Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The lie that Charles Darwin was a racist.

We should do away with the scurrilous lie that Darwin was a racist, or that evolutionary biology induces racism or bigotry. Darwin in the 1850s wrote in what could be called a dated academic style which without practice can be rather thick reading. Ignorant creationists like to draw sinister conclusions from the title of Darwin's opus, "The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life." They are apparently clueless that “Race” in Darwin’s use meant formally a grouping below subspecies which is how it is used by botanists today for local variations found in plants growing in slightly different soils, or varied amounts of sunlight. As there are no extant human subspecies, there is no scientific reference intended by Darwin to human races.

Darwin made virtually no mention of humans at all in "The Origin of Species" Further, popular political writing 150 years ago and even later commonly used "race" to mean nationality; we read from those times about the "Irish race" and the "English race." In fact, Darwin considered all human biological variation he observed in his worldwide travels merely due to differences in climate and diet. For example Charles Darwin, wrote in The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (John Murray, London, 1871), "It may be doubted whether any character can be named which is distinctive of a race and is constant."

Note that this is at a time when many Christians argued that non-Europeans were not even human! The American slave owners were assured by the "preAdamites" that God had created the Negro with the "beasts of the field" and that the sons of Adam (of course all Whites) was only exercising his God ordained right to dominate these sub-humans. Christian racists in America even to this day maintain that nonwhites are subhuman, cite biblical support for slavery, and/or allege that Blacks are descended from Ham, the son of Noah who was cursed to be a mere servant.

Darwin's attitude toward Africans was shaped in part by his early friendship with a Negro man he became friends with in Edinburgh. Darwin learned the art of taxidermy from him and whom he mentioned in his autobiography; "By the way, a Negro lived in Edinburgh, who had traveled with Waterton and gained his livelihood by stuffing birds, which he did excellently; he gave me lessons for payment, and I used often to sit with him, for he was a very pleasant and intelligent man." -- Charles Darwin, Autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809-1882 (restored edition)(1958), Nora Barlow editor, p.51. Darwin also mentioned this in his 1871 book, “The Descent of Man;”

“The Races of Men”
Although the existing races of man differ in many respects, as in colour, hair, shape of skull, proportions of the body, &c., yet if their whole organisation be taken into consideration they are found to resemble each other closely in a multitude of points. Many of these points are of so unimportant or of so singular a nature, that it is extremely improbable that they should have been independently acquired by aboriginally distinct species or races. The same remark holds good with equal or greater force with respect to the numerous points of mental similarity between the most distinct races of man. The American aborigines, Negroes and Europeans differ as much from each other in mind as any three races that can be named; yet I was incessantly struck, whilst living with the Fuegians on board the “Beagle,” with the many little traits of character, shewing how similar their minds were to ours; and so it was with a full-blooded negro with whom I happened once to be intimate.

And,

“Now when naturalists observe a close agreement in numerous small details of habits, tastes and dispositions between two or more domestic races, or between nearly-allied natural forms, they use this fact as an argument that all are descended from a common progenitor who was thus endowed; and consequently that all should be classed under the same species. The same argument may be applied with much force to the races of man.” (London: John Murray, 2nd Ed. 1874:179)


I want to emphasize that Darwin's anti-slavery, and anti-racism was 40 years before Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

Further, Charles Darwin was an ardent abolitionist at a time when many used the Bible to justify slavery. In 1833 he wrote, "I have watched how steadily the general feeling, as shown at elections, has been rising against Slavery. What a proud thing for England, if she is the first European nation which utterly abolishes it. I was told before leaving England, that after living in slave countries: all my options would be altered; the only alteration I am aware of is forming a much higher estimate of the Negro's character." Charles Darwin to Catherine Darwin (May 22 - July 14 1833) The Correspondence of Charles Darwin Vol. 1 1821-1836 (1985), pp. 312-313

Abolitionists William Wilberforce, and Thomas Clarkson were funded by Charles R. Darwin’s Grandfathers; Josiah Wedgwood and Erasmus Darwin, through the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade. Wedgwood and Darwin were founding members in 1787, and served on the London Committee. It was Clarkson who in 1791 conceived the British boycott against slave labor sugar. But it was Wedgwood money that paid for the thousands of pamphlets used to promote the campaign.

