Pharyngula

A two hour presentation was given at a local church last night by creation scientist whom I won’t name. This presentation overall lacked direction and seemed to jump from one topic to another without really stopping to make a point. About a third of the presentation was about dinosaur diversity, talking briefly about neat features that a variety of dinosaurs have. Various weather phenomena that could have caused the flood described in Genesis were vaguely presented without any solid background or logic. Fossils were also discussed, again without really any rhyme or reason.

There were two highlights thorughout the evening. The first was when the presenter enthusiastically exclaimed, “I do believe that there were fire-breathing dragons!” From behind me a women shouted an equally enthusiastic, “Amen!” The second highlight of the presentation was the time allotted for questions at the end when PZ Myers, who had been sitting quietly in the front row throughout the entire hour and a half presentation, raised his hand and fired one off. For some reason, this reminded me of the nationally televised Bush vs. Kerry campaign debates of 2004. Whenever Bush was asked a question, he seemed to stutter ignorantly all over his podium for a few moments and then say some elaborate nonsense that didn’t really provide an answer.

To me, trying to scientifically explain an interpretation of the Bible, an interpretation that may not even be accurate, completely misses the meaning of having faith. Some of my fellow neurobio students agreed with me that science and the Bible should not have to be in opposition. It’s a shame that some creation scientists deliberately ignore valid research in areas such as glacial geology and evolutionary ecology to formulate what they consider to be a scriptural explanation of how the Earth came about. The Bible does not define the chemical and genetic specifics of the origin of this planet and the life existing on it. So is creation science attempting to make the Bible say something it doesn’t? Perhaps people have been set in their interpretations for so long, that it’s too difficult to accept that current research in science (that may not jibe with these long held interpretations) does not have to disagree with the Bible.

Comments

  1. #1 zohn
    October 8, 2007

    creation “scientist”?????? are you out of your mind, lad? there is no “science” nor any “scientists” in creationism! better get your terminology straight…how can you be in pz’s class and not know who a scientist is and what science is?

  2. #2 Jay
    October 8, 2007

    The problem isn’t in the compatibility of science and faith, it’s that people of faith want everyone to believe the exact same thing they do. And if someone posits something that contradicts anything they believe, they then feel the need to prove them wrong to other people.

    Honestly, if everyone just kept their faith to themselves we wouldn’t have a lot of the problems we have today.

  3. #3 The Professor
    October 8, 2007

    Honestly, if everyone just kept their faith to themselves we wouldn’t have a lot of the problems we have today.

    We wouldn’t. They would. If every skeptic on the planet were suddenly Raptured away to some scientific paradise, the believers left on earth would still find their beliefs being contradicted, on a daily basis, by reality itself. Then they’d have to start blaming each other.

  4. #4 Blake Stacey
    October 8, 2007

    The Bible says that bats are birds? Total lunacy! Everybody knows that bats are bugs.

    Come on, Calvin and Hobbes fans, I know you’re out there. . . .

  5. #5 Sarcastro
    October 8, 2007

    “I do believe that there were fire-breathing dragons!”

    These morons really think the “Tannim” (lit. “smokers” in Hebrew) of the old testament are the same thing as the “Drakon” (“serpent” in Greek) of the New Testament?

    It’s like nobody has bothered to study Greek or Hebrew since the KJV was (mis-)translated. I mean, even the ancient Hebrews (cf. Josephus) knew that the “tannim” were WHALES for Kibo’s sake.

    These folks are actually DUMBER than the pig-ignorant nomadic yakherders who wrote this garbage down ibn the first place.

  6. #6 James
    October 8, 2007

    Oh, like I’m going to learn about bats and then write a report?! Give me a break!

  7. #7 melior
    October 8, 2007

    Science and The Star-bellied Sneetches should not have to be in opposition. It is quite possible that natural selection could result in Sneetches with zero, one, or even two stars on their bellies.

  8. #8 Sheldon
    October 8, 2007

    “creation “scientist”?????? are you out of your mind, lad? there is no “science” nor any “scientists” in creationism! better get your terminology straight…how can you be in pz’s class and not know who a scientist is and what science is?”

