Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – probability, evolution and theists

In a prior post, I went over how many Christians attack evolutionary theory without either knowing what it actually is, or willfully ignoring what it actually is.  I pointed out that many Christians, including the pastor who wrote these things, try to make false claims about its supposed randomness, which he, and they, think is such a great and wonderful attack on the theory that they benefit from every day.

The pastor posted two posts on his blog, in an evident hope to support his claims.   Let’s see how he does.

To begin with, he tries to excuse his claims by saying that the average person uses the terms accident or chance.  That may the case; it’s still wrong, and creationists use these terms intentionally to try to cast doubt on evolutionary theory.  The pastor just parrots what they say and these creationists certainly do their best to hide behind science when they want, witness the attempts by the Discovery Institute, Answers in Genesis, etc. when they try to claim how ever-so scientific they are, insisting that any second now, they’ll have actual evidence for their myths.  It’s been decades since they’ve made that claim and still no evidence.

There is no evidence that the universe came about by accident or chance.  Indeed, the evidence points to the laws physics being quite enough for it to come into being and they may be just as “eternal” as theists claim their gods are.

The pastor displays his ignorance about other religions when he repeats his failed claim that “people saw this world as being the by-product of the wars and love affairs of gods”.   Some religions do indeed see this as true, and quite a few make the same claim that the pastor does “Creation reveals God and leaves us without excuse.”   None of them can support this, and putting the words in bold doesn’t make it any truer and no better than the claim of an imam or a guru or a Wiccan priestess.   He also claims that the gods of other religions didn’t mean to make the universe and humans.  That is incorrect too and that ignorance would have been cured by a very quick internet search. For example, Ahura Mazda was an uncreated being that intentionally created humans as a good thing.   Jainism believes that the universe has always existed, no creator needed.  Egyptian myth has Ptah creating the universe with a “word” and speaking humans into existence or Neith wove everything in the universe intentionally on her loom.  When one cherry picks myths, one gets a wrong answer that all religions have what Christians often seem to be trying to make as a set of “primitive” beliefs.  In other religions, there are indeed purposeful creation of human beings.  The pastor’s claim that humans are only a “by product” in other religions is wrong.

It doesn’t seem that creationism and the pastor’s version are getting off to a good start.  His idea that humans *must* be created by a god intentionally doesn’t make his religion unique nor does it support the common Christian claim that humans have to be created to be worth something.  Per his religion, we must worship his god because his god created us to do so.  That no evidence can be shown to support this claim, there is no need of worship (and paying preachers) at all.

The pastor claims that there can’t be reason or purpose for his existence without his god.  I do feel sorry for people who feel like that since that makes them afraid, very afraid and very dangerous to people who dare to point out that they can be wrong.   When one’s entire self-worth is based on being right about a god that has no evidence for it, it can make for desperation.  I would posit that this desperation is why a lot of young men and women kill themselves (and others) for Islam.  They have nothing else that tells them that they are worth something.

Happily, humans can have many things that make life worth living, which gives a reason and a purpose: family, friends, pets, justice, art, etc.  The pastor, like so many ignorant Christians, wants to claim that having no god means nihilism.  They have to make that false claim since they have to be able to give a reason why someone must agree with them in order to get that external validation.  They must play on fear.

Things still aren’t looking good for this Christian version.  The pastor’s quotes from Dawkins are a little strange. They do show that evolution is not based on randomness as creationists would claim. They are all from Climbing Mount Improbable and the main gist of this book is that evolution isn’t improbable like theists may claim since it does things slowly, makes many mistakes, and doesn’t always work or get the best answer to a problem.   We can see that if we take one of the bits and look at it in context.

“We have arrived back at Mount Improbable, back to “smearing out” the luck: to taking what looks like an immense amount of luck – the luck needed to make an eye where previously no eye, say – and explaining it by splitting it up into lots of little pieces of luck, each one added cumulatively to what has gone before. WE have now seen how this actually works, by means of the accumulation of lot of little pieces of ancestral luck in the DNA that survives. Alongside the minority of genetically well-endowed individuals who survived, there were large numbers of less favored individuals who perished. Every generation has its Darwinian failures but every individual is descended only from previous generations’ successful minorities.”

