Science at the Creation Museum

Thanks to the ever-watchful Sensuous Curmudgeon, we came across a recent article in Scientific American in which an evolution-believing science teacher journeyed to Answers in Genesis’ Creation Museum outside of Kentucky.

Image Source: Answers in Genesis Creation Museum

Image Source: Answers in Genesis Creation Museum

For folks like me and the author Jacob Tanenbaum, the scientific claims of the museum are impossible to accept.  A science teacher, Tanenbaum recoiled at the misleading scientific claims made by the museum.  “What disturbed me most,” Tanenbaum reported,

“was the theme . . . that the differences between biblical literalists and mainstream scientists are minor. They are not minor; they are poles apart. This is not to say that science and religion are incompatible; many scientists believe in some kind of higher power, and many religious people accept the idea of evolution. Still, a literal interpretation of Genesis cannot be reconciled with modern science.”

Fair enough.  During my trip to the Creation Museum, though, what struck me most powerfully was simply how plausible it all seemed.  For those who did not set out to debunk the information, the museum seemed just as authoritative as Chicago’s Field Museum or any other natural-history museum.

But what Tanenbaum wrote makes sense: the Creation Museum presents a misleading picture of the differences between creation science and mainstream science.

My beef with Tanenbaum is with his own misleading conclusion.  The problem with such creation science education, Tanenbaum argues, is “that 40 percent of the American electorate seems to have forgotten what science is. Considering that our nation put a man on the moon and invented the airplane and the Internet, this development is extraordinary.”

Tanenbaum may be a gifted teacher of mainstream science, but this conclusion suggests that he is not deeply versed in the culture of creation science that he condemns.  For those of us who want to understand creationism, we need to get beyond this naive assumption that creationists don’t know what science is, or that they are somehow hypocritical in their use of technology.

As I argued in a recent commentary in the Chronicle of Higher Education, simple ignorance does not explain American creationism.  Many creationists have studied mainstream science.  In many cases, such as that of leading creation science author Henry Morris, they have earned advanced technical degrees.  And, beyond such stand-out leaders such as Morris, many rank-and-file creationists have extensive science educations.  As political scientists Michael Berkman and Eric Plutzer discovered in their National-Science-Foundation-funded study of high-school biology teachers, of those teachers who espoused a belief in young-earth creationism (i.e., the Creation-Museum type of creationism), fully 55% had earned college degrees in science.   Furthermore, Berkman and Plutzer’s review of other such surveys led them to the following conclusion: “the overall evidence suggests that the high support for creationism in the classroom cannot be attributed primarily, or even substantially, to overall scientific illiteracy in the United States” (pg. 52).

Also, as creationists often remind themselves and their evolutionist foes, belief in evolution is not necessary for sophisticated engineering.  Dobzhansky’s claim that nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution may be true, but that would not stop creationists from traveling to the moon, perfecting airplanes, or inventing the internet.

In the end, I think it makes a big difference whether Americans with creationist beliefs have “forgotten what science is” or if they have a distinctly different definition of science.  Building an anti-creationist argument on the foundation that creationism disables technical education, as does Tanenbaum and other prominent pro-science voices such as Bill Nye, is both a false claim and poor strategy.

Please don’t misunderstand me: this is not a brief for creationism.  However, if those of us, like me, Bill Nye, and Jacob Tanenbaum–who stand outside the borders of creationism looking in–if we really want to understand creationism, we must abandon our own naive assumptions about the meanings of that creationist belief.

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45 Comments

  1. Tim

     /  January 13, 2013

    **WARNING: Creationist response below** (all in fun)

    I have been studying creationism and evolution for the past two years. I have participated in countless debates and had my knowledge expanded on both sides of the issue. I feel I have finally come to the core of the issue and have formulated my comprehensive argument in favor of young-earth, Biblical creation.

    1. Creationists and evolutionists have the same evidence (same bones, same rocks, same earth), but come to different conclusions due to different starting assumptions used to explain the evidence.

    2. Evolutionists have a starting assumption of uniformitarianism of geology and biology. This basically means that the rates and processes we measure today have remained constant and unchanged for all of history.

    3. Creationists have a starting assumption of catastrophism. This basically means that if the Bible is true, then there are three very important events (a 6-day literal creation, a cursed world following original sin, and a worldwide flood) that intrude and disrupt the assumption of uniformitarianism.

    4. Therefore, if the Bible is true – uniformitarianism fails, and so do all conclusions (macro-evolution, old-earth) that flow from that assumption.

    Realize this is not a denial of the scientific method. This is a re-interpretation of the same data. A person who truly believes the Bible is true has no reason to accept evolution or an old-earth because the Bible offers a different history than those theories use. For evolutionists: yes, this argument hinges on the assumption that the Bible’s catastrophic events actually happened – BUT your conclusions also hinge on an unobserved, unrepeatable assumption: uniformitarianism.

    The takeaway here is that the “overwhelming evidences” for evolution, old-earth, and slow geologic processes are interpretations built on assumptions. Creationists have their own interpretations built on different assumptions. This is not a battle over intellect. It is a battle over whether the Bible is true. The evidence can’t tell us either way. A common misconception is that creationists reject micro-evolution and natural selection. Not at all, those are actual observed occurrences. We only reject the unseen lengths to which these changes can accumulate.

    Reply
  2. Thomas

     /  January 13, 2013

    Tim! You’re spot on! Hope people read your comment!!

    Reply
  3. ChazIng

     /  January 13, 2013

    Dr. Laats, what specifically about ‘creation science’ is incorrect in your view? And what evidence convinced you that mainstream science is correct on evolution?

