Crank up the stupid to warp factor 11!

I despair. Since I watched that Dan Olson video about crypto, and really learned how stupidly deep the rabbit hole goes, I’ve started regularly checking David Gerard’s blog, Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain, every morning. This is too much. After a few decades of dealing with the ludicrously inane garbage creationists spew, and living under Donald Trump, and then having to wallow in the idiocy of Jordan Peterson, now I’m going to pay attention to criminal grifting NFT-bros? Brain, stop it.

At this rate, every last bit of my confidence in the fundamental goodness of humanity is going to be eradicated. We apparently have no vestige of any kind of survival instinct left.

Jupiter is a big fan of Ayn Rand, I hear

Jordan Peterson was asked to write a foreword for a new release of The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. It is truly by Jordan Peterson. It is straight-up raging capitalism.

Here’s some thoughts—no, some facts. Every social system produces inequality, at present, and every social system has done so, since the beginning of time. The poor have been with us—and will be with us—always. Analysis of the content of individual Paleolithic gravesites provides evidence for the existence of substantive variance in the distribution of ability, privilege, and wealth, even in our distant past. The more illustrious of our ancestors were buried with great possessions, hoards of precious metals, weaponry, jewelry, and costuming. The majority, however, struggled through their lives, and were buried with nothing. Inequality is the iron rule, even among animals, with their intense competition for quality living space and reproductive opportunity—even among plants, and cities—even among the stellar lights that dot the cosmos themselves, where a minority of privileged and oppressive heavenly bodies contain the mass of thousands, millions or even billions of average, dispossessed planets. Inequality is the deepest of problems, built into the structure of reality itself, and will not be solved by the presumptuous, ideology-inspired retooling of the rare free, stable and productive democracies of the world. The only systems that have produced some modicum of wealth, along with the inevitable inequality and its attendant suffering, are those that evolved in the West, with their roots in the Judeo-Christian tradition; precisely those systems that emphasize above all the essential dignity, divinity and ultimate responsibility of the individual. In consequence, any attempt to attribute the existence of inequality to the functioning of the productive institutions we have managed to create and protect so recently in what is still accurately regarded as the Free World will hurt those who are weakest and most vulnerable first. The radicals who conflate the activities of the West with the oppression of the downtrodden therefore do nothing to aid those whom they purport to prize and plenty to harm them. The claims they make to act under the inspiration of pure compassion must therefore come to be regarded with the deepest suspicion—not least by those who dare to make such claims themselves.

There will always be poor people, just as there is an unequal distribution of mass in the planets, where the biggest planets strove the hardest to be magnificently big. So what if Pluto is so small it got kicked out of the planet club? It should have tried harder.

Unfortunately, I predict his fans will defend this lunacy fanatically, rather than recognize that the guy is one of a minority of colossal loons who have hoarded all the crazy for himself, leaving only faded scraps for the Peterasts to feast upon.

Why does Jordan Peterson hate education?

Sheesh. Jordan Peterson came out with a video in collaboration with the awful PragerU, and it’s basically an anti-education screed, relying on misrepresenting universities, students, postmodernism, Marxism, and all the things he hates uncomprehendingly. So I responded to it.

I include my sorta script down below, but I’m not sure how comprehensible it’ll be, since the video is just me commenting on still frames from the PragerU BS. You’ll probably find ContraPoints on Peterson’s incoherence more enlightening.

[Read more…]

A little dose of hemp will cure everything

Do these claims make you at all suspicious? A few people on Twitter told me I should look into this panacea.

Cures heart disease!

Eases anxiety and depression!

Removes unsightly moles!

Arthritis! Snoring! Diarrhea! Acne! Diabetes! Removes warts! Mighraines! Lose weight! Alcoholism! Glaucoma!

IT CURES CANCER! All forms of cancer!

And all without any detrimental effects whatsoever!

Add to the extravagant medical claims, the additional accusation that you can’t get this treatment because of a conspiracy by BigPharma and greedy, grasping doctors who want people to suffer so they can charge them lots of money to fix them with agonising tortures that don’t work.

Are you suspicious yet?

