Monday, March 20, 2006

Creationist Claims Part 2

Evolution hasn't been proven.

Fallacies include argument from ignorance, equivocation and slothful induction

This claim is true, but it doesn't go far enough. No scientific theory can be "proved"; this is because in science, you can never be 100% certain you you've identified all of the relevant axioms and principles. The best you can hope for is that a theory is well-supported by empirical evidence, and evolution is extremely well-supported.

Evolution cannot be proven, but it has been observed. When scientists took a sample of Nereis Acuminata, separated it, and exposed them to three different environments, they were unsuccessful in their attempts to cross them, which is one of the many evidences for natural selection and evolution.

Evolution could be disproved. Many have attempted to disprove it; all of them have failed. This means that it is probably true.

Evolution can't be replicated.

This is a four term fallacy (science, replication of experiments, evolution, replication of evolution)

How often has Creationism been replicated? This one example of a Creationist argument which would be at least as damaging to creationism as it could be to real science. Science can be based on observation & deduction. Falsifiability is probably a better criterion for determining science. Evolution and common descent are both falsifiable.

Humans have created (evolved) thousands of breeds of domesticated plants and animals. Bacteria evolving resistances to antibiotics or insects evolving resistances to insecticides happen again and again. The beaks of "Darwin's Finches" evolve again and again with climate changes. No, we can't re-run millions of years of history in the lab to re-create a particular evolutionary history; however, we can replicate fossil finds to confirm previous results and run genetic comparison experiments again and again.

Science requires that experiments can be replicated (assuming that it is possible to replicate the experimental conditions). Evolution is a theory, not an experiment.
Many sciences are not replicable by the above logic, including astronomy, archaeology, and history. Is the study of Ancient Rome not a science because we cannot replicate the Roman Empire? What is important is that observations of the evidence can be made repeatedly and consistently and that experiments based on those theories produce replicable results, not that events themselves can be replicated.
The eruption of Mt. St. Helens can not be replicated but its consequences and causes can be studied scientifically.

Evolution is only a theory.

Fallacies contained in this claim include slothful induction, equivocation and too broad.

The germ theory of disease is "only a theory" and so is atomic theory, as well as the special and general theories of relativity, and, indeed, every scientific concept that has ever been confirmed by empirical evidence. If "it's only a theory" is a valid reason to dismiss the theory of evolution, it is, equally, a valid reason to dismiss all of science. It is a measure of how utterly weak the Creationist position is, that Creationists must resort to arguments which would, if valid, nuke the entirety of scientific endeavor.

Theory is used to mean an idea that may or may not be true; a scientist would refer to this as a hypothesis. When a scientist uses the word theory, s/he means a hypothesis which has been tested and has so far passed all of its tests.

Experiments confirming or disproving scientific theories are being conducted every day. Evolution, as a "theory", has stood the test of time - dismissing it as a wild guess or based on no experimental evidence blatantly ignores the last few centuries of research and proof of its validity. In the spectrum of valid theories: [Evolution : ID :: Gravity : Astrology]

Evidence for evolution has not been observed.

This a slothful induction fallacy.

In science, "evidence" usually only has meaning when related to a hypothesis. We compare data to the predictions of a hypothesis. If the data agrees with the predictions, it becomes evidence for the hypothesis, otherwise it becomes evidence against. In a way this might be referred to as interpreting evidence to fit the hypothesis, but the process isn't so subjective as the word "interpretation" implies. All of the sciences work in this manner, so criticizing evolution for it is hypocritical.

Science is about explaining the makeup of the natural world, not interpreting it to fit a preconceived belief. If a theory explains the natural world properly, interpretation is not an issue. Evolution does precisely that, and Creationism does not.

Recapitulation theory is not supported

This is an equivocation fallacy.

While recapitulation of the sort propounded by Haeckel is no longer supported, homology of embryonic developmental stages can and does provide support for the theory of evolution.

Lucy's knee was found far from the rest of the skeleton

This is a false rumour. Johanson was discussing another A. afarensis knee and NOT that of Lucy that had been discovered in 1973.

There are flood myths from all over the world

Most cultures have been located near bodies of water prone to regular flooding, it is unclear why anyone should think that the prevalence of flood-type myths is a mystery that requires any explanation at all, let alone a Divine "explanation".

Most ancient cultures had only a very limited understanding of the size of planet earth. To them, their little land was the "world", and if it was flooded, this was, quite literally, "the end of the world". Common flood-mythology does not indicate a single shared past experience. It is possible that flood-event experiences propagated among cultures from one source. Common shared experiences of floods in no way mean said flood was of divine origin or covered the entire world.

Examination of flood myths indicates they can vary extremely, from world-destruction to world-creation, from localized to encompassing the entire planet. If there was one primal flood, more consistency would be expected.

Very few of the world-destroying flood myths describe humanity escaping in a boat. Some speak of people avoiding the flood by hiding within giant trees, escaping to higher ground, and in some cases, the myths speak of how the entire world was completely destroyed or how the flood was stopped before any devastion was caused.