    Give the guy a break Zohn. He was just identifying the presentor as he probably presented himself. From the posting as a whole I think it is evident that Blue Expo knows that the presenter was not a scientist, and what science is.

  9. #9 Warren
    October 8, 2007

    All together now…

    I do believe in dragons! I do! I do!

    Wait. Wait. That was a fantasy movie from a few years ago, wasn’t it?

    How odd that I mix up the notion of a child that refuses to mature into adulthood with the statements of hard-right fundamentalists.

  10. #10 Joe mc Faul
    October 8, 2007

    “…PZ Myers, who had been sitting quietly in the front row throughout the entire hour and a half presentation, raised his hand and fired one off.”

    What was his question? How was it answered?

    Inquiring minds want to know.

  11. #11 Joe mc Faul
    October 8, 2007

    “…PZ Myers, who had been sitting quietly in the front row throughout the entire hour and a half presentation, raised his hand and fired one off.”

    What was his question? How was it answered?

    Inquiring minds want to know.

  12. #12 June
    October 8, 2007

    The Wizard of Oz is such a wonderfully atheistic children story. “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” says the man behind the curtain. Priceless!

  13. #13 dcwp
    October 8, 2007

    “The Bible does not define the chemical and genetic specifics of the origin of this planet and the life existing on it.”

    But it does, and it does so accurately. Genesis clearly states that god formed people from clay and then breathed life into them. This is why we still breath today and if you cut a human, clay oozes out. Why else would Emergency Rooms be stocked full of Bondo?

  14. #14 Owlmirrror
    October 8, 2007

    But it does, and it does so accurately. Genesis clearly states that god formed people from clay and then breathed life into them. This is why we still breath today and if you cut a human, clay oozes out. Why else would Emergency Rooms be stocked full of Bondo?

    And if you dig down anywhere, you will find the 4000-year-old sediments of the global flood.

    And hasn’t it been chemically proven and mathematically calculated that sun is made of glowing coal that is a little younger than the earth? And that the stars are all similar glowing coals 6000 lightyears away? And that the Big Bang was centered directly on the Earth?

    What else is science for, if not to prove the glory of the Almighty Yahweh?

  15. #15 Reginald Selkirk
    October 8, 2007

    What else is science for, if not to prove the glory of the Almighty Yahweh?

    I thought it was for impressing the babes.

  16. #16 raven
    October 8, 2007

    I think one useful definition when referring to a sacred text is “important”, “unchangeable”, and “undeniable”

    I sort of see what you mean, but I don’t. The bible contradicts itself in hundreds of places. Two creation myths, two stories of the Big Boat.

    The 4 gospels differ a lot too even though they are about the same person. In one gospel, faith alone is enough for salvation. In another faith and good works are required for salvation. These two slightly differing ideas were partly responsible for the deaths of tens of million of Xians who killed each other during the reformation and for 400 years thereafter.

    As many theologians have noted, whoever says the bible has to be literally true, sure as hell hasn’t read it.

    Probably a good thing. It is not unusual for theologians to carefully read the book and end up atheists.

  17. #17 Felicia Gilljam
    October 8, 2007

    #9:

    I doubt the people who wrote genesis ever believed or meant it to be taken literally as “science”.

    Science as we know it didn’t really exist when the bible was written, did it?

    There are two creation myths within a few pages. They aren’t the same. They have had 4,000 years to edit the chapter for consistency and continuity but never bothered.

    Err… Genesis wasn’t written more than a few centuries BC. Certainly not 2,000 years…

  18. #18 raven
    October 8, 2007

    Science as we know it didn’t really exist when the bible was written, did it?

    Probably not. OTOH, humans have been sytematically observing and changing the world as long as we know. It is a matter of survival. So you have inventions like metallurgy, domestication of crops and animals, and so on. I’m sure that they had a good knowledge of what they considered the salient points of their environs.

    Err… Genesis wasn’t written more than a few centuries BC. Certainly not 2,000 years…

    This is what the creos say, 6k earth, 4K Big Boat, Genesis was written somewhere in this time. IIRC, many creos claim Moses wrote 5 of the bible books. Don’t recall whether Genesis was one of them.

    Most modern scholars believe the Old Testament was written or colllected somewhere in the 600-800 BC range.

