Monday, May 18, 2015

Failed Predictions of Evolutionary Theories

The strength of any scientific theory is measured by its ability to make predictions. It works sort of like this: I might have a guess about what causes (or caused) some phenomenon. I would then say, “If my theory is true, I would expect to find this other thing.” If that other thing is found, it gives weight to the theory that it might be correct. If that other thing is not found, then it could be evidence that the theory is not correct.

I'll give you a hypothetical example of how this works. Before we ever went to the moon, pretend that I insisted that the moon is made of cheese. If my theory were true, I could predict that any rock brought back from the moon would actually be cheese. Technically, theories are never “proven” to be true. If the rocks brought back from the moon did turn out to be cheese, it still doesn't mean the entire moon is made of cheese – it could have been just those few rocks. Even so, it does make my theory seem more likely. However, if all the rocks brought back turned out to be ordinary rocks and none were cheese, it's very strong evidence against my theory.

Some people claim evolution is a strong theory that has made many successful predictions. What they always fail to discuss is how evolution is so plastic a theory that it's virtually impossible to falsify and even some of the things we might predict if the theory were true are epic fails. I thought I'd take a moment and discuss just a few of evolution's failed predictions.

Radiometric dating: Certain, naturally occurring substances are unstable and so will decay over time until it becomes a stable substance. Uranium, for example, decays over time and eventually becomes lead. The rate at which the decay occurs varies from substance to substance. Some decay at an extremely slow rate while others decay more rapidly (relatively speaking). By measuring the ratio of the parent/daughter elements (uranium/lead, for example), scientists can estimate how long the decay has been occurring. Many scientists consider radiometric dating to be the final word in determining the age of any sample and it is from radiometric dating that many people are convinced that the earth is very old. If radiometric dating actually dates things accurately, we could make a few predictions:

Prediction #1: Newly formed rocks should not have any of the daughter element present and should show an age of “zero.”

Results: Rocks formed at the Mt St Helen's eruption were dated using potassium/argon dating, the samples yielding ages up to 2.8 million years even though the known age of the rocks was 10 years old. FAIL.

Prediction #2: Carbon 14 is an unstable element found in all living things. As living things breath and eat, they accumulate C14. Once the thing dies, the C14 begins to decay and becomes C12. The key difference in this radiometric dating method and those discussed in the previous paragraph is that the decay rate of C14 is much quicker than many other types. It has a half-life of only 5,730 years. Due to its short half-life, we can predict that samples more than 100,000 years old should have no detectable C14 remaining in them.

Result: An 8 year long endeavor by creation scientists known as the RATE project, has found it is impossible to find any old samples without detectable levels of carbon. Even diamonds, the hardest natural substance and virtually impossible to contaminate, consistently yield trace C14 even though they are supposed to be a billion years old. FAIL.

Progression in the Fossil Record: According to secular dating, the rock layers represent the accumulation of sediment being laid down over time. The layers further down are older than the layers above them. Where fossils are found in the layers supposedly represents when those creatures lived. Creatures found in fossils in lower strata lived before the creatures found above them.

Prediction #3: If evolution were true, there should be a clear progression of simple to complex in the fossil record where the older creatures are more primitive than the younger creatures.

Result: Dinosaurs allegedly evolved into birds. However, I recently wrote about feathers identified as 78 myo yet are still described as being “nearly identical to those of modern birds.” I also wrote about the supposed human ancestor, Australopithecus afarensis. This very ape-like creature was found in the same age of rocks as the Laetoli Footprints which are described as “almost indistinguishable from modern human footprints,” matching our feet in both the toe pattern and stride. In both of these cases, and many others I could cite, we see evidence of modern creatures living simultaneously as their supposed ancestors. There is no clear progression in the fossils of simple to complex. FAIL.

Transitional Forms: Evolution is a history of descent with modification. A lobed fin becomes a leg which become wing. A fold in the skin becomes a scale which becomes a feather. The structures found on every creature of every species are simply adaptations of more primitive structures found on the creatures' ancestors.

Prediction #4: If evolution were true, we should expect to find volumes of fossil evidence showing creatures in transition from one species to another. In Darwin's own words, innumerable transitional forms must have existed.... [J]ust in proportion as this process of extermination has acted on an enormous scale, so must the number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed on the earth, be truly enormous.” We should not be able to turn over a shovel of dirt without finding another transitional form.