These are all claims Rick Simpson and a small group of Canadians make for hemp oil in this video.

You may not want to watch it — I’ve already given you the gist of it, and it’s repetitious and very poorly edited (hint: just because your home movie editing software has a lot of exotic transitions, doesn’t mean you have to use them all). It looks like an infomercial, with a parade of Nova Scotians offering wild anecdotal claims of all the stuff a daily dose of hemp oil cures. These testimonials are presented as the evidence that hemp oil is medically efficacious; they aren’t. Quite the opposite, actually — it all says to me that the promoters found some marginally sick people and fed their desire for wish-fulfillment, and got a slew of meaningless accolades and bizarre conspiracy theories that tell me that what’s going on here is psychology, not medicine.

It’s not just religion that kills people. I watched Rick Simpson claim that he had skin cancer, and that rubbing his marijuana extract healed the lesions overnight, and I thought… people may well die from watching and believing this claim. Some forms of skin cancer (melanoma) are extremely aggressive and dangerous — do not delay, do not play games with weird magic topical creams, get a real doctor to check it out.

The information on the video also gives off a bad vibe.

The following presentation of RUN FROM THE CURE: The Rick Simpson Story was made possible by Rick Simpson and video producer Christian Laurette… made for free to teach YOU how to heal yourself of disease and illness using cannabinoids.

Comments will be moderated to protect those who need this information. We are not asking anyone if it works, we are telling you it works; it is not a debate. Too many uneducated people coming to this channel to speak their mind on a life-saving plant they know nothing about and giving bad advice and in many cases making horrible remarks about the people who brought the information out to you.

No argument! If you disagree with him, you’re uneducated…despite the fact that the pro side consists of rural citizens who seem to know nothing about how to interpret evidence, while his opponents are doctors and scientists.

The video also lies, lies, lies. I’ve often heard quacks say this: “FACT: Chemotherapy kills more people than it saves.” It’s not true. People who are on chemotherapy are more likely to die than people who are not on it, because the only reason those people are on chemotherapy in the first place is that they are really, really sick. It makes nonsensical claims: “THC attacks mutated cells while rejuvenating healthy ones”. How do they know? These aren’t scientists making the claims, these are ordinary townspeople — Simpson makes his formula by doing a crude extraction with naptha or isopropyl alcohol in a bucket he stirs with a stick, and boils it down to an oily residue in a rice cooker (there will be an explosion and fire at his house someday, I predict). He has no tools to examine specific cellular responses, so the source of these claims of a mechanism are being taken directly out of his ass.

At least Simpson is giving his cure-all away for free — all he’s doing is feeding his over-inflated ego at the potential cost of a few lives. He’s not quite like the odious Burzynski Clinic, which bilks people for hundreds of thousands of dollars for an extravagantly promoted therapy that has no good evidence for its efficacy. And at least he has not resorted to threats.

But he’s still a dangerous quack and a crank.

One other thing: I’m all in favor of legalizing marijuana and ending the phony drug war that turns harmless folk into criminals, jacks up the cost, and entices violent thugs into what ought to be simple farming. If you look up Rick Simpson, though, you find all these groups advocating legalization also buying into Simpson’s hazardous and dishonest game. That only discredits the legalization movement.

(Also on FtB)

William Lane Craig and the problem of pain

Kitties experience pain and suffering, which turns out to be a theological problem. If a god introduced pain and death into the world because wicked ol’ Eve was disobedient, why is god punishing innocent animals? It seems like a bit of a rotten move to afflict the obedient along with the disobedient — shouldn’t god have just stricken humanity with the wages of sin (or better yet, just womankind)?

William Lane Craig has an answer. His answer involves simply waving the problem away — animals don’t really feel pain — and he drags in science to prop up his claim. Basically, Craig is playing the creationist gambit of abusing the authority of science falsely to support his peculiar theology.

So Christian theologians of all stripes have to face the challenge posed by animal pain. Here recent studies in biology have provided surprising, new insights into this old problem. In his book Nature Red in Tooth and Claw: Theism and the Problem of Animal Suffering, Michael Murray distinguishes three levels in an ascending pain hierarchy (read from the bottom up):

Level 3: a second order awareness that one is oneself experiencing (2).

