“Only a theory” debunked

There are some arguments based on misunderstanding of how words are used in science, or deliberate mis-use by creationists. Just as Microsoft Windows is different from house windows, so in science “theory” means well-tested explanation, not a notion. Hypothesis means explanation that can be tested, not wild-assed guess. Here are seven science words that we need to learn, or perhaps that scientists should simply stop using. I’m in favour of replacing “theory of evolution” with “explanation of the mechanics of evolution” to start with:

“Just a theory”: Seven mis-used science words

Glenn Morton’s “Why I Left Young-Earth Creationism”

From Old Earth Creation Science Ministry.

Copyright 2000 by Glenn R. Morton. This may be freely distributed so long as no changes are made to the text and no charges are made to the reader.

For years I struggled to understand how the geologic data I worked with everyday could be fit into a Biblical perspective. Being a physics major in college I had no geology courses. Thus, as a young Christian,  when I was presented with the view that Christians must believe in a young-earth and global flood, I went along willingly.  I knew there were problems but I thought I was going to solve them. When I graduated from college with a physics degree, physicists were unemployable since NASA had just laid a bunch of them off. I did graduate work in philosophy and then decided to leave school to support my growing family. Even after a year, physicists were still unemployable. After six months of looking, I finally found work as a geophysicist working for a seismic company. Within a year, I was processing seismic data for Atlantic Richfield.

This was where I first became exposed to the problems geology presented to the idea of a global flood.  I would see extremely thick (30,000 feet) sedimentary layers. One could follow these beds from the surface down to those depths where they were covered by vast thicknesses of sediment. I would see buried mountains which had experienced thousands of feet of erosion, which required time. Yet the sediments in those mountains had to have been deposited by the flood, if it was true. I would see faults that were active early but not late and faults that were active late but not early. I would see karsts and sinkholes (limestone erosion) which occurred during the middle of the sedimentary column (supposedly during the middle of the flood) yet the flood waters would have been saturated in limestone and incapable of dissolving lime. It became clear that more time was needed than the global flood would allow. (See http://www.seg.org/publications/geoarchive/1996/sep-oct/geo6105r1336.pdf  for an article showing an example of a deeply buried karst. For a better but bigger (3.4 meg) version of that paper see http://www.netl.doe.gov/publications/proceedings/97/97ng/ng97_pdf/NG4-1.PDF

One also finds erosional canyons buried in the earth. These canyons would require time to excavate, just like the time it takes to erode the Grand Canyon. This picture was downloaded from a site which is now gone from the web. It was http://ic.ucsc.edu/~casey/eart168/3DInterpretation/Deltain3d1.gif

A buried river canyon from a geological survey

I worked hard over the next few years to solve these problems. I published 20+ items in the Creation Research Society Quarterly. I would listen to ICR, have discussions with people like Slusher, Gish, Austin, Barnes and also discuss things with some of their graduates that I had hired.

In order to get closer to the data and know it better, with the hope of finding a solution, I changed subdivisions of my work in 1980. I left seismic processing and went into seismic interpretation where I would have to deal with more geologic data. My horror at what I was seeing only increased. There was a major problem; the data I was seeing at work, was not agreeing with what I had been taught as a Christian. Doubts about what I was writing and teaching began to grow. Unfortunately, my fellow young earth creationists were not willing to listen to the problems. No one could give me a model which allowed me to unite into one cloth what I believed on Sunday and what I was forced to believe by the data Monday through Friday. I was living the life of a double-minded man–believing two things.

By 1986, the growing doubts about the ability of the widely accepted creationist viewpoints to explain the geologic data led to a nearly 10 year withdrawal from publication. My last  young-earth paper was entitled Geologic Challenges to a Young-earth, which I presented as the first paper in the First International Conference on Creationism. It was not well received. Young-earth creationists don’t like being told they are wrong. The reaction to the pictures, seismic data, the logic disgusted me. They were more interested in what I sounded like than in the data!

