Sunday, August 21, 2005

The evolution versus creation season is upon us once again.

Oh, not again!

I have a theory (as yet unproved but open to testing by the rigors of scientific method...) that there is an evolution versus creation season which runs roughly from the end of the parliamentary year to early autumn. It is characterised by a slew of articles and attendant letters to editors, in which creationists try to pick holes in the theory of evolution and very few scientists bother to pick holes in the holes the hole-pickers think they have picked. Apparently they are frightened to be seen doing so for fear of seeming to suggest by so doing that ID or the more basic creationism has any merit. I see the point.

It has begun in earnest - print media wise - 'cos Peter Hitchens is reporting (well not so much as reporting as asking)fom Lawrence Texas,(combining business with pleasure in visiting his brother Chris while he was it to see his nephew?) in a two-page spread, "Did Darwin get it wrong after all?".

Lets get a few things straight:

1. Intelligent Design (as we now must call creation) has a lot more resting on it for its adherents than evolutionary theory has for evolutionary biologists and those who accept Darwin's theory and all its various modifications. (It didn't stop with Darwin). If Intelligent design was proved to be wrong (and it can't be because its a belief not a theory -God being supernatural) it might upset God but it would certainly infuriate the Bibal literalists who must have as their true agenda not the debunking of a well-accepted biological theory but the fear of very basis of their religion beinf undermined. Since this was thoroughly done from 1853 onwards, isn't it a bit late to be worrying now? Note: one other set of religious who get equally upset about their Book being disputed.

2. Peter Hutchins writes about evolutionists thinking their theory was safe. If they did so they wouldn't be thinking scientifically. Scientists may like theories to stick because they invented them, but using the word "safe" makes it seem as if this would lead to some dire consequences for humanity if it didn't, in the case of evolution. What would be safe would be the actual, ongoing means by which all the great variety of species arose, whether know to us or not. If there is a mechanism it must still be operating, though hardly for Homo Sapiens except in rather less obvious areas such as the immune system and maybe behaviour.

3. You can't prove a pig can fly by showing that butterflies have wings, in the wonderful expression used in an article by Ben Bova in Nova many years ago.

4. Mechanisms posited for evolution are criticised as being too ingenious to have come about by chance. As if chance meant the sort of random throwing on of clothes found scattered around the room before rushing off to work.

5. Any mention of the words "the ideas behind Intelligence design" actually means God. Creationists have no idea how God so ordered the world - they see it is ordered - though they believe he did.

6. If the creationists got their way so that no school text books mentioned evolution it would not be the end of the world. However, if the Bible was declared illegal, certain people would prefer to die (and go to heaven) than live without it. As long as they don't starting sending their "enemies" in this debate to another world before they are ready to go(Hell in their case since they are usually non-believers) to unhold their views.

7. Teaching Creation and evolution side by side, as many want, would be the quickest way to destroy the creationists "theories" which actually rest on debunking other evolutionary theories, not on creating theories of their own. If those teaching ID were forced to quote the Bible as the source of their theory, chapter and verse, it wouldn't seem such a great idea. As long the argument from faith is stoked up by creationists the less likely anyone is going to be asked to think intelligently about what it all actually means. Saying God was behind intelligent design (as in theory) would also mean doing some theology and you know where that gets you.

8. You can't have a level playing field for evolutionary theory and creationism?ID in schools because one is a scientific theory that can be refuted and the other is a set of beliefs which are not susceptible to scientific method at all. The easiest way would be for the biology teacher to teach evolutionary theory, and the religious education teacher to debate creation vs. evolution. But of course the creationists wouldn't want that: their true intention is not to dispute the basics of evolution (n.b. theory is well accepted while hypothesis is just that, and idea based on what has gone before) but to muddy the waters and confuse student who don't even undertand the basics of evolution.

I like what George Monbiot has to say on the debate in relation to George W's views.

9. Poor teacher who answered her children's questions by suggesting dinosaurs were with Noah on the Ark, is heading in the right direction away from concentration on evolution (which practically does matter) towards genetics and ecology. For example we might start by agreeing that dinosaurs no longer exist and have become extinct for some rason. How they got here can be left out of it. This is of more fundamental interest. Why do species die out? Why have so many species which existed in our time become extinct,such as many birds and butterflies? The answer : because the environment changed making it impossible for them to breed. An entity - a species - whatever its supposed origin, has a biology which included genetics. Genetics leads to question on inheritance and then to those about how genetics can go wrong as in physical and mental abnormalities and cancer.

10. If you consider the photograph of peach I picked this afternoon you might do what Darwin did. He studied plants and animals with a few to explaining the variety. One method he used was argument by analogy: using domestic animal breeding to explain the evolutionary mechanism.

You could be even more basic and say everyone is a scientist at art heart because they record things like the first ripe peach, or even how many peaches a tree produced, year by year. Just counting isn't science. But suggesting in our example why fruit ripens at one time rather than another could be. You would need to do some sort of test of whatever idea you came up with. It's the warmth. It's the amount of light per day.

That in itself wouldn't be the final answer because once the sun or warmth was found to be responsible (it could be any number of factors including something like differential uptake of minerals in the roots) it might also be possible to suggests how the sun or warmth effects ripening. This would require some physiological and/or biochemical knowledge. If you want to pulp that peach to find out if there are substances that weren't there before ripening.....

Grobstein, P. (2005). Revisiting science in culture: Science as story telling and story revising. Journal of Research Practice, 1(1), Article M1. Retrieved [Date of Access], from

goes into what the scientific method is using a simple diagram to compare the old terminology : hypothesis now being termed "summary of conclusions".

Read on.


The Hay on Wye discussion between Peter and Christopher which mostly covered brotherly falling out but which also had this :

Oh, it's never been an issue. I returned as it were to the Anglicanism of my childhood. Such as it was - it wasn't particularly strong: one has some background music of Hymns Ancient & Modern and the King James Bible, but not very much more than that. I'm probably keener about it now than I was then. I suppose [I returned] in my early 30s when people sometimes do, when various things start happening. As an issue between us I think he overestimates the issue. He has several faiths. He has the faith I think of Darwinism, which is just like Christianity an unproven and unprovable theory, which you can believe in if you want because you prefer that arrangement of the universe. I happen to think the arrangement of the universe based on the belief in intelligent design is more tolerable both morally and

aesthetically, but he prefers another. I dislike only the attitude of the atheist that his is not a faith, cause it is. I have absolutely no disgust or anger at anybody who disagrees with me about that. I'm much more worried by people who are indifferent to the question.

Ah, well I agree with that. There may be many things to be said against atheism - I'm not an atheist anyway, I'm an anti-theist. It would be horrible if it were true that we were designed and then created and then continuously supervised throughout all our lives waking and sleeping and then continue to be supervised after our deaths - if that were true, it would be horrible. I'm very glad there's absolutely no evidence for it at all. It would be like living in a celestial North Korea. You can't defect from North Korea but at least you can die. With monotheism they won't let you die and get away from them. It's the wish to be a slave. Who wants that to be true? It's demanding the servile condition. I'll give you a hint of how much I don't like it. We don't need to go regularly to chant a liturgy or a mantra and be reinforced by a priest. We obviously absolutely don't need it. It's the conclusion to which any reasoning, thinking person can come and increasing numbers do. It doesn't put you in conflict with objective reality all the time or under the control of a supposedly spiritual leadership. Peter said one prefers to think Darwin is right. No, one takes the facts and examines them. The fact that one's appearance on earth is a random process conditioned by evolution and will end in extinction isn't a welcome conclusion. It's just an inescapable one, and to be in denial about it is odd. And Darwinism is not the theory of evolution. It is a theory of evolution. The quarrel between say Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould, two of the greatest of biologists and palaeontologists, about punctuated evolution shows there is a great deal to argue about and no one disputes that we have evolved. It's in the fossil record. PH: It actually isn't proven. It is a choice. That's the important thing that you choose to believe it. Your choice may be unwelcome to you and my choice my be equally unwelcome to me, but it's one that you take as a matter of preference. There are many different forms of religion. Christopher in his latest contribution to Slate talks about something called 'serious Islam' which came as something of a shock to me after Islamofascism, but I think there are different forms of religion. And I happen think that the combination of scripture, reason and tradition which is at the heart of serious Anglicanism is both appealing, constructive, and actually leads on to a much greater exercise in liberty than that which tends to result from the actions of political idealists who want to load us with identity cards and put us in North Koreas. And I would much prefer a world governed by conscience than a world governed by idealists who think they know best about how we should run our lives. And conscience is the governor of a world where God is sovereign. It's an immense argument, as I say. For him to dismiss my position or for me to dismiss his, would be wrong. I don't dismiss his. I'm worried by it, I think about it a lot, I would be idle to say it didn't have any strengths. I just prefer mine.