The Darwin and Wedgwood opposition to slavery spanned generations. In 1824 the family provided significant financial support to the Anti-Slavery Society run by W. Wilberforce and Thomas Fowell Buxton (Wilberforce’s successor to the House of Commons in 1818). The anti-slavery slogan, “The Universal Father has made of one blood all nations” was coined by a Shrewsbury Unitarian and prefaced anti-slavery resolutions introduced to Parliament.

So young Charles R. Darwin was raised in the center of anti-slavery and anti-racist activism.

I want anyone confused by the creationist propaganda to read;

Daly, John Patrick
2002 "When Slavery Was Called Freedom: Evangelism, Proslavery, and the Causes of the Civil War" Kentucky University Press

Desmond, Adrian and James More
2009 “Darwin’s Sacred Cause” New York: Penguin Books

Consider The Rev. John Bachman (February 4, 1790 – February 24, 1874). He was an American Lutheran minister, social activist and naturalist who collaborated with J.J. Audubon, Co-founder of Newberry College, and Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary. Bachman published in 1850 “The Doctrine of the Unity of the Human Race Examined on the Principles of Science,” and in 1855 “Characteristics of Genera and Species, as Applicable to the Doctrine of Unity in the Human Race.” Bachman was liberal of his place and time. He accepted that the African, and Caucasian races were of the same species. However, he also wrote that the African were of such "an inferior, and debased nature" that it was the Christian Duty of Whites to enslave the Africans “for their own good.”

There is a long tradition of racism in the American Christian churches, especially the Southern Baptists who split from the Northern Baptists and supported slavery. See for example;

Marvin Wheat
1862 “Proof of Slavery From the First Chapter of Genesis” Publisher unknown

Haberman, Fredrick
1934 "Tracing Our White Ancestors: White Roots" (1962 ed. Phoenix, Az: Lord's Covenant Church) and 2009 reprinted as "Tracing Our Ancestors: Traces the European American Back to Father Abraham and Beyond" Muskogee, Ok: Artisan Publishers.

Heschel, Susannah
2008 “The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany” Princeton University Press

Modern creationist Henry Morris's (founder of the Institute for Creation Research) wrote in "The Beginning Of the World, Second Edition (1991), pp. 147-148:
"The descendants of Ham were marked especially for secular service to mankind. Indeed they were to be 'servants of servants,' that is 'servants extraordinary!' Although only Canaan is mentioned specifically (possibly because the branch of Ham's family through Canaan would later come into most direct contact with Israel), the whole family of Ham is in view. The prophecy is worldwide in scope and, since Shem and Japheth are covered, all Ham's descendants must be also. These include all nations which are neither Semitic nor Japhetic. Thus, all of the earth's 'colored' races,--yellow, red, brown, and black--essentially the Afro-Asian group of peoples, including the American Indians--are possibly Hamitic in origin and included within the scope of the Canaanitic prophecy, as well as the Egyptians, Sumerians, Hittites, and Phoenicians of antiquity."

So, Christians and modern creationists support racism, and slavery as "biblical."

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Wayne Lusvardi is a nit wit

Wayne Lusvardi "writes on water policy," and if his recent article, "Drought: Tearing up lawns is short-sighted" is a typical example, he should write about something else. Mr. Lusvardi want's us to all keep watering the lawns here in California because in a few places this wasted water will be recaptured. He thinks that in the few places that this might happen up to 15% of wasted lawn water could be recovered. Oh, he added that without lawns poor urban people will park their cars on bare dirt.


