Tag Archives: DNA

Ken Ham: The Cartoon – Part 1

The rugged gentleman on the left is Captain Ahab (as played by actor Gregory Peck), the obsessed whaler who hunts down Moby-Dick, the great white symbolic whale. The individual on the right is Australian-born conservative Christian, Ken Ham, the crazed founder of the infamous, Kentucky creation ‘museum’. Is it just me or is there a slight similarity between the two –in appearance and obsession level? If you don’t see it, then just pretend for the sake of the cartoon.

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Filed under Atheism, Christianity, Culture Warfare

A Little About Paleontologist Per Ahlberg

Anyone interested in paleontology, rational thought, or the scourge of creationism might want to read the transcript of an interview with Per Ahlberg, Professor of Evolutionary Biology at Uppsala University in Sweden. His straight talk and wit are refreshing. Here’s a sample:

I think mainstream science has a duty and a responsibility to expose creationism and ID for the pseudoscientific frauds that they are. This is something quite different from engaging them in debate, the way you would do with adherents of an opposing but conceptually sound scientific viewpoint. Scientists must expose them simply because they are frauds, and it won’t do to have large parts of the population bamboozled by the lies and misrepresentations of charlatans… Note that there is an important point here: creationists and ID proponents by necessity attempt to befuddle their audience, not just about the evidence for evolution, but about the nature of scientific enquiry in general. They have to, because it is their only way of concealing the threadbare nature of their own claims. (His emphasis)

From this, it should be clear why I have chosen to take part; though you can add the fact that I enjoy talking to people and presenting my ideas to popular audiences. Money, fame and hot chicks would be welcome but have not been forthcoming so far…

Per Ahlberg is known for his work with fossil tetrapods. His latest contribution is as co-author of a paper about 395-million-year-old tetrapod trackways that were found in Poland. (Here’s a summary of the find by PZ Myers at Pharyngula). And a short video about the find is available on the Journal Nature website. Enjoy!

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Filed under Atheism, Culture Warfare, paleontology, Skepticism

Trilobites Swim Circles Around Creationists – Part 1

Property Of TheDarwinReport

TheDarwinReport

Apologetics Press is so intellectually anorexic, it’s frightening to imagine the base level of research involved in its preparation of creationist material. It’s like watching a poorly conceived horror movie; on the one hand it’s something to laugh at, and on the other it has the occasional shock, even if it’s just a comically masked killer jumping from behind a door with an over-sized knife. It’s cheap thrills, good for a few chuckles. So, here’s today’s feature —the Apologists had something silly to say about the complexity of the trilobite eye. It begins:

One of the most fascinating finds in the fossil record is that of the long-extinct trilobite. Trilobites resided in the Earth’s ancient oceans, and often are considered to be the world’s first arthropods—creatures that consist of hard shells, and that have multiple body segments and jointed legs. Trilobites, which possessed a hard exoskeleton, bear a resemblance to horseshoe crabs, and are thought by evolutionists to be one of the first animals to have lived on the Earth. [my emphasis]

Ah, the errors run like a river: 1) Old-earth creationism invariably involves typological thinking; in other words, some group of organisms must be a “type” without the word ever being adequately defined. Here the Apologists roll the more than 20,000 species of trilobite into one type, as if they were referring to a single creature; and throughout the remainder of the article, trilobite traits are lumped on to that type with complete disregard for the immense diversity that exists within the class, Trilobita. 2) And which paleontologist claims that trilobites were the first arthropods? The first arthropods are thought to have been leggy segmented soft-bodied worms from the Early Cambrian. In fact, if you were to remove all that armor from a trilobite it would look like a worm. It’d be like peeling an artichoke, where there isn’t much underneath. 3) Next, the Apologists claim “evolutionists” think of trilobites as the “first animals to have lived on Earth”. How does it work out that trilobites were the “first arthropods” and the “first animals”? What 19th century children’s encyclopedia have these dimwitted clowns been reading? The sponges might have something to say about who the first animal was.

Let’s wallow in the rest of the Apologists’ misconceptions:

Evolution postulates that all living animals have progressed from simpler creatures, and that by the process of natural selection, organisms have “improved” along the way. Conventional thinking, therefore, suggests that since trilobites are so ancient, they must have been fairly simple creatures with primitive features. However, the eye of the trilobite—which is incredibly complex—refutes such a concept.

Yeah, well, when you disregard the tens of millions of years of natural history that occurred prior to the trilobites’ reign, it’s easy to make that argument. If no creatures with simpler eyes than trilobites had existed, then there would be a problem. But since there’s plenty of evidence to the contrary, the flaw clearly lies in the Apologists being willfully ignorant of the subject matter.

