More Bad Creationist Arguments

Someone gave me a link to this article from Scott Shifferd Jr., the minister of Dean Road Church of Christ in Jacksonville, Florida, with his top 10 reasons why evolution is false. It’s about a year and a half old but it’s got a whole bunch of items out of the creationist jokebook.

10. Pagan Origins of Evolution: Evolution emerged from pagan mythology and was promoted among Greek philosophers like Anaximander and Democritus. Diodorus Siculus, a 1st c. BC historian, presented in his “Universal History” one of the beliefs of the ancient Egyptians was that evolution was the origin of life describing swamps and marches being impregnated with life and the early beastial life of men living in caves, gathering food, discovering fire, and developing unintelligible sounds into languages.

This is a reason why evolution is false? Really?

9. Planetary Habitability of Earth: The Earth is balanced just right in this galaxy. The Earth has all the necessary conditions to maintain life including a stable habitable zone from the sun, the right amount of water, protective “gas giant” planets, the ideal orbit for stable temperatures, an ideal axial tilt to maintain seasons and warmth, a protective magnetic field, an exact placement in the galaxy, and essential elements of biochemistry. There has yet to have been discovered such a planet other than Earth that has even met the few conditions mentioned here.

Yes, the earth is habitable to life. And that pothole on your street is just the perfect size to fit the amount of water in it after it rains. What a coincidence! Of course, he’s wrong about no other planets being found that are within that habitable zone; we’ve actually found several more. But even if we never found one, so what? In a university with hundreds of billions of stars and billions of planets, it is hardly surprising to find that at least one of them has those traits.

8. Hoaxes: Evolution rests on refuted conjectures and frauds. Find a “missing link”, then that person has found a hoax or soon to be confirmed hoax since “missing links” are based solely on conjecture. The list of evolutionary hoaxes presented as the primitive man include the Piltdown man, Nebraska man, Ocre man, Cro-magnon, and Neanderthal. Another hoax that stands out is Haeckel’s embryos. The fraud is still used in textbooks to indoctrinate children and adolescents that they evolved through forms of animals in the womb.

Oh boy. First of all, the concept of a “missing link” is just nonsense. There are gaps in the fossil record, of course, and there always will be (it would be nearly impossible for that not to be the case). But we have lots and lots of intermediate forms, including some that creationists have claimed could not possibly be found. As for those “hoaxes,” only one of them was actually a hoax (Piltdown Man), and it was discovered to be a hoax by scientists, not by creationists.

Nebraska Man was not a hoax, it was a misidentification of a single fossil fragment. And the original identification was given very tentatively by the man who discovered it (H.F. Osborn), who then went back to do more research, found more of the skeleton and retracted the original tentative identification. No hoax, just a scientist doing science. This is only a problem if someone thinks that any scientist ever being wrong about anything disproves the practice of science itself.

Ocre (sic) Man (actually Orce Man) was likewise a possible misidentification. We still aren’t sure whether the tiny fossil fragment belonged to a hominid or not. And I have no idea why he thinks Cro Magnon or Neanderthals are a hoax. They are not. They existed. And the Haeckel lie has been debunked a thousand times by now and is repeated only by the credulous who have no idea what they’re talking about.

The rest of it is similar nonsense, of course.

Comments

  1. Michael Heath says

    Imagine arguing that the entire auto industry doesn’t build millions of cars because a handful of their cars aren’t operable. That’s the equivalent level of critical thinking needed to buy creationist arguments like this one.

  2. Doug Little says

    I don’t think you can even say these are bad arguments against evolution. They seem to be bad arguments against other things.

  3. Doug Little says

    When are these fucking idiots going to stop straw manning evolution. Damn I’m sick and tired of the happened by accident/random crap, someone needs to hold them down and scream in their face that natural selection is not random and operates on populations not individuals.

  4. D. C. Sessions says

    There were hoaxes? Well, I suppose that does disprove the whole “Noah’s Ark” thing.

  5. James McCusker says

    I always ask the creationists that say “why are there still monkeys?” why there are still Jews since christianity was born through Judiasm.

  6. Gvlgeologist, FCD says

    Where to begin?

    For starters,

    the right amount of water, protective “gas giant” planets, the ideal orbit for stable temperatures, an ideal axial tilt to maintain seasons and warmth, a protective magnetic field, an exact placement in the galaxy, and essential elements of biochemistry

    Does he think these things are magical accidents? (evidently) Many of these things are expected properties of a solar system, considering how we think the Earth and Solar System formed:
    1. So life couldn’t have developed and evolved with 50% or 90% ocean cover? In what way is this the “right” amount of water?
    2. I’m assuming that he’s suggesting that they attract bolides and protect smaller planets, but regardless, gas giants are common in solar systems. More have been discovered than terrestrial-type planets.
    3. With 4 Terrestrial-type planets, the odds are good that at least one of them would be in the habitable zone.
    4. Considering the composition and structure of Earth, a magnetic field would be expected. If it weren’t so hot, Venus would have one, too. Mercury does.
    5. There are one hell of a lot of other stars around the same distance from the center of the galaxy.
    6. The “essential elements of biochemistry” are present throughout the galaxy, so it’s not surprising that they are present here on Earth.

    And aside from the fact that I don’t see how seasons are necessary for life (life in the tropics seems to get along quite well), these two statements flat out contradict each other: “the ideal orbit for stable temperatures”, “an ideal axial tilt to maintain seasons and warmth”.

    Oh, I know, he’s just slingin’ BS.

  7. cheesynougats says

    There was one interesting “argument” from the post: the presence of C14 in oil and natural gas. However, the paper he cites details the nuclear decays causing it. Still interesting; I had never seen this argument before. Anyone know which creationist site originated this?

  8. Rob says

    Planetary Habitability of Earth:

    Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy. By definition ANY plant that evolves/supports life has ‘just the right conditions’. To discuss only almost identically earth like planets is to be extraordinarily terran-centric. Not surprising since when people like this narrow their focus to planet Earth they tend to be very “human-centric and fuck everything else”. Same type of mind set.

  9. D. C. Sessions says

    Yes, but the amazing thing is that all of those conditions would happen here out of all of the planets around billions of stars in our galaxy, only one of billions of galaxies in the universe!

  10. says

    Your headline is wrong. Specifically, use of the word “more”.

    I was expecting something new. These are rationalizations and fallacies that go back as far as creationism.

    In short, not “more”, but “the same”.

  11. eric says

    9. Planetary Habitability of Earth: The Earth is balanced just right in this galaxy.

    I love this one. However ‘just right’ it is for humans, its more ‘just right’ for bacteria. If you want to judge ‘just rightness’ on amount of habitat, they have more. If you want to judge on improbability of habitat, they have that on us too because a human disease like smallpox or herpes needs the exact same conditions humans do, plus they need us. So a universe with them in it is less probable than a universe with us in it.
    .
    Either way, microorganisms have us beat in the ‘just right’ sweepstakes. Which means…

  12. says

    The habitability of earth is indeed, most likely, quite rare. But if so Ed has the correct scientific response

    In a university with hundreds of billions of stars and billions of planets, it is hardly surprising to find that at least one of them has those traits.

    Although the “billions of planets” is an understatement of biblical proportions. There are probably about ~10^21 to 10^22 planets in the observable universe, so the weak the anthropic response, that naturally we find ourselves on the “just right” one, which is just a big numbers argument, is the most parsimonious.

    I detect in some of the comments here a cavalier dismissal that our planet is somehow privileged. That is a mistake, at least as far as we know. Yes we have see giant planets in other solar systems, but they tend to be in highly elliptical orbits or very close to the star–either of which would result in serious stability issues for an “earth’s”orbit.

    For example, this comment:

    By definition ANY plant that evolves/supports life has ‘just the right conditions’

    completely misses the point that it is very likely that most planets in the universe will not be able to support any kind of complex life-under the reasonable, non-ideological assumption that complex life requires the conditions where complex chemistry (which is the same everywhere in the universe) can proceed to produce large molecules (almost certainly carbon chemistry), where the ambient radiation is not too high that it destroys the molecules, where the planet is shielded from its own star’s radiation by a strong magnetic field, where it has a stable orbit and tilt due to a large moon and “helper” giant planets– resulting in relatively small temperature swings, etc.

    The fossil record and current observations shows us that complex life is more fragile and often goes extinct. A few degree shift from climate change and it’s not the microbes that are at risk, its us. It’s the whales. This fragility demands a planet with very stable/reliable patterns and conditions.

    Many tend to dismiss what is special about earth with a non-thinking, triggered response because it would appear to give ammunition to IDers.

    Well it might–but that’s no reason to pretend like there isn’t some scientific merit to the claim–because there is. It is much more reasonable to attribute it to a big-numbers (weak) anthropic argument than to just wish it away with a Douglas Adams argument.

  13. raven says

    Pagan Origins of Evolution:

    The Pagans also invented democracy, beer, wine, glue, pottery, wheels, agriculture, metal working, writing, and lots more.

    One of the few things they didn’t invent was…evolution.

  14. cptdoom says

    Oh, come on, you missed the bestest reason that we should reject reason, science and logic. Because Jesus! That’s right, Jesus existed, therefore evolution can’t be right – a true WTF argument.

    From the good minister:

    The legal maxim and standard of truth is that truth is established to certainty by two or three primary sources of the same event. These sources are tested for conspiring by verifying these sources to be consistent on two or more points without two or three explicit contradictions. The writers of the Gospels testify of what they saw and heard, and they testify to the testimonies of other witnesses.

