Thursday, August 23, 2007

Spanking creationists again

Another hallelujah chorus

Answers in Genesis has tidings of great joy. The creationist ministry has announced the winners of this year's essay contest. The Research Challenge Contest for 2007 was designed to serve in part as a promotional campaign for AiG's new (but already revised) creationism text, Evolution Exposed. The rules required that the teenage entrants refer to the book:
Write your research paper using at least one reference from the book Evolution Exposed and one reference from the Answers in Genesis web site. Research paper counts for 65% of your score.
Last year's winners also relied heavily on AiG resources, so the explicit requirement in the 2007 contest was unlikely to impose an undue burden on the competitors. By that same token, however, the winning essays for this year are as much exercises in recycling old arguments as last year's. It is extremely easy to find flaws in each one, as I will demonstrate.

While it's not fair to expect teenagers to write purely original essays, all of the winning papers suffer from the suffocating effects of their reliance on recycled creationist propaganda. Time and again the writers make demonstrably untrue statements (and they probably don't know any better). In this, of course, they simply mirror their elders.

The fabulous grand prize went to Karin Hutson, whose topic was Evolution of Ethics: How the biology class undermines Morality 101. Her reward is a $50,000 scholarship to the late Jerry Falwell's Liberty University:
Dr. David A. DeWitt, Director of the Center for Creation Studies at Liberty University stated “I am delighted that we were able to partner with Answers in Genesis in this truly unique contest. Through AiG’s research paper ‘challenge,’ young people are ‘challenged’ to carefully consider the evidence for creation. It’s an excellent idea. The Research Paper Challenge was a great way for us to promote the understanding of creation and attract Creator-honoring, Bible-believing students to Liberty!”

At Liberty University, all undergraduate students are required to complete a course in creation apologetics taught from a young-earth creation perspective.
I'm guessing that Karin has a head start on that apologetics course.

Karin Hutson begins her essay by repeating the apocryphal story about Cassie Bernall saying “Yes” in reply to Eric Harris's question, “Do you believe in God?” That was just before Harris (evolutionist) murdered Bernall (Christian) at Columbine High School in 1999. Nice touch. The story isn't true, but it's too good to pass up. It doesn't diminish the senseless horror of Bernall's death to point out that it was actually Valeen Schnurr, a Columbine survivor, who engaged in the exchange with Harris. Christians with an ax to grind have joined Bernall's family in perpetuating the comforting myth of martyrdom. Thus the winning essay in the AiG research paper contest begins with a falsehood. I'm pretty sure it's an unintentional misrepresentation of the facts, but such carelessness doesn't bode well.

Does Hutson's essay improve after its shaky start? Judge for yourself:
Evolution replaces God, purpose, and morality with nature, chance, and relativism. No wonder violence and vileness wreak havoc in schools and society today!
No doubt the 9/11 hijackers were all evolutionists, right?

The basic argument is invalid, of course. Even if belief in evolution were to lead to unhappy consequences, that would imply nothing about the validity of the concept of evolution. Yet most of the paper is a tedious recital of supposed consequences of evolution. She pauses along the way to mock Daniel Dennett as possessing “foolhardy optimism” for arguing that (in his words) “we have the mind-tools we need to design and redesign ourselves, ever searching for better solutions to the problems we create for ourselves and others.” Karin is having none of it. Good behavior depends on belief in God and dismissal of evolution.

That, of course, is why religious people make the world a better place wherever they take their beliefs seriously. I offer Northern Ireland and Iraq as two especially persuasive examples. In the former case, both sides even claimed to be motivated by Christianity. No doubt that was a comfort to all the victims.

Runner-up #1: Naturalism is just another religion

Emily Zuercher takes aim at Naturalism in Modern Society. She's working the same vein as the winner. Here's her opening sentences:
Euthanasia, Nazism, moral decline, and abortion can all be attributed to the naturalistic doctrine behind evolution. Darwin's naturalistic ideology and evolutionary hypothesis are no longer confined to historical science in the classroom, but are now implemented into society as the basis for this generation's religion and moral standards.
Ah, yes; exactly what Darwin was going for. The old naturalist was working out a system of religion and ethics.

Wouldn't he be surprised to hear that? It is possible, of course, for people to take Darwin's ideas beyond his intentions and to try to apply them inappropriately. For example, one doubts he would have been pleased with the notion of social Darwinism. Is this the argument that Zuercher is making?

Nope. Her point is that evolution is simply a rival belief system, but one lacking the support of divine revelation (i.e., the infallible statements of the book of Genesis). As such, it's elbowed aside the doctrine of creationism:
Today, evolution is being accepted as a confirmed fact of operational science even though little testable evidence has been found. Just as testing or current observations cannot prove evolution, Biblical creation also cannot be confirmed in this manner. The doctrine of creation is credible, however, because the God of the universe was present and instrumental at the beginning of the world and recorded the events of it in His Word for man.
Yeah. Like He said.

Since Emily forgot to blame Darwin for communism in her opening paragraph, she tosses it in later. She probably lost the first-place award to Hutson because she also selected a less compelling bogeyman. Her choice for evil evolutionist was Jeffrey Dahmer. If only she had gone with Klebold and Harris.

Runner-up #2: Day after Day

Laura Adele Price says that the days cited in Genesis 1 are 24-hour days. Her paper, Biblical Case for Literal Creation Days, rehashes the old arguments about the meanings of the Hebrew word “yom,” and takes some shots at the Hugh Ross school of “progressive creationism.” Price's paper is therefore part of an in-house battle between doctrinaire seven-day literalists and those who take a day-age stance in an attempt to take science seriously. Ross has genuine scientific credentials in addition to being a devout believer. He has labored diligently to reconcile scientific observation with God's revealed word—as he sees it—and his Reasons to Believe ministry explains how this can be accomplished by interpreting Genesis figuratively.

Price is not impressed by Ross's accommodationist argument that knowledge comes from both God's word and scientific observation. One revelation is enough for her.
[T]he disagreement regarding dual revelation comes with the progressive creationists' belief that the conclusions of secular scientists are absolute truth, just as Scripture is absolute truth.
She thinks secular science purports to offer absolute truth? Hopeless, isn't it?

Runner-up #3: Irreducible recycling

You may recall how Michael Behe gave scientific respectability to the concept of intelligent design with his explication of irreducible complexity. If some biological construct is irreducibly complex, then how could evolution have shaped it? By definition, something that is irreducibly complex must be nonfunctional as soon as anything is subtracted from it. An intelligent designer must intervene because natural selection can operate only on biological characteristics that have functions. That's how the argument runs.

Behe gave the whip-like bacterial flagellum as his favorite example. Further research has since revealed a perfectly plausible evolutionary pathway for development of the flagellum, showing how it could have been co-opted from secretory organs and pressed into service as a propulsion device. I guess it's not irreducible anymore.

This did not, however, deter Rebecca Tappendorf from recycling Behe's outdated arguments in her essay God's Incredible Design of Irreducibly Complex Cells. She bases much of her essay on the argument from incredulity, referring to cells as “machines” and marveling that anyone could think that such machines occurred “by accident.”
Cells are incredibly complex, and naturalists explain this developing evolution of complexity through two hypotheses, the infolding theory and endosymbiosis. However, there is little support for these hypotheses and much evidence against them. Many evolutionists are recognizing the problems with these theories that attempt to explain cells' irreducible complexity. An infinitely intelligent Designer must have created these cells. That Creator and Designer is Jesus.
It is breathtakingly cheeky for creationists to follow a criticism of evidence for evolution with baldly dogmatic statements, but one learns not to be surprised. Rebecca, of course, is merely conforming to the model she was given. And she is just starting to build up steam.
The minute flagellum accomplishes locomotion, is remarkably complex, and is an excellent example of irreducible complexity. If any part of the flagellum were missing, the whole system would be destroyed. Is it scientific to believe that this amazing miniature motor came about through a series of mutations and random chance? Is it logical to think that all the vital parts of the bacteria were formed by accident in precisely the correct order and with the much-needed information to work harmoniously together as a microscopic, self-sustaining entity?
She blithely ignores the counterarguments. In fact, I dare say she does not even know that Behe's contentions are long since refuted. She has probably never even heard that “irreducibly complex” complex organ can be shaped by evolution. All of her citations are to creationist tracts and books. She cannot know what they do not tell her. Certainly no one has handed her any apples from the Tree of Knowledge.

