Sunday, August 27, 2006

ABC and ID

By way of Instapundit, Tim Blair notes that ABC is promoting a new book that attacks ID. The tag line for the book, which you can buy at the ABC Shop, reads, in part:

Using all the richness of the scientific and natural worlds, Robyn Williams takes on the stalking monster in a short, wicked and witty debunk of ID. Why make the earth, the solar system, our galaxy and all the rest, he asks, when the Garden of Eden was all that was needed? And then there's lifespan. During long periods of human history, the life expectancy of men was a mere 22 years and children were lucky to toddle, let alone grow up. Why the waste? And shouldn't we sue God for sinus blockages, hernias, appendix flare-ups and piles, not to mention bad backs?

Aside from the myopic view of the universe that the writer displays here, one might also quibble with the sheer snottiness of the language. Sounds like a book I need to pick up for the sheer joy of taking it apart. Faith isn't science. When are people going to figure that one out?

Thank you, Mr. Reynolds.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

"...As the sparks fly upward"

From the Vatican, we find the pope has fired his royal astronomer for his support of evolutionary theory. According to a Daily Mail article:

"Benedict favours intelligent design, which says God directs the process of evolution, over Charles Darwin's original theory which holds that species evolve through the random, unplanned processes of genetic mutation and the survival of the fittest.

But Father Coyne, the director of the Vatican Observatory for 28 years, is an outspoken supporter of Darwin's theory, arguing that it is compatible with Christianity.

He has been replaced by Argentine Jesuit Father Jose Funes, 43, an expert on disk galaxies."

The father has apparently been quite critical of ID, calling it a ""religious movement" lacking any scientific merit."

There are other disturbing aspects to this story:

"One source indicated that Cardinal Schonborn's New York Times article would not have been written without the Pope's permission.

The removal of Father Coyne also comes just weeks before the Vatican hosts a weekend seminar to examine the impact Darwin's theory on the Church's teaching of Creation."

Keep a watch on this one.

Darwin = Hitler? Apparently not.

Reader Steve Carr points out that in two of Hitler's speeches, he very clearly states that humans were not part of the evolutionary path. He writes:

The irony is that Hitler, of course, was a creationist, at least as far as human beings were concerned. Hitler explicity rejected Darwinism and the evolution of man.

From Hitler's Tischgespraeche for the night of the 25th to 26th 1942 'Woher nehmen wir das Recht zu glauben, der Mensch sei nicht von Uranfaengen das gewesen , was er heute ist? Der Blick in die Natur zeigt uns, dass im Bereich der Pflanzen und Tiere Veraenderungen und Weiterbildungen vorkommen. Aber nirgends zeigt sich innherhalb einer Gattung eine Entwicklung von der Weite des Sprungs, den der Mensch gemacht haben muesste, sollte er sich aus einem affenartigen Zustand zu dem, was er ist, fortgebildet haben.'

And in the entry for 27 February 1942 , Hitler says 'Das, was der Mensch von dem Tier voraushat, der veilleicht wunderbarste Beweis fuer die Ueberlegenheit des Menschen ist, dass er begriffen hat, dass es eine Schoepferkraft geben muss.'

In English the first quote reads: “Where do we get the right to believe that humans have not been, from the very beginning, what they are today? A look into nature shows us that in the realm of plants and animals changes and developments occur. But nowhere in a species does a development occur that is further from the origin which people must have made if they evolved (developed) from their ape-like condition to that which they are now.”

The second quote: “That which gives people an advantage over animals (distinguishes people from animals?) and which is perhaps the most astounding proof of the superiority of people, is that they have grasped that there must be a creator power.”

These quotes seem to pour water on the claim that Hitler relied on Darwinism for his ideas. I will be curious to see how Coral Ridge Ministries handles these quotes, or makes mention of them.

Hobbits again

The controversy is heating up again on the island of Flores, where the peculiar individuals called Homo floresiensis were discovered a few years ago. A new analysis of the material claims that they suffered from a form of microcephaly. The authors of the study, which will appear in the Proceedings of the National Acadmey of Sciences, state:

“The skeletal remains do not represent a new species, but some of the ancestors of modern human pygmies who live on the island today.”

The authors also state the the initial study by Michael Moorwood was flawed in that Homo sapiens remains from Europe were used for comparison instead of regional populations.

This will continue to heat up.

Darwin = Hitler?

A new special from Coral Ridge Ministries will air on August 26 and 27 titled Darwin's Deadly Legacy. Check for local listings. Christian NewsWire reports on this:

The program features 14 scholars, scientists, and authors who outline the grim consequences of Darwin's theory of evolution and show how this theory fueled Hitler's ovens.

"To put it simply, no Darwin, no Hitler," says Dr. Kennedy, the host of Darwin's Deadly Legacy. "Hitler tried to speed up evolution, to help it along, and millions suffered and died in unspeakable ways because of it."

It strikes me that people promoting this argument are very poor students of history. Hitler was one in a long line of despotic dictators who have practiced genocide. Stalin, Hitler's contemporary, starved 22 million people to death and yet subscribed to Lysenkoism, the antithesis of Darwinism.