Level 2: a first order, subjective experience of pain.

Level 1: information-bearing neural states produced by noxious stimuli resulting in aversive behavior.

Spiders and insects–the sort of creatures most exhibiting the kinds of behavior mentioned by Ayala–experience (1). But there’s no reason at all to attribute (2) to such creatures. It’s plausible that they aren’t sentient beings at all with some sort of subjective, interior life. That sort of experience plausibly does not arise until one gets to the level of vertebrates in the animal kingdom. But even though animals like dogs, cats, and horses experience pain, nevertheless the evidence is that they do not experience level (3), the awareness that they are in pain. For the awareness that one is oneself in pain requires self-awareness, which is centered in the pre-frontal cortex of the brain–a section of the brain which is missing in all animals except for the humanoid primates. Thus, amazingly, even though animals may experience pain, they are not aware of being in pain. God in His mercy has apparently spared animals the awareness of pain. This is a tremendous comfort to us pet owners. For even though your dog or cat may be in pain, it really isn’t aware of it and so doesn’t suffer as you would if you were in pain.

As is usual upon reading any argument by William Lane Craig, I find myself wondering if we shouldn’t, in the name of common decency, have him locked up or in some way isolated from the sane human population. He makes bad arguments, he makes dishonest arguments, and he seems opportunistically willing to sacrifice moral reasoning on the altar of his barbarian god. Or at least, maybe we should confiscate his pets and put them in a safer home.

A few objections popped instantly into my head when I read his essay.

  • An assertion built on a false premise is likely to be false itself. Craig (or possibly his source, Murray), misrepresent the science. They claim that the prefrontal cortex “is missing in all animals except for the humanoid primates.” This is simply false! I’ve personally done histological work and surgery on the prefrontal cortex of cats, many years ago, and you can find papers describing the prefrontal cortex of opossums, and just about any common mammal you can think of. Craig has made a truly bizarre claim, like declaring that only people have noses or something.

    Primates do have a unique histologic feature of their primary cortices, an internal granule layer that is developed to varying degrees. But it’s also present in prosimians as well as all primates, so you can’t argue that it is unique to ‘humanoid primates’, and you can’t claim that it’s necessary and sufficient for self-awareness. If a bushbaby is going to be declared self-aware because it has an internal granule layer, it seems ridiculous to argue that other mammals with a similar or greater degree of cortical development are excluded from the club on the basis of this one detail.

    Scientists are supposed to talk about the evidence. Theologians are apparently not only exempt, but they get to fabricate their evidence. Also, I’m used to hearing theologians babble about the nonexistent as if it were real, but this is the first time I’ve heard one argue that a real structure is nonexistent.

  • There is a real issue here: we can identify pain neurons in insects and fish and all kinds of animals — they’re ubiquitous. But you could ask about the slippery problem of consciousness, and wonder whether there is a real difference between reflexive aversion to a noxious stimulus and a more substantial awareness of pain. There are people who argue that non-human animals are not thinking and self-aware like we are, and so their perception of pain is qualitatively different.

    Unfortunately, you can’t make a binary distinction here. If we accept that humans are all aware of pain (there have been people who don’t accept that: Nazi-types and racists have argued that Jews and blacks, for instance, are subhumans who have blunted sensitivities), it’s hard to argue that chimpanzees aren’t also aware — they exhibit all the signs of stress, of learning aversion, of memory and recall of unpleasant experiences, and their behavior is identical to ours: they make it known that they don’t like needles or fear snakes or suffer pain and distress at their discomfort and the discomfort of others. And if you admit chimps, where do you draw the line? Dogs also exhibit all of those behaviors; they even show empathy when people are injured or unhappy.

    How can anyone who has known a dog deny that they are capable of perceiving pain in fairly complex ways?

    But it really is a continuum. I haven’t been able to tell if cats feel much empathy — they don’t show it, but I have no way to see what interesting (or terrifying) cognitive wheels are spinning in a cat’s brain. I know they react to their own pain in very emotional ways, and I’ve seen mother cats respond with what looks like affection and protectiveness to their kittens…and I would not assume that a cat’s aversive reaction to getting cut is all a superficial reflex, and therefore anesthesia is unnecessary in operating on them. That is the road of the psychopath.