    Wait, doesn’t repeating what other people saw count as “heresay” and not direct evidence? It is not clear that ANY of the many “writers” of the Gospels had any direct personal knowledge of the rabbi Jesus of Nazareth, seeing as they “wrote” (or at least committed oral histories to some sort of permanancy) decades after his death. And how can anyone claim the Gospels don’t include contradictions? They are riddled with them, up to and including whether the good rabbi ever claimed to be divine.

    These written testimonies remain for an honest examination before all.

    Actually, there are dozens of other Gospels that also exist, but were rejected centuries after the fact as “inaccurate” or “unorthodox.” Should we look at those too?

    The written statements of the Gospels verify the predicted Messiah, His miracles, His fulfilled predictions of Jerusalem’s destruction, and His resurrection. Jesus presented these evidences Himself (John 5:31ff).

    Only if you use the most tortured logic. The idea that Jesus of Nazareth was a predicted Messiah was created after the fact by the early Christian community eager to both separate themselves and elevate themselves from the Jews.

    Being confirmed as the predicted Christ, Jesus testified to the Genesis account of the Creation of the Universe, and His followers trust and know that He is right (Matt. 19:4-9, Mark 10:5-9)

    A Jew quoted the Old Testament – well, that is really strong evidence against evolution {end sarcasm}.

    There are a lot more witnesses and contemporary accounts of the existence of both Joseph Smith and L. Ron Hubbard. Do the existence of both Mormonism and Scientology mean Christianity must be false?

  15. bastionofsass says

    10. Pagan Origins of Evolution: Evolution emerged from pagan mythology

    Yeah, totally unlike any creation myth, including the one Shifferd is shilling, Judiasm, and Christianity.

  16. says

    There is simply no way that random chance could’ve have made the one planet that we’re on so habitable. You so-called “sciencists” haven’t even found any of the other planets we’re on that aren’t habitable to us! Why, if “science” is True, then there should be millions upon millions of frozen, boiling, caustic worlds covered in dead people!

  17. Doug Little says

    When you think about it we live in conditions that are fine tuned for evolution to take place. His number 9 actually supports evolution more than it does creation. If it turned out that our conditions were incapable of developing life via evolution then he would have a point.

  18. godlesspanther says

    Modusoperandi, that’s great! I would love to see some creationist nut take it seriously and try to use it as an “argument against evolution.”

    Maybe this preacher guy who cut and pated the above list would like it

  19. Doug Little says

    Why, if “science” is True, then there should be millions upon millions of frozen, boiling, caustic worlds covered in dead people!

    I would sat that this would be an argument for creation since god has notoriously bad aim apparently.

  20. says

    @ 9
    There was one interesting “argument” from the post: the presence of C14 in oil and natural gas. However, the paper he cites details the nuclear decays causing it. Still interesting; I had never seen this argument before. Anyone know which creationist site originated this?

    Talk Origins’ Index to Creationist Claims (always your friend in these situations) indicates the following sources for the C 14 claim:

    Baumgardner, John, 2003. Carbon dating undercuts evolution’s long ages. Impact #364 (Oct.), http://www.icr.org/index.php?module=articles&action=view&ID=117
    Baumgardner, J. R., D. R. Humphreys, A. A. Snelling, and S. A. Austin, 2003. Measurable 14C in fossilized organic materials: Confirming the young earth creation/Flood model. in Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Creationism, R. E. Walsh, ed., Pittsburgh, PA: Creation Science Fellowship, pp. 127-142.

    http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CD/CD011_6.html

  21. caseloweraz says

    Shifferd’s article was posted on 27 June 2011. On 7 November 2012 he posted the first comment, asking “No rebuttals yet?”

    Straightaway some rebuttals began coming in. My favorite is the one from “Nitric Acid.”

    Shifferd replies to them with snide comments and misinterpretations. No surprise there.

  22. caseloweraz says

    “10. Pagan Origins of Evolution: Evolution emerged from pagan mythology and was promoted among Greek philosophers like Anaximander and Democritus. Diodorus Siculus, a 1st c. BC historian, presented in his “Universal History” one of the beliefs of the ancient Egyptians was that evolution was the origin of life describing swamps and marches being impregnated with life and the early beastial life of men living in caves, gathering food, discovering fire, and developing unintelligible sounds into languages.”

    Was it not the Pharaoh Akhenaten who proposed there was one god, Aton or Aten? So it could be argued that this was the monotheistic source from which Christianity eventually emerged. So if Christianity emerged from pagan mythology, we should reject it too.

  23. godlesspanther says

    He did post my response to him. I got tired of taking it point by point, so it just turned into a mini-rant.

    I wasn’t sure that he would post me, often people like him don’t, because of the handle I use.

    But — I’d rather just let them know that I am a “bad guy,” according to them, right up front.

