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An Incredibly Biased Straw-man Blog Post Against Atheism Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Posted by henry000 in anti-creationism, anti-fundamentalism, anti-ID, atheism, creationism, DaveScot, evolution, faith, fundamentalism, God, intelligent design, rationality, religion, science, straw-man, Uncommon Descent.
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Warning! Creationist Ignorance Encountered!

The incredible ignorance of religious fundamentalists never ceases to amaze and offend. This time, the notorious blogger DaveScot at Uncommon Descent (an anti-evolution blog site) has done it again with a post that has to be one of the most childish and ignorant piece of writing I have come across.

Titled “Why Atheism Fails: The Four Big Bangs“, the essence of the blog can be summarised simply with the following extract:

Atheists respond to all these types of questions with essentially the same style answer. “We know God doesn’t exist. Therefore, since we’re here, though, it had to have happened this way. Thus, like the universe itself, life, mind, and morality all ‘just popped’ into existence out of nothingness.”

I call them the Four Big Bangs:

1’) the Cosmological (the universe “just popped” into existence out of nothingness).

2’) the Biological (life “just popped” into existence out of a dead thing).

3’) the Psychological (mind “just popped” into existence out of a brain).

4’) and the Moral (morality “just popped” into existence out of amorality).

For their many obfuscating words, the authors still don’t improve much beyond the “just popped” thesis, if at all.

It is recommended that you skip the rest of the blog – not only it offers nothing insightful and useful, worse, as the reader OhioJoe2 pointed out in his comment (comment number 5), it is full of utterly false, discriminating straw-man claims against scientists and atheists alike.

Firstly, atheists never claim that morality, mind and our existence simply “popped into existence”. On the contrary, this is what creationism claims. Any knowledgeable person understands that evolution provides the answer, and evolution is the antithesis of “popping into existence” – it is a mechanical algorithm that shapes replicating entities through time.

Attack with how unscientific theism is, how religious people aren’t very smart because they don’t chair any departments in the hard sciences at the right schools (it’s really called censorship).

No, DaveScot, atheists do not attack on the intelligence of religious believers. What we attack is the utter ignorance and religious bigotry that people like yourself show over and over again.

Avoid the pesky problem of freewill. If atheism is true, if all that exists is mere matter and energy, then I don’t have a brain, I am my brain.

This is a classic example of argument from personal incredulity.

But, above all, avoid being cornered and forced to answer the questions of origins. Throw out lots of words that people can’t understand.

DaveScot, scientists and atheists never avoid being cornered when it comes to the questions of origin. Again, far from it – that’s why scientists work so hard to enquire and find out how and why things originate. I find it unbelievably naive and, I hesitate to use this word but I have no choice – stupid – that you say scientists throw out lots of words that people can’t understand! It is about theories, not words. Maybe you don’t understand lots of terminologies, but many others do. Grab some textbooks, spend many years studying them unbiased, and then eventually you will come to understanding these “words”.

Since the pre-Socratics, atheists have been intellectual parasites living off the host of Western Civilization. Able to construct so very little of their own that is either true, good, or beautiful…

DaveScot, what sort of discriminatory sweeping generalisation is this? According to a recent survey, the majority of leading scientists are atheists since 1914 (so was Albert Einstein, by the way). I rest my case.

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Comments»

1. blueollie - Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Don’t waste your time with people like this.

Face facts: this guy can no more understand why people are atheists (especially smart people) than a dog can understand quantum mechanics. Perhaps I am being harsh.

2. IanBrown_101 - Friday, August 3, 2007

I think you are being harsh blueollie. I think he understands atheism LESS than a dog understands quantum mechanics.

3. FleeteJak - Thursday, December 6, 2007

hey.. very nice

4. Lottie - Thursday, February 28, 2008

Good post. I hope you’re back online soon.

As a fellow atheist, I feel the following point is very much worth mentioning:

Atheism is the absence of belief in the existence of deities. Period.

