Friday, December 23, 2011

A British creationist asked;

A creationist recently posed to me the notion that "evolution" could not "explain" the following features of humans, while the Bible made it all so clear.

The union of one man and one woman

Biblical polygamy was common. Only in the writing of Paulists is there the (very late) late addition that Christian priests (Bishops, and Deacons) should be monogamous. (And don't forget this, 1 Corinthians 9:29. But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none; 30. and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess; 31. and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away. 32. But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; 33. but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, 34. and his interests are divided.

So, obviously you should not be married anyway.

 The creation of man and woman

Which man and which woman? Homo erectus? Australopithecus? Ardipithecus? Earlier?

Creationists famously cannot tell us which Hominid fossils are "real humans" and which are "really just apes." Since in all scientific categories, we are apes, this seems something creationists need to work on a bit more.

The 'inner' witness of the law (conscience), & Morality and justice

Biblical morality changed dramatically of over time. Maybe it evolved. It seems we share core elements of this with other apes, and even rats;

Inbal Ben-Ami Bartal, Jean Decety, Peggy Mason
"Empathy and Pro-Social Behavior in Rats" Science 9 December 2011: Vol. 334 no. 6061 pp. 1427-1430

T. Romero, M. A. Castellanos, F. B. de Waal
2010 "Consolation as possible expression of sympathetic concern among chimpanzees" Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 107, 12110.

Alan G. Sanfey
2007 "Social Decision-Making: Insights from Game Theory and Neuroscience" Science 26 October 2007: Vol. 318 no. 5850 pp. 598-602
(The above are all publicly available, and are just a tiny introduction to a large literature).

In the same issue of Science as Bartal et al, is
Jaak Panksepp "Empathy and the Laws of Affect" (pp.1358-1359),


Marcus Alexander, Fotini Christia "Context Modularity of Human Altruism" (pp. 1392-1394).

Basically, most mammals are responsive to the distress of con-specifics, with Humans arguably the both the most altruistic, and the most vicious. Human altruism is fostered across ethnic boundaries by simple propinquity, or face-to-face interactions. Strictly mathematical analysis, Game Theory, provides a likely explanation why this has evolutionary advantage.

*Just published;
Catherine Crockford, Roman M. Wittig, Roger Mundry, and Klaus Zuberbühler
Wild Chimpanzees Inform Ignorant Group Members of Danger
Current Biology, December 29, 2011

Why we wear clothes

It was too hot, or too cold. In tropical climes, people wore very little. In traditional New Guinea, men wear little more than decorative items indicating social status. But they feel "naked" without them;

(A family group gathered to welcome Christian missionaries. Photo by Charmaine Tham, Feb. 14. 2007.
Used with permission).

Clothing always extends beyond health, or other utilitarian function, and instead represents social identities and status.

Why we build

Why do Beavers build, or birds build, or spiders build?

We humans do have instinctual segments that are much smaller, and being smaller are much more flexible in combination with each other.

Seven day week

The Seven-day, or planetary week is an astrological institution. Herodotus, wrote, "The Egyptians were the first to assign to each month, and each day a particular god." (The History, 5th century B.C.). The ancients recognized seven "planets" each associated with a particular god; Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupitor, Venus, and Saturn (listed in the presumed order used to name the days). We use these names even now.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Rabbi Averick and the origin of life

Rabbi Moshe Averick writes a very right-wing, creationist opinion column for an on-line magazine for right-wing Jews (there are some) called The algeminer. His recent article featured a slam on Prof. Jerry Coyne's blog "Why Evolution is True," particularly Coyne's critique of creationist David Berlinski. There is some fun to be had reading the comments following the Rabbi's article, particularly amusing is that Terri-Lynn McCormick, personally takes Averick to task for misrepresenting her husband, Noble Laureate Jack Szostak.

There are a number of factual, and logical errors in Rabbi Averick's opinion piece. His aversion to science makes me hesitate about dealing with the factual errors. So, for the moment, let's consider just the statement that, "... there are only two possibilities. An unguided naturalistic process or a creator who is outside of the physical universe. There are no other options."

First, the existence of life resulting from, "An unguided naturalistic process," does not exclude the existence of a supernatural creator. One can just as easily posit a creator who wove into the creation the capacity, even inevitability, of life from the moment of creation. Similarly, the Earth could conceivably have been seeded with life, which ID creationists regularly trot out as an example of "non-religious ID." (I am glad that Rabbi Averick has at least acknowledged that this is a mere rhetorical figment to avoid the US Constitution). But, even the various formulations of 'panspermia' ideas could be interpreted so as not to conflict with the existence of a supreme creator somewhere.

So, since the Rabbi is obviously wrong that there are just his two possibilities, what does this leave of his next argument that, "If we conclude that the first living organism could only emerge through intelligent intervention, that itself is the evidence of the supernatural creator." Well, there is really nothing left of it. If the natural origin of life cannot dispose of the existence of a creator, then he must actually demonstrate the physical effects, and some mechanism of detection of these miracles. No mere critique (or denial of evidence) of abiogenesis is competent to "prove," or "disprove" the existence of god(s).

If we only look at the claim that if no natural source of first life is possible, then there are gods, I see even more problems. The first is that a negative argument can never be proven. What possible evidence could there be that the natural origin of life is impossible. We can accept, in the absence of direct evidence, that life is very improbable, but this is not ever resolvable to "impossible." Creationist guru William Dembski tries to invent a statistic he calls the "cosmic probability bound" A similar idea is found in the writing of William Craig Lane, but without Dembski's pseudo-mathematic flourishes. The notion is that the physical universe is finite, and so there must be some external infinity that contains it. Creationists posit god(s), but in a similar sense, the super string theorists posit infinite universes.

Rabbi Averick claims that his work is done just by misrepresenting the positions of several scientists, and saying that since they have not created life in the last few decades his particular deity has been validated. And this is the last, and more severe of Rabbi's errors. If he rejects the natural, he has not advanced the existence, or acceptance of his favorite mysticism. The entire effort is wasted. There are hundreds, if not thousands of godlings with followers happy to claim credit for the creation of the universe, and life. The Rabbi, even ignoring his errors and omissions, will still need to contend with them. Unless, his only goal is to damp down the unease of his co-religionists. The simple creationist literalism he proposes is terribly vulnerable to science; the universe is billions of years old; the Earth is billion of years old; the universe, Earth, etc were not created in 6 days; there was no global flood. Without a congregation, Rabbis need to find new jobs. I personally find it better to improve my understanding of scripture, and dismiss trivial literalism.

(So far, the Rabbi has blocked my comment)

I was apparently too late to the party.

As an experiment, I tried to post a link today to the Rabbi's most recent piece of E-crap. That has not appeared either.

For another exposure of Rabbi Averick's lies, see Faye Flam's excellent piece.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Dismissing "catastrophic plate tectonics"

A wonderful website with recent data on the marine geological system is Exploring Ocean Tectonics from Space. It augments everything I wrote 3 years ago.

"Catastrophic plate tectonics" is a Young Earth Creationist Con-job. For the short description see Catastrophic Plate Tectonics: A Global Flood Model of Earth History from the Institute for Creation Research.

We can dismiss "catastrophic plate tectonics" with just a few observations about inertia, and friction.
If some single land mass were to break up and then the bits (Africa, Eurasia, North and South America, Australia, and Antarctica) go slamming across the globe like billiard balls, there are consequences. One of them being the heat necessarily generated by friction between the crustal rock, and the upper mantle. This is given in the "Coefficient of Friction" seen above. Were did this heat go? Because it would have been enough to have melted the crust, and boiled the oceans into steam. And, we can calculate an estimate of the energy needed to push up mountains all over the world as continents crash together. If this were to have occurred rapidly, again the heat generated would have melted the mountains, and not forced them into the air. (For public lectures have the audience rub their hands together for friction heating, and clap them together for impact heating).

If you free inertia by reducing the friction between the mantle and the crust so that they can move quickly without melting, then when you slam them together mountains splash into space- ridiculous.

Mantle transmits vibration just like sound through air, or water. We can use the same techniques as sonar to map the interior of the Earth. And, because vibration travels differently through cold matter (faster) than warm, we can map the interior temperature structure.;

Above is a map of cold crust sinking into the mantel, and below is one of warm mantel rock moving upwards by convection;

Both images above were from The Harvard Seismology Group

These maps illustrate another reason for rejecting "the catastrophic plate" nonsense; the rapid movements of the continental crust would have swirled the mantle into a homogeneous mass, and the temperature separation we can clearly measure would have disappeared. Nor could creationist twaddle about rapid continental crust movement account for why convective plumes just happen to perfectly coincide with submarine spreading zones,oceanic mountains, or basalt traps.

There are other consequences as well. In the scientific study of continental movement, we learned that there are submarine spreading zones marked by intermittent basalt eruptions that force the continents apart. We also know that the Earth's magnetic field occasionally reverses polarity. As the rock of submarine basalt ridges cools, it records the magnetic polarity of the planet. Basalt on continents does the same thing, but not quite so well. Below is a map of the magnetic reversals recorded from a submarine spreading zone, and the corresponding map of these polarity changes from a stacked series of continental basalts;

North Cascades Geology: Sea-Floor Spreading Adapted from Raft and Mason (1961) and Tabor (1987).

There are some very interesting features, the magnetic signal from the submarine basalts is symmetric- the same on both sides of the fault. The magnetic signal weakens the further away we go from the spreading fault line due to fragmentation, and burial (more simply "erosion"). The continental basalt stack recorded the same polarity reversals, at the same times. There is the expected differences in physical spacing since the two formations are built from different flows.

