Saturday, December 20, 2014

Hindu UFO Cult Creationists (Updated 30 Dec. 2014)

In a recent FaceBook post by creationist Richard Haralambus, a link was given to a Hindu inspired UFO cult. This was amusing all alone since Mr. Haralambus presents himself a a Christian. I wanted to do a point by point debunking, but health and kitchen plumbing intervened. I have some free time today, and I'll make a start.

I do not want any creationists to comment in this thread at all. Your opinions are pointless.

The link was to an article entitled, "9 Scientific Facts Prove the "Theory of Evolution"," and it had as the top illustration a "quote mine" from Charles Darwin's book, "On the Origin of Species." (The Hindu UFO cultist cited the sixth edition). I have copied the JPEG to this page so that nobody will waste time going to the cult's advertisement trap. If you really want to see it, the site is called "humansarefree dot com"

Here is the entire quote in proper context.

Organs of extreme perfection and complication.—To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree. (only portion used by creationists) Yet reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a perfect and complex eye to one very imperfect and simple, each grade being useful to its possessor, can be shown to exist; if further, the eye does vary ever so slightly, and the variations be inherited, which is certainly the case; and if any variation or modification in the organ be ever useful to an animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, can hardly be considered real."
In the 1872 6th edition, Darwin devoted the bulk of 4 pages, 143-146, to details of the evolution of eyes from light sensitive nerves to those of vertebrates. He cites studies from paleontology, and embryology. He concluded,
"... and when we bear in mind how small the number of all living forms must be in comparison with those which have become extinct, the difficulty ceases to be very great in believing that natural selection may have converted the simple apparatus of an optic nerve, coated with pigment and invested by transparent membrane, into an optical instrument as perfect as is possessed by any member of the Articulate Class."

So before we even get to the text, the author is already lying. This is a popular lie with many creationists, and is a TalkOrigins featured creationist falsehood. Darwin clearly refutes the notion that an eye could not evolve. Indeed, a recent book by Professor Ivan R Schwab, “Evolution's Witness: How Eyes Evolved” (2011 Oxford University Press) shows in great detail just how eyes have evolved many times. A new paper traces the chemical, genetic and functional evolution of the mammalian eye over 90 million years;

The second graphic I have posted shows a sketch of the known stages of eye evolution from Nilsson and Pelger,
1994 "A Pessimistic Estimate of the Time Required for an Eye to Evolve" Proceedings of the Royal Society 256: 53-58

Notice that these idealized steps are represented in a single modern organism, the Box Jelly.

The second instalment

The next lie told by the Hindu/UFO cult leader Alexander Light was a compound lie. There are multiple parts mixed together across a few paragraphs. Here are some relevant sentences.

"The DNA in plants and animals allows selective breeding to achieve desired results. Dogs are a good example of selective breeding. The DNA in all dogs has many recessive traits."

I'll first point out that Charles R. Darwin even wrote an entire book in 2 volumes on selective breeding, "The variation of animals and plants under domestication" (1868 London: John Murray, Publisher).

It is an excellent example of how selection alters the physical, and genetic biology of a species.

The remark about "recessive traits" might seem like a non sequitur. It is. However the unenlightened Mr. Light thinks this is an important fact. Mr. Light continues, "A desired trait can be produced in dogs by selecting dogs with a particular trait to produce offspring with that trait. This specialized selective breeding can continue for generation after generation until a breed of dog is developed. This is the same as the "survival of the fittest" theory of the evolutionists."

One more scientific and historical objection is that "survival of the fittest" was a phrase invented and promoted by 19th century economist Herbert Spenser. He had his own version of "evolution" with the explicit application to human institutions, and society. Darwin resisted using this term until it became so popular that he could not avoid it. Even then Darwin first used the phrase in his 1868 book on Domestication, and not until the 1869 5th edition of "Origin of Species." He then directly attributed this to Spencer, and in the context of human selection of domesticated animals. He nearly dismissed Survival of the Fittest when writing, "But Natural Selection, as we shall hereafter see, is a power incessantly ready for action, and is as immeasurably superior to man's feeble efforts, as the works of Nature are to those of Art." ("Origin," V Edition, pg 79).

Update. 21 Dec. 2014 (Happy Solstice)

Just time for a little debunking today (major plumbing problems).