Knowledge or lack thereof regarding what science teaches about the origin of life and the universe need not factor in at all. I have often found the following analogy useful in explaining this:

Let’s say my house burned down, and the cause cannot be or has yet to be determined. Is it rational to conclude that a fire-breathing dragon started the fire? Of course not.

Or let’s say the cause of the fire has been determined, but I have not been informed of the cause, or simply do not understand it. Would the fire-breathing dragon hypothesis make sense then? No. It would still be silly.

So it is with science and gods:

I do not need to know or understand the origins of life and the universe in order to rule out what is clearly irrational – in this context, any number of
gods.

Atheism is the absence of belief in the existence of deities. Nothing more, nothing less. When we begin tagging on other characteristics, we needlessly complicate it and lend credibility to misconceptions
and prejudices regarding atheism.

5. What Do Atheists Have In Common? « Rambling On - Sunday, March 2, 2008

[…] posted this on a fellow atheist’s blog. It might help clarify my position: Atheism is the absence of belief in the existence of deities. […]

6. Caseydc - Wednesday, March 19, 2008

well done, guy

7. Josh Greenberger - Friday, March 21, 2008

A deeper analysis of the underlying mechanism behind evolution and the fossil record, leaves little doubt that mutations of a random nature could not possibly have been the driving force behind the development of life on earth.

There has been opposition to the theory of evolution on the basis of whether a random process can produce organization. An analogy often given is, can a monkey on a typewriter, given enough time, produce the works of Shakespeare purely by random keystrokes? Let’s assume for the purpose of this discussion that this is possible — and that random mutations, given enough time, can also eventually produce the most complex life forms.

Let’s begin by rolling a die (one “dice”). To get a “3,” for example, you’d have to roll the die an average of six times (there are six numbers, so to get any one of them would take an average of six rolls). Of course, you could get lucky and roll a 3 the first time. But as you keep rolling the die, you’ll find that the 3 will come up on average once every six rolls.

The same holds true for any random process. You’ll get a “Royal Flush” (the five highest cards, in the same suit) in a 5-card poker game on average roughly once every 650,000 hands. In other words, for every 650,00 hands of mostly meaningless arrangements of cards (and perhaps a few other poker hands), you’ll get only one Royal Flush.

Multi-million dollar lotteries are also based on this concept. If the odds against winning a big jackpot are millions to one, what will usually happen is that for every game where one person wins the big jackpot with the right combination of numbers, millions of people will not win the big jackpot because they picked millions of combinations of meaningless numbers. To my knowledge, there hasn’t been a multi-million dollar lottery yet where millions of people won the top prize and only a few won little or nothing. It’s always the other way around. And sometimes there isn’t even one big winner.

How does this relate to evolution?

Let’s take this well-understood concept about randomness and apply it the old story of a monkey on a typewriter. As mentioned earlier, for the purpose of this discussion, we’ll assume that if you allow a monkey to randomly hit keys on a typewriter long enough he could eventually turn out the works of Shakespeare. Of course, it would take a very long time, and he’d produce mountains and mountains of pages of meaningless garbage in the process, but eventually (we’ll assume) he could turn out the works of Shakespeare.

Now, let’s say, after putting a monkey in front of a typewriter to type out Shakespeare, you decide you also want a copy of the Encyclopedia of Britannica. So you put another monkey in front of another typewriter. Then, you put a third monkey in front of third typewriter, because you also want a copy of “War And Peace.” Now you shout, “Monkeys, type,” and they all start banging away on their typewriters.

You leave the room and have yourself cryogenically frozen so you can come back in a few million years to see the results. (The monkeys don’t have to be frozen. Let’s say they’re an advanced species; all they need to survive millions of years is fresh ink cartridges.)

You come back in a few million years and are shocked at what you see. What shocks you is not what you find, but what you don’t find. First, you do find that the monkeys have produced the works of Shakespeare, the Encyclopedia of Britannica and “War and Peace.” But all this you expected.

What shocks you is that you don’t see the mountains of papers of meaningless arrangement of letters that each monkey should have produced for each literary work. You do find a few mistyped pages here and there, but they do not nearly account for the millions of pages of “mistakes” you should have found.

