Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Apparently evidence doesn’t exist

itsdemtitans
itsdemtitans
Sat Jul 02, 2016 1:34 pm by itsdemtitans

The views of creationists on “evidence” are interesting. Quite often you’ll see organizations like AiG saying that we all have “the same evidence” and what it means to the viewer depends on their worldview. This is best shown by one of their own pictures.

So, according to AiG, all that matters is your worldview. Your worldview determines how you see the evidence. The logical result of this is that evidence, in itself, says nothing. This of course contradicts the very definition of evidence, which google defines as:

the available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid

Thus, if we are to believe creationists, then there’s literally no evidence pointing to anything about our origins. None at all. All we have are bones and rocks and DNA which can be fit to match any preconceived conclusion, but these things do not, in themselves, point to any particular answer.

One must ask, then, why YECs so often push to challenge evolution. Why do they point to the rock record and proclaim “_____ is evidence of a global flood” or “_____ disproves gene duplication” or “_____ points to intelligent design.”? If creationist organizations are right, that evidence is a matter of worldview, then they cannot point to these things and say they are evidence against evolution. They are not evidence of anything, just more raw data that can be mashed into either conclusion.

I understand not all YECs subscribe to the view of places like AiG, and understand what evidence actually means. But when AiG turns around and does exactly this, claiming evidence for their position exists, then they’re contradicting themselves. Either they admit there is no evidence, and thus no genuine conclusions can be reached only assumed from the onset, or evidence does exist, in which case arguing about it being “a matter of worldview” makes no sense.

But of course they’re blind to this contradiction. I doubt that’s a surprise. I’m sure I’m not the first one to notice this contradiction either.

Until next time guys.

Answers to “10 Questions For Every Atheist”

he_who_is_nobody
he_who_is_nobody
Mon Apr 18, 2016 10:44 am by he_who_is_nobody

It appears that the website Today Christian has come up with a list of questions that “Atheist Cannot Truly and Honestly REALLY ANSWER!” One reason an atheist might find it hard to answer these questions is because there is not a comment section. Beyond that, these are fairly easy to answer.

1. How Did You Become an Atheist?

This has to do with two things that happened around the same time in my life. When I was in 7th and 8th grade, I became very interested in skepticism. I started to question everything I had believed before and started realizing that there was no evidence for much of what I believed (at this time I was a believer of Bigfoot, Atlantis, Aliens, etc…). At that same time I met someone, a classmate, who identified as an atheist. Until then, I actually never knew that was an option, I thought everyone in the world believed that a god(s) existed. After that, I applied my skeptical toolkit to the idea of a god and realised that it, like much of the other things I believed in, had no evidence to support it.

2. What happens when we die?

Personally, I am donating my body to science. I want my bones to be used by future anatomists to learn the wonders of the human skeleton. However, I feel this question has more philosophical connotations about an afterlife. When I was in high school, one of my friends use to always answer this question with, “Do you remember what life was like before you were born? Why do you think it will be different after you die?” I feel that is a good enough answer until one is able to provide evidence that there is an afterlife.

3. What if you’re wrong? And there is a Heaven? And there is a HELL!

I just want to point out that by asking three questions here, our author is actually asking more than ten questions.

Well, if I go to hell, I hope I burn well.

All jokes aside, there is no reason to think that such a thing as heaven or hell exists in the first place. Beyond that, this question presupposes that the author’s version of heaven and hell are the only options to me being wrong, which is not the case. There is nothing to suggest that the Christian heaven and hell is correct. A Christian’s idea of an afterlife is just as likely to be correct as any other religion’s ideas of an afterlife. There is no reason to believe this is a dichotomy. Who knows, perhaps there is an afterlife, but it is only enjoyed by those that were truly curious enough to ask questions. The fear of hell or the reward of heaven is not a good reason to believe in something.

4. Without God, where do you get your morality from?

I get my morals from the same place the author of these questions does; Society. There is nothing to suggest that morals are anything more than our shared agreement of how we should act. The good thing about this is that our moral arc has been bending to a far more just and fair society for everyone in the past few decades. One can only hope that trend continues.

5. If there is no God, can we do what we want? Are we free to murder and rape? While good deeds are unrewarded?

This question makes no sense, seeing as how the author already believes there is a god, yet rape and murder happen all the time. The question is better turned around on the author and asked, “If there is a (loving and just) god, why is there rape and murder?”

However, to answer the question, philosophically, yes. We can do whatever we want (including rape and murder). Yet, since we live in societies, and societies shape our morals and have laws, technically, we cannot do whatever we want. There are real world consequences for our actions.

Beyond that, good deeds should be their own reward. This seems to go back to question three and the authors carrot/stick beliefs about an afterlife.

6. If there is no god, how does your life have any meaning?

I make my own meaning in life. Even if there was a god(s), this would still be true.

7. Where did the universe come from?

I honestly do not know that. From my limited understanding of cosmology; the energy that makes up our universe is eternal. However, at some point in the past that energy started the universe as we know it now. The thing is, just because I do not know the answer to this question, does not mean I will pretend to have an answer. That is what theists do when they say GodDidIt to questions like this.

8. What about miracles? What all the people who claim to have a connection with Jesus? What about those who claim to have seen saints or angels?

Again, without evidence, miracles are just claims. People today claim to have connections with aliens and see them all the time. There is just as much evidence (that is to say zero) to back their stories as there is for the people who claim to have a connection with Jesus or say they saw him or angels. Claims made without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

9. What’s your view of Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris?

I actually know very little about Harris. He seems to have a weird “No True Muslim” argument. Beyond that, I am actually not familiar with his work at all.

Dawkins is a wonderful biologist and communicator of evolutionary theory. If someone asked me for one book about evolution, I would say The Blind Watchmaker. However, I have read The God Delusion and have to say I was unimpressed. I read both of those books well after I had a great understanding of evolution and was an atheist, thus he did not influence me much in either of those aspects.

