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The Story of Dirt

Post of the Month: February 2004


Subject:    Dirt
Date:       16 February 2004

Jason Gastrich said:

>> Oh, and while I've got you on the line, I'll ask you Lenny Frank's big
>> questions: what is the scientific theory of Young Earth Creationism,

>Is Genesis 1 and 2 difficult for you to understand? It satisfies me as a
>tenable theory of creation.

While the subject is up, I'd like to say a word or two about the world of the Genesis creation. There was a garden growing in soil. There was dust to fashion a man. There was soil to farm after the Fall. There was clay for bricks. There was sand for deserts to wander in. This all has to come from somewhere. Yes, it could all have been created in place, but before we accept this simple yet uncomfortable answer, where does dirt come from now? What is dirt?

Dirt is usually a mixture of sand, of various grain sizes, other minerals, mostly silicates, containing silicon and oxygen like sand, but other elements like iron, magnesium, and aluminum, among others. It also contains organic material, that is, material that was once alive and which furnishes nutrients to growing plants. Dirt contains varying amounts of these, and can vary from thorough mixes of ingredients to nearly "pure" states, like clays or beach sands or humus.

Where do the minerals that make dirt come from? They originally come from the weathering of igneous rock, like granites or basalts. These rocks are composed of mixes of minerals, but in the simplest terms, they are made of quartz, feldspars, some darker minerals and micas and trace minerals and elements. When they weather, the quartz is least affected, and lasts longest. That is why sand is so prevalent in most dirt. The feldspars are silicates, of varying composition, and they break down to other minerals, and many end up as clays. The rest of the minerals transform into other forms. So weathering produces most of the ingredients for soil (except for the organics and any carbonates) and by looking at the minerals in soil, you can tell something about how these minerals were weathered and what conditions they've encountered since. This is all pretty basic chemistry and physics.

Weathering, and transportation by wind or water affect the shape and size of the mineral grain. Mechanical wear, by throwing particles together, not only makes particles smaller, it affects the amount of rounding. Newly formed minerals may still show crystal faces and regular features. After enough weathering, they will lose their angularity and become more round and uniform in shape. Depending on the type of transportation, they may also become sorted out by size. The degree of sorting, both in size and in roundness can be seen and compared with a simple magnifying glass. We can also look at the sorting of various environments today and categorize sediments and soils into environments by their sorting and grain sizes and shape. Beach sand, for instance, is different from river sand or desert sand.

Weathering also affects the mineral composition of soils. Some minerals do not come directly from igneous rock, they are second, third, and even fourth-generation products of weathering. Weathering into different minerals affects the shape and crystal form of the mineral. Micas, for instance, are small, flat, sharp-edged sheets of mineral, that make sparkly grains, but they weather into clays that have flat crystals, but are flexible and very tiny, giving clay cohesiveness and form - properties that can be used as brick, and when clays lithify, as shale. Clays give texture to soil and help it hold water for growing plants.

Finally, there are elements of soils that do not come directly from rocks, but from chemical or biological activity. Beach sands in many places are composed of the ground up shells of living creatures instead of quartz. The shells can also end up as limestone, and weathred limestone, far from its origin, adds calcium (lime) to many soils. Some soils are mostly biologically generated material, like humus or peat, where few rock-derived minerals are added to the mix. Swamps are areas with very little energy for moving mineral grains around, but have lots of biologic activity, so the biological material overwhelms the sediment.

Geologists can look at environments today and see how the proportion of minerals differ, how the sorting and rounding differ, how the types of minerals imply different amounts and timespans of weathering and come up with an origin for different soils.

But in Genesis, soils were already there as given. Was there already decayed plant and animal material in the soil of the Garden and the soil Adam farmed? Were the grains of dust that were used to make Adam rounded and sorted? Did the Israelites make bricks for the Egyptians from clay that had weathered from granite or was the clay placed in the ground ready-to-use? Were the sands of the desert in Egypt that Moses walked on rounded and sorted? Did they look like beach sand before the Flood, or desert sand? Was the dirt that the Israelites plowed a few feet deep? Tens of feet deep? Hundreds? How much dirt was there anywhere? In a newly created world, why should God make more than a few feet of topsoil to farm?

