Field of Science

Once more into the dark...recesses of a creationist

I hate to send traffic to a creationist but so it goes.

I wrote, what I thought, was a thoughtful response to a question I was asked regarding math and evolution and creationists. This, not surprisingly, raised the hackles of a creationist who wrote a series of obsfucated posts in response. 

In my original post, I pointed out one creationist argument against the theory of evolution misuses probability. The argument goes like this: using these assumptions, the odds of life originating is infinitesimally small therefore god and Jesus and homosexuals can not visit each other in the hospital. Of course the creationist does not ever say 'using these assumptions'. Instead the creationist uses definitive sounding statements that allow them to move unquestionably to calculating odds. Creationists often use the number of atoms in the universe as the biggest big number and then show the odds (calculated incorrectly) against evolution happening being greater than that biggest big number. Ergo god-->Jesus--> no gay hospital visits. One point of my post was to show that it is trivial to get an infinitesimally small odds number using common examples, like flipping a coin or playing the lottery. However, I note, quite clearly IMHO, that the assumptions creationists use in these situations are bullshit. From this one post (that had more in it than this), creationist Cornelius Hunter wrote his series.

Post #1 Cornelius tries a different example. Instead of dealing with the fact that creationist assumptions are pure fiction, Cornelius takes a different tact. Poker and scrabble. See the odds of three players each getting an amazing poker hand at the same time is a really small number therefore evolution can not be true or the odds of pulling out scrabble tiles in order that spell out CONSTANTINOPLE is a really small number therefore evolution can not be true. So if flipping a coin or the lottery are not sufficient evidence, then poker and scrabble will be? Poker and scrabble did not even exist 10,000 years ago, therefore the world can not be that old (if I understand Cornelius' way of thinking). The problem isn't getting small numbers. That's easy, I brought up two ways and now we have two more. The problem is the assumptions creationists make, they are not reality.

Post #2 Cornelius doubles down on the stupid. Cornelius spends most of his post rewriting the story of Darwin and Kelvin and the age of the Earth that I wrote. Ultimately he arrives at this conclusion:
In any case, geology soon extended the age of the earth into the billions of years, and evolution’s requirement for long time periods, so it seemed, was fulfilled.
So Cornelius is accepts that the Earth 4.5 billion years old. Except he doesn't or he does I get confused. You tell me, here's what he writes next (emphasis mine).
It is now known, however, that evolution has nowhere near the eons of time it requires. Indeed, the time windows available are even less than those allowed by William Thomson, which themselves were unacceptable to the evolutionists. This falsification of evolution’s expectation does not derive from the age of the earth, but rather from the fossil record. We now know that, even with billions of years of earth history, the major events in the fossil record take place in time windows that are no longer than a few tens of millions of years or even less.
William Thomson (Lord Kelvin) had the age of the Earth at 20-40 million years, not 4.5 billion. So how old do you think the world is Cornelius? 

Cornelius says nothing here but make grandiose statements with no backing. So the major evolutionary events occurred in tens of millions of year. What is a major evolution event and how long do you think it will take? Presumably he is talking about the Cambrian explosion. I ask you, how long should it have taken and based on what to you make these calculations? A lot of diversification can happen rapidly. After most dinosaurs died out (65 million years ago), mammalian diversification exploded over 10 million years or so. Flowering plants had a massive diversification over about 40 million years. Changing body types is quite trivial, here's what selection (albeit man-made aka artificial) did in a couple of hundred years without knowing much about what we were doing.


