Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Bryan Fischer: Defeating Darwin in Four Easy Steps

The title come from a blog written by Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association. There are so many things wrong in that blog that it's difficult to know where to begin. If I were to address all of the factual errors, misunderstandings and quote mines in the blog, I'd have to write 10 times the amount of the original blog.

This is called a "Gish Gallop." The fact is the Creationist can make far more absurd assertions than anyone can explain in the same timeframe. But I'm going to address at least some of them.

First let's start with some preliminary assertions.

#1 - The Assertion that Bill Nye, in his debate with Ken Ham, didn't have answers for the most important questions about evolution. 

The questions were identified as:

(1) Where did the atoms that made up the big bang come from?

First of all this has nothing to do with evolution. This is the province of the Science of Cosmology. But let's answer it anyway. Atoms weren't what "made up" the Big Bang. The idea is it all started with an energy plasma that was infinitely dense and infinitely hot. The plasma then began to expand.

How long the plasma existed and why it began to expand are unanswerable questions. Maybe a god created the plasma and willed it to expand? It's as good an idea as any.

A few seconds after the start of expansion the first elementary sub-atomic particles began to form and these would later be part of the formation of the first atoms.

How do we "know" all this? We don't. But, it's the best explanation we have given the evidence. What evidence you ask? There are four independent lines known as the "Four Pillars of the Big Bang Theory."

Line #1 - Almost all galaxies are moving away from us and are millions of light years away. This suggests that billions of years ago everything was concentrated in a single point.

Line #2 - The abundance and amount of elements that we see around us. Amazingly enough, the ratio of elements appears to exactly match what you would expect to find if the universe was once a really big star.

Line #3 - The background cosmic microwave radiation. During the Big Bang there would have been an enormous release of radiation. Now, billions of years later, it would be moving away from us so fast as to have shifted into a microwave wavelength.

Line #4 - The large scale structure, such as galaxies, that we see in the universe.

(2) Where did man's consciousness come from?

No one knows the answer to this question but so what? We know that it did form.

The basis is probably electrical. All complex life forms appear to have some sort of consciousness so it doesn't seem to be much of a big deal.

(3) How can matter produce life? 

Again, this has nothing to do with evolution but belongs to the science of Abiogenesis.

Maybe God created the first cell? But once the first cell exists, evolution takes over.

#2 - On several occasions Fischer asserts that something is a "scientific law" and not a "theory" with the obvious implication that somehow a "scientific law" outranks a "theory." 

That's not how it works. A "scientific law" is simply a description, often mathematical, of an observation. For instance, the Law of Gravity simply describes, mathematically, how the mass of the earth affects a nearby untethered object.

Theories provide explanations for observations. "Scientific laws" are a part of theories. The "Law of Gravity" is a part of the Theory of Gravity.

Now for the "Four Easy Steps."

Step #1- The First Law of Thermodynamics - Matter and Energy can neither be created or destroyed therefore science cannot address the question of why there is something rather than nothing.

Once again, evolution doesn't care. By the time evolution becomes a factor there are a whole lot of things including molecules, amino acids, stars, planets, water and at least one living cell.

If one goes back to the idea of infinitely hot plasma, that's energy. The universe began as all energy.

Where did the energy come from? Maybe a god created it? Maybe it was a god that annihilated itself in order to form the matter in the universe?

One wild speculation is as good as another.

Step #2 - The Second Law of Thermodynamics - Increasing entropy must lead to more disorder while evolution requires greater order or as Fischer put it " every chemical or heat reaction, there is a loss of energy which is never again available for another heat reaction."

Well at least this is actually related to evolution. For the 26,432nd time. This is true in A "CLOSED SYSTEM."

A "closed system" cannot import energy from an outside source. The Earth's biosphere is NOT a "closed system;" it is constantly importing energy from the sun and cosmic radiation.

If "greater order" could not "evolve" in our biosphere then seeds couldn't grow into plants, a fetus couldn't become a baby and a baby couldn't become an adult. These are all examples of "open systems" importing energy and becoming more complex.

The universe as a whole may well be a "closed system" which is why some scientists speculate that it is destined for a "heat death" billions, upon billions upon billions of years in the future. I suspect that's not something for us to worry about right now.

Step #3 - Fossils - There are no "transitional forms."

Here's where we get the quote mining. Ok, simply put, the assertion that there are "no transitional fossils" is just flat out not true. There are hundreds, if not thousands by now, of transitional fossils and, despite fossilization being very rare, more are being discovered every year.

But, we have to address the "quotes" in this section as well as the nonsense statements about the Cambrian Explosion (which Fischer calls the "Pre-Cambrian explosion) and Punctuated Equilibrium.