John Morris came to the stage to challenge me. He claimed to have been in the oil industry.  I asked him what oil company he had worked for.  I am going to let an account of this published in the Skeptical Inquirer in late 86 or early 87.  It was written by Robert Schadewald.  He writes,

“John Morris went to the microphone and identified himself as a petroleum geologist. He questioned Morton’s claim that pollen grains are found in salt formations, and accused Morton of sounding like an anticreationist, raising more problems  than his critics could respond to in the time available.  Morris said that the ICR staff is working on these problems all the time.  He told Morton to quit raising problems and start solving them. “Morton chopped him off at the ankles.  Two questions, said Morton: ‘What oil company did you work for?’  Well, uh, actually Morris never worked for an oil company, but he once taught petroleum engineering  at the University of Oklahoma.  Second, How old is the Earth?’ ‘If the earth is more than 10,000 years old then Scripture has no meaning.’  Morton then said that he had hired several graduates of Christian Heritage College, and that all of them suffered severe crises of faith.  The were utterly unprepared to face the geologic facts every petroleum geologist deals with on a daily basis.  Morton neglected to add that ICR is much better known for ignoring or denying problems than dealing with them.”

It appeared that the more I questions I raised, the more they questioned my theological purity. When telling one friend of my difficulties with young-earth creationism and geology, he told me that I had obviously been brain-washed by my geology professors. When I told him that I had never taken a geology course, he then said I must be saying this in order to hold my job. Never would he consider that I might really believe the data. Since then this type of treatment has become expected from young-earthers. I have been called nearly everything under the sun but they don’t deal with the data I present to them. Here is a list of what young-earthers have called me in response to my data: ‘an apostate,’ (Humphreys) ‘a heretic’ (Jim Bell although he later apologised like the gentleman he is), ‘a compromiser’ (Henry Morris), “absurd”, “naive”, “compromising”, “abysmally ignorant”, “sloppy”, “reckless disregard”, “extremely inaccurate”, “misleading”, “tomfoolery” and “intentionally deceitful” (John Woodmorappe), ‘like your father, Satan’ (Carl R. Froede–I am proud to have this one because Jesus was once said to have been of satan also.), ‘your loyality and commitment to Jesus Christ is shaky or just not truly genuine’ (John Baumgardner 12-24-99 [Merry Christmas]) “[I] have secretly entertained suspicions of a Trojan horse roaming behind the lines…” Royal Truman 12-28-99.

Above I say that I with drew from publishing for 10 years. I need to make one item clear. It is true that I published a couple of items in the late 80s. The truth is that these were an edited letter exchange I had with George Howe. When George approached me about the Mountain Building symposium, I told him I didn’t want to write it. He said that was ok he would write it, give it to me for ok and then publish it.  Since it was merely splicing a bunch of letters together, it was my words, but George’s editorship that made that article. To all intents and purposes I was through with young-earth creationist (not ism yet) because I knew that they didn’t care about the data.

But eventually, by 1994 I was through with young-earth creationISM. Nothing that young-earth creationists had taught me about geology turned out to be true. I took a poll of my ICR graduate friends who have worked in the oil industry.  I asked them one question.

“From your oil industry experience, did any fact that you were taught at ICR, which challenged current geological thinking, turn out in the long run to be true?”

That is a very simple question.  One man, Steve Robertson, who worked for Shell grew real silent on the phone, sighed and softly said ‘No!’  A very close friend that I had hired at Arco, after hearing the question, exclaimed, “Wait a minute.  There has to be one!”  But he could not name one.  I can not name one.  No one else could either.  One man I could not reach, to ask that question, had a crisis of faith about two years after coming into the oil industry.  I do not know what his spiritual state is now but he was in bad shape the last time I talked to him.