The pastor claims that there are three problems.

  • That the defenders of evolution have not allowed for the use of everyday language to sum up a point or to describe the perception that arises out of their theory.
  • That a lot of people don’t really know how things like chance and probability work.
  • That whilst it would be reductionist to think of evolution purely in terms of random/blind chance, it would be similarly reductionist to ignore the element of chance present in evolutionary theory as well.

It is not that the “defenders of evolution” haven’t allowed for the use of everyday language, it is that we aren’t interested in the false claims of creationists being spread by their ignorance of the subject they attack.  It is true that many people don’t know how probability works and that includes creationist. I’ve found this website that does a good job at simply explaining probability. And yes, we know that the pastor is using “accident” and “random” as attacks against evolutionary theory since the creationist’s only argument is that the universe must be designed and must be intentional.   Creationists try to use the ignorance of others about chance and probability to make their false statements.  The last point is a strawman since no one has said that no chance at all is in involved.  The only ones who have tried to imply that evolution depends entirely on chance are the creationists since, again, they must draw a distinction between their divine design and everything else.  Varying probabilities are involved and one can see that from the quote from Dawkins above.

(as an aside, probabilities are something that a lot of folks don’t understand. The probability of life on earth is 1 (certain) since we are most definitely here.   We don’t know exactly how things started, and we may never know, but we know it happened. The evidence may be long gone since the surface of the earth is constantly being remade.

So, for abiogenesis we don’t know exactly how it started, but we know the laws of physics and chemistry so we can do the experiments to get ideas on how it may have worked. We may, at some point, succeed in making life, but even then we may not have come upon the exact way it happened on earth because there could be more than one way for abiogenesis to occur.

Now, we have plenty of evidence that evolution has occurred. We have evidence that there are physical laws and they don’t change randomly.   We have physicists that propose theories and we have the experiments and observations that these theories are accurate descriptions of how the universe behaves. This makes for a high probability that they are correct.

And then we have the claims about various gods, including the Christian one. We have no evidence that any gods exist. We have no evidence that they somehow influence the universe. We have no evidence that any god created the universe.   We do have evidence that prayers do not work as advertised. With these facts, there is no reason to assign a high probability to the claim that this god exists.)

It’s rather fun to watch creationists now try to walk back their false claims about evolution.  This has happened again and again since evolutionary theory was mentioned.  By dribs and drabs, creationists have accepted the pieces of evolutionary theory that they could not reject without looking completely idiotic.  Oh well, the bible was literal….. until it became metaphor.   There was no evolution….until some creationists decided that that there was “microevolution” but golly, no macroevolution.   And now we have Christians who say that the bible has nothing to do with describing the world as it is, but not it’s only a guide for morality and spirituality (which it fails at too).

Now, the pastor wants to claim that we are “really” talking about probability.  And indeed, we have been all along.  In this universe, we know that everything isn’t random and chaotic, which is exactly what evolutionary theory says and how the world works.  However, when a theist claims a miracle,  and that the events of the bible really did happen, then they are claiming that yes, “anything can happen”,  that people can fly against the laws of physics, that a whale can swallow a man, that the dead can be made alive again, the universe is random and chaotic.  However, they don’t live their lives this way.   They claim that they have a god that is the “unknown known” that makes miracles happen, but they have no evidence for the actor nor the miracles themselves; they inject the deus ex machina which they cannot show exists or that it is even probable.    Continue reading “Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – probability, evolution and theists”

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Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Another wannabee theocrat here in PA – government is great if it teaches my religion

Why-force-schools-650x487Recently, there was a letter to the editor in the local paper on why we should allow creationism to be taught in schools. It was from a pastor, Glen Bayly, of the Mifflinburg Alliance Church, a bit north of me in central Pennsylvania. You can find a bit about Mr. Bayly on the ‘net, he’s even been to Ken Ham’s hilarious “museum” of creationism in Kentucky. You know, the one that depends on government tax laws to exist, no matter how much they dislike the government. Ken very much likes Glen, even mentioning in on his blog. He also hates gay people, because they are “Unnatural, immoral, destructive”. All claims without any evidence, as usual. We’ll see that Mr. Bayly often makes claims like this.