Miss Tappendorf has elected to concentrate her fire on two evolutionary hypotheses related to the development of eukaryotes from prokaryotes: membrane infolding and endosymbiosis. Apparently neither explanation for eukaryotic evolution is complete. Rebecca finds the gaps fatal. It's the attitude of someone conditioned to have pat answers to everything, and it's completely foreign to the way science is actually done. Did you expect anything else?
There is no evidence that prokaryotes turned into eukaryotes through the inward folding of the plasma membrane. Molecules-to-man evolution requires the addition of material to the genetic code, most frequently through mutations. However, scientists have yet to find a mutation that adds information to the genetic code.
Yes, that is her argument. Rebecca is parroting the old argument that evolution cannot increase the information in an organism's genetic code. There is ample evidence to the contrary, but she doesn't know about it.

Rebecca is similarly curt with endosymbiosis:
The endosymbiont hypothesis builds on the infolding hypothesis as it attempts to describe a process through which organelles might have been produced in an ancestral host cell. Through a process known as endocytosis, a host swallowed aerobic and photosynthetic bacteria but did not digest them. These engulfed bacteria gained the information to evolve into mitochondria and chloroplasts because the host cell and the ingested cells reproduced in synchronization with one another. Over the course of millions of years. the DNA of the host cell and the engulfed cells fused to provide long-lasting benefits for each cell. Evolutionists use molecular data to support this hypothesis, but there is no evidence that seems to confirm it.
I like that. Evolutionists support the hypothesis with “molecular data” but they have “no evidence.”

Let's waste no more time on this.

Runner-up #4: He's baa-ack!

To be fair to R. Josiah Magnuson, he's never really gone away. Since making it as one of the runners-up in last year's Answers in Genesis essay contest, Josiah has been blogging away, devoting big chunks of time to serving as the intelligent design advisor to the doomed presidential campaign of Gene Chapman. It was a bit odd to see Josiah operating under the banner of ID, since he is completely unlike the cowards and trimmers who populate the ID ranks, Josiah is a completely forthright young-earth creationist. Although the Chapman campaign foundered on the rock of its candidate's own instability, Josiah continues to pen pro-creation think pieces.

His entry last year was a pugnacious poke at the many evil consequences of an evolutionary worldview. Frankly, I thought his essay was better than that year's grand prize winner. His new paper, however, is both milder and less compelling. At least the logic is as flawed as ever. Josiah is in good company with the other winners of the essay contest.

Josiah's essay is titled Survival of the Functional: How Natural Selection Kills Darwinian Evolution. Yes, he promises more than he can deliver. Josiah bases his argument on the claim that evolution cannot produce “a net gain in information.” It's basically the same as Rebecca Tappendorf's argument and suffers from the same problems.

Josiah believes that evolution would have to differentially select and preserve useless features until some critical mass of usefulness is suddenly attained:
Evolution is impossible because natural selection would have had to select in favor of less-fit organisms, possessing uselessly isolated components, in order to gradually compose the inter-dependently functional systems and organic information which may be observed today.
Josiah imagines that evolutionists believe proto-birds hauled about useless half-wings or the dead weight of other non-functional features until the day all the pieces were in place to permit flight. He knows nothing about theories of exaptation, where the whole point is that each trait is useful at each stage, although the function of that trait may evolve along with it. Feathers are good for flight (though not strictly necessary, as bats and insects demonstrate), but they are also good for insulation. When feathers were pressed into service for flying, they continued to be useful for insulation. There was no interval in which they were hanging around without a function, just waiting for natural selection to make them useful.

Josiah cites a calculation by Dr. Werner Gitt, a creationist he says is affiliated with Germany's “Federal Institute of Science” (actually the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt in Braunschweig). Gitt is a computer scientist who thinks he's figured out how to measure the complexity of the human body. Josiah quotes him as saying, “The total number of bits handled daily, in all information processing events occurring in the human body, is 3 × 10 to the 24th power.” That's a big number, so it's supposed to prove that God did it all. But hold on a second.

The human body has about 10 trillion cells in it. If we divide Gitt's number by 10 trillion, we find that each cell is supposedly responsible for 3 × 1011 of the bits being handled. This is still a pretty big number, but it's no longer exceptional. Once you achieve that initial cell, simple multiplication gets you to the level that so amazed Dr. Gitt. I realize that Rebecca Tappendorf would object to my calling this “simple” multiplication, but we dealt with her earlier.

Coda

Answers in Genesis has handed out some prizes to inspire teenagers to regurgitate old creationist arguments. When Ecclesiastes 1:9 says that “there is nothing new under the sun,” it seems the Bible was talking about essays by creationists. Amen.

32 comments:

Bad said...

So depressing. You look at those beaming young faces, and you almost feel bad for saying anything at his point. Sooner or later, even if they are lifelong creationists, they are going to find out and admit to themselves that they got fed some lines of nonsense, and repeated it without really thinking or looking to see if it made sense.

Thanks for going though it.

Sinbad said...

Zeno: It is possible, of course, for people to take Darwin's ideas beyond his intentions and to try to apply them inappropriately. For example, one doubts he would have been pleased with the notion of social Darwinism.

Actually, the best evidence suggests precisely the opposite. From Descent of Man:

"...at some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world."

http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Descent_of_Man/Chapter_VI

Bad said...

Sinbad, you are a case in point: someday you're going to feel silly. Read the whole chapter, and you see that he isn't advocating, he's speculating what will happen.

Darwin the man was actually very progressive for his time: he opposed slavery and disagreed with the views of his time that non-whites weren't deserving of rights.

Of course, it wouldn't make any difference at all even if Darwin was a serial killer: ideas are right or wrong based on the evidence, not based on who had them first.

jonathan said...

back to the post --

I managed to read the whole thing, but I am shaking my head in disbelief that you managed to read all the way through each of those essays. This man has patience...

Sinbad said...

"Darwin the man was actually very progressive for his time...."

I basically agree. That he saw races as sub-species rather than species and opposed slavery makes the point. But they were still savages to be exterminated.

Manni said...

That Creator and Designer is Jesus.

Holy fuck! I thought that that Creator and Designer was god. I'll never get my head around that believe system.

PS: There is no such thing as a "Federal Institute of Science" in Germany.

Bad said...

If there is any evidence that Darwin advocated anyone exterminating anyone, that quote isn't it, and I'm not aware of any evidence of it.

"Savages" is what EVERYONE at the time called native peoples, and it has a rather different connotation today than it used to (i.e. ideas like "noble savages").

kristen in montreal said...

child abuse.

it's terrible because these kids are so bright and eager to succeed. if they were given a good education just imagine what they might accomplish.

Bryn said...

It is sad. A boatload of young minds, eager to learn being filled up with a load of horseshit. Zeno, you deserve a medal for bravery for wading through all that and a special award for valor if you made it through without projectile vomiting.

DaveX said...

I'm impressed by the fortitude of your stomach, what with reading through all those-- but if you're going to spew, spew into this: [_]

remy said...

"I thought the creator and designer was god."
Manni, didn't you get the memo; jebus and god are one in the same. I mean He is his own father. AND, there is that ghosty thing that is also part of the divine mixture.

Manni said...

Yeah, I got the memo allright, remy. I also got that other memo that says we have to take everything that book says literally. And, well, I thought that book said that god created the world. And then much, much, much later it says something about that guy Jesus.
I mean if Jesus is his son and the son of Maria, and if Maria was human then Maria must have been a descendant of Adam and Eve. But if neither Adam nor Eve was born when the earth was created then Maria could hardly have been born then. Nevermind her son.
I mean if we are all into that "scripture says this" and "scripture says that" business then the heresy of that girl is beyond compare. May one of those three have mercy on her soul.

Sinbad said...

"If there is any evidence that Darwin advocated anyone exterminating anyone, that quote isn't it, and I'm not aware of any evidence of it."

Darwin's view was that they would be exterminated as part of the natural course. It's then a small step for an authoritarian leader to help nature along.

"'Savages' is what EVERYONE at the time called native peoples, and it has a rather different connotation today than it used to (i.e. ideas like 'noble savages')."

Noble or not, savages were deemed inferior to the "civilised."

Peter Mc said...

Zeno, you're ever in the UK I'll stand you a couple of pints (beer, wine, tea, whatever is your poison) for wading through that ocean of crap for us.

pough said...

"It's then a small step for an authoritarian leader to help nature along."

It's also a small step from "more offspring means more of your genetic material gets passed on" to someone indulging in lots and lots of fucking, but I don't what that has to do with what Darwin wanted to see happen. Do you? Do you think that Darwin would be an advocate of lots of fucking?

"Noble or not, savages were deemed inferior to the "civilised.""

By whom? And inferior in what way? I thought Darwin understood that "inferior" wasn't a term with much application outside of particular environments. Didn't he say that the "savages" were far better suited to their environments than a civilized person such as himself would be? Perhaps he thought the civilized societies were superior in their ability to kill (and heal, but only themselves), so it would be natural for those less accomplished at it to eventually be replaced.

Wildy said...

I agree with the sad thing, because it is sad, but really the better question will be what will these kids do with their lives? If they have dreams in the sciences how will they be able to sit through Biology lectures if they don't agree with what is being taught?

Bronze Dog said...

Wonder how long it's going to be before we get a troll gasping in horror over the fact that we dare to criticize children's essays, or point out that they didn't do the research they were supposed to.

After all, we absolutely must avoid saying anything remotely resembling criticism against emotionally fragile children, since self-esteem is more important than meaningful success.

Scotty B said...

She's cute...

Interrobang said...

Emily Zuercher would probably wet herself in terror if she found out that there are people in the world who oppose, of all the Great Evils™ on her list, only Nazism. I don't have any problem with abortion or euthanasia, so long as they're consensual (which is another problem -- since funnymentalists don't actually believe anyone owns their own bodies, they're kind of foundationally incapable of understanding the concept of "consent"), and I'm all for moral decline, as long as it's replaced by ethical advancement.

In fact, as I'm used to having morals defined (social codes of behaviour imposed by outside socialising agencies, as opposed to ethics, which are internally-derived), I wouldn't mind if they went away almost entirely.

Scotty B: She might be cute if she didn't have such a ferally smug look of utter ignorant self-righteousness pasted on her mug...

Bad said...

Sinbad: "Darwin's view was that they would be exterminated as part of the natural course. It's then a small step for an authoritarian leader to help nature along."

Given that you now say it requires "a small step" (i.e. a leap in logic) to each your conclusion does that mean you admit that your earlier claim that you had actual reason to believe that Darwin wanted to eliminate anyone was dishonest and unfounded? It's just as small of a step (with just as little evidence) to conclude that Darwin would NOT have liked that result.

The fact is, he was simply describing not only the descriptive implication of his theories, but what was already occurring at the time. And guess what: the people beating down those savages were not scientists.

"Noble or not, savages were deemed inferior to the "civilised.""

Indeed: everyone in his day believed that. But as I noted, if anything, Darwin was far more progressive than most, including most of the people that opposed his theory. He believed that, regardless, peoples should be accorded rights and dignity: a pretty radical view for his time.

Yet again, there is no evidence that he favored the elimination of anyone, and the claim goes against most of what we know of his personality...

...in addition to the whole matter being completely irrelevant to the soundness of evolutionary theory as science.

Croesus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sinbad said...

"Given that you now say it requires "a small step" (i.e. a leap in logic) to each your conclusion does that mean you admit that your earlier claim that you had actual reason to believe that Darwin wanted to eliminate anyone was dishonest and unfounded?"

Keep beating that strawman. The claim was that "one doubts he [Darwin] would have been pleased with the notion of social Darwinism." All indications are that he was, even if he wouldn't have supported every action undertaken in its name (and even if he wasn't exactly his cousin's keeper). The dishonesty claim is a nice touch, though.

"Indeed: everyone in his day believed that."

Which means he opposed Social Darwinism how?

"[A]s I noted, if anything, Darwin was far more progressive than most...."

That he was less racist than many doesn't make him a critic of Social Darwinism.

"Yet again, there is no evidence that he favored the elimination of anyone, and the claim goes against most of what we know of his personality...."

Starwman again.

"...in addition to the whole matter being completely irrelevant to the soundness of evolutionary theory as science."

And again. I never suggested it was relevant to the soundness of Darwinism. It's social Darwinism I object to.

Hipple, Rev. Paul T. said...

How dare you deprave and humiliate those eager and beautiful Children of God so publicly!

Do you evilutionists have no boundaries?

I'm not sure there are enough prayers in all of His Universe to save your Dark souls.

Anonymous said...

Scotty, you should take a look at this video and then decide whether you still think she's cute...don't go by just looking at a static picture :-)
http://www.answersingenesis.org/assets/scripts/storeVideoPlayer.html?vidUrl=http://media.answersingenesis.org/video/education/evolution_exposed_contest.flv&TB_iframe=true&height=350&width=400

Heliologue said...

Why did you capitalize "dark"? Force of habit?

Academic works are always subject to criticism--these aren't grade-schoolers penning their first sentences.

Please note that the blog's author did not resort to ad hominem attacks or name-calling. The blame, you will note, comes from knuckle-dragging religionists who drilled this nonsense into their heads. I count you among that number.

Citizen S said...

Darwin's view was that they would be exterminated as part of the natural course. It's then a small step for an authoritarian leader to help nature along.

That he saw races as sub-species rather than species and opposed slavery makes the point. But they were still savages to be exterminated.

You concede he opposed slavery, yet you think he would not have opposed "an authoritarian leader" "help(ing) nature along"? Are you seriously trying to make that argument?

Lepht said...

what a horrific waste of young minds. here are children, willing to learn, wanting to write essays for fuck's sake, and they've been swallowed by the AiG godfuck crew?

it almost makes you grieve for the poor little bastards. here's hoping some of them apply that scholastic bent and finally do some extra-AiG research of their own.

Lepht
http://sapiensanonym.blogspot.com

Sinbad said...

"You concede he opposed slavery, yet you think he would not have opposed "an authoritarian leader" "help(ing) nature along"? Are you seriously trying to make that argument?"

Read more carefully. As I already stated above:

The claim was that "one doubts he [Darwin] would have been pleased with the notion of social Darwinism." All indications are that he [would have been], even if he wouldn't have supported every action undertaken in its name (and even if he wasn't exactly his cousin's keeper).

Citizen S said...

I did read carefully. You claimed the evidence suggests Darwin would have been pleased with the notion of social Darwinism in your first comment, and quote him out of context. In your second you state "But they were still savages to be exterminated." This implies that he was in favor of their extermination. You imply it again in your next comment: "Darwin's view was that they would be exterminated as part of the natural course. It's then a small step for an authoritarian leader to help nature along." Darwin believed this, it's just a small step to... what is presumably your idea of social Darwinism.

I think you need to start defining your terms. Do you define social Darwinism as "authoritarian leader.. help(ing) nature along", or do you define it as something else? (Keep in mind that particular definition is a generally well accepted definition of social Darwinism.)

Anonymous said...

So many promising young minds - wasted.

BTW, The "Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt" in Germany is an institute similar to the NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology).

Tom Foss said...

I offer Northern Ireland and Iraq as two especially persuasive examples. In the former case, both sides even claimed to be motivated by Christianity.

Come on, now, Zeno. Northern Ireland wouldn't have had any problems if they were True Christians. Not a Bible-believing Baptist in the bunch, just followers of the Whore of Babylon and one of its European offshoots.

As for the 9/11 hijackers, they worship a false god. And since their god clearly doesn't exist, that makes them atheists. Q.E.D.

Bert said...

Sad.

I remember being a fundamentalist creationist when I was younger.

Perhaps there should be some field trips for kids with biologists and 'creationist biologists' in action. Maybe if I had that back then, I would have rejected creationism much earlier.