Dispatches from the Creation Wars

More on Kenya and Hominid Fossils

Wired has a report on the attempt by Kenyan Pentecostals to get an exhibit of hominid fossils removed from the national museum there. It contains this idiotic quote:

“We are objecting to the message that the fossil exhibits represent the scientific evidence of human evolution,” said Bishop Boniface Adoyo, chairman of the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya, which claims to represents churches of 35 denominations with 9 million members. “They do not. Human evolution is still a theory and this cannot be called as evidence.”

I swear, every time I hear that “still a theory” crap I want to strangle a kitten. All theories are “still theories” and they will never be anything but theories. Theories don’t turn into something else, they just continue to be viable and well supported explanations or they fade away and are replaced by theories with more explanatory power. And I love this logic:

It’s not the exhibit itself the alliance opposes, Adoyo told Wired News, but rather its interpretation. A satisfactory solution, he said, would be to remove the words that would classify the fossils as “scientific evidence,” displaying them instead as a history of other creatures, without connecting them to human beings.

“When you use evolution as God’s tool in creating man in his image, you have to reckon with the fact at what stage in the evolution process does man attain to that image?” he said. “The conclusion is either God’s image is evolving or God Himself is evolving or every creature has God’s image. God could be anything and I’m afraid I cannot put my faith in a ‘changing God’ or an ‘anything God’.”

No, Bishop Adoyo, you’re completely missing the point. The probem is not for science, the problem is for your religious views. How does a creationist explain the series of hominid species that has been found over the last century? They appear in precisely the right temporal and anatomical sequence that evolution predicts, showing a gradual development of all the key diagnostic traits of humans – brain size, dentition patterns, bipedal adaptation, use and increasing sophistication of tools (indicating increasing intelligence, of course), and even the complexity and sophistication of their cultural attributes. Was God just practicing, working his way up to the task of making human beings? It is just a coincidence that he created all those species of hominids from almost-almost-almost humans to almost-almost humans to almost humans to humans in precisely that order? Or was he trying to mimic evolution to fool us or test our faith? Pick any of those explanations, they are all equally ridiculous.

Comments

  1. #1 dogmeatIB
    September 19, 2006

    I don’t see the problem with all creatures being created in “His” image. Other than removing humans from an arrogant position of supremacy, what’s wrong with that? Don’t Christians claim that God is beyond all understanding (as do I think Jews and Muslims)? They why couldn’t their all knowing, all loving God love animals as well?

    I think their religion protects them from the fact that they aren’t all that special. That they, like the animals around them, are a collection of cells made up of compounds and elements just like every other living thing. Their ego can’t handle the fact that their only claim to fame is that they make and use tools.

    What happens to these folks when we discover extraterrestrial life? Not cells, not primitive life, but sentient life that blows away their whole concept of divine creation.

  2. #2 Raging Bee
    September 19, 2006

    I love it — evolution is only a theory, there’s no evidence to support it, so get this physical evidence out of our sight already, you’re making our kids cry or something.

    IIRC, a certain famous library was burned in that region some centuries ago, probably with much the same justification.

  3. #3 The Ridger
    September 19, 2006

    If evolution “teaches” anything, it teaches that we are all God’s creations, his children if you prefer. All of us.

    A lot of religious don’t like that idea, because no matter how they dress it up, their religion teaches them that they are the special and chosen ones and everyone else is on their way to hell.

  4. #4 ZacharySmith
    September 19, 2006

    It kills me that the fundies object on the basis of “If we glorious humans evolved from ‘lesser’ forms, at what point do we attain the likeness of God?” or “At what point did our ‘kind’ obtain a soul?”

    To that I would say: Ummmm, why not let God worry about it? Aren’t you being just a weee bit presumptuous, trying to second-guess God as to who gets a soul and who does not?

  5. #5 Matthew Young
    September 19, 2006

    Dammit get your cold, hard, irrefutable facts away from my hitherto umblemished soul.

    On the other hand, they should be deighted. With the discovery of this fossil there are now two gaps in the fossil record when before there was only one. Where’s their circuitous logic when they most need it, eh?

  6. #6 KeithB
    September 19, 2006

    Ed:
    I think it is a bit strong to say that “evolution predicts” the hominid fossil sequence. I know you are just using it as shorthand, but isn’t it more correct to say that the hominid sequence is consistent with the evolution along the line up to Homo Sapiens?

    After all, what if a direct ancestor had evolved a larger brain than ours, and then it got smaller before increasing again to our brain size. Would that be “predicted” by evolution? Or is it just that the sequence of fossils is consistent with evolution and common descent?

  7. #7 Ed Brayton
    September 19, 2006

    KeithB wrote:

    I think it is a bit strong to say that “evolution predicts” the hominid fossil sequence. I know you are just using it as shorthand, but isn’t it more correct to say that the hominid sequence is consistent with the evolution along the line up to Homo Sapiens?

    After all, what if a direct ancestor had evolved a larger brain than ours, and then it got smaller before increasing again to our brain size. Would that be “predicted” by evolution? Or is it just that the sequence of fossils is consistent with evolution and common descent?

