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Trilobites Swim Circles Around Creationists – Part 1

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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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Charles Darwin, The Human Being

descent-of-man

Sexual differences in freshwater Swordtail. Male has a long tail appendage to show off to the ladies.

I consider Charles Darwin’s The Origin Of Species and The Descent Of Man two of the greatest books never read by creationists. Both are beautiful works celebrating the details of the natural world. But many creationists condemn them without even a glance. They read reviews, they often say, or they rely on the “experts” to judge the value of Darwin’s “theories”. The unwilling creationists don’t know what they’re missing.

Even within Darwin’s dry technical books -as apposed to his personal journals or autobiography- there is the occasional glimpse into his sense of humor. In The Descent of Man, for instance, one can read a hundred pages of qualitative data and then be surprised with a mild joke, an anecdote, or a quip about the French. Here Darwin talks about the quiet female Cicada:

Every one who has wandered in a tropical forest must have been astonished at the din made by the male Cicadæ. The females are mute; as the Grecian poet Xenarchus says, “Happy the Cicadas live, since they all have voiceless wives.”

See, wife jokes were funny in 19th century England and ancient Greece. And it goes to show that a century is not a long period of time at all. The year 1871, when The Descent Of Man was published, was yesterday. In the 18th century, Charles’ grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, once wrote about lending a college friend his class notes. The friend angrily returned them with a scribble across the cover, which accused him of atrocious spelling and being the son of a whore. Charles Darwin, you devil, you’re a human being after all. And you’re “descended from monkeys”.

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More Lies Supporting Expelled: The Movie

Pseudo-Science

Pseudo-Science

Ben Stein is putting his smirk and whiny voice to ads for the DVD release of Expelled: The Movie, No Intelligence Allowed. Christmas is just around the corner and a rotten lump of pseudo-scientific coal makes such a great stocking stuffer for the kids. In the ads, Mr. Stein claims Expelled is the #1 documentary of 2008. I think not. Let’s check the stats. Expelled grossed about 7.7 million and opened in 1052 theaters, while Bill Mahr’s documentary Religulous grossed 10.6 million and only opened in 502 theaters. If Mr. Stein is alluding to the reviews of Expelled making it #1, then he is wrong on that point, too. Most reviews were resoundingly negative. For example, The New York TImes said,

Mixing physical apples and metaphysical oranges at every turn “Expelled” is an unprincipled propaganda piece that insults believers and nonbelievers alike. In its fudging, eliding and refusal to define terms, the movie proves that the only expulsion here is of reason itself.

Finally, if you go to the Expelled website you can crash their ironic poll asking, “Do you think Darwin’s theories are outdated?” If Darwin is over-the-hill, then creationism is fossilized. I made a funny.

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What’s Wrong With Being A Mad Scientist?

Fictional mad scientists are most often portrayed as highly driven and glory hungry; they are the unwitting villains, the victims of their own inquisitive natures. Author, Reto Schneider, has written The Mad Science Book, which chronicles the history and present of questionable experiments carried out by real-life “mad” scientists. A list of nine of these experiments is on The New Scientist website. My favorite is Dogbot, the robot dog that was a social reject. Real dogs wanted nothing to do with him. Maybe his nose glowed red or he aspired to be a dentist. Whatever the reason, Dogbot was not allowed to participate in dog games.

What I like about mad experimentation is it’s raw unbridled curiosity. What does it matter if some experiments go wrong or if others are completely useless and outright wacky? What counts is that humans have a desire to understand the world. Thomas Edison was a mad inventor; he wasted ten years of his life on devising a new mining technique, which failed miserably. He also designed furniture and homes made out of that comfortable substance know as concrete. Not big sellers.

The lesson here is that in a complex world, curiosity saves the cat, it doesn’t kill it. But still there is an intellectual divide in society. There are those who care to know the world, and those who don’t care to have their world views tarnished by reality. I’m talking about creationists here. To them a mad scientist is someone to be feared.

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Creationist Of The Month Club – Dinesh D’Souza

Weeeeeeeee, Im a creationist.

Wheeeeeeeee, I'm a creationist.

Dinesh D’Souza is a professional apologist. To him Christianity is the source of all good in the world, and evolution is nasty atheistic propaganda. Here’s an excerpt from a piece he wrote on evolution and intelligent design:

The problem with evolution is not that it is unscientific but that it is routinely taught in textbooks and in the classroom in an atheist way. Textbooks frequently go beyond the scientific evidence to make metaphysical claims about how evolution renders the idea of a Creator superfluous.