  24. raven says

    So if Christianity emerged from pagan mythology, we should reject it too.

    Judaism emerged from the pagan Canaanite religions.

    Xianity is a syncretic religion that borrowed from Judaism, Greek and Roman Paganism and philosphy, and various other Pagan religions.

    Their two major holidays, Xmas and Easter are both rebranded pagan celebrations. Easter is named after the Germanic goddess of spring and fertility.

    But there is no good reason to reject it for being a Pagan derivative. It’s better to reject it for being a fairy tale and a really dumb and vicious one at that.

  25. aziraphale says

    I’ve posted this comment at his site. It’s awaiting moderation. We shall see…

    My top 10 reasons why theism is false

    10 Pagan Origins of Theism: Clearly the idea of gods was invented by the ancient Greeks, or if not, by their predecessors.

    9 Planetary Habitability of Earth: As you point out, only one star out of many trillions is known to support human life. Clearly, if there is a God, human life is not high on his list of priorities.

    8 Hoaxes: Mormonism, Scientology, Christian Science. Need I say more?

    7. The Irreducible Disorder of Life: If there is a purpose in life, it’s not at all obvious. The purpose of cheetahs is to catch antelopes, the purpose of antelopes is to avoid being caught by cheetahs. One might almost think there were competing gods.

    Good heavens, is that the time? I’m sorry, the remaining 6 reasons will have to wait.

  26. tfkreference says

    If you think the Goldilocks argument is pushing it, I heard from a devout Catholic (who understands and accepts evolution) that the universe works the way it does because of the physical laws that God created. I wonder if he created another universe where moving objects don’t want to keep moving, and objects at rest want to move.

  27. No One says

    “I detect in some of the comments here a cavalier dismissal that our planet is somehow privileged.”

    That privilege accorded to us by whom exactly?

    “(almost certainly carbon chemistry)”

    Harrumph…

  28. Amphiox says

    9. Planetary Habitability of Earth: The Earth is balanced just right in this galaxy.

    Maybe he was referring to the galactic habitable zone concept (as distinct from the stellar habitable zone) which, even if it did exist would constitute a band of space along the Milky Way’s disc hundreds of light years across.

  29. Amphiox says

    The written statements of the Gospels verify the predicted Messiah, His miracles, His fulfilled predictions of Jerusalem’s destruction, and His resurrection. Jesus presented these evidences Himself (John 5:31ff).

    The Messiah was prophecied to be a blood descendent of David.

    Joseph was of the House of David.

    Except, OOPS!, Jesus was not Joseph’s son by blood…..

  30. says

    No One,

    That privilege accorded to us by whom exactly?

    Don”t be such an ass. I use it to mean unusually suited for life. You know, scientists use language like this all the time (e.g, the “god particle”) without meaning it literally. We also use anthropomorphism (e.g, the electron “knows” to do this or that).

    “(almost certainly carbon chemistry)”

    Harrumph…

    What is that supposed to mean? Life of any kind almost certainly requires large molecules to store information. Carbon has the richest chemistry, by far– any the only other remote possibilities are boron and silicon, and they vastly inferior and less abundant. Don’t make veiled charges of carbon-chauvinism and pretend you are being profound and enlightened when all it really demonstrates is you know no science.

  31. dingojack says

    Amphiox – I thought Jewish culture was matrilineal. (Beside which there are two conflicting lineages to choose from (perhaps one is from the Gen 1 creation, and the other is from the Gen 2 alternative universe).)
    Dingo

  32. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    I detect in some of the comments here a cavalier dismissal that our planet is somehow privileged. That is a mistake, at least as far as we know. Yes we have see giant planets in other solar systems, but they tend to be in highly elliptical orbits or very close to the star–either of which would result in serious stability issues for an “earth’s”orbit. – heddle

    While I don’t disagree with your general point in this comment, the extrasolar planets so far detected are those easiest to detect: big andor close enough to their star to produce a distinct wobble, or to pass in front of it from our point of view. With respect to some of the specific features you name, such as a large moon and the giant planets, I have seen it disputed recently that they really are advantageous for life, although I don’t have references handy.

  33. says

    Nick Gotts (formerly KG), #36

    Fair enough. I agree that the jury is still out on how rare an earthlike planet is. Which is what is so exciting about the search for extrasolar planets–something that has achieved a level of success I never would have thought possible. We live in amazing times for the physical sciences–from the Higgs to precision Astronomy and cosmology. I also agree that some things might turn out not be a critical as we first thought (like a large moon.)

    But I would say that, at the moment, the best explanation is still one based on large numbers.

    And I simply find it annoying when people use the Douglas Adams statement as if it had scientific merit.