Hitchens is in my top ten favorite persons list. Out of the Four Horsemen, I found him the most entertaining and he was probably the only one that influenced me as a young atheist, since I would watch clips of him after I became an atheist in 8th grade. I still often go back and watch clips or whole debates of Hitchens. I read God is not Great well after I was an atheist, but I think it is good and does a much better job than The God Delusion at making a case for atheism.

However, I just want to point out that I was far more influenced by skeptics and scientists on this issue, than any atheistic writers. My influences trace back far more to Randi, Shermer, Bakker, Tyson, and the Leaky clan.

10. If there is no God, then why does every society have a religion?

Religion is not synonymous with belief in a god(s). Gods (and other supernatural entities) were created to answer questions to things that people did not know. Religions were a way to worship those things and try to gain their favor by doing rituals in the hopes it would please them. Religions were also part of the government and culture of most societies. That means in many cases, if you were not apart of that religion, you were kicked out of that society or killed. It is actually a fairly recent thing to separate religion from government. One can be religious and not believe in deities. One can also believe in deities and not have a religion. That is why people can say things like, “I am spiritual, but not religious” or “I am culturally Catholic/Jewish.” Beyond that, not all religions are the same, nor are the gods they worship. Thus, what was the point of this question?

Hat tip to Heina Dadabhoy for showing me these questions first.

Kevin Henke tackles John Woodmorappe’s TAB flood sorting mechanism

itsdemtitans
itsdemtitans
Wed Apr 13, 2016 3:42 pm by itsdemtitans

Hey people,

Two blogs in one month, eh? I’ve got a treat for you today. Back in 1983 creationist John Woodmorappe came up with a hypothetical flood sorting mechanism known as Tectonically-Associated Bioprovidences. It was set to explain problems with original ecological zonation hypothesis. In 1998, Geologist Kevin Henke tackled the paper. It reveals better than anything else how incompetent creation “geologists” are. However, it was hidden away in the archive of the Talkorigins newsgroup. After cleaning it up to better fit the format of this forum, I gained permission from Kevin to repost it here. Thanks, Kevin!

It’s a little hard to read without Woodmorappe’s figures in front of you, but there’s still plenty of Gold in it. Enjoy the read!

~Itsdemtitans

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Response to Woodmorappe’s Claims in his Paper: “A Diluviological Treatise on the Stratigraphic Separation of Fossils”

Kevin R. Henke, August 8, 1998

Note to reader: To fully understand my critique, you will have to obtain a copy of Woodmorappe’s paper and refer to the figures and tables in it.

John Woodmorappe (not his real name) first presented his TAB (Tectonically Associated Biological Provinces) concept in “A Diluviological Treatise on the Stratigraphic Separation of Fossils,” which appeared in the December, 1983 issue of the Creation Research Society Quarterly (CRSQ). The article was reprinted in his 1993 book, “Studies in Flood Geology.” Woodmorappe attempts to disprove the reliability of index fossils and explain away the geologic time table by evaluating the relationships between 34 groups of index fossils.

First of all, he can’t even get the time ranges of many of the index fossils correct. I randomly checked some of them in his Table 2 and found many errors and improper uses of index fossils: For example, he lists Monograptus with the Ordovician graptolites. However, Monograptus never lived during the Ordovician. It’s a Silurian index fossil! See Shimer and Shrock’s “Index Fossils of North America” (1987, 13th printing) p. 75, 77 or Moore, Lalicker and Fischer’s “Invertebrate Fossils,” McGraw-Hill, 1952, p. 731. As another example, Xenodiscus is a lower Triassic ammonoid(Shimer and Shrock, p. 569). Yet, Woodmorappe lists this fossil with the Permian ammonoids in Table 2. Also Dictyonema is not a suitable index fossil for the Ordovician, because it lived from the Upper Cambrian to the Lower Mississippian (Shimer and Shrock, p. 65).

I could go on.

Everyone makes mistakes, but Woodmorappe’s errors in Table 2 and elsewhere in this paper are too common for him to be a competent geologist. When I pointed this out to Woodmorappe in January 1998, all he could do was to say that he would recheck his references. It’s a little late. This rechecking should have been done in 1983, as part of “peer review” process of CRSQ. Woodmorappe also inappropriately uses rare vertebrate index fossils, such as Dimetrodon and dinosaurs, like Stegosaurus. These vertebrate fossils are very valuable and WHEN they’re found, they are useful. However, Woodmorappe must realize that two of the properties of a truly useful and relevant index fossil are widespread occurrence and frequent preservation.

It’s obvious that he did not consult tables, like the one in Mintz, Leigh W., 1977, “Historical Geology: The Science of a Dynamic Earth”, 2nd ed., Charles E. Merrill Publishing, Columbus, OH, p. 212, before he selected his 34 groups of index fossils. This table does not even recommend using vertebrates, since vertebrates are so rarely preserved. Forams, radiolarians, and other microfossils are much more useful than a large dinosaur that has little chance of being preserved and becoming a fossil. Also forams are found in more diverse aquatic environments than dinosaurs. Forams and other microfossils have a relatively good chance of being preserved, because of their diversity and small size. Dinosaurs are clearly inferior index fossils. Geologists learn all of this in second semester freshman Historical Geology 102 or related intro classes. It’s a wonder that Woodmorappe can draw any conclusions at all from his work because Table 2 indicates that he can’t read the contents of a simple paleontology book.

Woodmorappe responded to this paragraph through private email to Karl Crawford and me by simply stating:

“His [Henke’s] claim that I use ‘bad’ index fossils such as dinosaurs shows that he [Henke] does not know what he is talking about, or else he is deliberately trying to snow-job you. Everyone knows that dinosaurs can be used as index fossils if they are found.”