    Reply
    • @ ChazIng, A fair question. Smarter and more articulate people than I have offered brief expositions that I have found convincing. Recently, for instance, Philip Kitcher’s Living With Darwin summarized some of the issues. In brief, I find “creation science” to be something different than what I consider science. At the heart of the issue, as I think we can all agree, is the nature of science. A central tenet of the mainstream definition of science is a skeptical and inquiring attitude that is not part of creation science. This does not mean that creation scientists are not skeptical and inquiring. It only means that mainstream science stands aghast at the notion of beginning scientific inquiry with one authoritative source. Does this prove creation science to be false? Not really. But this is the short answer as to why I personally consider creation science to be demonstrably outside the (admittedly porous and shifting) borders of science.

      Reply
      • ChazIng

         /  January 14, 2013

        Thanks, but Henry Morris states that scientific creationism does not use the bible [http://www.mandley.com/advdemo/mod01/adv1015.htm]. Additionally, a creationist may argue that evolutionists do use one authoritative source: the bible, but in reverse. It could also be argued that evolutionist use finite human reasoning as their one authoritative source thus the porosity and ill-defined borders. If creationism was at one time mainstream science, why is it now demonstrably outside of the borders of science?

  4. PC

     /  January 14, 2013

    Tim: let me try to explain why that is wrong.
    First of all, uniformitarianism is not unevidenced. When we make calculations about what would have happened over long periods of time given that certain laws were constant, we get results that match what we currently see. Trying to modify the laws of physics of the past tends to produce results that don’t fit with what we observe.
    But, regardless: if you don’t assume that the universe has always worked in the same way, how can you say absolutely anything about the past? Scientists assume uniformitarianism because it’s necessary to do science. If you want to argue the universe worked differently, you have to specify HOW it was different, and also provide evidence that it was in fact different. There is no need to do this; assuming the laws were the same produces perfectly consistent results, and ad-hoc adjustments to the laws of physics to make them match what you want to believe is, to put it mildly, not good science.
    What you are proposing is that the Bible is literally true, and that therefore there exists a Deity which is capable of anything; you then say that this Deity clearly kept changing the laws of physics in the past to make what we see now consistent with what the Bible says, given the altered laws.
    Can you not see how completely ad-hoc, unevidenced, and unnecessary this chain of assumptions are? Uniformitarianism is both necessary and has been evidenced; it gives completely consistent results, which contradict the Bible. You say that we must decide if the BIble is true. Well, if you don’t assume uniformitarianism, the past could have happened in any infinite number of conceivable ways to give rise to what we currently see. If the universe hasn’t always worked the way it now does, there are infinitely many ways in which it could have been different. What makes you think that the particular way which is consistent with your dogma is the correct one?
    However, given the fact that it is unnecessary to assume it was different at all, Occam’s razor disposes of all these other possibilities for the time being.

    Reply
    • Horyzyn

       /  January 14, 2013

      PC, You are confusing uniformitarianism with uniformity. Uniformity in the universe, the consistency of laws, is what makes scientific research possible. Uniformitarianism, the worldview that states,”the present is the key to the past”, is a prior assumption.

      Occam’s razor, when applied to the origins of life and the universe, is begging the question.

      Reply
    • ChazIng

       /  January 14, 2013

      @ PC, assuming uniformitarianism may produce results but still be incorrect. The issue is what can be scientifically deduced from the available data. Uniformitarianism goes beyond the available data [http://blog.drwile.com/?p=9] and is not necessary for science. Catastrophism does not assume that a designer meddled with the laws of physics but that natural laws are generally immutable and changes due to natural conditions. Theology and logic does not allow any deity to do “anything.” You contradicted yourself by saying that uniformitarianism is “evidenced” and then saying that it needs to be “assumed.” Occam’s Razor is simplistic and does not hold water in engineering. Evolution is really about engineering (application of natural science to the creation of useful objects), not theoretical biological modeling with bizarre assumptions like abiogenesis.

      Reply
  5. Tim

     /  January 14, 2013

    PC, I find it highly ironic that you are relying on constant laws to prove a random & ever-changing theory of our universe.

    Reply
  6. ***EDITOR’S NOTE: Thanks to all for the respectful and civil tone of these comments. As we are all painfully aware, these discussions often degrade into mere shouting matches. Please, let’s continue to speak politely to one another, especially when we disagree so strongly.***

    Reply
  7. Thanks for the blog post.
    I am one of those young earth creationist types with a degree from secular university in Biology who happens to believe that the evidence lines up better with a Biblical worldview assumption than a materialistic/naturalistic/uniformitarian-istic assumption.

    Reply
  8. PC

     /  January 15, 2013

    ‘Uniformitarianism, the worldview that states,”the present is the key to the past”, i a prior assumption.’ – I do not understand what this statement means. The present is the key to the past… what? I was talking about what you call uniformity anyway. Uniformity means we can observe the present, and assuming the laws of physics have always been the same, deduce logically how this present came about.

    ‘Catastrophism does not assume that a designer meddled with the laws of physics but that natural laws are generally immutable and changes due to natural conditions.’
    In this case you are left with the question: did they actually change? There is currently no reason to think they have ever changed, which is why they are thought to be unchanging. Catastrophism assumes that the laws changed in such a way as to make the Bible consistent with what we now observe. This is ad-hoc, unfalsifiable, nor can I find any conceivable way to provide evidence for it either, even in principle. It would be unneccesary were you not forcing yourself into a hole by assuming the Bible has to be true.
    ‘Theology and logic does not allow any deity to do “anything.”’ – isn’t God omnipotent?
    ‘You contradicted yourself by saying that uniformitarianism is “evidenced” and then saying that it needs to be “assumed.” ‘ – I said it was necessary to assume in order to do science. If the laws may change any second, how can you make predictions with any confidence? It also turns out, as a matter of fact, to be evidenced. This is in the same sense that it was necessary to assume the constancy of the speed of light to formulate Special Relativity; the subsequent success of that theory shows that the assumption it is based upon is probably correct.
    Nobody is assuming abiogenesis.