  34. slc1 says

    In addition to planetary systems, there are also moons revolving around giant gas planets that could support life. Case in point, Jupiter’s moon Europa, which appears to have a liquid H2O ocean underneath a thick layer of ice. Saturn’s moon Enceladus is another moon which appears to have a liquid H2O ocean underneath a thick layer of ice. Thus, it is quite possible that the habitable zone thus far considered by astronomers is much too limited.

    In addition to the planets revolving around stars, there appear to be billions of rogue planets wandering around this galaxy and probably other galaxies. A Swedish commenter named Larsson has suggested that It is quite possible that many of these rogue planets may be gas giants with moons, suggesting the possibility of Jupiter/Europa combinations.

    The tact taken by Prof. Heddle is similar to that arguments of astrophysicist Paul Davies, who, according to biologist Larry Moran, exhibits a profound ignorance of evolution.

    It is interesting to note that there was a written debate online between Carl Sagan and Ernst Mayr on the subject of extraterrestrial intelligent life. Sagan argued that such life might be relatively common in the universe, Mayr argued that such life would be quite rare. This debate took place in the 1990s, before any extrasolar planets had been discovered. At this point in time, we can’t say who was right, although I personally suspect that Mayr was closer to the truth then Sagan.

  35. dingojack says

    Heddle – We are finding that life is a lot more hardy than we formerly thought.
    A planet with sub-zero temperatures even at the equator and covered by a thick crust of ice (kilometers thick?) would seem to be extremely hostile to life – and yet…
    Dingo

  36. says

    slc1 and DJ,

    You both missed something important from my earlier comment. Microbial life is indeed robust and can thrive in extremely harsh climates. It is complex life that, from the fossil record, appears to be extraordinarily fragile. If this were not the case we wouldn’t need to be overly concerned with climate change and its potential devastating effects on our species and others, would we?

    It is only in a sample of one, but Mars is in the habitable zone, independent of of arguments over how large or small the zone is. But we are looking for microbes on Mars, or fossils of microbes, but not complex life.

    slc1,

    The tact taken by Prof. Heddle is similar to that arguments of astrophysicist Paul Davies, who, according to biologist Larry Moran, exhibits a profound ignorance of evolution.

    And what ignorance of evolution have I displayed? It is quite possible–I’m not a biologist. What would they be? Where am I displaying profound ignorance? Please be specific. Surely the unscientific “life always finds a way” is not what you are talking about, is it? Does Professor Moran have some theories and or predictions about the inevitability of complex life in environments much different from earth? Does he have a testable theory that abiogenesis is probably common and always, or often, even on non-earthlike environs, evolves into life?

  37. eric says

    Heddle:

    You both missed something important from my earlier comment. Microbial life is indeed robust and can thrive in extremely harsh climates. It is complex life that, from the fossil record, appears to be extraordinarily fragile.

    Yes but as Gould pointed out, relatively speaking ‘complex life’ the way you define it is not the norm even on our own planet; its just the tail of the bell curve. We don’t see that because both our senses and our psychology is geared towards paying attention to critters about the same size as us (i.e. +/- one or two orders of magnitude, not minus nine orders of magnitude or so), but the truth is, this planet is ruled by single-celled organisms. They beat us multicelled organisms in biomass. They beat us in numbers. They beat us in variety. They beat us in environmental range.
    .
    Most importantly for your argument, and desipte human hubris, yes, they even beat us in impact on the environment. They literally made the planet what it is today. And this is critical to understand why your “privilege” claim about complex life is wrong: because our existence is NOT just about temperature or pressure or protection from cosmic rays, our existence is based on the contingent, historical evolution of single-celled organisms. We are not here becase our planet is privileged in its location in the solar system or in its geology; we are here because some random accident of evolution resulted in an evolutionary succesful subpopulation of bacteria that could photosynthesize, producing free oxygen, which over a billion or so years dramatically changed the earth’s atmospheric and aqueous chemistry.
    .
    If we find single-celled organisms under Europa or altering the atmosphere of planets surrounding other stars, that removes pretty much all the privilege. Why? Because multi-celled organisms are merely one contingent avenue of evolution. We should no more expect to find other evolutionary populations to produce them than we would expect to find other planets with dogs. Or, as in most lower budget sci-fi, hosts of bipedal aliens.
    .
    If someone said to you “well, our planet is special because it has bipeds and dogs – other planets might have other forms of life, but it doesn’t have those” you’d think that was pretty silly. But your argument about “complex life” is just that. We would not expect life – even carbon-based, even DNA- or RNA- based life – to evolve down the same pathways our life did. Our form of multicellularism is just one of those pathways. Ro rational person should expect it. The old sci-fi fan in me might hope for it, but I don’t rationally expect it. And that (non-)expectation has nothing to do with “privilege,” it has to do with recognizing that the sort of life you demand to be used as a standard is the result of a very histocirally contingent evolutionary path.

