James Kirk Wall replies to Biblical creationist Mark Thompson on evolution

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First off I’d like to thank Mark for his willingness to engage in this debate. Mark is obviously very passionate about defending his position as am I in defending mine. I hope that the readers enjoy reviewing both sides of the argument.

There are two ways of reconciling religion with modern science
#1 – A liberal interpretation of religious doctrine which allows the flexibility for the faith to meld with modern scientific knowledge and recent discoveries.
#2 – A dogmatic interpretation of religious doctrine which forces the distortion of modern science to meld with the faith.
#1 allows scientific progress. #2 allows scientific stagnation.

In the United States there is a large minority of the population who believes the earth to be 6,000 years old and that a global flood happened 5,000 years ago. These people have been organizing to influence policy on public education. They want their religious creation story to be taught in science class alongside evolution. There are people strongly opposed to this idea as it would undermine a field of study that’s not only critical to the future of this country, but the future or our species.

And so here we are still having the creation vs. evolution debate in both large and small venues. This article is a response to Mark’s criticism of my piece on the Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham debate titled Creationist Mark Thompson responds to James Kirk Wall

Mark’s arguments against evolution included:
Newton believed in a creator
Creationism should be taught as an opposing idea to evolution
God has always been, so Christians don’t have to answer the First Cause question
How do you explain curved rock in the Grand Canyon?
There’s no way to add new data to the genome
Life cannot come from non-living matter

My response will include:
We don’t know how pre-Darwin scientists would feel about evolution today
Explaining curved rock in the Grand Canyon
Adding information to the genome
Evolution is not abiogenesis
“God did it” answers nothing and adds nothing to the wonder of the universe
Keep your religion out of science
Conclusion

We don’t know how pre-Darwin scientists would feel about evolution today

Often creationists will bring up famous long deceased scientists who believed that life must have required a creator. So what? There are famous long deceased scientists who believed in alchemy and that the stars were static. Would you want to be treated through the technology and knowledge of a long deceased medical doctor?

Many people don’t know how the first President of the United States died. Washington had an extremely painful death involving a throat infection that was treated with bleeding, blistering, an enema and induced vomiting. It’s not that his doctors weren’t intelligent, they were ignorant. Something to think about the next time you take antibiotics. Modern medicine is to be much appreciated.

Early scientists simply didn’t know nearly as much about the universe as we do now. Isaac Newton died in 1727. His opinion on today’s evolution vs. creation debate matters little. If Newton was born in 1942 instead of 1642, would he reject evolution? Probably not. Today there is a tremendous religious population and percentage of scientists that accepts the reality of evolution. This is the reason creationists rely so heavily on pre-Darwin endorsement.

In praise of early scientists, what we consider to be silly guesses today were often the necessary staring points of the past. Even without modern technology, there were many great early achievements. Magnificent scientific breakthroughs that were often inspired by god. I’m speaking of Zeus of course.

The idea that laws of nature rather than myths can provide explanations to what is currently unknown
Thales of Miletus (624-546 B.C.)

First inkling of evolution
Anaximaner (610-546 B.C.)

Everything is made up of atoms (Greek word for “uncuttable.”)
Democritus (460-370 B.C.)

Earth and other planets orbit the sun.
Aristarchus (310-230 B.C.)

Determined the circumference of the earth at 25,000 miles (actual is 24,901)
Eratosthenes (276-195 B.C.)

I know that I know nothing philosophy that became a key foundational component of modern science.
Socrates (469-399 B.C.)

I’ve heard creationists and apologists arrogantly imply that modern science is attributed to a Christian world view. This is nonsense. Modern science owes much of its success to the renaissance, a revival of ancient Greek and Roman philosophers, mathematicians and scientists through study. There have been many great Christian scientists, but this was not because of the Bible. The Bible is to the advancement of science as screen doors are to a submarine.