    The point is really this: you base your ‘worldview’ on the assumption that the Bible is true, The question is, how can we test this assumption? Because the Bible contains statements about the past, we have to find a way of experimentally determining what happened in the past. The only way to do this is by assuming uniformity – otherwise, as I said, you have an infinite number of possible pasts, due to the infinite number of ways the laws of physics could have changed. It just so turns out that assuming uniformity leads to consistent results, meaning that it is probably true. It is also true that since scientific experiments first started being recorded, the same laws of physics seem to have been in play.
    Of course, you can propose definite changes to the laws of physics at definite points in the past and calculate what the consequences would have been, but these have to be testable, and not ad-hoc. Like I said before though, there is no reason to do this if you are un-biased.

    Reply
    • Tim

       /  January 15, 2013

      PC, I think you can sum up your argument with this last line: “Like I said before though, there is no reason to do this if you are un-biased.” You assume that scientists are unbiased. This may be your downfall. What about naturalism? Isn’t naturalism an assumption, and therefore a bias? WHO says all things must have a natural explanation? I’m afraid your scientists are just as biased as mine. You personally feel more comfortable with naturalistic explanations. You are welcome to that decision, but it is laughable to say that a naturalistic explanation of our origins disproves a supernatural one. Sure the natural one may be able to be put through more tests, but those tests are invalidated immediately with the appearance of the supernatural. I don’t disagree that your naturalistic explanations are logical, but stop short of applying the word “fact” or “proven”. That is impossible.

      Reply
    • ChazIng

       /  January 15, 2013

      @ PC, catastrophism does not assume the bible. Imagine a large set of a billion randomly generated numbers. Uniformitarianism would be like the mean value and catastrophism like the range. Both are needed to accurately describe the set. What you are doing is fetishing on the mean by giving it undue prominence. Once again, catastrophism “does not assume that a designer meddled with the laws of physics but that natural laws are generally immutable and changes due to natural conditions.” Thus there is no need to assume uniformitarianism to do science. The pre-Darwin catastrophists were also doing science. The speed of light is a different issue since it can be tested in the present unlike uniformitarianism. Biological evolution is predicated on the chemical evolution assumption of abiogenesis. My worldview is not based on the bible being correct but on Western boolean logic coupled with engineering pragmatism. “The only way to do this is by assuming uniformity” – No, the only way is to look at the available data and make tentative but reasonable deductions, not dogma like uniformitarianism and evolution.

      Reply
  9. PC

     /  January 15, 2013

    Tim, could you please clarify what exactly you mean by a ‘supernatural explanation’? To me, if you have a definite, testable proposal, I will be happy to accept it if evidence comes to light, no matter whether it is ‘supernatural’ or ‘natural’. However, personally, I don’t see what the word ‘supernatural’ means here. If something exists, in what sense is it not natural?

    As for ‘there is no need to assume uniformity to do science’, and also your last statement about making ‘tentative but reasonable deductions': In order to explain how the present came about, you need to know SOMETHING about the past – if you assume the laws of the past could have been ANYTHING, then you have no way of determining what the past was like – not even tentative deductions can be made. It is possible to propose DEFINITE changes to laws of the past, and calculate the consequences – for example, for a while scientists thought that the Gravitational Constant got weaker as the universe got older – they calculated the consequences and this proposal turned out to be wrong. Similarly, with any change you propose, if you can’t test it, it’s useless. What you seem to be doing is, rather than proposing definite changes, you are saying that the laws of the past were different IN A WAY THAT MAKES THE BIBLE CONSISTENT WITH WHAT WE NOW SEE. You have not even bothered to work out in what EXACT ways they would have to be different – which particular laws of physics would have to change, and in what way, to make the Bible consistent? If you figure this out, you will be one step further – however, unless you can draw any EXTRA testable predictions out of these new laws, all you have constructed is an ad-hoc, circular argument. For example, I could say the universe came into existence two minutes ago, and in the beginning all there was was an apple – then I could say there was a single law of physics, saying ‘If there exists an apple, it will transform itself into the universe we currently observe.’ This is on par with your proposal – assuming a past, then constructing the laws of physics to transform your past into the present we observe. It is backwards reasoning, and it is untestable.

    Reply
  10. Tim

     /  January 16, 2013

    A supernatural explanation defies conventional natural testing. It’s not going to fit nicely into our scientific method because the processes may or may not fit our narrow view of how the world is supposed to work. If God exists, and the supernatural realm is real – then we would obviously have a very limited understanding of how that works, and simply assuming that our naturalistic-only explanations explain away the supernatural is in my opinion ignorant and makes us God.

    The only way you can test the supernatural claims of say the Bible is to put the claims to the test. If a 6-day rapid creation happened approx. 6000 years ago, then we would expect to find evidence in the world and universe that confirms that … and we do. If a worldwide flood decimated the earth approx. 4300 years ago, then we would expect to find evidence in the world that confirms that … and we do. Now, I realize there have been naturalistic explanations of many of the young-earth evidences, but explanations are not proof (on either end). They are simply two sides to one coin. You will accept whichever explanation aligns with your presuppositional approach: naturalism or supernaturalism.