There is another feature we find in the continental stacks of basalts illustrated in the photo below taken in Oregon, USA;

Paleosol developed on basalt in eastern Oregon.
Bruce Railsback, Professor, Department of Geology, University of Georgia

(Educators are welcome to use these images in their teaching, so long as the images are not reproduced in publications and are not used for financial gain.) I think that permission covered this use. If you disagree, I have provided the sources and you are free to contact them.

Note the fractured, and oxidized red color were the lower basalt flow has been capped by a later one. That is the result of weathering. It was exposed to the action of plants, air, and water. Not possible in the middle of a flood.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

This caught my eye, and you should read it too!

Allen MacNeill is a professor of biology at Cornell University. He has a blog which recently made the following comment regarding new species.

At reasonably low concentrations, copper is toxic to many plant species. However, several plants have been seen to develop a tolerance to this metal (Macnair 1981). Macnair and Christie (1983) used this to examine the genetic basis of a postmating isolating mechanism in yellow monkey flower (Mimulus guttatus). When they crossed plants from the copper tolerant "Copperopolis" population with plants from the nontolerant "Cerig" population, they found that many of the hybrids were inviable. During early growth, just after the four leaf stage, the leaves of many of the hybrids turned yellow and became necrotic. Death followed this. This was seen only in hybrids between the two populations. Through mapping studies, the authors were able to show that the copper tolerance gene and the gene responsible for hybrid inviability were either the same gene or were very tightly linked. These results suggest that reproductive isolation may require changes in only a small number of genes.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Oops Redux

The other day I wrote a short response to a foolish bit of creationist fluff published on-line by the Johannesburg, SA Times live. That piece by creationist Joseph Ulicki was trivial enough; Mr. Ulicki quoted a bit if Geneses, and then he wrote
"And Cutting-Edge Science tells us:

"The specific complexity of genetic information in the genome does not increase spontaneously. Therefore, there is no natural process whereby reptiles can turn into birds, land mammals into whales, or chimpanzees (or any other supposed common ancestor) into human beings".

Biblical creationism and Cutting-Edge Science are in agreement:

And I wondered what "Cutting-Edge" bullshit was this man smoking?

I found this particular bit of creatocrap was from the American Catholic website "The Kolbe Center for the Study of Creation." So, I decided to write a short comment about genetic addition of "specified complexity" by various mechanisms. I called it Cutting edge or bleeding Idiot?. Submissions are by email only, and a day or two later the piece appeared. And, I saw that I had written, "One of the more obvious is simple duplication of a gene during mitosis."

Oh shite!

I wrote "mitosis" instead of "meiosis." There was no way to correct it. Then I thought, Oh shite, Oh shite! because I had actually been thinking of bacterial fission instead of eukaryote cellular division anyway. So, here is a short video on the difference between mitosis, and meiosis.

Play the video.

So, in meiosis there is just 1/2 of the genes of the parent organism in the resulting four haploid cells (ignoring for the moment sex differences). Then these cells can combine their genes with a 1/2 gene complement from another haploid cell to form a full complement, or diploid cell. In Mitosis, the entire gene complement is copied, and two diploid cells are produced, each with the entire set of genes. In both of these kinds of cellular reproduction, proteins called polar fibers, or "spindles" attach to the duplicated chromosomes and pull them to opposite ends of the cell prior to division. There is a fantastic resource that gives excellent definitions of all these terms, and more the Talking Glossary of Genetic Terms created by the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI).

Bacterial cell division is a very different process, as we understand it today. First, bacteria do not have their genes arranged into chromosomes in the same way as ours- the bacterial chromosome forms a circle of DNA. DNA duplication is followed with each chromosome attaching to the cell membrane, and the daughter cell "pinches off" from the mother cell, a process called "Cytokinesis."

This all is high school biology today (noted that people received Noble Prizes for what our high school students are expected to learn today- a blog for a future day). So how did I manage such a dumb mistake? Working back through my mistake this morning, I realized it was in a weird way rather sophisticated. ("polishing a turd" ain't it)?

What I was thinking was "Where/When does gene duplication actually happen?" My top of the head answer was wrong, but less now than I first thought.

Where does eukaryote gene duplication happen? In the adult gonad, there are both stem cells which multiply symmetrically- mitosis- growing the gonad matrix, and asymmetrically- meiosis yielding germ cells. The symmetrically reproducing cells form a cap surrounding the stem cells dividing by meiosis. So, what we see happening is that copying errors during meiosis make one chromosome with both copies of a gene, and one that lacked it. The resulting cell missing the gene will most likely be sterile. The one with the duplicated cell now has extra evolutionary resources. And this happens at the interface between stem cells that duplicate by mitosis, or meiosis. Since a sterile egg, or sperm cell is essentially free to the parent organism, the conferred evolutionary advantage is overwhelming. (Otherwise we human boys would never survive puberty). There is a long term cost when organisms get very elaborate (like us), and that is that asymmetric cell division at the wrong time, in the wrong organ will cause cancer. But that is the typical evolutionary solution; there is never any anticipation for future events or consequences. For an excellent current introduction to this, I recommend the review article;

Sean J. Morrison, Judith Kimble
2006 “Asymmetric and symmetric stem-cell divisions in development and cancer”
Nature 441(7097): 1068-1074.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


The other day, I wrote a reaction to a comment posted in the Johannesburg Times LIVE, South Africa. I titled it "Cutting edge or bleeding Idiot?"

Very clever, but I made a big mistake. I wrote, "We do of course know several natural mechanisms that add "specified complexity" to genomes. One of the more obvious is simple duplication of a gene during mitosis."

I was thinking, of course, of writing meiosis.

But that was not the BIG mistake. What I was really thinking about was bacterial fission, and not even meiosis at all!

I'll stick in more links and an explanation of why that was such a lame mistake tomorrow. (I wonder if anybody else will notice)?

The rest of the piece was OK, excluding a trivial typo.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Dragons, and gods, and dinos- Oh My!

I wrote the following short study for a few reasons. It started out as a study of the textural origins of Psalm 89 provoked by something some creationist had said (I don’t recall who or what they had said). The second was that using the various names used biblically for the sea dragon, “Rahab,” or “Leviathan,” we can see how various biblical authors were drawing on each other, and earlier sacred traditions. Thirdly, it is a common fraud for creationists of link dinosaurs with these biblical monsters. As all of my blog pages, I consider this to be a draft of some later “dead tree” print article.

Psalm 89 is an exilic period prayer for the restoration of the Davidic Dynasty. The first section introduces the Psalm by praising God and reiterating the Davidic Covenant, vss 3-4. Verses 15-18 link the creation and supremacy of Yahweh with the Kingship of David.

Let's break it down to what is says, and what it is about.

(I will add some textual revisions from Dahood (1965-1970), Cross (1973), JPS (2004) indicated by bold:D, C, or JPS). Verse numbers follow the World English Bible rather than modern Hebrew texts. The line usually included as verse 53 is not part of the Psalm, but marks the end of the Third Book of Psalms in the Hebraic traditional codes. I have dropped the WEB "lovingkindness" in favor of the standard translation "love.")

World English Bible
Psalms 89

1. I will sing of the love of Yahweh forever. With my mouth, I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.
2. I indeed declare, "Love stands firm forever. You established the heavens. Your faithfulness is in them."
3. "I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to David, my servant,
4. 'I will establish your seed forever, And build up your throne to all generations.'" Selah.

So, the opening is totally explicit about what the Psalm is about; The singer, Ethan- born in Judah, i.e. "native born" and not born in the Babylonian captivity- first affirms his devotion to God, and praises God for His steadfast faithfulness. And, Ethan not so subtlety reminds all listening that Yahweh has a covenant with David by paraphrasing the prophesy of Nathan in 2 Samuel 7: 15-16. (This is repeated in Ps 89:20-38 with a nearly exact repeat of 2 Sam 7: 14 in Ps 89:33).

Now, it is worth thinking about that the verses in Samuel were about the proper building of the Temple in Jerusalem and the consequent promise to David's kingship, in the Psalm's text the focus is on the Covenant implied to Hebrews through the Davidic Dynasty. This idea is repeated in verse 50 where God is reminded of His promise.

The Psalm then opens out with a considerably more ancient hymn of the creation which deserves some extended discussion, vss 5-14.

5. In the heavens they praise your wonders, Yahweh; Your faithfulness also in the assembly of the holy ones.
6. For who in the skies can be compared to Yahweh? Who among the sons of the heavenly beings is like Yahweh,
7. A very awesome God (El) in the council of the holy ones, To be feared above all those who are around him?
8. Yahweh, God of Hosts, who is like you? Mighty Yah, your faithful ones surround you. : D
9. You rule from the back : D of the sea. When its waves rise up, you calm them.
10. You have broken Rahab in pieces, like one of the slain. You have scattered your enemies with your mighty arm.
11. The heavens are yours, the earth also is yours; The world and its fullness. You have founded them.
12. The north (Zaphon) and the south (Amanus), you have created them. Tabor and Hermon rejoice in your name.
13. Yours is a mighty arm, O Warrior.
Your left hand is triumphant
Your right hand is raised in victory.
14. Justice and Right are the foundation of your throne. Love and Truth Stand before you
: D

Ugarit was a very wealthy coastal city near what eventually became the northern border of Israel. The people of Ugarit spoke a Western Semitic language close to ancient Hebrew, and there are many exactly matching words called cognates. Like Ugarit, the Phoenician language was also Western Semitic and in common use with Hebrew for far longer. Like most of the Canaanites, their pantheon was headed by the god El, 'Il, and the lesser gods and goddesses were collectively called the council of gods. From a Phoenician hymn, the Arslan Tash, we can read;

The Eternal One (lit. Olam) has made covenant with us
Asherah has made a pact with us

And all the sons of El,
And the great Council of the Holy Ones
With oaths of Heaven and Ancient Earth

This inscription also corrects verse 3 to read; With my mouth I declare: "Eternal One, your love created the heavens, but you made your fidelity more steadfast than these." (Dahood 1968). Asherah is of course the consort, or wife of God (Dever 2005).

