Monday, 30 July 2012

The Radiation Of Marsupials Post-Flood?

Following on from yesterday's post about a video by GreenSlugg, I want to follow up with something that emerged from the comments. Not content to sling arguments from my own blog, I engaged GreenSlugg on the comment section of his video. He claimed to have an answer to my objection about marsupials in terms of geographic distribution by sending me to another video.

Now that 9 minute video was quite tedious, he tended to lack a coherence to his argument and tended to ramble. Yet the video he wanted me to watch was over 3 times that length, coming in at 29 minutes! 29 minutes of him going through objections to Noah's Ark. You'd think in 29 minutes you could get through a lot, but he managed to get through four. Though to his credit, he managed to throw in a 2 minute plug for Jesus halfway through.
  1. How did Noah get two of each animal?(Answer: Noah didn't, God did. Read your bible more)
  2. a) How did Noah get so many species on the ark? (Answer: Noah didn't need to, the each pair of a 'kind' radiated out into all the species there are today)
    b) How did they stop the predators from eating the weak? (Answer: kept the predators in cages, just like at the zoo)
  3. What about dinosaurs? (Answer: only needed 50 'kinds', kept them as juveniles "no bigger than a football")
  4. What about marsupials? (Answer: it's a mystery to both creationists and evolutionists)
For anyone up for 29 minutes of creationist reasoning:

After all that, you could imagine my disappointment. He didn't give an answer at all, other than to make a tu quoque claim that evolution has a problem in answering the marsupial problem as well. My whole point is that Creation doesn't give reasonable explanations for why we should expect things to be the way they are; and sitting through 29 minutes of video to hear 6 minutes and 30 seconds of avoiding the challenge - that's simply pathetic. The closest thing to an answer was a link to a page on CreationWiki, but that could have been provided without the 29 minutes of incredulous tedium.

It's the lack of a good answer as to why the patterns are the way they are that's problematic. Without any reason as to why a certain pattern is the way it is means that there can be no claim of compatibility between an explanation and the evidence. All that we get is handwaving, as is the case in that video. He starts by claiming that it's wrong to call Noah's Ark a story, because that would imply it's a fairy tale - and he said: "I believe it's a true event". That's it!

For all the attempts to explain why objections fall flat, the main objection was dealt with as an article of faith. All that time trying to explain how small the dinosaur eggs were or that all the species really just came from a single breeding pair of a kind, or citing cave drawing as evidence humans and dinosaurs coexisted, or that kangaroos did migrate from the middle east - there was nothing beyond an article of faith that one should take Noah's Ark as something to even consider historically.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Noah's Ark and Biogeography

One cannot argue about the empirical in a vacuum; otherwise the claims will be ad hoc and unsubstantiated. When Jerry Coyne mentioned in a talk about biogeography not having a good account under creation, the Youtuber GreenSlug decided to take Jerry Coyne to task.

The response is not pretty in terms of its understanding of biogeography - in the end he frames it as a problem of migration for both evolution and creation. Even if this were the case (obviously there's migration), the reason why biogeography is such good evidence for evolution is the patterns of distribution. The question of why there are placental mammals and marsupials that are near identical in their appearance and evolutionary niche, but that marsupials are only found near other marsupials, is easily explained by evolutionary theory but has no reason as to why it should be so under Creation.

Yet GreenSlugg claims to have an answer: "biogeography makes perfect sense in light of creation: Noah". This is the problem of arguing in a vacuum. How does it make "perfect sense" exactly? Not through having any reason for any particular patterns just to be the way they are as arguing for migration post flood doesn't explain any patterns the way they are. How did flightless birds get to New Zealand but not any land mammals? How did Australia and South America end up with all the marsupials (and very different marsupials at that)?

GreenSlugg invoked land bridges for the animals to cross. In addition to the absurdity of why it is that certain morphologically-related animals all went in a similar direction, there's absolutely no evidence whatsoever that such land bridges even existed - let alone that's the way it happened. He hasn't explained anything other than to create a "just so" account with an implausible mechanism with no regard for any actual evidence. If it makes "perfect sense", it's because there's no trying to marry evidence with the hypothesis. It's junk speculation!

Yet to think about the kind of answer that GreenSlugg gives, it's a problem of trying to marry a natural account with a miracle. If he's just trying to say it's not impossible to see how a Creation account could handle biogeography, there are a lot of easier ways to do it. The Creator could have moved the animals to where the Creator desired, with no need to say there were land bridges. The Creator could have created all the species after the flood without any need to account for migration. The Creator, once you grant a miracle, could do anything to make the patterns how we see it now. It's why invoking a Creator is a bad explanation.

I don't see any need to try to make a supernatural account otherwise plausible, as the supernatural account is still going to be the sticking point. Instead of just saying "God did it the way God did it because God did it that way" (i.e. a miracle), it's God did it plus a lot of ad hoc claims that have no more validity than just invoking a miracle. Is there some veneer of plausibility that comes from trying to include a naturalistic framework around a supernatural? I don't see the point!

