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Feb 15 2012

Shaving with a baseball bat

Leonard Brand is absolutely convinced that science and religion are reconcilable, and that the two working together can generate a true and complete understanding of the world. He has gone to great lengths to show that religious scholarship can take the knowledge of science and use it to improve our understanding of his god, and that conversely, feedback from the Bible can enhance our understanding of the science. Brand even has a model of how this works.

Isn’t that sweet? He claims to be willing to modify his religious views to adapt to scientific knowledge. There’s just one catch.

He’s a freakin’ young earth creationist. The earth has to be young, Adam & Eve have to have been real people, evolution can’t have generated the diversity of life on earth billions of years before the Fall because there was no death until Eve took a bite out of the apple.

The Great Controversy and salvation story holds together only if moral evil (human greed, murder, theft e.g.) and natural evil (suffering and death from volcanoes, storms, and earthquakes) are the result of human sin. If life evolved over millions of years before Adam and Eve sinned, then moral and natural evil are not intruders in the universe, but were an integral part of God’s creation process. Efforts to contrive a way out of this logic have not been successful. For example, William Dembski tries to make evil the result of human sin, even though humans and sin (in the standard geological model) did not exist until after millennia of death and evil on earth. This simply illustrates the desperate efforts necessary if we reject a recent literal creation but don’t wish to put the blame for evil on God.

Although there isn’t space here for a full discussion, I will argue that the theory of large-scale evolution, with its millions of years for life on earth, is in direct conflict with Bible Christianity and the Great Controversy between Christ and Satan. If a literal one-week creation is not true, then there were eons of evil, suffering, disease, natural evil, and death on earth before the existence of any humans or any human sin.20 Also if the time scale in the Bible is not true, that undermines confidence in the truth of other parts of Scripture. These are among the reasons many of us hold to the biblical time scale and reject an evolution process that produces the major types of organisms.

Oh. So the syllogism works like this:

  • Christianity is falsifiable, and would be falsified if the earth were more than about ten thousand years old.

  • The evidence and science show conclusively that the earth is about 4.5 billion years old, and that animals were evolving half a billion years before humans appeared.

  • Therefore, argle-bargle ptang ptang zeeeeyooop wanka-wanka-wanka “DANGER, WILL ROBINSON” <*pop*> science must be adjusted to fit my dogma.

It’s not really falsifiable if you’re going to automatically reject any evidence that falsifies it, is it?

What follows gets worse and worse. Brand is trying desperately to show that creation theology can contribute to our understanding of the natural world, so he trots out a series of examples where he claims creationism has been enlightening. They are all embarrassingly bad.

For example, he discusses the Coconino formation in Arizona. This is a known eolian formation: it’s the product of windblown sand dunes becoming cemented and compressed in place. There’s tons of evidence that this is the case. They look like dunes, they’re made up of sand like dunes, they contain footprints of lizards and millipedes rather than clamshells and worm burrows, they’re desert dunes, mmm-kay? Creationists are convinced that they had to be formed by a global flood, though, so they strain to interpret some of those footprints as formed by reptiles, walking on the sea floor, entirely underwater. Galloping underwater, even.

The Coconino Sandstone (SS) in northern Arizona is interpreted as an accumulation of ancient desert sand dunes, which have been cemented into sandstone. The only fossils in the Coconino SS are fossil animal tracks. These tracks have been argued to be evidence supporting the desert origin of the Coconino sand deposits. However this evidence was investigated because of a desire to understand how the Coconino SS fits into a global flood process. The evidence resulting from this research can only be explained if the vertebrate animals made their tracks while entirely underwater.

You know, even if you find an occasional smudgy footprint that you want to pretend was formed underwater, you have to look at all of the evidence. And that shows that these footprints were terrestrial:

  • “One of the most common observations is that the tracks have bulges
    or sand crescents on one side, thereby proving that they were made
    on inclined surfaces” (Lockley and Hunt 1995).
  • Tracks showing possible loping, running, and galloping gaits are
    found throughout the Coconino Sandstone. These can only have been
    made on dry land.

  • Tracks of small arthropods, attributable to spiders, centipedes,
    millipedes, and scorpions, occur abundantly in the Coconino
    Sandstone. (Schur [2000] has some excellent pictures.) Some of
    these trackways can only be made on completely dry sand.
  • Raindrop impressions also appear.

This is exactly what I mean by cherry-picking. Creationists ignore the 99.99% of the evidence that refutes their hypotheses.

You know what makes this argument even more ridiculous? The author of this paper on the Coconino, which supposedly demonstrates that the formation was produced in a great flood, was…Leonard Brand. Yep, he’s only citing his own papers, and we already know his philosophy of throwing out anything that might conflict with his dogmatic Christianity.

Brand cites another example: whale fossils in Peru (Why is this haunting me lately? Creationists everywhere seem to be suddenly citing this one work).