The opening lines of the praise hymn in Psalm 89, vss. 5-8, identify Yahweh by His renown within the "assembly of the holy ones" (v.5), the sons of the heavenly beings (v.6), the council of the holy ones (v.7), and in verse 8 God Yahweh is identified as the "God of hosts" "surrounded by his faithful." The name Yahweh in verse 8 balances the name El used in verse 7 (see also Gen 33:22 El elohe yisra'el literally "El, god of the patriarch Israel." The council/assembly/host/"sons of" are the very same bene elohim from Genesis 6:2, "the sons of God" providing an answer to the question of who God spoke to in Genesis 3:22. The Council of Yahweh is biblically also attested in Psalm 82, the 'adat El , or literally "Council of El." We can now see that the herald Ethan while praising God is reminding all, even Yahweh!, that the Divine Covenant was properly witnessed by the Council of the Gods.

Psalm 89
9. You rule from the back : D of the sea. When its waves rise up, you calm them.
10. You have broken Rahab in pieces, like one of the slain. You have scattered your enemies with your mighty arm.
11. The heavens are yours, the earth also is yours; The world and its fullness. You have founded them.
12. The north (Zaphon) and the south (Amanus), you have created them. Tabor and Hermon rejoice in your name.
13. Yours is a mighty arm, O Warrior.
Your left hand is triumphant
Your right hand is raised in victory.
14. Justice and Right are the foundation of your throne. Love and Truth Stand before you
: D

The verses above are very rich contextually, and together summarize the entire Canaanite creation myth. This is done largely by references to key phrases that would be recognized by the listener. Since this Hebrew poem had strict requirements of rhyme, and syllable counts per line, it is a superb literary achievement.

In verses 9 and 10 we have a short phrase that is used to refer to a larger, well known text or narrative, what might loosely be called an incipit. The referred to account is the defeat of the sea dragon by a god who then uses the body of the monster to create the Earth. The classical account is the Enuma Elish where the Babylonian deity Marduk kills the sea-dragon Tiamat using her body to create the world (Dalley 2000). In the Ugarit version, the supreme god El does not participate. Rather, the sea god Yamm (also called "Judge River" in a possible reference to the Code of Hammerabi) sends a challenge to the god Ba'l Haddu. Ba'l , biblical Baal, defeats Yamm using two clubs, one in each hand. Baal returns to the Council of the Gods and is proclaimed their king (Pardee 2002) . The first biblical parallel found in the text is of course in Genesis. This primordial sea is described as well in Genesis 1:2, when "the world was formless waste with darkness over the sea and only an awesome wind blew over the water." (see Speiser 1962). The same theme is found mentioned in Job 26:10, "He drew a boundary on the waters; At the extreme {edge} were Light and Darkness meet." But strictly within the current texts, verse 9 tells us that this is the God who defeated the sea which in Mesopotamian narrative was the primordial chaos. This primordial chaos is dominated by the God in verse 9 who "rules from the back of the sea."

This victory is further commented in Ps 89:10 where God crushed "Rahab" and dispersed his pieces. So, who was Rahab? We learn this in Isaiah 51:9-10,
"Was it not you who smashed Rahab the writhing dragon?
Was it not you who dried up Sea, the waters of the great deep?"

Also, Job 26: 12-13;
By His power He stilled the Sea.
By His skill He struck down Rahab.
By His wind the heavens were calmed.
His hand pierced the Elusive Serpent.

There are several key connections to be observed here. The obvious is that Rahab is the dragon of the sea that is also known as Leviathan. In Hebrew, Job 26:13b "Elusive Serpent" reads nahash bariah, if one translates "bariah" from Aramaic as "fleeing." However, this same word is elsewhere translated (cf. Exodus 26:24-29 as "straight rod" or "bar." The "straight serpent" is in Ugarit texts the dragon Lotan or the biblical Leviathan, the "bariah serpent with seven heads" (see also Isa. 27:1)(see JPS, 2004). The name Rahab is used poetically in Ps 87.4 to refer to Egypt judging by its context.

As elsewhere (Ps. 74: 12-17, Isa 51:7, etc.), the primeval sea dragons slain at the creation are used to attest to the power of God.

In Psalm 74:12-17 we read
12 O God El, my King from old,
who brings deliverance throughout the land;
13 it was You who drove back the sea with Your might,
who smashed the heads of the monsters in the waters;
14 it was You who crushed the heads of Leviathan, who left him as food for the "untranslatable"*
* The Hebrew phrase is lost. Conventionally this is rendered as "denizens of the desert" or "seafaring men." Neither translation has been attested elsewhere.

Why is this important? The psalm's hymn of praise has again revealed the deep connections between the Canaanite mythopoetic and the Bible's origins. The Babylonian exile brought the northern and southern Hebrew theologies closer together then they had been since the united monarchy, perhaps ever before.

The Canaanite source for this hymn in Psalm 89 is further demonstrated in verse 12;"12. The north (Zaphon) and the south (Amanus), you have created them. Tabor and Hermon sing with joy in Your presence" (following Dahood 1968). The four named locations, Zaphon, Amanus, Tabor and Hermon are each mountains that were the local seats of power for the principle Canaanite gods just as Mt. Zion became fixed as the seat of Yahweh. Mt. Zaphon is nearly due north of ancient Ugarit, and dominates the northern horizon viewed from the site. This is the traditional home of Ba'l Haddu, or Baal. Thus, it is no wonder that "Zaphon" became in Hebrew sapon or "north" and in later Hebraic use became equivalent with the "heavens." There is an excellent association here with Greek mythology as well. The Greek myth of the battle between the supreme god Zeus and the ancient sea power/god Typhon in Homer's epic Iliad and echoed in his Hymn to Apollo, also mirrors the Canaanite Ba'l Haddu epic. The sea dragon Typhon gives birth to Gaia or the Earth. She is defeated in battle by Zeus on Mount Cassios (cassios (Greek) -> hazi (Hittite) -> zaphon (Ugaritic).

The closing verses to this praise hymn are;

13. Yours is a mighty arm, O Warrior.
Your left hand is triumphant
Your right hand is raised in victory.
14. Justice and Right are the foundation of your throne. Love and Truth stand before you
: D

The left and right arms of God (Triumph and Victory) in this context are clearly linked references to the clubs used by Ba'l Haddu to subdue the sea dragon/god, and the epithet "O Warrior" is commonly used for Baal. More interesting, Justice, Right(eousness), Love, and Truth are the "throne" and servants ("stand before You") of Yahweh. The Mesopotamian tradition uses these aspects as attributes and as guardians of the major gods and favored human kings.

In a theme that will later be written and added to the Bible as Genesis 1, the God of Israel, Yahweh or El (formal plural Elohim), is credited with the creation of the ancient powers of Heaven and Earth, the defeat of primordial chaos Yamm (the sea), and (in common with Canaanite El) the creation of all other gods and the Assembly of Gods (Friedman 1987, Smith 2003).

The sources for the entire praise hymn in Psalm 89:5-14 can be drawn back to the pre-monarchy, even pre-exodus period of 1,400-1,300 BC. The Ba'l Haddu epics are known from about that time, and they serve as the bulk of the later part of the hymn. The opening verses 5-8 are also part of that tradition, but reflect the association of Yahweh and the supreme Canaanite god El. The mixed use of El, and Yahweh within the hymn places this composition to around between 800 and 1,000 BCE. The next portion of the psalm brings the story forward from the pre-Exodus era to the time of the Davidic Covenant, or also about 1000 BCE. (See also Smith 2002).

Cross, Frank Moore
1973 Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic: Essays in the History of the Religion of Israel. Boston: Harvard University Press

Dahood, Mitchell
1965 Psalms I, 1-50: Introduction, Translation and Notes New York: Anchor Bible- Doubleday

1968 Psalms II, 51-100: Introduction, Translation and Notes New York: Anchor Bible- Doubleday

1970 Psalms III, 101-150: Introduction, Translation and Notes New York: Anchor Bible- Doubleday (1995 paperback printing)

Dalley, Stephanie
2000 Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others. Revised Oxford: Oxford University Press

Dever, William
2005 “Did God Have A Wife? Archaeology And Folk Religion In Ancient Israel
Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company

Friedman, Richard Elliott
1987 Who Wrote the Bible? New York:Harper and Row

Jewish Publication Society
2004 “The Jewish Study Bible: TANAKA translation” Oxford University Press.

Pardee, Dennis
2002 Writings from the Ancient World Vol. 10: Ritual and Cult at Ugarit Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature

Pope, Marvin H.
1965 “Job: A new translation with Introduction and Commentary” Anchor Bible Vol. 15, New York: ABRL/Doubleday

Speiser, E. A.
1962 "Genesis: Introduction, Translation and Notes" New York: Anchor Bible- Doubleday

Smith, Mark S.
2002 “The Early History of God 2nd ed.” Grand Rapids: Wm B Eerdmans Publishing
2003 “The Origins of Biblical Monotheism: Israel's Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts” Oxford University Press.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Weikart, Gasmam, Darwin, Hitler, and JoJo the Clown

Faye Flam writes a pro-science blog for the Philadelphia Inquirer called, “Planet of the Apes.” Her Monday, Oct. 24, 2011 post was “Severing the link between Darwin and Nazism”.

It was syndicated by the Standard-Examiner of Ogden, Utah The following discussions seem to have staggered to an end, so I'll post a bit of them here.