Literalists say that the Flood redistributed the soils of the world and the remains of the pre-Flood animals. Yet there are soils now and sands and beaches that are hundreds of feet thick, and peat bogs and swamps well too thick to have formed in a few thousand years. If there is so much soil now, where did it come from? If it came from the ocean floor, we could tell from the grains of soil (weathering and sorting) and the minerals present that it did. There is way too much dirt on the surface of the earth for our needs, and much of it is deposited where we'll never use it, or has hardened into rock. There is too much dirt now if there was only enough dirt created for men and plants originally. And if the Flood created more particles of minerals by abrading the mountains and sea floors, it could not weather the grains and transform the minerals and gather the clays and sort grains by roughness in the period of a year.

So if God created the desert, did he create each grain to match a profile of what a desert sand looks like? We don't know, because no one in the Bible knew that there was an origin to soils, or knew about weathering or knew that minerals came from igneous rocks. We don't have any way to know whether the soil of the Garden was soil at all, or just perfectly designed Garden Chow. The Flood may have washed all the evidence away. But the Bible doesn't state that Noah walked out of the Ark and asked "Where did all the dirt come from?", so it's likely that his new world looked mostly like his old one did.

And this world has soils and dirt and sands, and each grain of that dirt has an individual history, a history of great age and slow weathering and transportation. So if soil was created, it was created as if it were old; as if vast quantities of rock and soil had existed for aeons, and had undergone innumerable cycles of lithification and weathering, mixing in rocks from many different origins together in some cases. It is a record that stands even without fossils, even without a geological column, even without evolution. When the Bible's writers described the start of the earth, they did so in terms that they knew, and because they took soil for granted, as they took the animals around them, they did not see the processes behind the dirt, or the contradiction in their description.

If dirt was created with an appearance of age, we are left with the same contradiction that we find when trying to reconcile the age of starlight, of the microwave background to the universe, of the fossil record and the geologic column. The Israelites did not know the true nature of these facets of the world, and could not know of any problem, but there is a problem for anyone who sees the world today and tries to square it literally with Genesis. So if Jason thinks that Genesis is a perfect theory for the creation of animals and plants, how well does it stand as a theory for the creation of dirt? And to get a head start, look up "soil profiles".

Tom Faller

[Return to the 2004 Posts of the Month]

Another Dishonest Creationist Quote

Post of the Month Runner-Up: February 2004


Subject:    Phillip Johnson's dishonest quote
Date:       16 February 2004

In looking at Phillip Johnson's book, Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds (Intervarsity Press, 1997), for possible use in the Quote Mine Project, I discovered a particularly dishonest example that I thought should be brought to everyone's attention, even though it isn't really suitable for inclusion in the QMP. Although this is rather long, I think it is such a revealing example that it is worth the time to read it.

First of all, here is the context Johnson uses the quote in:

What is even more interesting is that the evidence for Darwinian macroevolutionary transformations is most conspicuously absent just where the fossil evidence is most plentiful -- among marine invertebrates. (These animals are plentiful as fossils because they are so frequently covered in sediment upon death, whereas land animals are exposed to scavengers and to the elements.) If the theory were true, and if the correct explanation for the difficulty in finding ancestors were the incompleteness of the fossil record, then the evidence for macroevolution- arv transitions would be most plentiful where the record is most complete.

Here is how Niles Eldredge, one of the world's leading experts on invertebrate fossils, describes the actual situation:

"No wonder paleontologists shied away from evolution for so long. It never seems to happen. Assiduous collecting up cliff faces yields zigzags, minor oscillations, and the very occasional slight accumulation of change -- over millions of years, at a rate too slow to account for all the prodigious change that has occurred in evolutionary history. When we do see the introduction of evolutionary novelty it usually shows up with a bang, and often with no firm evidence that the fossils did not evolve elsewhere! Evolution cannot forever be going on somewhere else. Yet that's how the fossil record has struck many a forlorn paleontologist looking to learn something about evolution."

Eldredge also explains the pressures that could easily lead a forlorn paleontologist to construe a doubtful fossil as an ancestor or evolutionary transitional. Science takes for granted that the ancestors existed, and the transitions occurred, so scientists ought to be finding positive evidence if they expect to have successful careers. According to Eldredge, "the pressure for results, positive results, is enormous." [DD p. 60-61]

Johnson does not use standard footnotes or bibliographies to document such quotes but, instead, he provides informal "Research Notes" at the end of the book, a highly unusual practice for an attorney and one that can be used to hide a multitude of sins. He gives only this information about the above: "The quotation from Niles Eldredge about how evolution 'never seems to happen' is from his book Reinventing Darwin: The Great Debate at the High Table of Evolutionary Theory (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1995), p. 95" [DD p. 125]. No mention of the snippet he quotes in the last paragraph is made, even though he is blatantly attempting to use it to accuse scientists of intellectual bias at best and outright dishonesty and cupidity at worse.