In Peru the Miocene/Pliocene Pisco Formation contains many thousands of fossil whales, buried in thick sediments composed of the skeletons of microscopic diatoms, and in sandstone. Previous study by geologists and paleontologists interpreted the sediment as slowly accumulating, with sediment only a few centimeters thick being added each thousand years. Then a group of Bible-oriented creationists began to study this accumulation of fossil whales. They became quickly aware of something that did not catch the attention of previous researchers. The whales and other fossil vertebrates are exquisitely preserved, and this is not possible unless the dead animals were quickly buried, so that each whale was buried in weeks or months, not thousands of years

The paper is online. You can read it. Guess who the author is? That’s right…Leonard Brand. He actually has several papers published in reputable journals on the stratigraphy of this Peruvian formation; given his peculiar method of interpreting data, though, the journal editors might want to scrutinize his paper submissions more carefully in the future. He doesn’t mention young earth creationism in any of them, he’s extremely circumspect about exposing his most un-geological notions by, for instance, nowhere mentioning any dates at all, just blandly describing the depth and distribution of the strata. There is nothing overtly objectionable in the papers. But his interpretations elsewhere are dishonest. (By the way, why am I stuck writing about geology? I’m a biologist! We need more geologists to take this stuff on.)

He claims that these whale fossils are evidence of Noah’s Flood. That makes no sense. The whales are found scattered in different layers in a formation 240 meters or more thick, consisting “mostly of sandstones, siltstones, and tuffaceous beds” and diatomaceous mudstones. These are alternating layers created by different modes: tuff is the product of volcanic ash, for instance. These were not whales killed in a grand catastrophe, but the consequence of multiple deaths on different occasions in which the whale corpses drifted into shallow bays, settled on the bottom, and were covered by the precipitating skeletons of blooms of diatoms. This doesn’t fit with the flood model at all. And it’s from the Miocene/Pliocene! It’s about 5 million years old…a little fact he omits from all of his accounts.

Of course, that dating stuff isn’t too be trusted. He simply waves it away and predicts that someday we’ll have true knowledge that will allow us to fit the radiometric dates to a young earth.

Radiometric dating is still in stage 1 ["Conflict and confusion"], with some stage 2 ["Research in science and deeper Bible study, with hindsight"] research. We have not resolved the conflict, but we can make a prediction as to what we believe the outcome will be. I predict, based partly on faith (religion) and partly because of evidence (science) that some time in the future new evidence will show (science) that we are now seriously misinterpreting the radiometric data, and it actually gives only relative age, not age in years. Scientists who take this prediction seriously will be in the best position to understand the new evidence when and if it appears (science) before Jesus returns to earth.

There is no scientific evidence that radiometric data has been misinterpreted. He’s bullshitting us all with that.

But I’ve saved the best for last. Good scientists keep Occam’s Razor sharp and well-honed; you don’t get to just invent ad hoc excuses to stick by a falsified explanation. Adjustments to hypotheses are incremental, and we try only to advance them just far enough to still be open to testing.

Creationists have no such scruples, because they’re never going to have to test their hypotheses. Occam’s Razor is blunted or discarded entirely. So here’s my favorite explanation ever for God holding the sun still in the sky while Joshua fought a battle.

Lets now discuss Joshua’s long day. Certainly this is going too far, to actually think that the sun stood still that long, in spite of the totally predictable, finely balanced and very complex pattern of movement of the heavenly bodies. But on the other hand, how much do we know about the options that an infinite God has at his disposal? And maybe that sun trick wasn’t so disruptive after all. If I try to imagine how it could be done if I had no physical limits, but was not allowed to influence the movement of the sun or moon or the earth, here is a speculative suggestion. A system of giant mirrors could be used to deflect the sun’s image, so that from a human perspective the sun did stand still. Then later the mirrors could slowly move the sun back into its normal schedule. Did God do it that way? Of course we have no idea (God is certainly much more creative than us), but this scenario just illustrates how utterly futile it is for finite humans to think we can decide what God can or cannot do. He created the “laws of nature” and he knows how to use them to accomplish his will.

I’m imagining swarms of rocket-propelled angels holding an array of gigantic mirrors in space, steadily shifting and swiveling them to keep the sun focused on one spot on earth for an entire day. That god is one cunning engineer, capable of constructing astronomically colossal magic tricks in space to fool a few armies, but totally unable to provide adequate water supplies to his desert nomads.

80 comments

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  1. 1
    Aratina Cage

    And of course, if God could do it, why couldn’t aliens?

  2. 2
    Glen Davidson

    I predict, based partly on faith (religion) and partly because of evidence (science) that some time in the future new evidence will show (science) that we are now seriously misinterpreting the radiometric data, and it actually gives only relative age, not age in years. Scientists who take this prediction seriously will be in the best position to understand the new evidence when and if it appears (science) before Jesus returns to earth.

    Oh, the depths of such thought–including a veiled Pascal’s Wager (well, who do want to be pleasing when Jeebus comes back to kill sinners?). If only we were capable of such depths, we could clean out the septic tank.