Prof. Richard Weikart, author of “From Darwin to Hitler” made a brief appearance to hype his books on the Philadelphia blog, and Darwin and Haeckel hater Prof Daniel Gasman, author of “The Scientific Origins of National Socialism,” did a “fart and dart’ post at the Ogden site.

Weikart, Gasman and Robert Richard were interviewed by Flam for her article. Prof. Richard is the author of an excellent book, “The Tragic Sense of Life: Ernst Haeckel and the Struggle over Evolutionary Thought” (2008 University Of Chicago Press). His most recent article, and one mentioned by Flam, is "Was Hitler a Darwinian?" (PDF)

Weikart made a pecluliar comment worth quoting,
Concerning one of the comments above about Darwin and Haeckel being banned in Nazi Germany, I should alert you that I have examined the official Nazi biology curriculum. Lo and behold, it contains extensive teaching on evolution, including human evolution (and it is by natural selection, so it is overtly Darwinian). Haeckel was a disputed figure among Nazis (but many Nazis approved of Haeckel, as I will prove in an article I'm working on).

I could go on and on, but since I've already written extensively on this, I will have to refer readers to my books.
— Richard Weikart
Posted 5:11 PM, 10/24/2011

The fact that Weikart is trying to avoid is that the Nazis did ban all the books and articles written by Darwin and Häckel.

Die Bucherei, the official Nazi journal for lending libraries, published these collection evaluation "guidelines" during the second round of "purifications" (saüberung).

6. Schriften weltanschaulichen und lebenskundlichen Charakters, deren Inhalt die falsche naturwissenschaftliche Aufklärung eines primitiven Darwinismus und Monismus ist (Häckel).

Guidelines from Die Bücherei 2:6 (1935), p. 279
6. Writings of a philosophical and social nature whose content deals with the false scientific enlightenment of primitive Darwinism and Monism (Häckel)

I replied to Prof. Weikart,

Prof. Weikart has clearly stated his goal as a Fellow of the Discovery Institute is to eliminate "Darwinism" AKA evolutionary biology, and replace it with creationism. His sole contribution to this cause is to link the Holocaust with biologists. He misuses sources, particularly ignoring those that refute his position.

I would like to read how he squirms out from Hitler's clearly stated belief in creationism- the fixed, immutable nature of created kinds, as created by God. Just two examples follow;

"The most marvelous proof of the superiority of Man, which puts man ahead of the animals, is the fact that he understands that there must be a Creator." - Adolf Hitler, Hitler's Tabletalk (Tischgesprache im Fuhrerhauptquartier)

"From where do we get the right to believe that man was not from the very beginning what he is today.

A glance in Nature shows us, that changes and developments happen in the realm of plants and animals. But nowhere do we see inside a kind, a development of the size of the leap that Man must have made, if he supposedly has advanced from an ape-like condition to what he is(now)" Tabletalk entry for 27 February 1942

“The fox remains always a fox, the goose remains a goose, and the tiger will retain the character of a tiger.” Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, vol. ii, ch. xi

Prof. Weikart is what we know in academia as a "fool with tenure."

I also added, In fact, Hitler was clearly a creationist. Note in the following that Hitler asserts that God made man immutably:

"For it was by the Will of God that men were made of a certain bodily shape, were given their natures and their faculties." - Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, vol. ii, ch. x
There are pages of citations irrefutably showing that Hitler's private, and public presentations were explicitly creationist, and Christian.

Gasman wrote on the Ogden site,
“Dr. Hurd might wish to read my review of Richards' Tragic Sense of Life in eskeptic [10 June 2009]. Richards' book is rooted in the outright fabrication and misrepresentation of key source material and therefore falls far short of being able to substantiate that there is no connection between Haeckel's science and Monism and the ideology of National Socialism.” 10/27/2011 03:02 AM

I merely asked him is he would declare his presuppositions as a creationist, and referred him back to “Was Hitler a Darwinian.” Here I'll add that Gasman is requesting the logically impossible proof of a negative.

The only commenter that really keyed me was a British clown called JoJo. His Ogden Standard post and my reply follow.

"Hitler is an uncompromising evolutionist, and we must seek for an evolutionary explanation if we are to understand his actions" "The German Führer, as I have consistently maintained, is an evolutionist; he has consciously sought to make the practice of Germany conform to the theory of evolution." Arthur Keith -Evolution and Ethics, 1947

"Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of higher animals, directly follows"

- C. Darwin, med-school drop-out, son to Erasmus Darwin (who helped developed the ancient Greek precursor in the Scottish Lodge into evolution and passed it on to Charles to dress it up with naturalistic language and picked up by the heavily Freemasonic-run Royal Society and thrust into academia for generations of forced learning) and cousin to Francis Galton (the father of Eugenics Society, later headed up by Charles' son Leonard Darwin.)

Dr. Ernest Rudin, founder of Germany's Eugenics Society (Society for Racial Hygiene) received the Goethe Medal for Art and Science from Adolf Hitler "in recognition of his achievements in the development of German Racial Hygiene."

I wrote a bit on these quote mines that I might find useful on other occasions, so I'll post them here;

I can tell that creationist "Jojo" is a a poor candidate for teaching. Creationists use what are known as "quote mines" instead of attempting to think, or marshal evidence.

Take for example, medical anatomist Arthur Keith. The quote offered by "Jojo" was from a peculiar little book written by Keith near the end of his life, and that he privately printed. Unlike 'Jojo" I have actually read it. Keith had invented a personal theory of "political evolution," or "national evolution." Keith's "national evolution" has never been considered as a serious science proposal, but it is popular with creationists. His idea that each nation was an unique quasi-biological entity was without any scientific foundation, but, interestingly it was very close to ideas promoted by the French author Arthur Comte de Gobineau. Gobineau published his "Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races" in 2 volumes between 1853-1855. (Note well this is pre-Darwin). Fritz Lenz was the leading Nazi racial theorist in the 1900s. His 1917 article "The Rebirth of Ethics" directly brought the thinking of Arthur Comte de Gobineau into German racism. In fact, Gobineau was one of only two non-Germans listed in the Nazi official reading list for human biology. The other was the American racist Madison Grant. Madison Grant was a very powerful Republican 'king maker' active in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

JoJo is a very good clown name, and JoJo should stick to what he knows best.

JoJo the Clown makes several more errors of fact, and logic. Racism and bigotry are far older than Darwin, and older than the sciences. They have been justified by every sort of argument, mostly religious and nationalistic. These are often combined. And, when they are combined the result is often genocide. The earliest examples found in the Bible include the attempted extermination of the Canaanites, even when God was supposedly displeased that the Jews had allowed some children to survive (examples; 1 Samuel 15:1-35, Isaiah 13, Joshua 6:20-21, Deuteronomy 7:1-2, Deuteronomy 20:16, Numbers 31).

It was Alfred Ploetz who founded the Society for Racial Hygiene, (Gesellshaft für Rassenhygiene), in 1905. Ploetz together with F. Wollny and Fritz Lenz, organized a secret Nordic division ("Ring der Norda") within the Society for Race Hygiene from the very beginning. It is of course significant that Poletz's brother-in-law, psychiatrist Ernest Rüdin, received the Goethe Medal. The romantic philosophy of Goethe was presented as the spiritual antidote to the scientific materialism represented by men of science like Ernst Haeckel, or Charles Darwin. (See: Harrington, 1996)

What was of much greater significance, and uniquely German, was the domination of the racist Nordic movement by medical doctors, such as Rüdin. This had several important consequences, one being the prominence given to supposed inherited diseases, and secondly the willingness to take direct "curative action" as a public health program. Leading figures of the Nordic movement wrote for the "Politisch-anthropologish Revue" edited by Ludwig Wolttmaann, M.D. (e.g. Rüdin, Lentz, Fisher and Schallmayer). The right wing of the racial hygiene movement, the Nordic supremacists, that ultimately became the Nazi medical establishment was virtually the creation of medical publisher Julius Friedrich Lehmann. Lehmann joined the Nazi party in 1920, and was the first Nazi to receive the party's "Golden Medal of Honor" in 1934. Actually, by 1930 it was nearly impossible to distinguish between the Nordic/Nazi racists and the transformed Rassenhygiene movements. At that time, some people still attempted to separate what they viewed as the medical and scientific study of human genetics from the Nazi dominated Rassenhygiene, but within Germany they were entirely suppressed. (See; Lifton 1986, Proctor 1988).

Harrington, Anne
1996 “Re-Enchanted Science: Holism in German Culture from Wilhelm II to Hitler”
Princeton University Press

Lifton, Robert Jay,
1986 "The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide" New York: Basic Books Inc.

Proctor, Robert N.
1988 "Racial Hygiene: Medicine Under the Nazis" Boston: Harvard University Press.

It should surprise nobody that JoJo cut-off the Darwin quote. Presenting the entire thought would be the decent thing to do, and we cannot make that expectation certain with creationists. The rest of the paragraph reads, "There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved."

But merely quote mining isn't the end of JoJo's falsehoods, and innuendo regarding Charles Darwin seems to be the larger intent. Darwin's education was much more extensive than the mis-leading dismissal as a "med-school dropout." I have written up a sketch of Darwin's quite exceptional educational background at: "Notes on Charles Darwin's Education."

There could have been few other men of his age, place and time to be as well equipped to undertake his voyage around the world, and what would become his life long career.

We can judge JoJo by his accuracy and attention to detail. For example, Dr. Erastmus Darwin was not Charles R. Darwin's father, but his grandfather. Dr. Darwin's many contributions included helping to fund both the American Revolution through his friendship with Benjamin Franklin, and his strong support to the anti-slavery movement. I recommend reading "Darwin’s Sacred Cause," by Adrian Desmond, and James More (2009 New York: Penguin Books).