Quote #1 -Yale University's Carl Dunbar - "Fossils provide the only historical, documentary evidence that life has evolved from simpler to more and more complex forms."

Dunbar got his doctorate in 1917 (YES, 1917!) and taught at Yale from 1920 to 1959. In other words he made this statement long before we had any significant understanding of DNA.

Quote #2 - Harvard's Stephen Jay Gould - "The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology." 

I'm very familiar with this quote. This is Gould arguing that "Punctuated Equilibrium" explains the fossil record better than "Phyletic Gradualism." Gould is talking about transitional fossils at the species level and arguing that they are so rare because speciation happens relatively rapidly in short spurts.

That, by the way, is the actual definition of "Punctuated Equilibrium." RELATIVELY rapid bursts rather than consistent change as hypothesized in "Phyletic Gradualism." But we're still talking millions of years just less millions of years sometimes.

As for transitional fossils, Gould clarifies in "Evolution as Fact and Theory," "Since we proposed punctuated equilibria to explain trends, it is infuriating to be quoted again and again by creationists—whether through design or stupidity, I do not know—as admitting that the fossil record includes no transitional forms. Transitional forms are generally lacking at the species level, but they are abundant between larger groups." 

Quote #3 - The British Museum's Colin Patterson - "...there are no transitional fossils" not even a single one "for which one could make a watertight argument."

The quote comes from a letter from Patterson to Creationist Luther Sunderland. Sunderland had asked why there were no examples of transitions between species in Patterson's latest book. Patterson is responding that the fossil record does not indicate which particular species gave rise to another particular species. 

Let's put the quote in context shall we:

"I fully agree with your comments on the lack of direct illustration of evolutionary transitions in my book. If I knew of any, fossil or living, I would certainly have included them. . .I will lay it on the line, There is not one such fossil for which one might make a watertight argument. The reason is that statements about ancestry and descent are not applicable in the fossil record." 

The Cambrian Explosion - Fischer makes it sound like the "Cambrian Explosion" was instantaneous. The fact is we're talking about something like 70 or 80 million years during which most major animal phyla seem to appear in the fossil record. Note I said PHYLA and not SPECIES as some cretins sometimes quote. A Phylum is five levels above Species in the hierarchy of biological classifications.

Step #4 - Genes and Genetic Mutation - Naturally occurring genetic mutations are inherently harmful.

Nope, they're not. If they were we wouldn't have diverse races which are the result of genetic mutations, we wouldn't have black furred rock mice thriving on the cooled lava flows in the New Mexico Desert and we wouldn't have bacteria that can digest nylon.

We get some quotes here as well.

Quote #1 - The University of Chicago's James Shapiro "There are no detailed Darwinian accounts for the evolution of any fundamental biochemical or cellular systems, only a variety of wishful speculations."

I'm not sure where this quote is from (and Fischer doesn't help by not providing ANY citations) but I'm guessing it's from Shapiro's book "Evolution: A View from the 21st Century."

Shapiro challenges the basic notion that evolution occurs through small changes. His book starts by saying "Innovation, not selection, is the critical issue in evolutionary change." 

Shapiro believes that what he calls "natural genetic engineering" rather than Darwin's "natural selection" is more of the driving force in evolution.

"Natural genetic engineering" would allow a form of natural hybridization that would greatly speed up evolutionary speciation.

So this isn't an argument against evolution, rather it's a hypothesis that there is a more efficient process driving it. I don't see how this helps Fischer's case.

Quote #2 - Bristol University's Alan Linton - "Throughout 150 years of the science of bacteriology, there is no evidence that one species of bacteria has changed into another" and "if it's never been observed in the simplest of organisms, it shouldn't come as a surprise that its never been observed with more complex forms. There is no evidence for evolution throughout the whole array of multicellular organisms."

Alan Linton is a Professor Emeritus of Bacteriology at the University of Bristol and the quotes here are accurate and mean what they appear to mean.

Linton is also a devout Christian, a Young Earth Creationist that believes the earth was created 6,000 years ago and has written a book called "Israel in History and Prophecy."

Now, none of that means he's wrong, but it doesn't make him a very convincing source either.

So Fischer's "Four Easy Steps" are pretty much a load of crap.

Now that would be OK if this was the first time he's published these "Four Easy Steps." But it's not. He's published them before and I'm sure he's been told before that pretty much all of what he is saying is either inaccurate, a misunderstanding or just flat out not true. Yet, he continues to publish it.

Where I come from that's called LYING. Christians are dishonest. Here's another example of how dishonest they are.

No comments: