Uncommon Sense

December 21, 2017

A Creationist Argument on This Winter’s Solstice

Filed under: Religion,Science — Steve Ruis @ 11:24 am
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Obviously (I hope) this is not to scale!

We have just experienced yet another winter solstice, a date that heralds the beginning of winter. This is followed by a spring equinox, a summer solstice, then an autumn equinox, then the cycle repeats. This is all caused by the tilt of the axis that the Earth rotates about from the plane that it revolves about the Sun. Part of the year the north pole of the Earth points more toward the Sun and part of the year it points more away. When it is pointed more toward the Sun, it is warmer in the North, but cooler in the South, giving different characteristics to the seasons below the equator than above. This 23.5 degree tilt of the Earth’s axis from being perpendicular to the plane it rotates around the sun in, creates four perfect seasons on the planet. Not five, not three, but four, the perfect number of seasons.

Surely this complicated system could not have been created by chance, it must have required a creator.

If you believe this argument, congratulations, you are officially a fundamentalist Christian … and a number of other things equally obvious.

Happy Holidays!

July 16, 2017

It Is Put Up or Shut Up Time for the Intelligent Design Movement

Filed under: Religion,Science — Steve Ruis @ 8:52 am
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As you may know the “Intelligent Design Theory” is just a second (third, fourth, … ?) generation form of Creationism. The people who created “ID” (it is not a theory by the way, at best it is an hypothesis) are folks who believe that God created the entire universe in only six days, about 6000 years ago or so and the science that says otherwise, aka “God’s Creation,” just has to be wrong.

The ID people spend most of their time criticizing the science of evolution (which claims we evolved and were not created magically), paleontology (which claims there is fossil and other evidence dating animals and humans back millions of years), geology (which claims that the Earth is over four billion years old), cosmology (which claims the universe is much older than our solar system), etc. but they do not seem to be motivated to answer questions on their own. These people are like colleagues who criticize your work but don’t do any work themselves.

So, it is put up or shut up time. Here are a few questions I would like to see the ID people answer. All are based upon their beliefs, primarily that God created everything about 6000 years ago. Also, since they argue that we cannot know the mind of God, I choose not to ask “why” so much as “how.”

  1. When God created all of the stars, how did he create the starlight so that it looks like it had been en route for billions of years? (Humans can start light beams and stop light beams, but not create a beam millions of light years long instantly.)
  2. When God created the Earth, He included the fossilized remains of animals that were not described in the Bible or any other historical source. How was this done, also why? (The answer “it was a test of faith” is specious because that would imply a knowledge of the mind of God.)
  3. There are animals on Earth that cannot be domesticated, nor are they good tasting or nutritious. How is it that they serve man’s dominion?
  4. When the Earth was created, radioactive elements were created alongside large quantities of their daughter products, thus creating the illusion that those minerals had been buried for millions if not billions of years. How was this done?
  5. Since all of the Earth’s creatures were created just 6000 years ago, why does all of the evidence in God’s creation point to them having evolved over a very much longer time period (3 billion years).
  6. Why does mitochondrial DNA point to a common modern human ancestor of all current humans (Mitochondrial Eve) who lived somewhere between 100,000 and 300,000 years ago?
  7. If the Earth was created 6000 years ago, why does the Earth exhibit geological layers of sediment that can only have taken place over a very long time. Many of these layers show extreme tilting and folding and contain the remains of plants and animals of bizarre domains (e.g. ferns near mountain tops)?
  8. If all of the Earth’s animals are descendant’s of the animals on Noah’s Ark, why does their DNA point back to common ancestors far farther in the past?
  9. In the Garden of Eden, what did the carnivores eat? If they ate the meat of other animals, then the GOE was a charnel house as all of the lions, tigers, and wolves mowed down all of sheep, cattle, and the rest of their kind. (Death was common in the GOE then.) If they ate grass, how were they converted into carnivores from herbivores in such a short time?

How about we collect a long list of such questions for the ID movement? Help the IDers by asking questions like the above. It seems that they are struggling to come up with a research agenda, let’s create on for them! Now, that’s creationism!

July 13, 2017

Creationists on the Rise!

I have been filling in a few holes in my viewing of late and I decide to give the HBO documentary  “Questioning Darwin (2014?),” another try. I only got a few minutes into the show the first time and this time I must have gotten a whole quarter of the way through. And, truth be told, it seemed fairly even handed. What I was shocked about is the sheer audacity of the cherry-picking of scripture by the Ken Ham crowd (Answers in Genesis, the Creation Museum, et. al.). When faced with the Problem of Evil, Mr. Ham simply shrugs this off because of all of the changes that occurred because of Adam’s “sin.” If it hadn’t been for Adam’s disobedience of God, we would all be living forever in a paradise … according to those given voice in this documentary.

