The God Gene Redux

Darwinists of all stripes can hardly refrain from evolutionary storytelling when it comes to human psychology.  Not surprisingly, they focus largely on their opponents–those who have faith in God.  The recent work by archeologists Joyce Marcus and Kent Flannery seems to follow the familiar template.1  Start with an actual study, then speculate wildly about how natural selection brought about the observed results.

During 15 years of excavation they have uncovered not some monumental temple but evidence of a critical transition in religious behavior. The record begins with a simple dancing floor, the arena for the communal religious dances held by hunter-gatherers in about 7,000 B.C. It moves to the ancestor-cult shrines that appeared after the beginning of corn-based agriculture around 1,500 B.C., and ends in A.D. 30 with the sophisticated, astronomically oriented temples of an early archaic state.

This and other research is pointing to a new perspective on religion, one that seeks to explain why religious behavior has occurred in societies at every stage of development and in every region of the world. Religion has the hallmarks of an evolved behavior, meaning that it exists because it was favored by natural selection. It is universal because it was wired into our neural circuitry before the ancestral human population dispersed from its African homeland.

For atheists, it is not a particularly welcome thought that religion evolved because it conferred essential benefits on early human societies and their successors. If religion is a lifebelt, it is hard to portray it as useless.

For believers, it may seem threatening to think that the mind has been shaped to believe in gods, since the actual existence of the divine may then seem less likely.

In case you missed it before, I think John Cleese’s work in this area is as good or better than any other Darwinist speculating in this area.

Reference:
1. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/15/weekinreview/12wade.html

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Religious Artifact or Scientific Discovery?

The latest in the saga of nature worship is the discovery of a ’47 million year old’ fossil given the name Ida.  Hailed in the popular press as the long-sought-after ‘missing link,’ Darwinius masillae is being held up in some circles as the “Eighth Wonder of the World.”

Perhaps my impression that this is being held up with a religious artifact for naturalism is hyperbole, but perhaps not. You decide. Here is a quote:

“This specimen is like finding the Lost Ark for archeologists,” lead scientist Jorn Hurum said at a ceremony at the American Museum of Natural History.

“It is the scientific equivalent of the Holy Grail. This fossil will probably be the one that will be pictured in all textbooks for the next 100 years.”(1)

Lost Ark? Holy Grail? All that in one? It certainly seems like the whole question of human evolution is solved. However, things are not so wonderful. You know there’s a problem when someone from Scienceblogs (atheistblogs?) criticizes the findings.(2)

This shoddy scholarship is matched by a weak attempt to show that Darwinius has more anthropoid-like traits than tarsiers or omomyids do. In order for the authors of the paper to make a convincing case they would have to undertake a careful, systematic analysis of the anatomy of Darwinius in comparison to other primates, yet they did not do this. Instead they combed the literature for 30 traits that might help ascertain the placement of Darwinius in the primate family tree and filled in whether each trait was present or absent in Ida’s skeleton.

This find may be interesting and have some scientific value, but the primary value at this time appears to be as a religious symbol for naturalism.

(1). “Missing link found? Scientists unveil fossil of 47 million-year-old primate, Darwinius masillae”
(2). Poor, poor Ida, Or: “Overselling an Adapid”


Update: Others have weighed in on the issue.

ID: Darwinius masillae: The Religion in Evolution

IDA: THE HOLY GRAIL OF MISSING LINKS?

Creationism: Ida: the Missing Link at Last?


Update 2: It seems the Darwnists are running for cover after their bluff was called. New Scientist has posted an article today entitled, Why Ida fossil is not the missing link. Regardless, we can look for this to show up in textbooks as ‘proof’ of evolution.

What does Ida’s anatomy tell us about her place on the family tree of humans and other primates? The fact that she retains primitive features that commonly occurred among all early primates, such as simple incisors rather than a full-fledged toothcomb, indicates that Ida belongs somewhere closer to the base of the tree than living lemurs do.

But this does not necessarily make Ida a close relative of anthropoids – the group of primates that includes monkeys, apes – and humans. In order to establish that connection, Ida would have to have anthropoid-like features that evolved after anthropoids split away from lemurs and other early primates. Here, alas, Ida fails miserably.

So, Ida is not a “missing link” – at least not between anthropoids and more primitive primates. Further study may reveal her to be a missing link between other species of Eocene adapiforms, but this hardly solidifies her status as the “eighth wonder of the world”.

Instead, Ida is a remarkably complete specimen that promises to teach us a great deal about the biology of some of the earliest and least human-like of all known primates, the Eocene adapiforms. For this, we can all celebrate her discovery as a real advance for science.

A Naturalistic Fairy Tale-Part XXVII

We do know that 3 months ago,(1) we did tell you that super volcanoes did cause the mass extinction at the P/T boundary ofPool of Death 250 million years ago (praise Science).  We did tell you before that it was from the impacts of asteroids, but we will now tell you that we do have a new idea.(2) We know you will like it.