Of course, when a creationist quotes Gould or Eldredge, it is all but certain to involve Punctuated Equilibrium. This is no exception. The long quote from Eldredge is fairly standard quote mining, which I'll deal with elsewhere. It is the snippet that is particularly dishonest and which I want to address here.

As I think will become clear, it is little wonder that Johnson did not bother to give a cite for the snippet: "the pressure for results, positive results, is enormous". It comes from Eldredge's Time Frames: The Rethinking of Darwinian Evolution and the Theory of Punctuated Equilibria, p. 59. As might be anticipated, the general issue under discussion is stasis in the fossil record.

But, first, some context. In this section of the book, Eldredge is discussing his early career as a paleontologist studying trilobite fossils, working towards his Ph.D. thesis. He describes his extensive travels across the Northeastern and Midwestern United States collecting fossils of Phacops rana, the particular species he was studying, and his initial puzzlement over the lack of obvious evolutionary change in the specimens he was collecting from different strata. By the then prevalent view, a slow but discernible accumulation of evolutionary change should have been observed. As he now recalls his confusion:

The European - North American collision that began about 380 million years ago did more than change the face of the globe: it also grossly affected the face of life in North America. Many of the Hamilton [trilobite] species that were to dominate American life for the next 8 million years were immigrants from Europe and Africa . . . But I knew nothing of this. . . . I chose to doubt my own ability to analyze trilobite anatomy. . . . [A]ll the trilobites really did look the same. . . . no real source of disquiet while I was driving across New York, perhaps, but soon to become a focus of desperation as the search broadened and the analysis deepened. (p. 58-59)

And now for the part where the snippet occurs:

Like all other humans starting out on some quest, on some project with a definite goal, scientists are determined to get results. Complicating the normal routine is the hassle of obtaining a Ph.D. A piece of doctoral research is really an apprenticeship, and the dissertation a comprehensive report that shows the candidate's ability to frame, and successfully pursue, an original piece of scientific research. Sounds reasonable, but the pressure for results, positive results, is enormous. If your choice is to look at evolution, and you've carefully picked out a trilobite species that meets all the criteria for a good example, and if your preliminary forays reveal a rather distressing sameness to the beasts from New York to Iowa, from the beginning of Hamilton time on up through its last gasp 8 million years later, a feeling of desperation is inevitable. For little or no change to be readily apparent over all that time and territory seemed then inconceivable -- given the goals, the aspirations and, really, the basic underlying assumptions I brought to the study in first place. Despair came full-blown late one particular afternoon in Alpena, Michigan, when, as my clothes were drying in a launderette, I took an exquisite specimen out of my pocket, pored over it with a magnifying lens and concluded it was the very same creature I had been seeing all through the Appalachians and all over the Midwest. (p. 59)

He then spends numerous pages explaining the exhaustive studies he made of the fossils he had collected and his rediscovery of the fact, previously noted in the literature, that the number of lenses making up the compound eye of P. rana varied over time. He sums it up as follows:

Now, in the entire 8 million years of Hamilton time, the greatest (though not the sole) amount of modification wrought by evolution in the Phacops rana stock was the net reduction from 18 to 15 columns of lenses. Hardly prodigious, this degree of anatomical retooling falls well within the normal bounds of "microevolution" -- loosely speaking, the kind and degree of relatively minor change that marks the difference between closely related species, and the sort of change that can be seen in rudimentary form within a single variable species. The internal, within-species variation is then supposed to supply the raw stuff for the differences we see between species -- and ultimately on up through genera, families and the really larger groups of organisms.

But, at least in the Midwest where parts of the evolutionary story of the lenses first began to come clear, we see something out of whack with prevailing expectations -- two things, really. We have, it is true, a good but far- from-perfect record, and a less-than-perfect sampling of what really is there. But as we climb up those rocks and check those samples, over what must be, in sum total, a 3-or-4-million-year period, we see some oscillation, some variation, back and forth (the two subspecies coming and going with shifting substrate) -- but no real net change at all, and no change especially in the anatomical feature, those columns of lenses in the eyes, which end up showing the greatest amount of change within the entire lineage. This is the first element: simple lack of change. (p. 70)

He then proceeds to discuss how the results of this study was, for him, the genesis of the thinking that led to Punctuated Equilibrium. The important thing to note, however, is how this story is the exact opposite of what Johnson would have you take from the snippet.