    All I know, not much. For the sake of the point, whether Genesis was written 4,000 years ago by Moses or collated by same nameless Talmudic scholar in 800 BC doesn’t matter. It wasn’t meant to be a comprehensive science textbook.

  19. #19 Steve_C
    October 8, 2007

    MIke they were IGNORANT AND MAKING SHIT UP. Period. Who cares if most of modern science wasn’t around. To point to the bible and say there’s sound science in it is just stupid.

  20. #20 Kristine
    October 8, 2007

    So where are all those reasonable religious believers that Dawkins was supposed to take on in The God Delusion instead of these figments of his “radical atheist” imagination? Because he cherry-picked his examples, right? These morons who believe in fire-breathing dragons – they’re a product of Dawkins’ own delusion, right? They don’t really exist, do they?
    /irony off

  21. #21 salient
    October 8, 2007

    Ethan Romero in #14 said: “I think that one minor tragedy of this whole creationism argle-bargle is that some of those ‘creation scientists’ would have made perfectly fine reality scientists had they [] over indulged in religious sweets.”

    I think that you [ommitted] a ‘not’.

    I find it hard to believe that creation pseudoscientists who so patently care nothing for facts, logic, or truth-seeking, could ever, by dint of these cognitive defects, have made fine reality scientists. I’m saying that I don’t think that their problem is merely that they have been taught lies since childhood, it is also that they have not the instinct for logic that enables some to escape religious indoctrination. Many of my friends describe having thought, “what a crock” as early as childhood. I don’t think that it is an accident of indoctrination that most devout creationists are also political conservatives who ignore facts so as to support their bigotted notions.

  22. #22 SEF
    October 8, 2007

    a metaphorical view of the bible is a very recent thing

    Rubbish!

    The people closer to the actual culture (eg properly educated Jews and even some of the NT writers) knew that the stories were just stories. In a pre-literate culture (ie before the Jews wrote down the already divergent versions of their ancestral cultural myths) the only way to pass on information was orally. And the only way to do that with some reliability (among small numbers of mostly averagely thick people in order to reach the next smart one to come along some generation hence) was via stories.

    Stories could be made memorable even if their more subtle meanings were hard to grasp. Hence the later Jews having a whole traditional system of study devoted to what the correct hidden meanings were supposed to be. They’d hardly do that if they didn’t think they were metaphorical. Although some aspects of the stories were pretty simple and the same as European fairy-tales of the “the moral of this story is …” kind. There was no point in stating anything complex outright in an oral story because you could guarantee it would get mangled by the next thicko to pass it along.

    The fact that people once knew the stories to be stories is reflected in the NT, where the Jesus character always resorts to telling a story rather than giving a direct answer to a direct question. Amazingly, Christian fundies tend to miss this rather blatant built-in clue, even if they claim to know the bible and can quote much of it. So they are clearly not processing the contents at any sort of higher level than merely parroting it (as per a typical ancient tribesman).

    Meanwhile, that sort of cryptic answer by a would-be guru or prophet type can also serve another purpose – that of pretending to be smarter than you are, exactly as practised by many philosophers and quacks today. If challenged by reality, they can always pretend they meant something else by it. Similarly, a bible quoter can make the bible and even an individual story say anything they’ve decided they want it to say.

  23. #23 Robert Melville
    October 9, 2007

    Having studied the problem of origins for the last 32 years, I have asked Richard Dawkins and the Evolution Special Interest Grpoup of Mensa for one scientifically credible shred of evidence that points towards evolution and have not been given even one!
    I can produce a HUGE number of provable, scientifically credible pieces of evidence that point away from evolutionary processes and towards a recent creation by a creator with an eternal agenda.
    Below is a very small selection of questions for those that believe the evolutionary hypothesis.

    How come all living organisms have only left-handed amino acids and man can’t make them?

    How come cultures all round the world have 7 day weeks?

    How come the Matterhorn is upside down?

    How come cultures all round the world have mythology that tells of their ancestor bringing them to safety in a boat with all the animals?

    How could whales evolve the process of suckling their young underwater?

    How could a Bombardier Beetle evolve?

    How come there is no evidence any-where of an increase in DNA information in any example of speciation?