  38. dingojack says

    Indeed, multi-cellular life consists of the last, say, 15% of the time life has existed on the Earth. It is hubris to think that our kind of life is special, or even the only life there could be.
    Silicon and Boron life forms would not exist in atmospheres with lots of free oxygen, but in reducing atmospheres, who knows?
    Dingo
    ——–
    PS the world described in my post above was, of course, Earth – approx. 750 million years ago

  39. Reginald Selkirk says

    Speaking of bad creationist arguments, I just got the Jan/Feb 2013 issue of Skeptical Inquirer. There’s an article about Creationist interpretations of Beowulf!

  40. Reginald Selkirk says

    heddle #37: And I simply find it annoying when people use the Douglas Adams statement as if it had scientific merit.

    Agreed. It doesn’t have scientific merit, it has philosophical merit, and quite a lot of it.

  41. says

    DJ,

    Silicon and Boron life forms would not exist in atmospheres with lots of free oxygen, but in reducing atmospheres, who knows?

    They also, under the best of conditions, do not have as rich a chemistry. Fewer amino acids. And boron is much less abundant.

    It is hubris to think that our kind of life is special, or even the only life there could be.

    This is a common type of misstatement of my argument. I never said “our kind of life” is special. I said that any kind of complex life requires complex chemistry and big molecules and not too harsh of a radiation background. That puts certain demands on the environment, and those environments are almost certainly relatively rare, and possibly exceedingly rare (we just don’t know), but in any event 10^21 or 10^22 planets is unimaginably huge number and so, here we are.

    eric.

    but the truth is, this planet is ruled by single-celled organisms. They beat us multicelled organisms in biomass. They beat us in numbers. They beat us in variety. They beat us in environmental range.

    Yep. And if we are arguing that constraints are so tight for single-celled organisms–well I believe I have already agreed to that. I am being “hugely multi-celled” chauvinistic.

  42. says

    Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, “This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!”

    —Douglas Adams

  43. slc1 says

    Re Heddle @ #40

    I apologize to Prof. Heddle for not making myself clear. Thus to be perfectly clear and so that there be no misunderstanding, in no way, shape, form, or regard am I making any inferences regarding him. What I should have said is that Davies argues that the large number of planets does not necessarily imply that life exists elsewhere because he comes up with huge odds against the existence of life, which greatly exceed the number of planets int he universe by several orders of magnitude, based on the type of statistical inferences that one finds in the work of Bill Dumbski. Prof. Moran’s point is that astrophysicist Davies’ discussion of abiogensis and evolution indicate that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Since Prof. Moran is an evolutionary biologist, I would suspect that his expertise in that area exceeds that of Prof. Davies. It appears to me that Prof. Heddle seems to agree with Prof. Davies that life, at least multicellular life, is extremely rare and may not even exist, outside the earth.

    By the way, the notion that global climate change will wipe out all life on the earth is piffle. Life, even multicellular complex life, has survived far more serious incidents (think asteroid collision 65 million years ago) then a rise of global temperatures of 5 or 6 degrees C.

  44. Doug Little says

    That puts certain demands on the environment, and those environments are almost certainly relatively rare, and possibly exceedingly rare (we just don’t know)

    You are right we do not know, The solar system structure that we have could quite possibly be relatively common throughout the Universe. We will learn more once the James Webb and the E-ELT become operational.

    Somebody else pointed it out but there could be more opportunity for life on moons of gas giants. We know of one for sure in our solar system and theorize that many more have liquid water under a thick layer of ice, the gas giants generally have strong magnetic fields so all we would need is an energy source (geothermal, tidal heating, radioactive decay) and the right chemistry and voila.

    I’d love to see a probe try and get to one of those under-ice oceans in my lifetime.

  45. says

    slc1,

    It appears to me that Prof. Heddle seems to agree with Prof. Davies that life, at least multicellular life, is extremely rare and may not even exist, outside the earth.

    First of all I detest large probability chains demonstrating small probabilities for life. I put those in the same looney-tunes category as philosophers using the Uncertainty Principle to explain free will or Bayes’ Theorem to demonstrate that Jesus did not exist. (Or that he did exist.) The Drake equation has some pedagogical value, but when you just keep tacking on more and more factors less than unity you are not doing anything except making stuff up and producing a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    So I do not agree with his probabilistic assumptions and calculations.(*)

    I do, however, think complex life is probably extremely rare, and that good science makes that conclusion plausible but not definite. I disagree completely that one can even remotely argue that only the earth can support complex life.

    ——–
    * Weirdly enough I also think it is “bad ID”, if such a thing is possible. They are forever stuck (that is, if any of them still exist) in making a low-probability ergo designer argument. I always though they hung around at the wrong end of the probability range.

  46. eric says

    Heddle:

    I am being “hugely multi-celled” chauvinistic.