The Hindu/UFO cultist site makes the false claim, "New variations of the species are possible, but a new species has never been developed by science. In fact, the most modern laboratories are unable to produce a left-hand protein as found in humans and animals. Evolutionist fail to admit that no species has ever been proven to have evolved in any way. Evolution is simply pie-in-the-sky conjecture without scientific proof."
There are several errors/lies. The most blatant is "a new species has never been developed by science."
We of course have directly observed the origin of new species in nature, and in experimental settings. I compiled a list of dozens of examples. The earliest publication was over a century ago. See: Emergence of New Species.

I thought I might add an update:

The creatocrap continued with "In fact, the most modern laboratories are unable to produce a left-hand protein as found in humans and animals."

This is a 3 for 1 lie. First is the lie that abiogenesis (the origin of life) is identical with the origin of species. Second is the lie that all proteins are formed exclusively by "left-handed" amino acids. For detailed discussion, see my short article, "A short outline of the origin of life"

But, the third lie is that we do not manufacture synthetic proteins, and genes to make them. We can, and we do.

For two papers I just read last night on new proteins made from first principles, see:

Nathan H. Joh, et al "De novo design of a transmembrane Zn2+-transporting four-helix bundle" Science 19 December 2014: 1520-1524.

Woon Ju Song and F. Akif Tezcan "A designed supramolecular protein assembly with in vivo enzymatic activity" Science 19 December 2014: 1525-1528.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Another palindrome milestone

I know that this is very silly, but the page view meter just turned over another palindrome, 92629.

This is personally amusing because it is also my ZIP code.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Gallop numbers on Creationism: 2 more years, and 3 more data points.

I last reviewed the Gallop organization poll on creationism two years ago in "On Reading a Graph."

There is new data from Gallop.

The question representing the Young Earth Creationists was, "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so."

This is a very "soft" question. Phrases like "pretty much" and "the last 10,000 years or so" don't pin down the response, particularly regarding the original human form. It allows the respondent to make arbitrary judgement of what is "human." It also excluded a faith group known as "old earth creationists."

The "old earth creationist" was supposed to be captured in the statement, "Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process." But, this misses the majority of "old earth creationists" who believe that the earth and universe were as old as the sciences indicate, but that their god "inserted" modern humans at an appropriate time as per the biblical chronologies. The statement comes closest to the "theistic evolution" position. This might be paraphrased as, "Creation, and Evolution have occurred as discovered by science, but it is God's will that this is so."

The "young earth" data (percent agree "God created ...") 44, 47, 44, 47, 45, 45, 46, 43, 44, 40, 46, 42; mean 44.4, s.d. 2.06. This is a small data set, but we see that the most recent data are a full standard deviation lower than the mean. At the same time, the last time the poll hit the mean was 2008. Since then the data are very volatile running 2 s.d. down, or 1 up. More interestingly, the trend is toward the negative variation showing a probable weakening of support.

Compare this with the "theistic evolution" data; 38,35,39,40,37,38,36,38,36,38,32,31; mean 36.5, s.d. 2.7. Here the scores have rarely ever been low until the last two surveys. As an alternative with small data sets, we drop the extreme high and low scores and get a mean of 36.7, and a s.d. of 2.05. This suggests that the most recent years have seen an actual drop in support for the "theistic evolution" position.

Compare these both with the data for the secular position. First the cue statement, "Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process." There is nothing that distinguishes it from the "Theistic Evolution" position other than the phrase, "God had no part in this process."
Percent agree; 9,11,10,9,12,13,13,14,14,16,15,19; mean 12.9 s.d. 2.96. Trimmed, m. 12.7, s.d. 2.2.
There is a nearly perfect "hinge" in the data when they switch from a negative, to a positive trend. This was first securely seen in 2004.

What about the "no opinion" group. They are often ignored in substantive terms. (Percent agree) 9,7,7,4,5,4,5,4,5,6,7,8; mean 5.9, s.d. 1.67. Trimming the extremes gives; mean 5.8, s.d. 1.4. The combined data shows an interestingly strong parochial trend with "no opinion" numbers below the mean between 1999 - 2008. They then move slightly above the long term average in 2010 with that trend increasing.

The Theistic Evolution population has also declined just over a standard deviation. Obviously there is no difference between the secular and theistic evolution position on many of the more contentious aspects of creationism - denial of evolution, denial of geology, denial of chemistry, or physics - when compared with the YEC. If we combine the data, there are ~58% of the American public able to face the fact that life has evolved over the last 4.5 billion years since the origin of the solar system. A narrow majority, but a majority.

