Creationists & the faux-Martyr ploy

- #Atheist #evolution

Oddly, there seems to be a perception that creationist claims aren’t accepted in the scientific community because of an antipathy towards religious beliefs.  This is simply not true.  The fact is that many scientists have religious beliefs. I’ll concede that the level of religious belief is lower than the general public and is often less extreme.  Nonetheless, we can identify Christians who have played a significant role in modern biology and research on evolution.  Dobzhansky for instance, was one of the key players in the development of the modern synthesis.

The antipathy in fact comes from the intellectual dishonesty of modern creationists. In the early 1980s the philosopher of science, Ruse, examined ‘creationist science’.  There wasn’t really any.  Rather, creationists would try to appropriate other people’s research. And this was done in an entirely intellectual dishonest way.  Only the parts that could be manipulated and distorted to support a creationist view were taken.  This is one the greatest transgressions against the scientific method one can take.

In short, its not the religious beliefs of creationists that have earned them the opprobrium of the scientific community.  It rather is the sheer laziness of not undertaking their own research, combined with the intellectually corrupt practice of trying to steal the work of others.

I am not an evolutionist

#evolution #atheist #atheism -

Until I got on to the web and started interacting with creationists again, I’d never heard this term before.  Lets be clear- I reject it, utterly and totally. 

I am a biologist, not an evolutionist.  That means I’ve spent years at University getting an advanced education.  That means a lot of practical work in the field and in the lab.  It means that I know the difference between a monkey and an ape. I have traveled to, and worked on 4 different continents with a variety of wildlife.  In the course of this work, I have discovered and published things.  I have been exposed to various hazards along the way. I have lost colleagues to fatal diseases and accidents.

At no point in time, have I taken a course in evolutionism.  There are no journals on evolutionism.  There are no academic or government positions that have evolutionist as the title.  The term only exists as a pejorative attempt by creationists to create the fiction that an entire scientific discipline is a mere dogma.

If your claims are built entirely on what you have read on creationist websites and sources, then your beliefs are dogmatic.  There is no symmetry between creationism and biology. Until you get off your arses, stop trying to appropriate other people’s research, and start doing your own, not one iota of credit can be given to the creationist view.

Abiogenesis: a creationist trend on twitter

#atheist #atheism #evolution
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The entertaining thing about creationists is how they parrot the latest propaganda on twitter. They think they have the latest killer argument against atheism, or evolution. In the end, it’s just the usual contemptuous combination of ignorance and logical fallacies. Still, it’s good for a laugh right.

One line that seems to be trending at the moment seems to be this:

  1. Life can only originate by natural means or by a divine cause (say, a dead Jew-on-a-stick)
  2. Pasteur proved that spontaneous generation was impossible in the 1800s
  3. Ergo life can’t originate from non-life
  4. Ergo, atheism is false

Assuming you have stopped laughing by now:

One- this is a standard false-dichotomy fallacy. Aliens could have started life here. A giant cosmic-chicken could have laid an egg here. You can’t propose your divine agent as a credible alternative until there’s actually evidence he exists.  And the book with the talking snake, really is unconvincing.

Two- well this is true, but irrelevant. Spontaneous generation is utterly and entirely different to abiogenesis.

  • Spontaneous generation is the sudden appearance of complex organisms in a closed thermodynamic system.
  • Abiogenesis is the gradual, stepwise appearance of simple organisms in an open thermodynamic system

See, this makes all the difference. In order to form complex molecules, energy has to be supplied so that local entropy is reduced.  So what’s impossible in a closed system, is very possible in an open.

If you’re going to tell me that spontaneous generation is the same as abiogenesis, expect that I’m going to laugh at you a lot. In fact, a lot of people are going to be laughing at your ignorance.

Three- well, as point two of this creationist argument hasn’t been proved, three doesn’t follow.  In fact, we have a lot of research now that says life is pretty much the inevitable result of biochemistry interacting with the physics of self-organising molecules. And please, we’ve discovered a lot more since the Miller-Urry experiments of the 1950s.

Four- sorry, atheism has nothing to do with the origin of life. Atheism only means that the theist claim that gods are real, remains unproven. An atheist has no onus to prove there is a viable alternative to a god. If you’re claiming that your magic sky-daddy was responsible for life on earth, it’s up to you to prove it. And Louis Pasteur isn’t going to help you one iota on that claim.

Why creationists keep losing

#atheist #atheism #evolution

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There are many reasons why creationists have been unable to succeed (in the West). Evolution is still taught as a science; creationism in all its variants has been confirmed as a religious doctrine in a string of court-cases stretching over decades.

My recent epiphany on why biologists are winning is based on passion. Biologists are passionate about nature. There’s nothing easy about being a biologist. I’ve been shot at, nearly bombed by local insurrectionists, & caught some nasty tropical diseases. I’ve lost colleagues to malaria and to air-crashes.