Convergent evolution
Given the opening of new niches due to the extinction of most dinosaurs, nature can have a grand old time selecting for variants better suited to aboreal life, marine life, underground life, open plain life, etc. Want another example, compare marsupials in Australia to mammals in North America. Species occupying similar niches evolved similar characteristics. Selection is a powerful process providing the raw material (genetic diversity) is available. You want a major event in evolution, screw small changes in body plan. Go with something really major like the first eukaryotic cells! Bacterial-like cells first show up about 3.8 billion years, it took almost 2 billion years before the first eukaryotes showed up! That must have been a major fucking hurdle. It was another billion years before complex multicellular life is observed (major event?). From the time simple animals are observed it's only 400 million years to get all the animal diversity we see today. All the hard stuff was already done in the first 3 billion years of life. So while the Cambrian explosion is impressive in its macroscopic visual appeal, it probably represents little from the standpoint of major evolutionary events. (I am using 'major' as in difficult).

His penultimate paragraph (the last is simply playground "Im telling mommy' rhetoric) contains some gems (emphasis mine):
But of course this is all wrong. If evolution is true we must believe it performs its uncanny miracles much faster than 4.5 billion years. The creation of life, the origin of fantastically complex cells, the creation of biology’s myriad designs, new species arising, and yes giraffes could not have evolved over billions of years. They could not have evolved even over hundreds of millions of years. It all must have happened much faster, in what are sometimes referred to as evolution’s “Big Bangs” where evolution leaves the equilibrium and for some reason becomes punctuated.
It all happened much faster?!?! What the hell does that mean? Doesn't Cornelius realize billions (X,000,000,000) is larger that hundreds of millions (X00,000,000)? Oh look, Cornelius uses words he heard before like 'punctuated' and 'equilibrium'. It's almost like he knows something about biology. Here's an interesting point, Cornelius often makes the case that evolutionists say there are no problems or issues in evolution and then pulls punctuated equilibrium out of his ass hat. Here's an issue that is not resolved in evolutionary biology. Regardless I posted this still unaddressed comment in response to this post. 
"You state that 4.5 billion years isn't long enough. How long is? How to you come to that conclusion? What is the evidence to support your conclusion. 
Here's evidence from scientists, not creationists, molecular genetics, using established mutation rates, comes up with ~3.5 billion years for the last common ancestor. Earliest fossils are ~3.5 billion years bacteria. Seems to fit within the 4.5 billion year time frame.
Your evidence is what? Nah Ah, ergo Jesus?"

Post #3 Cornelius makes up bullshit scenario to show evolution wrong. Remember at the beginning of this post I mentioned assumptions creationists use but never define as assumptions? They tend to be along these lines: one day there were a bunch of chemicals in a pool of ichor, lightening hit said pool, and WHAMMO a fully formed cell containing all the information and proteins needed to survive was formed. I stated repeatedly that no scientists worth their salt thinks this is what happened. What is Cornelius' response (which includes a quote from me in blue)?
So chemicals did not come together to form the first cell?

I don’t want to get into a discussion about the origin of life in this post, 
Because the absurdity of the creation myth would rapidly become apparent. It would be a tremendous miracle—the spontaneous formation of the first cell, and all life thereafter. 

See that comma at the end of my quote? Want to know the whole sentence was? Let me simply put up Cornelius' response again with my sentence intact. 

 So chemicals did not come together to form the first cell? 
I don’t want to get into a discussion about the origin of life in this post, but I do want to stress that I have never seen the absurd idea that cells just poofed into existence fully formed from scratch except by creationists.
Because the absurdity of the creation myth would rapidly become apparent. It would be a tremendous miracle—the spontaneous formation of the first cell, and all life thereafter. 
It is Cornelius who has an absurd (I wonder what made him use that word absurdity) creation myth. You know a talking snakes that has legs, genetic bottleneck of two (really one) people, women being the downfall of all mankind, all that fun stuff. He is stuck on the idea that scientists think a cell just poofed into existence, regardless of what we say, he refuses to accept it and keeps harping the same lie over and over.

