Thursday, May 27, 2010


Intelligent Design advocates often say that “intricacy” is one of the indications that something was designed rather than the result of naturalistic processes. For example, one of the leading ID promoters and a fellow at the Discovery Institute, Casey Luskin, said this[1]:

"Intelligent agents think with an 'end goal in mind, allowing them to solve complex problems by taking many parts and arranging them in INTRICATE patterns that perform a specific function (e.g. complex and specified information)..." [emphasis added]

In fact, intricacy says nothing at all about whether or not something is intelligently designed. As a matter of fact, intricacy often indicates a natural process rather than something that is intelligently designed.

I’ve given other examples before, but one interesting example is the shape of the borders of the states of the United States.

One of the most easily recognizable states is California. A silhouette is shown below.

Note that the western border is very intricate while the northern border (and most of the eastern border) is not intricate at all. They are straight lines.

Does that tell us anything?

Of course it does!

The intricate borders are those that interface with natural barriers or borders – an ocean, a river, a stream, etc. The borders that lack intricacy are “intelligently designed”! At some point in history human beings got together and decided on where those borders were to be located. They then drew the border with the least intricate line possible – a straight line.

Of course most of us are very familiar with the map of California and know that the Pacific Ocean is to the west. That naturalistic cause forms the intricate western border of the state. The intricate portion of the south-eastern border is the result of another naturalistic cause – the Colorado River.

In fact this rule-of-thumb seems to apply to all borders, including international borders. The border between the Western United States and Western Canada is a straight, horizontal line lacking any intricacy. Obviously that portion of the border was “Intelligently Designed”. In contrast the border between the Eastern United States and Eastern Canada is very intricate. Obviously that border is the result of naturalistic forces – the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River.

So as a general rule, when looking at international and state borders, we see:

  1. Where it is intricate, it is the result of natural forces.
  2. Where it lacks intricacy, it is the result of “Intelligent Design”.

There are many other similar examples.

Of course Intelligent Designers DO create complex things as well. Super-computers and the Space Shuttle are obvious examples.

Therefore, the only rational conclusion is that the amount of intricacy in something has nothing whatsoever to do with determining whether or not it is Intelligently Designed.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Intelligent Design – useless or worse than useless?

It is very unlikely that Intelligent Design will ever be accepted by the scientific community. The primary reason for that is very obvious – ID is not science.

ID cannot be science because it can never be falsified – a requirement of a scientific hypothesis. ID never can be falsified – and therefore cannot be science - as long as one possibility for the designer is an omnipotent and omniscient God. Such a God, by definition, can do anything and do so for reasons that we mere humans might not be able to understand. As long as such a God is a possible designer – even if not the only possibility – any natural phenomenon is possible. Because of that, until the possibility of an omnipotent and omniscient God is specifically excluded as a possible designer, ID cannot possibly be science.

But what if the extremely unlikely happens and ID is accepted by the scientific community, what happens next? Even if that were to happen, ID would prove to be useless or even worse than useless in its effects on science.

One philosopher of science, Bruce L. Gordon, in an essay titled "Is Intelligent Design Science?" says:

"Is intelligent design (ID) a 'science stopper'? In a word, no. Every viable research program generates its own set of questions. While many of the questions that are natural to an ID approach to science will be different from those that are pursued under the rubric of evolutionary naturalism, they will be no less scientific and, I suspect, no less fruitful. It is also important to realize that ID theorists are NOT advocating a cessation of research from the perspective of neo-Darwinian or self-organizational complexity theories. These approaches are tremendously interesting and fruitful in their own right, and it would be foolish to abandon them.”

The lack of specific examples should be noted.

Let’s apply a little common sense.

First of all, it would seem that it would be very important to identify the designer. In particular it would be important to know whether or not the designer was a supernatural being. There’s a group of people called “Raellians”. They believe in a form of ID. Specifically they claim that life on Earth is basically a science experiment being performed by an alien species. This alien species visits Earth, plants new species of organisms and then periodically tests them to see how viable they are. It is this species that is responsible for the alien abductions that people occasionally report.

If the designer was an alien species, as the Raellians believe, then it would be very useful to know that. Because, in that case, whatever mechanisms were used by those aliens might be duplicated by humans since they would be naturalistic mechanisms.

On the other hand, if the designer was a supernatural God, then there is really no point in trying to understand the mechanisms. That’s because humans can’t perform supernatural mechanisms – i.e. perform miracles.

Alas, ID evidently won’t be able to help us out with this. As one ID advocate said:

“Indeed, no matter how widely accepted ID theory becomes, it is likely that science will never ascertain the identity of the designer.”

So it appears that ID will be useless in this regard.