Result: Darwin himself was surprised that we didn't find, “every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links.” After more than a century and a half of looking, and the trillions of fossils that exist, evolutionists have – at most – a few dozen examples of transitional forms and even most of these are suspect. The “innumerable” amount we would expect to find are simply not there. FAIL.

The Appendix: As we've already discussed, evolution is a history of descent with modification. Over time, some structures have supposedly lost their original function and have either become useless or have been adapted for some completely different function. Such structures are called, “vestigial.” The appendix is perhaps the most touted example of a vestigial structure.

Prediction #5: The appendix appears in many different species of mammals. If descent with modification has occurred, we should be able to trace the appendix along the so called, “tree of life” and find that all the creatures who have an appendix also share a common ancestor.

Result: The appendix appears in some species of primates, rodents, and even marsupials but is absent from the intermediate groups linking these species. It appears on the tree of life in no discernible pattern. FAIL.

Tiktaalik: I bring this up because it is often cited by evolutionists as an example of a successful prediction made by their theory. It was even used by Bill Nye in his debate against Ken Ham. The most commonly accepted understanding of history is that life began in the sea and evolved onto land. If this has occurred, scientists would expect to find fossil evidence of creatures with structures in transition from sea-to-land.

Prediction #6: Based on their understanding of when the supposed transition of sea-to-land occurred, researchers began exploring an area of exposed, Devonian deposits in the Canadian Arctic in hopes of finding fossil evidence of a creature in transition from sea-to-land. They found Tiktaalik. According to one website detailing the prediction, “Not only was it exciting to find a new species, but it was made all the better by the fact that scientists had predicted the existence of a creature like this all along.”

Result: A few years after the discovery of Tiktaalik, a track of fossilized footprints belonging to a tetrapod were uncovered in a quarry in Poland. They were dated according to evolutionary dating methods to be 18 million years older than Tiktaalik. This would mean that fully evolved, ambulatory tetrapods were walking around millions of years before their supposed ancestor, Tiktaalik, ever lived (see failed prediction #3). FAIL.

In summary, I'll just say that I'm not sure of any successful predictions the theory of evolution has made. Many of those that endure are what I call, “predictions after the fact,” like “if evolution were true, I would predict that creatures could reproduce.” These types of “predictions” are worthless. I only know that there are many, many failed predictions. It's generous that we still even call it a “theory.”

Monday, May 4, 2015

Evo Speak

Humpty Dumpty took the book and looked at it carefully. 'That seems to be done right —' he began.
'You're holding it upside down!' Alice interrupted.
'To be sure I was!' Humpty Dumpty said gaily as she turned it round for him. 'I thought it looked a little queer. As I was saying, that seems to be done right — though I haven't time to look it over thoroughly just now — and that shows that there are three hundred and sixty-four days when you might get un-birthday presents —'
'Certainly,' said Alice.
'And only one for birthday presents, you know. There's glory for you!'
'I don't know what you mean by "glory",' Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. 'Of course you don't — till I tell you. I meant "there's a nice knock-down argument for you!"'
'But "glory" doesn't mean "a nice knock-down argument",' Alice objected.
'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'
Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll

It's somewhat superfluous to say, “words mean things” but at the same time I believe some people think words can mean anything. If you want to have a dialogue with someone, we sometimes take for granted that the other person is using words in the way that we generally understand them. In the creation/evolution debate, it has been my experience that militant evolutionists habitually abuse the language. They do this intentionally so as to muddy the waters and confuse the unsuspecting public. It's rather shameful, really, because they so abuse certain terms that it borders on lying.

I've commented on this phenomenon many times before but I thought it might be helpful if I put some of the most abused words in a single post and create a sort of “Evo-speak to English” translation.

Science: Science comes from the Latin term for “knowledge.” It's generally used to describe a methodology used to study the world or gather simply to gather knowledge. It's also used to describe a body of knowledge (as in, “the mathematical sciences”). Evolutionists, however, intend it to mean, “the methodological search for a natural explanation of some phenomenon.” They're not necessarily interested in the correct explanation – only a natural one. It's been said more than once that even if God created the world supernaturally, creation could still not be taught in schools because it's not scientific. Evolutionists also use the word “science” interchangeably with “evolution.”