As shown above, I NEVER said that dinosaurs were “bad” index fossils. I called them inferior to invertebrates because they are not as well preserved. They are very good index fossils, WHEN they’re found. Also, Woodmorappe largely ignores ocean sediments and continental well cores in this study. Why does he do this? He emailed Karl and me and told us that ocean and well core (borehole) data were largely unavailable when he wrote this article in the early 1980’s. However, continental well core data for the Williston Basin and most other petroleum-producing areas have been available since at least the 1950’s or 1960’s. Useful information on ocean sediments has been available since at least the late 1960’s. Woodmorappe could have updated his article with ocean and continental well core data before it was reprinted in 1993. Ocean sediments are relatively complete back through the Cretaceous and better support evolution and the geologic time table than the largely eroded and nonpreserved continental rocks and sediments for the same time span. If Woodmorappe really wanted to study the validity of the geologic time scale, he should have looked at ocean sediments. Chapter 7 “Fossil Distribution and the ‘Ecological Zonation’ Hypothesis” in “Neglect of Geologic Data: Sedimentary Strata Compared with Young-Earth Creationist Writings” by old-Earth creationist Daniel E. Wonderly (Interdisciplinary Biblical Institute, 1987) talks about the problems that forams and radiolaria in ocean sediments present for advocates of “Flood Geology.” Wonderly’s chapter not only demolishes creationist claims about “ecological zonations,” but it also would put to death Woodmorappe’s TAB concept.

Well cores and fence diagrams are essential to obtain a 3-D view of the geology of an area. By largely ignoring these data and only looking at surface outcrops, Woodmorappe is certainly not going to find very many cases of index fossils from different periods in one locality, especially since he is only working with 34 groups and many of them are rare vertebrates. Woodmorappe is correct when he says that it is rare to have outcrops in one location that contain more than two geologic periods. This is because most rocks from a given period are very thick, often thousands of feet thick. Except for the Grand Canyon and relatively few other places, you have to drill deep within a site to reach the rocks of another period beneath the one or two on the surface. This is not surprising since the rocks of each geologic period often represent millions of years of net accumulation. In the oil-producing Williston Basin of western North Dakota, for example, it is not uncommon to go to a site with dinosaur fossils, index mollusk fossils, or turtle fossils on the surface ARRANGED IN THEIR EXPECTED GEOLOGICAL ORDER and drill down through hundreds or thousands of feet of rock containing numerous index fossils of different mollusks, brachiopods, etc. from at least SEVEN different geologic periods.

As an example, there are outcrops near the border between Slope and Bowman counties in western North Dakota (Township 135N, Range 106W). In that area, Champsosaurus is located in the Huff Member. Both just above (in the Tullock Formation) and below (in the Pretty Butte Member) are specimens of the index fossil, Viviparus, a snail. (For details, see: Frye, Charles I., 1967, “The Hell Creek Formation in North Dakota,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks.) So how did the Champsosaurus get sandwiched between layers with these snails? The outcrops include well-layered bentonite beds, which are weathered volcanic ash deposits. Also, the Huff Member typically contains very water soluble gypsum crystals. How did the ash beds settle and form extensively lateral layers during a violent Flood? Why weren’t the gypsum crystals dissolved and washed away by the Flood waters? Oil wells throughout the two counties go down into the Paleozoic, where brachiopods, trilobites and other marine invertebrates, many of them as index fossils, are present. You can see the intact fossils in the miles of drill cores from the Basin that are stored in Grand Forks, ND. It’s easy for Woodmorappe to draw false conclusions when he’s only working in one or two dimensions by studying outcrops (i.e., the surface) rather than working in three dimensions by studying well cores or using fence diagrams. If he was thinking in 3-D and using a larger number of index fossils with the correct time ranges, he wouldn’t be drawing such bad conclusions, such as: “index fossils shun each other geographically” (p. 154).

There’s no shunning in at least the Upper Midwest. I browsed through Shimer and Shrock’s list of gastropod index fossils and I easily found EIGHT index fossil species that are useful in the Fort Union and Lance Formations of western North Dakota and Montana. AGAIN, I was ONLY looking at GASTROPOD (“snail”) index fossils from ONE book and I was able to find: Viviparus raynoldsianus, Lunatia subcrassa, Campelona multistriatum, Valvata subumbilicata, Drepanochilus americanum, Pleurolimnaea tenuicostata, Planorbis planoconvexus, and Cylichna scitula. Woodmorappe incorrectly suggests in his article that index fossils are too spread out from each other to be reliable. Well, that might be true IF you’re only looking at a few of them and many of them are poorly preserved (i.e., rare) vertebrates! But, if you use common sense, as many INVERTEBRATES as possible (including down to the species level), and ocean and continental well cores, Woodmorappe’s assault on the geologic column crumbles.

Figure 1 on p. 135 is a bar graph that shows the percentages of fossil families and genera that are found in only one geologic period, just two periods and so on all the way up to the percentage of families and genera found in all 11 Phanerozoic periods. The bar graph shows that about 80% of some 19,805 fossil genera evaluated by Woodmorappe and over 30% of some 2,617 fossil families evaluated by Woodmorappe are restricted to one geologic period. That’s a lot of potential index fossils! Less than 7% of the genera and about 30% have life spans that include three or more periods. The immediate question that I have is how such a violent world-wide Flood could manage to so segregate or keep the fossils segregated. Why aren’t the vast majority of fossil families and genus found in 8 or more geologic periods? Woodmorappe attempts to deal with this creationist problem in this paper, but fails in my opinion through special pleading and the use of straw people arguments.

Woodmorappe also warns his readers that the genera and family results in Figure 1 may be biased because of subjective and inconsistent genera and family classifications and “circular reasoning” (p. 135-136). Even if minor adjustments are needed in taxonomic classifications or if the often touted and rarely supported creationist claims of “circular reasoning” are real in a few cases, the data in Figure 1 are clearly consistent with the geologic column. The fossil groups are segregated because they lived and died at different times, and they EVOLVED!

Woodmorappe notes that further exploration sometimes leads to the expansion of the life span of an index fossil. An example may be found in Mintz, 1977, p. 211, which states that the bryozoan Archimedes was once thought to only have lived during the Mississippian period. However, it’s now known to occasionally occur in Pennsylvanian and Permian rocks. Therefore, Woodmorappe (p. 136) argues that the results in Figure 1 may not be final.