Another possible benefit to accepting ID is that it might allow us to identify where we should invest out scientific research funding. For example, there is a quite a bit of research going into the study of “abiogenesis” – which is the search for an explanation of how life could have arisen from chemicals. Many ID advocates insist that even the first life form was too complex to have come about from the combination of chemicals. Therefore they insist that the very first living thing (and maybe all “kinds” of living things) only could have come through the intervention of an Intelligent Designer. If the ID advocates are correct, abiogenesis research is doomed to be useless.

By most accounts, Sir Isaac Newton spent more time doing research into alchemy than anything else. That research was fruitless. Based on our understanding of how atoms work we know why it was fruitless. If, in the early days, someone had proven to Newton that alchemy research was doomed to be pointless, presumably he would have invested his time in other areas of research. Since he was such a brilliant scientist, he may have made scientific discoveries centuries earlier than what became the case. Our entire world might be different than it is now if only Newton had been convinced not to spend so much time on alchemy.

The ID advocates would have us believe that abiogenesis research will be as fruitless as Isaac Newton’s research into alchemy.

In that case, we are better off stopping such research right now. Why invest time and effort researching things that can never reach their desired scientific goals?

Why indeed?

But apparently ID won’t benefit us in this way either. If you go back and read the quote presented at the beginning of this post you read:

“It is also important to realize that ID theorists are NOT advocating a cessation of research from the perspective of neo-Darwinian or self-organizational complexity theories. These approaches are tremendously interesting and fruitful in their own right, and it would be foolish to abandon them.”

So we would just continue to do science just as we are now.

So it appears that ID will be useless in this regard as well.

It is very important to note, however, that there are some real dangers implicit in the acceptance of ID.

Much scientific research is HARD WORK. When doing things like sequencing DNA, you have to be very careful not to allow any contamination of any kind. Often time-consuming experiments have to be performed over and over again. Undoubtedly the amount of time required exceeds the initial expectations of the scientists.

If ID was accepted as an explanation for naturalistic phenomena, scientists engaged in such difficult research would always be tempted to say, “Gee, this research is a lot more difficult and time-consuming than I initially expected. Wait! I know! I’ll declare this naturalistic phenomenon to be intelligently designed. I’ll write a paper saying that and move onto some other form of research.” Dr. Michael Behe’s hypothesis of “irreducible complexity” could be used in many such situations. If something is “irreducibly complex”, there’s no point in trying to reduce it any more.

In this sense, ID would be less than useless. It would provide an excuse for terminating potentially rewarding scientific research due to providing an excuse to terminate such research early.

Moreover, as a practical matter, it is difficult to imagine research organizations spending valuable research dollars on things that have been determined by ID advocates as being intelligently designed. None of those organizations are funding alchemy research now. It is unrealistic to expect that they would fund research into a naturalistic source for life on Earth if there is a committee somewhere that determines that the first life forms on Earth were not the result of naturalistic processes.

So, realistically, some scientific research would be terminated due to a lack of funding. This would be another example of where ID is less than useless.

So we seem to be faced with only two alternatives:

  1. ID is useless.
  2. ID is worse than useless.

In either case, ID research should not be pursued.

ID Science Journals

One of the arguments that Intelligent Design opponents make is that ID is not science. As evidence they point to the paucity of articles about ID that are published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

To defend themselves against this attack ID advocates say that the editors of those journals don’t accept articles about ID because they have the preconception that ID isn’t science. They contend that even legitimate articles aren’t published because of that preconception.

As one piece of evidence to support their claims, they point to the example of Dr. Richard Sternberg. He was the editor of a scientific journal associated with the Smithsonian Institute titled Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. He handled the review and personally edited the only article published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal advocating intelligent design. The journal subsequently publicly declared that the paper "does not meet the scientific standards of the Proceedings" and would not have been published had usual editorial practices been followed”. As a result of the controversy Sternberg received widespread criticism. ID advocates point to that criticism and claim that it has had an intimidating effect on the willingness of other scientific journal editors to publish such articles.

To bypass that alleged bias by editors of mainstream scientific journals, the ID community has set up a few pro-ID journals with editors who are open to approving pro-ID articles. So IF the ID advocates are correct then we should see these journals thriving. We should expect to see more and more articles published each year as scientists recognize the scientific “benefits” of Intelligent Design and write articles about those benefits.

So let’s see if that is the case.

First, let’s consider PCID - "Progress in Complexity Information and Design". It is a peer-reviewed journal published by the International Society for Complexity, Information and Design
(ISCID). The goal of the society is "retraining the scientific imagination to see the purpose in nature".

The web site at lists past issues of the journal. It was first published in January-March 2002. It has become more and more sporadic over time. Three issues were published in 2002. Two issues were published in 2003. One issue was published in 2004 and one in 2005. There have been NO issues published since November 2005. That's nearly five years ago.