And being through with creationism, I very nearly became through with Christianity.  I was on the very verge of becoming an atheist. During that time, I re-read a book I had reviewed prior to its publication. It was Alan Hayward’s Creation/Evolution. Even though I had reviewed it 1984 prior to its publication in 1985, I hadn’t been ready for the views he expressed. He presented a wonderful Days of Proclamation view which pulled me back from the edge of atheism. Although I believe Alan applied it to the earth in an unworkable fashion, his view had the power to unite the data with the Scripture, if it was applied differently. That is what I have done with my views.  Without that I would now be an atheist.  There is much in Alan’s book I agree with and much I disagree with but his book was very important in keeping me in the faith. While his book may not have changed the debate totally yet, it did change my life.
References
For an example of a seismic karst during the middle of the geologic column

  1. Go to http://seg.org/ .
  2. Select ‘publications’.
  3. Select ‘Geoarchives’.
  4. Select ’1996′.
  5. Select ‘September and October’.
  6. Select ‘pdf’ from 3-D seismic reflection tomography on top of the GOCAD depth modeler Jean Luc Guiziou, Jean Laurent Mallet and Raül Madariaga.
  7. Scroll down to page 6-8 on the acrobat reader. These are pages 1341-1343 of the original journal.

There you will see 3d seismic data that shows evidence of a subaerial erosional event supposedly in the middle of a world wide flood!

For those who want to go to the library it is Vol. 61, No. 5, September-October 1996 Geophysics.

This testimony originally published on Glenn Morton’s website.

Help! I’ve learned my friend is a creationist!

Not to worry–Ask Richard of the Rational Response squad: “I’ve Learned My Friend is a Creationist.” He’s setting out to be the Dear Abby of atheists.

For Young-Earth Creationists–how to argue your position

Mike G. over at Spinoza’s Bicycle has some advice for YECs trying to argue that the Earth is a young creation: “What I Need.” Hint: it’s not a blanket assertion that conventional science is one vast conspiracy.

Secret Creationist conference

Jeffrey Shallit reports on a secretive Creationist fake-science conference in Italy. The list of those attending is secret. They review each other’s papers rationalizing Creationist conclusions, performing a sciency-looking ritual without benefit of science. It’s a useful article because it points to the many places in which the attendees have had their work debunked or have made fools of themselves.

What makes PZ angry

The face of a bearded, cheerful, middle-aged man with the Thames river and London in the background

PZ Myers

Science blogger and outspoken atheist PZ Myers is often accused of insulting religious people just for being religious. But that isn’t so. He has no problem with people who have a quiet religious belief and mind their own business, except insofar as they legitimize religious extremists. He is angry at people who do things like this:

  • Accommodate and collaborate with genocidal invaders to protect their church (e.g., the Pope in World War II)
  • Act as an arbiter of morals while sinning egregiously and harmfully
  • Act as if God is a person with opinions that match theirs when trying to impose religious rules but fall back on an impersonal universe as God when called on it.
  • Advocate against someone else’s right to make their own decision in a situation they themselves will never be in
  • Allow honour killing— killing girls and women to restore a family’s “honour”
  • Argue against straw men and never feel obliged to discover the truth
  • Assume that God is talking to them and not to anyone who disagrees with them
  • Assume that they are blessed by God because of their good fortune in where they were born
  • Assume that women are sexual temptresses and so regard them in a predatory manner
  • Beat, arrest, or rape women who, accidentally or otherwise, show an ankle or some other body part
  • Beg the question and claim that their scripture is true because it’s the word of God and it says it’s true
  • Believe men’s testimony over women’s in court because God says so
  • Believe that wine and crackers are miraculously turned into the body and blood of a god and denigrating those who don’t believe
  • Bestow on themselves the title of “Father” while raping children
  • Bilk people out of their money
  • Blame and punish women who are raped for having sex
  • Blame the victims of random misfortune for bringing it on themselves
  • Blame their religious indignation on the people who offended them by not following the exact same rules and holding the exact same opinions
  • Bomb or kill for religion
  • Care more about reputation than truth
  • Cite one of the same twenty refuted creationist arguments that depend on mis-stating what evolutionary theory is or predicts, for the 1000th time.
  • Close their eyes to the actual consequences of their religiously based policies
  • Codify an attitude that women are unclean and children are the property of their parents
  • Collect money for charity but spend it on themselves or the church
  • Collect money for missionary work that is amounts to a free vacation for the missionary
  • Commit murder at the command of a religious authority or conspire to make others do so or protect the murderers
  • Conduct their own genocide among the peoples of other countries
  • Conduct literal witch hunts
  • Consider the suffering of a child abuser more than the suffering of his victims
  • Continue counting people who have left their religion, when arguing for their religion because of its popularity
  • Continue to house children together for church-based education although that allows deadly diseases to spread among them (Canadian residential schools)
  • Convert slaves to Christianity but deny them marriage and destroy their families
  • Convince people that they are so fundamentally sinful and flawed that they commit suicide
  • Convince people that they’re tainted by original sin to get money and obedience for “curing” them
  • Count favourable coincidences as miracles
  • Cover up for and protect rapists who raped children
  • Crush someone else’s culture to impose religion on them
  • Decide that God allows them to cheat someone of another religion
  • Declare that atheism is a religion when arguing that it’s a matter of opinion but that it’s not when applying the right of Freedom of Religion (the exact opposite of the truth)
  • Declare that their kind of religiously sanctioned family is the only real kind
  • Declare themselves to be insulted, traumatized and hated if someone dares to disagree with them
  • Define women as evil or inferior
  • Degrade someone of another religion and then despise them for being degraded
  • Demand that people who don’t believe as they do nevertheless obey all their religion’s rules anyway
  • Denigrate the qualifications of those they disagree with
  • Deny civil rights to other people
  • Deny medical care to children while praying for a miracle
  • Deny that their religion is largely an accident of where they were born and how they were brought up
  • Deny the role of human nature in the formation of religions
  • Deny women access to medical care for religious reasons, e.g. the doctor is male
  • Deny women the right to be morally autonomous human beings
  • Despise sex and sexuality so much that they mistreat prostitutes and unwed mothers (and babysitters cousins and neighbours and aunts!)
  • Discourage critical thinking and questioning because that might undermine their religion
  • Discriminate against people (students, colleagues, business owners, etc.) who do not profess the same religion
  • Disguise racism and xenophobia as secularism in banning other people’s religious symbols and customs
  • Distort the meaning of “miracle” so that any favourable event in a disaster is proof of God
  • Don’t bother with medical care for people in their so-called hospitals but get the best modern medicine for themselves (‘Mother’ Teresa)
  • Drive young men out of the community so there will be more young women for high-status men
  • Encourage the subjugation and oppression of women in private and public
  • Enshrine institutional antisemitism
  • Expel family members because of religious reasoning
  • Fail to notice that “love me or I will torture you forever” is a sick relationship
  • Fail to report crimes, breaking the law and denying morality, because it would tarnish the reputation of the church or lessen church authority
  • Fail to take responsibility for their own lust, but project it onto the objects of their lust
  • Feel free to tell people what those people worship, think, and feel based on their own prejudices
  • Feel free to tell unbelievers that they are monsters of immorality who only want the freedom to sin, yet not notice what that says about their own morals
  • Find it easier to believe that a wafer is God than that their God is a cruel tyrant
  • Force mandatory motherhood on women unwilling and unprepared to be parents
  • Force themselves and their opinions into people’s most intimate, private, and personal decisions
  • Force women to wear concealing, hot, uncomfortable clothing
  • Forget that Jesus was a Jew and that antisemitic passages were added to the Bible by early Christian groups squabbling amongst themselves
  • Forgive the criminal but not his victim
  • Frighten defenceless children with horror stories, to control them
  • Frighten people so much that they kill their families or commit suicide or both
  • Hypocritically command people not to do something that they do themselves
  • Ignore the fact that prayers are magic spells and miracles would be magic if they occurred
  • Incite hatred of others because of religion
  • Infiltrate governing bodies solely to insert a religious influence
  • Insist, against all evidence, that sexual orientation is a choice so they can blame people for it
  • Insult, cheat, mistreat, or kill people who believe in other religions.
  • Interfere with medical and family decisions because of religion
  • Invent divine revelations to justify taking what their want (hello, Joseph Smith Jr.!)
  • Justify beating children because it’s in the bible
  • Justify slavery but ignore the Biblical injunction to free slaves after seven years
  • Justify thrashing women because God said so
  • Justify wasting the Earth’s resources and ecosystems because God said they were Man’s playtoy
  • Keep a job as a religious authority when they don’t believe because they want the soft living and the money