We do now assert that the mass extinction may have been the result of climate change.  We do know that you are terrified of global warming (praise Science), and we hope you will be even more scared when we are done telling you about just how catastrophic climate change has been in the past.

We do now say that great salt lakes emitted a high level of halogenated gases, which did so dramatically change the composition of the atmosphere as to irretrievably damage vegetation.

According to one of our faithful:

“Our calculations show that airborne pollutants from giant salt lakes like the Zechstein Sea must have had catastrophic effects at that time”, states co-author Dr. Ludwig Weißflog from the Helmholtz-Center for Environmental Research (UFZ). Forecasts predict an increase in the surface areas of deserts and salt lakes due to climate change. That is why the researchers expect that the effects of these halogenated gases will equally increase.

With a great salt lake the size of France, we predict that the emissions would have been catastrophic.  We then make the direct link to today’s global warming and the CO2 cycle (praise Science).  We do hope you are paying attention, so we can save you from dying off like some of our last common ancestors did a long long time ago.  We do so, perhaps, knowing full well that we are standing in the way of our motto: “Through death comes life and progress.”

Based on both of these findings the researchers were able to form their new hypothesis: At the end of the Permian Age the emissions of halogenated gases from the Zechstein Sea and other salt seas were responsible in a complex chain of events for the world’s largest mass extinction in the history of the earth, in which about 90 percent of the animal and plant species of that time became extinct.

According to the forecast from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), increasing temperatures and aridity due to climate change will also speed up desertification, increasing with it the number and surface area of salt seas, salt lagoons and salt marshlands. Moreover, this will then lead to an increase in naturally formed halogenated gases. The phytotoxic effects of these substances become intensified in conjunction with other atmospheric pollutants and at the same time increasing dryness and exponentiate the eco-toxicological consequences of climate change.

We do hope you are pleased with our latest tale, and want you to know that we are working to incorporate this into future climate models in a desperate attempt to save your life.

References:

(1). New Theory on Largest Known Mass Extinction in Earth’s History, Science Daily, 3/31/09

(2). A Naturalistic Fairy Tale-Part XXII, 12/31/08

Evolution: A Theory of Change? The Case of the Octopus.

Octopus fossil with modern comparison

Octopus fossil with modern comparison

Paleontologists recently discovered a fossil of an octopus and attributed an age of 95 million years (late Cretaceous) to the specimen.(1) They noted that:

“These things are 95 million years old, yet one of the fossils is almost indistinguishable from living species.” [EurekAlert] The fossils provide an extraordinary glimpse into the evolutionary history of the creatures, pushing back the birth of the modern octopus millions of years.

The fact that these fossils exist is a small miracle of science and a big victory for paleontologists and evolutionist alike.

Well, praise Science. It’s not quite a bunny in the Cambrian, but it would seem to me to be problematic at best for a theory of change. I suppose we are to believe that the right mix of blind processes and necessity were somehow kept at bay for this creature, or that it is a perfect adesign.(2) In other words, this creature has been in the punctuated stage of punctuated equilibrium for 95 million years.

What’s also interesting about the octopus is that Darwinists have claimed that the eyes of the octopus and human eyes evolved

Human to Octopus Eye Comparison

Human to Octopus Eye Comparison

independently.(3) They even go so far to note that the octopus eye shows that the human eye is poorly designed, as I’ve noted previously, despite obvious problems with that explanation.(4) The assertion is that a completely different set of blind circumstances results in technology with all the major functional parts in common.  What makes a great deal more sense is common design by a single Designer. Either that, or mother nature is smarter than you are.  Or as the old saying goes, “Evolution is smarter than you are.”(5)

Interestingly, the phrase is intended to be a rejoinder to the purported logical problem often attributed to IDists and Creationists who claim that blind processes are incapable of producing things of such complexity (i.e., argument from lack of imagination).  The trouble is, that it’s the same old attribution of sentience to blind processes, and the fact of the matter is, some things do not occur through blind processes.  Car parts in a junkyard will not assemble into a brand new car no matter what natural forces act upon those parts regardless of the number of billions of years given to do so.  Similarly, blind processes cannot lead to sentience or sight, but Darwinists will continue to follow that blind watchmaker no matter how incapable she may be.  All the while, they will marvel at her creativity and astounding abilities to create everything from nothing.