    You see? It’s not a battle over evidence. It’s a battle over the interpretation of the evidence, and more importantly – our biases.

    Reply
  11. PC

     /  January 17, 2013

    What is the evidence for the young earth theory and how do you interpret it? Same question with flood.

    Reply
  12. Tim

     /  January 17, 2013

    PC, that is quite a loaded question. There are volumes of books written on it. You can watch hours of video on youtube about it, but their is a basic way to break it down. Evolutionists and creationists share the exact same evidence: same rocks, same bones, same rock layers, etc. – we simply have a different interpretation of those things, mainly through a catastrophic viewpoint.

    People will say there is no evidence for the flood. Well, I will turn around and say “what would you expect to see if there was a flood”? I would expect to find billions of dead things buried in rock layers laid down by water all over the world – and that’s exactly what we find. Plate tectonics is 100% in-line with flood geology. Polar ice caps is 100% in-line with flood geology. And the rock layers themselves – I won’t get into that, but they scream out – global catastrophe! In other words, the evidence is everywhere but has largely been misinterpreted. The Bible says we are without excuse for not believing, that’s because the evidence IS everywhere.

    This page (http://creation.com/age-of-the-earth) offers 101 evidences of a young-earth if you are truly interested. Now I realize a lot of these are going to be disputed and different explanations offered elsewhere, but just because there is a different explanation does not make it anymore fact than this explanation. It comes back to interpretation. We are just as able to make interpretations from the left-behind evidence as they are.

    Reply
  13. ChazIng

     /  January 17, 2013

    @PC, while you are waiting for his reply, could you provide repeatable, non-extrapolation, controlled lab evidence that abiogenesis is possible and that cumulative mutations can cause novel and beneficial increases in genomic information?

    Reply
  14. Evolution is more impossible than the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, and the Headless Horseman. See http://www.lifescienceprize.org/ for a list of bluffing evolutionists.

    Reply
  15. PC

     /  January 29, 2013

    ChazIng –
    first point: I don’t believe they have yet succeeded in creating a living organism from scratch – they have, however, observed the formation of amino acids and other such chemicals central to life when they replicated early-earth conditions in the lab. While this is nowhere near a living organism, it is convincing evidence that such chemistry will tend to occur in the right conditions. But just because they haven’t succeeded yet or do not know exactly abiogenesis occured, it does not automatically mean it was God! We are still trying to find the answer, and saying ‘It was God’ is useless because it is an untestable hypothesis – unless God himself were to come down now and show us all how it’s done.
    About your second point – errhmmm, yes. They have done tonnes of research on bacteria showing (in one case) how when a certain strain were deprived of their main food source and had it replaced with another one which they couldn’t consume, some groups (the different experimental groups were isolated of course) eventually developed a way of processing that new food. As a result, they began reproducing much more quickly and successfully, so obviously that is a mutation that was beneficial. Of course, this mutation exists as a string of DNA, so there you go.
    I am certain many other experiments have been done but can’t name them off the top of my head. Just look it up on wikipedia, there are a few human examples: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mutation#Beneficial_mutations

    Reply
    • Extrapolation, you don’t know what the earth’s early conditions were like and even if abiogenesis were possible, it is not scientific to accept evolution UNTIL abiogenesis is shown to occur.

      Yes, it does not mean it was God, it also does not mean that it wasn’t or that evolution + chance + environmental pressures did it. I am not arguing that “It was God,” you assume that this is my position.

      The E.Coli bacteria did not evolve novel information but simply revived prior lost information. Your Wikipedia referenced mutations also did not ADD information to the genome.

      Reply
      • Additionally, if there were no experiments which were replicated and showed conclusively that novel information can be added to the genome via evolutionary mutational accumulation and pruning, then evolution is NOT scientific.

  16. Tim

     /  January 29, 2013

    PC – Just a tip: I’d probably shy away from humanly designed experiments to prove that design was not involved.

    Reply
  17. PC

     /  January 30, 2013

    Sigh… as I have said before, if you are going to take the stance that nothing can be known about the past because one cannot assume uniformitarianism in laws which certainly seem to be uniformitarian, then you are at a dead end. With that stance, no, it is not possible to know what the early conditions of the Earth were; it is also not possible to even say the Earth existed prior to this very point – it could have just come into existence if you allow for arbitrary changes to physical laws.
    Evolution describes how life evolved AFTER abiogenesis occured; it does not even attempt to explain how life came to be in the first place. You are confusing two different theories. So yes, it is perfectly fine to accept evolution even if you do not know how abiogenesis occured, because evolution is not about abiogenesis.
    You are right, until we know how it happened we have to adopt a stance of uncertainty – you cannot say it either was or wasn’t God or anything else. However, given lack of evidence for a God, and given successful scientific explanation of almost the entirety of phenomena in this universe, you can say it is unlikely that it will end up being a creature from another reality who was responsible. It is more likely that aliens seeded life. In any case, you would be left having to explain the origins of the designer, so it wouldn’t help you figuring out how intelligence arises in the first place.
    ‘The E.Coli bacteria did not evolve novel information but simply revived prior lost information. Your Wikipedia referenced mutations also did not ADD information to the genome.’ That is just not true. New information was added – the mutation was not a revival, it was a mutation! What exactly do you mean by ‘adding’ information? If a mutation occurs, this by definition is something new, so of course ‘new’ information will be present in the DNA. This happens all the time when bacteria evolve to become resistant to the drugs we use on them!
    ‘PC – Just a tip: I’d probably shy away from humanly designed experiments to prove that design was not involved.’
    You misunderstand then. The experiments aim to reproduce early earth conditions and let life arise itself, not to meticulously piece life together step-by-step with constant human involvement.