Explaining curved rock in the Grand Canyon

bent-rock-layers-photo1

There are many reasons why the earth has many layers. In areas with a history of volcanic activity there would be a covering of fresh lava and ash. Lava rock would erode, vegetation would grow and animals would thrive. Further volcanic activity would cause another layer of fresh rock and ash and the cycle would begin again. Sedimentary rock is formed through layer after layer of eroded earth until the pressure of the lower layers over time cause the rock transformation.

In the Grand Canyon you can find bent rock where the bend involves many layers. If the bottom layers are millions of years older than the top layers, how can this bend exist? Creationists argue that this must be because there is not a massive time difference between layers. They were soft and all hardened together in a short period of time and this was all due to a global flood.

Wet cement analogy. If you lay down wet cement, until that cement hardens you can bend it. If you lay down one layer of cement and allow it to dry, that layer is no longer bendable. If you then lay down wet cement over the hard cement and then try to bend both layers, the soft cement will bend while the hard cement will crack.

Mark says try it. Try to bend a piece of hardened cement in your driveway.

How do you explain curved rock in the Grand Canyon? Well, let me tell you something Mark. I have this book. It’s called 5th Grade Geology.

The rocks at surface conditions are brittle, but as you go deeper into the earth there is an increase in pressure and temperature. We have observed that applying heat and pressure to rock in a lab to mimic the condition deep below the surface, rocks can bend. High pressure keeps rock from cracking. Over millions of years rock layers commonly deform into tight bends.

Tectonic activity or the erosion from ancient rivers can expose very old rock. The bending, twisting or fracturing of rock is called deformation and is produced by stress and strain.

Bent rock in the Grand Canyon or anywhere is not evidence for young earth and a flood. It is evidence for old earth and here are 3 major reasons why.

#1 – Fossils in layers. This was brought up in Bill Nye’s debate with Ken Ham. You will not find the organisms in older layers of rock in newer layers. As Bill put it, you don’t see them swimming from layer to layer. If all this rock was the same age, there wouldn’t be the division of fossils. Fossil evidence demonstrates a progression of species complexity over time.

#2 – Shells and bone – In the wet cement analogy, imagine placing hard and brittle shells and pieces of bone into the wet cement. Then go ahead and bend the cement layer before it dries. Then chisel out those shells and bones. The cement layer was bent, but the shells and bone are in their original shape as they were hard when they went in. When we break apart ancient bent rock, we find fossilized shells and bone bent along with the rock.

#3 - Rocks have a grain, and in examining this we can observe the original pattern when the rock hardened and the following distortions.

In light of Mark’s ignorance and apparent inability to look beyond creationist websites for information, does he represent the kind of teacher you want in your child’s science class?

For those who don’t have their 5th Grade Geology textbooks handy, here are a couple of websites for reference.
Letters to Creationists – Grand Canyon Creation
Deformation of rocks

Adding information to the genome

Creationists are trying to argue that there is no way to add new information to the genome. This is nonsense. Per Dr. Zachary Blount regarding the E. coli long-term evolution experiment in which one strand gained the ability to grow on citrate:
“We still don’t fully understand all of the steps involved. But a simple “on/off” switch it is not!

However, even if it had been a single, simple mutation that allowed the cells to grow on citrate, that still would have been evolution … it still would have been a beneficial mutation in the context of the experiment … and it would still have demonstrated the acquisition of new information encoded in the genomes of the bacteria that fits them to their environment. Of course, if it were so easy as a single, simple mutation, then we would have seen that capability evolve in many or all of the populations. But after almost 60,000 generations to date, only one population has evolved that ability.”
http://telliamedrevisited.wordpress.com/2014/02/07/zachary-blount-on-ham-on-nye-debate-follow-up-3/

Evolution is not abiogenesis

Charles Darwin didn’t know how life began on earth. His good friend Thomas Huxley also didn’t know and even suggested the possibility that we never would. Abiogenesis is the process by which a living organism arises naturally from non-living matter. This has yet to be proven and there is difficulty in producing an early earth environment in which to do experiments and observation on.