Dr. Kennedy also makes a logical error when he says:

"The time has come to recognize that evolution is a bad idea and should be, frankly, discarded into the dustbin of history".

This argument is largely academic in the same way that arguments against nuclear power are. In the 1970s and 1980s, people protested against the use of nuclear power and the evils that it created. That didn't change the reality of nuclear power, which existed independently of the protestors. The same is true of evolution. Just because you do not like something, doesn't mean it doesn't exist or will go away.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Human DNA

The BBC reports on a study in which a gene sequence that is unique to humans has been found. Speculation is that it is at least partially responsible for the brain expansion in humans. The story notes:

The area, called HAR1, has undergone accelerated evolutionary change in humans and is active during a critical stage in brain development.

Evidently, this gene is very different in humans than in other mammals, showing 18 base pair differences from Chimpanzees. As the authors notes, that is a lot in a few million years. Interesting.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Lubenow now

I have finished reading the Marvin Lubenow book, Bones of Contention, and will start writing the review. The errors are almost innumerable and to make a note of all of them would make the review three times longer than the book, itself. I will confine my review to six different categories: General considerations, factual errors, logical errors, using out of date information, misinterpretations, and deception. I debated about what to call the last category, but there are instances in which the author clearly omits information he knows will damage his case. The book, published by a non-science publishing house known more for tracts, is a travesty of science and clearly would never have survived any kind of scrutiny that a mainstream science press would have given it. Time to get to work.

Light blogging

Sorry about the light blogging. I have been snowed under getting a class finished. More now.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Davis Young and Human Antiquity

Catching up again. In the early 1980s, Davis Young, a geologist at Calvin College in Michigan wrote a top-flight book called Christianity and the Age of the Earth. In it, he argued that there was compelling, undeniable evidence not only that the earth was 4.5 billion years old but that a literal understanding of the early chapters of Genesis (particularly the Flood) is unwarranted.

In that book, he expressed considerable reservations, if not outright rejection, of evolution. Since that time, he has written an article called "The Antiquity and the Unity of the Human Race Revisited." In it, he struggles mightily with the revelation that the fossil record of modern humans extends back 100 000 years. Dr. Young is kind of over a barrel here. He cannot bring himself to accept evolutionary theory, but at the same time, he knows good and well that absolute dating methods work exactly the way they are supposed to. This understanding of the fossil record also has an impact on his understanding of the later chapters of the Primeval History (Genesis 1-11). Along the way, he makes a statement that many Christians privately think but don't say publicly:

I suspect that ancient Near Eastern flood epics and Genesis 6-9 are referring to the same event. The similarity in structure between Genesis 1-11, the Atrahasis Epic, and the eleventh tablet of the Gilgamesh Epic renders it likely that all have the same deluge in mind. If so, the biblical flood is appropriately identified with a flood that occurred shortly before the time of the Sumerian king Gilgamesh who lived in the early 3rd millennium B.C. Thus the biblical flood should probably be dated in the 4th or very early 3rd millennium B.C. Possibly the biblical flood should be related to some of the flood deposits encountered at a variety of archeological sites within Mesopotamia. If this is the case, early evidences of agriculture at ancient Near Eastern sites plainly pre-date the biblical flood, just what seems to be suggested by Genesis.

His second revelation is crushing because it completely circumvents the anti-evolution arguments. With regard to the claim about the antiquity of modern humans, he writes:

This claim has nothing to do with evolutionary theories of human origins or even with such ancient hominids as Homo erectus, Homo habilis, or the various species of Australopithecus. The claim does not even concern remains of Neanderthal man. I am dealing solely with the fossil evidence of anatomically modern humans. That evidence suggests that anatomically modern humans may have appeared as early as 100,000 years ago in Africa while elsewhere in the Old World the appearance of anatomically modern humans occurred somewhat later but surely by 40,000 years before the present.

Interestingly, there is evidence for the appearance of modern humans in the Near East at about 100 thousand years ago. It is not a done deal that modern humans appeared in Africa first.

Dr. Young suggests that if we wish to continue to think of Adam and Eve as actual, historical people, there are three alternatives open to us.
1. Adam and Eve as Recent Ancestors, in which there are humans living today that were not descended from Adam and Eve. Firstly, how would you know who was who and, and can these "non-adamaic" people have union with God?
2. Adam and Eve as Recent Representatives, in which Adam and Eve are the actual representatives of humans, both ancestral and descendent. Original sin, then is not bound up in Adam per se, but in all people related to him. It is, as Young puts it, a "federal headship."
3. Adam and Eve as Ancient Ancestors, in which Adam and Eve were biological progenitors of modern humans as a whole. This is okay scientifically, but makes mincemeat of the genealogies in Genesis.

By his own admission, Young's intention is not to solve the problem, but to get Christians thinking about what the problems are with a straight literal reading of Genesis. He congenially closes by saying:

Once we have solved this issue, perhaps we will be ready to solve the evolution question!