I have no idea what to make of JoJo's paranoid ramblings about secret clubs. In that regard I am a Marxist, "I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member!" Groucho Marx, 1959.

Charles Darwin was very dubious about Francis Galton's Eugenics" scheme, as he expressed in his January 4th, 1873 letter to Galton, C.R. Darwin wrote, "I am not, however, so hopeful as you. Your proposed Society would have awfully laborious work, and I doubt whether you could ever get efficient workers." and, "But the greatest difficulty, I think, would be in deciding who deserved to be on the ("preferred marriage," gh) register. How few are above mediocrity in health, strength, morals and intellect; and how difficult to judge on these latter heads. Darwin concluded that discussion with, "I do not see that an orthognathous face would cost more than a prognathous face; or a good morale than a bad one." By this, that "moral" worth was not a biological feature, and that there could be no difference between a European, jutting chin (orthognathous), or an rounded (prognathous) African one.

I think that we should note the following opinion of Major Lenard Darwin regarding the practice of Eugenics, "It is true that both infanticide and the subjection of women have been common enough in many countries and in all ages; but they will never be reintroduced into civilized countries. A highly developed moral sense and great freedom of choice are two of the most precious attributes of man, and the necessity for preserving them rules out these stockyard methods.” “What is Eugenics” (1928 pg. 23), THE THIRD INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS OF EUGENICS New York, 1932) Major Leonard Darwin (1850 – 1943), Chairman of the British Eugenics Society between 1911-1928. Sadly, Major Darwin was too great an optimist.

What Charles Darwin had written nearly sixty years earlier was, "The aid which we feel impelled to give to the helpless is mainly an incidental result of the instinct of sympathy, which was originally acquired as part of the social instincts, but subsequently rendered, in the manner previously indicated, more tender and more widely diffused. Nor could we check our sympathy, if so urged by hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature. The surgeon may harden himself whilst performing an operation, for he knows that he is acting for the good of his patient; but if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with a certain and great present evil." (The Descent of Man" pg. 168-169, 1871 London: John Murray, Vol. 1).

Monday, October 17, 2011

Mail order theology degrees

I was a professor of psychiatry (1976-1985), and psychotherapy attracts a great number of frauds. I helped found a Seminar on Religion and Psychiatry at the Medical College of Georgia in 1983. One of our goals was to try and repair the educational deficiencies of poorly trained “pastoral councilors.” Since I have seen firsthand the sort of damage so-called pastoral councilors can cause due to inadequate, or incompetent training, I have learned to read the backgrounds of these people very carefully. A recent newspaper Letter to the Editors, "Creationists doubt changes lead to new features", was written by creationist Graham Lovelady, of Ogden Utah. I was curious about who this person might be, particularly how they had learned so much science that they could dismiss hundreds of thousands of scientists. Among Mr. Lovelady's achievements were degrees for something called the "Biblical Life College and Seminary, where he studied something called "Teleios Therapy, and received a Masters in Theology. Since this "Teleios Therapy" was a) new to me, and b) associated with "pastoral counseling," I decided to look into it, and "Biblical Life College."

Biblical Life College and Seminary

The Biblical Life College and Seminary is accredited by the “American Accrediting Association of Theological Institutions.” The “American Accrediting Association of Theological Institutions” is entirely composed of “faith based” correspondence schools, and is not recognized by any other group. In addition to the “Biblical Life College” they also ‘accredited the notorious “Pacific International University” This “University” had no full-time faculty, or other accreditation, and offered doctorates for a lump sum payment. The fees ranged up to 2,500-3,000 USD for a Doctor of Theological Studies degree. Perhaps the best known alumnus of Pacific International University was Carl Baugh, who also held the title of “university president.” Carl Baugh is best known for attesting to numerous fraudulent “Flood Evidences” housed in his “Creation Evidences Museum” in Glenn Rose Tx. His most recent acquisition is the faked human and dinosaur foot prints he calls the “Alvis Delk Footprints.” I have detailed how we can be certain this is a fraud here at Collecting Carl Baugh.

So, an 'accreditation' from the “American Accrediting Association of Theological Institutions” isn't worth the postage.

I think we ought to also consider the faculty at “Biblical Life College.” A good example is “Dr.” Gary A. Jung, “Professor of Biblical Counseling.” B.B.S. - Biblical Life College & Seminary | M.A. - Southwest Bible College and Seminary | Ph.D. - Southwest Bible College and Seminary | Ph.D. - Biblical Life College & Seminary

Dr. Jung is the creator of Teleios Therapy (more on that later) and serves on the Board of the Association of Biblical Life Educators. He is listed on the Biblical Life website as being the Senior Pastor of Hillside Alliance Church, an ordained ministry with the Christian Missionary Alliance, and as a professor at San Jose Christian College (accessed Friday, Oct. 14, 2011).

I easily learned that San Jose Christian College changed its name in 2003 to “William Jessup University.” They have no record of “Gary A. Jung” on their faculty.

The “Association of Biblical Life Educators” is a creation of the “Biblical Life College.” The “Christian Missionary Alliance” is a creation of the “Biblical Life College.”

Also on the Biblical Life College faculty is Dr. Bruce R. Booker, Associate Professor of Hebraic Heritage Studies (B.B.S. - Biblical Life College & Seminary, M.A. - Columbia Pacific University, Ph.D. - Columbia Pacific University, Th.D. - Biblical Life College & Seminary).

Colombia Pacific University (CPU) was closed by court order in 2000, but the court did not review degrees awarded between 1978 and mid-1997. The first implementation of the 1989 Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education Reform Act was in 1991. Columbia Pacific University was given a provisional "grandfather" status its degree programs, and faculty qualifications were reviewed. When this was done in 1996, this so-called school was found to fail minimal standards for a degree-granting institution.

So, “Doctor” Booker has quite a distinguished academic pedigree, one degree from an unaccredited correspondence school, two more from another unaccredited correspondence school that was ordered to cease and desist by the State of California for unethical, and unprofessional practices (i.e. awarding fake degrees), then back to the first correspondence “college” for another ‘doctorate,’ and then joining the faculty of his unaccredited alma mater.

We also find a “Dr.” Doyle E. Varvel on the Biblical Life College faculty, listed as “Professor of Chaplaincy Studies.” This individual’s training is entirely from a single institution, the “Evangelical Theological Seminary.” (Th.B. – Evangelical Theological Seminary | Th.M. – Evangelical Theological Seminary | D.Min. – Evangelical Theological Seminary).

We have no idea where this “Seminary” might be, or if it is affiliated with any recognizable religious institution, or church. There are several “Evangelical Theological Seminaries” that are known as diploma mills. I have noticed that the graduates of the two legitimate schools are very careful to identify them by their location, and/or church affiliation. Dr. Varvel has been the National Commander of the National Chaplains Association since 1985.

I don’t know why Mr. Lovelady didn’t pay full price and pick up a doctorate from the “Biblical Life College.” Perhaps he is modest. His bio for the St. Anne’s Center (an apparently excellent organization) did mention that Lovelady was also “a member of the National Chaplains Association.”

The National Chaplains Association is the wholly (and not Holy) owned franchise of the “Biblical Life College&Seminary.” The association awards military ranks to members based on their academic qualifications, and “service” to the association. Since they accept unaccredited degrees from correspondence schools, the only real criteria must be “service.” And I'll bet “service” can be measured in cold cash. The certification program includes instruction in something called the “Teleios Therapy Program — 3 SCHS.” Their description follows, “The Teleios Therapy Program provides a study of temperament, personality, character and spirituality and shows the student how to bridge the gap from where he is to where God wants him to be. This course provides Biblical psychometric testing instruments that can be used without royalties in ministry.”

This really translates to $180 for the credits, plus $225.00 for the “biblical psychometric testing materials.” But, there is an even better discount price if you buy through “God's Business Incorporated,” (A most appropriate, and shockingly honest name). They can get your credits for just $165, but “Dr.” Jung still wants full ticket for his “Teleios Therapy” paperwork.

The “Teleios Therapy Program,” turns out to be the invention of Biblical Life College faculty member, Gary A. Jung, menitoned above. We should review “professor” Jung’s qualifications again; B.B.S. - Biblical Life College & Seminary | M.A. - Southwest Bible College and Seminary | Ph.D. - Southwest Bible College and Seminary | Ph.D. - Biblical Life College & Seminary. So, unaccredited correspondence schools for two, count em’ folks TWO, unaccredited doctorates. I find it remarkable that when "Southwest Bible College&Seminary" moved from Jennings, Louisiana to Gainesville, Ga, they didn't need to do much more than change the post office box, and bank account. None of those nasty difficulties like packing books. "Southwest Bible College" is also accredited by the useless “American Accrediting Association of Theological Institutions,” and lists Gary Jung as an adjunct faculty member. Plus, Gary Jung is the inventor of a classic example of an untested, unreviewed, and unlicensed “therapy.”

Insurance companies, and Federal programs such as Social Security, and Medicare take very dim views at anyone stupid enough to bill for such “therapies.” You would be probably safer billing for “lifestyle coaching services," Mr. Lovelady. I am not sure which is worse.

