Thursday, April 30, 2009

Creationism and Intelligent Design: Which is more Scientific?


UK journo Melanie Phillips has made a fool of herself with this article, in which she whines that intelligent design is different to creationism. It is different, actually, but she gets the reason why completely ass-backwards. Here's what she says:

[Ken Miller said] that Intelligent Design was nothing more than an attempt to repackage good old-fashioned Creationism and make it more palatable. But this is totally untrue. Miller referred to a landmark US court case in 2005, Kitzmiller v Dover Area School District, which did indeed uphold the argument that Intelligent Design was a form of Creationism in its ruling that teaching Intelligent Design violated the constitutional ban against teaching religion in public schools. But the court was simply wrong, doubtless because it had heard muddled testimony from the likes of Prof Miller.

The court heard from a wide variety of experts on both sides of the controversy, including Professor Miller, an evolutionary biologist and Christian who has written several books on the subject. During the court case it was established that the main intelligent design textbook was a carbon copy of an older book on creationism, with the word "creationists" sloppily replaced with "design proponents" throughout. But according to Melanie, intelligent design is real science, and has nothing to do with religion:

The fact is that Intelligent Design not only does not come out of Creationism but stands against it. This is because Creationism comes out of religion while Intelligent Design comes out of science. Creationism, whose proponents are Bible literalists, is a specific doctrine which holds that the earth was literally created in six days. Intelligent Design, whose proponents are mainly scientists, holds that the complexity of science suggests that there must have been a governing intelligence behind the origin of matter, which could not have developed spontaneously from nothing.

Actually, Melanie, biblical creationism is far more scientific than intelligent design. Let me explain why.

Like real science, biblical creationism is based on evidence*. Intelligent design is based purely on the gaps in our knowledge, gaps that are constantly shrinking. Thus the amount of information "supporting" intelligent design is actually decreasing with time.

Like real science, biblical creationism makes very specific predictions**. Intelligent design does postulate the existence of objects that couldn't have evolved by natural means, but it offers no theoretical framework that could be used to predict what these might be, or where they might be found.

Like real science, biblical creationism is falsifiable***. Since intelligent design makes no positive assertions, no piece of evidence can be envisaged that could refute it.

None of this means that creationism is good science, of course. The failing of creationism as a science is ultimately the same failing of intelligent design; that is they are both founded on immovable religious ideas which themselves have no scientific basis.

And it takes some gall to deny that intelligent design is religion in disguise. Please. Intelligent design advocates may go to great pains to assert that the designer could be an alien, but when they wrap up their case they'll almost always finish by saying something like "...and we believe that this intelligent designer is the Christian God. Praise Jesus!".

At least biblical creationists have the self-confidence to stick to their founding beliefs (no matter how crazy those beliefs are) instead of cowardly dressing them up as something else entirely.

*The evidence being the Bible. I didn't say it was reliable evidence.
**Predictions like "the Earth is six thousand years old". I didn't say the predictions had to turn out to be true.
***And indeed it has been falsified countless times.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Hovind Junior: Confused

The latest batch of (mercifully brief) creationist propaganda videos are already gaining notoriety across the blogosphere. They're presented by Eric Hovind, son of "Krazy" Kent. I would have thought that Eric would want to avoid the spotlight after his dad's antics. I mean, everyone finds their dad embarassing once in a while but Hovind senior is considered a real fruit-cake by most creationists. I've even deemed him worthy of his own category here at Creationist Idiocy. But judging by this video, the apple doesn't fall very far from the tree:

So according to Eric, there's an "evolution formula" which states that the universe created itself out of "nothing + time". Hang on though, evolution isn't about how the universe came into existence, is it? That's the big bang theory. And a little googling into that subject will show that (a) there's no consensus on what came before the singularity (certainly there is no evidence to suggest there was "nothing"), and (b) the expansion of the universe from the singularity that preceded it was extremely rapid, thus not requiring a whole lot of time at all. What hope for creationists if Eric can't distinguish between such radically different scientific theories as the big bang theory and evolution by natural selection?

I also struggle to see the point that this video is trying to make:

It's something like "God is roughly the same size as Arcturus", or possibly "Wow. God is really, really... big. Wow.". Still, impressive production values. It seems you really can polish a turd.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

It's Competition Time Again

Your task is to write a limerick about creationism. The funniest one wins. Here are some possible ideas for the first two lines, or you can come up with your own:

In the Christian Bible we’re told
That the Earth is six thousand years old

In the Genesis book is a tale
Of a man who lived inside a whale

Some people today still believe
In the story of Adam and Eve

Friday, April 24, 2009

Moron of the Month - David Klinghoffer

The Discovery Institute's David Klinghoffer recently posted a couple of articles that, in essence, blame the Columbine high school massacre on Charles Darwin. You heard me right. Let's see what he has to say:
On April 20, 1999, two boys at Columbine High School in Colorado massacred 12 fellow students and a teacher, wounding 23 as well before shooting themselves. The 10th anniversary with its morbid recollections is upon us, but there's one aspect of the horrible memory that you can be sure you will not hear much about.

When one of the assailants, Eric Harris, was autopsied, the medical examiner found that under his black trench coat the boy had on a white t-shirt emblazoned with a peculiar slogan. The slogan was "Natural Selection." It was later reported but little commented upon that, on his website, Harris had written, among other paeans to the Darwinian mechanism, "Natural SELECTION!!!!!! God damn it's the best thing that ever happened to the earth. Getting rid of all the stupid and weak organisms...but it's all natural!!! YES!"
In this way, Klinghoffer seems to be claiming that these boys were simply following Darwin's ideas to their logical conclusions. One of the most obvious flaws in this theory is that gunning down random people is by definition neither natural nor selective, and dying a virgin as these boys undoubtedly did is clearly not the way to go in passing on your own traits to future generations. Given that the attack was carefully planned in advance by the pair, the massacre would be better described as having been intelligently designed.
Darwinism's modern day advocates prefer to forget that ideas have consequences. Yet even a scientific idea may have disastrous consequences, as Darwin's earliest critics foresaw. One such prophet was Darwin's own professor of natural science when he was at Cambridge, Adam Sedgwick.

In a letter to Darwin dated December 24, 1859, just after the Origin of Species had been published, Sedgwick warned that if the new book were successful in making its case, then "humanity, in my mind, would suffer a damage that might brutalize it, and sink the human race into a lower grade of degradation than any into which it has fallen since its written records tell us of its history."
Ideas can have consequences, but not inevitable consequences. Just because I can doesn't imply that I must, or even that I should. And in any case, consequences have no possible bearing on the truth value of the ideas they spring from. What we do with the knowledge we gain from science is up to us, and is a result of human behaviour, not the facts themselves.

A commenter, GHitch, posts:
Darwin predicted the slaughter of blacks and 'savages' by whites. His prediction was based entirely upon the logical conclusions of his theory. [Darwin stated that] "At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes, as Professor Schaaffhausen has remarked, will no doubt be exterminated."
But this never happened, it was one of Darwin's predictions that turned out to be false. Does it therefore refute his theory of evolution by natural selection? No. It refutes the creationist's idea that Social Darwinism is an inevitable consequence. Yet Klinghoffer is insistent on this:
Ideas have consequences.
Now does that mean that the Darwinian idea is false as a scientific description of how life developed? No, obviously it doesn't mean that. As I've argued all along, Darwinism's social record is simply and nothing more than a good reason to take a second look at the science behind it.
So, the science may be true but let's pretend it's not? I don't really know how to reply to this bizarre concept. It's like saying that we should reconsider nuclear physics because of the terrible destructive power of the atomic bomb. "Let's invent a new model of atomic theory in which nuclear fission is impossible! Then we won't have to worry about nukes any more!".

Commenter Damien puts it another way:
What are you going to suggest in you next column? "That the theory for light and colour is the cause of racism?!"
If you've got a strong stomach and want to probe further into Klinghoffer's mindset, check out, which is mostly about his latest book "How Would God Vote? Why the Bible Commands you to be a Conservative".
I often write about materialism, a spreading, corrosive belief that material stuff is the only reality in the universe, that people are just an aspect of nature, more highly evolved versions of a fish or an ape.

That’s just a nice way of saying the end of Judaism, Christianity, and any sense that moral truths bear the stamp of divine authority – which in turn means the end of any really powerful argument for moral behavior.

It makes it much harder for all of us to be good, sapping our will to make hard moral choices.
Oh, boo hoo, we'll have to think for ourselves and take our own responsibilities. Grow up, David.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Richard Dawkins: Intricate and Beautiful

I don't know if I'm the right person to be doing jokes about religion. In the last few months I've become religious, I've started believing in God and creationism and intelligent design, and the reason that I now believe in God and creationism and intelligent design is because of Professor Richard Dawkins. Because when I look at something as complex and intricate and beautiful as Professor Richard Dawkins, I don't think that could have just evolved by chance. Professor Richard Dawkins was put there by God to test us. Like fossils. And facts.