Very ironically, Dr. Richard Sternberg is a fellow at ISCID. It’s reasonable to expect that he might be one of the reviewers of articles submitted to the journal. If so, it’s rather funny to see that he has nothing to review because no one is submitting any articles to the journal.

Next we can look at the Evolutionary Informatics Lab which does “design- theoretic research”. Their journal is described at: . That web site lists a total of five articles. The most recent one was published in March, 2010. The other four were published in 2009.

If you examine the articles, you will see that every single one has its sole authors, or included as authors with a small number of others, "William A. Dembski and Robert J. Marks II". So what we have here is a private publishing group for Dembski and Marks with no articles published that doesn’t include those names as authors.

Yet again we see an irony. The web page listing those five articles also lists 11 articles supporting ID that were published in OTHER journals. The articles listed go back as far as 1993 and they are published in what are really computer and mathematical journals rather than science journals. Yet they are referenced on the same web page. Therefore, if anything, those articles show that it is possible to get pro-ID articles published without requiring a specifically pro-ID journal.

Not surprisingly, The Discovery Institute has a list of published "ID friendly" articles (and books) at: If we look at the articles listed we see that the total number of articles published since 2005 is…hold your breath…ONE! That single article is authored by our old friends, William A. Dembski and Robert J. Marks II. It is also mentioned in the previous resource – Evolutionary Informatics Lab. If we don’t count that article twice, then there are NO articles published since 2005.

A final list of published "ID friendly" articles can be found at

There are a total of 28 articles listed, going back to 1993. On average that’s less than two per year. ALL of the articles listed are from non-ID journals. They include the articles listed by the other ID references. At that site we see that the total articles published in either 2009 or 2010 is ZERO.

Moreover if you read the abstracts for the articles you see that any references to ID are nonexistent. The abstract for the oldest article – from 1993 – which is referenced from a number of these references, is shown below.

“Kinesin light chain (KLC) complexes with the kinesin heavy chain (KHC) to form native kinesin. Proposed functions of KLC include coupling of cargo to KHC or modulation of KHC ATPase activity. In this paper we use the KHC tail, which binds specifically to KLC in blot overlays, as a probe to clone a cDNA encoding KLC from a Drosophila expression library. The identified clone encodes a protein with 70% amino acid identity to rat KLC. Drosophila KLC is predicted to form an alpha-helical coiled-coil between residues 34 and 129, followed by five imperfect tandem repeats of unknown function and a sixth shorter motif. These repeats are highly conserved across species. The Drosophila KLC gene is located at 69D on the third chromosome and is widely expressed, with 1.8-kb transcripts in most tissues, and slightly smaller transcripts in gonads. Finally, we present evidence that the heptad repeats of KLC are required for interaction with the KHC tail. Since the KHC tail used in our assay includes about 20 heptad repeats, this result suggests that KHC and KLC interact via coiled-coils. Such an interaction could provide stability to the KHC-KLC complex in vivo.”

That’s obviously very technical, but any reference to ID is not obvious. Are DNA repeats that “are highly conserved across species” evidence for ID? If so, there is nothing in the abstract to make us come to that conclusion.

If, in fact, the articles are pro-ID, you wouldn’t know it from the abstracts.

It appears that the authors of the articles are pro-ID, even if the articles themselves are not. For example, six of the articles listed list Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez – an alleged victim of anti-ID bias – as the author. But the articles themselves apparently don’t discuss ID. That fact argues against the claims of the ID advocates. The article shouldn’t be listed as pro-ID because they don’t discuss ID. Moreover, anti-ID discrimination is not so significant if ID advocates can have articles printed in mainstream journals.

So we can safely conclude:

There are very, very few pro-ID articles printed even if you include ID-friendly journals.

It is clear that the argument that ID is not science because no one is publishing ID friendly articles is quite valid.

Geocentrism is not dead!

The web site

has a link to a video where some creationists in the UK – they actually call themselves creationists – say that they can absolutely falsify evolution. Their argument? They can prove that the universe is geocentric. The creationist argument used in this particular video relates to the Michelson – Morley experiment. As the video states, that is “the most famous non-result in scientific history”.

It is, of course, completely ludicrous to believe that the universe is geocentric. But the video is interesting for two reasons.

First, I think that it is a good example of the sorts of arguments that creationists are fond of. The Michelson – Morley experiment had unexpected results (or more accurately, a lack of results) that surprised scientists. While it is a fairly well-known experiment, it’s likely that 90% or more of the general population has never heard of it. I first heard of it during a college physics class. Not many people take college physics classes.