So, Mr. Lovelady has received a M Th. from a correspondence school staffed by people trained by correspondence schools. All and all, an incestuous academic house of cards. A well informed person would never claim such an affiliation.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Collecting Carl Baugh

I thought I'd pull the items I wrote about Carl Baugh, and his purchase of the faked "human and dinosaur together" foot print, AKA the "Alvis Delk Cretaceous Footprint"

The list in the sequence I wrote them follows;

"Carl Baugh's latest Fake"

"Baugh's Fake Foot, Round 2"

"Playing footsy with the truth"

"Other views on Baugh's fake foot"

As it happened, I was so certain that there would be a faked patina on the carving that I "over interpreted" an early published photo of the fake foot prints. It turned out that a much better photo was published (by a creationist supporter of Baugh) which did clearly show the obvious result of an acid wash. A short while later, the granddaughter of one of the local foot print "artists" told a newspaper how her grandfather had faked human&dinosaur footprints, including the detail of using acid to "make it look old."

Carl Baugh has many other dubious, and out-right frauds to his discredit:
Carl Baugh's many frauds

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Right-Wingnut Randall Hoven: Stupid, Liar, or Lazy? Part III

I dealt with two of the gross lies about vaccination, and medical research being spread by Randall Hoven, writing for the ironically named right-wing rag, “American Thinker.” Right-Wingnut Randall Hoven next makes the asinine assertion that,
“Do you know how many medical research papers were withdrawn from publication due to major errors or outright fraud in the last decade? The answer is 788.

That is, hundreds of medical research papers have errors so egregious that the papers had to be withdrawn completely. And half or more of the rest might have serious errors.

This pushed several of my out-rage buttons. First, the medical literature is very different from the normal science literature. In a scientific publication the originality and novelty of the research is hugely important. It is considered entirely unprofessional, and unethical to repeat a publication, or “self-plagiarize.” So, a research project will have the following minimal sets of publications, 1) a technical, or progress report to the funding source, 2) one or more conference Abstracts, 3) a journal publication, 4) a book chapter. Until you get to step 3) a journal, all the others are considered “prepublication,” and are not given much academic or scientific credit. Anyone publishing the same data, with the same analysis more than once will either be rejected from publication, or at least privately disparaged as a “publication whore.” Most large journals have specific instructions on prepublication. Since the number of publications a young professor has weighs so heavily toward their retention, or promotion, we used to joke (darkly) about the academic SPDS, or Smallest Publishable Data Set.

The medical literature is very different. This has two reasons. The first is that there are many more medical publications than for the sciences. This is because medical device manufacturers, and pharmaceutical companies spend many millions of dollars each year on advertisements. These millions of dollars underwrite many hundreds of magazines, and thousands of editors. Something has to fill in the pages between the ads, and that something is medical research. The second difference is that the medical literature serves as the post graduation source for clinical education. These magazines, visits from drug vendors, and “continuing medical education” requirements are how daily practice physicians, nurses, and all other adjunct clinicians learn what current practices are. This creates a tremendous market for medical research articles. This also means that for many medical magazines, the readers are not trained as scientists and are far more trusting of a table of statistics than are general scientists. So, if there is a paper circulated in the medical literature with multiple authors to multiple journals, and at least part of the data is bad, then there could be five or six papers that become “contaminated.”

The link Hoven gave is to another “PhysOrg” news item, “US scientists significantly more likely to publish fake research” November 16, 2010;
“The study author searched the PubMed database for every scientific research paper that had been withdrawn—and therefore officially expunged from the public record—between 2000 and 2010.

A total of 788 papers had been retracted during this period. Around three quarters of these papers had been withdrawn because of a serious error (545); the rest of the retractions were attributed to fraud (data fabrication or falsification).

There are a few problems here. First, we are given no idea of how important these 788 withdrawn papers are in the grand scheme. Second, there are many reasons a paper might be retracted. Not infrequently, a journal will retract an article because it was plagiarized, and the real authors have complained. The results could be totally acceptable- they probably are- but they were stolen. Then, authors might find that they cannot repeat their own earlier result. This can happen totally innocently. I knew one fellow graduate student who brewed up a potential cancer cure- a real one shot “magic bullet.” Worked great, except the second batch did nothing, and the third batch did nothing. Nothing he tried for the next 2 years worked at all, and then he dropped out of school and was drafted.

And what are these numbers? Consider that in 2010 alone nearly 38,000 papers were published on medical/clinical topics as indexed by PubMed. This turns out to be not too far from an average annual rate. Even for all retracted papers as in the number quoted above, this is barely 20 per 10,000 papers withdrawn for any reason between 2000 and 2010. As we will see below, this is about the same global result found from several independent studies. Mr. Hoven is blowing his mind over a 20/10,000 “crisis.” It turns out to be even smaller, as the rate for deliberate fraud falls to under 2 in ten thousand.

Another problem is that the PhysOrg news item never gave a valid citation. Where did these numbers come from? This is a common problem with this source, and a competent ‘reporter,’ which Mr. Hoven is clearly not, would refuse to use unattributed assertions. A database search of all articles published in the Journal of Medical Ethics revealed only one potential study with the same combination of numbers, “Retractions in the scientific literature: do authors deliberately commit research fraud?” J Med Ethics 2011;37:113-117 doi:10.1136/jme.2010.038125

There are, ironically, methodological issues that I would have as a reviewer of Dr. Steen's articles. For example, the author R. Grant Steen was the only person (apparently) to have read the articles and retraction notices. It is only his opinion as to the validity of the retraction. Plus, of all the reasons a paper might be retracted, he split the entire list in either “fraud,” or “other error.” And in a re-analysis of his own data, Steen discovered that just “… two repeat offender authors were responsible for 14% of all articles retracted for fraud over the last decade.” (“Retractions in the scientific literature: is the incidence of research fraud increasing?” J Med Ethics 2011;37:249-253 Published Online First: 24 December 2010 doi:10.1136/jme.2010.040923). I think it is worth pointing out that in this reanalysis, the number of retracted papers had also dropped to 742.

And, the author of this study, R. Grant Steen, has published five articles from the same data in the last year; four of them in the same magazine; the Journal of Medical Ethics. This is a perfect example of how multiple papers are published in the medical literature from a single piece of research. Dr. Steen is also the President of a private company “Medical Communication Consultants (MCC)” that is “… a full-service, medical writing firm designed to meet the needs of pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.” (From their corporate website: ). So, in addition to a noble desire to advance knowledge, Dr. Steen has a very legitimate goal of furthering the interests of his company.

Motivated by the reports of medical literature fraud published by Dr. Steen, Prof. T. A. Abinandanan conducted a study of retracted papers from the PubMed index for the same years. Abinandanan found the misconduct rate from India, his homeland to be 44 per one hundred thousand papers, as opposed to a global average of 17/100,000. (“Publish and perish” VT Yadugiri, CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 101, NO. 4, 25 AUGUST 2011 477). That’s correct, 1.7 frauds per ten thousand publications. And now recall that Dr. Steen found that “… two repeat offender authors were responsible for 14% of all articles retracted for fraud over the last decade.”

There was a considerably stronger paper on medical literature article retractions that was also recently published by the Journal of Medical Ethics; “Why and how do journals retract articles? An analysis of Medline retractions 1988–2008.” The authors, Elizabeth Wager, Peter Williams use a better data sample from Medline, used a more sensitive evaluation criteria, and were able check each other for rating bias. (J Med Ethics 2011;37:567-570 doi:10.1136/jme.2010.040964). In all, the rated 312 examples of retracted papers out of a total of 870. I’ll quote their Methods, Results and Conclusion directly from the Journal;

Methods: We retrieved all available Medline retractions from 2005 to 2008 and a one-in-three random selection of those from 1988 to 2004. This yielded 312 retractions (from a total of 870). Details of the retraction including the reason for retraction were recorded by two investigators.

Results: Medline retractions have increased sharply since 1980 and currently represent 0.02% of included articles. Retractions were issued by authors (63%), editors (21%), journals (6%), publishers (2%) and institutions (1%). Reasons for retraction included honest error or non-replicable findings (40%), research misconduct (28%), redundant publication (17%) and unstated/unclear (5%). Some of the stated reasons might have been addressed by corrections.

Conclusions: Journals' retraction practices are not uniform. Some retractions fail to state the reason, and therefore fail to distinguish error from misconduct.”

So, to review for Mr. Hoven, the "Crisis" is fewer than 2 fraudulent papers per one hundred thousand. But, you idiot, YOU wrote,
That is, hundreds of medical research papers have errors so egregious that the papers had to be withdrawn completely. And half or more of the rest might have serious errors.

Where did "half or more of the rest might have serious errors," come from? RIGHT! That came from the other stupid errors you have made.

So, Mr. Hoven concludes that he and his should skip vaccinations, and leave all the associated costs and risks to others because, “We should not be treated like benighted troglodytes for being skeptical of medical "science.”

No, not troglodytes, Mr. Hoven- you should be treated like lazy, stupid, selfish, dishonest parasites.

What a dumb ass!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Randall Hoven is either stupid, or lying, Part II

I dealt with the gross lies by Hoven regarding vaccinations earlier, but he doubled down with some bullshit about statistics in the medical literature. I have to admit this is a particularly sore issue with me. I tried for years to teach statistics to medical residents when I was a professor of medicine, and soon had more faculty attending my seminar than students. The trouble was that none of them would do their homework I assigned. They always used “my patient was dying!” excuse. I preferred the more credible third grader's “The dog ate it” excuse.

Randall Hoven grossly misrepresented a recent article in the scientific literature, “Erroneous analyses of interactions in neuroscience: a problem of significance” Sander Nieuwenhuis, Birte U Forstmann & Eric-Jan Wagenmakers, (Nature Neuroscience, Vol. 14, 1105–1107 (2011) doi:10.1038/nn.2886 ).

Here is what Randall Hoven had to say;
Do you know how many doctors, some literally brain surgeons, made an important statistical mistake in their studies? Half of them. These were studies trying to prove that some medical treatment was actually effective.

Yes, half the studies showing that some medical treatment is effective are in error. We just found that out this week (at least for neuroscience journals).