Eldredge was, of course, looking to obtain his Ph.D. and advance his career, so it is hardly surprising that he was feeling desperate to find out what was "wrong" about what he was doing; why he was not finding what he "should" under the best theory at the time. But pressure of this sort is hardly unique to scientists. Should we assume that, say, aspiring lawyers, faced with an inability to fit their knowledge within the questions asked on the bar exam, would take a "doubtful" course of action by cheating "if they expect to have successful careers"?

In fact, despite having found differences in the trilobites he was studying, he did not try "to construe a doubtful fossil as an . . . evolutionary transitional" in an attempt to salvage his career. Nor did he ignore contrary data in the face of his admitted "underlying assumptions". Instead, he faced up to the data, presented his results and eventually participated in extending, instead of "propping up", the prevalent view. While I prefer to believe that this was the result of Eldredge's personal honor and commitment to his profession, there could hardly have been a different outcome. Eldredge's conclusions and data would have been scrutinized closely, not only by the thesis examiners but, should he have tried to have had it published, as he was all but required to do, it would have been pored over by all the experts in the field. Trying to pass off a conclusion supporting the "received view" based on openly shared contrary data would have been the death of his career, not its salvation.

Johnson's preference at that point might have been for Eldredge and the rest of science to have thrown up their collective hands and declare all of life on Earth to be the inexplicable result of a mysterious (or not so mysterious) "designer", instead of seeking different answers within the broad theory. But for Johnson to use Eldredge's words in an attempt to cast aspersions on the motives of scientists is the height of cynicism, especially when the expressed objective of his book is to protect students who have a "strong Christian commitment" from the alleged "materialism" of science.

I do not think it amiss to suggest that, if Johnson truly wishes to encourage Christian commitment, he might better start where the Scriptures suggest: with personal example.

J. Pieret

We have done amazingly well in creating a cultural movement, but we must not exaggerate ID's successes on the scientific front.
                - William A. Dembski -

[Return to the 2004 Posts of the Month]

The Most Influential Creationist

Post of the Month Honorable Mention: February 2004


Subject:    Re: YEC Nobel Prize Winner
Date:       21 February 2004

in article xSvZb.10543$, Jason Gastrich wrote on 2/20/04 5:25 PM:

> Hi,
> Who among the YEC adherents and proponents would you say has influenced you
> the most? In other words, which YEC man or woman would you say is the most
> intelligent and honest and has taught you some important things about
> science and young earth creation? This question is directed to
> evolutionists first, then to all others.
> Note: I'm not looking for sarcastic comments like: "Ken Ham taught me that
> he is a bozo." Please refrain from back-handed statements because this is a
> sincere question. And the "Nobel Prize Winner" subject was just for effect.
> I'm not necessarily suggesting that any particular YECist should get the
> prize.
> Thanks for your time.
> Jason

Without a doubt the most influential YEC in my life would have to be Henry Morris. I still have his books. But "influential" and "honest" do not necessarily go together.

I grew up under the YEC influence. He was the leader of the movement, and in my fundamentalist background I accepted what he wrote unquestioningly. When I went to a Christian college, his books were in the bookstore, and one course required one of his books -- "Scientific Creationism", IIRC. I appreciated his commentary on Genesis. You could say that I "thought the world of him."

Morris and those with him were continually re-interpreting the Scripture, adding to it, trying to make the Scriptures sound modern and scientific -- and I admit that he made an impressive attempt. He did such a slick job that when you read the Bible you would insert his interpretations right in there, never thinking that you were adding to the sacred text. He would take quotes from science journals -- out of context of course, but I didn't know that -- and weave them into his tale of catastrophism and young earth creationism. He used scientific terminology, cutting it down and making scientists look like fools as he demonstrated the impossibility of evolution.

Which is why actually learning some science turned out to be such a shock.

I went to teach mathematics at a community college. One of the deans was a biological chemist, and a devout Christian. At one point, I made a disparaging remark about evolution and he looked at me rather strangely. Then he told me that I needed to do some more study -- beginning with the definitions. He was kind, showed quality Christian character -- and he taught evolution in the classroom.

So I studied, and I went back to talk with him. I compared Morris with the biology, physics, geology texts -- and found that Morris was significantly wrong on the definitions and the basics time and time again. If he was so wrong on even the definitions, what else was he wrong about?