    By the way, you know he’s an SDA or a member of one of its offshoots when you read “Great Controversy” capitalized in the middle of a sentence. Prophet EGW wrote a book with that title.

    Actually, the only thing an intellectually honest person learns by turning to the Bible is that it doesn’t pay to turn to most of the Bible for any solid facts.

    Glen Davidson

  3. 3
    PZ Myers

    Yep. He’s working out of Loma Linda.

  4. 4
    raven

    •Christianity is falsifiable, and would be falsified if the earth were more than about ten thousand years old.

    This isn’t even true.

    The majorithy of xians worldwide don’t have a problem with the 4.5 billion year old earth.

    On the facts and data, it is already wrong.

    Religions are mostly very plastic and their theology and doctrines change often. Despite some xians hatred of the word, they evolve. Why not, since neither is anchored in reality there is nothing to stop them.

    When the earth was found to be very old, most xians didn’t even notice much less care. There is nothing in the bible that says a xian has to believe in silly nonsense abut the age of the earth.

    The Mormons once said, if we can’t practice polygamy, our religion will die. Then polygamy was outlawed. Nothing happened. If they hadn’t had a convenient reveleation at lawyer and soldier point, probably by now they would be like the FLDS.

    The old Jewish religion was centered around animal sacrifice in the temple in Jerusalem. When it was destroyed and they were scattered, they just got together and invented Rabbinical Judaism and kept going.

    The founder of Methodism, John Wesly Harding, once said that if they stopped hunting and burning witches that their religion would die. The xians stopped burning witches and nothing happened.

    It’s all Make Believe and Let’s Pretend anyway.

  5. 5
    John

    I always find it funny that the most compelling evidence for religious positions is the evidence that they assume will be found at some point in the future.

  6. 6
    Bronze Dog

    Space mirrors. Somehow, I get the feeling we’ll be hearing that one for a while, alongside stuff like the vapor canopy “theory.” Of course, Creationists will argue for space mirrors in one breath and then immediately argue for the Earth’s rotation stopping by one of Velikovsky’s billiard ball planets in the next breath.

    I was thinking this morning about a way to describe the state of affairs with Creationism, and what came to mind was an episode of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy that involved Billy and Eris yelling “Chaos!” a lot. Creationism really is in a perpetual state of chaos, with conflicting hypotheses for major issues, and features many proponents who will happily doublethink themselves into believing several of those mutually exclusive hypotheses at once.

    Evolution, in contrast, is still smoothing out some fine details, but the basic core’s quite stable and has working real world applications. Where different Creationist mechanisms are often conflicting, evolution’s mechanisms are often complementary or even synergistic.

  7. 7
    Worldtraveller

    this scenario just illustrates how utterly futile it is for finite humans to think we can decide what God can or cannot do limit the crazy shit that creotards will pull out of their asses.

    Fixed.

  8. 8
    Marcus Ranum

    Mmmm…. The FAIL is strong in this one.

    “Develop religious concepts” – does that mean, “make stuff up?” And I notice he’s looking to the bible, rather than to the chronicles of the amazing Spider-Man. How can he tell which contains more truth? They probably are about on par…

  9. 9
    Pareidolius

    Perhaps god gripped the sun by the husk . . .

  10. 10
    nopeter

    The most irritating point is that it is impossible to say from his professional Loma Linda website that Brand is a creationist.

    I find the ‘be silent about time, just give the layers’ strategy to get into a professional journal repellent.

  11. 11
    Pierce R. Butler

    I’m imagining swarms of rocket-propelled angels holding an array of gigantic mirrors in space, steadily shifting and swiveling them to keep the sun focused on one spot on earth …

    I simply can’t conceive of the Yahveh of the Hebrew Testament setting that up … without doing the ants-&-magnifying-glass trick too.

  12. 12
    raven

    On a recent thread about another SDA university, Walla Walla U.,
    I pointed out that:

    1. bible colleges exist to carefully make sure that the victim-students don’t learn anything about the real world.

    2. That the science departments at Walla Walla U. probably don’t teach anything discovered in the last 200 years.

    The first isn’t too far from the truth. A lot of the xian fundie bible colleges are pure YEC. Kent Hovind among thousands has a Ph.D. from one of them in science.

    The second turned out not to be the case for Walla Walla U and good for them. Mostly they teach straight science while warily hoping the SDA administration doesn’t catch them and burn them at the stake, fire them.

    It doesn’t seem to be true at the other SDA U’s. though.

    1. La Sierra fired their biology department, a bunch of Darwinists like 99% of all US Ph.D.s.

    2. Here we have Loma Linda U., which has geologists who claim the earth is 6,000 years old.

    I suppose if the SDA has that favorite xian pasttime, another heretic hunt and Stalinistic purge, they can bring their universities into line with such academic powerhouses as Patriot University, Olivet college and hundreds of other obscure bible colleges.

    PS I’ll add here that at bible colleges, they do occasionally have purges and heretic hunts and fire their science faculty for not being creationist enough.