This is either stupid, or dishonest. I cannot tell anymore. Really; Stupid? Dishonest? Dishonest? Stupid? It is so hard.

Randall quoted a secondary news article, “Study finds statistical error in large numbers of neuroscience papers” by Bob Yirka (PhysOrg, September 13, 2011). The quote is,
Sander Nieuwenhuis and his associates from the Netherlands have done a study on one particular type of statistical error that apparently crops up in an inordinately large number of papers published in neuroscience journals. In their paper, published in Nature Neuroscience, they claim that up to half of all papers published in such journals contain the error.

Well, Bob is a jerk (see below). So, does that let Randall of the hook? Only if he is too lazy to read the original article, and he expects his readers to accept his grossly incompetent ability to read. Probably this is a safe assumption, since none of these Bozos seem able to read a scientific paper.

The authors of the Nature Neuroscience article actually had a fairly modest goal to teach that, “when making a comparison between two effects, researchers should report the statistical significance of their difference rather than the difference between their significance levels.”

So, there is some event, E, and it is the possible result of variables A, and B. You need to look at the independent causes A, and B, but also the interaction AB on E. (I offer the crude example of “attractiveness of date” = Horniness + Beer + (Horniness X Beer).” Each of the three have a statitistial probability, p, and by conventional practice, only variables with a probability less than five persent, p<0.05, are called "significant." The paper’s authors correctly place greater emphasis on the interaction effect, (Horniness X Beer). So, any paper they reviewed that didn’t make enough effort to examine the interactive effects was rated as “ERROR, Will Robinson, ERROR!” (Actually, I fully agree). But, here is the short form conclusion from the original article, “Are all these articles wrong about their main conclusions? We do not think so.”

” Are all these articles wrong about their main conclusions? We do not think so."

Before I continue with the stupid, dishonest, or lazy Mr. Hoven, I want to just spend a few electrons on what the real scientific paper had to say. It is interesting. Most researchers in medicine like to keep things very simple. I was a professor of medicine, but not a clinician- I am a scientist. The sort of people who make good clinical workers (or at least good medical students) mostly don’t like things that are abstract. So, I found that presenting research results as a series of “if … then …, if not … then …” decisions was very successful.

The “keep it simple” extends into the presentation of research statistics, to the overall detriment of the research. From the actual, original research this right-wing, fundamentalist jerkwad has mangled, out of thousands of published articles from five major journals, only 513 even fit the selection statistics criteria. Of these, in only
… 157 of these 513 articles (31%), the authors describe at least one situation in which they might be tempted to make the error. In 50% of these cases (78 articles), the authors used the correct approach: they reported a significant interaction. This may be followed by the report of the simple main effects (that is, separate analyses for the main effect of training in the mutant mice and control mice). In the other 50% of the cases (79 articles), the authors made at least one error of the type discussed here: they reported no interaction effect, but only the simple main effects, pointing out the qualitative difference between their significance values (for example, vehicle infusions were associated with a statistically significant increase in freezing behavior; muscimol infusions were not associated with a reliable increase in freezing behavior).”

Lets review those numbers, thousands of papers published, only 513 even had data that fit the topic. Of that fraction, only 157 had data that might be analyzed with an AB interactive effect, and of those, the “correct” analysis was used half the time. So at MOST, there were 15% of studies in a very narrow subdiscipline of neurology that used statistical methods that were weaker than recommended by the study authors.

That is way fucking better than I would have expected.

What Randall Hoven stupidly wonders is,
“So how much can we trust an NAS study that is a study of studies, when half of those underlying studies contain a major error? “

So, OK. Hoven fails to do even a minimal check on sources. Even an dumb undergraduate should know that you do not cite papers you have never even read. The article’s real position that I quoted above was on the first page of the Nature Neuroscience article, and it did not require any statistical, or scientific background to understand. Basic reading comprehension would have been adequate to grasp,
”Are all these articles wrong about their main conclusions? We do not think so.”

But, he expects us to apply his ignorant version of the Nature article to the NAS Institute of Medicine study on vaccination. And, he concludes that his kids (and his reader's kids) shouldn't be vaccinated.

What a dumb ass.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Randall Hoven IS either stupid, or a liar.

Hoven writes for the rightwing rag “American Thinker.” A superb example of how this creature from the far-right ga-loon is not in any way a “Thinker” is his September 22, 2011, article called “Science for Stupid Idiots.”

I think he might have got that one part correct- he might have been referring to his rightwing pals as “stupid idiots,” in which case he was admirably direct and perspicacious. On the other hand, it could be titled “Stupid Idiot Mangled Sciences,” depending on your assessment of Mr. Hoven’s intellect and honesty. I put it low.

He makes a general attack on science, but takes particular aim at medical literature on vaccinations, dietary salt, physics/cosmology (dark matter, Big Bang), global warming, brontosaurus, museum aircraft displays, evolution, Steve Gould’s “Mismeasure of Man,” and the CERN search for the Higgs particle.

He might have had some valid points on museum airfoil displays, and Steve Gould. I don’t care. I’ll take on the rest of his bullshit in the order that he dropped it.

Starting with his anti-vaccination screed,
“Here's my thinking on a vaccine, before injecting one of my kids with one: what are the chances of harmful effects without the vaccine, and with the vaccine? I want two numbers. My nutty logic is that I want to minimize the chances of harmful effects on my child. To calculate that for a particular vaccine, I need those two numbers. An emotionless robot or computer would need those two numbers. Yet we are rarely given even one of those numbers, much less both. Not from my doctor. Not from the CDC. Not from geniuses who write articles about how dumb I am for not simply believing their repeated assurances. They tell me it's all about informed consent, but they don't inform me (with the two numbers I need), and they don't ask for my consent. (Sometimes you can opt out, but try that with Hep B shots for your kid.)”

The reason why this is apparently reasonable, but is really stupid will follow.

Case in point: a recent press release from the National Academy of Sciences. The NAS told us that "few health problems are caused by vaccines." That report was then used to tell idiots like me, "For Pete's Sake, Go Get Your Kids Vaccinated Already!"

The NAS did not put a number on "few." Even if it did, that would be only one of the two numbers needed. In fact, the NAS explicitly said it doesn't have those two numbers. It said this about its study committee. “It did not examine information that would have allowed it to draw conclusions about the ratio of benefits to risks.”

So the NAS cannot draw conclusions about the single thing of importance to a parent. But somehow everyone else can. You see, "fact-based" people can draw conclusions even where the NAS can't. And therefore, you are an idiot to not vaccinate your kid.

If you want us to be fact-based, you ought to provide us some facts.”

So, let us be so bold as to give Mr. Hoven some facts. In fact, we will give him facts from the very reports he either never bothered to read, or was too stupid to understand. (Alternately, Mr. Hoven is relying on the stupidity of his readers to cover for his, or he is lying). The first fact is that the 800 page full report is freely available on-line, and if Mr. Hoven has problems with the press release, he should read the full report. But, even the six page short form “Brief Report” is enough to show Mr. Hoven, and us why he is either stupid, or dishonest (Is morbidly lazy an option? Maybe).

I wouldn’t want Mr. Hoven to suffer from eye strain, so not only will I limit my comments to the Brief Report, I’ll only need Mr. Hoven to look at a single page of the six, the one with Table 1.

Can Mr. Hoven see why he is either dishonest, stupid, or morbidly lazy?

I’ll point it out.

The worst that can happen to a child, or adult receiving one of the vaccinations studied, is no greater than the risk of having the disease! I’ll rephrase, there is not any additional risk to receiving a vaccination compared to having the disease, and vaccinations will protect millions and millions of people without any adverse effect at all. The key provision is that nearly a majority of people will need to be vaccinated. And this is where Mr. Hoven stands out. People can freeload on vaccinations. Granted that vaccinations have less average risk than the pre-vaccination disease rate over a population of people, they cannot be made entirely risk free. If nearly everyone is vaccinated against a disease, then the disease cannot reproduce itself with enough social density to be a general danger. A freeloader like Mr. Hoven lets everyone else assume the risk and they count on taking all the advantage.

Right-wingers like Mr. Hoven want us to assume the risks for him, and absorb the costs for him, so he can get a free ride and then complain about how he is oppressed.

What a crooked dumb ass! And what a typical right-winger!

I continue my remarks regarding Mr. Hoven's lack of ability in Part II.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A new addition to the speciation list

The list of new species documented in the act of evolution, "Emergence of new species," has grown by a newly emerging species of Sparrow.

A recent publication, “Hybrid speciation in sparrows I: phenotypic intermediacy, genetic admixture and barriers to gene flow” (JO S. HERMANSEN, STEIN A. SÆTHER, TORE O. ELGVIN, THOMAS BORGE, ELIN HJELLE, GLENN-PETER SÆTRE, Molecular Ecology, Volume 20, Issue 18, pages 3812–3822, September 2011) adds another observed example of a new species that has been documented emerging. What makes this particular example interesting is four fold. First, it is a bird species, and vertebrate examples are less common than plants, or invertebrates. Second, it resulted from a hybrid between two similar species which has not been considered a likely pathway to speciation in vertebrates. Third, the researchers have been able to identify the actual genetic differences between the three species. Finally, the event is incomplete, and still in process.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Beware False Piety

(Note added 18, Sept. As of this morning, all of the formerly blocked comments at the Juneau Express were put on-line in an al-at-once data dump. No explanation was made).

Someone named Charley Larson wrote a letter to the Juneau Empire news paper. As I often do, I responded to the newspaper’s public forum. By 16 Sept. 2011, I became so frustrated with the Juneau Empire comment policies (disappearing posts critical of creationism), that I decided to put the whole file up here at Stones and Bones.