I have had an all native California yard landscape for over 12 years. I have used no domestic water on it for 11 years. Additionally, eliminating lawns and replacing them with native plants has many more benefits than water savings. Just reducing the use of water polluting pesticides, and fertilizers saves money and helps the environment. Other wildlife needs native plants, most obviously lepidoptera, and birds. Fourth, more lawn irrigation water runs off from sidewalks, and driveways that his fantasy 15% recovery to ground water. Fifth, I have no need to waste months of my days weeding, or mowing lawns.

But the fundamentally stupid bit is Mr. Lusvardi's notion that the extremely limited "recovery" thinks might be gained (15%) can match the minimum 50% of annual water saved by replacing lawns with regionally native plants. This is even if we use his doubtfully accurate numbers.

I cannot avoid the stench of racism in Lusvardi's assertion that all "we’re going to end up with is low income neighborhoods tearing out lawns and residents using the bare dirt for parking cars."

Over the years I had a lot of fights with the city (Dana Point) code enforcement officers (AKA Lawn Nazis) about having a native garden. This was apparently a training exercise for new hires. I finally ended it with this little sign. Now everybody is happy:

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Carl Baugh's many frauds

There are many websites that have detailed the many frauds of Carl Baugh.

There are his fake "doctorates."
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/paluxy/degrees.html

There are his many frauds housed in his "museum."
http://www.bibleandscience.com/otherviews/baugh.htm

The most notorious are his fake human foot prints supposedly associated with dinosaurs. http://www.bibleandscience.com/science/footprints.htm

The one "human footprint" fraud of Carl Baugh's I have detailed was the "Alvis Delk Cretaceous Footprint"
http://stonesnbones.blogspot.com/2011/10/collecting-carl-baugh.html

A more extensive analysis of Baugh's fake footprints is Glen J. Kuban's excellent website.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Pastor Jim Mumme is an idiot

In a guest editorial, Pastor Jim Mumme made some of the more gross misunderstandings of physical science I recall reading. What is sad is that I suspect Pastor Jim thinks he is advancing a reconciliation between science and religion.

"Pastor" Jim claims to love "science, and ... Christianity’s doctrine of creation." Yet he showed very little understanding of either. His scientific errors begin almost immediately when he wrote, "Energy is defined as the capacity to do work." That would be a crude definition of "entropy." He goes on to say, "Energy is actually invisible, and only its use or result can be seen." Just what does Pastor Jim think his eyes see with? The rest of us use photons which are a form of energy. In fact they are the "pure light" he confused with a weird unorthodox doctrine conflating light and the Divine. When Pastor Jim wrote, "Man can change matter to energy, and an example would be burning gasoline to run an automobile or coal to warm a building," his 'scientific' credibility left the room entirely. Burning gas, or coal does not convert mass into energy; burning releases chemical energy stored in the fuel.

Mr. Mumme weirdly links the notion that mankind cannot generate matter from light, that Genesis opens with a command "let there be light," and concluded that God "actually made the material world out of His personal energy."

We can create matter from energy. One way used massive particles and one could quibble that this was not "pure light" energy. But a new paper published just today (Pike, Mackenroth, Hill & Rose) shows how we can actualize the experimental results predicted in 1934 by Breit and Wheeler. This is the direct generation of electrons from photons; matter from pure light. This also reduces "Pastor" Jim's theology to rubble.

Breit, G. & Wheeler, J. A.
1934 "Collision of two light quanta" Phys. Rev. 46, 1087–1091

Pike O. J., Mackenroth F., Hill E. G., Rose S. J.,
2014 “A photon-photon collider in a vacuum hohlraum” Nature Photon
05/18/online

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Carl Baugh Page Views

I must admit that I like to watch the stats change on Stones and Bones.

I always know when Carl Baugh had been on some preacher's TV show because the hits on Baugh's fake fossils spike. Over the years, they have generated about 10% of my total viewers.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

We get mail

I have not been writing posts for Stones and Bones. I have been cruising newspaper discussion forums all this time, as well as getting in a lot of fishing.