The apparent declines in the creationist numbers I suspected 2 years ago seem real, and to have shifted strongly toward the secular, or weakly toward the "no opinion" positions.

I forgot to mention two books that give a historical perspective on creationism in America;

Numbers, Ronald L.
2006 "The Creationists: The Evolution of Scientific Creationism" Berkeley: University of California Press

Scott, Eugenie C.,
2005 "Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction" University of California Press

Sunday, September 07, 2014

The Institute for Creation Research and their dupes, v.1.0.

The Dallas News recently ran a puff-piece lauding the Institute for Creation Research. The major reason to avoid public face-to-face debates with creationists is that they practice the technique called the “Gish Gallop” named after the late Institute for Creation Research master-debator Duane Gish. The method is to lie as rapidly as possible about as many possible things that the real scientist is overwhelmed. It was known before Duane Gish perfected it as the, “BuryThemInBullshit” method. However, in a written format this method typically falls apart. Sadly, I'll show that even in a supposedly public forum creationists cheat and lie with impunity.

During a protracted discussion in the Dallas News website a "bull-creato" emerged. A particularly outrageous false claim was made by creationist Paul Koepp, "Unfossilized organic soft tissue is found all through the geo column, found even in the Cambrian and dino DNA (small pieces of it) exist and have been documented."

He has consistently asserted this and obviously never consulted any reliable sources. I requested actual valid references which I knew don’t exist. Koepp replied with a number of vague claims about scientific papers, and more links to creationist websites. He then boasted, "Am I the one lying and being dishonest, or is there a learning curve going on here?"

It took a while to actually find and read the science journal papers alluded to, or cited in his creationist websites. My colleague Prof. James Hoffman provided some of the more difficult to find. (That link was to a very solid resource that anyone opposing the creationist anti-reality campaign should bookmark.) The creationists are lying again. What a surprise that must be!

I certainly never expected Mr. Koepp to admit he had lied. I actually doubt he is capable of recognizing his falsehoods. But the flagrant incompetence and/or dishonesty in the claim, “dino DNA (small pieces of it) exist and have been documented" should be sufficiently obviously false that any sane, rational person will see the error. The specific argument in support of his falsehood was some links to creationist websites, and one scientific article published in 1994. That article was, S. R. Woodward, N. J. Weyand, M. Bunnell, “DNA sequence from Cretaceous period bone fragments” Science 18 November 1994: 1229-1232.

In less than one year after the Woodward et al publication, their entire claim was debunked by four teams of paleontologists. One team that correctly identified Woodward’s “dino DNA” as modern human had Mr. Koepp’s favorite paleontologist, Mary Schweitzer, as a member.

SB Hedges and MH Schweitzer Science 26 May 1995: 1191-1192.

S Henikoff, Science 26 May 1995: 1192.

MW Allard, D Young, and Y Huyen, Science 26 May 1995: 1192.

H Zischler, M Hoss, O Handt, A von Haeseler, AC van der Kuyl, and J Goudsmit, Science 26 May 1995: 1192-1193.

The unknown sequences “like nothing we’ve seen before” according to Woodward were positively identified as, “the mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus, accession number X56291) and to human cytochrome b genes (Homo sapiens, accession number V00662) by Allard et al. Woodward thought his own cell’s DNA was from dinosaurs. Zischler et al sarcastically wondered maybe their human DNA had been contaminated with mysterious unknown dinosaur DNA. They concluded that in fact, Woodward had merely failed to use good lab procedure and had analyzed his laboratory's human contamination.

Here we are 20 years later, and Institute for Creation Research frauds, and their creationist dupes are still spewing lies about the discovery of "Dino DNA."

Why did these lies by Mr. Koepp go uncorrected? Because the Dallas News repeatedly banned, and deleted the correct information from their website.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Kent Hovind still in the slammer

There are many new developments that I'll try to get to soon. In the mean time, here is an interesting link on "the evolution of Kent Hovind."

Kent Hovind was sentenced to 10 years for 12 tax fraud offenses, one count of obstructing federal agents, and 45 counts of illegally structuring cash transactions. The minimum term he could have served was 8 years with the last 6 months in a half-way house, or home detention. Under that scenario he would have left prison February of 2015 with "time off for good behavior," and parole.