Now, Mr. Bayly has a radio show, “The Lion’s Den University Report” where he supposedly interviews Christians who are academics in universities. You can see where this is going.   Now, we can see who Mr. Bayly has interviewed by looking at his list on iTunes. Hmmm, Douglas Jones an engineer from George Washington University, Bob Guyette, a research physicist at Princeton, economics professors, business professors, etc. We do have a couple of medical doctorates, which is getting closer. But still not one person who has a degree in the actual sciences that Mr. Bayly says are wrong.

Well, let’s look at Bob Guyette at Princeton, the most recent interviewee from 2011. I googled Bob Guyette Princeton and Robert Guyette Princeton. Nothing found at all. Not one paper, nothing on Princeton’s website. Indeed, the only reference found for Dr. Guyette is Mr. Bayly’s interview. Dr. Douglas Jones was at GWU but was a associate dean of academic affairs, not engineering. He is a materials engineer, which isn’t terribly known for requiring biology courses.

Now, Mr. Bayly seems to believe in a 6 day creation, the very literal version that some Christians believe in and some Christians don’t.   He writes that we should have creationism taught in schools. His creationism, evidently. The version I am addressing was in the Harrisburg Patriot News, but an even more ridiculous version was in a neighboring paper, complete with even more outright lies like this one “It is illegal to even mention this fact [that people believe in religious stories about creationism] in the science classes of Pennsylvania.” Tsk, what a great way to show just how honest a Christian can be.  The Sensuous Curmudgeon already ripped this apart, but I thought I’d amuse myself with it too.

His letter starts with a quote from the Declaration of Independence, “All men are created equal.”.   This has no relevance to what comes next other than to perhaps establish a date and try to hide his nonsense beneath a shroud of patriotism. He then claims that Americans believed in the Christian god as the creator back in 1776 and correctly states that many Americans no longer believe in this, that his god created the universe.

001-evolution-debateHe continues to note that human origins are taught in public schools and universities along with evolutionary theory. Ah, here’s where the quote from the Declaration comes in, where Mr. Bayly tries to claim that evolutionary theory doesn’t allow for the concept of all men are created equal. He attempts, like so many creationists before him, to claim that evolutionary theory is only a constant violent struggle between extant creatures. Here he shows his ignorance of what evolutionary theory says, which is that a organism will pass on traits that have allowed it to survive in a certain environment, thus allowing its progeny to do well in that certain environment. Mr. Bayly depends on a false representation of evolutionary theory to make his argument, thus creating a strawman to attack.

He then tries again to claim that human life has no worth if one accepts evolutionary theory as how humans came to be. Unfortunately for him, that is another false claim, the usual attempt to claim that the only way to value human life is to believe in a supernatural force. In that many atheists value human life, stand against the death penalty, support charities (even religious based ones), Mr. Bayly’s claim is simply false. I care for people and believe that all are equal because I am empathic, I can see myself in their place. I do not need a god to tell me to hold others important.

155-God-cannot-forgive-650x368Mr. Bayly then claims that the only way that anyone can hold humans equal is because of his “infinitely loving, intelligent Creator who made them in His image.”. Of course, any scholar of the bible knows that this is rather silly to claim if one claims that the bible is to be taken literally e.g. meaning exactly what it says. We have in the bible that humans are not equal. Women are considered property (Exodus 20: ) slaves are considered property (Exodus 20, and on and on). Believers of any other god are to be killed with no consideration, not even if they are your family (Exodus 22:20, Deut 13) . One should not welcome people who don’t believe as you, 2 John 1. This is not a god that considers “All men are created equal.” We have one bit in the bible that says that believers are to be considered equal amongst themselves, Galatians 3. That is as close as it gets to the American ideal of equality and freedom.