Paleontologists are very familiar with this problem. This is why they look for fossil assemblages in previously unexplored regions rather than just relying on single index fossils. Geologists argue that using just one index fossil for a previously unexplored outcrop is unwise because there is a chance that the fossil may have lived earlier or later in this area than in other areas of the world. This could result in the improper dating of newly discovered sedimentary rocks (see Mintz, 1977, p. 210-217). This is why geologists use fossil assemblages of 5, 10, 24 or even more fossils. The chances that ALL 10, 24 or whatever number of members of a fossil assemblage lived in an unexplored area before or after they lived everywhere else in the world are remote. It does not surprise me that Woodmorappe doesn’t talk extensively about REAL WORLD fossil assemblages in this paper, because in the hands of early 19th century geologists, fossil assemblages were important in killing Flood Geology.

On Map 36, Woodmorappe plots “localized occurrences” of Jurassic ammonoids, Lower Carboniferous corals, Silurian brachiopods and graptolites and Cambrian trilobites on maps of Nevada, Utah, and Great Britain. He states (p. 150) that there are very few localities in these areas where three out of the four fossil groups occur within a few 10’s of miles of each other. But, why would any geologist expect to find locations that have three or four of these groups, since they don’t even have consecutive ages?!

For map 36, Woodmorappe includes Cambrian trilobites, skips the Ordovician, includes Silurian brachiopods and graptolites, skips the Devonian, includes Lower Carboniferous corals, skips the Upper Carboniferous, Permian and Triassic and includes Jurassic ammonoids. Why all the skipping? Woodmorappe’s larger maps (p. 140-146) indicate that Ordovician, Devonian, Permian, and Triassic index fossils are at least present in parts of Great Britain. What would these maps have looked like if Woodmorappe had included a thorough representation of index fossils from four consecutive periods, such as Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, and Devonian? For creationists, would the results have been too good in illustrating the reliability and usefulness of index fossils?

Woodmorappe constructs some hypothetical examples of his TAB concept in Figure 4. Immediately, I wonder why he is using a hypothetical example rather than a reconstruction of an actual field location, like the Michigan Basin or the Williston Basin. Geologists have derived reliable paleogeographic maps that are useful in oil exploration. Creationists could try reconstructions as well. By not using a real world example, Woodmorappe is not allowing scientists to really evaluate his TAB concept and his claims against orthodox geology. He is being like William Morris Davis, who sat at a desk rather in the field and derived a “cycle of erosion” for landscapes. The “cycle of erosion” proved to have no extensive field support.

Initially, Woodmorappe (p. 158) divides the Phanerozoic into four divisions, I, II, III, and IV, (where, I = Lower Paleozoic, II = Upper Paleozoic, III = Mesozoic, and IV= Cenozoic). The Precambrian is included in I (p. 160). For Woodmorappe’s TAB concept to work, biogeographic zones must be strongly associated with certain tectonic provinces, thus the name: Tectonically Associated Biological [TAB] Provinces. Specifically, he argues (p. 158) that Lower Paleozoic strata would be associated with the most tectonically active areas. The Cenozoic deposits would be least affected by tectonic forces (e.g., Figure 5). Of course, there is no geologic evidence to support such a link. He attempts to argue for a link from information in Table 3 (p. 152-153, 158), but this “link”, if it really exists, could be explained as nothing more than erosional effects.

To argue that Cenozoic-Mesozoic deposits experienced less tectonic activity than Paleozoic deposits, Woodmorappe (p.158) claims that 57.4% of the total volume of Phanerozoic platform sediments are Cenozoic-Mesozoic and only 41.3% of the more tectonically influenced geosynclinal sediments belong to these two Eras. However, these percentages may have no statistical significance for Woodmorappe, since the Paleozoic lasted for about 375 million years and the combined Cenozoic-Mesozoic Eras represent only 225 million years.

Woodmorappe (p. 158) talks about how submarine topography and volcanic activity could affect biogeography. However, according to Woodmorappe’s claims, the Lower Paleozoic strata of Indiana or Iowa should have experienced more tectonic activity than the Cenozoic deposits of California, Oregon and Washington State. No way. For Woodmorappe’s TAB concept to stand even a slight chance of working, areas with rocks containing Lower Paleozoic fossils MUST ALWAYS have sunk further into the Earth’s crust than adjacent areas with rocks with Upper Paleozoic or younger fossils (see Woodmorappe’s paper, p. 155 and following). But, there is no basis to believe that this occurred.

Woodmorappe finally states (p. 158): “It should be emphasized that TAB’s did not arise from trial-and-error migrations [of organisms from one biogeographic province to another] but were present since the Creation and were based on teleological design.” When there’s inadequate scientific evidence, Woodmorappe invokes miracles to prop up his TABs. By comparing Woodmorappe’s Figure 6 with Figure 4, numerous contradictions become apparent. Notice that in Figure 6, Woodmorappe claims that IV/III/II/I is the most abundant TAB with about 28% of the Earth’s land surface. IV/III/II/I in Figure 6 is represented by TAB 3 in Figure 4.

However, his maps in Figure 4 show that this TAB would be relatively rare when compared with TABs 7 (I only), 10 (II only), 14 (IV only), or 5 (III only), since TAB 3 only occurs at the junction where IV, III, II, and I (TABs 7, 10, 5 and 14) meet (Woodmorappe admits that TABs like 3 form at junctions, see p. 162). Geometry 101 dictates that the intersection point of I, II, III, and IV polygons in Figure 4 will be smaller (i.e., a point) than the areas of each of the polygons that are part of the intersection. Therefore, Figure 4 or any other TAB maps that Woodmorappe could cook up dictate that TABs 7, 10, 14, and 5 should cover larger areas than their intersection point 3 or IV/III/II/I. However, Figure 6 indicates that 3 actually has a higher percent of the Earth’s land surface area than 7, 10, 14, or 5. By trying to expand TAB 3 and shrink TABs 7, 10, 14 and 5 to try to make Figures 4 and 6 consistent, Woodmorappe risks producing abundant false TABs like IV/II/III/I, which he admits are nonexistent to rare.