I have also been receiving emails from creationists, and even a few fans who have read some of my comments to various public venues. I have thought that I might share a few of these in separate headings of "Fan Mail" and "Hate Mail." The first is the "Fan Mail" basket.

The most recent was last Friday, April 25, 2014, from Mark Sheffield, PhD.

I followed some parapsychology nut's website to an article on a "second DNA
code" hidden in codon bias... which I admit, piqued my interest... until I
saw what utter crap the reporting on it was.

The only bright spot in the 15 minutes I wasted reading the article was
reading your exchange with the creationist commenters. It took some effort
to track you down to email you, but I feel that patience and scientific
clarity like yours deserves to be recognized.

Bravo, sir.


The website I had commented on was the University of Washington's press release office, specifically about their crappy puffery about the discovery of "duons."

That particular discussion thread brought me another email from Joe Smith. Short, but nice;

"Gary,
Cheers good job standing up to the crowd of reflex thinking creationist online. I was looking up the Exonic Transcription... and saw your criticism. Not bad! Yeah the paper is a bit flawed.
~Joe"

Monday, March 03, 2014

Global Warming, Panda's Thumb, and My "Mann number" of ~2

I have said that I would try and avoid involvement in the "climate wars." It is not because I think that the issue is not significant- it is the greatest threat to civilization. I mean that unqualified. Nuclear war is grave, but is in fact more likely due to the impending climate crisis. It is just that I have a professional background related to evolution, and creationism that I lack in climate science.

None the less, last night I was reading Michael E. Mann's recent book, “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars” (2013 Columbia University Press). And on page 142 (paperback ed.), he wrote about the inspiration for the climate change blog, RealClimate. It was The Panda's Thumb. PT is a science blog I helped start 10 years ago. The goal was to counter creationist fraud and lies.

It seems we helped with public education on global climate, if very indirectly.

Elsewhere, Mann joked about the "Mann number" similar to the Erdos, or "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon." The idea comes about from an attack on climate science via a personal attack on Michael Mann. "Smoking" Joe" Barton (R-Tx) as the Chair of the House Energy and Technology Committee ordered an investigation of Michael Mann conducted by Edward Wegman. As part of Wegman's report was a "social network analysis" of Michael Mann's publication record with the intent of smearing Mann as having too wide a "personal network" to insure adequate peer review. This was also of particular interest to me as I had contributed quite a lot to personal social network analysis in my early career.

So, I recon' that I can get an approximate "Mann Number" of 2.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Noah Berlatsky in the Atlantic, 8, Feb. 2014

I was able to ignore the continuing disaster of my last computer crash by reading this essay on the recent debate by Bill Nye and Ken Ham.

Charles Darwin and the “Atlantic” have a long association. In fact, Darwin helped prepare a pamphlet from three of Asa Gray’s articles in the July, August, and October issues of the 1860 Atlantic Monthly supporting Darwin’s theory. Gray collected them as well in his book “Drawiniana” under the heading, "Natural Selection not inconsistent with Natural Theology." What Asa Gray argued for was an early version of Theistic Evolution. But, this essay by Noah Berlatsky strikes me as oddly motivated. The debate between Bill Nye, and Ken Ham was not informed by the apologetics of William Paley. It was a really a debate between the views of Darwin, and Lyle versus those of Bishop James Ussher.

Darwin commented in his Autobiography of the influence of Paley in his youth. When Darwin went aboard the HMS Beagle, by his account he was “quite orthodox.” However, he gradually came “… to see that the Old Testament was no more to be trusted than the sacred books of the Hindoos (sic).” It was only after this realization, and the consequent rejection of Paley’s Natural Selection, that Darwin was able to formulate his theory of natural selection. Again Darwin has commented on this in his “Autobiographical Notes,” "Although I did not think much about the existence of a personal God until a considerably later period of my life, I will here give the vague conclusions to which I have been driven. The old argument from design in Nature, as given by Paley, which formerly seemed to me so conclusive, fails, now that the law of natural selection has been discovered. We can no longer argue that, for instance, the beautiful hinge of a bivalve shell must have been made by an intelligent being, like the hinge of a door by man. There seems to be no more design in the variability of organic beings, and in the action of natural selection, than in the course which the wind blows.”

