaries.
    You guys can keep banging away at evolution all you want but it will never "just do that all by itself" because it doesn't work. The best you will find is adaptive breeding, which turns a Dog into, well, a very different looking Dog.
    ... and thus we come full circle, again demonstrating that you don't know what you're talking about.  Sorry, but that is such a trite, trivial example, it doesn't even warrant a raised eyebrow any more.  In addition, your obvious abuse of the word science and misuse of the term evolution [instead of natural selection] further suggests that you're relatively uninformed on this topic.

    I expect that if you respond to this post, you'll probably get miffed and eventually demonstrate that you're simply a believer in Intelligent Design or Creationism, thereby having further proved the point of this article.
    Mundus vult decipi
    My apologies for misusing the word science. So, even though you know what I mean, I guess I have to reword my sentences before you will respond to them, though I expect you'll just dodge the questions again.

    "you have a lot of faith that the scientific research around evolution will one-day make evolution work"

    "Even then, scientific theories are always open to be proven wrong".

    And seriously? Intelligent Design or Creationism. If you're not going to read my posts, why are you responding to them? You're showing all the capacity for reason that the creationists do, and thus we have come full circle indeed.

    Gerhard Adam
    I wasn't simply being nitpicky.  You raised a specific point regarding science and then attempted to argue that you were looking elsewhere.  That's a quite specific approach.

    Now, if you mean that you are pursuing an alternative scientific theory to "evolution", then I can begin to ask what you mean, presuming that you have some basis for such a theory.  Of course, we can then talk about what you mean since there have already been numerous "flavors" of it, so do you favor an older one or is this a new one.

    I'm not particularly interested in people having problems with current theories and then being coy about the alternatives.  Invariably this results in more creationist or ID nonsense.

    If you simply don't like natural selection, but have no alternative, then fine ... but you have nothing useful to contribute unless you want to talk about specific objections you might have. 

    I'm not dodging any questions, because you haven't actually asked any.  You've made a sweeping statement indicating that "evolution" isn't true and doesn't work.  You've criticized scientists as wasting their effort on it [although you apparently expect scientists to work on alternatives], and then indicated that you were pursuing alternative theories.

    So ... what's your question?
    Mundus vult decipi
    Creationists just want to preach. they are not interested in what anyone has to say.
    They have no interest in debate or facts. It's impossible to get through to them.
    they are not interested in facts. their belief in based entirely on emotion and opnion.
    I debated with one guy and he asked me a question, so i said he should research for himself.
    He took that to mean he had one the argument because i didn't have an answer.
    I later messaged him on facebook telling him what he should research. I got no reply.

    I have a simple question...First of all I am a Christian and I am not a scientist. My question is: I believe that there is some validity to part of Evolution and that it follows logic. However, why should it matter whether all life came from one cell and branched off, or if some point in early Earth history, a great number of species was created and we evolved from there? I'm just not convinced that there has been overwhelming fossil evidence supporting transitional fossils for example. And if Evolutionists believe that it took billions of years to get from one cell to the amazing complexity of species that we now have, then why does it really matter? Are scientists trying to speed up the Evolutionary process? Are scientists actively trying to figure out for example how to speed up our mutation in order to survive under Global warming? I love Science and I have three boys that I encourage to think critically. But I shouldn't be discounted for my belief in God. Science cannot explain everything and I have a hard time understanding how something came from nothing.
    I hope someone takes a serious moment to respond because it seems to me that this debate has become more a battle of atheism vs. Christianity then a true scientific debate.

    Gerhard Adam
    While some will undoubtedly view this as an atheism vs religious battle, there is nothing of the sort really taking place.

    Here's the issue.  God is not subject to scientific laws, therefore there can be no scientific statements made about God.  By definition, God is above such laws and is capable of doing anything He chooses.  As a result, God cannot be introduced as a solution to any scientific question, since to do so also renders the scientific question now unanswerable.

    So, scientific questions must stay within the boundaries that make them scientific [or at least until such point as they simply cannot go any further].  At that point it isn't that the science isn't valid, its just that it has nothing useful to say about that.

    For example, we wouldn't think to ask science to objectively determine whether the Mona Lisa painting is beautiful, or that a landscape photograph is striking.  Those are not scientific questions and so science has nothing useful to say on the subject.

    So, returning to the question of evolution.  From a scientific perspective the entire question must be resolved without consideration for God, because to do otherwise renders the questions meaningless, since literally anything might have been possible.  You may choose to believe whatever you like, but it cannot be considered scientific.

    To answer another part of your question, I don't think anyone is trying to accelerate evolution [nor would they even know where to begin in such an effort].  Instead, what we do know scientifically is that a great deal of our genetic material is shared between ALL life on this planet.  Even bacteria share some of their genes with us.  This leads us to conclude that all life originated from the same basic organism.  This doesn't mean that there was only one organism on the planet and it set the pace.  It means that there could have been millions, but only one was successful enough to where it's traits eventually found themselves passed down to all future forms of life.  In other words, those traits were "conserved" or common enough so that everything uses them.

    As an example, many people thing that genetics involves itself with specific details of development, but often surprisingly simple elements are the primary forces that genes have to address.  For example, there are a set of genes that are responsible for the basic body plan, in defining what is front, back, top, and bottom.  These are conserved so that humans grow with their legs at the bottom of their body plan, and the arms at the top.  They are fundamentally the same as a fly that has legs on the bottom and wings on the top.

    It is often that kind of genetic information that is overlooked when examining how related we really are to each other.

    Anyway ... hope that gives you some ideas of how this all works.
    Mundus vult decipi