But is this actually what scripture says? And, I do not here from the fact that the creation story in Genesis is actually a fictional tale meant to make spiritual points with Jews. These people believe that Genesis is historical truth, no doubt about it … even though the Jews, who are responsible for the existence of that book, claim otherwise. I am not starting there. I am working from the viewpoint of the people who believe that Genesis is either first- or second-hand knowledge of what really happened.

Let’s start with Adam’s disobedience of God’s instructions. Going against God’s instructions is the definition of Biblical sin. It is the Creationist’s definition of right and wrong, good and evil. But God’s admonition was: “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Clearly neither Adam, nor Eve, understood the difference between good and evil, having not yet eaten from the tree, so what was the basis for the punishment?

The Creationists in the documentary essentially claimed it was Original Sin, although the idea of Original Sin doesn’t occur in the Bible, having been first alluded to in the second century by Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon, and expanded in the fourth century by Aurelius Augustinus. But even if it isn’t mentioned, the source of Original Sin is God’s curse. God said that “when you eat from it you will certainly die.” But Adam and Even did not die, instead they were banished and their children were condemned as sinners before they were even born … with no way out from under that sentence for thousands of years. So, who created all of that depravity? Looks like “God did it,” is the answer again.

These Creationists also seem to think that Adam and Eve were immortal and that their sin brought death into the world. That is not backed up by scripture, because unless all of the animals were immortal, too, there had to be death. If they thought that Adam’s and Eve’s sin brought death to immortal humans, then why did God say: “22 … ‘The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.’” and then “23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.”

So, the whole point is that God showed no equanimity here. He could have just waved away Adam and Eve into nonexistence and then grabbed some mud to make a new Adam. He could have turned time back before Eve took her bite and strangled that serpent (it was not a snake; it had legs!). He could not have allowed the a serpent access to the Garden until Adam and Eve had had their shakedown experiences. He could have relented, restored them to their pre-bite status and warned them sternly to “Not do that again!” No, he condemns the entire race to depravity, hopelessness, and a Lake of Fire as a retirement home, for ever and ever, amen.

So, the Creationists are saying that the Book of Genesis is the literal truth but they have made up a whole lot of back story that is not in the Bible to support their worldview. In addition they have made up a whole lot of bullstuff about Darwin that conflicts with the historical record. They correctly, though, fully recognize that if Darwin is right, they are wrong. This is the source of their animosity. One commenter stated baldly that if he were not the subject of special creation, then he wouldn’t be “special,” he would be just another animal. He didn’t go on and say “And we all know that isn’t true …” he just left that hanging. Imagine, an argument that God has to exist because … ego gratification!

I just couldn’t finish the documentary because it is just so much bilge. They can indoctrinate their children and preach anti-Darwinism from their pulpits, but in the end God’s Creation will have the last laugh.



December 23, 2016

A Time of Year for Worshiping … What?

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 2:10 pm
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Creationists seem to think that there is only one process of dating antiquities: carbon-14 dating. Actually the list of techniques that can be used to date materials is rather long, too long to list here (with explanations, names wouldn’t mean much). And the interesting thing is that there is rough agreement between all of these. Realize, though, that all of these do not overlap with one another. Counting tree rings, for example, only goes back a few thousand years, which overlaps with all of the others, but just for a few thousand years. Carbon-14 dating can only go back about the last 50,000 years (modern humans have been around longer). Others go back billions of years which overlap with just a few of the others, so the amount of deep time these techniques covers differs quite a bit.

And what have we learned from these techniques?

If we were to use the age of the Earth as measure, which is about 4.5 billion years, and we were to go back from now to about one sixth of that time, we would find a world containing only single cell organisms. Studies keep pushing the first occurrence of such organisms back and back but let us just say that they first appeared fairly early in this entire time period, much lass than the first billion years of earth’s existence, so “life on Earth” was only single cell organisms for over three quarters of its time in existence.

During that last one-sixth of the Earth’s existence, as we go back from “now” to “then,” life gets simpler and simpler and less diverse, meaning that during this period of hundreds of millions of years, life became more and more complex.