Chemistry and physics are also taught in an “atheistic way”, as are computer science and mathematics. Science, by its very nature, is secular because the supernatural is not open to any form of investigation. When teaching evolution a teacher ought not to even mention god, because god is not a source of viable data.

D’Souza accuses science of making “metaphysical claims“, but it is Christians like himself who are guilty of this sin. They presuppose the existence of a higher being, and they whine when their presupposition is contradicted in a science classroom. It is perfectly reasonable, considering the evidence, for a biologist to conclude that life on Earth evolved and was not designed. This claim is about the physical world, not the metaphysical one. To proclaim the existence of a grand designer is a “metaphysical claim“, one that is wholly untestable within our Earthly realm. In essence, what D’Souza is upset over is biologists not including a dash of the supernatural in the mix.

Most Christians don’t care whether the eye evolved by natural selection or whether Darwin’s theories can account for macroevolution or only microevolution. What they care about is that evolution is being used to deny God as the creator.

First D’Souza denounces science for making a “metaphysical claim“, then he squawks that science is not including the metaphysical. Way to go on the blaring contradiction there, Dinesh. Now I’m positive you’re a Christian and a creationist. Only an Olympic grade rationalizer would do a one-eighty within the span of a few paragraphs.

Yesterday, in another article, D’Souza offered his pity for biologist and atheist PZ Myers.

Asked whether Christianity deserves credit for founding the first Western hospitals, universities and even scientific breakthroughs, Myers said, “No. People made those contributions to Western civilization”… Christianity was a powerful motivating force in why people did those things. You can find all this out by opening up a history book.

[Emphasis added to distinguish the wheat from the chaff]

Apparently, D’Souza has no grap of science methodology or religion and its lack of methodology. Indeed, Christianity founded many great universities. But the fact remains that one cannot successfully investigate the natural world while limiting one’s answers to within a religious framework. European universities were scientifically unproductive places until the Enlightenment. In the 18th century, almost half of the pupils of Oxford and Cambridge studied for the clergy; emphasis was on the classics and the Bible. Natural philosophy, as science was known then, was looked upon with suspicion, as it meddled with the belief in creation. It was only when researchers were free to contradict scripture that any real work got done. Dinesh would find all this out by opening up a history book.

So, I dub Dinesh D’Souza creationist of the month for September, 2008. Congratulations, Dinesh, on a job well done.

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Top 15 Visitor Complaints Received By The Kentucky Creation Museum

Creation Museum

Creation Museum

15. Intelligent Design video game didn’t count toward college credit as promised

14. Line for Richard Dawkins piñata too long

13. Kirk Cameron wouldn’t stop hugging me, even after my wife complained

12. Social-Darwinism lecture hit too close to home

11. Animatronic Einstein sounded identical to animatronic Fred Flintstone. Or was it the other way round?

10. Snack bar ran out of the Ken Ham & Cheese Sub. Had to order the Duane Gish Knish. It was stale.

9. Ray Comfort’s banana demonstration was inappropriate for children

8. Gift shop charged extra for framing creation science degree. Signed, Chuck Norris, PhD.

7. Price of admission didn’t include ride on “Skippy: The Friendly Dinosaur”

6. Sciency DNA exhibit made my brain hurt

5. Sciency Noah’s Ark exhibit made my brain hurt

4. Kent Hovind was seen standing between Adam & Eve statues

3. My child didn’t receive free “God Hates Evilutionists” t-shirt

2. Charles Darwin look-alike complained when I hit him

1. Jesus-shaped bathroom soap gave me a Jesus-shaped rash





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John McCain, The Creationism Enabler

Remember the Alamo… I mean the 2007 Republican Debate.

McCain states in the video that he believes in evolution, but then adds that the “hand of god” can be seen in the Grand Canyon at sunset. In essence he gives a non-answer; he sits his ass on the fence. It’s almost as if he had rehearsed his response, but for a moment forgot the second half of the answer, the part that appeases the creationists. (Line, line. Where’s the director? Where’s my bottled water? The teleprompter isn’t working and neither is my ear-piece. Someone get me a moist towelette. I’m John McCain, a freaking war hero.)

I’m convinced that McCain actually does “believe” in evolution. But I also think he desperately wants to be president, and will say anything, or do almost anything, to attain and keep that position. If he has to be indirectly responsible for damaging science education, so be it. If he does win the election, he’ll most likely fuel a new creationist fire, for the very reason that he needs the approval of the Christian-right. He’ll be their enabler. Earlier this year, he courted the Intelligent Design vote. And Intelligent Design is just creationism with an easier-to-swallow coating. (But it’s still a hard pill to swallow.)

Don’t forget the 2007 Republican Debate… or the Alamo.

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