Look carefully at the cross sections in Figure 5 and you will see how currents could easily produce a false TAB of III/IV II in the center of basin II by depositing IV from the left before III from the right. It is only by special pleading and doctoring of the diagram could Woodmorappe eliminate this problem. But, all things are possible when you use imaginary cross sections instead of real ones. In Figure 5, Woodmorappe claims that rocks II and III are separated by a few 10’s of kilometers. Such distances are too short to be effective barriers to many organisms. If erosion did not purge the barriers, the migration of sea birds and terrestrial animals between the two marine environments could easily carry invertebrate eggs, forams, seeds, and other organisms that would cause Permian forams to noticeably mix with Cretaceous clams, like Inoceramus, for example. Thus, the migration of organisms in Figure 5 could also create many false TABs. (See Raup and Stanley, 1978, “Principles of Paleontology,” p. 404f, for discussions on the creative ways in which organisms may cross geographic barriers.)

As a real world example, I have asked Woodmorappe and/or Karl Crawford to apply the TAB concept to the Williston Basin of North Dakota. The Williston Basin contains abundant Late Paleozoic evaporites, which indicate dry climates that are completely incompatible with a raging Flood. Some creationists, like Nutting in his ICR,”Graduate School Thesis,” have,attempted to argue that the evaporites had a hydrothermal origin that was related to volcanism. But, except may be for wind-blown volcanic ash beds, there is no evidence of igneous or metamorphic deposits in the Late Paleozoic rocks of the Williston Basin. Woodmorappe makes more errors with his fictional examples in Figures 7 and 8, which deal with biostratigraphic distributions. In Figure 8, Woodmorappe attempts to show that index fossils are “incompatible” or, in other words, index fossils don’t tend to overlap at field sites. Since he is not basing his arguments on any real world examples in Figures 7 and 8, his arguments are nothing more than invalid straw people. But what makes the situation even worse for him is that he can’t even read his own figures. For example, in Figure 8, Woodmorappe claims that E1, I20; E3, I18; and E20, J14 are “compatible” or overlap stratigraphically. But Figure 7 shows that they don’t!

CONCLUSIONS:

The conclusions in Woodmorappe’s article are based on the improper use of index fossils, too few fossil groups, other fundamental errors and numerous contradictions between his imaginary figures. Because of these errors and a lack of real world examples in Figure 4, his TAB concept is geologically worthless. Woodmorappe needs to read some Geology 101 and 102 textbooks before he tries to apply his ideas to real geological features, such as the Williston Basin of western North Dakota. If he does, he will probably discover, as geologists did 150-200 years ago, that Flood Geology is crap.

Buried rivers kill Noah’s Flood

itsdemtitans
itsdemtitans
Mon Apr 04, 2016 10:43 am by itsdemtitans

How often do you hear creationists say that there’s no evidence for erosion in the geologic record? Well, unfortunately for them, there is, and it’s not just something they can hand-wave away as some product of the Flood. Here, I’m going to show several examples of paleorivers (all images from Glenn Morton’s archived essays, save the last two). These are found everywhere throughout the rock record, at so many levels that it rules out the Phanerozoic as having been produced by a single event, and therefore, falsifies Flood Geology.

Paleorivers are exactly what they sound like; river channels that have been buried and preserved in the rock record. They often show slow meanders and which negate them having formed rapidly on unconsolidated flood sediment.

Here are several images of paleorivers. The name of the strata they’re found in will be listed above each one.

Carboniferous:

Paleoriver in limestone

This is a paleoriver from the Breckenridge limestone in Texas. Oil wells drilled outside of the channel find limestone at this level, but wells drilled into the channel fail to find any limestone here but instead find the sands and shales deposited by the river. As you can see it meanders tightly and extends for several miles, just as modern rivers do.

Carboniferous:

Coal paleoriver
erous:
Above is a channel in the Harrisburg No. 5 coal in Illinois. The two maps show where the meandering sandstone channel is in two different counties. Here is what the authors have to say about it:

“Figure 4 (modified from a map by Trescott) shows that the No. 5 coal underlies all of the area except for the locality of a meandering channel averaging about three-quarters of a mile in width in the main alluvial valley. ~-Harold R. Wanless, James R. Baroffio, and Peter C. Trescott,”Conditions of Deposition of Pennsylvanian Coal Beds,” Geol. Soc. America Spec. Paper 114 pp 105-142 (1969), p. 115-116, in Charles A. Ross and June R. P. Ross, Geology of Coal, (New York: Hutchinson Ross Publishing Co., 1984, p. 95-96

This once again reflects a meandering channel covering a long distance, just as we see on the surface today. It also sinks the “Floating Forest” theory YECs have for explaining coal seams. If that were true then such channels would not exist, as catastrophic burial of a floating forest or veggimat will not form a gentle meandering channel over such a vast distance.

Cenezoic:

Above view

Forward view

These two images come from this paper here. They show not just paleorivers, but an entire ancient landscape, dating to the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. This deeply incised landscape is cut into the 58.5–56-Myr-old Lamba formation, which consists of marine deltaic deposits whose flat topset units were deposited at sea level . This formation is largely unreflective and consists of mudstones and siltstones with occasional thin sandy layers. The eroded landscape has been infilled by the 2 56–54.5 Myr Flett and Balder formations. I think the pictures speak for themselves. Ancient river drainage basins, which look exactly like the ones on the surface today, will not form under catastrophic conditions enacted on still-unconsolidated flood sediment. But according to YECs the flood sediments were still soft after the Flood to allow the rapid carving of the Grand Canyon. So obviously this feature could not have formed, but here it is.

Implications:

So, there’s several examples of paleorivers, and this is but a small sample of what’s out there. Paleorivers are found at a wide range of stratigraphic levels. I think the implications of these features are clear. These are surface features, buried under tons of sediment. Why are these such a problem for Flood Geology? Because creationists themselves list a claimed lack of erosion and surface features between layers as one of their top six evidences for a Global Flood. Obviously then, they know things like paleorivers cannot form in their Flood. But there they are. Thus, we’ve falsified Flood Geology yet again.

