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Saturday, December 6, 2014

Unintelligently Designed Creationists

This is a response to a post made by Rosa Rubicondior (the one who uses that name on Twitter). I have copied a blog by this name, and it is reproduced here in black type. My responses to Rosa Rubicondior are in blue. 

                                                  —Rosa Mystica

Unintelligently Designed Creationists

You have to pity Creationists. If only they would (or should that be 'could'?) think things through!

Mockery is not an argument, Rosa. See the picture you used above. In that picture you have confused three different approaches to the question of our origins, and conflated them. Of the three, intelligent design theory is distinctive in that it is based solely on science. They think things through using scientific reasoning. Old earth creationists have reasons for their point of view. In fact all of them do, even though you may  not agree with them

I blame the leaders of this money-making industry and right-wing political control cult; people like Ken Ham, Duane Gish, Kent Hovind, Michael Behe and William Dembski who feed off these unfortunate victims in return for worthless pseudo-scientific pap, and so release them ill-prepared in terms of reasoning ability and facts, onto the Internet to try to push their lost cause to people who actually understand biological science, as though that was ever going to be remotely possible. It almost constitutes child abuse, even for the chronologically adult Creationist children.

Name calling is an indication of a weak argument, Rosa. You continue to conflate different groups. Ken Ham, Duane Gish, and Kent Hovind  are young earth creationists. I don’t know anything about their scientific qualifications or fund-raising methods. I do know something about Michael Behe and William Dembski, however. Behe is a tenured biochemist with peer-reviewed scientific articles and books to his name, and William Dembski is a mathematician, also with peer-reviewed books and articles. You, however, have a knack for run-on sentences and invective. I know nothing about your scientific credentials, but from what I have read you appear to have only a rudimentary understanding of biology, with a lot of things you say just plain wrong.

I can understand that there is little money to be made trying to educate Creationists - indeed it is to avoid the need to bother with learning science that attracts so many of them to the cult in the mistaken belief that saying 'God did it!' is going to put them on an equal footing with real scientists who have even passed exams and things - but surely they have a moral duty of care not to make their hapless victims look quite so infantile and uneducated in full view of the world, don't they?

“Even passed exams and things?” Is that your idea of a scientist? Here is an example of your ignorance. To have a PhD, let alone two, as William Dembski does, “passing exams” is only the beginning. He also had to do original scientific research, publish peer-reviewed papers, and defend his work before a committee of at least three faculty members. Behe had to do the same thing. Then as post-doctoral researchers they continued their training. So by to say that they have not learned science is infantile and uneducated, both.

But then, which right-wing Creationist parasite is interested in morality? Isn't morality for softies? Does money in the bank have morals?

Unsubstantiated name calling and smearing of someone’s character (with no evidence, I might add) is not an argument. Rather, it's a sign of a weak argument and weak character.

Take for example the incessant clamour from Creationist for a complete set of human fossils showing every evolutionary step in detail, as though the absence of this complete series utterly refutes Darwinian Evolution by Natural Selection, just like the parasites who took their money told them. In fact, of course, even if no fossil had ever been found, Darwinian Evolution would still be irrefutably supported by genetic, biochemical and anatomical evidence, as well as by geology, cosmology, physics and mathematics.

This chart appears to show a complete evolutionary trace of hominin evolution, but what hides behind the convenient connecting bars is the absence of a connection. To the left are australopithecine species (genus Australopithicus). To the right are representatives of the genus Homo, including Homo erectus and Homo sapiens. There is a distinctive morphological gap between australopithecines and Homo erectus (as evidenced by their different Genuses). We’ll deal with the claim about genetic, biochemical, cosmological, physical and mathematical claims when they come with some evidence attached.

But why should they expect to see a complete series of fossils from any evolutionary history of any species? This would be quite extraordinary, especially for terrestrial species like the ape family and it's post-aquatic ancestors. Fossilization is an extremely rare and unusual event outside an anoxic marine sediment environment where it's still not very common, otherwise we would be quite literally climbing over mountains of pure fossils, as a moment of intelligently designed thought would have told them.

To climb over mountains of fossils would require that every individual who died become fossilized. That is absurd. But it’s not unreasonable that in the last 150 years some fossil that bridges the gap between Australopithicus and Homo should have been found. After all, we have found plenty of the other hominins. But an intermediate fossil has not been found. Even paleontologists recognize the gap between the two groups (see below).

In practice of course almost all dead bodies are eaten either by micro-organisms or larger scavengers (that smell of a road kill that's been a couple of days in the sun is not a fossil being formed) and even the rare piece of surviving bone or teeth will usually be dissolved and will disappear in a few years.

It is true that most animals' bodies decay before they can be fossilized. Yet we have dinosaurs from 200 million to 60 million years ago, but we still lack fossils from 2 or 3 million years ago (the time frame between australopithecines and Homo erectus). The only ones we have are either Homo or Australopithecus individuals.

In fact, so unlikely is it that a fossil would be laid down for every generation (the only complete series that would satisfy Creationists) for the whole of human and pre-human evolution, in conditions in which it would have been discovered since we started actively looking for them about 150 years ago, that it would be very hard for science to explain it.

Setting up a straw man, Rosa? That sentence doesn't parse, but I'll try. Are you saying we should have found these fossils because the proper conditions exist? Didn't you argue the other thing just above? So which is it? By the way, no one expects so many fossils, certainly not one for every generation. One fossil connecting Australopithecus and Homo would do.

The discovery of such a complete series of human and pre-human fossils, the series that Creationism, and its under-cover wing the Intelligent Design industry, demands, would itself be evidence of intelligent design. It would be so unlikely that the probability of it occurring would be vanishingly small. It would be so hugely unlikely that some sort of intelligent intervention would need to be seriously considered as an explanation - which is why we can be as near certain as makes no difference that such a complete series of human fossils will never be found.

We are not talking about a complete series. We are talking about one fossil that bridges the gap between ape-like australopithecines  and Homo erectus, with a mostly modern human skeleton and slightly smaller cranium. To help you understand the gap I have included a picture taken from a peer-reviewed paper: Hawks, Hunley, Lee, and Wolpoff. “Population Bottlenecks and Pleistocene Human Evolution.” Journal of Molecular Biology and Evolution 17 (2000): 2-22. be sure to read the caption below.

Here's another from Science and Human Origins, by Gauger, Axe, and Denton, based on a figure from D.M. Bramble and D.E. Lieberman, “Endurance running and the evolution of Homo,” Nature 432 (2004): 345-352.

On the bottom row are a chimp (left) and A. afarensis (right).
On the top are a modern human (left) and Homo erectus (right), the first member of the genus Homo. It's easy to see that A. afarensis is chimp-like more than it is human-like, and that there is a big gap in morphology between A. afarensis and Homo erectus.

You see, what any decent Creation 'scientists' who cared about the reputation of those whom he was priming to make fools of themselves on the Internet would do would be to tell them not to be so stupid as to keep pointing out that there is an incomplete, gap-ridden fossil record of human evolution, which is exactly what science expects and which is evidence against intelligent design.

Maybe you should stop calling people stupid when you have the facts so wrong. The fossil record does have gaps. It’s inconvenient that the gaps fall where they do, isn’t it, Rosa?  The “incomplete, gap-ridden” fossil record fails to show a fossil in between ape-like australopithecines and Homo, though we have plenty of the others. So, all claims of our origin from ape-like ancestors are not supported by the evidence.

Maybe they over-estimated the intellectual abilities of their credulous victims and expected them to work out these simple pieces of logic for themselves. Or maybe they just hoped intelligently designed flying pigs would tell them.

More name calling. Speak for yourself, Rosa. Maybe you have underestimated the intelligence of your readers.

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