I was nearly finished with Charley anyway.

You can read Charley’s letter at this link.

I’ll start with Charley Larson’s letter by detailing the errors and outright falsehoodsin the order they were made.

“the theory of evolution is absolutely a belief. It has never been proven”

First, for those of us who actually do science, in the field, or in the lab, evolution is not a ‘belief’ in the sense of a faith. I accept the reality of evolution just as I accept the reality of gravity. In fact, evolution is easier to understand than Einstein’s theory of gravity, and is better supported. The physics people are spending billions of tax dollars a year hoping to demonstrate the existence of the Higgs particle that might, if found, fill the gap between Einstein’s theory, and quantum mechanics following Niels Bohr.

We don’t need billions to confirm evolution because this was done long ago. We do still argue about the fine points, most of which would seem incoherent to a non-specialist. The two newest big research areas are in evolutionary developmental biology (old school “embryology” brought up-to-date with modern molecular biology), and epigenetics, the surprising discovery of non-genetic phyletic inheritance (really, the odd ways that the environment alters genetic expression)((Even the egg has an internal environment!)).

But, for most of Darwin’s theory that is still retained we only need to point out that new species have been documents emerging from old species. This “proves” evolution as well as falling off a cliff “proves” gravity. I have compiled a list of observed speciation events at “Stones and Bones: Emergence of New Species”

Charley next spouts we should all go see, “No Intelligence Allowed” by Ben Stein.
It is a movie about many scientists who, through their varying research into a diverse array of scientific fields, have found such complexity and variety in what they were researching (their scientific search for the truth) that they came to the conclusion that what they found simply could not be a result of time and/or chance.“
I have already posted a link to “Expelled Exposed,” the propaganda film was titled “Expelled” Here is the link again:

First thing to notice is that no scientist lost their jobs because they became creationists. The closest in “Expelled” was Guillermo Gonzalez. He became a creationist, and stopped writing grants, and never got his students to graduate. He lost his job. I was a professor, and IF I did not bring in the $$ from grants, and IF MY students couldn’t graduate, I would have lost my job too.

But the biggest fraud is that these twerps came to reject science because of their scientific research. They were all creationists first. In fact many went into science just to try and disprove the sciences. An example is Discovery Institute Senior Fellow Jonathan Wells. He admits that he was ordered to pursue a degree in biology by his “messiah” and “Lord” Rev. Sun Moon. Why? Well, in his own words, “that I should devote my life to destroying Darwinism.” That is so unbiased and filled with the “search for truth,” don’t you think?

I am going to expand a bit on Charley’s rejection of “time and/or chance.” Creationists like to pretend (lie) that evolutionary science relies entirely on “time and/or chance,” or as they like to say “blind random chance.” We don’t

First we note that energy and matter have some very dependable, and limited behaviors. This is good because if energy and matter could act in any sort of random way, then literally nothing could exist. So, first of all, we scientists rely on the fact that energy and matter are not totally random. But, if energy and matter were too restricted, then life could not exist. Think about this as the difference between a snowflake and a protein; the snowflake is unique, and elaborate, but its ability to change and adapt to the environment is very limited. A protein is not at all unique, proteins vary greatly, but they have recognizable patterns across hundreds and thousands of different species. Proteins vary even within a single cell, and they are affected by the environment more than a snowflake. Snowflakes are not alive.

But, there are some strong “chance” features to the history of life on Earth. For example, is was not a “planned” event that sent a massive asteroid crashing into the Earth 65 million years ago leading to the extinction of millions of species. If it were not for evolution, all life would have ended long ago. But, evolution causes life to try to fill any available niche, from alpine lakes to super-salty lagoons, and mountain tops to the deepest sea trenches, ice fields to hot springs. Your body has three or four times more cells of bacteria, yeast, and fungi than “you.” And, they all have viruses of their own.

What evolution does not due is to plan in advance. In that sense, it is up to chance. But that is balanced by natural selection which is the opposite of chance.

Charley next claimed “While many of these scientists have not embraced the notion of a supreme, omnipotent God who created the universe, they do believe that the universe is not the result of chance but at the very least is the result of intelligent design.”

It is not true, Charley.

I already showed how Jon Wells’s first allegiance was to his ordained master, Rev. Sun Moon. But here are some more that the Intelligent Design Creationists have admitted;

Phillip Johnson
"This [the intelligent design movement] isn't really, and never has been, a debate about science, it's about religion and philosophy." World Magazine, 30 November 1996

"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)

William Dembski,
"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).

"My thesis is that all disciplines find their completion in Christ and cannot be properly understood apart from Christ." William Dembski, 'Intelligent Design', p 206

“…but let’s admit that our aim, as proponents of intelligent design, is to beat naturalistic evolution, and the scientific materialism that undergirds it, back to the Stone Age. “DEALING WITH THE BACKLASH AGAINST INTELLIGENT DESIGN version 1.1, April 14, 2004”

Charley slings some more BS from “Expelled.” And again, these lies are all exposed at, “Expelled Exposed”

Some highlights are; Nobody was fired for their beliefs. Some people were not rehired after they refused to do their jobs. Go tell your boss that you don’t need to do your job because you “answer to a higher power.” Then whine about “discrimination” if you lose your job.

Charley described a scene from Expelled, “The very last scene in the movie has Stein interviewing Richard Dawkins, probably the best known atheist in the world. Under intensive questioning from Stein, Dawkins ultimately states he really doesn’t have a clue how life originated on Earth but then postulates that perhaps a super intelligent alien race from a far off planet came and planted life on Earth. This explanation makes far more sense than a creator we call God.”

Sorry Charley, that wasn’t the last scene. The last scene was Ben Stein talking to a faked audience at Pepperdine Bible University. The phony interview with Dawkins was a set-up. All the non-creationists interviewed were lied to by the production company. They were lied to about the title, goal, and funding of the movie. And the “intensive questioning” was faked. Did you notice Charley, that you never saw Stein and Dawkins through a whole question/answer series? And when Dawkins mentioned “intelligent aliens,” he was repeating an old Discovery Institute talking point that they didn’t specify that God was the Creator because it could have been intelligent aliens.

Additionally, the origin of life is logically, and factually separate from the origin of life. Even Darwin wrote in a 1871 letter to the botanist Joseph Hooker, "It is often said that all the conditions for the first production of a living organism are present, which could ever have been present. But if (and Oh! what a big if!) we could conceive in some warm little pond, with all sorts of ammonia and phosphoric salts, light, heat, electricity, etc., present, that a protein compound was chemically formed ready to undergo still more complex changes, at the present day such matter would be instantly devoured or absorbed, which would not have been the case before living creatures were formed. "

Later in the same letter, he observed,

"It is mere rubbish thinking at present of the origin of life; one might as well think of the origin of matter."

We do think today about the origin of matter, Cosmology, and the origin of life, Abiogenesis. I have compiled a short outline of recent research called, “A Short Outline of the Origin of life,” at;

Beware intellectual pride? Beware false sanctity.

Charley, ignorant of what science has discovered, and can hold as physical facts, the stones and bones that teach us the history and present state of the Earth, quotes to us the Bible. I’ll quote a bit for Charley who likes the Apostle Paul;

In Titus 1:14, Apostle Paul (or one his later followers) tells us to ignore Jewish fables. Wouldn't that mean much of the Pentateuch, if not all of Genesis? Elsewhere Paul wrote, Romans 7:6, “But now we are delivered from the Torah, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.” Also: 2 Corinthans 3:6 "He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant--not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." This is an powerful rejection of bibliolatry and literalism. This is extended in Titus 3: 9, "But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Torah, for they are unprofitable and worthless."

But the earlier biblical sages also wrote regarding the physical creation as a testament.
Psalm 19:1 The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
2 Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge. (New American Standard Bible)

More clearly, Psalm 85:11 reads, “Truth springs from the earth; and righteousness looks down from heaven.” The Hebrew word translated here as “truth,” emet, basically means “certainty and dependability.”

The certainty and dependability, the emet of the Earth is that it is ancient, and that life evolved.

For some readings from serious Christians, written largely for Christians struggling with the facts of science and their faith, I recommend reading;

Young, Davis A., Ralf F. Stearley
2008 "The Bible, Rocks and Time: Geological Evidence for the Age of the Earth" Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press

Miller, Keith B. (editor)
2003 “Perspectives on an Evolving Creation” Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing

Frye, Roland Mushat (editor)
1983 "Is God a Creationist?: The Religious Case Against Creation-Science" New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, Inc.

16 Sept. 2011

Charley says that, “I also take exception to Olson’s characterization of my Christian belief of creation as “folklore.”

There are several issues here. First, the Christian part of the Bible calls the creation story part of the Bible, "… foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Torah, for they are unprofitable and worthless" Titus 3: 9. There are also the many “Christian” traditions which are in fact borrowed folklore, Christmas for example. The flood story was adapted from older Sumerian, and Babylonian traditions. For a very good book on the origins of most of the creation accounts in the Bible, see;

Smith, Mark S.
2002 “The Early History of God 2nd ed.” Grand Rapids: Wm B Eerdmans Publishing

Charley argues that because his drug addiction was “cured” when he became ‘born again” that this lends credence to Christianity. There are of course billions of people in other religions who could make the same argument. And there are no doubt millions of drug, or alcohol abusers who have always been fervent believers in what ever religion they grew-up within. And, their addiction, or illness, or death should neither be used as a “proof” nor “denial” of the validity of any religion.

One last note, and I might be criticized as being insensitive, but Charley, Why in the world would I take the opinion of someone about the sciences who can only offer their 30 years of drugged stupor as a recommendation? Sorry Charley, I am glad you are sober, but don’t try to criticize sciences you know nothing about.