The subtitle of Paley’s book is revealing, 1802 Paley “Natural Theology: Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity, Collected from the Appearances of Nature.” Paley, as noted by Berlatsky, held a rather silly view of happy fish frolicking about were a real naturalist would see feeding behavior and the frantic effort to escape the jaws from below. We should also asked if the Intelligent Design creationists see themselves as in the same apologetic as Paley. ID creationist guru William Dembski was categorical in his dismissal of this idea in his essay, “Intelligent design is not a form of natural theology” (2001). Dembski’s principle claim is that the IDC movement explicitly denies that the “Designer” is the Christian God. He is of course lying. He has also stated with equal force (and sincerity) that "Indeed, intelligent design is just the Logos theology of John’s Gospel restated in the idiom of information theory." (“Signs of Intelligence,” 1999, Touchstone magazine), and, "My thesis is that all disciplines find their completion in Christ and cannot be properly understood apart from Christ." ('Intelligent Design,' 1999, p 206).

The 2011 criticism of ID creationism by Ken Ham is typically derivative. His substantive argument was built on the unacknowledged essays in 1999, and 2006 by ur-Young Earther Henry Morris. He pointed out;

“Any discussion of a young earth, six-day creation, a worldwide flood and other Biblical records of early history will turn off scientists and other professionals, they say, so we should simply use the evidence of intelligent design as a "wedge" to pry them loose from their naturalistic premises. Then, later, we can follow up this opening by presenting the gospel, they hope.”
Henry Morris, (1999) Design Is Not Enough! Acts & Facts. 28 (7).

“Some of the leaders of the ID movement have been frankly calling it a "wedge" with which they hope to open up the atheistic science establishment, so that teachers can at least acknowledge intelligent creation of life as a possibility.”
Henry Morris, Ph.D. 2006. Intelligent Design and/or Scientific Creationism. Acts & Facts. 35 (4).

The theme that ID creationist writing was a transparent sham to insert creationism into US public schools has been acknowledged by none other than the Godfather of IDC, Phillip Johnson. He admitted, "Our strategy has been to change the subject a bit so that we can get the issue of intelligent design, which really means the reality of God, before the academic world and into the schools." American Family Radio (10 January 2003). This has been thoroughly documented, and debunked by Barbara Carroll Forrest, and Paul R. Gross (2004) "Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design" Oxford University Press.
Noah Berlatsky exaggerates the scientific basis of Intelligent Design creationism. The false claim that their approach is “scientific” rather than theological opens the IDC movement to scientific review. It fails as argued in the references below.

Mark Perakh
2003 “Unintelligent Design” New York: Prometheus Press

Matt Young, Taner Edis (Editors),
2004 "Why Intelligent Design Fails: A Scientific Critique of the New Creationism" Rutgers University Press

Laurie R. Godfrey (Editor), Andrew J. Petto (Editor)
2008 “Scientists Confront Creationism: Intelligent Design and Beyond” W. W. Norton & Company


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Mt. Saint Helens and Noah

A "Little Grand Canyon?"


For years, creationists have promoted the lie that erosion features following the Mt. Saint Helens volcanic eruption both "proved" that the Grand Canyon was deposited and carved out in the year of Noah's flood, and of course that Noah's Flood even occurred.

Chief in their "proof" is this photo attributed to Steven Austin of the Institute for Creation Research. For 27 years it has been copied to dozens of creationist websites, blogs, and on-line discussions:



I added the red lines demarking three major deposition features. Austin described it this way, "The little "Grand Canyon of the Toutle River" is a one-fortieth scale model of the real Grand Canyon."(Austin, S. A. 1986. Mt. St. Helens and Catastrophism. Acts & Facts. 15 (7)). The original caption reads,
Figure 4. Twenty-five foot thickness of stratified
pyroclastic flow deposit which accumulated in less than
one day on June 12, 1980. The stratified flow deposit
forms the floor of the pit in Figure 1 which was later
eroded by mudflows to make the cliff exposure here.