Of course the vast majority of people do know that mainstream science overwhelmingly believes that the universe – as well as the solar system – is NOT geocentric. Even elementary school science classes talk about the Earth rotating on its axis every 24 hours and revolving around the sun every 365-1/4 days.

But, if you want to make an argument that will impress a relatively unsophisticated audience, do this:

  1. Describe an experiment with results that surprised scientists.
  2. Point out that this shows that scientists don’t know everything.
  3. Claim that the fact that scientists don’t know everything shows that they are wrong about geocentrism.

The Michelson-Morley experiment actually showed that there is no ‘aether’ – a weightless medium through which light propagates. But most people haven’t heard of the ‘aether’ either. (Hey, that rhymes!)

Unsophisticated people end up saying, “Hey! We should teach the controversy!”

At this point you’d expect common sense to kick in. The Michelson-Morley experiment took place in 1887. That’s 123 years ago. If it confirmed geocentrism, wouldn’t someone have noticed over all that time? After all – even so many years later - it is surely still the case that science rejects geocentrism. How can that be the case if this experiment so long ago showed otherwise?

It seems to me that, if we had never heard of that experiment, our common sense would tell us that while it is interesting, we should look into it a little more. Maybe a Google search would work or you could check it out on Wikipedia. People who would simply accept such a claim at face value are the same sort of people who would buy the Brooklyn Bridge from a stranger.

As we’ve discussed, a scientific consensus doesn’t prove anything. The scientific consensus before the Michelson-Morley experiment was that an aether existed. That was wrong.

But surely a strong consensus indicates that there must be SOME evidence supporting that consensus. So shouldn’t a rational person be a bit skeptical about individual experiments – especially ones performed long ago – that supposedly falsify some widely-held scientific hypothesis?


For some reason, creationists don’t do that. Creationists who claim that “There is NO evidence supporting evolution” are necessarily totally deluding themselves. Evolution may be wrong (though I surely don’t think that it is). But it is impossible to believe that there is NO evidence supporting evolution!

But, of course, a second question from this video is very obvious:

How could geocentrism falsify evolution?

Hopefully some creationist can answer this question. Note that I don’t expect anyone to actually believe that geocentrism is true. Instead I’m asking that IF geocentrism was true, how would that falsify evolution?

CSA Fraud

The article on the web site titled “What Is Science? How Does It Apply To Discussions of Origins?” By Tom Willis (on the web page )betrays a rather complete misunderstanding of what science is and what religion is.

“The birth of first life, the first fish, a fish giving birth to a salamander millions of years ago is simply not testable by this method because you cannot repeat the birth of the first of anything.”

That’s clearly a silly, juvenile comment. Even things that happened in the past can often be expected to leave evidence that can be predicted to be found in the future. Ironically one of the very best examples of this is found in the predictions of fish evolving into salamanders.

(I hope, of course, that the comment about a “fish giving birth to a salamander” is hyperbole. No person on Earth believes that such a thing ever happened. In fact IF a fish DID give birth directly to a salamander that would falsify mainstream evolutionary theory. Instead the descendents of fish can evolve into salamanders – and then into land animals – over many, many generations.)

I suggest that you investigate the fossil called “tiktaalik”. An excellent, quite detailed, description of that fossil and how it was found can be read in the book “Your Inner Fish” by Neil Shubin – one of the scientists who discovered the fossil.

It turns out that there fossils of fish beginning to have the characteristics of “salamanders” (such as Panderichtys) that were known to have lived about 380 million years ago. There were also early tetrapod fossils (four-legged land animals) such as Acanthostega and Ichthyostega) that lives about 365 million years ago.

It made sense, that there should be a fossil of a “salamander” (half-fish and half-tetrapod) that could be found in rocks about 375 – 360 million years old.

It was also known that Greenland and Northern Canada had exposed rocks that were 375 – 360 million years old

Therefore, if evolution is true, we would expect to find fossils of such a “salamander” in those rocks.

So some scientists looked for such fossils in those rocks.

Guess what they found?

They found “tiktaalik” – the fossil of an organism that was basically a salamander.

Clearly this Tom Willis person has no idea what he is talking about.

Intelligent Design and the Moon

In their book the Privileged Planet, Astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez, Assistant Professor of Astronomy at Iowa State University, and Jay Richards, Vice President and Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institute in Seattle claim that the fact that the Sun and the Moon are almost identically the same relative size is a sign of Intelligent Design. The argument goes like this[1]:

Though the moon is 400 times smaller than the sun, it ‘happens’ to be 400 times closer than the sun. Thus their relative sizes in the sky are almost identical. Because of this we are able, during a solar eclipse, to observe the sun and other stars normally blotted out by the sun. Gonzalez studied 65 other bodies and concluded that on none of them would a total eclipse occur.