Stewart Lee

You can watch Lee's show about religion here.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Bathtub Arks Make the Story of Noah Seem Silly

PhD-loving creationist Jonathan Sarfati hates "bathtub" arks:

I would recommend discarding most modern children’s ‘Bibles’, geared more toward entertainment than education, that present sanitized Bible stories. These caricatures of history reduce Noah’s Ark and the Deluge, for example, from a chronicle of sin, punishment, and redemption to a tale more in line with Ol’ MacDonald’s Farm, complete with ‘bathtub ark’ illustrations showing protruding giraffe necks and lacking dinosaurs. Consequently, when the children become adults, they erroneously believe that the Bible is disconnected from the real world.

Noah's ark without dinosaurs? How preposterous! Ken Ham agrees:

When children see the ‘bathtub ark’—what is it really saying to them? I suggest that, in a sense, it is reinforcing what the world is claiming: that Noah’s Ark was just a ‘story’ or ‘fairy tale,’ and that Noah couldn’t have accommodated all the animals on board—and certainly this kind of ark would not have survived a Flood. In the past, this issue may not have mattered as much, but in our present world, where the majority don’t want to believe they are sinners, under the judgment of a Holy God, they thus scoff at the event of Noah’s Flood.

They're right of course. Bible history shouldn't be dumbed down for children. We need more books like this one:

Sunday, April 19, 2009

If Pixar Were Creationists...

This animation attempts to refute evolution and unwittingly provides a great example of natural selection:

Thursday, April 9, 2009

I Just Love This Creation Stuff

Every so often I come across a creationist website so amateurish that it actually fills me with a sense of pity, and makes me feel a twinge of shame at drawing attention to it. It doesn't help when the site features pictures of the owners innocent, wide-eyed children. is one of those sites. Now I can forgive the horrific layout, crazy fonts and text colors, and the dreadfully composed background image. We're not all experts of web design, after all. But the content is even more laughable than the way it's presented. This page is entitled "Evidences for a Young Earth". What evidence do they offer?

Outside of Shamokin, Pennsylvania a family has soda straws growing in the ceiling of their basement level garage. They gave us the four pictured on the right, which are on display at our conferences.

My gosh. I might just have to get tickets to their next conference so I can see these remarkable soda straws in person. They look so impressive in the photo:

The Earth is only 6,000 years old. Don't believe me? Check out these bad boys!!

Elsewhere on the site they're trying to hawk a bunch of DVDs on various creationism topics. I'm so tempted to order a set; judging from the website and this advertisement, these DVDs must have lower production values than the original Star Trek:

Topics on these DVDs include: Dinosaurs and Man Living Together, Dinosaurs Still Alive, Evolution is Dangerous, The Humanists Agenda in the Textbooks, and Animals and their Special Features. Order the complete set for just $120.

Wait, how much??

From the feedback page:

I just love this creation stuff. I can’t seem to get enough of it. This is one of the major areas which Satan has effectively used to deceive non-believers and simple minded Christians as well. If Satan can get us to put our faith in Darwin and his ilk, half his battle is won. Your very effective presentation of the Biblical account of creation has strengthened the saints of our church. You have provided us with answers to many of our questions, as well as given us knowledge to completely repel the enemies attack against the Biblical account of creation.

God bless you as you continue to labor for Him using common sense to explain the fallacies of Satan's hellish doctrine of Evolution.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Sounds Like A Fun Theory

It's just a typo, but it's a good one:

They are starting to piss me off, the earth is not billions or millions of years old. They have no proof that the big band theory is true, but they teach it like it really happened.

I found it here, on the blog A-Deistic.

Friday, April 3, 2009

A Tale of Two Hitchens, Part II: Peter

Christopher's younger brother Peter is also a journalist. He writes for British tabloid The Mail on Sunday, and unlike Chris, he has strong religious beliefs and has written several articles in favour of intelligent design. Let's look at a few quotes from these:

I didn't give my own view on the [evolution vs. intelligent design] controversy. This can be summarised in the words 'I have no idea who is right... and nor have they'.

Evolution is an established fact, Peter. It's been proven beyond doubt. Just because you are ignorant of the facts doesn't mean that everybody else is too.

'ID' is unlike Darwinism in that it specifically doesn't seek to offer a general theory of the origin of species. It is a sceptical current. It says 'there is something in the Darwinist argument which requires re-examination in the light of knowledge we didn't have until recently'.

The fact that intelligent design is religiously motivated is obvious to everyone, and only a nitwit would claim otherwise. So actually, the various, conflicting branches of intelligent design, like Christianity, Judaism and Islam, do indeed offer very specific theories regarding our origins, to be found in the relevant religious texts. Many pieces of scientific evidence (not just from biology) refute these theories.