So I did more study. Essentially, it was Morris and his errors that convinced me that creationism was wrong. Morris was so wrong about science that he had to deny the clear evidence of the creation itself! Morris did more than that. He convinced me that one could not maintain a literalist viewpoint of Scripture without having to add to it, ignore parts of it, explain away plain statements or make them mean what they don't mean and depreciate the role of the writers and make them mere automata of the Author -- when the Scripture itself makes clear their active role in the formation of Scripture. He forced the Scripture out of its grammatical and historical context to become a statement of science.

In the end, I found that losing faith in Creationism did not mean losing faith in Christ, abandoning my faith, the Bible, or justifying sin. What it did mean is that I could know that God revealed Himself to men as they were able to understand, that God gave them what they could handle. And His revelation was never about revealing the world, but Himself and His character. God wanted men to know Him. The unfolding of the world He left to mankind. I still seek to know and do His will. I pray. I study the Scriptures. I tell others of Christ's salvation. I seek God's blessing in my life, and He has blessed!

Going back and re-reading Morris' books, I now am able to point out the scientific and factual errors found in them. When I was ignorant of science, it was easy to believe what Morris said. And that is what Morris relied on. I have no doubt that Dr. Henry M. Morris knew where he was misquoting others, where he was twisting the science, where he was lying outright, and where he was adding to and distorting the Scripture in order to support his interpretation of it. He is, after all, a "Doctor", and should know science well. Why then should he have been so wrong? What else could it be but deliberate?

So I nominate Dr. Morris as the most influential YEC in my life. I just wish that things had been different. Instead of seeing him as a great Christian, I now see him as a fraud, a liar and a pretender. And it hurts.

It is a good thing that you are not suggesting that any particular YECist should get the Nobel Prize. None of them have done any real science of note that I am aware of.


Raymond E. Griffith

[Return to the 2004 Posts of the Month]

Was There a War of 1812?

Post of the Month Honorable Mention: February 2004


Subject:    Re: - Young Earth Creationists - Young Earth Creation Science-Cave Formations
Date:       24 February 2004

On Mon, 23 Feb 2004 19:16:25 +0000, Pastor Dave wrote:

> On Mon, 23 Feb 2004 17:47:07 +0000 (UTC), "Daniel Harper" spake thusly:
>>On Mon, 23 Feb 2004 14:02:36 +0000, Pastor Dave wrote:
>>> On Sun, 22 Feb 2004 23:02:48 +0000 (UTC), "Richard S. Crawford" spake thusly:
>>>>>>> "Seemed to"? You call that scientific fact? Can you replicate it
>>>>>>> or not?
>>>>>>What the hell is a "scientific fact", Dave? The observations can be
>>>>>>replicated. Here's one way you can replicate one key observation at
>>>>>>home. Turn your TV on and change it to a channel where you get
>>>>>>nothing but snow. A part of the static is cosmic background
>>>>> The event cannot be reproduced and so all you are left with, are
>>>>> conclusions that you draw from looking at certain pieces of evidence,
>>>>> which may or may not actually mean what you claim.
>>>>You're quite right in that there may NOT have been a Big Bang.
>>> That's all I was looking for. :)
>>Richard would very likely also agree with the statement, "There might NOT
>>have been a War of 1812" or "There might NOT have been a Black Death" by
>>the very same rules.
> Now you're lying again. Evolution as you believe it to have happened, is
> not a matter of fact, as these historical events are.
> You people claim to be honest. You claim that science isn't in the
> business of proof. Then when it's pointed out to you that what you have
> is a belief, you try to twist the language beyond the breaking point and
> compare the unproven to the proven.

I try to be as scrupulously honest in my dealings with people on Usenet as it is possible to be. If you know of a particular example of me being dishonest, please point out to me the circumstances that you feel show my dishonesty and I will apologize immediately and take whatever steps necessary to make restitution to those I harmed. Unless you can tell me exactly how I have been dishonest, I'd really prefer if you would not call me a "liar". It gets me a little... angry with those who accuse me of moral laxitude that does not represent me.

Oh, and by the way, just because my opinions disagree with yours does not mean that I'm lying. Nor because I happen to know more than you do about the methods of science.

>>Science does not deal in certainties (in Truth);
> It is certain that the historical events took place. What you believe is
> not certain, but you knew that and thought you'd be dishonest instead.