It is true enough that the Sun and the Moon are almost exactly the same relative size right now. It is also true enough that has not always been the case and will not be the case in the future.

Even during a calendar year the ratio changes a bit. The orbit of the Earth around the sun is not a perfect circle. It is instead an ellipse meaning that the exact distance from the Earth to the Sun varies – though it is close. A circle has an eccentricity of zero. The Earth's orbital eccentricity is 0.0167 meaning that the ratio of its semi-minor to semi-major axis is 99.99%[2]. That’s stable, but it would be obviously better if it was a perfect circle.

More relevantly, due to tidal effects, the Moon is gradually moving away from the Earth so that the relative size of the Moon is diminishing. In fact that has been taking place since the Moon was first created (an estimated 4.5 billion years ago).

We know this because we can measure it. Three Apollo missions (Apollo 11, 14 and 15) as well as two unmanned Soviet probes put laser reflectors on the Moon. The exact distance from the Earth to the Moon is measured by precisely measuring the time required for a laser beam to leave Earth, bounce off of the reflector and return to Earth. Based on these measurements, we know that the Moon is moving away from the Earth at the rate of 38 mm per year[3].

While there is a small amount of variation in the distance from the Moon to the Earth, the average distance from the Earth to the Moon is 384,467 kilometers. Therefore that distance is varying at the rate of very close to 0.1% per million years or 10% per billion years. While those are very long periods of time, over the 4.5 billion years that the Moon and Earth have moved relative to each other the current “perfect eclipses” would seem to be an accident of timing more than anything else.

In fact, if you use a strict definition of “perfect” even the relatively minor variations in the distances to the Sun and the Moon over a year render even current eclipses something other than “perfect”. Perfectly circular orbits would be a more “perfect” solution than elliptical orbits.

Besides, what’s the big deal?

[1], retrieved on March 24, 2010. The web page lists a number of other similar “evidences” for Intelligent Design.

[2], retrieved on March 24, 2010.

[3] Fred Espenak (August 1994). "NASA - Accuracy of Eclipse Predictions". Retrieved June 4, 2008.

Evolution must be false because evolutionists talk about many problems

This is an implicit argument made by many creationists and is generally supported by quotes from evolutionists. They quote one prominent evolutionist talking about one problem, another evolutionist talking about another problem and it seems if you put all of those quotes together that evolution is nothing but one problem after another. They say that a theory with so many problems surely can’t be trusted as reliable.

There are, however, numerous problems with trying to argue against a scientific hypothesis by simply quoting individual opinions. I discuss those below.

Just an opinion

First of all we need to agree on what a quote really is: an expression of someone’s opinion at one point in time.

That’s all it is.

A quote doesn’t represent actual evidence. It’s an opinion. Even if you have a quote from someone with expert credentials it’s still nothing but an opinion.

Creationists will occasionally interject a complaint here. They say that experts testify in court and their testimony is considered evidence.

Actually, that’s not exactly true.

Experts in court cases offer their expert opinion on how best to analyze actual evidence. A DNA expert, for example, will analyze DNA found at a crime scene. But even the best DNA expert in the world can’t just express their opinion without that DNA evidence. No expert can say something like, “I’m an expert and because of that I consider the defendant to be guilty!” If there is no DNA evidence then no DNA experts will testify. Even psychiatrists who testify in court won’t necessarily explain evidence that is physical in nature (i.e. you can hold it in your hand), but they might use their expertise to explain someone’s specific behavior and how that applies to their guilt or innocence in the court case. So even they are doing more than merely expressing an expert opinion; they are applying their expertise to those specific actions.

There are two conditions under which the use of an expert’s quote makes sense. A quote makes sense if it is used as it would in a court case. If there is some evidence – say a particular DNA sequence – that argues for or against evolution, then a quote from an expert explaining that evidence makes perfect sense. It is also often the case that an expert can explain things – even if it is only an opinion or a philosophical point. For example, Richard Dawkins is an expert. But he is also amazingly good at explaining evolutionary concepts. So quoting someone like him because they his explanatory skills are so good makes sense as well – with the understanding that Dawkins (or whoever) is still merely expressing an opinion.

Conflicting Opinions

Because a quote is nothing but an opinion, it is offset by someone else’s opinion that is different. If one expert says that “evolution is a fact” and the other expert says “evolution is not a fact”, what have you accomplished? Obviously nothing is accomplished under such conditions.

This can also be related to court cases. It is not unusual to have expert testimony on both sides of some evidence. One expert might claim that a piece of evidence implicates the defendant. The other expert may argue something completely different. It’s often the case that the two testimonies offset each other.

That’s when they are arguing over a specific piece of evidence! If they are expressing opposing opinions without any evidence to analyze, then the opposing opinions really accomplish nothing.