    Life on this planet was solely single-celled for the first ~2-2.5 billion years. The type of multicellularism that we have now is a contingent result of that 2.5 billion years of evolution. Multicellularity has practically nothing to do with the ability of other planets or moons to support life. “Rewind the tape” of Earth to 1.5 billion years ago, and let it run again, and there is no reason to expect anything similar to our current form of muliicellular life would evolve. Do you get that? Multicellularity would not likely evolve on Earth. It is historically and evolutionarily contingent. Its rise has nothing to do with some special properties of the planet Earth beyond those that were needed to support life. No extra bonus planetary stabliity was required; any extra conditions which allowed us to come into being were supplied by that early life, not the planet per se.
    .
    IMO your argument really is no better than someone saying “well, even if there are planets and moons that support life, the number of planets that support kangaroo life is much smaller, and those are only ones I count.”

  47. says

    eric,

    Multicellularity has practically nothing to do with the ability of other planets or moons to support life.

    I beg to differ. Hugely. I have what we know about chemistry on my side. And a little bit of data–mostly that there does not appear to be any other complex life in our solar system. You do not have chemistry on your side and even less data.

    “Rewind the tape” of Earth to 1.5 billion years ago, and let it run again, and there is no reason to expect anything similar to our current form of muliicellular life would evolve. Do you get that? Multicellularity would not likely evolve on Earth.

    1) You don’t know that and, more importantly
    2) It has nothing to do with my argument. My argument is that for complex life to develop it probably (because of chemistry and radiation physics) needs an environment similar to earth. I never said that an environment such as earth will always produce complex life–so it matters not at all to my argument whether or not a rewinded earth succeeds or fails in that regard. P–>Q does not mean Q–>P.

    IMO your argument really is no better than someone saying “well, even if there are planets and moons that support life, the number of planets that support kangaroo life is much smaller, and those are only ones I count.”

    My argument is nothing like that. It is not about any specific type of life except complex–roughly defined as many cellular–but any other working definition is probably sufficient.

  48. Crip Dyke, MQ, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    If hoaxes are part of teh history of a movement, all of that movement’s ideas are necessarily false.

    Hoaxes are part of the history of Christianity.

    Therefore, all of Christianity’s ideas are necessarily false. QED.

  49. Doug Little says

    And a little bit of data–mostly that there does not appear to be any other complex life in our solar system.

    I don’t think we have looked in enough places to be able to make the claim that there is no complex life elsewhere in the solar system.

  50. bradleybetts says

    “the early beastial life of men living in caves, gathering food, discovering fire, and developing unintelligible sounds into languages.”

    None of which constitutes evolution by natural selection, does it? Who is this idiot?

  51. fastlane says

    Does he mention pygmies and dwarves?

    Just curious, because the examples provided are such old YEC PRATTS, that I think his source data is way out of date.

  52. No One says

    heddle

    December 18, 2012 at 2:06 am (UTC -5) Link to this comment

    “No One,

    That privilege accorded to us by whom exactly?

    Don”t be such an ass. I use it to mean unusually suited for life. You know, scientists use language like this all the time (e.g, the “god particle”) without meaning it literally. We also use anthropomorphism (e.g, the electron “knows” to do this or that).

    “(almost certainly carbon chemistry)”

    Harrumph…

    What is that supposed to mean? Life of any kind almost certainly requires large molecules to store information. Carbon has the richest chemistry, by far– any the only other remote possibilities are boron and silicon, and they vastly inferior and less abundant. Don’t make veiled charges of carbon-chauvinism and pretend you are being profound and enlightened when all it really demonstrates is you know no science.”

    Oh you where being rhetorical ! Imagine that… I thought your subconscious was leaking, sorry my bad. Now what was this about sample size?

  53. Owlmirror says

    “Rewind the tape” of Earth to 1.5 billion years ago, and let it run again, and there is no reason to expect anything similar to our current form of muliicellular life would evolve. Do you get that? Multicellularity would not likely evolve on Earth.

    1) You don’t know that

    I’ve seen it argued that the multicellularity of eukaryotes arose precisely because they formed a symbiosis with mitochondria, thus allowing them several distributed energy processing centers which allow them energy surpluses which in turn allows for larger genomes and more complex internal structures, like the actin used for structure and movement. And furthermore, the symbiosis with mitochondria appears to have been a unique and unusual event.

    Prokaryotes do form multi-cell structures/cooperatives, like biofilms, but as far as I know, none of them approach anything like the complex tissue-forming multicellularity as we understand it in eukaryotes like ourselves.