Since Darwinism is orthodoxy, on which many careers have been built and continue to prosper, is it likely that an attack which threatens that orthodoxy is going to be sympathetically treated by other scientists?

Since evolution is true, many successful scientific predictions and discoveries have been made in light of it, and continue to be. Is it likely that any predictions that contradict this theory are going to be proven true?

Darwin's theory cannot be tested.

Of course it can be tested, it can also make predictions and can be very easily falsified. The famous example is J.B.S. Haldane's reply when asked what evidence could destroy his confidence in evolutionary theory. He simply answered "Fossil rabbits in the pre-Cambrian".

It is amazing how many supporters of [evolutionary] theory cannot see the difference between the micro-evolution of adaptation or alteration within species, and the far more ambitious developments of macro-evolution, in my view qualitatively different, which Darwinists believe in.

Peter, Peter. Imagine if you had never laid eyes on a dog before and I introduced you to the following two animals:

Could you honestly say that you would consider these animals to be the same "kind"? Their appearance, size and behaviour all differ dramatically, on a macroscopic level. This, right here, is macro-evolution, and it has occured over an incredibly short time (it's been around twelve thousand years or so since humans started to domesticate and selectively breed dogs from wolves). If this amazing variety can be obtained in such a short time, it's really not hard to extrapolate this and imagine what could happen over a few million years.

"Ah," you say, "but I could look at the anatomical structure of these creatures, even their genetic makeup, and I could prove that they are all dogs. They are still the same species." But biologists have applied these exact methods to thousands of living creatures all over the planet, and it turns out that we are all related, and the whole of life on Earth is laid out in a nested hierarchy, just as predicted by Darwin's theory:

The Tree of Life

As you might imagine, Peter and Chris don't get on so well. You can watch a terrific debate between the Hitchens brothers here.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Tale of Two Hitchens, Part I: Christopher

Christopher Hitchens, adapted from his recent Newsweek article:

[Creationists] now say that they ask for evolution to be taught only with all its "strengths and weaknesses." But in this, they are surely being somewhat disingenuous. When their faction was strong enough to demand an outright ban on the teaching of what they call "Darwinism," they had such a ban written into law in several states. Since the defeat and discredit of that policy, they have passed through several stages of what I am going to have to call evolution. First, they tried to get "secular humanism" classified as a "religion," so that it would meet the First Amendment's disqualification for being taught with taxpayers' money. (That bright idea was Pat Robertson's.) Then they came up with the formulation of "creation science," picking up on anomalies and gaps in evolution and on differences between scientific Darwinists like Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould. Next came the ingratiating plea for "equal time"—what could be more American than that?—and now we have the rebranded new coinage of "intelligent design" and the fresh complaint that its brave advocates are, so goes the title of a recent self-pitying documentary, simply "expelled" from the discourse.

It's not just that the overwhelming majority of scientists are now convinced that evolution is inscribed in the fossil record and in the lineaments of molecular biology. It is more that evolutionists will say in advance which evidence, if found, would refute them and force them to reconsider. ("Rabbit fossils in the pre-Cambrian layer" was, I seem to remember, the response of Prof. J.B.S. Haldane.) Try asking an "intelligent design" advocate to stipulate upfront what would constitute refutation of his world view and you will easily see the difference between the scientific method and the pseudoscientific one.

But that is just my opinion. And I certainly do not want it said that my side denies a hearing to the opposing one. In the spirit of compromise, then, I propose the following. First, let the school debating societies restage the wonderful set-piece real-life dramas of Oxford and Dayton, Tenn. Let time also be set aside, in our increasingly multiethnic and multicultural school system, for children to be taught the huge variety of creation stories, from the Hindu to the Muslim to the Australian Aboriginal. This is always interesting (and it can't be, can it, that the Texas board holdouts think that only Genesis ought to be so honored?). Second, we can surely demand that the principle of "strengths and weaknesses" will be applied evenly. If any church in Texas receives a tax exemption, or if any religious institution is the beneficiary of any subvention from the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, we must be assured that it will devote a portion of its time to laying bare the "strengths and weaknesses" of the religious world view, and also to teaching the works of Voltaire, David Hume, Benedict de Spinoza, Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson.

Christopher Hitchens

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

How Many Creationists Does It Take To Change A Light Bulb?

Three. One to insert the light-bulb, one to pray for the light-bulb to turn on, and one to explain how the light turning on is evidence of an intelligent designer.

Congrats to Mr Vorhias. Your prize is a genuine fossilized dinosaur saddle, which you can collect as soon as those creation scientists manage to dig one up.