Evidence, in a scientific scenario, always wins out in the end. To quote an expert:

"Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts."

- Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Evidence is a fact. Quotes are nothing but opinions.

Snapshot in Time

As I mentioned earlier a quote is merely someone’s opinion at one point in time. We’ve all had opinions that changed over time. Experts are no different.

At the end of the 19th century a British scientist named Lord Kelvin (William Thompson) may have been the most well respected scientist on Earth at the time. He was President of the Royal Society in Great Britain which was the most elite group of scientists on Earth during his Presidency. The units used in the absolute temperature scale are named after him (degrees Kelvin).

That same Lord Kelvin said, in 1895:

"Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible."

Lord Kelvin lived until 1907 so he undoubtedly heard about the flight of the Wright Brothers in 1903. My guess is that his opinion that “heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible” changed after that news reached him. We have no quotes saying otherwise – Lord Kelvin was a very proud man not prone to admitting mistakes. But since Lord Kelvin was a very smart person we should certainly expect that his opinion changed.

Yet the quote is still there, etched in time. Lord Kelvin can’t change what he said in 1895.

If someone was to quote an undeniable scientific expert - Lord Kelvin – saying as plainly and simply as could be that heavier-than-air flight is impossible, that argument wouldn’t be very persuasive in the 21st century. That would be especially true, and especially ironic, if they made that claim while a Boeing 747 flew overhead.

In the same way, someone who simply quotes an expert something negative about evolution, especially if the quote is from long ago, is not making a very persuasive argument.

As one specific example, I recently – in 2010 – had a creationist give me a quote from 1957 saying that there were very few human transitional fossils. Of course that is more than 50 years ago. To imagine that such a quote is even relevant in the 21st century is a bit ridiculous.

Quotes may say something different in their original context

This is the primary problem with quotes as used by creationists – out-of-context quotes. As an example, here is a commonly used quote from none other than Charles Darwin himself:

To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree. (Darwin 1872)

That would seem to cast strong doubt on the possibility of evolution taking place. Here we see the very godfather of evolution calling the possibility of the eye evolving to be ‘absurd’.

Yet if we look at the entire quote – in context – the message that we get is very different. Here is the complete paragraph (with the first sentence highlighted):

To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree. Yet reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a perfect and complex eye to one very imperfect and simple, each grade being useful to its possessor, can be shown to exist; if further, the eye does vary ever so slightly, and the variations be inherited, which is certainly the case; and if any variation or modification in the organ be ever useful to an animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, can hardly be considered real. How a nerve comes to be sensitive to light, hardly concerns us more than how life itself first originated; but I may remark that several facts make me suspect that any sensitive nerve may be rendered sensitive to light, and likewise to those coarser vibrations of the air which produce sound.” (Darwin 1872, 143-144)

Here we see that Darwin didn’t really think that it was absurd at all.

Darwin continues with three more pages describing a sequence of plausible intermediate stages between eyelessness and human eyes, giving examples from existing organisms to show that the intermediates are viable.

Charles Darwin made the use of such out-of-context quotes very easy. It was his writing style to ask a question or make a skeptical comment in the first sentence of a paragraph but then answer that question or address the skepticism in the remainder of the paragraph. Such is the case here. Those first sentences – when removed from the rest of paragraphs – seem to provide very skeptical opinions against evolution. But when put into the proper context, such skepticism vanishes.

The web site lists a very large number of out-of-context quotes frequently used by creationists. This quote from Darwin is included but so are many other quotes from other evolutionists. They do not form a very persuasive argument against evolution.

One final comment related to such quotes is that their very existence shows that evolutionists are allowed to make skeptical comments about evolution. Creationists like to make the claim that many scientists are actually very skeptical of evolution but the scientific establishment forces them to swallow their negative opinions and not say anything that could be considered to contradict the scientific mainstream view that evolution is a fact. They obviously don’t understand the irony of immediately turning around and quoting an evolutionist saying something that, apparently, contradicts the scientific mainstream view that evolution is a fact.

Evolution: Male and Female

I looked at a creationist web site titled It was recommended to me by a creationist I was debating. At that site I found the statements shown below. "Herman" is a hypothetical "creation-scientist" [oxymoron noted]. Herman's not a real person. I would guess that it is meant to represent the author of the web page.

Herman then starts talking about the evolution of species which had both a male and female. He starts talking about how the same random mutations must occur in the germ cells (i.e. the cells involved in reproduction, meaning the sperm and eggs) in both the male and female in order to have viable offspring.

Herman likens this to two different people (who do not know each other) receiving an email with a 10,000 volume encyclopedia. Each of the two people is instructed to independently make 20,000 random word changes to their soft copy of the encyclopedia. These 20,000 word changes can be to any of the pages in any of the 10,000 volumes.