He then claims that it is reasonable to believe in a “superintellligent Creator” in the light of the facts of modern science.” Why, you may ask? Because “many still believe it is.” A lovely use of the logical fallacy of the appeal to popularity. The problem with this is that what happens if one loses the majority? If Islam becomes the biggest religion, does this mean that since “many” believe in it, then it is true and everyone should believe in it? Will Mr. Bayly give up his version of Christianity and spread his prayer rug towards Mecca? He also mentions another lovely canard about how the founders of “modern science” believed in his Christian god, so that means that we should too. Considering that these “founders”, e.g. Isaac Newton, Galileo, etc, also believed in rather silly things like alchemy, should we believe that we can turn lead into gold using mandrake root too? His claim of how “many notable modern day scientists do [believe] also” is of course lacking of any evidence of this. We can see that in his very own list of “academics” above.

Mr. Bayly claims that the evidence for evolution is compelling to “some”. Those some include Mr. Bayly since he has no problem in using things that depend on that theory and has no problem in accepting the same science that supports evolutionary theory when it makes him nice and comfy in his modern life.

In his final paragraph, Mr. Bayly again reiterates his strawman of how evolutionary theory is philosophically “tragic” and demands the following: “It’s time America has a spiritual revival of the Christian religion that made American great and for a Constitutional Amendment to be passed in Pennsylvania allowing the teaching of God as our Creator in the classrooms of our state.”

So, we do see that Mr. Bayly wants only his religion to be taught as the truth in public schools, and he wants a “Constitutional Amendment to do so. He wants to pretend that only Christians of his type made the US great; eh, who cares about all of those “other” people who worked and sacrificed for the ideal of the US. He wants only his version of his religion to be taught, that every other religion is to be taught as false, including other version of Christianity which says that the creation story is a metaphor and that evolution theory is fine, if perhaps started by the Christian god.   This is the typical conservative Christian here in the United States, wanting a theocracy for them and only them. This is the only time that they appreciate government, when they think they can use it to force others to worship as they do. In any other instance, they don’t trust public schools to do anything right.

I am glad that such wannabee theocrats do have the same rights of free speech that I do. It allows everyone to know that we always have to defend our rights against such nonsense. All humans should have equal rights. That’s the thought from a bunch of people who wrote the Declaration of Independence wrote, Christians of all different types and non-Christians, not some religion having dominance over everyone.

Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Part 8 – #19 the first half, geology, misapprehensions about evolution, carbon dating and more quote-mining

one of my favorite movies
one of my favorite movies

We’re on the home stretch now, though the section numbered 19 is probably the longest one.  It’s also probably the best for someone like me who wishes to show how creationists are just so silly.  The pdf of the text of the last part (sections 19-23) of our TrueChristiantm’s post is here: truechristian post 19-23.  

The geologic column ( I’m guessing, he uses “coulomb” repeatedly) would be very thick *if* people were ignorant enough to assume that every geological formation were formed everywhere.  This goes back to our Christian’s ignorance of what the geologic column is.  In some places we have a sandstone formation and in others we have a shale; both formed at the same time and both are represented as having been formed at that time on the GC.  It was indeed initially formed in the early 1800s and alas for our Christian, no radioactive dating was needed for it at that time; it was a relative scale.  

Our Christian claims that the evolution of the horse is “backward in South America”.  I have yet to find evidence for this claim. Like miracles, a lot of creationist “evidence” is to be found in “deepest, darkest X”.  Also, to claim that evolution has a “backwards” or “forewards” demonstrates an ignorance of what evolutionary theory claims.  Evolution says that populations will show a change of attributes due to environmental pressures that select for those attributes that are more favorable for survival. So, if we had our “horse A” and it was adapted for a forested land, then there was a drought, it would evolve to fit that better. And if the drought lifted, and went back to forest, the “horse A” would keep evolving. (Addition: video that shows how a creationist has come to accept evolution from first not.  The creationist? Kent Hovind, he just calls it “variation” but he accepts every point of how species form. Ah, recordable media, nothing better for showing hypocrisy 🙂 )    Continue reading “Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – Part 8 – #19 the first half, geology, misapprehensions about evolution, carbon dating and more quote-mining”