  13. 13
    What a Maroon, oblivious

    So, you’re an almighty god dude, you can do what you want, you’ve created the fucking laws of nature so you can break them whenever you feel the urge, and you resort to… mirrors???

    Apparently Mr. Bard thinks that Rube Goldberg is god.

  14. 14
    Pierce R. Butler

    raven @ # 4: The founder of Methodism, John Wesly Harding…

    Uh. Ahem.

    Mr. Harding became famous for secular activities; pursuit of witches was not, sfaik, among them.

    His Methodical namesake was known as Mr. Wesley, and, poor fellow, never got to set a match to a single heretic or devil’s consort.

  15. 15
    xmp999

    So basically the new model of science is “You do your Science thing, and if you still don’t agree that Christianity is true, we’ll argue some more.” (to paraphrase the Simpsons…)

  16. 16
    raven

    Farewell Spit, New Zealand Whale Stranding Leaves Many Dead …www.huffingtonpost.com/…/farewell-spit-new-zealand-whale-_n_12…Cached

    23 Jan 2012 – WELLINGTON, New Zealand — A mass-stranding of whales on a New Zealand beach has left 36 of the creatures dead and threatens 40 more.

    I’ll add here that mass whale strandings aren’t uncommon.

    We all read about a few per year in the newspapers. No one quite knows why they happen which makes them an interesting mystery.

    Mass whale strandings are common. Rapid depositional events are common and we have many of those every year, typically floods along rivers or hurricanes. Ask the people in New Orleans how that works.

    There is nothing scientifically odd about finding a bunch of whale fossils somewhere. The part of Chile where these were found is tectonically very active and it’s known that the dry land is rapidly being upraised by it. You can see it easily in historical time frames. Darwin saw an earthquake raise the land a few feet in the same area.

  17. 17
    raven

    It is true … that the English in general, and indeed most of the men of learning in Europe, have given up all accounts of witches and apparitions as mere old wives’ fables. I am sorry for it, and I willingly take this opportunity of entering my solemn protest against this violent compliment which so many that believe the Bible pay to those who do not believe it. I owe them no such service. I take knowledge that these are at the bottom of the outcry which has been raised, and with such insolence spread through the land, in direct opposition, not only to the Bible, but to the suffrage of the wisest and the best of men in all ages and nations.

    They well know (whether Christians know it or not)

    that the giving up of witchcraft is in effect giving up the Bible.
    With my latest breath I will bear testimony against giving up to infidels one great proof of the invisible world; I mean that of witchcraft and apparitions, confirmed by the testimony of all ages.
    JOHN WESLEY

    that the giving up of witchcraft is in effect giving up the Bible. John Wesley

    I don’t know if John Wesley ever managed the sacred xian entertainment of burning humans alive on a stack of firewood. He was an advocate for hunting down witches.

    Most xians have given up hunting down witches. Guess what, it made no difference whatsoever. Except to the witches and alleged witches who no longer live in fear of being torture murdered.

  18. 18
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    I will argue that the theory of large-scale evolution, with its millions of years for life on earth, is in direct conflict with Bible Christianity and the Great Controversy between Christ and Satan.

    Er, no shit, Sherlock. That is the only thing you got right. Where you went with it is dead wrong, but at least you realize that the bible (or any other creation myth) intersects with reality only in historic human terms (and the fact that they are made of matter (the actual books, that is)).

    It’s not really falsifiable if you’re going to automatically reject any evidence that falsifies it, is it?

    If you use the bible as reading glasses it makes sense. Really.

    However this evidence was investigated because of a desire to understand how the Coconino SS fits into a global flood process. The evidence resulting from this research can only be explained if the vertebrate animals made their tracks while entirely underwater.

    I’ve seen the Coconino Sandstone. I have aided NPS palaeontologists collect trackways. I have seen the trackways. I have also seen trackways in the sand dunes at Death Valley. there is no fucking difference, you moron!

    =======

    I have stood on the rim of the Grand Canyon and heard men tell their families (oddly, never heard a woman do this (but this was way back in the 70s)) all about the gorge being formed as the flood drained away. Even when I was ten I thought it hilarious. Especially since (if I recall correctly) the youngest layer at the canyon, the Kaibab Limestone, is late Permian.

  19. 19
    Sunday Afternoon

    I think the only think I can add to PZ’s comment on this is “Holy Zarquon’s singing fish!”

    Cantor: All hail DNA!
    Choir: Don’t Panic!

  20. 20
    What a Maroon, oblivious

    psst, Raven:

    John Wesley
    John Wesley Harding

    Pierce R. Butler was just taking the piss.

  21. 21
    feralboy12

    The “interface” is his flowchart up there looks more like a vortex from which there is no escape.
    And note that when science is challenged, the answer is to collect more data, do more experiments, and think more deeply. When faith is challenged, the solution is to try to figure out what the Bible “really says.”
    Somebody is certainly using smoke and mirrors. I don’t think it’s God.

  22. 22
    dragon

    But what about the smoke?
    It is all done with smoke and mirrors, not just mirrors.