You say that the War of 1812 is "certain", eh? Well, it just so happens that there's this group of historians called the In-Credulous Research: Incorporated Institute (ICR:II) who work down the block from me. They call themselves a historical organization, but in fact they're more of a religious group who believes that Great Britain is a tool of the devil, and cannot ever have won a war against the United States, which is entirely Good and Holy. They will not accept the War of 1812 unless I can prove to them 100% that it happened.

Now, I think there are several independent lines of evidence for the War of 1812, but it turns out that these sorts of things are less certain than I imagined.

1. I first started showing them in mainstream history books about the early American history; the War of 1812 is assumed as fact in all of them. I conjectured that since the entire weight of historical opinion was in favor of the notion, that there might be something to it. The ICR:II argued that the books were mainstream, yes, but that they believed that all the writers of the books were simply "copying off each other" as it were, and not looking at the real evidence in favor of a non-War of 1812 view of history. Also, since they are textbook publishers, then they have a financial stake in telling people what they want to hear, i.e. the Anti-American message that Great Britian once defeated the United States in a war. So they rejected all the textbooks.

2. Taking that in stride, I started assembling contemporary accounts from the time in question, accounts by some of the sailors and soldiers involved, by diplomats, the original treaties and supply orders and all that "paper trail"-type evidence that I thought was pretty conclusive that something happened that could be called the "War of 1812". But the historians over at the ICR:II shook their heads at me and said that all those paper documents might have been faked, and that since most of them are held at major institutions of learning, anyway, that the mainstream historical scientists had had plenty of opportunity to fake all those documents to suppress the Real Truth about the War of 1812. Furthermore, all of those "witnesses", even if the documents were not faked, only saw bits and pieces of what might have been called the "War of 1812"; they only saw what was on their ship, or in their battlefield, and so they might have actually been fighting another war/battle altogether, against very different enemies. So we can't be 100% certain that the War of 1812 happened, so they refused to accept it.

3. Flummoxed now, I started going to the sites of the original battles from nearly two centuries ago. I wanted to see if I could find hard, empirical evidence that these battles had taken place. Despite the ravages of time, I found scorch patterns in the dirt in some areas indicating cannon blasts, leftover gunpowder and other munitions, centuries-old latrines, a few leftover body parts (now decayed skeletons), et cetera. I took this to the good folks over at the ICR:II and showed them off. I was certain that they'd be forced to accept the mainstream interpretation of events. But they looked at all that evidence and, at each piece, repeated what they said regarding the documents I provided. You see, those pieces of evidence, while possibly actually accurate (not faked by the historical establishment) only revealed tiny pieces of what mainstream historians called the "War of 1812". A few pieces of shrapnel here and there, a little bit of scorched Earth; they agreed with me that some sort of battles (micro-wars, they called them) had happened on these areas, but they disagreed with the interpretation that placed these micro-wars together to form the larger whole.

For, they continued, what is a "War", anyway? It's not as concrete as we like to think; individual battles may or may not have any concrete connection to the War Declaration, and any piece of evidence I find might not be a part of the actual War itself, but simply a micro-war fought over territory or some such. And the War Declaration didn't give a list of people who would fight in the War, didn't provide a list of the battlegrounds that would be fought over, and after the war there was no mention in the Peace Treaty as to what kinds of damages were considered to have happened during that War. So, while they agreed that my so-called "naturalistic" interpretation of the evidence might be valid, it was only one interpretation of the given facts, and so had no more reason to be called true history than their own version of events.

4. Ah, ha! I called out, which startled them a bit. You see, I said, no single piece of evidence proves that the War of 1812 happened; it's the convergence of several independent lines of evidence, within an interpretive framework of naturalism, that provides compelling evidence to accept any hypothesis regarding historical information. The War of 1812 is accepted by every historian of note; it is the mainstream view of those who have spent decades in some cases understanding the evidence. The ICR:II, if they disagreed with the mainstream view, should put together an alternative understanding of the independent lines of evidence and try to get it published in a peer-reviewed historical journal. That way, their ideas could be tested by the actual historians who studied the field. By the way, I asked, what exactly is your interpretation of the evidence supporting the War of 1812; what is your version of events?

The guy I was talking to (his name was Dwayne Fish, I think) hemmed and hawed and said that they were working on that, that naturalistic historians refused to fund their research entities, and that a "Historical Theory of Anti-War of 1812-ism" was probably years away. Then he kicked me out of his building, saying something about a meeting at an Ohio school board he was late for....