    It depends on how broadly you want to define the prediction. If man evolved from ape-like ancestors, we certainly would not predict that humans would appear suddenly, without any species leading up to it. If we went from Ardepithicus ramidus to Homo sapiens all at once, this would provide no evidence for human evolution and in fact would be difficult if not impossible to explain. We would not expect bipedality to suddenly appear, for a non-bipedal species to give rise to a fully bipedal one, and if that did happen it would be a problem for evolution. But what we see is a gradual increase in bipedal adaptation from the early australopithecenes to modern humans and that is what evolution would predict, indeed what is necessary in order to make a plausible case for evolution (while “design” could be consistent with any pattern whatsoever).

  8. #8 KeithB
    September 19, 2006

    Ed wrote:
    “But what we see is a gradual increase in bipedal adaptation from the early australopithecenes to modern humans and that is what evolution would predict, indeed what is necessary in order to make a plausible case for evolution (while “design” could be consistent with any pattern whatsoever).”

    But given an australopithecene, evolution does not “predict” Homo Sapiens. That is my only point, but looking at your context a bit more closely, it is pretty clear that you meant that “Evolution predicts what fills in the gaps.”

  9. #9 theberle
    September 19, 2006

    I wonder if Bishop Adoyo can fly, since gravity is still a theory and there’s no scientific evidence that it exists.

  10. #10 Skemono
    September 19, 2006

    God could be anything and I’m afraid I cannot put my faith in a ‘changing God’ or an ‘anything God’.

    Um, what? I thought their deity was supposed to be, uh, omnipotent and infinite. But it can’t be ‘anything’, it has to literally be a human with magic powers?

    Yet another example of people professing belief in an infinite god that is limited to only one belief/action/form.

  11. #11 Mark
    September 19, 2006

    I find it interesting the the bishop is imploring science to expain itself in the context of HIS religion. Sorry, bishop. That is not how it works.

    Science is science. Your religion is YOUR religion. Science has no business explaining your mythology. If the science is not compatible with your mythology then your mythology better, by God, get out of the way.

    I suspect that at some point the museum will be burned to the ground. After all, religious whackos will stop at NOTHING (to wit: US fundies and their insistence in purveying a bankrupt intelligent design concept in science classes) to make sure that everyone has their point of view. When that happens Kenya will lose a rich body of evidence for human evolution and the world will see just how incredibly unevolved Kenyan Christians really are.

  12. #12 raj
    September 20, 2006

    KeithB | September 19, 2006 12:43 PM

    I think it is a bit strong to say that “evolution predicts” the hominid fossil sequence.

    No more so than to say that Einstein’s theory of gravitation (General Relativity) predicts that the paths of photons will be deviated from straight lines as they are passing by massive objects–such as the sun. This prediction is contra Newton’s theory of gravitation, which predicts that the paths of photons will not be deviated from straight lines, since Newton’s theory presumes that gravity only operates on particles having mass, and photons are massless. Of course, the prediction inherent in Einstein’s theory was borne out by Eddington’s observations in 1919 (or so).

    Darwin’s theory of evolution predicts a fossil sequence (not limited to a hominid one) since it is known that hard tissue such as bone can be preserved as fossils, and a sequence can be induced on the fossils that are found that can provide evidence for Darwin’s theory. It isn’t so much that the theory predicts the existence of fossils, it is that the theory predicts the sequence of fossils from early hominids (in the case of the hominid sequence) to modern day hominids. The same is true of other genuses, species, etc. The sequences are necessarily incomplete, at least in part because not all fossils have been found, and possibly because members of not all lines left fossils behind.

  13. #13 raj
    September 20, 2006

    Regarding my raj | September 20, 2006 06:41 AM

    It isn’t so much that the theory predicts the existence of fossils, it is that the theory predicts the sequence of fossils from early hominids (in the case of the hominid sequence) to modern day hominids.

    I should have written

    It isn’t so much that the theory predicts the existence of fossils, it is that the theory predicts the existence of a sequence of fossils from early hominids (in the case of the hominid sequence) to modern day hominids.

    Darwin’s theory does not predict any particular sequence of fossils. It does, however, predict that a sequence of fossils exists.

  14. #14 Pierce R. Butler
    September 20, 2006

    Ed Brayton: …”design” could be consistent with any pattern whatsoever.

    Even one where food intake shares the same pipe as air intake, arches & knees & hips & spines have high failures rates under the stresses of verticality, birth is premature and nonetheless very dangerous to mother and offspring due to an oversized cranium/undersized pelvis/birth canal, vitamin C synthesis is provided but completely disabled, a crucial gland with a propensity to swell is built around a vital duct when it could work as well alongside it, immune functions wildly attack themselves and/or innocuous particles, essential reproductive glands dangle vulnerably, etc, etc …
    - how is any of this compatible with any design but “bad”?

  15. #15 Ed Brayton
    September 20, 2006

    The Designer (not to be confused with the Decider) works in mysterious ways.

  16. #16 ZacharySmith
    September 20, 2006

    Re: Pierce’s comment.

    I suppose poor design in itself does not rule out the existence of a designer. But it does make you question His (Her? Its?) motives or competence….

    God is either a cruel prankster or an idiot.

  17. #17 KeithB
    September 20, 2006

    Raj: I agree with that completely and that was exactly the point I was trying to make.

    There is no element of Selden’s “Psycho-History” in evolution.

  18. #18 Matthew Young
    September 20, 2006

    God is either a cruel prankster or an idiot.

    Or indeed.. ..drum rolllll… …wait for it.. maybe even completely made up!!

    Like James Bond, or Barney the Dinosaur (actually, we already know dinosaurs are completely made up, as the bible tells us so).