    How did the ancient Welsh people get the drawings of dragons from China, and why did China choose the dragon to represent a year, when all the rest of the creatures chosen can be found wandering around today?

    How come I can never run out of questions that are difficult for Evolutionists to answer?

  24. #24 David Marjanovi?
    October 9, 2007

    Adam is believed to be a literal human being who committed his sins just a few thousand years ago. A consequence of the theory of evolution, however, is that there could have been no real Adam.

    Why is that a problem for a believer, as long as there could have been a real Jesus?

    I thought it was for impressing the babes.

    Some of them anyway.

    Whatever we may believe about “Atlantis”, there remains ample evidence of a catastrophic volcanic eruption that almost destroyed what is now the island of Santorini around 1,650 B.C.E. The eruption has been described as exceeding that of Krakatau. I suspect that the resultant tsunami found its way into “flood” mythology. The Middle East was not far away as the tsunami flies. Tsunamis tend to knock things over and scour sediments, but would not necessarily leave the deposits expected of a static flood. Not a global flood, though it could have seemed so on the ground, but definitely a candidate for mythology inspiration.

    Naaah. There’s no way any such flood could have gone beyond the very coast of the Mediterranean. Besides, the eruption was smaller than was long thought — Santorini already was a ring before that eruption.

    (Atlantis is most likely an account of Troy that got distorted from being translated into Egyptian and then back to Greek, but I digress.)

    How come all living organisms have only left-handed amino acids

    That’s a very good question. The only hypothesis I’ve seen is that UV light from stars is, because of its polarization, is more likely to make left- than right-handed amino acids in interstellar dust.

    and man can’t make them?

    We can make most of them, and we can’t make a single right-handed one AFAIK. Bacteria can make certain right-handed ones because they occur in their cell walls.

    How come cultures all round the world have 7 day weeks?

    That’s simply not true. Into the 20th century, AFAIK, China had ten-day weeks, as did ancient Egypt.

    How come the Matterhorn is upside down?

    What do you mean by “upside-down”?

    How come cultures all round the world have mythology that tells of their ancestor bringing them to safety in a boat with all the animals?

    Why are there AFAIK no such cultures in Africa?

    Floods happen, events get inflated in stories over time, and myths can spread. All that is well-investigated. For example, there’s a whole complex of legends shared throughout the Caucasus by speakers of very different language families.

    How could whales evolve the process of suckling their young underwater?

    I can’t see where the problem is supposed to be, as long as the baby can hold its breath (hint: the closest living relatives of the whales are the hippos, and they, too, are born underwater).

    How could a Bombardier Beetle evolve?

    The chemicals involved are outright banal. One is a quinone — we make quinones all day long in our inner mitochondrial membranes. I forgot what the other one is, and I’m too lazy to look it up.

    How come there is no evidence any-where of an increase in DNA information in any example of speciation?

    As soon as you make the mistake of defining what, if anything, you mean by “information”, I will prove you wrong, unless someone else does it first.

    How did the ancient Welsh people get the drawings of dragons from China,

    Huh?

    and why did China choose the dragon to represent a year, when all the rest of the creatures chosen can be found wandering around today?

    They did stuff like that all the time, because each animal, whether real or mythical, symbolizes something. I’ve been to the Ming tombs near Beijing. There’s a long alley flanked by statues of real and mythical animals, the mythical ones being obvious composites of parts of several real ones; each symbolizes something, and so does the precise order in which they are arranged.

    How come I can never run out of questions that are difficult for Evolutionists to answer?

    Just because you haven’t seen the research doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

    (It’s also cute how you write “Evolutionists” as if the theory of evolution were an ideology.)

  25. #25 David Marjanovi?
    October 9, 2007

    Adam is believed to be a literal human being who committed his sins just a few thousand years ago. A consequence of the theory of evolution, however, is that there could have been no real Adam.

    Why is that a problem for a believer, as long as there could have been a real Jesus?

    I thought it was for impressing the babes.

    Some of them anyway.

    Whatever we may believe about “Atlantis”, there remains ample evidence of a catastrophic volcanic eruption that almost destroyed what is now the island of Santorini around 1,650 B.C.E. The eruption has been described as exceeding that of Krakatau. I suspect that the resultant tsunami found its way into “flood” mythology. The Middle East was not far away as the tsunami flies. Tsunamis tend to knock things over and scour sediments, but would not necessarily leave the deposits expected of a static flood. Not a global flood, though it could have seemed so on the ground, but definitely a candidate for mythology inspiration.