  23. 23
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    The “interface” is his flowchart up there looks more like a vortex from which there is no escape.

    Well, he does assume that your vortex of faith will stop. On his bible, of course. On his terms.

  24. 24
    A. R

    Looks like some more poorly disguised creobot “integration” bullshit.

  25. 25
    Antiochus Epiphanes

    Mirrors, eh? If I were God, I would have used mind-control rays. More expensive, maybe. But they require no tedious shining.

  26. 26
    anteprepro

    So, according to the chart: If scientific knowledge conflicts with religious “knowledge”, this leads to both change in Biblical interpretation and creation of new religious concepts. Laudable to some degree. But, the religious concepts are “tested” by means of “linguistic analysis [of the Bible]“, “Attempting to determine what the Bible really says”, and “Comparing Scripture to Scripture”, or, in other words, the “new concepts” can’t actually deviate from Christianity. The product of these “tests” will change scientific interpretation for the believer. Which means that science really doesn’t change anything about a religious zealot’s views if they can’t come up with a Biblical excuse explanation, and the Bible, remaining constant, will always cause the zealot to reject new information that doesn’t mesh with a possible new Bible interpretation. How dishonest to pretend that the religious domain is seeking out new information like the scientific one, rather than being a search through old ideology for an excuse to veto new data. How asinine. How moronic. How typical.

  27. 27
    footface

    Why would Magic Man™ have used giant mirrors, when he could just use magic? We already know he’s magic, so why not stop right there?

    There’s your Occam fail.

  28. 28
    gworroll

    With the evidence available now, the only way religion can be reconciled with science is to interpret the vast majority of their holy texts as being being allegorical. A few of the historical events might have happened, but miracles and other displays of divine power, they cannot be kept in a scientific paradigm if interpreted as things that actually happened the way the Bible says they did.

    I suppose he could be right that future evidence will support a literal reading of the Bible. But possible future evidence is no reason to declare something proven now. If he’s right on this count(and I seriously doubt he is), it’s pure luck, not any sort of competent science.

  29. 29
    bubba707

    I read an article, I forget where since it was some time back, that historical evidence showed Jericho was already a ruin more than a century before Joshua was even born. Now, what was that about a battle?

  30. 30
    mcwaffle

    Urgh. That flowchart… I’m embarrassed that an adult human earnestly produced such a thing. I’d bet a pretty fair number of non-YEC Christianists out there would eat it up though, only to be embarrassed when they found out who made it & why.

  31. 31
    Pierce R. Butler

    Why poor John W (1703-1791) missed out on the holy fun:

    The last executions for witchcraft in England had taken place in 1682, when Temperance Lloyd, Mary Trembles, and Susanna Edwards were executed at Exeter. Jane Wenham was among the last subjects of a typical witch trial in England in 1712, but was pardoned after her conviction and set free. Janet Horne was executed for witchcraft in Scotland in 1727.

    What a Maroon @ # 20: Pierce R. Butler was just taking the piss.

    Well, why not? It was just sitting there, and nobody else had a use for it…

  32. 32
    peterh

    “…to understand the new evidence when and if it appears…”

    That’s what the scientific method does.
    And it’s what the creationist mind shrinks from.

  33. 33
    Alex

    With the evidence available now, the only way religion can be reconciled with science is to interpret the vast majority of their holy texts as being being allegorical.

    Yes, but what on earth is it an allegory for?

  34. 34
    anteprepro

    Yes, but what on earth is it an allegory for?

    Jesus. The Bible isn’t really one coherent story, or even a collection of different stories: It’s a series of self-referential metaphors with very little reference to anything that isn’t metaphorical. That is the unintended lesson I have been taught by liberal Christianity.

  35. 35
    christdenier

    Here’s what bugs me about YECs (and other religious types) trying to use science to justify their postions: The fact that they use it at all demonstrates an acknowledgement (at some level) that science is superior to their dogma. If it wasn’t, there would be no need for them to use it at all.

    (Of course, I’m not delving into the fact that they typically reject sound and complete science in favor of cherry-picking.)

  36. 36
    Larry

    Perhaps god gripped the sun by the husk . . .

    It’s not a question of where he grips it. It’s a simple question of weight ratios.

  37. 37
    gworroll

    No idea. But that’s about the only option left for reconciliation. I’ll leave it to the theologians with an interest in keeping their traditions alive now that the literal reading is refuted to figure out the details.

  38. 38
    rr

    With the evidence available now, the only way religion can be reconciled with science is to interpret the vast majority of their holy texts as being allegorical 100% grade A horseshit.

    Probably a little too challenging for Leonard Brand.

  39. 39
    codyreisdorf

    Holy epicycles batman! A system of giant mirrors, huh? I don’t see how you’d do that without the appearance of two suns at two points in the process, I’d be curious if there were a way to it without the two-sun problem. I imagine David Copperfield would know how if anyone does…

    Literalists are so fascinating,

    “Also if the time scale in the Bible is not true, that undermines confidence in the truth of other parts of Scripture.”