    Reply
  18. Sigh, biological evolution describes how life evolved AFTER abiogenesis occurred, chemical evolution needs to describe how abiogenesis occurred. I am not confusing anything. You are willfully limiting yourself to biological evolution because the axiom of abiogenesis is not scientific. Your argument that I would need to explain the origins of the designer is absurd. The initial cause needs to be un-caused. Brush up on your Kalam Cosmological argument. The E.Coli revived previously lost citrate information, it did not add new information through accumulated mutations. Your definition of information is incorrect. A packet of information with 20% lost from the original would be ‘new’ compared to the original but it would still be informational degradation. You are playing word games. Human designed experiments would not invalidate that there was a mind or intelligence partially guiding the process or conditions.

    Reply
  19. PC

     /  January 30, 2013

    Yes and I wasn’t speaking of chemical evolution, only biological. Do you understand that one does not need to know how life arose to know how it evolved? In the same way that we don’t know what caused the Big Bang but know how the universe evolved after that point.
    Yes if you are postulating an initial cause it obviously has to be uncaused, but the point is, how would you know the designer is the initial cause? It seems an absurdly complex initial cause. How do you determine whether something is an initial cause? The big bang could be the initial cause if you are going to postulate such a thing, and it would be a far simpler one than a designer.
    We can argue about the E Coli until the world freezes over because I do not know the details, however are you also going to claim that every bacteria and virus that has evolved immunity to our cures also simply recovered ‘lost information’? That would imply that it already had the information for an immunity to a drug it had never before encountered inherent in its DNA! That seems rather unlikely. Or how about the human mutation in Africa rendering some people immune to malaria (or resistant to it)? Also lost information?
    If we are going by the physical definition of information, then no new information can ever be made, as information is conserved. However that is meaningless in a biological context – what we mean by new information is that a strand of DNA creates a characteristic in its associated organism that wasn’t present before. All that is required is that the strand be different from one before – ‘mutated’. Do you mean you literally want the strand to get LONGER? If you do, then there are cases where it accidentally makes two copies of part of itself, so in this case it would be longer. Is this then ‘new information?’
    No human experiments would never invalidate an intelligence – that’s precisely why intelligent design is so useless! You can’t invalidate it. You have no way of knowing whether it’s wrong. That is why it is not a useful theory. It makes no definite predictions.

    Reply
    • Biological evolution is based on the assumption that organic life arose from inorganic substances (abiogenesis). Thus one needs to know how life arose to understand how it evolves, assuming it does evolve. But if you want to only play in biological evolution, please list the repeated experiments which show mutational accumulation adding novel information to the genome with the removal of deleterious mutations all by natural pressures. You would need this for bio-evo to be even possible. Again, brush up on William Craig’s Kalam, you are making non sequitur strawmen of the initial un-caused cause, which is quite a logical feat. The E.Coli studies are available publicly so you can study them. Viral and bacterial immunity is from a loss of information which is not evolution or a gain of new information. How can one be an evolutionist and state that “information is conserved”? Evolution is a general increase in information while catastrophic creationism is the opposite. You need to also brush up on your bio-evo theory. A DNA copy can never represent new information even if it leads to new function. Perhaps you are conflating the two. I am not arguing for intelligent design, I am arguing that evolution is not scientific. Interestingly, you are an intelligent design advocate like Dawkins as you stated: “It is more likely that aliens seeded life.”

      Reply
  20. Tim

     /  January 30, 2013

    PC, I wonder what your take on genetic entropy is? Dr. John Sanford has published multiple peer-reviewed papers on it. Wiki has a synopsis here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_C._Sanford#Genetic_Entropy_.26_the_Mystery_of_the_Genome.

    If I understand it correctly he argues that genetic simulations measuring the rate at which beneficial mutations occur verses the onslaught of negative mutations (even with intense selection higher than the rate we observe today) is simply not fast enough for evolution to have even occurred in the time frame available. I’m not sure of the exact numbers, but I believe he equates it to something like 1000 negative mutations to 1 positive – which in essence leaves you with a negative gain. Yes, it may be incorrect for creationists to say that there is nothing that can “add information”, but even though there is – observational evidence to the rate at which they occur falsifies evolution. His final conclusion is that the genetic code is breaking down rather than building up (de-evolution).

    Reply
    • Well, evolutionists are theoretically correct that accumulated mutations COULD add novel information and function. The problem is that they have not shown scientifically that it did because a la Stanford, the probability is too low considering the negative consequences of most mutations.