    Naaah. There’s no way any such flood could have gone beyond the very coast of the Mediterranean. Besides, the eruption was smaller than was long thought — Santorini already was a ring before that eruption.

    (Atlantis is most likely an account of Troy that got distorted from being translated into Egyptian and then back to Greek, but I digress.)

    How come all living organisms have only left-handed amino acids

    That’s a very good question. The only hypothesis I’ve seen is that UV light from stars is, because of its polarization, is more likely to make left- than right-handed amino acids in interstellar dust.

    and man can’t make them?

    We can make most of them, and we can’t make a single right-handed one AFAIK. Bacteria can make certain right-handed ones because they occur in their cell walls.

    How come cultures all round the world have 7 day weeks?

    That’s simply not true. Into the 20th century, AFAIK, China had ten-day weeks, as did ancient Egypt.

    How come the Matterhorn is upside down?

    What do you mean by “upside-down”?

    How come cultures all round the world have mythology that tells of their ancestor bringing them to safety in a boat with all the animals?

    Why are there AFAIK no such cultures in Africa?

    Floods happen, events get inflated in stories over time, and myths can spread. All that is well-investigated. For example, there’s a whole complex of legends shared throughout the Caucasus by speakers of very different language families.

    How could whales evolve the process of suckling their young underwater?

    I can’t see where the problem is supposed to be, as long as the baby can hold its breath (hint: the closest living relatives of the whales are the hippos, and they, too, are born underwater).

    How could a Bombardier Beetle evolve?

    The chemicals involved are outright banal. One is a quinone — we make quinones all day long in our inner mitochondrial membranes. I forgot what the other one is, and I’m too lazy to look it up.

    How come there is no evidence any-where of an increase in DNA information in any example of speciation?

    As soon as you make the mistake of defining what, if anything, you mean by “information”, I will prove you wrong, unless someone else does it first.

    How did the ancient Welsh people get the drawings of dragons from China,

    Huh?

    and why did China choose the dragon to represent a year, when all the rest of the creatures chosen can be found wandering around today?

    They did stuff like that all the time, because each animal, whether real or mythical, symbolizes something. I’ve been to the Ming tombs near Beijing. There’s a long alley flanked by statues of real and mythical animals, the mythical ones being obvious composites of parts of several real ones; each symbolizes something, and so does the precise order in which they are arranged.

    How come I can never run out of questions that are difficult for Evolutionists to answer?

    Just because you haven’t seen the research doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

    (It’s also cute how you write “Evolutionists” as if the theory of evolution were an ideology.)

  26. #26 Josh
    October 9, 2007

    How come the Matterhorn is upside down?

    Okay…I know I shouldn’t take the bait here, but I’ve got to know…what the hell are you talking about?

    You’re not really trying to intimate that because the Matterhorn consists of older rocks thrust upon younger sediments, it means that the mountain is upside down? Or, and this is even more foolish, that even if it were somehow possible for a mountain to be ‘upside down’ (I’m pretty sure it’s not), that it would have anything to do with evolution?

  27. #27 Dustin
    October 9, 2007

    How come cultures all round the world have 7 day weeks?

    Round the world these days they have 7 day weeks as a matter of convention. They didn’t always have 7 day weeks, and the ones that did have 7 day weeks adopted 7 day weeks because of the number of < a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Weekday_heptagram.ant.png">visible astronomical bodies at the time.

    How come the Matterhorn is upside down?

    Are we talking about the mountain here? Are you sure you aren’t standing on your head? Because it looks like a mountain to me.

    How come cultures all round the world have mythology that tells of their ancestor bringing them to safety in a boat with all the animals?

    It’s even more telling that cultures the world round know the story of how Luke Skywalker defeated the evil Darth Vader. People tell stories, shithead, and the good ones get passed around. Other stories (and I’m about to insult your belief that all of the world’s animal life was crammed on to something smaller than an aircraft carrier and carted around during a big flood), are pretty easy to co-invent.

    How could whales evolve the process of suckling their young underwater?