Want to ask me how the first cell showed up? Well, I don't know. I've read a few things about some ideas and work that is being done to address these ideas, but frankly I don't know. But do you know what? That doesn't mean Cornelius gets to make up any old shit he wants and say that's what happened. Here's a big difference between Cornelius' world-view and mine. My world-view allows us to ask questions and test those ideas to gain a greater understanding, I could know a lot more about the current thinking on the origin of life if I spent time reading up on it. Would I be able to tell you exactly what happened? No, but I could tell you what the people thinking the hardest about it are finding out. We don't know everything, if we did we would stop. Cornelius' world-view is that the Bible (as he interprets it) is correct and the universe must fit into that tiny little corpuscle of his imagination. He is intellectual stagnation. What has he offered to explain the diversity of life on the planet? What evidence does he have to back up those ideas? Mostly, he seems to spend his time making glib inaccurate posts that misrepresent evolutionary thought. I'm sure that appeals to his readers, but it kind of pisses me off that he lies (commandment IX). (In his defense he doesn't use swear words like those I've used in this post including bullshit, ass, shit, and fuckwad, oh wait I didn't use that word I just thought it....crap....double crap. Someone get Cornelius a couch to faint on.)

I know it's not an echidna


Bend said...

Good post, but I've never seen a lemur in North America.

The Lorax said...

You should go to the zoo more often then. ;)
But good eye, I missed that in the convergent evolution figure and of course you are correct. Lemurs evolved in Madagascar not NA.

The Phytophactor said...

The biggest problem for creationists is that their "theory" has no explanatory power at all. When you use the same answer for everything, what do you learn? What needs to be emphasized is how useless creationism is.

Torbjörn Larsson said...

As for diversification, there is an emerging picture that I think is interesting. [It interests me as student of astrobiology.] Gene family data shows a rather smooth process (at the coarseness of the data), see fig 1. The exception is the Archaean Expansion, when cells evolved electron transfer redox processes and could exploit a lot more metabolic niches.

Btw, this self consistent dated model can be extrapolated as a toy model to an origin of the first gene well into the Hadean. [Yes, I am originally a physicist. Why do you ask, don't you like toys? =D] It would be interesting to have a reference to the ~ 3.6 Ga bp (billion years before present) gene clock mentioned in a related post.

Here is how I see the astrobiology side of the study of life on planets:

- When the universe started there were no life. We observe life in our case study, Earth. Hence there is a natural process that results in biological populations.

This is of course an observation based on observing only natural processes in nature, never, say, creationist magic. It is not an assumption.

- Since we see chemical evolution throughout the universe, the simplest assumption is that chemical evolution leads into biological evolution. This is also the only successful theory so far, yielding testable predictions. (Say, on reaction rates.)

- We can use models of chemical evolution to constrain how fast chemical to biological evolution happened.

-- In the circulating soup case, the upper limit is ~ 10 Ma. That is the expected average time before a volume of water circulated through a hydrothermal vent in the Archaean and was heat sterilized.

-- In the stationary hydrothermal vent case, the upper limit is ~ 10 - 100 ka. That is the expected average lifetime of an Archaean vent.

Now you can argue that it is a small time. But the average biochemical reaction time scale in a heat vent is ~ ms. It is ~ 10^15 ms worth of reactions _in one small volume_.

- Since it is established by such means that this happened and that it happened rather fast, it is more interesting to see how successful such a process can be.

Instead of using models, we can now rely on observation. The attempt rate of chemical to biological evolution can be modeled as a stochastic process, simplest as a Poisson process. Such a process has a normed delay time of ~ 0.2 (life at ~ 1 Ga out of ~ 5 Ga), which translates into a deterministically simple and/or often attempted process.

[Actually this one-sided tail process model looks marginally testable at 3 sigma due to the tendency of the underlying exponential distribution to stack probability mass early.]

But we can do better than that. Such a Poisson process has ~ 30 % rate for one success at the observation time of ~ 5 Ga. And we can further predict that ~ 100 % of 7 Ga old habitable planets should have life.

Everything else alike of course, enough water and carbon et cetera. But still poignant as opposed to creationists improbable "poof" they claim somehow happened.