Herman states that the probability that the DNA of both a male and female germ cell having the same random mutations (and thus being able to have offspring with new genetic material) is equal to the probability that the two different people coincidentally make the same 20,000 random word changes to the 10,000 volume encyclopedia. Herman actually started laughing at such an absurd possibility.

Let's think about this a bit. Apparently the author of this web page believes that males and females reproduce and, therefore, evolve totally independently of each other. The male children get their genes ONLY from their fathers and the female children get their genes ONLY from their mothers.

**IF** that was how genetics worked then, indeed, males and females could no longer mate and produce offspring at some point. A sufficient number of mutations would, indeed, cause the males and females to be sufficiently genetically different that they could no longer mate.

But the last time I checked, that's not how genes work. In fact you get genes from both parents. So what could - and DOES - happen is that genetic changes can accumulate over time and will get passed to members of both sexes. So one genetic change gets passed onto both sexes, then another change is added which is also passed on, and so on.

If this ludicrous argument had any validity at all, we could not have multiple human races on Earth. That's because the females couldn't reasonably be expected to get the same mutations as the males. Similarly it would be utterly impossible to have many breeds of dogs and cats.

Obviously this argument is silly and ridiculous. ANYONE who accepted such an argument lacks any understanding of genetics whatsoever.

There are some creationist web sites that make arguments written by people who know something about science. The arguments aren't valid, but they make someone who knows science at least think about the arguments a bit. Answers in Genesis is such a web site. You would probably have to at least be in High School to see the faults in the AIG arguments.

But many creationist sites aren't like that. Many creationist sites are simply stupid. Laughably stupid. Many children in elementary school would laugh at them. They show an utter and complete lack of understanding of evolution. That's almost to be expected. But more strikingly they show a complete lack of understanding of ANY of the basic concepts - genetics, biology, mathematics, etc.

Visiting such sites can be a lot of fun for that very reason.

Extinct Nuclides show an Old Earth

One of the signs that the Earth is old is the fact that many radioactive elements with relatively short half-lives (in the millions of years or less) no longer exist on Earth. (These are called "extinct nuclides").

The question is, why not?

Of course an OLD Earth is a perfect explanation.

**IF** a radioactive element with a half-life of, say, 15 million years (like Cesium-247) was created at the same time as the Earth - 4.5 billion years ago – then about 300 half-lives of that element would have passed. Therefore only 1/2**300 of that element would be expected to exist. That would work out to be NONE.

That's what we see.

On the other hand, if the Earth is only 6000 years old hardly any of that element should have decayed radioactively. So it should be fairly abundant.

A Young-Earth creationist web site at makes the argument very well. First of all the author says this about those elements:

"We know that these missing nuclides were once around because the evidence of their past existence is still in the rocks. In the past, these missing nuclides broke down into daughter nuclides until there was nothing left, so the reaction stopped. Today we still have the daughter nuclides in the rock, so we know that the parent nuclides were once present in the rocks. This is how we know them to be extinct."

So we are able to find the daughter elements, but not the radioactive elements themselves.

A small number of radioactive elements with short half-lives DO exist but those only exist because they continue to be created with well-understood processes.

The most well-known of these elements is Carbon-14 used for radiocarbon dating. But science has demonstrated that C-14 is continuously produced in the atmosphere.

Here's how that YEC web site explains it.

"Of the nuclide/isotopes that have short half-lives, only those who are being produced constantly are present in nature. Carbon 14 is a good example of a nuclide found in nature while having a short half-life. Carbon 14 is produced in the upper atmosphere. Beryllium-10 Manganese-53 and Chlorine-36 are also produced in the same way, so they are present in nature despite their having a short half-life.

All other nuclides/isotopes having short half-lives are not present in nature... So they are extinct nuclides."

So, in summary we find that we have strong evidence for the previous existence of radioactive elements with short half-lives (even in the millions of years) and NO evidence that they exist now.

None of them.

Even elements with half-lives in the millions of years.

The explanation of an OLD EARTH is perfect, even one that is easy to understand.

ON the other hand, this YEC site that I reference gives two possible explanations.

1. God is deceptive. God's basically testing the faith of the YEC. God made some things with apparent age - such as Adam and Eve themselves - but there is no explanation for why radioactive elements in the the Earth should not be present.

2. God created the Earth with pre-existing matter. In other words God found some very old rocks lying around somewhere and created the Earth from those old rocks. Specifically the web site says:

"when the first few chapters of Genesis are studied, it is clear that the word 'created' or 'made' does not exclude the possibility that preexisting matter was used... So using a literal reading of Genesis, we can understand that there could have been something here before Creation Week. The preexisting matter would be responsible for the rocks dating billions of years."