    It didn’t.

    How could a Bombardier Beetle evolve?

    I’m not going to bother. If I tell you how it *could* have evolved, you’ll move the goalpost by saying I didn’t tell you how it *did* evolve.

    How come there is no evidence any-where of an increase in DNA information in any example of speciation?

    So, you admit that speciation occurs but, because it doesn’t conform to some arbitrary requirement, you think that’s a problem? I’m curious, do you know what information is? (Actually, I’m not curious, I’m lying. You’re a creationist, you don’t know what information is.)

    How did the ancient Welsh people get the drawings of dragons from China, and why did China choose the dragon to represent a year, when all the rest of the creatures chosen can be found wandering around today?

    Yeah, there sure aren’t dinosaur bones in China to inspire those kinds of legends. IT SURE IS HARD TO IMAGINE A GIANT REPTILIAN CREATURE!!!! OMG TEHERE R SO DRAGONS!!!
    I think the more important question is, since most cultures have legends about titans, where are the titans? Or sea serpents? Or griffons? Or cyclopses? Or elves? Or fairies? Or nymphs? Or witches? Evolution is doomed because it cannot account for the elves!

  28. #28 Luna_the_cat
    October 9, 2007

    Actually, there is a good argument that some cultures adopted a 7-day week because that is how long it takes for a human louse egg to hatch. If you comb for nits every 7 days, you keep the parasite population to a minimum. However, as has been pointed out, not all human cultures had — or even have — a seven day week. This is just the standard convention enforced by a common global trade and communication network, now.

    And not all cultures have any myth regarding a boat, either. A number of the prairie tribes, for instance, have myths regarding crawling up through holes in the ground, or down through holes in the sky. Flood myths are common to cultures on big rivers or glacial lakes, though, oddly enough….

    And we can certainly manufacture both right-handed and left-handed amino acids (sorry, David Marjanovi?) — most lab mixtures are racemic. But life only tends to use left-handed ones now because they fit together like zipper teeth when a polypeptide is being constructed — one in the wrong orientation throws the whole thing off and stops the chain being extended. How life settled on using left-handed rather than right-handed amino acids in the first place is an interesting question, and probably does have to do with marginally better stability in the left-handed ones.

    And speciation has CERTAINLY involved drastic increases in the amount of information in DNA…unless, for some unexplained and unjustifiable reason, you choose to exclude plants or rats from your definition of what can speciate, and choose to declare that the wholesale doubling of a genome doesn’t count as an increase in information.

    And so on, and so forth……

  29. #29 Rey Fox
    October 9, 2007

    I think Josh has the best idea about what Robert meant by the Matterhorn being upside-down, but I went ahead and googled “matterhorn upside-down” to see if this was some weird creationist lingo that I, as a part of the reality-based community, don’t understand. The only even close-to-relevant hit I got was one about a special Swiss stamp that doesn’t exactly bolster his Young Earth position.

    http://www.swisspost.ch/en/index/uk_mm05_marke_eicher.htm?viewId=22980
    “Stephan Eicher had plenty of ideas that resulted in the special “Thank you” stamp. It shows the Matterhorn which, upside-down, resembles the contours of the African continent. The “Thank you” is his symbolic vote of thanks to the Dark Continent. Parts of the African continental plate shifted northward millions of years ago, and their modest remains are now the uniquely shaped Matterhorn. By designing this special stamp, Stephan Eicher was able to make a boyhood dream come true.”

  30. #30 David Marjanovi?
    October 9, 2007

    And we can certainly manufacture both right-handed and left-handed amino acids (sorry, David Marjanovi?) — most lab mixtures are racemic.

    The original says “Man can’t make them” — sure we can do it in the lab, but not in our own metabolism.

  31. #31 David Marjanovi?
    October 9, 2007

    And we can certainly manufacture both right-handed and left-handed amino acids (sorry, David Marjanovi?) — most lab mixtures are racemic.

    The original says “Man can’t make them” — sure we can do it in the lab, but not in our own metabolism.

  32. #32 Luna_the_cat
    October 9, 2007

    Ah, I see. Difference in how we interpreted the statement.

    Oh, and Josh…thankyew, thankyew, don’t applaud, just throw money.

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