In the process, we discover things. We find new species, we develop cures for diseases, we publish papers in peer-reviewed journals. The database Biological Abstracts records about 26,000 papers validating evolution in 2010 alone.

Creationists can’t match that. They can’t because they’re not passionate about nature. They’re not committed to understanding the natural world. They’re committed to a bronze-age fairy tale. And that’s not leading to new discoveries.There’s nothing in Biological Abstracts that supports creationism or intelligent-design being a credible alternative.

This is why biologists win. We win because we care more. We win because we have the facts and the research. We win because we don’t think sitting on our fat-arses in church is a viable scientific methodology. We win, because we are actually prepared to do the work that demonstrates evolution is true.

#atheist #atheism #evolution
- The curious mind of the creationist-

Creationists have their own peculiar logic to dealing with scientific evidence. For biologists, mutations are observed to lead to new genes being generated and new functions. This is illustrated by the case of Brown et al. (1998) and the quadruplication of the HXT6/7 genes alluded to above.

For a creationist committed to the dogmatic view that mutations can’t generate new information, ‘special’ steps needed to be added into the process to lead to the exact opposite conclusion.

Sadly bluff and making shit up, doesn’t make a very convincing case.

3 decades of molecular biology Vs

Creationism- #evolution #atheist #atheism -

One of the fascinating aspects of creationism is how it backtracks and retreats from previous positions under the weight of scientific advances. In the last thirty years, molecular biology has advanced in leaps and bounds, producing a flood of papers that substantiate evolution.

In the early 1980s, creationists deployed the argument that no-one had ever seen shifts in actual genes, therefore evolution wasn’t true. Okay, aside from the dubious nature of the argument, it was rapidly refuted by advances in DNA-mapping. Suddenly we could show that for a wide range of model organisms, selection pressure induced exactly these shifts in gene frequency.

So, either creationists could concede that evolution is true (uh huh, intellectual honesty, can’t have that) or form a new defensive line.And that’s where most creationists went. It is an even more tenuous and absurd two-part claim:

  • Evolution on small scales is now (usually) conceded. They have been forced to accept that shifts in gene frequency occur by the mechanisms of inheritance and selection.
  • Evolution on large scales is denied. Genetic shifts in two different populations can diverge and accumulate, but it is asserted that this won’t generate speciation events. It won’t matter how much difference accumulates (and this can include shifts in chromosome number) - it’s not possible for this to yield speciation.

This is the classic, micro-evolution versus macro-evolution divide. For biologists, the same forces of selection, inheritance and drift operate on all scales. Creationists are trapped in a mire of their own making. If you concede that evolution operates on small scales, you can’t deny that it will operate on large scales unless you have a mechanism that kicks in to prevent it. No such mechanism has ever been provided, so there’s no basis for this claim.

Creationism died as a biological model 150 yrs ago, yet its brainless-tail keeps twitching today

- #atheist #atheism -

From the set of quotes I use on twitter

Can creationists ever stop being stupid liars?

#atheist #atheism #evolution

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I’ve always found the ignorant thrashings of creationists to be very amusing, as if they think their lies and lack of understanding represents a credible assault on modern biology

Here’s one particularly low-watt bulb (@GospelToday) illustrating that he has no moral issue with deceit.

This is the first part ->

Questions to Consider if You Believe Darwinism

Ha ha. As is typical of many creationists, the writer is completely unaware that biology is based on the modern synthesis developed in the 1930s by bringing together Darwin, genetics and paleontology. Strictly speaking, there aren’t any Darwinists. Neither do any scientists believe in Darwinism. Evolution is accepted in the scientific community because it is a demonstrated and observable natural phenomenon. There’s evidence for it. You know, the stuff that doesn’t exist for God.


1. Recognizing the failure of the fossil record to display the gradual nature of Darwinian evolution, Stephen J. Gould resurrected the idea of Darwinism in big jumps known as “punctuated equilibrium.” Major remodeling of body plans could occur if regulator genes caused multiple changes at once. This would explain gaps in the fossil record, but it is not supported by observational science. Even if these creatures were born, what would they mate with?

Actually, the initial assertion is a lie. Gould never claimed that the fossil record did not support gradual evolution. This is clearly stated in his 1982 New Scientist paper 
 I am not saying that punctuated equilibrium is the only mode of speciation. As with all major issues in natural history, support for punctuated equilibrium relies upon an argument about relative frequency, not a claim for exclusivity. Gradual, phyletic transformation can and does occur.  
Uh oh, someone is lying to us. Hope that cult of yours find deceit to be moral.

For a partial list of gradual transitions, see my earlier post here: Tumblr link Again, see how I use evidence to back my points. Stuff not being used by the creationist.

Also, people who have read Gould (rather than pretending too) know that punctuated equilibrium occurs over the period of 50,000-100,000 years. Multiple simultaneous changes are unnecessary.


2. Where did all the new information come from since mutations are known to reduce information?

Again, another lie. Most mutations do nothing to an organism because they occur on non-coding parts of the DNA. Further sequence duplications (as per the Brown et al, 1998 observations on quadruplication of HXT6/7 genes) increase code length, which increases Kolmogorov information. Such sequences develop new functions.



3. Does similarity always prove that one structure evolved into another?

Irrelevant. This is not a prediction of Modern Evolutionary Theory. Modern phylogenies are based on whole matrices of characteristics, not single ones.


4. A large fish allows a small fish or shrimp to clean parasites from its mouth and then swims off without eating the cleaner. How could this relationship, and other irreducibly complex systems, have evolved one step at a time?

This is not an irreducibly complex system. Indeed, no irreducible complex system have been proven with any scientific robustness. This is a dishonest attempt to introduce an unscientific concept into the question.

And yes, Axelrod and Trivers (1984) demonstrated that this reciprocating strategy can develop gradually over time (with computer simulations). It’s a classic prisoner’s dilemma type interaction.


5. How do you select for the ability to fix a mutation that you don’t have?

The question is nonsensical and hence, doesn’t merit an answer. Mutations happen. All the time. They’re not predetermined. Natural selection can fix some and purge others.


6. How did the first organism survive without the second, and vice versa?

Given the scientific evidence is that the first organisms were simple prokaryotes that would have reproduced asexually, I can’t see how this question makes sense either.


7. If you can pedal a bicycle at an average of 10 mph, how long would it take to reach the moon riding your bicycle taking a three hour break every fifth hour?

Funnily enough, the Theory of Evolution makes no predictions or claims about the mechanics of cycling to the Moon.


8. Is Darwinism a valid scientific idea since it cannot be observed in experiments and repeated to show that the conclusions it claims are valid?

Yes. Evolution is simply changes in gene frequency in a population over time as a result of drift and natural selection. Experiments with model organisms show that it occurs. the Theory of Evolution meets all the definitions of a science. It yields predictions, it explains biological phenomenon, and can be validated by testing multiple lines of evidence. Biogeography can be tested against the distribution of vast suites of species. Molecular phylogenies can be used to test fossil and morphological phylogenies. 

The database Biological Abstracts records 26000 peer-reviewed, scientific papers published on evolution in 2010 alone. Having a fecund and active research output is a hallmark of a proper science.

9. What mechanisms do scientists use to explain how mutations can produce new information to make organisms more complex, when virtually all mutations cause a loss of information or no change at all?

This is basically a restatement of question 2. It is of course a lie. Sequence duplications are common. They increase code length. An increase in code length increases Kolmogorov information.

 
10. Since information cannot be created from matter by purely natural mechanisms and since it is not a part of the material universe, how did information originate?

Your premise is unproven rubbish. Information is a function of code length. DNA is a form of code. The evidence is that DNA was the product of a process of chemical evolution based on trifolds of RNA molecules.


11. By what mechanism is new information added to genomes in Darwinian evolutionary history? Can the information gain be demonstrated experimentally?

Restatement of questions 2 and 9. Try sequence duplications. Yes, it has been frequently demonstrated with model organisms.


12. What direct fossil evidence is there that fish could have evolved into amphibians? Could the alleged transitional fossils be interpreted in multiple ways?

Early amphibians and fish fossils share common anatomical structures in terms of the pelvis, neck and skull.  They occur in strata in a sequential manner consistent with evolution. The transition is sufficiently well understood that the occurrence of the fossil Tiktaalik could be accurately predicted then discovered. Molecular evidence also validates this transition. No scientific papers have been published that provide an alternate interpretation.

13. When two lines of evidence contradict each other (e.g., if DNA suggests one Darwinian evolutionary relationship and anatomy suggests a different relationship), how do scientists decide which line of evidence is more compelling?

They don’t. They gather more data to refine the phylogeny. The reality is that since the breakthroughs in molecular techniques of the late 80s and early 90s, the molecular evidence has been strongly supportive of phylogenies based on cladistics.


14. Why is Darwinism the key to understanding biology? Why is it necessary to know where the eye evolved from to understand how it works and how to treat it when it has a disease?

Because Evolution is true. Pretending underlying scientific principles can be ignored is simply a way to elevate deceit and ignorance over truth and discovery. I know creationists have no difficulty with lies and ignorance, but that’s counter to proper science.

A Guide to Debating Twitter Creationists

#evolution #atheist #atheism

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It’s hard either as an atheist or a biologist avoiding the creationists that occupy part of the twitter-verse. In addition, the 140 character format of twitter does put limits on what you can and can’t do. So this is intended to be some basic advice on tactics to deal with such creationists.