Comments and criticisms welcome! :)

The Fine-Tuning Argument: The Worst Argument for Theism

he_who_is_nobody
he_who_is_nobody
Tue Feb 23, 2016 11:35 am by he_who_is_nobody

Theistic Apologists deploy several arguments to try to establish that a god(s) is necessary. In my humble opinion, the worst of all these arguments is the Fine-Tuning Argument. The Fine-Tuning Argument is essentially saying that the parameters of the universe as we know it are placed in such a way to allow life as we know it to exist. However, there are three fundamental flaws that make this easily the worst argument a theist could use to justify their deity(s).

 

First, when employing this argument, the theist is making the underlying assumption that the fine-tuning we see in the universe is the only possible way the universe could exist that would permit life. No justification for this is ever given, beyond the fact that if the fine-tuning were different, then things would be different; an example of a counterfactual conditional. Simply because things would be different does not mean that life or a universe could not exist. They may not be as we see them today, but that alone does not mean that the possibility for life and a universe are dependent on the fine-tuning of the universe as we know it. This is an unjustified claim built into the argument that should be challenged. Beyond that, the theist also has not shown that the fine-tuning of our universe could be anything different. It could just as easily be that all possible universes have the same fine-tuning.

 

Second, this argument does not take into account evolution. Built into this argument is the assumption that we (either humans or all life on this planet) perfectly fit. The Earth is just the right distance from the Sun, the Moon is just large enough to keep our axis stable, Jupiter is just large enough and far enough away to keep us safe from space junk, etc… However, what the theist usually fails to account for in this picture is the 14 billion years of history the universe has gone through, 4.543 billion years of our planet’s own history, and  ~4 billion years of life history on this planet. Most of the life history we see is shaped by selection and a lot of dumb luck thrown in for good measure. Essentially, it is asinine to say this planet/universe is fine-tuned for us. If anything, we are finely-tuned by the environment.

 

Third and by far the largest problem for this argument. As of the writing of this post, we currently know of one planet in our solar system that supports life. That life is supported mainly on its surface, and (except for Tardigrades), species can only survive in certain environments. There are seven other planets in our solar system (plus a few hundred moons) that do not support life (as far as we know now). There are a few possible other places in our solar system that might have life (i.e. Mars and a few moons around Jupiter or Saturn). Thus, out of several celestial bodies in our solar system, there are less than ten of them that could support life. Besides this, there is empty space between those celestial bodies wherein life cannot exist. Basically, whenever a theist tries to use the Fine-Tuning Argument, they are essentially saying; “Look at this earth size planet. It has one microorganism on it. Thus, the planet must be finely-tuned for the microorganism.” Any engineer would look at that system and conclude that it was poorly tuned if its purpose was for sustaining that microorganism. If this universe was fine-tuned for anything, it was fine-tuned for creating black holes and not life.

 

One objection to these objections could be if the theist is willing to admit their deity(s) is not omnipotent. Most apologists in the West would not dream of giving up that aspect of their deity. However, why would an omnipotent being need to fine-tune a system in the first place? Would it not be powerful enough to create a flawless system? In addition, if it were not powerful enough to create a flawless system, how could we say it is a god?

 

Another objection that Abrahamic Apologists could try is “The Fall” caused this. One problem I would have with this objection is that it could account for the planet earth, but why all the other celestial bodies and the rest of the universe? Why create such a universe that would be affected by two hairless apes on a rock orbiting a nondescript star?

 

There appears to be nothing redeemable about this argument. In fact, this argument could be far better used to show that there is not a single omniscient and omnipotent deity that cares about life (let alone humans) for the simple fact that this universe is not finely-tuned for us. Given just one of those two attributes (omniscient or omnipotent), a human fine-tuner could produce a universe far more hospitable for life.

Notes on the Problem of Evil

Laurens
Laurens
Sun Jan 10, 2016 2:49 pm by Laurens

For the purposes of this post I shall define God as an omnipotent, omniscient creator being with a vested interest in mankind and the individual welfare of human beings. This definition includes, but is not limited to the Judeo-Christian God.

Why is it important that I begin by pointing out these characteristics of God? Because a God with these characteristics necessitates the problem of evil. An omnipotent being can do anything to stop evil, an omniscient being knows the details of all the evil that is happening at all times, and how to stop it, and a being with a vested interest in mankind and the individual welfare of human beings should be stopping evil. The attribute of creator is also important because God created conditions in which evil can exist in the first place.

These divine characteristics are not uncommonly attributed to God. In fact I’d posit that the God of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam necessarily has these characteristics. The problem of evil asks; given these attributes why isn’t God doing anything to stop evil?

The standard theistic response to this is called the free-will defence. This states that moral evils are caused by the actions of free agents—a trait that God gave to us thus meaning we are responsible for our action rather than him. If we grant this, I shall argue that it does not do much to get around the problem of evil. So for the time being I shall grant that the evils committed by moral agents are not in God’s control because he gave us the free will to decide whether to be good or bad.

Lets look first at what makes someone a moral agent. I put forth that it requires at least two things; understanding of the potential harm or benefit of one’s action or inaction, and then acting (or not acting) deliberately, having considered these things. What we consider morally good actions are those in which the actor has considered the harm and benefit of their actions and deliberately acted in a way that is beneficial. Morally evil actions would be the same but with the actor deliberately deciding to act in a harmful way.

Where we arrive at a separate facet of the problem of evil is when we apply this criteria of moral agency to God. The act of creation by an omniscient being is a moral action because he already knew all of the potential harm caused by his creating the universe. Being omnipotent allows us to contend that God could have created a universe with no suffering, but chose not to, so we cannot posit that God had no choice but to create a world with suffering. Everything that happens in this universe could either have been prevented from the start, or stopped from occurring (excluding for the sake of this argument the free actions of human beings). This means that God decided to create a universe in which earthquakes, drought, disease, viruses, parasites, cancer, and so on can occur, and then failed to prevent them from occurring. This is the heart of the problem of evil. It’s not necessarily about human evil, it’s about a God who allows his creation to harm and inflict suffering on innocent people, and doesn’t do anything to stop it—in fact he created the universe in such a way that it happens regularly. The atheist has a difficult time making this fit with the idea of a loving God that has an interest in the individual welfare of human beings. It seems to be yet another problem that occurs from the application of inherently contradictory attributes to a being.