    References

(1). Against the odds ancient octopus fossils discovered
(2). Darwinists on Design: Jumping to Confusions
(3). Comparative Analysis of Gene Expression for Convergent Evolution of Camera Eye Between Octopus and Human
(4). An eye for creation
(5). Orgel’s rule

Other Interesting Reads:
Octopus–Beautiful AND Intelligent

Some Applause for Richard Dawkins

You never thought you would hear me say something like this, but I’m saying it now. Richard Dawkins deserves some credit for his most recent book, A Devil’s Chaplain. Now, I haven’t even read the book, and probably won’t unless I can find a used copy somewhere. But, I just wanted to give Dawkins his due credit for the title of his book, because this is truth in advertising. I’m guessing that he wants Christians to hate him, and feels he is poking them with this type of book and title. But really, I do have some compassion for Dawkins. A person does not have the intensity of emotions he has on a topic without a great internal struggle of some sort.

Creation on the Web has a review of his most recent tome, and there are some interesting quotes from the review:

Dawkins’ sermons fall apart under close scrutiny, and further, he never even considers deeper philosophical problems underlying his method of argumentation. When Dawkins talks of religions fomenting wars, how does he know on a naturalistic basis that there is anything at all undesirable about war?16 How does he know that there is anything inherently good in ‘truth’? In fact, as Alvin Plantinga has shown,17 there are reasons to doubt whether human thought is even capable of corresponding to reality within a naturalistic framework—the ultimate reductio ad absurdum of naturalism.18

As the late Greg Bahnsen noted,

‘One does not decide whether to form some epistemological viewpoint and theoretical basis for certainty or not; he simply chooses whether he shall do it self-consciously and well.’19

Dawkins has an epistemology. He believes that he is capable of knowing true information by means of the scientific method, but he is entirely without a foundation in naturalism for such a belief. Christians who presuppose Scripture, on the other hand, have epistemological warrant for belief in efficacious reason and science, on the grounds that God is logical and made an orderly universe.20 Small wonder, then, that Dawkins avoids the subject and prefers a surface-level polemical approach. The biblical apologetic not only can withstand his individual ad hoc ‘empirical’ arguments, but even undercuts his entire basis of argument by showing that in order to have a reason to trust reason itself, we must presuppose the God of Scripture.21

Some of the reasoning here is similar to things we’ve discussed previously on this blog.  One can sincerely hope that his intense disdain for all authority, other than materialist science, can soften with time.  All things are possible with God.

Source: Secular Sermons.  Creation on the Web.

Grandma Morgie

Recently, a group of students from Liberty University visited the Smithsonian Institute. David DeWitt who is the

Grandma Morgie

Grandma Morgie

professor who teaches the Advanced Creation studies class takes his students there every year. The Washington Post had a writeup on the trip, and for the first time in my memory, it was a facts-based article.1 The author didn’t inject his personal biases whatever they may be. I can’t tell, which is the way good journalism should occur.

I titled this post Grandma Morgie, because there was a particular part of the article that stood out to me:

At one point, DeWitt called them together under a Nigerian proverb stenciled on a wall. “The Earth goddess fashions the human body just as the potter fashions her pot,” DeWitt read. “So there is some religion here.”

But in the hall of mammals, which reopened in 2003 after a $23 million renovation, evolution assumes center stage, and the Liberty students grew a bit more subdued. They openly admired the well-lighted, meticulously designed dioramas. But they lamented that the texts and videos give no credit at all to a higher power for the wondrous animal variety on display.

Near the end of the “Evolution Trail,” the class showed no signs of being swayed by the polished, enthusiastic presentation of Darwin’s theory. They were surprised, though, by the bronze statue of man’s earliest mammalian ancestor.

“A rat?” exclaimed Amanda Runions, a 21-year-old biochemistry major, when she saw the model of a morganucodon, a rodent-like ancient mammal that curators have dubbed Grandma Morgie. “All this hype for a rat? You’re expecting, like, at least an ape.”

So, now you’ve met your earliest mammal ancestor, and I hope you were as impressed as I was. DeWitt’s observation that there is some religion going on here, was right on. AIG also discussed Grandma Morgie in the past, and they provide some historical perspective on the exhibit.2 Of course as we’ve remarked here previously, the creation of the statue was based on little more than imagination, which is par for the course with many evolutionists.

1). Creationist Students Take Trip to Evolution Headquarters: The Smithsonian
2). Mozart-made in a rat’s image?

ID is False; ID is not Falsifiable: Which is it?

Dickie D, and another fellow discuss evolution in this video.  They start off talking about the eye, and state that it is not designed because it is poorly designed.  In other words, they claim this falsifies ID.  Which is interesting given that Darwinists state that ID is not science and not falsifiable.  Then also interestingly, they claim that the octopus eye does not have these design flaws.  But that’s okay, evolution can explain that too. Then, Dickie’s friend, I assume he’s an MD, tries to lay out how Darwinism informs medical decision making.  I think they both probably think that those who would view things from an ID perspective would not conceptually consider the functions of medical symptoms.  This is basically a teleological view of symptoms, which is not entailed by a Darwinian perspective, and certainly comports with an ID perspective.

Humorously, they continue to use the word Design throughout the video, and engage in the typical anthropomorphism of Darwinists when talking about natural selection.