And even if the monkeys happened to get them all right the first time, which is a pretty big stretch of the imagination, they still should’ve type out millions of meaningless pages in those millions of years. (Who told them to stop typing?) Either way, each random work of art should have produced millions upon millions of meaningless typed pages.

This is precisely what the problem is with the Darwinian theory of evolution.

A random process, as depicted by Darwinian evolution and accepted by many scientists, even if one claims it can produce the most complex forms of life, should have produced at least millions of dysfunctional organisms for every functional one. And with more complex organisms (like a “Royal Flush” as opposed to a number 3 on a die), an even greater number of dysfunctional “mistakes” should have been produced (as there are so many more possibilities of “mistakes” in a 52-card deck than a 6-sided die).

The fossil record should have been bursting with billions upon billions of completely dysfunctional-looking organisms at various stages of development for the evolution of every life form. And for each higher life form — human, monkey, chimpanzee, etc. — there should have been millions of even more “mistakes.”

Instead, what the fossil record shows is an overwhelming number of well-formed, functional-looking organisms, with an occasional aberration. Let alone we haven’t found the plethora of “gradually improved” or intermediate species (sometimes referred to as “missing links”) that we should have, we haven’t even found the vast number of “mistakes” known beyond a shadow of a doubt to be produced by every random process.

We don’t need billions of years to duplicate a random process in a lab to show that it will produce chaos every time, regardless of whether or not it might eventually produce some “meaningful complexity.” To say that randomness can produce organization is one thing, but to say that it won’t even produce the chaos that randomness invariably produces is inconsistent with established fact.

A process that will produce organization without the chaos normally associated with randomness is the greatest proof that the process is not random.

The notion that the fossil record supports the Darwinian theory of evolution is as ludicrous as saying that a decomposed carcass proves an animal is still alive. It proves the precise opposite. The relative scarcity of deformed-looking creatures in the fossil record proves beyond a doubt that if one species spawned another (which in itself is far from proven) it could not possibly have been by a random process.

To answer why we don’t see many of the “mistakes” in the fossil record, some scientists point out that the genetic code has a repair mechanism which is able to recognize diseased and dysfunctional genetic code and eliminate it before it has a chance to perpetuate abnormal organisms.

Aside from this not being the issue, this isn’t even entirely true. Although genetic code has the ability to repair or eliminate malfunctioning genes, many diseased genes fall through the cracks, despite this. There are a host of genetic diseases — hemophilia, various cancers, congenital cataract, spontaneous abortions, cystic fibrosis, color-blindness, and muscular dystrophy, to name just a few — that ravage organisms and get passed on to later generations, unhampered by the genetic repair mechanism. During earth’s history of robust speciation (species spawning new ones) through, allegedly, random mutation, far more genes should have fallen through the cracks.

And, as an aside, how did the genetic repair mechanism evolve before there was a genetic repair mechanism? And where are all those millions of deformed and diseased organisms that should’ve been produced before the genetic repair mechanism was fully functional?

But all this is besides the point. A more serious problem is the presumption that natural selection weeded out the vast majority, or all, of the “misfits.”

A genetic mutation that would have resulted in, let’s say, the first cow to be born with two legs instead of four, would not necessarily be recognized as dysfunctional by the genetic repair mechanism. (I’ll be using “cow” as an example throughout; but it applies to almost any organism.) From the genetic standpoint, as long as a gene is sound in its own right, there’s really no difference between a cow with four legs, two legs, or six tails and an ingrown milk container. It’s only after the cow is born that natural selection, on the macro level, eliminates it if it’s not fit to survive.

It’s these types of mutations, organisms unfit to survive on the macro level, yet genetically sound, that should have littered the planet by the billions.

Sure these deformed cows would have gotten wiped out quickly by natural selection, since they had no chance of surviving. But how many millions of dysfunctional cows alone, before you even get to the billions of other species in earth’s history, should have littered the planet and fossil record before the first stable, functioning cow made its debut? If you extrapolate the random combinations from a simple deck of cards to the far greater complexity of a cow, we’re probably talking about tens of millions of “mistakes” that should have cluttered planet earth for just the first functioning cow.