The alternatives:

1. An Old Earth - explains everything.

2. A Young Earth and a deceptive God.

3. A Young Earth, but a preexisting solar system with lots of older rocks that God used to create the Earth.

Obviously a rational person would select alternative 1. But creationists aren't rational.

Memorizing the Bible?

According to the web page at the inaugural National Bible Bee was held recently. That is a contest to see who has done the best job of memorizing the Bible.

MY question: why?

Wouldn't a more useful contest be to see who could do a better job of analyzing the Bible? Wouldn't a more meaningful contest be who could write the best paper explaining some passage in the Bible?

It's like memorizing how to spell a word. That doesn't mean that you know what the word means. Isn't knowing what something means more important than knowing how to spell it?

Similarly memorizing the first few verses in Ecclesiastes doesn't mean that you necessarily understand them.

I've always believed that one of the many bad things about believing in Biblical inerrancy is that it actually tends to actually DIMINISH the amount of thought and analysis given to the Bible. For example, if you believe that the book is inerrant, then you're generally not allowed to ask WHY something happened. The Bible says that it happened. Therefore it happened. End of story.

Why did God send a global flood rather than use some other method for killing all evil humans? You're not allowed to think about such things. God did it so it must have been the best way. Q.E.D.

In the same way, if you MEMORIZE something you are probably NOT analyzing it. That would be too distracting.

Alas, Biblical literalism could be actually argued as anti-Bible as well as anti-God and anti-Christian.

Biodiversity Part Two

Richard Dawkins explains the IMMENSE problems creationists have in explaining the diversity of land animals. But, possibly surprisingly, that problem also exists for aquatic animals - most specifically those that live in freshwater.

One problem for the flood, of course, is that no creationist that I've ever seen believes that Noah took any aquatic life forms onto the Ark. But, in fact, aquatic animals live in EITHER freshwater or salt water but, with very few exceptions, not BOTH. In fact many animals are very sensitive to the salinity level of the water. If you have a home aquarium in which you are planning on keeping salt water aquatic animals, you are given very specific instructions on what salinity level to keep the water at. Coral reefs are more sensitive than most other aquatic life forms.

For example, the web page at says:

"Maintain a salinity level of 1.019 – 1.022 for fish only aquariums and 1.025 – 1.028 if you have corals and/or clams."

Note how specific and narrow those ranges are.

If you doubt any of that, call you local aquarium and say that you want to keep freshwater and salt water fish in the same tank along with a coral reef. Warn them ahead of time, however. They will probably literally fall on the floor laughing.

So **IF** the flood occurred as described in the Bible we should have seen pretty much all aquatic life would have died. At a minimum all coral reefs would have been destroyed. (Maybe a few salmon might have survived.)

We don't see that.

But, I'm here to talk about biodiversity.

Because all of the oceans are connected to each other we see salt water organisms all over. You can find a shark in any ocean.

But that is NOT true for freshwater fish. The reason is obvious - freshwater fish necessarily live in isolated waters. Even rivers don't run from Africa to Asia.

But **IF** there was a global flood and in the VERY unlikely event that it didn't kill all freshwater animals outright, then for a year they would have had the same ability to diversify that all saltwater fish have.

Evidently they didn't. There are many, many examples of freshwater organisms that stay in very narrow ecological niches.

Arguably the most well-known freshwater fish is the piranha. It lives in a very narrow ecological niche - the waters of the Amazon river basin.

Why would that be so if there was a global flood?

According to the Bible, the flood lasted a bit more than a year.

In a year piranhas would have been able to easily swim to Central America and places like Florida. Given a year, a trip to Africa would have been a reasonably leisurely swim. All of those places have the sort of climate that piranhas find ideal.

In fact, such swims should have been even more leisurely. That's because many, probably most, creationists claim that the plate tectonics that we see evidence for took place during the flood year. That means at the start of the flood Africa was actually connected to South America. It also means that piranhas and other fish wouldn't even have had to swim much at all. They should have been really carried along with the land itself.

But despite all of that, piranhas stayed in a relatively small geographical area.


Surely no answer will be found in the Bible.

Of course piranhas are far from the exception. They actually represent the rule. A very large percentage of freshwater aquatic organisms live in similar small niches.

One final related problem for creationists - why are there NO fossils of freshwater fish mixed in with salt water fossils? **IF** they lived together and **IF** the flood created the fossil record, what possible explanation is there for the complete lack of such fossils?

The unanswerable questions for the flood account in the Bible go on and on and on. That's no doubt why the ACTIONS of most creationists - which speak louder than their words - show that the DON'T actually believe in the flood of Noah.