Mark Thompson keeps insisting that evolution and abiogenesis is the same thing. It’s not.

Evolution does not tell us how life began on earth, but the evidence tells us this. Life began as a single-celled organism and for close to a billion years there was nothing but single-celled organisms on earth before something multi-celled evolved. The evidence demonstrates a progression of species complexity over time. The evidence tells us that information was progressively added to the genome.

“God did it” answers nothing and adds nothing to the wonder of the universe

How could something come from nothing? That’s impossible! So it must have been a god beyond time and space….. who’s white……… and a man.

In all of the mysteries that have been solved by man over many millennia, not one of them has turned out to be magic. As Sam Harris once stated, name something that used to be better explained by science but is now better explained by religion. This is not to say there aren’t “magic like” things in fields such as quantum mechanics where particles pop in and out of existence and quantum entanglements which cause links between particles that we don’t currently understand.

“God did it” is not an answer to anything. When we don’t know something the honest answer is “We don’t know.” As Neil deGrasse Tyson once said, if someone defines god as what we don’t know, then god is nothing more than an ever receding pocket of scientific ignorance.

And to say that “I don’t know” equates to an absence of wonder is completely ludicrous. “I don’t know” is not an absence of wonder, it’s an abundance of integrity. It’s not a lazy attempt to fill gaps of knowledge with superstition.

"Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?" - Douglas Adams

"I don't even care if someone wants to say, 'You don't understand that. God did it.' That doesn't even bother me. What would bother me is if you were so content in that answer that you no longer had curiosity to learn how it happened. The day you stop looking because you're content God did it, I don't need you in the lab. You are useless on the frontier of understanding the nature of the world." - Neil Degrasse Tyson

Keep your religion out of science

People like Mark think that creationism should be placed at the same level as evolution. And if they don’t get their way, that’s censorship. This is nonsense. Creationism is not science, it’s theology. Creationism should no more be in science than astrology should be in algebra.

The rationalists must protect science from the perversion of creationists. Every other week there is some misguided state politician (always a Republican) trying to promote legislation that would bring creationism into science class. With 7 billion people in need of food, water, shelter, transportation, sanitation, energy and millions of years of future generations needing a planet to live off of, can we afford to go backwards in scientific competency? The answer is no. It’s time for the fairy tales to end. It’s time to unequivocally put science and secular philosophy over religious dogmatism.

“I have a foreboding of an America in my children's or grandchildren's time -- when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what's true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness...” – Carl Sagan

People like Mark Thompson need to wise up.

Conclusion

Just about every atheist at one time or another has contemplated a creator. If there was a higher intelligence, what kind of entity is it, where did it come from and how did it go about doing everything? There is nothing wrong with this type of philosophizing, but it’s not science. If we wanted to bring up creation stories for young adults to think about in public education, that would be religious studies. This is instruction that teaches students about all of the major religions, the different stories of creation, the different concepts of god and beliefs in the afterlife from the spirit world, to resurrection to heaven and hell.

Public schools promoting Christian creationism is a violation of the separation of church and state. It is a violation of the First Amendment. And it’s not science. If people are truly interested in advancing critical thinking there are fields of study such as Religious Studies, Philosophy, Argumentation and Journalism that would do just that without molesting science education or violating the U.S. Constitution by promoting one religious belief over everyone else.

There is no reason for anyone to believe that the world is only 6,000 years old in modern times. There is no reason to attack the integrity of scientists all over the world who are working hard to increase our understanding of the universe and solve problems that threaten our quality of life. The dishonesty of creationists have been exposed over and over again. They are a well-organized and funded threat to human progress. They have a right to their own theology, they don’t have a right to dictate the policies of public education.

-James Kirk Wall

Additional Sources:

Richard Feynman explains what science is:

Richard Dawkins explains the evolution of the eye:

Lawrence Krauss on a universe from nothing:

Neil deGrasse Tyson - We're all connected
Tyson2

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