Where are all these relics of an evolutionary past?

Did nature miraculously get billions of species right the first time? Of the fossils well-preserved enough to study, most appear to be well-designed and functional-looking. With the low aberration ratio of fossils being no more significant, as far as speciation is concerned, than common birth deformities, there seems to have been nothing of a random nature in the development of life.

One absurd response I’ve gotten from a scientist as to why a plethora of deformed species never existed is: There is no such thing as speciation driven by deleterious mutation.

This is like asking, “How come everybody leaves the lecture hall through exit 5, but never through exit 4?” and getting a response, “Because people don’t leave the lecture hall through exit 4.” Wasn’t this the question?

What scientists have apparently done is look into the fossil record and found that new species tend to make their first appearance as well-formed, healthy-looking organisms. So instead of asking themselves how can a random series of accidents seldom, if ever, produce “accidents,” they’ve simply formulated a new rule in evolutionary biology: There is no such thing as speciation driven by deleterious mutation. This answer is about as scientific, logical and insightful as, “Because I said so.”

It’s one thing for the genetic code to spawn relatively flawless cows today, after years of stability. But before cows took root, a cow that might have struck us as deformed would have been no more or less “deleterious,” from the genetic standpoint, than a cow that we see as normal. The genetic repair mechanism may recognize “healthy” or “diseased” genetic code, but it can’t know how many legs or horns a completely new species should have, if we’re talking about a trial-and-error crapshoot. If the genetic repair mechanism could predict what a functioning species should eventually look like, years before natural selection on the macro level had a chance to weed out the unfit, we’d be talking about some pretty weird, prophetic science.

In a paper published in the February 21, 2002, issue of Nature, Biologists Matthew Ronshaugen, Nadine McGinnis, and William McGinnis described how they were able to suppress some limb development in fruit flies simply by activating certain genes and suppress all limb development in some cases with additional mutations during embryonic development.

In another widely publicized experiment, mutations induced by radiation caused fruit flies to grow legs on their heads.

These experiments showed how easy it is to make drastic changes to an organism through genetic mutations. Ironically, although the former experiment was touted as supporting evolution, they both actually do the opposite. The apparent ease with which organisms can change so dramatically and take on bizarre properties, drives home the point that bizarre creatures, and bizarre versions of known species, should have been mass produced by nature, had earth’s history consisted of billions of years of the development of life through random changes.

To claim that the random development of billions of life forms occurred, yet the massive aberrations didn’t, is an absurd contradiction to everything known about randomness.

Evolutionists tend to point out that the fossil record represents only a small fraction of biological history, and this is why we don’t find all the biological aberrations we should. But the issue here is not one of numbers but one of proportion.

For every fossil of a well-formed, viable-looking organism, we should have found an abundance of “strange” or deformed ones, regardless of the total number. What we’re finding, however, is the proportional opposite.

Evolution may have made some sense in Darwin’s days. But in the 21st century, evolution appears to be little more than the figment of a brilliant imagination. Although this imaginative concept has, in the years since Darwin, amassed a fanatical cult-like following, science, it is not. Science still needs to be proven; you can’t just vote ideas into “fact.” And especially not when they contradict facts.

One sign of the desperation of evolutionists to get their fallacious message across is their labelling of all disproofs of evolution as “Creationism,” even when no mention of Creation or a deity is made. Ironically, it’s evolutionists’ dogmatic adherence to concepts that are more imagination than fact that smacks of a belief in mystical, supernatural powers. What evolutionists have done, in effect, is invented a new god-less religion and re-invented their own version of creation-by-supernatural-means. However, the mere elimination of God from the picture doesn’t exactly make it science.

So if the development of life was not an accident, how did life come about?

Well, pointing out a problem is not necessarily contingent upon whether or not a solution is presented. In this case, presenting an alternative may actually be counterproductive. Evolutionists often get so bogged down with trying to discredit an proposed alternative, frequently with nothing more than invectives, that they tend to walk away believing evolution must still work.