A good explanation is one that can be falsified; it's one that gives reasons for why things are the way they are, and why they are not the way they aren't. A bad explanation is one that can easily be modified to fit the data however it is. To say that Creation can explain biogeography would mean that the account of Creation would have to be able to sit closely with the evidence. Otherwise any attempt to say Creation can account for the pattern of evidence is trivial - there's nothing in the account that even tries.

The real absurdity in all this is supposing that Noah's Ark is literal history to begin with; that a grown man even tries to undertake a reconciliation between myth and history is pathetic. There was no global flood, there was no single point of radiation of life, and the Genesis account of the global flood is not meant to be taken as science. All else that follows is mistaken on that error, though it was interesting to see the failure in reason that such a pitiful "defence" offered.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Behaving Like Animals

The event* in Colorado was unspeakably tragic. There's simply not the words to adequately express the horror of such an action. Rubbing salt into the wound, though, are those who seek to capitalise the tragedy for their own agenda. Perhaps it's understandable when it's trying to highlight the plight of the mentally ill or to have a conversation about what role a society has with guns, as those conversations at least seem relevant. But there's Rick Warren, who was quick to point the blame at the teaching of evolution.

One could take issue with the cheap opportunism; that the convenient scapegoating has little to do with reality and only serves to push Warren's ideological agenda. But the sentiment seems quite in line with a narrative that fundamentalists have been pushing about evolution. One only needs to watch Expelled** to see the tight coupling of evolution and immorality. The biblical scholar Hector Avalos has gone so far as to say: "One understands nothing about creationism unless one understands that it is meant to be a system of ethics."

Evidentially, this is a hot-button issue among creationists. But however irritating the persistent associations between evolution and immorality are, the most irritating thing is how badly creationists miss the point. Of course we are going to behave like animals. We are animals, ergo we behave like animals.

What Rick Warren and others like him miss, is that there's nothing to preclude animal nature from having a moral component to it. It's an interesting question for biologists as to why it is that there's so much in the way of cooperative behaviour in nature***, but are we to see ourselves warning others of an impending danger to our own detriment as some angelic act, while dismissing the same in a prairie dog? Does our protection of the young have a nobility that a bear defending its young lacks?

Even if Rick Warren thinks that moral prescriptions are handed down from a deity, it doesn't mean that a view without a deity is simply how he sees the world minus what God adds to the framework. It's a failure to comprehend the view in question, which is what a good education system should work to alleviate. Perhaps if creationists weren't so busy trying to water down the teaching of evolution, they might at least understand what it is to be an animal.

*The Dark Knight Rises shooting.
**Or not, it's a terrible film.
*** One interesting answer

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

The Righteous And The Oblivious: A Parable

There once was a person who saw a grave problem with the world. Everywhere they looked, they saw the problem perpetuate and persist. Yet this problem could have been resolved or minimised if only people would be aware that the problem existed. They decided to take up the righteous cause to help make the world a better place.

The righteous person encountered an oblivious person, one who didn't see there was a problem. The oblivious person couldn't understand where the righteous person was coming from, while the righteous person got mad at the oblivious person for being so oblivious. After all, how could the oblivious person not see the right that inspired the righteousness?

The oblivious person, on the other hand, couldn't see what the problem was. All that person saw was the righteous attitude that was being taken; that they were being preached to and belittled over something they couldn't see as a problem. After all, how could the righteous person expect the oblivious person to see they're right?

The oblivious person came to associate the cause of the righteous with the negativity of the message. The label came to be used in a derogatory manner, with the message lost behind the hostility of the messengers. A person sympathetic to the cause would distance themselves from the label, while the righteous would lambast the sympathist for either not taking the issue seriously enough or for undermining those who are speaking out.

An argument broke out between the righteous and the sympathist. The righteous saw the sympathist as not taking the problem seriously enough, and as being ineffectual. At the same time the sympathist saw the righteous person as exacerbating the problem by creating a negative image, and not getting through to the oblivious person.

In the end, the oblivious person remained oblivious, and the problem remained a problem. The righteous person remained outraged, while the sympathist lamented the lack of progress being made on both sides. The sympathist couldn't become righteous because the oblivious person would remain oblivious. The oblivious person couldn't become righteous because they could not see the problem. And the righteous person remained righteous as the problem persisted.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Thought Of The Day

If analogies were perfect, they would be examples.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Thought Of The Day

People in a movement based on knowledge have an obligation to argue their case on its merits, and to not let righteous indignation detract from that aim.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Won't Someone Please Think Of The Children?

With all the talk of online behaviour and whether or not any of it is acceptable, I do wonder how it is we could put the discussions into some perspective. My proposal:
A place would be out of hand if one couldn't take a transcript of the discussion and show it to a child on how we ought to resolve disagreements.
Even if we do take into account the odd individual who is there to bait, as well as the occasional angry tirade as being exceptions, what good are we doing if we cannot even begin to live up to what we would expect of our children? It's odd, to me at least, that there was more expected of me when I was 8 than in any dialogue as an adult.