These are just a few of myriad things we have learned about our planet of origin. Once living organisms formed, then the process of evolution mindlessly made life more and more complex. Creationists say this violates the laws of thermodynamics with is incredibly stupid. All the laws of thermodynamics say is if a chemical process involves the creation of more complicated chemicals from less complicated chemicals, then it will cost some energy. And where might that energy have come from? I don’t know … maybe the sun, gravity, lightning, heat from inside the Earth pouring out in volcanic eruptions, etc. There were many sources of energy available to make more complicated things from less complicated. We are still paying this cost. To prevent the collection of very complex chemicals that is each of us from degrading too quickly, we must eat food quite regularly to provide the energy needed to remake complex chemicals to replace those falling apart. This is done by a chemical process called metabolism (scientists have learned about that, too). If we refrain from eating for a month or two, we might die from that (it depends on how much food energy we have stored before we begin).

Creationists, aka Intelligent Design advocates, deny all of this knowledge (from fields of biology, geology, paleontology, etc,) a quantity of denial that is astoundingly large, all because it conflicts with their Bible. The Earth cannot be as old as it is measured to be. Man was created fully formed and all of those fossils of early “men” were really just from apes. The fact that none of these apes show up in our history books or stories is because they all died in the Great Flood of the Bible. They claim that there are “holes” in the scientific story (there are, there always are) but the holes they claim are there were filled decades ago. (Creationists know this, they are just being dishonest, using arguments they think you might buy out of ignorance.)

Basically Creationists/IDers are claiming that God could not have made the Earth … and us … the way we actually demonstrably are because the Bible says differently. They do not believe God is powerful enough to have made the Earth … and us … as our lying eyes show us quite plainly. They do not believe in God so much as they believe in the Bible, a form of idolatry they were warned against by the Bible itself.

A recent blog post asked the innocent question: what if … what if we taught Creationism rather than the massive scientific knowledge that contradicts the claims of the Bible? What would change? Well, I would contend that nothing would change as human beings are pragmatic beings and we tend to ignore and then “forget” nonsense we learn in school. Would people with sick children take them to church to have their demons exorcized or would they take them to the hospital for modern medical treatments? Would people no longer buy automobiles because they contradict the teachings of the Bible? Would cell phones be considered demonic and non-Biblical and hence have to go back to the pit of Hell whence they came? Would we stop exploring space because God gave us dominion over this planet and well, when it is used up, it is time for us to all die?

I think you can answer these questions.

Basically, what the Christian Creationists are denying is that the Bible is man-made, like every other book in existence. The fact that the various books of the Bible were written at vastly different times, indicates that there was more than one author, as does the various viewpoints expressed, the various writing styles, and literally dozens of other facts, etc. Many Christians are unaware that none (zero, zip, zilch) of the original biblical manuscripts are available. Of the earliest copies we have found, there are more differences between those manuscripts than there are total words in the entire Bible. And there were literal battles about what materials should go into the Bible, with people being killed, not just intellectual battles. These, of course, proceeded alongside the battles over how the scriptures were to be interpreted. The book literally screams “man made.”

But Creationists insist that with regard to their special interest, the Bible has no mistakes and is the actual word of god. There are, of course, hundreds of such mistakes/contradictions in their book. These are denied or just waved away with nonsensical arguments.

The real effect were Creationism were to be taught in our schools, either alongside the science or in place of the science, should be the increase of all forms of denial. After all, anything you practice that much should make you good at it. So Climate Change Denial and Evolution Denial would be just the tip of the iceberg, metaphorically.

And, if you get really good at it: denial, that is … why you might just become President of the United States some day!



March 17, 2014

Cosmos Crushes Creationists, Round 2

Filed under: Religion,Science — Steve Ruis @ 9:36 am
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If you expected a long, drawn out battle pitting Science against Creationism, guess again. Science wins by a knockout in the second round of the new science series Cosmos. In this episode the program focused upon evolution and mass extinctions. The tree of life was the main metaphor and the challenges were direct. The host stating that he could understand why people might want to separate themselves from our nearest relative on the tree of life, the chimpanzees. But, he continued, what about the DNA we share with oak trees, and bacteria, and many other creatures. In fact, as far as life on this planet goes, “we are one” in that we are all related . . . through evolution.

They even tackled a number of the hoary old creationist objections to evolution and natural selection. One was the evolution of the human eye. Even Darwin himself couldn’t see how eyes evolved, but that was 150 years ago and all of the intermediary steps in the evolution of eyes have been found, even to the mutation that has given us color vision rather than duo chrome vision like most other animals.

The coup de grâce was delivered toward the end of the show with host Neil deGrasse Tyson saying (I am paraphrasing here as my memory isn’t perfect) “Science exists on the border of knowledge and ignorance. There is no shame in not knowing all the answers. The only shame would be pretending to know all of the answers.” For you creationists who might no know, one definition of “faith” is “pretending to know things you do not know.”

Now, how many “e’s” are in erudite?