The objective here, therefore, is to point out that Darwinian evolution does not fall apart because a solution being presented says it happened differently. The objective here is to show that the mechanics of evolution are incompatible with empirical evidence, verifiable science and common sense, regardless of whatever else may or may not take its place.

For a true study of science, we need to put the theory of evolution to rest, as we’ve done with so many other primitive concepts born of ignorance. Science today is far beyond such notions as metals that turn into gold, brooms that fly, earth is flat, and mystical powers that accidentally create life. What all these foolish beliefs have in common is that they were popular in their own time, were never duplicated in a lab, and were never proven by any other means.

We’d be doing society a great service if we filled our science textbooks with verifiable facts that demonstrate how science works, instead of scintillating fabrications that demonstrate how imaginative and irrational some scientists can get.

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11. sandrar - Friday, September 11, 2009

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12. P.E.T - Thursday, September 24, 2009

In response to the rant of Josh Greenberger,

I don’t know if people are still reading this since the post was from last year, but I can’t believe no one got back to Josh on his response.

If you read this, Josh, you’re thinking comes down to two things: 1. a misunderstanding of how evolution operates, and 2. a misunderstanding of how fossils form.

First, you claim that for every “well-formed” organism there should be proportionally MORE disformed, genetically-mutated lifeforms of the same species. What you fail to understand is that developmental processes are the most ancestral trait shared by all lifeforms…if natural selection had allowed for deleterious mutations to take control of the developmental process, life would have gone extinct at the cellular level and nothing would have evolved at all. What is interesting, is that certain developmental coding genes known as HOX genes (the fruit-fly papers you cite) allow for massive developmental change without too many mutations. Now certainly, there could also be genetically malformed individuals that die in infancy, but HOX genes mutations are rare and simply an interesting explanation for sudden (punctuated) events in evolutionary history. Because of the ancestral state and deep ontogenetic properties of development, the VAST majority of life forms well enough to live and reproduce (really the only point of life, selectively speaking). With this in mind, we would expect to find tons of “well-formed” specimens and proportionally FEW maladapted specimens.

Funny enough, we have found some interesting maladapted specimens, possibly including the “hobbit” (Homo floresiensis or Homo sapiens) from Indonesia. If this is determined to be a genetic deformity, the microcephalic individual will be unique to fossil humans.

All of this does not discount your argument that we should find more fossils than we do…even though they would be expected to be “well-formed.” As you seem to accept that the Earth is billions of years old (i.e. you’re not a young-earth Creationist), you might wonder, where are all of the trees that ever existed on Earth?? You might expect to find forests of fallen trees in the ground just as you expect to find the bones of all the living animals of the past! You know what? Organic material decomposes! The trees decompose, re-enter the carbon cycle and are reincorporated into new trees just as we, when we die, literally push up the daisies with our bodies, BONES INCLUDED! Only under exceptional circumstances do bones preserve by way of fossilization…and archaeologists and paleontologists look for these mineral scenarios when scouting potential site locations. Furthermore, evolved life prior to the formation of “hard parts” that fossilize relatively easily, are even more rare to find and are usually identified by impressions or inferred based on the evidence of waste products.

What I’m getting at is that it is expected that proportionally few individuals will fossilize and therefore the fossil record will only account for a fraction of the life that has lived on Earth; likewise, the proportion of those individuals that do fossilize are likely to be well-formed, adult, reproducing members of a species, not the small proportion of freakishly mutated “two-legged cows” (that’s not how evolution works either…) that don’t live past their first day! As archaeologists and paleontologists, we deal with this shortcoming the only way we can: we try to increase the sample size and test for evolutionary evidence in lab settings (like the fruit-fly example) so as to scientifically test evolutionary hypotheses based on fossil evidence in the future. Just because we have a relatively small fossil record doesn’t preclude the processes of evolution from occurring, it just takes some time to gather evidence and fill in the blanks in terms of exactly HOW it happened…that is DID happen is certain, it’s the little things that we are trying to figure out! And two-legged cows isn’t one of them…

PET


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