Other myths appear amongst many cultures. Numerous cultures recognize creatures that live off of stolen human blood, frequently identified as unnaturally prolonging their lives after death. Nearly every culture has myths of humans who can change shapes into animals, either at will or under some imposed circumstance. Does the prevelance of these myths indicate that vampires and werewolves actually exist? The average creationist would certainly reject the idea that there are many gods, despite the fact that belief in Pantheons occurs worldwide.

Many myths represent the experience of the populace writ large. People who live in regions with large reptiles tell stories of gigantic reptiles. People who live in areas prone to forest fires tell of the fire big enough to destroy the world. People who live near glaciers have myths of when the world was consumed by ice. The prevalence of flood myths needs no explanation except that humans like to live near water and water sources have a tendency to flood periodically.

Given that all but Noah et al perished in the Biblical flood myth where then do the stories from other cultures come from? These groups of people would have to be descendants of Noah's family repopulating the world and therefore wouldn't they have the same story?

What is the point of reporting the other flood myths in that often the myths are severe contradictions to the Genesis version. If Genesis is literally true, then these other myths must be false, and if they are false how do they add weight to the Genesis account? And, of course, why aren't these other versions of myth more believable than the Genesis version thereby directly proving Genesis wrong?

Failure or shortcomings in experiments involving the application of evolutionary theory to the production or use of computer hardware of software demonstrates that evolution can not work elsewhere.

Fallacies contained in this claim include argument from ignorance, false analogy, straw man and fallacy fallacy.

Computerized evolutionary models have proven effective. An analysis of the Avida software and it's results indicates that computer models can be used to demonstrate evolutionary theory.

The criticisms about evolutionary models are often directed at a Brandeis experiment in evolving concepts for machines via simulation of the evolutionary process. These are better viewed not as a simulation of evolution, but an application of evolutionary concepts to producing mechanical design. Though useful and interesting in that it did produce surprisingly sophisticated mechanisms, it was not a full-bore testing of evolutionary theory in the vein of the Avida software.

There are programs that use computer-simulated evolution to solve certain tasks. One amusing and rather simple example of this is breveWalker, where an animal made out of blocks uses evolution to learn how to walk.

Genesis 1 got the order of events right.

This is a begging the question fallacy.

The odds are nothing more than a combinatorial expansion of 10!. Counting "in the beginning, there was a beginning" isn't a valid stage. At the very least, the count should be 9! or 1 in 362,880. Other events also simply cannot be in any other order (land plants cannot be before land, etc.) and so reduce the unlikelihood still further.

Some of the steps are not clearly derived from the Bible at all. Point two has Earth "...enshrouded in heavy gases..." not because anything in Genesis suggests this, but as part of an effort to save the order by asserting sunlight wouldn't have been visible during the early stages of Genesis. Adding elements to save the order rather injures the argument that the accuracy of the order is amazing.

The order proposes that land plants existed for a significant fraction of time before the sun could be seen from earth. The idea that plants existed for any length of time without access to direct sunlight is contrary to science and common sense.
And by any reasonable definition, "tame beasts" had to await the arrival of man to even have any meaningful notion of "tame". By most genomic studies a dog is still a wolf in an arrested state of development due to the artificial selection by man. Did dogs really exist before man? And if so, wouldn't their wild beast variants have quickly either killed them or reverted them back to "wild"?

Since there is no mention of animals before, then did the pollinators arrive to keep land plants (#6) reproducing? or perhaps were the first land plants not flowering (as the science shows) and that later "evolved" when the pollinators arrived in #8?

While one may believe that mainstream science is wrong, doing so would negate the test of the Bible's accuracy that this order supposedly entails.

Scientists lie if they talk about an old earth and evolution.

This is an abusive ad hominem fallacy.

Lying implies that the person knows better. Even if creationists were right, scientists could just be mistaken. Lying also implies that evolution and old earth are false, for which there is no evidence. See all the failed attempts at proving evolution false. If all scientists who accept evolution were lying, this would be a world-wide conspiracy with thousands of members, which is not believable. To accept that you need to be paranoid. How do we know that all creationists are not the ones who are actually lying? How can we be sure that even all teachers of Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, or any other religion is lying?

Creationism and evolution are the only 2 models.

This is a false dilemma fallacy.

Creation and evolution are both broad categories. Each contains a potentially infinite set of actual models. Furthermore, the two sets overlap (Theistic Evolution). Fred Hoyle's idea of a universe that has always existed is a third model.

The Christian model of creation is currently the single most popular, but by far not the only creation story. Many other religions had or still have their own creation story. Additionally, there are parodies of creationism, such as Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, that work just as well. No shread of objective scientific evidence credits one above all others.

Evolution excludes the existence of a creator.

Evolution functions on the principle of methodological naturalism. This principle states briefly that natural causes are the only things that can be objectively identified. As a result, science functions on the principle that science itself is incapable of elucidating a supernatural cause.

Many creationists conflate methodological naturalism with metaphysical naturalism. Metaphysical naturalism states that the natural universe is all that exists, and this position does exclude the possibility of a creator. However, methodological naturalism does not exclude the possibility of a creator, nor does belief in evolution require disbelief in a creator. Indeed, there are a great many theistic evolutionists and the Clergy Letter Project shows that at least 7000 clergy see no conflict between evolution and faith.

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