Most trilobites had a pair of compound eyes that were made up of 100 to 15,000 lenses in each eye.

Such intricacies suggest that evolution is a degenerative process, for nothing on Earth today compares to the eye of the trilobite.

Darwinian models that attempt to explain the trilobite’s eye are completely unable to account for such complexity, especially considering the fact that the trilobite is considered to have evolved so early. When one considers the complexity of the trilobite’s eye, and compares it with the considerably less-complex eye systems of animals and/or humans today, it would seem that evolution has “gone in reverse.” [my emphasis]

Additionally, they go on to quote-mine paleontologist Niles Eldredge, who only speaks to the complexity of the trilobite lens, not the entire eye. The unique characteristic of the double-layered lens (doublet) of the trilobite is that it corrects for the aberration that occurs when light travels from a less dense material like water to a more dense one like calcite (CaCO3), which is what the trilobite lens –and exoskeleton, not coincidentally– is made of. But the human lens is, in fact, more complex because it can change shape to focus, while the trilobite lens is fixed. What the Apologists don’t grasp is that evolution is adaptive and not progressive in the long term, and that the variation in nature demonstrates how many ways there are for solving the same problem. How many different types of eyes are there? Moreover, they fail to see that eyes don’t see; eyes merely collect light and convert it to signals for the brain to interpret. Are the Apologists going to argue that the trilobite brain was more complex than the human brain? They can speak for themselves –and their own brains– on this point. Are you smarter than a trilobite? Now that’s a game show I’d watch. Trilobites win every time.

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Filed under Evolution, Intelligent Design, paleontology, Trawling For Creationism

Dandelion Sex, Or The Lack Thereof

Dandelion (From Wikipedia)

Dandelion (From Wikipedia)

I’ve just finished reading Frogs, Flies, & Dandelions: the making of species by biologist Menno Schilthuizen –an engaging and informative book on species formation. Here’s a little taste of what I learned; it illustrates that genetics isn’t perfect, and evolution is beautifully adaptive.

Historically, the common dandelion, that ubiquitous and irritating weed found in gardens and fields throughout North America and Europe, has been a puzzle to botanists. For a long time, no one was sure how many species existed. In the 1700’s, Carolus Linnaeus said only one; in the 20th century, Scandinavian botanists claimed more than two-thousands existed. But with DNA testing, came the answer. Many dandelions are, in fact, clones. In place of normal sexual reproduction with two sets of chromosomes being divided into sex cells, the ovules and pollen, some dandelions reproduce by parthenogenesis, or virgin birth, because at one point in their history they mutated into having three sets of chromosomes, a number which is sexually indivisible. The mutant dandelions instead produce unfertilized –but still viable– seeds, each with a triple set of chromosomes –in other words, a clone.

What’s most illuminating is that the same mutation has popped up several times. So there are several strains with triple chromosomes, all sexually isolated from one another because they can only reproduce by cloning themselves. But it gets better; the clones still produce pollen, except it is completely sterile. Only in the light of evolution does this sordid asexual tale make sense. Why waste the time and energy producing “irregular pollen” if it’s never going to be used? Perhaps god takes a sadistic pleasure in irritating people’s allergies. Or he’s invested heavily in big pharmaceuticals. If so, I hope he had Bernie Madoff sitting on his nest egg.

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Filed under Biology, Evolution, Science

Top 15 Reasons To Visit The Kentucky Creation Museum

15. The World’s Biggest Bible –Enough Said?

14. Short Line For The Baptismal Water Slide World-Wide-Flood Simulator

13. The On-The -7th-Day-God-Smoked-A-Cigarette Demonstration – Sponsored By The Kentucky Tobacco Council

12. It’s Fun Getting To Interpret The Fossils The Way You Want

11. The Atheist Random-Chance Electric-Chair Challenge With Stuntman PZ Myers

10. Noah’s Ark Diorama Smells So Darn Farm Fresh

9. Ken Ham’s Policy Of Hiring Only Virgin, Tour Guides

8. The Gift Shop’s The Exclusive Seller Of Bobby Jindal Man-O-Action Figures

7. A Dinosaur Rodeo Starring Chuck Norris & His Trophy Wife

6. Every Spin On The Scientific-Quote Roulette Wheel Is A Winner Supporting Creation

5. A Giant Display On The Complexity Of Ben Stein’s Lazy Dry Eyes

4. The Beer Garden Of Eden Serves Flavored Holy Water On Tap

3. Copies Of Adam & Eve’s Birth Certificates Signed By Jesus

2. The Scopes Monkey Trial Reenacted With Real Monkeys In Suits, Narrated By Sarah Palin

1. You’ll Laugh, You’ll Cry, You’ll Kiss Your $21.95 Goodbye

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A Faked Kooky Creationist’s Book Review

Please note that the book review below–funny as it is– was not written by a real creationist, but by a faker. See the comment section for the full correction.

I occasionally like to sift through the reviews on Amazon.com of good, evolution related books. I wholeheartedly recommend Evolution: What The Fossils Say and Why It Matters by Donald Prothero. Although, one of the reviewers, someone named Sam Wood, decided it deserved only a single star and a ‘philosophical’ thrashing that is comical to behold. I can only assume it’s a real review and not a parody. I’ve emphasized my favorite parts in bold.

This book is the latest attempt by Big Science to put forth the Big Lie of evolution. Humble believers, the only real skeptics left, are supposed to simply cower in the face of the evidence. But here’s why you shouldn’t believe the Big Lie:

1) The Bible says that God created all earth’s creatures. Since the Bible is the word of God, I think it has slightly more authority than a goofy looking dingus named Prothero.

2) No one has ever seen evolution in action. Dogs don’t turn into birds, and mice don’t turn into armadillos.

3)If natural selection is true, it means that human minds evolved from lower animal minds, which means they are highly fallible. Yet evolutionists tell us to use these very minds to agree with them . If evolution is true, it must be false. That’s a contradiction, therefore Jesus died for my sins and God created the earth.

4) Where are all the fossils? The only fossil science has ever found is Piltdown man, and that was fake. Christians, however, have the Shroud of Turin, a fossil of Jesus. We also have fossil fingers of many saints. The fossils say that Jesus existed, the saints are holy, and Darwin was wrong.

5) It’s very hard to understand how evolution would work, while it’s easy to understand that God created the world. By the principle of Occam’s Razor, it therefore follows that God is the Creator.

6) Evolution is incorrect, and it is illogical to believe in something incorrect. Since the opposite of something incorrect must be correct, God and not Darwin or dinosaurs must be the creator.

7) Increasing evidence shows that Noah’s flood actually desposited[sic] all the layers of soil that geologists think happened over millions of years. The flood would have killed the dinosaurs, had dinosaurs ever existed, but they haven’t. A review of books shows that no one ever talked about dinosaurs until after Darwin, when they became part of the argument for evolution. Convenient, huh?

8. Evolution became popular around the time that scientists were becoming immoral and wanted to stop hanging around in labs and start having more sex. Evolution is the perfect excuse, since we’re all animals we should do it like animals. Christians find this offensive, since Mary was a virgin. If you suggest otherwise, it means you are thinking about the vagina of the mother of God, which is a sin.

So for all of these reasons, I call on Christians to reject Prothero and all of his works, and all of his minions. Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, the 12 apostles, and all of the archaegels[sic] and God the father are part of a holy plan which did not happen through evolution, so stop saying things that make God angry and vote McCain/Palin ’08.

After ingesting all that, I find my brain is awash in a dreamy haze of perturbation. So many questions remain unanswered: Is this sinister “Big Science” anything like Big Tobacco? Are all the non-existent fossils a drug induced hallucination delivered through my chlorinated, tap water? Is believing something to be correct both incorrect and illogical? Is my plastic dinosaur collection more valuable now that dinosaurs never really existed –they’re mint in the box? And are my impure thoughts about Mary, the mother of god, a sin if Aristotle is involved somewhere in the mix –if you know what I mean?

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Filed under Christianity, Trawling For Creationism

Richard Dawkins Shows Us Some Intermediate Fossils

It might have been more educational if Richard Dawkins –or that over-simplified museum chart– had explained that paleontologists aren’t so much concerned with complete transitional fossils –or intermediates– but the transitional characteristics displayed in the fossils. Fossils are after all collections of physical traits. But Dawkins is countering creationists, who are so often ridiculously literal in their interpretation of evolution that they imagine the fossil evidence for the transition between two distinct species as an exact in-between –for example, half dinosaur and half bird. Evolutionary history, though, is bushy and convoluted; a particular species may only bear an ancestral trait(s) that’s been slightly modified, or a novel trait(s) that is in its incipient state. That a species of dinosaur had proto-feathers –and not necessarily fully functional wings– is in itself profoundly informative. No cartoonish hybrid is needed as proof of evolution. The same goes for those floating pigs of the sea, those media hogs, those cousins of the hungry hungry hippo –the whales.

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