Note: Also posted on “Equiries on Atheism

January 29, 2014

Republicans Conflicted Over American Exceptionalism

Republicans react angrily to any suggestion that the U.S. of A. isn’t exceptional, isn’t Number 1 in any ranking system. During the Health Care Debate, Republicans insisted that our health care system was #1 in the world, when fact-based rankings had it listed closer to #19. More recently, Republicans are upset that American students score so poorly on international tests, blaming teachers for doing a poor job of teaching our young and when they run out of steam on blaming teachers, they blame students for being lazy. (The GOP is also directly attacking teacher’s unions and working to saddle students with massive amounts of debt to stifle the political activities of both, so they are at least being consistent.)

Setting aside the facts that the U.S. never does particularly well on international tests (I remember one such scandal a while back in which the U.S. was way down the ranks in math, yet a team of young U.S. students won the global Math Olympiad the same year.) and that the U.S. does poorly on such tests for the same reasons that many U.S. states do poorly on national tests (hint: poverty and heterogeneous populations) one has to be surprised that Republicans are also pushing strongly to make it more possible to teach creationism in our schools. Republican governors across the land are getting laws passed creating charter schools which need not conform to existing education laws, many of those charter schools being church-affiliated schools which go on to teach creationism and that “Evolution is a lie straight from the pit of Hell!” (Sorry I could resist quoting the Republican Member from Georgia sitting on the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.) Now that ought to help those international science test scores: all of our students looking for the multiple choice response: “God did it.”

American exceptionalism is a ridiculous notion, but if one accepts it, it certainly is based upon a solid core of scientific and technological learning. Whining about the decay of American exceptionalism when the GOP is actively undermining the education system that helped create it is a major problem for Republicans.

July 22, 2013

An Addendum to “Creationism . . .In Ireland . . . Oh, My!”

In Mr. Givans’ quotation (see previous post) he referred to us science types giving short shrift to “alternative theories to evolution.” This is a meme promulgated by creationists by this they mean “Creationism.” The only problem is that there are no alternative theories to evolution. There are a number of variants to how some believe evolution to play out, but there are no alternative theories, so it is impossible to give them short shrift. They just tried to slip that lie into another argument (be fair; teach all the theories) hoping you wouldn’t notice the big lie in the smaller statement.

And people, Creationism is not a theory. Creationism is that God created the planet exactly as it was 6010 years ago (with all of the buried fossils, ruins of older civilizations, etc.). This is no different from saying that fairies did the same or that aliens of some advanced species did the same. And, if it were true, then it could just as well happened 5000 years ago, 100,000 years ago, or yesterday and we would have no way to tell this. So, how is this a theory? What in Nature points to this interpretation? (Absolutely nothing in case you didn’t know.)

Nature, otherwise known as “God’s creation” by these folks, points to a 4+ billion year old planet born in a universe 10 billion years old at the birth. Why would any god or alien or fairy think that it would be a good idea to leave such contrary clues to be found? Why wouldn’t they leave clues telling us the world is 6000 years old? Why would they want to delude us and in so doing undermine God’s own words?

And since God’s creation is the only reliable record of God’s actions, why would a book written 3000 years after the event, written by somebody with no reputation for truth telling, and delivered to a civilization that was far from the most advanced on the planet at the time be held up as superior to what your lying eyes can tell you?

Just askin’.

May 23, 2013

Creationists at a Crossroads

If you haven’t read John Zande’s brilliant post on the turmoil in the Christian world over the biblical scholars finally blowing the lid off of the Big Biblical Secret (Psst, the first five books of the Bible are fiction! . . . pass it on.), I highly recommend it to you (Well, This Is a Little Embarrassing, Isn’t It?).

Now creationists, people who believe that the universe was brought into being by magic, either 6000 years ago or maybe 14 billion years ago, are in a bit of a bind. Creationists argue against the findings in cosmology, physics, geology, space sciences, and biology because they prefer to believe that the story of the creation of the universe as told in Genesis of the Bible is literally true.

Well, biblical scholars have finally pointed out what they have known for over a century, that there is not one shred of evidence that the first five books of the Bible are historical and there is a great deal of historical evidence that points to their being fiction.

So, creationists, who were blocked from getting their “scientific doctrine” into school textbooks in this country as a violation of our separation of church and state doctrine and who then reclothed their doctrine as the “Intelligent Design Theory,” therefore have a bit of a problem. They are arguing that they are right and the biblical scholars, whose job it is to know about these things are wrong.

What do you want to bet that this is exactly what they will do? After all, they have had a considerable amount of practice telling biologists, Darwinists, chemists, physicists, astronomers, geologists, archeologists, cosmologists, evolutionists, etc. they are all wrong. How hard could it be to add a majority of biblical scholars to the list?

March 11, 2013

Intelligent Designers Have Designs on Your Children

Ken Miller

Dr. Ken Miller, Brown U.

Ken Miller, Professor of Biology at Brown, has provided an interesting take on the “teach the controversy” folk’s argument. If you haven’t been paying attention, the idea came out of The Discovery Institute, a flaming hotbed of creationists, that evolution is after all “just a theory” and “intelligent design” should be taught along side. If Intelligent Design doesn’t ring any bells for you, since creationism was branded as a religious theory and not a scientific theory … in court, it was rebranded as the “Intelligent Design Theory.” Instead of God creating the universe, they refer to some unidentified “intelligent designer.” (I think they secretly believe in aliens with advanced technology, but that is another discussion entirely.)

The Discovery Institute and its minions (read fundamentalist Christians) has been going around to state and local school boards urging them to “teach the controversy” between the two competing theories: evolution and intelligent design. It is “only fair” that the two most prominent theories of how man came to be be discussed.

Of course, there is no controversy in the sciences because there is no intelligent design theory. Their theory is that everything is the way it is because some all-powerful “designer” (wink, wink) made it that way. This is the equivalent of telling a child that “the fairies did it” but to an adult audience.

Anyway, the IDers approach is one appealing to “academic freedom” and “fairness.” This, of course, has nothing to do with academic freedom, which most folks totally ignorant of its roots don’t realize is a principle that teacher’s jobs should be protected from attacks on their politics. These morons, uh, Discovery Institute Fellows, think it means the freedom to teach any damned foolishness one wishes to; it is not. Professors can be fired for not teaching to a departmental syllabus. Plus academic freedom is rarely applied below the collegiate level.

The fairness argument is the one addressed by Professor Miller who pointed out that scientific theories are built brick by brick over a great deal of time with a great many people involved. The theory is advanced and evidence is proffered and people get a chance to test it out, confirm the evidence, posit other measurements and make them, etc. The key of this edifice is peer-reviewed publishing. Intelligent Design advocates haven’t gone through this process. Their theory grew like Topsy and it has produced no testable aspects, which makes it a non-theory. Even so, it claims equal footing with the Theory of Evolution. Cheeky bastards to say the least.

Miller’s point is that what they are calling “fairness” is really an “end run,” bypassing all the foolishness of peer-review and just being granted major theory status by acclimation. I liken it to a bizarre college football scenario. The entire season of Division 1A competition has occurred and the #1 and #2 teams have played off and a champion is about to be crowned, but then a Division 3A team from Seattle, Washington points out that there is quite a debate going on as to which is the better team: theirs or the about to be crowned national champion. And the interesting thing is that they aren’t asking for a playoff between the two teams, they simply want all of the sports pages of all of the newspapers and Sports Illustrated and ESPN, etc. to discuss the relative merits of the two teams. And they want all of our children to read it all.

Does that sound fair? Or even sane?

January 9, 2013

The Creationists Curriculum

John Zande over at the Superstitious Naked Ape Blog (check him out at thesuperstitiousnakedape.wordpress.com) keeps egging me on as to satisfying the desires of the Intelligent Design crowd. (IDers are anti-evolutionary biblical creationists in new clothing.) My idea was to just give them what they want, that is to teach the biblical creation story as if it were science. John asks (I paraphrase) “Just what would a science textbook which based all of biology, geology, astronomy, geography, etc. on the Christian Bible look like?”

Having written a textbook I have some expertise in this so I decided to start with the easier part . . . the answer book, you know, the book that has all of the answers to the end-of-chapter questions in the textbook. After much sweat and deliberation plus a thorough review process (insisted upon by my very tough editor) here is what I came up with.

Creationist’s Curriculum Answer Book

Chapter 1
1. God did it.
2. God did it.
3. God did it.
4. God did it.
5. God did it.

Chapter 2
1. God did it.
2. God did it.
3. God did it.
4. God did it.
5. God did it.
6. God did it.

Chapter 3
1. God did it.
2. God did it.
3. God did it.

Chapter 1
1. God did it.
2. God did it.
3. God did it.
4. God did it.

Chapter 2
1. God did it.
2. God did it.
3. God did it.
4. God did it.
5. God did it.
6. God did it.
7. God did it.

Chapter 1
1. God did it.
2. God did it.
3. God did it.
4. God did it.
5. God did it.
6. God did it.
7. God did it.
8. God did it.

Chapter 2
1. God did it.
2. God did it.
3. God did it.
4. God did it.

This, of course, is just an excerpt as there isn’t room to print the entire book. Look for the textbook (coming soon).

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