    Again, scientists rely on the evidence: if I see an animal struggling and making frightened noises and fighting to avoid a painful experience, and if it shows recognition of the circumstances of that pain in the future, I’m going to assume that it feels pain and is in some sense aware of its situation. Theologians are apparently able to see a cat or dog in the throes of agony and declare that it isn’t really suffering, no, not like you or me. Hey, theologians and psychopaths have something in common!

  • Let us consider the implications of Craig’s worldview. If this property of awareness sets humans apart from animals, making our suffering have a greater moral significance than that of animals, and if that awareness is a product of a specific neuroanatomical structure, the prefrontal cortex (or more specifically, a well-developed internal granule cell layer in that cortex), then what is the status of a human that lacks that all-important, very specific pattern of neuronal connectivity?

    I’m thinking, of course, of the embryo. The internal granule cell layer does not pop into existence at the moment of fertilization — it arises much later, gradually, as the brain matures. Cortical wiring is an ongoing process after birth, as well — the microstructure of the human brain changes amazingly during the first couple of years of life. If we’re going to claim that an adult dog, despite appearances, isn’t really aware of pain, shouldn’t we be saying the same thing about the embryo?

    I mean, sure, babies squall and scream and flail about at the slightest discomfort, but how do you really know that they’re actually conscious? Maybe they’re just bio-reflexive hunks of meat until the final bits of their cortical cytoarchitecture snap into place, and we should be unperturbed by their struggles. They’re not really human yet, after all — god hasn’t given them that second-order awareness that they need in order to be conscious of their deontological status as the product of original sin, you know.

    I don’t know of any scientist — or sane human being — who could make that argument seriously. Again, it’s about the evidence; they exhibit the symptoms of feeling pain, they have some complex cerebral machinery that we think is likely capable of processing experiences in complex ways (but we don’t know for sure — we don’t have a parts list of neuroanatomical correlates that are sufficient to generate consciousness), so the humane assumption is that yes, babies perceive pain. Apparently, this is a much more ambiguous issue for theologians, if they had any consistency in their views. Oh, but wait — theologians. Evidence, consistency, reason are not highly valued properties of theological arguments. If they were, it would suggest that Craig ought to rethink his dogmatic anti-abortion stance.

Sorry, Mr Craig, but pain is still a big problem for your religion, and you don’t get to shoo it away or drag in the mangled, bleeding body of a butchered science in agony to act as a scarecrow and distract people from your absence of evidence.

(Also on FtB)

Suffer, Earthlings!

Creationists have this idea that history can be nothing but an unremitting decline — their version of the second law of thermodynamics is a weird thing that has everything ratcheting down into chaos equally, with no possibility of local decreases in entropy at the expense of an overall greater increase. They have almost convinced me. I once would have said no one could be dumber than Kent Hovind, but I have seen the works of his son Eric, and it’s a forthright demonstration of creationist thermodynamics.

Eric Hovind has disproven the K-T meteor theory of dinosaur extinction.

It’s impossible for a couple of reasons for an asteroid to kill them [dinosaurs], because the asteroid, they say, was millions of years ago. The earth isn’t millions of years old. And second, they’ve lived with man, as is very very evident.

I’m so sorry. I’m looking at that quote, and realizing that as soon as I press the “publish” button, it will sweep out in a wave of electrons all around the world, and trillions and trillions of innocent neurons will die in agony as they try to parse it. And I think, I have the power to do that, but do I have the right? Is it ethical to inflict such cognitive pain on so many people?

Eh. Atheist, scientist, slightly mad.

I press the button. Bwahahaha!

(Also on FtB)

Deepak Chopra reviews Richard Dawkins

Shorter Deepak: “Richard Dawkins didn’t endorse my quantum bullshit, therefore The Magic of Reality sucks!”

Deepak Chopra actually sounds quite upset — his review of the book reads more like the indignant squawk of a charlatan furious that the presence of a skeptic might cut into his take. It’s largely an exercise in name-dropping and the profession of bleary, vacuous misinterpretations of science on his part, which he then turns around and uses to accuse Dawkins of error because he doesn’t share his inoculation of the ideas with pseudoscience. Like this:

What is obnoxious about Dawkins’ version is his tone of absolute authority about matters that he shows complete ignorance of. Respected physicists like John Archibald Wheeler, Sir Arthur Eddington, Freeman Dyson, Hans-Peter Dürr, Henry Stapp, Sir Roger Penrose, Eugene Wigner, Erwin Schrodinger, and Werner Heisenberg suggest a fundamental role for consciousness in quantum theory and a mental component at the level of biological organisms and the universe itself.

I notice that 56% of the people he names are dead, that none of them are biologists or psychologists, and that several of them, while authoritative in their fields, aren’t actually known for their views on consciousness. This is a common pseudo-scientific con, roping a few famous corpses into agreeing with wacky interpretations.

But even the ones who’ve pontificated on consciousness and physics, like Dyson and Penrose, don’t help. Those guys don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. Quantum effects matter in that they’re fundamental to how all matter behaves, but cells are big — any counter-intuitive weird quantum effects are going to be negligible in the large-scale bulk activity of a synapse. This is a world where the laws of thermodynamics and electromagnetism rule: the Goldman-Hodgkin-Katz equation doesn’t need any quantum handwaving to accurately describe the potential across a cell membrane.

Bringing these guys into the argument is as silly as if I were to charge into a discussion of how the tides go in, the tides go out by insisting that we have to take into account the effect of the presence of schools of squid. Sure, they’re real and they’re there, but they don’t affect the tides. This simply is not where neuroscience is going: if you want to understand how the nervous system works, learn math and the physics of electrochemistry, and in particular learn about biochemistry, pharmacology, and molecular biology…but studying quantum physics won’t help you at all.

I won’t even get into his absurd ideas that the universe itself is conscious. Dawkins’ book is about reality, not fantasy.

So Deepak then gets off his quantum bandwagon and tries to discuss biology. He fails.

Dawkins bypasses evidence from his own field of genetics that might upset his hobby-horse. He ignores, either willfully or through ignorance, the evidence for directed mutagenesis first put forward by John Cairns of Harvard in 1988. John Cairns showed that if you grow bacteria with the inability to metabolize lactose, they evolve that ability in petri dishes tens of thousands of times faster than would be predicted if mutations simply occurred randomly. Professor Rudolph Tanzi of Harvard Medical School further points out that mutations in the human genome do not occur randomly but cluster in “hot spots” that are hundreds of times more likely to undergo mutation.

Dawkins is not a geneticist: he’s an ethologist and evolutionary biologist. Of course, he knows far more about genetics than does Deepak, so his confusion is understandable. Deepak would have to stand awed before the depth of knowledge known by my undergraduate students in comparison to his.

The Cairns results were interesting, but I don’t know of anyone who still claims that they are the result of directed mutagenesis, other than woo-peddlers. The fact that bacteria produced viable mutations more rapidly than predicted is explained by the observation of hypermutability in bacteria under stress. Basically, if you measure the error rate of replication in normal, healthy bacteria under growth promoting conditions, and then use that same rate to predict the frequency of mutations in a population under stressed conditions, you’ll underestimate the frequency.

The observation of hotspots for mutation in the genome is also well-known. It’s not magic, it’s not because these regions are well-liked by the mutation fairy, it’s because of chemistry. Some areas of a chromosome are more prone to breakage or error because of their structure or sequence.

This does not defy the observation that mutations are random. It merely means that the probability of mutation is not uniform across the entire length of the genome. Deepak’s argument is like claiming that because, when shooting craps, you’re more likely to roll a 7 than snake-eyes, throwing two dice generates a non-random result. Deepak doesn’t understand physics or biology, and he also doesn’t understand elementary probability theory.

Dawkins does. I heard him talk about this book on Sunday, and Deepak’s baseless complaints to the contrary, he did take a moment to explain what he meant by “random”, and it wasn’t the cartoonish nonsense Deepak Chopra babbles about.

I could go on and on about the stupidity of Deepak’s review — every paragraph is like the evacuations of an elephant with diarrhea — massively feculent and slimy, of a quality that will not even appeal to the neighborhood dung beetles. But I do have to mention one more sentence that left me laughing.

One doesn’t ask for advanced genetics in a primer for young adults, but one does ask that the writer know his field before adopting a tone of authority.

That’s rich coming from a quantum quack who is demonstrably deluded about medicine, biology, evolution, physics, chemistry, and the entirety of science, yet manages to pretend to be an authority every day.

(Also on FtB)

Crazier than Ken Ham?

It’s hard to believe, but yes, there are Christians who are even worse than Ken Ham, and even more ignorant. Here’s one: Pastor Don Elmore of Union, Kentucky. He’s written a revealing screed against Answers in Genesis.

It starts gently enough, chatting about their rapid growth and praising AiG for their work against those wicked evolutionists. And then it goes off the rails.

I am aware of the forces supporting “Answers in Genesis”, these being the same powers that are supporting similar multi-cultural anti-Christian organizations such as Alpha, Promise Keepers, The Full Gospel Businessmen’s Association, Billy Graham ministries, producers of many modern Bible versions, and a multitude of other ministries. These forces are the anti-Christian powers seeking One World Government under man, not God. The essence of my criticism is to show that “Answers in Genesis” supports the humanistic and unbiblical “Brotherhood of Man” doctrine (which also is a Hindu/Roman Catholic/Masonic/Jewish/Judeo-Christian and World-Church belief).

Dang. He kinda hates everyone.

But what really has him worked up is miscegenation! These guys are really still around? The rest of this article is all angry rants about race mixing.

For instance, less than 60 years ago, mixed racial unions were illegal in most of the states in the United States and other White nations. But now, they are tolerated as being supposedly within God’s plan. Under the influence and promotion of the Jewish-Masonic-Papal-Communist/Socialist controlled governments and media, Western Christianity has succumbed to the approval of race mixing, and we will be looking at what is behind this. The Bible abounds with evidence of God’s clear will that the races be separate in every way. “Answers in Genesis” mould all its answers around Judeo-Christian doctrines and traditions, and claims a different basis and definition of “race” from that which the Bible gives. Furthermore, there is evidence of Jewish Talmudic sources, or of what the Apostle Paul calls “Jewish fables”.

That’s about as far as I could get without gagging. It wasn’t just the anti-semitism and the racism…it was that I was actually sympathizing with Answers in Genesis.

(Also on FtB)

Bob Enyart and Will Duffy, partners in idiocy

We’ve got another chittering weasel of a creationist raving in the comments, a fellow going by the name YesYouNeedJesus. He’s also sending me email.

PZ, I first heard about you on Bob Enyart’s radio show about the fact that you turned down an offer to debate Bob. I must say that my first impression of you is that you are smarter than most evolutionists. Smarter because the evolutionists that debate Bob get absolutely destroyed every time. Every evolutionist that I spoke to who was at the debate between Bob Enyart and Reasons to Believe willfully admitted that their side (evolution) lost. Bob’s debate with Eugenie Scott was just flat-out epic and is still my all-time favorite science debate. Of course they all made the mistake of debating Bob and you did not. You are smart, I’ll give you that. I think they made the mistake of underestimating Bob because he’s just a radio talk show host. Personally I think that Walt Brown is the greatest scientist of our day, but after Walt Brown, Bob is one of the most brilliant scientific minds I’ve ever listened to. I believe that the evolutionist’s new tactic is to avoid debating creationists because the arguments are just becoming impossible to refute. While that’s quite the tactical strategy and may work for a short time, it is encouraging to see the creation movement grow like a wildfire. And I do believe it’s just a short amount of time before we see evolution become the next ‘spontaneous generation’ and become obsolete. Don’t forget that if you dared question spontaneous generation, you were labeled as anti-science. Good luck to you. -Will

You read that, and apart from the creationist crazy, you get the impression that this guy is just someone with no ties to Enyart (other than his deep and abiding passionate love for him) who listened to the radio show, found out about these evilutionists, and ran over here to see what was up.

This is not the case. His name is Will Duffy, something revealed in the first few minutes of the video below, and he’s Bob Enyart’s producer.

You know, this kind of thing really bugs me. Why do you have to lie and mislead and conceal on the little, trivial things? Why hide the fact that you have a vested interest in Enyart’s show, and are actually deeply involved in the program? I see that, and right away, I know I’m dealing with a shameless liar for Jesus.

And then, of course, there’s the raving insanity. Walt Brown and Bob Enyart are the greatest scientists of the day? Someone alert the NAS and the Nobel Foundation!

Here’s the video. It’s a year old, and it’s a surprise to me (which goes to show how impressed I am with this Enyart freak). I dismissed a request to debate this kook — I’d just come off a debate with his loony pal, Jerry Bergman — and so he issued a challenge that I hadn’t even noticed until now.

He’s asking me to explain the origin of the superior oblique muscle, one of the extra-ocular muscles, which has a tendon that travels through a pulley-like strap called a trochlea. This muscle abducts and depresses the eye; try to look at your nose, and that’s one of the muscles responsible for pulling the eyeball in that direction. Enyart thinks the muscle would have been useless without the trochlear pulley, which is silly: the muscle could have had a different attachment in the orbit, or in the absence of the trochlea could have swiveled the eye upwards, or most likely of all, the suite of extra-ocular muscles and that little loop of tendon all co-evolved. We are well-integrated wholes, you know, and we didn’t evolve one toe at a time — nature selected for functionality as a complete organism.

OK, but Enyart has challenged me to explain how this feature evolved. I have an answer. It’s easy.

I don’t know.

I don’t see any obvious obstacle to an arrangement of muscles evolving, but I don’t know the details of this particular set. And there’s actually a very good reason for that.

This is a case where you have to step back from the creationist and look at the big picture. Don’t get bogged down in the details. Take a look at the whole context of the question.

We don’t know exactly how this evolved because all living vertebrates, with the exception of the lamprey, have the same arrangement of extra-ocular muscles. This is a primitive and very highly conserved condition, with no extant intermediates. We’ve seen the arrangement of these muscles in 400 million year old placoderm fossils, and they’re the same; these muscles probably evolved 450 million or more years ago, and we have no record of any intermediate state. So I don’t know, and neither does anyone else.

But that’s where we have to look at the big picture: Bob Enyart, a raving loon and young earth creationist who thinks the whole planet is less than 10,000 years old, is asking me to recount the details of an event that occurred almost half a billion years ago. I should think it’s enough to shatter his position and show that he’s wrong to simply note that however it evolved, it happened in animals 75,000 times older than he claims the planet is. Has he even noticed this little problem with his question?

I don’t think “one of the most brilliant minds” has.

Further, another of Will Duffy’s rants here has made a strange demand. Mary Schweitzer and Jack Horner identified some peculiar soft tissue deep in a T. rex bone, which Schweitzer claims is preserved collagen or fragments of blood vessels. This has been disputed, and some claim it’s scraps of a bacterial biofilm. But the main thing is that an unusual and difficult to identify material was found in a Cretaceous bone.

Will Duffy wants it carbon-dated. The fossil has already been dated; it’s over 70 million years old. Carbon dating is only good up to a maximum age of about 50,000 years. He wants to hold a yardstick up against a mile-long object and ask how long it is. This makes no sense at all.

Bob Enyart called Jack Horner and offered him $20,000 to measure the C14 in the T. rex specimen. You can tell Horner is both stunned and amused at the stupidity of the request.

The age of the specimen is not in question, and even if it were, carbon dating is so absurdly inappropriate and useless that only an ignorant clown would ask to do it: it doesn’t matter what number would come out of the measurement, it would be spurious, irrelevant, and uninterpretable…except that, because C14 does have an upper bound of 50,000 years, whatever number reported would be less than that, which is exactly what the creationists are trusting would happen. They’d love to hold that yardstick up against the mile long object and triumphantly announce that it’s only 36 inches long.

“Brilliant mind,” hah. That’s not a brain, it’s a dingleberry with pretensions.

(Also on FtB)