  54. Ichthyic says

    And a little bit of data–mostly that there does not appear to be any other complex life in our solar system.

    your concept of scale is flawed.

    even “a little bit”, is tremendously overstating the amount of data we have from direct planetary observations.

    just how much time do you think we’ve spent on this, in comparison to the range of areas and environments that need to be covered to even remotely make a conclusion on this?

    you know, it might be a relatively fair thing to say we have some idea what communities comprise those that live on the abyssal plains, since they are a relatively constant and consistent environment, even though we have explored far less than 1% of them.

    we’ve explored several orders of magnitude less of even our own solar system, which is of course hardly homogenous, yet you want to claim we have … data…

    would you make the same claims for any specific prediction of physics? Say we had only run the tests for Higgs for one frequency range.

    would you then conclude we have data supporting Higgs didn’t exist?

    I sure hope not, because then I would be doubting your ability to be a good physics teacher, which I haven’t in comparison to your consistent nonsense involving your religious missives.

  55. dingojack says

    “Carbon has the richest chemistry, by far– any the only other remote possibilities are boron and silicon, and they vastly inferior and less abundant.”

    I’m not arguing about the abundance (C is about 1 magnitude greater and B about 5 magnitudes rarer than Si in the Solar System) merely about the ‘richer chemistry’ part. This is certainly so in low temperature, low pressure, weakly reducing, high O2 environments. But that’s not all environments is it?

    Owlmirror – “I’ve seen it argued that the multicellularity of eukaryotes arose precisely because they formed a symbiosis with mitochondria”.

    And yet, as you noted, prokaryotes did it without mitochondria. So mitochondria, in themselves are not a driving force in multicellularity.

    ” And furthermore, the symbiosis with mitochondria appears to have been a unique and unusual event”.

    Well apart from that whole chloroplast thing…. :)

    Dingo

  56. hypatiasdaughter says

    These are the talking points pushed by Hovind. Whether he originated them or not, he has popularized them in his “Age of the Earth” videos on YouTube. I see them popping up everywhere. If you can endure 1 1/2 hours of his inane ramblings, it does give you an overview of the arguments that are being sold to the average fundie creationist.
    Also, paulchartley does a 70 part take down of Hovind’s dissertation. (Warning he is rather rude and crude, but funny)
    (I tried to put in links but it was garbled in the preview)

    10. Pagan Origins of Evolution: I have heard the claim that the idea of evolution was planted in the world by Satan after the Tower of Babel. It left me scratching my head until I heard Chartley’s take down of Hovind’s dissertation. The idea is that any philosophy or belief in other gods that turns one away from believing that Jehovah is the one true god and creator, is “evolution”. He has a special hate on for the early church theologians, like Origen, who embraced materialism. (Ironically, most theologians and scientists fully expected that the world and the bible would confirm each other until 1800′s. It is the backbone of Catholic theology and why they have modified their theology to accommodate scientific findings.)

  57. Owlmirror says

    And yet, as you noted, prokaryotes did it without mitochondria.

    I specifically noted that there is a strong distinction between what prokaryotes do and what eukaryotes do. To emphasize and clarify:

    Eukaryotes can form macroscopic structures.

    Prokaryotes can form biofilms that can only adhere to pre-existing structures. They don’t form macroscopic structures themselves.

    So far as I know, anyway.

    Well apart from that whole chloroplast thing…. :)

    …which was formed by eukaryotes already in symbiosis with mitochondria.

  58. dingojack says

    Since both eukaryotes and prokaryotes form multicellular masses, then the fact that the former absorbed mitochondria and the latter didn’t isn’t relevant to the development of multicellularity.
    True, they were important the later development of macroscopic structures, but not multicellularity itself.
    Dingo
    ——–
    PS: it seems there are several pathways to multicellularity. For example, one cell can form several nuclei then each nucleus walls itself off forming a clump of sister cells, or sometimes cells bud but are held together by surface proteins, or sometimes unrelated cells swim together to form a colony..
    It”s an endlessly fascinating thing, nature. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

  59. Owlmirror says

    Owlmirror – do you know what ‘unique‘ means?

    You’re parsing “unique” as referring to cellular endosymbiosis in general; I intend it to refer to “the cellular endosymbiosis that resulted in a cell having multiple organelle-like sub-cells that allowed for the sort of energy surpluses that can then allow for larger genomes and cytoskeletons, etc”,

    Since both eukaryotes and prokaryotes form multicellular masses, then the fact that the former absorbed mitochondria and the latter didn’t isn’t relevant to the development of multicellularity.

    Well… then qualify “multicellularity”. Modify it to: “macroscopic structured multi-tissue multicellularity”. Since I’m not a microbiologist, I may be distorting or misremembering what I read, and the authors probably made it clear..

    I withhold judgement on whether prokaryotes forming biofilms could ever potentially evolve anything resembling a mind, let alone intelligence or tool-use.

  60. dingojack says

    Unique is a one time deal only. [sorry to be pedantic]
    With your modifications i concur. Sill it’s all pretty fascinating don’t you think?
    :) Dingo

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