    They get so close to being rational—following the logic everywhere except at their singular foundational assumption. I think I’ve seen Ken Ham, Kent Hovind, and Ray Comfort all say this outright at times: that if they question anything in the bible they’d have to question the whole thing—it’s so odd they can see that but moderates can’t.

  40. 40
    timgueguen

    Ultimately Young Earth Creationists and various other science denying religious types don’t worship God, they worship the Bible. AFter all they limit God’s power and behaviour to what’s written in a book, including having God doing things, like making the Universe look old when it isn’t, so it matches the details of their book.

  41. 41
    andybreeden

    But…but…Brand’s paper had a chart. It was so sciency.

  42. 42
    busterggi

    I’ll leave out all commentary on science here and just point out the fundie’s own internal contradictory claim – that death did not exist until after the fall of Adam & Eve. Yet supposedly Yahweh threatened Adam with death if he ate of the forbidden fruit therefore death pre-existed the fall.

    I’ve gotten quite a few believers to walk away from me by pointing that out.

  43. 43
    markr1957

    Didn’t Thomas Aquinus insist on the scientific method with an absolute belief that science would prove the Bible was right all along?

    Of course the big problem with reality is that it’s …. so fucking real!

    With the evidence available now, the only way religion can be reconciled with science is to interpret the vast majority of their holy texts as being being allegorical.

    The real nature of the Biblical texts requires that they need to be interpreted as testicular rather than allegorical (i.e. they’re a load of balls)

  44. 44
    kaivanvlack

    I love how it says “makes us think more deeply and collect more data.” As though deeply was a meaningful word in this context, like we weren’t thinking deeply in the first place. I think what he means is “makes us think more bible-y.”

  45. 45
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    Perhaps god gripped the sun by the husk . . .

    Wouldn’t there be, like, giant fingerprints on the sun in that case?

  46. 46
    footface

    busterggi @ 42:

    I think the problem is even bigger: If death didn’t exist (or existed only as a thought in God’s mind), and if all was perfection, then how could a threat of death be meaningful to Adam?

    “If you disobey me, you’ll die!”

    “Sure thing, God. But, um, what is disobeying? And what’s dying?”

    I think Adam was ripped off.

  47. 47
    BinJabreel

    That was always the part of it that pissed me off as a kid.

    If we didn’t have the capacity to recognize good and evil before we ate the apple, and were just the same as the other beasts, then how could we be held accountable for what we did? We were innocent animals!

  48. 48
    BinJabreel

    @Markr43: Yeah, Thomas Aquinas was big on the scientific method. He has one of my favorite quotes to hand to creationists, and it’s something like:

    “There are certain facts about this world that are obvious to anyone who observes it, Christian or pagan alike, and so it does great harm to the Christian faith for pagans to hear a Christian talking nonsense on such subjects.”

  49. 49
    Amphiox

    I simply can’t conceive of the Yahveh of the Hebrew Testament setting that up … without doing the ants-&-magnifying-glass trick too.

    That was Sodom and Gomorrah, naturally.

    I’m imagining swarms of rocket-propelled angels

    Pish, PZ. Everyone knows that angels use Gravitric propulsion. (They’re Vorlons, you know….)

  50. 50
    What a Maroon, oblivious

    If we didn’t have the capacity to recognize good and evil before we ate the apple, and were just the same as the other beasts, then how could we be held accountable for what we did? We were innocent animals!

    Because I said so!

    Also, because shut your trap!

  51. 51
    Amphiox

    Wouldn’t there be, like, giant fingerprints on the sun in that case?

    Sunspots.

    See? It all hangs together….

  52. 52
    Nick Gotts

    I read an article, I forget where since it was some time back, that historical evidence showed Jericho was already a ruin more than a century before Joshua was even born. – bubba707

    In fact, there’s not a particle more evidence that Joshua existed than that Odysseus did, and modern scholars are mostly convinced there never was an Israelite invasion of Canaan, because the Israelites were Canaanites. The whole schtick was probably dreamed up to legitimise those Jews allowed by Cyrus the Persian to return from the Babylonian captivity (which did take place), with new-fangled monotheistic and theocratic ideas, taking over and bossing around those who had stayed put.

  53. 53
    =8)-DX

    Best part of that graph is under “Testing of linguistic concepts”: “Compare Scripture with Scripture (Linguistic analysis)[parenthesis mine].”
    Ah! He’s reinvented circular logic! If the holy book is wrong, you’re reading it wrong or reading the wrong bit!

  54. 54
    davem

    Hey, back before the flud, spiders had SCUBA gear, but then they all drowned due to not having enough air to last 40 days. The tracks are caused by them running to the local dive shop. Makes perfect sense to me.

    When this nonsense comes up, I just say ‘Chalk’. Up to 2km deep under the whole of Western Europe. Formed by slow deposition of the remains of minute creatures, at about 1mm a year. With sequences within it showing perfect sets of intermediate fossil changes, as described in evolutionary theory. Encased within the chalk are millimetre-thick layers of volcanic ash that extend over the entire deposit, which haven’t been disturbed by those rushing flood waters…

    All easily explained by science, but impossible in Ye Olde Fludde Hypothesis.