These kind of issues are often dealt with by positing that these horrible sufferings occur with some greater purpose in mind. The problem still stands though. God can do anything. Therefore he can arrive at any outcome without suffering. So he still has no morally acceptable reason to allow these things to happen. It is also worth pointing out that God having a plan with a predetermined outcome is in contradiction with the idea of us having free will. Free will entails that all our actions are entirely our own, that they are not presided over by someone tweaking things and manipulating history towards a particular end. If we have free will then God’s plan could fail. But why would God put the universe in such weird jeopardy? At this point it is worth stepping back and realising what we are positing here. A being who created us and gave us free will is engaged in trying to steer history towards his desired outcome in spite of the fact that he could have just had his desired outcome from the start, and he certainly could achieve it without any suffering. It turns our universe into a strange battleground between our free will and God’s ultimate plan. A battle in which suffering and pain—though preventable—are inevitable. Why would God create this scenario? Even if we don’t have free will and everything happens according to his plan, why is God playing weird vanity games with sentient life? It’s all rather unnecessary and it creates a sinister picture of God—which is a problem when you claim that he is unconditionally loving of all beings.

This is the problem of evil. If God exists—no matter how you look at it—the existence of pain and suffering in the world is preventable. The only reason it can persist is if God is not loving, or if God is impotent. This conclusion is true regardless of whether or not we include human free will. In my opinion this is the strongest argument against the Judeo-Christian God. If anybody thinks that I have made any mistakes in my case, has any criticism, or wishes to rebut anything I’ve said feel free to post in the comment thread.

 

A Response to Islamophobia

Laurens
Laurens
Fri Dec 11, 2015 8:05 pm by Laurens

Let’s first begin with a definition of the term Islamophobia. I posit that Islamophobia is the irrational prejudice against Muslims, often revolving around an idea that Islam as a whole is violent in nature due to the occurrence of terrorism among a minority of Muslims.

There are some who posit that this is just a made up word that is used to discourage any kind of criticism of Islam. The first thing to point out is that all words are made up, it is what tends to be done when a new thing occurs that needs a concise description. To say a word is made up and therefore cannot be describing something real makes no sense. Secondly it’s not true that it was invented to discourage criticism of Islam, it is meant to discourage criticisms based off a bigoted and prejudiced view of Islam. No secular person is going to have a problem with you putting forth a well reasoned argument as to why you think the Qu’ran is not divinely inspired. The problem is when people like Sam Harris advocate that we profile people who ‘look Muslim’ (whatever that means) at airports because being Muslim inherently makes you suspect according to him.

Of course as with any word it is going to get misapplied and misused, but this does not negate the fact that Islamophobia is a very real phenomena, and is becoming increasingly prevalent in society. If you are not convinced that the above definition relates to an actual phenomena, take a look at the following examples:

This list is by no means exhaustive. Anti-Muslim hate crime is rampant across the Europe and the US. In the face of these facts you cannot deny that there is an irrational hatred and fear of Muslims that is aptly described by the term Islamophobia. Obviously it is not just something that is expressed in violent crime and abuse. By far the most pervasive form of Islamophobia is in it’s rhetoric. With people like Sam Harris insisting that Islam is somehow an existential threat to civilization or Donald Trump advocating for a ban on Muslims from entering the US.

In my opinion perhaps the main issue that aids the growth of Islamophobia is the mainstream media, and what it chooses to report. We only ever hear about Islamic terror attacks, thus it is easy for us to develop a misguided belief that this is a characteristic of Islam rather than an anomaly. This, combined with a lack of education on Islam provides fertile ground for the development of Islamophobic views. One thing that is often said is that moderate Muslims do not do enough to speak out against terror. This is demonstrably untrue:

(Again, not an exhaustive list)*

Muslims do more than enough to speak out against terrorism. Failure to do elemental research before making a claim is a characteristic of bigotry. Having said all that, why should they have to speak out in order to prove that your assumptions about them are incorrect? They have no more obligation to condemn it than your average Christian has to condemn the Westboro Baptist Church. They might want to of their own accord, but they shouldn’t have to just to educate ignorant morons who can’t be bothered to do elemental research. If someone says “all Christians are like the Westboro Baptist Church” does that mean all Christians are obligated to now speak out against the WBC in order to prove this moron wrong? Of course not. In the case of Islam people are speaking out, all the time, and it still doesn’t change people’s views.

As with Christianity, Islam is incredibly diverse. A brief glance at this Wiki page will demonstrate just how diverse. Extremely conservative sects such as Salafism are prone to extremist interpretations, but it is important to note that this is but one of many diverse sects. It is also worth adding as a side note that an ally of the West; Saudi Arabia uses it’s extreme wealth (a lot of which comes from us) to export Wahhabism (the strict Saudi form of Salafism) across the world—a contributing factor to the rise of ISIS. Politics aside however, the point is that Islam contains a wide variety of interpretations, only a very small subset of which promote extremism.

It is for this reason that pulling quotes out of the Qu’ran doesn’t prove anything. You can find horrendous abhorrent things in the Bible, but you’d be hard pressed to find many Christians that believe it, or act upon it—many won’t even know it’s in there. The same goes for the Qu’ran. Just because you can find something in there that appears to condone violence, it doesn’t necessarily follow that all Muslims believe it. Religions are complex things, we can appreciate this when we talk about Christianity, why is it so difficult to accept when it comes to Islam?

Islam is a religion, not a race is a catchphrase you hear a lot in this debate. I don’t see how that is relevant though, all it really suggests is that Islamophobes are bigoted in a different way than racists are. Well done! Although in many instances this is not true—hence why attacks on Sikhs have risen along with the rise of Islamophobia. If you have brown skin, a beard and a turban you must be Muslim according to some. Demonstrating a link between racist views and Islamophobia.