Evolution: Most people understand evolution to mean the descent of all life from a simpler life form over millions of years. It includes the change of one kind of creature into another kind – like dinosaur-to-bird or ape-to-man. Evolutionists have a technically meaning of the word where “evolution” can describe any change in a population. So a population of moths which changes from mostly dark to mostly light over a generation can be said to have evolved. It's fine for an industry to use technical terms but if they want to engage the public in a dialogue, they need to understand that the debate over “evolution” is about the ape-to-man type of evolution and not wolf-to-dog.

Natural Selection: This is an observed phenomenon where traits present in a population of animals are tested to see if they are conducive to the environment. Traits that are conducive generally allow the host to live longer and pass the trait along to more offspring. Traits not conducive generally means the host does not live as long and so has fewer offspring. Over time, the undesirable traits tend to become removed from the population leaving a species that is well adapted to its environment. Evolutionists, however, tend to use the term “natural selection” as a synonym for evolution. They want us to believe that the same mechanisms that remove a particular shade of moth pigment (for example) could also turn a dinosaur into a bird.

Creationism: Words ending in “ism” describe a philosophy, belief, or worldview (atheism, capitalism, patriotism, etc). “Creationism” is the belief that God created the world supernaturally. It's not the same word as “creation.” “Creation” describes either the act of God creating or it describes the thing created (i.e., the universe). Creationism is a fine word and completely acceptable in the correct context. Evolutionists, on the other hand, seem to not be aware of the word “creation” and so consistently use the word “creationism” incorrectly. They may say something like, “what is the evidence for creationism?” Such a statement is nonsense because they are essentially asking for evidence of people believing God created the universe. They mean to ask, “what is the evidence for 'creation'?” By the way, words that end in “ist” describe the people who adhere to a particular belief system. For example, people who believe in “atheism” are “atheists.” Therefore, people who believe in “creationism” are “creationists.” Which brings me to my next point about evolutionists.

Evolutionists: Just like “creationists” describes people who believe in a miraculous creation of the universe, “evolutionists” describes people who believe in an old universe and the gradual rise of species via evolution. The term does tend to be used more by creationists but there is usually nothing pejorative meant by its use. It's more of a label of convenience to identify the participants in the debate. Most evolutionists, on the other hand, abhor the term. I've heard them say things like, “there's no such word as 'evolutionist,'” as though they're the word czars who get to decide which words are “real.” I'm not sure exactly why they despise the term but I suspect it's because they feel using it makes evolution sound like a belief. Evolutionists who reject the term often suggest the word “scientists” as an alternative. It's rather ridiculous because not everyone who believes in evolution is a scientist. And for the record, the belief that life arose via evolution is “evolutionism.”

Theory: Lay people, which includes the majority of people, tend to use the word theory to describe a guess or hunch about how something happened. Some people will highlight the word “theory” in the term, “theory of evolution” as an argument that the whole belief is speculative. Scientists, on the other hand, have a technical definition of the word that makes it a little more substantial than just a guess or hypothesis. However, in spite of their insistence that scientific theories are “well tested, well substantiated, and well supported” explanations of the evidence, evolutionists themselves toss the word “theory” around in much the same way that the lay public does. I direct you, for example, to the LiveScience article, “7 Theories on the Origin of Life.” Here are seven “theories” about how life began that are unobserved, untested, and frankly do not even describe processes that have actually produced life. They're seven guesses. The argument that “evolution is just a theory” may not be a strong argument, but neither does describing evolution as a "theory" make it any more credible scientifically.

In conclusion, I'll remind you of a quote made by Laurence Moran on Talk Origins:

Scientists such as myself must share the blame for the lack of public understanding of science. We need to work harder to convey the correct information. Sometimes we don't succeed very well but that does not mean that we are dishonest. On the other hand, the general public, and creationists in particular, need to also work a little harder in order to understand science. Reading a textbook would help.

I would say to Mr. Moran that “scientists” are not the final arbiters on what words mean. It's the “general public” - the very group that he chides as being uninformed – that actually decides what words mean. Scientists shouldn't “share the blame”; they should accept the blame for years of intentionally abusing words in attempt to mislead the general public in the evolution and creation debate.

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Lot of Fluff About Dinosaur Feathers

A few years back, there was a little buzz about feathers found preserved in amber. The amber was dated according to evolutionary dating methods to be about 78 million years old putting it squarely in the “age of the dinosaurs.” The supposed age of the feathers earned them the moniker of “dinosaur feathers.”