  55. 55
    =8)-DX

    Wow, has anyone here read Terry Pratchet’s Strata? That was basically an excercise in taking religion and magic seriously from a sci-fi perspective (earthquake machines, a flat Earth complete with plumbing, a microsun, etc). Rocket-powered angels with gigantic mirrors start to make sense then.

  56. 56
    What a Maroon, oblivious

    He’s reinvented circular logic!

    The circle is the perfect form, therefore circular logic is perfect logic.

  57. 57
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    Sunspots.

    See? It all hangs together….

    Aaaah. Now I get it.

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    Nope. Sorry. Still don’t.

  58. 58
    unclefrogy

    the thing I find so amazing about the devout religious apologists is the degree of effort they have to use to force their beliefs to fit the reality that is all around them. They are by definition spiritualists and do not “believe in materialism” but they feel it is necessary to try to use materialist arguments to explain why their spiritual beliefs are true and the materialists are wrong.
    science is wrong and here are the scientific reasons science is wrong?
    it just blows my mind so completely that I am often left speechless.

    uncle frogy

  59. 59
    siessor

    If the sun were to shine one whole day, it would get really, really hot in an already hot desert. Won’t a lot of them die of heat exhaustion? He should just say god did it in his mysterious ways and leave it at that. Attempting to find a scientific basis for the miracles just gets him deeper into hot waters.

  60. 60
    Evader, the parasite-infested branch on the evolutionary tree

    Excellent work Professor.

    I have nothing worthwhile to say, but thanks for the read, very well done. ‘Tis a pleasure.

    Can’t wait for the book, yo!

  61. 61
    Usernames are smart

    Joshua 10:13 And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day.

    There’s your fail right there. The Bronze-Age nomads had no freaking clue that the earth rotated on its axis and it was the sun that was fixed.

    BABE: No, no! That’s all very interesting, but the sun is going down!

    BILL: Oh, no, no! You are confused! The horizon is moving up!

    So, if this god person were to engage the brakes on our big, blue marble, there would be a whole lotta death and destruction to contend with (not to mention weather-pattern disruption and the whole what-about-the-mantle-and-core bits) courtesy of our little friends I = Σ mr² (moment of inertia) and Στ = Iα (Newton’s second law). Those two are gonna funk your shit up, right there.

    No, Joshua wouldn’t have time to fight his little genocide. He’d be lucky if he died quick.

    Stick that in your bibe and “study it more,” Mr. Brand. Also, get a damn job.

  62. 62
    myeck waters

    BABE: No, no! That’s all very interesting, but the sun is going down!

    BILL: Oh, no, no! You are confused! The horizon is moving up!

    Fudd’s Law: What goes down, must come up.

  63. 63
    Amphiox

    Hey, back before the flud, spiders had SCUBA gear

    Diving Bell Spiders still have SCUBA gear (or the equivalent thereof)!

  64. 64
    One Day Soon I Shall Invent A Funny Login

    I am actually impressed with Leonard Brand’s clear prose and his perspicacity, when in his preface he says,

    The Great Controversy and salvation story holds together only if moral evil (human greed, murder, theft e.g.) and natural evil (suffering and death from volcanoes, storms, and earthquakes) are the result of human sin. If life evolved over millions of years before Adam and Eve sinned, then moral and natural evil are not intruders in the universe, but were an integral part of God’s creation process.

    This is clearly stated and absolutely correct. Now, why can he not go on to say what any sane person would say next:

    …so, duh! obviously the Great Salvation Story was just that — a story, to be evaluated on its merits alongside all the other moral stories humans have concocted.

    But he can’t. One can only speculate why a person of such evident intelligence is so adamantly wedded to that fiction, that he willfully distorts or misperceives any fact that threatens it. It’s quite sad.

  65. 65
    Rick

    PZ, I gotta say that your blog is painful to read. Its not so much the writing, but the links. Oh the fucking links. Take that Coyne interview I just wasted 30 minutes on. It hurts to think a guy as daft as Alex can achieve any credibility.

    Then this one. Brand citing himself, journals publishing rubbish. No wonder the American public think all science is “just a theory.” We must be confused if crap like Brand’s can get published in “journals.”
    I just can’t fathom the depth of the ignorance it takes to create that crap. I can better envision the size of the universe (if that’s even possible).

  66. 66
    nopeter

    That chart given here near the top of the post does not work. The mechanics are wrong.

    Usually, such a chart works like wheels with cogs gripping into each other. So if the first leftmost wheel goes clockwise, the second, middle wheel should be counterclockwise and the third (rightmost) wheel clockwise again. That way the right-hand arrow of the first wheel (going down, clockwise) moves the left-hand wheel of the second wheel (going down too, counterclockwise). That leads to the right-hand arrow of the second wheel going up (counterclockwise) what moves the left-hand arrow of the third wheel up (clockwise).

