Now playing: Mannheim Steamroller - A Shade Tree
This is a blog detailing the creation/evolution/ID controversy and assorted palaeontological news. I will post news here with running commentary.
BARRY LYNN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, AMERICANS UNITED FOR SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE: Well, it's really a ministry. It honestly is.As much as I disagree with Barry Lynn most of the time, he has a point here. This is a particular point of view that is being expressed and Lynn is correct that it entails at least tacit support for an initiative that is purely religiously based, whether or not Ken Ham wishes to acknowledge this. This makes Ham's response somewhat naïve. The Koran carries within it history as well, but no one would construe an amusement park based on the Koran as being anything other than Muslim-based.
Its purpose primarily is to try -- on the Web site of Answers in Genesis, it says this -- to convince the world, including those of us in America, that there is a literal truth to the Bible. And that includes the literal truth of the story of a worldwide flood and Noah's Ark.
So, it would be very -- I would be hard-pressed to find anyone who looks at this project and doesn't see this as a ministry. And that's precisely what's wrong with the government of Kentucky, the state, helping to subsidize it.
COOPER: Mr. Ham, are you trying to convert people here?
HAM: You know, first of all, it's not Answers in Genesis that owns the Ark Encounter. The Ark Encounter is a profit organization. Answers in Genesis is just a member. You need to understand that.
And, secondly, the -- the government of Kentucky is not subsidizing the Ark Encounter. They have an economic incentive program available for anyone. In fact, they can't have viewpoint discrimination, as Barry Lynn would like to have.
And because of the economic incentive program, we, like anyone else, if we fulfill the criteria of that -- and there are five criteria -- it doesn't involve the state endorsing any particular religion or anything like that.
In fact, the Ark Encounter is not a religion. It is a theme park. It is centered around biblical history. And -- and the state is not going to have viewpoint discrimination just because it's a theme park centered around biblical history.
LYNN: No, no, but, see, that is fundamentally wrong.
The truth of the matter is that this park, whether it's partially private or partially for-profit, it is promoting the one thing that the other groups getting subsidies don't promote, and that is a specific religious viewpoint.
Aside from the legal issues, I was horrified just a few weeks ago when the governor, Steve Beshear, of Kentucky stands up there with folks from this Ark park and basically gives his blessing to what -- let's just call them unorthodox ideas from Answers in Genesis.
“And, by the way, when Evolution Sunday rolls around in 2011, all Christian Darwinists should pause to reflect on how much their faith owes to these people. (I mention this because I am knee-deep in these blessed dimes of Darwin, for some project I am stuck with.)”
Why on earth would my faith owe these people anything? My faith in Jesus and my acceptance of evolutionary biology doesn’t hinge on whether or not these people are atheists. These people were atheists long before they supported evolution. And evolution has been around a lot longer than they have.We will see how long the comment stays up or if she responds to it. I know it is not strictly a DI page, but, then again, there have never been open comments here before.
Discovery Institute Senior Fellow William Dembski’s weblog, “Uncommon Descent”, has comments enabled, but the moderation there is generally so ham-fisted that only a few voices of dissent have lasted more than a week or two. The various inconsistencies of moderation and proclivity to stifle dissent have their own thread at “After the Bar Closes”., and discussion of content at UD has occupied three long-running threads (, , and ).For a reminder of one particularly bad exchange, a read of Pharyngula's account is instructive. We shall see what we shall see.
But Gaskell says it was Kentucky’s biology department that sank his candidacy for the observatory directorship. Upon discovering his lecture notes online, several members of the search committee expressed curiosity, though not necessarily alarm. “Clearly this man is complex and likely fascinating to talk to -- but possibly evangelical,” wrote one committee member in an e-mail. “If we hire him, we should expect similar content to be posted on or directly linked from the department website.” Another, noting that he was aware of Gaskell’s religious disposition, responded, “Personally, I believe in freedom of religion, and have no problem with Martin as long as he does not use the classroom or official university sites as a pulpit.”Gaskell says that the biology department, whose members had no astrophysical experience or training were allowed to influence the decision to hire him. Understandably, this was upsetting. There was, additionally, clearly some future projecting going on:
“[A non-committee member] suggested, in particular, that we might one day wake up to a [Lexington] Herald-Leader headline citing ‘UK hires creationist as Observatory Director,’” wrote one member of the search committee in an e-mail. “Such a headline would probably not be a fair representation of Martin’s personal views, which are not simple, but the headline could appear nonetheless.”You cannot hire or not hire somebody based on something that may or may not happen that has little bearing on their position. One might just as easily say that they have a problem with hiring someone for a biology position because they go to church. God only knows what that church might teach some Sunday.