  • Keep a woman a prisoner to protect her purity
  • Keep arguing without ever looking at relevant evidence
  • Kill girls who might disgrace the family or who disobey their fathers
  • Kill innocent people over the images of a religious figure
  • Kill someone because they are an atheist
  • Kill someone whom they think is a homosexual
  • Kill someone whom they think is a witch
  • Harm someone who is obeying the laws of the land, which differs from the believer’s interpretation of his religion
  • Kill someone for their magic parts
  • Kill, threaten, or believe it’s a duty to kill non-believers who criticize their religion
  • Kill, threaten, or believe it’s a duty to kill people who leave their religion
  • Let religion interfere with government for the good of all people
  • Let religion interfere with sanitary practices in medical care
  • Let women’s health suffer because of religion
  • Lie about scientists who are trying to do an honest job of finding out the truth about the universe
  • Lie about the effectiveness of condoms in preventing STDs or about what condoms do
  • Lie and misrepresent their purposes because of religious motivations (like the makers of Expelled)
  • Lie, slander, misquote, misrepresent scientists who are trying to do an honest job of finding out the truth about the universe
  • Limit children’s education so that they will not learn that their religion is illogical and unrealistic or that there is a wider world beyond their home culture
  • Live rich while their parishioners are poor
  • Make a profit on suffering
  • Make people ashamed or guilty over normal activities such as masturbation or sex
  • Make predictions that cause people to ruin their lives, give away their money, and harm their families
  • Make procreation a religious duty to increase the number of their followers
  • Make religion the basis of xenophobia
  • Make religion the justification for genocide
  • Misrepresent the opinions of scientists by quote-mining, especially across different topics
  • Mis-state scientific facts to bolster their arguments (AKA the Behe Blunder)
  • Move abusers to remote areas because they will escape the notice of authorities (Canadian churches in Yukon Territory)
  • Move the goalposts in an argument because their God can’t be allowed to lose
  • Name children, politicians, or others as witches or evil beings to enhance or support their reputation or power
  • Pass blasphemy laws
  • Pass laws based on religion, to be imposed on everyone regardless of religion
  • Pass laws that kill women by denying them medical care
  • Persist in sinning without making restitution to their victims because God forgives them every time
  • Persist in using arguments that have been disproved for them before
  • Physically assault someone in church for walking back to his seat without swallowing his wafer
  • Pick and choose which Biblical verses to obey and despise others who choose different verses
  • Picket, harass, intimidate, threaten, or harm anyone who wants to have or provide a safe, legal abortion
  • Practise symbolic cannibalism but refuse to acknowledge it
  • Presume to dictate morals to the world when they are child rapists and protectors of abusers
  • Pretend that the basis for evolutionary theory is argument from authority
  • Promote a false dichotomy between creationism and evolutionary theory
  • Promulgate religious ideas that cause people to harm their children or their families or to break up families
  • Protect, hide, and move child rapists so that they can continue their crimes
  • Punish people that they said God would punish
  • Rape or abuse children, wards, orphans, nuns, patients, employees, members of the congregation, or anyone else
  • Refuse to take people off their membership list when they want to leave
  • Regard the number of wives they have as points for gaining status in Heaven
  • Reject people unless those people reject their basic nature
  • Remain ignorant of history
  • Rewrite history to make their religion look good
  • Riot because their God is offended
  • Sanctify the fetus and the fertilized egg to the point that women’s health is harmed
  • Sell useless cures (miracles, prayer mats, holy water) that cost money and delay reality-based treatment
  • Sentence people to death for crimes against religion or gods
  • Shun, reject, insult, or kill people who don’t believe in their religion
  • Stifle and deny women’s talents for leadership
  • Subvert justice to protect the reputation of the church
  • Take a religious tax exemption and then meddle in politics
  • Take every later addition to their scriptures inserted by someone with a point to prove as part of an original, inerrant text
  • Teach bad logic and rationalization to justify religion to children
  • Tell people that they are so flawed that they might as well kill themselves—especially when they also teach that suicide is a sin
  • Tell unbelievers that they will burn in hell rfor eternity and don’t notice that is a threat and an insult.
  • Terrify children with tales of damnation and divine punishment
  • Think it’s OK to kill people who don’t follow their religion’s rules (e.g. people who allow abortion or eat beef)
  • Think that men are more valuable than women because God said so.
  • Think that they are always right because God agrees with them
  • Threaten violence or death—justified by religion—to those who displease them
  • Train children to think that they have sinned when something goes wrong
  • Try to control other people’s, especially women’s, lives by religiously inspired laws or feelings of guilt
  • Try to exorcise people or drive out demons instead of getting medical or psychiatric help for them or just realizing that disagreeing with parental authority isn’t demonic
  • Try to discredit science because it contradicts their religion
  • Try to force pregnancy on unwilling woman as punishment for the sin of having sex
  • Try to sabotage education
  • Undermine the credibility of sexual assault victims when they know that the assaulter is guilty
  • Urge people to give more to their religion than they can properly afford
  • Use 30,000 women and girls as slave labour for the Church as punishment for having sex (Irish laundries)
  • Use brainwashing techniques such as sleep deprivation and hours of haranguing on their children
  • Use confidence tricks and spying to convince people that they have insights from God
  • Use “divine revelation” to con young women into marriage with an assigned partner
  • Use religion as the excuse for dwelling on other people’s sex lives
  • Use religion to justify homophobia
  • Use religion to justify polygamy
  • Use religion to justify prejudice, social exclusion, political disenfranchisement, etc.
  • Use religion to justify slavery, either as a Biblical institution or to save slaves’ imaginary souls
  • Use religion to justify wars
  • Use religion to limit other people’s choice of occupation (e.g. women, Jews)
  • Use religion to maintain the ancient tradition that fathers own their children and may kill them
  • Use religion to oppress women in a myriad of ways and renew that oppression with each generation
  • Use rhetorical fallacies in anti-evolution arguments
  • Use standard denialist tactics against science
  • Use their influence to block disease prevention measures because their religion makes them want to punish sexual activity (e.g. condoms in Africa, HPV vaccine everywhere)
  • Value women less than men because it’s in their holy scriptures
  • Waste other people’s time, energy, and tax dollars by promoting their religion’s point of view