("Mount St. Helens and Catastrophism" Steven A. Austin, Presented at the First International Conference on Creationism, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, August 4–9, 1986. Published in: Proceedings of the First International Conference on Creationism, R. S. Crowell, editor), pp. 3–9, 1986).

The errors are many, and vary between just plain not true, and subtly not true.

A sequence of events


The first gross error of the "just pain" variety is that this geology is analogous or related to the Grand Canyon. There are actually three reasons it is not, first is that the there is no competent geologist that would think the pictured Mt. Saint Helens deposit was formed by long process. Second, the evolution of this deposit is still very active and the pictured features are merely temporary. Third, to call this a 1/40th scale model of the Grand Canyon is just stupid.

We see in the photo below that the initial (bottom) component in the creationist's photo was produced by landslides. This will produce a well mixed combination of older volcanic deposits, and a smaller amount of fresh material introduced by the eruption. What this deposit will not be is well sorted by size, nor will the larger fraction be at all rounded.


The landslides removed millions of pounds of rock which had held back the eruption. Once that was gone, the next massive event was the explosive eruption of mostly new material that had been under tremendous heat and pressure. The next photo shows us the volume and energy of that eruptive material.



The material we have seen so far is what formed the lower "strata" that creationists claim models the Grand Canyon. It is from landslides augmented with a small portion of volcanic ash.

With the capping material totally removed, the next phase of the eruption began. This was the release of volcanic "ash."



This is not at all like a wood ash. It is composed of tiny particles of volcanic silica, plus remelted and cooled rock fragments. The ash fell over 12 hours, and covered an area of over one hundred square kilometers. The chemistry, geology, and distribution of the ash is available from the United States Geological Survey article,"Properties of volcanic ash."


From the photos above we see that this ash has a mix of lighter, and darker particles indicating slightly different composition. These randomly sort out as the ash falls and settles on the ground. This forms the middle section of the creationist's photo. The small particles drifted down under the main influences of particle size, particle density, and prevailing wind speed. So, layers formed as the ash fall continued for over 12 hours. These layers were quite different from the water carried sediments most people are familiar with, and creationists like to attribute to "the Noah's flood."

The top section of the creationists "little grand canyon" is a well mixed dark colored sediment that is a combination of all the erupted materials, weathered soils, and a strong plant material fraction. The source is what is called a "lahar flow." The next two photos are of the Mt. Saint Helens lahar flows. The first is an aerial shot showing the extent of a late lahar flow.


The following photo has several interesting features. First note that the flow was much higher than the residual deposit. Next, look at the amount of surface vegetation, tree bark and branches that were ground-up and added to the flow. Finally, looking at the exposed bank we see that a lot of weathered dark organic rich soil was added to the ash and volcanic rock mix. This is the source of the dark "cap" from the creationist's "strata" photo.


The creationist photos included this following image. It is striking in that it totally exposes their fraud. The image that Steven Austin described as "Twenty-five foot thickness of stratified pyroclastic flow deposit which accumulated in less than one day on June 12, 1980" is just a small, and untypical segment of the total mass of the 1980 Mt. Saint Helens eruption. Exposed in an actively eroding river bank, it obviously is a small segment that will not survive for very long either.




One last error of the "just plain not true" sort is that not a single one of these features from the Mt. Saint Helens volcano could possibly have formed underwater in the midst of a global flood.

It also forms a sad example of how creationists cannot bring themselves to tell the truth. Steve Austin and his followers hope to make others believe that real geologists would look at the apparent strata from the eruption so far as something that had taken a long time to have formed. They know that geologists don't think this.

PS: I wanted to add a link to a good Mt. St. Helens blog by Lance Wilson.