However it seem there are other plans for Hovind, Prisoner #06452-017.

According his son Eric, Kent Hovind was transferred August 13 to the Santa Rosa County Jail in Milton, Florida. There he was charged with contempt of court for violating an injunction contained in the 2012 civil case associated with the Federal settlement that seized the "Dinosaur Adventure Land" and other real property. If the question is "contempt of court," then Kent Hovind has shown nothing but contempt. What other than contempt has he shown? I thought his telephone conversations before his trial were extremely revealing (and funny as any comedy routine). Knowing he was being recorded, "Dr. Dino" made threats against the judge, and instructed his family on how to hide assets."

His court date is set for September 8, 2014 rescheduled for November, 2014. The timing here seems to me obviously intended to stop his early release in 2015, see that he serves his full 10 year sentence, and maybe give Hovind a little extra time to think this through.

I am not a lawyer, but I'll offer a guess that Kent Hovind won't be going home in February 2015.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What I have been doing this summer

For 7 weeks now I have not left the house except to go to a doctor appointment, or to a hospital.

June 25 I got slammed in the R eye with a fishing weight. A tourist ripped his torpedo sinker out of a kelp stringer and into my eye 15 feet behind him. This caused major damage to just about every part of the eye. Bleeding and swelling raised the eye pressure (intraocular pressure) to over 70 mm. Normal IOP is 15 mm. Blood, and vitreous was forced past the lens into the anterior chamber and incidentally further damaging the lens. This pressure also damaged the optic nerve, and collapsed the channels that normally drain the eye and regulate pressure. I was on a sport fishing boat here in Dana Point and we were a few miles from the harbor. The skipper, and his first mate were on the job from the start. They got me a medical evacuation by the Orange County Harbor Patrol within 15 minutes. The Emergency Room docs, and the consulting ophthalmologist all agreed that if I had been delayed even another 1/2 hour from medical attention, I would have lost the eye.

I was hospitalized for 3 days. We then tried for 3 weeks to control the eye pressure medically.

As the massive blood clot broke up over the next few weeks, the MDs could see the damage better. The muscles that control the eye's orientation were damaged, but have recovered function recently. The extent of permanent damage to the optic nerve was fortunately minor, and the retina is still working well. The cornea was scarred, and traumatic cataracts started growing within days. The iris muscles were paralyzed by nerve damage, and then died as pressure blocked their blood supply. The lens was destabilized when a large number of the fibers (called zonules) that hold the lens in place were snapped. It will eventually break free which will require surgery as will the cornea cataracts and scarring. All in all, this sucks. I took 5 meds on various dosing schedules between 6 AM to 10 PM. The main goal was to stabilize my eye pressure back at the normal 15mm.

The purely medical approach failed. Even when the IOP would return to nearly normal, it would next spike back to 2 or 3 times normal. What had happened was that the extreme pressure, and the blow itself had collapsed the eye ducts so badly they could not recover. Finally with my IOP back over 48 mm, we did an emergency surgery on July 16th. The cornea was lifted to clean the anterior chamber, and a shunt was put in to mechanically replace the drain system destroyed by the injury. The recovery time for that surgery is 4 to 6 weeks. We are into the 5th week now, and there has been considerable improvement. However even with additional surgeries my R eye will never regain full normal functioning.

We have maxed out the medical suppression of the eye pressure while the surgery heals. This means various kinds of eye drops - 13 each day administered by my wife every hour or two between 6AM and 10PM. Plus, I have varied between 1,500 and 500 mg of Diamox- one of the weirder drugs in terms of side-effects I have ever had. What we are not using is pain medication since pain is an important clue to the IOP. In fact, it is really the only one readily available without a lot of medical hardware.

The next time I get injured I want better drugs!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The lie that Charles Darwin was a racist.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

I want anyone confused by the creationist propaganda to read;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Wayne Lusvardi is a nit wit

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 19, 2014

Pastor Jim Mumme is an idiot

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Carl Baugh Page Views

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

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

Thursday, May 01, 2014

We get mail

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

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

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

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

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

Bravo, sir.

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

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

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

Monday, March 03, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Noah Berlatsky in the Atlantic, 8, Feb. 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Mt. Saint Helens and Noah

A "Little Grand Canyon?"

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

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

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

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

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

A sequence of events

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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