It is true that there are significant scientific problems in evolutionary theory (a good thing or else many biologists and geologists would be out of a job) and that these problems are bigger than is usually made out in introductory geology/biology courses, but the real problem with humanistic evolution is in the unwarranted atheistic assumptions and extrapolations. It is the latter that “creationists” should really be attacking (many books do, in fact, attack these unwarranted assumptions and extrapolations).What exactly are these “significant problems?” He does not say (nor, I will warrant, would he be able to). The first thing that comes to my mind when I read something like this is “Discovery Institute party line” and red flags go up. Here is a man who complains that biologists who have no expertise in astrophysics are having an influence on his hiring and yet appears to feel perfectly free to denigrate a science of which he knows nothing. Further, the statement isn't just wrong, it is pejorative, implying that biologists are pulling the wool over people's eyes when they teach it or practice it. That is uncalled for and unprofessional. He continues:
A discussion of the current controversies over evolutionary theory and how Christians view these controversies, is beyond the scope of this handout, but the now extensive literature discussing and reviewing books such as those of Phillip E. Johnson (“Darwin on Trial”) and of biochemist Michael J. Behe (“Darwin's Black Box”) will give you some of the flavor of the diversity of opinion of Christian biologists (and geologists).Why has he mentioned no books by mainstream biologists, such as Kenneth Miller or Francis Collins? They are both Christians and well-respected in the field of biology. The only flavor you will get with the list Gaskell provides is “Intelligent Design”.
“Twitter seems to be very effective, in a raw Darwinian sort of way, at identifying the true morons, doesn’t it?”
To be honest, I do not believe that RTB will pay any attention whatsoever to this series of posts. Given Rana's insulting response to Venema's critique, I expect that they'll treat this as yet another "ad hominem attack." I've mostly written this series for third parties that might be confused about the Venema/Rana exchange. As far as I'm concerned, RTB's credibility is completely shot (read my analysis of their handling of the Neandertal genome for more evidence of errors and exaggerations on the part of Ross, Rana, and Samples: parts one, two, three). I would recommend that no one accept any of RTB's arguments without fact-checking their claims first. I do not know whether these problems are due to lazy scholarship, ignorance, intentional deception, or ideological blinders. What I do know is that you cannot trust Reasons to Believe.This is very disappointing but, having read enough of Steve Matheson's writings, not entirely surprising. Once upon a time I had much respect for Hugh Ross and the work he did to try to convince the evangelical community that there could be a fulfilling theological construct that incorporated an old creation. He came to the University of Tennessee in the early 1990s and gave a series of compelling, cogent lectures on the astrophysical evidence. Even then, though, I had misgivings about what his (and his organization's) treatment of the biological data would be like. Now, it seems that my misgivings were well-founded and we have our answer.
Dr. Mohler, giant as he is in fundamentalist/evangelical circles, represents a view that takes on the entire scientific enterprise. To this day, I have not been able to identify a single person who holds a science faculty position in any Biology, Geology or Physics Department at any secular research university in the world who would agree with Dr. Mohler’s view of creation. Not one, out of what I imagine are tens of thousands, including many who are strongly committed to living the Christian life in the context of fully orthodox Christian theology... Scientific knowledge is not deeply flawed and we cannot allow ourselves to be led down this pathway any longer.
To this, Mohler responds:
That is nothing less than a manifesto for scientism. Science, as a form of knowledge, is here granted a status that can only be described as infallible. The dangers of this proposal are only intensified when we recognize that “scientific knowledge” is not even a stable intellectual construct. Nevertheless, these words do reveal why BioLogos pushes its agenda with such intensity.This is a very simplistic view of science and its goals and if Dr. Mohler thought long and hard about it, I believe he would agree. Airplanes work because of scientific knowledge. Cars work because of scientific knowledge. We know that there are eight planets in the solar system (and one plutoid) because of scientific knowledge. Science has been responsible for almost everything that we know of the natural universe. As They Might Be Giants would say: “Science is Real!”
The entire intellectual enterprise of evolution is based on naturalistic assumptions, and I do not share those presuppositions. Indeed, the entire enterprise of Christianity is based on supernaturalistic, rather than merely naturalistic, assumptions. There is absolutely no reason that a Christian theologian should accept the uniformitarian assumptions of evolution. In fact, given a plain reading of Scripture, there is every reason that Christians should reject a uniformitarian presupposition. The Bible itself offers a very different understanding of natural phenomena, with explanations that should be compelling to believers.The enterprise of evolution is based on scientific observation of God's creation. There are no naturalistic assumptions made about evolution that are not made about all of the rest of God's creation. Are naturalistic assumptions present in a weather forecast? Those are derived from scientific models. Part of the reason that they work is because of these self, same uniformitarian assumptions to which Reverend Mohler is so adamantly opposed.
In his latest post, Rana asserts the following about the argument for common ancestry from pseudogenes:As Glenn Reynolds would say: OUCH! I would encourage you to read the whole debate. I am not qualified to comment at more than a superficially cogent level but I might try to say a few things. I haven't seen Steve Matheson wade in yet, but he may yet. If he does, expect fireworks. He has no love for RTB.When evolutionary biologists present this argument, they make a number of assumptions, all of which appear to have questionable validity based on recent research results. For the pseudogene evidence to have potency: (1) pseudogenes must lack function; (2) their origin must be due to rare, random events; and (3) their juxtaposition to other genes must be arbitrary.Everything he wrote there is utterly false. None of those conditions are required to argue for common ancestry from pseudogene similarity. Not one.
Fortunately for us, Todd Wood of the Center for Origins Research at Bryan College in Dayton, Tennessee, USA is on the case. Todd belongs to a young-Earth creation study group [BSG] but don't let that fool you. He's doing a pretty good job of sorting out the facts in the case.This might seem somewhat backhanded but if you read what Wood has to say, he is obviously struggling with the lack of integrity on the part of RTB. It is nice to see a young earth creationist try to deal with the data honestly. Most of the time the lack of integrity exhibited by young earth creationists is maddening, distasteful and disheartening. Hats off to Todd Wood.
Principal investigator David Reed, associate curator of mammals at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus, studies lice in modern humans to better understand human evolution and migration patterns. His latest five-year study used DNA sequencing to calculate when clothing lice first began to diverge genetically from human head lice.Oh? Okay, lets parse this. Modern humans invented clothing so they could move into colder climates. News flash: hominids were knocking on the gates of Europe 1.8 million years ago. This we know from the Caucasus site of Dmanisi. Furthermore, there are Chinese Homo erectus sites that date to between 250 and 550 thousand years ago. These locales were not temperate. The site of Zhoukoudian is near Beijing, which can experience temperatures as low a -4 degrees Fahrenheit. It is with this hominid that we see the first control of fire. The story continues:
Funded by the National Science Foundation, the study is available online and appears in this month’s print edition of Molecular Biology and Evolution.
“We wanted to find another method for pinpointing when humans might have first started wearing clothing,” Reed said. “Because they are so well adapted to clothing, we know that body lice or clothing lice almost certainly didn’t exist until clothing came about in humans.”
The data shows modern humans started wearing clothes about 70,000 years before migrating into colder climates and higher latitudes, which began about 100,000 years ago. This date would be virtually impossible to determine using archaeological data because early clothing would not survive in archaeological sites.
“The new result from this lice study is an unexpectedly early date for clothing, much older than the earliest solid archaeological evidence, but it makes sense,” said Ian Gilligan, lecturer in the School of Archaeology and Anthropology at The Australian National University. “It means modern humans probably started wearing clothes on a regular basis to keep warm when they were first exposed to Ice Age conditions.”Again, the hominids in China lived during the East Asian equivalent of the Mindel glaciation, during which it would have been colder than it is now.The story continues:
The study also shows humans started wearing clothes well after they lost body hair, which genetic skin-coloration research pinpoints at about 1 million years ago, meaning humans spent a considerable amount of time without body hair and without clothing, Reed said.Not sure I buy this either. You can't survive in those locales during glacial periods without one or the other. You can't pick fire up and move it around with you. During the mid- to late Pleistocene, you had hominids in southern Europe, northern China, the Caucasus and other places. During the Würm glaciation, the tundra line was at Vienna.
If Homo erectus could harness fire, it is quite likely that they could figure out what makes things float and how to stabilize such a craft. Having said that, forty miles is a fair distance, especially since you can't see from here to there, even on a clear day. This is also the first evidence of any pre-modern technology of any kind on Crete.
Crete has been separated from the mainland for about five million years, so whoever made the tools must have traveled there by sea (a distance of at least 40 miles). That would upset the current view that human ancestors migrated to Europe from Africa by land alone.
"The results of the survey not only provide evidence of sea voyages in the Mediterranean tens of thousands of years earlier than we were aware of so far, but also change our understanding of early hominids' cognitive abilities," the ministry statement said.
This isn’t my first blogging hiatus. Almost exactly 2 years ago, I posted that I was taking a break. And one of the points I made then, is even truer today:We will miss you Steve.
Although the science-faith discussion will always be of great interest and of some importance to me, I can’t say that it is a huge priority in my life right now; it is probably not even the most important aspect for my current faith journey.
While this statement was true 2 years ago, and is true again, for a very short, tense time this fall it became a huge personal priority as I thought my views on evolution would get me into the same hot water as Doug and Terry. Fortunately, the incident was resolved quickly and satisfactorily as the problem was primarily one of perception and misunderstanding. Today, I am excited, humbled, and feeling so fortunate to help lead a local community that is passionate about furthering God’s kingdom in a multicultural, multifaith, thoroughly secular city filled with people who desperately need to hear the gospel.
So, this hiatus is likely to be permanent. The existing content will still be available, but is unlikely to be updated. For those that want to continue to interact with me on issues of science and faith, feel free to contact me by email at steven.dale.martin at gmail dot com. (And if you haven’t done so already, please peruse / read the Evangelical Dialogue on Evolution Ebook as that may contain some initial food-for-thought). However, my suggestion for those who want to continue the dialogue (if you don’t know about these resources already), is to follow either the Biologos blog Science and the Sacred or RJS’s Musings on Science and Theology. Both of these communities have great ongoing conversations. (Note: To actually view and/or participate in comments on Musings on Science and Theology, you will need to do so on Jesus Creed where each post is cross-posted).