Misquoting random dead French scientists

You might have heard the creationist declaim

“Evolutionism is a fairy tale for grown-ups. This theory has helped nothing in the progress of science. It is useless.”
Prof. Louis Bounoure (Former President of the Biological Society of Strasbourg and Director of the Strasbourg Zoological Museum, later Director of Research at the French National Centre of Scientific Research), as quoted in The Advocate, Thursday 8 March 1984, p. 17. (p. 5 of The Revised Quote Book)

This quotation is false. The fact is, this is two different quotations from two different people at two different times and in two different contexts. Prof. Bounoure was not director of research at the Centre, nor even a member. Even more important, the words were written fifty to sixty years ago, referring to debates long past and science that has been surpassed for forty or fifty years.

“Evolution is a fairy tale for adults” is not from Bounoure but from Jean Rostand, a much more famous French biologist (he was a member of the Academy of Sciences of the French Academy). The precise quotation is as follows: “Transformism is a fairy tale for adults.” (Age Nouveau, [a French periodical] February 1959, p. 12). But Rostand has also written that “Transformism may be considered as accepted, and no scientist, no philosopher, no longer discusses [questions - ED.] the fact of evolution.” (L’Evolution des Especes [The Evolution of the Species], Hachette, p. 190). Jean Rostand was … an atheist.

These quotations, however mangled, were taken from people who knew that evolution takes place, but felt that the explanations of mechanism were not complete or that arguing about the mechanisms was not the most fruitful form of research.

They’re so cute when they play “Science Museum” part 2

Eamon Knight recorded his impressions of the “Creation Science” “museum” near Cincinnati last fall. I think it’s a shame that such a fine city, named after a Roman hero, should be associated in any way with a monument to superstition. Here’s “A visit to the creation museum, part 2.”

First, establish your conclusions. Then cram the facts in any which way.

Eamon’s own country of Canada has its own “creation museum.” However, it’s housed in an individual’s house and represents the illogic of only one person.

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