Friday, July 29, 2011

What keeps Americans ignorant?

(Note added 7, Oct. 2011; After considerable delay, the Abilene Reporter did post the comments below).

Americans get more of their "news" from family and friends than from study, and broadly, the public news media is their only outside source for information. Americans rarely read scientific journals, or specialist books about science.

News papers are coming to realize that they must have Internet versions of themselves, and the advertisers pay by the page views. I have for several years made the effort to find and reply to these on-line news paper editorials when they broach on evolution v. creationism. There are various frustrations associated with this; separate registration forms, wildly varying user interface software, and typically limited opportunity to make outside links, or use any graphics.

But by far the most irritating thing I have encountered is simple censorship. There are news papers which block views that are informed, and critical of creationism and biblical literalism. They might at the same time allow weakly presented counter arguments. Of course, this blog post is motivated by just such an instance. The Abilene Reporter-News (Tx), just ran a Letter to the Editor by Clyde Berkeley, Letter: On debating the origin of life which I tried to respond to on three occasions.

None were allowed through the censorship queue.

So here they are;

I read this letter earlier today, and would have replied earlier, but I had an afternoon fishing trip planned. Over all, Clyde’s letter is rather amusing. First, I checked on his claim to be a scientist. Sorry Clyde, you have zero scientific publications. However, you do have one citation for an article about planning missionary trips to somewhere. Your profession, from information provided by yourself, is Missionary. You have also claimed to have worked for the National Reconnaissance Agency/Office. I have had some field work experiences with NRA people, and found them very competent. So, I wonder what your job there really was.

As to the origin of life; The theory of evolution is not at all dependent on any particular origin of life on earth. It is irrelevant to the truth of evolution, or as expressed by C. Darwin in his famous 1871 letter to botanist Joseph Hooker, "It is mere rubbish thinking at present of the origin of life; one might as well think of the origin of matter." There are indeed several large remaining gaps in our precise understanding of the origin of life on earth, but the broad outline is available. In fact, I wrote a “Short Outline of the Origin of Life” which summarized what we knew as of 4 years ago. It is in sore need of updating, particularly in the origin, and chemistry of nucleotides. http://stonesnbones.blogspot.com/2008/12/origin-of-life-outline.html

Why “intelligent design” creationism is utterly useless is described in considerable detail in the 2004 book, “Why Intelligent Design Fails: A Scientific Critique of the New Creationism.” My chapter in that book was used in the cross examination testimony of creationist Mike Behe during the Dover “Pandas Trial,” where ID creationism was found to be unconstitutional.

But, your most grotesque error is the long rebuked “appearance pf age” argument. This is theologically as bad as it is scientifically bad. For example, Psalm 19:1 reads, "The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth His handiwork." Further, 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.”

A faked ancient earth and universe, with faked fossils and geological structures that clearly point to an ancient earth and evolutionary transitions of life could never be honest, or described as giving “certainty and dependability.” The God of such a faked universe would be a perverse, and false god. This is also denied by Scripture. Consider James 1:13. “Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.”


wbarloww#247077 writes:
I have a question for those that hold with evolution. Lets just use the four major groups: African, Mediterranean, Caucasian, and Asian. Did they develop simultaneously, or in a linear fashion.


The evolution of humans, and the relationship of that to “race,” is too large a subject to fully explore in 3,000 character snippets. First, regarding the notion that there are “four major groups” of humans- this is not true. As Charles Darwin wrote in The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (John Murray, London, 1871), "It may be doubted whether any character can be named which is distinctive of a race and is constant." This was at the time many Christians argued that non-Europeans were not even human! The American slave owners had been assured by the "preAdamites" that God had created the Negro with the "beasts of the field" and that the sons of Adam (Whites) were only exercising their God ordained right to dominate sub-humans. Even “liberal” pro-slavery ministers such as the famous Rev. John Bachman (1790 – 1874), while acknowledging that Africans were human, argued that they were “too poorly developed” to rule themselves and that slavery was a “necessary institution.”

This sort of racism, originated in the defense of slavery, has shaped American perceptions of race for two centuries. It is long over due to be rejected. For the definitive scientific statement on human races, you will need to read “Biological Aspects of Race” adopted as the official statement on race of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists;
http://physanth.org/association/position-statements/biological-aspects-of-race

I also recommend the American Anthropological Association
Statement on "Race" available at:
http://www.aaanet.org/stmts/racepp.htm

The short form is that it is not scientifically supported to classify humans into geographical units such as suggested by wbarloww#247077.

wbarloww#247077 goes on to question where modern humans first appeared (or so it seems). They also wondered about the proposition, “that all four groups developed at the same time in one location from one pair of Apes?”

I’ll take the latter first, remembering that there is no validity to the notion of “four groups (of people), it is equally mistaken that humans descended from “one pair of Apes.” The conceptual breakthrough that merged genetics with evolutionary theory was called the “new synthesis,” or “neo-Darwinism.” This took place in the 1930s, and the critical insight was that evolution happens in populations, and not in individuals. The second realization was that, even in mammals, cross-species fertility was not a simple on/off situation. For example, the male Y chromosome is far more prone to mutation than the female’s X chromosome. And, the X chromosome can compensate many defective genes on the Y chromosome. So what you can see is that a male of species “A” could be able to successfully cross-breed a female of species “B,” even if a male from “B” is infertile when paired to a species “A” female. This is also how mutations can accumulate within populations across generations creating the potential for new species emerging.

For a clearer understanding of how humans have evolved, I suggest looking at, “Becoming Human,” http://www.becominghuman.org/

And, the Human Origins Program at the Smithsonian Institution;
http://humanorigins.si.edu/

The short form is that most of human evolution has occurred in Africa, but that this is the result of population level change rather than single individuals, or single mate pairs.

(The original comments were cut into ~ 3000 character chunks).

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Love your blog, which I found just this morning, via the meanderings of Paul Benedict over at Nolan Chart.

Re censorship: I currently live in a smallish Texas town and was agreeably surprised the small town, biweekly newspaper has printed my letters to the editor. Their right wing religious nut of a columnist is even more confused than Benedict.

Regards
J

Gary S. Hurd said...

I had nearly forgotten Mr. Benedict in the haze of dozens of other creationists. Thanks for the good words.