It is often asserted that the left are inventing the term Islamophobia in order to limit the free expression of those who are just out there to criticise ideas. This not true. Criticise ideas all you want, no one is going to call you an Islamophobe if you want to write an article about how you don’t think that Muhammad was divinely inspired (assuming it doesn’t make broad generalizations about all Muslims or insults them unnecessarily). If, however, you are going to advocate social policies that are inherently discriminatory against Muslims, or ramble about how moderate Muslims do not do enough to condemn terrorism (despite this being demonstrably false) thereby implying that all Muslims are terrorist sympathisers then you are an Islamophobe and you deserve to be called out on it.

Of course Islamic terrorism is evil, and should be condemned in the strongest possible terms, but we shouldn’t allow it to fill us with so much hatred and fear that we completely abandon our critical faculties. Sadly it seems many already have. This is not a case of uber-left-wing people pandering to extremists through fear of reprisals if they so much as venture the slightest criticism of Islam. It’s simply reasonable people trying to tell those who are caught in an epidemic of scaremongering that they have blown things out of proportion and should think before they make sweeping generalizations. Islamophobia is a real and very disturbing phenomena and it needs to be spoken out against.

 

* I realise that I appear to contradict my assertion that we only hear about Islamic terror attacks in the news by posting a list of news sources that report Muslims speaking out against terror, however I do not believe these stories are as widely spread, or given as much time as stories about terror attacks. Terror attacks are always front page news, these stories aren’t.

A Quest For The Historical Jesus Part 2: A Review of Richard Carrier’s On The Historicity Of Jesus

Laurens
Laurens
Wed Dec 09, 2015 9:13 pm by Laurens

In my last post in this series I described how in my opinion the best argument I had heard for the historicity of Jesus did not stand up to scrutiny. The next step in my quest I had decided was to read what has been hailed to be the best case for mythicism that has so far been put out there, to see whether it was convincing. That case being On the Historicity of Jesus by Dr. Richard Carrier. In this post I shall review his book and summarize where I now stand on the issue of whether or not Jesus was a historical being after having read it.

On the Historicity of Jesus is a peer reviewed scholarly work with extensive footnotes and references to the latest literature. Do not let that put you off however, I had little to no prior knowledge of the subjects covered before starting and I found it easy to follow. That being said this is not a casual bedtime read, it requires concentration, but no more so than any book containing lots of information.

Carrier begins by positing a hypothesis of minimal historicity and a hypothesis of minimal myth. ‘Minimal’ meaning the basic tenets that if shown to be false would collapse the entire hypothesis. Minimal historicity is that there was a man named Jesus who gained devout followers during his life, these followers continued to expound his teachings and theology beyond Jesus’s execution at the hands of the authorities. Eventually some of his followers began to worship Jesus as a God. Minimal myth posits that Jesus began as a celestial entity who endured incarnation, suffering and death in a supernatural realm (as did the gods of many pagan mystery cults at the time). Jesus communicated with his followers via visions, dreams etc. At some point Christians began to create allegorical myths about Jesus as a historical entity. These were eventually believed to be accounts of a real earthly person.

The remainder of the book sets out to use Bayes Theorem (described in his previous book Proving History) as a method to analyse the background knowledge and evidence in terms of its likelihood to exist on each hypothesis. This is done first by analysing the background evidence, that is; all of the cultural, religious, political knowledge that pertains to the origins of Christianity. In these sections we learn about the dying and rising saviour gods that were prevalent in many cultures around the time that Christianity emerged. We also learn that a suffering Messiah was not actually anathema to the Jews, and that Christianity was a perfect response to the Roman occupation of Judea and the corruption of the Jewish temple cult. There is a heck of a lot of information in these sections, all of it fascinating and enlightening. The information is divided into numbered elements which make for easy reference when anything is bought up later on in the book, something that made it very easy for me to follow.

The analysis of the background data concludes with an unusual fact, that Jesus scores very highly on the Rank-Raglan list. This is essentially a list of qualities that were common to a lot of mythical entities. Carrier notes that there are no known historical people who score over half of the items on the list, Jesus scores 20 out of 22. The odds that a historical person would also be a Rank-Raglan hero are therefore very low.

We are then taken on a tour of the evidence in the following order. Extra-Biblical evidence – of which there is nothing that confirms Jesus as a historical figure (excluding interpolations such as those in Josephus), at best the mentions of Jesus in extra-Biblical sources are not independent of the Gospels and are therefore not usable evidence. Acts – which is shown to be largely historical fiction, with some oddities that may be better explained on mythicism than historicism. The Gospels – which are repeatedly shown to be allegorical fiction and therefore we are unable to derive any useful historical information from them even if there is any contained therein. Then finally the Epistles – which are curiously lacking in any historical details about Jesus as an earthly person.

All throughout his analysis Carrier is granting as favourable odds towards historicism as he feels able. Arguing a fortiori as he calls it. Even given this overly generous approach historicism does not come out well when the figures are punched in to the Bayes equation.

This method, of arguing a fortiori is what sealed the deal for me. Even if we bend over backwards to allow for extremely generous odds in favour of historicism, it still doesn’t come out on top. I can safely say that this book has pushed me from the agnostic camp to the mythicist. That being said, I am not in a position to check all of Carrier’s source material, or look up any of the scholarship that might argue against his points. What this book desperately needs is a rebuttal, with the best case for historicism yet. Preferably in a similar accessible style so lay people can assess both. As things stand though On The Historicity Of Jesus is pretty damning of any case for the existence of a historical Jesus. Until such a time comes that someone puts out a sound rebuttal to it, I must say I am firmly with Carrier in his conclusion: Jesus probably did not exist.

On the Historicity of Jesus is precisely what mythicism needed in order to be taken seriously. One can only hope that it will be treated with the respect that it truly deserves. When I dived into the book I was expecting, or hoping to find some weak links in his case, but I really didn’t. The only arguments that I was unsure about were treated in favour of historicity as far as the probabilities went (this being the possibility that the Epistles mentioned Jesus’s brother), and the case for historicity did not triumph because of it. All in all, whether you are a staunch historicist, an agnostic on the matter, or a curious mythicist I would definitely recommend this book.

I really cannot fault this book, and therefore score it:

5/5

 

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