    As is it drawn, the arrows on the middle wheel do not connect with the arrows on the first (left) and third (right) wheel. Mechanically, such a contraption cannot work.

    Very good parable to Brand’s reasoning.

  67. 67
    NuMad

    We have not resolved the conflict, but we can make a prediction as to what we believe the outcome will be. I predict, based partly on faith (religion) and partly because of evidence (science) that some time in the future new evidence will show (science) that we are now seriously misinterpreting the radiometric data, and it actually gives only relative age, not age in years. Scientists who take this prediction seriously will be in the best position to understand the new evidence when and if it appears (science) before Jesus returns to earth.

    Prophecy. An honest to goodness prophetic approach to science. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this particular variety of creationist before. I don’t think that’s what people mean when they talk of the predictive power of an hypothesis.

  68. 68
    phaictan

    Stop it now the lot of you. You’re wasting electrons on this.

  69. 69
    'Tis Himself

    Save the electrons?

  70. 70
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    Save the electrons?

    No, just necrodunk them.

  71. 71
    Naked Bunny with a Whip

    Holy epicycles batman! A system of giant mirrors, huh?

    Giant sun-reflecting mirrors? It’s a shitty hypothesis and a shitty movie.

  72. 72
    peterh

    It just came to me: that chart above is a new paradigm of illustrating the non-connectedness of nuttiness; it’s a gyer-gram!

  73. 73
    bjtunwarm

    If you listen very carefully you can hear the sound of Joesph Campbell body sighing in its grave over Mr Brand.

  74. 74
    David Marjanović
    Although there isn’t space here for a full discussion, I will argue that the theory of large-scale evolution, with its millions of years for life on earth, is in direct conflict with Bible Christianity and the Great Controversy between Christ

    ianity and Manicheism?

    “If you disobey me, you’ll die!”

    “Sure thing, God. But, um, what is disobeying? And what’s dying?”

    Exactly.

    Yeah, Thomas Aquinas was big on the scientific method. He has one of my favorite quotes to hand to creationists, and it’s something like:

    “There are certain facts about this world that are obvious to anyone who observes it, Christian or pagan alike, and so it does great harm to the Christian faith for pagans to hear a Christian talking nonsense on such subjects.”

    That’s Augustine, not Thomas Aquinas.

    Is not this written in the book of Jasher?

    Very good question. No such book is preserved, no such book is quoted anywhere, no such book has its existence mentioned in any other source…

    Yassir Arafat hasn’t written a book, has he?

  75. 75
    caravelle

    Hullo !

    I hang out once in awhile on a creationist forum (because the only creationists left on talk.origins are few, and really really crazy… “ordinary” creationists are a breath of fresh air in comparison), and one post they have happens to talk about the Coconino sandstone ! Serendipity.

    So, phrases like “water was required for the lithification of sandstone” and (paraphrase) “dolomitic thingies were found there which require water to form” were uttered. Are those things true, relevant, consistent with millipede tracks…? any geologist here who could enlighten me ?

  76. 76
    pHred

    I am a geologist. I just have never figured out how to make time for blogging about all the nonsense out there. It is like trying to plug the Macando well with a small rubber cork.

  77. 77
    peterh

    @ #75,

    The phrase “lithification of sandstone” is a bit silly in that context, but offers a chance for the fundies to toss in a 17¢ word. Lithification is the process whereby sediment becomes sandstone. One needs sediment – not necessarily deposited by water, but it’s often done – and time. Lots of time. Lots and lots more time than many fundies have any conception of.

  78. 78
    Aquaria

    Shaving with a Baseball Bat is so going into my book as the name of a band.

  79. 79
    caravelle

    @pHred : You’re probably more useful to humanity doing what you’re doing right now anyway ;)

    @peterh : Thanks. Further posts by those creationists on the subject yielded one saying they’d heard of a “rust-like process” that could lithify sand, but that they didn’t buy it and thought that every sedimentary rock had been soaked for it to become rock… and thus not sedimentary rock could have an aeolian origin.
    Should I guess that this “rust-like process” is key here ?
    (it occurs to me I could look it up, but I already spend too much time looking stuff up for the creationist posts I actually respond do. If it’s just for idle curiosity I think I’ll rely on the generosity of others. Thank you so much, others ! :))

  80. 80
    James Brown

    On of my favorite Mormon ‘thinkers’ was a guy named Bruce McConkie. He was sure that Darwinism was bunk and made this very accurate statement to prove his point.

    “If death has always prevailed in the world, there was no fall of Adam which brought death to all forms of life. If Adam did not fall, there is no need for an atonement. If there was no atonement, there is no salvation, no resurrection, no eternal life, nothing in all of the glorious promises that the Lord has given us. If there is no salvation, there is no God. The fall affects man, all forms of life, and the earth itself. The atonement affects man, all forms of life, and the earth itself.”

    The guy was absolutely right and his words helped my out of that church over 50 years ago.

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