I went into a nearby convenience store and bought a cup of coffee, for such tends to help me think. I sat on the street corner and considered Mr. Fish and his group at the ICR:II. It ocurred to me that no single piece of evidence is truly compelling in and of itself for much of anything, particularly historical and scientific theories, and that a sufficiently driven individual could deny virtually any hypothesis with the same amount of gusto, if it conflicted with already-held, deep-seated opinions (particularly those of a religious nature). What matters is not 100% truth, but convergence of independent lines of evidence onto a single conclusion which is testable and theoretically falsifiable. And, if a group like the ICR:II wanted to disagree with that, then all they'd have to do is figure out a new way of interpreting all the evidence that fit into an established interpretive framework. Pity that instead of doing that, Mr. Fish and his colleagues spent all their time in school-board meetings.

I hope you've enjoyed my little tale. I shall now continue with the message already in progress.

>>it deals in "best fit for the evidence" at any given time.
> You call it, "the best evidence". Evidence does not prove an occurrence
> that can be attributable to something else. Science looks at evidence and
> draws conclusions about what caused it. That is not the same as the
> existence of gravity, which you people always quote, since I can watch a
> ball drop. I cannot watch a Big Bang.

You certainly can watch a ball drop, but what does that ball dropping mean? It certainly does not, by itself, imply a gravitational force. Early Greek philosophers (I believe it was Aristotle who first proposed this) argued that the universe was composed of four elements, Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, and that each element sought out its kind. So that a ball (made of solid materials that were ultimately Earth) sought out its "kind" and came back to the larger Earth. We might also consider alternate hypotheses like, "the Earth sucks" when regarding a ball falling. You certainly can't prove gravity just by dropping a ball.

Furthermore, the thing we call "gravity" is a universal force that explains a lot more than just a ball dropping. It also explains things like the movements of the planets, spiral galaxies, binary star systems, et cetera. And the formation of the large structures of the universe may be explained by string theory, which is based in part on gravitational understanding. Black holes are objects of sufficient density that not even light can escape; gravity explains these, as well. The thing about the Theory of Gravity is that it explains so many different phenomena, and has multiple, independent lines of evidence supporting it. It's a lot more complicated than just, "a ball drops, it's gravity!"

>>So while we can
>>have a great deal of certainty that something like the Big Bang happened,
>>we cannot know for 100% certain. This 1) is always admitted by any honest
>>scientist studying the topic and 2) by no means makes the claims of
>>science invalid when compared to mythology. More below.
> And yet, you try to reword it so that everyone will believe that it is
> 100% certain. It is also obvious that you do not follow this rule, or you
> would have left room for doubt, instead of trying to compare it to known
> historical events, which the Big Bang is not.

Nothing is 100% certain. Except, possibly, "I think, therefore I am". All knowledge is based on inference from past experience; what we call "science" is just a rigorous, codified set of rules for determining levels of certainty we have about the observable universe. The Theory of Evolution is at least as certain as any historical fact you might happen to name, and I'd say the evidence supporting evolution is far more certain than some other things that we'd likely accept as "fact" within other contexts, such as the life of Jesus or Socrates.

>>>>But the preponderance of evidence makes it pretty darn likely.
>>> You mean you believe that. You cannot prove it.
>>"Proof" is a term for mathematics and other formal logics.
> Face it, you cannot prove it. Why not just admit that, without the
> rewording?

I cannot "prove" anything other than mathematics in a strict sense. The Theory of Evolution is no exception. Tell me why you think the War of 1812 is a "fact" but that evolution is not. What standards of evidence do you accept in the case of the War of 1812, that you'd reject in the case of evolutionary biology? Keep in mind those good folks at the ICR:II when you answer.

>>> Are you saying that proper science throws out the truth, for a lie?
>>> When science looks for answers, is it not looking for the correct
>>> answers? And are not the correct answers the truth?
>>Trying to be Socrates now, are we, "What is Truth?" ;->
> That was Pilate, but that's irrelevant.

Socrates asked first. <smile> And your questions reminded me of some of the Platonic dialogues, which is why I made that comment.

> That is the question people like
> you ask, when faced with the fact that all you have is a belief. A faith.

I have multiple independent lines of evidence supporting the Theory of Evolution, and those evidences rely on no more assumptions than you and I make every day when we drive to the store to get some groceries. It's called methodological naturalism, and the only alternatives are either solipsism (which rejects the idea that we can have any knowledge at all outside "I think therefore I am") or schizophrenia (which rejects the idea that the universe is self-consistent). Either alternative rejects knowledge that, if you are able to feed yourself and use the computer, you already accept implicitly. I'm only asking you to be honest enough with yourself that you can understand that scientific inference is at least as valid as the assumptions you make in your day-to-day life.

