Archive for the 'Creationism/ID' Category

Aug 29 2013

Logic vs Ray Comfort

Published by under Creationism/ID

Ray “The Bananaman” Comfort has a reputation for having a casual relationship with logic. Perhaps it’s better to say that they are complete strangers. His latest assault on reason is a an ambush video called “Evolution vs God.” The entire video, right from the title, is an exercise in asking loaded questions.

In the video Comfort is behind the microphone asking apparently random people on a college campus, plus a couple of professors (including PZ Myers), ambush questions about life, the universe, and everything. The video is then edited into brief clips (short attention span theater style) to make it look like Comfort stumped the person being interviewed or that he caught them in a logical trap. The strategy is maximally unfair to those being interviewed, and intellectually disingenuous or just lazy.

Warning – if you have any ability to think critically, or any intellectual self-respect, the video may induce a feeling of extreme disgust, and in some cases heavy vomiting.

Comfort employs two main strategies in his questioning. The first is to ask very nuanced and complicated questions in a simplistic manner. For example, he asks, “Is morality absolute?” followed up by questions like, “Is rape morally wrong?” The philosophical basis of morality is a complex issue, not a fitting subject for a quick one-line answer.

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Aug 22 2013

T-rex a Vegetarian?

Published by under Creationism/ID

Creationists often have a flagrant disregard for the truth, at times to humorous effect. They often make claims that assault basic logic and common sense, let alone the scientific evidence. One such claim is the focus of a recent video uploaded to YouTube by Paul Taylor from Creation Today, in which he claims that Tyrannosaurus rex was a vegetarian.

Let’s see if we can follow his tortuous logic.

He does acknowledge that T. rex looks like a creature that is supposed to have “et people.” Of course T. rex went extinct about 65 million years before people existed, but that’s a detail that seems to have escaped Taylor. As you will see, attention to detail is not something at which creationists excel.

Taylor further acknowledges that there is “circumstantial” evidence that T. rex may have eaten meat He refers to a triceratops fossil with a T. rex tooth mark, but is clearly minimizing the significance of this evidence as what he calls circumstantial.

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Aug 20 2013

Creationism is Not Science

“In fact, we have solid proof in our hands that evolution’s a lie: the Bible. You see, we can’t depend solely on our reasoning ability to convince skeptics. We present the evidence and do the best we can to convince people the truth of God by always pointing them to the Bible.”

The above quote is from Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis, from a radio commercial to promote his creation museum. Ham also says:

“You know, many of us would love to have the final proof that evolution’s a lie; the right scientific proof will silence those opposed to biblical creation forever, right? Well, no. You see, Romans Chapter one tells us that God has revealed himself to man in nature, so there’s no excuse for denying the witness of creation.”

These quotes are very revealing in multiple ways. First they show that creationists and creationism are not monolithic – there is a range of beliefs and strategies under the “big tent” of creationism. They are all united by their opposition to evolution, and essentially agree to disagree until the great evil of evolution is vanquished. Meanwhile they are stomping on each-other’s toes.

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May 31 2013

Final Response from Don McLeroy

Here is it.

Steven,

We agree that historical sciences like evolution are “tested” by the evidence. My key insight from our discussion is we disagree about the amount of evidence needed to demonstrate evolution. I want to see significantly greater evidence than you do.

I admit that I do not have the time to read all the technical articles and read all the links you have referred to, but I do not admit that I am unable to judge the adequacy of the evidence evolutionists have presented for evolution. I have read the popular literature of highly acclaimed evolutionists; I have thought about how much evidence is required to demonstrate evolution. And, I have found it unconvincing.

Of course our major disagreement is that I am a theist and you are an atheist. I wonder how much that “colors” our view of the sufficiency of the evidence for evolution.

Thank you again for the opportunity to be interviewed on your podcast and to have this this continued dialog. I have truly enjoyed our discussion; you are the proverbial “scholar and a gentleman.” 

Don

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May 28 2013

Don McLeroy Replies

Two weeks ago I wrote a four-part post analyzing the claims of Don McLeroy, former chairman of the Texas Board of Education, based mostly on an interview I did with him on the SGU. The posts also included some responses from Don. Don has been travelling, but has now returned and had time for a thorough response to the entire series of posts. Here is his response in its entirety, with my reply following:

Steven,

For me, the main topic under discussion is the strength and weakness of the evidence for evolution. My entire argument in 2009 and today is that the evidence supporting evolution—the idea that all life is descended from a common ancestor due to unguided natural processes—is weak.

Again, the key criterion for science is testability. Evolution is overwhelmingly tested historically by making observations—finding evidence. The more evidence found the stronger the case; the less evidence found the weaker the case.