Dinosaur-to-bird evolution is a much loved fantasy in the theory's narrative. You may have noticed over the last few years how dinosaurs are now being drawn to look more bird-like. Scales have been replaced with a bright plumage and the stubby arms of bipedal dinosaurs are being revamped to look like wings. A find like this seems to reaffirm evolutionists' suspicions about dinos becoming birds.

In a report about the find, The Atlantic made the following comments:

Researchers led by University of Alberta paleontologist Ryan McKellar say these specimens represent distinct stages of feather evolution, from early-stage, single filament protofeathers to much more complex structures associated with modern diving birds.... This discovery is a pretty significant find. It supports a model for the evolution of feathers that has previously relied on compression fossils that are difficult to interpret and have been hotly debated.

As usual, I have some of my own opinions about the find.

First, it's more than a little presumptuous to say, “these specimens represent distinct stages of feather evolution.” Isn't that a conclusion? If all these feathers existed contemporaneously, then can't it just as truthfully be said they simply represent various levels of complexity among feathers? They don't support evolution unless I interpret them according to evolution. I could do something similar with dogs. For example, I could arrange dog skulls in order from smallest to largest and say, “These skulls represent the stages of dog evolution from the chihuahua to the great dane.” If evolution were true, I would expect the least complex feathers to be much older than the most complex feathers. I certainly wouldn't expect all the “stages” of feather evolution to exist at the same time. It could happen, I suppose, but it's not predicted by the theory.

Next, what evidence do they have that these feathers even belonged to dinosaurs? The Atlantic headline clearly says, “Dinosaur Feathers Found in Amber Reinforce Evolutionary Theories” but in the text of the article they admit, “[The researchers] can't determine which feathers belonged to birds or dinosaurs yet. Here's a thought – maybe none of them belonged to dinosaurs! Maybe they're all bird feathers. Some of these feathers are described as “nearly identical to those of modern birds.” So instead of being evidence that reinforces evolutionary theories, I could say it's evidence that modern birds existed simultaneously with their supposed ancestors. In other words, it's evidence against evolutionary theories.

Finally, there is nothing about creationism that predicts dinosaurs cannot have feathers. God created a variety of creatures. Many of them have certain features in common. When you talk about something like flight, birds have wings more similar to bat wings than insect wings. Even though God created birds with more features in common with bats than insects, it doesn't mean they're “more closely related” to bats. Likewise, there's no reason God could not have given dinosaurs a covering of some sort the same way He put feathers on birds and hair on mammals. Maybe they had a type of crude feather. Maybe they had complex feathers. Maybe they had some other fibrous structure that scientists are mistakenly calling, “proto-feathers.” Maybe they had none of these features and all the speculation of feathers on dinos is dead wrong. Whatever the case, it's not evidence against creation nor evidence for evolution.

I'll tell you exactly what scientists found – feathers in amber. That's the only “fact” in the story and, in some of the specimens, even that is suspect. The sensational headlines, the “evidence” for evolution, and the chest thumping by the researchers are all fluff.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

It's Because of Science that I Believe Creation

The "god of the gaps" is a bit of theological reasoning which invokes divine intervention as a way to understand natural phenomena that science is presently unable to explain; since we don't know how x happens, it is assumed that Goddidit. Of course, scientists and most rationalists would argue that naturalistic explanations for still-mysterious phenomena are always possible.... The human brain appears to be hardwired to find causes for any "effect" experienced in the world, from eerie sounds, to scary thunder, to terrifying ground shakes, and deadly diseases. Early humans, just beginning to seek explanations for natural things they experienced in their world found answers by saying those things were caused by gods, or other supernatural figures (like ghosts or witches); many early "gods" are storm gods (such as Thor) or gods of the wind (the Kami, in Japan).... But as humans explored more, they found naturalistic answers to simple things they once attributed to gods. As humans developed a simplified scientific method, more "gaps" were filled with naturalistic answers. God or the supernatural were no longer needed as an explanation.

Creationists are often accused of using a god-of-the-gaps argument to bolster creationism. That is, it's sometimes said we point to a lack of any natural explanation for some phenomenon as though that were evidence for a supernatural explanation. I suppose that happens sometimes and we should be careful not to let that be our entire argument. On the other hand, it's not entirely unreasonable to suppose a natural explanation for the evidence doesn't exist because there truly is no natural explanation.