>>>> Therefore, humans and apes have something in common.
>>>>And then scientists work to understand what the "something in common"
>>>>might be.
>>> It's blood and a heart. That does not mean that man came from ape.
>>Not by itself, no. But the observations (along with literally millions of
>>much more detailed observations) may indeed point in that direction.
>>Richard was only trying to show you what scientific inference looked
>>like. It appears that he aimed a bit too high for your understanding.
> There are no such thing as these supposed "observations". There is no
> evidence that automatically concludes evolution, as you believe it to have
> happened.

Please explain the twin-nested heirarchy, then. If you don't know what that is, start with Douglas Theobald's outstanding "29 Evidences for Macroevolution" FAQ over at the archive.

>>>>>>>>> Therefore, it is based on faith,
>>>>>>>>> which is only logical, considering that it cannot be reproduced.
>>>>>>>>Observations are reproduced. That is sufficient for science.
>>>>>>> Not according to the rules. But hey, whatever allows you to deny
>>>>>>> God, you'll accept without question.
>>>>>>The Big Bang has nothing to do with denying God.
>>>>> Sure it does.
>>>>How? I am a Christian, with a very strong faith, and I don't feel that
>>>>the Big Bang in any way denies God or God's ability to create the
>>>>Universe or how He chooses to manifest Himself. In fact, everything
>>>>that I have learned about the Universe and how it works and how it
>>>>might have come into being fills me with more awe and wonder about His
>>>>awesome power. How, then, is this a denial of God?
>>> If you have such a strong faith, let me ask you, why do you deny God's
>>> word? That is a serious question.
>>And though I am not Richard, you will get a serious answer from me. You
>>and I both start with the text of the Bible, in terms of our
>>understanding of God's purpose. You see the text as literally written by
>>God, who had wholly literal intentions across the entire text (or at
>>least large portions of it), and whose words are understandable to all
>>persons at any time.
>>I posit, instead, that while the authors of the Bible were, in some
>>sense, inspired by God (as are we all), that they wrote their own very
>>flawed interpretation of what they saw. Much of the Bible (particularly
>>the Pentateuch) reached its current form after a great deal of
>>reinterpretation of history; the Bible as we read it today is not one
>>book, but many separate books that have been combined haphazardly to
>>create a collection of documents. These documents are valuable in that
>>they show a progression in Man's understanding of God, but they do not
>>necessarily reflect God's Own Thinking on subjects.
>>I do not reject God's word. I understand the words of the Bible within
>>the context in which they were written, and within the context of their
>>eventual deposition to me in their current form. I understand that the
>>Bible is nearly four thousand years old in places, and written for a
>>culture that is very, very different from my own, and that that culture
>>placed emphasis on certain values that have no relevance to modern
>>society, with its very different social and economic system.
>>Genesis One and Two are not literal accounts. They are attempts to
>>describe the nature of God within the context of existing myths of the
>>surrounding culture. Hence they need not reflect, in any way, shape, or
>>form, the current understanding of cosmological truth. To say otherwise
>>is to reduce that powerful document of human and religious existence we
>>call the Bible to a fairy-tale book for grownups who have not yet learned
>>to face the realities around them. The Universe is Old, mankind evolved
>>from lower organisms. This does not mean the Christian conception of God
>>is false; it only means that we must work harder in order to understand
> All you are saying, is that you don't believe the Bible. If it is not
> accurate, then throw it away. It shouldn't be trusted and there goes your
> whole faith.

The Bible is not accurate on scientific matters. I refuse to shut my eyes to the world around me for the limiting faith that you seem to have. If you choose to do so, that is your right, but please stop pretending that your worldview is "scientific", and please tell those who are attempting to get your worldview taught in schools to go home and stop trying to destroy American education.

> The fact is, that if Genesis 1 & 2 are not history, then your Saviour is a
> fake and the Bible is a joke.

Not true. But if that's how you feel, I wonder how many people you get to come to Christ.

...and it is my belief that no greater good has ever befallen you in this city than my service to my God. [...] Wealth does not bring goodness, but goodness brings wealth and every other blessing, both to the individual and that state.

Plato, quoting Socrates, from the Apology

--Daniel Harper

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