See Guardian

In The Sunday Mail (print edition) there is a two-pager by Peter H, Did Darwin get it wrong afer all? A "Special report" from Lawrence, Texas. Wonder if he used the opportunity to
pop up to see his brother and his nephew? Peter doesn't seem to think Darwin was wrong.

I never forget the Ben Bova article in Nova magazine in the 70s win which he used the classic formulation, paraphrased here as "You can't prove that pigs can fly by demonstrating that butterflies have wings". And he wasn't referring to the evolutionary theorists!

Trying to find the exact words AIATCWTWUASE {as is always the case with the web using a search engine}, came across this set of quotations any number of which could be used in the evolution vs. creation (use creation and creationist never ID}. If you like a combination of something irritating to mock and a intellectual challenge, here is something from our friends at Intelligent design:

Evangelical scientists refute gravity with new " Intelligent falling" theory

which is set to supersede Newton's feeble ideas. It might come in handy when evolutions supporters stand up as a man to say enough is enough, a joke is a joke. Creation "theorists" (I thought that was God and as you know we don't know His mind} can use the concept of intelligent falling to get themselves out of the trap they led themselves ito with ID by saying they fell for ID ut it was just God' way of showing we're only human.


In this forum debating E/C, these are some of the views:

"That assumes G-d plays by the *rules* of logic, which he might not.

Because, *by definition*, he *doesn't* have to play by your rules of logic. He can set up rules for this universe and do as he pleases without regard for them.
Henry Cotter "

"So He _can_ make a rock so big He can't lift it? Pretty cool. If God truly can transcend logic, that explains how he can be omni-benevolent while still forcing us to live in a universe with
typhoid fever, leeches, and infomercials."

-Arbane the Terrible ( in

"Did you know that scientific evidence abounds to support the biblical accounts of creation and the flood? Were you aware that reports outlining this evidence passed peer review, and were published in the open scientific literature? Have you heard that, decades later, this evidence still stands unrefuted by the scientific community?

Etched within Earth's foundation rocks — the granites — are beautiful microspheres of coloration, halos, produced by the radioactive decay of primordial polonium, which is known to have only a fleeting existence.

The following simple analogy will show how these polonium microspheres — or halos — contradict the evolutionary belief that granites formed as hot magma slowly cooled over millions of years. To the contrary, this analogy demonstrates how these halos provide
unambiguous evidence of both an almost instantaneous creation of granites and the young age of the earth."

I would suggest this piece be used in a high school class to discuss what we can possibly know. Polonium is a fact, so is granite...but there embedded in the text is

"....An exceedingly large number of polonium halos are embedded in granites around the world. Just as frozen Alka-Seltzer bubbles would be clear evidence of the quick-freezing of the water, so are these many polonium halos undeniable evidence that a sea of primordial

matter quickly "froze" into solid granite. The occurrence of these polonium halos, then, distinctly implies that our earth was formed in a very short time, in complete harmony with the biblical record of creation."

Not just the granite, mind. The whole earth comes into this category.

another correpondent says:

" There is no evidence that the halos were formed by polonium in the first place."

I would start with this..if I had known it. trouble is I assumed the polonium was the cause of the bubbles.

Another commenter:

"Quite amusing. I'm not sure why frozen "haloes" in granite should support the biblical record of creation in particular. Surely, if true, it should support any model of creation that included a rapid formation of the earth, such as the Finnish "cosmic egg" myth.

I read a bit about the halos, they arise in the crystals found in rocks such as granite. They are formed when radioactive impurities within the crystal decay, causing a damage "halo" within the crystal.

Here is a nice summary from a paper refuting R. Gentry's work:


Gentry's polonium halo hypothesis for a young Earth fails, or is inconclusive for, all tests. Gentry's entire thesis is built on a compounded set of assumptions. He is unable to demonstrate that concentric halos in mica are caused uniquely by alpha particles resulting from the decay of polonium isotopes. His samples are not from "primordial" pieces of the Earth's original crust, but from rocks which have been extensively reworked. Finally, his hypothesis cannot accommodate the many alternative lines of evidence that demonstrate

a great age for the Earth. Gentry rationalizes any evidence which contradicts his hypothesis by proposing three "singularities" - one time divine interventions - over the past 6000 years. Of course, supernatural events and processes fall outside the realm of scientific investigations to address. As with the idea of variable radioactive decay rates, once Gentry moves beyond the realm of physical laws, his arguments fail to have any scientific usefulness. If divine action is necessary to fit the halo hypothesis into some consistent model of earth history, why waste all that time trying to argue about the origins of the halos based on current scientific theory? This is where most Creationist arguments break down when they try to adopt the language and trappings of science. Trying to prove a religious premise is itself
an act of faith, not science.

In the end, Gentry's young Earth proposal, based on years of measuring discoloration halos, is nothing more than a high-tech version of the Creationist "Omphalos" argument. This is the late nineteenth century proposition that while God created the Earth just 6,000 years ago
according to the Genesis account, He made everything appear old.

Unfortunately, because Gentry has published his original work on halos in reputable scientific journals, a number of basic geology and mineralogy text books still state that microscopic discoloration haloes in mica are the result of polonium decay.

* Footnote: Omphalos means navel, and is the title of a book by Phillip Grosse. He argued that God created Adam and Eve with navels even though they had not developed in a womb.

For the full paper: "

"ZJ you won't get a Socratic debate with this type on Darwinism, they'll deteriorate the thread into drivel. His History is good, but they get their knickers in a knot over science.
Their attitude toward anyone who challenges Humanist philosophy posing itself as empirical science is that of a self inflated teenager. His type are fanatical and shut out any possibilities but his own idealology.

Debating against this kind on this subject is best avoided.

Fundamentalist like that are blinded with self inflation.

Don't say I didn't warn you?"

" You wanted a Socratic argument? Well, I'll give it a try. Science is not a religion, but is a belief system, in the same way as a religion. Scientific belief is based on evidence, observation, hypothesis and experiment. The only dogma to follow is the scientific method. The conclusions drawn by science are always subject to this method, so they can change if new observations invalidate them. The theory of evolution is one such conclusion that science has come to. In fact, it is one of the strongest theories science has to offer, in
terms of the amount of evidence backing it up.

My point: if evolution is wrong, then it is due to 1/ Bad science ,or 2/ Science itself being flawed.

If you want to critisise the theory due to it being bad science, then I would suggest why is evolution the target of choice, when plenty of other theories have relatively weaker bodies of evidence to support them? If evolution is wrong, with its level of supporting evidence,
then much of the rest of science is likely to be wrong, too.

And if you think Science is flawed as a philosophy, can you suggest an alternative that would do the same thing Science does, only better? If people want to call me a fundamentalist, that's fine. Its coming to something when logic and rational thinking are called into question.

The implementation of them, maybe, but not the very ideas themselves! "

" We really have dinosaurs today, without any question. You just need the right weather conditions, as I see it, to get huge creatures. And in the ocean, of course, we have huge creatures....this is where the plesiosauruses seem to be today, and perhaps also this fire breathing dragon is still down there -- very rare, but occasionally there.

--Rev. Walter Lang
Bible-Science Association"

No Reverend, they are extinct, but their cousins are crodiles are not. Nomatter what you do with them apart from sort of science we don't now have they can't be turned into dinosaurs.

"I thought that rather than sink to level of you, that i would point out a few things about you posting. Creationism is based upon the concept that a God or Gods created the universe as mentioned in the Book of genesis. I used the word "Gods" because the hebrew word used in the original texts can mean Gods and more to the point can be of either gender.

In order to support the belief of creationism, one must believe in a Christian God. here we strike the first major problem when discussing creationism with a believer, ask them to prove that their God exists then all you get is mumbo jumbo.

Secondary, in order to believe in creationism, you have to put aside the known history of the world and especially that of the middle east of around 2000 bc. By that I mean the fact that the origins of the idea of creation that is mentioned in the OT can be traced back to Sumerian times and more importantly at a time when the Hebrews were in cultural contact with the Sumerians. "

"Was Darwin right ? What a weird thread. I don't know why the name Darwin incites such responses. He was a simply a man who observed the natural world around him and suggested a cause for the effects he witnessed that didn't involve the direct intervention of a supernatural being. No doubt he made mistakes in the detail, as did many who came after. For example, naturalists on the voyage of the Challenger [ed. Did he/she mean Beagle?] during the 1870's were trying to look through Darwin's eyes when they assumed the aggression seen in the young of certain birds was due to their co-evolution with the Sally Lightfoot crabs which prey on them. What's really happening is sibling rivalry in the nest and a thinning of the brood to one chick. Knowledge accretes and modifies theories.

Evolution by means of selective processes acting on a variable population is borne out by rather a lot of evidence, so in essence, yes, Darwin was on the right track.

Religious fundamentalism is in my opinion a return to primitive thought patterns. "

" I would agree with some of what you say, but I don't think you are quite right when it comes to comparing the dogmas of religion & science. The scientific method is a dogma, but there is thousands of different lines of thought within religions. It is only a certain type of
religious person (fundimentalist) who would have a problem with the Theory of Evolution. The rest wouldn't have a problem with it at all. In fact, the Theory caused a split in the American Church in the 1930's.

Maybe in years to come, we will come to view those who refuse to acknowledge the Theory of Evolution as quaint as those who continued to advocate the Earth was flat, not round.

I also think it highly unlikely that the Theory of Evolution will ever be disproved. But I would qualify this and state it is only a Theory, not Fact. I suppose you could also state this about other Theories: Theory of Gravity, Theory of Relativity, etc. We don't know these as fact,
though our scientific method would suggest they are correct, as far as we can tell. There are certainly experiments out there that have shown up our scientific techniques, but none that have disproved the likes of the Theory of Evolution."

"Many people misunderstand scientific methodology.The point is, scientific theories can be proved, modified or disproved by new data. So it is with evolution, where we can test the ideas put forward to explain how we got here and why we look as we do, what we are related to and how. Religion is based on faith which is not provable in any real sense. If creation by a supernatural being could ever be proved, most evolutionists would be first to try and make contact with the supreme being, so they could ask some more questions. "How did it come about ? How long did it really take and is it finished ? What made you do it and have you done it before ? If you plan to do it again, what would you do differently ?" You got a god ?

You bring him on! "


Much serious debate goes on at There is a genetically based argument for evolution :

Plagiarized Errors and Molecular Genetics

by Edward E. Max which he prefaced with : The following essay is an updating of an article I published in Creation/Evolution in 1986 (XIX, p.34). I am posting it with permission from Creation/Evolution.

See for a great short story about a group of scientists who entered a man creation contest with God...
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