I have read your comments and the comments of others posted on your podcast and NeuroLogica blog posts. Here is the summary of actual evidence that I gleaned from these comments. I probably missed some, but I do not think it invalidates my argument about the weakness of the evidence for evolution.

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May 17 2013

An Interview with Don McLeroy, Part IV

This is the fourth is a series of posts analyzing the claims of Don McLeroy, former chairman of the Texas School Board of Education and young Earth creationist. I recently interviewed Don on the SGU about his successful insertion into the Texas science textbook standards language requiring books to address stasis and suddenness in the fossil record and the complexity of the cell.

In parts 2 and 3 I addressed Don’s stasis and suddenness arguments. They are classic denialist fallacies – focusing on lower order details as if they call into question higher order patterns (they don’t). In this case, Don is arguing that the fact that many (not all) species display relative morphological stability in the fossil record, with episodes of (geologically) rapid speciation events, calls into question the bigger picture of the change of species over time in an exquisitely evolutionary pattern.

The former is a reflection of the tempo of evolutionary change and an artifact of the fossil record, while the latter is home-run unequivocal evidence for common descent and evolutionary change. Don has not provided any explanation for why the pattern of change we see in the fossil record presents any problems for evolutionary theory.

In this post I will address Don’ other main point, which he feels is the greatest weakness of evolutionary theory – the complexity of the cell. His premise seems to be that, if evolution were true, then evolutionary biologists should be able to provide detailed evidence for the specific evolutionary history of many biochemical pathways and cell structures. He argues that they cannot, and therefore the evidence for evolution is weak.

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May 16 2013

An Interview with Don McLeroy, Part III

This week I am posting a discussion with Don McLeroy, a young Earth creationist and former chairman of the Texas Board of Education during the recent controversy over the science textbook standards. This is a follow up to an interview I did with him on the SGU.

Don has been traveling a bit this week, so our e-mail conversation has been slow, but we have had a few exchanges. For today’s post I want to simply reprint that exchange and then add a few thoughts, before I go onto new territory, which I will do in tomorrow’s post.

Here is Don’s response to my prior posts:

Steven,

I do have time for one reply.

First, you keep bringing up creationism while I do not; I am only discussing the evidence for evolution–the idea that all life is descended from a common ancestor as a result of unguided natural processes.

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May 14 2013

An Interview with Don McLeroy, Part II

In part I of my analysis of a recent interview with Don McLeroy on the SGU I discussed his assertion that those of faith are more free to accept or reject the evidence for evolution, while strict materialists can only accept it as it is the only materialist option. I mentioned in that post that I would invite Don to respond – I did and he did.

In this post I will include Don’s response and then my further analysis of his response. I will then extend the discussion to other points that Don raised during the SGU interview.

Don McLeroy Responds to Part I

Steven,

Thank you for this opportunity to respond.

We are mirror images of each other. I see you as you see me-as “an excellent example of the power of motivated reasoning,” as “firmly in phase 2,” and as someone who might be considered “embedded” in a culture of their own publications, institutions, and websites.

At least we both agree to follow the evidence where ever it leads.

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May 13 2013

An Interview with Don McLeroy, Part I

Published by under Creationism/ID

On the SGU this week we did an interview with Don McLeroy, the former chairman of the Texas School Board of Education, famous for his (successful) attempts to insert wording into the science textbook standards that would open the door for creationist arguments.

The interview was very enlightening. In my opinion it was an excellent example of the power of motivated reasoning – if we have a conclusion in mind, people are very good at finding a mental path to get there.

We rarely do confrontational interviews on the SGU, but the few we have done I am generally happy with. The risk is that the tone of the interview will go sour. I have only done such interviews when I feel that the person being interviewed will be able to stay calm and professional even as we dismantle their position. Another risk is that the interviewee, who likely is a passionate and eloquent defender of their fringe position, will make it difficult to get a word in edgewise, resulting in a Gish Gallop.

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May 10 2013

Separation of Church and State

A comment on my recent post about Backdoor Creationism calls into question the premise that the US Constitution demands separation of church and state, and therefore religious beliefs cannot be taught in public schools. The comment reads:

The first amendment states that the federal government can neither (sic) or prohibit the exercise of religion. “separation of church and state” is just a propaganda term used by some to stave off religious nuts who use undue social pressures or indoctrination to push their beliefs to others.

Here’s a section of the first amendment.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

And here’s the definition of the word “respecting” from a dictionary dated 5 years after the adoption of the Bill of Rights.

RESPECT’ING, ppr. Regarding; having regard to ; relating to.

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