  • Ask them questions. Creationists want to give the impression that they have a serious alternative to evolution by trying to get you to defend it. The best tactic here is to question their claims. Evolution afterall, has been proved true already by 150 years of science. If they want creationism to be viable, then they’re obliged to answer a whole lot of questions.
  • Creationists want to exploit your enthusiasm. If you’re keen on biology, you probably have all kinds of facts you want to share to show evolution is true. A creationist will try to use that to draw you into topics he wants to argue on. Twitter doesn’t suit wide ranging discussions with tangents. Keep your eyes on the claims they make and challenge them.
  • Creationists have a narrow script. They want to draw you into topics that suit obfuscation tactics. The actual arguments they use don’t vary much. I’ve been debating creationists for 25 years & the only innovation in that time is the claim that evolution can’t increase information. I recommend spoiling tactics to deal with that script rather than complying with it. If they want to claim macroevolution (speciation) is different to microevolution, then don’t go to the fossils that depict evolution. Question instead their presumption that speciation is distinct to evolution at small scales. What mechanism do they have to prevent genetic changes accumulating to make a new species? Have they observed mutation rates slowing down or starting to converge back on allopatric populations?
  • Stick to the scientific definitions. A common creationist tactic is to try to pervert or corrupt scientific terms to mean something else. For example, abiogenesis might be lumped in with evolution. Missing link is meaningless in science. There is a precise definition for evolution scientists have used for decades. You’re not obliged to prove anything is true by creationist definitions
  • Don’t let them goad you. A common retreat tactic for a creationist is to try to provoke you into saying something scathing or worse. That way they can play the martyr card and run away whilst claiming victory. It pisses them off way more when you keep badgering them firmly to back their claims up with evidence.
  • Denialism is common. Many creationists won’t concede they’ve been proven wrong, and will just bluff and lie to avoid accepting scientific evidence. If this position is deeply cemented into the creationist’s arguments, then block them. It’s a complete waste of time attempting dialogue with anyone who won’t answer your questions, defend their claims or acknowledge scientific evidence contradicts their view. 
  • Do your homework. Creationists use a shotgun approach of scattered assertions, typically drawn from the same creationist websites. I like to have some counters to these predictable claims prepared ahead of time. 
  • Creationists are weak on molecular biology. Since the early 90s, breakthroughs in DNA testing have throughly validated evolution. The flow of research is now immense. While many gambits to deny the fossil record have developed in the creationist movement, they haven’t managed the same with the molecular evidence. It’s more effective for people to use such molecular biology examples rather than just the fossil record.

Creationist myths- The Conspiracy

#atheist #atheism #evolution
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As many people have already observed and noted (e.g. Michael Ruse), creationists make claims that their beliefs are scientific yet are unable to back these up with valid evidence. Court cases since the 1980s in the USA have repeatedly made this point. There is no published scientific literature validating the claims of creationists.

To take an example, the scientific database “Biological Abstracts” records about 26,000 papers published in 2010 on evolution. There were a couple of dozen on intelligent design but none validating this model (most are critiques). Michael Behe at the 2005 Dover trial noted

…there are no peer reviewed articles by anyone advocating for intelligent design supported by pertinent experiments or calculations which provide detailed rigorous accounts of how intelligent design of any biological system occurred

This is significant because Behe is a noted Intelligent Design advocate. In short, creationism is a non-scientific model that has been trying to find data in support of it for decades, and failing. This approach gets the science backwards. The evidence should lead you to the conclusion. You don’t start with the answer already.

Creationists thus need an explanation for why they have no experimental data published in scientific literature. It cannot pretend to be a viable alternative to the theory of evolution without this. 26,000 papers beats 0.

As with so much of the creationist propaganda, the explanation is enormous in scope and without substance. It is that scientists suppress the publications of creationists. It doesn’t matter that Christians such as Dobzhansky or more recently Miller, also oppose creationist claims that creationism is science. Somehow, even people who are Christian are recruited into this alleged conspiracy. And somehow, this vast conspiracy leaves no evidence of its organisation.

Sadly for this conspiracy theory, the facts are straightforward.

I’ve been a biologist for nearly 25 years. In this time, I have rejected for publication, exactly no scientific papers advocating creationism. However, no papers on creationism have ever been submitted to any scientific journal I’ve been associated with in that period. The reason there’s no scientific output from the creationist community is because they’re not doing any.

This is what sickens me about creationists. They know the conspiracy-model is a lie. But they’d rather attack the integrity of the scientific community than display one iota of integrity, one fragment of intellectual honesty. Rather than telling their drones that they’re not actually doing any research, they malign the achievements of people who are doing real work, with real data, out in the real world. Bravo, clearly the version of Christianity they follow, doesn’t regard lying as morally wrong.