Consider, for a moment, that a suspect's fingerprints were found in blood at a murder scene. The most obvious conclusion is that the suspect was at the murder scene at about the time of the murder. His defense attorney might deny his client was there but without any plausible alternative of how his fingerprints got there, the jury will probably stick with the most obvious conclusion. The same is true about creation. One simple explanation for the existence of the universe is that it is the creation of God. Secular scientists might object but without any credible alternative explanation of how everything came into existence (aside from poofism), why should I summarily reject a very plausible explanation? Besides, if scientists don't know how matter came into existence, on what grounds can they insist it wasn't an act of God?

Let's set all that aside, though. My belief in creation isn't limited to what can't be explained by science. I believe in creation because of the things I already know are true! I'll start with design.

If I found pebbles stacked in the shape of a pyramid, I would know they were intentionally stacked that way. It doesn't matter that I didn't see them being stacked or that I don't know who stacked them, I would still know that they were arranged with intent and purpose. How do I know this? It's because I've learned that organization is the product of design.  Everyone has learned this.  We recognize design seemingly without effort.  In an instant, we can tell the difference between a pattern painted on the floor and paint spilled on the floor.  

Scientists know this already. If the Mars Rover found a rock with weird symbols engraved on it, they would immediately know some intelligent being carved them. It wouldn't matter if they couldn't read the symbols. It wouldn't matter if they never found out who carved them. The presence of the symbols alone would prompt a barrage of headlines saying, “Intelligent life was once on Mars!”

Life is remarkably organized. The DNA molecule is exceedingly complex – far more complex than a stack of pebbles or symbols carved on a rock. Our bodies are incredible machines with thousands of intricate parts. Our circulatory, respiratory, and nervous systems are complicated and extremely fine tuned. Life is far more than a collection of chemicals – it's about organization.  Simply finding amino acids in nature is a far cry from believing amino acids could arrange themselves into a DNA molecule.  It's like the difference between pebbles strewn along a beach and pebbles stacked in the shape of a pyramid. It all screams of design. It screams so loudly that scientists go to great lengths to explain why things might seem designed but really aren't.

The organization of living things (from bacteria to basketball players) is evidence for creation. It's not that we don't know how life could happen so, therefore, goddidit. Instead, we know it's created because we know organization is the result of intelligence. So, yes! God did it!

But besides the obvious design we see in nature, there's another scientific principle I've learned that tells me the universe was created. I believe it was in my 9th grade physical science class where I first heard the phrase “matter can neither be created nor destroyed – it can only change forms.” It wasn't until much later that I understood this is a scientific law called the conservation of matter/energy. You can convert matter into energy (as in Einstein's famous formula, E=mc2) but the total amount of matter/energy in the universe remains constant.

So if new matter isn't being created, where did all the existing matter come from? Scientifically speaking, I know it can't be created naturally. Therefore, it must have been created supernaturally. That is the only other option. I think secular scientists truly want to have it both ways. When pressed about the origin of matter, they sometimes weakly appeal to some quantum mechanism where electrons seem to appear out of nothing but they still refuse to abandon the trusted certainty that the net matter/energy in the universe doesn't change. They want us to believe the universe poofed into existence while simultaneously telling us matter doesn't poof into existence. It's funny. I already know matter doesn't poof into existence. Therefore, I know that matter and time and space were supernaturally created.

There are probably other examples I could give but let's wrap this up. Creation is sort of like the miracles performed by Jesus. If I lived in a 3rd world country, I might think David Blaine was a sorcerer. However, I know they're really just card tricks. They may be clever, but they're not magic. It is by that same principle that I can identify the miracles of Jesus. People can't really walk on water. People can't really rise from the dead. It is because I can understand how nature works that I know Jesus performed miracles.

Matter exists but it couldn't have been created naturally. Organization exists but it couldn't have been created naturally. They're miracles. And I don't believe they're miracles simply because science doesn't have any explanation for them. It's precisely because I understand science that I understand the creation is a miracle.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Happy Easter

Easter 2015

Reflecting on this moment’s fears
My thoughts go back two thousand years
I think of how it happened then
The Judge of all was judged by men

Condemned because he spoke good news
And charged as king; King of the Jews
Yet in his heart he held no wrath
He chose to walk another path

So I, for one, will do my part
To emulate His Sacred Heart
Regardless where the times have brought us
To love, just as the Savior taught us

To conquer all the hate and lies
And, living his example…Rise.