      Reply
  21. PC

     /  January 30, 2013

    list the repeated experiments which show mutational accumulation adding novel information to the genome with the removal of deleterious mutations all by natural pressures.
    There have been heaps! LIke I have said, every time a population of bacteria become resistant, it means the ‘deleterious mutations’ (those not causing resistance) have been destroyed (the bacteria carrying them were killed) and the ‘novel information’ (the beneficial mutations) was preserved! Can you please identify what you mean by ‘information’ in this context? Do you mean the actual nucleotides (the ‘letters’)? Letters are replaced/inserted/deleted in the process of mutation. Is this ‘new information’? What exactly do you mean by information?
    You don’t understand the physical meaning of information, as in physics information is conserved (it simply refers to the state of physical systems). If you are going to randomly assign errors in logic to me, let’s go. A strawman is when I misrepresent your position. I understand your position perfectly well – that the Deity doesn’t need a cause. I am challenging that proposition. Why doesn’t it need a cause? A non sequitur is when I draw an illogical conclusion. I did not do so. If you say the Universe needs a cause, why not the Deity? (you cannot say ‘because it is the first cause’, as I then ask, how do you know it is the first cause? Might the Universe not be the first cause?). By not requiring a cause for your Deity you are committing a logical error called ‘special pleading’ (when you demand unjustified exceptions to a rule in a particular circumstance where it is useful to you).
    Tim – if you look on Wikipedia this is what it says: ‘The idea of devolution is based at least partly on the presumption that “evolution” requires some sort of purposeful direction towards “increasing complexity”. Modern evolutionary theory poses no such presumption and the concept of evolutionary change is independent of either any increase in complexity of organisms sharing a gene pool, or any decrease, such as in vestigiality or in loss of genes.’
    Thus the concept that book is based upon is incorrect (‘devolution’).
    You guys misunderstand this mutation thing a bit. Yes, within a single organism, mutations may occur that are both good and bad. If the overall effect of the mutations is a good one, the organism will survive. If the overall effect is bad, it will not. Often only a few mutations occur. The organisms with the bad mutations die out, those with the good ones survive and thrive. If you have a population of a million, say, even if only one thousandth of the mutations are good, that still implies 1000 survivors, while the rest die from bad mutations. Those 1000 then thrive because they lack competition, and reproduce numerously. Thus it doesn’t matter that the vast majority died – that just means it is easier for those few that survived to reproduce! Like I said, you can repeat all you want that the probability of evolution is too low or whatever, but we have seen it happen! Not just in experiements with bacteria, but in real instances in nature. The fossil record also shows the gradual effect of these accumulated mutations – you can see it!

    Reply
    • A beneficial mutation is not necessarily due to novel information added to the genome. I always find it strange that bio-evos have problems with the comncept of information. Simply, information is the amount of unique data in a set where a set can be a DNA strand or a text message packet. If a DNA strand of 4 (repeated) unique letters (ACGTACGT) is mutated to ACGTACGG, this is a loss of information even if it leads to increased resistance or longevity. Evolutionists need to show that additional mutations lead to say a unique letter Z so that the strand becomes ACGTACGZ where Z confers some form of increased or novel functionality. In other words, evos are stopping at ACGTACGG and claiming that because the G mutation is beneficial evolution has occurred.The un-caused cause would be God as per the standard theistic definition of God. The un-caused cause would not require a cause because it would lead to the fallacy of an infinite regress (Craig’s Kalam argument). So once again, list the repeated experiments which show mutational accumulation adding novel information to the genome (Z) with the removal of deleterious mutations all by natural pressures.

      Reply
  22. PC

     /  February 1, 2013

    … complete misunderstanding of the way DNA and mutation works.
    DNA is made up of ONLY G, A, C, and T, corresponding to four nucleotides! You can’t randomly introduce a new one – DNA doesn’t work that way. The different arrangements of nucleotides determine the characteristics of the organism. The way you are defining information in this context is one that just doesn’t make sense – you can’t say ‘additional information’ means a new ‘letter’! Clearly it is nonsensical to even use the word ‘information’ in this context. The point is, use it however you want, if you do define it that way then we see that new information is not necessary for evolution! All that you need is a different arrangement of the four letters DNA consists of, G, A, T, C, for a mutation to occur. This is how mutation and evolution works. So like you said, if we go by your strange definition of information, ‘this is a loss of information even if it leads to increased resistance or longevity’. Well, exactly. So the fact that information was lost doesn’t matter. All that matters is the increased resistance etc. That then gets selected for and voila! Evolution.
    I understand that God is DEFINED to be the first cause. So this is an assumption. I am contending the assumption both that a God exists and that if he/she/it does they are the first cause. You can’t just say ‘I define God to be the first cause, therefore God is the first cause!’

    Reply
    • Yes, you are correct. I used the wrong example. The Z would be say, if a new sequence was beneficial (TGCA instead of ACGT where TGCA was never seen before in said genome). I still don’t think that helps your case. If a mutated copy caused a unique arrangement which was beneficial, was that arrangement a loss or gain? If it was a former loss sequence (as in the case of E.Coli citrate metabolism), then this is not information gain. As stated before, it is possible to mutate into something beneficial and add information. However, where exactly did repeated science show this to be the case for evolution?

      I think the problem is that you see evolution as anything that aids survival. But something that aids survival might accumulate too slowly to keep up with environmental changes. It might confer survivability in one instance (against predators A and B) but not in another (predators C and D). It might cause you to survive predator X or condition Y but cause you to die naturally faster. You also don’t need mutations to survive, you can do this by species segregation into a safe environment with a food supply or adopting altruism. How exactly do you know what happened? Oh yes, you extrapolate and assume uniformity because that’s easy and simple.

      Rephrased: So once again, list the repeated experiments which show mutational accumulation adding novel information to the genome (ACGT or any combination thereof) with the removal of deleterious mutations all by natural pressures.

      I am saying that God by definition is the un-caused first cause AND that the attributes of the first cause can only be associated with the theistic God. This is a deduction, not an assumption. An assumption would be uniformitarianism. See Craig’s Kalam.

      Reply
  23. PC

     /  February 2, 2013

    In that case I still don’t understand how you define information here. Your article defines it as “… an encoded, symbolically represented message
    conveying expected action and intended purpose”
    I certainly don’t need to point out that, while being correct in the normal use of the term ‘information’, of course is completely inadequate to describe the information carried by DNA. It presupposes that DNA has an ‘intended purpose’. Of course, we cannot assume there was any intent involved, and even if there were, it would not be an objective property of DNA – this purpose, if there were any, would exist only in the designer’s head, not physically in the DNA (as ‘intent’ is a philosophical concept with no simple physical realisation). So we can’t begin the argument on the basis that DNA has any sort of intent behind it. It is just a string of data which creates different organisms depending on how the data is arranged.
    I think I can summarize the argument of the article like this:
    – Mutations are rarely the cause of changes to DNA, and most mutations are harmful. What evolutionists usually call ‘mutations’ are actually rearrangements of pre-existing information. (The last point is somewhat misleading and ill-defined. The only definition of information provided was the one about a message with intent. Let us ignore the intent bit for now, for reasons I put above. So information is a message. In DNA this message is written using four letters. What then does it mean to ‘rearrange’ this message as opposed to introducing new information? Take an example: AAATTTGGGCCC (three of each letter). A rearrangement would mean that the final result still contained three of each letter. An addition would mean it contained three of each plus additional letters. A deletion would mean it contained less than three of each. Mutations are well known which can and do introduce new letters (insertion). Mutations can also result in what looks like a rearrangement which actually came about through mutation).
    However, what is the point? The article is actually attacking a straw man.
    The writer seems to assume that evolution requires mutations which increase information to be selected for, then tries to argue that these mutations happen exceedingly rarely.
    This is simply not true. I will try to outline the requirements for evolution. They are very simple, actually.
    1 – a self-replicating object.
    2 – The replicas must have variation.
    3 – A selective pressure is needed which makes certain replicas more common.
    Do you see that it does not matter HOW the variation arises? It may arise because of mutation, or recombination of existing information, or deletion, or whatever. As long as it produces changes in the associated organism, these changes can be selected for. That will result in evolution.
    You can also see that evolution has no ‘direction’. The article constantly talks of evolution’s ‘necessary upward-direction’. What on earth this means is unclear. As the selective pressure changes, different traits may be selected for. Traits which were once good may become bad, etc. So the fact that mutations may or may not rarely occur is irrelevant – as the article pointed out, there are many other ways in which DNA can be changed, and any of those ways is adequate for natural selection to do its job.
    The article also mentions that apparently not enough time has been present for the wide variety seen in life today to arise. Given almost four billion years, I am confident (although I do not know for sure) that enough time has been present. If any simulations show otherwise, it is the simulation we must be skeptical of, not evolution. Transitional fossils clearly SHOW the effects of slow, accumulated changes, and show that these can and have resulted in new species evolving (take the evolution of the whale. Many transitional fossils exist here.) It is also somewhat ironic that calculations HAVE been done showing that it is absolutely impossible that Adam and Eve 10 000 years ago could have resulted in the genetic variation we see today.
    One last rebuttal to the article. In the last section it brought up the issue of ‘radical changes’ necessary for evolution. This is the ‘irreducable complexity’ argument, and funnily enough no one has managed to find a system which is irreducibly complex. We understand, for example, how the eye evolved, tiny bit by tiny bit, into the complex thing we have today. We can see simpler versions of the eye all throughout the animal kingdom. Radical changes are not necessary and indeed, it would be unlikely that a radical change would occur which is beneficial. Those systems which look like they would have to have evolved all at once can in fact be shown to be capable of evolving through tiny, beneficial changes. If you found an example which couldn’t, you would have shown that evolution is unlikely in that particular case.
    And finally – the article is an attempt to argue against evolution. That is not an argument FOR creation. Creation, by virtue of its inability to predict anything, cannot be argued either for or against. It is a fruitless effort to attempt to do so.
    I am sorry for the long response, but hope you have read it, and realise that if you give me a long article to read I will try to take the time to analyse it and it will result it more long responses like these… maybe.

    Reply
    • Information presupposes purpose just like the basic components of communication presuppose a sender, receiver, medium, message, encoding and decoding. Strange how you propose not to assume intent with DNA information but don’t have a problem doing so with uniformitarianism.

      The author is not assuming anything unnecessarily. Rather bio-evo requires an increase in information from the simple to the complex, from goo to you (human). You cannot exclude complexity or information from your listed requirements and then proceed to show how it doesn’t matter, Mr. strawman who previously attacked a supposed strawman. It is clear that some forms of present biodiversity are more complex than the supposed first organic life forms required for evolution. Thus, the ‘necessary upward-direction’ which confuses you.

      The fossil record does not necessarily show transitional forms for whales [http://creation.com/refuting-evolution-chapter-5-whale-evolution]. It is interpreted as transitional. There is no way to confirm this scientifically. These supposed transitional forms could have been front-loaded creationist biodiversity. Do evos not assume evolution occurred despite no evidence for abiogenesis and that homology is evidence for common descent?

      Please provide links to statistical calculations which show the absolute impossibility that 10k Adam and Eve could not produce today’s diversity. No we do not understand how the eye evolved, you assume uniformity has the ability to create complex features. That is true theoretically but rubbish in practicality. Try mutating a simple piece of software code in PHP and you would have a glorious functional mess even if it is only a semi-colon that’s missing. For any set of predefined rules (scientific laws), there are limits to functionality gain with any change (mutation). It is for this reason that the mother natural science of mathematics has these things call limits or boundaries. Evolution however, ever so outside of science, can create anything for no purpose except survival. Evolution is the God of evolutionists.

      Creation predicts many things but more in the social sciences (human behaviour, archaeology, ancient history, customs). However, it predicts that there would be a common ancestor for all mankind (mitochondrial eve anyone?) and that all of creation had the same designer so there would be commonalities (homology anyone?). Creation ex nihilo is also quite similar to present big bang cosmology. So your claim that creationism has no predictive ability is blatantly wrong. Predictability in and of itself does nothing. Another aspect to science is repeatability but we cannot repeat the general trend of evolution and even if one could in a lab setting, that would be ‘intelligent design’ so if you want to play selective aspects of the scientific method, evolution does not cut it either. I have no issue with long responses but with your constant assumptions and logical fallacies as I see them.

      Reply
  24. PC

     /  February 2, 2013

    I sense that this argument could go on forever, but nevertheless I will rebut one more time, paragraph by paragraph:
    1 – Uniformitarianism has nothing to do with intent. What are you talking about?
    2 – ‘You cannot exclude complexity or information from your listed requirements and then proceed to show how it doesn’t matter’ – I said it is not necessary for evolution, because it isn’t. You seem to think that a human (or ‘complex creature’) must contain more ‘information’ in its genome than a little single-cellular organism. I think we agree on information now referring to the number of ‘letters’ actually contained in DNA? Well, here’s a surprise for you: the animal with the longest genome (by our definition, the most information) is currently a type of amoeba. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polychaos_dubium. Some forms of life may happen to be more complex than others, but evolution in no way is ‘forced’ to create more complex forms of life – just those which work best, whether they be complex or simple. Hence all the SIMPLE ORGANISMS currently in existence as well as the complex ones!
    3 – Um… the fossils clearly show gradual change. They are in the correct temporal order. To say they are not transitional implies they belong to different ancestral lines (are not each other’s ancestors). So a number of different animals existed at different times, completely unrelated to each other, and just HAPPENED to look exactly like they were each other’s ancestors, slowly losing their hind legs.
    4 – ‘Some Christians believe all humans did not descend from a historical Adam and Eve, saying that the field of human genetics indicates this concept is impossible. Genetic evidence indicates humans descended from a group of at least 10,000 people due to the amount of human genetic variation. If all humans descended from two individuals several thousand years ago, it would require a seemingly impossibly high mutation rate to account for the observed variation. This has caused some literalists to move away from a literal interpretation and belief in creation myth, while others continue to believe in what they see as a fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith.’ From wikipedia.
    ‘Try mutating a simple piece of software code in PHP and you would have a glorious functional mess even if it is only a semi-colon that’s missing.’ Well, actually, if you had a selective pressure which only allowed the software codes which worked best to survive, then yes, it would work.
    5 – ‘However, it predicts that there would be a common ancestor for all mankind (mitochondrial eve anyone?) and that all of creation had the same designer so there would be commonalities (homology anyone?).’ Actually, it predicts that mitochondiral adam and eve would have lived at the same time. ‘All living humans are also descended matrilineally from Mitochondrial Eve who is thought to have lived earlier (than Adam), about 190,000–200,000 years ago. Y-chromosomal Adam and Mitochondrial Eve need not have lived at the same time.’ This is not the case (they lived at very different times). It also predicts you shouldn’t find any other human fossils dated before 10, 000 years. Whoops….. ‘Archaic Homo sapiens, the forerunner of anatomically modern humans, evolved between 400,000 and 250,000 years ago.’
    Creationism doesn’t actually predict homology. You are only saying that because you OBSERVE homology. If every species was completely different, it would still make just as much sense to say they were designed. By the way, there are many kingdoms of animals which aren’t homologous. So even if creationism did predict that, it would be wrong. Of course you would ad-hoc say that not EVERY animal has to be homologous to every other -and you would be ‘justified’ in saying this, since creation predicts neither the one nor the other! ‘Predictability in and of itself does nothing.’ Um, it makes a theory useful. It does a hell of a lot.

    Reply
  25. jitters

     /  May 12, 2014

    I’ll say it. I think it IS criminal to teach children creationism while denigrating scientific discovery. I was raised steeped in fundamentalist culture while living, of all places, in Southern California. Everything I was taught in school, from science to history, while flagrantly incorrect. All I learned about evolution was how stupid and obviously wrong it was, things like carbon dating and pretty much every other ways that scientists and geologists have of dating as being laughably inaccurate and that they only exist because scientists want to live a life without God. You seem to be trying to find some way to extend an olive branch and claim the two can get along. Well, I can tell you this: young earth creationists don’t WANT to get along with scientists. If they did, they wouldn’t say things like their conclusions are only because they want to live a life of sin or else they’ve been horribly misled by other scientists who want that.
    My mother was horribly physically abusive while I was growing up and I STILL think the worst thing my parents did was sacrifice my education for my indoctrination. It’s taken years for me to correct the damage that was done, for me to go out on my own and study the actual facts. And the sad thing is that I, and many others like me, might have gone into science had I not been brainwashed because I absolutely LOVE it. How many scientists are lost to this sort of teaching?
    Trying to be reasonable with those who are unreasonable is an exercise in futility. Looking at fundamentalism from the outside is making you far too forgiving of their tactics because you weren’t damaged by them.

    Reply
    • All true. I have absolutely NO personal connection to the kinds of things I write about. And I’m sure that makes me miss important ideas. On the other hand, without a personal axe to grind, I’m able to see some things you probably aren’t. Ideally, we’d include a multitude of perspectives here at ILYBYGTH. Have you seen Anna’s work? Either at her blog, or in her Faith & Physics series in these pages?

      Reply
    • Tim

       /  May 13, 2014

      You say: “young earth creationists don’t WANT to get along with scientists” yet many scientists ARE young earth creationists as pointed out early on in the Ham/Nye debate. Many are published in peer-reviewed journals. How do you reconcile that? You seem to be so proud of your corrected education yet you miss such a simple logical error as that?

      Reply
  1. Educated creationist is not an oxymoron – Terra Pro Tem
  2. Can Christian Colleges Say the R-Word? | I Love You but You're Going to Hell

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